Dec 30, 2007

The Sunday Vagapocalypse

You know, I don't know if I'm even allowed to use that title, since it's been blatantly stolen from The Soup, but The People (that's you!) have Spoken, and by a margin of 2 votes "The Sunday Vagapocalypse" it is! That is until E!'s producers call me up and issue me with a cease and desist, at which time we'll host another poll. *G*


Be sure and join Vulgar Wizard and my august self this New Year's Day, Tuesday the 1st at 10am CST for the inaugural broadcast! Looking forward to hearing from you, and Happy Gnu Year to each and all!

Dec 23, 2007

Rankin & Bass Present: Irrelephant - An Xmas Story

If you're of a certain age you grew up with Rankin & Bass movies.

They're called "classics" now, and they're usually sold on the checkout counter of most retailers priced at a tasty $5.95 or so. And not to put too fine a point on it, compared to modern TV specials they're crappy. Face it, the animation was atrocious, a sort of creepy stop animation that makes Ray Harryhausen spin in his grave. But kids didn't care. We were after the story, not the production quality.

I remember the first time I saw The Little Drummer Boy. It was right before Christmas time because the tree was up in the den, a massive seven-foot tall tree that my brother and I were finally old enough to help assemble. A few presents were already under it, gifts from friends and family; Santa hadn't made his run just yet. The coloured lights were all strung up through it, the bulbs blinking through the branches making the den (with the overhead lights turned off) a whole different world, an ever-changing red and green and blue place.

I don't recall how old I was at the time, but I wasn't too old. I had just learned what a wonderful thing scale models were, those plastic jigsaw puzzles that came in boxes, some assembly required. At the time I had graduated (barely) to liquid cement glue but I was still wondering why the models I finished invariably looked nothing like the photos on the boxes, but I knew I could get there some day.

At some point earlier in the year my parents had bought me a scale model of a Klingon cruiser from the original Star Trek. I remember the smooth plastic, molded in a dove grey, and how the chrome parts gleamed against that pale colour. The flat deck at the front with it's sort of bulging top and it's round bottom always reminded me, oddly enough, of a dog wearing a sort of tophat, the thin stem leading back to the wide wing-shaped body seemed graceful and powerful. I loved that ship, loved to see it materialise in front of the Enterprise because I knew it foretold a mighty battle.

I must have been young because I fit pretty comfortably under the tree lying down. I had room to sail and swoop that Klingon cruiser back and forth, fighting imaginary space battles under the spreading green branches, and that was what I was doing that night. Sailing through the limitless expanse of space, coloured all sorts of strange, alien colours, commanding my ship. Doing battle with enemies in my own head. I was often lost in the worlds in my head; as a kid I wasn't good at making friends, and school was a frightening and alien place, so I hid in my own head most of the time. I was angry and didn't know it. I was having a hard time adjusting to the larger world around me, and as I was afraid to ask questions or speak up I found myself angry at it, hating it.

The TV that sat in our den was an old Zenith console model. It's case was solid wood, it's remote control had five buttons and was just a little bit smaller than a telephone receiver. It was a massive, brooding thing, it's several hundred pounds resting on casters that seemed barely able to help it's bulk roll around. A solid, dark wooden cabinet surrounded the screen, with wood and cloth-covered faux curtains hiding the speakers. I could just see it from my outer space battleground under the tree, and I was watching it with half an eye when The Little Drummer Boy came on one of the three channels we could pick up.

I remember being drawn into it as inexorably as Captain Kirk and his brave crew drew me into their world. This world, of sand and dancing animals and scary, commanding adults was different, though. It was more familiar, and the aliens all wore people's faces and clothes. I knew how the boy felt, too; angry, alone, scared and unsure. I didn't know who Jose' Ferer was but I knew that voice--an adult's voice, frightening, commanding, wanting to use the little drummer for his own sinister purposes.

When the boy's camel was taken from him I felt his pain, his frustration at being unable to do anything at all about it. I knew that feeling of powerlessness from my own life, and my own inability to do anything when an adult made a decision about my life. When the chariot struck the little sheep I knew his pain--I had lost more than one pet even at that young age to the careless drivers in the street in front of our house.

Then the wondrous happened--two adults accepted him. Accepted his gift, and welcomed it. And the child there in the manger accepted him and his simple gift, the greatest of children (to my own childlike mind a person equivalent or greater than even Santa.) The idea that it was possible to be accepted, to be welcomed by adults and a child seemed to be the most eye-opening, surprising thing I could have ever imagined--an adult other than my parents being givers of love and welcome? A stranger who welcomed me? Impossible, but there it was, happening before my eyes, all shaded red and green and blue by the lights and the ornaments and the magic that filled the very air at Christmas time.

I haven't built a model in a long time, but I do still have a closet half-filled with them, awaiting only time and patient efforts with glue, Xacto blade, airbrush and skills honed over many introspective years. The models I built just a few years ago look a lot more like the cover photos now, and sometimes I think I even exceed them. The Rankin & Bass special still plays too, around this time, and I still watch it. It hasn't changed at all, not on the surface. The same skitterish, cheap animation, the same wooden actions, the same beginning and middle and end. Now, though, I can see the lesson there, painted with a very large brush. I can appreciate the strength of Jose' Ferer's powerful voice, and I can see just how small the budget really was. It still touches me, though. It still touches the confused, frightened and sometimes powerless little boy who even now lies under the Christmas tree, flying his Klingon cruiser around, ready to do battle.

Acceptance. Acceptance even if you think you don't have anything to give but a simple skill. Is there no greater gift?

Very Happy Christmas to you, one and all, my beloved friends.

Dec 20, 2007

Vox Populi

The people are speaking! As of right now, The Sunday Vagapocalypse is leading the pack with three votes. Holy jeebus you people. *lol*

Amusing put her hair up in a bun, slipped into a severe white blouse and a black business suit and asked, in her guise as Genius Marketing Woman:

"...even though I voted, I have all sorts of questions like, what the hell is the focus of the "show" and is it the sound of one voice talking, or other stuff too, and &tc.

Ask and it shall be answered unto thee, even if your use of the 'ampersand plus tc.' is a little questionable. *g*

What is the focus of the show. Wow. Okay, let's move on.

Is it one voice talking? For the most part it'll just be me, but I think I'm going to start out with Vulgar Wizard co-hosting with me so she can keep the airways full while I'm fiddling with learning how to actually DO this thing. It will be just like 'real' radio in that listeners are able and fully expected to call in and interact, and there's also a nifty chat feature at the bottom of the screen when you're listening so those of you who are too shy to speak with me (but want to speak about me) can do so in the chat box, which I'll be able to see and respond to. So with all that in mind I think I can safely say that it'll be rather like Blog Plus--all the foolishness you've come to expect from Q: What's Large, Grey, and Doesn't Matter with the added bonus of increased interactivity.

And hopefully that answers the second question, too. *s* The focus will be where it lands, what topic I might have had pop into my smoke-filled head, or, much more likely I'll be heterodyning off whatever is going on with you guys. As I get more accustomed and comfortable with the layout and the actual FUNCTION of being an internet radio host guy I'm hoping to get some interviews set up with YOU GUYS. I think that'd be the most interesting thing in the long run--deep, incisive questions about your blogs, your lives, your frilly underthings.

So. Be sure and tune in, I'm going right now to see if I can install the show links here, and if you haven't, be sure to vote!

post scriptum - Seems I've managed. The radio over there will, after I've made a broadcast, allow you access to the last show I've recorded, which I haven't done yet so it's showing "undefined." Gonna go install a button to lead you guys right to the broadcast page and schedule (I think) and we'll be set up!

post post scriptum - Roight! Gotcha now, my ducky. The grey button will lead you to the show's homepage, which will also allow you to link in when the show is on. The radio will be the link to the last archived show. Rock and/or roll, kids!

Dec 19, 2007

The People Have Spoken

And I have listened.

I've even put together a nifty poll for you guys to answer. Multiple answers allowed, but only one vote (yes, Santa is watching you.) This also saves me the trouble of having to tax my already over-worked brain on being creative. I think I burned out my creative gland back in grade school on that seventh grade Social Studies project, Rube Goldberg vs Isaac Newton In Jell-O.

So. Vote me do!

If you had to listen to a radio show, which name would most interest you?
Sunny Sunday Chatline
The Sundae Special
The Sunday Scoop
Sound-Off Sunday
The Sunday Serenade
Sunday Shinedown
Sunday Sermon
Sunday Schizzle
Sunday Scatter
Sunday Scavenge
Sunday Scatology
Sunday Scenario
Sunday Scathing
Snark Sunday
Manic Monday Eve
Stupor Sunday
The Sunday Vajapocalypse
Free polls from

Dec 16, 2007

Talkies Tuesday

You know, I'm already having fits with scheduling radio segments, but it seems like as of right now the inaugural broadcast of Talkies Tuesday will be Tuesday, January 1, 10am CST.

And I officially Need Your Help: It seems that according to the radio host people that host this here infant (infantile?) radio show of mine that has yet to be birthed that ANY weekday from 7am until midnight is prime time, and since I have a JOB that takes up most of my time and I shan't be able to stay up until midnight thirty just to host a radio show I think this is going to become a Sunday 10am (Central Standard) show. And since Sunday is no more Tuesday than a bat is a bicycle, I need to rename Talkies Tuesday to something equally catchy; something clever, something easy to say and maybe with a little alliteration to make it the cat's pajamas, and all involving Sunday.

So. Any suggestions will be aired and duly run up the flagpole to see who salutes. I'll also take any suggestions as to an image/icon/whatnot to go with said name.

Thank you, won't you?

Dec 15, 2007

One Of These Days, One Of Those Nights

I don't know about you guys, having never slept with any of you, but I know that if there's nothing else I can do well it's fall asleep at night.

Ordinarily I lie down and within a few minutes I'm blissfully asleep. That wasn't always the case, though. When I was a little kid I used to have the most inordinate troubles sleeping--I'd see things in the patterns on the wallpaper or the curtains, I'd worry about 'how' to fall asleep, I was leery of the dark; you name it, I had it as a sleep trouble. As a result, my bedtimes as a little boy were always filled with sturm und drang, trials and tribulations. I don't know how my parents kept from strangling me.

Sometime in late grade school all that changed. Perhaps I was coming home more tired, perhaps I was less inclined to see things in the wallpaper patterns or maybe I was just learning to control my extravagant imagination. Either which way, I was sleeping better. As I got older I began to be interested in the eastern philosophies, discovered meditation, and soon found myself able to further enhance my ability to fall asleep by auto-hypnosis: by telling myself over and over that I always fell asleep promptly and without problems my body began to do just that. One of my small triumphs over my mind.

This is not to say that I don't sleep well constantly. No, such isn't the case. I'm still a dreamer, still have the occasional nightmare so vivid that it starts me straight up in bed at night. Earlier in the year I had the most vivid nightmare that there were poisonous snakes in the bed, and so REAL was the thought that there was genuine danger in the bed (never mind HOW snakes got into the bed, they were simply there!) that I sort of fell out of bed, whipped the covers and blanket off my sleeping spouse and started demanding that she get out of bed, that she was in grave danger of being bitten. It wasn't for a long, terror-filled minute or so that I finally gained my faculties and realised that it was just a dream.

Needless to say I slept alone the next few nights, and stopped eating that brand of cheese dip.

The other downside to my nightmare behaviour (other than trying to protect my bed partner from imaginary serpents) is that I'm very physically active when I dream vividly. I thrash, I sweat; I make noises, my hands clench, my legs jerk and I have even been known to clench and unclench my jaws and grind my teeth as though I were eating. When I dream I wake up physically exhausted, like I've been through a wringer or run a marathon. As an added bonus I seem to almost always carry the dream images around with me. Not always, fortunately, but mostly, and the mood seems to stay with me all day if not longer.

Last night was another memorable one for nightmares. We went out with family friends to a local grill and thence to see Will Smith's "I Am Legend." A decent bar-n-grill meal, an excellent movie, and a late arrival at home--I'm not a late night person anymore so needless to say I was tired out and hit the sack immediately.

I guess it was a combination of the horrific creatures from the movie and a generous dollop of french fries mixed with hamburger grease that set my mind to dreaming, vividly. I won't bore you with specifics, it was mostly the "being chased through quicksand by something very dangerous" type. No matter the subject, they were truly bad dreams. I rose from sleep to that almost-awake point several times during the night but never quite managed to wake up all the way. I do know that I was doing a fair amount of thrashing and moving: I'd come almost awake each time with the sheets wadded around me or Mrs. I would be elbowing me to make me move back to my side, and at one point I remember her waking enough to tell me to stop gnashing my teeth. It was BAD, ladies and gents.

This morning, bleary and loggy from lack of sleep and a very physical, restless night I surveyed the damage--the top blanket was on the floor on my side, the big comforter all shoved (kicked, I guess) down around the foot of the bed. The sheets on my side were clammy with sweat, one pillow was on the floor with the light blanket and the other one, my feather-filled 'main' pillow was damp with saliva and was actually torn open at one corner. The stuffing had come out during the night's exercise, making one hell of a mess; there were tiny feathers all over the bed and me, stuck tight with dried sweat. Proof positive (like I needed it) that I had suffered a horrific nightmare--I had somehow quite literally chewed a fist-sized hole in my nice feather pillow while enduring the nightmares.

Needless to say all day I've felt a little down in the mouth.

post scriptum: The trick to telling a really masterful lie interesting story is to pepper it with the truth. Therefore, a few elements of this (very) shaggy dog story are true: I'll leave it up to you, dear Reader, to figure out which are real and which are fluff (*snort*) from my overheated and yes, sleep-deprived brain.

Dec 12, 2007

Double You Tee Eff?

Have you ever used the "Next Blog" button on the top of your favourite Blogspot blog? The button that takes you randomly to some exciting new venue, some as-yet-unexplored vista of powerful writing, images to take your breath away, and undreamed realms of penis enlargement using only naturally occurring vitamins?

Yah, I made that mistake this evening. I make that mistake about once every four months or so, when I really need to be reminded what a massive traffic jam this new-fangled Information Superhighway actually can be the moment you decide to take an off-ramp into the City of Blog, population ever-expanding.

I've found it fairly safe going, following blog links off the blogs I usually read. This is sane and reasonable, and almost always guarantees me intelligent reading. I know, for instance, that if I happen to follow a link on Stucco's blogroll I'll find someone who writes with intelligence and humour, much like Hisself. There may be an unseemly amount of phlegm mentioned, or a whole post on underleg noises, but at least it'll be well written. I like to think that the same thing happens on my blogroll. The intelligence, not the underleg noises, tho there are a few grey areas out there. Follow any of those links and you'll find what I like to read--intelligence, humour, and talented writers.

But nooooo, I had to go and follow the "Next Blog" arrow with it's allure of something New! Unique! Interesting!

What I got was porn, politics, advertisements, more porn, some adverts for all-natural cleaning agents and an astounding number of foreign language blogs, some of which can be quite surreal when you see the photos and you begin to make up stories in your head to go with the photos, but that's just me.

Wow. A poo contest. Hold. Me. Back. Quality content free of charge.

Oh me. Is this world such a sad place that ninety five out of one hundred bloggers feel the need to sell something, and one of that hundred needs to show me photos of someone's poo? What happened to the bright shining promise of these internets? Where are the sites filled with wonders, sites that open one's eyes to the infinite possibilities of the human spirit? Is there actually a whole planet-full of computer-savy people out there who only want to show me something I don't really want to see in the first place?

And why would I possibly want to pay someone to show me how to put the business end of a shop vac on my manhood?

Dec 11, 2007

Is this thing On?

Has grown up.

Listen to Irrelephant on internet talk radio

Launching soon as I can figure out how to turn my mic on...

"I Believe You Have My Stapler..."

A box of Swingline #35108 Standard Chisel Point staples holds 5000 staples. In my employment here as an office drone (they call me "Two of Three" in the collective) I have used up two full boxes of staples in the performance of my duties. That means I've used a stapler (a black Stanley Bostitch full-strip if you're curious) over 10,000 times now.

Why does that thought sicken me?

Dec 8, 2007

Everybody Loves A Parade

Especially in Louisiana. In Louisiana a parade means floats, agricultural devices (antique tractors mainly,) a bunch of marching bands, a lot of dance teachers showing off their classes, and...well...I'll let the photos tell most of this story.

These were taken at the local Xmas parade last night. Now--a few things to keep in mind about parades in LA:

  • People are gonna throw things at you.

  • In Louisiana the spirit of Mardi Gras runs DEEP, so every parade float that passes will be throwing such diverse items as candy, beads, foam footballs, small stuffed toys and packs of Marlboros. On most floats will be small children throwing these items, and since their range is limited these items will be coming at you on a rather flat trajectory. If you're at the beginning of the parade route they'll be coming at you with all the might these little tykes can muster, which can be rather formidable.

  • It's going to be hot.

  • And by hot I don't mean there'll be scantily clad women, though there will be--these are trailer/scooter trash and will be looking for a good time or a husband or a cheap hit of meth and should be avoided. What I mean is that it will be in excess of 70 degrees no matter what month you're in.

  • There will be Shriners. LOTS of them.

  • I don't know what it is about this area but we produce more Shriners per capita than any other state in the union, which means there'll be large old men stuffed into odd costumes who are then themselves stuffed into very small, go-kart-like vehicles. They will be speeding around all over the parade route, so mind your toes, your children, and your vaulables: how else do you think all those Shriners can buy all those tiny go-kart Corvettes, choppers, diesel tractor rigs and pickup trucks.

Without further ado, the photos:

This little pair was too cute not to photograph. We were near the staging area for the local bands so we were treated to music the entire time, and the young playa there spent most of his night dancing his little heart out: moonwalking, pop and locking, the works, all accompanied by very drum and brass-heavy marching music. John Phillips Sousa would have been proud. Here he's working his game on an unsuspecting young lady.

If you're lucky you'll see some Cruisers: people who spend way too much time and money fixing up a crappy bicycle with reflectors, sound systems and ape-hanger handle bars. If you're really lucky you'll see boots like these.

And what Christmas parade would be complete without--a racing lawnmower.

Yes, you read right. A racing lawnmower. Here one of the proud NASCAR wannabes fiddles with his fuel petcock (I couldn't resist the rooster joke) while puffing on a Doral. I love how he was resplendently dressed in his Christmas finest. Last week's black t-shirt, meshback cap and a nearly new pair of Dickies. (Yeah, again with the rooster jokes.) I wish you could have smelled the funk coming off this entry in the parade--I wasn't sure if it was the drivers or the exhaust.

I wasn't sure WHAT to think about this poor unfortunate, so I took his photo. Someone already seems to have taken his fashion sense. Most of the band leaders in the parade wore sparkly tuxedos or were dressed in slightly more eye-catching versions of the band's uniforms, but this young fellow looks like he either wants to be one of Vader's Stormtroopers or Lawrence of Arabia when he grows up. Or maybe both.

Louisiana being "The Sportsman's Paradise" it's only expected that at least one float will be about forest products and killing the wildlife that live within said forest. It goes without saying then that a deer head wearing a festive red and white hat should be a major focal point on the side of your float.

And honestly, what parade in the Deep South would be complete without the "The South Will Rise Again" branch of the Prefessional Reenactors Of The War Of Northern Aggression. I'm almost glad the fellow furthest away from the camera can't be seen because he was dressed in a melange' of uniforms; a cross of WWI Doughboy, Confederate foot soldier (he had the grey hat right,) Mussolini Blackshirt Flagbearer and to top the ensemble off he wore a lovely loose pair of pre-owned Wrangler's Relaxed Fit jeans, purchased on sale at GoodWill earlier in the week and held up by a piece of hemp rope.

Merry Christmas, ya'll.

Dec 6, 2007

What Do You See In The Clouds?

The clouds are one of the mind's greatest toys.

The human mind as you well know, being an owner of one yourself, is a prime finder of patterns and shapes in things. Our brains are geared from our hunter ancestors to pattern recognition, so now when we gaze up at the clouds we can see sailing ships, an ocean, and maybe even some of those big-titted mermaids doing some of that lesbian ...wait, sorry, that was Jay in Mallrats.

We can also see clouds doing some really interesting things overall. A few days ago I took a few photos of aircraft contrails that were both eerily intact and very prolific. This morning at 7:30, cold and clear out, I hopped on Betty, idled to the end of the driveway and start driving to work. I made it about one block before I had to park and get the camera out.

(Everyone can see these photos in the Atmospherics set on my Flickr account in full size. This is a clickable link for anyone, whether you have a Yahoo/Flickr account or not, so help yourself. I'm going to upload two of them here in a more manageable size, but you can see the full size and all four as well as other sky photos of mine on Flickr.)

This one I took from my road.

Clouds With Red Barn

This one is taken from my office parking lot not five minutes later, and no more than four miles as the crow flies from the first shooting point. Same lighting conditions, same camera settings, same filters and same angle to within perhaps a single degree. The only differences are the horizontal/vertical of me holding the camera, a slight variation in the shape and dispersal of the cloudlings, and the buildings I included to give the sky some scale. I have not altered them digitally in any way except to resize these to make them more viewable.

Clouds With Silos

The rational part of me knows that those things are nothing more than water vapor that's too light to fall as rain, suspended in very cold air. The primal part of me can FEEL them racing across the sky. It's impossible to tell from the photos, since I don't have a lens with THAT wide an angle but the span ran from horizon to horizon and took up a good third of the sky. It was impossibly big, startlingly humbling.*

What interests me is that the two photos of the same thing seem, to me at least, to tell two VERY different stories, to have two very different feelings. And what I want you to do is tell me what YOU feel when you look at them. After everyone who wants to has had a chance to comment I'm going to come back and tell you what I feel when I look at them. And which one I'm thinking about having blown up to 24" x 36" and framed. *G*

* Post scriptum: The entire show, all those gorgeous clouds, that awe-inspiring shape and form it had was gone half an hour after I took the last photographs from my office parking lot. The sky was perfectly clear, not a single fragment left when I brought the mail out to get another glimpse of it. Damned but life is fleeting.

Dec 5, 2007

Partying With Your Rooster On The Loose

Some days it's just messed up at work. More so than usual.

One of my favourite pastimes is to gripe about how our medical supply company packs my orders. But you see, they DESERVE it. I think the warehouse must be next door to an appliance factory because for three days in a row I got my daily shipment packed in a microwave oven box. Scuba Steve our UPS guy asked me on the third day why we needed three identical microwaves.

Last September I got a smallish box wrapped all about with green plastic tape that had white xmas trees and snowmen all over it, and a carefully written note in Sharpie marker that said "Don't ask me, it's all we had." Merry Xmas, sorry it's late! Here's your suture removal kits and that 18Fr catheter insertion tray (with 2000ml leak proof urine drain bag) you ordered! Ho ho ho!

For a while there the shippers were playing around with the idea of taking two boxes that ALMOST fit, then shoving one over the other so it'd make a slightly larger, much shabbier and weaker box and then taping them together with about half a mile of industrial strength packing tape, all with the intent of giving an extra six cubic inches of storage. That was always fun because I had to use a chainsaw to rip through the mummy layers of packing tape just to get into the thing, and by that time the supplies would be expired so I'd have to order more.

On days it's not that or an appliance box then they've packed four small items in the biggest box they could find, like something slightly smaller than a side-by-side fridge box, then filled the airspace with a Sunday edition New York Times worth of blank newsprint paper. The past few days they must have changed their eco-friendly processes because the last week's worth of shipments I've gotten have been packed with clear plastic airbags in strings of three or four, like football-sized sausages. Mother Nature loves the one thing She can't make for Herself--plastic bags.

So with this in mind I opened a box the other day expecting the worst. Was it going to be the wrong shipment entirely? Had I, by accident, received a case of coude catheters destined for some nursing home in Guam? Or was there going to be enough pale cream newsprint paper in there to wrap all the fish in the Pike's Peak Fish Market? No. Something better. Something wondrous.

I was astounded. It was packed perfectly. There was NO airspace, no extra tape, not even anything crushed to make everything fit right. I think whoever packed that box must be a PRO at Tetris. Either that or so profoundly anal retentive that they have their house alphabetized.

Speaking of work, here's one more ringer for you. We get a lot of periodicals sent to us by various medical industry folks. We get Ostomy Monthly (with all sorts of grotesque centerfolds,) Ambulance Chasing For Fun And Profit Quarterly, and a whole hospital bed full of local magazines, all wanting to sell us advert space. And in the midst of all that, we get Caring magazine.

Now, I've perused a few issues while on the throne, in between games of Jewel Quest on my cellular phone, and it's not a bad read. It's all happy sappy tales of how people in the health care industry have made Big Bucks and how you can too, and it's always got a feel-good story or two about someone surviving a bear mauling or an unplanned meeting with a grain thresher, but the December issue caught me right from the front cover.

As you can see it's all about this uber-caring individual Dominic Avellani who is a volunteer teacher of some sort, and surrounding him are his, I assume, students; a mixed bag of folks. The guy in the blue t-shirt and grey pullover looks like he's learned to pose for a Sears catalog, the Russian matron at the front left looks like her babushka is too tight, and the guy just over Mr. Avellani's left shoulder is so posed I'm astounded he's real and not a store window mannequin.

What I want to draw your attention to, however, is the young feller in the white long-sleeve with the smug look on his face and the garish yellow and black meshback on his head.

He's pretty happy. He's getting his photo on the cover of a widely-read industry periodical. He's got a pretty good spot there behind his teacher, the man whom, we can only hope, is proud of his pupil and their accomplishments together as a team.

I wish I could have gotten a clearer shot of the magazine, but I can only do so much. What I CAN say, though, with certainty is that in person, the logo on the hat is readable if you look at it closely.

Rock Out
with your
Cock Out

Try as I might I couldn't find any more references to chicken farming in this issue.

Dec 2, 2007


The MeMe of Three: Having been tagged by VW


  • Things that scare me: people with road rage, making a fatal mistake with a power tool, finding out there IS a god and she's really pissed at me.
  • People who make me laugh: VW, Stephen Wright and that balding guy from the Sonic commercials.
  • Things I hate the most: Not understanding my motivations better, my being afraid of change, and not knowing how to do something accurately.
  • Things I don’t understand: How Lorenzo Lamas could slide that big fat Harley around so easily, WHY he'd want to, and why letting your pants hang around your arse is cool.
  • Things I am doing right now: Getting excited about supper (chili and cornbread!), dreading going back to work, and being aggravated that Sunday was rained out and therefore a massive waste (keep in mind I started this last week--supper tonight had no cornbread.)
  • Things I want to do before I die: Live forever, tour England extensively, and be happy with my life decisions.
  • Things I can do: Ride a motorcycle really well, tell a shaggy dog story so well you believe it right up to the punchline, and fix simple plumbing problems.
  • Ways to describe my personality: Sensitive, caring, and self-analytical to the point that it's almost a damned disease.
  • Things I can’t do: Carry a tune if it were nailed to my forehead, stay up very late past my bedtime, eat lots of fried food without paying for it.
  • Things I think you should listen to: Your heart, your bowels, and your significant other.
  • Things you should never listen to: That negative voice in your head, a professional accordion player, and a mime hitting his thumb with a hammer while building an invisible doghouse.
  • Things I’d like to learn: How to speak German like a native, how to fly a hot air balloon by myself, and how to take consistently good photographs.
  • Favorite foods: mozzarella cheese, bread pudding, and cinnamon rolls fresh from the oven. Go bread!
  • Beverages I drink regularly: Hot tea, cold tea, and sort of lukewarm tea that's been on the counter but not so long as to have gone over.
  • TV shows I watched as a kid: That Sid And Marty Crofts show with H.R. Puffenstuff, Land of The Lost (try as I might I simply couldn't make myself get a crush on Holly,) and The Electric Company.

You wanna piece of this? Go with it, and tell me you went.

Dec 1, 2007

Missed It By That Much

Being a photographer of nature can be annoying.

There's always The Shot, the one you really want to capture. It's a rare opportunity, a really truly difficult thing to get just right. When the moment presents itself you'd better have your camera ready, because you're only going to get one chance at it. And there'll be a clothesline pole in the way most of the time.

There's only two shots of Borzoi that are really breathtaking--one is of them launching off, their back legs digging hard into the ground, their front ends well up, front legs reaching far out. That's the one up there, with the pole in the way.

The second is the obverse of the first photo. Borzoi have what's called a "double suspension" gallop, which is to say when they are running full tilt, at one point in the gallop all four feet are off the ground: the front two are facing backwards, the back two are reaching forward well past the front feet. That's the other cool shot. And if you do a search for Borzoi it's inevitable that you'll find them both.

This isn't quite it.

Neither is this.

You'll also find out when photographing the Borzoi hound that there's one really easy shot to get--that of them lounging:

Nothing can lounge quite like a Borzoi who is tired from crazily galloping around the back yard while carrying a stuffed chicken.

And then there's Penny, who is very photogenic and who for the most part hates cameras aimed at her and whose gallop is so short that it's impossible to see without a really good set of binoculars.

Nov 30, 2007

Art Generator

A friend long ago once told me that his art (an exquisite, surreal, Tolkienesque draftsman's hand style) was simply "the exhaust of a life being lived."

That phrase stuck with me even though the friend didn't. I still make my own art; I paint, photograph, sculpt when found objects present themselves, and in as many little ways as I can, I create. It's second nature to me, like some people sing when they're happy or others become accountants for a love of number or they love words and they become writers.

So anyway, there's this site, see? It's like one of those old shops you find in cities that you can never quite tell if they're open becaus every time you go by the door is locked. One of those places that you're always trying to figure out what they sell because it's not real apparent from the window. A place that looks like it's a sort of life-sized Cornell box waiting to be explored. It doesn't always load properly, and like anything interesting it's in a foreign language for the most part (with a rather boring English version available at a click) but the cool thing is, it takes bits of the web and your words and it makes art.

Ars Gratia Artis indeed.

Here's what my blog title prompted:

The Face On Mars indeed! How wonderfully eerie, tho the huge Google logo floating in the background sort of makes me wonder if the whole "Face" enigma is all just a hoax perpetrated by hackers.

And the title of my all-time favourite painting, "The Thing Wot Lurked In The Tub" gave me this:

The Bros' Grimm and an oval daguerreotype...excellent!

Nov 29, 2007

Chicken Fancier

I spent some time with the yard birds today (not Eric Clapton, the feathery ones) and you know what? They're dang strange little critters.

I had some time off this afternoon and thought I'd go ahead and bird-net the second half of the chicken yard. If you recall I built it as a rectangle and divided it in half, giving the birds two equal squares to go roam around in. I attached bird netting over one half to keep out hawks and possums and whatever else might desire to eat chickens, and promised myself that I'd cover over the other half as soon as Irrelephantly possible.

Now, a brief aside--if you're not a poultry fancier, bird netting is just this plastic net stuff, very strong and so thin it's almost invisible at more than a few feet away. People who raise fruit use it to cover trees and such to keep birds from eating their produce on the vine, and some stores cover their huge building signs with it to keep sparrows and wrens from nesting up in the structure. It's little squares are about the size of the tip of my index finger and it's sort of like trying to handle a hair net that's thirty feet long and twenty wide. Not impossible, just...queasy.

Well? A month has passed since I first promised myself I'd finish the other half. Perhaps more.

But, I got to it today! Honest! Carefully uncoiled the huge mass of netting from around the sapling tree it had blown into from last storm, fiercely shook it until the bits of ant nest that had been made over one corner was nothing but a mass of flying dirt and very confused ants, and I carefully laid it out in the back backyard and fiddled with it until I could get all the edges straight and flat and neat again.

This took about four hours. See the hairnet thing. Queasy. And nearly invisible.

So. I took the mass of stuff, zip-tied it to one length of fence and tossed the lot into the 'fresh' yard. Now envision this: the chickens not only have been scrutinizing me the entire time but they've been making that soft purring cluck that mature chickens make when they're busy kibbutzing. And they'd all crowd up against the fence closest to where I was, so as not to miss a single bit of the action.

They watched me while I unwound the old netting.

They watched me lie it all out on the ground to measure it.

They watched me secure it to the fence.

I swear, had they watched any more closely I was going to offer them a pile of zip ties and tell them to come do it themselves if it interested them so much!

So after my tirade and as I finished it got more peculiar yet. I got three sides secure--the three OUTsides. The last side I had to secure to the dividing fence between the two yards, and that meant I'd have to operate with fifteen chickens watching me from around my feet. Not a fun thought.

So, knuckling up, I waded in and was immediately drumstick deep in chickens, all eager and anxious to see if I was edible or, in Vin's case, to see if I was female. I carefully worked my way down the divider tying off the loose ends, and all the while Vin cackled and gobbled and tried to crow. I finally made the mistake of stopping and squatting down to see what was the matter. He immediately presented himself directly up front and wanted to taste 1) my unlit cigar in my pocket, 2) the wad of zip-ties sticking out of same pocket, 3) my ring, 4) my knuckle skin and 5) the hem of my pants.

Then, kids, it got fun. When I went to shove him away he went into his Three Stooges routine. If you haven't seen this before I highly suggest you go bother a rooster. I put my hand out to push him away and he started circling it ala' Curly about to get in a fight with Moe, all the while gurgling and chuckling. I knew this wasn't going to do so I grabbed him around his middle, hoisted him up in front of all his ladies and held him upside down.

Yeah, I know that sounds strange and is probably just a little unsettling to younger viewers but I'm told by Chicken Experts that it's the most expeditious way to subdue an eager cock.

(*snort* Can't WAIT to see how many hits THAT brings in.)

So, having subdued my cock (*and subduing gales of snickers*) I went back to the work at hand, and realised that since I already had 99% of the netting up it'd be a lot easier just to let them all into THAT side and close the gate so I could work in peace. And it worked! I finished up, they were happily chewing grass and digging up pecans and doing whatever it is chickens do when they're in fresh grass, and I finished up the netting.

Having wrapped up the netting I decided to do a little more socializing with the chickens so I squatted down again and sort of 'tuck tuck tuck'ed to them to bring them around. Again, my mistake. Everyone came crowding and Vin decided he had to make a German spectacle of himself. He started in with the Stooges schtick again, I tried to settle him down by a few rubs on his breast (heh! again with the hits) and he retaliated by trying to climb my hand, and by this age he's wearing his spurs so it left a few marks.

So, I had no choice. I had to take my cock in my hands again. (Oh gods I kill myself!) I turned him upside down, stared him right in his beady, crazy little black eye and we had a man to cock talk. I explained that his behaviour was way out of line, that he had done physical harm to me, and that if he kept it up I'd snap his scrawny neck, toss him over the fence, pluck his ass bald and have him in a frying pan before sunset. This seemed to reach him pretty clearly, because he settled right down after that.

Ah, the joys of chicken ranching. Never let it be said there's no fun to be had in a hen yard. All it take is...wait for angry young cock.*

* Honestly, I really am sympathetic to Vin's plight. I mean, if I were a foot tall, black, and had all my sexual organs on the inside I'd be easily agitated myself.

Nov 26, 2007

Black Friday, Cyber Monday

Sometimes the spirit moves you, and when it moves you you'd better be ready to follow, because it's sure going to lead.

Black Friday. That used to be a secret term, sort of a Thieves Cant for retailers, right up there with terms like BOGO (Buy One, Get One) and roto holds and planogram. Terms that make up the secret language of retail employees. Not anymore, it seems; you can hear those terms bandied about all over. But it's true, what you've always heard. Black Friday is the day that most big box-store retailers finally make it into the black on their spreadsheets. Years spent toiling under the yoke of retail burned that into me, and damn near burned out any chance of me enjoying Xmas ever again.

It's gotten so much worse since I first started working in retail. When I was 19 or 20, working at KayBee Toys and later at The Tinder Box we never kept strange hours at Christmas. We never had people thronging into the store, and we certainly never opened at 4M on Black Friday to try and grab as much of the insane consumerism cash flying around as we could. I remember being righteously angry at the couple who wandered into KayBee right at 9am and didn't leave until 9:20, twenty minutes after closing time. I remember enjoying the Christmas holiday back then, too.

Then came the early 90s and Toys Backward R Us. Enslaved to the Giraffe. Six years of hell.

You know, it's funny but the military has it right--put a group of people together, no matter the mix of race creed or sex. Put them through six weeks of living hell and suddenly you've fused them into a group so tight you'd have to take a crowbar to it to find the junction between one and the other of it's members. That happened at TRU back in 1991. Several hundred of us laboured 24/7 in three shifts to build, fill and open the local store. Two thirds were cut, and the last became an entity. We were the best, the blooded. Some of my strongest friendships come from that time, from that place.

And Xmas blooded us time and again, year after year. Black Fridays. Weeks spent dreading that time. Weeks spent getting more and more stock packed into the store until it seemed that the aisles were groaning under the weight. And business picking up, the tiny trickle of tide that warns the islanders that the tsunami is coming with a ferocity only dreamt of. Black Friday morning--store opening at 6am, closing at midnight. People piled up in the parking lot like sheep, blank faces pressed up against the glass for whatever was the Must Have Toy that year. Milling around like cows at an abattoir, and the employees inside; red-eyed, exhausted, dreading the frenzy to come.

Heaven forfend you had to close. Closing the store meant you wouldn't be home until 2 or 3am. Forget seeing your family until well after January 5th, you were a slave to the cash register. It pounded us. It broke most of us. And a few really stupid ones, like me, hung on, and on. Six Christmas seasons. Six tours through Hell's Toybox. Little did I know what I was trading in for that meager paycheck and the chance to say "I have a stable job." I was trading my enjoyment of the holiday.

I came to loathe Christmas, loathe it with every ounce of my being. I had left Christianity far behind by that point so I knew better than to think pious thoughts of saviour's births and such. I knew it as a time to celebrate friendships and family. And with the giraffe riding me worse than any drug I grew to hate it. I was sick to death of carols, hated the sight of a red suit with white trim. The very thought of The Season was anathema to me. My family wondered why I so proudly proclaimed "Bah humbug" every chance I got, why I refused to send cards, why the very idea of a tree in the house gave me hives.

I knew retail. I knew what the season was all about--spending money, money most didn't even have to spend in the first place. Toys made 80% of it's year's profits from Black Tuesday until December 26th that year and every year. It was expected. Black Friday was more than just a clever term for the season, it was reality.

We employees paid for that reality with our innocence and our mental well-being.

This Thanksgiving, some eleven years after my last year at that place I sat down that morning to watch the Macy's Parade. I reminisced about my childhood. Thought long and hard about the people I missed, and the things I used to do. And even though the weekend was rainy and overcast and cold, I packed my little family up in the cab of my truck and we drove to the Lion's Club Christmas Tree Lot and we picked out a 7' Noble Fir, brought it home, lovingly set it in the stand and began to decorate. And I enjoyed it. I tuned the radio to the station playing nothing but carols and I sang along to the ones I knew in my croaking, exuberant manner.

The spirit had moved back in.

I think it's been creeping around me the past few years but hasn't ever quite found the way in, or has only gotten it's ghostly foot in the door, unable to fit itself further. That's how tightly retail servitude had driven the nails in. But slowly, bit by bit the spirit has pushed that door, has worked the nails loose. And now? Now I find myself looking forward to The Morning. I look forward to making boot prints in the fireplace ashes and tracking them carefully, artfully onto the rug and toward the tree, implying to a certain skeptical 13 year old that maybe, just maybe, she's wrong about the whole non-existence of fat men hauled around by big deer. I look forward to making or buying (mostly online, I still hate the maddening crowds that lurk in town) presents for those I care for. I look forward to the Christmas Canon and The Little Drummer Boy and The Carol Of The Bells. I look forward to sharing family and love and goodwill.

Toys Backward R Us closed some ten years after I helped open it in 1991. Oddly enough, I still keep lines open to many of the friends I made there. I think about them at Xmas time especially. The times we survived. I can't point to the money I made. I can't name to you the people whose kids I made happier by having Tickle Me Elmo or a Nerf Bow And Arrow in stock. I can't even show you the store where I stocked shelves anymore--it's a medical office complex now, and the dark outline of the store's name and the gawping giraffe head on the bricks is faded.

I can, however, show you (in a way) what I took from that time in Hell: David. Vulgar Wizard. Random. Rainman. Tyger. Shao. Micah. And even some of the ones I haven't seen nor heard from in years but still recall very fondly: Sheila. Bobby. Baa-Baa. The other Richard. K2. "Manuel Labor". Heyward. Tigger. Stephanie.

The list goes on and on.

Nov 22, 2007

Turkey Day

It's that time again. The long fast slide down to the new year. But first? Eating, drinking, and making Mary. Er, merry.

It's inevitable that I think back to Thanksgivings past around this time, me being the nostalgic type I am. This holiday out of all the others used to be the one time everyone came together, both the close and the distant of our family. All would converge here for Turkey Day in the days before my father got sick. I think we had the biggest dining room of all the family's houses, or perhaps we just had the most room to park. For whatever reason, this was the place for my mother's family to gather the third Thursday in November. It was always my Mom's side of the family; my Dad's people were all over MS and south LA so that sort of precluded them. So come the holiday we'd have scads of family here from all the branches on one side of the family tree; cousins, aunts and uncles, the works.

I remember being a little kid, warm in the den as the fire burned in the fireplace, watching the Macy's parade on the big console tv. It'd play while my mind and my body wandered to and far, near and away, wanting to see the balloons, wanting to go play, drawn to the kitchen to smell the turkey cooking and wondering which of my cousins would show, which favourites I really wanted to see and which not so much, and which ones might show up, the ones I hadn't seen in so long that their names were forgotten, their faces a memory from years ago. It always seemed to be cold around then, too, cold enough for flannel shirts and heavy socks, cold enough for a fire to burn brightly in the fireplace, set there by my father long before I woke up. There was always a fire burning in the fireplace in winter, it seemed, and of course the warmth of the kitchen. My mom bustling around burning the turkey and the green beans, my father trying to set up extra chairs and card tables here and there but mostly, since I now feel like he did then, dreading the massive invasion of mouths and arguments and such that that side of the family seemed to specialize in.

I think he bore it just for her, because had he any hand in it he'd have made a few polite phone calls to a few close family members and gone out squirrel or deer hunting, or more likely just walking in the woods looking for paint rocks or petrified wood for us boys.

And then it was upon us: cars driving up, squeals of delight or sighs of dismay as I saw who it was, and me being the bigger of the two of us it was up to me to help carry in hot plates and casserole dishes and huge pots and covered cakes, making a mental inventory of everything I wanted to try. And Uncle Joe would always be late even though he lived right next door to us, and everyone would be loudly asking "Where's Brother" or "Is Uncle Bubbie coming?" And after all the kisses from powdered aunts and the awkward pats and slaps from distant uncles were through there'd finally arrive someone I could play with and we'd be gone, hiding from all the adults and their giraffe-awkward ways.

After a long round of kite flying or playing the Atari or shooting billiards on our much-loved table someone would, at the sign from the kitchen of cooks finally clear their throat and announce to the shining upturned faces that it was time to eat. We'd gather in a loose mass close to the dining room since there was no way to fit us all in there, drawing close to a family member or a favoured cousin. Some would stand in the doorway, and some in the kitchen, and some in the parlor that Mom had turned the other half of the front rooms into, and heads would bow and someone would ask my Uncle Emile to say grace. For some reason it was always him, not anyone else, and I remember being so tickled the year I realised he was saying the same rote formula that we used at school. And better, that he said in the same sort of sing-song mumble we all used there. "Blessusolord forthesethygifts whichweareabouttoreceive fromthybounty throughChristourlord amen."

And then would begin that long slow procession across the laid out wealth of food. There were always the same cousins who made the same jokes about being at the back of the line, having placed themselves there to play 'cleanup' of whatever was left. It's a long full blur of food and scents and voices and faces and similar but disparate memories. All the main dishes were always in the kitchen, covering the counter to either side of the stove and across onto the other counter past the sink, flanking The Bird. The little round kitchen table would have all the glasses and drinks on it, and we'd make a long caravan of bodies around it. First stop was picking up plates and utensils at the big bureau that stood at the edge of the kitchen and the start of eying the dishes hungrily. As the line crept forward we'd slowly shuffle to each big dish or serving bowl trying to guess who had cooked what, trying to make room on the plate for a serving spoonful or two of everything, calling out jibes to the people in the front to 'speed it up,' or to 'save some for the rest of us,' and answering the same calls from behind us with feigned scorn.

All the adults would slowly fill the dining room and that dark wood table until it was full, a body in each tall red velvet chair, and the bronze tableware clinking softly against dish or bowl. The kitchen table would be filling fast with the middle-years folks at the same time, the glasses and ice making it's way from table to place setting as the cousins and family moved past. There was a surprising gap in years between mom's siblings who all married and had kids young and my parents who married and had their two boys late in life, so all the 'kids' would be sitting at the kitchen table, and then THEIR kids would be with my brother and I. And being the kids we had a lot more free rein, so we would be scattered all across the den or whatnot, finding places on couches and wooden chairs, eager to wolf down our meal so as to get back into the dining room. There on the long serving board would be all the deserts--cakes and pies and frothy frilly constructions, each made with many years of handed down recipes, each perfected in it's own way by many hands long past.

After we were stuffed we'd explode outside to run and play and be foolish while the old folks talked and had coffee and seconds on the pie and worked up enough energy to start whatever discussion that would later erupt into good-natured arguing. I remember trying to squirm though the crowd of legs and feet and stomachs to get to my room or back out of it, seeing the football game on the tv and my dad feigning interest enough to be mistaken as a fan but I know eager in his heart for these interlopers to be gone from his castle.

As I got older I graduated to the big table, but the crowds were narrowing. The kids were moving away, were old enough to have their own dinners to go to, and I found my lack of age no longer mattered so much. I was allowed quietly into the ranks of the older cousins as though I'd only had to speak up to be in, though I knew better. I remember the year I was allowed wine at my place, a smallish glass of deep purple table wine--Manischewitz or Mogen David. I thought I was something, even though the sharp alcohol burned my virgin throat.

And of course as time passed the gatherings became smaller and smaller as family drifted apart or died; as marriages were made and split new faces would carry our old faces away to other houses, and now it's just Mom and her two boys and their little families most times for that big lunch, and a little play time for the kids until we're whisked off to the in-laws houses for Thanksgiving suppers, and it's just not the same. There's no sense of occasion, no meetings of cousins and family long apart. No more huge gatherings of family on the front yard for photos, mixing and matching children and siblings for different cameras or different arrangements of generations. Now it's quiet, and I look down the lane at the houses that have cars overflowing into the street and it makes me sad, in a way, and glad in another. Glad as Daddy was when it was a small turnout year, but sad because some part of me really DOES miss those crowds of overly familiar and distantly unfamiliar faces and voices.

A big part of me misses the sweet potato pie my Aunt Bobbie made every year, with the crispy marshmallow crust. Part of me misses drinking wine and being allowed to use the heavy bronze utensils, specially brought out of storage and polished up for use only at the adult table, feeling like I had passed some important milestone. And a lot of me misses seeing my father out in the yard, pretending to let his dinner settle when in fact he was just wanting to get away from the maddening crowd to pick up a few pecans in his yard.

The parade is on tv right now, the surround sound picking out each cheer and horn, the flat face of my making each float and balloon pop with vivid colour. The floats are familiar for the most part; Snoopy and Ronald and Big Bird. The bands sound the same; crisp horns, sharp snaps of snare drum and the twirl of batons. It all draws back the memories, making me miss those long-gone cousins and meals and games of pick-up football in the front yard. Mostly, though, I miss my father; quiet and dour, sitting and smiling, wanting nothing more than a little peace and a pocket full of pecans to crack.

I'm about to head to my brother's palatial home for The Meal. It'll be my niece and my two nephews, my daughter and wife, my Mom and my brother and his wife. And there'll be an empty place, one I'd long to fill.

Go kiss someone you care about, right now. Tell them you love them, while you can.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all, my friends. The people whom I've known for all my life, and my friends whom I've not even met in person yet. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Nov 20, 2007

Sometimes The Bear Bites You

I have had a REALLY bad day today.

It started off last week with the boss chewing me out, except when this boss chews it's more like being pecked to death by a duck. She can't just come out and say something, she has to say it over and over. She loves to use the phrase "you understand?" to punctuate sentences, and best of all, she doesn't LISTEN.

So anyway, I left at 5 in a foul mood. Would have been speeding if I hadn't been in the truck, but she simply isn't ABLE to speed, so at least I was saved that. But still and all, I was distracted. It was getting on dark, it was damp out, and I wasn't concentrating.

I rear-ended a car.

Now, I've been in wrecks before, unfortunately a lot of them back when I was a teen, so I knew the drill. I grabbed my insurance stuff and license and got out of the truck to see how bad the damage was. I should have known it was going to be bad when I saw the handicapped plates, but didn't think anything of it at first. As I was checking out the front end and realising how bad it was the driver got out of the other car. Kids, I freaked smooth out--he was a DWARF!

He sort of shambled back to me, got right up on me, looked up and in a really loud voice said "I am NOT happy!"

So I said, "Well then, which of the seven ARE you?"

And that's how the fight started...

Nov 18, 2007

"Write an obituary for an object rather than a person."

I got this little prompt in an email from VW, and it's been waiting patiently in my email's inbox for two weeks now--I simply couldn't delete it. It's such an interesting little meme that I knew the moment I received it that I was going to write it; I was simply waiting for the idea to finish coagulating in my mental attic before posting it.

(I'd love to see lots of you tackle this same little blip, but won't be tagging anyone as I'm anti-tagging. If you do, please let me know?)

The Daily Global Post Intelligencer
"All The News That's Worth Making Up"


Pen, Fountain (953 - 11/18/2013)

Earlier today a 2003 Parker Phileas in blue marble resin died at it's home in the Springfield Museum of Antiquities And Farm Equipment Throughout The Ages. Parker Phileas (blue) was widely regarded as the world's last surviving fountain pen. An early-morning fire that ravaged the building where it was housed was believed to have been caused by an electrical fault. Phileas was the last existing representative of a writing instrument designed to be refilled and reused rather than thrown away when empty.

While the fountain pen in general and Parker Phileas specifically had many strong supporters throughout the past decades the ongoing popular opinion of the early 20th century that all things need to be easily disposable helped hasten the demise of many 'reusable' items such as shaving brushes, physical money and moustache cups. Parker Phileas was widely regarded as one of the last extant reusable item in existence until the unfortunate fire at the Springfield Museum destroyed it, a mint condition 1938 International Harvester "Bale-Rite" pull-behind hay baler and two outstanding examples of late 1970's 'banana style' home telephones. Though the fountain pen had declined of late in popularity many school-age children on field trips and a few elderly folk regarded him and his spouse "Writing Paper," who also perished in the fire, quite fondly.

"We're sure gonna miss that old pen" stated one elderly visitor to the former site of the museum. "I remember way back in the day..." This reporter was forced to leave at this point as I cannot stand reminiscing.

Fountain Pen leaves behind many dozens of descendants, including the Bic Stic, the click ballpoint pen and the rollerball, all disposables.

Fountain Pen, seen here in an uncredited photograph circa August 2007 with Bottle Of Ink, both resting on an antique "paper" calendar. Bottle of Ink, a lifelong companion, died just after this photo was taken.

Nov 15, 2007

Meme Hammered!

Okay, Scarlett, you got me.

And only because my favourite cousin is named Scarlett, and because I love red. And some other reasons that are buried so deep in my pitiful little psyche that it's best I don't drag them, kicking and screaming into the blinding light of the pitiless gaze of the Public.

Heh. Already on a roll and I haven't even posted the rules yet.

Random Meme Rules

1. Link to the person’s blog who tagged you.
Done. Scarlett, this is all your fault.
2. Post these rules on your blog.
Why? Afraid I might forget them?
3. Don't drink anything over the keyboard while reading this meme on other pages.
HAH! Too late! *hoising a steaming cuppa Earl Grey* Take THAT, rules!
4. List seven random and/or weird facts about yourself.
See below.
5. Tag seven random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
Er, no. Gonna break another one. Iffen you guys wanna, take it and run.
6. Stretch.
Stretch WHAT, exactly? I need specifics!
7. Let each person know that they have been tagged by posting a comment on their blog.
Heh. Rules are made for breaking

Awright. *flexing my mental muscles* Yeah, pretty sloppy, prolly shouldn't do that again, at least in public.

1) I've a third nipple. Okay, not really. Fact is, I'm profoundly normal and have never broken a single bone in my body. I am an entirely stock, non-modified OEM Human Bean. Unless you count the heavy tattooing, which I guess voids my warranty. Damn!

2) I love spinach. I really do. I used to be the kid in school who asked for and received mountains of spinach from all the other kids on Spinach Day. Now? Now I can't eat it because there's something in that stuff that goes through me like castor oil through a widow woman, and I really genuinely miss spinach. And my sanity.

3) Sometimes I forget that most people don't care, and that stings. Sometimes I remember that most people don't care, and that stings too.

4) I'm a motorcycle snob. I often find myself looking down my rather aquiline nose at anyone not on a motorcycle, and I snub Harley riders as often if not more often than they snub us rice bike riders. And this makes me happy, I'm told.

5) I use things until they're useless. I cannot stand rampant consuming, buying for no other reason than to buy. I own three pairs of tennis shoes (all given to me as presents by the in-laws) and I feel guilty over it. When Walgreens has those big dump bins of "seconds and irregulars" Hanes coloured T-shirts on sale 5 for $10 I go head over heels, and will wear those things until they're ragged. (And yes, I'm wearing one right now.) This is also the reason I use a fountain pen--they don't wear out and don't get thrown away when dry.

6) I always feel terrible when I see a dead animal by the side of the road, no matter if it's a hawk, armadillo, opossum or dog. I hate the idea that people can just shrug off murdering some innocent creature. On the bike I've been known to swerve aside for dragonflies if there's a chance I can miss it.

7) Today being The Great American Smokeout, I shall be cleaning my largest capacity pipe, loading it with the strongest tobacco I have and I shall be smoking it while laughing evilly. I'm sick and tired of being treated by the media and etc. like a five year old. I KNOW it's bad for me. So is breathing what passes for air in most any part of the known world, eating anything that I didn't grow myself (and sometimes not even then,) and crossing the street against the signal. When you start working on that stuff I'll start worrying about my smoke.

An added bonus! No extra charge!

8) I hate most photos of myself. Cameras do not like me in front of them, and I'm much more comfortable BEHIND one. I think there are perhaps three photos of me in existence that I genuinely like.

Kay. Feel up to the task? Steal this meme and run, child, run!

Irrelephant Just Pawn In Game Of Life*

I was a tool last night. I know there's a certain amount of politicking in any office, but I had a rude awakening yesterday afternoon, and again at the dinner that evening.

Hiring practices. We're hiring a nurse back for the third time now. We all know she's a waste of good air, but we're hiring her back. Not because we need her (we don't,) nor because we really enjoy her horrible work ethic and her manipulative ways. No, we're hiring her because we're hiring another nurse from the same agency (a GOOD nurse, one I hated to see go from here and am glad to see come back) and this double hire will effectively cripple our rival. I can only assume that after we've hired Slacker, RN back this third time and she proves yet again to be a waste of time and energy and a negative influence on our business we'll fire her, or let her go, or what we're more likely to do, simply cut her amount of visits so short that she'll quit. Is it just me or is this rather vile? Hiring her simply to help cripple a rival, then toss her aside because we KNOW we don't want her again?

Then there was last night. The dinner. Three doctors, five residents (baby doctors, growing into their MDhood,) our Area VP, Director of Ops, two marketers and our Clinical Manager, the Area VP for Business Development (salesman) and a presenter from Corporate. Oh, and a few of us regular employees. We had them outnumbered, and probably could have had a pretty fair pick-up game of baseball.

And then there was the reason I was there--a Case Manager for the Rehab division of the biggest hospital in a two-hundred mile radius had invited me. Let’s call her “X” for the sake of a joke.** I can only assume that otherwise I'd have zero reason to be there. When you're showing off a new piece of Electronic Medical Reporting software to prospective clients who are also doctors the last thing you need is one of the office staff there. Nothing against me, but ordinarily I'd play the same role there as a bicycle in an oyster bed--maybe easy to look at but certainly not useful to oyster farmers.

This lady likes the way I answer the phone, you see. And that confuses me. I always use the same voice and phraseology when answering, am always polite and I try to be at least a little bit cheerful. And after I find out that it's someone like a hospital's case manager or some other referral source I try to be at least a little nicer. I mean let's be honest, people like her are the main source for our referrals--without them we'd lose 3/4 of our business. Naturally when I recognise someone who is a referral giver I've always allowed a little extra glee to slip into my voice when I hear "Hey, this is so and so Case Manager from Veryverybig Hospital, we've got a referral for you." I mean, they're like customers--they're giving us their business, why NOT let them know we’re happy to be given money and work from them?

So anyway, this lady asked everyone involved in the planning of this rather upper-level supper/meeting if I was going to be there, and I was given very little choice in the matter--either be there or be there. So, I went there. And it wasn't until much later that I started to realise just how much of a tool I was to my boss and the bosses boss and so forth. It was my role to keep this lady buttered up, to keep her smiling and happy. I was to be the sugar to help the medicine go down, if you'll excuse the Poppinsese.

It wasn't a bad role as far as gigolo roles go. I ended up sitting beside her at one corner of the “U” of tables, and honestly she was like most medical people I’ve met--friendly, relaxed and easy to talk to. And honestly she seemed quite able to hold up both ends of our conversation all by herself as long as I made the occasional nod or small noise to let her know I was still following her, so I did. Listening is easy. And by the end of the night, after desert had been consumed and most of the medical folk were making their way to the door I did so also, said my goodnights, shook a few hands and was ready to make good my escape when the marketer scooted over to me, hugged my neck and stage-whispered “Thank you for babysitting X.” I smiled and made some little noncommittal remark but it sort of made me feel bad. Then my AVP said the same thing only in different terms, and it really drove the point home. I didn't hear until later that the marketer and X hate each other's guts, so I was doubly used there, to rub it in X's face.

So now my question to myself is this: was the ONLY reason I was there because I’ve got a work ethic and try to give my job my all, even when I don’t often enjoy it anymore? Am I wrong to feel pleased to have been invited even though it was at the sole request of a 50something, lonely nurse? Or do I just need to accept that I’ve got at least a small knack for dealing with people and enjoy the free dinners it entails?
* Best if done in Mongo's voice from Mel Brook's "Blazing Saddles."

** I call her “X” because that’s what Nero Wolfe used to call his clients when he didn’t want to name them, and a doctor we were hosting could have BEEN Nero Wolfe if only he’d been wearing a yellow shirt or tie and had Archie Goodwin standing behind him. I spent the entire meal waiting for him to start pursing his lips, or for him to buzz Fritz for some beer, or to shout at Archie to call Saul Panzer.

Nov 12, 2007

Shit Or Go Blind

It's been one of those sorts of days--so much going on, so many different things to handle, and of all the little blips and blops of the "Oh I need to blog about this" today I can't bring a single one to mind.

Damned mind!

*racing through the stacks, trying to haul open all the little card file drawers, finding them stuck tight*

Kay. Launched the train blog, that's going to be interesting. Further dividing my attention, just what I need. Like feeding Pixie Stix to a kid with ADD, then letting him wash it down with red Koolaid. I've already got a few posts in mind, just need time to sit and write them all out.

It's not cold here yet. WHY is it not cold yet?

The pecans are falling like mad. Unfortunately, so are the leaves. I raked a third of my backyard a few days ago, with the intention of making pecan picking easier. Came out the next day and it looked like I hadn't touched the place. It's like brown snow, all crunchy and piled up against things where the wind blows it. I wander out there with my rake and pile it up carefully and the dogs run through the big piles and I move it and pile it and sort it and more falls the next day. At least my brown snow hides pecans.

My office is a wreck. My home office, that is, my sanctum sanctorum, my Fortress of Solitude. No handle on the door, just a decades long tendency to stick, and one of the cats decided to try and open it. He succeeded. Now my office is littered with cats and the results of letting cats free reign in a space. Bits of important papers everywhere, cat toys underfoot, and my lap isn't safe EVER. Ye gods I need to install a lockset.

I got invited to a VIP meeting at work today, that was weird. See, I'm not a VIP. I'm just above the gopher in the office, but I got the word today. We're launching a new electronic document thing for the doctors, a paperless alternative to mailing verbal orders to them for signatures, and it seems that some of the Case Managers and main nurses of these MD's want to meet me. ME. Because of my personality on the phone, I'm told. I have to wonder what sorts of jerks these people have to talk to all day long if a little politeness gets me invited to meet these folks and share an expensive dinner.

Here's a good one: I had a bad go Sunday. I was very tired and my gentleman's demeanor was shot straight to pieces, but I was struggling gamely to keep it nailed in place. Now, keep in mind that I spent many years in retail dealing with arsehole customers of every ilk, so I go out of my way to try to be as civil, polite and friendly as I can when dealing with retail employees who at least make an effort at being competent. This time I had reason to be an arsehole.

Trying to buy less than $35 worth of mixed goods I walked to a cashier (turns out she was a front end manager or head cashier or such. She pointed me to the self-checkout. This pissed me off, not because I don't like the self-checkouts (I do) but because it gave me the impression she was too important to work, and I wasn't allowed to give my money to a real person. But, undaunted, I smiled and went to. Scanned and bagged the lot. I gave the machine a Visa gift card with a little less than $30 on it, expecting to use it then pay the remainder in cash. Easy. The machine swallowed it's face.

I had to pull the manager away from chatting with one of her cashiers to clear the error, then she directed me to the only human cashier there, who already had two in line. This further annoyed me because she was suddenly too important to fix the problem herself, and was happy to foist it off on one of her flunkies. And when the card failed again, everyone went stupid. Sweet Gold Plated Christ, the first thing I was taught when I started working retail was how to talk to people, how to reassure them that nothing is wrong when something goes wrong, and how to move FAST to take care of the issue. Me? I was left standing there, feeling as awkward as a duck in a nudist camp while everyone wandered around with a dazed expression on their faces. And so yes, I was nasty to the cashier. She'll get over it, I always did.

The second time that afternoon I almost lost it was a little more acceptable in the whole. I'd gone thru a local drive-thru chicken place to get my famished wife a chicken sandwich, chips and a drink. The total was $5 and some change, and I was given a dollar coin from her bottomless purse instead of breaking another fiver. I handed this to the girl at the window with a small smile. She looked at the fin and the little golden disc, looked back at me, and as Baby Jeebus With His Tiny Holy Willie is my witness she said, with a disgusted sound in her voice, "What's this?"

Kids, I could have climbed out of the driver's seat, leapt onto that damned swinging window's ledge, taken that little girl by her shoulders and bitten her throat out, then tossed her corpse into the fryer. What I did was put a dash of acid in my voice and said with my perfected Southern Sweetness slathered all over it: "That's a dollar coin, dah'lin." I may have snarled a little afterwards. I know she closed her little flip-window quickly and I watched as she showed it to someone else, I can only assume the Manager.

I wish now I had said "It's candy! You peel the wrapper off and inside is chocolaty goodness!"

Oh kids. I'm so tired of people who don't care enough to try. I was raised to do my best, all the time, no matter what I was doing. If I was a shit-shoveler, I'd give it my all to be the best shit-shoveler in the stable, and that includes knowing about what sort of shit I'd be shoveling, being able to identify all the different shovels I might need, and how to tell a horse's arse from a hole in the wall. So why is this no longer done? Are today's parents just stupid?

Kay. I'm getting cranky again. *s* Gonna leave off before I tear someone's throat out.

Nov 10, 2007

Holy Jeebus

I've launched another freaking blog.

Trainspotting CenLa is now going to be the place where all the train posts go, so that I don't keep regaling you lovely people with endless reiterations of how cool trains are and what train I saw when and what it smelled like. It'll be an ongoing journal of what I've seen, heard, photographed or otherwise gotten into concerning train operations in the area, and if you ever happen to be headed this way you can check out all the good spotting areas.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled blog reading. *s*

Nov 8, 2007

Hunting Season

The cold has come, and with it the hunters. Acres of Mossy Oak green clothing, shotguns in every truck’s back window and at least one four-wheeler in every bed. Sportsmen abound in the Sportsman’s Paradise, and Fall bring them out.

My father was a big hunter. Not a sportsman, there’s a difference. My father and his two brothers grew up in a time and place where hunting was required if there was going to be food on the table, so as he grew older he approached hunting season with the same sort of end result in mind. When my father brought home a game bag of squirrel it appeared that evening on the dinner table. When he killed a deer, which was only about once a year, we had venison.

My mother’s family was a little different. They grew up in the same sort of poverty and around the same time, but being French they preferred to think about their problems rather than go kill something over it. There was, however, one exception, and that was my mother's brother, Jean-Batiste. Not only was he a hunter he was a hunter with a sharp mind and an eagerness to try new things, and as he got older he only got worse. He was never good at hunting at all was my uncle, but he was determined far beyond the ken of normal men. Worse, he lived next door to us so we were constantly exposed to his own particular brand of madness.

To further his goals he always had the newest ‘thing’ to help him hunt. He always had the latest innovation in shotguns, was one of the first people in the area to own a three-wheeler ATV when they first came out, and the same with four-wheelers. He owned at least one piece of clothing covered in every pattern of camouflage made, he owned about seven or eight different stands and blinds and had owned and used probably every decoy and hunting technique there was to perfect his sadly lacking ability.

One thing that was a constant about his hunting technique, though, was dogs. He loved to hunt with dogs, and there was always a kennel-full of hounds in his backyard, all barking and baying and carrying on. Saturday mornings there was never a doubt if Uncle Jean-Batiste was going hunting, because the rattling of cages and the barking of dogs could be heard all over the bayou.

About ten years ago, close to the time of his unfortunate death my uncle started getting a little more unusual in his pursuit of big game. He was very secretive around the family for months and months before hunting season that year. Even his dogs went missing. The kennels that used to be so filled with every sort and description of hunting hound were empty, the bowls filled with dust. He was terribly distant to everyone, secretive and solitary. Until the morning deer season opened, that is. That was his grand entrance, the great unveiling of the mystery.

We woke to the sound of high-pitched barking and the rattle of cages and such, and my brother and I tore out to see what had been happening. We saw Uncle Jean-Batiste there, proud in his camo, shotgun laying on the seat of his battered little Toyota pickup, it’s back filled with small wire dog kennels, and a huge crowd of dogs around his feet. Not just any dogs, though. He was surrounded by about twenty five yapping, bouncing toy poodles. Toy poodles, he explained to our incredulous selves because it took a sizeable pack of dogs to execute his plan, and he could pack a lot of these little pocket dogs in a fairly small space.

He went on to explain that he had spent the past year carefully training these dogs to hunt deer. Furthermore, not just running them to ground to hold them like regular hunting hounds but to go one step further. This was his triumph: he had trained the poodle pack to tree a deer.

It is a little known fact, he told us, that if a deer ran fast enough it could in fact scale a tree, and he had trained these poodles to drive deer to exactly that specific speed, and he was determined to prove to everyone that it would work. And come to find out, it did. He returned that evening with not one but two massive bucks, bark still stuck in their hooves, and a triumphal grin on his camo-painted mug.

This went on for weeks—each Saturday morning he’d load up the pack of poodles in his little truck and head for the woods, and each Saturday evening he’d return with a big buck strapped across the hood. We all ate well for that month, then tragedy struck. It seems, from what we were able to gather, that the pack had treed a rather surly buck who was still surprisingly agile up in the branches and was doing everything in it’s power to avoid being shot. Uncle Jean-Batiste had to get pretty close to the tree to shoot it, and when he did he forgot a very important rule: heavy things fall very fast and very hard.

He was found in the woods near a tree covered in strange scrape marks. He was surrounded by his pack of disconsolate poodles, crushed underneath a mammoth deer with an oddly smug look on it’s muzzle.