Monday, May 31, 2004
The best toy ever exists only in the farthest reaches of my childhood memory; a thing of wood and metal, glossy bright lead paint and a function that remains just out of reach of my recollection. It may have been a top, a truck or even a space ship, I don't know. It was a thing of fascination for me as a child, romanced now some 40 years later, into a thing of brass and bright stripes, solid wood and moving parts and the focus of countless hours of fun sitting on the floor of my grandmother's living room floor.
The truth, I realize, is that there was no such toy. It is an amalgamation of various toys given an idealized sheen by harking back to a time long gone, the paintings of Dean Morrissey and what, in retrospect, I want my childhood to have been but probably wasn't. I had toys certainly, but now as I watch my kids playing with their toys I realize that what they'll remember is not the action figures, games, cars, trucks and space ships. What they'll remember is dad sitting on the floor and playing with them. They'll remember games of wrestling and make believe, super powers and exploration. I hope, when they're my age, they'll think back on the best toy ever and think of me.
by Shawn 9:03 PM
Friday, May 28, 2004
best toy ever
by Fred 11:29 AM
Thursday, May 27, 2004
Part the First | Part the Second | Part the Third | Part the Fourth | Part the Fifth | Part the Sixth | Part the Seventh
"This isn't going to work unless everyone participates," said Father. "So if we're not all going to be team players on this, we might as well pack it in and give Mr. Yu back his deposit."
"He'll do it," said Alan. "He's just...a little cranky, that's all. It was a long flight, and I don't know if you noticed, but he's sort of dead."
The dead man glared at them both. Father had only begun to explain the details of the rituals they would be performing that evening when the dead man refused to listen further. He would not, he said, be a party to such madness.
"Oh good grief," said one of the men in Father's crew. The three of them had not yet moved from their chairs at the other end of the room. They did not even look up. "Don't be so bombastic."
Father smiled. "That's Theodore," she said. "Last month, he bought one of those word-a-day calendars." She turned to the man. "Theo, what was yesterday's word?"
"Effulgent," said Theo.
"Be glad you weren't here yesterday," said Father.
"This must not be done," the dead man argued. "To even think of conjuring that woman, that thing..."
Alan groaned. This again. He had seen nothing in the documents his employers had provided to indicated that Eliza Merrick was any kind of evil thing. It was true there wasn't much of anything in the files about the woman, but that was hardly surprising. Her husband, Samuel Merrick, was an extremely private man, and much of what was known about him was sketchy at best. Alan didn't even know, for instance, exactly how many centuries the man was supposed to have been alive.
"Look," said Father. She had removed the guitar from across her shoulder and leaned it carefully against a basement wall. "I understand if you have some misgivings about what we've got planned tonight. So I just want to assure you, before we go any further, that your fears are entirely justified."
Alan blinked. This was reassuring how?
"I don't like to advertise this," said Father with a sigh, "but I know people who know people. Some of those people knew Eliza Merrick." She frowned. "Or at least, they knew the thing pretending to be her. Nobody's really sure when it happened -- and trust me, I asked around -- but sometime when she was a kid, Eliza changed."
"Changed?" asked Alan. "Changed how?"
"Again," said Father, "this is all secondhand information, and unlike Mr. Smith here, I never met the woman. But I have pretty reputable sources. The running theory is -- and again, this is just a theory -- is that she's -- "
Father paused, grinned, and turned again to Theodore.
"Theo," she said, "what was last Tuesday's word of the day?"
"Nosferatu," said Theo. He still did not look up.
"Some calendar, huh?" said Father. She grinned. "Boys, tonight we're gonna raise ourselves a vampire."
by Fred 11:59 PM
"Why, Of All the Idiotic, Remorselessly destructive, Absolutely Inedible collections of carcinogenic, crepusculated crap-"
"Uncle Al. Stop, really. You don't have to eat Mom's casserole."
"That's very kind of you, boy, but LORD'O'MERCY why does she have to do this to me? I tell you, I sit down here to enjoy a small selection, a savory slice of life's beautiful food. What, I ask you, WHAT am I sehved with?"
"Uncle Al. That's enough. We'll go get you something. What do you want?"
"Simply to be treated as a human being with feelings and simple tastes, rahther than as an animal! Why, I-"
"Chicken. Right? We'll go get you fried chicken. I'll be back. Ma! Don't wait up! I'm goin' ta' go get Uncle Al some chicken." christ'a'mighty
"Now boy! Don't blaspheme! Respect foa tha loh'ad is respect fo'ah you'ah self! I declai'ah!"
by MisterNihil 2:37 PM
by MisterNihil 2:30 PM
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
Part the First | Part the Second | Part the Third | Part the Fourth | Part the Fifth | Part the Sixth
Alan was surprised to see that Mercy had not driven them away from the city, but rather deeper into it. They had ridden the bus for nearly forty minutes before the man said, "we're here," and pulled to a stop. Here, Alan noticed, as apparently the parking lot outside a strip of small stores, most of which looked either abandoned or for rent. Only one near the end, McKenzie Dry Cleaners, stood open, and it was to this store that Mercy pointed.
"Ask for Mr. Yu," he said, swinging the doors of the bus open. "He'll take you downstairs to Father."
"You're not coming?" asked Alan.
"Nah," said Mercy. "Magics don't agree with me. Like I said, I'm just the driver. Besides, there's still business I gotta attend to elsewhere."
He left them then, turned back on to the main road and into traffic. Alan glanced at his watch. It was almost five-thirty. He and the dead man walked to the dry cleaners and entered.
There appeared to be no one inside, although Alan could hear the steady rumble of machinery from the back room even through the closed door, along with the occasional muffled shout. The place looked like an ordinary dry cleaners. On the counter next to the register stoof a miniature placard with a picture of a clock on its face. "Back in 5 minutes," it read. Alan and the dead man waited.
After a few moments, they heard another shout and then a string of curses in what Alan thought to be Chinese. A short man emerged from the back room, still shouting at whomever else was back there. He started when he noticed Alan -- though even more so when he saw the dead man, whose condition had improved over the last few hours but who still looked remarkably like a man who'd been mummified and kept in the tomb for a few centuries. The short man regained his composure rather quickly, however, and stared at them like they might be any paying customer.
"Can I help you, gentlemen?" he asked. His voice betrayed a somewhat more than slight accent.
"If you're Yu," said Alan, "you can. We have an appointment to see Father."
"Oh," the man said. He frowned. "Yeah, I'm Yu. I thought maybe you might be here for the brown suit." He pointed to a hideous patchwork thing hung on a metal frame in the corner. "Been here, like, eight years. McKenzie still own the place then. Nobody pick it up. But we don't throw out our customer's clothes, I don't care what you heard." He frowned again and studied Alan for a moment. "Nah," he said, "probably not your size anyway. So. Father."
"Yes," Alan said. "We're expected."
"Yeah, sure," said Yu. "I tell her she can use the basement. Pretty big down there. All we got is some chemicals, old press machine. Plenty of room for your band to practice."
"Band?" said Alan.
"Sure," said Yu. "The walls down there, they're padded, thick stone, so it don't matter. Me, I like Perry Como, but you kids do what you want. It's a cruel, crazy, beautiful world."
Alan blinked. "You -- you think we're part of a band?" he asked.
"Who is Perry Como?" the dead man whispered.
"Hey, sure, whatever," said Yu. He pushed open the door to the back room, revealing, to the immediate right, another door. "Go through there, one flight down. You see Father."
"Well, thanks," said Alan. "We'll...um...try and keep the noise down."
"Sure," said Yu. "Not like we got lotta business for you to scare away."
Alan and the dead man walked through the door. The stairs led them into a fairly nondescript basement. Tubs of old dry-cleaning chemicals lined a long hallway leading to another room. Alan saw no sign of any press machine, although he didn't know what he was looking for, and he could only guess how big the basement really was. Mercy had said they were still sort of still in Oz.
Up ahead, at the end of the hallway, the basement widened out into a large open room. And there, as both Mercy and Yu had promised, was Father, along with three others who Alan assumed were the rest of the crew. (Or the band, he thought with a laugh.) Father was the only one who actually held an instrument, a blue electric guitar slung over one shoulder.
"That is Father?" the dead man asked.
"It's not polite to stare," said Alan. "Even with only one eye."
The woman they called Father saw them and smiled. She walked over, still absently strumming her guitar.
"I was wondering when you boys would turn up," she said. "Tobdy sure does like taking those back routes." She paused her strumming and held out a hand to Alan. "I'm Father," she said. "And you must be Mr. Smith."
"Actually," said Alan, "not that it matters, but I'm Jones and this -- " He pointed to the dead man. " -- is Smith."
"Charmed," said Father. "Now, if you don't mind, we've got a big night in front of us, so why don't we get right down to it?"
by Fred 11:59 PM
I have a thorn in my side. He goes by the name of Radical Element Humidifier Bisquik. The nurses call him 2117. I call him Nemesis, but never to his face. When he's around, I call him Kid or Junior. He calls me Pops, and I don't mind it. The nurses call me 764. My wife used to call me something that started with an F. What was it? Or did it start with R? Damn.
My name, though, is Rainbow. Gabriel Rainbow Launcher to the Feds. I make the fish call me Gabriel Rainbow, but Rainbow's fine. A little familiarity never hurt anybody. Anybody but my Uncle Alouishous, but he doesn't talk much about it any more.
My Kid Nemesis though, I don't let him call me any of them. I think it breeds too much familiarity, especially since I don't like the little bastard. No, no, it's not that I don't like him. It's that he's the nemesis. He's the Radical Element. He's the Bisquik. I mean, if the Rainbow doesn't hate the Bisquick, what would the nurses think? It's all a show for the nurses. It always was.
by MisterNihil 2:21 PM
Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World
by Faith 11:11 AM
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
Part the First | Part the Second | Part the Third | Part the Fourth | Part the Fifth
"You've picked a really fabulous time to visit us," said Mercy. "It's spring here and -- I don't know, are either of you familiar with the Wichita River Festival? No? Oh, it's terrific. Fun, food, fireworks. If you two get a chance -- " He grinned and shook his head. "Well, no, I guess you won't. Gonna be busy conjuring the dead or something like that, I expect. Father wouldn't let slip all the details -- I'm just your chauffeur -- but looks like there's some pretty heavy hocus-pocus waiting for you boys back at the barn."
Again he grinned.
"But, hey, I'm just the driver."
Alan stared out the window. Were they really in Wichita? And, if so, why all the pretense of secrecy aboard the plane? Why hadn't Alan's employers -- or, at the very least, the pilot -- told them where they were going?
"I know what you're thinking," said Mercy. He smiled at them both in the rearview mirror. Alan eyed him questioningly. "You're wondering, what's with the bus?"
Mercy had escorted them from the private jet to a large yellow school bus waiting in a fire lane outside the airport. "JOHN G. HARDIN ELEMENTARY" read the black letters along the side. Alan had seen no sign of airport security.
"Hop on board," Mercy had told them, and so both Alan and the dead man had done just that.
"Well, there's a good reason for the school bus," Mercy said now. "I know it's not luxurious, but it's all we could scrounge up on such short notice. If we'd known you were coming...well, red carpet wouldn't be the half of it. I swear, you're really missing out on a terrific festival. Folks travel all across the state to get here for it."
"Mercy..." said Alan. He was not entirely sure what he was going to ask.
"Please," their driver said. "call me Toby. Everybody does. And, hey, any friend of Father's..."
"Well, that's just it," said Alan. "We're not so much friends as...well, associates. Father's done some work for my employers in the past, but we've never actually met. It's been a long plane ride and -- "
He looked to the dead man on his left. The man said nothing, seemed all but oblivious to the whole conversation. Alan thought he might still be mad about having to see Eliza Merrick again after all these years. Spurned lovers and all that.
"It's just -- "
"You're wondering if you can trust me," said Mercy. "Whether this is really Kansas. Right? I mean, our pilot wouldn't tell you. You haven't seen any maps of landmarks. You've never been here before. So, obviously, you're wondering, if I'm lying to you, why am I lying to you?"
"Something like that, yeah."
"Well," said Mercy, "some things you just have to take on faith. I mean, in your line of business definitely."
He grinned and the bus slowed behind a traffic light. They were clearly in some city. Maybe, Alan thought, it didn't matter which one.
"The truth is," Mercy added, "we are in Kansas. I wasn't lying. But we're also sort of still in Oz. I don't know, does that make any sense? With magic, I usually find it doesn't. Father moves us around a lot, and sometimes we're not really in one place or another. Things could get ugly if we stay anywhere for too long, you know? So nobody knew until about half an hour ago that this is where we'd be." The light turned green and he accelerated through the intersection. "But I gotta tell you, of all the places we could've been today, I'm really glad it's Wichita."
"Oh," said Alan. He frowned. "Well, I'm glad we covered that."
He sat back in his seat and waited for the ride to end.
by Fred 11:59 PM
by Sharon 10:04 AM
Monday, May 24, 2004
Part the First | Part the Second | Part the Third | Part the Fourth
"No," said the dead man. "You cannot do this."
"Already done," said Alan. "Services bought and paid for. We're just here to collect."
Again he glanced out the window. There had been no discernible change, and the landscape beneath them was still as nondescript as before, but Alan thought he could detect a slight change in cabin pressure. The jet was beginning to descend. He glanced at his wristwatch. They had made remarkable time.
"We'll be taken to Father after we land," said Alan. "There should be a car waiting for us when we --" He paused, again wondering where exactly the jet was taking them. " -- get to where we're going. It's all been arranged."
"You cannot," repeated the dead man. "You must not do this."
"Look," said Alan, "I know you and Eliza Merrick didn't get along. I know you've got some kind of history between the two of you, some kind of bad blood. But what's done is done. My employers want her raised, and that's what Father's going to do." He drained the rest of his tea and then grinned as an idea occurred to him. "You weren't sleeping with her, were you?" he asked. "I mean, that'd certainly explain why Merrick went and had you butchered like he did." He laughed.
The dead man did not do the same. His one eye glared at Alan, but after a moment he lowered his head and sighed.
"I ask you, please," he said, "do not do this. You do not know what sort of creature this woman was."
"I've been to New England," said Alan. "She was a debutante. So what? They're not all evil, you know."
"But she was," said the dead man. "Whatever she was, it was not human. Merrick married her only in the hope that he might possess her, bend her to his will. She fascinated him, but it was not love. No one loved her. She was his project, and she nearly destroyed him."
"Sounds like exactly the sort of person we want on our team."
"You will not be able to control her if you do this," said the dead man. He shook his head. "You must call this off. She will kill all of you if given the chance."
"Well, I don't expect to give her the chance," said Alan. The intercom system crackled, and the pilot asked them both to take their seats. They would be landing momentarily. "Are you sure you weren't just sleeping with her?" Alan asked.
"Mark my words," said the dead man. "She will kill you."
Geez, thought Alan. Mark my words. Who even talked like that anymore? He was starting to miss the dead man's eerie silence.
He heard the landing gear extend and the jet hit the ground a few moments later. Alan looked out the window. He could see nothing but the tarmac beneath them, a few squat white buildings in the distance, and a haze of gray clouds hanging low in the sky. If they had landed at an actual airport, he did not recognize it. He could see no signs to indicate their location. His employers' associates certainly enjoyed their secrecy. Alan was about to mention this to the dead man when the pilot emerged from the cockpit and swung open the cabin door. He had said not ten words to either of them during the entire long trip, but now he smiled at them both. He extended an arm towards the door.
"Gentlemen," he said as another man entered the plane, "allow me to introduce Mr. Tobias Mercy."
"And allow me," said the man who called himself Mercy, "to welcome you both to the great city of Wichita. We have lots to do."
by Fred 11:59 PM
by MisterNihil 11:18 AM
Sunday, May 23, 2004
Part the First | Part the Second | Part the Third
"What we're missing," said Alan, "is time."
The dead man said nothing. Alan was beginning to realize he would have to get used to that. The grave probably wasn't such a terrific hotbed of conversation.
"What I mean," he added, "is that we don't know how long Merrick's had the book in his possession. The letter isn't dated. Obviously it's been less than a year, since that's when he first hired his lawyers to broker the deal, but other than that we don't know. It could be twelve weeks or twelve months."
"He will not need long with the book," said the dead man.
"But he will need translators," said Alan. "And that's maybe the one thing working in our favor. We're just lucky Merrick himself is blind."
Alan sipped his cup of tea and turned to look out the window. The clouds beneath them had parted to reveal some nameless city, its roads stretched out like veins burrowed in the ground, dotted and speckled with indistinct shapes that could have been buildings or cars or even people. This was what they called flyover country, he thought: neither a destination nor even part of the journey, but simply that ignored stretch of nowhere along the way. Kansas, Alan thought, or maybe Nebraska. The pilot had refused to tell either of them. Alan had of course tried to pass it off as standard procedure, but the truth was it worried him. His employers had warned him that this might happen -- the associates they were traveling to meet were a naturally suspicious lot -- but Alan still found it unnerving. He would like to at least know the name of the city in which they would land. The dead man did not seem to care. If he was impressed at all with the jet -- hundreds of feet above the ground after so many years below it -- he showed it not at all. Alan had not seen him look out his window once throughout the entire sixteen-hour trip.
"Well," said Alan, "we'll be landing soon. I should warn you, some of the people we're here to do business with...well, they're a bit necrophobic. So you might want to let me do the talking."
"As you wish," said the dead man.
"They should be able to help us, though," Alan continued. "The one they call Father should be able to procure all the items we'll need. Even with your vengeance, we can't just walk into Merrick's stronghold unarmed."
"Weapons will not help us," said the dead man. "Merrick cannot be killed in such a fashion."
"He probably can't be killed at all," said Alan. "But I'll let you test that theory once we're actually inside." He smiled. "No, what Father will get us is something else altogether."
The dead man eyed him questioningly.
"He's going to conjure us something," said Alan. "He's going to summon up Merrick's wife."
by Fred 11:59 PM
by jal 7:00 AM
Friday, May 21, 2004
Part the First | Part the Second
"My employers are aware you've dealt with Merrick in the past," said Alan. "You know the man, and we want to make use of that knowledge."
The dead man said nothing for a moment, then shook his head. He gave what Alan again took to be the equivalent of a sigh.
"That was," he said, "many years ago. Much has changed since then."
"Well, yes," said Alan. "You're dead, for one thing." The dead man did not return his smile and Alan sighed. "It doesn't matter," he said. "You were friends once. The devil you know, right? That's enough to get you through the door."
"He killed me," said the dead man.
"Exactly," said Alan. "All the more reason to help us then. All the more reason he can't refuse to see you."
A shimmering at the corner of Alan's eye caught his attention. The air behind them -- and thankfully out of the dead man's view -- seemed to buckle. The spell Alan had cast over the necropolis was beginning to fail. He only hoped the dead man wouldn't notice and they wouldn't be interrupted before their business was concluded.
"Merrick's big on tradition," Alan said. "Ritual means everything to him. You'd be well within your rights to claim vengeance. You'd be guaranteed an audience."
The dead man closed his remaining eye. Alan tried not to look at the empty socket, eaten away by time. Neither of them spoke for a very long time. Then the dead man opened his eye, looked at Alan, and said, "He was not wrong to kill me."
"But you know what'll happen when he's done with that book," said Alan.
"Yes," said the dead man. "Armageddon."
"Or worse," said Alan. "With the sort of devil's Merrick's probably in league with, who knows...?" He eyed the dead man questioningly. "So you're coming then?"
"Lead the way," said the dead man, and they left the necropolis.
by Fred 8:34 PM
by Shawn 11:53 AM
Thursday, May 20, 2004
Part the First
"Gods?" Alan said. He laughed. "Is that what you think they are?"
"They are not human," said the dead man.
"Well," said Alan, "none of us are perfect. He smiled as the dead man reopened the tomb and stepped out into the late afternoon sun. "You should know that better than anyone. All those stories about your mother, the things she coupled with..."
"Tell me what you want."
Fine, thought Alan. To the point. He reached into the satchel slung over his shoulder and removed a large leatherbound book. On its worn and dented cover was embossed an image of a large bird with a single line of text in what might have been Arabic running beneath it. Alan held it out to the dead man.
"I assume you're familiar with this," Alan said.
The dead man would not touch the book. He stared at it with revulsion.
"That is a reproduction," he said.
"Of course," Alan said. After a moment he returned the book to his satchel. "The original has been lost for years." He smiled. "Centuries, if you disregard some of the more dubious stories. That's one of the oldest known copies in existence. There are things in that book that pre-date us all, including my employers, but you're right, it is only a copy. It's nowhere near complete."
The dead man only glared.
"That does not explain why you are here."
"Actually," said Alan, "it does."
He reached again into the satchel, but this time he removed what appeared to be a type-written letter. Alan unfolded it to reveal the signature at the bottom of the page: Merrick. He watched the dead man carefully for any reaction.
"I know you can't read much English," Alan said, "so I'll explain. This letter was intercepted one month ago. It's a priveleged communication between Samuel Merrick and his attorney, Virginia Barrow. My employers went to great pains to obtain this. It seems that Mr. Merrick contracted Ms. Barrow's firm a year ago in order to negotiate the sale of a certain rare and antique book. He mentions the title of that book very specifically."
The dead man stared questioningly at Alan. "No," he said.
"Mr. Merrick has obtained a copy of the original volume. I think you can understand why that might distress my employers, and why he can't be allowed to possess such a book. I think you know the kind of man he is. It's imperative that we retrieve the book, or that it be destroyed."
"You would have me kill Merrick," said the dead man. "I'm to be your assassian. You would have me bring you this book."
"Well," said Alan, "it's a bit more complicated than that. But yes, I think you're starting to catch on nicely."
by Fred 3:10 PM
by Fred 7:06 AM
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
Memphis: 1. An ancient city of Egypt south of Cairo. Reputedly founded by Menes, the first king of united Egypt, it retained its primacy until the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great. Its remains include an extensive necropolis.
There would be, Alan realized, no reasoning with the dead man. They had only just begun to discuss the amount of his commission and the particulars of what Alan's employers wanted done when the man had refused to listen further and resealed himself inside his tomb. Alan sighed. He had hoped to settle his business here before nightfall, and it was already growing late. They still had much to discuss if they were to agree to the terms of the contract.
"I would not be here if we did not respect you," Alan said. "You were a man of rare and exceptional talents. We have need of your services, and you will make them available to us."
He waited. He could hear nothing but the wind through the nearby trees and the occasional bird overhead. The necropolis was eerily quiet, but he knew that would not last. The spells he had cast were not binding, and it was only a matter of time before his intrusion here was discovered.
"I will not work for the likes of you," the dead man said. The stone door of the tomb had not quite settled back into place, and Alan could see the man's one remaining eye staring out at him.
"You should not be here," the dead man said. "You should leave.
Again Alan sighed. "You know I can't leave here empty-handed," he said. "We're offering you substantial reward for your efforts. Enough," he added, "to cover your outstanding debts, I suspect. All my employers ask in return --"
"No. You do the bidding of terrible creatures. When I still lived, we had names for men such as you."
"And now that you're dead, you know my true name. You know exactly the sort of man that I am, and you know that I will not be swayed by your superstitions and petty fears. If you will not work for us --"
The dead man said nothing.
"I do not give idle threats," Alan said. "So know this: if you will not work for us, then I will leave you here as you are. I will have no reason to break the spell that has risen you, and I will leave you here to rot."
He eyed the man through the crack in the door.
"Do you understand?" Alan asked. "My terms are now this: you will work for us, or I will not return you to the grave. You will be the walking dead forever. I'm sure in your life you had names for men like that as well."
Again, the dead man said nothing. Alan wondered if the man knew he was bluffing. He had, after all, not been born to spell-casting, and although he had taken to it quickly under his employers' tutelage, he was still inexperienced. The spells he had woven today would not last through the night. He and the dead man would need to settle this soon, or Alan's visit to the necropolis had been a waste.
"Very well," the dead man finally said with what might have been a sigh when he still had breath. "I will do as you ask. Tell me what it is that the gods want."
by Fred 5:22 PM
Walkin' in Memphis
A Taste Explosion* by Mister Nihil
Lovin' you, baby, is like walkin' in Memphis,
Long hot afternoon talks by the railroad.
Nobody walks when they visit The Memphis,
Pyramids or Deep South, but no one takes the time.
Lovin' you, baby, in an afternoon cafe,
coffee and ice water, warm peach pie.
The waitress comes around a little too often,
a fly thumping rhythm and we talk about the weather.
Lovin' you, baby, in the dead of night,
hotter than the afternoon, a thousand in the shade,
rushing down dead, flat empty back roads,
a thousand miles from anything that looks like the world.
Lovin' you, baby, is like dyin on my feet,
being wrapped in lenin and locked in a box.
Like walkin' between the Pyramids in Memphis,
Visitin' Graceland and coming right back home.
In Brilliant TechnoKolor!
by MisterNihil 10:35 AM
Walkin' in Memphis
by Faith 10:32 AM
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
I warned you this would happen.
by Fred 2:36 PM
Monday, May 17, 2004
When the alcohol bubbles out of the corn mash, I am there to catch it. A tiny trickle dribbles out. I phial it away for the evening. For this, I use a green glass bottle, a tiny one with a slim neck. Lately, it is enough. From fifty pounds of corn mash I can distill as much as two ounces of pure alcohol.
In the good old days, I'd be able to take twenty or thirty times that from easily half the corn. In the old days, Alcohol was so much easier to come by. But I can't be arrested. At least that's going for me. Used to be, it was illegal to extract any amount of alcohol in any way. Now, It's as legal as birds. You just don't get as much as you used to.
The corn's different, I figure. I hear sometimes they design the corn. They mess with atoms and genes, making a corn that still tastes like corn, still looks like corn, but you can't distill it nor plant it. You can't grow corn out your seed corn like you could. Maybe two plants'll come up out a whole acre. Something about killin natural yeasts living in the air and in the kernels. I never understood it.
The logic seems to go as such: If mash wisky can't be made illegal, and corn can't be made illegal, but corn can be made any way you want it outside illegal, go ahead and make that corn so's you can't make mash wisky from it. It's really up to them. They got elected. They know best.
I tell ya,' the more I hear about the K'mehr Rouge, the more I like what they stood for. Folks gettin' out'a the cities, livin' off the land (distillin' they own wisky, tell you what), killin' the intellectuals, gays & whatchacall, "artists." Anybody didn't know how to distill wisky, really. I like that move, an' I wanna vote for it. If we don't legislate America into the good old days, who will? An' if we don't get back to the good old days, when a man could get some damn alcohol out'a corn mash, what kinda future is it? I mean, you kick a mufug out'a their highrise apartments, their kushy city life, mosta them'd starve! Not me, though. I got my corn mash. I got my phial.
by MisterNihil 4:46 PM
Here, she says, drink this.
What is it? he asks.
Dunno, she says. It's -- it's green.
I can see that, he says. Because he can. The glass phial she offers him is most decidedly green, a green so dark and deep and pronounced as to almost -- but not quite -- be black. It is a green made even more so by the emerald liquid that bubbles inside it. He mentions this, the bubbling. Somehow it seems important.
No fear, she says. Bubbles are good. They're low-carb and help settle the stomach. They taste like candy.
They don't look like they taste like candy, he says. They look like they taste of puke.
Don't be crass, she says. Do you want to drink this or not?
He tells her that he does not. He thinks to ask her again about the bubbling, or about the smell (which has by now become quite pervasive), but her attention is clearly elsewhere. She returns the phial to the workbench in front of her. If he will not serve as her guinea pig, he is obviously of little use to her and she will need to find diversion elsewhere. It makes him a little sad to think that this is what has become of their relationship. He wonders, not for the first time, when romance became "here, drink this." He wonders if he should tell her how he feels, that he is thinking about leaving her. He wonders what will happen if the liquid in the phial won't stop bubbling and how she can possibly stand to work in here with that smell.
Maybe his parents were right. Maybe he shouldn't be dating a mad scientist.
by Fred 4:00 PM
green glass phial
by Sharon 6:09 AM
Sunday, May 16, 2004
You Got Ta Know
by MisterNihil 12:19 PM
Friday, May 14, 2004
by Fred 3:24 PM
It was perhaps profound and most certainly self-indulgent that he should be lonely surrounded by thousands of other people. He did, it would seem, even pride himself on being removed (some would say aloof) from those around him and such to a fault. That is to say, that while at one time it could be said to have come by honestly, this detachment from the world around him, it was now purposeful and practiced. Any justified claim to honest feelings of separation and alienation from society that his sheltered upbringing might once have offered was justified no longer. He dwelled in the world as much as did anyone. He ate the same food, watched the same television shows, shopped at the same stores and read the same papers as did those outside of his little self-imposed island of introspection and feigned isolation. He was lonesome by rote.
As the subway stops sped by he mulled this over as one would a swallow of unfamiliar wine; complex and intriguing yet unwilling to commit to a firm opinion. Had his past troubled him so as to make integration into the world an impossible feat this late in his relatively young life? Or had his routine simply become so familiar, so comforting in itself that a change now was simply more trouble than it was worth? Neither answer was particularly palatable nor flattering and he wanted, desperately perhaps, another possible explanation and yet none offered themselves up. His stop.
True to his routine he made his way from the subway to 43rd and stopped at the corner espresso kiosk for – without fail – a single, tall, latte served by a young woman that was, to him without doubt, the loveliest of people. She offered up a warm smile of recognition and started his drink before he even reached the counter. She foamed the milk as she did every morning at 8:05 but this morning, this morning as this 32-year old bachelor from Queens watched the steam rising in the October New York morning air the noise and bustle of the city faded away. It faded away and left him there naked and unburdened by his 32 year self-imposed seclusion with little ceremony and less explanation as is the case with many great epiphanies, “Hi, my name’s Robert. Robert Conroy.”
by Shawn 12:20 AM
Thursday, May 13, 2004
Okay, I guess I'll post for Shawn while he's travelling.
by Fred 1:22 PM
Well, all T&A aside I am ever-so-pleased to be back in the northwest. Actually, after 3 days in the slums of LA, which, as far as I can tell describes the entire city, I would be glad to be nearly anywhere. I can, I assure you, go on and on about just how much I dislike LA. And on, and on, and on. And on. However, instead of spending ten minutes flaming LA; ten minutes bitching about the smog, filth, chaos and shallow attitudes of a disposable society let’s see if I can turn it around. Well, in a backhanded sort of way anyhow.
I love Seattle. Three days in the heart of LA reminds me of just how much I appreciate clean air, polite people and trees. If nothing else LA serves as an object lesson – here is what you don’t want – and sometimes this is exactly what one needs. I’m sitting here in my living room looking out at the trees in my back yard, listening to the birds and, having spent three days surrounded by hundreds of other game companies, am reminded of just how much I enjoy the company I work for. I spent three solid day pitching and explaining our game at the top of my lungs; I was hoarse by noon on the first day. As soon as I’m done here I want to jump on line and play more.
So, no offense to those who live in and/or enjoy LA but maybe E3 and LA in general exists as a sort of cosmic lesson much like hitting your hand repeatedly with a hammer: It feels so good to stop.
by Shawn 12:28 AM
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
"What I meant to say was, I have nothing to say, so I won't say anything."
"I don't have anything left to say."
"So what are you saying?"
"That it's all been said. I'm saying that I've got nothing left to say."
"But you just said --"
"I know what I said, but I'm saying that doesn't matter. We've said it all. We've had our say."
"I still say you should have said --"
"I said it doesn't matter. What I should have said is...let's not say. Let's leave it all unsaid."
"So you're saying...?"
"Yes. And there's nothing left to say."
"Man, I'll say!"
by Fred 11:59 PM
What I meant to say was...
by Fred 6:56 AM
Tuesday, May 11, 2004
better late than never
by Fred 6:36 PM
Monday, May 10, 2004
This was by far the worst case of writer's block Erol had ever experienced. He needed a completed script by the 15th and the best damn thing he could come up with were were-lobster?! Not a stellar day for science fiction screen plays. Still, it did have some merit. Werewolves were always popular and, well, sea monsters were cool. Oh god, he was doomed.
Maybe, maybe if the lobsters were gangsters. Yeah, maybe they could have snappy dialog like a Tarantino movie. And vampires, maybe they're in a gangland war with the vampires. Wait, vampire piranha, and, and, there's this demon who's really a good guy and a ninja, yeah, ninjas always work, and, and a ship, and some sort of alien, and, and...oh crap. He was so screwed. Maybe a love story.
by Shawn 6:29 PM
test with post ordering
by Sharon 1:12 PM
Jason looked over the corpse of his neighbor at his two beautiful children. They were blonde, and their hair grew in curls. They sobbed quietly as they ate the beans he had served them. The body rapidly cooled. Jason smiled. He smiled more and more lately. He felt that he should appear happier for his children to provide for them a happy childhood. No kids of his were going to grow up needing therapy. He smiled and chewed. The beans were fine. He'd put crumbs of bacon in the pot with them to add flavor. The kids liked that, so he did it when he could. Damn the cost, really. He had his whole retirement to drink beer. He'd spend that money on bacon if it would make the children happy. They didn't seem happy now. He'd solved their problem that night with force and decisiveness. He read in a book that the way to impress children was to be forceful and decisive. If that bitch of a neighbor had nothing better to do than poke her nose in his business, then he had nothing better to do than poke it right back out. She thought she knew everything about raising kids. Her kid was dead. He'd been shot in Iraq, fighting for American Freedom Overseas. It was a good cause, but he was still dead. Jason chewed and though again. His kids sobbed. He knew, deep down, that they'd be happy when they grew up. He started thinking toward dishes.
by MisterNihil 12:13 PM
The hidden gift
by Faith 11:31 AM
Sunday, May 09, 2004
by Sharon 11:20 AM
Friday, May 07, 2004
by Fred 2:09 PM
Thursday, May 06, 2004
He gave her his ear
But she wanted his heart
He offered a kidney
But it was the wrong part
He proffered his nose
And she spited his face
"You don't really love me!"
She wept in disgrace
He suggested his liver
But she'd have none of that
He held out his intestines
She let them fall with a splat
Except for the heart
He was hers, body and soul
But a few scattered parts
Can never equal the whole
by Fred 3:33 PM
"So, I was just going down to the mall, you know, looking for those little strappy shoes? to replace the ones that broke? and I was just going from Bloomies to that little boutique? what's it called? you know the one, that has those cute little black strappy pumps? and I was just about to go in, when guess who I ran into! Marie! and Marie was all like, hey?"
He sat in silence. She chewed gum as she spoke. He looked directly at her. She stared off into space, remembering details about Marie, what she wore, and the details of the contested "strappy pump." He pictured ways to shut her up. They ranged from simply telling her to in so many words to actually slicing through his skin with the dirty pocket knife he fingered in his left front pocket. Silently, inwardly, he pictured her covered in blood, still talking about contested shoes and repetition of outfits.
"So, I was all, nuh uh! 'cause you know, this dresss? was hand-tailored for me? by Georgio? and she was all shutupIhavethesamedress, so I was all no! hon? why are you smiling. You don't beliveher! Oh! My! God!"
He sat back in his chair and quietly entertained his morbid fantasies. Now, he cut off an ear and handed it to her. That was the most satisfying so far. He'd just sit there, spewing blood. He'd hold out the severed member to her. She'd scream, much as she screamed now. The difference was, she'd be screaming in horror, not anger. Ahh, the things a man will sit through for good sex.
by MisterNihil 12:16 PM
He gave her his ear
by Bryan 8:05 AM
Wednesday, May 05, 2004
"Don't I know you?"
If I was listening carefully enough, I'd've heard it as soon as I entered the house, but I didn't. Sharon heard it – of that I'm certain. The great room with a door to the sunporch on the far corner. Kitchen and eating area to the right; bathrooms and bedrooms to the left. It seemed like home right off the bat.
Perhaps I have an inherent distrust of houses that talk to me. An ingratiating domicile is something almost wholy foreign to me. Only once before in my life did I have the opportunity to choose the house I lived in. That location was actually found and selected by my housemate – not by me. It doesn't really count. Every other house I've lived in was chosen by my parents. Every place I've selected previously was an apartment in a college town. Monthly rent was my primary criteria; everything else was secondary. This was the first time I got to pick what I wanted, with more emphasis on livability and less on cost. Sure, Sharon's opinion was a factor too. Fortunately, our home goals were in such close alignment that there wasn't any conflict on that front (At least not any that I remember.).
We closed on our house today. Tonight we'll be sleeping in it. Before we went house hunting, our friends told us that you'd know the right house for you as soon as you stepped in the door. For me, I'd say that the house knew already. I just needed a little time for convincing.
by jal 5:59 PM
Don't I know you?
by Fred 2:21 PM
Tuesday, May 04, 2004
He writes a single word across the page: paper.
"A thing has no meaning unless you name it," he says. "A thing without meaning has no power."
She tries to tell him that she does not need power, that what she is after is much simpler than that. She wants only the chance to write on the paper herself. She does not want for power. She will not need to search for meaning.
"But there you are wrong," he says. "We all search for meaning, and an act of writing is power. When you envision a thing, it does not exist except as a dream, but when you give it form, a name, then it becomes real and you have mastery over it. Take, for example, this paper."
She lifts the page from the desk. "My paper," she says. She wonders idly if she will be able to erase the red ink he has splotched across its blue lines. She does not think so. For a word of only five letters, his handwriting takes up an awful lot of the page. And, she realizes, the word looks much more like pooper than anything.
"Ah," he says. "Now you give it ownership."
"No," she says, "buying it at the stationery story gave it ownership. Gave me ownership. And I really wish you hadn't ruined it like this."
"Ah," he says again, "but is it ruined? Or is it embued with new meaning, new purpose, new --"
"I just want to write my damn grocery list," she says. "Can we just drop the philosophy lesson for once?"
by Fred 11:58 PM
"I'm Mr. Paper. I'll be here with you for the next sixteen hours. If there's anything you'd like to tell me, please speak loudly and clearly into the microphone."
He gurgled his usual response. They were all called something like that: Mr. Paper, Mrs. Steel, Mr. Rampart, Mr. Ham Sandwich. He didn't know what they wanted, but he didn't intend to tell them. Some days, he'd decide it was finally time to talk, but no matter what he said, they weren't satisfied. No matter what he said, they just said the same thing: "Clearly, please, and into the Microphone," and they smiled those horrible smiles.
He tried making things up: he said he was a spy for America; he said he knew where there was gold buried; he said he could tell them the secrets of the universe; he even told them that his superiors were onto them, and would be rescuing him any day now. None of that was true. The truth didn't get him out either. He was a tourist and they were torturing him.
Today, he thought, must be Wednesday. Mr. Paper held a five gallon jug of water and a piece of silk, roughly two feel square. Also, Mr. Paper had with him a pen and a piece of paper. This was new.
After a grueling three-quarters of a day, which left both parties feeling drained, Mr. Paper took the paper, which he'd been careful to keep dry, and handed it, along with the pen, to the man in the chair. "If you won't talk, we will allow you to write a confession. This will be your last chance."
He wrote for half an hour, filling the paper on both sides. His hands shook as he started, and the writing became absolutely illegible by the end, but he felt he had drafted something useful. Mr. Paper took the sheet and held it up to the light. He read it over, front and back, and then turned on his heel and left the room. The door clicked shut behind him. The man who sat, still tied in the chair, slumped.
by MisterNihil 1:53 PM
It started small, as all things do. Just a black scratch in the corner of the page. But I had a mind to finish it, to fill the paper, to realize a dream and hold it fast. Mount it on the wall. It was big.
Over days and months, I drew cross-hatches, dots, and lines, adding depth, adding scope, building... something. I let my whim carry my hand. I let the paper tell me what it contained. I let the paper guide me.
It was mid-October when I saw the first face. It was sweet, almost pleasant. I liked that face. It hardly moved at all. The dark of winter brought grotesqueries into the house, through the paper, stretching over the dining table and spilling into the hall. They threatened the earlier, nicer faces, and I wondered how I could have found those first faces ugly at all.
I began to doubt that I could fill the page, but I knew I couldn't stop. I ordered ink to be delivered by courier. Gradually my friends stopped reminding me to eat. It didn't matter; my masterpiece was becoming magnificent.
I think it is August now. It's nearly been a year. If you can read this, here amongst the stippling, then you have some of the gift as well. I need you to help me.
Add more paper. Glue it on. Make the seams invisible. Give me more space! I have to find a way back out.
by Sharon 1:08 PM
by Fred 7:20 AM
Monday, May 03, 2004
It took about an hour-and-a-half to make the majority of the changes, and a remaining half hour to spiff, primp, and fix. There are many aspects of the new incarnation of my blog that I like very much.
- It uses cascading stylesheets (CSS) to position the content, allowing for semantic HTML.
- It's light and clean, supporting my HTMinimaLism leanings.
- It can (and soon will) replace the mess that is my homepage at spyderella.net.
- It includes on my blog (frequently visited) links to things I would like to draw your attention to (otherwise soon forgotten).
- Development time was short. I made a list of sections I wanted, I built the stylesheet, I listed the divs. The longest part of the process was collecting the urls for the content.
- Garamond (if your browser supports it) is such a pretty font.
It was fun to do. I feel refreshed. The site looks refreshed. I can breathe again.
by Sharon 3:43 PM
I'm resisting the temptation to use "transsexual mulatto shift supervisor" and will instead use
which I engaged in today.
by Sharon 2:27 PM
Saturday, May 01, 2004
Speaking of May Day, my transsexual mulatto shift supervisor went up to me a couple of days ago and asked me, "Bryan, what do you wear to a Belfeen?" My look of confusion encouraged him to elaborate and hopefully bring context to help me understand his question. Five minutes later I realized he was referring to Beltane, but I was still unable to help him since my only frame of reference was a celebration talked about in The Wheel of Time book series called Bel Tane.
Should I know more? Am I culturally illiterate. Do I make up for it by knowing Walpurgisnacht, a version of the celebration from my family's side of the European continent? Do I lose points if I admit the only reason I know this term is I once directed "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and that is the name of the second act?
There was a time when all culture was passed down from generation to generation orally. Each person in a clan could recite his or her lineage back to their (great)^n grandparents and could tell you either the best way to catch food or the best way to cook it...and possibly both. Everyone knew all the celebrations and all their meanings.
There are probably debates in there like "Well, there is so much more information" or "Most people have more than one culture to be responsible to/for." I have nothing big and thoughtful to say...I just think it's funny that a word, and especially an old word like Beltane, can be so packed with cultural meaning in one circle of mine and so unrecognizable in another.
by Bryan 11:27 PM
May Day, May Day
by Sharon 6:56 AM
- Check in for today's topic, or offer one on your appointed day.
- Log into Blogger.
- Once the edit window loads, start the clock.
- Write for ten minutes. Then, stop.
- Select the text, press Ctrl+C to capture it, then publish the post.
- In the unlikely event that Blogger consumes your post, thank your lucky stars (and Sharon) that you copied it onto your clipboard. You're welcome.
Copyright 2005 Sharon Cichelli, Mary Ann Borer, Martha Cichelli, Blythe Christopher, Fred Coppersmith, Faith Drewry, Dan Gabbett, Ben Gibbs, Jonathan Leistiko, Josh Martinez, David Menendez, Christy Roy, Shawn Sharp, Bryan Storti, Remi Treuer, Margaret Whaley, Glen Williams, John Williams, Erik Wilson