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{Sunday, April 30, 2006}

Sprinkler System Woes

by MisterNihil 10:38 PM

{Thursday, April 27, 2006}

feeding frenzy

by ArchHallJr 3:21 PM

{Tuesday, April 25, 2006}

I was in high school, but rarely. Most of my days were spent in Manhattan, hanging out with the kids who went to Stuyvesant. We'd sit around on Wall, or go to Pizza... for some reason we got into the habit of dropping articles.

We'd take turns taking custody of Book. Book was one of those cheap marble composition books. The pages were filled with doodles and snippets of writing, and newspaper clippings and things. When Book was full, someone started Book II. Someone put a sticker on the front of Book II that said "Hello, my name is Exodus".

The kids who went to Stuy were, for the most part, pretty well-off. Or, at least their parents were. One kid would spring for enough pot for everyone every Friday, on the condition that we smoked it out of a piece of fruit. We'd started simply - a hollowed-out apple, an orange with a piece of well-perforated tin foil as a bowl/filter combo - then it started getting really outlandish. I can't remember if we actually made it to watermelon, or if someone decided that it might look a little suspect if someone saw us taking turns kissing a watermelon and passing it. Yeah, that's right... we smoked in public. We were such rebels, or something.

We'd take the subway up to Central Park and hang out in the Sheep Meadow until it started getting dark. We'd smoke some more, and play hackey sack, or frisbee. We'd watch the clouds illustrate the melodramas of our lives as we discussed them.

Teenagers have a sense of how transient experiences are, while simultaneously feeling like every moment is the most important and lasting event that will ever happen.

Am I homesick for New York, or for adolescence? Would one be as much on its own without the other? Could I enjoy either, or even both as much with what I know today? Meh, screw that. This moment is much more lastingly important than those ever were, and it's almost over.

by Jess 11:02 PM


by ArchHallJr 4:17 PM

{Monday, April 24, 2006}

"Would sir like to see a menu?"
"No thank you, James. I'm well aware of your selection. Just bring me a cognac for now, I'll think over my order."
"Of course, sir. May I bring sir some food?"
"No. I think I'll be better off on an empty stomach, James."
"Of Course, sir."
His footsteps tapped away, and I sat at my table and pondered. Modern simulation technology being what it was, they could pull up anything I wanted, but one had to be tasteful in a hign class joint like this. Earlier that week, I'd had an idea. I just had to come up with the right situation. Probably a wacky farse, but then one had to be flexible. I was thinking of Jane Austen and Dulcinea, probably in a tavern, and probably too intoxicated to see reason. Yes, this evening could be pleasant, if I played my cards right. I signaled James over, and began making out the order card.

by MisterNihil 11:00 PM

protagonist sandwich

by ArchHallJr 3:30 PM

{Saturday, April 22, 2006}

“No, I do not prefer.”

“Well, what would you prefer?”

“How about you get off my fucking back?”

Silence filled the room. Never before had a sitting president been heard to utter the “f word” in public.

“What you fucking bastards don’t ever stop to realize is how hard I actually work at this post. What time do you get to go to bed at night? Midnight? Well congrat-u-fucking-lations! I can’t remember the last time I went to bed at midnight!”

A stir began to move around the place, stifled at first. Then it began to gather steam. People didn’t quite believe what they were hearing.

“Fucking A! You’re fucking a right you’re hearing what you’re hearing! I’m sick and tried of this shit! Day in, day out! ‘He doesn’t know what he’s doing!’ ‘He lied about this!’ ‘He lied about that!’ ‘He’s stupid!’ Let me ask you good-for-nothing sacks of shit this: have you got anything positive to add? Do you think maybe, just maybe, the old man got to this position because he just might be worth a damn? Don’t answer that – Larry? The slides!”

The room went dark and the first slide came up.

“I think this presentation will make it self more than abundantly clear that I know exactly what I am doing and where I am taking this company!”

Gasps filled the room as the first graph showed first quarter profits exponentially larger than were projected at the last shareholder’s meeting. It was a thing of pure capitalistic beauty. Then the pie chart showing which holdings had fared the best. Again, silence filled the room.

“What are you gawking at? The pornography division? Larry, these people are fucking killing me! Aren’t they the ones who always bitching about diversifying?!?”

“Yes, but sir . . . don’t people expect more of Exxon-Mobil corporation?”

“Now we’re really screwin’ ‘em!”

by ArchHallJr 11:59 PM

If You Prefer, Mister President...

by MisterNihil 11:11 PM

{Friday, April 21, 2006}

The list always started out small. But as the items were carefully loaded into the various containers, it became clear that practicality was not the order of the day. An overnight trip for the normal person would contain a change of clothes, undergarments, socks, an accessory or two and toiletries. All of which would easily fit into gym bag or small valise if you wanted to ensure the clothing to remain fairly wrinkle-free. An overnight trip for Ward Franklin took nearly 5 hours to prepare for. At least one hour to write up the list. One hour to check over the list. An hour spent arranging the items for storing. The last two were spent packing, unpacking and packing over and over until the items had achieved pe4fect symmetry within the case. Was Ward a perfectionist? No. He was just precise and did not suffer failure in his life. Not when it was something he could affect. It was all right if others collapsed in the face of life’s pressures but not him.
As they strapped him into the gurney and began to lift him into the ambulance, he told the EMTs that if they moved the oxygen tank over about two inches to the left, they would have more room to place the monitoring machine so they could read his flat lining pulse more efficiently.

by ArchHallJr 11:59 PM

It had been a hard winter all around, but not so hard that the snows, which fell evenly for some minutes each morning and evening.
The young men awoke before the first snowfalls, broke fast, and waited for the sky to open up. After the precipitation had stopped, they took up their shovels and picks, and went to the mines. They dug until the afternoon snows signaled the end of the work day, then they went back to their homes. There, they took dinner, complained to the various ladies of the various houses about what a hard life it had been, and drifted off to bed.
On Saturdays, the miners took their children out to the snowy parks and ran without gusto across the drifts of snow. The young ones threw snowballs and built snow men. Saturday, the wasted day of the week, was one in which the adults seemed to watch the children, but actually kept wary eyes on the ground, watching for any signs of movement.
The mines lay fallow on Saturday, and so were shut up tight by the foremen. Large, steel doors were closed on the entrances; the carts and shovels were carefully packed into rooms with tight seals around the entryways and no windows. The ramshackle outbuildings common around the mouths of many mines were absent from these. In their place stood modern-looking buildings with actual foundations of thick concrete, no windows, and very snugly placed door fittings. A stray breeze could not penetrate.
To be locked in one of these very nearly air-tight buildings was to be condemned to a slow, stuffy death as the air became more and more stale. A grown man would breathe through the air to the point of discomfort in six short hours. Paranoia would set in, followed by panic, each eating up more air, and death would follow in another three hours. This was all theory, of course. None of it had been tested, but the salesman, confused at the order for airtight outbuildings, had warned them. Should the odd errant hobo become trapped in one of these buildings, the salesman warned, he would not be held liable.
An engineer in the town that sprouted near the mines, would have noted that all the buildings had unusually thick foundations, and well-fitted doors and windows. No drafts moved through these homes.
On the occasional Saturday, as the townspeople sat, warily watching, a panic would ensue as a green sprout pushed up through the snow, experiementally sniffing the air for signs of spring. This happened more and more rarely since the policy of salting the ground was put into place.
None of them wanted the Plants to come back. They all knew what that would mean. They lived in fear of pollen drifts and seed dispersion, and with good reason. They knew what the Plants could do. They had all been in Pleasanton the summer the Plants moved in. They had all seen old Mr. Frosch, only it wasn't exactly Mr. Frosch, standing with a bloody axe and a look in his eye that said anyone nearby would get more of the same.
They'd run up to the mountains to wait it out, living in the snow, where the Plants could not take root, waiting for the day they could stop watching the surface of the snow for the green shoots.

by MisterNihil 10:53 PM

equipment list

by ArchHallJr 4:57 PM

{Thursday, April 20, 2006}

The obliteration was not wholly complete, but damned near. Literally damned because what was left was being sent straight to hell. The person whose life this soul belonged to was one of such evil and perversion that there was no alternative but to keep it from paradise through the necessary channel. The energized fragments of soul that littered the ground at the way station were white-hot. As the angel went to scoop them up for the journey to the Eternal Flames, they jumped and sputtered away from the collector, for they knew what their final destination was. But it was to no avail, the collector had been doing this since the fires of Hades were first stoked. The screams of pain and horror from the immortal remains were quite enough to shake the strongest of the God-fearing. It was never what you expected. It was far worse. To listen to the lamentations of the damned before the passage to the infernal domains made one wish for an expedited end to the dreadful clamor. There was no way to describe it and thank the Lord there wasn’t.

The searing never ended for the imperiled soul. It couldn’t be helped for it could not stand in the face of the Beatific Vision and remain intact. Doomed to an infinite existence of punishment as no one in the mortal realm could possibly imagine, the terrible reality of the whole situation was unbearable and could not be gotten used to. There was no respite for the wicked. There was no comfort at all but if one were to recognize anything at all that would resemble something like it, the pain was of the highest level from the very beginning. The screams of forever never wavered from the utmost degree.

by ArchHallJr 11:55 PM

soul fragments

by ArchHallJr 3:55 PM

{Wednesday, April 19, 2006}

This chapter of your life is complete. Turn the page. The beautiful thing is you get to write what happens next! Your dramatis personae are all ready for you to assign them roles, so get cracking! One word of warning before you begin, though. Your characters may not (and often do not) say what you want them to say. Heavy editing will be necessary in order for you to achieve the best balance in dialogue you are hoping to achieve. For example:

“Jim, you look terrific today! What’s your secret?”

May actually come out as:

“Holy fuck, Jim! You look like shit. Ever hear of a razor?”

Obviously, you’ll need to tailor passages like that a tad.

There are also narrative issues. Like this one:

The night was just getting started for Jim and Nancy. They entered the bedroom in the heat of passion, pulling off each other’s clothes as they crashed on the bed. There, they made mad, passionate love until the sun came up.

Actually happened thusly:

Jim and Nancy didn’t say a word on the way home from the party. Jim had had too much to drink and started to flirt a bit overzealously with Nancy’s best friend, Sue. By the time they reached home, they were very tired but ready for a bit of make-up sex. Well, Nancy was ready. After she prepared for sleeping, she found Jim in a coma on the bed, snoring so loudly as to wake the neighbors.

Turn the page and write your story the way you want it!

by ArchHallJr 11:59 PM

turn the page

by ArchHallJr 2:51 PM

{Tuesday, April 18, 2006}

I'm doing my rounds, see? It's what I do every day. I trot out the door, and scamper down the stairs. The stairs are safe - if they weren't, I'd have smelled it. I barely give those stairs even a fraction of my attention, because the the grass awaits. I need to smell that grass.

Mmmhmm. There's been a squirrel here, and... here. She sat here for a bit. She was probably casing the joint. Can't trust them squirrels, that's what I always say. So the squirrel's been back, but there is no dog smell. That's good. I would be seriously upset if there'd been another dog around here. Still, I'm not liking this squirrel smell. I'd better cover it up. 'Sides, I drank quite a bit of water a few minutes ago, if you catch my drift. Ahhh, that's better.

Okay, so the grass is covered. Now I have to move on to the flowers. They smell taller today. Good work, flowers. Carry on.

Now the bushes... wait a minute! This is new! What's this big boxy thing here? It's dark in there. It smells like... new. I don't like that smell. Then again, smelling like new is better than smelling like squirrel, I guess. Well, I think rounds are done for today. I'll go back into the house.

Hmm, door's closed. I'll bark and tell them to open it... They're not opening it. This is most disconcerting. Where am I supposed to sleep?

Oh well, I guess I'll just have to make that boxy thing smell less like new. Works out for the best, I guess... gives me an opportunity to guard against that squirrel. I'll hide in that dark boxy thing, and wait for her to sit there watching the house, and when she least expects it... MUAhahaha.

Yeah, I like this plan.

by Jess 7:23 PM

He was running as fast as he could. That which chased him was going to catch up if he didn’t keep up his current pace. His thoughts hammered away at his conscious self, desperate to help him keep his edge, and ultimately, his life. The range was quite bizarre and if one were to lay bare his contemplations, they would be perplexed at the differences of the gamut. This was just as well. If he were to dwell on the horrors that pursued him, he may have become paralyzed with fear; unable to continue on with his survival.

The sun was setting. The final photons were reaching through the atmosphere, pushing light in lesser quantities. The darkness would serve his purpose even further. If one cannot be seen, it is more difficult to be caught. If he could only hold on for a little while longer, his fate may not be to be swallowed whole by what seeked him as it’s quarry but rather become disinterested in him instead and give up the chase. He prayed for this.

No more light left, straight into the darkness now. From his third eye, he sensed the lumbering mass behind seemingly getting smaller while he grew stronger. He began to rejoice! Practically out of the woods. He had reason to live now and live the way he saw fit. Nothing could change that at this point. Only his perceptions of what was around him would damage the reality of what he had created for himself.

by ArchHallJr 3:53 PM

straight into darkness

by ArchHallJr 9:16 AM

{Monday, April 17, 2006}

My quixotic attention to detail is all too apparent with this one. What grabs one first are the colors. Above, a mish-mash of bright hues augur a promise of earth tones lying just below the surface. No, it was not conventional. But I never strive to be conventional. It is always my intention to make conventions. And when everyone else is using those, I’ll break them as well.

Forget for a moment everything you know about the subject. You are devoid of the knowledge you have obtained over the years; a neophyte. Take another look at it. At first, you’ll be thinking how ugly it is. But upon second and third glance, you will notice the subtle beauty. It rises high at one angle, yet slopes downward rather violently opposite. And what are the raised indentations off to the one side. They look like miniature tank obstacles from WW II. Is it form over function or vice versa . . . or both? See what you can make of it yourself. This is art. And this is also practicality. Who needs a fork?

by ArchHallJr 11:59 PM

specialty dish

by ArchHallJr 3:17 PM

{Thursday, April 13, 2006}

When I was a child, I could fly. The ground would skim below me, just beneath my feet, and I would rush forward, toward the destination of the moment. I moved so purposefully in whatever direction I was heading. Sometimes, I flew up to the top of a jungle gym. Sometimes I jumped off the high platform near the sliding pole, and instead of landing violently on my toes, knees and palms like the other children, I swam down gracefully, in ever-forward motion, shark-like.

My feet were always dimly aware of the presence of the ground just below them as I moved, as if I were a hovercraft pushing air downward to compensate for my weight... or as if the ground pushed me away from it, hurt that I had spurned its draw, petulant about my indifference.

Every night I flew, and every day I knew that I could fly. I never tried it during the day, because it never occurred to me that I might not. It never occurred to me to wonder if I could during the day, to test it. My confidence in my power of flight overrode conscious thought.

I mourn the loss of flight. I am now aware that I can't fly in wakefulness. I find it ever more difficult to fly in dreams. Of all of the aspects of my youth that I miss, I miss flying the most.

by Jess 7:58 PM

It should have been easy. It wasn’t. After the surgery, nothing was. The most simple tasks were suddenly gargantuan undertakings. It was most disconcerting. My whole life, everything came easy to me. And I do mean everything. Mental, physical, spiritual, animal, vegetable or mineral. I could do it all. Show me once if I didn’t know how and I became instantly proficient at it. So it isn’t too hard to understand why depression set in so rapidly.

I climbed on. Or rather, tried to climb on. Too many times to count. Each try resulted in the same consequence. I was flat on my ass. The bitch of it was really not if I could get on, but what I would do once (and if) I did.

After a particularly painful fall, I sat and pondered my first childhood experience with the endeavor. Did I fall nearly as many times? No, of course I didn’t. In fact, I don’t think I fell at all. After all, I am the master learner.

I stood up, one last time, determined to reach my goal. I got the first leg over! Success! I placed my feet in the pedals. It’s a good thing this thing is stationary because I’m ready to ride the hell out of it.

by ArchHallJr 4:59 PM

Do you even remember how?

by Fred 1:12 PM

{Wednesday, April 12, 2006}

That’s what the voices are saying to me. And that’s why I’m writing. Not as active as I once was or should be but since I’ve started writing at 600 again, I hear the voices. What’s that? I, too, can be ignored by 99.999999% of the Internet? I’m totally there. It’s cool. I don’t write for anyone but me. Oh, and the old guy next door. And his dog. And his crisper. But other than that, I write for me. The voices also say that one of the benefits of being an active participant on 600 seconds aside from being ignored by countless millions, millions who couldn’t give a cuss about who you are or what you are writing about, is how to craft a very uninteresting, overlong and grammatically incorrect run-on sentence. It is in writing these horrifically elongated diatribes that one learns how to avoid being laughed at when future manuscripts, in which your hopes and dreams reside, are submitted to publishers for inclusion in their catalog or periodical(s). Why the hell not use this exercise as a way of getting the rough edges polished. Journals are good for that and one must not forget about their Strunk and White. Ah, the benefits of being an active 600 seconds participant. My creativity beckons, yet I cannot get around this limitation. I’m going to give myself 605 seconds. Fire me.

by ArchHallJr 4:22 PM

"There are untold benefits to being an active 600 seconds participant."

by Fred 11:51 AM

{Tuesday, April 11, 2006}

I’m not sure what clued me in first but I did have some idea of where I was before I heard the words, “Welcome to Castle Bozo.” Perhaps it was the tiny car parked out front. Perhaps it was the door knocker that squirted me with water when I went to use it. Maybe it was the rubber chickens lying about inside the fence. I really can’t say. I knew a clown lived here. I just didn’t know it was THE clown. For all I knew, it was Emmett Kelly’s place. Or Ronald McDonald. Or even the more obscure Boffo. I suppose the red, white and blue motif should have been a clue . . . but he could have just been a real patriotic American. So when the ‘butler’ pulled my suspenders, threw a cream pie in my face and stepped on my foot while welcoming me, I knew I had reached the end of a long journey. I thought I was prepared. I had no idea.

It appeared that as Bozo had grown long in the tooth, his taste for the clowning game had gone sour. I was shown to his drawing room to find a shriveled-up mouse of a man, sitting on a crushed velvet chair with his legs propped up on an ottoman watching a very large plasma TV. On the screen were several split screens of various cable news channels. Gone from his face was the trademark makeup of his famous jokester days of yore.

“The news sobers me, kid. I’ve spent my whole life laughing and making other people laugh. I just want to spend my autumn years in dire seriousness.” he said.

I didn’t know what to say. Or if I should say anything at all. It was creepy.

“You’ve come a long way. Please be my guest and stay the night.” he offered.

“I would be honored, Mr. Bozo.” I accepted.

“That name,” he sternly countered, “Has no meaning for me any more. Please refer to me as Captain Somber.”

by ArchHallJr 2:28 PM

"Welcome to Castle Bozo."

by ArchHallJr 9:37 AM

{Monday, April 10, 2006}

I rummaged through the desk looking for something, anything to eat. The problem is that I keep nothing in my desk. Well, nothing edible anyway. There was the box of paper clips; which may have come in handy as a toothpick if I found something to eat. Sure my dentist would squirm like a cat in a Chinese restaurant but it would do the trick. And what was this I found next? Armour Potted Meat Food Product? I’d heard stories and did not believe them until that moment. It must have been left over from the previous tenant of my office. Why did he leave it? It has a shelf life of million years or so. Perhaps he didn’t want to be seen carrying through the workplace? Everyone would see his love for fare so vile, even hobos shun it? I said screw it. I was hungry. I pulled back the tab and gave it a whiff. Not nearly as repulsive as I thought it might be. I dipped my finger in and gathered up a generous amount on my index fingertip. I stared at it, contemplating the moment. Was I going to do it? Was I actually going to eat what looked like vomit paste?

I was.

I did.

I’m hooked.

by ArchHallJr 9:35 PM

paper clips and potted meat food product

by ArchHallJr 2:24 PM

{Wednesday, April 05, 2006}

A little spring in your step is all you need. Yes. But how to bring that about I wonder? The obvious answer would be to walk from winter straight on into spring but that would be too obvious. I know. A positive thought is needed first. What is the happiest image you can muster up in your head? A laughing baby always does the trick for me. The smile starts ever so subtly. A twitch at the corner of the mouth. The dimples form . . . a smile! The breathing intensifies. A chuckle starts. It sounds like a sneeze is beginning. And then the laughter breaks free of the tiny body in spasms of delight!

Are you springing yet? No?

An odor comes wafting in your door. You pause with a strange look on your face. What is it? It isn’t unpleasant, but it’s not common. Your eyes begin to squint as you try and place what your olfactory sense is experiencing. Your belly growls as you identify a slightly sweet component to the aroma, but that’s it. Nothing definitive. Your curiosity must now be satisfied. You have to know what it is. You rise from your chair, leave your office and head for the most obvious source of the intriguing scents. The kitchen. There on the table, you take in with breathless anticipation the object of your sojourn out of world of work. A pie. But what flavor? You know apple. You know pumpkin. Hell, you even know rhubarb. But the pie lies before you unmolested, virgin. A serving knife waits innocently next to the pan.

Pick it up.

by ArchHallJr 2:54 PM

spring in your step

by ArchHallJr 11:28 AM

{Monday, April 03, 2006}

It’s not dead. The lives are complicated. They run over things we want to do. Or maybe that’s just what we tell ourselves. God forbid we should do anything that gives us pleasure. Or help us along with a healthy balance. Death has been in the air and has cast a rather nasty gloom over the prospect. It cannot be, especially with this. It will not be allowed to occur, not if I can do anything for it. The commitment should be firm, yet has grown soft. The passion is there, but for other things. The words flow, but in other places. And the mystery as to the why . . . remains as such.

No, it cannot be allowed to happen. So I help man the station. I’ll grease the rails. I’ll dust the corners. I’ll set out food and drink for the visitors. I’ll help my friend. For it is in this place that I can learn to live with who I am, who we are and where we are going. Through the chasms of my mind, I can make out a great light. There are shadows blocking some of the brilliance, but it is there. I must continue on the journey. And the journey demands I stand in one place, lighting the candles and preparing my countenance for receiving the criticisms, the folly, the charm and the strain. It is all joy. And it is pain.

by ArchHallJr 11:59 PM

When and why did it die?

by Fred 7:43 PM


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