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{Tuesday, August 31, 2004}

The most beautiful thing is loyalty.
You can't inspire it by trying. You can't dispell it by negligence. You can't affect it directly in any way other than to pretend you know what works. It happens in the least likely places. It happens to the least likely people. It happens because it is unavoidable.
Loyalty happens when there is no other choice. It happens against ones better judgement. It drops from the sky in droplets of blood and soaks into the eyes of those who should, must know better. It is the end result of a million years of carefully selected breeding and random fucks in the back seats and back alleys and rear shadows of society. It is sorely missed in a world that moves steadily on, and it is overstrong in the most beautifully misplaced pieces of reality.
Loyalty makes every second feel like a lifetime and every lifetime feel like hell. It attaches on person to something else, sometimes irrevocably, and it makes even the most awake and clear-eyed blind.
And when the last blow falls, when the bond is finally broken by whatever straw it is that falls, it hurts. It hurts both the loyal and the followed. You can pretend it's all the same, you can act the same way, behave as if nothing had changed, but the cancer is there. It grows until it can't be ignored, and then it eats the whole world.
Loyalty is the most beautiful thing.

by MisterNihil 5:11 PM

the most beautiful thing

by Nyssa23 8:51 AM

{Monday, August 30, 2004}

Is there anyone who doesn't like to sing? There are plenty of us who get nervous singing in public -- my advice if that's the case: maybe you shouldn't write that song about how your penis can fit inside a toaster -- and plenty of us who know we weren't blessed with the best of all pipes. There are plenty of us who don't like being forced to sing a certain song, a set of carols, a certain anthem, and there are plenty of us who shy awake from the stage on karaoke night.

But does anyone hate singing? Is such a thing even possible? Are there actually people who never sing, even when they're alone in the shower or the car or wherever, safe from discovery or eavesdroppers, when there's just them and the music? Singing just seems like a natural impulse. Are there people who routinely fight that impulse, or who just aren't born with it? Even deaf people know the beauty of music. (Does the same, I wonder, apply to mutes?)

Writing isn't quite like that. There are plenty of us who will tell you that writing is an impulse, too, but it's an all too easily ignored impulse, and it doesn't pour out of anyone -- except the most awful of hacks -- the same way that a song does when you're driving along with the radio on. Great singing takes just as much work as great writing, but I don't think okay singing takes as much work as okay writing. Which is to say that I think it's a lot easier to be a bad writer than a bad singer, even if being great at either isn't easy at all.

I'm not entirely sure where I'm going with this, but I wanted to write. I haven't done much of that in the past few weeks, and I'd like that to change. Singing and writing aren't the same thing by any stretch. I could invest years in voice lessons and never much improve -- some pipes just weren't meant for greatness. At the same time, I think, if I invested the same time in writing, even if I could find greatness there, I could become good enough. Maybe there's not a lot to be said for striving for mediocrity, but it's a start.

Writing is an impulse. Words are just another song. The trick is learning how to let them out.

by Fred 5:23 PM


by Faith 9:40 AM

{Thursday, August 26, 2004}

Black and white films are the visual equivalent of comfort food to me. I honestly don't understand people who say they don't like or won't watch black white movies. In fact, I've practically disowned one of my nephews for expressing just such a sentiment. (There are other, more important extenuating circumstances, of course, but that attitude has without a doubt contributed to our estrangement.)

Nearly all of my favorite movies are in black and white -- Casablanca, Double Indemnity, Frankenstein, His Girl Friday, The Palm Beach Story, Sullivan's Travels, Key Largo -- and the stars of those times seem like old friends or even family members to me. Cary Grant. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Clark Gable and Jean Harlow. William Powell and Myrna Loy. Veronica Lake and... mmmm, Veronica Lake. Claudette Colbert. Joel McCrea. Rita Hayworth. Alan Ladd. John Garfield. Barbara Stanwyck. Henry Fonda. I even like many of the lesser-know character actors, like the gravel-voiced Eugene Pallette, who played Henry Fonda's father in The Lady Eve, or the ever-dim-appearing Grady Sutton, who played a character named Ogg Oggleby in The Bank Dick. ("Ogg Oggleby..." mused star W. C. Fields in the film, "sounds like a bubble in a bathtub.")

In addition to the straight-up dramas, there are the obvious and lesser-known noirs, like The Postman Always Rings Twice, Out of the Past, DOA, Detour, The Asphalt Jungle, or Kansas City Confidential, populated by fallen women and antiheroes clad in trenchcoats and fedoras, full of snappy patter and nihilism. There are the comedies, with W. C. Fields and Laurel and Hardy, the Little Rascals and the Keystone Kops, still just as funny today as when they were first filmed. There are the horror and sci-fi flicks, like Dracula and The Wolf Man and The Day the Earth Stood Still and King Kong, each one scarier and brainier than any blood-soaked slasher film on the market today.

A new print of The Maltese Falcon or The Wages of Fear can send me scurrying to the Castro Theater on a weekend to indulge in my passion. A remake -- in color -- of The Postman Always Rings Twice or DOA just leaves me yawning... and yearning for the original.

Maybe that's the difference to me. Color films don't inspire me the way the black and white ones do. I don't find myself mesmerized by every little piece of furniture, by the wallpaper and the costumes and the cars and the storefronts the way I am with an old black and white production. I'll spend half the time watching one of those movies just trying to soak in all that background information, trying to get a better glimpse into the history inherent in such a film, knowing that the time it was set in is now long past and never to return.

But more than that, I just don't get the same enjoyment from color films as I do from black and white. It's the reason that I find the American horror films of the the '30s and '40s so much superior to the full-color Hammer films of Great Britain, with their ponderous plots and uninteresting visual style. It's why I will always consider Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff better actors than Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

Just as an exercise, compare the first two feature films the Beatles made in the '60s -- A Hard Day's Night and Help! The first was a wonderfully executed mockumentary of the wild lives they led and a realistic portrait of the times, while the second was just a rather silly romp. I honestly believe that the difference in the two has as much to do with the fact that A Hard Day's Night was shot in black and white and Help! in color. Granted, the writing and direction was better for the former, but there's still that ineffable quality of a movie seen in the rich, darkly contrasted tones of black and white that will always hold more appeal to me than anything that Steven Spielberg or George Lucas or even Francis Ford Coppola will ever create.

by Generik 10:21 PM

There is a moment just before sunset, just after day, when all the color drains out of the world. If you stand in a strange place, just at that moment, with all the lights off, and just wait, you'll see it. First, the shadows grow long, and then they cover everything. Then, it happens, just before you lose sight altogether. All the color drains out of everything. As you watch, you can see the red fade to gray, the deepest blue run out into puddles on the floor, leaving a black behind. Even this magical moment cannot last, of course, and then all the light fades. The whites become grays and the grays become blacks. Everything is enveloped in one beautiful cloud of anonymity. Even that faceless night speaks to the colorlessness of the moments before it.

by MisterNihil 10:42 AM

Black and White

by Generik 8:55 AM

{Wednesday, August 25, 2004}

I am a fan of professional wrestling. I have been a fan of professional wrestling for most of my life. There is no subject (with the possible exception of coffee) that I know more about than professional wrestling. One might even say it is my bailiwick.

In all seriousness, I love professional wrestling.

I started watching when I was four years old. I was rooting for the bad guys (I knew it was fake from the get go). I even remember the first match I ever witnessed...Mils Mascaras (The Man of 1,000 Masks) vs. Sgt. Slaughter. Before we watched, my mother (whose favorite wrestler of all time is The Undertaker) sat me down and told me a story about wrestling. When she was little, she would visit her grandmother (favorite: Lou Thesz) every week. They would play and clean and cook and do the grandmotherly/granddaughterly things, but when it was wrestling time, grandma would go to the kitchen, get two root beers (root beers mind you that weren't as easy to come by in 1955), and usher my mom in for wrestling. It was always the highlight of her visits. It was how my mother remembers her...just the two of them and professional wrestling.

I have been a mark (originally a carnival term for an easily duped member of the crowd [i.e. a target], "mark" has evolved in the world of wrestling to mean one who knows its fake and still gets excited about it) for 25 years now. Watching professional wrestling was the only thing that brought my family together while my parents (dad liked Rocky Johnson) were fighting. It brought me closer to my brother (sadly, a Hulk Hogan fan) and his family. The fact that I am a mark has even helped win the respect of my staff. Dylan (Steve Austin), one of my baristas told me he was glad to find out I was a mark...didn't say why, just that he was glad. I think I knew why.

I, like Dylan, know what people think. I know what "group" this puts me in. Heck, if you look down upon me for watching wrestling, I'm just glad you put me in a different group than you put yourself. I know that I am supposed to feel shame...or if I don't have the decency to be ashamed, at least feel proud that I can declare my markdom and still have a full set of teeth.

So mock, scorn, cringe all you want. There is nothing you can say that I haven't already heard and nothing that you can say that will change the way I feel. Just accept it.

I love professional wrestling.

Oh, and in case you were wondering..."The Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels.

by Bryan 10:16 PM

He washes his hands every night after dinner, and twice a day besides after meals, as well as after each trip to the bathroom. He takes six breaks to urinate in the average day, and spends between one and three minutes during each. He times himself. He washes his hands every time he does. He washes his hands a total of eleven times a day, on an average day. On Sundays, he eats a fourth meal ("brunch") and so washes his hands an even dozen times.
He is named Joshua Benjamin Huzef. His name was Anglicized when his family came through Ellis Island. He was born two generations later, and is now an adult. He washes his hands eleven or twelve times a day.
Joshua Benjamin Huzef heard a song when he was a young lad. It had a profound effect on him. The song is called "He's Got the Whole World (in his hands)." It is a child's hymn and meant to give comfort. The verses go on about having all the babies, all the churches, all the trees in his hands. Joshua Benjamin Huzef has become worried.
Joshua Benjamin Huzef is disturbed because he knows things about the world, and he knows what it means to have the whole world in one's hands. He knows that the world is unclean. He knows that it is full of roaches, slime and germs. He looks often under his fingernails, checking and rechecking. Once, he thought he found an entire frog under one. Depending on where you are from and what you believe, he could have been wrong.

by MisterNihil 12:37 PM

in all seriousness

by John W. 7:38 AM

{Tuesday, August 24, 2004}

     I'm tired right now. I don't have any excuse. I slept 8 hours last night and I went to bed rather early on top of that. Part of it is the heat of the day, which sucks the life out of a person stupid enough to need to go anywhere out of the home. Part of it is the fact that I have so much to do and so little desire to do it. But the real problem is that I dream too much.
     I dream about things that scare me. Lately, it's been voices from the past, people I hoped I'd buried in the sheer crushing weight of years. They come back like it was yesterday and demand payment for wrongs done in the meantime, wrongs of social evil. They demand my time and attention and they demand I do the right thing. These Shylock ghosts demand their pound of my soul.
     What's the statute of limitations on childhood? What's the waiting period on forgiveness? I know I signed up at the store, and I know I wanted it sent to me, but I'm still waiting, languishing in the guilt of young adulthood. I had to step on some people to get here, and they were perfectly nice people.
     Why, then, are they haunting my dreams?

by MisterNihil 12:41 PM

a voice from the past

by Fred 7:00 AM

{Monday, August 23, 2004}

The Beginning of Everything

You probably don't realize this but the answer is right in front of you. What is it you say you are looking for, the beginning of everything? Well my friend, relieve yourself of your worldly burdens for a spell and maybe I can help you discover this "beginning", this natural base that you search for.

We are, as you must know, bound. Vertical, horizontal, even hyperbolic lines mark the areas in which we exist. Some are content to dwell rigidly from x=3 to x=5. Others sense our innate ability to cast a view aslant in their x=y+2 worlds.

Are these Cartesian metaphors confusing you? The beginning of everything is truly a confusing concept...looking more like {(1+1/x)^x as x approaches infinity} than x=3.

Your assumptions may be fallacious. Do you assume the beginning of everything is free of boundary? I tell you it is a limit. Do you believe that everything follows from the beginning? I tell you this beginning is merely a derivative of a much greater truth. Do you think it sane to search for the beginning? I tell you truly, the search much like the quest, is irrational. It is the product, perhaps, of a primal instinct that none of us truly understand.

Perhaps most problematic for you is that while this beginning can be expressed in many different ways, it is truly constant...unmoving, waiting to be stumbled upon. Have faith, my friend for while I can see from the look on your face that this discourse has only confused you more, I am certain you will find your beginning. My final advice is to focus your search. Stop looking in 2,718 different directions and you will find your search for the beginning of everything will end with ease...or perhaps with only one.

by Bryan 11:18 PM

the beginning of everything

by Nyssa23 11:04 AM

{Saturday, August 21, 2004}

internet cafe

by Sharon 12:54 PM

{Friday, August 20, 2004}

You might be able to make a case that I'm just posting this because it moves my story where I want it. But you'd also have to make the case that it's my story, so today's topic is

by MisterNihil 11:55 AM

{Thursday, August 19, 2004}

On the clock in the hall is the letter she wrote, folded in half and left there, forgotten. A week later he finds it, or rather has it found by the maid, who can't explain how it got on the clock, unless the lady of the house left it there for a reason.

"All she said was she wrote me a letter," he says. "And she's not the lady of the house anymore."

The maid nods, yes of course, and she says nothing else. What else can she say? That she is glad to see Mrs. Becker gone? That this is a good thing? That only a crazy woman leaves a farewell letter atop and old grandfather clock that even she, the maid, does not bother with dusting or winding because no one ever goes into that part of the house anymore? She cannot say this, she needs her job, and so, even if Mrs. Becker has not been right since the accident that took the boys eight years ago, and even though it will be good for Mr. Becker to now move on, the maid says nothing, and leaves the man with the letter.

He reads it slowly, once, then many times, and if it offers any explanation for his wife's disappearance or the phone message she left this morning, no understanding is apparent on the man's face. When his wife called, she said she was at the airport, had to run, would not be coming back. She said he could expect the divorce papers before the month's end.

"I left you a letter," she said. "Somewhere in the house, I don't remember."

He wonders, for a moment, if he will ever see her again. He wonders if he really wants to. He reads the letter, looking for clues, or for confirmation that there are none, that it's nothing more than what it seems: just a letter, even if it is the last letter from his wife, left atop the clock in the hall outside their sons' bedroom. It's only three lines anyway, twenty-two words, and not one of them is goodbye.

All of them are goodybe.

by Fred 5:51 PM

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     Samantha sat in the seat for a few moments, feeling the unusual shape of a seat clearly used to holding a large bulk. She threw open the glove box and emptied its contents onto the floor. Candy wrappers, old maps, pill bottles and a pair of rusted pen knives littered the already filthy passenger side.
     She pulled down the visors and found a ring of keys behind the one above her head. These, she tried until she found one that fit. She twisted the key.
     The van took a moment to start. She gave it more gas, pumping the pedal lightly. It made loud coughing and revving noises, then the engine hacked its way sluggishly to life. Samantha turned on the headlights, which shone on a massive bulk of a man, dressed in a dark trench coat. Gay colors shone through the opening in front. The bulk was topped off with a pale face haloed with unruly dark hair in curls and whisps. The face that was lit suddenly by the headlights had very small, piggy eyes and a horrible, too-wide grinning mouth.
     Samantha slammed down on the gas pedal and the van jerked forward. With a mighty thump and the sick crunch of steel on meat, the immense fat man was knocked aside and onto the pavement.
     Samantha drove on.

(To Be Continued Tomorrow)

by MisterNihil 11:40 AM

I have worked at many hourly jobs in my life--actually, nearly all the jobs I've worked at have been hourly jobs--and so I know a thing or two about watching the clock.

If you've ever seen that "Dilbert" when he wiggles his hands and says, "Look! Right now I'm getting paid for doing this!" then you understand my attitude toward being on the clock. The more I hate the job, the more I'm wiggling my hands, or drinking a cup of coffee extra slow, or organizing the office supply cabinet yet again, and thinking about how sweet it is to be paid for doing it.

Of course, some of the temp jobs I've worked haven't allowed for such extravagant time-wastage. For instance, when I worked for six weeks in an industrial laundry, we were permitted one 30-minute meal break and two 15-minute breaks in a day spent on one's feet on concrete floors in a fiendishly hot environment. Each break was taken all together when the clock dictated, and timeclocks were to be punched when you left and came back. Although the one perk this job provided was free Gatorade, that actually becomes quite a deal when you've been standing on concrete floors in 90-degree weather for six hours or so.

Others were virtual sinecures, like the few weeks I spent assembling phones for city workers. We basically sat and talked and drank soda while putting cords on headsets and folding up those wee little pieces of paper with extension numbers on them to stuff inside clear plastic buttons. Besides that, we lunched spectacularly on tater tots and chicken-fried steak in the employee cafeteria. That job I remember with a certain amount of nostalgia, since it provided me the great pickup line I used on my first husband, as in "Do you know, I probably built that phone you're using?"

When I did my internship this summer at a film production company, I knew I loved it because I hardly watched the clock at all. And I wasn't even getting paid. Go figure.

by Nyssa23 10:23 AM

On The Clock

by Glen 8:02 AM

{Wednesday, August 18, 2004}

First    Previous    Next

      Samantha walked over to the monkey skeleton, which sat on a shelf just above her head. From the shelf, she guessed, she could pull up to a window which was just too far for her to reach otherwise.
      The banging continued from both doors, and the slithering sound was not accompanied by a strange clicking, as of dog nails on tile.
      Samantha worked her way across the room and under the skeleton. Bracing on her good leg, she jumped and clasped the shelf. Then, the monkey began to move.
      At first, she though it might be a trick of the dim light of the room, but then it bent unmistakably in the middle and clamped its teeth down on her right hand. She yelped and let go, landing in a heap on the floor. Her hand continued to hurt, and when she looked at it, she saw that the skull was still latched onto the back, now chewing at the skin. She screamed now, and hit the back of her hand to the wall. The skull shattered, but she heard the bony click as the rest of the skeleton landed on the floor next to her. Samantha stood quickly and jumped again for the shelf. She pulled herself up, thinking light thoughts and raining a cloud of dust. The monkey grabbed her bad leg and started ripping with its bony claws.
      Samantha kicked weakly, and pulled herself up to the shelf, then moved her hands to the window. She pulled herself up, kicking all the while. Once she was sitting on the narrow ledge, she started kicking the monkey skeleton with her good leg. It lost its grip and fell to the ground below.
      A wet slorp came from the far room. Samantha turned her attention quickly to the window, not wanting to look down. She pushed the pane, which opened with a rusted complaint. Samantha looked down, and judged the distance to the ground to be just too far for comfort. The sound came again from behind her.
      Samanth took hold of the window pane, and held herself at arm's length. She dropped to the ground and tried her best to cushion the fall with bent knees. She landed in a heap on the ground as her leg buckled under her.
      Out here, she could hear the trio banging on the doors to her left and right. Ahead of her, she could see the street and the waiting van. Painfully, Samantha stood. She began to move as quickly as her legs would allow out to the street.
      Once there, Samantha pulled open the door and slid into the driver's seat.

(To Be Continued Tomorrow)

by MisterNihil 11:55 PM

Take One

I can't tell you how much I hated growing up in the suburbs. Especially given that the suburbs I grew up in were less than an hour away from Hollywood and the Sunset Strip in the '60s, and a day's drive from San Francisco and the hippies on Haight-Ashbury to the north. I knew -- I knew -- that things were happening, a culture was changing, people were being radicalized, transfigured metamorphosed... a society was being transformed, and I wanted to be a part of it. I just didn't know where to go.

I remember wearing the gaudiest hippie outfits I owned and walking down to Holt Avenue, the main drag of Pomona, to try to find some like-minded individuals who were interested in experiencing the same cultural zeitgeist that I was interested in, only to encounter the occasional biker trying to buy or sell speed, or some older gay guy who thought I looked like a likely target with my long hair and bell bottoms. I knew that there were things happening somewhere, really important cultural and political things, but whatever they were, they weren't happening in Pomona. Yet I still sought that connection on the main drag of the town in which I lived, because where else could I go? Los Angeles and Hollywood, the Sunset Strip and Topanga Canyon and Malibu were an hour and light years away from me. San Francisco might as well have been in another solar system.

It wasn't until I went away to college that I really experienced a city, and then only by accident. I went to UC Berkeley on a scholarship, and only as an afterthought would I sometimes take the BART over to San Francisco while I was there. It took me a while before I realized how much I loved the city, but once I did, I knew that it was where I wanted to spend the rest of my life (here on the West Coast, The City is San Francisco, except for the suburbs of SoCal, where it's LA, but that really doesn't count, because there is no real city in LA).

Not long after finishing school, I tried living in Pomona one more time again, and it wasn't long before I realized that I just couldn't do that; not knowing what I knew about living in a real city, I couldn't. I moved to San Francisco with about two hundred dollars to my name, most of my clothes and all of my record albums and one friend who I hoped would let me sleep on his couch. I got lucky there, and have been here ever since.

Since then, I have had a serious affinity for big cities, for any place with tall buildings and lots of people milling about. The first time that Sally and I went to Hawaii, in 1993, we spent our first week on the big island, Hawaii. We stayed in Kona, we went to Hilo, we drove all over the island and even experienced flowing lava from the Kilauea volcano. It was a fabulous vacation. But our second week there was to be spent in Waikiki, the beach at Honolulu, on the island of Oahu. We flew back from Hawaii, back from the microclimates of lava fields, rolling hills and lush rainforests, and took a taxi into town to our condo in Waikiki. As we passed the huge hotels and downtown skyscrapers and crowds of people everywhere we looked, I began to sigh with relief. A big city! Chicago, Toronto, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Indianapolis! I felt truly relaxed for the first time in a week. It was at that moment that I realized just how much of an urban soul I really am. I enjoy nature, I enjoy forests and beaches and mountains and streams... but what really gets my blood moving is busy sidewalks and crowded streets, neon signs and sirens and skyscrapers.

Because I know something is happening there.


Take Two

The bus is breathing heavy, wheezing and panting as it lurches and stops and slides up the street. Every bounce brings a new angle, a new perspective, a new take on life and the universe. It stops in front of the Cherokee Hotel, sighing like an old lady with too many groceries, and a big guy with a round belly and a fat fish head gets on. His rubber lips wrap halfway around his face, and his round eyes bulge out on either side of his head. There are noticeable gills on his neck.

We pull away and I watch the exhaust as it leaves the bus and hangs in the air behind us, a series of blue and silver and gray diamonds and Xs and triangles wafting off into the miasma of the city air. Someone, somewhere, must be playing a penny whistle, a slide instrument that keeps sounding inside my head, WEEEEE-oooop! WOOOOO-eeeeep! Up and down, up and down, keeping time with the labored breathing of the bus I am traveling.

Unexpectedly, I catch sight of myself in the window, and I realize that I look just like every other passenger on the bus, save the fish head man. I don't have a fish head, and neither do any of the other passengers, but we all have the same wide open eyes, the same half smile, the same angle of our faces setting slightly tilted on our necks. The fish head man looks around him and wonders how he can breathe in such an environment.

I wonder if he hasn't already swallowed a hook.

by Generik 11:34 PM

Her brow furrows, and she concentrates on a spot five inches past my left shoulder. "I don't know where to start," she says.

"You don't have to start," I say. "I started for us. Just tell me the first thing that comes into your mind."

She thinks a moment longer, then she opens her mouth and she says,

Along the rim of the sun there runs a silver line which bends away and off into a long, lonely field of shining blossoms. It is said that under this field of blossoms sleeps the mountain of Tremora where once upon a time the sky blossomed forth out of the ground and the rivers flowed down to create the seas - and it was from Tremora that the stars sprang forth.

From these stars came sadness, and it fell through the sky in sheets, settling across the mountain. These sheets of sadness rained down in the mornings, they rained down in the night, and they rained down in the in-betweening time. These sheets filled the ground beneath the foothills of the mountain, piled up the sides, and eventually filled up the area until they covered the peak - and it is this sadness which forms this field. From this sadness sprang the blossoms, and it is for this reason that we call these blossoms Tremora's Tears. But these blossoms would not come for centuries yet.

In this time, there was still the mountain of Tremora, the seas which ran down from the mountain, the sky which rose up from the mountain, and the stars which sprang forth from the mountain, and there was also the sadness which fell from the stars. From the mountain to the ground, the sadness fell - and as it fell into the waters, it dissolved - and it is from here that all tears are said to come. But in the balance of the universe, with sadness must come happiness. And so the sea which had flowed from Tremora gave birth to the sun, which took its place among the stars. And as the stars rained down sadness, the sun rained down joy so that there would be symmetry - for the universe is nothing if not symmetrical.

But unlike the sadness, the joy would not gather on the ground. The joy would melt and run away from the ground, and it would flow into the sea where it would mingle with the water and with the sadness - and this is why we say it is true that all tears must come from here, for there are tears of joy as well as sadness.

The sadness and the joy and the water that flowed down from Tremora all sat here at the foothills. And it is from here that the first Man was said to emerge. And waiting on the banks to greet him was She Who Came First.

by Glen 10:02 PM

When I think about The City, I think about Austin first, because that is the city I am in. And it's much bigger than the city in which I grew up. But that city holds a special nostalgia for me, and I feel a certain blue-collar pride when Billy Joel's "Allentown" is on the stereo. Beyond that, though, "In The City" usually means New York to me. It's a snobbish sentiment, to think that one place is so essential, so archetypal, that you can simply call it The City. Especially since, y'know, on the other coast, The City is somewhere else entirely. It bugs me. The only place that really deserves to be called The City is the place defended and watched over by that paragon of justice, that mighty protector of the little guy, that big blue arachnid of morality, knower of right from wrong, separator of good from evil, fruit quality inspector in the big bushell basket of bad apples, bug exterminator for the software that is truth and freedom, QA analyst for all we hold most dear... The Tick!

(Whew, and that's 10. It's harder to be a raving nut than I'd thought. Shush, you.)

by Sharon 4:44 PM

In the city

by Generik 9:28 AM

{Tuesday, August 17, 2004}

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     From the room Samantha was now in, doorways in two walls lead into other large rooms. She picked the left on at random, and hobbled to the empty portal. There was no door in it. As she walked, Samantha left little clouds of dust. She eyed the monkey skeleton very carefully as she passed near it.
     There were two empty doorways out of the next room, as well. There were also four stone slabs, three with skeletons on them. Each was completely bare of even old clothing or the dust of rotted flesh. Samantha hopped a little closer to the nearest, and eyed the bones carefully. Now that she was closer, she could see that the skeletons were not completely bare after all. This one had a round brass star lying over its left breast. She approached, and picked up the trinket. She saw then that another of the skeletons carried a small, silver knife clutched in its clawed hand. The third seemed not to have any form of identification.
     Pocketing the trinket, Samantha approached the third. Once she was closer, she saw that what had seemed a shadow on the back of the skeleton's head was actually a ragged, splintered hole. She reached out a finger and pushed the skull lightly. It tipped sideways and several tiny black metal balls fell from inside the skull.
     As Samantha reached to pick up one of these balls, there was a loud banging on the door through which she'd come. The shouting of the three men came through, but too muffled to make out words. Startled, she started limping away, into an as-yet unexplored room. In this room were three doors. A double-hinged sheet of plywood, as before, and two empty doorways.
     Samantha was about to begin pressing the door in an attempt to escape when an unmistakable smell assailed her. She stood and moved, hypnotized by rotting meat, toward the open door and the fourth room. She stopped herself at the doorway and looked into this dark, stale room.
     In the center of the room was a pit. The stench seemed to be coming from there, as did faint scrabbling sounds. Samantha had to hold tightly to the doorway to stop herself moving over for a closer look. Whatever was in the pit, she could not seem to break away, but she knew she did not want to see it. As her resolve was on the verge of cracking, the pounding renewed, this time on the door which she was about to exit.
     The spell seemed to break, and she made her way as quietly as she could back around, through the parlor of skeletons, and back to the room she'd first been in. She was puzzled to note that the stink did not seem to drift this way.
     The banging on the far door was becoming insistent, so she moved to the first. At this door, she heard the smothered giggle of her large assailant. Samantha stepped back and surveyed the room again, looking for other methods of exit.

(To Be Continued Tomorrow)

by MisterNihil 2:21 PM

It's after 1 and Jon hasn't posted, so I'll post what he's no doubt thinking about:
Dry Bones
I mean, he might be, right?

by MisterNihil 1:15 PM

{Monday, August 16, 2004}

The zombie monkeys climb the trees,
And eat whichever brains they please.
They scamper quick and no one sees
Their zombie teeth or zombie fleas
'til it's too late, and then, oh geez,
They're gone again back up the trees,
To prey on poor lost sa-far-ees,
Who hear them howling in the breeze
That sways the boughs of jungle trees
From which now hang the ape zombies,
Who jabber mad in monkey-ese,
Who cough and sputter, spit and wheeze.
And those who pass fall to their knees
As monkeys fall down from the trees
And eat whichever brains they please,
Like ripe bananas plucked with ease
By angry and undead monkeys.

by Fred 11:59 PM

Creating a mask:

  1. Change into expendable clothes. Coat much of the living room in newspaper. Collect materials.

  2. Cut plaster-fabric stuff into triangles, and cut four long rectangles off the end of the roll.

  3. Put a bowl of tepid water nearby.

  4. Pull your hair back. Coat your face, especially your eyebrows, in Vaseline.

  5. Put a Neil-Gaiman-reads-stories CD on the stereo.

  6. Lie on the floor, on the newspaper, and begin deep-breathing exercises.

  7. Have your sweetie apply the plaster to your face, including—oh, yes—your mouth. You'll be fine. Keep breathing.

    1. Briefly dip a plaster strip in the water, and pat it between your fingers to remove excess water.

    2. Stretch the strip cross-grain a little to munge up the plaster.

    3. Use the four rectangles to create an x across the bridge of her nose.

    4. Continue with the triangles to cover her face, including her lips. Pay attention to the shape you create around her eye sockets, along her jaw line, and around her hair line.

    5. Build two layers.

  8. Keep calm while the plaster warms up, hardens, and itches. Enjoy Neil on the stereo. Isn't he creepy yet cute?

  9. When the mold is hard, scrunch your face to pry it free from the inside. Find out how good you were with the Vaseline on your eyebrows.

  10. Set the mold (a negative cast) aside and hop in the shower. If soap and water prove inadequate, baby oil can help get the Vaseline off. (Or maybe it's hair pomade that baby oil is good for. I dunno, you'll be fighting with that crap for hours.)

  11. Knead Sculpey until it is soft and press it into the plaster cast of your face.

  12. Build a crossbar out of Sculpey for you to hold onto, later, and to give the mold support.

  13. Bake the whole shebang, plaster and all, according to the Sculpey directions.

  14. Use the Sculpey mold of your face (a positive cast) to build a papier mache mask. Clay Crete works great. Covering the mold with Vaseline before you start will help get the mask off, but will pock the Sculpey over time.

  15. Use a Dremel tool to cut nice holes at the temples of your mask to thread ribbons through, for tying your mask to your face.

  16. Paint your mask with paper-friendly paints, like poster paints and tempera paints.

  17. Glitter is good.

  18. Get a pirate hat, to complement your zombie pirate mask. Borrow a monkey toy from a co-worker. Tell people it is a zommmmmmbie monkey!

  19. Arrrh.

What the heck am I gonna do this year?

by Sharon 4:18 PM

First    Previous    Next

Samantha struggled with the door to the building in front of her, prying the bottom of it a little at a time away from the wall. The hinges on the sides prevented it from opening, but they were set high enough that she could just slip between the door and the stone. While straining her arms, she slithered in, dragging her useless legs behind her. Once she was inside, the plywood snapped back.
From outside, she heard the fat man calling and clucking to her. The other two flunkies also called out, and the voices came nearer. She heard them beating on the plywood doors they passed and shivered in the cold darkness.
As her eyes adjusted to the dark, the first thing she saw was a small skeleton, perhaps three feet high and perched on a shelf across the room from her. She recognized it immediately as a monkey skeleton. It sat in the light which filtered through the high, almost-opaque windows. The shafts of wan illumination were further obscured by the large amount of dust she had stirred up forcing her way in here.
Now that she had a moment, she felt in her pockets until she found her keys. She used a key from an old apartment to begin the long process of sawing through the ropes on her ankles. Once the first was cut, she found that she could move that leg again. She slipped the cut rope into a pocket and started on the other.
When she had both ropes cut and could again move her legs, she stood and took a few steps to inspect the damage to her now-tender knee. It seemed to be nothing worse than a simple strain, probably from the odd angle at which she'd kicked the door. She'd have to take it easy.
She judged the time now to be about six o'clock. She had three more hours of sunlight to look forward to. She decided to look for another exit.

(To Be Continued Tomorrow)

by MisterNihil 3:17 PM

zombie monkey

by Fred 11:15 AM

{Sunday, August 15, 2004}

First    Previous    Next

The van had not stopped, but slowed when Samantha hopped out of the back. She landed hard but tried to save her injured right knee. She found, upon landing, that she still could not walk. She hopped, wincing at the pain, toward an alley on the driver's side of the van. She glanced up and saw giant, almost identical grey buildings lining each side of the long street. Between each pair of buildings ran a dark alley. She saw no doors on any of the fronts. The only openings seemed to be windows some twenty feet from the ground. She saw no signs of immediate human life; no other cars, no people, no garbage, not even a dumpster or trash can.
     Trailing behind her were the shouts of her attackers from the van, realizing too slowly to react that she had escaped. Samantha hopped into the alley and did not look back. At the end of the building, the alley twisted right, then forked. She took the left and came to a door that stood some fifteen feet high. It was made of a single sheet of plywood, hinged at both sides. The building was made of cold, textured gray concrete and seemed to her to stand sixty feet high at the roof. She realized, standing in the suspiciously clean ally, that she did not smell any of the city smells to which she was used. There were no signs of cats or dogs living here, and no stink of stale human filth.
     Echoing up from what she judged to be the mouth of the alley, she heard that high-pitched voice calling to her, "Chick, chick, chick, chickchickchickchick! Come out, Chicken!"

(To Be Continued Tomorrow)

by MisterNihil 2:49 PM

It wasn't enough to keep her from doing her work every day. It wasn't even something that she could tell anyone, as there was no one specific pain or symptom that she could describe or complain about. She just knew that things weren't right inside.

It had started when Wayne moved in with her, bringing his big red dog Smacky with him. She wasn't allergic to the dog, but it didn't help her disposition when he would growl at her first thing in the morning while she was trying to get into the bathroom or into the kitchen for her morning coffee and brandy. Wayne thought it was funny to pour a half a beer into Smacky's bowl every other day or so, and she had to admit, it was rather humorous to see him wobble down the hall or puke out on the back lawn before he would take his long daily nap. But Smacky was, she sometimes thought, perhaps part of the problem.

She knew she wasn't allergic to Wayne himself, either, though it also didn't help her disposition when he would yell at her for not having his breakfast made in time or the way he liked it. It didn't help, either, that after he'd had a few drinks he thought nothing of smacking her a few times to emphasize whatever point it was that he was trying to make. Anyway, he always apologized for the bruises and black eyes before the week was out.

There was no way, she thought, that it was the brandy she always poured in her morning coffee, or the small nips of vodka that she allowed herself throughout the day, or the gin and tonics that she would occasionally mix herself in the evening for cocktail hour, or the bottle of wine or couple beers that she and Wayne would have with dinner, or the after dinner cocktails that they would enjoy in the evening. All that was just to relieve her stress, to keep her on an even keel. It wasn't so much, she told herself, and she hardly ever drank enough to actually get drunk. So that couldn't have been the cause.

Probably it was the daily calls her mother made to her, she thought. Every afternoon, her mother would get on the phone and tell her how worthless she was, what a loser Wayne was, and how she had done everything in her life just to make her mother even more miserable than she would have been anyway, which was pretty damn miserable if you want to know the truth.

That was most likely it, she told herself. It was all her mother's fault. That's what was making her feel just a little sick these days.

by Generik 12:29 PM

just a little sick

by Nyssa23 10:42 AM

{Saturday, August 14, 2004}

First    Previous    Next

"You can't drive. Let Remanuel drive, pipsqueek. Dandylion. Smatterclam." The man in the back of the van with Samantha was now up on his knees, leaning over the back of the front seats and talking to the two other men there.
     "If you'd let me drive last week, we wouldn't be in this mess!" The driver's piercing falcetto filled the inside of the van for a moment.
     Left to her own devices, Samantha began to quietly struggle with the rope tied around her wrists. She managed to get out of this easily enough, and tried slipping out of her ankle ties. They would not budge. While keeping an eye on her fellow travelers, Samantha reached out a careful hand and picked up the ball of socks. She'd taken them as good luck, but if these people wanted them that badly, there must be something to them.
     Now half untethered, Samantha examined the back door. There was no handle here. However, she thought that perhaps if she were to kick the latch with sufficient force, she could escape. She waited for the van to slow (at a light, she guessed), and kicked with all her might. The doors flew open and her knee let out an unpleasant, wet pop.

(To Be Continued Tomorrow)

by MisterNihil 2:37 PM

When I was a child, I told everyone that I wanted to be a scientist when I grew up. I wanted, I said, to dig up dinosaur bones in the Gobi Desert. It was a real obsession for a while, one that my classmates all took to heart and assumed would happen one day. They occasionally teased me about it, but never in a mean-spirited way. I remember a drawing of mine being posted on the wall in my second-grade classroom, mainly because I had written on it that it displayed "scintific coloring."

As I got older and math became less my friend -- we drifted apart mostly amicably after algebra and chemistry -- I shifted my focus and said that I wanted to be a writer when I got older. I took journalism and creative writing classes. I wrote reams of incredibly stilted and obtuse and puerile poetry. I attempted to write hard-boiled short stories, or Twilight Zone episodes, or drug-fueled accounts of my own hallucinatory adventures in the suburbs of Southern California. (One of the main blocks to my doing that successfully was, as I wrote rather presciently at the time, that it was "hard to hold a joint and a pen at the same time.")

My mantra was "one million words." I was convinced that, before I was any good, I would have to write one million words. After that, I believed, I would have enough experience and knowledge of myself and my craft that I would then be able to churn out endless streams of golden prose. Fame and fortune awaited me, if only I could get that first million words out of the way.

I expect that I've written well over a million words by now. And what do I do for a living? I work in a science-related field, providing cells for DNA transfection and cloning, doing small-scale cell culture and cryogenic freezing and storage of protein-producing human and animal cell lines. It isn't digging up dinosaur bones in the Gobi Desert, but it sure isn't writing, either.

I guess I never was very ambitious.

by Generik 12:14 PM


by Faith 12:05 PM

{Friday, August 13, 2004}

There are very few things on this earth that I would rather do than travel. The call of the road has always been strong in my ears, and it's been only inertia and simple lack of funds over the years that's kept me from becoming one of those people who seem to always be on the roam, always visiting somewhere else and then moving on, moving on. I envy my friend Scott, who travels much more extensively than I ever have -- he'll jet to Paris for a week, from there to Prague for a few days, back home for another week, then off to Hawaii for a short stay. In the five or six years that I've known him, he's been to China twice, to Hawaii half a dozen times or more, and to Paris more times than I can count. In addition to those trips, he's constantly taking a weekend in LA or Palm Springs, or driving out to Santa Fe, New Mexico, or Omaha or Seattle or somewhere that isn't here.

How he does this and still maintains his job is a mystery to me.

In my life, I'm finally getting to a place where I can afford to see the world a bit more, and have lately been trying to take advantage of that happy circumstance. My wife and I spent three weeks in China last March, and would go back in a heartbeat if the logistics weren't as complicated as they are. Next year, we hope to visit Europe for the first time, and, on the same trip, possibly Russia, where my brother's wife and his daughter live. In between then, I have trips planned for Las Vegas (next week!), Fresno over Labor Day (Fresno?!?), camping in the eastern Sierra in September and Maui in November for a wedding.

I'm comfortable living in hotel rooms, watching nothing but CNN Headline News and ESPN. Give me a room with a TV, a refrigerator to keep my beer cold, a bottle of whiskey and a view out the window, and I'm happy. In China, we loved the CCTV in English channel, and have discovered that we can get it here at home on our local cable system. We're hooked on the shows Travelogue and Around China, sighing wistfully every time we see a shot of one of the places we visited or that we want to see in the future.

The biggest problem with traveling is that, nearly everywhere we go, we want to someday go back. So the list of places to see keeps getting longer, and with new trips to new places coming up, it means that it will be that much further in the future before we get back to New Orleans or Washington DC or Shanghai or Vancouver or St. Lucia or Taos or the volcano at Kilauea.

I suppose there are worse problems to have.

by Generik 11:37 PM

First    Previous    Next

The man who hit Samantha pulled her bodily out of the dumpster with what seemed no effort. Still dazed from the suckerpunch, she offered little resistance. He took three lengths of twine from his pocket. He tied her wrists together with one, and tied one length around each of her ankles. The man who wore the badge, a lanky man wearing blue jeans with a huge belt buckle and a night-watchman's uniform shirt, took her feet and dragged her down to the end of the alley where a van was waiting, already running.
     Blood was oozing from Samantha's bottom lip, which swole and ached. She saw stars before her eyes, and tried to blink them out. She was lifted roughly and tossed into the back of the van. The man who'd hit her climbed intot he back with her. The man with the badge sat shotgun. Samantha could not see who drove, but when he sat, the van sank and rocked and the suspension complained. The men slammed the doors, and the van started rolling.
     Inside, Samantha felt grit under her cheek and smelled the distinct odor of a place where men with no shower facilities sleep. There were some blankets pushed up behind the front buckets and no other seats. Because there were no windows, the only light was an eerie purple gloom filtering through the badly tinted windshield. It was by this light that she got her first glimpse of her attacker. He was a tall man, easily six and a half feet, and very skinny. His skin was yellowed with brown patches that suggested disease more than filth. His cheeks were sunken to the point that they suggestested famine, and his eyes were set deep and cloaked in shadow and discolored skin. He muttered under his breath from time to time, and twitched, but kept his gaze fixed on the ride ahead.
     Samantha struggled to sit up, and found that she could not move her legs at all, despite the lack of obvious restraint. The man in the back reached out a hand and casually moved her into a sitting position as one would move a doll that had fallen over.
     From the drivers' side rear corner, she could see the man in the back and the law-man in the front, but still had no clear veiw of the driver. She could make out a massive sillhouette that was clearly the result of corpulence, not fitness, and she could make out a greasy sheen to his hair, giving it the impression of being shellacked. She could tell no more.
     The man in the back spoke.
     "Alright, Remanuel knows you were looking for it, biddy. dame. cow. fancypants."
     "Looking for what?"
     "Remanuel saw you put it in your pocket! unclever. witless. idiot. dummy."
     "Those were socks. I collect them for good luck. Look. They're in my right coat pocket. Take them out. They're socks!"
     He reached into her pocket and removed the balled-up socks. He held them with great delicacy, as one might hold a bomb with a sensitive switch, and handed them to the law-man. He held them up to his nose, and seemed to inhale deeply while concentrating.
     His voice was slow and deep, with a smoker's rasp. "Nope. Never Ixamarus."
     He handed them back to the man in the back, who threw them contemptuously at Samantha.
     "Told you we should have killed her and just kept looking, disco-ball. smacky-thighs. stinky head."
     "Well. We got her now. What we gonna do?"
     The third voice chimed in, high-pitched and nervous. "I say we take her Out Back and dump her. Nobody'd ever know."

(To Be Continued Tomorrow)

by MisterNihil 11:31 AM

travel go

by Sharon 10:04 AM

{Thursday, August 12, 2004}

The topic was so secret, so ultra-secret, so hush-hush, that even Hendricks didn't know about -- which was a little odd, he thought, since he was the one who'd brought it to the commander's attention in the first place.

"Strangest thing, ma'am," Hendricks told the commander. "That...that thing I just came in here to tell you about?"

"You've forgotten it?" the commander asked. She did not seem surprised.

"I must have," said Hendricks. "I know I told you something, about the upcoming meeting maybe, but..."

"You read the report, though?" the commander asked. She eyed Hendricks from behind the polished teak of her office desk. She seemed vaguely amused. "You saw the topic that Earth and the Dagri delegation is coming here to discuss?"

"Yes, ma'am," said Hendricks. "The Dagri. I remember it said something about that. Those are the aliens they encountered?"

"That's right," said the commander. "I wouldn't worry unduly about this, Hendricks. You only have clearance for whatever you remember. If you've forgotten something, it just means the cryptologists back home are doing their job."

"I'm not sure I understand, ma'am," said Hendricks. "I've heard some of the other officers talking about the Dagri, and I'm sure I read that report I just gave you. Regulations say I have to."

"But they don't say you have to remember it, Hendricks," said the commander. She closed the folder on the desk in front of her. "This is highest clearance, my eyes only. It's written so that you won't remember any but the most basic details."

She held the folder out in front of her.

"If I put this away in my desk, you probably won't even remember what color it is," she said.

"It's blue, ma'am," said Hendricks.

The folder was green.

"Exactly," said the commander. "Well, I think that'll be all, Hendricks."

"Yes, ma'am."

He turned to go, then paused.

"Um, ma'am?" he said.

"Yes, Hendricks, what is it?"

"I think I've forgotten which way I came in here..."

by Fred 11:59 PM

Some programming is subtle, and very ingrained.

I talk a lot of noise about plus-size empowerment. Overall, I think I do alright. I'm a Fat Girl, and I dig it. I've got a good figure, I like short skirts, I'm a dancer and a rock climber. I can wear the heck out of a bodice. It works pretty well for me.

In the abstract, a lot of people don't get it. Fat jokes seem to still be socially acceptable--I mean, look at the movies. How would Shallow Hal have played if, all the way through, he was tricked into not knowing she was Jewish? Wouldn't that be a laugh riot, her all Jewishy, and him not knowing it? Heh, yeah.

But even the people who would never make a fat joke still miss the point. I gave a speech in Toastmasters (over and over, at each level of competition) about claiming a positive body image and throwing out the destructive messages we've absorbed from advertising. And still, nice people had to come up to me afterwards and tell me that I wasn't fat. No, see, I am fat, and it's okay.

I preach from the stump a lot. And then we get to my relationship with food, and it all goes to heck. I have a certain weakness for pudding pies. A good pudding pie is a beautiful thing. In the spirit of hedonism and self-affirmation, I should enjoy a good pudding pie now and again. They almost never put pudding pies in the vending machine at work. But sometimes... ever so rarely... they do. Like today. And I was unwilling to go buy myself a pudding pie from the vending machine until I was sure that the break room was empty. I couldn't let someone else see the Fat Girl buying a pudding pie.

It's subtle, and ingrained.

by Sharon 4:37 PM

First Post In Story
     Rummaging repeatedly through the dumpster, Samantha had no idea what she was looking for. She checked twice, and still no idea remained. There were sixteen items, by her figuring, in the dumpster. She counted each bag and its contents as an item, as it was easier to search methodically in that manner.
     She checked each of the twelve trashbags and came up with only the usual, mundane garbage: old food, pieces of paper, worn out clothes (she pocketed a pair of socks with holes in the heels, for good luck), and so on. The remaining pieces offered her no more hope. A broken chair, two broken-down boxes stapled together, five shoes tied together hopelessly by the laces and a one-eyed doll head with only half a head of hair. If she had some clue, some inkling, what she needed, she'd be better off, but no luck so far.
     "Rapscalion! Homewrecker! Bitch! Dogsbody!" The homeless man stood twenty feet away and screamed random obscenities and otherwise, staring at her looking methodically through the dumpster. He eyed her pocket where he clearly coveted her socks. She felt completely not-of-this world, and longed for the cleanliness of her actual apartment some blocks away. Spots floated in front of her eyes, and she felt faint, but she continued with her search.
     "Alright, move it along. Nothing to see here, the dog's in the basket and the kid's in the well." Another homeless man, he with a tarnished Ranger Bill badge pinned onto his filthy chest, seemed to sleep fitfully under a sheet of cardboard and dream of otherworldly police maneuvers.
     She had counted four other men in the alleyway, but wrote all of them off as background. She quickly learned that this was a gross misjudgement. She was sitting inside the dumpster looking through last night's and last week's TV dinner trays one more time, looking for anything that might catch her wandering eye, when a silhouette moved between her and the light.
     "We'll be takin' them socks, pringle-teeth. Hogleg. Rigamaroll. Hackensack Hooker. Cunt."
     She turned in time to see a grimy and black fist grow larger and larger, presaging darkness.
(To Be Continued Tomorrow)

by MisterNihil 9:52 AM

Hey Writer Humans! Today is a national holiday! It's
Ultra-Secret Hush-Hush Topic Day!
You can write as if that were your topic, or you can just write with an ultra-secret hush-hush topic in mind. Or both. Or neither.
I think my ultra-secret hush-hush topic today will be "There are no Gods in America, and the Streets are Paved with Thieves." Before I posted this post, I put up one which I deleted which had the suggestion of "Very Sore" as a topic.
**end spoiler**

by MisterNihil 9:24 AM

{Wednesday, August 11, 2004}

I can feel my eyelashes.
Every time I blink, I can feel them roar and slam against my bottom eyelid. Their every rustle is a hammer in the middle of my skull.
I can feel the rush of cool air on my actual brain.
If I reach a hand up now, with finger extended, I can touch the thinking, feeling apparatus of my body. I can poke my actual grey brain. How do I know this? Because I can feel the gap between the sections of my skull.
I've stepped in front of a mirror, and was surprised to see my normal head, unsplit, staring back at me. I know it's just an illusion. I can feel the hole. I can see the spots in front of my eyes.
Because I like addiction. I enjoy it. I thrive on it. It, in return, kicks the holy shit out of my soul. It takes away my ability to put together even rudimentary thoughts. It bangs on the backs of my eyeballs with a hammer until I am reduced to whimpering in a dark corner, afraid to move for fear of upsetting again the open saucer of water my head has become.
I'm putting myself through this, I remind me. There's a chemical I wasn't born with which I introduced to my system, sometimes in small doses, sometimes by the fifty-pound-bale, as it were. Actually, there are millions of them. I'm just lamenting the one, the deadly one that would kill me in even a small amount, but which I love so very dearly.
No. Love is the wrong word. I don't love it like I don't love air. I'm having trouble living without it, but I don't love it. It's my addiction, my current and my favorite, and it's kicking the barely pink out of me.

by MisterNihil 11:33 AM

I've never liked the color pink. I'm not sure why that is.

There's just something so incredibly offensive to me about it--perhaps the idea that girls are assigned it at birth as a sign of their lower socioeconomic status, forced to wear pink above to reflect the pink below, the ultimate embodiment of biology equaling destiny.

Even before my daughter was born I swore there'd be no pink in her wardrobe, no pink in her life. Then I realized how dependent Americans are on that gender-specific clue when everywhere I went, my daughter dressed smartly in her bright blue and green outfits, I was complimented on my strong-looking, handsome son.

And I underestimated the huge number of pink things I would receive as gifts, from the baby T-shirts (adorned with chicks, no less) in the hospital to the frilly eyelet-lace-bedecked outfits wrapped reverently in department-store tissue paper that I received from my father-in-law--I'm convinced he bought them just to spite me.

So I had to give in eventually, at least a little bit. My daughter wears pink on occasion, but I'm determined that she won't be sentenced to it. Instead of buying her the designated "girl" Dodger baby outfit (it's a fucking cheer dress. Last time I checked, baseball didn't even have cheerleaders), I bought her the miniature uniform. Why cheer when you can be on the team?

And when people coo over her and say, "He's so cute, what's his name?" I take a certain perverse delight in setting them straight.

Actually, I'm told I look rather good in pink. Not the watered-down barely-pink, but the hot, bright, insistent kind. And I suppose that might make a certain amount of sense. As above, so below.

by Nyssa23 11:27 AM

I once knew a guy who played in a rock band called
barely pink
which also happens to be the name of a shade of lipstick.

by Glen 6:33 AM

{Tuesday, August 10, 2004}

Ah, regret. Such a complicated emotion.

I read in an editorial in the L.A. Times last week that people often make decisions haphazardly because they're afraid of regretting the outcome of the other option, or of not making a decision. That sounds about right to me--I do that more often than I'd care to admit.

When faced with a decision, I always think of that passage in The Bell Jar when the heroine imagines herself climbing up a tree to pick some fruit...only when she reaches for a branch, all the others wither and die. I'm always wondering if there's something better down the road; I'm deathly afraid of missing out on something.

Sometimes I feel like if I don't take absolutely everything I am offered there won't be anything else. I'm not sure why that is. But in any case, it all fuels my sublime sense of regret.

Perhaps life is too short for regret--and in that case, what magnificent mistakes I have made, what happy accidents I have had! At least I have those to look back on, I suppose.

That being said, my one regret is that I did not take you, take you absolutely when I had a chance, did not pull you to me and kiss you madly and to hell with what anyone else might have thought of it.

But would I have regretted doing it if I had?

by Nyssa23 11:14 AM

My one regret

by Generik 12:50 AM

{Monday, August 09, 2004}

Nothin's smellin' like a rose

by MisterNihil 4:25 PM

{Sunday, August 08, 2004}

"The man in the moon is MY man,
the man in the moon is my love caravan...

"He's always dressed properly,
he's always where I can see him,
you can take all the boys you want,
I'll take the man in the moon."

That song from a group called Voice of the Beehive still echoes in my brain every once in a while, even though it's been easily ten or more years since I last heard it. Why is it that lyrics live inside our heads like that? I sometimes think that, if a nuclear holocaust were to occur (and naturally, like in every good nuclear holocaust story, I would, of course, survive), I would be able to supply a new, post-apocalypse generation with the basic lyrics and slightly off-key melodies to establish an entire foundation of music upon which they could build without missing a beat... hardly any pun intended.

"Moon river, wider than a mile,
I'm crossing you in style, some day..."

There must be a dozen moon songs stashed away in the gray matter, maybe more. They live up there with the songs about love and betrayal and dancing and trains and alcohol... an entire civilization's worth of information exists in quatrains and sonnets and doggerel, just waiting for the right moment to download and transmit to someone else. Just waiting for that bomb to drop, those four horsemen to come riding along...

"Well it's a marvelous night for a moondance,
with the stars up above in your eyes;
a fantabulous night to make romance,
'neath the cover of October skies..."

That's one small step for man, one giant leap for songwriters.

"And if the band you're in starts playing out of tune,
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon..."

Honestly, after the nuclear winter, we're going to need some kind of library, some kind of compendium, some kind of storehouse of information from the pre-apocalyptic generation to keep our children and our children's children's children from living out a terrible Lord of the Flies meets A Canticle for Liebowitz nightmare let's-start-everything-all-over-again-from-scratch scenario, and where better to start than with music?

"I see the bad moon risin',
I see trouble on the way..."

I think the first thing I'll do after the atomic bomb goes off (and almost everyone but me and Winona Ryder are dead) is to grab the first woman I see (uh... Winona Ryder?) and start dancing, slow. I'll be humming Glenn Miller's "Moonlight Serenade."

by Generik 11:26 PM

the man in the moon

by Fred 7:00 AM

{Saturday, August 07, 2004}

As a young boy, I always thought European accents were the most beautiful sounds I could ever hear tripping off a human tongue. A girl with a French or German or even British accent would automatically get my attention; even an accent from the American South could make me swoon. Growing up in California, I was used to what I thought of as "accent-neutral" speech. No long vowels, no dropped Gs, no added Rs, no affectations that couldn't be explained by reading exactly what the words spelled out on the page (or the teleprompter) were, exactly the way they were spelled. As far as I was concerned, everyone else had an accent; as a Californian, I spoke perfectly bland and neutral English.

I never had much of an affinity for Asian accents. Once I moved to San Francisco, I started hearing them more and more on a regular basis. Unlike European accents, though, I found the Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese accents not only harsh and discordant, but often indistinguishable one from another. I could imitate a Mexican accent, a French or German or Spanish accent, but I was lost trying to repeat something spoken in Mandarin or Hmong.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I found myself falling completely in love with a Chinese-accented woman on an airplane in Asia. We were flying Szechuan Airlines from Shanghai to Chengdu, and there was one flight attendant who absolutely stole my heart... and lungs and kidneys and spleen and liver and pretty much every other internal (and external) organ, including my brain.

I don't even know exactly what it was about her that caught my eye, but once she had, I could hardly look anywhere else. She didn't look like most of the flight attendants we'd seen on the flights we'd taken throughout China, in that she did not have a typical Asian look about her, but could almost have passed as a Westerner -- or someone from nearly anywhere in the world. Her attitude was slightly aloof, but not condescending at all. She seemed to float slightly above all the mundane goings-on of the flight: the reading of the emergency procedures, the distributing of food and drinks, the announcements from the pilot's cabin. Her gaze was always off into the unvisited future; her smile was always Mona Lisa's. Not being a religious man, I figured that, at 30,000 feet, she might be the closest I would ever get to seeing an angel.

While she was passing out a noodle dish that no American passenger would ever have accepted (along with a red plastic package of some kind of spicy, salty vegetable matter that was either an explosive snack or a fiery condiment), I worked up the courage to talk to her.

"When are we scheduled to land?" I asked her. We'd been in the air for about an hour at that point, and I knew that we were on the longest domestic flight we would take in China, but I didn't really know how long it would take. We were going west from the seaport of Shanghai to the capital of Szechuan Province, Chengdu. The local word was that the most beautiful women in China were in Szechuan Province, and the most beautiful women in Szechuan Province were in Chengdu. Of all those beautiful women, I was convinced, this particular flight attendant was their queen.

She stopped in the aisle at my question, and looked at me with that beatific smile. "When will we get to Chengdu?" I said again, rephrasing the question slightly. She looked at her watch and screwed up her face, and I wasn't sure if she was trying to figure out the flight time or translate her answer from Chinese to English.

"Umm... I sink... one o'clock," she finally said, and I was so satisfied with that answer -- and with the fact that she had actually spoken to me -- and smiled -- that I thanked her profusely for the information.

Ten or fifteen minutes later she approached my seat on the aisle.

"Exa-cuse me, sir," she said, almost bowing down to address me, her eyes blinking, "but we land, um, one-SIRTY."

"Oh," I said. "Thank you," I said, smiling and nodding my head. Again, she smiled back.

"Marry me," I said, as she walked away, but of course the sound of the 727's jet engines drowned out my desperate plea, and she just kept walking.

by Generik 11:13 PM

"Yes," I say. "There has to be a time and place where we can meet. Otherwise we would never be able to speak."

"When and where?" she says.

"I don't know," I say. "I can't think of any place like your world in mine."

"And I can't think of anything in my world that sounds like yours. I still can't understand half of the concepts of which you speak. I converse, but my understanding is complicated. Is that the right word?"

"You're saying I confuse you."

"Confuse. You confuse me."

"And you still confuse me from time to time."

"Only from time to time?"

"We don't talk much about your world any more," I say. "You only ask me questions about mine."

"There has to be something that can point us toward each other, Guy," she says. "There has to be a way to find the time and place where our worlds meet."

"I don't know what to look for," I say. "I don't know enough about your world to begin looking."

"And I don't understand enough of your world to start looking, myself."

"Perhaps that's the answer," I say. "If you'll tell me what you think I can understand about your world and I tell you what I think you'll understand about mine, perhaps we'll have enough to begin looking."

"I don't understand."

"Tell me a story," I say. "Tell me a story about your world that you think I'll understand. And I'll tell you one of mine."

"But I don't know that I can make you understand our stories," she says.

"Don't try," I say. "Just pick the story that you think I'll understand the most of, and I'll do the same for you."

"Tell me," she says.

And suddenly it occurs to me how insane this is. I don't know enough about her world to know that she'll understand my story. And she doesn't understand my world enough to tell me one of hers. But I brace myself and I begin the first thing that comes to mind.

"There's an ancient legend of Tam-Lin," I say, "a man who lived with the faerie folk as a consort of the faerie queen. He kept a toll which was to be paid by all young ladies who passed his home. But he fell in love with one of the ladies, and she in love with him. So he told her, 'On this night, I ride with the faerie queen and all of her entourage. If you love me, wait by the side of the road. When I pass by on my horse, pull me to the ground and hold me close. The faerie queen will try to get you to let me go. She will turn me into many shapes, many beasts. No matter what I do, you must hold me close. If you release me, I'll be gone forever."

"Is that your story?" she says.

"Yes," I said. "That's not the end, but that's what I have."

"I don't understand a word of it."

"You try, next."

by Glen 1:45 PM

When I moved here I was delighted to discover all the foreign-language programming L.A. stations have to offer. I like watching foreign-language programming. Well, not all of it--I don't watch the Korean Home Shopping program or even the car-dealer shows in Spanish that feature mariachi bands (we sometimes watched those on Sunday mornings at our house when I was a kid). But I love learning about other cultures by what they watch.

Usually on weekdays, we watch a Japanese "morning drama" (kind of like a 20-minute soap opera without the sex and with better acting). I've really liked the ones I've seen: one was about a young woman trying to continue her dying father's legacy by becoming a chef while balancing her marriage and childrearing obligations, and the other (which I currently watch) is about a young single mother, abandoned at the altar while pregnant and subsequently disowned by her family, trying to raise her son while working two jobs and dealing with society's disapproval of her. I'm not sure exactly how much good information I'm getting about Japanese culture from watching these (I shudder to think that people from other cultures might believe our soap operas reflect life in America) but they're great fun. And they're subtitled, which helps.

I used to let Sarah watch an unsubtitled Korean children's show which was kind of like the old Nickelodeon "Pinwheel" show, but after a radical change of format I just don't think it's as good as it used to be.

Sunday evenings we watch two other subtitled Japanese dramas: one about an office worker who comes back from retirement to help fight off the hostile takeover of his former company, and an "X-Files"-meets-comedy show about a female street magician and a male self-help writer who debunk various supernatural frauds. Trust me, they're better than they sound. These dramas are an hour long but run for a much shorter time (the morning ones go on for months.) And in between, the rest of the week has fascinating shows like an Indian one that features Bollywood musical numbers and interviews with their stars, as well as wacky Korean game shows made even odder by their lack of subtitles.

To me, though, the best part of it all is learning how people face the same problems and share the same feelings regardless of where they live. (Maybe all Americans should try this sometime.)

I love to sit and watch it all play out, enjoying the music of other tongues.

by Nyssa23 1:27 PM

the music of other tongues

by Nyssa23 12:16 PM

{Friday, August 06, 2004}

I always know when I've had enough. For instance, if I think that I'm not going to remember anything about the night before once tomorrow arrives, then I know I've had enough right then.

How I met her I never did recall. All I know is that I had gone to the Smilin' Dog, like I did many times in the past and will continue to do in the future, and that somehow I was sitting at a table with her, telling her every lie I could think of and a few I couldn't but did anyway.

"Yeah, I'm a fireman," I said, though I've never put a fire out in my life, unless you count turning off the burner on the stove. "Five days on, five days off. It's a good schedule, I think. So... what are you drinking again? Let me get you another."

Getting another drink was my answer to everything. I didn't know her name, I didn't know how I had come to be sitting and talking with her, I didn't even know how long I'd been there or how much money I had left in my pocket until I looked, but I knew that getting another drink -- for me more than her -- was a priority.

"Sure," she said. "I'll have another rum and Coke."

"You okay?" Russell, the bartender asked me once I'd pushed my way through the crowd at the bar.

"Oh, yeah, doing great," I lied. I discovered I still had three twenties in my pocket. I was doing aces.

"Sure you're all right to have another?" he continued. "You seemed kind of out of it there a little while ago."

"Let me give myself the Jimi Hendrix test," I answered. "Let's see... am I passed out and choking on my own vomit? No? Then I'm ready for another drink. And one for my friend over there."

"What's her name?"

"Fuck if I know."

"Nice name."

"Yeah, I thought so too. Hey, could you put a little whiskey in that whiskey this time?"

I gave him a three dollar tip for two drinks, and steered myself back to the table. The band was about to start, and we were close to the stage, so talking would be difficult for the next half hour or so. I breathed a sigh of relief at that and took a long sip of my drink. She smiled at me, raising her glass in my direction.

"Cheers," she said.

"Yeah, cheers," I nodded, smiling like I had just swallowed something four days past its sell-by date. "Cheers like a motherfucker."

I think later we danced, but I don't know how I got those bruises on my left arm.

by Generik 11:16 PM

Whirling into nowhere into
change your face and
live above beneath through it
all but
nothing wrongs the right in your
only pity
the shell of a human
living the life of another
who must be so very lonely and


by Faith 10:59 PM

Part the First | Part the Second | Part the Third | Part the Fourth | Part the Fifth | Part the Sixth | Part the Seventh | Part the Eighth | Part the Ninth | Part the Tenth | Part the Eleventh | Part the Twelfth | Part the Thirteenth | Part the Fourteenth | Part the Fifteenth | Part the Sixteenth | Part the Seventeenth | Part the Eighteeneth | Part the Nineteenth | Part the Twentieth | Part the Twenty-first | Part the Twenty-second | Part the Twenty-third | Part the Twenty-fourth | Part the Twenty-fifth

But the blood that began to flow from the dead woman's flesh, that welled up from beneath the skin in the carefully concentric circles and arcane symbols carved into it by the knives, was by no means the worst of what Elijah Hale had in store for them that night.

Alan was himself no stranger to dark magics, and he had more than a passing familiarity with the sometimes brutal methods his employers had been known to use. Yet he still found Hale's methods vulgar and disquieting, not so much because of the blood -- there was less of it than Alan had expected, either because of the body's rigor or because of the precision with which Hale used the blades -- but because of something Alan could not quite put his finger on until he saw Hale pause between incantations and smile, and he realized that the man was truly enjoying himself. There was something unsettling about that, something unseemly, and Alan was was reminded of something that Daniel, the dead man, had said about Hale's proclivities and just what that might mean. Just was sort of man was Elijah Hale?

Father's body, meanwhile, has been stripped to the waist, exposing her small breasts, across which Hale had proceeded to carve. Ribbons of blood flowed across the woman's skin or pooled onto the plastic tarp beneath her. Hale worked quickly, expertly scarring symbols into Father's pale flesh -- red circles that curved around her chest or that snaked into other shapes along her sides -- until he entire face, arms, and torso resembled, if anything, a kind of topographical map gone mad: ugly, wet lines that betrayed no pattern -- or, rather, betrayed too many patterns, with no common theme or purpose between that Alan could determine.

Hale motioned to Alan and the dead man for help, and, with a little effort, they managed to extricate Father from the remainder of her clothes. Hale continued to carve, this time sliding the blades down Father's long legs, circling her feet, then trailing the knives slowly back up to bleed the woman along the inside of her thighs. Again he traced patterns in the flesh, speaking incantations that Alan could not interpret as he drew symbols in the skin and the blood, almost tenderly dragging a knife through the woman's dark pubic hair, sighing almost contentedly to himself, as if the jagged and reddened teeth of the blade were somehow a lover's caress, as if all of this were somehow in Hale's mind...foreplay. That, more than anything, disgusted Alan, and when he caught another smile on Hale's face, he turned away, afraid that actual penetration might be next. Alan did not think he could handle that, even if Hale could convince him that is was necessary. That would just be too much, thought Alan. He'd already had plenty, thank you very much.

And yet, in a way, he supposed he should at least be glad that the sight of blood could still disgust him -- that, given his recent circumstances, he should be thankful that it hadn't made him hungry.

Not that Eliza Merrick showed any signs of hunger either -- she, too, seemed more than vaguely disgusted by the whole thing -- but still...maybe Alan hadn't been infected by the vampire woman after all, and that was good news, wasn't it? After everything that had happened in the past few hours, a little good news was --

Alan looked up. Hale had stopped his incantations. The knives he had returned the table in front of him. Not one of them was untouched by the dead woman's blood.

"We're finished," Hale said. "Now it's just a question of waiting for her to catch up with us."

He grinned and stared down lovingly at his handiwork on the table.

And that was when the dead woman opened her eyes, stared back, and began to scream.

by Fred 3:29 PM

That's plenty for me, thanks!

by Faith 1:30 AM

{Thursday, August 05, 2004}

"Complicated," she says. "This is the opposite of 'easy?'"

"Yes," I say. "Well, no. It's the opposite of 'simple.' There's a difference between 'easy' and 'simple.'"

"It is the opposite of 'simple,'" she repeats. "I thought that was 'complex.'"

"It is."

"Then 'simple' has two opposites?"

"No. Well, yes. It's. It's complicated."

"You cannot use a term to define itself," she says.

"I'm not trying to define it," I say, quickly. "I'm just saying that the idea of 'simple' having more than one opposite is, in itself, the opposite of 'simple.'"

"You confuse me, sometimes," she says, laughing. "You are telling me that things have more than one opposite in your world? In my world, there is only one opposite for everything."

"Like 'day' and 'night,'" I say.

"That is... a simple example, Guy," she says.

"But it's right," I say. "The opposite of day is night. That's true in my world, the same as it is in yours - the day is the time in which our sun shines down, and the night is the time in which the sun is not in the sky."

"That's true," she says. "But you said that 'simple' is the opposite of 'complicated,' and that 'complex' is also the opposite of simple. And then there is 'labyrinthine--'"

"Where did you find that word?"

"I read it in one of your books. These are all opposites of 'simple,' and there are many more."

"No," I say. "There's only one opposite of 'simple.' There are many words for it."

"Oh!" she says. "So, I can say that something is complex, that it is complicated, that it is labyrinthine, that it is enigmatic--"

"No, no. You can't say all of those things about the same thing."

"Why not?"



And she's silent. But something that she said comes back to haunt me.

"When you said that everything in your world had only one opposite," I said, "you meant everything that has an opposite, right?"

"Doesn't everything have an opposite in your world?" she says. "Day has an opposite. Up has an opposite. Summer has an opposite. Even I have an opposite. Don't you have an opposite?"


"What is Carlton?"

"He's my friend."

"We're back on this again," she says. "Your world is strange, Guy. I think perhaps that our worlds are their opposites."

"They can't be," I say.

"Why not?"

"Because if we were truly opposite, we wouldn't be able to talk with each other. Since we can talk, we can't be opposites."

"Because if we can talk, then there must be some place where our worlds meet."

"And our worlds are not opposites."

"Then there is a time or a place where our worlds meet - and a time and a place where we can meet."

by Glen 12:58 PM

We were dancing, then, all naked in the river, throwing our hips across and laughing like mirrors in sunlight. Everyone was high on dragonflies, the result of the early spring thaw and the confluence of nectar and jasmine. The picnic basket had been smoking. Your laughter echoed across the canyon the way bits of crystal rain down on solid white marble, and all the world stopped to notice.

We were all living in the place of least resistance, the last house out on February, where the pear orchards give way to rows of cigarettes and coffee cups, and the river castigates the rocks for stolid sameness. The yard there was full of coleus and morning glories. In the summer, the planted pink flamingoes bloomed.

In the rushing water, the light of muted trumpets shone just underneath the surface, and Tom Waits melodies drifted in and out of the mist. We kept the river secret, and never told its name.

When I held you in my arms you melted. Your skin slipped off and flowed into me, and we held our breath in our hands and tumbled along with the current, leaving all the others behind.

by Generik 11:01 AM

the last house on February

by Sharon 4:00 AM

{Wednesday, August 04, 2004}

My father taught me to dance. Read that like, "My father taught me to stand up for myself," or, "My father taught me to keep my word." Not so much how to dance (although, some of that, too), but that I should dance.

My father taught me to dance.

I would waltz, standing on his feet, until my feet were too big for that. I would dance—but not jump, because that would make the record skip—to Sesame Street Fever. We would put Dave Brubeck on the stereo and boogie to Take Five. It was always "boogying." That's what you do, with Take Five. Perhaps because there aren't any structured dances that can deal with 5/4.

I don't know how many times we watched The Blues Brothers together. But I remember the look of recognition, and envy, on his face when Joliet Jake cavorted down the aisles with James Brown. Part of his brain said, "I could do that..."

My father taught me to dance.
Sharon and Dad

by Sharon 6:37 PM

From reading my writings on these pages, you may conclude that I am a terrible cynic, angry, given to great and unwise passions, perhaps even a little untrustworthy. Well, you may be right. But I ask that you not judge me until you have danced a mile in my shoes, or, even better, in my father's shoes. After all, it is upon my head that his sins are still visited to this day.

My father was, to put it simply, not the marrying kind, not a family man, and an alcoholic to boot. At best, he regarded his children as a millstone around his neck, the price of and penalty for sex with our mother. At worst--well, there's really no proof of the worst, although I've suspected it for a few years now.

You see, I have a younger sister who's awfully funny about sex, who becomes belligerent and tearful every time the subject is broached. The mother of one child and pregnant with another, she insists that her children are better off without fathers, and becomes quite angry when questioned about how she came to those feelings. When we were kids, my father always called her "princess," the name I coveted for myself, and seemed to favor her; when we were older, she was never short of pocket money even as I was turning over to him every cent I earned at my jobs. She never was disciplined as severely as me, and even in my youth and relative innocence I wondered if it really was as it seemed, if she really did have some sort of hold over our father.

What does it all add up to? Not much, I suppose, particularly when the subject herself is not receptive to questioning. And when I finally worked up the courage to ask my mother about it recently in a most circumspect way, she insisted there was no chance, nothing like that could ever have happened. Ever. So don't ask again.

And there's no asking the man himself, I'm afraid--he's dead, gone on to whatever mercy or judgment or oblivion may await us all. I asked my sister recently if she missed him. Not at all, she said, and intimated that I was a fool if I did.

What did my father call me? Glad you asked. I was his favorite son, he told me once without a trace of irony even after the first of my younger brothers had been born. I always wondered why he wanted me to wear my hair so short and wear such baggy clothes.

So if you think I'm a little crazy, you might be right. But if you think I'd ever let anything like that happen to my daughter, well, there you'd be wrong. Dead wrong.

by Nyssa23 12:26 PM


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