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{Friday, November 28, 2003}

Three fingers
Point, to show
One to lead us
Forward, hard
Won, but worth it.
Fie! Very soon,
Nein, very late.
Too late.
Sick, so sick. So late.
Five soldiers,
Five soldiers, l
ate, showing the
Nigh nails, bones,
Severed tendons.

by Sharon 12:24 PM


by Fred 6:30 AM

{Thursday, November 27, 2003}

This is the first Thanksgiving in three years in which I did not cook. In fact, twice in the last three years, I had a hand or two in everything that was cooked. This is the first Thanksgiving in about ten years that I am celebrating without family and in fact that is only the second time that has happened.

Not to long ago, I hated Thanksgiving...all the ideas of imperialist Europeans and naive natives dance in my head louder than any sugar plum fairy ever will. It also bugged me that what many consider the second biggest holiday o' the year consisted of football on tv with beer and a big meal. I didn't get it.

Then I started cooking. Everything changed.

Suddenly, Thanksgiving became a week long affair. Suddenly it became fun. My newly found and creative outlet had its own yearly showcase. It was like my own personal Iron Chef (except I got a week and they got an hour so more like Styrofoam Chef...yikes, but that isn't recyclable and Faith won't like that so more like 1/2 Gallon Milk Containers in Certain Counties in the US Chef). Or perhaps like a yearly gallery showing for me to show off my latest innovations...my coconut raspberry truffle, my spicy cranberry compote, my mashed potatoes with whole cloves of garlic.

While I didn't cook this year, I celebrate the cooking.

I spent today with two groups of people. First, my lovely eight hour shift at MY store in North Tigard. The new digs feel disorganized as if they haven't actually ever had a manager. My new team welcomed me and seemed very excited to have me. After work, I had the big dinner at MY friend's house (no beer, no football). It is nice to be able to call a place of business mine. It is nice to be able to call some Portlanders friends.

While I wasn't with my family, I celebrated my two new families.

I missed out on the two most important parts of Thanksgiving to me and yet I still would consider today a celebration. I have much to be thankful for.

by Bryan 11:15 PM

What would celebrating Thanksgiving look like? I nod and acknowledge its passing, and I take my day off from work with a good will, but I don't hold much for rote observance of commercially sanctioned events, and I don't spend a whole lot of thought on Pilgrims or American Indians or Plymouth Rock. Unless I focus on it, the historical significance is more about contruction-paper feather headdresses and paper hats with strange, wide buckles.

We get together, I try not to eat too much, I feel faintly sick, and I try to avoid stores playing Christmas carols.

Truthfully, at the moment, I'm feeling rather sick. Probably from eating too much, but also from the stress of holidays (more the upcoming one than the one just past), and from too much people. I need to run away for a while.

Regarding Christmas--I can't even articulate how much I wish Christmas would just stop occurring--my mother tells me to relax. Not "don't get presents for people;" not "we'll make sure no one gives you anything bigger or more awkward than a kiss on the cheek;" not "never mind making all the travel arrangements to visit family you want to see and in-laws you don't;" not "pitch the whole cheap, commercial, tinsel-strewn piece of shit in the trash and just visit when you can arrange a nice stretch of vacation days." Just "relax."

And Thanksgiving is the crest of the hill. It's that moment of breathless pause--when you sit in the front car--where the front of the coaster has tipped towards the descent but the rear has not cleared the top of the hill yet. The parabola's maximum. The last moment of innocence. The point of no return. After Thanksgiving, stores don't even have to be apologetic about playing Christmas carols and hawking their plastic trees. Thanksgiving is Day 1 of a month of teeth-gnashing, migrane-inducing stress.

No wonder I feel sick.

by Sharon 11:04 PM

{Wednesday, November 26, 2003}

Do you celebrate Thanksgiving? Why or Why Not?

by Faith 6:00 AM

{Tuesday, November 25, 2003}

The sisters were pretending to be invisible, so he was advised not to look directly at them.

"They'll know you can see them if you do," their butler told Henderson. "And that will ruin the illusion. They're very keen on their illusions."

"Oh," said Henderson. He'd heard that the sisters were a strange pair -- most everyone else at the firm had had some dealings with them apparently -- but he wasn't quite sure how to handle mock-invisibility. "I will need them to sign some papers," he said. "If I can't see them --"

"Best just to follow my lead, sir," the butler said. He stopped in front of two large wooden doors and swung them open. "This way," he added, and Henderson followed him into the room.

And there the sisters were, plain as day -- or, rather, quite a bit more noticable than day, as they were dressed in gold-sequined gowns and tiaras. They were absolutely impossible to miss. Henderson looked away.

"I was sure they were in here, sir," the butler said very loudly. "You don't see them, do you?"

He eyed Henderson and nodded.

"Oh!" the lawyer said. "No. I don't."

"I wonder," said the butler as he appeared to scan the room, "where could they be?"

"Yes," replied Henderson, trying to look anywhere but at the golden-clad women standing almost directly in front of him, "where could they be?"

The women tittered, but, as the butler chose to ignore this, so did Henderson. "Perhaps," he said after a moment, "they've gone for a walk."

"Um, yes," said Henderson. "They must have."

"Perhaps you should just leave those papers you needed them to sign over there," said the butler. He pointed to a table next to the women. "On that table."

"Oh," said Henderson. "Yes. I'll do that." And so he did.

"Something tells me it won't be long before they get to them," the butler said.

"No," said Henderson, "They're bound to turn up sooner or later, I'm sure."

by Fred 11:58 PM

There's a trick to it. There always is, of course.

It's like the rule about not picking up baby birds or bunnies. If you make direct contact, you taint them. You ruin them. And they know this, so they make themselves scarce.

But if you stand in the golden light that comes for twenty minutes in the late evening on only the best days, when trees and flowers are gilt and even buildings can look appealing, and you face west, so that the full fire of the sun dazzles your eyes and fills your vision with light, you can almost just catch them, if you turn your head at just the right moment.

It's like looking at faint objects through a telescope. The center of your retina is too worn, too used, but if you look just off to the side, allowing the desired object to fall slightly off center, onto the more sensitive receptors in your eye, you can catch a whisper of it, a hint of galaxy or globular cluster or planetary nebula. You know it's there, and you have to trust your intuition, because the moment you snap your focus back to center, it will disappear in the murk of your overused eyes.

You can almost glimpse them, as long as you override your innate reflex to lock onto fleeting motion. Otherwise, they will elude you, the way that a floaty in your vision skitters out of your grasp, moving with the motion of your eye. But if you can listen to your intuition, and trust the quiet part of the brainstem you never use, you can see them, only just.

They will retaliate, of course.

by Sharon 11:42 AM

Now, don't look directly at them. They take eye contact as a sign of aggression, and they'll rip your head off. You should know, they're also very inquisitive, and they'll try to make eye contact if they notice you are looking away. Also, they take obvious lack of eye contact as a sign of defenselessness, and they always attack the defenseless. Please keep your children on hand at all times.
No sir, please no flash photography. They react badly to sudden flashes of light.
I'm not sure what they eat, ma'am. I mean, the joke is that they can eat pretty much anything they want, but you know how jokes are, a-ha-ha-ha.
Please sir, don't poke them. They'll only- Oh sir, now you'd done it. I'm afraid that the waiver you signed at the door leaves us blameless if we can't sew that back on.
Now, did everybody notice the quick way that they strike? That's typical for their species, but in samples of their size it shows that they're in excellent condition, and also that they have been poked. Sir, if you don't stop bleeding you'll incite their blood frenzy, and I can't be responsible for what happens then- Oh, sir, there they go.
They'll be perfectly docile for a few moments now, which will just give us time to file out and lock the door.
Now that we've had our fill of mandrills, who wants to taunt a baboon in heat? Do you, little girl? They're so cute when they're that age. a-ha-ha-ha-ha.

by MisterNihil 8:49 AM

Don't look directly at them.

by Sharon 8:06 AM

{Monday, November 24, 2003}

"You never listen to a word I --"

"Say! Is that the remote? I've been looking for that thing all --"

"Over. There, I said it. It's over. You don't listen, we never --"

"Talk shows? Oh man, I hate talk shows. Do you mind if I --"

"-- change, but you never do. It's just no good, I can't take any--"

"More talk shows? Geez. I thought it was nine o'clock. Isn't that --"

"Time we just accepted it and moved on. This isn't --"

"-- working. Maybe it's the batteries. No, wait, there it goes. Man, there's nothing on but talk --"

"Shows what I know, trying to fix things. It's just not worth it. It's too much --"

"Work, damn it! Sorry, were you saying --"

"-- something I should have done a long --"

"-- time for these talk shows to end, don't you --"

"-- think we should break up."


by Fred 3:49 PM

I dangle a slice of cheese from my hand, and time slows. I hear each sound around me, and then again. I see myself extend my arm, and then extend it again. I feel myself brace with the change of gravity center, and then rebrace with the same shift. Time is a series of half-second delays as the slice of cheese which hangs from my two fingers moves away from my body and away from my body again.
The cheese, which I know should be swiss but has no trademark holes it it, was on a sandwich a half-second ago, and is again on the sandwich and is again off of the sandwich. I have often pondered a culture that can be so easily be duped into thinking that the difference between mozzarella and swiss is the presence or absence of holes. The cheese is hanging from my hand, and jiggling. The jiggling seems to go on forever, but time is merely slow and on a delay. I see the jiggling, the slow undulating, and then I see it again.
The cheese was on the sandwich because of an executive decision to put it there. I have made a much smaller-scale executive decision to remove it. I love cheese, and previously would not have removed it from a sandwich. Now, it hangs from my fingers away from my body and will not be put back on the sandwich. I am not allowed to eat cheese. A sad little voice inside my head whimpers because it knows it is beat. I am not allowed to eat cheese. It hurts me to remove it, and what I am about to do feels like a sin.
I drop the cheese into the garbage can.
It falls slowly, twisting under gravity's harsh grip, until it lands with a long thud on the plastic surface.
Time speeds back up, and the delay catches back up with the world. I eat my sandwich which, I tell myself, is still acceptable without cheese. Oh, cheese. I miss it so.

by MisterNihil 11:12 AM

Half Second Delay

by MisterNihil 10:12 AM

{Saturday, November 22, 2003}

No doubt, when I posted the topic I had an idea in mind for the comparison of the internet to the vast wasteland of television. But that was some while ago and whatever clever babble I may have had in mind has faded. So…

It is I suppose a rather leading topic suggesting that I am prepared to offer up a diatribe against the internet, but, in truth I find it an invaluable tool in my line of work. As an artist I would spend hours, days, searching through the libraries and used book stores looking for the necessary reference. Now, it’s all there at the touch of a button so to speak. What once took the better part of an afternoon to track down now takes but a moment.

True too is that the internet represents an access to information unparalleled in human history. There is a vast repository of information available to anyone with internet access. From the mating habits of frogs, to life in medieval Europe, dinosaurs, the galaxy, weather reports and how microprocessors work. Whatever your interest the internet offers a seemingly endless storehouse of information. Then, there’s the other 95 percent.

Like TV the vast, vast majority of what’s available is utter crap. Of course there is without question an argument to be made on the subtle value of mindless entertainment – hell, it’s what I do for a living- but in 10 minutes one doesn’t explore subtleties, one speaks in broad generalities. And, like most programming, most of what’s available on line is there because we have the ability to put it there, not because it has any real value. But then, I don’t know as though that’s necessarily a bad thing, simply an observation.

The other thought that comes to mind (having only a few minutes left) is that there’s a point to be made about information being _too _ easy to come by. Yes, I know, that rings of elitism or at perhaps nonsense. But there’s a seed of a discussion there somewhere. There is a value to holding a book in your hand. There is a value to searching through dusty shelves of books until you find that one, obscure, even arcane bit of information, text, passage, picture you’re after. I recently picked up a copy of Barbara Tuckman’s A Distant Mirror at a yard sale and was delighted. It’s been 25 years since I read this book and frankly, probably won’t reread it even though it’s a great book (my schedule just doesn’t allow for rereading books it seems) but there was something about being able to hold that thick, lovely book in my hand now see it sitting on the shelf between Brother Cadfael and the Poverty Of Philosophy. Um, there was a point there somewhere.

I know people whose only view of the world, their only source of information is TV, the internet and * shudder * computer games. Information is fed to them freely and without effort on their part, without commitment and desire. I don’t know if this is good or bad, but for some reason it must concern me or I wouldn’t mention it. Somehow there is, in my mind anyhow, a connection to something my Kung Fu teacher once told me: He said when he charged very little for his classes people didn’t pay nearly as much attention, or value them as when he doubled his price.

by Shawn 1:12 PM

{Friday, November 21, 2003}

The question suggests that TV is not something of the modern age. I think it is the epitome of the modern age. How else do you determine the culture's zeitgeist, if not via cable?

The internet competes with television for our time, but only in so much as books, movies, and flying a kite do. On a substantive level, the internet does not replace television. That particular form of efficient lie propagation remains unique.

Nor is the internet a new kind of information. It is a new delivery method for messages, but those messages have no more or less truth (i.e., factualness, hence information-ness) than a stadium full of fans shouting into the wind. Enough voices create a kind of consensual truth, but there is often a large gulf between the consensus and reality. (cf., Lemmings don't jump off cliffs. Water does not run the wrong way down the drain in the southern hemisphere. Kathy Lee Gifford is not stylish.)

No, the internet is something else altogether. It is an outlet. It is a meeting place. It is a commercial. It is a diversion, a heartbreak, and a frustration. It is the biggest party line in the world. It is a vocation; it is a fad; it is a revolution.

It is connections.

by Sharon 4:09 PM

I don't watch a lot of TV any more. I mean, I have and always have had and will have for several more years until I die a love for movies, and so the television is necessary. It's not the same. On the Silver Screen, which is now usually white, it's great to watch even those movies I've seen plenty of times. On the "small screen," what's lost in scale is made up for in bathroom and snack availability (at Rock Bottom Prices!) (compared to the theater). On the "Teeny Weeny Screen," by which I mean my laptop, there's the whole bathroom availability thing, but I don't like to eat around it as cream cheese, and I mean this, is never really cleaned out of a keyboard.
Portability is nice. The idea that I can watch a movie by bringing only five-to-ten pounds of equipment with me and not exacly needing a house plug is nice.
On the Other hand, HomeStarRunner isn't on TV, and thank any form of goodness for that. It would lose something. Even the cinematic cartoons don't beg for a movie in quite the same way that South Park did. OK, they don't beg for a movie because they seem to like how much swearing they can do and could use much nastier language, should the whim overtake them. And it's only available on the computer.
On the same hand but a different finger, there's the fact that what the internet really provides to me is a way to read six or seven beautifull screwed up comics (like these, for example), and content to read forever. I'm kind of sad when I finish a book, and on the internet, I can read a bit of several books every day. For example, there's the one I'm writing on right now. Extolling the virtures of, even.
And, because a trite finish is like a bad wine, That's All I Have To Say About That.

by MisterNihil 11:46 AM

From Shawn:
The internet: evolution of information or TV for the modern age?

by Sharon 5:32 AM

{Thursday, November 20, 2003}

One can do many things with a drunken sailor. They can be used to prop open doors, scare away stray dogs with their noxious rum-covered scent, hold your place in line while you go to the bathroom, etc. They have a million and one different household uses. It's getting a drunken sailor that can prove to be the challenge. Where does one go if one does not live within easy travelling distance of the wharf? After all, not just any sailor will do. Your run-of-the-mill, yacht-club, regatta-racing, look-I've-got-a-captain's-hat-on type sailor might get plenty drunk (one can probably count on it), but he's more likely to be annoying and shrill than genuinely useful. Remember: rugged seafaring ability is just as important as lack of sobriety, and a stupid hat or a couple of beers on the weekend do not a sailor make. If one does not live near a body of water as sailor-happy as the sea, one may wish to seek alternatives. Drunken sailors are certainly useful, but, in a pinch, a drunken bowler will do just fine. One needn't be anywhere near water to find such a specimen, and if he isn't drunk one can rest assured he isn't properly committed to his sport. A drunken sailor who also bowls would be ideal, but they are rare and therefore difficult to come by. They spend most of their time between frames vomiting below decks. Which, of course, raises an important question: who puts a bowling alley aboard a ship? A question which, unfortunately, will have to wait for another time.

by Fred 7:34 PM

There are lots of reasons to hate tampons. But let's focus our energies on one attainable goal at a time, in the interest of effecting real change.

I'm currently reading The Curse (1999) by Karen Houppert, a book about "confronting the last taboo," and it is the source for today's rant. Er, call to action, that is.

In the very early 1980's, Proctor & Gamble made Rely brand tampons, the most absorbent ever. Their capacity to absorb, plus the synthetic materials used to achieve such, proved to be excellent breeding grounds for the Staph bacteria, causing severe cases of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). P&G didn't take action until the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) threatened to take their own action, which didn't happen until women died.

In the late 1990's, P&G bought Tambrands, makers of Tampax brand tampons. (The Justice Department did not take umbrage with this merger because they figured that selling the 50% market-holder in tampons to the 35% market-holder in pads would not violate anti-trust laws. Clearly those two products have different markets. Clearly.)

So here we are, 2003, and the purveyor of death has become the largest manufacturer of tampons. P&G is counting on consumers' notoriously short memory span. They also push the responsibility for preventing TSS onto the consumers, insisting that we use the least absorptive tampon that would still be effective, and change them more often. Conveniently, this means we need to buy more varieties of tampons--light days, moderate, embarrassing, and biblical deluge--and use more of them. Nice.

But who gets TSS anymore? Why worry?

Well, aside from the fact that people do still get TSS, there are more insidious poisons foisted on us by our friends at the tampon factories. Dioxin. It is a chemical used in bleaching wood pulp, and is found in most tampons. The tampon manufacturers will tell you there is no risk from dioxin, and the FDA has been happy to take their word for it. (Fox? Henhouse? What?)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on the other hand, has much to say about dioxin. It can be linked to cancer, atrophied testicles, hormonal changes, the inability to bring a pregnancy to term, and endometriosis. The EPA asserts that there is no safe level of dioxin. It is cumulative, and it is slow to decay.

We consume dioxin as it creeps its way up the food chain, stored in fat cells. What effects would you expect from prolonged contact--not just with skin, but with the highly porous and permeable skin of the vaginal lining?

So what's to do? Like I said at the beginning, we should pick our battles. Let's start with something simple: Demand that tampon manufacturers print ingredient lists on their boxes. Armed with information, we can bring our considerable power as consumers to bear, as we reward woman-conscious companies with our money and shun the bastards who would hang us out to dry.

And today, right now? Talk about it. Stop being weird about one of the most normal things in the world. It's one of the few things that women in every country have in common. Don't let advertisers tell us we need to be ashamed of our bodies and our blood.

What's that? How does this relate? Well, you can't flush 'em down the head when you're at sea, no matter how drunk you are. So there.

by Sharon 3:29 PM

From the Pirates Constitution:
128.76.1 In the matter of appropriate actions to be taken re:drunken sailor (see sections vis a vis drunken, sect. 17.236.65 and sailors 1.1.1), this body shall a)pass no laws restricting the access to said sailors (drunken) by fellow crew-members who are defined, as per rules defined in section 17, paragraph 236, line 65 of this body of laws, to be sober; and b)shall have the right and duty to enforce any regulations upon the treatment of aformentioned sailors (drunken); Yarr, truth it be;
128.76.2 It shall be permitted for a sailor who may be shown to be sober to shave the belly, to be defined as the portion of the body between the navel and lower pectoral area, with a razor with not more than two weeks rust, verified at the time of shaving by captain of ship if seabound or oath of rustiness if landbound, and not less than three days rust, varified in same manner; Yarr, truth it be;
128.76.3 An officer of ship of equal or higher rank, as defined on a per ship basis (q.v.1.752.17), may at his discression lock said sailor proven to be drunken in a brig until such time as said sailor (drunken) may be judged to be sober; Yarr, truth it be;
128.76.4 At his discression, a captain may float said sailor (drunken) in a longboat...

by MisterNihil 9:37 AM

What do you do with a drunken sailor?

by Fred 5:31 AM

Pull two numbers out of my ass? No, thank you, sounds painful. However, I'd be happy to pull them from someone else's ass.

I haven't much to say about that site (it rather speaks for itself), but I still have seven minutes left, so I'll see what I can pull out of my own ass. I'm fond of prime numbers, as I suppose most self-respecting geeks are. I wonder, though, about the rest of the population? If you ask a random sampling of people to name their favorite number, what percentage of those favorites are also prime numbers?

There hasn't been any multiplication yet in this post. Not sure what I can do about that; I was going to try to come up with something clever, but "clever" is not really my forte and my dog is having a conniption fit over something... so my time is up. Sorry for the overwhelming lack of clever.

by Faith 12:26 AM

Can't spare ten minutes.
Must post.
Have to wake up in a little less than 5 hours.
Must post.
Felt tired all day anyway, need sleep.
Must post.
Technically missed posting today anyway.
Must post.
Couldn't read topic from blurriness of eyes after stupid ten-hour work day.
Must post.
The crazy season at work started last week and lasts until January.
Most post.
Don't feel like have anything to say.
Must post.
Need break; didn't get one.
Must post.
Still almost 1000 calories behind today; didn't notice.
Must post.
Fine; what's topic?
2 numbers. Ass.
Can't think of joke; brain locking up.
Must post.
Stupid persistant voice in back of head, won't shut up, won't let brain work at own slow-ass pace won't-
Must post.
Yeah, yeah. Must post.
Must post.
Have joke about prime numbers, but doesn't work, has to do with factors; bad joke; not worth putting on web. Have joke about multiplying numbers with prime results, from same. Still lame. Thinking hard about joke with magic trick. OK. Got it. Post about magic trick involves pick-a-number multiply by other number, come up with prime number, subtract square root, take fifth digit after decimal, multiply by nine, subtract current total from current total, add original picked number, write that new number on sheet of paper, wad paper up, swallow it and give magician $20 for cab fare. Not great, but is posted now.
Must sleep.
Shut up, you.
Must sleep.

by MisterNihil 12:24 AM

{Wednesday, November 19, 2003}

"Pull two numbers out of your ass and multiply them together."

"But sir," said Jenkins, "unless I'm mistaken, ass-numbers are by their very nature imaginary. That's going to make calculation rather difficult."

Henderson eyed the accountant. "I'm not sure I understand the logic underlying your conclusion, Jenkins," he said.

"Well, sir, it's like this: an imaginary number is a real number multiplied by i, or the square root of negative one. But, you see, our calculators can't handle square roots of negative numbers."

"They can't handle your ass?"

"Exactly. All we get are error messages."

"Well that's unfortunate. Management was keen on seeing those ass-projections by the end of the day." He paused. "But wait a minute."

"Yes, sir?"

"If you take two imaginary numbers and multiply them together, that's i times i, right? Which is i squared. Which has to itself be negative one. Which is a real number that we can work with."

"Hmm," said Jenkins. "I hadn't thought of it like that, sir. But that doesn't really help unless the two numbers I pull out of my ass are identical, does it? I mean, if I have 4i times 6i, the calculators still aren't going to be able to figure it out. "

"So you're saying we should just leave your ass alone then?"

"I think so, sir. Before my head starts to hurt anymore, too."

by Fred 2:44 PM

pull two numbers out of your ass and multiply them together
You don't post topics, you get whatever's current at my job.

by Sharon 11:47 AM

1 and a googolplex. I suppose I choose these for a variety of obscure reasons such as their relationship to one another being at such extreme ends of the numeric spectrum, one so easy to grasp and the other impossible. Multiply a googolplex by one and you have the same impossibly large number you started with even though writing the equation out would take one many, many, many, many lifetimes. Were one to write out a googolplex on paper, starting with “1” and writing a zero every inch the roll of paper would need to be longer than the known universe. That’s a shitload of zeros. Still, in the really big picture, if you subscribe to the concept of infinity, there’s no perceptible difference between 1 and a googolplex. They are, for all intents and purposes, the same amount.

I also love the fact that we can conceive of a number with no practical application. There is not a googolplex of anything to the best of my knowledge. Or, more accurately, nothing we have need of counting or quantifying. Whereas, there’s at lest one of everything that we have cause to count. However, as I sit here trying to fill 10 minutes on having pulled two numbers out of my ass, it occurs to me that a googolplex also has a great deal in common with low fat Twinkies, the infomercial, reality TV, and Cathy Lee Crosby: They are all constructs of our fevered imaginations with no practical application or place in the real world. Still, I find the former a sign of hope and wonder at the marvel of the mind of man. I find the latter to be indicative of a people with too much time and too little taste.

by Shawn 10:55 AM

{Tuesday, November 18, 2003}

The rhinocerous sleeps in the apricot tree.
It does so very carefully.
One false move and it falls free,
Which would be bad, you must agree.

The kangaroo naps in a boat on the sea,
Atop a crow's nest as high as a tree.
It keeps in its pouch some biscuits for tea,
Which the captain and crew have each day at three.

The elephant dozes atop the TV
And wriggles its trunk at sit-comedy
No one's quite sure, but they think that means he
Would rather be sleeping in an apricot tree.

by Fred 3:30 PM

"I'm putting down the phone now, Mom."
"Don't you put down that phone, boy! You ain't so big or so far away I can't turn you over my knee!"
"I'm putting down the phone now. I have to go but you know I can't hang up on you, Mom.
"Boy! I'll beat you cross-eyed!"
"I'm sorry, Mom. I won't put the phone down. It's just..."
"Just what? What's more important than your poor old momma? One of these days, you gone give me a heart attack."
"I'm sorry, Mom. I promise I won't. It's just, there's this little thing I have to do outside."
"Outside? You gone wear your sunblock?"
"Yes, Mom. But it's almost night-"
"Don't You But Me! I don't take no buts from no scrawny little boy!"
"I'm sorry Mom."
"That's right. You best be sorry."
"Yes, Mom. It's just..."
"Spit it out boy. If it's so important you kill your own mother. What's your problem?"
"There's this rhinocerous..."
"You talking crazy again, boy."
"It's sleeping in the apricot tree."
"I'm gone send aunt Ruth down and kick your ass back into shape, boy you start talking 'bout a Rhinocerous in the apricot tree, boy you live in an apartment with no lawn. You got no Apricot tree."
"I'm sorry Mom. I have to go. I wouldn't mind, but it keeps looking at me..."

by MisterNihil 3:02 PM

Back in high school, I sent a birthday card to an admirer. It's entire contents were:

The rhinocerous sleeps in the apricot tree, but Tuesday, the typewriter will choose the yogurt.

Years later, we got back in touch and caught up on each other's lives. Funny that a random, gibberish sentence could have an impact on another person's life, yet somehow it did. He memorized that sentence and has carried it around with him, like a treasure, all these years. It's been used to fill odd silences and start conversations; most recently he uses it in his math class as a way to capture and focus the wandering attention of young folk.

There's not much more to say about this, I'm afraid, but the line has once again caught my eye and stuck in my head. Like a bad song, the only way to get rid of it is to pass it on; may you find as many uses for it as David has.

by Faith 2:59 PM

The rhinocerous sleeps in the apricot tree.

by Faith 10:39 AM

{Monday, November 17, 2003}

There's this little bit upstairs that is blocked off from the rest, I dunno, maybe even with security card-access doors and a big red Restricted Access sign. Makes my job a lot harder; maybe that's the goal, trying to keep me from getting at that information I need. I haven't figured out what-all's stored behind that door, yet, but I'll get there, I will.

Stuff filed outside those doors is just rubbish, information I don't really need because I could look it up any old place. Oh, you know, what year this is, who's our president, what did I have for breakfast. Any little pointless detail, you name it, I can get right at it. It's the really useful things what's locked up there. My mom's name. I know I had a mom, everyone has a mom. My husband's name. (The folks here say I had a husband, but he didn't make it. Make what? The cut? The train? Did he run off instead a' waiting for me to wake up? I ask, but They just look away, no one gives me any answers. I'll show 'em. I'll get behind those doors, I will. Find out his name, what he looked like, if we wanted kids, and all that. Where was I? Oh.) What I find fun, if I like to read or skydive, knit or jetski. They say I'm 26, so there musta been a job, school, that sorta stuff. Did I like it? Beats me, but I'm aimin' ter find out.

Dunno quite how though. They won't let me outta here until I remember. And since no one's come ter see me, there's no-one openin' that door for me. But they can't keep me out of my own head forever. I'll get there, I will, you wait an' see.

by Faith 10:16 PM

I was going to go to the grocery store, but I was denied access. My buddy ralph says I should complain, but I'm just gonna go back and wait until I can get in. They put in this new door that only lets in as many people as they think will shop at once, so they'll buy the most stuff. There's this counter above the door that keeps track of how many people can still come in. When somebody goes in, it counts down; when somebody goes out, it counts back up. I was so in, when I was going to the store, but this old lady slipped in the door in front of me and I had to wait outside. Nobody was coming out, so I just went home. I mean, I don't need pop tarts that bad anyway. Ralph says go at like three in the morning, and I think I'm gonna. I'll go get my damn pop tarts just to show that old woman. When I want my pop tarts, come hell or high water, I'm gonna get them. So now I'm just waiting. It's like 2pm now, so I got about 12 hours until I can leave for the store. I'm gonna go get my damn pop tarts.
So, do you need anything while I'm out?

by MisterNihil 2:03 PM

I have a theory, and you're free to poke holes in it if you like, but it goes something like this: George W. Bush is, in fact, the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal. If you're unfamiliar with the Beast or its habits, allow me to explain. As any reader of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy can tell you, the Beast is a mind-bogglingly stupid creature, which operates under the basic assumption that if you can't see it, it can't see you. One need only cover one's eyes in its presence to avoid getting eaten.

As the American Civil Liberties Union will tell you, "During presidential appearances, the Bush administration has herded protesters out of sight into 'designated protest zones.'" The theory being, I suppose, that if protestors can't see Bush, Bush can't see the protestors. He is, after all, a man who prides himself on only glancing at news headlines and living within "a security-enclosed bubble". That he has yet to devour entire civilizations, and that one is likely to need more than just a towel to defeat him, is completely incidental. George W. Bush: Bugblatter Beast of Traal. I feel pretty confident about this.

I'm still trying to figure out who in the Administration is actually Eccentrica Gallumbits, the triple-breasted whore of Eroticon, though. I have a sneaking suspicion it's Dick Cheney.

by Fred 1:18 PM

restricted access

by Sharon 9:55 AM

{Sunday, November 16, 2003}

Oooh, a flock of zombie ducks, I like that! It reminds me of a scene I had always imagined as a kid when I pondered the dangers involved in being attacked by zombies. In movies they always seemed to provoke such terror from their would be victims and yet never seemed particularly dangerous and never moved at more that a slow shuffle. I mean, how dangerous is a creature that can never amble more than a mile or so an hour and his only attack is to bite your head. So as a kid I had this theory that should one ever be pursued by zombies or a mummy all you needed to do was walk to the next town, have lunch, and wait for the zombies to shuffle in. Then, walk to the next town. If you really wanted to flee in terror, or just put a few extra mile between you and the undead, a bicycle would do just fine. You’d have plenty of time to order pizza, watch a movie, call the authorities (unless they too were zombies in which case they would pose far less of threat to you than they would as, say, armed police officers) and then, upon seeing the herd of zombies ambling up the way, just move on.

Coming from the computer game industry I have a great many dealings with zombies. Other than the marketing department I mean. (bad-um-bum) See, zombies are the default hero fodder of entertainment. They can be a threat but, I mean, give your hero a machete and he or she can carve a bloody path through throngs of zombies and earn easy experience points.

They also have amusement value as, let’s face it, zombified things are just frickin funny. We had mentioned to my producer that we were thinking of putting a herd of zombie cows in the game and he was all over the idea! Personally I was pushing for a zombie horse simply so as to use my favorite role-playing quote, “night of the living Mr. Ed”. It’s a long and not so interesting story the highlight of which is that one night while role-playing the players in one of my games were faced with trying to figure out how to get their horses through a passage that they themselves could barely get through. They seriously considered cutting their horses into pieces, pushing them through and then reanimating them on the other side. Um, it was one of those, “Guess you had to be there” sort of moments.

Anyhow, zombies: they’re wacky.

by Shawn 5:05 AM

{Saturday, November 15, 2003}

It's altogether possible that we've written about zombies more often than anything else on these pages. I'm not exactly sure why, but I know that I've written about them here and here and here and here and here and here and here. Say what you will, that's a lot of brain-eaters. But what is it about zombies that intrigues us? Why do we find the undead so amusing? Is it the simplicity of their of their actions, ("Mmm...brains..."), the single-mindedness of their desires ("Mmm...brains..."), or are they in some way an extension or mirror of ourselves ("Mmm...brains...")? Or maybe it's just the word zombie that's funny. It's a proven fact that certain consonants are funnier than others. A duck walking into a bar, for instance, is funnier than most any other animal doing the same. Both the m and b of zombie would seem to fit the bill. (No duck pun intended.) Are we simply so amused by the way the word sounds that we write about them again and again and again? I'm not sure I completely understand the appeal, but I'm pretty much convinced that anything that's funny would be doubly so were it to be zombified. For instance: a flock of zombie ducks walking into a bar. If I had a punchline, that would be comedy gold. "Quack quack...brains..." But I'm curious, why do you write about zombies?

by Fred 3:00 PM


by jal 10:14 AM

{Friday, November 14, 2003}

Now I remember why I gave up television.

So I was really, seriously, I mean mind-numbingly bored the other day, and I flipped on the television. (Not that I actually have a television set, mind you. I gave it up, so clearly I have it no longer. But there's this thingee in my computer, see. It's called the "All in Wonder." One of its wonders is cable television. One wonders. Where was I? Oh yes.)

Some saccharine nonsense. Flip. (Er, click, really. Computer and all.) Cable-access broadcasting of the school board meeting, organizing a bake sale to fund math classes. Click. Goofy couple, looking goofier still by lipsyncing "Lollipop" into a rounded mirror, or maybe a spoon. Click.

Woman runs from a hospital, climbs into her car, douses herself with the lighter fluid she'd just bought (apparently) for that afternoon's picnic, and sets herself on fire.

I wanted to watch this, why, exactly?

by Faith 4:58 PM

I had a post, but I'm afraid my browser ate it. In case it didn't I won't blow it up to be better than it was, but it was pretty OK. It was a history of the phrase "I'm On Fire," beginning with the Chicago Fire, referencing the Watts & LARiot fires, and then moving back through history. The big claim of the post was that this phrase is perhaps the most powerful 3-words in the language, so powerful as to have been invented long before written language.
I hadn't finished when IE ate the post, but it would have ended with a joke about the phrase having been one word originally, and grown into more. Y'see, 'cause the original way to say "I'm On Fire" was "Aaaa!" much like the original word for "I've been attacked by something mean," and "There's some mean thing now, come to mention it."
It's all a big joke, but the post got lost. Perhaps you, the mysterious person reading it (because of course I can't write to my audience if I pretend my audience hasn't got their names down the side of the page and that they aren't supposed to be doing this also right now, because that audience is too big. Yeah, that's it...) are able to appreciate what a silly joke it was just by my explaination of the goings on and the punch line-type-line.
If not, then I know a good one from Highlights for Children (one of my dad's all-time favorites):
Q. Why shouldn't you use a 4-leaf clover as a bookmark?
A. You wouldn't want to press your luck.
Thank you, and good night.

by MisterNihil 3:43 PM

Spontaneous human combustion aside, she’d had a really great time at the party. The food had been great, they’d had an open bar, and for a change the DJ didn’t suck. Sure, it had been kind of awkward when the bride and groom both burst into flames and burned until there was nothing left of them but smoldering ash, a couple of rings, and the charred remains of the bridal bouquet, but in her mind the open bar had really sort of made up for that. After all, who was she to judge? Everyone had their own quirks, their own rituals. Sally had wanted her wedding to be perfect, and her parents said she’d made some kind of pact with an ancient god to keep it that way. Sure, the god had come back to collect a little earlier than anyone expected -- and he’d turned out to be something of a firebug in the bargain -- but you really couldn’t fault him for that. Vengeful retribution and unexpected consequences sort of went with the territory. And besides, they’d had these little spinach quiches that were simply divine. She’d almost been tempted to ask for the recipe, but it had seemed like bad form with everyone running to escape the billowing smoke and unholy flame. She wasn’t entirely sure what Emily Post had to say about that. Still, in all, she’d had a really marvelous time.

by Fred 1:51 PM

I'm on fire...no literally, I'm on fire. Help!

by Bryan 10:56 AM

I wrote an essay a year ago.
I'd link to it, but I only have 10 minutes.
It's about god, and it encapsulates an idea that I thought at the time was funny. Now I need material for a novel and I'm cannibalizing things I wrote in the past. Sort of. I haven't put that one in yet, as it was practically the plot for my last attempt. The last one only grew to 13000 words before it crapped out. I'm halfway there now with the current, and the story's just started.
That's the problem: the story's started, but I can't. I haven't found time to write in almost three days. I've painted, I've exercized (don't get me started), I've spent quality time with Toshi. Hell, I've even been trying very hard to abstain from reading so that I can maintain the voice I've been writing in. It's tough, and I know I can do it, but I just have to start.
But here I am writing again, and it's about something else, more or less. I'm writing about writing. Is there a better way to not actually write? Probably. I'm feeling good today, though, so I think I'm going to, as my mother used to say, buckle down and get to it. She is quite a pragmatist, and efficacious.
That used to be a word, when I was learning to read. Now it's kind of archaic. Efficacious has been replaced with Effective, which ought to mean something else. It doesn't, though. Efficacious is just a better word for pretty much the same thing. "Having An Effect," or "Able to Do Something."
In comparison, I'm kind of noodly. Noodly isn't a word either, but it's the opposite of efficacious. It never was a word, but is in relatively common use. Besides the fact that it is an antonym to Efficacious, it actually is, etymologically, the opposite of efficacious.
The word "etymologically" was, until a brief visit to Dictionary.com changed my muddled mind, the word "entomologically." These two are not the same word, no matter what I would have you believe. One is the study of little crawly black things; the other the study of insects.

by MisterNihil 12:05 AM

It's going far too well. I'm suspicious.

Really, I shouldn't have even started yet. Somehow, I already have ideas next to every name in my book. Every one! Even some tick marks, and it's not even Thanksgiving yet.

Holiday shopping is usually a nightmare for me. What can I give another person that will both make them happy and meet my new "hippie" standards?

This is the first year I have decided that all gifts I give must meet certain criteria. (Sure, roll your eyes. I've decided that I don't care. This is my experiment, you go roll your eyes at someone else, so there.) Gifts must be:

  • Earth-friendly

  • Wrapped in something re-usable or re-used

  • Useful to and/or desired (read: won't be thrown out or put in the attic to be thrown out later)

  • Say what you will; I decide to give earth-friendly gifts, and suddenly shopping becomes easier? Must be divine inspiration.

    by Faith 12:04 AM

    {Thursday, November 13, 2003}

    Jerry didn't believe in God, so when God started talking to him and telling him to do things, Jerry just naturally assumed he was crazy.

    "Well, you sort of are crazy," God told him. "Just a little bit. That's kind of how this works. But that doesn't mean it's not me, you know. You're just easier to reach this way. I mean, I don't make the rules."

    The rules, Jerry thought, would be exactly the sort of thing God would make.

    "But if you're all-knowing and all-powerful...?" he asked.

    "Yeah," God said. "That's sort of a widespread misconception, that whole omniscient omnipresence thing. I mean, I'd like to think I'm smart, sure, but..."

    "And the omnipotence?" Jerry asked.

    "Yeah, not so much," said God. "I mean, I can open jars by myself, no problem. And I've never been sick a day in my life, but --"

    "That's not really what I meant," Jerry said.

    "No," said God, "it never is. People want a whirlwind or a burning bush or a pillar of fire. They want a flaming sword and a booming voice and the heavens parted. Let me tell you, all they want are magic tricks."

    "And what do you want?" asked Jerry.

    "A turkey sandwich," said God.

    So Jerry made God a turkey sandwich. He didn't skimp on the mayo and, true to His word, God opened the jar all by Himself.

    "What is that, a kaiser roll?" God asked at one point. "Yes, that pleases me. And don't forget the pickle."

    And thus it was that Jerry had lunch with God, and if he was disappointed when all God wanted to talk about was the latest episode of Friends and "did you see what Britney was wearing at the Music Awards last week?", Jerry tried not to show it. Somehow, he thought that would just be rude.

    by Fred 5:17 PM

    He pondered. He sat, although he didn’t really sit, and looked forward in time to see the fate of these simple beasts that were destined to one day rule their world. They would one day become masters of their own destinies and, in a sense, gods themselves. But that was a far distant and tenuous fate at that as these things are never assured, even through divine providence, and the spark of potential that brought these primitive creatures from the trees could easily be extinguished by a simple twist of fate; their destiny lost, their potential unfulfilled and the would be masters of the world just so much decaying organic matter in the timeline of the world.

    He had no name at this point as such things were, or rather would one day be, the venue of man. He, although he was neither he nor she of course, simply was and needed neither a name nor physical manifestation to distinguish himself from the others who were also him. The concept of the individual was yet to be. One day he might be called a god but more fittingly: the muse.

    The muse looked down upon these creatures so full of potential and knew that potential to be both benevolent and malevolent and knew his action was about to seal their fate for good or ill. They had lived as they now lived for many thousands of years with little advancement of culture or technology and without such would assuredly die within a dozen generations. Maybe more, maybe less, a million years or but a few; time was as nothing to the Muse. And so it was with the best of intentions that he reached down, figuratively speaking, and sparked within one primal brain the ability to imagine, to see what wasn’t there and bring it about.

    So it was that one simple beast whose people would one day rule over themselves, their world and the lives, deaths of all creatures upon it, reached down into his palm full of crushed berries and terra cotta and smeared out a scene of his people and the creatures they hunted. He paid homage to the great beasts of the plains and saw in his mind’s eye the hunt that would feed his people for another season. He saw what was yet to be and the Muse sat back, although didn’t really sit, pleased in knowing these lovely, little, animals had a future.

    by Shawn 3:49 PM

    Divine inspiration

    Sorry for the late post. Walked into the office and into a meeting this morning

    by Shawn 2:47 PM

    {Wednesday, November 12, 2003}

    You know this is a lovely party. The rooms are full of charming intelligent people. They discuss ideas, their ideas seasoned with wit. I felt privileged to be invited. I also felt intimidated. I came hoping to be involved in a conversation, but felt immediately ill equipped to participate. So I stood over by the punch bowl waiting for someone to talk to me.

    Okay this metaphor is labored and going nowhere. I started this pieces hoping to end my stint on this blog on an up note. But that doesn’t seem to be working out. When I started on 600 seconds, I was really hopeful. I had not written anything longer than a greeting card in fifteen years, not a journal, not a short story, not a poem. Ideas drifted across my mind to be replaced with grocery lists and diaper changes. So I was pretty excited to have a topic placed before me, and voila inspiration. That hasn’t quite panned out. I have written a few things here of which I was proud. I thought a couple of my pieces reasonably well crafted, a couple of the ideas provocative. But they garnered no response.

    I think I had an unfounded expectation that there would be a bit more interaction from participants. Most of the contributors to this are much more experienced writers than I and this is designed as a place to just write. Rather than feeling freed by the silences, I felt constrained. My inner child, “Insecure Girl” started chatting at me instead. I am not getting what I want from this. I want to thank you though. You are all very talented, and I wish I felt comfortable writing, but I don’t. I feel like a wallflower here. That’s mostly because of the dress I came in. I need to get naked, spend sometime in the woods, and tend my garden. Then maybe I’ll be ready to bloom.

    by mews 5:48 PM

    Looking to infuse my writing here with more, well, motivation, I've started searching for well-written blogs. From Sharon's blog, I followed a link to Little Red Boat. Let me warn you right now, she's addicting.

    At first, I found myself a casual reader -- popping in while waiting for my email to synchronize, or perhaps at the end of the day, just before shutting down. But it's down to an obsession, now: going back through the archives, learning the history of the Little Red Boat named Sinky, trying to find when and where she met the "lump" for whom she moved to London, tracing the roots of her fear of mice. Mind you, there's nothing earth-shattering here, and I'm not entirely sure why it should matter to me, personally, but really she's quite funny.

    Catching myself, reading the archives, I have to force myself to go back to work. Just one more? Please?

    by Faith 3:16 PM

    I'm three days late. I must write my self-assessment (although it is tempting to submit the one that Ben wrote for me). I don't want to. I've been distracting myself for days. So here, to kill another ten minutes, I will offer a few more words. And, since I promised yesterday, they'll be about my theories on the psyche.

    The notions of the Conscious Mind and the Unconscious Mind have entered the common parlance. (The "Subconscious" doesn't come from Freud. I don't know if that really fits into anybody's theory, or is just a permutation of "Unconscious" perpetuated by laymen.) The theory posits that part of your psyche is the You part, that talks in your head and talks out loud and reminds you to take out the trash; and part of your psyche is a strange, unknown monster, driving your actions without "your" awareness. There is a part of your brain that isn't part of your brain.


    So I think that's garbage. Look at what this so-called "unconscious" mind is capable of. It observes patterns. It creates the sensation of intuition. It filters all of the noise and stimuli of a complex modern life and trickles in the thin thread you can actually focus on. It allows you to function.

    If anything, it is super-conscious.

    But, it doesn't talk. You may have noticed that. So I suggest: Verbal and Non-Verbal Minds. (Remember that "oral" means "spoken out loud," and "verbal" means "with words." This here essay is presented verbally.)

    The Non-Verbal Mind sorts through a ton of information and parcels it out for your Verbal Mind to discuss out loud in your head. Time and again, the Non-Verbal Mind makes decisions that your Verbal Mind later rationalizes. Enlightenment is achieved by observing the patterns of your Non-Verbal Mind and bringing them into the realm of your Verbal Mind. Keeping a journal is good for this.

    So there are my ten minutes, and there is my final word on the nature of consciousness. And now, to write my self-assessment...

    by Sharon 2:28 PM

    one more word

    by Fred 7:14 AM

    {Tuesday, November 11, 2003}

    In the other room, there is the television. Ignore it. There's nothing good on right now anyway.

    In the other room, there is the computer. Do not be tempted. The web is a distraction. Solitaire just wastes your time.

    In the other room, there are car keys. Leave them there. A drive won't clear your head and you know it.

    In the other room, there are noises, a dog barking across the hall. It never stops. Stay here and ignore it. It's easier to do that when it can't be heard.

    In the other room, you are distracted, torn between one triviality and the next. Nothing gets written there. Nothing gets done. Stay put. Don't move. Just write. You don't need to make time. You already have it. Here, in this room, there is the radio, but it does not distract if you get the volume just right, choose the right music. In this room, there is the window. The brisk autumn air invigorates; it can clear your head. People are quieter outside -- a few scattered barks, but the dogs mostly behave themselves. Here, in this room, you can write.

    So why don't you ever stay?

    by Fred 4:04 PM

    I need to write for my story and I need to write here, so here's a little taste of what I've been composing so far. I could give you backstory so the obfuscated bits make more sense, but I won't.

    Finnegan sat in the hotel room and listened to Sophia sing in the shower. It was an old song that he recognized but had never heard outside of a shower. He knew, dimly, that it was a song from the early eighties. There his knowledge stopped. The original singer, the original composer, the words beyond the chorus, these evaded him handily.
    The television was on but he wasn't watching closely. Every few seconds he flipped up or down a channel just to keep the picture changing. He was running away from a commercial for soap in the end of which two people laugh lasciviously and stepped into a steamy shower. He realized as he flipped that this was the first TV he'd watched in almost three years, and he hadn't missed much.
    Finnegan pressed the power button, and leaned over to unlace his shoes. It had been a long drive to El Paso, and he was beginning to tire of the road. It was another ten hours, or something like that, until he'd reach Shiro, and he didn't know what to do once he got there. The plan so far was just to arrive and go looking for a post office.
    In El Paso, they'd stopped and bought hats. She needed a sun hat that would tie under her chin and he needed a straw hat because, really, that's why you buy when you cross over into Texas. It wouldn't hurt to have it in Wyoming either, and so, like everyone who has ever bought a silly hat on vacation, he convinced himself that it was practical and that he really would wear it.
    The Great Salt Lake had been interesting, but they weren't really traveling to sight-see. Salt Lake City too felt a little touristy, in a staid kind of way. They bought sandwiches but didn't stop. Sophia didn't want to stay inside of Utah, and so they'd slept in Arizona. Being lost in the west wasn't bad, even if it was with his former friends' ex-wife.
    In the relative quiet of the motel room, he heard the water in the bathroom and the impassioned struggles of a couple in the next room. Good. Nothing killed the mood like squeeks from horny teenagers, and he felt like Sophia'd been acting a little friendly. When he first saw her at the airport, there'd been a little spark which passed quickly into that old comfortable resentment. Now, they were friends but nothing more. Just how it should be.
    Outside of Laramie, Sophia's phone rang. Napoleon sat in his den in Florida. He knew he must call, and so he had. He had no desire to speak with his ex-wife, but he knew that this was the point in his life during which he got drunk and called her. She would answer, just waking up in bed, naked with Finnegan. She would answer on the second call, on the third ring.
    He hung up, waited for sixteen seconds, and dialed again. The third ring passed, as did the sixth. Her machine picked up, and he stuttered into it. Something was very wrong.

    by MisterNihil 12:55 PM

    other voices other rooms

    by mews 12:04 PM

    {Monday, November 10, 2003}

    I got a new toy. The Alphasmart 3000 is little more than a keyboard and some RAM. It's light, durable, it doesn't get too hot, and it boots in no time. It is perfect for writing a mad-dash novel.

    I wrote about 1,700 words on it last night. With no word-count function and a display that shows only 4 lines of text, you really can't harp on how much you've written in one sitting. You just go, and keep going.

    Variety unplugs my valves. If I'm stuck, I start writing a different scene; I change the music; I sit in a different room, or a different building, or outside; I change the font. Or, in this case, I get a new keyboard. The low weight and cool running temperature mean that, with the Alphasmart, I can change a lot of those other aspects easily.

    My characters are surprising me lately. I realized that, twice Matthew was itching to skip out of work and talked himself out of it, and here, the third time, he needed to talk himself out of it again, because there was a good reason for not going home. I was also startled when I realized that Mairi's behavior is making a lot of sense... if you know what's really going on. More sex crept in where I wasn't expecting it. And Matthew shocked me by getting mad at Mairi last night--or, really, mad at himself.

    Many parts of my brain contribute to this novel. I have been building patterns that the Narrator Voice wasn't aware of--and others that it probably still is not aware of--but other inhabitants of my skull have planned out carefully. My best writing is always like this. I write a poem, I think I know what it's about, and later, an entirely new message emerges.

    My theory about rejecting the notion of "conscious and unconscious" in favor of "verbal and non-verbal" warrants a whole ten minutes on its own, but I'll say this: Non-verbal parts of my psyche have an equally important role to play in the creation of this novel.

    And the 10,000 mark is taunting me. I'll pierce it tonight, though. You see if I don't.

    by Sharon 11:59 PM

    Growing up here it was all about finding little distractions to pass the time, to wile away the long, boring days of summer. He would sit and gaze out over the corn fields and fancy he could see a distant place, a more intriguing place, filled with people more interesting than those – and there weren’t many at that - that filled his world. He would look up at the clouds and imagine that others, with interests similar to his own, were gazing at the same clouds and that he would one day meet them. He distracted himself with small things to fill his day and the thought that he would one day leave this place for an exciting life in the big city and never, ever, be bored again.

    Eventually the day came when he was in fact able to leave the farm and escape to the city where his days, as he so imagined, were filled with new things, new people and a tapestry of new ideas and experiences alien to the boy he once was. And yet, years later at the end of his days he returned here, here to this place of soybean fields, tilled earth and long, hazy, lazy days. His grandmother’s orchard and rose bushes were gone; the barns and sheds, the corncrib and milk house long since torn down. Progress had never reached this far into the heartland of America; there were no 7-11s, shopping malls and Starbucks. The days continued, timeless, quiet, with little distinction one from the next until the weather would turn bitter and the trees bare.

    So he sits. He sits and remembers a distant time. A time of fresh hay and bumble bees, of tractors and bailers, of fresh corn and snow. He sits and gazes out over cornfields now fell and forgotten and imagines what‘s next. Small bits of who he was drifts off with an unfelt breeze to be carried away over the fields to a distant place, an unknown place, a place he can only imagine. His life, once so full and colorful now seemed an ever-graying image of people and places, of desires and ambition. Bit-by-bit they drift away, but still, for reasons unknown to him, he holds to this place and the boy he once was. Eventually, he will move on.

    by Shawn 3:35 PM

    Ooh, hey, it's Monday and I'm barely awake. How about


    by Faith 11:14 AM

    {Saturday, November 08, 2003}

    It's Saturday, and I'm at work, but in ten minutes I'm going to tell my boss I need to leave. I've been here for four hours, I'm pretty much finished what I started on this morning, and it's Saturday. Did I mention that yet? Since I have ten minutes to spare, I thought I'd swing over here and try to write something on my "sidetracked and hijacked" topic from yesterday. Better that than a crossword puzzle I won't have enough time to finish.

    Except, the more I've thought about it, the more I've started to think that it's a really lame topic. I'm not surprised no one's written anything on it; it doesn't really lend itself to any great ideas. I haven't really had any great ideas lately. For a few weeks before the beginning of November (and, therefore, Nanowrimo), I toyed with ideas for novels I'd had in the past. And I thought I'd hit upon one that would carry me through a month. Except, three days into that month, and I only had 1000 words written. Out of a projected 50,000. Most of that was dialogue. Quite a lot of it was what I'd written here back in April. And I really didn't know where to go from there.

    So I put the novel aside and started writing something else. Which definitely wasn't a novel, but which I was enjoying. Sidetracked by a lack of ideas, hijacked by a new one. (Or an old one come back to roost, but the principle's the same.) And that story is progressing. Very, very slowly, but it's progressing. Now a full week into November, I think it's pretty clear I won't have a novel when it's done, but the important thing is that I'm writing, right?

    Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go home. Did I mention it's Saturday?

    by Fred 1:02 PM

    This is from a song by the Jongleurs, a band from Miami who wrote a song that is, lemme just say, genius, about WinnDixie and their cookies, Big60s. This isn't from Big60s though. It's from a neat jazzy song called Pizza For Brains. To that end:
    You got Pizza for Brains and I want to Eat Them!


    by MisterNihil 3:55 AM

    {Friday, November 07, 2003}

    sidetracked and hijacked

    by Fred 1:13 PM

    {Thursday, November 06, 2003}

    Already working on it...

    by Faith 8:47 AM

    {Wednesday, November 05, 2003}

    My earliest memory

    by Shawn 11:37 AM

    {Tuesday, November 04, 2003}

    The more fitting question might be: Why don't I write?

    I don't write because writing is truth. Writing exposes bits of things that perhaps ought not to be examined but with sidelong and surruptitious glances.

    Yes, it hurts.

    A thank-you-note of sorts arrived the other day, from parts long silent. Gratitude, for words I once expressed in our small forum, from a direction that I had assumed neither knew nor cared of its existence. Even in this moment, my writing of the exchange grants it legitimacy -- extracts it from the privacy of my memory and exposes it, gives it life, makes reality of a thing that might have otherwise passed as only an imagining.

    And so I stay my hands, protecting the sanctity of "maybe."

    by Faith 5:30 PM

    As long as I keep typing everything’s ok. As long as I can just keep something, anything flowing, to hold the chaos at bay, to define the world as we know it, or at least as I know it, it’ll keep going. But they’re there, in the shadows, I can see them from the corner of my eye, waiting, waiting for me to stop, waiting for an opening to glide in and tear it all apart.

    I can’t say I really know what they are - demons of some sort - whispering, grinning with stark white teeth and ash black faces more of a smoky abstraction than a thing of skin and bone, but they’re evil. They want to change everything, to shred the very fabric of what we hold to be true, chaos, darkness and fear. But I can stop them, I can hold them off, I can keep writing and writing and defining the world, cataloging this reality as it is right now, I can keep it all going, I can hold them at bay. A war’s broken out over seas somewhere, no, no it hasn’t, I won’t let it! The White House is repealing the Constitution, NO, no I won’t let that happen. I’ll write an article saying it was all a big mistake and everything’s fine; I’ll save it all, I’ll protect us all as long as I can keep writing we’re safe.

    Wait, what was that beep? My battery! I’m nearly out of power, NO, if I stop writing…

    by Shawn 3:26 PM

    I write so that I don't have to carry them around.

    I see things.

    I remember riding in the car with my mother. If she had to stomp on the brake, she would throw an arm out in front of me. (Futile, but sweet.) I would imagine, what if the car stopped too forcefully, and it tore her arm off at the socket? I could see it, arm in my lap, white bone protruding from the gory stump of her shoulder. I was, y'know, eight or something.

    I remember sitting in the bathroom, with a window at eyebrow-height, opaque with darkness. I knew that it looked out on the back yard, which led up to the woods. Anything could be in the woods. I would imagine a face, pressed suddenly and desperately against the glass, staring wet eyes and wisps of hair clinging to a rotted scalp. There it is--Slam! And I was trapped on the toilet.

    I remember walking in downtown Austin with Jon and Ben and Toshi. We walked past a warehouse, with huge metal doors. They allowed a five-inch gap. Jon peered inside. I imagined a green, hairy, tentacled claw, like the arm of a mantis, reaching through the gap and impossibly forcing him inside.

    I see things. And if I didn't write them down, I would have to remember them, repeat them to myself to keep from forgetting them. I would have to carry them around with me, alone.

    Instead, I share them with you. Cheers.

    by Sharon 11:32 AM

    "Why do you Write," she asked me.
    She was looking over my shoulder and trying to spot the words I'd been hammering out on my laptop for almost a week. I casually put a hand on top of the monitor and pushed it shut.
    "Why?" She was a little curious, but mostly bored. She wanted to talk, and she wanted me to talk. I turned slowly and blinked twice at her, *blink* pause *blink*. It occurred to me that I hadn't said a word to her all day and she must be bored.
    She'd been crashing around the upstairs all morning, alternately looking for things and crying gleefully "A-HA!" before deciding that what she'd found and what she wanted were completely incompatible and going back to looking. She'd so far found many things, none of them what she was looking for.
    In her little hand, she carried an old doll with a piece of wire wrapped around its head in an imitation of a neck tie. Years ago, I'd tied it for her when she'd watched me tie my tie to go to work. She'd insisted that her doll, a rag-doll in a dress, needed a neck tie also as she was planning that day to go to work. She handed me the doll and wire with a look of expectation.
    "Tell me. Why?" She was impatient. That was perhaps something she'd inherited from me and perhaps something she'd come by on her own. The mind of a seven-year-old is, I think, naturally impatient. When you have lived for so few seconds they all feel precious.
    I sat for another moment, and turned back to the reticent screen. "Um. It's something to do, really. I like the feeling of putting words on paper, even though I don't really write on paper any more. I like the clak of they keys. I love writing with a typewriter, but it's not practical any more. I like the feeling I get when I look back and see that I've plugged away a big chunk of language and that it all means something. Maybe nobody will read it, but it will always sit there and mean things, no matter what. I've created meaning."
    "That's dumb. Bye bye." She turned and ran off giggling. I don't need an internal critic. I've kicked mine into the real world.

    by MisterNihil 10:38 AM

    A number of us are busily scribbling away on our Nanowrimo projects (or procrastinating with other things), so writing here might be lighter than usual (is such a thing possible?). But still, a topic is in order, so:
    why do you write?

    by Fred 9:40 AM

    {Monday, November 03, 2003}


    by mews 10:49 AM


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