Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The end of NaNo

On November 26th, 26 of 30 days of National Novel Writing Month gone, I had a word count of 24,751. Not even at the half-way mark of the 50K target. Two evenings later, having jumped to 29,365 I said, fuck it. Fuck you universe and your rules! I am going to write 20,000 words in 48 hours… somehow! Or at least try! I mapped out the next 48 hours assigning sleep time and 750-word writing hours and nothing else, planning to write my balls off. Planning to hit 40K by 1AM on the morning of November 30th and then breaking my personal record (8,500 approximately) with a 10K final day! Hell yeah!

The 29th did not go precisely as planned. For one thing I discovered that I would have to take breaks to eat! Surprise! And I traded away some writing hours to go to bed earlier. That may have paid off. I got the only good sleep of the entire cough-ridden month last night. Almost eight hours I think.

It is just after noon on the final day and I am just now approaching the 40K mark. I am sitting at the Station One Café in Grimsby; their former fire hall. Sickboy and The Liaison and Sweetproserpina have departed leaving me and the Healer. The Healer met her 50K goal earlier here, and now remains with me while I tap away, lending me some of her woo-woo energy perhaps!

I am writing about some of the things most dear to me. People. Longings. My connections with the universe. The things that the big ol' universe and little ol' me have in common. Which should be much. We are the universe after all. We are the universe’s consciousness. We are how the universe dreams.

Word count check: 39,857

I’ll see you tomorrow. I’ll let you know how it went. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

No. No you didn't

The Toyota Motor Corporation should be given an award for being the most dedicated mockers of people’s intelligence.

Right on the heels of their recommendation that we buy a camera-studded Rav4 in order to turn parking into a video game where we must avoid carnivorous shopping carts on the loose – Oh,  and presumably more realistic parking hazards such as – well: dancing fire hydrants maybe? Evil lance-brandishing gremlins riding giant rats? Am I missing something?

So right on the heels of this indulgent farce; this gratuitous tech-nonsense which no one has ever needed unless they’re such an incompetent driver it is scandalous they have a license, they come out with this possibly-most-belligerent claim I’ve ever heard:

“Can you make joy?” They ask. “We did!” Then you see an image of their shiny car scooting down the road with the label Joy.

I can’t think of a more ignorant message.

A whole lot of people will go through life without ever experiencing a moment of legitimate joy but could any be so hopelessly removed from the possibility as automakers?

And by automakers I mean the masterminds who shape our culture: our car culture. I’m not talking about the people who are trapped within that culture with me and who happen to be employed in the car industry because they require employment.

Joy is a product of truth, beauty and love. Three things which automobiles fiercely oppose.

You know what? Come back in April! I have decided on my next April A-Z topic: Twenty six important perspectives on the automobile. And I promise I’ll try to be polite about it!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Finding the words

I’m at the Craperoo Coffee House typing these words while Grampa Munster quietly circles groups of letters in one of the jumbo word-search puzzle magazines which I grab up for him at the dollar stores. He goes through these exercises like a machine; for hours while I write, research or loiter on facebook. He’s just content to be away from the home. “Happy Acres,” he calls it.

Last night, for the first time in years, I talked to an old friend on the phone. The exuberant astral-travelling writer friend who once taught me to call myself a writer – what? Ten years ago? Who’d talked about fear before I was ready to listen.  Last night she told me that her husband; another old writing friend of mine, now has Alzheimer’s and has for six years now. It hurt to hear this. Her life has been simplified. She spends nearly every moment at home and on guard now. When he’s not acting out violently or trying to escape the front door in order to get hit by cars, he too sits in front of word searches, endlessly circling words.

Two nights ago I was out with Munster at a different Coffee Crap Stand location but without laptop or magazine, and there he told me about a new concession. They’ve been dangling the promise of the phasing out of “counseling” visits with the non-present-psychiatrist’s zany husband, and non-renewal of various mundane conditions come January 2018, if he will commit to permanent residence at the government-sponsored Happy Acres or like facility, and he’s been all over that. If he had even the slightest excuse for a spine he could ditch all of this because no judge could possibly deny his plea that he has been entirely rule-abiding and a non-threat for years.  But any judge will also go along with any proposed sanctions where the target is too intimidated by his masters to protest.

Now his masters have wiggled a new condition into the mix which Gramps failed to mention to me until now, after it has gone into effect. He has added a new “anti-arousal” drug which he is now taking in addition to the Lupron he’s been having injected for decades.

The problems around Lupron and associated anti-arousal measures are plentiful.

“I wish you’d told me about this,” I said. “Find out the name of the drug please. I want to do some research on it.” He didn’t seem compelled; suggested it was a done deal. “I want to see what the potential side effects are.”

“Well, there are no side effects from the Lupron,” he says.

“We don’t know that for certain.”

“Well, I haven’t had any side effects.”

“You can’t be sure,” I said. “These things might be affecting your brain!”

Damn it.

Why did I say that?

Gramps started to tear up.

Days later I am still regretful. How the hell could I be so unthinking? So insensitive?

I was on edge because here he was making decisions which could have serious detrimental effects on his life without consulting me… ME! The only person in the world who gives enough of a damn about him to want to protect him from potential harm.

We remained quiet for a while and his tears ceased before they really got going but I knew that he was thinking about it. He knows he is slow. We both know he is prone to anxiety. Have I sentenced him to a remainder of life always wondering if he has let his own mind be destroyed by buying a few optional privileges in exchange for submission to treatment that is quite probably barbaric and medieval by honest accounting?

It was so stupid of me. A moment of frustration. A moment unthinking. I have to be more mindful than this. I must not lay unnecessary burdens on him.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The origins of a TV commercial

Scene: Toytoyo Auto Corporation, head office executive boardroom, Tokyo Japan

Chairman: Dudley Warbucks
President: Akary Toydoyo
Executive Vice President: Macrame Nekktai
Executive Vice President: Screwge Makduk
Director of Innovation: Ernst Bloefeld
Director of Shizzle: Simian Scythe
Director of Plebe Manipulation: Hachiko Tigama

Toydoyo: Listen up, homies: I’m having some cash-flow concerns. I’ve only got sixteen swimming pools across 14 of my mansions. I need more and of course more staff to care for them. I’ve got mistresses in twenty eight different countries who all want a raise and higher credit card limits. All my private planes are more than five years old and need replaced and Satan has upped my monthly payments again. We need to invent some new consumer needs to fill and fast! What have you got for me?

Bloefeld: We ran out of believable ideas a long time ago!

Scythe: For the domestic market; yes, but not for the Western market. They’ll believe anything. They watch dum dum television all day and night.

Bloefeld: Ah, yes. For the western market; we have many ideas.

Toydoyo: Give me your best two!

Nekktai: We’ll choose the most believable.

Makduk: No. We’ll choose the most profitable!

Warbucks: We will make… the most profitable… the most believable.

All others: Ahhhh!

Warbucks: Won’t we, Tigama?

Tigama: Of course.

Bloefeld: (tapping his laptop keys) Okay. Here is the idea I like best: We appeal to their environmental sensibilities. We make a commercial telling them how driving from west to east is causing friction against the Earth’s spin, and how that friction causes heat which contributes to global warming!

Scythe: Are you crazy, Blofeld! Do you know how much money we’ve spent shutting people up about the global warming contribution from autos! You’ve come off your noodle, sir!

Bloefeld: But wait! We then introduce our new anti-earthspin friction condenser! It fights global warming!

Nekktai: Climate change. Not global warming. Climate change sounds less dire, and kind of fun.

Bloefeld: Of course. Of course. (taps a few more keys) We’ll option it on all models. Big money.

Makduk: It doesn’t sound believable at all.

Tigama: The Yankees will fall for it.

Scythe: Yes, and then the Canadians and Europeans will fall right in line. They copy the Yankees in everything now.

Toydoyo: What will this condenser equipment actually do?

Bloefeld: It will make the air conditioning work better. They’ll feel cooler which will ensure them they are fighting global warming!

Warbucks: I don’t know about this. The environmentalists are pretty smart. They might kick up a fuss about it; launch a campaign.

Nekktai: Our advertising budget is a hundred thousand times what theirs is.

Makduk: The greens are not so smart anyway. They think that recycling and windmills will save them.

Toydoyo: (looks confused) Well, won’t they?

All others: (stare at Toydoyo, aghast)

Toydoyo: (falls apart laughing)

All others: (fall apart laughing)

Scythe and Tigama: (fall off their chairs laughing and have to re-seat themselves)

Makduk: You had us going there!

Toydoyo: (wipes tears from his eyes) What else have you got, Bloefeld?

Bloefeld: Okay. I warn you: this one is even crazier. You ready?

Toydoyo: Go on.

Bloefeld: You know the camera we have on the back of some models? For backing up?

All present: (look around at each other and then start to giggle)

Warbucks: That’s one of my favorites!

Toydoya: Did we come up with that?”

Scythe: I wish.

Bloefeld: I think it was a Yankee. They put them behind their giant campers because they couldn’t see behind them and they’re too lazy to go look in person before getting into the driver seat.

Toydoyo: How did we convince them they needed a camera behind a Rav 4?

Tigama: Commercials that said the devil will steal your soul if you look in mirrors too much.

Warbucks: Excellent!

Bloefeld: Now we will tell them that one camera is not enough! We will put cameras all over! In every direction! And then turn the windshield into a solid widescreen TV instead!

Toydoyo: Genius! We can partner with Netflix.

Warbucks: Stop it! You people got that idea from the car in the Daybreakers movie!

Bloefeld: No! This is different!

Nekktai: Why would they want these cameras all over? How do we convince them?

Tigama: They’ll want them. Westerners are lazy. They hate the idea of having to turn their head to look at side mirrors or out windows. They find it unbearable!

Makduk: I don’t know. This may be too much, too soon.

Warbucks: Agreed. But what if we leave the windshield alone for now? And just add the 360 degrees camera system option?

Tigama: Make it 380 degrees. Sounds better.

Nekktai: Some of them will know there are only 360.

Scythe: A small minority.

Tigama: We tell them the Earthspin friction has caused a rift which accounts for twenty new degrees of direction.

Warbucks: No! We’re choosing one innovation here. Not integrating both.

Toydoyo: That’s right. So now we choose.

Makduk: The Earthspin story is far more sensible. The camera thing is strictly nuts.

Bloefeld: But the camera thing is more profitable.

Toydoyo: Then that is our answer. We need a commercial that will convince them they need the extra surveillance!

Scythe: Imagine this scenario: we have a married couple in a Rav 4. They’re backing up and almost hit a homeless person!

Warbucks: No homeless people! Don’t remind them of charity! We want them spending all their money on cars.

Scythe: An unwashed hippy, then?

Tigama: They call them hipsters now. And that won’t work. Our target market would just as soon run the hipster over. They don’t like hipsters.

Toydoyo: Why?

Tigama: They mistrust everyone who’s different. I guess they don’t understand why anyone should have different priorities. Plus they’re secretly resentful I think. They have a vague notion that the hipsters are kind of smart and more responsible; socially and environmentally, and they're afraid of looking selfish in comparison, I guess. I don't know.

Toydoyo: I don’t like it. Keep the hipsters out. No allusions to responsibility! I want them thinking about buying shit!

Scythe: How about a living shopping cart then? Or a robot shopping cart? One that will be their shopping agent and help them buy lots and lots of shit really efficiently! People would love that! But they wouldn’t want to back into one. It would scratch their paint. And every westerner knows that a pristine car finish means a pristine soul!

Toydoyo: I like it!

Warbucks: I love it!     

Tigama: Me too! And we’ll make it a nice red Rav 4. Red makes people hungry or angry! And angry hungry people want to buy more!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Hunt: conclusion

The Hunt: Part Two

“I shall now recite the accusations!” Cried Counsellor Timothy Hormone. “Accusation number one, as charged by Mrs. Amy Cruller!”

Mrs. Cruller gasped. “I didn’t know they were going to use my name!” she hissed in her husband’s ear. “I thought this all was anonymous!”

“Upon entering the cottage of Wendy McFwig she discovered the floor was spoiled by the presence of several pieces of straw!”

The crowd of villagers gasped.

“How does that make me a witch?” said Wendy.

“Silence, Accused!” roared Judge Horntoad. “You shall remain quiet until I invite you defend yourself against these allegations!”

“Yes sir,” said Wendy.

“Carry on, counsellor.”

He did so: “Stated Mrs. Cruller: Wendy explained the presence of debris by saying, I used my flying broom!” The villagers gasped again. “I presume I need not explain that only a witch might own a flying broom!” Wendy laughed, then opened her mouth to speak but immediately caught the judge’s glare and closed her mouth again. “Accusation number two!” cried Counsellor Hormone. “As charged by young Mr. Timbit McGuff!” All eyes turned to the youngster. “When delivering the morning newspaper to the cottage of Wendy McFwig, he did hear her inside the cottage, speaking in tongues!”

The crowd gasped anew. Wendy just smiled and shook her head. She looked into the crowd and met the eyes of a tall black man who met her gaze and shook his head ruefully.

“And sometimes her voice went really deep!” said young McGuff. “Like a – a demon or something!” The villagers grumbled at this.

“Accusation number three!” Counsellor Hormone continued. “As charged by Mrs. Mathilda Latte: When Mathilda offered Ms. McFwig a tub of homemade soup to take home with her, she brandished her magic wand and made it vanish into thin air!”

The crowd gasped and grumbled and hissed and shook their heads angrily. “Burn her!” someone cried out.

“Quiet, you!” ordered judge Horntoad. “We must practice diligence and burn her after establishing her guilt! Be patient! Now… Constable George McMacken. You were the arresting officer?”

“Yes, your honor,” said George, stepping forward.

“Did the accused come willingly or did she resist?”

“Oh, she tried to talk me out of it. And she tried to trick my deputies and I into eating her witch’s brew!” The crowd gasped.

“Oh please!” cried Wendy, stifling a laugh.

“This is your last warning McFwig!” cried the judge. “One more unscheduled outburst and we shall proceed immediately to the burning! Now… Constable, have you any further observations to add?”
“I’m afraid so, your honor. For one, her cottage door was unlocked when I arrived. I was able to open it unhindered, and after dark, no less!”

“Well, that is compelling!” said the judge. “What mortal woman would not fear the dark!”

“Only a mistress of darkness!” said McMacken. “Um… in my experience.”

“Indeed,” said Horntoad. “Will that be all then?”

“No, there is one other thing.”

“Go on then.”

“She freely confessed to me that she had put eye of newt in the brew.”

“Eye of newt!” cried several villagers. “Burn her! Burn her!” cried others.

“Quiet now!” said Horntoad. He shook his head.  “Ms. McFwig, as you can see, the evidence against you is overwhelming. Will you confess your witchy ways at once and volunteer to cleanse your soul at the stake of holy fire? It is getting late after all and tomorrow is festival day; a big day for us. We all would like to be up early! Please be considerate!”

“Is this my opportunity to defend myself?”

“If you insist.”

“Well I also would like to be up early tomorrow morning and not lying about in a pile of ashes, so yes, I do insist!”

Horntoad sighed. “Very well then.  To the charge of owning a flying broom, how do you respond?”

“I own no such thing. Amy misunderstood me.”

“Mrs. Cruller,” said the judge. “Did you witness the flying broom personally?”

“I beg your pardon!” shouted Mrs. Cruller.

“Did you see the flying broom for yourself!” Mr. Cruller shouted in her ear.

“Well, no, but she said…”

“I said fraying broom!” said Wendy. “Fraying. Not flying. My old straw broom has been fraying, hence the loose bits of straw on the floor. She misunderstood me.”

“Mrs, Cruller?” said the judge. “Is that possible? That you misunderstood Ms. McFwig?”

“I beg your pardon?” said Amy Cruller.

“I said, is it possible that you misunder-“

“I’m sorry!” shouted Mrs. Cruller. “Can you speak up? My hearing aid is on the fritz!”

Judge Horntoad rolled his eyes. “Mr. Cruller, how long has your wife’s hearing aid been on the fritz?”

“Oh – ah – a couple weeks now.”

“Since prior to her visit with Mrs. McFwig?”

“Yes sir.”

“Right. It seems we must dismiss accusation number one. Now… as for accusation number two, Ms. McFwig, that you were overheard speaking in tongues: what say you for yourself?”

“I would appreciate some clarification from young Mr. McGuff, please.”

“What is there to clarify?” said Horntoad.

“With regards to my voice going deep, I would like to know how deep. For instance, was it as deep as the voice of Mr. Ouagadoudou there, for instance?” Eyes turned to the tall black man whose head stood above the crowd. He was known to have the deepest voice in the village.

“What do you say to that, Timbit McGuff!” said the judge.

“I’m not sure!”

“Mr Ouagadoudou, will you please say something for us?”

The big man stepped forward and cleared his throat. “Um… testing!” he said in a very deep voice. “One two three testing! Boom chugga lugga! Elvis has left the building!”

“Thank you,” said the judge. “Well, Timbit?”

“Yeah, I suppose it was about as deep as that. But just some of the time. Sometimes it sounded just like her own voice.”

“You suppose?”

“Yeah, I’d say so.”

“Mr Quagadoudou, will you say a few more words so we may be clear?”

“Well,” said Mr. O, “I think I should say what I’ve been up to these last few weeks. That is – I’ve been spending my mornings at Ms. McFwig’s cottage. She’s been teaching me how to cook and I – Well I’ve been teaching her how to speak Swahili. My native language.”

“Oh really?” said Horntoad.

“Yes sir.”

“Will you say a few words in this uh - Sawheelies language for us please?”

“Very well,” said Mr. O. And here he rattled off a string of sounds which sounded very strange indeed and not one villager could understand a word of it. In fact, what he’d said was, Lord but you’re a bunch of precious little pale-faced idiots! Anyone tries to light Wendy here on fire, I’ll knock you the hell into next week! But no one had a clue as to these sentiments.

“Ms. McFwig,” said the judge. “Is this your allegation? That you have been speaking Waheelies with Mr. O?”

“That is the truth of it, your honor.”

“So you say. Now what about this matter of the witch’s brew which constable McMacken caught you stirring?”

“Why it’s the festival soup of course! I’ve been making it every year! Everyone in the village has drank of it!”

“And every year you’ve poisoned us with newt eyes, have you!”

“Of course not. It was George who made the eye of newt joke and so I went along with it. At least I thought he was joking. I had no idea this all was coming down. I’ve never been anything but a friend to every one of you! Witchcraft indeed! This is preposterous! Go search my cottage if you wish. You won’t find any flying brooms or newt eyes or magic wands!”

“Then what say you to the door being unlocked!”

“I say there is no need to lock my door! Who among you should I fear! Every year on this night my neighbors drop by to taste a sample of the soup and tell me that it needs a little sugar or a little salt or just a pinch more sage! It’s tradition! I leave the door open for them!”

“Then what do you say about the vanishing trick!”

“What vanishing trick?”

“You cast a spell on Mathilda Latte’s soup and made it vanish!”

“I did no such thing! I took it home and ate it. It was delicious!”

“Mrs. Latte,” said the judge. “Did you see Ms. McFwig dispatch your chowder into thin air? Did you? With your very own eyes? Speak the truth!”

“I did not, your honour! But she told me herself the next day! She said she made it disappear!”

“I said it disappeared as a clever way of saying that I ate it all. Are we done with this farce yet? I’d like to get back and finish with the festival soup in time to get some sleep!”

“If we burn her, what will we do for soup tomorrow at festival?” said a man in the crowd.

“That is of no consideration to this proceeding,” said the judge.

“It’s already taken care of!” announced Mr. Latte. “Mathilda’s been making soup for two days now! We’ve got it covered!”

“Hush!” hissed Mathilda, punching her husband on the arm.

“Ouch!” he moaned.

“What!” said Wendy.

“But Mathilda,” said judge Horntoad.  “How did you anticipate such a need? This trial was not planned!”

“It’s not fair!” cried Mathilda. “Every year it’s Oh Wendy! Your festival soup is so yummy! Oh you make the best soup! It gives me tingles! Well I’ll have you know that I make excellent soup! Why don’t I ever get a turn!”

“Is this how all of this started!” said Wendy. “Did Mathilda cast the first accusation! Mathilda, I would have happily turned over the festival soup reins to you! All you had to do was ask! You didn’t need to have me burned alive!”

The crowd erupted in chatter. Angry eyes were cast at Mathilda Latte. Other angry eyes were cast at Wendy McFwig.

“Quiet everyone!” shouted the judge.

“Quiet everyone!” aped Constable McMacken.

The crowd did settle and eyes turned to Judge Horntoad. “Ladies and gentlemen: the time has come to vote on the fate of Wendy McFwig. You’ve heard the accusations. You’ve heard the explanations. I must counsel you: This charge of witchcraft no longer appears very convincing. I am tempted to abort the trial and send everyone home.”

Villagers looked down at their gas cans and matches and lighters and torches and suddenly felt extremely uncomfortable.

“But...” said old Mr. Muffin. People looked his way. “What would we do next? We’ve never had a trial that didn’t end with a burning.”

“We would go home and rest and gather again for festival tomorrow!” said Horntoad.

“But won’t Wendy be there?”

“Of course. She’s the official festival souper!”

“Won’t that be kind of awkward? We just tried to have her killed! She’s not likely to forget about this!”

“He’s right!” cried Mrs. Eggbagel. “I don’t look forward to running into Wendy about town anymore! There will always be this elephant in the room!”

“We should just burn her,” someone muttered quietly.

“Yes, burn her!” spoke another. “It’s better for everyone that way!”

“She’s probably a witch anyway,” said Mr. Finegrind.

“We need not worry about ever running into Wendy again!” said Mr Ouagadoudou in his deep resonant voice which cut through the crowd like thunder. All eyes turned his way. “Wendy and I were speaking just this morning and she told me her plans.” Wendy looked at him curiously. She recalled no revelation of any plans. He met her eyes briefly. “She was going to make an announcement at festival tomorrow but under the circumstances I think you all should hear it now.” He looked around and saw that he had garnered everyone’s attention. “She was going to announce tomorrow that she is planning to leave the village and travel far away, never planning to return. She’s planning to leave the day after tomorrow, and with a heavy heart, for she loves you all muchly and mourns that she will never see you all again. And she was planning to make a recommendation that Mathilda Latte be considered for new official festival souper.”

Mathilda’s hand went to her mouth as she flushed.

“She said that Mathilda makes the best soup in the village – ah – leaving her own soup out of the equation that is.”

“Is this all true?” said Judge Horntoad to Wendy McFwig.

“Um. Yes, it is so. In fact Mr Ouagadoudou has volunteered to do all my packing for me.”

< ---------- {0} ---------- >

As Wendy McFwig rode along the bumpy trail, the reins of a two-horse team in her hands, a covered wagon full of belongings at her back, she thought in amazement of all that had transpired. What struck her the most was her own reaction. She could not summon an ounce of anger toward the people who had conspired to have her burned alive. She could only feel a detached fascination at this witnessing of the darkness of the human mind; that such a secret pleasure; such a yearning to see evil in others; for the excitement of scandal, that it eclipsed all the love she had shown them.  As much as her friends and neighbors professed goodness, and publicly regarded and awarded nobility, deep inside it was evil that excited them; evil they wished to imagine; evil they wished to seek and expose. And all it took was one coward to plant a seed.


The preceding story was essentially true.

However:  the names, genders, locale and pretty much every detail, have been tweaked or altered just enough to protect the identities of one innocent anonymous security guard, and a gang of bona fide cretins whose cretinship they likely came by honestly and innocently enough, given the soul-crushing malaise inflicted upon them by the corporation they are slave to; a corporation whose product has evolved into the soylent green of coffee and donuts; a corporation who exists in a dimension where only money is visible to the naked eye and for whom humanity is an obstacle. I shall leave them respectfully unnamed!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Hunt

The following is based on a true story!

Wendy hummed a happy tune as she deftly sliced up parsnips. Chop chop chop! She raised and tipped the cutting board and scraped the chucks into the great simmering pot of stew which monopolized the entire stove. Then she pulled another basket up onto the wooden table and took up a stiff brush and began scouring the next lot free of soil. A firm knock sounded at the cottage door.

“Hello!” she cried.

“Constable McMacken here!”

“Come on in, George!”

The door creaked open, revealing a man in tall hat standing in the shadow of night. He removed the hat and stepped forward; presenting his lined, clean-shaven face to the bask of candle light. “Good evening, Wendy,” he said in a deep gravelly voice.

“Make yourself at home,” she said. “Here! Try the soup.” She handed him a wooden spoon. “Be honest now! It’s not too late to tinker with it!”

George McMacken frowned uncomfortably. “Oh, uh. I’m really not hungry currently.”

Wendy laughed. “You needn’t finish an entire bowl, constable! Just have a sip. Tell me if it needs more salt or what not!”

“Or more eye of newt!”

Wendy laughed. “Okay then! Or more eye of newt!”

“So you confess!” McMacken blurted. His face hard.

Wendy blanked. Her hand which held the spoon dropped to her side. “Whatever do you mean?”

“You confess to – to – eye of neutering!”

“Are you quite mad, George? I was joking. As you also were, I sincerely hope.”

“Wendy, I’m sorry but – well, there is no easy way to say this. Accusations have been brought forth against you. It is my duty to take you into custody.”

“Wha-! Surely this is some fine jest! You can’t be serious!”

“Oh but I am. Put down the spoon please. And any other implements you might have on your person.”

“This is madness! Implements? Whatever-“

“Like a – your wand or what not.”

“Wand? Oh this has gone too far. Really George.”

“Do you declare yourself free of devices? And charms?”

“I declare I’ll not go along with this farce a moment longer!”

“You will submit to the will of the law! You have been accused!”

“Of what? By whom?”

“Of witchcraft! By villagers. Several in fact.”

“That’s preposterous. I’m fast friends with everyone in the village.”

“Friends or not, no sorcery shall stand in this fair village of Horton! You’ll come with me now. You’ll cooperate or I shall have to use force!  Come at once. You’ll receive a fair trial.” He pushed the cottage door wide open and outside she spied another pair of men standing by a carriage.

“Merrick?” she said. “John?”

“Good evening Ma’am!” said John.

“Come in from of the cold!” she said. “Have a foresampling of tomorrow’s festival soup!”

“Why thank you!” said Merrick, stepping forward.

“There will be no foresampling!” cried the constable, “nor any other trickery!”

Merrick halted. Wendy rolled her eyes.

< ---------- {0} ---------- >

Wendy found herself standing in the centre of the wide circle of villagers. Behind her stood a pyre of straw and from the centre rose a thick wooden pole. Many of the villagers held such cheerful recreational items as ropes, gas cans, torches, matches and lighters. One young fellow had a long tweezery metal sparker device which made a gentle grinding noise and emitted sparks. Perhaps the author will look up the proper name for this device and edit this stupid paragraph. Or maybe not. The fellow wore a dark grin and a sparkle in his eye as he squeezed the device repeatedly, causing tiny sparks to dance.

To be concluded tomorrow…

Monday, November 14, 2016

Too many vacations

“Why wouldn’t you?” said Neo.

These words ring in my mind probably every day. I think it has been a couple months at least. Or many months? I have almost no ability for tracking time.

Why wouldn’t I?

The answer I gave him was not fair. For some reason I did not approach it in a straight-forward way. Instead of explaining what I think the barrier is; I found myself trying to show him instead. It’s not that I wish to be tricky. Not at all. I deeply regard clarity. But the problem here is so very delicate. I think I tried to show him as a way to ask for help. I have long made a habit of underestimating him. We gathered weekly for so long and then, when our visits fell to monthly or bi-monthly, I failed to anticipate his swift maturation. Now on this occasion I gave him unlimited credit. I allowed that maybe he could be so brilliant as to see right through my problem. If indeed it is a problem.

Why wouldn’t I?

Why wouldn’t I want to cross that threshold? Why wouldn’t I want to further evolve? To perhaps embrace a permanently enlightened state, if indeed I was as close to such a state as I felt like I was those – what – five years ago? Ten?

I was so joyful and so at peace for so long that I told no one; only hinted. For no one would have believed me, or so I figured. And let’s face it: a lot of people have been tricked into such an apparent state by subscribing to other people’s programs built of compromised logic and puny scope. Born again or what not. People would have assumed that of me and I was in no mood to carefully explain the integrity, the courage and the patient wholeness of my journey. And I did not trust the submission of my ego enough to get into something that could become bragging. There is nothing to brag about. I have never forgotten the long roster of failures which allowed me to slide into such a rare space that reality became so easy to see. My story is not one of successes.

Why wouldn’t I?

Why wouldn’t I want to be genuinely enlightened? Permanently so?

In so many ways I have slipped backwards; too often impatient; too often tribal; too often unforgiving. Temporarily I mean. I always smarten up after some amount of time; seconds or minutes; perhaps hours rarely.

It seems I never lock the cell door anymore. My ego takes little parole vacations according to its own whims and on my own whims I say, “Hey fucker! Get back in your cell!”

I forget my goals. I am disloyal to my own plans.

Build the plan. Work the plan! The foundation of any enterprise. I suspect sometimes that I fail out of fear. If you work the plan and the plan fails, then what next? Working the plan invites possible failure and I don’t know what post-failure looks like. I don’t know what the new plan is. I know I should have more clarity than this. I’m not clear what is holding me back.

Why wouldn’t I?

I’m not sure I can express here, the difference between what I should have explained versus what I did say.

I think I’m afraid of losing my identity. My identity is dear to me despite its seductive torment. As it is with the child abuse survivor who refuses to give up being a child abuse survivor. I’m the guy who loves immensely and wants nothing but to show it and is always handcuffed from showing it; whose heart is always dangerously close to bursting.

“But when you’re enlightened you won’t care about that anymore,” says Neo.

I must presume that is true. But it is still unimaginable.

I worked so hard to get so far and then I paused and said, No, I can’t go any further because I’m leaving everyone behind. I can’t remember what it was like to be like them. I am losing my ability to relate! I must back up a bit so I can reach them; so I can communicate, so I can help them along! Why ever should I go on alone? If I can do this, anyone can and everyone can! I have achieved out of rare opportunities, not rare talents.

I took a long journey, a working journey, and I came to what I perceived was a gateway; another one-way gateway, for I’d lingered at such a structure before, prior to marching forward, when I’d understood the matrix and decided I had to leave it; that despite the terror there was no turning back. No blue pill after all. But here at this new gate I did turn back and I have been too often on vacation ever since.

It has to change.

Sunday, November 13, 2016


"He said Delores, I live in fear
My love for you is so overpowering
I'm afraid that I will disappear"
Paul Simon (Slip Sliding Away)

I just realized that I understand this passage. I understand it entirely. Except that I am not afraid; not of disappearing. Perhaps I should be, but I'm not.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Story glue

My pal, we’ll call him… Chesschamp; he’s quite a bright fellow, intellectually. In fact he’s the current official chess champion (I know. You saw that coming) of Scooterville, which is no small feat. Scooterville is actually one of the nation’s larger cities; akin, I am guessing, to Ottawa or Calgary in population.

I think the particular tribes he throws himself into are deplorable but I still respect him. I see that he approaches these associations out of loyalty to a different kind of intelligence than that which I give priority; one immersed in the theoretical.

He’ll talk philosophy or politics with you all day and all night if you can bear it. He has a gentle demeanor and a kind willingness; an eagerness even, to drop whatever he’s doing at any time and help a pal world-build their novel or work out their plot tinkering, and with genuine interest to boot.

Chesschamp thinks very highly of plot. He even seems to infer that plot is the most important element in the novels he reads; key to his enjoyment of the story. While I happily concede that he may know something I don’t, on this or many other matters, I cannot grasp this point of view.

Writers say, Hey New Day! Will you listen to my new story idea? It goes like this: and then they deliver the plot; or as much of it as they have thus far deciphered. They might divulge at length the twists of a complex murder mystery or else say, “Well I’ve got this neighborhood breakfast café and there are these regulars: an automotive mechanic, a pretty woman who is basically single for the first time in her life, and a trio of old men who talk over each other in their native language while waving their hands all over the place.” What do you think? Could that work? My answers are mostly identical. Well sure it could work. It depends what you do with it.

Any plot imaginable could work. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire story, if broken down into pure plot outline will probably run a thousand pages! And it works! Here’s a somewhat briefer plot that could possibly work:

There’s this bottle of ketchup. People shake its contents onto their food.

I attribute my enjoyment of stories to such things as my ability to relate to characters and the engagement of my empathy; to the relief of tensions; to the triggering of my own memories; to the escape from my own world and the novelty of immersion in another world; to the lyrical use of words and their rhythms; to entertaining humour, to thrilling emotions and the artful progression of one to the next; to the coming alive of scenery in my mind; to finding out I’m not alone and the comforting sense of camaraderie, to the gut satisfaction of redemption, revenge or justice; to the little details which bring things alive; to all the tiny hints at this grand thing called love; to the cautions and the warnings for which I am grateful; to the fascinating experiences which are not available to me in own life circumstances; to the road maps to better ways and the hope they instill; to lessons learned and valuable perspectives gleaned; to the tricks of word-play. Ha! You got me there! I could go on.  

There are a hundred and one things I connect with directly but never directly to plot.

Remember the giant wall murals the whole class would create? Thirty artists; one crinkly colossus you could land a small plane on? All its colorful components are what I have described above. Plot is the glue which holds them all together.

Plot is a pile of wood and nails; a pile of inanimate things barren of life but from which we may build the framework of a house. You connect with the furniture and décor and the people within the house; not with the frame. And you build a house by first planning the needs the house must serve; the necessary rooms and their dimensions. Then you architect it all before you start building the frame.

Plot is the last consideration. Plot is building what you need to build in order to serve the greater purposes.

It took a while but I have learned not to start story ideas with the plot. I think about themes, ideas, characters, wisdom, lessons, environments; stuff that I know or else can entertain with a strong sense of imagination. Then I devise a plot which will loyally draw them all together. Because whether we think about it or properly account for it, our lives and every life we’ve ever heard of, and all of these lives’ minute components, are firmly anchored in causality. At some deep level we get this. Plot simply delivers the causality necessary to allow the story’s components to feel real. It holds up the house.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Warning sign

(Also the floor is wet)

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The writing genius

He came hobbling along, not decrepitly but with an awkward bounce in his step, with cane in one hand and wheeled satchel in the other. He looked like the perfect candidate for a walker but perhaps too stubborn for one.

We waited on the patio-sidewalk for the library to open while his eyes continually blinked and watered in the cool morning air. I’ve never seen such watery eyes in my life. Like dripping faucets. Little puddles collected on the pavement. Two long tear stains striped his coat. I'd never seen him before.

“You think this is a coincidence?” he suddenly said at me.

“Us meeting here?” said I.

“No. Well, I don’t know, but no; this!” He waved his finger at something: the library? Lake Ontario? Greenland? “Are you telling me they just happened to build a Tim Hortons right next door to the library?”

“I don't know. What do you think?”

“I think people get thirsty when they’re sitting in the library reading or writing. I know I do. And I think they know that!”

“I see,” said I, though I strongly suspected I didn’t. I watched his eyes drip. “So you come here to read?”

“Mostly to write.”

“Excellent. What do you write?”


“Oh! Very good. So do I. Well, I write the beginnings of novels anyway. I don’t finish many.”

“Why not?”

“Well… usually something goes astray at some point that I’m too lazy to fix. You know what I mean?”


“Does that happen to you?”


It emerges from conversation that he is eighty years old, missing a fifth of his esophagus and survives on a diet a soup, pudding and canned pasta.

“You working on a novel currently?”

“I am.” He nods vigorously, flinging tears.

“What’s it about?”

“Imagine a park,” he says, “somewhat smaller than Gage Park, and a university campus, a little larger than McMaster.”


“Now imagine a young man lying unconscious in the snow. He’s lost his coat in a poker game. There’s a snow storm…”

I become concerned that he’s going to take me through the tale page by page. I begin to hope that he’s no more than a couple chapters into it so far. But the story gets interesting. The young man is rescued by a woman and whisked off to her off-planet military base commanded by the god, Jupiter. The woman who rescued him turns out to be none other than Wonder Woman.

“So this base is on planet Jupiter?”

“No. The God is Jupiter.” He’s dead serious about this story, by the way. It’s no parody.

“Right. Sorry.”

In a nutshell: the fellow is treated for hypothermia, which involves a blood transfusion. He recovers and is recruited into the military/intelligence organization where his career prospers and he soon falls under the direct supervision of Wonder Woman; his former rescuer. Here’s the hitch: There arises much tension between he and Wonder Woman because he is her subordinate yet attains more clout than she; becomes more connected within the upper echelon of the organization, and why? Because it turns out the doctors accidentally used… ready for this? Female blood for his transfusion, and now he is becoming transgendered and employing his female side and sleeping with the brass.

I can’t lie. I’m dying to read this story.  

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Hello Goodbye, pt. 2

Part Two: Goodbye

It was Aqualad who pointed out the noise.

“Don’t you hear it?” he said. “It’s a squeak or something. Every half-minute. Is it Ezri?”

Ezri is the old toy poodle belonging to Kate, my housemate. I finally tune in to the noise. Like a distant intermittent squawk. I never would have noticed it if not for Aqualad. “No. She’s never made a noise like that.”

The boys are packing up for the night. Aqualad knows that stairs are not my best thing and offers to investigate. Later he returns. “Yeah, it’s Ezri. I don’t know what’s wrong with her.”

We do our goodbyes and I climb the stairs to find the old dog lying in an awkward position on the bedroom carpet. She issues a brief weak squawk. I help her to adjust herself but she lies limp. I pull the bowl to her and bring the water surface right to her nose. She sniffs and is not interested.

I pick her up and carry her downstairs. I recline on the couch, her in my arms. The pitiful intermittent noise continues, not often, but regular. Is she in pain? I start to believe so.

Messages to Kate and to her partner go unanswered. What I don’t know is that they are in a movie theatre; the late show.

Ezri’s yelps vary in frequency as I adjust her, trying different positions.

Do I take her to the emergency vet again? As I did so recently and to no benefit but for a costly bill? Legally I have no right to subject another person’s animal property to medical treatment. Not that that’s an issue. I would claim to have such consent and the vet would comply.

I try occasionally to offer water, bringing it to her face. Once she samples it.

I do not know this dog anymore. She stays upstairs all the time. I do not know what her current normal is; what to judge this behavior against. I know not if this dog is going through a bad health period or if this is a dog approaching her end of days. It looks like the latter from my outsider’s view, but how can I know? What does Kate see? Is she reading temporary into something that is not? Is this dog being cruelly kept alive out of love? Or should I say, attachment?

Blessedly the dog falls asleep. Her breaths lengthen. The whimpers cease. I am so grateful for her respite from distress. It abides my indecision.

We are at peace. I’m comfortable holding her until the girls arrive home. We have been two hours on the couch. Ezri awakens and I share my concerns. From Kate’s point of view the decline has been swift. It’s been hard for her to decipher if this all has been a health anomaly or a final migration. She reveals that there has been a seizure. She is very sad, and grateful for what comfort I could give.

The next afternoon there is a knock at my door. “It’s time,” says Kate’s partner. “We’re going to the vet…” and saying goodbye, I interpret.

“Let me drive you,” I say.

A catalog is proffered and fawned over with a calculated attempt at tact. Kate views the costly trophies with discomfort. “You have collars at home; toys, photographs; right?”


“So you have mementos. You don’t need to buy artificial ones to prove you loved her. You don’t need to prove anything.”

On the steel table Ezri lies inert but eyes wide open. I stroke her softly. This last year she has been such a quiet dog. No barking. Nothing stimulates a deaf dog.

“You’ve been an excellent housemate,” I whisper. I kiss her firmly on the muzzle. Kate is weeping. I depart the exam room and leave this little family some privacy.

Death has come within my reach yet again and for once – for once – I have handled it competently.  

Monday, November 07, 2016

The beauty in brevity

Earth Writer pointed me at an article which I found very engrossing, about a mature couple who are confirmed… collapseniks, you might say. They do a lot of canning. They run a personal rabbit farm – for practical reasons. Their meals are becoming more and more of a domestically sustainable nature. They are learning to live in a manner that is rich in spirit and texture and which can be maintained, if necessary (only a matter of when, they would say) come a time devoid of electricity, commerce or infrastructure. You might immediately comfort yourself by thinking them freaks who can’t possibly be right. And you’d be unwise. They’ve had dignified careers which have well prepared them for such forecasting. And the article demonstrates their enlightenment, and their noble approach; their aplomb. 

I want to share my response to Earth Writer, and then add something:

Wow. That's a great article. Honestly, none of the ideas there are new to me but it was put together so well, bringing so many relevant aspects together in a concise effective manner - and with much grace.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the young people I know, some as young as [Aqualad], who do not believe they have a future. It makes me cry. But I've been thinking about our impermanence - whether we maybe squeeze out a few more generations or not - or whether by great fortune some semblance of humanity survives for a couple billion years on Earth or even migrates beyond and survives long eons throughout the galaxy or universe - regardless - our kind will exist for a limited time, however long or short, and then be done. And sometimes I think, Well so what? The beauty in anything is magnified by its brevity. I learned that a long time ago; one of many lessons I sometimes forget. Planet Earth is still a paradise for now. It is still a heaven for now and now is what matters most. I'm grateful I can see it that way and would rather see it that way for a moment then to live forever and never have that sight.

My praise for the article was understated. It actually delivered a couple rather complex conclusions in such an elegant way as to make them more swiftly understood than in the more clunky ways that I have handled the same material. So I am grateful to have learned how to express myself a little differently on these topics going forward.

What I wanted to add to my response but chose to save for later discussion is this:

In a very real sense, life is eternal, for the simple reason that we do not remember our birth nor experience our death. We have no opportunity to reflect on our lost life. We are gone before we know it. To paraphrase Eckart Tolle, It is always the now, and the now is always experienced by the living. In that sense, we are eternal. 

I have long looked at the death of individuals in this light: Death is no tragedy. It is inevitable. We tend to treat it as a tragedy largely because a functioning assumption of personal immortality gives us a marvelous excuse to live without any urgency to accomplish anything real; to instead live with an absence of meaning or with only the asinine double-think "meaning" perpetrated by today’s sad withered remnants of religious guidance. Death is not the tragedy. Failure to live with presence is the tragedy. Death only documents that sad conclusion. For most people (around here anyway), the tragedy was their shallow living experience; not their death.

When I’ve cried at funerals it has not been for the demised but for empathy of those around me.

Am I digressing? The point is that all life is rare and short. Lately I have looked at it this way:

With the understanding that humanity is temporary, as are all things, its duration is not very relevant. All known life has been brief; so fleeting, and yet at the same time eternal.

As individuals, the universe, life, the human race: these things are not ours to control. At this stage of evolution we can’t even control our own individual minds! Our minds are prisoners of external causality. No, we are primarily here as a witness. That is the power of our beautiful and tragic consciousness. And as a witness, consider this:

If we had had some pre-birth awareness and choice; if we had been told, “You shall be born a human being on planet Minerva!* In what time period of the human experience would you like to exist?” One might look at the chart, and note the beginning, the middle and the end, and say, “I would like to be born here, near the end. That is what I think would be interesting to experience. That is where times might be tough. That is where I might have much opportunity to be useful to my fellow humans.”

That the human experience should end is no tragedy. That we might perhaps be living near that end-time is no tragedy.

That is not to say that we should invite destruction. That is not to say that we should not be wise and seek survival and harmony by seeking wisdom and to embrace change.

There just need not be despair. 


Sunday, November 06, 2016

Hello Goodbye

Part One: Hello

In one sense I’ve preferred the news not come.

Because no matter to what degree one is an environmentalist – and make no mistake: every one of us is an environmentalist to some widely varying degree; some number between one per cent and a hundred (as if it could be so easily quantified) where only the truest aboriginals might claim the number 100 and maybe Derrick Jensen the singular white guy to hit ninety nine? – anyway, unless you’re pretty badly out to lunch you can’t deny that a seven and a half billion human population is a major factor in the long equation which underlies the environmental catastrophe which guarantees to radically change – if not end – the human experience on this dear old half-wrecked planet. Every avenue of human-related harm has been multiplied by population.

So one of the very few pieces of advice I ardently profess is: think twice about having kids... for quite a few solid reasons related to the above.

But in another sense…

I have eagerly anticipated such news since my brother’s marriage to my very excellent sister-in-law (what a horrible title – sister in law – for someone I am so delighted to include in my perception of family!)

It seems it was the four years volunteering with the reading and writing kids which so surprisingly unveiled these paternal instincts, and surely a niece or nephew would provide an obvious outlet for them. I have wondered at times to what degree said instincts have enhanced, versus hindered, the close relationships I maintain with certain young people in my life.

I’d started to suspect that Bro and wife were not planning to have kids after all.

And then at a family gathering , one of our parents' regular roster reports of the sick, dead and dying among their friends and associates was interrupted mid-sentence  by the Bro as follows:

“Couldn’t we talk about something more pleasant? Such as the fact that Catharine is pregnant?”

I honestly had thought that I would shed tears if such an announcement ever came (yes, of joy) but this was not the case.

Whenever I checked up on them, Mom seemed to be doing well and not complaining (though I am sure that pregnancy must be wildly uncomfortable most – or all – of the time).

I got the call two months ago. It was a boy. And with respect to his paternal lineage (a John Paul, a Jean Paul and a Jean Marc) he was named: Jean Benoit. Ben for short.

I gave them some time to attend their own needs and then joined them at Sprawlville’s regal new mega-hospital. The folks would arrive on my tail. I entered quietly to find her in bed and Bro on his feet. He gestured toward a corner, and there I saw him sleeping in his baby bucket. Such a little guy, in his little rapper toque and blanket bundle. He became a little blurry. Something wrong with my eyes perhaps.

Eventually I hugged the parents goodbye and thanked them for bringing this joy into our lives.

Strolling down the long corridor of what felt more like an airport than a hospital, I said to Mom; the new grandma, “Six of us now. We’ve come a long way from just the two of us.”

“Yes we have.”