Aug 31, 2005

Our Own Personal 9/11

That's what I called what is happening in New Orleans today at work. I called it that because that's how I feel right now--sickened and empty, afraid. I feel like I did on 9/11, spending that horrific day and the days afterwards listening to the news, seeing the images, wishing I could turn away and deny it, but unable to stop watching. Only this time it's Nature who attacked, and it's in my backyard.

Four hours to the south and east of us, a large part of the state I love and love to hate has been turned into something out of a horror movie. Listenening to the radio reports today, the ever-increasing death toll estimates, the fact that looters have run riot and are stealing and carrying guns, the fact that at least two police officers have been killed (that the officials are admitting to) and the upcoming disease epidemic--typhoid, malaria, TB, West Nile, and a whole host of chemical-related all sounds like a Stephen King novelisation.

But it's not. I can drive about four hours south down the interstate and get stopped by Natioal Guard soldiers with automatic weapons and be told to turn back home or be shot. Martial law is in effect, which means the military now runs New Orleans and the outlying parishes, not us. I have heard that St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes are nothing but mud puddles. Houma, my birthplace, is probably just as bad. Resuce workers and police are being shot at in the streets, people are starving to death, and even the firm hand of the FCC and the government are not strong enough to prevent word leaking out that there are literally bodies floating in the streets, hospitals are under siege by looters, and the rescue workers are marking houses with red paint to show where the dead are. They'll still be there when the last surviving people are rescued.

I cannot help but feel like I did when 9/11 came and went. I feel just how insignificant we all are, how very temporary. I realise yet again that we live so packed into our cities and towns that if things like water supplies and fuel stops, the entire organism dies very rapidly, but only after turning on itself. Fuel has gone up already; super premium (all I ever use in my bike) is now $2.99 a gallon, and the economists say that it's not going to be a surprise to them when it hits $4. Again I realise how easily it all falls apart when things go bad.

There is an emptiness in me, a fear for what could happen. I like to think that I am not afraid of death, that when my time comes I will welcome it with open arms, but I think some part of me always thought that my time would come after a long, full life, and I could smile and welcome my end. It never occurred to me that my end could just as easily be found on top of a roof above many feet of water, while my town drowned around me and people who were once my neighbors turned into vigilantees like something out of Mad Max, only wetter. They say dogs are only three meals shy of reverting to savagery. Seems the same is true for people.

So now, four hours to the north I am checking my weapons, making sure that myself and those I love are safe, because I know that after the first wave of refugees is going to come the desperate, hungry ones, the ones that need a fix, the ones that are desperate for the drug that drives them, and now they're well-armed. The reports are saying that even if they managed to evacuate 80% of the area that still leaves something like twenty thousand people still there.

The parish coliseum has been set up as a refugee center; they have cots set up for tonight to take in six thousand refugees. Six THOUSAND. People with no homes, no money, no clothes, and little if any hope. Texas has graciously accepted something like twenty thousand, to be bused from the failed Superdome to the Houston Astrodome, and there's still very many to come. I've already started recognising trucks and cars at the state tourism Welcome Center--people have been camping in the parking lot. I used to snicker behind my hand when the television would talk about an entire nation needing the equivalent of grief counseling--I'm not laughing anymore, and I didn't even get any RAIN from Katrina. I can only try to imagine what it's like.

It is a bad time indeed, and it's going to get worse. The official reports are saying that it could be as long as two months before the city is livable. Right now it is nothing if not dead. The conservative estimate is fifteen thousand dead. Only time will tell the true count, both dead and walking wounded.

If you have anything to spare, please contact the Red Cross. If nothing else, give a pint of blood at your local blood center. Our office is going tomorrow, to donate plasma and blood. And whatever you do, don't be like me and those stranded and lost and think that it cannot happen to you.

Kiss your loved ones tonight, you might not see them tomorrow.

Katrina: Apologia and Flotsam

My last post on Katrina was foolish. I see that now, but I fell into the same trap that the folks trying to head back home yesterday fell into--I thought this was going to be a walk in the park. Obviously a lot of us were wrong, myself included, and I for one apologise for my flippant attitude toward the occasion.

For all the facts and figures and pictures you can visit pretty much anywhere on the web, so I won't rehash it here. If you need a starting point, try Yahoo! for their news coverage, or Fox News, both seem to have covered it pretty well. Me, I can't look at it anymore. We're four hours north and a bit west of there, and I've seen too many faces, too many campers and cars and trucks. Every building, every parking lot, even places like the Tourism Bureau's Welcome Center, which is on the Hurricane Evacuation Route is packed with refugees.

On the positive side:

I watched yesterday as a nearly solid stream of clean-up vehicles headed South down the Interstate. There were long caravans of ten to fifteen burnt orange Asplund trucks (tree removal service folk) at a time headed south, and I saw at least four groups of them. Mixed into the traffic flow was bucket trucks, bulldozers, and every kind of construction vehicle you could imagine.

The governor and rescue personnel called for anyone with a boat to come south and assist--I have never seen more boats on the road at one time, everything from guys with their pirogues (pronouced: PE-row) and airboats up to one ton trucks hauling massive bay boats, all headed southward with a purpose.

The Disaster Relief people have been sending truckloads of goods there, too. I have seen several Red Cross vehicles, Disaster Relief diesel trucks, and medical supply folks headed that way.

Our DOO is a registered nurse with lots of experience in hospital ERs and lots of time served as an EMT and a fireman. He spent most of yesterday and I'm sure will spend most of today pacing the office wanting to go down there, but he cannot leave his job and even if he did, the chances of him getting into the city to help are slim. Plus, right now he can help more by being here to assist our southern offices with their patient load. I cannot imagine the huge number of people who DO have the opportunity to help and have already gone south to do so.

And in the midst of all this outpouring of consideration and love and humanitarian effort, there is still the human element--On the negative side:

I listened yesterday in disgust as an NPR reporter stood in waist-deep water and spoke to people (obviously from the Lower 9th Ward) who were busy looting a grocery store. Most weren't even vaguely apologetic. He reported that the women were carrying out mostly bread and canned goods, while the men were stealing mainly cigarettes and alcohol. I know that if my family were in desperate need and I could not get to a Red Cross station or wait for help from rescue personnel I would turn to looting for food. I would not, however, be stealing televisions, computers, cigarettes or whiskey. I also know that if I lived in a city that's already below sea level, a city that lies directly in a major storm's path, my ass would have FOUND a way to be as far north as I could manage.

I heard first-hand from a cousin of mine who is an RN at Ochsners that the hospital complex, while flooding, has enough fuel, supplies and food to support itself and it's patients for a month. Looters, naturally, have been trying to attack the hospital. While a police officer attempted to subdue a looter in the hospital's lobby, another looter, perhaps his accomplice, perhaps just an opportunist, shot the officer in the head and killed him.

Martial law has been declared in New Orleans as of yesterday.

I don't know what to say at this point. I started three different paragraphs, and cannot seem to finish any of them. I am distraught, fearful, and in a state of anger and disgust at what is happening in the city right now. No the city was not prepared. No there was no way everyone could have gotten out, even if they wanted to. And there really is very little I can do to help, and that bothers me most. None of that makes a hill of beans worth of difference.

On the positive side of things, and it's something that not everyone can say is this - the only friends or relatives I had down there are either safe in Ochsners, part of the National Guard forces working to restore order, or were smart enough to evacuate before the storm hit. I will not gloat but I am glad to say that everyone I care about who live down there are safe. That's far more than many people can say right now.

Aug 30, 2005

Katrina Redux

Like an unwelcome guest who smells of dead fish, Katrina is gone.

Or at least going. She's Tennessee's problem now, which means she's gone. The part that really galls me, however, is that she left us nothing. And I do mean nothing.

Times like this I think someone took a map of the state and a straight-edge and drew a smallish box around the parish, and intoned some mystical language and wrote "It will not rain here ever again" and put it all in their freezer. We've gotten a record low rainfall here, .4" or thereabouts for the month, a hurricaine comes through, and somehow we get mild winds, lots of black promising clouds, and a heavy mist for about ten minutes. It didn't even fall down, it sort of blew around and made the dust a little sticky.

I even provoked every evil nature spirit around by running the Rain Train for a good 6 hours or so this Sunday. My yard is dying in huge brown patches, my 35 year old azaleas were wilting for cripe's sake, and I knew that if I did something like wait for natural rain then I'd have a lovely dirt yard to clean and shape next year. So, out came the sprinkler. "But wait, Irrephant, there's a huge storm in the Gulf headed almost directly towards you! A category five hurricane for heaven's sake!" says they.

"Pfui," says I. "No rain shall fall here."

Unfortunately I was right. The evil spirits that usually hang out around my skull were conspicuously absent, no curse nor hex landed on me, and I was right--no rain fell here.

I spent most of the day yesterday listening to the radio reports from New Orleans, laughing at professional news reporters stumbling over words like Lake Pontchartrain (pronounced 'PANCH-uh-trane') which I guess no one told them is also called Big Lake, and hearing the words 'New Orleans' pronounced just like they look. You see, in the South the proper name for The Big Easy is pronounced as one word - "Nawlins." Hearing these prim and proper NPR and Weather Channel reporters pronounce every single consonant was hilarious, and a bit disturbing. I also got a huge kick out of the reporter who was threatened with a gun by a shopkeeper protecting his place from looters. You see son, this is the South--we don't play around down here. And I guarantee that when the cleanup is underway and the power restored, that is one shopkeeper who will have 0 loss due to theft.

I didn't listen close nor long enough to see if anyone called them 'counties' either.

I did hear that one of the levees failed down around Lower Ward 9, and one of the Industrial Park levees failed, and that the pumps went down for a while, so I'm certain there is water standing in at least some of the streets, but it sounded to me like they got off pretty light, especially considering New Orleans is 4' below seal level in most places. That's what you get for putting a city in a river delta. And now the long slog back starts, the gas prices go even further through the roof since LA is producing 1/4th of the countries refined fuels, steel and grain shipments through Port of New Orleans stop, and everything goes to hell. And we still don't have any rain.

The good news is, thankfully, Meyer The Hatter's shop down on Canal Street didn't flood.

Aug 29, 2005


The hurricane has made it to shore, barely. I don't want to know how bad New Orleans is right now.

I have to say, though, anyone stupid enough to stay there deserves what's coming. I know that's ruthless, but it's not like anyone thinks we're particularly safe from flooding and storms when one in four storms seems to run aground on us, and New Orleans is known for it's above-ground mausoleums because burying people in the ground is useless--the first good rain makes the sealed coffins pop up out of the ground like some ultra-low budget zombie flick. It's not like these people know they're living about five feet BELOW sea level. Even I know that New Orlean's levees* are built to withstand only up to a Category 3 floodrise. It's not like New Orleans is known for something called a "Hurricane Party."

So anyway. I guess I shouldn't be an arse. I know damn well there are people down there who don't have the option to flee, or simply can't. Not everyone owns a car, nor has the money to buy a plane ticket or pay bus fare. No, I feel nothing but pity and sorrow for what those folk are going to have to go home to this evening. No, what has always mildly galled me is the fact that if New Orleans had not been declared a state of disaster and manditorily evacuated there would have been many tens of thousands of people there right now, partying their fool heads off. Pat O's would be mixing Hurricanes with feverish speed and making money hand over fist. Hurricane parties have never made much sense to me, but then again I'm not a confirmed moron.

I can remember the last few storms which have gotten this far inland. Andrew left a fair bit of destruction behind him, and what was the one a few years before that, Iris? Both of them left us without power for a few hours and, like the syster said last night, with a yard full of pecan branches. But then again, pecan branches fall when it's perfectly still outside, so nothing new there.

And the fact that the track placed Katrina moving north northeast didn't stop folks like Wal-Mart and Lowe's making a fortune on bottled water, flashlights, batteries and sandbags. You'd figure people even this far north have figured it out already and stockpiled a few jerry cans for water, some sandbags for putting around doors and at least a box of candles. My parents have kept, from long before I was born, a storm cabinet in the kitchen cabinets. There one could find box matches, candles galore, a pair of big lantern-battery flashlights, and when I was a very little boy there used to be a case of C rations (that'd be Old School MRE's (Meal, Ready To Eat) for the non-military families amongst us.)

I can well remember a handfull of really powerful storms that knocked out trees and power poles when I was a kid, and can remember the little glass bowls coming out, with their red candles. They'd be brought down out of the cabinet almost ceremoniously, placed on the table, and Daddy would be walking around with the flashlight making sure that things were secure. My Mom was and is still an Olympic-class worrier, so she'd be in Full Panic Mode, and of course we kids would have caught it from her by that point, so she'd bring out the massive family Bible, this huge tome covered in white leather, with gold edging on the paper and huge full colour images, and we'd flip through it slowly, looking for favourite passages--Job suffering his torments with aplomb, or Ezekiel seeing the wheel within a wheel, or perhaps that same old-time prophet preaching to the dry bones, and we'd try to read to each other while the wind screamed and roared around the eaves and tore trees to pieces.

And the next morning we'd wake up to find that we were still alive, and intact, and we'd begin the long process of cleaning up. Hang on, New Orleans--it'll be over soon. The worst for you, I fear, is still to come. Next time do us all a favor and try to be a little more prepared?

* For you Northerners and those of you in non-flooding states, a levee is a long pile of dirt. See, 'levee' is the French term for the far less politically correct word 'dyke,' and the Weather Channel folk would have to be constantly embarrassed when talking about the water containment sytem that New Orleans and most of central to south LA uses.

Aug 28, 2005

Drunk Driving And Other Late Night Activities

I can just HEAR the outraged cries now. No, it wasn't me driving drunk, I was stone-cold sober playing chauffer for the wife who has needed to get her drink on for a while, so she did at a rather cut-throat card game at her mother's house. Nuff said on THAT subject. *lol*

When I was in college, I knew the town across the river like the back of my hand. I seemed to know all the little back roads and the ins and outs and every little cut-across and alleyway. There were a lot of mornings when I drove home well after midnight, and I can recall one particular morning when I came home around 4 am. Those days, fortuntately, are long past, but they left their dark fingerprints on my spirit.

There's something I miss a great deal about those early morning drives, though. The quiet. These two little towns roll up the sidwalks at sundown, and only the hardcore are up late at the bars, but after 2 am on weekends, and after 10pm on weekdays the entire town seems deserted. During those wee hours, the hours when the wolf is at the door and death sniffs around doors on silent wings there is a certain magic about driving.

I have been in big towns like New Orleans and Baton Rouge where the forward motion and the light and noise literally never stop. At 4 am the interstate is still full of cars, there are lights on in every office building and restraunt, and there are people moving on the sidewalks. Like an ant-mound seen macroscopic, there's always someone or something moving. Ceaseless. Makes my skin creep. I still remember the sight of Sonny Crockett tearing down the empty streets of Miami in his gleaming white Testarossa, the yellow-blinking traffic lights his only companion, and the tearing-canvas whine of his motor playing counterpoint to the emptiness, and I remember the day I realised it was only television. I also remember the day I realised that there was a kernel of truth in it, too.

Me, I prefer the quiet town, the houses sitting back off the road with only the dim glow of bedside nightlights through curtained windows or the yellow warmth of landscape lights along a driveway as the only illumination. Secret things, hidden comings and goings happen in the night while we are closed in our little houses. Coming home last night at 1:30am my thoughts were wrapped up in the night, in the warm blanket of dark that had settled over everything. The roads through the towns were quiet but not quite dead, the motels and restraunts still had a few lights on, but it was dwindling fast, and even the dedicated drunks were starting to finally realise that tonight was not going to be Their Night, and were sliding off their barstools toward awaiting cars.

As I got further out into the country Nature strengthened her hold and the world belonged to her again, not us. The constant grey flicker-flash of telephone poles paced my door, and the white slash of their lines stayed just ahead of my headlight beams, until without warning their seamless flow was interrupted by a heart-faced barn owl, content to turn one eye toward the rush of wind below him. I saw the golden gleam of eyes in the ditches watching me, patiently waiting for me to pass so that they could return to their ceaseless game of predator and prey in the rustling fields. If I had opened the windows I'm certain I would have heard, carried on the night winds, the bark of a hunting fox, or the mournful call of night-hunting birds.

It's sad that we have lost touch with the night. The night we think we know is filled with light, held at bay by our street lights and our headlights, but how many of us realise how fast it closes fast behind when we pass. Night rushes to fill every void, and the flick of a switch reopens our eyes to the dark beyond the doorway. There are few left who know what lives in the night, and fewer still who embrace that night. We think of the night as an inconvenience between supper and breakfast and attempt to banish it with incandescence and neon, and travel to and fro certain that we have beaten it. I'm glad we haven't.

Aug 26, 2005

Behold: As A Wild Ass In The Desert Go I Forth To My Work

I was thinking about two divergent things as this evening's post subject, so let's split them and do a bite-size on both of them, shall we?

Behold: As A Wild Ass In The Desert

Anyone remember that line from David Lynch's version of "Dune?" The long one, that never got shown anywhere, ever. I was prompted to leave not one but two comments on SciFiDaily's blog today, in reference to turning books and stories into movies. I've spent a lot of years lamenting the fact that it takes a real genius storyteller, someone who understands both the written word AND the vagarities of the Silver Screen to turn an earth-shattering story into an equally earth-shattering movie. Witness the blood sweat and tears that Peter Jackson ("Blessed is the Jackson and His director's chair. Bless the filming and editing. May his passage cleanse the world. May He keep the script for His people) had to go through to film the Lord of The Rings Trilogy. An incredible feat of filmmaking, three wonderous movies, and he STILL had to go through agonising cuts, edits, and other adaptations of the stories.

I simply don't think it can be done well.

I was thinking of Ray Bradbury as one of those rare few who has, time and again, proved that he can make the move from story to film to radio adaptation to television and back again. There's been "Bradbury Thirteen" on the radio in the 50's, "Ray Bradbury Presents" on the tele, and at least two movies produced from his stories, one of which is abjectly poor, one is not, and no end in sight. At 85 he is one of the very few people alive who carries the title of Grand Master in Sci-Fi circles, and rightly so. His passing will cripple me.

But then, if I'm forced to watch a story-to-movie conversion as horribly done as "I, Robot" again I think it's going to cripple me bad enough that I will stop going to movies all together. There ought to be a law against it. At least there ought to be enough people out there to remind Hollowweird that we demand a higher level. Witness Ben Afflek's "Daredevil."

I rest my case.

On the other subject--

Go I Forth To My Work

I took the liberty this evening of preparing for work tomorrow. Tomorrow, you see, I return to the field to bushhog, and at some point this weekend the yard needs cutting again, in the places where the heat and drought hasn't killed it. And of course since the gas cans are empty up here I knew that the brother will also not have fuel, so I loaded the four cans into Rita, girded my loins at the upcoming fuel-cost rape, and drove into town.

For those of you attentive enough to remember, Rita has no A/C, and the WeatherBug is reporting it at a balmy 89 right now. It's still very hot down here in the Sauth. You wonder why we talk so slow down here? It's because when you talk fast it generates more heat. So digressions aside, I drove down the bayou road toward the nearest gas station, windows all rolled down, driving at that leisurely Grandpa Pace because Rita no longer likes to hurry, and all I could hear was the beautiful, raccuous sirening of the cicadas in the trees.

I wish I could have gotten a good recording of it for you, because if you haven't heard it before there's nothing like it in the world, and if you have, let me just say that the cicadas were in fine voice this evening. Every Single One Of Them. I can hear them inside the house, through brick walls and closed windows and the central air going. Sweet. I tried several times to get good recordings of it with my cellular phone's voice recorder, but I got more static than cicada.

There's something about an insect that spends 17/18ths of it's life underground that really pats my fanny. Always has. Have you ever SEEN a cicada up close? Granted that one's still fresh out of it's shell--they get dark green. Evolution decided that this creature needs to live underground for 17 years eating roots, and then at the very end of it's life instead of having it develop some sort of sonar or ESP to find a mate they have to dig their way out of the ground, find a tree or other handy vertical place, climb up, shed out of their shells like a butterfly (only not as pretty,) dry out, fly off, and sing for a mate.

They look like someone designed them by committee--eyes way out on the very end of triangular heads, bullet-thick bodies, a strange dark green camouflage pattern across their backs and tails, almost pure white on their bellies, and a pair of wings just barely big enough to life the whole package. They fly as gracefully as bricks, and whenever they hit things like branches and leaves and people they give a short shrill whistle to ward off that offending leaf or attacking pine cone, so their flights aren't anything to stay up to watch, much less listen to as they crash from place to place erratically.

But there they are. These inelegant, poorly-designed insects are up there singing their green hearts out, at decible levels that rival that of aircraft, crashing comically from branch to limb, and if they're lucky, mating with the (deaf) love of their short lives, and that's that. They die. The lovely serenade up there tonight will last the summer out, and slowly but surely they'll all be silenced by death, and the birds and ants will clean away the remains.

The females will have spent the very end of their lives perched on branches and limbs, and they will drop their eggs straight into the grass and dirt below, and the newborns will not look up but down. They'll dig straight into the earth where they will spend upwards of 17 years digging around blindly, eating roots and such, growing slowly, and then at some unspoken signal, a point 17 years more or less later, when I'm in my mid 50's if I'm still here, I'll see THEIR brown shells stuck to tree trunks and on flower stalks and sometimes even in my garage or on the porch columns, and I'll be walking through the evening, perhaps smoking my pipe, and they'll be up there singing, playing natural counterpoint to the melody of my thoughts.

Sometimes I wish I could bring myself to believe in some greater power, just so I could thank him or her or it for cicadas, and old trucks, and hot nights.

No Balm In Gilead

I have somehow managed to wile away an entire hour this morning surfing OPB (Other People's Blogs) and not writing for myself, which is contrary to the guidelines set down in my newest self-help book, Fast Eddie's Learn To Write The Easy Way Or Else! If I don't get a post together toot-sweet Eddie is going to send his boys around to break my kneecaps.

I'm writing Eddie, I'm writing! See?

What is it that makes people unhappy? There. Deep thought for the day. I have to wonder just how unbearable the world would be if we had no suffering, no pain, no disease. If people had everything they ever wanted, had no need to work for food or clothing. Everyone would be walking around with their heads in the clouds, thinking deep thoughts, expanding into every sort of subject and idealism, adding immensely to what would have to be an already massive databank of Human Experience.

No, that's bullshit. Sci-Fi writers would love to see it that way, and so would I, but I'm too much a cynic for all that. Bread and circuses, that's what we'd have. Enlightened Self Interest can take a flying leap. I can't name ten people who, if given a break from scrabbling to sustain themselves would suddenly turn their thoughts to those of altruism. Sorry guys, I just know you too well. *lol*

Honestly, though. We've been hardwired from Day 1 (and I'm not talking about Intelligent Design here) to work for what we have, and to climb and struggle and need to climb higher, all the time. It's what's gotten us thus far, and I'm pretty sure it's what's going to end our climb for us. We've got the brainpower and the drive to steadily increase our selves and our abilitites, we've got the need to get It all for ourselves because that insures breeding rights and health, and what do we do with it all? We go after more. When are we going to realise that this sort of desperate desire is, in the long haul, going to destroy us?

I read somewhere that there is a branch of philosophy that teaches the idea that people in a group are better problem solvers and more more intelligent as a group than as individuals. My stars and garters, who lied to this boy? Perhaps I'm too cynical, perhaps I'm too jaded, but people in a group are just a mob: easily led, easily swayed, and with the intelligence of a low-end Addidas running shoe.

Perhaps we NEED a good Ebola outbreak or some sort of custom bio-toxin in the drinking water to weed out about 85% of the population, spread us out some, make some necessary distance between us. And as soon as I write that I realise that the first thing people would do would be to cling together again. We've too much of the herd instinct in us.

So maybe that's why we millions of bloggers do what we do. Perhaps this is another aspect of the herd instinct--the desire to make common inroads to other people, to secure bonds of mutual support and friendship, to increase our sense of self-worth, but instead of using pheremones and touch and spoken sounds we use the throughput of phosphor dot and fiberoptic cabling and networking nodes.

And perhaps I'm just trumpeting out my arse because I didn't have a pre-planned subject to talk about this morning.


Aug 25, 2005

The Irrelepad Is Here!

Yeah I know they're expensive as all get-out, but you KNOW you want one!

DANG but that's a good-looking mousepad!!

Buy The Irrelepad

Jesus saves - and takes half damage!

I know that's completely off topic, but it's still terribly funny, especially if you're an old D&D geek from way back.

Today's topic is: Idiots In The Workplace.

Yesterday something happened that made me embarrassed to be a part of my office. As you might recall, we had a corporate auditor in. We do a great deal of medical billing out of our office, and since the gubberment is very interested in making sure that everyone does things correctly in the Medicare/Medicaid realm, the company likes to send our own auditors around to make sure each office is on track before the state blunders in and finds errors. So, we had a nice young lady in from corporate yesterday, sitting in our conference room buried under a pile of patient charts.

I knew she was coming in, so I had spent the morning prepping myself mentally--be cheerful, be helpful, make a good impression that she could bring back to corporate with her, and stay out of her way otherwise. Easy stuff, done it a thousand times. And most of the day went blisteringly well. Vulgar Wizard is very good at her job, and part of her job is medical billing. The auditor even complimented her on the fact that one of the most twisted jobs of billing she had ever seen (four different disciplines on a single patient, sometimes four visits in a day) was done 100% correctly. We were not surprised. *S*

So. Things went terribly awry, of course. Around 2ish RMB's bull-dyke daughter comes stomping up the front porch, walks into the front door, and without a single word stomps into the copy/fax room where RMB works and closes the door, and voices start up in a tiff.

Uhm...hello, you don't work here. You aren't anybody here. What the fuck are you doing closing doors in our office?

Both VW and I saw it, but what was worse was that the auditor saw it. The boss finally got in there and ended it, but the damage was done. I could just her the auditor now, back at the corporate office, saying things like "Yes, it's a nice place, but they seem to always have some sort of family drama going on." Oh yes, that's the way to win respect and influence with your home office.

So RMB's dyke stomps out, would have slammed the door if it wasn't on a pneumatic closer, and RMB starts walking around like nothing has happened. The auditor asked VW and the boss later if we were having some sort of family problems. I'm glad I wasn't in there, because if I had been I think I might have had to kill the cause.

By everything I hold dear I hate rednecks. I hate people who think that it's acceptable to bring your twisted, incestuous, mouth-breathing, backward-ass hick life into the workplace. I hate shitkickers who think that it's acceptable to walk into an office like you own the place, close the door to an office that we all have to use (the copy machine, the fax machine and the postage machine are all in there) and start fighting with your sub-moronic parent, from whose rotten and syphyllitic womb you sprang, like a maggot from a corpse.

Yeah, that's a bit much. Can't be helped, I wish the entire family of them would wander out into the interstate during a 14 car pileup.

There are times when I could happily line the lot of them up and stone them to death.

I'd pay good money to be allowed to chemically castrate the whole bleeding lot of them.

I wouldn't piss in RMB's mouth if her gums were on fire.

If brainpower were electricity her whole family wired together at the temples might be able to just register on a circuit tester.

She's not worth the powder and shot to blow her to hell.

So why do I get so pissed at the Daily Drama that she incites? I guess because I care about my company and my job too much, and want to see it operate in a timely, effective manner. Call it a character flaw.

Aug 24, 2005

Chewing Tinfoil

This morning I mostly be feelin' like someone set the electroshock machine on "11."

I can't think of the product, but there's a commercial on the idjit box right now about credit, I think, where all the college-age kids talk about how they lost control of their credit, and one pale and sallow youth says something along the lines of "I'm at the mercy of forces beyond my control." I get quite a giggle out of that, then I have to cross myself and rub my lucky rabbit's foot to prevent the evil spirits from noticing me.

Last night Loki paid me a visit, and I don't mean VW's cat. And I was trying to plug Loki Loki Bo-Boki there, found the Long Necked Bo Boki picture, but couldn't figure out the damned HTML to link it. *gritting teeth* It's gonna be one of those days, I can just tell.

Last night my brain decided that sleeping until 4 am was enough rest for one night, and put me through the nightmare wringer. I woke up at 5:30 to the alarm expecting to find a bed full of broken and used horseshoes. And I don't mean the usual sort of nightmare I get, oh no. These had to be sort of college student film collages of images that had no real narration or theme, barely hung together, and covering about a thousand dream subjects at once. I woke up more confused and disoriented than afraid or feeling bad. I think I'd rather wake up screaming than wake up trying to figure out which end was the one I needed to shave.

So here I am, dazed and confused. So confused that I even used a "z." Damn, I'm in a bad way. And of course The Auditors are coming today. I keep thinking of Terry Pratchett when VW mentions them, and I expect to see little empty gray robes floating across the parking lot, and none of them referring to themselves in the personal tense. I know that's a rather esoteric reference, but if you haven't treated yourself to Terry Pratchett then you really ought to. He makes Douglas Adams look like Alan Greenspan.

For those of you who are newsfeeders, I went out and installed FeedBurner last night. And for those of you who found this site this morning by using FeedBurner, welcome! And my apologies if you've read this far, because this post lacks my usual helpings of sparkling wit, steely sarcasm, and my outrageously big butt. It does, however, use the word "esoteric" in a sentence, which is something you don't get a lot of these days.

Aug 23, 2005

Bread and Circuses

Yes, Vulgar Wizard outed me yesterday on her blog. I ate 5 Fire Mountain bread rolls at work.

Actually five and one bite, because like the good old myth of Adam and Eve, it only took one bite to seal the deal. The boss had bought the office staff, just us five, take-out lunches from Fire Mountain, a franchised steak-house down here. BBQ pork, potatoes au gratin, beans, the usual bbq thing. And a roll. One of those heavenly lightly browned golden buttered rolls that they do so well. And bless his dark and twisted soul, he brought us two more carry-out styros of rolls. Just rolls. Two containers of them.

I felt like a crack fiend who had just won the lottery.

And I was being strong, I was. I had told myself to ignore the sounds of the microwave running. Several times. I was doing a pretty good job of ignoring the sweet smell of cooked pork wafting up the hallway toward my desk. I could even tune out the thought that one of the nurses might come in hungry and take one of our lunches, leaving me with naught. I was being strong.

And then VW walked by with a paper-wrapped bundle which she was nibbling on. A roll. One piece of buttered heaven. I was trying to stare fixedly at my computer screen, hoping to avoid catching her eye, because I knew that if she saw the raw, unbridled lust in my eye she'd run screaming. And hopefully drop that roll on my desk when she ran away. But no, she lingered. She smiled. She offered me a bite off the end of that roll. I'm not sure but I think she got quite a laugh out of the rapturous look that I got while chewing.

I thought I was going to be strong. I thought that one bite would hold me, would keep the driving urgency out of my heart. It did, for about five minutes. You see, VW is also quite thoughtful ("See kid, the first one is free. You gotta pay for the next hit,") and meaning only the best, she snuck back to the kitchen, nuked one roll for me, wrapped it, and snuck it onto my desk while I was trying desperately not to leap up and take one whole styro container full for myself.

It was all over.

I made that roll last a good half hour, which made it noon and time for lunch. The sweet buttery fluffy goodness that was the roll in my lunch was, shall we say, "pathetic?" Tiny, undernourished, it lasted two bites. So I had to take out a few more and warm them and leave them in the lid of my lunch container, so that I could bask in their golden light until I tore into them with the ferocity of a confirmed carnivore who has suddenly discovered flour + water + heat + butter = tender white goodness.

"Hallo, my name is Irrelephant, and I'm addicted to Fire Mountain bread rolls."

Aug 22, 2005

On Being A Man

There is a thing in me that longs for "the good old days." By that I mean the days when men were gentlemen and women could let them be such.

I open car doors whenever possible, I hold doorways open for whoever might be in front or behind, and I occasionally even manage to tip my hat. I try (and usually fail mightily) to keep a civil tongue in my head, and I try to be discreet at all times, on all matters.

Again, take this all with the caveat that it's a lot harder to be a gentleman, both in thoughts and deeds than I ever gave it credit for, and the modern times do not help either. It's not epected anymore, you see. I have witnessed major league baseball players stand around on the field during the singing of the national anthem with their ball caps still jauntily on their heads. Men curse, belch, fart, and otherwise debase themselves in front of women, children, and ministers. Common courtesy was left for dead four decades ago. There is a loss of gentility in men these days that utterly saddens me, and if fathers do not teach their sons how to be gentlemen they will grow up to be, at best, ruffians and scoundrels. Or at least, naive, raw little jerks.

I did find something that has helped me in my own quest to be a better man, though. And even though it is against one of the book's teachings (A gentleman never suggests a book to someone else, it's crass) I will suggest that any male readers who happen through should pick up a copy and read it cover to cover. A few times.

It's entitled "The Modern Gentleman: A Guide To Essental Manners, Savy, and Vice," by Messers Mollod and Tesauro, and it is one of the essential pieces of armament in the gentleman's arsenal. I'll say no more.

On Being A Child

It's Ray Bradbury's birthday today. For those of you who haven't caught the references, Mr. Bradbury has to be hands down my favourite author, and that's saying something. If pressed to the choice, Mr. B. would be the top pick every time. His writing style and mannerisms have influenced me in countless ways, including affecting my own writing style, and his voice has lead me on adventures that range through all the genres there are.

It was related somewhere that when he was a young boy, Mr. Bradbury was at a travelling circus in his hometown of Illinois, and he met a Mr. Electro, a circus performer who did tricks with Tesla coils and static electricity. It's said that Mr. Electro touched the young Bradbury on his shoulder with a sparking, static-charged rod and intoned "You will live forever," and apparently some part of the young boy believed him. The young boy that lives in all men has never been silenced by the steady snowfall of his advanced years, and I like to think that some part of that little boy in Mr. Bradbury has kept awake the little boy in me. I have never gotten tired of playing Fort, still have the sense of wonderment of a child when I catch a fish, and can still ooh and aah over bugs, butterflies, and birds.

You see, I quite like that little boy in me. He refuses, Pan-like, to grow up, but without the coarseness that has always offended me in little boys. He is the spirit of wonderment and awe, the child that can gape openly at fireworks displays and still get a heart-swell of emotion when a loud exhaust pipe passes. There are many times, I will openly admit, when my own external cynicism and anger with the status quo silences his voice, or at least over-shouts it, but that little voice keeps on talking, keeps up a valuable, irreplacable narration that keeps my feet wanting to be bare and my eyes to be open to what gems (and frogs and bugs) lie begging to be found.

Aug 21, 2005

Pink Floyd Reunion?

WTF?? Why wasn't I informed of this? Who lost the memo?

4 July, 2005
England's Press speaks up

There were moments of pure history. Pink Floyd took the stage for the first time in 24 years, ending one of rock's most epic feuds as Roger Waters and David Gilmour set aside their differences for Live8.
Sunday Mirror

You gotta love the British Press. Who else could dryly announce that Pink Floyd was playing together again. I don't think the Brits would get worked up if John Lennon dug himself out from his grave, grabbed a guitar, took his place on stage with 'the lads' and belted out Strawberry Fields.

Those grumpy old men of rock'n'roll Pink Floyd got a bit hot and bothered when they bickered among themselves in rehearsals - and fell out with Madonna. The pop queen was more than an hour late for Friday night's dry-run, then proceeded to hog the stage for two hours, forcing everyone else to wait. The rockers were already fuming at Madonna by this point - but tempers reached boiling point when the material girl got her flunky on stage to brush her hair. So it was hardly surprising when Pink Floyd eventually got on stage relations were a bit strained between old enemies Roger Waters and David Gilmour, and they had a few 'difficulties' with the production crew. Must have felt just like old times again.
Sunday Mirror

Ah. So they were upset over a has-been whore/pop diva? I can understand that. And who taught that doofus to assemble sentences?

The momentum had become unstoppable, defined with the historic rapprochement of Pink Floyd. Geldof's pleas to Roger Waters and David Gilmour to put aside their 20-year feud paid off, creating for many what will be the most intriguing act of the day.
The Observer

"Intriguing...." Now there's an understatement.

News Flash! Rolling Stones front-man Mick Jagger announced today to the assembled world press that Keith Richard, the world's oldest man at age 174, had in fact died in 1963 from an overdose of hairspray, and had that very year been replaced as Rolling Stone's guitarist by a series of ever more sophisticated androids. The London Times head reporter, Sir Charles Whyte Witherspoon Chesterfield-Fark was overheard to respond to this earth-shattering announcement by saying "Hmmm...intriguing."

It had taken 24 years and the drive to make poverty history to get them together - but even then there was something missing for Pink Floyd. Roger Waters dedicated Wish You Were Here to Syd Barrett, the Floyd's long lost member. It was a dramatic moment as the most psychedelic band came back from the dead. Floyd have the ability to make your ponder your roll in life. That is exactly what they did last night. They made us consider why Live8 was going ahead. "No More Excuses" the banner above them read.
Sunday Mirror

Bloody hell. I still can't get over the fact that they played without telling me. And they didn't even play anything from Atom Heart Mother. Marmalade, gotta have marmalade.

Pink Floyd fans had their dreams realised last night when the band played together for the first time in 24 years. The members had barely been on speaking terms since the Eighties when bass guitarist Roger Waters fell out with David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Rick Wright. Last night they hugged each other before walking off stage after playing old hits like Money and Wish You Were Here. Gilmour [sic] told the crowd: "It's very emotional to be standing up here for the first time in 24 years .. standing to be counted with the rest of you."
The Mail On Sunday

Gilmour wasn't hugging Waters, I saw clips from the concert--his knee finally gave out, and Waters had to grab him to keep his almost bald ass from falling into the front rows. Waters mumbled "Cor, me back" as Gilmour's full weight became apparent, and some of Water's very white hair fell out onto some of the screaming fans, no doubt to appear later on eBay, along with Rick Wright's false teeth and Nick Mason's prosthetic arms.

Still and all, I would have given my eye teeth to have been there.

Aug 20, 2005

Note to Self

Next time the A/C begins dumping water into the hallway, follow these steps:

  1. Turn off thermostat
  2. Open air return filter grate
  3. Remove filter, set aside
  4. Cut 1/2" PVC pipe (drain trap) at top
  5. Bring outside
  6. Fire water through trap w/garden hose
  7. Reattach 1/2" PVC trap with 25 cent PVC collar
  8. Turn A/C back on
  9. Start enjoying cooled air again
  10. Save self from hot sleepless night and very large weekend time-and-a-half charges from elderly, very nice but very expensive A/C repairman.

There are times when I hate being a handyman too late to do any good.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

It's my favourite line from Shakespeare's Scottish Play. It's the title of my favourite Ray Bradbury book and it's equally good motion picture adaptation. And it's just an all around neat line in it's complete form: "By the pricking of my thumbs/something wicked this way comes."

It's also been used as the name for about a dozen pop songs, as the name of a couple of television show episodes, and even as a Harry Potter song. Much maligned, much abused, but it suits me pretty well as a title right now.

Second Witch

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
Open, locks,
Whoever knocks!



How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags!
What is't you do?


A deed without a name.

In movies, as in any dramatic act or style, it seems that when wickedness or evil is approaching, foul things begin to happen, horrible acts seem to occur. When Dracula is skulking about the boudoir window the buxom maiden begins to have horrible nightmares, and cries are wrenched from her pretty mouth while wolves howl in the dark and, I assume, do horrid wolfen things.. Flies cover the windows and the air gets a horrible chill just before the poltergeist strikes out. The opposing team enters the field when the Saints are ready to play football.

If only real life were like that. It'd be nice to know that when things seem to be going wrong all day, or that you have a sense of forboding hovering all day, you can be certain that things aren't suddenly going to get better. No, you'd know that there's going to be a cusp, a point at which the tension can get no higher, the moment occurs where you face the evil, and then you are past it.

Well Sparky, unfortunately Stephen King didn't write this script. Nobody is writing it but us, and the sets and background character changes occur with fair randomness.

Clinical Manager

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
Open, locks,
Whoever knocks!

Enter Irrelephant


How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags!
What's up?


You are so in for it, jerk.

The day started out heading downhill. I usually get to work at 7:30, since I live four miles away, and do the little morning things that get the office underway, like turn the thermostats back to 73, start a pot of coffee or hot water for tea, and make sure there's toilet paper in the restrooms. I turn the radio on and listen to bits of the news on NPR, get the computer booted up and logged on, and in general just get ready for the day. Alone, or sometimes the elder daughter comes in early, and we get things ready in companionable near-silence.

Not so this Friday. When I went to open the door, it was already unlocked. My first reaction was panic, that someone hadn't bothered to lock up after leaving, because there were no cars in the lot. I walked in and realised that RMB was already inside, doing what there's no telling. There went my quiet morning ritual.

The two clinical nurses both had admits that morning, so they were gone for a few hours, and when one returned she was in an utterly foul mood because she had been forced to do her job that morning. The other had to spend hours in town getting some vehicle work done, so that made his opposite even crankier. As the day wore on RMB schlumped her way around the office with her usual sour expression plastered on her hound dog face, there were raised voices trickling up from the back offices, both the account manager and the account executive were feuding with each other, each in their own indirect way, and the tension was getting so high I felt like I could have reached out and twanged the office like a violin string.

The end finally came, 5 o'clock rolled around, and we all poured out like rats leaving a burning building. I got home expecting to find the comfort and security of my fortress, only to walk up the back hallway and into a huge puddle of water. With a sinking heart I opened the A/C intake vent, and proved what I suspected--the water lines that feed the inside unit were leaking, and there was an inch of water in the A/C chamber which was leaking out from under the walls and into the hallway and the Tiki Bedroom.

It was of course 5, so any call to any repairman was going to be time and a half for emergency calls, but it wasn't something I could just avoid, so I placed a call to the family repairman. Three calls and an hour later he's diagnosed the problem as not being life-threatening nor a frozen-up something or other, and asks if my drip bucket is big enough to last the night, because he's stuck on another job that's going to take several more hours. No choice, done and done. More fresh towels to stem the tide, soaking wet ones in the washer for a good wringing out and dry, and to bed in an increasingly warm house in an atmosphere of anger and snappishness.

So I ask you--where is the climax? The scary music has reached it's crescendo, the evil deeds have all occurred, and...nothing. The repairman is going to be here sometime early this morning, and things will settle back into some sort of normalcy again. I've been drawn and pushed and shoved until the tension is just about enough to make me scream, but there's no sudden release, no explosion in which my secret character strengths can come out and prove the day, no heroic sacrifice at the hands of the villain so that the Pure Light Of Truth and Justice can shine down and destroy It forever. No, nothing of the sort. Talk about your letdowns--it's all going to end with a whimper, not with a bang.

On the other hand, I do have a secret fear that I know when the REAL peak of evil is going to occur--

when we receive the A/C guy's bill.

Aug 18, 2005

I Sing The Body Modified

Tattooing. Piercing. Branding. Surgical implantation. Foot binding, scarification, and neck stretching.

The eye of the pop culture has turned to tattooing in a big way this past year, more so than ever before. There are two reality television shows on currently about tattooing, and numerous speciality shows on different networks that focus on specific modifications--tattooing, branding, or outrageous cosmetic surgeries and implants. Modifying the OEM human body has become all the rage. Or shall I say that it has been all the rage for many more thousands of years than we give it credit for, and the modifications that used to be considered outrageous or offensive are now becoming socially acceptable. What was once the sole territory of the rockstar and the Yakuza sarariman is now as common a ditch water.

I won't try to get deep into this subject simply because I don't feel well-equipped to venture too deeply. I'm familiar with tattooing inside and out, am somewhat versed in simple body piercing, and I am comfortable both talking about and enduring both, but when the modification reaches the point of scarification, tongue splitting, or the surgical insertion of nylon or surgical steel items under the flesh I have to call a halt, because I am not equipped in neither experience nor learning enough to discuss them clearly, and I am not comfortable with either procedure.

And that's what I want to talk about, actually. My discomfort with body modification. Almost sounds like a pun, does it not?

Something struck me while watching a body modification show on National Geographic. Now keep in mind that there have been tribes of native peoples in Africa who have been scarring their faces and bodies for thousands of years as a means of cultural identity. I accept that just as I accept the fact that the art of tattooing, the insertion of pigment in the skin is just as old, and piercing is also. What struck me as odd, and actually struck a pang of revulsion in me was the sight of pale white kids of 19 or 20 having their skin intentionally and extensively scarred. I can view a full suit tattoo as a wonderous act of personal sacrifice and very personal art, and can long for and work toward the same goal myself, but the sight of a multiple pierced nose or ear makes me wonder just why someone would so change their body, and the idea of someone intentionally applying intensely heated steel (1000+ degrees) for the sole purpose of causing disfiguring scars on their skin is utterly alien to me.

I'm such a bipolar sort of guy. Tattooing is not like applying pigment on top of a canvas. It involves the near-surgical implantation of foreign objects (organic or man-made pigments) under the uppermost layer of skin, deep enough that it will remain there while the epidermis sheds with growth but not so deep that it cannot be seen through the epidermal layer. It involves pain, blood, and hours of careful work, not to mention a week or so of fairly regular aftercare. It is body modification in the simplest sense--changing the outward appearance of the human body. And I love it. I accept it as a vital, necessary part of who I am. And I would no more get someone to press a white-hot piece of surgical steel on my skin than I would ask someone to hammer my testicles to a thin film with a 40 pound bag of sand.

So exactly when and where did I draw the line in my head, the one that says on one side "This is cool:" and underneath those words is "tattooing, minor piercing, and wearing my hair long." On the other side of the line is the heading "This is not cool:" and the words "scarification, extensive piercings, surgical implantation and icky things like tongue splitting."

I can look at The Enigma and see beyond the piercings to a guy who has a strange but outrageous sense of humour. Opting for a full body tattoo, he did not take the Western approach and have himself covered in hundreds of small designs. He did not take the Eastern approach and have himself covered in one or two very large designs. No, he took the Enigma approach, and had himself covered in puzzle piece outlines. Then he started having htem coloured in. In blue. Just blue. Last I saw him he was about 80% blued in, and had started venturing into piercing and "modern primative" piercings, as well as minor surgical insertions (a pair of small horns on his forehead.) I look at his wife, Katzen, and find her to be utterly foolish, though she is working along the same lines as he is, only with black tribal tiger stripes and nylon whisker inserts pierced through her cheeks.

I find The Enigma to be startlingly funny. The first time I saw his photo in a tattoo magasine I almost fell out laughing. I thought "What a wonderfully new approach to the full-body tattoo!" And I still think that. Then I can watch a frat boy or girl get their three Greek letters burned into their flesh and think "My stars and garters, what a f**king idiot."

Both are modifying their bodies permanently. Tattoos can be laser removed, scars can be surgically minimised, but both will leave some sort of permanent record, no matter how much work is done to remove them. So why is one disgusting and the other enlightened?

I hate to use the pat answer, but I think it's just taste. Personal esthetics. I view paint on a canvas as art, as desirable and welcome, and to me the body is simply a more challenging canvas. Where cotton material is relatively permanent (as permanent as it can be) the human body is much more transitory, and unlike cotton material changes with each day. Subtly, but it changes, and does so radically over the decades. Cutting and splitting and inserting chunks of nylon and steel under the skin destroy the smooth lines of an already well-designed meat and blood machine, and doing things like splitting a tongue in half down the front is frankly repulsive.

What's funny is that I'm sure that when I get old enough to sit on my front porch in my slippers and wife-beater T-shirt, with my robe pulled close to protect my pride and joy full body tattoo from the damaging rays of the sun, paid for with hundreds of hours under the needles, I will be shouting imprecations at the neighborhood kids with their homemade, genetically altered bodies and wonder just what the hell the world is coming to, when kids have designer brand extra limbs and factory custom internal genitalia and skin that chameleons to match any background, while they will look at the old man with his bilaterally symmetrical, non-modified body and his old skin covered in non-photoreactive, non-holograpic, non-animated pigment and laugh at the old-timer, set in his ways.

We Need A Few Good Men.

Has anyone else ever noticed that the Marine Corps slogan is composed of nothing but monosyllabic words, none longer than four letters?

The Marine Corps: We Need A Few Good Men (Head and Neck Optional)

I guess it's a good thing they didn't have to add something like "Inquire Within" because their recruitment would have dropped off 85% right there. The streets would have been filled with neckless goons stumbling around, vainly searching for some direction, in need of a good round of verbal abuse from a guy in a silly-looking hat and starched boxers.

The Marine Corps: Adapt, Improvise, and Overcome

That's one of theirs too, isn't it? It's what I'm going to have to do as of today, and for the next nine months or so. School starts today, you see, and my duty list has suddenly changed from

  • Wake up
  • Perform The Three S's (s**t, shower, and shave)
  • Dress
  • Blog
  • Eat (optional)
  • Leave For Work

to something more like:

  • Wake up
  • Three S's (s**t, shower, and shave)
  • Dress
  • Blog A Very Little Bit
  • Eat (Hah!)
  • Make Sure Daughter Is Up
  • Feed Daughter
  • Make Sure She's Got Everything Straight For The Day
  • Tell Her To Take Off The Makeup
  • Be Sure She's Out And Waiting For The Bus
  • Leave For Work

The Marine Corps: Blood Makes The Grass Grow

No, that's not going to help, even though it's an age-old Corps anthem. Unless perhaps I set up a claymore mine in the street, angled so that it takes out the radiator of the bus as it drives up, thereby scoring me some time to blog. But then again, I can't set claymore mines every single morning. For one thing, the Roads and Bridges Commission will want to hire me for bridge construction in the state. For that matter, my claymore mines supplier ("This Side Toward Enemy Gun Shop & ATV Repair: Arming The General Population Since Gettysburg") isn't going to be able to keep me in surplus explosives all year long.

The Marine Corps: Know Your Court And It's Facilities

Wrong approach again. That was my college badminton coach. He wasn't only my badminton coach, he was also the Men's Basketball coach, and they won a lot of basketball games, probably because I was too busy playing badminton to be doing real work like basketball. He just taught PE on the side, and since I went to a small Southern Baptist college we didn't have cool things for PE like lacrosse, fencing, or co-ed nude volleyball. What we did have was bowling, jogging, mouth breathing or badminton. I'm a lousy bowler, and had way too many brain cells for mouth breathing (I could find the H&PE building every time) so guess where I ended up? Yep, I was one hell of a badminton player, but Coach Rushing could still plant a high-speed birdie square in my face every time. (Don't EVEN think you're going to get me to use the word "shuttlecock" in the same sentence as "my face.")

So that doesn't help me with the morning timing issues. I know this court pretty damned well, AND it's facilities, unless you're referring to MY facilities, which are getting less and less trustworthy every day. Maybe I could hobble up to school and stage some sort of demonstration as to why school should open an hour or so later, but get out at the same time. I'd certainly have the backing of the kids.

The Marine Corps: Semper Fidelis

Hmmm. Not too much hope there. Nothing I can use to help delay the progress of events. No matter how I look at it, I'm out a quantity of time to sit and write. Being faithful to school? Not a fart's chance in a tornado, Sparky m'boy. I HATED school with a purple passion. When I get letters from my college alumni association I usually wrap fish in them, or wipe my arse with it if they've sent a single page letter. Those cardstock tri-fold brochures are hell on flesh.

The daughter, however, seems to be keeping with her tradition of not being like me at all. She has enjoyed every single year of school, has shown a marked tendency to fit it, a quality of not being picked on (I guess any more than usual for a kid) and a fair aptitude for doing well with only the usual amounts of threatening and cajoling. She smiles a lot, and even gets up in the mornings with a minimum of fuss and grief. All this leads me to believe that my own daughter was somehow swapped in the hospital for someone else's child, and that I need to keep it awfully quiet before someone finds out that the ADD troll they're trying to raise is not a trial from Gawd or one of the Fairie Folk's children but is in fact MY child, and I have theirs.

The Marine Corps: Just Blog At Night Or Something, You Big Mook

Yeah, that's going to have to be it, I think. Nothing else is going to work, unless I really work like a dog to get my words out in half an hour or so, and THAT'S not going to happen, let me guarantee that. Along with "no new taxes."

I hear an alarm clock going off. Time to take off the Blogger Hat and put on the School Age Child's Parent Hat.

Aug 17, 2005

The coast with the most

Forbidding. Dangerous. The coast with the biggest tits in the world.

I was thinking this morning that I have been rather out of it for the past week or so, and it finally struck me why--I'm out of a rut. Unintentionally, but out of a rut nonetheless. If you've read for any time now, you know that I'm quite the routine-oriented person. I like standards of behaviour because they give comfort to the Neanderthal Me that resides in my hindbrain, hunkered over his fire. And I've noticed that the past week has been, not strained but has been off a little bit. I've had that feeling that something is not quite right, that I'm missing a nail in that horseshoe, or that perhaps I've left the iron on.

It occurred to me this morning--I haven't been to Oregon this year.

Long story, which I shall attempt to trim, for those of you not in The Know. As part of my divorce arrangement, my daughter (the biological one) spends summers with her mother in Oregon; Dexter, if you were curious. And as part of the arrangement, I fly up there each summer's end, usually the week or so before school lets in, to fly her back home. And being of the poor variety, we always make pains to turn that ordeal of a trip into a micro-vacation, which means that every effort is made to spend Saturday on the Pacific Coast, from Florence up to Newport or thereabouts. Every moment of that day is spent anticipating the sights or absorbing them, and the trip back is always such a morose one, because I know that I have to bid farewell to my beloved ocean until next year.

Except this year I didn't go back. The daughter spent this summer at home, or more accurately, at her grandmother's home, with occasional walks back here to make sure I hadn't sold her room or gotten rid of her beloved television set. And so the rather expensive trip to Oregon was bypassed.

And it should have happend last weekend, which is why I've been so off. School lets in Thursday, so I should have been flying up last Friday, spending all Saturday traipsing up and down beaches, over rocky outcroppings, peering into tidepools, and otherwise trying to study or otherwise offend any sort of beach life I could manage, and taking dozens and dozens of pictures as I went. And I haven't. The closest I got to studying sea life was pouring fresh water into the outside cat's bowl and having to see what had taken up housekeeping therein.

And so that's why I've been off. Part of me has been packed and ready to begin the ordeal of airplane terminals and transfers, interminable flights with lousy food and poor movies, and one day of rapturous joy, to be followed by more terminals, lost tickets, very expensive airport food and white-knuckled dislike of flying. It's been a lot cheaper this way, and I did have my daughter for the summer, which is unthinkably good, but part of me still wants to be standing up on the tip edge of a huge boulder when the surf comes pounding in.

Even if it does cover me in seawater.

Aug 16, 2005

The Roads Must Roll

But sometimes the posts simply do not.

I know we've talked about this before, but I think it bears repeating, especially because I have nothing else to write on. I know of at least two other serious (read: published) bloggers who have their posts written or at least drafted out a week or more in advance. The posts always seem current and lively, which I'm sure can be done in a matter of minutes by simply going through and editing bits and pieces of syntax, but it seems somehow artificial to me. And I know that's rather silly of me, because any piece of writing has to be able to stand the test of time and still appear fresh and new, but when I serve up this morning plate of goodness, it's FRESH, because when I post it it's at the end of forty-five minutes to an hour of writing, sweating, and bleeding, and is guaranteed not pre-prepared, frozen, nor leftovers from another day.

Casting the brilliant light of my mind back across the weeks and months, it's feeble glow illuminates an article I read a while ago, about the Etiquette of Blogging or something to that effect. The author mentioned something I have read before, that the blogger should phrase their writing so that it appears they are speaking to the reader, rather than 'talking at' them. I think my stream-of-consciousness style of writing has always done that, ever since the first days of my typewriting. I've always been a sort of off-the-cuff type, someone who is ill-suited for a lot of extensive planning and formulation.

And naturally there are times when this gets me in mental trouble, being a ruthless self-examiner. There are times when I wonder what sort of work I could turn out if I were one of those artists or writers who can and will sit and plan and struggle with something for months and years, working and striving and wrestling with a painting or a book or a poem until it's, in my opinion, had all it's life wrung out of it.

I was bad that way in high school. Always top of the class in English, particularly Literature, I found that I genuinely hated the painstaking dismemberment of stories and themes. It seemed that every time we picked up a book it was not to enjoy it as a living, breathing thing unto itself, but because we were going to clumsily pin it's covers to a tray, take the dull scalpels of our minds and render it into it's requisite bits, so we could nearsightedly study it's inner workings, turning it from a butterfly into so much green filth. Then what made it all worse is that they told us to put it back together after it's gruesome vivisection and make it fly again, casting us as junior Doctor Frankensteins high in our watchtowers, desperately listening for a pulse from our creature that will never come.

That sort of behaviour without fail seemed to be very crass to me. If you cannot discern a pattern in a bird's flight does it mean that you can't enjoy seeing it fly? If the ants moving to and fro their mound cannot be enjoyed for it's natural flow then how are you going to enjoy tearing the mound open to see the queen hard at work? Is it impossible for someone to enjoy the end result without knowing that it's all done with stewmeat and puppets, or a clever collection of mirrors and smoke?

I know, it's very rich, this coming from a self-confessed analyser to destruction. Let's face it, I've always been a study in duality, a schism waiting for a place to happen. If nothing else it makes life interesting, if by interesting you mean jagged emotional peaks and valleys. And even that of late is settling down. Granted it has taken almost 40 years for the peaks to have their lofty tops scrubbed off, and for the valleys to be filled with the detritus of years, but happening slowly it is. And talking like Yoda I am.

So what am I getting at? Not much. One of the joys of being me is that I don't have to make sense, and don't have to have a moral lesson or a sensible ending. Heck, I barely manage endings as it is. I actually kind of prefer an ending-less flow from one post to the next, with only minor jumps and jolts if possible, so that we sound as though we are talking to each other down a long room, and only have to wait a bit for the words to carry one to the other.

Aug 15, 2005

Putting "Christ" back into "Sunday Lunch Specials."

I broke one of my cardinal rules--I went and ate at a restraunt in town on Sunday, close to the noon hour.

And I will tell you right now, and most seriously--if you are easily offended, or dislike a frank and angry diatribe against religion and/or hipocrites, stop reading now and come back tomorrow. You have been warned. *S*

You see, we live under the buckle of the Bible Belt down here. In the deep South there's not much to do on the best of days, and ever since they outlawed cock fighting and sleeping with your kinfolk, people hereabouts have been desperate for things to do on Sundays other than beating the wife and working on that old junker washing machine in the front yard. And of course, going to church has become The Big Thing. Well, actually it became the next big thing back when this was a French fur trading camp, but that's neither here nor there.

And nicely enough, Sundays mornings in the area are the best days for driving. The streets are empty until about 9am, which is the big To Church rush hour, then it's dead as the streets of Laredo until just after noon, which is when every church in the state lets out.

So. Let's divide the field up, shall we? On the one hand we have the Baptists, who don't go out to eat after services because services last until well into the afternoon, and after services you darn well better be going back home and working some more, for the glory of Gawd.

The Scientologist Church...well heck, I don't even know if they meet on Sundays, and if they did I'd think that all they do after services is go home and have a handfull of vitamins and chat with their child brides.

The Lutherans stay after services to have a pot-luck dinner every Sunday, where they eat Tuna Hotmelt and lutefisk, so they don't affect the ranks of Sunday diners, either.

The one synagogue around here? I didn't even know we had one until just a few years ago, so I assume the good Jewish folk of the city do things that only good Jewish boys and girls do after their services. What this involves is utterly beyond me, but I'm sure it involves little round hats and full beards.

So now that we've divided the field a little, let's start where I really intend to start--with The Catholics, since I was raised to be one and didn't get over it until I was 18.

If you're Catholic in town, you have three options for Mass--The Cathedral, Our Lady of Prompt Succor, or Saint Rita's. There's more, but they don't count. If you go to The Cathedral, then you're of retirement age. It's a lovely cathedral, smallish as far as those sorts of things go, but nice, and is almost as old as the town, which is saying something. The clientelle go there simply to make sure they aren't dead yet, because if they make it to Sunday Mass they can be snooty and look down at the folks who didn't manage to make it, on account of being dead. For after-mass lunch these octogenerians usually pile into their old school Cadillacs and Lincoln Town Cars and go to the nicer restraunts in town, where they will complain quietly to themselves that food isn't as good as it used to be.

OLPS is the mid-level church, but still attracts it's share. They get the Lincoln Navigators, the H2s, and all the upper middle class, who show up to see and be seen. The Church is big, subdued, and modern as of 30 years ago, which is just how they like it. They've got a Monsignor and everything, and there's vicious infighting from the altar boys on up, almost like a corporation. You see, if you're going to Be Anyone in the Church without becoming a priest you have to start in grade school as an altar boy. From there you work your way up through the ranks of Altar Decorating Committees and Lay Persons until you get to stand beside The Big Man hisself and do things like hold his glasses. After Mass you go to the nicer middle class restraunts in your suit with your loud kids and you whine about how much everything costs while your Hummer sits in the parking lot and siphons gas out of the other car's tanks.

If you're going to St. Rita's then you simply can't afford to eat out anywhere, and go home for baloney sandwiches and lemonade, and NASCAR on the local channel. A life of poverty, chastity, service and humility? That's for the priests, not for the good Catholic folk of this town. They've got to hurry up and get in line at the steak-bar so they can get the best cuts first.

So we've got two-thirds of the Catholics out eating on Sundays, continuing the see-and-be-seen thing. The Catholics are more subdued about the whole shouting across restraunts and shaking hands thing, though. They're not nearly as effusive as:

The Pentecostals. Oh yes, kids, you've got it coming.

There Can Be Only One Pentecostal church in the city. I mean there's more, probably a dozen or so, but they're all brainwashed drones sent out by the one giant one that takes up most of a city block in one of the older, poorer sections of the city. And when I say most of a city block I am completely serious. It takes up Most Of A City Block. They've been steady buying the entire neighborhood, with the intention of driving out all the disreputable folk that clutter up their humility and piety. This church is so big they've got several devotional service areas, a massive bookstore, a theater where they perform The Messiah every year, replete with fireworks and sacrifical lamb slaughters, a DNA laboratory for cloning more Pentagoblins, and a helipad so that the Right Reverend Money Falls Out My Arse can be lowered through the shuttered roof in a blast of light and noise for his grand entrance three times a weekend. There are more beehives and duck's tails on top of heads than you can shake a stick at, and not a speck of makeup nor a high heel to be found.

And of course if you want to hold an impromptu car show on Sundays, all you have to do is walk through the mile long parking lot. Every Corvette, Land Rover and Porsche within 175 miles will be parked there, because if you Have Money you attend this church. When you cross the street the Sheriff's Deputy who is playing crossing guard will happily accept a neatly folded $20, which will earn you protection from pigeons while you're inside pressing the flesh with the other nobs, and keep the riff-raff from touching your new carnuba hand-wax.

And when service is over (and I don't even WANT to know what happens inside that giant white edifice,) you and your wife with her very plain face and her very large ass will waddle out to the car and drive to whatever restraunt you have chosen, and your children will pile into the back of the Tahoe looking like so many little axe murderers and potential hookers. I swear, I have never seen young girls trying so hard to be whores as Pentecostal women. Apparently the rules don't apply to them until they hit 15 or so, but they've hit puberty five years back and are making up for all the days when they'll be wide-assed pasty-faced beehive-wearing prudes.

I guess the joy of being a Pentecostal out of that church is that after services you can go anywhere. You see, the upper-end restraunts in this little town don't have room to fit all of your wide asses in, but it's okay, because there's so stinking many of you that no matter what place you go to eat, there'll be three dozen of you already there, each ready to leap up, shout your name across the whole place, and SPEAK IN A VERY LOUD VOICE TO YOU like they didn't see you just ten minutes ago while you discreetly barked at the cop for letting a pigeon crap on the hood of your new Lotus.

And all of you came to The Oriental Wok yesterday. We beat you in by a few minutes, since we KNEW it'd be full after church let out, but then we found out that the smoking section is closed on Sundays because there's so damned many of you that you take over the entire place. So we sat and watched as you pompadoured husbands and you immensely fat, plain wives and the vacant-eyed boys and and even the slutty daughters paraded into the place, filling it up like soft serve pouring into a paper cup. And we ate our lunch while you all shouted at each other and shook hands and made a big show of seeing each other, and we watched as you did everything but sell your souls to each other over the dinner table. And we watched as you decided whether or not you'd need two chairs to hold up your ass while you ate, one for each cheek, and we watched as your wrinkled-up face and prune-like mouth got more and more sour as you realised that your waitress was not coming back very soon, because she was waiting on a dozen more tables, full of people just like you.

And we finally finished our meal, and I for one took my time over my iced tea, because I knew it would make the scores of you standing in the lobby staring out over our heads, waiting for a table, more and more jealous. Childish I know, but fun. And when we left I reminded myself once again why I spend my Sundays doing housework or cutting the lawn or doing ANYTHING but going to church or to eat.

I'll worship in my own way, thanks.

Aug 13, 2005

Buddha's Breakfast and Furby The Bike

You know, sometimes reality can be far stranger than anything I might be able to cook up from my own stifled, overheated skull.

Attend me:

For thousands of years, people have been spending years and years meditating, seeking inwards, looking into the insides of their own spirits, seeking enlightnment. Even Siddharta Gautama the Buddha had to spend years meditating and needed a baobab tree to gain Enlightenment, so that he could then give to us all the secret. But you see, now that it's the 21st century we no longer need things like suffering and rigorous, self-directed mental training. No, with the modern miracle of vitamins and minerals and stem cell research all we need is a good cereal. In cranberry ginger flavor, no less. Delicious, good for you, AND you gain Enlightenment in each spoonfull! And at $4.49 a box, it's too cheap NOT to bring Enlightenment to the whole family!

But wait, things can get worse, and did:

On the way home I got a distant look at a pack of six sportbikes on the highway. At that distance all I could see was wheels and riders, and all I could hear was that sexy, boiling lead, bubbling sound of custom pipes. Nicely enough, we somehow managed to get back in front of them on the highway, and I got a good look at two stock R1s in blue, no big deal. Following him was a beaten up Suzuki, but the next one to catch my eye was this Kawasaki, sporting that company's newest paint scheme. Available in four new Mossy Oak RealTree patterns on the 2007 ZX-6Rs next year.

There was one bike, however, that caught the attention right off out of the pack because at a distance it was a sort of MexiCali turquoise blue. Now I know for a fact that plain turquoise has never been a factory colour option on a bike, not even on Ducatis, so the assumption was, naturally, that it was a custom job.

Boy was I right. And boy was he wrong.

Yes, that's fur.

Long fur.

Turquoise blue long fur.

I don't think I could possibly ever hate myself that much.

Aug 12, 2005

Falling flat on my trunk

After this morning's loud trumpeting about privacy and not outing myself on the blog, I find I've already done it once, and am about to again.

First time was back when I had the copyright info at the bottom of the page, and my name there. So much for privacy.

Second is today. I brought the digital to work this morning hoping to catch a picture of the twenty or so egrets who have started using our front porch for their cricket-eating grounds, but unfortunately Petron had already arrived to dig holes in the parking lot or something to that effect, so the moment was long lost when I arrived. Unfortunately The Boss (that'd be Vulgar Wizard) saw the camera sitting there, and we were off to the races.

And that's when I got a picture snapped of me, which I promised I'd post when I got home from work.

Promise fulfilled. Enjoy.


100 stone of pure, unbridled yammering idjit. It's Friday morning, and my brain has successfully (and once again) blown out it's pilot light and is refusing to let me light it again, no matter how much I poke and prod with the kitchen matches.

As such, I take no responsibility for what gibberish may come.

I was thinking this morning that 'tis a very good thing I'm not more mentally focused. If I were I think I might long ago have collapsed into a 'staring-into-my-mental-navel' sort of breakdown thing, wherein I had tried to overanalyse my place in the world and instead of being distracted by something like sex or a pretty flower or my bike I would instead continue to focus on the issue until, black hole-like, my mind simply continued to fall into itself until it became a super-dense gravity well, sucking all sentient things into it and perhaps out into a white hole singularity in some other universe.

See, I warned you.

Regal Monkey a few days ago mentioned something to me about blog self-censorship, and it got me to thinking. I've read all the posts and lists on Blog Etiquette and the well-meaning lists of how to make your blog more interesting and how to keep readers from falling asleep or taking their own lives from pure, your-blog-induced desperation, and of course in at least one there came the fact that it can be painful to be a blogger. The reason they suggest that it can be painful is that there are times when you want to open wounds to the general public, with the intent of airing them out, to assist in getting some healing happening. What they didn't seem to mention, or perhaps it was implied, was the idea of self-censorship itself.

I wrote a good half of a post several days ago which never made it to the web. This is unusual in itself because I've always been the sort of pachyderm who, if he is going to write or paint or create or do something I'm going to go ahead with it and be damned until I reach the end. In the almost full year of me blogging here I have never heavily re-written a post, and have always posted what I started writing, until a few days ago.

I'm quite good at watching what I say, you see. I have never outed myself here by name, though I have left behind enough small clues that most anyone could find me with a map and a good forward observer. That is, those of you who don't know me. I have never used personal names that I know of, but most of you know who you are. I will never mention the name of my workplace as long as I'm employed there, because there's just too much chance for someone to think I'm giving out trade secrets.* And I'm cool with that. Self-imposed boundaries are not necessarily a bad thing; good fences make good neighbors, and I'm good at applying and living with those boundaries. But that's just because my super-ego (thank you Dr. Freud) is in high gear most of the time, picking and choosing. And honestly, there was just no way I could have made that post work without really endangering myself or my job, or running the risk of getting myself seriously fired. So, the post sits there, waiting to be edited to death or for me to change jobs.

There ARE times when I want to say things here that I know will cause trouble. Those desires come from the same part of me that wants to set the next-door neighbor's trailer on fire just to see how fast it would go up, and the same bit of me that hopes RMB will fall beneath a beer truck this morning. It's the same screaming monkey bit that we all have, that pure, unhinged animal side that wants us to do EVERYTHING that comes to mind, no matter what the cost. And like 99.9% of us, mine is locked away securely way back in the dark recesses of Irrelephant's Natural History Museum And Dirty Movie Emporium, where it will reside until my super-ego finally slips a chain or I die. And granted that monkey gets it's hand outside the bars once in a while, usually while I'm driving a vehicle in heavy traffic, but he never gets out enough to do any real harm, unless you count the danger he leaves me in when he retreats back to that cage and leaves me to deal with the other guy's screaming monkey, the one who WON'T go back to it's cage.

So, enough deep psychobabble. This isn't a Transcendental Meditation class, nor is it Freudian Psychology 101.

So how many Freudians does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
Two. One to screw it in and one to hold the, the ladder.

How many lesbians does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
Five. One to screw it in and four to discuss the violation of the socket.

How many Surrealists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
Two. One to hold the burning giraffe and one to fill the bathtub with brightly coloured machine parts.

How many drummers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
Two. One to screw it in and one to keep the beat.

How many Buddhist monks does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
Two. One to screw it in and one NOT to screw it in.

How many Palistinians does it take to change a lightbulb?
Two. One to negotiate with the old bulb and one to shoot at it while it's distracted.

How many Bush administration officials does it take to screw in a light bulb?
None. There is nothing wrong with the light bulb; it's condition is improving every day. Any reports of it's lack of incandescence are totally unfounded, and the result of delusional "spin" assaults from the fanatic, elitist, liberal media. That light bulb has served honorably, and anything you say undermines the lighting effect and dims it's ego. Why do you hate freedom?

How many liberals does it take to screw in a light bulb?
None. They can't remove the old one since it's already part of the environment.

How many believable, competent, "just right for the job" presidential candidates does it take to change a lightbulb? It's going to be a dark four years, isn't it?

How many Communists does it take to change a lightbulb?
Three. One to change it and two to hand out leaflets.

How many Chinamen does it take to change a lightbulb?
Thousands, because Confucious say 'many hands make light work.'

How many Maoists does it take to change a light bulb?
One to screw in the bulb and a thousand to chant "Fight Darkness!"

How many Polish people does it take to change a lightbulb?
Just one, but you need 6000 Russian troops just in case he decides to go on strike.

How many Polish-Americans does it take to screw in a light bulb?
One hundred and seventy. One to send the Never Fail Novena to the Cheektowaga Times for publication so St. Jude may grant the lightbulb request, one to say the Last Rites for the old lightbulb, ten volunteer firemen to break into the house and smash the old light bulb to bits, fifty to protest the abortion of the old lightbulb, ten to organize a lawn fete and spaghetti dinner at Our Most Holy Precious Blood of the Seventeen Martyred Saints R.C. Church to raise funds to buy a new light bulb (and the Monsignor a new pair of bowling shoes as a gift on St. Stanislaus Day), twenty from Chiavettas Catering to serve the food, twenty to run the Monte Carlo gambling tent, fifty to run everything else, one to go to Koplinskis' Appliances to buy the light bulb, one to screw it in, five to say the Rosary as the bulb is being screwed in, and the Monsignor to bless it.

* The secret is to bang the rocks TOGETHER, guys.

Aug 11, 2005

The Top 5 Worst Things

To Hear Your Tattoo Artist Say:

5) "I forgot my meds this morning, but I should be fine."
4) "Can we hurry this up? I need to check in with my parole officer."
3) "No, my hands stop shaking when I concentrate."
2) "You spell 'Bob' with two O's, right?"

and the Number 1 Worst Thing For Your Tattoo Artist To Say:

1) "A screaming eagle? I thought you said you wanted a screaming BEAGLE."

And no, this isn't the entire day's post. Read down more.

You want what? How big? WHERE?

In keeping with The Times, both A&E and The Learning Channel have launched Reality TV shows about tattooing. Me, I'm gonna set you straight on them.

If you recall, I think last week or so I posted about Inked, the reality show based around a tattoo company called Hart and Huntington that operates in a casino in Las Vegas. I griped a lot about it's surface gloss, the drama, and the lack of work ethic in anyone but the One-Eyed Tattoo Artist. Well, I finally started watching Miami Ink, to see what the fuss was about. And I've found the obvious winner and the obvious loser.

When the advertisements for both shows were priming the pump, I think they both sort of blurred together in my head. That's how much attention I was paying to them. As far as I could tell, or care, it was one show, it contained about ten artists, a bunch of posing and such, and some smidgen of reality. I was right, and I was wrong.

I started watching Inked first, through their blog "INKEDBlog." And I'll give them this--INKEDBlog is sponsored by A&E, which makes it a wholy-owned advertising subsidary for their television show, but the advertising is very subdued. In the two+ weeks I've read it I've only seen two advertisements. Kudos on that. The rest? Mediocre. Lots of pictures, naturally, and some 'interviews' with prominent artists that sound like they might have been ripped from the pages of Teen Magazine.

"Inked" the television show I am not impressed with. It seems to focus on the drama, the fighting, the hot-headed owners, the spastic apprentice, the ditzy T&A of the receptionist and the angry dominatrix T&A of the owner's wife. There seems to be two serious artists in the entire place, a one-eyed guy and a Man Mountain, both of whom are more concerned with doing art and making a living than jumping up and down for the cameras, so they're boring in terms of television, but accurate in terms of people.

The thing that most lets me down with Inked is that someone seems to have told the producers that they have to show all the freaks, the kooks, the fights and the dramas while downplaying the fact that it's a tattoo shop and people will be getting work done on them. They do show work happening, but usually it's overshadowed by the owner screaming at someone or the receptionist sneaking out for a smoke with the keys still in the cash drawer while the insane drunk guy who just lost all his cash tries bargaining for a free tattoo on the draw of a high card.

Miami Ink, on the other hand, seems to be more of what a reality show should be, to my eyes, which is why it will likely be canceled mid-season. Each episode opens with people off the street who want work, they include the artist's 'interview' process with the prospective client, more often than not the client gives some back-story to the tattoo, we get to watch a good overview of the procedure, and then there is something of a closing interview, a "Well, how was it?" style of chat between the artist and the client. Mixed in, naturally, is in-depth looks at each of the artists and how they interact with each other as well as with the people that come into the shop every day.

The part I most like is that the clients they show are just as often the rather boring people who "want number 14 there on the wall, in red" as well as the rather more interesting people who want the artist to tattoo "a koi on my calf, you decide the rest. I trust you." In the four episodes I've seen thus far, I've watched two mother-and-daughter combos, a macho steel-worker who wanted a memorium to his cat, and a rather strange woman who wanted a pirate ship under full sail on her ribcage, as well as the boxing trainer who is in touch with his inner feelings. And of course there's been the regular people, the ones who want a bird, or a name, or just simple things, but that's the core of a tattoo business, the nickle and dime people. Not everyone has the time and the ready capital, much less the desire for a pair of 3/4 sleeves or a vest.

And the artists themselves seem more normal. For tattoo artists, I mean. The owner, Ari, is a little hot-headed, the apprentice (Yoji?) genuinely workes like a dog, apparently for no pay and a lot of good-natured hazing, and the personalities of the artists seem more genuine, less cardboard-cutout. They argue, they laugh, but mainly they WORK.

The one thing I will point out is this--Inked doesn't mind showing cash change hands, but prices are never really discussed. Miami Ink seems to exist in it's own world where people simply walk in, get tattooed, and waltz out smiling, no money seeming to have changed hands. Neither show is getting to the root of it--tattooing is EXPENSIVE. $100 an hour is not too much to expect from an average artist, usually with something like a $50 shop minimum, even if the artist tattoos one line on you. I think a lot of people might be shocked and dismayed when they walk into their local barrio's tattoo shop and ask the artist for a full sleeve consisting of a three-quarter profile skull-and-crossbones with an eagle and a Tyrannosaurous Rex fighting to the death over the top of it and a blood-dripping curved dagger through the skull and an oriental dragon holding a Pearl of Wisdom shooting flames out of it's mouth and a banner underneath it all that says "Mutha" and find out that the particular piece is gonna cost them $2000 and about 25 hours of their life, they're gonna bleed a lot, and it's going to hurt something fierce for quite a while indeed.

There's TV reality and then there's reality.

Now keep in mind that Inked takes place in Las Vegas, and Miami Ink takes place, naturally, in Florida. I'm perfectly aware that there are climatological differences as well as attitude differences between the two coasts, but I don't know if that can easily encapsulate the two's differences. Anyone willing to put a tattoo shop in a Las Vegas casino is not there to make quality art, they're there to make an Image. I cannot see how a steady stream of drunken, broke patrons from a casino will make an ideal clientelle for a service such as tattooing. The ideal tattoo client is stone-cold sober, has thought about their design for a long time, has several hours of free time, and lots of cash in small, unmarked bills with a marked willingness to spend it freely. I don't think you're gonna see anything but dramaturges in a casino's tattoo parlor.

So that's my take, from a guy who has been on both sides of the tattooist's chair, and has spent time in the apprentice's shoes too. Inked and Miami Ink both come on at the same time, same day, so choose wisely. And Mythbusters comes on at the same time too, but they play repeats elsewhen, so I'm saved THAT painful decision.

peace love and pigment