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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pirate Ship Name Generator

While starting a new story, I blanked out when I needed a good name for a pirate ship. Googling "pirate ship names," I immediately came on a website called with a whole battery of "generators," or programs that randomly generate appropriate names for monsters, heroes, ships, you name it. I had it spit out a few pirate ship names before I took words from two of the combinations to make my own, "The Vile Mermaid," featured in the unfinished story below.

The site seems geared toward role-playing gamers, but I think it could be handy in many situations. You could name your pet or baby from either "goblin names" or "evil minions." This probably appeals to me more than most because when I was a kid I used to write numbered lists of nouns and adjectives that I liked and then roll D&D dice to generate random combinations, sort of like mad libs without the connecting story.

Yes, there were some slow and lonely times out at my house when I was growing up.

The Monkey and the Ghost Ship

A very high-strung monkey named Mr. Tinkertot lived on a pirate ship, The Vile Mermaid, in 1899. It was getting pretty late in history to be a pirate. Most of the pirates on board were getting old, especially Captain Poisoneyes, who was becoming fat, deaf, and forgetful. However, he could still give a man an angry look powerful enough to wither his timbers.

Even though the pirates were old enough to know better, they still drank and smoked to the point of folly. They drank horrible pirate ales, wormy tequilas, dirty rums and toxic vodkas from the Black Sea. These men would take the fermented juices of any spoiled thing and slurp it from a bottle. They drank until they vomited and they drank some more. Anything they couldn’t drink, they smoked. Mr. Tinkertot didn’t like to drink or smoke, so he spent his time patrolling the poop deck, the crow’s nest, the mast ropes and the hold. He even walked the plank sometimes, just for fun.

One day, the ship’s cook, Roasty Whiskermeister, very drunkenly tried to smoke Mr. Tinkertot’s tail. The monkey was sitting on the captain’s shoulder at the time. He shrieked and grabbed the captain’s ears, and the captain tripped over a pile of old beer bottles, falling painfully on his knees and elbows.
“Blast ye, Whiskermeister,” said the captain when he saw Roasty sanding there with a smoking match in his fingers. “I’ll soon give your job to a broad-shouldered woman.” He rubbed his knees and glared at Roasty till a little tear rolled down the cook’s dirty face. Then Captain Poisoneyes looked around and said, “What a slobby lot we are! It’s time we cleaned this pigsty of a ship! If I fall over garbage again, some mangy fool’s gonna walk the plank!” Mr. Tinkertot was clinging to the ceiling, which he often did when the captain was angry.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Found Glory

Picking up trash around a movie theater sometimes yields oddball treasures. I have found every denomination of money up to a $20 bill, endless Happy Meal toys (mostly broken), finger puppets, gloves, mints, magnifiers, balls, beads and more balls.

More common of course are the items solidly in the realm of garbage: drink vessels and candy wrappers ad infinitum, used condoms, diapers, and even pooped pants (yes, adult man-pants). Then there are discarded items like notes left on windshields to berate bad parking, grocery lists, and love notes. Sometimes you have to wonder if they were lost or dropped deliberately. Some things contain embarrassing personal info or just weird glimpses into a life; for instance, a list of someone's children tallying the monthly costs of all the prescription drugs they were taking.

My favorite things (like those pictured) are kind of personal/anthropological. Apparently self-motivational things like photos where someone's face has been vandalized, or drawings by kids (or adults) showing their attitude toward life. Once I picked up a ton of giftwrap paper and ribbons right after Christmas, which gave me visions of a trashy family opening their presents in their van and dumping all the wrapping on the ground so they wouldn't have to deal with it at home. There have been multiple Bible-study sheets with funny answers written in, dorky heartbroken notes, you name it.

What does one do with stuff like this? Normally you just end up throwing it away, but recently a friend of mine started working at a nearby building. One day an offhand comment I made seemed to reveal that he was worried about me leaving embarrassing things on his windshield (because I said I would, and told him some of my ideas). It seemed like he started parking differently after that, in a more "safety in numbers" fashion, nosing his car deeper into the co-worker motor-cluster. So, I keep him on his toes by sending him photos like the above, saying, "Consider this put on your windshield."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fungal Feast

September's biblical rain flooded fields and basements, but once the water drained off: Mushrooms! They swelled out of soil and dead wood. They flexed their feeble muscles while I took their pictures. They only lasted a few days, but they put on a good show.

This fungal spectacle brought to you by the inescapable iPhone.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Carbondale’s Gauntlet of Death

this guy, but with bushy white hair

It was Halloween Eve, just fully dark in time for my drive back to Missouri. After a day at a funeral where I got a dusting of my uncle’s ashes on my shoes, I had multiple warnings from my dad that it was too late to leave, that I should drive back the next day, then lots of “drive safe” grumbling as he realized I was leaving against his advice. My mom ran out and gave me three caffeine pills (I think). I had a tray of funeral reception cookies and I was ready to make tracks.

To escape Carbondale, I would have to face various envoys of oblivion. My phone battery “going dead” did not strike me as ominous, but it did leave me to trial-and-error my way out of town. It took a few turns and a backtrack to figure out which direction I was going, and a few looks at a map made me decide which highway to take: 57 south. To get there, I circled a downtown block full of one-way streets, which took me past a haunted house. The street was empty but for me and a Grim Reaper figure with long white hair and a huge scythe. As I drove slowly past, he swept his weapon and beckoned eerily with his other bony hand. His skull face tracked me all the way until I turned the corner. The emptiness of the streets at only 8:45 made him creepy.

Getting to the edge of town went smoothly, but as countryside darkness took hold, a deer appeared at the roadside with luminescent hypno-eyes, tracking me much like the Reaper. It jerked slightly as if it might leap right into my speeding, egg-fragile compact car. “No, deer—stay away!”

A few miles later, a rabbit darted right for my wheels but missed. “God, rabbit, damn!” That was the last of Carbondale’s mortal taunts. I ate cookies, drank Powerade, and popped two of my mom’s speed capsules. Got home at 1:40 am. Those pills or all those subtle death threats did something to clear my sinuses; my nose remains clearer to this day.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Genetic Anomaly

Taking a child's toys for my own agenda, I transformed into the villainous TinkerEyes.

Then mere moments after sending this photo to terrorize my sister, she sent back this picture of my niece.

with the explanation: "Never fails, every time I get stickers at the store, I look back and they are just sitting there like that. Funny that they never say, "Hey Mom, look!"

So it seems I am not the only one who possesses this sinister mutation. Soon I may have to do battle with my young relative for supremacy of facial distortion by misuse of playthings.

The battle royale—TinkerEyes vs. Stickerface! To the winner goes the spoils: my mom saying, "Aren't they weird? What's wrong with them?"

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cranial Headgear

This hat now exists, making me look more successful than I am. Yes, I am vanity publishing these hats. There's also a lighter color, and a blue stocking cap if you think you're going to be cold.

Monday, November 8, 2010

George Washington's Hearty Breakfast

(with optional horse-joke ending)

Life was tough in the days of the Founding Fathers, but the rewards were rich. George Washington knew better than anyone that the key to having a monumental day, a healthful body, and a free republic was to eat a nourishing breakfast fit for a king—but made without the bloated and scurrilous appendages of tyranny.

Each morning General Washington sprang from his bed one second before the rooster’s first call (so trained were his senses that he could wake up to the sound of the rooster’s mere throat-clearing). Straight to the frosty morning air he opened the door, grabbing his bullwhip. Cracking the whip several times near to his face both galvanized his fortitude and knocked the gritty sleep-matter from his eye-corners.

Next he would reclaim his teeth from the river, where they’d washed overnight in the rushing water of the American continent. If the river was high, he had a brisk swim to the cord holding his ivory dentures in the rapids, where he hoisted them out, gleaming— “No soaking my teeth in a tepid teacup like an Englishman,” he declared. “This is America! I’m a Virginian!”

To shake off the river’s chill, G. Washington fetched meat from his smokehouse. This required that he wrestle a brown bear and a black bear, the two guards of his meat stores. Of course they were his pets, so he rarely suffered more than torn pajamas. Meat in hand, he rewarded his bears and himself each with a modest slice of salt pork: protein with stern authority.

“Martha, where browns my toast?” Washington cried, now in a hurry to beat the sunrise. “Hither flies the pigeon!” Martha held out her hand for the packet of sugar and cinnamon arriving by carrier pigeon, careful not to neglect the day’s ration of coffee—one charred bean clutched in each of the pigeon’s feet. Martha would grind her bean for brew, but George preferred to crunch his whole, in the mill of his teeth. As the sun brinked over the horizon, Paul Revere arrived on horseback with his clanking silver tea service. “Tea and grapefruit, General Washington,” Paul said, tipping his hat to Martha, then riding swiftly away without spilling a drop.

Finally Martha stamped out a griddlecake in the shape of a Redcoat, running with red, red cherry syrup like the noble blood spilled on both sides of freedom’s boundary. This they shared as they watched the sunrise together. Their plates clean, George Washington mounted his horse, bade his wife farewell, and returned to the chores of liberty. Any vestiges of hunger yet lingering in the depths of the great leader could be banished by a quick fistful of oats straight from the horse’s feedbag, which any experienced Minuteman would attest can lend a soldier the reliable, muscular bowels of the mighty stallion.

“May I gnaw on your raw oats today, my good steed?” Washington asked, always respectful, to which his horse replied, “A-fewww.”