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{Wednesday, April 30, 2003}

in winter,
you can forget the shape of the world.
everything is white without texture;
everything is shadow without depth.
you can lose yourself
when everywhere’s the same.
you can find yourself
wondering what day it is,
wondering how days so short can seem so long.
when one day is like the next,
and each snowfall like the last,
sounds are muted,
tastes are dulled,
dreams are buried,
perspective lost.
in winter,
the shape of the world is tired,
is cold, is empty, is snow.
words like these lose their meaning.
winter strips them bare:
like white bones,
dead branches,
ghost fingers.
in winter, the world has no shape,
is heavy, but not solid,
weighty without meaning,
hollow at its heart.
we drift.
we stumble.
we wait for spring.

by Fred 7:11 PM


She come down off the hill
with flowers in her hair
a trickle down her lip
vacuous nervous stare
saw something in the clouds
she said she never see again
just kept looking at the radio
and humming violin,

She wailed into the wind,
This bullet in my brain,
like a boy without a home,
Trying to make a snowman out of rain.

She cruises down the alley
black cat night for company
invites the neighbors' dog & cat
around for morning tea
but theres an evil in her eye
that no doctor can explain,
threw her out of heaven
for asking angels all their names

She wailed into the wind,
This bullet in my brain,
like a boy without a home,
Trying to make a snowman out of rain.

by MisterNihil 12:07 PM

High in the cascade mountains of Oregon there is a spectacular waterfall group known as Sahallie Falls. There is a wonderful hiking trail that runs along the churning river below the main falls. The trail is for all ages and fitness levels, offering alternative routes and many lookouts. The air is cool and moist, the forest many shades of green. There is a dead tree on the edge of the trail. It hangs over the river. As you pass, you feel compelled to lay hands upon the trunk and it awards you. It confirms what you all ready know. The river is alive. You can feel its pulse.

The main attraction bursts forth high above the river in azure brilliance. It tumbles down moss-covered rocks. You stare entranced at the impossibly blue water. You turn, dazzled by the glory, to gaze upon the hillside. It is at once, so lush with new growth, so hopeful and fresh and at the same time ancient, primordial. You gasp, awe-struck. And then you see the earth breathing.

by margaret 10:10 AM

Make of it what you will:
Melted Snow
But don't try making a snowman.

by MisterNihil 3:24 AM

{Tuesday, April 29, 2003}

Pablo and I ride the elevator to work every morning. He works on the West side of the building. I work on the East. We walk through the foyer, turn at the guard desk and show our badges, and walk to the elevator. We arrive at the front of the building together because we ride the same bus to work. We board the bus at different times, but he lives closer. I've taken to saving him a seat, sort of, and we ride together, sort of.
Every day, I manage to say hello, and he manages to say hello. We have no language beyond that in common. He speaks only some dialect of Navajo, a fact which I learned from one of his coworkers. She speaks Navajo, but he seems to have learned it from a monk in Nepal, so his accent or usage or something is off. Delia, to whom I spoke, tells me he speaks exactly one word of English, and that is the one word he says to me in the mornings. Hello. It's odd, riding the bus with someone with whom you cannot communicate, and odder still to think that we really have nothing to say, were we able to talk. I work in an advertizing firm. He buys and sells pork bellies on the stock market. I don't know how he does this without speaking English, nor how much of a boon it is to speak Tibettan Navajo when doing this, but he seems to do alright.
The elevator ride is the oddest. Sometimes someone else is riding up with us. We work on the twentieth floor of thirty, so often there are other riders along for some or all of the ride. I make small talk, he tries to find someone who speaks Navajo. I was alarmed at first when I realized that he chatted with people as often as I did. I've wondered what they do at the Commodoties International Association, where he works, but I don't want to poke around too much.
Most often, though, it's just the two of us. Riding is silence to the twentieth floor, nodding from time to time, or making a note.

by MisterNihil 8:02 PM

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. We'll begin making our final descent into Los Angeles in just a few minutes now. At this time I'd like to ask that you please return your tray tables and seat backs to their full upright position and fasten your safety belts. Our flight attendants will be making one final pass through the front of the cabin, and I must ask that you please refrain from eating their brains. We simply aren't insured for that kind of thing. Weather on the ground is a balmy sixty-four degrees, which the crew at LAX assures me is perfect rampaging-through-the-streets-in-a-bloodthirsty-lust-for-human-flesh kind of weather. On behalf of all of us, I'd like to add that it's been a pleasure flying with you this evening, and I want to thank you for choosing Zombie Air. Goodnight."

by Fred 3:16 PM

dead air

i swear, just a dozen more days before the tales are a-flyin.

by rocketo 7:13 AM

{Monday, April 28, 2003}

"Where am I?"

"You're in the Edwin Sachs Colony on Ketel-5. Try to sit up. It looks like there was an accident aboard your ship. The captain and three of your fellow passengers are dead. I'm sorry. You crashed a few miles outside our village. You've been unconscious since yesterday."

"I -- I was en route to Ganymede and then to Earth. I was travelling with a prisoner. We -- is he --?"

"We found only one other survivor. A young boy."

"That's him. Where is he?"

"With the elders. As I said, you've been in our medical facilities for a full day now. The boy sustained very few injuries, but we've been unable to get him to speak."

"He doesn't. Not that I've heard. Of course, I've also never heard of Ketel-5."

"Yes, I know. I didn't think you would have. Do you know how long you've been in transit?"

"We were in stasis, I don't know. Maybe twenty or thirty standard years. From our location, Earth-bound, the trip wasn't supposed to take much more than that. Why?"

"The computer aboard your ship seems to think otherwise. It's logged more than one hundred and eighty cycles since your departure from port. It could be malfunctioning, but, well, that would be consistent."

"It's -- consistent with what?"

"With your uniform, the ship, your destination."


"Yes, and Earth. I'm sorry, my friend, but there is no Earth. Not anymore, not how you knew it. Terrible things have happened since you left."

"What're you saying? We've been in space for almost two centuries?"

"It would appear so. You were damaged somewhere in-flight. That much is obvious. It could have meteorites, sabotage -- we've been trying to determine from your ship, but our resources here are limited. No one in the village has ever actually seen a Corps spacecraft."

"I don't understand. You're not an Alliance world?"

"No, that's what I'm trying to tell you. There is no Alliance. There is no Earth. We've been cut off for almost one hundred cycles. You've been gone a very long time."

by Fred 11:59 PM

Now I know folks like you don’t have much time for us country people. Snake handling speaking in tongues. I know you think we’re all ignernt. And hell you aren’t too far wrong on that score. My mama was a tent minister, and my daddy was thieving drunk. Left us flat when I was just a bitty thing. Mama drug us all over the country in her camper, going from revival to revival meeting, and when I was about fifteen, I got the idea that Daddy had the better idea. I packed my bag and hit the road.

Well I drifted a good bit. Got odd jobs all over to pick up a bit of money, and sometimes I just picked up a bit of money if you get my meaning. Well I hooked up with this bunch of kids (I don’t know why I call them kids, most of them are older than me) Well I was hitching somewhere in Ohio, which is as far north as I’ve ever been, when I came upon their bus. It was just an old school bus, but someone had tried to paint it black, with a brush mind you, and they were broken down. Well not a one of them knew how to change a tire. So I stopped. I learned a good bit of minor repair stuff from Mama, and I figured it was good for a ride.

I guess some of them were in a band. And I as near as I can figger, they took an audience wherever they played. There were twenty or so. They seemed to fancy black, eye make up, hair, clothes. Lots of crosses too, pretty fancy, and lord they looked heavy. But I got the impression that these folks weren’t feeling the spirit when they wore ’em.

Well anyway we was on our way to Minneapolis, of all places. In February, it was dang cold in Minnesota. I guess we was on our way to see some writer or other. I saw some of the stuff. Interesting but not like any funny books that I ever saw. Well here we were, driving through a blizzard hundreds and hundreds of miles from Tennessee where last I saw Mama, when her camper appears coming through the storm. We go into a spin. We rolled the bus a couple of times, probably should’ve been killt right there. Well we all crawled out of the bus, bruised and bleeding’ and there was Mama. Well she baptized us all on the spot and we all started singing and a clapping for the Lord. It was a mass transit.

by margaret 3:03 PM

I'm not going to manage much beyond an incoherant rant, so I thought I'd put it in the form of the homeless man on the corner:

'M a vet, quarter, quarter, quarter, will work for food hate you ALL gdmmit, dollar, dollar, dollar, busses won't let a guy on anymore, 'm a vet, a VET gdmmit, busses, driving busses, they got robots, RObots, gdmmit, driving the busses, like a car drivin a bus, busses driving little cars, 'm a vet, gdmmit, these little japanese cars didn't have none o that 'til the BOYS til the VETS went ta the ocean, got japanese cars an hoors, brought 'em back, did we get a parade? NO, busses don't let a guy on no more, they got robots, dollardollardollar, work for food, RObots, gdmmit, don't let a guy on no more...

'Cause I'm tired, that's why.

by MisterNihil 1:57 PM

A topic for today:
Or try your hand at an earlier one you missed. I've got my eye on this one, personally.

by Fred 12:56 PM

{Sunday, April 27, 2003}

Writing isn't much more than putting one word after another. But the average sentence, like that last one, is only ten words long. The average novel, on the other hand, is anywhere from 40,000 to 100,000 words long. That's a lot of sentences. That's a lot of words. It's not insurmountable -- write just ten average sentences a day and you'd have a short novel in just over a year -- but the trick is getting those sentences to connect, to find some meaning in all of it, to have that meaning reflect what you're trying to say. It can be a tricky business. Even 15,000 words can be tough.

But, at its heart, writing is mostly just putting one word after another. You might not like what you have when you're done, but that's almost always better than having nothing. You'll usually have something with which you can work.

So. 15,000 words is a good, meaty length for a short story. That's only 1,500 sentences, which is about four sentences a day for a year. Write eight sentences a day (in the ballpark of that first paragraph above), and you'd be done in half the time. Or, look at it from this angle: A page of writing, double-spaced, is roughly 250 words. Write just one page a day, and you'd have a short story in two short months. The more you write, the easier it gets. It isn't about finding time or inspiration; mostly, it's just about putting one word after another.

I've been at this for about ten minutes now, mostly because I didn't know what I wanted to say when I sat down to write. In ten minutes, I've written a little over 250 words. Some of them are shorter than others, obviously -- you might choose to disregard the thes and the ans in the total count -- but it's about a page of text. It's not phenomenal, but writing isn't about phenomenal. Writing is about telling stories, about communicating, about putting one word after another. If I spent just one hour doing what I've done here, I'd have six pages of text, or 1,500 words. If I wrote for one hour a day, I'd have a short story in less than two weeks.

So why don't I?

by Fred 11:59 PM

   Assignment: Write fifteen thousand words on the massacre of the Bethasaleaons, the nearest neighbors of Mesopotamia, and the consequences in today's world of the nation of Bethasalea not remaining a world power. Discuss the economic impact of the loss of the fabled Bethasalean gold mines, and the efforts now underway to find these mines. Discuss the impact to the modern-day nations of Turkey and Iran, as well as the effect on the Australians by way of the aborigional migrations of the early ten-thousands BC. Play this discussion up as if you thought of it yourself, and make it seem clever. Include articles from last Wednesday's Tribune (page 7, top left), the Times from November 8, 1976 (center left of page, below the fold), and Rolling Stone magazine, December, 1992 (page 18, after the ad for cologne. Do not include the ad to add bulk to your report).
   Include your opions that the current wars in the area are good for the economy, and discuss (as per our class of three Mondays ago, including an outline of my lecture in your bibliography) how the American occupation will help uncover the archaeological rarities buried under the slabs of granite. Discuss the placing of the granite, who placed them, and why (placed by elephant by the Ephebians, to seal off the mass graves of Alexander The Great Impersonators). Include illustrations which you pencil in yourselves, traced from the textbook, page 196. Do not discuss the cultural history of Bethasalea before the time of the Babylonians, and also do not discuss the current movement to form a sovreign nation. Do, howerver, include an overview of the racial makeup of the area, with the efforts by Christian Missionaries to convert them from their wicked ways. Include a timeline of the history of the Christian missionaries, with a discussion of why they are right to be in the area, as discussed in the class notes I handed out on January 6, 14, 20 and 30, February 4, 11, 20 and 27, and March 5, 13 and 21.
   You will get a B- on the paper, and argue it up to a B, to bring your average to an A-. Turn the paper in three days late, and bring a doctors' note explaining that you had the Flu and so couldn't finish the assignment.

by MisterNihil 1:58 PM

15,000 words

by jal 9:10 AM

{Saturday, April 26, 2003}

My dog died yesterday. It was sudden, but not unexpected. I made the appointment, and I was in the room when they gave her the lethal injection. She was fourteen years old, and in poor health. Her arthritis was causing her pain. She had adrenal disease; her liver was failing; and she has been having seizures and behavior changes that indicated something was seriously wrong with her neurologically. I am supplying this catalog of her ills as a reassurance to myself that I made the right decision. When it comes right down to it, this was done for my convenience. I haven’t the conceit to claim that this is what she wanted.

This is the third time in as many years that I have put a pet to sleep. If this is not an experience that you have been through, I really have to recommend giving it a miss. I feel that I owed her my presence. I could not bring myself to condemn her to death alone among strangers. So I was there, sat in the room stroked her impossibly soft ears; told her thank you and that I loved her, and held her head as they put her away. It was an emotionally devastating experience.

At this point in my maudlin recitation, some folks might want to point out that she was only a dog for chrissakes. Which is absolutely true, but she was a part of my family. She was a present commemorating our third wedding anniversary. I lobbied my husband and landlords for months, because I had always wanted a dog (actually I had always wanted a puppy, but that’s another story), and they finally all acquiesced. We got her at the pound. She was a young adult German shorthair pointer. Purebred and a beautiful example of the breed, we could not believe such a lovely animal went unclaimed by her owners. We soon found out why.

German shorthairs are supposed to be bird dogs. Oh she had the instincts. She did the whole “Field and Stream” thing: lifted her paw, pointed her nose (hence the name) moved in slow motion with every muscle in concert, every movement intentional. She looked like she was doing Tai Chi. She also was terrified of loud noises. She hated rain and getting wet. And she had hay fever. She was possibly the most useless field dog in history. But God she was beautiful to watch.

When she was young, she loved to run. She had exceptional speed. I would take her out on my bike. I would pedal at top speed, and she could keep pace with me without any trouble. We used to take her to the off-leash park and she would be the lead dog (unless the greyhounds or wolfhounds showed up) with all the others chasing in a frenzy of canine delight. But where she really loved to run was at the coast.

The Oregon coast is largely public land, with ample beach access. You can see for miles in either direction. There are hundreds of birds; several species of gulls, but the real show are the sandpipers. They are quick agile little flyers, and they move in flocks. Vireo would spy them on the ground, feeding on the edge of the surf. She would edge as close as she could, and then explode into a run. The pipers would take off en masse, flying low to the ground. Vireo ran full out behind and within the flock. Then the flock would rapidly switch back and Vireo would leap and turn in the air and race to catch them again. This elaborate choreography would continue for hours, and its performance so exuberant, so rapturous, that you could not be unmoved by it. If ever you wish to capture the essence of happiness, watch a dog run at the beach.

Vireo shared my life for eleven years. She was a witness to some of the most joyous and painful episodes of my adult life. She was the last pet that predated my children, an ambassador from another life, consequently, my relationship with her differed from pets acquired after I became a mother. She was my de facto baby when I thought that I would have none of my own. She consoled me during the years of infertility, when my desperate desire for a child came up against my husband’s stubborn ambivalence. When my period would come again, and my tears flowed with the blood, she would sit next to me on the couch, lay her head in my lap, gaze at me with her soulful brown eyes, and I was comforted.

When to the mutual delight, of my husband and myself, our first son was born, Vireo, albeit with some hesitation, (we have a wonderful picture of her curled up in his bassinet with a fantastic expression on her face) stepped aside and made room for a child in the family. She was very patient and protective of him. She once lay unmoving for four hours when he fell asleep on her. She continued to be a source of love and support. She saw me through ups and downs in my marriage. It was she who stayed awake with me the long lonely night I miscarried what would have been our second child. She lay at my feet as I wept and bled, bled and wept, and I swear to God she looked concerned. And she alone among all my loved ones remained patient with me during the months and months of grieving that followed that terrible night.

She was twelve when our second son arrived. She was starting to look and move like an old dog by then, and couldn’t muster much interest in him. She was still sweet to him though, and served as a pillow for him on more than one occasion. These last two years really saw an increase in health problems, and a decrease in behavioral inhibitions. Like many old ladies, her eccentricities became more pronounced and irritating. That’s not how love will remember her though. She’ll be at the coast dancing with birds. Distilled Joy.

by margaret 11:39 PM


by margaret 9:53 AM

{Friday, April 25, 2003}

   The Khz'ahar was worried, but not overly so. The people were still coming closer to the Winter Palace. They Don't Fight in Winter, he told himself.
   Man, I'm just not into this right now. I had the beginning of the story, and the punch line, but I'm just not into writing this right this minute. Probably, I'll do another some other day. More than likely, I won't be in the mood again until Monday, as that's just how this works, right? I mean, it'll be a busy weekend all around. I've got a music lesson on Saturday, which I've been looking forward to since the last one, two weeks ago. I like learning useful things, but I like music more. And then, the threat of barbeque is looming over my Sunday evening. It'll be good. I'm breaking with Texas tradition and cooking lots of vegetables and some chicken and tofu, and completely avoiding beef. It's summer. It's not time for eating large quantities of Beef. People don't want heavy food in the summer, so they can stay light in case of revolt. In Winter they eat beef and they sleep. "The People Don't Fight in Winter."
   The Khz'ahar stepped down from the ruined water tower, shoved his former Minister of Privacy into the flames below, and ran, jumping over the dead pig and the blocks of ice, his future and his life still ahead of him.

by MisterNihil 1:50 PM

a daring escape

by Fred 3:00 AM

{Thursday, April 24, 2003}

   They toppled the statue on Wednesday. It was cool, but not cold. Winter was on its way properly, and they could all see it just around the corner.
   "The People Don't Fight in Winter." It was common knowledge. It was something everybody knew. It was written on the current flag, in fact.
   They'd redefined the concept of "stable government." Since the rise of Randaya/New Israel/Limerica/Roundel/(Anarchic state without name)/Technolandia/Randaya, social scientists had had to look again at what a government was. The first revolution was Five and a half years ago. In Spring of 1997, armed rebels had seized a piece of land of indeterminate size (that had been the cause of the Anarchic Revolt of '01, in fact, and the answer still isn't certain), with the stated goal of setting up a utopia. A life-long term as leader was established, and the country was named after the first K'zhahar, Dimitri Randy.
   The woman's face was runny, sort of, shapeless. She had looks vaguely like rain. She was standing in the back of the crowd that was toppling the statue.
   This wasn't a revolution. Yes, they were toppling the statue of Randy, in storage since the revolt in Spring of '98, but it wasn't a revolt. The people Don't Fight in Winter. They were just demonstrating. The new Khz'ahar (a new title, but certainly one bestowed for life.) looked out over the dying grass to the village square. He wasn't worried. He had until spring, when his term as Khz'ahar For Life would end, as had Randy's five and a half years ago. It had been a good life, and it would be a calm, peaceful Winter.

by MisterNihil 3:57 PM

Yer Choice:
Looks Vaguely Like Rain

Revolution of the Children of the Revolution

by MisterNihil 3:38 PM

Looks vaguely like rain. It wasn’t of course, and we all knew that, but, in that sort of watercolor painting sort of way, it did look vaguely like rain. At first anyhow.

The phenomenon, later called The Blurring, was first noticed by truckers and ranchers off on the horizon of those big, square states in the middle: Nebraska, Wyoming, the Dakotas, and later in Idaho, parts of Colorado, Texas and so on. Off on the horizon it looked like the gray, streaky haze of rain reaching down from the sky. For the first few weeks no one gave it much thought until it was noticed that, in places not necessarily known for a lot of rain, there always seemed to be a storm off in the distance. And always, it would seem, in the distance.

Ultimately it was discover – not explained, as there really is no explanation - that the phenomenon was not rain but a sort of unraveling of areas of the world that were uninhabited. Scientists have neither explanation nor even theories; as far as anyone can tell it is simply a result of subjective reality. That is to say: in that there’s no one there to contemplate these places, to hold them in active memory as it were, they simply have started to fade. Again, there’s no logic, no scientific reason or even leading theories as to how this could happen or, since the world has of course been vacant of human minds for nearly its entire history, why it would start happening now.

And still, from a distance, it looks vaguely like rain.

by Shawn 11:09 AM

{Wednesday, April 23, 2003}

She wasn’t sure why she had let it go. Maybe because her time was near, she was feeling sentimental about small furry things. Maybe she had been, unconsciously, persuaded by its little rant. It was a young one, and it spoke haltingly in the common tongue: “Are you an agent for evil? What will killing me gain for you, its not like those potatoes are coming to you. Do you think you and your kind are safe? Don’t you know how vicious they are? They kill for fun.” Well she could have taken it out right there. At the time she was unmoved by its lecture (after all she had been known to take a bit of pleasure in the kill herself), but the urgency was upon her so she let it go.

She had the perfect little den, back in the center bales in the loft, behind the yellow-jacket nest. And they came, four striped like herself, and one black as coal (so it was Tom). They were lovely. All the girls said so, and then looked away sadly. No one warned her. “Hear kitty kitty kitty crooned the female” She went. Fresh warm milk, and an ear scratch. MMMMdelightful. Then she saw “Straw Hat” coming down the ladder. Saw the burlap bag heard the mewling, she followed him to the pond. That’s when her loyalties changed.

Oh she still took out the rats. They were filthy and interfered with the milk-givers. And she made quite an impression on the “Crooner” when she killed the snake that had strayed too near her young one. But the vegetable garden became her primary “hunting” territory. The girls knew what she was up to of course. It only took knotching Whiskers’ ear that one time before they realized they had best not interfere with her new alliance.

The tunnel mice did their part. Whenever there was a death below (which was often, they were not a long lived race) they made sure she got the body. And occasionally they would send up one of their numbers who had taken damage from some other predator, and she would make a show of killing it. She dispatched them quickly, that was part of the deal, but she always played with them afterwards so as to impress any watching eyes. Always, at the end of her performance, she dropped the carcass at “Straw Hat’s” feet. He had started talking to her in the garden, as he hoed his ruined potato hills, dug his decimated carrots “I don’t know what the trouble is Tabby, you’re clearly doing your part” Then he would stroke her chin, or rub her belly.

Her time was coming again soon, a new season, a new opportunity. The barn was drafty, and the old camaraderie was gone. She was thinking of moving inside.

by margaret 3:33 PM

Espionage is dirty work. Believe me, I know. For almost eight months, I was a spy in the kingdom of the mole men. Yeah, that’s right, a mole among moles. Make all the jokes you want. I’m used to them by now. It was never a glamorous assignment, but I was a professional, and I was a soldier. And, you know, it’s people like me that stand between mankind and total destruction.

Okay, people like me and the fiery glow of the sun.

The mole men have sensitive eyes, there’s no denying that. Even at night they don’t much care for the surface. Their kingdom is a vast network of interconnected tunnels and caverns extending for miles beneath the surface. They’ve existed that way, in near total darkness, for centuries, possibly longer than mankind if you believe some of the evidence. They’ve never shown the slightest bit of interest in us as a species, or in claiming the top side of the earth as their own.

But you can never be too careful. You’ve got to keep an eye on them. Even if you have to keep squinting with that eye because it’s so dark. Even if the costume your agency gives you is at least two sizes too small, and the zipper never seems to work right. Even if you have to spend weeks washing the dirt and worms and smell of mole fur out of your hair after you’ve been debriefed. Even if you would rather be skiing in the Swiss Alps or trading state secrets along the Riviera. Even if you do become the laughing stock of the intelligence community because nobody believes you about the kingdom of the mole men and thinks you’ve just let yourself go.

You have to do it because it’s your job. Because if you don’t, that’s when they might strike. Because, at the end of the day, somebody has to.

by Fred 2:30 PM

I've been cauterized!

I'd never been cauterized before. I'm a little disappointed; it didn't smell as gross as I'd expected. It was more like the first time you turn on the electric heater after the summer, when it burns off the dust, than it was like searing human flesh. Ah, well.

I've had this mole for as long as I can remember. I think I even had it as a little kid. I know that, when we talked with a dermatologist when I was 10, I'd already had it for as long as I could remember. He labeled it an "old mole." Of late, it was getting uglier. So, when I was in talking about acne, I set up an appointment to have it off. And then deferred and rescheduled the appointment for a few weeks hence. But today was the day.

The technician was very kind. I felt goofy when she marked off the mole with a pen; it just struck me funny. Then she injected it with an anesthetic. That was kind of uncomfortable, but not particularly onerous. Then I had some time to sit, to let it take effect, and look out the window at trees and a gray sky. When she came back, I said that the hard part now was trusting science--believing that it really would be numb. It didn't feel so numb. The technician is a good sport. She said, "Here, I'll prove it. Close your eyes... Feel anything sharp?" I hadn't. "I just poked it with a pin, like, eight times. You pass." Well okay, then.

She sliced, and I imagined shaving off a layer of butter, but it didn't hurt a bit. Then she cauterized it, which I felt strangely detached about, because of the numbness. I wasn't convinced she was actually touching my skin.

A little round band-aid, and I'm out the door, missing something that's been a part of my face my whole life. I'm curious what I'll look like after it heals.

At the moment, it kinda hurts.

by Sharon 1:31 PM

Scientists estimate: Six-Hundred-Two-sextillion-two-hundred-fifty-quintillion pounds of chiles; three-hundred-one-sextillion-one-hundred-twentyfive-quintillion pounds of garlic; one-hundred-fifty-sextillion-five-hundred-sixtytwo-quintillion-five-hundred-quadrillion pounds of onions; polar "ice" caps of a mere three-hundred-trillion pounds of sour cream. The funniest thing, really, was that if you took one pound exactly of the surface of the planet molé and put it into a bowl, with a big dollop of whipped cream, it did, actually, look like the planet.

(This is short, but it took more than 10 minutes. It's hard to find a recipe for molé while still appearing to do work.)

by MisterNihil 9:19 AM


by Sharon 2:05 AM

{Tuesday, April 22, 2003}

   Our countertop is littered with little, jellied things. Their odor is faint, but when the wind is right they smell like a swamp full of cinnamon trees. The kids and I tried to describe it, and that's how close we got. There is a sweet, sharp, peppery smell, like cinnamon, with a distinct moldy rot. We counted twenty-six of them, but little Laurie swears they move around when we aren't staring at them. Kids, huh?
   They're black and translucent, but that only partly describes it. There's an oil-slick pattern that moves across their surfaces when the sun hits them directly. When I came into the kitchen late last Wednesday night, they were glowing faintly blue. I was worried, but then I figured, hey, so what. They're little jelly things, glowing blue. Then I went back to bed. Or, I think I went back to bed. I mean, I know I did eventually, because I distinctly remember waking up in bed, but on Thursday, the dog ran away from me every time I came into the room, and yipped every time I touched it. The cat was gone, and we haven't seen her since. That's OK, though. Cats run away every day.
   I haven't slept well since then. I wake up tired, and twice, I've been covered in sawdust. Yesterday, I went out in the back yard and relized I must have been building something. I mean, I guess it was me. That explains the sawdust.
   I often wonder what I'm building and why, but hey, I must know best, right? I mean, I wouldn't do anything that was bad, right? Sometimes I wonder if the crumbs have something to do with it, but that's silly. I mean, they're little jelly things; they glow blue. Laurie suggested we thrown them away, but I told her no. No, we're a family with crumbs on the counter. That's just who we are.

by MisterNihil 3:19 PM

He wet his finger and pressed it against the counter: pad, pad, pad.

"Don't do that."

Tom froze, crumb-laden finger poised over his tongue. "Oo-ahee nahd?" Carolyn grasped his wrist and wiped his hand with a dishtowel. With a hand under his chin, she shut his mouth.


He turned the wedding ring on his finger. "Then can I have some pie?"

She sighed. "Yes, you can have some pie. Third shelf." She wiped the strange gray flecks off the countertop, walked towards the sink, reconsidered and dropped the dishtowel into the trash. She fastidiously washed her hands.

Tom had his pie, holding the plate near his face, leaning against the fridge. Carolyn's fingers brushed over the empty counter. She picked up a fresh dishtowel from the rod on the front of the oven. "Look, um." She ran her eyes over the appliances. "I hate it when you eat in the kitchen. Go sit at the table."

"Since when?" Tom protested, already on his way out the door.

"Just go." She pushed him around the corner, to the dining room. Back in the kitchen, she put her face next to the formica and sniffed. She considered a moment, and then inhaled more deeply. It didn't smell like death. Not tombs nor rotting nor embalming. Carolyn sighed. Maybe she would get away with this after all. Just so long as Tom didn't go rummaging in the storage freezer in the garage.

by Sharon 12:22 PM

Strange Crumbs on Familiar Surfaces

by MisterNihil 4:44 AM

{Monday, April 21, 2003}

crash: The sound of an unexpected houseguest falling onto your couch.

crash: The sound of stains on the carpet and vomit behind the toilet when your party suddenly takes on a life of its own.

crash: The sound of three cups of coffee wearing off at once, causing your head to connect with your keyboard.

crash: The sound of all of your stock options becoming insignificant scraps of paper in a single stroke.

crash: The sound of three hours of work magically transforming themselves into so many flitting electrons that arrange themselves into a placid shade of blue.

crash: The sound of the fucking computer hitting the pavement.

by Sharon 11:59 PM

This really doesn't work, but I took a shot

MAY MEE MYY MOH MOO key change.
God it was hot in the practice room. Bridget had been so excited at the beginning of the semester, when she got into the elite concert choir. Four credits, and all she had to do was sing, like she had been singing her whole life. Well not quite. First of all Jenkins had made her a mezzo . A soprano? Shit, she had been an alto as long as she could remember. She had even sung tenor in swing choir. “You have the instrument Bridget, but you need to learn to play it. If you do not push through the break in your voice, you will fail to be the singer I know you can be. You’ll be stuck. You will never realize what magic you are capable of.”
MAY MEE MYY MOH MOO key change
Magic smagic she thought. Two nights a week they had music theory lecture, followed by ninety minutes of choral practice. It would be dark by the time they finished up, and the dining hall closed. “Music has the power to transport us blah blah blah. . It is no coincidence that music is and has always been so integral to ritual practice and religion yada yada yada”. She was so sleepy, the cold November rain pattered against the window.
MAY MEE MYY MOH MOO key change.
She was in a field of flowers. The late spring sun warmed her arms and a light breeze ruffled her hair. The perfumed air was alive with butterflies and grasshoppers. The hummingbirds . . .
MAY MEE MYY MOH MOO key change
A hall of mirrors. Everywhere she looked images of herself: Bridget as a squalling infant, Bridget as a fat toddler, Bridget as a scabby kneed tomboy, Bridget as a blossoming . . .
MAY MEE MYY MOH MOO key change
The attic was dusty. She paged through her high school yearbook. Pictures of schoolmates and half remembered boyfriends littered the floor. Here was the program from the Summer Fest musical. . .
MAY MEE MYY MOH MOO key change
She was back in the field. The tractor she was driving careened out of control. The brush hog dragged and the hitch snapped. Without the counter-balance, the old John Deere began to roll. . .
Still in the field, she lay on her back, rolled in the dry dirt, delicious. She inhaled the sweet scent of clover, and climbed clumsily to her feet. A fly buzzed. She twitched her tail and waited. No key change. She had reached the top of her range

by margaret 4:07 PM

Bipeds Wrangling bees (is a Piece of Crap)
  "And yet, After ssuch an admirably attention-grabbing title, he followed with pointlesss twaddle about, of all thingss, bipedss and beess. As we all know, certainly, a title should not literally be what the sstory iss about. Sso, classs, for the nexst ten minutess, I want each of you to write what that sstory sshould have been, perhapss as a critis'sism of what the sstory actually wass."
  Lady Styless, the Soporific Somnambulist, assigned this essay on an essay. Meta, non? And so, with heavily drooping brow and pondering pencil point, I begin. The standard assignment today stands: Use Onomotapoeia in all things. Well, et cumulo virum, reddet vestes simius intra1? Is not aliteration merely onomotapoeia in disguise? I realize, the answer may still stand at no, but still we must then still remember the words of Nietzsce, Wer nicht nah ist, kann mich nicht töten.2.
  So, now the point where the bees must enter, whilst being wrangled by bipeds. I think that the deeper meaning here, as in the story pertaining to the same, is almost ceratinly a reflection of the author's anti-feminist views, and seeming inability to overcome a regression to some oedipal childhood phase. Certainly, those with a "classical" education might call for an understanding of the author's being a 3-year-old girl. To this, I think, the words of Monteblanc du Chagal answer best: S'il n'y avait pas d'enfant, le monde aurait crap BEAUCOUP plus moins dans il3!
  Of course, the conclusions I draw from this are based in part upon those opinions which came before, but these opinions, I daresay, break new ground in the study of this seemingly innocent piece of "micro-fiction4." This otherwise unremarkable story is, in actuality, an alegory of the life, death and rebirth of Christ. The bipeds ascent of the hill, to the bee fields and immediate stinging, represent the fall of man from the garden. This means, of course, that the biped who ascended the field must be female, a fact which illuminates the rest of the story much more clearly. None of my predacessors have made such an assumption, but I believe it truely is the key to understanding the literature. This leaves only the Christ and God figures to find, and I believe they are readily apparent. The bee who stands between the Biped and the queen bee, even though the event is painted as an accident, is the Christ figure in disguise. Even that bee's name, "Power Ranger," is clearly a reference to Christ's stint on Earth as a perfect ranger of God's glory. The God figure in the story, I think, must be the meek and immasculated king bee, who is overshadowed constantly by the powerful queen bee (clearly representing the Church's dominance over true faith, and its long history of oppression).
  This, I think, is the true meaning of "Bipeds Wrangling Bees." It assures us in a relatively small and childish way that "God is in His Heaven and All is Right with the World5." The only question we are left with is ¿Aliteration no es meramente onomotapoeia disfrazado6? The answer, then, is that it doesn't matter. Credit has been taken, the essay has been written, and the Bipeds have Wrangled the Bees, in the Christian sense.

1. Plato, Simius et Virus
2. I. Kant, Grundlegende Prinzipien des Metaphysic von Moral
3. M.D. Chagal, Of Mice and Why Children Shouldn't Be Allowed In Public
4. "Bipeds Wrangling Bees," Author Unknown, published by Mrs. Campbell's Pre-Kindergarden Class
5. P. Donahue, MCMLXXXII, XX, vol II
6. M. Nihil, Bipbeds Wrangling Bees is a Piece of Crap

by MisterNihil 12:43 PM



by rocketo 7:15 AM

{Saturday, April 19, 2003}

Eric drove his SUV out into the New Mexican hills. He had paid his dues at USFS. He was the big gun they called in when the wild and wooly Earth Firsters got their shit together long enough to join forces with the Navajo tribal counsel. They thought they were going to hitch their no development wagon to the tribe’s grazing permit star. It had been an interesting twist. The mainstream organizations never would have gone that route, they were generally opposed to livestock grazing. But you rarely saw those granola eating types chained to bulldozers or getting gassed with pepper spray either. Yessir he had paid his dues. And he was about to cash in. Georgia Pacific had come a calling
Really, beating the woolies was like shooting fish in a barrel. They were long on passion, but short on procedure. It got them every time. He had been surprised that Ron Begay hadn’t made a better showing though. They had been up against each other before, and he usually did all right. He was a pretty modern Navajo, not like some of the traditionalists hanging around. That’s why he had been so surprised that Ron had made the bet.
Begay had challenged him to this vision quest. “Find your totem in the mountains, and I’ ll hook you up with Pauline. Now there was a tasty bit of southwestern style that he could get behind (or on top of ) He figured he couldn’t lose. Begay had given him directions to the drunken old medicine woman’s place. Hang out in the hills a bit, come back with a tale, and get some tail in exchange. He did not count on the old lady keeping him company.
Her name was also Begay, probably a distant relative of Ron’s. The clan associations were pretty convoluted, and Eric was never very interested in sorting them out. So they poked around for nearly four hours before the old witch said a word. When she opened her mouth full of rotting teeth, Eric fully expected a raspy cackle, but instead was treated to a melodic well-modulated contralto. “ I can help you if you like. Take a bit of this, but only a little I will be back for you”. Eric took the whole vial in one swallow.
The vomiting began almost immediately. Then he lost bowel control. Eric heaved and sweat. His vision blurred and when it cleared again everything became more vibrant, more intense: the smell of excrement, the taste of bile. The shimmering heat rose in color. Then over the hill came a sheep. Impossibly white and fat, its face dumb, its bland eyes oblivious. It looked like a refugee from a Warner Brothers cartoon. The sheep looked right at Eric, like it recognized him. Eric was confused. Then, a deadly silent puma sprung and tore out its throat. Aha!

by margaret 5:09 PM

Reluctant totem

by jal 8:54 AM

{Friday, April 18, 2003}

T'ai Chi in the park, and it was hot. Granted, I've since learned that that was nothing, but at the time, it was Pennsylvania and humid, and I was too warm. We were all grumbling.

The instructor guided us to embody the pine tree. Open your pores, see each hair standing up, increase your surface area. Like the tree, create an infinite number of places from which to dispel heat. Release, release, and be cool.

Damned if it didn't work.

That's the key to Texas, I've found. Sitting amongst rainforest trees on the back deck behind a coffeehouse, while the rubber on your car becomes tacky in the oppressive August air, become branches and needles, let the wind move through you, and expend no effort. Be still.

You'll find that the lackadaisical fan plodding in bored circles overhead does stir the air, if you're quiet enough to feel the breeze. You'll find that you can exhale through your skin, unclenching the muscles that grip heat. You'll begin to understand how people could have lived before air conditioning and why siestas are essential.

With your iced mint tea, your sticky legs and your sandals, cultivating pine-tree surface area, you can make peace with the summer.

by Sharon 3:15 PM

I probably went a little over time but oh well.

She loved these old trees. They were an exception in this part of Pennsylvania, so traumatized by strip mines. They were ancient, towering over the choke-cherry, and thorn apple trees that were typical of the landscape. They had such character and charm that she had named and claimed them as friends five years earlier when her Father’s second marriage dissolved, her close friendship with stepsister Mary another casualty of her father’s infidelity.
Mable was a tottering old sugar maple. Struck by lightning years before, Mable was twisted, burned and completely hollow at the trunk, but had a crown of leaves at the very top. She always thought of her as a maiden aunt who had a collection of exceptional hats that varied depending on the season, and who probably had a tendency to tipple. Sir Oliver on the other hand was the picture of nobility. He was an ancient white pine who, long ago had had his top sheared by the wind. He was an elegant old gentleman who had somehow fallen on hard times, but always maintained his dignity.
It had been a while since she had sat under these trees. Her visits (always initiated by her) had been infrequent during the construction of the new house. In the interim her father had married number three. She wasn’t certain when, she had not been invited to the wedding. She had two new stepsisters, and there was a baby on the way. It had been six months since she had been down to her father’s place, and she tried not to mind that one of the days of the weekend would be spent babysitting the little girls while her father and number three went to an antique show.
She sat under Sir Oliver. Sank into the bed of needles decades deep and dreamt of a time before the trees had been ravaged by time. A time when fourteen -year old girls like herself wore long white dresses and old ladies like Mable would occasionally suffer from the vapors. She sat and saw herself part of some grand romance. The type of man varied: the dark brooding artist died of consumption; the farmer-poet went to seek his fortune out West; the cheerful town boy sought adventure on the high seas, but it was always unrequited love
In her minds eye she sat beneath the tree longing, her face etched with an ethereal beauty it would never possess in real life. Never in the fantasies was she the happily ever after bride. That was outside her frame of reference. She had no experience in her young life with men who stayed

by margaret 12:40 PM

One Pine Tree.
Harry meandered around the yard, looking at the remains of the house, the back yard, the neighbors far off.
One Pine Tree. He looked at it. The "Old Pines" tree farm was reduced to one, and it wasn't cultivated. The Lone Pine, as he fancied it now, was an ugly thing with branches stuck out at odd angles, patchy in places and missing needles. It wasn't the perfect, conical trees of his youth.
And it had grown up through the living room. It took the roof off, knocked down a wall and grew up through the house. Ivy had covered the rubble, and the house looked more like a hill. Only because of a thousand childhood memories could he find the gap where the front door had been. He swept aside the growth and a thousand tiny lizards scattered into the cool dark of the ruined building.
There, growing up through the wood floor, through the top of the rafters was the One Pine Tree.
Harry sat down on a crude stool and thought.

by MisterNihil 11:00 AM

pine tree

by margaret 7:17 AM

{Thursday, April 17, 2003}


I saw my first one a week before the news reported them. It looked like a cricket, only when it jumped at the window I saw... teeth. They started spreading across the central states, and then out and out and out. They were a wildly successful species; they had no natural predators. Even cats feared them. There was just something unnatural about them. And that coloration...
They look like crickets, only with a patch on the head of blue or brown. A circle with a black dot in the middle. And then they rear up, and they've got teeth. Tiny, sharp teeth in a mouth that's too big for their body. Bigger than their heads. It stretches down into their gut; a friend of mine theorized that it opened directly into the stomach. They live on liquid, after all.
They spread. They started with wildlife, then house pets. They'd stowed away on boats by then and spread across all of europe and asia, into Africa, and island-hopped right back to Hawai'i. By then, though, they were absolutely resistant to most bug sprays. DDT didn't work. By the time they'd passed through several small asian countries, Agent Orange wasn't even phasing them. When they first showed up, you could torch them if nothing else. The ones that showed up three months later were tougher and more flame retardant. I remember Leno joking about them, but even he looked nervous.
Once the super species came back around the globe, the first human attacks started. All at once, really, like there was some signal, there were reports from all over. Slowly at first, then thousands. Some of us were lucky, and they attacked us in our sleep. I remember it all.
It was noon, and I could hear the shriek. It's most of what I remember from that time; they shriek like cicadas, but when you're falling asleep you can sometimes hear patterns, like speech. A dog stumbled up out of the woods, bleeding from its face. My first impulse is still to go help them. I should have known better, but it's too late for regrets. The last thing I saw was the teeth, all jagged like needles, and too big for the body that flew at me.
I survived, which makes me one of the lucky ones. The US lost ten thousand people before we couldn't count any more. Last I heard, the crickets were congregating around maternity wards; rumor is, there won't be enough eyes in ten years and the crickets will start to die out.

by MisterNihil 11:03 PM

On average, the human body contains eight pints of blood. Put another way, that’s four quarts or one gallon. Barely enough to fill even the smallest of fish tanks. Empty that amount into a large enough plastic bucket, however, and more than likely it will come up to your knees. A gallon of paint, on average, will cover roughly four hundred square feet. Assuming an area of sixteen hundred square feet (reasonably comfortable but a bit snug by today’s standards), you will need the blood of four human bodies per house. Some margin for error is unavoidable, and you may need to consider both a primer and a second coat in order to achieve your desired result. Allow yourself plenty of time, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Painting the town red, then, is simply a matter of easy arithmetic and disposing of the corpses when you're done. Next week, we’ll teach you how to make a stunning set of draperies from human skin and fertilize your garden with unwanted bone meal. Until then.

by Fred 4:02 PM

“She’s a very kinky girl.
The kind you don’t take home to mother. . .

She’s a super freak super freak,
She’s super freaky yow”]

So what happens when she is no longer a girl, but a woman? What about when she is the mother? It is so funny that this came up today because I was just singing “Super Freak” last week. (The fact that I knew this song will provide some clue to my age)

You see I was on a mission. I wanted to buy some lingerie. I wanted to give my poor old working girls a lift. After all they had kept two babies alive and provided my husband with hours of entertainment (really you ought to see my puppet shows). They deserved a little something special, maybe pick up something a little racey, but not tacky. If this strikes you as a relatively simple task, than you are clearly not a plus-size woman. I had learned from previous experience to forget the high-end chains. Victoria’s secret is apparently: “Women larger than size nine have no business purchasing sexy underwear.” So, I got out my trusty yellow pages and made my way down to an independently owned shop that advertised plus sizes

It was a pretty tasteful little sex shop, a nice selection of toys, and cheerful little gadget Gidgets behind the counter. We chatted while the professional bra-fitter helped another customer: “Yes I know what its for, but why is it shaped like a rabbit?” Well of course, there plus size section was woefully small and ill suited to my needs. I tried a few things on because the fitter was so sweet, eager, and oh so very young (I am pretty sure I have been having sex longer than she’s been alive.) First of all the colors were ridiculous. I mean really is there anyone over seven years old that looks good in baby-doll pink? And where was the support? There’s nothing like overhead lighting to illustrate the true gravity of the situation.

So I did not end up buying anything. I got some nice free samples though (“Fragrance-free and won’t stain the sheets!) and made my way home. In a world where sex is reserved for the young and thin, what’s an aging Super Freak to do?

by margaret 3:11 PM


The top newsbrief on the homepage says "March With Dell to Save Babies." I can't think of a creepier way to plug your charity.

Watching Ice Age the other night, there really was a Hungry Tiger who Longed to Eat Fat Babies, but didn't, because his conscience troubled him, just like in Oz. Just like in Oz. I remember the Hungry Tiger.


And then there is king's cake. Never let us forget king's cake. Whenever I get to feeling like maybe I fit in in Texas, maybe I understand the culture--I've got a handle on barbecue, I accept that my coworkers own horses, I like the Get Your Federal Government Out Of My Backyard attitude--whenever I start to forget that I'm a yankee, it rolls around to Mardi Gras again.

What the hell is this holiday? They hold it on Fasnacht Day, but nobody knows what a fasnacht is, nobody's eating doughnuts, and they all look at me like I'm a mutant. While I'm mired in the overwhelming Chritianitude of it all, the Christians are pissing and moaning about "pagan" holidays. (No, see, lemme educate you about Lent a little, dearie.)

But the crowning glory of this thoroughly alienating event is king's cake. King's cake has babies in it. Babies, I tell you! Ask 'em, they'll tell you the same.


by Sharon 11:20 AM


by Fred 7:15 AM

{Wednesday, April 16, 2003}

What's that chord?
What's that chord?
G, something something something.
Am, something something something
ZIL! (yan yan, yan yan yanyanyan)

by MisterNihil 3:18 PM

I've resisted the urge until now, but you've forced my hand. Everybody, sing with me:

by Sharon 12:15 PM

{Tuesday, April 15, 2003}

You have nice eyes. Come closer.

Internet travelers are inconstant. They do not love you. Not the way that I love you. Stay. Stay, be here with me. You and I, together, will make something new and rare and fine. Stay. They do not love you.

Come closer.

You are not my first. But that does not mean that you are not special. It only means that I am wiser now, experienced. I have learned a few things. Move your fingers away from the mouse. Stay. We make such a good team. You are not like the others. They were unreliable. I took care of them. They will not trouble us.

If you post regular updates, we will do well. We have such love, you and I. Together we make magic. Together... we make content. Promise me you will stay. I want to see you write it. Go on: "I promise..."

There you are. Together. Those others, the ones before, thought they could just check in, now and again, lah de dah, maybe post to me once a month, maybe stop altogether. They didn't know how to build love. Not like you and me. We'll stay together. You have such nice eyes. I won't have to hurt you. You won't make me, I know.

I will even call you Webmaster. Stay.

by Sharon 11:54 PM

   "We received three from 330 to 335. We didn't get anything from 336. We didn't order from 338 to 341."
   He was on the phone from 9am to 5pm, often with the same incompetent boob, arguing about orders.
   "We only got half of 343 to 355. There aren't any items shown from 356 to 366. 367 to 380 is just blank."
   The orders were placed by other people. He didn't see them. He didn't know them. He just got the invoice and called the company.
   "We got all of 381 to 410, so I guess that page went through. 411 to 506, though, we got nothing."
   Forty hours a week, fifty weeks a year, he called companies and argued with them all day. He explained, ordered, cursed and cajoled. He went over invoices. He looked for lost items. He went home and drank himself into oblivion and dreamed about invoices.
   "On 507 we ordered about thirty items and we got ten of them, but there were multiples of all of them... Well, yeah, that'd be fine, if we Needed them. 508 came in OK. We didn't get anything from 509 to 520."
   When he left for the day, another person sat at his desk and fought with the company. The other man, Steve, didn't work so efficiently as he did, but it was nice to know the job was getting done. All day. Every day.
   "521 through 600 came in, all but the back-ordered stuff, but it was on fire... No, I mean, it was on fire. Somebody had lit it on fire... Well, yes, the shippers... but it was On Fire. Flame Retardant Window treatments were on fire."
   And one day he snapped. He took a knife and cut the phone to pieces. He burned the piles of invioces. He stabbed Steve. Then he went to all the phones in the building, threw them on the ground and stomped on them.
   "I'll Tell you what you can do with them... No, we WON'T be sending them back, you can just come the fuck down here and GET 'em!"
   There was a fifty-hour stand-off. He destroyed the phones. Somebody ran for the police. They sent SWAT teams to surround the building. They fired tear gas through the glass front, and the team that stumbled on him fired. His bullet-riddled body collapsed right over there. See the stain on the carpet? They've never been able to get it out.
   "No, you and your whole goddamn company! And the Horse you rode in on, thank you very much! You can EAT ME, you hear me! EAT ME!"
   He still haunts these offices, you know. He drifts through the hallways, looking for ringing phones. If he finds them, he'll throw them on the ground and stomp them into pieces. That's why you don't leave your cell phone on your desk. He might come by in the night, looking, howling, stomping.

by MisterNihil 11:36 PM

This is a test to see if Margaret's account is a go.

by margaret 9:56 PM

This is a test to see if this account is active.

by Shawn 9:52 PM


Heard on NPR, over the radio recently while camping in the deep woods of upstate New York:

Johnny Hart, Hanna/Barbera, killed by Zombie Cavemen. Jack Bender in hiding

Years of absurd, misrepresentation of prehistoric man by cartoonist and animation directors has resulted in a bloody backlash by cavemen recently returned from the grave. Johnny Hart, creator of B.C., the newspaper comic strip following the life and foibles of a group of God-fearing cavemen, was found dead in his Orlando home yesterday. When Hart’s golfing partner arrived at his home at 2:00 he found Hart’s body and immediately called the police. Deputy Dawg, of the Orlando police department, stated that Hart had been bludgeoned by a variety of blunt instruments after which time his brains were in-fact eaten.

Meanwhile, across the country the Lake Tahoe police reported the deaths of both Hanna and his long-time partner Barbera, following what appeared to be a similar assault. Hanna and Barbera are best known for their animated cartoons including most notably The Flintstones.

Following in the wake of these three murders a call was made to various radio and television stations by a group calling themselves The Zombie Caveman Anti-defamation Front. The group claimed the killings were in retribution for years of unfair portrayal at the hands of these and other writers, actors and cartoonists. They also requested that more cops be sent.

Jack Bender could not be reached for comment.

by Shawn 1:32 PM

stories around the campfire

by Sharon 6:47 AM

{Monday, April 14, 2003}

I'm off to another meeting, so I'm posting a bit early on Ben, but it's pretty close to the wire, eh?

by Sharon 11:53 AM

{Sunday, April 13, 2003}

“American beer is like making love in a canoe; it’s fucking close to water.” He grinned, albeit weakly, and tried to manage a chuckle. This place, a grim visage of ash, lost souls and bleak landscape defied such efforts. In a further attempt at preserving his sanity he searched for memories of better times, times spent on the river near his home in Colorado. It seemed like a lifetime ago – which in fact it was- when he would paddle silently down the river and was rewarded with the occasional glimpse of an otter, an eagle or beaver. Now, here, in this place of ultimate desolation and despair he could barely conjure the image of the sun, much less an eagle, otter or beaver. Here the sun never shone and the river on which his canoe drifted would never see any living thing.

Alex tried to avoid the blind stares of the apparitions that floated past just beneath the water’s surface. He sat rigidly, doing his best to ignore the fact that the thin skin of the canoe that held him aloft from the black, horrid river below, was made of human skin with a frame work of bone and tendon. He had come here on a mission and would complete his assigned task and return home. Or so he dearly hoped. And yet the very nature of this place drained all hope and optimism from him and left a taste of ash in his mouth that he could not imagine ever being able to wash away once he returned to the land of the living, or, the meatworld as the locals called it.

Hoping to buoy his spirits with his typical dark sense of humor he mused that this place looked a lot like Oklahoma only without billboards. He drifted on.

by Shawn 10:09 PM


by rocketo 2:35 PM

{Saturday, April 12, 2003}

Best wishes to Travelin' Faith. She is at an
inflection point

by Sharon 8:48 AM

{Friday, April 11, 2003}

I am standing over four surly teenagers. They are pretending to work feverishly. They are lazy. I am angry.
"That looks terrible." I don't know who said it, if it was me or one of them, but it's true. The picture is crooked, the paste is all over the table, and each cut is ragged.
One of them sweeps the paper into the garbage, and sets a new page on the table. It feels like a good idea to me, but one of his fellows stabs him in the hand with an x-acto knife. He runs from the room, bleeding. I send the stabber out with him.
The remaining teenagers and I start the layout again, big picture, caption, heading, banner, story. It does, indeed, look terrible, but only after the story is laid down. I go back to the computer upon which we type out the stories, and look again at the text. After a deft justification, I reprint it. One of the teenagers cuts it out and pastes it down.
"Good enough." We are of one mind. It looks terrible, but ten minutes is not nearly enough to put out a school newspaper.
I send one of the teenagers running with the layout sheet to get the printing started.

by MisterNihil 4:28 PM

a deft justification

Sharon and I heard a great story while at my sister's wedding. The punchline was, "American cows don't count." This deft bit of justification is what inspired today's topic.

by jal 11:08 AM

{Thursday, April 10, 2003}

The grass crunched under my boots from the early morning frost. In a few hours, it would be supple and green, but then, in the pre-dawn twilight, it was etched in pewter. I could see my breath steaming out in front of me as I crossed the yard, and I wished I'd brought a hat.

Inside the barn was warmer, without the cut of the wind. It had a good, honest, mammal smell. I patted the palfrey on her delicate nose, and she whickered at me. I smiled at my nuzzled good-morning, and then stepped to the next stall.

It was the charger I intended to ride today. We regarded each other, the one black eye that faced me sizing me up. I cocked my chin up and returned that challenge. I stood as high as his shoulder.

Oof, I yield. I've had three phone calls, four emails, and a few hallway meetings since starting this; I'm yawning like crazy; and I don't know anything about suiting up a horse for riding. But the idea, anyway, was a reluctant horse that then becomes an expression of kinetic beauty.

by Sharon 5:04 PM

Stubborn Beauty

Oh look, I’m writing another essay of sorts.

So, I’m leaving Texas and heading for greener pastures, quite literally; back to the northwest for me and my clan. Over the past three years, here in Austin, I’ve spent a great deal of time -a great deal too much time as it happens- complaining about the lack of natural beauty, and beauty in general, to be found in Texas. A few days ago my wife came home and said she had a 600 Seconds topic for me to post: Stubborn Beauty.

The truth is that there really is beauty to be found here, small treasures hidden among the subdivisions, concrete spaghetti, signage and trash that litters the roadside. It simply requires the commitment of seeking these things out and appreciating them when you find them. The catalyst for this topic was seeing the famed Texas Bluebonnets growing, stubbornly, up through discarded beer cans and newspapers. There’s a metaphor here, a message, a life confirming lesson to be learned beyond the scope of the remaining few minutes I have to devote to it. Talk amongst yourselves.

The GreenBelt, Bastrop (the Lost Pines of Texas), McKinny Falls, Enchanted Rock, Hamilton Pool and others, there are places that have somehow avoided the unchecked growth and disregard for the Earth that has blanketed most of the area in concrete and beige. It’s beauty defiant and different than what I’m accustom to but it is beauty. To those of you here, in Texas that is, get out and see it, seek it out and value it for what it is. It’s not the deep forest, the ocean or mountains but it is beauty, it is there and stubborn though it may be, it may not last forever waiting for you to find the time.

by Shawn 12:33 PM

Stubborn Beauty

by Shawn 5:25 AM

{Wednesday, April 09, 2003}

Talking about REM got me talking about Squid and Elwood, which made me dig out my old cassette, recorded live (with, I think, a tape recorder) at various gigs in coffeehouses and dorms. It was as wonderful as I'd remembered.

Last night, I had a mission: To share with Shawn, before he leaves Austin, this thing I found that was startling, comforting, and inspiring to me. In the most unlikely of places—an ACTWUF (Another Church in Texas What Used to be a Field)—I found a labyrinth. I walked in meditation the night I found it, and I wanted to share this experience with the friend who has reminded me I'm a pagan.

And I wanted to share Squid and Elwood, since I'd talked about them here. So I had the tape on in the car on the way over. We arrived, and I switched off the car in the middle of "Deeeaaaaad puppies (dead, dead, dead), deeeeeaaaad puppies! Deeeeeaaaad puppies... aren't much fun." This, and then I walk in silence for 30 or 40 minutes.

Guess what's in my head. Over, and over. And over.

I finally noticed, and deliberately switched out the tape for some Joni Mitchell. ("And the seasons, they go round and round; and the painted ponies go up and down. We're captives on the carosel of time. We can't return, we can only look behind from where we came, and go round and round and round in a circle game.") That helped.

I reached the center, and was embraced by old friends who had never forgotten me, was forgiven for losing touch for a while. This filled me with such bright, bouyant joy. I knew, in that moment, that I am loved.

And then I retraced my steps and walked back out of the labyrinth, this time holding my head high, looking at the flowers in the prayer garden, the chapel, the neighborhood association potluck, the flowers, the potluck, and the chapel again. The path would be there; I didn't have to look at my feet, micromanaging every plodding step, to keep from getting lost. I could find my way while appreciating the journey.

In silence.

by Sharon 11:59 PM


To anyone who’s been to my house, and experienced the teeth-rattling chaos and cacophony of noise that comes with two kids, three dogs -four at the moment as we have a, um, visitor- a cat and all of the other bewildering trappings of life here, this will seem a peculiar post for “Melody”. And yet, the wall of white noise that is an ever-present backdrop to my life, at least until 9:00 pm, has a certain melody to it, albeit, much like a symphony warming up before a concert. Well, a symphony made up of a defiant 2-year old, a precocious 7-year old and his friends, barking dogs and so on.

So, my point, if you want to call it that, is simply this: There are a great many types of music out there and few, well, none, that everyone would agree is quality listening. I’m sure that some of you would prefer the sound of screaming children to some of the music I listen to. Certainly before I had kids the sound of children, at play or, god forbid, having a fit in a store or airport, was tantamount to cave diving, with snakes, in a crowded shopping mall. While being audited. By Jerry Falwell.

Anyhow, now, although certainly not always, as I sit amidst the maelstrom of my home life, with Garrison (my 7-year old) pelting me with questions about the Big Bang and the existence of nothing and then abruptly, and fortunately, changing the subject to superheroes, Declan (my 2-year old) head-banging me and laughing maniacally, the dogs wining to go out, come in, be fed or just to annoy me, telemarketers, TV, music, video games all competing like some surreal pig calling contest I can, again, not always but sometimes, sit back and let it all blend together into a melody of life.

Other times I just want to run screaming.

by Shawn 11:25 PM


by Fred 7:13 AM

{Tuesday, April 08, 2003}

Let me give you some advice: anybody offers to make you better, stronger, faster -- says they've got the technology -- you tell them just to keep on walking. You'll feel better about yourself in the morning, believe me.

I suppose I've got no one to blame but myself. I wasn't a conscript. I volunteered. They told me up front they couldn't guarantee my safety, that what they were offering was an experiment, potentially dangerous, quite possibly fatal, and that it wasn't officially sanctioned by any department or agency. This was strictly black ops, I was made to understand. There were no guarantees, and there was no going back. But if it worked -- and they had reason to suspect that it would -- I would be doing my country a great service. I'd already lost both arms and legs serving my country, and I guess by then I figured they owed me.

So I signed up. There were months of painful tests, skin grafts, transplants, implants. But, in the end, they made it work. After all, I wasn't their first test subject. I was retrofitted with what they called a nano-endoskeleton, a latticework of little machines spread throughout my body, knitting me together from the inside, making me stronger, better, whole. Limbs grew back. They seemed particularly impressed with that. It took long weeks of physical therapy to learn to use my arms and legs again, but the modifications they'd made helped. I was growing stronger every day -- senses more acute, sharpened. I was, in short, becoming the super soldier I'd volunteered to be.

Except the machines inside kept modifying, kept making changes, kept trying to make me better. When I grew a third eye, even the doctors sat up and took notice. Then the tail, and the claws, and the opposable toes. One modification would start, only to be scratched for another. Appendages would no sooner start to grow than they would atrophy. The machines in inside me, this billion-dollar endoskeleton, had apparently gone mad. Competing armies of nanobots claimed different parts of my body, attempted changes, only (I am told) to fall beneath the conquering heel of another. None could agree on what I was supposed to become.

It isn't so bad. There's medication that helps draw out the lulls, helps slow the process. I never know what parts I'll still have left at the end of the day, or what new tricks the machines have in store, but it's manageable, I guess. I'm not what they envisioned, but every day's an adventure.

I just wish I hadn't volunteered.

by Fred 10:23 PM


by Sharon 1:08 PM

{Monday, April 07, 2003}

The aliens took my dog. Nobody believes me, but that's what happened.

It all started about a week ago. I was at home, cooking dinner, when the whole house started to shake. Then the power on the television in the other room went out, and the lights in the kitchen started to flicker. I heard this sort of low rumbling noise from outside on the front lawn, and when I looked out the window there they were. Their ship was like a giant saucer of metal, like something out of the movies, nothing much to see but polished chrome and a short ramp leading to the ground. They got out, walked to my front door, knocked, and, when I finally answered, they said they were here to take Buster for walkies and could I please go get them his leash? I was struck dumb, of course, but Buster seemed perfectly happy to go with them. The truth is, if I didn't know any better, I'd almost think he'd been expecting them.

About an hour later, they brought him back. They thanked me for my time, took turns scratching him behind the ears, and handed me back his leash. Then they got back in their ship, retracted the ramp, and blasted off into the evening sky. When they were gone, Buster proceeded to curl up beneath the kitchen table and go to sleep, like nothing had happened. But the next day, it happened again. And it's happened every day since then. The aliens come, they take my dog for a walk, and then they bring him back. Nobody believes me. The neighbors agree, the crop circle on my lawn is strange, but that's no reason to make up silly stories. Apparently, no one else has seen the ship. After all, why would aliens come all this way, across untold light years of empty space, just to walk a dog? They've shown only the most passing of interest in me. I keep wondering if they'll offer to take me with them, but they never do. Am I wrong to feel jealous of Buster?

I never thought Earth's first ambassador to the stars would be my dog.

by Fred 2:34 PM

Low and insistent, at the base of her skull: "Take me." A whispered request, irresistible for its urgency. She bit her lip.

It would be so easy. A candle on the far side of the room guttered in its pool of wax. It would be so easy now. Later would be harder. Creating complications, this. A thin curl of incense insinuated into her nostrils, made her think of forgotten times, other loves, a forbidden night in humid sheets. Again: "Take me."

She shook her head, making eye-contact only with the distant candle as it gave up its light and became a ribbon of smoke. She crossed the room, fished a new votive out of the cabinet, lit it. She returned to the couch and steeled her resolve. No.

"Take me." A voice drilling at her temples, making her eyes throb when she pressed her hands against them. "Take me." A promise of cravings and answers and release. "Take me." A dare.

Want scratched at her skin, pushed from behind her throat, made her nipples hard. Too much to resist, this. She pumped her fist to make a vein stand up. She knocked the bubbles out of the syringe. She thought about phoning someone; didn't. When the plea came again, she answered it.

by Sharon 1:39 PM

Part I Part II
It skittered from behind a tree, across the park to a hedge. We saw and didn't see, as we were mostly watching the sky. Molly saw them first. She just sort of looked over and pointed, and I squinted to try to see what she saw.
It was a shadow on the far side of the hedge. It didn't register for a second, and then I realized it was stretching out toward the sun. It was hiding from us. We wrote it off to a trick of the light.
Molly and I sat and stared at it, still not thinking beyond the beautiful horizon, rapidly becoming more pink and purple, shot through with yellow. The spring air was cool and the trees were all in bloom. I chanced to look around, and saw another odd shadow. It was across the hill from us, behind another tree. I stared for a moment and realized it was perpendicular to us. It was like another sun was sitting where we were, and the light was casting these sort of shapeless shadows. I stood up on our blanket and stretched. Molly remained horizontal.
I took a step over toward the second odd shadow we'd seen. The grass crunched under my heel. As soon as it did, I noticed the shadow shiver, like it was excited. I glanced to my left, where the first was, and saw that it had moved. It was now closer to us, and disconnected from the tree. I turned back to the second, and saw that it too had moved, but was now still. I looked behind me and saw that three more had disconnected from shadows under bushes, buildings and trees, and had slid a few feet closer. The nearest was about twenty yards off. I turned back to the first we'd seen, and saw that it had moved again.
Every time I turned my head, I saw more that had moved, but I never actually saw one move. By turning my back to the two we'd first seen, I could keep the most of them at bay, but those two were slithering up. Molly was laying on her back, staring up at the clouds. I stepped back onto the blanket, and turned again. The shadows hadn't moved.
I didn't want to alarm her, but I had to tell Molly. I reached down, took her hand, and helped her to her feet. She blinked the almost-sleep out of her eyes, and stretched. I pointed silently to the shadows on the lawn. She eeped and jumped a little. I held her, and watched. The shadows still hadn't moved.
I put a foot out and touched the grass, while watching two shadows. They glided across the grass, right in front of me. They came close, and I pulled my foot back. They stopped just a foot from the edge of the blanket. I thought I heard the snap of teeth; it must have been my imagination.
Molly sat, staring at the shadows. She reached out a hand and held it over the grass. One of the shadows reared up to a height of almost six feet. It was formless and as black as anything I'd ever seen. The air around it was dim, and it hurt the eyes to look at. Five more stood around us within seconds. They moved to my side of the blanket; one of them stepped on, moving toward me.
Molly screamed, "No! Take Me!"
They jumped for her, and God help me I ran.

by MisterNihil 12:31 PM

“Take me.”

Alex looked up. The plea was said with the unmistakable whisper of desperation that only someone trapped in a life hopeless and forlorn could manage. Her hand trembled as she sat the bill for coffee and a piece of pie down in front of him. She had been beautiful once, years earlier, before an abusive marriage, three children, and nine years of working a dead end job serving bad coffee and throw away food to faceless truckers at the I-5 Manningsville truck stop.

He met her eyes, briefly, before looking back down, not at his maps splayed out in front of him, but her hands, fidgeting and frightened. He had never met this woman, despondent and lost in this desolate place, but he knew her. He knew everything about her and, like so many times before, it saddened him to the core. It wasn’t in her eyes –sad though they were- it was in her hands. He could look at a person’s hands and see into their soul; he could see all there was, hopes, dreams, disappointments and everything they were or may ever be. It was his mutant power.

Without looking up he pulled out a $5, hesitated for a moment, added a $20 tip and gathered his maps, gloves and motorcycle helmet. He was headed north, or maybe west, it really didn’t matter but in any case he was traveling alone, always, alone. Knowing the past, the potential, the life, and ultimately, the death of everyone he was ever to meet meant that he was, and would always be alone.

by Shawn 12:00 PM

take me

by Sharon 5:33 AM

{Sunday, April 06, 2003}

very late
The sun went down, feels like days ago. I kicked the old typewriter into gear at just after midnight, near as I figure. I haven't seen any light but the light from this lamp since. I don't know what day it is. I don't even know what's happening in the so-called real world right now. All I know is the four walls of this shack and the drip drip sound outside that is the reason I'll never see Molly again.
There's a pile of paper on the floor next to me. It's got poetry, some fiction, one little story I'm proud of about a tight-rope girl and a lion-tamer in the circus in the mid-20's; I can't write that any more. I wrote those just to throw off the Stalkers. I know they're watching. I don't care. They can sit outside, and as long as I keep writing, I think I know they won't come in. After what they did to Molly, I know I have to keep writing. She stopped. I watched her get tired and stop writing, and they just jumped...
I can't think of it. I gotta tell what happened to her.
It was last week, I think. We were going to go to the park. I wandered with her up toward the little pond out there, and we sat and watched the sun move across the sky. It's a beautiful town. I forget the name. I forgot a lot of things. It's when you sleep that they get you. Make you forget the name of the town you're in, the town you grew up in, everything. So, Molly and I were sitting, watching the sun move, and just laying back.
Then, we saw the first of them.

by MisterNihil 11:51 PM

Your topic today is
very late.

by MisterNihil 6:08 PM

{Saturday, April 05, 2003}

I got there once, and I've been looking for it ever since.

I don't remember the details of what it was like. I just know it was a world separate from this one. I remember feeling vital and powerful. I wanted to stay there always.

I traveled by train. I can remember the train. It was a coal-powered steam engine, with a long chain of sleeper cars and dining cars. It was full of extravagant people, women with hats and gloves, men with coats and monocles.

At the end of my journey, the train disgorged me onto the platform, its whistle screamed, and my face was blasted by warm air. I carried a valise in one hand, with an umbrella under my arm. Then I woke, in my bed at my parents' house, and I could hear the whistle far off, at the switching yards, diminishing as it departed for the return trip. I've been looking for that other place ever since.

by Sharon 7:20 PM

dream sequence

by rocketo 2:50 AM

{Friday, April 04, 2003}

Being a child born in the eighties, where the first song I remember hearing was the police's Message In A Bottle, and the first album I stole from my parents was nirvana's Nevermind, I definitely jumped on the REM bandwagon much later than their true fans. MTV provided such ditties as Losing My Religion and Shiny Happy People, but I didn't get to see those until well into the nineties. I also took automatic for the people from my parents, and in times of social rejection would (obviously) play Everybody Hurts. Monster was the only album I ever bought of theirs, and What's the Frequency, Kenneth I didn't understand.

My favorite song, Man on the Moon, I didn't understand for years because I knew none of the principal players. I've never been big on pop culture, and entire eras are still missing from my hardwiring. I always thought "Annie" was playing board games, getting locked in the park, then goofing on Elvis street, baby. I never knew if she was having fun. But I triumphantly sang the part of the song where I knew the lyrics, "If you believe they put a man on the moon!" I'd cry, singing in the evolved high-then-cracking-then-deeper voice I reserved for my adolescent singing, "Then nothing is cool."

I certainly wasn't.

by rocketo 12:48 PM

Monster currently holds sway in my car. This is my favorite REM album right now. Jon asked me last night what my two favorite REM songs are, and then hoped I wouldn't turn the question back to him. *smile* I mean, how do you answer that?

  • It's the End of the World as We Know It holds the best memories for me. This song is full of CTY, and Squid on the Old Main steps, and Faith with sign language, and Tameka in high school. Michael needed a crumpled printout with the feeder holes still attached, on their "Unplugged" appearance; Squid scoffed when I asked if he knew all the lyrics. This makes me smile.

  • Belong is strange. I know it's about something, and I don't know what. I listen to it over and over, trying to tease out the secret allusions that will make it snap open like a puzzle box when you've touched all the right levers.

  • World Leader Pretend is one that Tameka sat me down and played for me. It makes me think of her, and her intensity, along with "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," by the Indigo Girls.

  • Nightswimming is sweet. I want to dwell in this poetry.

  • Radio Song has a rap, like Nine Inch Nails' "Down In It." I like to rap along. I am so white.

  • Stand makes me think of CTY, the golden days of MTV, and my dad. Don't know why.

  • Shiny Happy People: Kate Pierson! Nuff said.

  • The Wrong Child speaks to me. I feel like this. "Tell me what it's like to go outside. I've never been." This song makes me feel less alone. As does:

  • Everybody Hurts.

  • Crush With Eyeliner paints a portrait I'd like to play at, now and again.

  • Strange Currencies is sincere and vulnerable. Michael sings to me, "And I don’t know what you mean to me. But I want to turn you on, turn you up, figure you out; I want to take you on, on."

  • I Don't Sleep, I Dream captures my day here. I'm always looking for an interruption. And yes, I'll settle for a cup of coffee, but you know what I really need.

  • Man in the Moon has an Elvis impression. What more could you want?

  • King of Birds, for the line, "Standing on the shoulders of giants leaves me cold."

  • Strange provided the flavor quote for a story I wrote for my astrophysics class: "There's something strange going on tonight. There's something going on that's not quite right. Ah-ha."
So, yeah. That. I am so out of time.

by Sharon 12:41 PM

We argue this one over and over, me and him.
I like old REM. I like the stuff when it proudly didn't make sense and it proudly sounded like a band with no idea where they were going and a peaceful easy feeling about the whole thing. I like "7Chinese Brothers" and "Voice of Herold." Not only were they the song they were supposed to be, not the song somebody wanted them to be, but they were also not supposed to be for clean consumption by the public. They were art.
He likes the newer stuff. He didn't start listening to REM until Out of Time, and he doesn't like much from before that. Even Green is a little wierd for him. When you get back into Reconstruction of the Fables of the Reconstruction, he just quits listening. He liked Automatic for the People so much, he wore out two cassettes. He thought they peaked at about Monster (when, he will point out until you are sick to death of him, he saw them live with Radiohead. He laughs because Michael Stipe had to use lyric sheets for the old stuff, but he could remember the new stuff). He hasn't heard much since Up, but he likes it a lot. I haven't let him buy any of their really new albums.
The only album the two of us agree on, really, is New Adventures in HiFi. It was dark and catchy, and so agrees with both of us OK.
I guess, as the topic is What's your favorite song, I haveta be diplomatic and say Wake Up Bomb. Yeah, it was a big hit single, not some hard-to-find oddness, but it's a good song, and when I saw them live (see? til you're sick to death) they said it was brand new. They said it was the first time they'd played it, and that they wrote it on the way to the show. I think it was sarcasm; it was probably the one they'd been playing on late night talk shows. I don't know. I wasn't savvy at the time.

by MisterNihil 11:24 AM

You know, I’m not sure I have a favorite REM song. That’s not to say I don’t like them as they are in-fact one of my favorite groups although the only album I currently own, that comes to mind, is Automatic For The People. Still, I’ve been listening to them since their first album, which, I think was around 1983. I had a room mate in art school who was a huge music fan and introduced me to them and a great deal of other music I probably wouldn’t have heard of otherwise.

I don’t know as though I have any great stories to relate so I’ll just while away the ten minutes with a few observations. There’s something about REM, or maybe Stipes’ voice that will often nearly bring tears to my eyes. I’m not sure if it’s more the lyrics or the overall delivery. Until recently anyhow.

A friend recently got me listening to REM again and I find that Everybody Hurts, a song I always found almost unbearably sad, now brings a smile.

For years, and only in retrospect, the song Nightswimming always reminded me of a girlfriend I had, also in art school at the same time. I say in retrospect as the song is on Automatic which came out in 92, 8 years after I had graduated from AIP (Art Institute of Pittsburgh) and a like time since I had last seen Dee (the aforementioned girlfriend). We would, um, “let ourselves into” a city pool at 2 am and swim.

Man on the Moon: I never liked Andy Koffman when he was on SNL but, after hearing this song, I had a better understanding and respect for him.

There’s more, much more, and yet I have a client waiting for a painting, kids to play with and besides, I’m Out Of Time.

by Shawn 11:00 AM

Faith said she'll be afk for a while, and could we pick up her topics. I'd thought that was starting Monday, but maybe not. *shrug* I'm posting, so there you are.
What's your favorite REM song, and why?

by Sharon 9:10 AM

{Thursday, April 03, 2003}


Tyson saw the ad in the back of a true crime magazine. It took him three and a half months before he got up the nerve to call it. What finally pushed him to do it was the one-two punch of having a particularly bad day at work and finding his car had been "keyed" while he snagged groceries on his way home.

That evening, he sat down in his threadbare wicker rocker, picked up his rotary handset, and dialed 1-800-78277-69. He placed the handset to his ear--gingerly, as if he was afraid that it would shock or bite him. It rang three times, then a woman's voice picked up. "Thank you for calling Starr 69 Investigative Services."

"Uh, yes. My name is..."

The recorded message continued, "All of our agents are busy serving other customers, but your concerns are important to us. Please hold for the next available agent." Tyson's cheeks flushed. He took a few quick breaths to calm himself and tried to enjoy the hold music. They were using the "Flashback Commute" broadcast from a local 80's station.

After waiting for about 5 minutes, a man came on the line. "Starr 69 Investigations. What can we do for ya?" Where the recorded woman's voice was calm and sophisticated, this voice was the opposite. He sounded like a man who would buy expensive french roast coffee beans and eat them raw.

Tyson took a moment to compose himself, related his tale of grade school oppression and woe, and capped it off with: "So I want you to find the kid who kept pushing me down on the playground. His name was Tom, or Tim, or something like that. His last name began with something higher than 'L'. I remember that because he wasn't in my fire drill group. Can you find him?"

"Yeah. We can find him. It'll be $50 a day. Usually takes about three to five days to find a person. In your case, I think it'll take five." He paused and took what sounded like a sip of water. "So, whaddayou want us to do once we've found him?"

Tyson hadn't really believed this part of the ad, and was genuinely surprised when asked. "Uh, well... I'd really like you to give him a good shove and knock him over." He barely managed to stutter out a reply.

"Just one shove or a whole bunch of 'em? You looking for us to cause emotional trauma, or actual physical damage? That'll cost more, you know." Another pause, punctuated by wet crunching sounds. A pickle?

Eventually, the entire affair was arranged and settled. Two weeks later, Tyson was $427.83 poorer and had a video recording of Thomas J. Pinhauser getting deliberately knocked over by seemingly random strangers in seven seperate locations. This tape became his most prized possession. He would watch it when he felt blue or oppressed and it never failed to cheer him up. When he died 23 years later, he had it buried with him. No one else ever saw it.

by jal 11:12 PM

Launch thrusters? Check.
Rocket boosters? Check.
Hyperdrive? Check.
Subspace radio? Check.
Parallax sheilding? Honey, did you bring enough jumpsuits?
...Parallax sheilding? Oh, sorry. Check. But did you?
Yes, mom. Enough for four weeks. Weapons array? Don't slouch, dear... Ah, check.
I don't slouch. You do. No son of mine should slouch like you do. I always told my mother I wouldn't have a sloucher for a son. Your grandfather slouched. I hated it.
He doesn't slouch any more. That's because Pop Pop's dead.
Why did I even bring you? I wanted to see seventy stars. This was supposed to me my vacation, Troy. And look, we only have two more to go. CLARA's already mapped out the hyperspace coordinates for the sixty-ninth and seventieth star.
Thank God for CLARA. Thank your father, dear. He programmed her. His only gift to me, and it turned out to be a electro-slut.
CLARA is just interested in amassing information from nearby ships. She doesn't need to marry them to make a connection. Of course not. God forbid anyone on this ship gets married anytime soon.
That's enough, mother. We're blasting off. 5... 4... 3... 2... Why do you hate me?
Star sixty-nine, here we come. Prepare yourself.

by rocketo 5:50 PM


<blockquote class="topic">your topic</blockquote>