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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Devil's Roll-Call

Puckishly purloined for your pleasure from the internet's rich inventories: A verbal fiend folio, for the run up to Halloween:

What a happiness this must have been seventy or eighty years ago and upwards, to those chosen few who had the good luck to be born on the eve of this festival of all festivals; when the whole earth was so overrun with ghosts, boggles, bloody-bones, spirits, demons, ignis fatui, brownies, bugbears, black dogs, specters, shellycoats, scarecrows, witches, wizards, barguests, Robin-Goodfellows, hags, night-bats, scrags, breaknecks, fantasms, hobgoblins, hobhoulards, boggy-boes, dobbies, hob-thrusts, fetches, kelpies, warlocks, mock-beggars, mum-pokers, Jemmy-burties, urchins, satyrs, pans, fauns, sirens, tritons, centaurs, calcars, nymphs, imps, incubuses, spoorns, men-in-the-oak, hell-wains, fire-drakes, kit-a-can-sticks, Tom-tumblers, melch-dicks, larrs, kitty-witches, hobby-lanthorns, Dick-a-Tuesdays, Elf-fires, Gyl-burnt-tales, knockers, elves, rawheads, Meg-with-the-wads, old-shocks, ouphs, pad-foots, pixies, pictrees, giants, dwarfs, Tom-pokers, tutgots, snapdragons, sprets, spunks, conjurers, thurses, spurns, tantarrabobs, swaithes, tints, tod-lowries, Jack-in-the-Wads, mormos, changelings, redcaps, yeth-hounds, colt-pixies, Tom-thumbs, black-bugs, boggarts, scar-bugs, shag-foals, hodge-pochers, hob-thrushes, bugs, bull-beggars, bygorns, bolls, caddies, bomen, brags, wraiths, waffs, flay-boggarts, fiends, gallytrots, imps, gytrashes, patches, hob-and-lanthorns, gringes, boguests, bonelesses, Peg-powlers, pucks, fays, kidnappers, gallybeggars, hudskins, nickers, madcaps, trolls, robinets, friars' lanthorns, silkies, cauld-lads, death-hearses, goblins, hob-headlesses, bugaboos, kows, or cowes, nickies, nacks [necks], waiths, miffies, buckies, ghouls, sylphs, guests, swarths, freiths, freits, gy-carlins [Gyre-carling], pigmies, chittifaces, nixies, Jinny-burnt-tails, dudmen, hell-hounds, dopple-gangers, boggleboes, bogies, redmen, portunes, grants, hobbits, hobgoblins, brown-men, cowies, dunnies, wirrikows, alholdes, mannikins, follets, korreds, lubberkins, cluricauns, kobolds, leprechauns, kors, mares, korreds, puckles korigans, sylvans, succubuses, blackmen, shadows, banshees, lian-hanshees, clabbernappers, Gabriel-hounds, mawkins, doubles, corpse lights or candles, scrats, mahounds, trows, gnomes, sprites, fates, fiends, sibyls, nicknevins, whitewomen, fairies, thrummy-caps, cutties, and nisses, and apparitions of every shape, make, form, fashion, kind and description, that there was not a village in England that had not its own peculiar ghost.

Nay, every lone tenement, castle, or mansion-house, which could boast of any antiquity had its bogle, its specter, or its knocker. The churches, churchyards, and crossroads were all haunted. Every green lane had its boulder-stone on which an apparition kept watch at night. Every common had its circle of fairies belonging to it. And there was scarcely a shepherd to be met with who had not seen a spirit!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Isolator

Okay, I'm going to need this. There's finally something on my Christmas list.

Thanks to Edward Bolman for unearthing this desirable technology.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Dice are cool. I used to have a bunch of dice for Dungeons and Dragons, including a 50-sided die about the size of a golf ball. I would have assumed that D&D got me into dice, but now I'm thinking maybe dice were the reason I was interested in role playing games. Because of limited access to friends, I mostly just sat around rolling dice to generate characters and such, after reading all the entries in the Fiend Folio and the Monster Manual. I wish I knew where my old dice were. I had at least two sets.

Lately I've been making unusual dice. It started with big, ogre-sized dice. I chainsawed a d12 from a pine log. It doesn't roll perfectly true, but it's pretty nice. I played "21" against some teenagers with it. "7" came up a lot more than it should have.

d12 before the numerals

Then I bent a slightly jumbo d6 from a single length of wire. It rolls well--random within trials of maybe ten rolls. I tried to make a wire d8 but it's no damn good.

I figured this existed already, but a google search revealed only a design for a 3D printer. But the materials extruded by the 3D printer were not strong enough for such a design, so mine is the only one in use, as far as the internet is concerned. However, it also revealed new varieties of intricate dice that I can't really compete with, possible only with either new fabrication technology or arcane crafting techniques.

"Lawn dice" are available from multiple online retailers. Still, they are a nice size, and d6 (cube) is so easy to make, I started making a set of "farkle dice." Still trying to decide what my "farkle" icon will be.

Commemorative Pregnancy Figure

Watch out, Franklin Mint--I'm entering the figurine market.
Conversation by text:

ME: "Is this what pregnancy felt like?"

MY SISTER: "Absolutely and I'm not kidding."

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Shoes for Fools

Long story short: these made me fall down.
Manifesting an unhealthy envy of cartoon physics.

I guess it was all just a dumb ol' dream.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Logical Progression of Movie Post-Apocalypses

In case you've been wondering how we'll get from here to total Shitsville...

The Day After

If you're lucky, Ronald Reagan will clean this mess up.

Escape from New York

Nefarious but retaining a touch of whimsy

Soylent Green

Tediously hilarious as long as it's not happening to you.

Mad Max Trilogy

Misery punctuated by rockin' gear, snuff rape, and pet loyalty. Still something to fight for. 

The Road

Goddamn. Just goddamn.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Class of 1991 Willard High 20-year Reunion

Part 3—Picnic and School Tour

Arriving at the picnic building mid-heatwave, we saw that it was across the parking lot from Willard’s swimming pool. We thought people might need to arrive with their kids blindfolded to avoid rebellion, but I guess the savvy parents know they can just say, “Oops, we didn’t bring our swimming suits!” Lugging in our drinks and fruit salad, we found quite a kitchen, complete with a giant commercial ice machine—just what we needed for all that warm pop. Willard’s ultramodern infrastructure triumphs again.

The day before, I’d bought a fruit-salad bowl imprinted around the inside with a panoramic photo of vibrant fruit salad. Maybe it would have been funny to just put it out empty and let everybody think that my depth perception was totally shot, but I went ahead and decided to fill it with fruit salad having both volume and mass (this joke’s for Mary Ellen Butler). Actually, I intended to make it just like the salad pictured on the bowl, but as Brad, Heather, and I walked around Dillons, we disagreed about which fruits we remembered in the photo. Finally we made it missing only blackberries, and maybe a different color of grape. Luckily, chopping up fruit into a bowl is right at my level of cooking ability, so I was able to make it without even adding any pieces of my fingers, except maybe on the molecular level (Dick Summers, this joke’s for you).

Tony arrived with a pan of baked beans and got immediately disgusted when he sat them next to a lot of other beans, saying, “Okay, this is why we took so long getting here, waiting on these beans.” Then he looked around as if to find whoever the hell made his beans so redundant. I think I ate from only one of the bean-pans, so I can’t really say if Tony’s bean time paid off, but let’s just assume that those were some champion beans, T-Bird.

I was keeping an eye out for any new faces, especially Stacy Kuhn (for her wrath) or Mr. Rhoden, who Scott Gayer said might attend. If Mr. Rhoden showed, there was going to be a big revelation—we would finally tell him, after 20 years, who was responsible for what had to be the greatest, harshest, most ball-busting prank he or any other Willard teacher survived.

The main point about the picnic is that not very many people came, but since the ones who did mostly brought their kids, the crowd beefed up and the room seemed energetically populated. In fact, I’m a poor receptor of kids in the casual sense. They have to do something weird or outstanding for me to commit brain cells to recalling them. Here is all I remember:

--The Carlyn Jarvis family provided what seemed the majority of the event’s children. This was especially nice, because then our caffeinated drinks were safe, and we didn’t run out of Mountain Dew. Also, we need to bring back those heartwarming commercials where Mormons do a kindness, and then it says, “This message brought to you by The Church of Latter-Day Saints—the Mormons!” and film one where they keep having kids, until the town is up to its armpits in helpful, sensibly disposed children. But nowadays the commercials could end with, “But not the Warren Jeffs sort of Latter-Day Saints. Remember, lots of kids, but just one wife—and no kidnapping!” Since Oldsmobile went out of business, maybe we could modify their old slogan: “We’re not your grandfather’s Mormons.” I haven’t even seen that Book of Mormon play yet. Carlyn, when it comes to town, I will buy you a ticket, to make up for all my jokes. But I can’t afford tickets for your entire family.

--Brad and my wife both seemed thoroughly impressed by Mike West’s son’s cuteness.

--Marcus Wolfe’s tiny tot kept dropping little morsels as a result of finger-to-lip dexterity errors. Maybe Marcus gives her snack cereals specially designed to predispose one’s physiology to future woodwind playing. I should have asked, but when I pointed out her fumbles, Marcus said that at home their dog takes care of it, which somehow led to talk of sweaters for dogs. Only in America! Later, my wife seemed haunted by Marcus’s supernatural level of eye contact. I didn’t really notice, because of my super lack of eye contact. Now that I’ve given it some thought, I think Marcus’s hypno-gaze may result from a visual addiction to callipygian women.*

--Shawn Freeman kept carrying around his daughter while wearing the Red Rogue shirt I awarded him for mentioning Red Rogue the night before. Good recipient. We also learned that Shawn becomes unreasonable when he is hungry, like a hunger Hulk. My wife took this as a sort of justification for her own “Hungrietta” persona. But trust me, there is no justification.

--My wife had a kid-crush on Rick Winburn’s daughter Emma. One of those things where Emma was getting suspicious, looking around as if to say, “Why is this lady trying so hard to be my friend?” She was really cute, and not tantrum-y or intolerable, and she’s the only kid whose name I recall (hopefully correctly) so I guess our unofficial Willard Offspring Award goes to Emma Winburn. Don’t get a big head, Emma.

Some Christian made us pray, and then we went at the food. I prefer not to pray, but I try not to be a dick about it, especially if the prayerful people are also good cooks, which they usually are. Someone should study this. Maybe there could be a link between religious behavior and weight gain, because I know I have eaten some devastating desserts and casseroles in churchy settings. Some religions offset this with occasional fasting.

At some point, Scott G. told us that Mr. Rhoden could not come, so there would be no big reveal. It would have been extra fun, because we know Rhoden wants to know. He’s needled Tony to tell him for years, and somehow Tony has kept the secret. However, Eric Poland, by pure dumb luck, got burned by blowback from the same prank, so we decided to tell him.

To appreciate the tale, you need to know some history—pun intended, because history films on VHS were where this prank played out. It happened something like this: Brad and I had Rhoden’s geography class together, first period of sophomore year I believe. Brad was in his classic Sex Pistols punk phase, which seemed to rub Rhoden wrong. He liked to make sneering fun of Brad’s hair and clothes, etc. I flew under the radar as usual, which was a great power when I wanted to be a vengeful creep. Since we both made “A”s and did not make public sport of Rhoden’s physique, Brad felt wronged. We both simmered for a while. Eventually, I realized I was sitting every day within feet of Big R’s videotape library—a couple of flat boxes full of VHS tapes on historical subjects. I always wore a trenchcoat anyway, so one day I pocketed two of the tapes. Now all we needed was hardcore porn and two VCRs.

I really can’t remember whose master plan it was—possibly a group effort—but it was diabolical and ahead of the curve. It required a miniature A-Team effort, just short of welding armor plates on a van. My parents were going to a horse show for the weekend, so I rented an extra VCR for five bucks at Mike’s Video Bug. Delozier finagled a porno, which he said came from Matt Schwenn. This alone was something, because that was ancient times, long before porn spilled by the gigabyte from every device.

We set up shop. I don’t think Rhoden even had the tabs broken off his tapes, but even if he did, we just put scotch tape on the holes. One thing I remember clearly is planning the timing of the porn bits. We knew Big R had a way of pointing the monitor at us and paying no attention to the movie, so we figured we’d go at least 20 minutes in to the tape for maximum complacency. Then, just a flash or two to wake people up. Then, full-on filth.

We replaced the tapes knowing it might be months before the tapes were played, if at all. We might not even be there to witness our revenge. Weeks or months did pass, and finally it happened. Word came down the hallway one day, with big-eyed expressions of mean glee. Someone said they had “never seen a fat man move so fast” trying to turn the TV off. Someone else said he broke a desk scrambling to reach the controls. Some of you may have been in the room when the prank blew up. I’m betting you saw full penetration.

We knew Rhoden would either have to watch every tape or throw them all out, and we knew he’d sweat bullets for a while. Luckily he didn’t get fired or anything. The biggest surprise came when we heard Eric Poland got interrogated about it. Apparently Eric had been legitimately borrowing volumes from the Rhoden library, so he was ostensibly the only one besides Rhoden to handle the tapes. Who knew?

Chris, Brad, and I were all back together for the picnic. After I brought it up for the second time, Chris just turned to Eric at the lunch table and busted the topic wide. “Hey Juice, do you remember if you ever got in trouble for that porno on Mr. Rhoden’s history tapes?” Eric smiled, barely remembering. He said he didn’t get in trouble, but sort of recalled being asked about it. Twenty years on, the whole thing seems smaller, but still good for a laugh.

In sort of a weird moment, Stephanie Long was suddenly standing up on a table telling everyone what to do. This seemed both surreal and entirely natural. Natural because she was teacherly material ever since the days when she was Mrs. Hampton’s top gun/Trump apprentice; surreal because it was like one of those dreams where you’re back in school, but the building is different and you can’t get your shit together. Stephanie was shouting out some facts about the tour we could take of the new high school. We could go in two groups, at two different times. Pretty much everyone wanted to go. We put our hands up for the first tour, and Stephanie made it so. Also, even though she looked about the same as she did in high school, she did not fall from the top of the formation and break her arm.

So we toured the new school. If you haven’t seen it, just hang on to your hat. It’s 24 million dollars worth of whole different world. It’s full of computers and polished surfaces and natural light. It’s climate controlled, ergonomic and surveilled by 84 interior video cameras. There are flags from the home nations of each foreign exchange student it has hosted. It’s got a damn coffee shop. The place was so spectacular, I didn’t even notice Stacy Kuhn had arrived. No worries—she proved non-violent, and even amiable. It was, as Brad said, as if Willard’s only viable industry is education, because no other part of the town has grown, really, but then there is this massive school.

Stuart Pratt, just an upstart teacher in our time, is now a principal-type. He guided us around with encyclopedic knowledge of the facility. Room after collegiate room, along with news that some of the old timers like Mr Summers and Mr Davis are still around or just retiring. One thing that looked about the same was the wood shop. The rest was kick-in-the-pants epic. He said the shop kids recently built a house—you can see it from the road. They didn’t do the electrical or all of the mechanical, but they BUILT A HOUSE. When I took shop, I made a key fob and one of those toy cars that shoots forward when you put a CO2 cartridge in it.

Down a long, long Willard Sports Hall of Fame, we scanned for familiar faces. Chris Delozier’s long jump record was long gone, but Mike West, Larry Hillhouse and company still held a relay record, and my sister’s dead friend Mitzy Abney still had a photo in the gallery. We marveled at a cavernous band room lined with showcase after showcase of awards—mostly those big ones with triumphant gold angels on the top.

We entered an auditorium/movie theater something like MSU's Carrington Auditorium, except new and more deluxe. Pratt was talking about how there was land for expansion on the ends of the wings, and award-winning plays were being performed here. I was thinking about this creepy band storage room behind the old cafeteria where we used to monitor the decomposition of a tuna-sandwich-half someone stuck to the wall. I think we even named it. Caught up in the architectural marvel of it all, I said something like, “it’s tough to be a teen these days.” But then that wise old rebel Bobby Tate pointed out the totalitarianism inherent in a place such as this. He told a story about a kid (one of his? can’t remember) who was handed an uninvited baggie of pot in the hallway here, and threw it away immediately. A camera recorded him holding it, so he was kicked out of school. Following this line of thinking very far does disappoint, in a free-will sense. If we played Dungeons and Dragons again, the old school would have been “chaotic neutral,” while the new building appears to be “lawful good.” There was never much fun in playing a lawful good character. Obviously and conversely, such law and order eases the parental worry cortex, especially if it does eliminate meth transactions and glue huffing in the locker room. The benefits are clearer than the losses, but I think I’m seeing the bend in the road where adolescent aggression turned away from hallway shoves and into the camera-blind territory of social media taunting.

I’m also trying to figure out how I could have gotten away with any good pranks in this fortress of  plenitude, and I’m coming up with a near-total collapse of my best high-school memories. There are certain advantages in deprivation.

That was it. We drove out of there with a Jim Catron-customized monster truck on our tail. He coulda crushed my Yaris like a bug, but thankfully Jim chooses life, and kittens.

*Yes, Marcus Wolfe, I looked it up. I definitely approve. Have some serious catching up to do with this word.