Jan 31, 2005

I've got to stop

drinking motoroil and vitriol before bedtime, it's starting to have a toll on my mental health.

I have had such a trove (I refuse to call it 'treasure' because I don't) of nightmares the previous nights. Last night's crop involved watching my cat get engulfed by a giant fireball caused by a lightning strike and miraculously not get hurt (this is not the bad part, that's still repressed,) watching my shed catch on fire and not be able to put it out because the garden hose was all kinked up, and taking Carroll Shelby for a ride on a BMW motorcycle so I could bring him to McDonald's to have lunch.

That part wasn't the nightmare part, it was just one of the really freaky parts--I woke up around midnight thirty wondering exactly why I was riding one of the all-time automotive greats on a motorcycle, how I had come about to own a BMW touring bike, and why exactly I would take a very old man with a huge amount of money to a freaking House of Cholesterol. Why didn't we take his car? Why didn't he treat ME somewhere nice? Why was I traveling around with a very old man in a cowboy hat?

And why did that bolt of lightning look like a twenty-foot thick splooge of cake frosting, and why didn't it burn my retinas out when I watched it?

Brain says strange things now.

Jan 29, 2005

Sky Captain

Oh yeah, I've got your future right here.

Watched Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow last night, and I think I just heard my wife go to somethingawful.com or somewhere else, because I know she was a little less enthused than I was, tho she bought it for me, so I know there's some glimmer of hope in there. *lol*

And yes, it was everything I had hoped it would be. When I was growing up and discovering the world(s) of science fiction literature, I stumbled onto the Golden Age, back when science fiction writers wrote about things like microwave transmitters and vehicles that went to the moon, and I was enthralled. I could not believe that someone could actually write about something that might come true one day and be at times very accurate. I've talked about things like that before, so I'm not going to beat a dead horse, but that's the joy of science fiction, to me.

The other joy of this Golden Age writing was that it had for the most part a very Utopian view of the future. I know I am painting in rather broad strokes here, but compared to today's crop of dystopian writers the Golden Age was downright sickeningly sweet, but it was sincere: they really meant it.

So that brings us to Sky Captain--I'm not familiar with the director, but his love of the Golden Age shows right thru from the beginning scene to the last frame. There is a film company called "Metropolis," the folks who presented Matthew Broderick in Godzilla, whose video moniker is a city skyline with two zepplins flying around, and a third about to dock. Sky Captain opened with a most beautiful rendition of that--the Hindenburg III, ghosting through a snow-filled sky over glorious Thirty's statuary and architecture, approaching the Empire State building's mooring clamps. What a vision of the future--a place where style and comfort is more important than speed.

And don't start on me about inaccuracies--I know they abounded, but I simply don't care. This is a loving flight of fancy, and as such deserves, like true love, a blind eye. I know full well that a Curtis P-40 Warhawk could not become a submarine, nor could it fly apparently non-stop to Tibet from New York. I know that two people crammed into it's cockpit would have killed each other long before they got across the first state line, and that the radiator-fins-and-ray-guns style of the Thirties could not last, but damned it was beautiful to see. Huge Art-Deco robots (Asimo is cool but has ZERO style points) and flying air bases, you name it, I know it's pure foolishness, but what a grand madness it is.

What really pleased me most was the homages to so many, in so many ways--Golden Age comic book references, images honoring the glory days of flight, visuals that evoked the horrifingly serious/strangely funny Nazi propaganda films of WWII, aircraft battles straight from W. E. John's "Biggles Of The RAF," Edgar Rice Burroughs' dinosaurs and steaming jungles, Godzilla, "The Wizard of Oz" references, Indiana Jones/Allan Quartermain, a line that I took to be a reference to "The Parralax View," and a stalwart hero who was every inch the lantern-jawed Strong American Male, an intrepid heroine who could pass for a starving Veronica Lake, and a fresh-faced sidekick as reeking with Gonna Be President One Day Potential as any Dick Grayson or Jimmy Olsen.

I miss my Hugo Gernsbach future. I miss not being able to buy a ticket on the Graf Zepplin to cross the country in a few days. I miss looking to the skies to see flights of giant robots soaring overhead. I miss when rocket ships were powered more by acres of chrome and huge fins than by liquid fuel. I miss having heroes whose reputations were sterling, and whose motivations were beyond reproach. I miss a future where Evil always lost, Good always triumphed at the last tick of the countdown clock, and the line between the two was as sharp as the razor that Our Hero shaved with.

Jan 27, 2005

Having been a scofflaw

for many years now, and having met motorcycle police officers both socially and not-so-socially, I feel it necessary to post that link.

I worked at the local Honda dealership for years, and in that position I got to meet and talk to not only the local PD's motorcycle Master Officer (a very dour, lanky Irishman) but a lot of the guys who ride for the APD, and it was always an eye-opening experience. Plus, having two friends I went to school with end up not only police officers but motorcycle officers gave me a unique perspective into the world of the bike cop.

It was with great interest I read the article I linked to above, and found out that a lot of what these guys are saying was already told me by my little-town officers, too. It's a hard job, thankless, and as a nice benefit, bike cops KNOW what you're up against as a civillian motorcyclist and take that into account when they catch you splitting lanes, riding on sidewalks, or otherwise being a horse's ass.

*knock wood* I haven't been pulled over for an infraction in years, and sadly enough the last ticket I got was two years ago for speeding in Oregon on vacation, driving a rented Cadillac CTS, so that doesn't count, because my last ticket before that was 1994, and for THAT I am deeply proud of myself, seeing as I used to score about one every six months. I have had more than a few interactions with bike cops, tho, and they've always been understanding and more than willing to talk it out with me and let me go with a warning, I mostly think they do this because they know I'm not a squid nor 18, and that I have a fair respect of traffic and the abounding stupidity of the average motorist.

I have to relate this--one of APD's motorcycle officers whom I went to school with, let's call him "J," always comes in the store for pens, paper pads, all the little things that officers have to supply themselves with. Now, J is a big boy, and when I say "big" I ain't just whistling past the graveyard. J stands about my height, 6'2 or so, but he's about twice as wide, probably pushing 350 or so, and what's so damned sad is that it's not really fat, it's muscle, covered over with the thinnest veneer of fat "to disguise it," he tells me. The APD uniform is dark blue, short sleeved, with those asinine riding boots and cropped pants, so you stuff this giant beefchunk into a uniform, then you cover his bare arms down to his wrists with luridly colourful biomechanical tattoos, pierce his tongue with a railroad spike, shave his head (which is, linebacker-style, all one piece with his neck) and put thick stretchers in his earlobes, and you've got a cop that is one seriously disturbing sight. Funny thing is, he's as gentle as a lamb, but I won't say that in front of him, that's for sure. He'd tear my head off and piss down my neck hole.

So anyhoo, whenever I see him he offers to trade bikes for the day, and I always toss him my keys (he can ride like a demon,) but then he gets that anguished look in his eye and tells me I can't take his bike out, because I'd play with the lights and the siren. So, I was leaving work one Friday afternoon on the bike and J was out front finishing up a traffic ticket. (As an aside, if you don't know the area let me tell you that the intersection in front of my workplace is one of the three most dangerous intersections in the state.) He was leaning on his bike finishing paperwork, so I rode up and we started chatting about this and that, about the astoundingly bad drivers out there (it was 5 pm, so it was particularly bad, and I had no desire to venture out into it) and he was griping about drivers at this particular intersection, where the favourite sport is to see how many cars you can get through on a red light without getting honked at by opposing motorists, when a huge squealing of tires and that horrible dull "crunch" sounded from the intersection.

J. squared his shoulders, hunkered his head down into his chest, grimaced horribly and through clenched teeth said "Tell me they didn't touch" in his best Commanding Cop Voice.

I looked up and said "Sorry man, I can see it from here. They hit."

"TELL ME THEY DIDN'T TOUCH."

*rolling bike backwards gently* "Sorry man, they hit."

"TELL ME..."He opened his eyes, slipped on his silver and orange Oakleys and let loose with the second most impressive torrent of explicatives I have ever heard come from any mouth (the first being my grandfather-in-law, who is one profoundly talented curser.) He cursed long and proudly, and in seven minutes of verbal diatribe he never once repeated himself. After it was all done I humbly prostrated myself in front of his Police Special, and he walked up to the intersection to dispense some more tickets.

Utterly nuts. And I admire them all for it. That includes Darrell, who was leading a funeral procession and got broadsided (and retired on medical disability) by a greyhair who "didn't see him" on his blue and white Kawasaki Police KZ-1100 with flashing blue, red and white lights, and Allen, who once almost caused me to wreck during a very high-speed tour around the traffic circle by blipping his horn and lights at me from way inside the median where I couldn't see him.

Godspeed them all.

Jan 26, 2005

It has come to my attention

that most of my recent posts have been dedicated to cats, and cat lovemaking. This was for a reason: because I have several cats copulating outside my windows 24/7.

But, let's forego that for a few moments. I have been posting a lot about cats. The more observant of you, and perhaps the people who have just found this blog have noticed that I did not post about cats recently, and in keeping with not posting about cats (except for the brief explanatory section above) this post will have nothing to do with cats.

It has everything to do, however, with vacuum cleaners.

My boss is not the sharpest tack in the box. He's one of the better ones, but he's not there yet. He has been complaining about me not keeping the carpet in my department vacuumed regularly, and I tell him (I think this morning was about the three thousandth time to tell him) that I no longer work hours before the store opens, a design intended to help me sell more. I don't vacuum during the middle of the day or for that matter ANY time the store is open because I find it difficult to sell to customers when I have a vacuum cleaner in my hand and cannot hear them ask me questions, cannot hear the intercom page me for phone calls, and in general am cut off from the entire world for about an hour.

So, flying in the face of common sense and what I have been telling him, he decides that the reason I don't vacuum anymore is that the machine I had was too old. I told him several hundred times that it was fine, but he didn't care.

So this morning he invites me into the office with a big shit-eating grin to show me the new vacuum he's purchased for the store. And not just any vacuum, a $99 special at Home Depot that has not one but FOUR machines for the price of one!

So. My initial impression was a pretty good one. Four machines, fair price, and they were all moulded in what could only be described as Candy Apple Red. Plus the vacuum looked like it had been designed by Pinafarina. It could have said "Ferrari" on the nose and not "Dirt Devil" and I would have believe it. It displayed all sorts of sculpted plastic, exposed matte black tubing, and a monstrously big clear acrylic barrel in the front that housed what looked like a warp nacelle, and the back wheels, usually little sickly swivels were these massive fixed monstertruck wheels, made for crashing through cars and mountains of mud. I was used to the old heavy model, the industrial brother, so it was a aurprise when I found that this new model weighed slightly less than many cigars I have smoked.

The stick broom vacuum thing was the same, only thin to the point of being Kate Moss, and more of a Churchill length to the vacuum's Double Corona. The little hand-portable vac looked like the big vacuum had laid it in a nest somewhere, and that if I sat on it long enough it would hatch into a baby Dirt Devil Platinum, all dark red and black plumbing. I never saw the foaming carpet washer thing because by that time I was reeling from the Dirt Devil's design bureau ideas.

Emboldened by the Dirt Devil Platinum's demonic good looks, I plugged it to the extension cord, got to my usual starting point, released the handle lock, and turned the power on.

I think I screamed, but I couldn't hear it over the unearthly howl of the DDP. I'm telling you, this thing was SO LOUD that it made the old loud one sound like a fart in a tornado. It was drawing enough power out of the grid that the metal halide lights overhead dimmed, and I swear I was ready for it to start pulling the concrete slab to pieces and sucking it up into the acrylic hurricane that was inside the front. I made a few experimental passes with it, to see if it was going to start tearing the carpeting up, and realised that it, in fact, WAS. Between the strength of the carpet beater bar and the cyclonic engine it was literally exfoliating industrial carpeting and sucking this thin grey shredded fuzz into the canister. I kid you not. When I was done I dumped what had to be a double-handful of grey nylon froth out of the canister.

As I started across the carpet a strange thing occurred to me--I realised that the vacuum motor was designed to vent out of the front of the vacuum, down low under the canister, and vent it was doing. With a vengeance. This thing was pushing out enough air that it was literally PUSHING dust and debris ahead of it. I found myself for the next hour chasing bits of styrofoam and pieces of paper and dirt across the carpet in little lunges and leaps. I found that if you were fast enough you could out-speed the exhaust winds and catch the little buggers in the intake, but most times it was more like trying to vacuum with a Husqvarna leaf-blower.

Even stranger was the apparent Coriolis Effect produced by this huge exhalation--there seemed to be a sort of secondary vacuum effect just to each side of the front, so that if I saw a piece of offending debris and wanted to vacuum it up I couldn't approach it frontally without blowing it out the front door, I had to sort of vacuum BESIDE it, and the Coriolis force would draw it up to the front and in.

What I want to know is what sort of freaking engineering genius at Dirt Devil decided to put this 150 mph exhaust at the FRONT of the vacuum, and how it got past R&D or, for that matter, Quality Control. Didn't anyone test it out and say to themselves "Hmm...seems to work pretty well off to the sides, and makes a great leaf blower for the yard, but it really stinks as a vacuum." Or were they all saying "Well, I guess someone further up the line wanted it this way, and I'm for sure not going to buck the system."

Makes me want to take up vacuum cleaner design.

I'd like a 40' tall electric stick bug with .50 caliber machine gun emplacements

please, and Super Size the drink.

I find myself let down with the German engineers and scientists of WWII. I really do. I mean, these are the guys who came up with the first jet-propelled production aircraft, the guys who invented bigger and better tanks. It was a German who invented the first gasoline powered car (that'd have been Mr. Benz, thankyoupleasesitdown Henry Ford.) The Germans have ALWAYS been in the forefront of invention and engineering feats and etc.

So my question is this--why didn't they manage to make some sort of giant mutant insect or animal to be used as a superweapon? They invented Long Tom, a cannon that was so big it had to be carried on a specially designed rail car, and which fired a shell the size of three Hermann Goebels stuck together, and could just about fire it into orbit. The next logical step would have been to take a box turtle, make it about fifty feet long and stick a Porsche turret on top. Instant tank.

And us! We always seemed to be right in the forefront with advances in aircraft, ships, you name it, we were always improving it. We had a massive, motivated workforce at home, women leaving their homes to weld and cut and build, and what did we produce? A fifty-foot tall camouflaged preying mantis? No. The P-39 Airacobra. Sheesh, guys, an airplane with tricycle landing gear and a car's door? What about a three hundred foot long REAL cobra, with a hollowed out inside for transportation of a coupla dozen crack troops, and maybe a chain gun mounted on it's head, designed for silent, daring nighttime troop insertions deep into enemy lines?

Or maybe dragonflies like we used to get, with twenty foot wingspans and little canopies over their backs, so you could carry an aviatior (insectivator?) and maybe a reconnisance guy with a camera--perfectly quiet, able to fly in such a random pattern that anti-aircraft guns could NEVER hit it, hovering ability--who needs helicopters? Send in a force of giant dragonflies, snap recon pics, and while you're there you can have them drop tons of bombs that they carried in, carefully cradled in those freakishly long legs.

I can just see it now--two of our boys; young, fresh-faced, one with a control box, the other with his Springfield .308 rifle, and behind them, swaying side to side to imitate a green branch on a bush in the wind, a 50' tall preying mantis, with the star-and-bar painted in discreet colours on each side of it's wingcase, maybe some formation or group numbers stenciled on one leg, "no step" carefully painted on the back of it's head, creeping slowly across the German countryside--a precision team, working their way up on a particularly troublesome heavy machine gun emplacement.

The brave lads hide themselves behind a tussock of grass, watching the mantis creep stealthily up on the position. The five German soldiers, talking quietly to themselves, passing a cigarette, don't notice their 5 stories-tall death stalking them. The young, well-shaven, lantern-jawed American soldier flips a switch on his control box, turning the mantis from "Full" to "Armed," and millions of years of evolution-tuned instinct along with a few years of American know-how kick in, and the mantis gets a steely glint in it's giant compound eyes. Swiveling it's head a few times in that peculiar way mantises do, the immense hook-like front feet retract closed, then widen slightly as the swaying increases. A few more silent steps, and suddenly one of the German soldiers, a really ugly guy covered with scars and missing a bunch of teeth, turns and spots the mantis looming overhead, points in horror and tries to shout to warn his evil cronies, but it's too late--lightning fast reflexes unfold those massive forelegs and before you can say "sourkraut" the soldier is nothing but a pair of muddy boots sticking out of green mandibles. A few swift, deadly moments more, and the world is that much more safe for democracy.

Unfortunately Nature had to go and get in the way. Apparently a bug that big couldn't move for the weight of it's carapace, and after a certain point bones and muscles can't get big enough to hold up the weight of very large animal skeletons, and the energy consumption needs get too high, and so apparently smaller is better.

Pfui!

I still think that a 50' tall preying mantis with a carbon-fibre carapace and eyes that shoot electric beams would be bad ass.

Jan 25, 2005

Well, I tried.

Yesterday morning, freezing to my very core, walking with my daughter to the schoolbus I heard a small noise up in my garage rafters, and no, it wasn't Cindy Lou Who. Peering up into the dark depths of that raftered cathedral, I see four furry little faces staring back down at me. Yup, you got it. None other than The Other Goil, the Dannon Cat, Finnegan, and his arch enemy Greymalkin.

Thinking fast, and with an amateur photographer's reflexes, I whipped out my...*sigh*...camera phone. Handy little thing, the camera phone. About as useful as a cup of gasoline at a bicycle shop. Don't get me wrong, there's times when I like having a camera that readily at hand, but it's just not all that. I snapped (it makes this horrid "snapping" sound" when you capture a picture) four pictures, and that evening when I downloaded them I found that they were all out of focus and jittery, and I assume because the garage was dark and the outside was light it set the aperature too slow, because all the light is BLINDING, so I have four pictures of cats who seem to be bathed in some sort of rapturous lambent holy glow, and I can assure you that the only reason any of them is glowing is because of rapture, but not of the holy persuasion.

Damn my short time at the computer--stayed up last last night watching a suprisingly good "Arthur," the new DVD release of a new take on the very old legend of King Arthur and his knights, which was quite good. Good enough to make me stay up way too late, so now I'm behind schedule on blogging and getting my child on the bus, so I will say adieu for now.

Jan 24, 2005

THIS is what

movies can do when they sincerely try hard.

The minotaurs are INCREDIBLE...just like I have always pictured them, from the first time I ever read Greek mythology, and the cyclops--what a handsome and vile fellow. If nothing else I will own this movie on super extended more extras DVD if ONLY for the creatures.

*standing ovation to WETA*

Sorry

but it's too cold to blog. 28 degrees outside, and even with the heater on 70 in here the chill sort of creeps in. At 28 degrees I find that all the joints in my brain have frozen solid, and only a liberal application of sunshine and warmth will help at this point.

Until it warms, the Weather Elves, damn their little icy hearts, have won.

Jan 23, 2005

The Triumphal Return of

Finnegan!

"Who the hell is Finnegan," I hear you ask? Well, lemme tell ya. Finnegan is our sixth cat, and carries the proud "F" name, sixth leter of the alphabet, but honestly Finnegan belongs, as all tomcats do, to himself. He found us at the old house and stayed around as much as any tom does, eating and being a menace. He has a habit of accepting lovin's for as long as you dare pet him, but the moment you stop and straighten up he likes to leap up and claw and bite the back of your leg to remind you that you're not really done with him yet, are you? That aside he's still a very sweet old cat, or young cat, as the pic I posted there is about a year old, and he's grown much bigger since then. He's followed us up to the new house, and has made a home next door under my Uncle's house.

And then there's the matter of his head. He's got a big head. And I don't mean a big head as in he's egotistical, or like "That cat's got a big head." I mean it like "Holy sweet fiery monkey of Gawd, that cat's head is HUGE!" He's got the tomcat cheeks something fierce, and combined with the standard American domestic cat's roundish face and short muzzle it makes his head almost football shaped.

It's a big head.

My cousin, whose house he used to visit, used to call him "Big Head Cat." It's that big.

Anyhoo, we've been seeing a certain other tom around here the past few days, a tabby who looks about like a cup of Dannon Fruit On The Bottom Apricot yoghurt. He's that sort of candy-floss peach colour, sort of washed out, like he's covered in very bad dandruff, or has just been rolling in the baby powder. Old boy has been circling the house steady for a week or more now, calling and talking, and driving our cats slightly nuts. Well, one of our cats. Delilah. She positively hates him. I don't know if he said something to her one afternoon, or maybe she doesn't like yoghurt, but for whatever reason she really sincerely does not like this tom. She dislikes him enough that one afternoon she ran headlong through the patio screen to chase him down and beat him within an inch of his life. She dislikes him enough that she has thrown herself against the windows trying to end his little peachy life.

The thing was, we could never figure out why he's been hanging around so much, especially in another tom's yard. Well, I found out today. Went out to finish hanging the door on my shop, and saw a very young female, obviously in estrus, doing the 'heat dance' and crying her heart out. Beats me where she came from, I've never seen her before in my life. Then there was ANOTHER strange tom out there beside her, a big solid greymalkin, who I've never seen before, and he had that smug look on his face that says "Oh yeah, this is mine and you can't have any." Equidistant at about six feet out were the Yoghurt Cat and Finnegan, both sitting patiently, saying to themselves "Yeah, but you gotta sleep sometime." So all day, while I have toiled in the suddenly unexplicably freezing weather the cats have roamed all over the two yards, singing and crying and making little Finnegans and Yoghurt Cats and Greymalkins.

The thing that keeps haunting me is that if she's around here in heat, and a stray, she's gonna have the little ones around here, and if they survive kittenhood, guess who is gonna end up owning all those litte G's, H's, I's and J's?

You got it. The sucker.

Jan 22, 2005

Trash Cat

My wife, who is also my blog critic and editor told me that my last post, on "Troy" and Brad Pitt didn't mention Hector at all (he was quite a well-played character) and that I didn't address certain facets of the movie, and that the post was, in general, rather flat.

So in response I present: Trash Cat.

We used to live in a mobile home. That's what you call it when you don't want to say "trailer." It was the first home I ever bought, paid cash in full for it when I was about 21, as I refused to ever pay on something I would never own (an apartment.) So, I had this little '82 model Skyline, about 1100 sq feet, and it was the place where I really learned true home improvement; everything from electrical to carpentry to plumbing, wallpaper, flooring, you name it, I improved it. It NEEDED it. And since I lived there 13 years (in lot #13, no less) when we moved that little 1100 square foot nest was jam-packed wall to wall with stuff. Moving into the new house we gained an additional 2000 or so square feet, and we sort of settled into it in the furntiure version of Brownian Motion--at first we lived in just the den, with everything crammed back there, then slowly we relaxed our clenched hold on space and eventually fit the whole place as we came to an equlibrium point.

The thing is, there was some furniture left here when Mom moved out. Most of it antiques, some of it very useful, and then there was The Dog Couch.

The Dog Couch was a remnant from when Mom kept her two dogs inside, for safety and companionship. Pepper, the half Chow half German Shepherd (sp?) never got on the furniture, he was always content to lie on the floor and cover most of it with Himself. Sugar Baby was the Boxer, and she had to be by Mom constantly. When SB slept, it was on an old hand-me-down couch my Mom had in the den from my brother. Naturally the couch, even though cleaned often and covered with a blanket, attained...uhm...a certain state. Complete, and not broken in anyway, just stained. Permanently. The cushions were terrible, it sat very low, it was old, and it used to be taupe and was now fast approaching a sort of brown dog colour.

We kept the Dog Couch when we moved in, sliding it into the living room and covering it with a big blanket because we already had a very nice couch for the den, needed a living room couch for the tele, and then we quickly learned to hate The Dog Couch with a passion. And thus spurned, we bought a new loveseat and chair set. The Dog Couch had to go.

The evening I brought the new furniture home the wife had already stripped The Dog Couch and pushed it into the den. Naturally the cats were all over it. I stood it on end, dislodged cats, and shoved it thru the door and out into the garage, then shoved it all the way down to the end of the driveway, where it and the cushions stayed overnight. New furniture came in, we had a nice supper, went to bed.

None of us missed Cracker, who is the quiet one.

The next morning at work my wife calls, nearly in tears, telling me she cannot find Cracker-man. I tell her to calm down, remembering the time she panicked and could not find Egan, who was asleep on top of the blankets in the closet, and the day she lost Cracker, who was sleeping under the bed. She calmed, and promised to go searching.

She called back a few minutes later in tears, telling me she had found Cracker. Outside. In the couch. Apparently at some point he or one of the other cats had made a small hole in the material covering the couch frame, and inserted himself for a nap. Being the quiet, noncomittal cat he is, he never made a single noise when we upended his new home, walked it thru the door, dropped it on it's edge outside and then pushed it over about thirty feet of concrete driveway to the road. He never made a sound when I tossed the cushions onto it, nor when I threw the feet out there, nor when I tossed out the box of new furniture packing material. He didn't say anything when I went to work the next morning, and somehow managed to survive the entire ordeal with only a tiny scratch on the bottom of his chin and a very small patch (half the size of a pencil eraser) of hair pulled out from the back of his neck.

And he's not telling us how he did it, either.

J. said she squeezed him tight as she could while she headed back into the house after his rescue, and he never once fidgited, which for him is unthinkable. She further relates that she dropped him on the den floor, the other cats sniffed him, he immediately bypassed the food and water and, tail high in the air, walked onto the back porch to stare out the screens.

Cats. Who wouldda thunk it. I'm just glad no-one came and picked the couch up to take it home with them, because they would have gotten a tousseled white surprise that night. Me, I do a head-count every morning and every evening now.

The Seven Voyages of Brad Pitt

Watched "Troy" last night for the first time, and likely the last. And no, I'm not gonna gripe and whine about it, it was interesting, it was verrry cool to see Peter O'Toole, most of the actors were well suited for the roles, the costumes were nice, the boats were beautiful, and the battle scenes were huge. I even got fairly upset when Ajax was killed. The plot? I don't think they really had room for one. *shrug* It was worth the price of a rental.

What I was getting at is this--the movie "Troy" is Homer's story "The Illiad," ancient tale of love and hubris and pride and honor and the fall of a great city over a silly trick. I read it first as a child in greatly modified form as the Sinbad stories, which I fell in love with. I read everything I could get my hands on of Sinbad, and eventually grew disheartened that there was only a few stories endlessly repeated, but I kept up, reading and rereading his adventures against the dread Cyclops and fighting to get his men-turned-swine back, and being carried away by a giant Roc, and so forth. It was only years and years later that I heard about this Odysseus guy, and why was he having Sinbad's adventures? Didn't Sinbad already do that? Hey, they're stealing Sinbad's stories!

Wot?

Wot's that you say? Sinbad came AFTER? This Odysseus guy's story was written like 3 million years before Sinbad?

Oh.

Colour me foolish. Boy, am I embarrassed. So how does this sort of thing happen in real life? How does someone blatantly steal a story and turn it Arabian, then resell it and make a ton? Copyright laws, public domain, old dead Greek guy, who is to sue? Ah, gotcha.

So anyway, one of my childhood pillars is crushed. Sinbad was a cheap ripoff of Odysseus, and that lead me into Greek mythology, and people like Hercules and Ajax and Zeus appearing as a shower of gold coins or a bull or a swan or...and exactly how is someone impregnated by a shower of coins? Wouldn't that lead more to being pummeled to death than pregnancy? I mean, falling gold coins would HURT. And what self-respecting woman would date a cow?

So my world paradigm shifted yet again, and I ended up reading science-fiction, which made no pretense about stealing from anyone else. It still doesn't explain the two decades I gamed, but that's another post.

Jan 21, 2005

Amok Irrelephant

No, this is not going to be a post telling you it's okay to run amok, and no, you won't be able to to work today and kill every single thing that walks or flies or crawls upon the Earth and tell them that this guy on the internet told you you could. Not gonna go there, get your permission from Homestar Runner or Something Awful or somewhere else, just not here.

Where was I?

I am the Irrelephant, coo-coo-ka-chu.

My dream last night--profoundly strange in a very simple way. I was riding on a schoolbus, buying a chai from the cashier at the back, and my sister was there knitting, and her daughter was with her, reading, tho my child was nowhere to be seen. We were headed toward my home, and I could see the air base in the distance, and they were doing some sort of test launch of what could have been the airplane that Rube Goldberg flew around in--there was a 737 aircraft in front, which was pulling a tractor-trailer rig that had on it's trailer this hugemongous aircraft that had riding on it's back a small airplane. The bad thing is that my mind explained it all to me--

The tractor trailer was there to help the big aircraft up to speed, because the runway was too short for it.

The 737 was there to help pull the tractor trailer rig faster, because it could not get up enough speed to get the big airplane up to speed. (Why they didn't just use RATO or JATO units is beyond me.)

The big airplane was serving the role of a sabot, where it used all it's fuel and effort to lift the little plane high enough that it's engines could burn without being inefficient, and apparently because it was not made for low altitude flight.

The little plane was...hell, my mind never told me.

Anyway, I'm riding along watching this procession, and it starts to take off (the big plane, that is.) I start struggling for a camera, realising how stupid I am--I am witnessing a top secret launch, even tho it's broad daylight and anyone within fifty miles could see the runway and it's gaggle of vehicles. I finally come to my senses and whip out my camera phone (James Kirk eat your heart out) and start trying to snap clear pictures, which is surprisingly difficult, because the 737, the sabot aircraft AND the orbital craft are ALL flying around the skies right outside the window in different directions, and moving so bloody fast that I cannot frame one long enough for the camera in my little phone to click the image, so I get a whole series of half-framed sky and pieces of wing or tail pictures.

Disgusted, I sit down across the aisle from my sister, and she tells me she just bought an "internet camera phone" for $799, and I go completely gaga, because my dream portrays this thing as something like a Nikon 9 megapixel pro model the size of a grain of rice or somesuch, and I wake up with a cat staring intently at me.

What they must think of me. The cats that is, not Nikon or the Air Force.

Jan 20, 2005

There's no one quite as crazy

as your own flesh and blood.

I realised that a very long time ago, but last night it hit me again while I stood in the kitchen and listened to my dear old Mother Irrelephant relate some more of the Family Grievance. She had even brought the giant "Family Grievance" tome, which meant it was pretty serious and needed recording for prosperity.

Keep in mind that dear Mother Irrelephant is also quite off her rocker, but I guess she has good reason--she had to raise both myself and my brother, Placebo. Yes, I know it's a peculiar name, but I had nothing to do with it. I think she was aiming for "Placido" but that was taken.

Mother Irrelephant last night was on about my dear Uncle Preposition, who has, in the past ooh decade or so gone completely off. Poor thing was trying to wrestle a pineapple two falls out of three yesterday, and was losing miserably. She wanted me to call and settle his nerves, because it was me who was unlucky enough to find my elder brother Woodenleg Jones dead, after he tried to devour a pineapple whole, ass first. But, I was too busy with my own personal griefs to be calling anyone yesterday evening, trying to offer fruit-specific therapy.

My great Aunt BienFang #2 was also up in arms about this and that. Seems they've gone and tapped her phones again, and some polite young men in dark, well-pressed suits and shiny shoes came and unplugged all her major appliances and trampled her petunia beds, to boot. She insists it's got something to do with the chemtrails, but I keep insisting to her that if she'd pay her electricity bill with something other than rolls of nickles the local power company would stop sending it's enforcers around.

It being tax season, my Uncle Hildebrandt Von Kierkenwaald the accountant will be busy. Descending into old age gracefully is Von Kerkenwaald, as he insists we call him, doddering into work each day with his abaccus in hand and his battered black Stetson Model 14 fedora pushed back on his head. He's a bit of a stick in the mud, and refuses to admit the existence of gasoline-powered vehicles. He had a permit to take his carriage and horse to work every day, but it was revoked when he got into a road-rage incident with a little blue-haired quadraplegic lady at the grocery store about handicapped parking rights (his horse Beucephalus has a marked tendency to twitch, and Uncle Von Kierkenwaald thinks that entitles him to handispots.) So now he walks the 147 miles to work (one way) every day. He starts out for work the day before, about 2 in the morning, carefully avoiding the hyenas and leopards that prowl the backwoods of Louisiana, and armed only with a stick sharpened and honed in a coal fire and his antique black fedora (circa 1604) he gamely fights and camps his way into work. Poor old guy, I always feel bad seeing him leave, because noone in the family can bring ourselves to tell him that the accounting office he works at has been closed for two decades now.

And there's my cousin Monstrous Outre' Gringo, who rebuilds old clay effigies. Apparently there's quite a market for it, because he stays very busy, pottering around in his little shop, apron covered in clay dust, restoring and rebuilding old statuary. He's a nice guy, but he's a bit clumsy and prone to slipping, so I worry. Him and his dog Greenware hang out in that dusty old shop every day, 7 days a week, 18 or more hours a day, trying to avoid his wife Porcelain and their thirty-two kids, each one named for a great dishmaker. There's so much resentment boiling in him that I just know one day he's gonna snap and kiln someone.

The list goes on an on--my great cousin Buchenwald, who is not so great at all and thinks that he can control the weather by means of his mind and a lot of very expensive electronics, and my cousin Whirling Monkeys who once wore the same dress for three years seven months fourteen days and three and a half hours to beat a Guiness World Record, but then found out that the Guiness World Record involved drinking twelve pints in eight seconds and was held by a rather skillful Irishman named McSweeny who has never worn a dress at all, so all her hopes and dreams were crushed. And my half brother once removed, Ezekiel Saw A Wheel, who wanted so desperately to be an astronaut until he found out that they have to wear catheters in space suits, so he decided instead to be a lion-tamer. All those decades toiling at the Jet Propulsion Laboratories and NASA wasted, and now he never wears his short-sleeved white dress shirt and black tie, and he traded his thick black horn-rimmed glasses in on some contact lenses and he let his crew-cut grow out, but now he has a lovely whip and a chair and a top hat that has "Lion Tamer" on it in huge green day-glow letters. I think I'm probably most jealous of him because of that hat.

So honestly, it simply amazes me sometime that I came out so normal. Really normal.

I have to go feed the kitties now.

Jan 19, 2005

Shroedinger, eat your heart out

My cat Agaku, the crowned Queen of the House has learned to fold space.

I don't know how up on your Dune you are, but if you recall any basic space travel sci-fi, folding space is thus:

-- Physics tells us that the shortest route between two points is a straight line, right? No. The shortest route between two points is to take the two points and push them together until they are side-by-side, then you step across. That's the basics of folding space.

My cat has learned how to fold space.

Not all at once, mind you, it happened over the course of months. There would be days when she would be sound asleep in the clean clothes pile, and someone would open the catfood bag or rustle a Pouch for them, and she'd instantly be in the kitchen, without anyone seeing her traverse the distance. Or the litterbox would frighten her, and in a blink she'd be across the house, running away from her own a**hole as fast as she could.

The thing was, her accuracy was not as good as it is now. She would fold space from one point to another and find herself rather far away from where she intended. I know this because I've lived with her long enough to know the expressions on her little feline face. She would appear, say, on my desktop, and her expression would say "Drat, I was aiming for the spare bedroom" or she would suddenly be on the arm of the couch, with an expression that unmistakably read "This isn't the litterbox. Ah well." With time, however, her aim has become frighteningly sharp. Last month she managed to hit the surface of the bed from any point "A" in the house with a 100% accuracy. This was a nice improvement, because there were several nights where she would be in the den asleep on the billiards table, and I'd set the alarm and turn over to fall asleep only to look up and see a small tabby face staring down with a look of chagrin at me from the top of the bed canopy. But, this week has been her crowning achievement--ultimate fine tuning.

A week ago Tuesday night I had just gotten under the covers, trying to touch as little of the material as I could, because it was about 12 degrees. Without even a "bampf" of displaced air (she's rather too small to displace much of anything) Agaku was suddenly on her accustomed spot, which is to say "on top of my chest in the cat meatloaf position." What makes it worse is her smugness about it. She does it with her eyes closed. What adds insult to injury is that last night she decided that she was SO good at instantaneous selftranslocation that she materialised EXACTLY ONE AND A HALF INCHES ABOVE ME in the meatloaf position, so that she could plomp onto me, hard enough to seriously startle me but softly enough that she didn't have to rearrange her tail or anything.

I realise now that all these weeks and months that I have been bragging on her for being able to stay on the highest part of me at all times in bed was completely off base. I thought she was surfing the covers as I vainly looked for a comfortable spot, but the truth of the matter was that she was utilizing minute fold-space maneouvers to keep herself positioned. Show off.

The thing is, now that I need to find out exactly how she does this, so I can sell the rights to the highest bidder. The trouble is going to come from trying to pry the secrets out of her head. She's a cadgey one, that Agaku. This is the same cat that hid her pregnancy from me for months and smoked cigarettes for several long years before I caught her one afternoon underneath an azalea bush sharing a Camel unfiltered with a pair of roly-polies. She's a tricky girl, and with this new ability she's going to be very hard to capture.



Jan 18, 2005

1:30 am

Last night a sound woke me that I haven't heard in a very long time. The first time I heard it it scared me terribly, and it's always carried with it, for me at least, a deep sense of loneliness, and that sound always jabs me right in my primal memories.

I must have been around 6 or so, way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, asleep in my room with the curtains that scared me and the movies on the televison that scared me and the bullies at school that scared me, and sleep being a frightening time anyway. I woke up in my big, empty room to hear a sharp crying and moaning right outside the big window that overlooks the front yard; a noise that sounded like feral children playing, or something thin and infinitely evil making keening sounds out there, preparatory to insinuating itself through a crack in the wall to drag me away, screaming silently. Overcoming my fear just enough to flee across the hall I woke my parents (which was probably back then a near-nightly experience for them,) telling them tearfully that something incredibly scary was outside my window.

Now ordinarily my mother, being the more forgiving soul, would be the one who would get up, administer whatever was necessary and then stay in the room in a chair until I fell asleep again, but this night my father for some reason was the one who rose. He followed me into the room, listened to this horrible keening, screaming sound, smiled gently, and said "It's a pack of foxes hunting in the field. They're calling to each other." At least that's the wording I think he would have used. It's been far too long for me to rememeber it with any sort of accuracy, but that's how it happened as I remember it now. I do remember him putting me back in my little bed and covering me up, and sitting there in the straight back chair in my room, wrapped in his old brown tattered robe, listening to a sound that to him, a rural boy from Mississippi, who grew up without electricity or indoor plumbing, must have been as natural and comforting as me listening to the hum of an air conditioning unit.

Since then I've only heard that noise a few times, a high keening yiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii sound repeated over and over, layered by many different voices, different tones and lengths, but the same yip and keening yiiiiiiii. I heard it last night, at 1:30. I woke up to one keening in the back yard, and stepping gingerly over the cold floor to the bathroom I heard the rest of the pack. The bathroom is fairly small, and the window placed high, so it seems to make a natural echo chamber, making the sounds outside louder and crisper. I stood there for a few minutes, listening to them course around by the sounds of their voices, high pitched almost-screams, long arching calls and short sharp barks. From the sounds I would tell you there had to have been 20 or more, but I'm sure it was more like four or five, the same four or five whose many-times-great grandparents roamed this same patch of land, hunting frogs and mice, and making more foxes under the moon.

I've only seen them twice since I first heard them, and then it's only been one fox, and a brief stolen glance at that. The first time I saw one I was driving home very late from work, years and years ago, and caught sight of what I thought was a dog in the field to my left. There are always animals roaming at night, cats and dogs, possums, armadillos and deer, and I always try to keep an eye open for them. I saw what I thought was a dirty grey and orange dog, until my eyes adjusted a bit to the huge fluffy tail and the sharp face with it's radar-like ears. As soon as I realised what I was seeing it was gone into the cotton field, swallowed up like a memory of dusk. The second time was almost the same; late night drive home, tired, eye catching a glimpse of what I think at first is a dog, but then my mind reconciles the bright red and white of cartoon foxes with the dusky greys, browns and oranges of the real thing, and the unmistakable tail nails it home in my mind "Hey, it's a fox!" before it leaps and bounds to cover.

My mother told me this morning, when I asked her if she had heard them last night, of the time when we were living here in a small trailer while my father built the house, in 1970-71. She said that her and my father woke up one night to hear them all around the trailer, and the next morning, she related, the dirt where the concrete was due to be poured was filled with fox prints. Kinda makes me feel good, to know that just under my own feet are permanent reminders of the foxes that live out here.

So this morning I listened to them until I got too cold to hang about anymore, and returned to bed. The strange thing was that I couldn't fall back asleep--ordinarily I fall asleep again instantly, but this morning I lingered. I could barely hear their sounds anymore, I'm sure they were moving steadily in search of food, and the high ceilings make a poor resonance, but as I lay there thinking about my childhood lying in a bed panicked, I heard the long, mournful whistle of the train out by the interstate. The house is about 6 miles from the I-49 corridor, and Southern Pacific railroad runs their lines along the same right-of-way, and in the still night you can always hear that long low whistle, quite clearly. I fancied it drowned out the gleeful barking and calling of the foxes with it's long, breathless scream, and the 4:4 beat of steel wheels on steel track echoing underneath that whistle served as a drummer's counterpoint. I lay there and listened to that for a while, wishing the foxes would come back, thinking about how machinery has outdone nature, and yet in some ways has replaced nature with it's own loneliness. There are few things as lonely as a train whistle in the wee dark hours of the morning. I heard the long case clock in the other end of the house bong twice at the turn of the hour, itself a lonely sound in the silence of the house, and the thermostat chose that moment to click loudly in the hallway, and after taking a small break to gather it's breath the heater came on and erradicated all noise but it's own.

Jan 17, 2005

28 Degrees Later

The Weather Elves have suddenly gone terribly, insanely wrong.

Yesterday it was a beautiful 54 degrees or so, just warm enough to wear a t-shirt and jeans and still have just the tiniest bit of a delicious chill. Just cool enough to put a spring in your step. That evening it got cold, but I was still wearing that T-shirt, so it was to be expected. I fall asleep with visions of Frank Black fighting evil in my head, have a few peculiar nightmares that I don't care to relate, and wake up to find that the floor is colder than it has been all winter. Check the WeatherBug, it says "28 degrees." I rub my eyes, thinking I've mis-read, and check it again. "28 degrees." Poked my head out the back door, looked out across the back yard and the field, caught sight of a few cows frozen to the earth and saw the unmistakeable "huddling together to keep from freezing to death" look of some early-rising blue jays, so I took a deep breath and heard the distinctive crackle of my nose hairs freezing, so I know it's 28 degrees all right.

I did it to myself, I guess. Spent a few hours out and about yesterday with the family at the local Cat Fancier's Show, which was surprisingly fun this year, and got the grocery shopping done with my wife, then came home to go back out with my surrogate daughter and cameras galore to take wedding pictures of her in her 45 pound dress. I swear, having helped her around with that thing, I firmly believe that the dress weighs more than she does. I'm going to have to build some kind of rolling armature that she can wear under it so she can have something to fall back into when her poor legs give out from trying to pack that white, pearl-crusted bastard around.

Anyway, the clincher was that I put away my big Swiss Army greatcoat, the wool monster that with the liner buttoned in could block anything short of a .45 round. I looked around yesterday, declared Winter over to myself, and put away my winter coat AND my scarf. That must have been it, the scarf. The coat requires that I wear a minimal of clothing under it, because I tend to sweat profusely or catch on fire if I wear anything heavy with it. My sport coats, on the other hand, are light, and a scarf tossed around my neck not only gives needed wind protection but looks darn dashing, if you ask me, which you didn't, and putting the scarf away was a sure sign that it was soon to be in the low 100's again any day now.

Pfui.

Jan 15, 2005

"Sand Art"

does not even begin to encompass the art and the astounding skill that this man encapsulates.

Make sure your video player is set for full screen, and make sure the volume is on--the music is as good as the video.

Look at my omelets, ye mighty and despair!

My wife and I are deeply embroiled in a fight about how to spell the word "omelet." She's insistent that the spelling I'm using is the "uneducated way" to spell the word. She insists on the old school spelling "omelette," which has that Francophilic way about it. Bosh.

Maybe I need to ask Alton Brown how to spell it.

This is how it happened: this morning, foolishly, I feel like treating the wife to an omelet. I managed to produce one lovely cheddar and ham model which she, lurking about the kitchen, expecting me to burn the place down, declares to be the Evil Three Toos of omlets--too brown, too runny, and too big. So, I accept that lovely model for myself, fill with cheddar and ham, execute a perfect 1/3 flip of the front edge, close it up with a perfect 1/3 flip when I plate it, and set about to produce another for her, with the same fillings, trying to make sure I keep the egg spread out a great deal and with the fire wayyyyy down.

As I'm cooking she grabs the pan out of my hands and begins to swirl the still-liquid egg wayyyyy up on the rim of the pan, spraying yellow all over the stove in a desperate attempt to protect herself from samonella poisoning. After I chided her she relinquished the pan. I filled two-thirds of it with the tiny diced ham and shredded cheddar, and she gives me the Stink Eye, telling me I'm being stingy on the filling, so I upended the cutting board onto the egg. Another beautiful 1/3 flip, since I'm all about the third-fold omelet, instead of the old school half-fold, and it settles down for a few more minutes of warming.

Cheese melted to perfection, I produce yet another stunning third-fold plating, and it turns out even better than the first, with precisely flipped edges, no brown in sight, and a perfectly done interior, no runs, no ick, nothing. She promptly ruins it with a giant application of ketchup.

And yes, I know it's not as beautiful a plating as I could have managed--hell, I could have used PLATES for one thing, and maybe a sprig of parsley and a few orange slices, but hey, at least I cooked them. And they were good, even tho my lovely wife only finished half of hers, and not a samonella poisoning in sight. So, being proud of my culinary creation, I decide to post about it, and suddenly I can't spell to save my life, end up going to dictionary.com to prove my spelling aptitude and the multiple spellings of the woid, and now she's at work so I am free to spell however I care to!

O
Om
Ome
Omel
Omele
Omelet
!

And yes, I'm certain I'll get the Stink Eye when she reads this, but she knows it's all in good fun, because I originally spelled it "omlet."

Jan 14, 2005

The natives are restless

and lame.

I read a Sci-Fi news blog sort of thingie in the mornings, along with a Very few others, and last night a post on the sci-fi one sort of bent me out of shape a bit, so I posted a rejoinder which I thought was intelligent, non-inflammatory, and on point. Apparently the natives hiding in the darks of their mom's basements surfaced from their Mountain Dews and Cheetos bags long enough to give me the verbal barrage that I so richly deserved for daring to disagree with the blog moderator, then they burrowed back down into their online RPGs.

So, for the record, let me say this--

-- Sci-Fi Channel's Battlestar Galactica SUCKS. On ice. It's a poor adaptation of a weak original. MOST of their programming sucks.

-- The internet is a haven for children to hide behind their mother's skirts and snipe.

-- The emperor is wearing no clothes, you'll have to get over me saying it because it's true, and one day you'll see it.

-- Yes, Virginia, we're all allowed our opinions, unfortunately, and even if it's incredibly lame I respect your right to have one, even if you don't know how to properly use it.

On the fun side, last night I dreamed that our local highway out here had all been paved in white industrial tiles, walled-in with huge windows and turned into an airport concourse while at the sametime being a Target superstore, and I had to catch a friend of mine (Levi, for those of you who know him) who was dressed like a clown and who was racing toward the airplane we both had to catch, and the short f**ker was beating me because I had to push a Target cart in front of me, too. All so we could catch a flight to a location that was more or less about 500 yards on the other side of the airport, but could not be reached by regular ground transport for some esoteric reason that only my overheated mind could imagine.

Of all the friends I've lost, I miss my sanity the most.

Jan 13, 2005

InvisoFlish (tm)

My wife, working at a huge retail pet store chain, gets the good discounts, so last night, at my request, she bought me some fish. Invisible ones, it turns out.

I know they were there just yesterday evening, I floated them, carefully matched their water with the aquarium water, then released them, whereupon they immediately dissapeared.*

Granted, 'they' were two plecostomus and four corydorus, all catfishes, all nocturnal, but dang, I was looking for them this afternoon to check on their health, and I cannot find a single one. I know they're in there, the emperor tetras are hiding them in exchange for smokes. They can't fool me, I saw two of them and one of the neons hiding under the artificial stump passing a cigarette between them, and I haven't let them have their smokes ever since The Filter Incident, so it had to come from outside.

Part of the problem might also be this: the big aquarium (125 gal) also got some new members, and while J. was floating the bags Cracker, our otherwise intelligent cat decided that he wanted to leap up onto the glass top to closely inspect the goings-on. He didn't think to ask if the top was still ON the aquarium, so he ended up leaping straight into the aquarium. He was saved from a complete dunking by the wife's fast thinking--she caught him by the scruff of the neck before more than his hindquarters got wet, but he still reacted...shall we say "badly?"

* Yes, I know it's a pair of terrible pics--I didn't have time to clean and pretty them, and I'm notoriously bad about taking good pics of my aquariums. The big aquarium is also in such a bad place (there's a post in the way) that a camera lens cannot get it all straight on, but if you were here in person you could sit on the uncomfortable chairs and look at it all and see more than silvery shapes. Sorry! *wink*

Amo abbas, amo filius

I like sweeping the garage.

Strange, eh? I thought so. My brother saw me out with my push broom, sweating in the summer humidity, oh, must have been the better part of a year ago, and I'm sure I was complaining at least a little bit about blisters and sore muscles, and he suggested that I could borrow his gas-powered leaf blower, or buy one for myself. I scoffed at him and made some joke, I'm sure, about it being my only cardiovascular exercise or something flip like that. Which it is, in a way. Exercise, that is, not flip. Tones my arms and back, and I get a nice golden tan. I know, skin cancer, but hey, no-one is perfect.

It makes me feel close to my father, you see.

My father was a very quiet man, always was. Tactiurn is not the word for it, nor is dour. My father laughed and joked, smiled when he felt it was time, but he never spoke unless words were needed. And he was no stranger to hard labour. He worked in the heat with his muscles until he fell so ill that he couldn't work anymore. I recall him buying a wide green nylon bristled push broom decades ago, when a cousin of mine was still selling things like that. It had an aluminum handle, and two sets of green and black bristles; the outer ones were stiff, the inner soft, to help sweep up everything equally. My father used that broom until the four-inch long bristles were little burnt curls about 3/4 of an inch long and the aluminum was more white than silver. But the garage was always neat and clean, and the driveway was free of pine needles.

He went through quite a few pushbrooms that way, and when he became ill all his tools, extension cords, everything he left in his shop, and yes, his push broom, all sort of...stopped. They stopped, and waited patiently for me to come along and take up his work.

So now I get out the pushbroom when the mood rides me, and I carefully sweep out the garage, moving the cars and my bike and all the bits and pieces that I tell myself I need to clean out. I work carefully, so I can get up in all the corners, and push it all out onto the driveway, stopping to tap the broom sideways on the concrete to knock the odd bits and pieces loose, just like my father used to. Then I make my way up the driveway right down the center, sweeping everything to one side or the other, and then walk down that clean alley and sweep everything to the flowerbeds to each side, and when I'm done, muscles sore and sweat pouring, I feel proud. Not a huge burdening thing, not a 'look at me' pride, just a small quiet pride in a job done well and good, knowing full well that I'll have to do it again in a week or so, and okay with that all the same.

Jan 12, 2005

I don't know if you've noticed, but...

you've got an awfully creepy light on the back of your car.

If you own a Cadillac Sedan DeVille, that is. Those 32 valve Northstar things. With the LED rear lights.

Leave it to me to notice things like this: next time you're in traffic, watch the brake lights of the car in front of you. I mean, I hope you're doing this anyway, but watch them specifically; how they turn on and off. Any incandescent bulb is a filament burning in a vacuum, powered by electricity. There's no oxygen there, so the filament is not consumed but instead glows, making light. The thing is this--when it comes on, there is a definite increase in lumens from the point that it's off to the point that it's burning at it's full wattage, and you can SEE it get lighter, from off to full. The light going off does the same thing, only backwards--very bright through a fast progression to dark, but you can register the luminance changes.

Not so LED lights. These things are so fast that they seem to be travelling...well, at the speed of light. Instantly on, or so fast that the human eye cannot discern a difference in light output. And those things are BRIGHT! I find myself behind Cadillacs a lot around here (it's the Southern Gentleman's car of choice, dontchakno) and the DeVille has the biggest freaking brake lights, like a good square foot per light, and then that devilish Knight Industries Two-Thousand red third-eye light on the trunk lid. And there's no time for your eyes to adjust to their intensity--it's off one second, and then seven bajillionths of a second later (186,000 miles per second, thirty feet distance, you figure it out) it's ON, spearing right through your brain.

Worse? I saw a set of 'em on a pulp-wood truck coming home this afternoon. If you don't live near logging activities, let me tell you all you need to know about logging trucks--brakelights and a functional, considerate driver are luxury accessories that you NEVER see in the woods nor on the highways. So this logging truck had a new trailer, a thing unto itself for rarity, up there with rooster nipples and elderly virgins, and it's got LED taillights. About a thousand of them. Covering every single exposed rear-facing surface of the trailer. Including the mudflaps, which it had four of. And not a single chrome "Haulin' Ass" girl in sight. Every lane change, every time he tapped the air brakes, every time his foot got NEAR that pedal those lights would come on, stabbing through my eyes into my hindbrain, and epillepsy would rear it's ugly head, I would start screaming incoherently and swerving, and another angel got it's wings or whatever happens when a motorist is blinded by your technological advancement.


Wow..two posts in thirty minutes--I'm on fire! Either that or I'm avoiding housework.

Calling Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard...

Posting at 1:12, on 1-12. Nice.

So. The offical word is given, after spending an hour and a half waiting in my doctor's waiting room. Sadly enough, spending an hour and a half in a waiting room chair made my back realllly hurt, so when I went in to see him I could tell him all about it.

The Official Prognosis is that the discs bulging from L2 through S2 is nothing to worry about, as it's minor enough to be nothing. The problem is coming from, as we decided before, the mileage--too many years of lifting and twisting and etc, and most importantly, I've got the first signs of bone degredation that comes from osteoarthrisis. Lucky me.

So, I've been alternating between trying to stay positive and upbeat (no more lifting for me at work, I'm now limited to 30 pounds max press!) and trying to keep from being incredibly depressed (I've seen my future, and it's going to involve a lot of crippling pain.) Should be interesting.

And so.

On the cool side, I'm off today, get to spend the rest of the day doing laundry and cleaning house, and listening to it rain intermittiently. It's now in "omnious dark clouds and wind but no rain" stage, which should, this being Louisiana, become either "light to moderate rain with no wind" or "hurricaine force winds with sunshine." I can't wait.

The power of imagining

Ever since I was a very little kid my imagination has always been very strong, and very out of control. When I was four I would freak myself out so bad I couldn't sleep because I could see in my curtains a subliminal pattern of a ghost pirate and some sort of demon face. Honest stuff. Our bathroom tiles had (and still have, actually) a sort of light paint-spatter pattern. I can see Snoopy's head there, in profile, very small, and I can pick out a British Naval Officer's head there, too.

Yeah, I'm a freak.

I love having a powerful mind, but honestly, after the nights of the past week, I'd almost trade it in on a good used Ford Taurus.

If you understand dreams in any simplicity, you know that it's simply your mind sorting images, categorizing things, putting things away for long term storage, et al. If you've got a certain learnable skill you can even control your dreams to some extent. In my case, my dreams are often simply my mind telling my mind stories. I have lain in that half-awake sort of state we all get to and realised that my mind is simply carrying on the processes that I was using when I first crawled into bed--thinking about the next day's activities, thinking about what happened that day, or the previous week, and the natural flow doesn't stop when I fall asleep, it just loses most of the filters that cut in in daytime.

The past week I have had my deep night sleep riddled with profound nightmares. I cannot bring them to mind, which is odd, because usually I can remember most of my dreams pretty vibrantly, but these have done their very best to evade detection. Last night involved me running from some sort of monstrously huge all-controlling Big Brother that was ME, while having to stay near enough to...I don't know. It struck me upon waking as a sort of "Island of Dr. Moreau" meets "1984" with a dash of "The Eiger Sanction" and every sci-fi flick about a future prison where walking past a line made the collar around your neck explode.

What really gets my water up tho is the fact that I live them so vividly. When I wake up I always feel drained, like I had just finished running those miles and miles through fog and swamp and scum trying to avoid the murderous attentions of that Brobdingian me, that the tree-barked covered belt that could tighten enough to cut me in half at the waist was just now on me, and that my skin should still show the scrapes and blood where it rode, cutting me. Where is the pistol I carefully kept out of the mud and water, and where is the giant glass domes of that evil thing's hiding place.

Thanks, brain, for nothing.

Jan 11, 2005

Sense and Senility

S'truth, I know a hawk from a handsaw, and can tell metric from SAE, but damned, there are times when Mr. Goodwrench has nothing to fear from me.

Case in point--if you've been keeping up with me or this site in general, you know I like old vehicles. So much in fact that I spend a lot of time and money keeping one going, a 1971 GMC Sierra 1500 half-ton pickup. The joy, see, of old vehicles, in my opinion, right, is...wait for it...that they're simple to work on.

See the punchline?

My driver's side turn signal bulb blew out. Last month. No big deal, I've been changing turn signal bulbs since well before I could drive. So, one morning before work, Oxford stripe shirt crisp and clean, fedora on, sport coat buttoned, I drive to AutoZone for a dollar fifty bulb. Before I go in, I decide that prudence is always best, so I tell myself that I ought to go ahead and pull the burnt bulb, so I'll have an idea of what I need inside. I reach under the bumper, find the bulb's socket wiring and body with no problem. Familiar with GM vehicles, I attempt to push in and turn. Nope. Neither left nor right works. It wiggles, but won't come loose. No big deal, I think, it's just old and perhaps some corrosion is holding it in place.

I stand up, brush off, and walk in. Pick out a two-pack of bulbs, counter guy asks what it's for, I tell him, and he tries to correct me, thinking I have clear lenses and need an orange bulb. I tell him better. Head to the truck, attempt a removal again. No luck. Won't push in, won't twist, stubbornly refuses to move.

Headed to work, forgot all about it for a week.

Tried again a week or so ago, as I had to drive home that evening from work in the dark and the rain, and after struggling with it for a few minutes it STILL wouldn't budge. Was dressed for work again, so I skipped it, telling myself that I HAD to get under there ASAP with some WD-40 and get it loose.

Let it slip for another week.

Day before yesterday, got a litte time before work, dressed nice, I grit my teeth and decide it's got to be done NOW. Throw down a blanket on the driveway, grab the WD-40, and climb under. Notice light dust, no corrosion. Feel body of socket, thinking perhaps there's a pair of push-in clips holding it in.

Nope.

Attempt to press socket into lens body to twist.

Nope.

Getting angry, and being able to see that it wiggles, I tug downwards, hoping to loosen whatever is holding it in place.

It pops out.

Apparently old GM vehicles are sooo easy to work on that on the 1971 GMC Sierra 1500 the turn signal socket is held in place with a spikey metal crown that simply shoves into the lens body with a soft click and has just enough curve to it's shape that it holds in place, pointed upwards, so water can't get into the socket or the lens body.

I surrender to simplicity, for simplicity's sake.

4:15 am

is a hard time to be alive.

When I work 5-2 shifts, that's the absolute latest I can wake up and still make it on time. When the alarm goes off at 4:15 am, I have to lie very still in bed for a few minutes to make sure my heart is beating, moving life-giving blood to all my extremities before I try to go getting up. Several months ago I tried just hopping out of bed when the alarm went off at 4:15 am, and was painfully surprised to find that my heart had not actually begun beating yet, and the resultant zero blood pressure to my brain made me hit the ground like a sack of ground beef and jello. It was a good fifteen minutes before my heart could get over the shock and start beating again, I was late for work, covered in colourful bruises, and had to explain that I had, in fact, outrun my own body functions in trying to arise.

If you're worrying from a medical standpoint, don't--during the night my blood manages a sluggish, bayou-like movement through my veins via Brownian Movement, which gives me just enough circulation to keep the vital organs in a barely active state, while giving everything enough down-time to rest and revitalise. Several days of 4:15 am wakeups or one very fast exit from the bed at that time can and has done lasting damage to the system, but these mornings come rare enough that my brain has converted less vital areas of itself to help maintain the parts of my body that have been permanently devitalised by early morning jump starts. Extremely cold mornings, however, induce stupor like you have never seen.

Jan 10, 2005

Ridley Scott on crack

Ever have one of those mornings when you've slept so badly all you want is another 45 minutes of sleep? And the cats decide that right NOW would be a good time to play "Plate Glass And Strobe Light Factory Manned Entirely By Epilleptics." It's bad enough that I spent a third night being beaten down by nightmares, but having the option to sleep that extra 45 minutes destroyed by five very gregarious and hyper cats, that's the icing on the cake.

I know, it's part of the wonderous world of owning cats, and I wouldn't give them up for anything, it was just one of those mornings when all the plants aligned wrong, setting me up for a day-long fall.

My MRI followup appointment is Wednesday, and I have never looked forward to a doctor's visit with such enthusiasm. Not because I find out what's wrong, but because I can sleep in verrrry late.

Jan 8, 2005

And the winner is...

Yesterday, my wife and two of my cats, Egan and Delilah won their Mousing Badges. The apprehension and devouring of small lizards, skinks or flying insects does not apply toward this badge, as each subclass has it's own badge (Capturing Green Scampery Things, Capturing Blue Scampery Things, and Capturing Erratically Flying Things.) The Mousing Badge applies specifically to the capture (devouring optional) of mice and small rodents. My wife and both cats in question are already holders of the three abovementioned badges, my wife having received hers before the age of 5 for her advanced field work with anoles and ladybugs.

**As a brief aside, living in the country as we do, surrounded by very large cultivated fields makes this a prime territory for rodents of all shape and size, and mice and rats have always been a problem. At this point I'm not going to be surprised when I see a kangaroo or a jerboa walk out of one of those fields, or when I find a capybara lurking around my baseboards one day.

I was awake fairly early yesterday morning, and while preparing my breakfast I noticed Delilah spending an inordinate amount of time around the microwave oven. I knew she wasn't trying to earn her Microwaving Breakfast Burritos Badge, because she is ineligible for it (no thumbs) so I knew something was up. Moving the microwave (no mean feat, I had to unearth it first) she immediately pounced and came back up with a grey/brown blob in her mouth, and absconded with it, with Egan in close pursuit. In a few minutes I heard my wife stirring, and realised that they had unwisely released it underneath the bed where she was sleeping.

After a few false starts and one true one (I had to move a framed picture so they could get to it again) the cats cornered it in the master bathroom, and since the missus was getting tired of all the cheering and crashing about and the insistent calls of the papparazzi, she removed said beast to the driveway where she dispassionatly dispatched it with one of my shoes. I willingly forwent the "devouring" stage of the badge in respect to the two cats because it had been removed outside of their domain and in my wife's case because she's a vegan.

So it is with great honor today that I present Egan, Delilah and my wife with their Mousing Badges and certificates, to be displayed with great pomp and circumstance, and whose offices should be exercised as often as possible, because I'm tired of finding small scampery grey things in my house whose sole purpose seems to be leaving small scampery thing poo in my cutlery drawer.

Long Live The Queen.

Jan 7, 2005

Lost

In our little town, we don't have a lot of big buildings. Not truly big ones, at least. Our mall is one story, and rambles along a single crooked line. Our main bank offices are no more than about three stories, and the tallest building in town is an ugly glass spike that, while being about 10 stories tall is, in fact, about 40' square at it's base, so it doesn't really count as being big. Ugly, yes. Empty, yes. Big, no.

One of our two major hospitals, however, is big. And by that I mean BIG. It sprawls. It's got annexes, and multiple entrances, parking structures and physical plants and it's even got outlying sattelites that border on the sports field and residential neighborhoods.

And it's easy to get turned around in.

Yesterday, on an errand of mercy (bringing my always thoughtful mother-in-law some red beans and rice for lunch) the wife and I got turned around a bit. The wife insists she knew exactly where we were all the time, but I know better. I could hear the despair in her voice. We had gotten turned around. I know this was initially brought on by the front door we used, which shouted a welcome at us in an oddly strained prerecorded voice. We got in safely, and I started counting the "No Smoking" signs. Soon thereafter it happened: not only did we get misplaced, we ended up somehow behind the walls. I knew then how a rat feels when it's sneaking around a house through the insulation.

Hospitals, being what they are, are always insanely clean. We ended up in the dirty parts. We kept finding hallways through unmarked doors that were filled with construction scaffolds, lunchboxes, sawhorses, and never a sign of humans. That was the worst part. We walked for city blocks, and never saw another soul. Evidence of people, but no people. We climbed flight after flight of stairs, dark dingy stairs, stairs that would make an OSHA rep cringe and grip his clipboard tighter. We tramped down corridors floored in that horrible 60's orange/brown/taupe colour scheme that you only see on old episodes of The Avengers. We passed offices with strange names like "Pharinoendochrinocardiospecific Analysis" and "Operational and Rhinobombastic Offices, No Entrance before 9pm." And they were always EMPTY!

It was deeply surreal, walking those places. Occasionally we would come out on these long glass corridors that crossed parts of the buildings, but all you could see outside was gravel roofs covered in odd protrusions and antennae, and more buildings. You could stand in one of these corridors and stare back at where you thought you ought to be going, and somehow, headed in that direction, there would be no doors, no more windows, just long angled corridors floored in peeling tiles and that indefinable smell of old cleaning supplies. And the "No Smoking" signs stopped, as though we had suddenly passed into a part of the hospital where smoking was suddenly allowed, where doctors in white lab coats would amble by talking about their latest surgery, puffing on Camels and Lucky Strike unfiltereds.

When we finally delivered our package and were within sight of the parking structure, I passed a friend of mine from college. After the initial hellos and howdjado's I found out that she worked there, so I asked her how she found her way around the place without a Sherpa, a GPS and a forward observer. She laughed and said that often she didn't, that doors would inexplicably become walls and that decor would change from week to week, keeping anyone from using carpet patterns as landmarks. Whole offices would be swallowed up overnight, and reappear floors and blocks away from where they were. When my wife related the tale of a previous trek through the building during which she found the place where they manufacture the nuns my friend started to creep, and then scamper away from us up the seemingly mobile corridor, staring over her shoulder at a blinking red light in the corner of the ceiling. I don't know if I'll be seeing her anytime soon.

I know for a fact that, barring my leg falling off I shan't be setting any part of me back in that building.

Jan 6, 2005

Happy Birthday J. R. R. Tolkien

Somehow I managed to not post this on time three days ago. Ah well, I missed the toast anyway, was too busy helping a four hundred pound woman realise that she could not fit in a student's chair.
***************


Today is J.R.R. Tolkien's 113th birthday. According to its website, the group is planning a global toast in his honor:

"On January 3rd Tolkien fans around the world are invited to raise a glass and toast the birthday of this much loved author at [9:00 pm Greenwich Mean Time (GMT); 3:00 pm CST]. The toast is 'The Professor'."

Tolkien was born January 3, 1892, in Bloemfontein, South Africa, and died on September 2, 1973 at the age of 81. 2005 is the 50th anniversary of the complete publication of Lord of the Rings. The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers were published in 1954, and The Return of the King was published on October 20, 1955.

GSX-R madness

Granted I'm not crazy about Suzuki, and the video clip is in German, but DAMN, I think I'd have to kill someone for pulling this in my house.

All I can think of is the STINK...

Nothing richer

There is no richer source of aggravation and interest to me than people. I used to sit in the Mall and watch them walk by, read them like pamphlets in a busy airport. There always seems to be another story just behind the last one; someone behaving like they need to be put down to protect the neighborhood, or someone acting like the Final Trump is about to sound, or someone performing that single act of kindness that for just a moment redeems the entire sodding horrid lot of us. Me, I've just about given up on expecting much from many. We far too often project our own personalities, our own hopes and expectations on someone else, then expect them to fill the gap between their own life and the shape of our expectation, live up to their potential, whatever term you might care to use, and unfortunately most fall short of what we'd like them to manage. This happens at work a GREAT deal.

'Nuff serious stuff. How 'bout some autobiography?

I develop stories. I can't just be happy with a blurp. When I make a joke, I cannot just drop a few lines and wait for the giggle. I was in the breakroom yesterday with one of the managers and one of the floor guys, and they were talking about strange names they have encountered, and I tossed off the joke that I would like to name my son "Clive." I said something along the lines of it being 'a strong bristling-moustache regimental-jacket braid-and-pips swagger-stick sort of a name' and I tossed off a sharp call to attention and palm-out British military salute, and I swear to you they looked at me like I had just reached down my throat and pulled out my own liver.

I'm glad I didn't use the usual joke I have for name occasions, which is "Garibaldi."

What good is a joke if you don't develop it? Why read the back of a cereal box when you can just as easily have a book? Half the fun I have in telling jokes lies in getting to develop the joke's characters, even if it's only a line extra from the tried and true, or an accent, anything that adds colour and flavor. Bar jokes are especially good for that, if it's the longer variety. It's hard to add anything to a one-liner, but the genie in the bottle or the piano-playing hamster, THOSE are the jokes that live to be developed.

A friend of mine told me that I was liked because I "always take that one step further than necessary," and even tho he was referring to my usual style of going over 'the line' whenever I can I took it as a compliment. I rather like being the one who dares to push a little further.

Roight, wot's all this then?

Jan 5, 2005

Release the Hound!

For the past week there's been so much fog out here I kept thinking I was about to hear a demoniac howling from across the moor...okay, so I don't have a moor out here, but I do have a big field and a bayou, so I kept thinking I was about to hear a demoniac howling from across the bayou. This morning, however, it's clear as a bell. Louisianians always say "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes and it'll change." That's astoundingly true. A week ago there was ice in the ditches. Now, it's the beginning of January and 68 degrees out with a light breeze. The fog is gone, the day seems to be promising some clouds. I guarantee that if I take Miranda (the bike) out today it'll rain buckets, but if I bring Rita (the truck) it'll stay dry as a bone.

The Weather Elves need to get their act together, or stop puffing and passing and get to some real work.

And no, I didn't manage to get up early this morning either, but that was because I went to bed late--got to watching "The Manchurian Candidate" and got all involved in Denzel being all crazy. I guess I owe it to the old masters to watch the original film, or *gasp* read the book first.

Man...there are days when it flows like water, and days when I simply can't put two words together to make a sentence. *lol*

Jan 4, 2005

I gave up

giving up things for Lent about the same time I gave up Christianity. About the same time I decided to go whole hog and give up making resolutions for New Years, because it seemed rather trite to take a chosen point in time, pinpoint it on a calendar and say "THAT'S the day I'll stop..." doing whatever behaviour I dislike, or adding a behaviour that I would like to include. Why that day? Why not start right now, the moment you decide something needs changing?

So, with that in mind--

I've been getting to where I sleep later and later every morning. I used to have a fairly set time to get up, and that was that, and I felt good because I had time in the mornings to do things like eat breakfast, dress without hurrying, and blog. That started slipping in the past few weeks, and culminated this morning when I woke up so tired I simply reset the alarm and that was that. So, no more. Not because it's the new year, but because I feel a need to change that part of my behaviour system.

When my back got bad, I decided I needed to do some lumbar-strengthening exercises. I held off when my back was hurting, because the idea of lying on the floor to exercise and then not being able to arise again afterwards sort of scares me. Now that I've had a week or so (*knock wood*) of pain-minimal mornings, I think 'tis time to start.

What worries me is that these pain-free mornings have come not from exercise or diet, but from the cats.

I have spent the last week of nights with three cats pinning me to the bed, and I'm starting to wonder if this frozen posture and three 140* creatures has anything to do with my sudden health. It would certainly change the face of physical therapy:

"Okay, Mrs. Confluence, if you'll just lie down here and cover yourself with this light sheet, I'll send in my therapists. Messers Fluffy, McCavvity and Rumplesneezer will be working on you for the next hour or so, please pay on your way out."


Jan 3, 2005

Tsunami numbers

I'm not condoning the actions of any government, nor trying to give anyone an excuse, what I am doing is trying to wrap my mind around the idea that the death toll from the tsunami could very reasonably reach two hundred thousand people in the next few days.

How does a puny human, whose usual mode is counting to ten or so encompass the idea that two hundred THOUSAND people aren't here anymore? I hear a lot of complaint that people mourn the loss of a pet more than they do people, and I often want to point out that a lot more people put a lot more love and attention into their family pets, who are with them a vast majority of their time and are totally reliant on them for shelter and sustenance, while even relatives aren't as close as that--they live distantly, perhaps, and certainly in many cases don't rely on us entirely for their lives.

Then you make the count not one or two or ten or even a hundred but two hundred thousand. How man of us can encompass that number as a 'real' number. Can you imagine two hundred thousand apples? We can certainy imagine ten, a dozen, twenty, sure. Multiply that a few times and it's just "a bunch." Human nature, human ability. It's sickening, tragic, but we cannot possibly wrap our minds around that sort of number.

No wonder war is so popular.

Jan 2, 2005

The Book of Irrelephant

This is a favourite topic of mine--the artist as struggler for immortality.

Every basic drive of Mankind's leads back to one thing--living forever. We cannot live forever, this fact has been proven a few times. On a cellular level we want to live for as long as possible, so we strive for longevity. Since we cannot attain longevity past a certain point (about 80 yrs is high average) we sublimate these desires into other outlets: art, literature, murder, children, charitable trusts, the list goes on, but at the base of them all is the desire for immortality, if not in tissue and blood then at least as a name and a function, as an erata in a history somewhere.

I recognise my own mortality, just as I recognise the top of my own hands. I also recognise the outlets I have used or continue to use to achieve my own brand of immortality, fleeting tho it may prove to be:

Making art. I tell people that "my art is the exhaust of a life being lived." I am a creator, so I create. It's what I do. I write (you didn't know that?) and I paint and I work in wood and I garden and I use a camera and I do a thousand and one little things that not only are creative but allow me to be more creative, and hopefully at least a few of these things will outlast me. Oil paint on canvas can survive over a couple of hundred years if care is taken to preserve it. I know of a few of my canvases that have already been lost to fire, to the trash can, and to my own activity, but perhaps a few will live past me.

I wrote on my other website concerning a huge painting that is still in the process of creation. Right now it stands in the garage, all 24 square feet of it, and when we drove up J. told me how much she liked it, how much of me she saw in it. I wrote about the same thing on the site, about how it was old enough that it seems to have become sort of a record of my artistic progressions, how if you were to cut me in half and count my rings you could match those rings to the images on the painting. A record of mortality that I hope lives beyond me, carries my story forward past my death. I'm almost afraid to finish it, for fear of putting the final brush-stroke on and then dying.

Children. I have one beautiful daughter who will carry on the teachings and moralities of my wife and I, and the genetics of myself and her mother. In this way my name will live on a few generations, perhaps a little over a hundred years, as "grandfather" or if I'm lucky, as "great grandfather." I could write all day about her, but this isn't the place nor the time. Suffice to say that our children are our surest paths into the far future, carrying with them our names, our genes, our teaching.

Another? Other people. I touch other people every day, some complete strangers, some intimate friends, through my voice, this blog, my emails and phone calls and day-to-day happenstance meetings.

I record things that are of myself through this blog. I know of at least a few of you who are diehards, who check every day to see what foolishness I am up to. On you I write my stories, my instances and occurances that I am often forgetful of, having written them. When I finish a painting, I usually give it away or sell it immediately--it's a story that's finished, I don't need to keep it here. I have been guilty of forgetting what they look like, because they are already separate from me. The same is true with my stories; I write experiences and jokes and incidents, and often forget them because more rush in to fill their place, but some find their homes elsewhere, and are related in my name, or my memory. That, too, is my immortality.

When I go to Oregon in the summer to bring my daughter home for the school year, I make certain to go to the Pacific coast. There is an entire story there, for later. But, while I am there, every year now I have written in the sand some message, some word or sentence that needs saying. I write in the sand with one of the myriad round black stones that litter the ground, and sooner or later the tide comes in high enough and that message is washed away. I like to think that the message I wrote there lies in the breast of the ocean, and with every beat of the waves is repeated into the ether, to live forever. That is an immortality, tho perhaps not as obvious a one as the others.

This blog is like that sand writing. I know it's not permanent, it cannot be more permanent than magnetic encoding on a storage device somewhere in a computer, and with one sweep of the magnetic tide it will be gone, but bits of it, if not whole chunks of it might remain with one or more of you, and as long as you live I will live. Some small part of you is the book of me; you carry a passage of my life, or two, or many passages, and in you I live on.

The best part of that is that it's a two-way street. I carry you with me, bits of you, memories and pieces and scents and sounds and letters, and as long as I live you have a sort of limited immortality. I am a walking library of people; lives as books long and short, books finished and books still being written to this moment. And so long as I live, you will live in me, and as far as I can push the library of us ahead of me I will. That is my promise to you.

Jan 1, 2005

Git 'er dun

I updated this post a few hours after I wrote it, so if you're keeping up with me pretty fast, read it again--bonus silliness!

Yup, this is Louisiana proud. What you are seeing is an admittedly poor picture taken via my phone's camera, snapped (or rather 'captured') this New Year's Eve about three miles from my house. Leaving the house to go to a friend's party, we see a massive fire around the bayou. At first we thought it was just a big bonfire, but as I watched it I realised it was a house burning--the body of the flames were almost square, and the flames reached much higher than anything I had ever seen before. The worst part was that it lit the bottoms of the clouds up, so there was an eerie orange glow around it all. There is almost nothing but empty dry fields filled with old dry cotton and soybean stalks between us and there, as well as some very big and very pretty houses belonging to childhood friends over there, so fearing the worst we drove over there as fast as possible, to make sure it was contained or being attended to.

Arriving, we found a surprising lack of fire trucks or emergency vehicles, even though the fire was in full blaze. There were, however, dozens of cars as well as two of those huge inflatable jumpers in the front yard, an Alexandria police cruiser, and some tee-total f**king idiot who decided that this year it wouldn't be enough to pile some old pallets or maybe a dead tree up for a bonfire. This year he decided to burn:

His barn.

His entire BARN was ablaze, and when I say "ablaze" let me tell you here and now that the picture I snapped did it NO justice. Standing a good 100' from it, you can see the fence between his yard and the street where we parked, you could FEEL the heat, and the flames were licking as tall as the pecan trees it was dangerously close to. Look carefully at the picture; on the left you can see some sort of little dry fruit tree or something with branches right up against the flames. The fire was so bright you could see it for MILES, and up close it out-shone the car's headlights, and flickered horrible lights in the dark. I could just make out against that horrible dark orange-red light a long series of black lines, which I finally realised were the planks making up the side of the building. You could just make out, between the flashes and flickers and the horrible roaring the black skeleton of the building's frame turning to ash.

Fire is such an underrated thing--we don't have fires like the ones that occurred a hundred or more years ago, when fire stations were a few voluneers and two horses with a one hundred gallon tank on a wagon, or a bunch of neighbors, a water well and a bucket brigade, when the risk of fire wasn't just to one house but to the entire town. I think at times that we're rather too jejune about it, not too worried, and fire on the television is never a desperate horrible devouring thing. I've caught my yard on fire several times in the past few decades, entirely by accident, and have once almost caught a neighbor's cotton field filled with ripe unpicked tinder-dry cotton afire, and each time it was a blood-curdling primal fear that instantly unrolled in my guts--the fear that this licking orange thing that gives us pleasant warmth in the fireplace could, with a good gust of wind and a run of dry grass turn into a massive, out of control killing thing. Seeing that building burn--"burn" is such an empty word for it--it was CONSUMED by fire, and the fire was a roaring Thing that was looking for any opportunity to get free and run wild across the fields and houses nearby--it made me cringe deep inside my guts to see it, that primate that hunches in the back of my skull screamed and beat his fists on his prison walls, while the rational parts of me tried to imagine the heights of folly and foolishness that some backwater shit-kicking toothless mouth-breathing Confederate-flag-flying redneck thought would be a good New Year's trick to pull for his friends.

Their neighbors seemed pretty pleased, too, standing in their yards staring with (I can only assume) hatred and horror at their neighbor's blind, cruel stupidity. I think that if the backwater shit-kicking toothless mouth-breathing Confederate-flag-flying redneck that lives next door had pulled a boner like that he would have spent his New Year's Eve in a jail cell medical ward, after his outraged Machivellian pacifist primate next door beat the ever-loving trash out of him with his own skull.