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{Monday, January 31, 2005}

Where I am going: Environmental Affairs.

I develop software for a computer manufacturer. I also freelance. I've managed projects with team members down the hall and in another continent. I wrote a pretty handy article about project management. I design sites. I write content. I get 200,000 hits a month on my hobby.

It's a good place to have been. But it's greener where I'm going.

I was driving one day when the Divine reached out its finger and touched me with a bolt of inspiration. It was an immediate download of such startling clarity that I almost swerved off the road. (I remember right where I was, and I was listening to NPR.) I realized what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I want to develop software for the engineers or manufacturers of green energy technologies. (Y'know, wind power, solar, recycling. Tree-hugger stuff.) I want to create clean, refreshing designs for user interfaces. I want to communicate helpful, reassuring information about treading lightly on the planet. I want to merge what I do with what's important to me.

And then I looked on the web and pottered around and came up with really nothing. Austin Energy is lauded for their green energy program, yet I can't seem to find any fruitful job opportunities.

The Divine must've gotten fed up with me, because I got another kick in the butt. The place where I already work has a progressive environmental policy. They lead computer recycling programs in the area. They engineer their products with an eye towards reducing the poison that ends up in land fills. They know their place as a member of the community.

I found a contact in the Environmental Affairs department. I've got a copy of their website on my PDA, ready for me to read it. I just need to collect some sensible questions and update my resume. And then, I'll be on my way.

by Sharon 11:59 PM

where are you going? where have you

by Sharon 1:27 PM

{Sunday, January 30, 2005}


by Generik 2:00 PM

{Friday, January 28, 2005}

the war against the kangaroo

by Sharon 1:00 PM

{Thursday, January 27, 2005}

Some people called her a seer. Tourists from the Mediterranean called her an oracle. The folks on 63rd street, where she lived, called her The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes. I bumped into her one day while she was shoveling and salting her stoop. It was cold out and I had no particular place to go, so when she invited me in for a mug of spiced cider, I was happy to accept.

Her apartment was neither sparse nor cluttered, but the furniture was old. She told me stories about the people in yellowing photographs trapped in elaborate frames of metal and gilded wood. We sat side by side on a forest-green divan and she guided me through neat stacks of scrapbooks filled with newspaper and magazine clippings. Occasionaly, we'd come across a letter of thanks written to her from some remote part of the world, and she'd smile. As the sun set behind the church across the street, I asked her how knew what she knew.

"I don't know," she said. "I just make it up." She shrugged nonchalantly and draped a knit shawl over her shoulders. "I look at the past, and spin it out to the future." She picked up a paperback titled Man Out Of Time. "Take this book on Nikola Tesla, for example. Did you know that he envisioned a world-girding network of wireless knowledge transmission? He likened this to turning the globe into a, 'giant brain.' Had he been able to complete construction of his tower in Wardenclyffe, his vision had a good chance of becoming real." She finished her fourth mug of cider. "Imagine the Internet revolution coming sixty years earlier, along with inexpensive wireless transmission of electric power. Well I don't have to imagine it – I close my eyes, and I see it. I can see it right in front of me, as vivid as life itself."

She looked at me. I felt that she wasn't seeing just me, but a myriad number of other mes. Mes that went into the Army and became Generals or corpses. Mes that pursued careers in theatre as a prop master or lighting technician. Mes that pursued psychology, computer science, biology, or all three at once. It felt like falling from a great height, but without moving. That's the instant I understood her nickname.

by jal 9:55 PM

the girl with kaleidoscope eyes

by Fred 5:40 PM

{Wednesday, January 26, 2005}

house on a hill

by Sharon 1:22 PM

{Tuesday, January 25, 2005}

In the swamps of the lost continent, scattered amongst the isles which the queen's imperial cartographers to this day refuse to name out of some history-old fear or supersition, there are creatures which few mortal woman have ever seen.

There are the dreaded cyclopean crocolopes, their leathery hides impervious to harm, their sharp incisors so skilled at causing it. There are the gruesomely macabre arachna-apes, which legend says can kill you with but a glance or a whispered screech. Those who stray too close to their arboreal webs are never seen again. There are the mammoth octopotamus, vast herds of the great feral beasts, whose shape defies reason, thumbs its nose at evolution, and whose victims are lured by the siren call of their voice.

Then there are the lesser beasts, rare and bizarrely magnificient creatures: the dancing hyena-fish, the sabre-fanged ocelot, the winged vampire cat. There are animals in the swamps without number, although -- surprisingly, given the imperial court's refusal to acknowledge their existence -- very few without name. There are canary-whales, misnamed perhaps, but no less impressive than their oceanic brethren. There are bison squid, whose mating songs can be heard even on the distant shores of our Great Lady's northern colonies, should the wind blow just right. There are the armies of ravenous elephant squirrels, which are said to mimic those that they hunt. There are giraffe-crabs, about which the less said the better. And there are the weird tracks of the half-bird, half-plant macawiflower, which the careful adventurer would do well not to taunt, much less eat.

by Fred 7:46 PM


by Sharon 2:24 PM

{Monday, January 24, 2005}

daily commute

by Sharon 1:48 PM

{Sunday, January 23, 2005}

Judy thinks of it as a hobby, which is good, because her parents were starting to worry she thought of it as a job.

It's true that she has what she calls a tip jar on her website, a link to a Paypal account that's been active for, oh, maybe eight years now. And it's seen some activity. Judy doesn't keep track of the number of visitors her site receives every day, but on average she's fairly sure it's more than a few. And a few of those people have been what her parents would call obscenely generous.

From what Judy can tell, they're all there for the fan fiction.

She started writing it in colege, when she first stumbled on to the internet in any significant way. Her freshman-year roommate, Tricia, surfed the web religiously, coveting a cadre of favorite fan fiction authors, obssessing over their work, the terminology, specific genres, and conversing with fellow devotees in chat rooms and on message boards. Judy sometimes wondered (and still does, come to think of it) whether or not Tricia ever actually went to class.

Jusy never really saw the appeal. Obviously, some fan fiction was pretty good, but a whole lot of it...well, wasn't. Regardless, though, Judy just felt like she had better things to waste her time reading.

Writing it, however, was another story. That had a certain appeal. In hindsight, Judy's not sure she could say exactly what that appeal was -- and it's altogether possible that she was attracted to nothing so much as the absurdity of the whole enterprise -- but she saw it as a challenge, and began writing fan fiction almost a month after she and Tricia first met.

To this day, Judy has read only a handful of other stories, and she doesn't bother with her own once she's done. She eyes the work of others online with some amusement, detached bemusement she would say, but she has little interest in devoting herself to reading the vast quantities of fanfic available online.

She tends to focus on neglected characters, ignored television shows, movies, books, seldom written characters, unexpected combinations. She has an ouevre of game-show fan fiction, a My Mother the Car novelette (although she's never seen the show), and a host of other weird assortments. Star Trek meets Murder, She Wrote. Melrose Place finds Scrooge McDuck. Godzilla devours the Joad family from The Grapes of Wrath.

Judy considers it all disposable and harmless, and she is not even remotely invested in it. She forgets each story almost as soon as it's done. She doesn't even watch half the television shows she ostensibly is writing about. It sometimes amazes her that people want to pay her for this.

But she wouldn't call it a job.

by Fred 11:59 PM

Your topic - which is posted awfully late today - is

You Have 24 Hours.

Which is just a topic. You actually just have the regular 10 minutes. Go.

by Glen 5:38 PM

{Friday, January 21, 2005}

All anybody wants to talk about it what it was like on Mars.

"How's the weather there?" they'll ask, or, "What's it like? See any little green men?" or even, "What the hell happened to you up there?"

The truth is, I don't remember. Almost nobody believes that, but it is the truth. Seven long months stranded on the red planet, only survivor of a doomed expedition, and I don't remember a thing.

We had video recorders set up to monitor activity for the boys back home, and ever yimr I see that footage it's like I'm seeing it for the first time. I had to be reminded that there even were boys back home. Photographs of the Martian landscape do nothing to jog my memory, even though they claim most of the photographs I took myself.

Something must have happened, I tell them. Something made me forget.

There's no evidence of that, they tell me. In fact, there's almost no evidence of anything at all. Eight people touched down on the planet, and, one by one, seven of them appararently disappeared. There's no record in any of the written logs, and the video shows only that we started to disappear sometime after the first month of the mission.

"Didn't any of you think it was strange when Clemons just vanished?" one of the scientists, or military eggheads, or whatever asks. "Jacobs, Marshall, Zimmer, Davies..."

I have to be reminded who these people were.

In the videos, as in all our written reports, we are oblivious to the changes around us. As I watch the unfamiliar footage, I admit it is strange. People continue to disappear, people who they now remind me I knew well, and yet none of us went looking for them. None of us even appear to notice anything amiss. Day by day, there were simply fewer of us, and those who vanished were simply forgotten.

"Don't you have any explanation?" they ask. "Any explanation at all?"

"Well," I say, only because I can see they need something, "maybe it has something to do with those weird rabbits."

I point. They stare.

"But, hey," I tell them, "don't quote me on that."

by Fred 6:14 PM

Slow week, I guess. Posting this from work. I'll try to write something on
the train ride home, but
"Don't quote me on
By the by, this is Fred, not Sharon.

by Sharon 12:59 PM

{Thursday, January 20, 2005}


by Sharon 3:44 PM

{Wednesday, January 19, 2005}

the weird rabbits

by Fred 8:24 PM

{Tuesday, January 18, 2005}

with the outlaws

by Fred 6:02 PM

{Monday, January 17, 2005}

Nancy is fond of reminding people that she never used to believe in time travel. Before she met her husband Ben -- or Krylek 7512758B, as he's known in the New Atlantean Hegemony of 3528 -- she considered it the stuff of science fiction. As an undergraduate, she had dabbled in astrophysics -- a course here, a few books from the campus libary, a brief but desperate crush on Stephen Hawking -- and she thought of herself as somewhat well-read. The staggering amount of energy required to facilitate time travel, and nature's apparent dislike of the paradoxes it would likely create, seemed to Nancy enough reason to dismiss the whole idea as silly fanrasy. She could cite chapter and verse from Hawking and others if she had to.

But then the refugees began to appear, only a few at first, but quickly more than she or anyone could dismiss. They were very clearly time travellers. Their strange clothes (or lack of same), weird accents, and sometimes whole new languages could be explained away as a hoax. An elaborate hoax, of course, but a hoax nonetheless. The shiny rip in the space-time continuum through which they had emerged, however, could not.

Science was almost as dumbfounded by the rip as was Nancy, at least initially. But, after close and careful study, it was determined that the rip was exactly what those who emerged from it said it was: a portal of some kind from the future. From the 39th century, to be exact. Ben and his fellow were refugees -- or, more precisely, escapees. They were, for the most part, lab rats, vat babies, created in vitro by the Hegemonic AI as a cheap labor force or as soldiers in some unspecified war. (It was little wonder Steve found Nancy's laptop computer so quaint.) They had travelled to escape the AI, to escape the collective to which it belonged, and to find a better life some thousand years in the past.

And, for the most part, they had. Nancy still didn't understand time travel -- and, strictly speaking, she'd still have called it impossible -- but she loved her husband.

It was just the in-laws she wasn't too crazy about.

by Fred 11:59 PM

I am
with the in-laws

by Sharon 3:30 AM

{Saturday, January 15, 2005}

chewing up dreams

by Glen 1:29 AM

{Friday, January 14, 2005}

I hate being woken up by cop faces in the window.

"Hey, moron," said the pig. "You awake in there?" His hand rapped a tarantella on the window. "Hey! You parked on the wrong side of the rocks, dumbass. I could see you all the way out at the street."

I yawned and stretched and scrubbed the sleepstuff out of my eyes. "Wuh seems to be uh trubba, off'cer?"

"If you're going to park on the beach and sleep, then you need to do it on the other side of the rocks. Otherwise, we can see you from the street when we drive by."

"What time is it?"

"Seven-thirty, dumbass. Let me see your license."

I rolled down the window and handed my license out. He scanned it.

"This is a Florida license," he said.

"I haven't set up residence yet," I said. "I'm still in the," yawn, "process," yawn, "of moving."

"It looks like you've taken up residence on the beach, to me," said the cop. "Just hang loose here, dickweed. I'm going to go run this through the system."

I swore silently to myself as he walked up to his cruiser. I couldn't take off now - for one thing, the sand would slow me down too much for me to get away. For another, he'd have my license. I couldn't afford to be stopped driving without one.

I flipped down the sunvisor and opened the vanity mirror. God, I was a wreck. The pig was right - I had parked on the wrong side of the rocks the night before. I'd been around the beaches long enough to know that I needed to park in the lee of the stones, but I had been so tired and the night had been so dark that I couldn't tell which side of the rocks I was on. Frankly, I was surprised that I was actually on the beach, at all. I couldn't remember parking the car. I couldn't remember much for about an hour after the party. I had been so tired that I hadn't even moved into the back of the car to stretch out. Now in addition to my cop worries, my neck felt like the big end of a Louisville Slugger - too stiff for words.

My bloodshot eyes stared back at me from the mirror like a pair of glazed cow hearts. I scrubbed at them and looked up at the road. The cop was in his car punching away at his computer, running the numbers. I didn't care. He'd pull up a few vagrancy reports, maybe a couple of public intoxications. Nothing too serious. I had been living on the beach since I had come to California without any money and only three changes of clothes and the car I drove in.

I popped the door slowly and crawled out, allowing myself a long stretch. The beach was narrow at this point, and I stumbled down to the shore to splash some water on my face. I walked out into the surf until I was up to my knees and splashed some up on my shirt and over my hair.

"Hey!" came the cop's voice from the beach. "Hey, I told you to stay put! Get the hell out of there!"

I turned. "Sorr', off'cer," I said. "I'm coming out. I'm comi--"

The cop's eyes were glued to my shirt, his hand reaching for his gun.

"Out of the water and down on the ground," he shouted. "Don't give me any trouble."

"What?" I said. "What's the problem?"

"Out of the water!"

The cop had his gun out and aimed at me, shaking. I stopped cold and threw my hands up into the air. "What's wrong?" I said.

"Get out of the water and down on the ground, sir," he said, his eyes still fixed on my shirt.

I looked down to see what the fuss was.

My shirt was stained a deep, blood red from the second button down.

"Shit," I said. "I just wanted a place to sleep."

by Glen 9:22 PM

Thog go sleep-place. Burning yellow thing not half across sky and Thog crawl off and find dark. Always him find dark, Thog. Never work. Tell Thog, you work. Work, Thog. Need hunt. Thog no hunt. Oh, Thog eat meat. Always first, try get best piece. Best meat belong to Thrag. Him oldest, best hunter. Thog know, but Thog no care. Tell Thog, need wood. Cave cold. Get wood, Thog. Thog no get wood. Tell Thog, need fire. Thog sleep. He no get wood. Thog no build fire. But Thog use fire. Thog always use fire, find fire at night, crawl out of dark, out of sleep-place, sleep by fire.

Oog, he build fire. Oog, he show us how make fire. Before we no make fire, cave always cold. Bear come into cave at night. Oog show us cook meat Thrag bring us. Thog like meat but him no help cook meat. No help skin bear, make warm. Thog always sleep. All Thog do, sleep.

Oog, him smart. Him build things. Thrag strong. Him kill things. Thog, him do nothing. Him not smart, him not strong. Thrag bring spear, show Thog. Thog fall to sleep. Oog, him bring thing him call wheel. Him not say what wheel do -- look like rock, have rock -- but still, look good. Much work. Thog fall to sleep at wheel. Thog no good.

Me think me kill Thog.

by Fred 6:09 PM

Asleep at the Wheel

by Generik 9:47 AM

{Wednesday, January 12, 2005}

"Know what I'd do if I ran the circus?"

I glanced over at Bert. Like me, he was sorting through the flotsam left by yesterday's tide, looking for anything useful. This was the first time he'd spoken since the crash. "No, Bert. What'd you do?"

He set down his battered canvas satchel and shielded his eyes against the sun behind me. "I'd promote education. Screw the military, tax breaks, gay marriage, and all that other bullshit. I just want our kids – all our kids – to get a good education. Anyone attacks my position, I say, 'What? Don't you like kids? Don't you want our nation's youth to have the best education possible?' Who can argue with that?" He poked a cracked crate with his railing fragment, revealing several cans of Campbell's soup as sand crabs skittered away.

I walked over and started stuffing cans into my gym bag. They were the new cans - the ones with the pull tabs built in. Finally, a spot of good luck. Chuckling, I spread my arms to encompass the atoll. "Isn't this a rather remote place to launch your bid for President?" I paused, considering the preposterousness of his proposition. "For that matter, aren't you a little late? The 2004 election's over."

Bert crouched down, his face closer to mind than I'd've liked. "I figure that the career politicians, with all their money and connections... They have a leg up on me, so I better start now if I want to be considered for 2008. Ooh! Chicken Won Ton, my favorite!" He held up four cans triumphantly, two in each hand. "By the way, you're my campaign manager. Here's your first paycheck." I caught the can; Cream of Chicken.

Looking back, I'd say his decision to enter the 2008 presidental race was what pulled him through the worst of it. Later on, he told me knew he didn't have a serious chance, but he figured that a false hope was better than no hope at all.

by jal 11:59 PM

We floats 'em down the river cuz that's how we always done, but Cash says it ain't right no more, cuz it just ain't, no matter what the good book says to do. Can't be doin' that no more, says Cash. Ain't right. Is dangerous. Them rafts they're on ain't built for tough, ain't sturdy. They'd capsize, Cash says. He seen our lashin' and he knows, them rafts'll sink. Or maybe they'll last, float the miles, and then some critter'll go scamper up and eat what's atop 'em. And then what did 'em in will get inna the water. That's what Cash says, and it'll spread. Get in the water and spread til there ain't nothin' left. You remember, says Cash, we done run to escape that. I still got hopes we're immuned. He looks at us, like he ain't so sure, and then he says, but we can't go lettin' them bodies get themselves drowned.

They ain't bodies, says Will. They got names.

Yeah I know, says Cash. And's all the more reason not to let 'em carry what killed 'em down river. Ain't no way they'd want that.

You don't know, says Will. What they want. Might not've been sickness. Ain't no sayin'. We ain't had no food in three days, ain't no wonder they dead. They ain't look sick. Coulda been anythin'.

You gonna take that chance? Cash says. He steps forward, big enough that Will, he kinda hesitate, cuz ain't nobody wanna fight Cash they don't hafta. You gonna take that chance? says Cash. He steps forward 'gain, and maybe it's the knife Cash got in his belt Will sees, and maybe it's the way we saw what Cash done to that patrolman caught up with us the night we left the village. Whatever, Will backs off.

Sure as hell it looked like plague, says Cash. Both Ruth's parents, they had it, ain't they? And Carver, he only --

His family got shot, says Will. That's what happen to Carver. And I think, that's right, I'd forgot. Cash don't know. Patrol done killed Carver's folks 'fore Cash turned up, 'fore anybody could say it were sickness or not. Cash don't know. Sure, he's eighteen and oldest, seen ruby death spread, came outta the north where ain't a man alive no more they say, but Cash don't know everythin'. It was Will Rosie come with us for. Would've stayed he hadn't begged 'er. Been hand in hand all this time, and Will sure as hell don't look sick.

Cash can't know. Will, he just wanna do right by her, that's all, like the book done tell us to do. We done it like that, buildin' the rafts, while Cash was off scoutin' cuz that's how we always done. Hell, Cash was gone all night, so he don't know. Gods know they get up to in them heathen northern towns.

All sorts things in these woods could kill folk. Maybe it ain't plague.

You wanna risk infectin' them villages down river? Cash says. Patrol's just as happy to go'n purge them too. You gonna give'm a reason? You gonna help spread sickness, Will? That what you gonna do? That what Ruthie woulda wanted?

Will, he don't say nothin', but Elsie, Ruthie's sister who ain't said nothin' since we found Ruthie and Carver lyin' still early this mornin', Elsie who ain't never liked Cash anyhow, she says, so, what? We gonna bury 'em?

Gonna hafta track 'em first, says Cash. Gonna hafta find 'em. But no, he says. Ain't safe that way neither. Ground too cold, animals'll dig 'em up. Grave too deep, seep inna the groundwater. Ain't gonna be good that way, now is it.

So we burn 'em, I says.

Cash, he sigh and says, right. But first, show me where you set 'em 'float.

by Fred 11:59 PM

We fished him out of the water just a little ways off the coast of the island. Jessi said he didn't look like he'd been floating long and I didn't ask her how she knew - I just took it for granted that it was something I'd rather not know. We tossed him on top of the pile with the rest of the stuff we'd picked up and started back for the shore.

He looked kind of funny laying on top of the pile of junk - old boots, bottles, broken boards and other junk that had been claimed by the sea. It was like he had just decided to lay back and take a nap on the world's most uncomfortable matress. I told Terry and Jessi that and they kind of looked at me funny. Then Jessi told me that he didn't look asleep, he looked dead. And I told her yeah, but once you got past that it was actually a pretty funny picture.

Then Terry and Jessi got into an argument over what to do with him. Terry figured that we should cook him and eat him as soon as we got back - boil down his bones for stock and smoke some of him to store him for later. But that was just Terry talking. She was scared that we would run out of supplies soon and that we'd die of starvation before anybody found us. Of course, she ate like a bird so the four month's supply we had back at the camp would probably last us a good year.

Jessi said that cannibalism was a slippery slope and we shouldn't start down it while we still had plenty of canned meat and emergency rations. Besides, she said, the island was big enough for us to go hunting and there was plenty of plant life - so there was no need to turn to devouring the flesh of our own kind just yet.

Jessi said that we should cut him up for bait - that the fish we could bring in by using him would be much healthier for us to eat and could be dried easier. Then she said we could use the longer bones for handles for tools and maybe put the head on a stick to serve as a warning for any hostile natives who might come by - although I thought that part of the idea sounded like she'd read Lord of the Flies too closely. Or maybe watched too much Gilligan's Island.

Terry said that if we ate the fish we caught using him for bait that we'd just be committing cannibalism by proxy because the fish would have eaten him and then we would have eaten the fish - so we might as well just get it over with now and cook and eat him. Then she started going into detail over how to butcher and prepare him, but I kind of zoned out when she got to the part about de-veining the arms and removing sinews from the legs.

Jessi said that there was a lot more we could do with him than just eat him, and it would be a waste to just turn him into food. That his teeth would make a good saw and that his smaller bones might be good for tumbling (what she didn't say). And she pointed out that we could always tan his skin in case we needed a good hide later.

That's what gave me my great idea.

I tried to convince them that we should just tan him whole. They didn't get it, so I figured I should probably demonstrate. They didn't think it was a good idea - even after I propped him up on my knee and did a couple of rounds of "Who's on first?" It's a shame, too. He would have made the world's best ventriloquist's dummy. But I guess it was hard to appreciate humor in a situation like ours.

by Glen 9:59 PM

I tried posting this from work, but no luck:

by Fred 5:37 PM

{Tuesday, January 11, 2005}

"A rabbit would have been a better choice."

"I'm telling you that a rabbit wouldn't have been any better. Besides, a rabbit stands upright and would have been suspicious."

"We could have had the rabbit laying down and we would have had a lot more space inside of it."

"I'm telling you that a rabbit would have been all wrong."

"We could have saved lumber, too. And we might have had fewer casualties in the building - I mean, it wouldn't have been nearly as tall."

"Wait. Are we talking about a rabbit with the ears up or down?"

"Down, of course - rabbits lay their ears back when they're lying down."

"Not always. I mean, he could have just heard something and put his ears up."

"He could also have been a lop rabbit and we wouldn't have had to worry about putting the ears up."

"See? A rabbit is all wrong. There's just too many logistical problems to sort out. Now we're into lop rabbits or not, we're into a whole new can of worms."

"I think a rabbit would be better than a can of worms."

"Who suggested a can of worms?"

"You did."

"Did not."

"Well, you mentioned it."

"I was just saying that a rabbit was a bad idea because if we talked about lop rabbits and such then we're into a whole new can of worms."

"And I'm saying that a rabbit would have been a better choice than what we have and it would definitely be a better choice than a can of worms."

"Screw it. We didn't build a rabbit. We built what we built and we're going with it. It's a bit late to change, now."

"I just want to hear you admit that you made the wrong choice. I know that a rabbit would have been better. You know a rabbit would have been better. The men cramped up down in the legs are thinking that a rabbit would have been better. I just want you to admit that you had decided before we even started debating the issue, and that you were unwilling to give the idea to build a rabbit a fair shot."

"I did give it a fair shot."

"You most certainly did not."

"No, I thought the rabbit was a viable option. Just not the best option."

"You never once seriously considered building a rabbit."

"I did consider it. It was the badger that I refused to consider."

"That goes without saying. a badger would have just been a bad idea all around."

"Exactly. Who would ever open their gates for a badger?"

"But they would have opened their gates just as well for a rabbit."

"Will you forget about the rabbit?"

"Who doesn't love a rabbit? They're so cute and soft and cuddly. I bet we could have gotten them to open the gates for a rabbit."

"Fuck the rabbit, okay? We didn't have much time to work in, it was either a rabbit or this and I made the judgement call. Okay?"

"And that's another thing. Was this really as much of a rush job as we made it? I think we could have taken a bit longer in the design and execution."

"We didn't have enough time."

"We've been here years. What, another week would have killed us?"

"I don't know about you, but I have a family I'd like to get home to sometime soon."

"But the workmanship is shoddy. The mane looks all wrong, the legs are out of proportion, and - speaking of which - the men down in the legs are complaining of splinters. We didn't do the work properly."

"Look, I told you when we started that it was going to be a quick-and-dirty job. Screw the men down in the legs. The reason they're down in the legs is because I don't like them very much and I was hoping one of the other men would fall on top of them and break a few necks or something."

"Yes, but if we wanted quick-and-dirty, choosing a rabbit would have made it much easier to produce a quality product--"

"By the gods, don't these Trojans ever sleep?"

by Glen 7:00 PM

"In the new year," said Roy, "we hope to be a totally sandpaper-free office."

He smiled and thumped the desk in front of him as if in punctuation. Dan nodded and returned the smile, but he looked quizzical all the same.

"Do you mean paper-free?" he asked. Again he smiled. It was important, he thought, to radiate warmth, friendliness, understanding even when admitting confusion. He did not know Roy's moods, how quickly they might shift, or even his new boss had moods, and so he felt it better to err on the side of bland politeness."

"No," said Roy. He, too, smiled. In fact, he beamed, to the point that Dan began to suspect Roy did have moods after all, all of them various shades of manic. He thought momentarily of an Irish setter he had had as a boy.

"We went paperless in '97," said Roy. "Best thing this company ever did, you ask me. We went pen- and pencil-less a year later. Then Post-It-Note-less, staple-remover-less, glue-stick-less, and sex-in-the-company-break-room-less."

"Sex in the company break room?" asked Dan. He first tried, then tried not to, picture the the small plastic chairs and cramped folding tables.

"We had some issues," said Roy. "But going free-tablets-of-Ecstasy-free really seemed to help.

"Uh huh," said Dan.

"Then we naturally decided to go weightless, giant-killer-robot-less, evil-zombie-monkey-vampire-less, and we dropped our yearly 'Bring Your Semi-Automatic and Pent-Up Frustration to Work Day'. Profits shot back up after that."

"I can imagine," said Dan, who really for the life of him couldn't.

"We tried airless and careless, motionless and boneless, reckless and feckless, but I don't think we really hit upon a winning combination until we decided to go production-assistant-less."

"Right," said Dan, "and that was -- what?" He suddenly realized that he was a production assistant.

"Happened maybe twenty minutes ago," said Roy. "That's why I called you in. I'm afraid we're going to have to let you go."

"But -- " said Dan. "I just started a month ago. I just -- "

But he could see, Roy was still beaming. The man gave the desk another quick thump.

"Oh, this is hopeless," said Dan.

"Hmm," said Roy. "Now there's something we haven't tried..."

by Fred 6:38 PM

Ersatz Topiq du joor:
Sandpaper, you bastard!

by MisterNihil 2:49 PM

{Monday, January 10, 2005}

"Where has kitty been today, hmm?" said Mrs. Johnson, rocking forward in her chair and holding her hand out to an imaginary cat. I shuddered, lifted the paper cup to my lips and pretended to swallow, letting the pills drop instead into the palm of my hand. I handed the cup back to Nurse Davies, then opened my mouth wide and let her scan the inside to make certain the pills hadn't been slipped under my tongue or moved into my cheek. She smiled, nodded with smug satisfaction, and moved on. It still amazed me when I realized that everybody at the clinic knew that I had worked my way through college as a magician and they still didn't catch my sleight-of-hand tricks with the medication.

"Kitty, kitty," said Mrs. Johnson. "What has it got in its mouth, precious kitty?"

"Daft old bat still thinks there's actually a cat there," said Watson, sliding into the seat beside of me. "If there's anybody this place was meant for, it's her."

"Hey, Doc," I said, leaning back in my chair and lacing my fingers behind my neck. "What have you got for me today?"

"First things first, old chum," said Watson. "What have you got for me?"

My eyes scanned the room quickly. Nurse Davies was busy at the desk with a paper - the other orderlies were distracted by busywork. In one fluid motion I brought my hand down to my breast pocket, palmed the pills, and slid them sideways to Watson. "Pink Lady and Blue Boy," I said. "Same as every Wednesday."

Watson sighed, picking up the pills and pocketing them. "You really could use some variety in your selection, old boy," he said.

"Sorry. I'll try to get diagnosed with something else next week."

"See that you do, chappie."

Part of me wanted to smack Watson and tell him to cut the "chappie" and "old chum" routine - that I knew he had been born and raised in Hoboken and that his real name was Rodney Watson and he was an auto mechanic by trade. Not, as he insisted, the Doctor Watson, the true author of a series of stories credited to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But being in the clinic had taught me that it was worth it to allow these people their illusions. Anything else could be disastrous.

"What have you got for me, Doc?" I said.

"The nurses have turned on their new monitoring system," he said, softly. "It's installed in every room - including the bathrooms."

"Monitoring system?" I said. "They already have security cameras."

"Brain waves, boy. They're monitoring our brain waves. Jenkins thinks it has something to do with the overlords from space. I think it's the White Worm, m'self."

"You're mixing your mythologies, Doc. Pick one kind of crazy and stick with it."

"Sorry, Bonaparte."

"Call me Joe, Doc. I've told you before - the Napoleon thing is a scam."

"Right. Check in with you at noon feeding, old boy." Watson stood and was gone.

The Napoleon Bonaparte idea was a stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. So hackneyed, yet so believable. When my editor told me to infiltrate the clinic and find out what was going on, I knew that had to be my cover. It was a perfect cover.

Besides, who would ever think that they would find Atilla the Hun hiding out in a mental clinic and pretending to be Napoleon?

by Glen 9:19 PM

he slips past the guard so
easily so quietly so
long as nobody is watching
always watching
never see
call his name, call the number, roll
call every night
roll words off tongues
speak in tongues
say things in the whisperdark
and he moves
is gone
an open gate gait, heavy feet
light like light
and he slips past moves
with speed no word no sound no
they know
they poke, they prod, they say
tell him no
tell him stay
say words whisperdark
but now he's gone
locked up chained down
moves with ease unfettered unworried
cautious careful whispers all round
slip past the guard
don't see
always watching
by turns by degrees
the guard turns
she spots him
the doctor says
"madness is not a foreign country
it has no
borders from which to escape."
the guard sees him
insanity has no edges, but
his knife surely does.

by Fred 7:12 PM

the edge of insanity

by Faith 10:40 AM

{Saturday, January 08, 2005}

"All right," I said, looking at the open box on my desk. "I'll admit. That's a new one on me."

"I thought this kind of thing was common in kidnapping cases," she said, flopping those gorgeous curves down into the chair across the desk.

"Not as common as you'd think," I said. "But every time I've seen it in the past, they've just sent the whole finger."

"Maybe they want to give us more time to raise the money."

"Well, they're all heart, aren't they?" I said, picking up the case. It was a small, black velvet case like the kind you put an engagement ring in. Of course, this time around it was a completely different kind of proposition. Sitting in the middle of the velvet pillow inside was the tip of a man's index finger cut off just at the first joint.

"The maid picked it up today with the rest of the mail. Poor dear fainted dead away when I opened the case."

I snapped the box shut snd tossed it back on the desk - it was easier to concentrate on blondie with the fingertip tucked out of sight. And given the choice between the fingertip and blondie, I'd rather focus on her, any day.

"How long has your brother been missing, Ms. Larder?"

"A little over a month, now."

"And you didn't think that was suspicious?"

"Terry's always off on a bender somewhere, Mr. Hack. It's not unusual for him to drop out of sight for a month or two, just to turn up at a port in South Africa or in the embassy in Bombay asking for us to bail him out again. A month without word is really nothing."

"You don't worry about the trouble he's getting into?"

She snorted. A pretty little snort that did amazing things to her cleavage. "That's a little bit like worrying about gravity holding you down," she said. "Worrying isn't going to change anything."

"I'll take the case. But I get--"

"Whatever you want, I'll pay it. As long as it's less than the ransom the kidnappers are asking."

"For someone who has just received a fingertip in the mail, Ms. Larder, you seem awfully calm."

"Trust me, Hack. After what he's put this family through, I think Terry can put up with losing a couple of fingers."

by Glen 7:56 AM

"Wall, I checked an' thur ain't a inch o' larder in tha place." He stood in the doorway, cutting an imposing figure. He stood no more than five feet tall, but he filled the hole there from jamb to jamb. He was a man who gave the distinct impression that he knew the inside of every inch of his own larder.
"I am sorry mister Binks?" He called himself that despite the fact that his name was Smith and his mother thought it was a stupid name. His friends thought it was a stupid name, too, but this young British man had been asked to call mister Binks mister Binks, and by gum he intended to call him mister Binks.
"Ah Sayied, thar ain't a inch o' larder eeun the playss." Binks was probably annoyed, but this came as only more of puzzle to the young man.
"But sir, I assure you, we keep quite the large larder, one well stocked in all manner of foodstuffs." Bewliderment drove him to reply, and he knew immediately it was a mistake.
"Not a dayum lardur, you stupid jack bull sunuva beeutch! I sed a inch o' larder! Don't you speak Dayum Inglish?"
A pause passed between them.
"Aww, you know, inch o' larders, with tawr-tillas an' inch o' larder sauce?"
"Ah! I see, Enchiladas! Of course, no, we were intending to pick up the necessary ingredients this afternoon. Frightefully sorry."
The small giant left the room in a huff mumbling something to the tune of these damn foreigeners not speaking english properly, and stomping toward his room.

by MisterNihil 6:41 AM

As I drive, I get the absolutely assured feeling that I have died. I know, with the certainty that you know you are flesh and you know that there are beetles and bugs in the lawn, I know in the same instinctive way you know that there is gravity, I know that I fell asleep some miles back and will soon die.
The feeling was absolutely accute tonight, as I drove home in the fog so dense I could scarcely see out of the car at some points. I hung, a corporeal being under the streetlights on the highway, and dared me to swerve into a patch. If I did, it promised, I would not swerve out again.
On the huge overpass-flyover from one highway to another, it was the worst. I could see only dim lights in the distance, none of them moving. I could see the road for some thirty feet in front of me, but to the sides the world dropped away.
Far off, perhaps sixty yards, perhaps a thousand miles, something large moved. It shifted the fog in the shape of head that, if my depth perception could focus on elder beings, must have been two hundred feet off the ground and the size of a buick. The colossal head in the fog turned and I saw with absolute clarity, something there for no more than a second.
Then it was gone and I was left with the feeling that I was asleep. This was surely a dream. I was flying down the highway at some eighty miles an hour, stone dead to the world and dreaming this spiraling mind screw of an exit. I awaited the impact, the sick thud and crunch of a crash, the sound of plexiglass and metal that means something expensive has happened to your car. The sound is always dead, acousticaly. It is always disappointing, and it always means something has happened to the car which is worse than you can possibly imagine.
The crunch never came. I'm home now, laughing at my stupid topic from several days ago, posted in advance as if I were clever, waiting to realize I'm still on the highway, sleeping and driving, heading for eternity.

by MisterNihil 6:33 AM

An Inch of Larder

by MisterNihil 6:00 AM

{Friday, January 07, 2005}

calling the show

by Glen 4:00 PM

{Thursday, January 06, 2005}

Apparently the pagan is the only one who can't think of something for this sacrilicious topic. Ah, well.

by Sharon 11:59 PM

"I don't know what to offer him, Saul," said Mary, looking at the bottles under the bar.

"Well, hurry up and think of something," I said. "He's only the son of God, for cryin' out loud. I mean, it's not like we have to wait on him hand and foot or something, now, is it?"

"Should I give him the punch like everybody else?"

"Are you kidding me? Did we use top shelf stuff in that?"

"No. Just your typical jugs o' hooch."

"And you want to serve it to the frickin' Lord and Savior? I think he's going to know the difference between Aristocrat and Stoli."

"Maybe he's an Absolut man."

"Absolut. Sure," I said, busying myself with the cloth. "I'm sure Jesus is an Absolut man."

"Well, he is the alpha and the omega," said Mary. "That seems to be pretty absolute to me."

In my head I was watching the brass plaque engraved, "Jesus drank here" that I had been planning to put on the wall slowly fade away. "I don't think Jesus in the market for puns," I hissed.

"How can you be sure? I mean, maybe he's not all hellfire and brimstone. Or even that stern, solemn cat we've been hearing about. I mean, he looks pretty groovy. Check out his 'do."

"Jesus doesn't have a 'do', he has hair."

"And that hair has to be styled in some fashion," said Mary. "I call that a 'do. I don't care if he is the only begotten son of God on high. He's got a hairdo."

"Fine, fine. Whatever."

"Stoli. I bet he drinks Stoli."

"Why don't we just play it safe and give him some wine? I mean, we know he drinks the stuff already."

Mary snorted. "What? And let him get tipsy while he's watching all the apostles get hammered? I think he'd feel a little bit left out over that."

"Then why don't you just ask him what he wants?"

"Everclear. I bet he likes Everclear. It's pure. He's pure. It's a match made in Heaven."

"Everclear and Jesus. A match made in Heaven. You want our bar to get struck by lightning, don't you?"

"Lighten up, Saul," she said. "He's supposed to be all-forgiving. I think he's going to cut us some slack just because we offer him Dos Equis and he wants Tanqueray."

"It's really not him that I'm worried about, Mary. It's his father that frightens me."

"I could always offer him a Three Wise Men. I bet he'd get a kick out of that."

"Oh, for Christ's sake. Now he's coming over to the bar."

"So, what do I offer him?"

"Just say, 'Yes, Lord? What can I serve for you tonight?'"

Mary turned as the Man Himself sat down, resting his elbows on the bar and steepling his fingers. "Excuse me?" He said.

"Hey, Geez, how they hangin? What can I get for ya?" said Mary.

by Glen 6:54 PM

What would Jesus drink? A bloody Mary? A Rusty Nail? A bloody Mary, hold the vodka: virgin Mary? We're talking a man who turns water into wine by the jug.

"Jesus, have you been out drinking water all night again?"

"No, Ma! I swear!"

You've got to be careful with powers like that. Brushing your teeth, swishing the water around, suddenly it's Cabernet. Which doesn't need that dash of mint. A day at the beach, and the ocean turns into Merlot. Whole ecosystems die, fish soaked to the gills with cheap booze, deep-sea divers lost in a haze of white Zinfandel, sharks drawn by the sight of blood only to discover too late it's Chardonnay. You've got to be careful. Use those powers wisely, sparingly. They're not party tricks. Never lose a moment's concentration. Drift off at the dentist, and suddenly you're rinsing and spitting Riesling. That's a dessert wine, folks, and that can't be the best for the teeth.

But maybe it's okay. Maybe you can turn wine into water, the old backwards switcheroo.

"Have you been drinking tonight, Mr. Jesus?"

"Only a couple shots of water, officer. Hic! Go on, check my blood!"

Although maybe Jesus wouldn't want to start asking law enforcement to check the blood of Christ. It didn't work out too well for him the last go around. Maybe Jesus would just start branching out, turning diet soda into ginger ale, grape juice into vodka martinis, American beer into water. (Oh, wait, too late.) Then he could turn other things into other things: sandwiches into potted plants, rutabegas into heads of state, the Eifel Tower into that thing at the back of your mouth. Jesus could go big-time, turn up into down, left into right, cats into dogs, day into night.

Oh, what a wacky guy, that Jesus! I'll have what he's having.

by Fred 6:02 PM

As a question, "What would Jesus drink?" didn't really fit the tone of the exchange, but it confused the heck out of the little ugly, bug-eyed fellow. He became very angry and yelled out something about cheating, and how he would eat my eyeballs before he sucked out my guts with a straw. Now, I don't feel like I have to stand around for that kind of talk, so when he set off for his hovel to get something he "wanted to show me," well, I know what it means when somebody says "hang on while I get a gun" as well as the next guy.
I thought about running, but he was supposed to show me the way out of this stupid infested maze, and here he was running off to get a gun. Well, as I say, I'm not stupid. I ducked behind a rock and pulled my piece and waited.
About three minutes later, the little froggy guy started yelling about bags and curses, and came out of that shack like he was chasing the very hosts of Hell. I had the shot and I took it. He was running at me with his claws out and his nasty little teeth, no doubt aiming to attack me where I stood. He dropped like a stone.
I fingered the lovely ring I'd found in the Orc tunnels earlier, and made my way toward where I guessed the exit to be.

by MisterNihil 11:51 AM

"I know, I know! Communion wine," said Karen the Catholic.

"Interesting thought," I answered, "but let's look at this. According to the rules of your church, that whole transubstantiation thing means that it isn't actually wine, but Jesus' blood. Who would want to drink his own blood?"

"Oh yeah," Karen said. "I hadn't really thought of it that way."

"Now, I suppose a case could be made for wine, though. For instance, maybe he could turn a bottle of Crystal Geyser water into a nice Stag's Leap Merlot, or a bottle of Evian into Veuve Clicquot. But communion wine? Ugh. Even the altar boys don't like the stuff."

"What about a Bloody Mary?" Daniel piped up. "Or better yet, a Virgin Mary!"

"Okay, that might be a good call. But leaving aside the fact that we're treading dangerously close to Oedipal territory here, let's think about it for a second. First, getting back to that whole water-into-wine thing, we know that Jesus is okay with imbibing alcohol. So why bother with a virgin anything? He might as well just have a V-8. As for a Bloody Mary... well, Mary was his mother, and would you want to drink anything that has your mother's name and 'bloody' in it?"

"Yeah," said Daniel. "Not so much."

Eddie took the bait. "In the Army, I remember drinking something called Purple Jesus Punch."

"Sure," I said, "but try ordering that in a bar. And would you want to drink something with your own name on it?"

"Why not? I also used to drink Flamin' Eddies in the Army."

When the group all looked quizzically at him, Eddie explained, "Uh... they were just shots of whiskey that we'd light on fire and drink that way. You know. Flamin' Eddies." He shrugged his shoulders.

As they discussed it among themselves, offering up choices like Angel's Wing, Devil's Tail or Adam and Eve, I began to pour Scotch into old-fashioned glasses with ice in them. I floated a little Drambuie on top of each one, and then pushed them forward.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this round is on me. I offer you the drink that Jesus would drink: a Rusty Nail. Cheers and salvation to you all."

by Generik 9:31 AM

What Would Jesus Drink?

by Generik 9:10 AM

{Tuesday, January 04, 2005}

Nowadays, few film lovers remember Marlene von Bandicott.

The last film in which she starred, just two years before her death, was an educational short called Thinning the Herd with Jack Palance. Palance, then fresh from his success as the murderous Jack Wilson in 1953's Shane, was reportedly dissatisfied with the project and remained on set only because of contractual obligations around which he could not maneuver.

It was this dissatisfaction that her husband would later cite, among a dwindling circle of friends, as the root of the problems that would come to plague the production. On rare occasion, he would go as far as to suggest that it was he, the young Palance, who had ensured the film was never viewed except by a scattered directly involved -- who, with a well placed call to the studio head, kept the film from the light of day.

It seems more likely, in retrospect, that the blame lay elsewhere: on Marlene's constant drinking, on innocent mistakes made by a novice director before and after the shoot, on the unanticipated skittishness of the farm animals caught on camera, on remarks made under oath about the writer's so-called political affiliations. But, regardless of cause, the truth remains that the film was never released; and, although paid in full, most of her wages went towards alcohol or harder drugs.

To Marlene's husband, she was simply mourning a loss, a production doomed by "that bastard Palance", and a career now well past its twilight and in its last hour. To others, however, she might just as easily have been revelling in the very thing that had led to its disintegration in the first place. The least charitable among them might have latched on to the title of the now forever lost final short, suggesting that, in drinking herself out of the business, it was precisely that which Marlene was doing. Thinning the herd.

After all, what was one less drunk in Hollywood?

by Fred 11:59 PM

"Milquetoast," I say, "what have we got on the field today?"

Milque shakes his wooly head and blinks at me. "Kee-rist," he says, snorting. "Don't even give a guy a chance to wake up. Straight to work, yessir. I'm fine today, how the hell are you, Brian?"

"Cut the chatter and get to sniffing."

Milque sneers, but he sits up straight on the edge of the plateau and leans out, drawing in a deep breath. Technically, Milque's not human. He's got a couple of bits and pieces in his double helix that don't occur naturally - put there when he was just a cluster of cells in a test tube to make him more appealing to consumers. He's a couple of inches shorter than average with a flattened-out face and large eyes and a nose more sensitive than a bloodhound's.

"Brunettes, mostly," he says. "Caucasian."

"Black hair or brown?"

"Brown. A couple with black hair, but mostly brown. I think... I think there may also be a south-Asian on the field, too."

"Really? In this part of the world?"

"You wanna track her?"

For a second, I can feel the curiosity tugging at me. South-Asians don't bring much of a price these days - they're still common in most of the Eastern world, but it's not often that you find one wandering free in the Western hemisphere.

"Nah," I say. "If we have to, we can round up the black-hairs. Maybe we'll get back to her if we have some time left over."

"Blondes. Three of them," says Milque.

My ears prick up. A professional genetics collection agent hardly ever passes up the chance at a natural blonde these days. Geneticists paid a pretty penny, and the price was only going up. And to find three of them in one day was unheard of. The only score that could make a collection agent like myself pass up that was--

"Redhead," said Milque, his back tensing as he stared out over the plains.

"Are you sure?"

"It's the redhead smell. I smelled it once back in training - completely different from any other smell in the world. That is definitely a redhead."

"How far?"

"Five clicks and getting closer," he said. "She's got a set of wheels."

"No problem," I say, strapping on my tranquilizer gun. A redhead. She could be twenty clicks away - fifty. It doesn't matter - a collection agent can retire off of one of those.

"One problem."

"What's that?"

"She's got the Herd after her."

I freeze.

"The Herd?" I say.

"Five huntsmen."

Five Herd huntsmen after what might be one of only a hundred redheads left on the entire planet. I cursed under my breath. Huntsmen have no idea of value - they'd kill her before the week was out if they caught up with her. And geneticists everywhere would pay a small fortune for just a small blood sample or one hair, root intact.

I checked my tranq gun again, then picked up my double-barrel.

"Five, you say?" I said.

"Five," he said. "On horseback."

"We can take care of them," I said. "Let's go make some money."

by Glen 8:10 PM

thinning the herd

by Sharon 2:41 PM

{Monday, January 03, 2005}

"Silly games" makes me think of the unicorn song, since the unicorns, instead of moving their butts onto the arc, were splashing in the rain, playing silly games.

I've wondered about that song for a long time. It appears as a poem in a Shel Silverstien collection, so when I was little, I thought he had written it. Now, I'm not so sure. If he did write it, it would seem that he's since lost his claim to it, by allowing it into the public domain. If he didn't write it, why would he put it in his book? It makes me feel funny in my tummy.

And then I wonder if it's a case similar to that joker who wrote down and published the ubiquitous "Happy Birthday" song, thereby claiming it and making it impossible for restaurant employees to embarrass you with it. (Before you decide whether or not this is a good thing, consider the creative alternatives that have since been composed.)

Writing that triggered my urban-legend-o-meter, so I checked it out on Snopes. I was half-right. Here's the whole story on Happy Birthday copyright. Strangely, it comes back, once again, to the damage the Disney Corporation is doing to the Constitution and creativity with their never-ending quest to ensure the Mouse never enters the public domain.

by Sharon 4:36 PM

silly games

by Fred 1:23 PM


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