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Topics - Manta Obscura

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After years of tireless research, soul-breaking effort, and far too little recuperative intoxication, I present to you the foolproof steps to transforming any base, meager meal into taste-bud gold. Steps must be followed exactly for best effect.

1) Become ill eating questionable beef tacos at a party thrown by a dude who, despite being 24, still uses the childish nickname "Chucky."

2) Swear off meat forever and ever (amen). Become a vegetarian for 1 year.

3) Eat a spicy jalapeno burger in a roadside stand in Needles, California. Repeat step 2.

4) Discover, at hungry o'clock, that your refrigerator is empty because you foolishly decided to spend your money on heat and electricity rather than sustenance. Hear your stomach grumble, and wonder why the human stomach has an alarm clock. Break open your piggy bank and loot money from its innards. Call your bookie and ask him to please not send Mongo around to break your knees, 'cuz you're totally good for the money this time, and you'll probably have it by next Tuesday.

5) Take your pork loot to your nearest supermarket, preferably one with bars in the windows (that probably indicates that it's safer than other, lesser grocers' institutions).

6) Find meat in cooler shelf for $1 per pound. Spend 5 minutes wondering what type of meat it is. Give up in despair, and pick up 3 units.

7) Randomly choose items from other aisles whose prices do not exceed the remaining $3.42 you have in your pocket. Leave store with (2) shrimp ramen, (1) Croco-crunch cereal box, (1) package block American cheese, (1) tub salt, (1) pack gum. Return home.

8) Heat water on stove to boiling (preferably in a pot or other cookware). Cook ramen and drain, because why the hell not? Return pot to stove.

9) Empty contents of meat pack into pot. Cook until meat turns brown. Wonder if meat was supposed to turn brown. Apply salt and pepper. Consider applying crumbled Croco-crunch, but decide against it.

10) Empty contents of meat mixture over ramen. Mix.

11) Ingest. Decide it is the most delicious item of food ever.

2
Literate Chaotic / Raymond Smullyan
« on: December 30, 2008, 03:35:50 pm »
I got a new book case from my brother for Xmas, which means that I've been going through the arduous process of sorting, organizing, labelling, and putting all of my mountainous piles of books into their respective places. In so doing, I came across some of my old Raymond Smullyan books, which I think might be a pretty interesting read for some of you, if you've never read him.

For a quick background: Smullyan is a professor of mathematics and logic at Indiana University. He describes himself as a "Taoist," although his life philosophy seems to me to be more like Zen, especially the absurdist aspects in some parts of it.

Most of his works are philosophical or logical essays, puzzles, and dialogue papers, and they're almost always fun to read, despite being sort of rudimentary. Most of his philosophical and logical arguments are aimed against dogmatic persons, moralists, fundamentalists and the like, so some of what he says will be old hat to anyone used to "thinking outside the box," but still . . . good writing. Back when I was a fundie, his essays helped to break me out of the mindnumbing traps, so I guess I have a bit of a soft spot for them.

Anywho, here are some links to some of the essays that I like by him. They are from his books titled "The Tao is Silent," "5000 B.C. and Other Philosophical Fantasies," and "This Book Needs No Title: A Budget of Living Paradoxes," all of which are really good:

http://www.skepticfiles.org/mys5/taomoral.htm
From "The Tao is Silent," Ch. 21: "Taoism vs. Morality". This one reminds me of the ethics bit from the PD.

http://www.mit.edu/people/dpolicar/writing/prose/text/godTaoist.html
From "The Tao is Silent," an essay called "Is God a Taoist?". This is a really good anti-fundie essay.

http://home.sprynet.com/~owl1/refutation.htm
A short excerpt from "5000 B.C. and Other Philosophical Fantasies"

http://www-cs-faculty.stanford.edu/~knuth/smullyan.html
From "This Book Needs No Title: A Budget of Living Paradoxes," a short story entitled "The Planet Without Laughter."

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Think for Yourself, Schmuck! / Whoroscope for Intermittens Issue 3
« on: December 15, 2008, 08:13:45 pm »
Hey everybody,

I just finished the first rough draft of the Western zodiac for Intermittens issue 3. In all likelihood I will go back to refine or change the entries later, but this is an okay start, I think.

Feedback is always appreciated.


Whoroscope
by Manta Obscura


Your Birthday Today

Congratulations on being born and surviving long enough to read this! As a celebration of the miracle of your birth, call up a condom company’s customer service line and thank them for making a product just faulty enough to allow your conception.

Aries
March 21-April 19


The emerging presence of greenhouse gases have affected the power of astrological configurations. This month you would have gotten a pay raise, won the lottery and had a sexual orgy with three timid-but-adventuresome twenty-somethings. But thanks to your Land Rover you get a ticket for jaywalking, a repossessed car and a case of the clap.

Taurus
April 20-May 20


You have never satisfied your lover sexually, and they are waiting until after Valentine’s Day to dump you so they can benefit from the full present-giving experience.

Don’t put too much effort into those “free erotic massage” coupons.

Gemini
May 21-June 20


I see what you did there. Stop reading this in the bathroom and have some self-respect.

Cancer
June 21-July 22


Your sign still sucks. Seriously, kill yourself.

Leo
July 23-August 22


It’s not yours. Let’s just say that she gets a special deal on home-delivered dairy products.

Virgo
August 23-September 22


My spiritual guides are telling me to tell you that now is the time to take chances with new start-up business endeavors. I say go for it. I mean, hell, it’s not my money, what do I care?

Libra
September 23-October 22


The lack of success you have with romantic relationships has less to do with the exerted power of astrological bodies upon your life, and more to do with the fact that you’re an insecure, domineering asshole.

Scorpio
October 23-November 21


On December 31, 2012, the world is going to come to an end. For serious. Nostradamus predicted it and shit.

Tell your friends.

Sagittarius
November 22-December 21


Stop making jokes about fruitcake during the holiday season. Just. Fucking. Stop. It.

That shit is good.

Capricorn
December 22-January 19


The homeless guy on the corner of Fifth and Vine is the spiritual advisor you’ve been searching for. Go and meet him.

The code phrase is, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow.”

Aquarius
January 20-February 18


You and everyone you love will one day die and rot in the ground, never knowing any permanent joy or obtaining the oft-sought Paradise for which you’d hoped. As your body crumbles and society’s memory of you slips away, the stars shall ever shine their cold light upon your cursed descendents, who will walk the earth with the same futile hopes you once held in this godless universe.

Have a nice day.

Pisces
February 19-March 20


You’re astrological sign’s name can be rearranged to spell “spices.” This is widely-regarded as the only interesting or noteworthy thing that can be claimed about anyone born under this sign.

4
Think for Yourself, Schmuck! / Building Blocks, an Intermittens Submission
« on: December 04, 2008, 05:57:05 pm »
Hi everyone,

I just finished up a rough draft of a possible submission to Intermittens 2. It's an allegory about the BIP and self-determination. If anyone has critiques, praise, criticisms, or simply wants to tell me that it sucks, any feedback would be appreciated. This version is also posted under the Intermittens 2 thread:

Building Blocks, an Allegory in Three Parts
Or
The Wisdom of St. Teresa of Avila
By Manta Obscura


On the built-in wall shelf in my living room rests a dusty and bulbous protrusion of Lego blocks that, if one squints at them hard enough, sort of resemble the castle on the box in which they came. The toy has degenerated into one great, leftover battle scar of what it once was, its great spires crumbling after repeated exposures to hardwood floors while under the influence of gravity. The Lego persons within it all miss some sort of vital appendage, and are scattered throughout the broken battlements in various awkward, lewd or compromising positions. My wife, family, friends, and anyone else who has an ounce of decorative taste tell me that the whole eyesore should be removed at once and should be replaced, ideally, with a tasteful knick-knack, or at worst a fully functional Lego contraption. I refuse to move it, partly because I still play with it, fiddling around with the pieces while watching Bob Ross in the afternoons, but mostly because the castle has become a symbol to me.

Whenever I tinker with the pieces, I reflect on how our inner lives – our inner castles, as the Christian mystic St. Teresa of Avila would say – are a lot like the Lego pieces. We start our lives with just the base, the biology, the big green foundation piece on which the other Legos are built. As we grow there are others, be they friends, parents, bosses, leaders, lovers or whoever, who take part in writing our instruction manual, in shaping us into the strong, sturdy structure that the rules tell us we should be.

Follow the manual, and your castle will come out looking great, just like on the box. You will have two spires, one draw bridge, and a Lego treasure chest tucked beneath the dungeon trapdoor. Your two knights will be positioned at opposite sections along the wall fortifications, and your wizard will be in the leftmost tower with his wand.

When, at the tender age of eight, I first built the castle, I loved the original design. I loved riding the horses through the drawbridge, or hosting swordfights in the court. All was as it should be.

But after a while, the toy lost its charm. Having exhausted the fun of the design, I didn’t want to play with it any longer. Having taken so much time building it up, I didn’t want to change it. And so the castle was exiled for years on end, dwelling in closets, attics and basements, forgotten in the daily routine of life. At certain times it would sneak out to festoon my shelves, but never again did the old design entice me to play.

It is only by a happy accident – a misplaced brush of the hand, a sudden topple and the explosion of a thousand pieces – that the old design ever came to change. For as the old design was destroyed, I was forced to put the piece together again.

There always comes a time when something breaks the castle walls. It is during those times that one must seriously think about how to build, how to put the walls together again, for when the blocks fall down you have a choice to make: follow the plans, or just say “fuck all” and wing it?

When my castle broke it occurred to me, on a whim, that the only thing that had been holding it together was tradition. The stagnant stillness of uniformity and repetition had kept the walls intact. But now, like a minor miracle, was the chance to change things up, to make it fun again. I began to build.

Spires rose from courtyards. The dungeon filled with gold. Brave Lego knights were dressed in princess hats and put on the backs of dragons. Doors were built that led to nowhere, and the wizard escaped his spire.

The castle was no longer the sterile, dusty tomb it had been. The walls were replaced, rebuilt elsewhere, the tenants changed and charged with new duties from their former deadened vigils.

All was as it should be.

*   *   *

I take apart the castle now and then, putting it together to suit my tastes at the moment. The current motif is medieval techno rave party. I hope the Lego men are having fun.

After you take the first step in pushing through the original design, it gets ever-easier replacing blocks, changing bridges, and pulling apart the treasure inside. It gets easier stealing pieces from the Space Station Lego set to turn last week’s cowboy ninjas into dragon astronauts.

The newness lasts for awhile, and then interest and use subsides. Something new must be built.

That’s when you turn on Bob Ross and start thinking of whether your Shaman Troll will look better in an industrial city or in a dark moon’s chasm, hidden from the stars.

*   *   *

St. Teresa found God behind the innermost wall of her interior castles. As I play with my Legos, building new spires from broken bridges, I wonder what I’ll find in mine.

5
Think for Yourself, Schmuck! / Intermittens Idea: Manta's Zodiac Column
« on: November 20, 2008, 04:49:58 pm »
Hi all,

It suddenly struck me that Intermittens might benefit from a quasi-serious Whoroscope column (my suggestion for the title: Whoroscope). In case anyone wants to add such a thing to the mag, I'll kick off the first column right here:

Your Birthday Today
November [Insert Date Here], 2008


Happy anniversary of being pushed headfirst from your mother's vagina! Today will bring an unexpected surprise or two from a person you haven't met in awhile. I don't wanna spoil the fun, so I'll just say this: it rhymes with menital merpes.

Aries
March 21-April 19


You'll incur some unexpected expenses in the coming months, mainly in the form of strip-club bills. Try to counteract this financial offset with some extra frugality right now.

Taurus
April 20-May 20


You'll receive an unexpected and pleasant call today from some piece of ass that totally wants to jump your bones. Unfortunately, the resulting Butterfly Effect from the phone ringing will cause the destruction of a village in India. Good luck dealing with your guilt, fucker.

Gemini
May 21-June 20


Mars is in peak zenith to the arc of Saturn at Capricorn, and erstwhile the astrological configurations of Io are in conjunction with the thelema of your body's quark spin. You know what that means . . .

Cancer
June 21-July 22


Your astrological sign is retarded, and causes pain and suffering to millions. Go throw yourself to the river.

Leo
July 23-August 22


Marital relations should be approached with caution in the next few days. Especially since your wife caught you crooning the name of that new hottie down in HR during your sleep. I mean, damn.

Virgo
August 23-September 22


You've undoubtedly been feeling a surge of energy and good vibes recently, leading you to greet others with a smile and a "Howdy-do!" in the mornings. Well, stop it. That shit is annoying for those of us who aren't morning people.

Libra
September 23-October 22


Take off that tie; you look like an idiot in purple. Your black one is at the back of your closet, on the left.

Scorpio
October 23-November 21


Go grab a copy of today's local paper and check the Advanced Crossword. You got it? Okay: do you have any idea what the hell 21 Down is supposed to be?

No?

Fuck.

Sagittarius
November 22-December 21


Cosmic forces are coalescing to send you some positive spiritual energy. Help them out with a few shots of tequila.

Capricorn
December 22-January 19


That hottie you're seeing this Friday?

Trannie. Pre-op.

Aquarius
January 20-February 18


The spirits of your deceased loved ones are cheering you on in your business endeavors from the Beyond. Ignore them and go play frisbee.

Pisces
February 19-March 20


That joke you keep telling about the parrot, the monkey and the Jehovah's Witness sucks hairy balls. The spirits and I hope you get hit by a car for your failure.

6
As with many things, it all begins with a song:

Why I Wake Up
by Manta Obscura


I am curled beneath my covers this morning, clenching myself feverishly in an attempt to keep warm and wondering why I should rouse myself from bed. After all, all that awaits beyond the sheets is the chill of the autumn air and the barrier of a nine-hour workday before dinnertime comes. Ratatouille night. I hate ratatouille.

I roll over and stare at the ceiling, letting my eyes glaze over its sterile whiteness while my ears capture the sound of my wife snoring away peacefully beside me. She must not have heard the alarm sound. My reflexes are getting quicker with turning it off.

I think it has to do with practice. Thousands of days of waking up to the sound of an alarm, thousands of days of being pulled from pleasant dreams by the shrill ca-caw of morning music, thousands of days of being harassed by three-second snippets of inane DJs . . . after awhile, your hands just instinctively fire away at them. But it’s never quick enough to prevent me from waking up.

Most mornings, waking up seems like a battle loss. To wake up is to face the workday, and to face the work day is to face the preparation of the workday, and to face the preparation of the workday is to face the business suit, and to face the business suit is to face the shave and shower, and to face the shave and shower is to face the cold walk from the bed to the bathroom, all the while wishing to be back in dreamland where you’re always clothed – or naked, but don’t care about it – and it’s warm no matter what. Waking up means giving up the thing that’s making you comfortable, so every morning I lay in bed, weighing the cost against the benefits. Most of the time the costs weigh more.

If I get up, I’ll get paid.
For doing a job that you don’t really like.

But if I grit my teeth and bear it, I’ll be able to help my family out by providing.
While simultaneously becoming isolated from them for one third of your waking weekly hours.

But then my time with them will seem all the better during the weekend.
Which will seem all too short and, come Monday, be torn from you in exchange for another week of waiting for the weekend.

. . .
???

You’re sort of a cynical prick, you know that?
But is what I say true?

About there I always stop, dumbfounded, knowing that I really do give time for money, energy for matter. The waking world turns life into a quantum experiment.

And so I lay there, listening to the sounds of heavy breathing beside me, wondering what to tell my mind is worth awakening for, and not knowing the answer. The sounds of cars quickening, enlivened, filters through the windows, and I know the whole world is arising and, like it or not, soon shall I.

I close my eyes and listen to the sounds of footsteps padding down the apartment stairs, the clamor of kids unchaining their bikes, the far-off susurrus of tiny voices waiting for the bus in the cold. I try to make a tune for the cacophony, saying in my head,

The bus shall come at five ‘til eight,
So see the riders stomping ‘round,
Unmindful of the chilly wait
And slipping on the icy ground.


Smiling with a hint of satisfaction for my makeshift tune, I swing my legs over the bed. Seeing my slippers across the room – about six feet away, I would guess – I estimate whether I can jump to them from the mattress without making too much noise. Probably not.

I try it anyway.

Fuck!

“What the hell’s going on?” my wife says, looking up, bleary-eyed, upon hearing the crash.

“Just practicing,” I say, simply, as I put on my slippers and scamper off down the hall, leaving her to descend back through half-sleep into slumberland.

The hallway’s cold, but one of the cats has left my leather gloves lying on the floor after one of its late play dates. I pick them up, put them on and continue down the hallway, humming my tune to myself all the way to the bathroom.

It’s cold too, but not unpleasantly so. Warm enough, at least, to drop my pants to pee. I decide to see how far away I can aim into the toilet though, truth be told, I doubt I will ever beat my record of seven feet (nothing but net).

Shit, hit the rim.

I turn on the shower before I bend down to clean up, letting the water form tendrils of steam before stripping down. I try to do it like a striptease but, without an audience, my heart’s not really in it.

The shower is at that perfect level of warmth where it feels like it’s burning your skin without actually doing any harm. I lift my legs to try to put the soles of my feet directly into the spray, grabbing the curtain bar to keep from slipping. I slip anyway, and the sudden impact and thud of my butt against the floor leaves an ephemeral ass-shaped spot of suds upon the shower floor. The warm water carries it away, however. Pity.

I shut the water off, immediately making a mad dash from the shower into the loving arms of my Coca-Cola themed beach towel, the one with the rip partway down the center from where I tried to use it as Superman’s cape while climbing a tree. I experiment with it as a Pharaoh’s skirt, an Athenian toga, and an overly large turban.

Tossing the towel aside, I sprint back through the hallway, marveling at the feeling of naked running (really, it’s the best way to run) as I burst into the room and suddenly realize that bursting is not a very polite way to enter the room of a sleeping person. I slow my pace down, yet maintain an exposed posture in the off-chance that she wakes up amorous.

Reaching into the closet, I grab for a handful of business-type clothes at random. Brown suit, purple shirt, gold tie. It works. I experiment momentarily with tying the tie into a lasso, but get fed up after I cannot catch anything with it. Guess I should just put the clothes on.

Fully dressed and looking more tolerable than a brown-purple-and-gold-clad bloke probably should, I resign myself to the fact that Mrs. Obscura won’t wake up wanting sex anytime soon, and leave the room, plotting a course for the kitchen.

I take a moment to scoop a bowl-full of food for the cat, realizing that I accidentally scooped litter into the bowl instead of food, and quickly rectify the problem. Litter bags should be labeled better.

I open the fridge, surveying the selection of morning delectables. Day-old pizza. Pancake mix. Bacon. Oran-

Hell, yes: orange juice!

I pour myself of a bowl of Fruit Loops, taking care to discard any broken loops, and cover them with orange juice, thus creating the ultimate breakfast delicacy. Spoon in hand, I trudge back into the living room to look at the window while I eat.

The people waiting for the bus are gone now. That’s okay, I guess, because I’ve forgotten the words to the jingle. Guess I should make up a new one.

Forgetting the words you sing
Is never a pleasant thing,
Cuz of all the . . . uh . . .


Y’know what? Fuck jingles.

The bowl is nearly empty now, so I set it down on the floor to see if the cats want any delicious dregs. No response. Can’t please everyone all the time.

My pocket watch starts chiming, telling me it’s time to go. I shut it up with a quick rap against its face as I stride over to the coat closet, grabbing my greatcoat and Harry Potter scarf from the mass of forgotten clothing items within.

Suited up and ready to go, my hand resting on the doorknob, I look back over the room, humming tunelessly to myself, the wraiths of the morning banished from mind. It’s going to be a shitty day, I know it. I’m going to drive through traffic I don’t want to be in, to get to a place I don’t want to be, to do things I don’t want to do for people I don’t care about, all for a piece of paper that gives me license to live and eat for another week.

Fuck it. Could be worse I say, humming a different tuneless tune as I turn to go, pretending the doorknob is a giant nipple as I twist it. A smile plays on my lips for just a moment, and is gone as I step out into the hallway to inevitably ride down the banister and, just as inevitably, hit my balls on the decorative banister piece at the bottom.

7
Literate Chaotic / Manta's Blatant Story-Whoring; read at your own risk.
« on: November 19, 2008, 02:33:11 pm »
How I Lost My Lunch but Gained a Lover
by Manta Obscura

 
 


From the first moment I saw Leslie, I knew it was meant to be. When she walked into the room for the first time, my heart did the jitterbug and stars filled my eyes. If I had been able to wolf whistle I would have done so. It is probably for the best that such skills eluded me, because this was it. This was love.

I was six years old, a blossoming nerd who liked the Power Rangers and hated physical activity. This wasn’t much of a problem though, being so young and having the metabolism that inevitably accompanies such an age. My fat days would come later. Right now, though, I was svelte, goony and proud of it.

The morning that I met Leslie had been a dismal one. It was sunny outside, for one thing, meaning that we would have to go outside to play, which meant that a bee sting was imminent. I was always getting stung by bees as a kid, for reasons unbeknownst to me. I didn’t even like honey, so they couldn’t have a grudge against me for eating the source of their livelihood. I can only guess that they didn’t like kids who wore flannel, which was the primary type of clothing that I wore. I thought flannel would make me big and burly like the Brawny paper towel guy, so I made sure to nag my parents for a new shirt and blue jeans ensemble every birthday and Christmas.

In addition to the assurance of a lunchtime sting, the day’s crapulence was compounded by having a morning assembly cancelled. To kids stuck in the middle of a long school day, cancelling an assembly would be like telling an adult that they were cancelling “Free Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll” Day at work. And to make matters worse, the not-to-be assembly was replaced by an addition and subtraction exercise. I was pissed.

So there I was, sitting hopelessly in class and staring blankly at Problem 4, when there came a knock on the door. Mrs. Mayfield, our ancient, bird-faced teacher, perpetually stooped and wearing a constant rictus smirk, swooped down from her perch to answer it, opening the door with her long, skeletal fingers.

And in walked Leslie.

She was tall for a girl; she must have been four and a half feet tall. She had brown hair the color of Tootsie Rolls, and eyes the same shade of blue as Superman’s leotard. Her shirt had a picture of Batman fighting the Joker, instead of something stupid and girly like rainbows or ponies. Her shoes were expensive Velcro light-up sneakers, emblazoned with the Ninja Turtles logo on the side. She was a hottie.

My mouth went dry and my hands began to sweat, as if my palms were somehow siphoning the spit from my tongue. I started to feel lightheaded, and I wondered if she had somehow carried in a fast-acting case of the cooties. As a young boy, cooties were a constant threat and I, being an informed young sprat, had heard that girls would often sneak them into class, presumably as a type of germ warfare aimed at bringing down me and my fellow male comrades.

“Settle down, class. I want you all to meet Leslie Parman, our newest student” Mrs. Mayfield squawked in her high, shrill tone. “Leslie just moved here from Los Angeles, California. Now everyone say ‘hello’ to Leslie.”

“Hello, Leslie,” I droned out with everyone else. In my head, however, I said it with a lot more emphasis: “Hello, Leslie.”

“Now Leslie, find an empty seat wherever you can. Right now we’re working on adding!” Mrs. Mayfield said gleefully, as if that were something to be excited about. But I was excited. I had never before met a girl that I didn’t loathe with that special brand of inherent disgust that all pre-hormonal boys feel for all pre-hormonal girls; Leslie was the first.

As she demurely picked her way through the labyrinth of chairs and desks to find an empty spot, I prayed that she would choose the one next to me. Having grown up in an agnostic household, I didn’t have much experience with prayer and I didn’t really know how to pray or whom to pray to, so I decided to just pray to Santa. I figured that, given his reputation of omniscience, he would surely be able to see what a gorgeous creature was walking in my midst and put two and two together, giving me a bit of an early Christmas present. After all, I’d been good all year except for that one morning when I put glue on my little brother’s toothbrush.

“Is this seat taken?” a voice asked me, breaking me out of my reverie. I looked up into the cherubic face of Leslie, who was standing over me with a sweet, glowing smile on her face.

My stomach turned circles, like my dog Boris when he chased his tail. Ignoring her question, I sat there dumbfounded, staring at her as if she were a holy figure, like an angel or Jombi the Genie. I could feel the heat suffusing my face, just like it did whenever mom invited her young and well-endowed friend Yolanda over to visit.

“Um, hello? Can I sit here?” she asked again, obviously trying to muscle through my awkward silence.

Despite my mouth feeling like the Sahara in dry season, I was determined to respond. After all, I didn’t want her to give up on me and sit with someone else, like my archrival Tyler, who owned the Ninja Turtles Pizza Thrower and the optional Pizzaboard, sold separately. I couldn’t compete with that. I needed to say something clever, something witty, something that would let her know that I was the guy that she’d want to play toys with.

“Uh . . . erm . . . eh . . .” I said. Not the most eloquent thing I’ve ever said to a woman but, admittedly, not the least eloquent, either.

“Is that a yes?” she asked, quizzically yet patiently.

“Y-y-ye-” I began.

She never did hear the sibilant that would have signaled her to sit down. Right then my breakfast Pop Tart decided that it was tired of my intestines pushing it around, and it came back, and up, with a vengeance. Right onto Leslie. In full, bright, strawberry-colored glory.

To my credit, I didn’t puke a lot on her, although what I did was delivered with the force of a fire hose, painting her dark blue shirt a shade of salmon pink that, if looked at out of context, would probably have been quite pretty. In context, however, it was quite disgusting, not to mention embarrassing for both her and me. I was pretty sure that I had just made a rather unfavorable first impression.

The rest of that day is a blur to me. All I remember is being swiftly ushered out of the room in Mrs. Mayfield’s bony talons and being taken to see the school nurse, a rather unlikable and mannish woman who could not really do anything other than tell students to lie down for awhile. But that was okay with me. If I had had my way, I would have lay on the uncomfortable nurse’s office bed for the rest of my life, unseen by any of my classmates ever again, especially Leslie. I would have come out of hiding only to pee, watch Ninja Turtles, and grab the occasional Pop Tart in the morning.

*               *               *

After this episode I was understandably less-than-excited to face the following day at school, but my parents were immune to all my cries of protest. Parents never understand the severity of certain situations, and how those situations demand certain unorthodox privileges, like being allowed to skip school or put peanut butter on macaroni. Opulent creature comforts like this were called for at times when the spirit was bruised beyond normal modes of repair.

Alas, my rhetorical remonstrations fell on deaf ears, and the next day I was skulking into school, fully prepared for an unrelenting barrage of malefic verbal missiles to be hurled my way.

“Hey, Jacob,” they would all say, “what’s the difference between you and a spitting cobra?”

“I don’t know,” I would answer idiotically.

“At least a spitting cobra gives a warning before it strikes!”

Besides being a practical impossibility because of its level of sophistication for first-graders, such banter would undoubtedly weather the already tenuous foundation of coolness that I had been able to eke out thus far.

Because of all of this, I entered class with a drained, defeated aura and a beaten quality in my gait. It seemed to me that, in every corner of the room, my classmates were conspiring about what my new nickname should be. I was betting on “Chuck” or “Ralph,” although given the acerbic nature of some of the students there, possibilities like “Barf Kid” or “The one kid who upchucked on Leslie” were equally likely.

I couldn’t bear to meet eyes with anyone, for fear that I would find in their gaze tiny, invisible “Permanent nerd” stamps, ready to engrave the baleful moniker upon me forever. I put my head down, cradling my face in my arms in “7-up” style.

Dear Lord Santa, I prayed, please, please just let this day be over. I promise I’ll never puke again, except on liver-and-onion night.

“Are you okay?” a voice asked me, interrupting my prayer.

Having been so engrossed in my prayers and camouflage, I hadn’t even heard anyone approach me. I idly wondered if it was the first jeerer, come to deliver their taunt in person. If it was, I wasn’t going to fuel their derision with a face-to-face confrontation. I merely grunted an indeterminable reply.

After a few moments the voice spoke again, asking, “Are you sure you’re okay? You didn’t seem good yesterday.”

Now I was confused. If this was a jeer, then it wasn’t a particularly effective or to-the-point one. Plus, the voice sounded way too kind to be a heckler. Tentatively, I looked up.

And there, like a miraculous angel, stood Leslie, puke-free and faintly smiling. She wore a red and black Thundercats shirt, along with Pac-Man hair clips and Scooby Doo sneakers, a walking avatar of all things good and wonderful in the world. The air around her smelled of Play-Doh, an aroma which, to this day, makes my heart feel light and fluttery. My breath caught in my throat and my thoughts turned slow as rolling sludge. The muscles in my throat clenched like my grandpa’s grip on a mound of pistachios.

“Well? Are you okay?” she asked again.

I stared back stupidly, unable to speak. All that I could manage was to nod slightly, like a bobblehead with a warped spring. I’m sure she was impressed with my eloquence.

“Okay. Well, I’m just going to sit down this time without asking,” she said as she slid into the seat next to me. As she did the scent of Play-Doh hit me even stronger, and I could practically taste and feel the salty confection rolling along my tongue.

“You can really puke,” she said, looking over at me. I felt my face burn bright.

“. . . sorry,” I managed to mew.

She smirked. “It’s okay. Don’t worry about it.” She tossed her hair in a way that made my legs shake, adding bluntly, “I puked on my dog Schubert last week when I was sick.”

Though it intrigued me to think that such a seraphic figure could be in any way connected to such an inglorious activity as puking, I did not have the nerve or audacity to ask her to elucidate. Instead I just stared blankly in what I hoped was an expression of open and rapt attention.

“Schubert’s a good dog,” she continued, “but sometimes he gets rough with my other dogs.”

“You have other dogs?” I asked, drawn out of my meek silence by the idea. I had never known anyone who had more than one dog, unless you count my friend Patrick, who had two Chihuahuas named Peekaboo and Peekatwo. But as everyone knows, Chihuahuas only count as a quarter of a dog anyway, so he didn’t really even own one dog.

“Yeah! I have Snowy, who’s big and white, and Dipper, who’s white but not as white as Snowy. And then there’s Bubba, who’s starting to lose his fur. He’s getting kind of old.”

Four dogs? I thought. No one has four dogs! This woman is a goddess.

I was in love, head over heels. Sitting beside me was a beautiful, interesting girl, a girl who liked cool stuff for a change, and who had four dogs. Here was a girl who could get puked on and smile about it. Here was the girl for me.

Mustering up all of my courage, I popped the question:

“Leslie, do you want to play on the swings together at recess?”

*               *               *

“There’s no way that that’s right, Les,” I said, shaking my head.

“Jacob Dean, come on,” she said, smirking impishly. She always called me by my first and last name when she wanted me to do something, probably because she knew that it worked. Six years of my own parents doing it had conditioned me to respond like an automaton, acquiescing to whatever demand followed the statement of my full moniker. But even so, I wasn’t going to give up without a fight.

“But it tastes gross, Les, and how do you even know that it’ll give us powers?”

She put her hands on her hips and rolled her eyes. It was her signature expression when she was talking to me. “My memere always says that you are what you eat, right?”

“Right,” I mumbled, grudgingly.

Leslie’s grandma, who she called her “memere,” seemed to have a whole slew of aphorisms that she had given Leslie and which Leslie had become skilled at pulling out at a moment’s notice, usually to persuade me to try something or another. I had only met Leslie’s memere once, when she chaperoned a field trip to the zoo, but I was so thoroughly impressed by her striking resemblance to the witch in Snow White that I was inclined to believe anything that she said, lest she cast a spell on me or something. Hence, I always took it quite seriously when Leslie told me something on her memere’s authority.

“Well, then, why wouldn’t it work with grass and flowers, too?” she asked. “We could have plant magic!”

Though I had no idea what “plant magic” was, it did sound pretty cool. But something about eating handfuls of the dry, dusty, who-knows-where-it’s-been grass behind the school’s swing set made me cringe.

“But if that’s true, then how come we don’t get magic from eating other stuff, too?” I asked. “I ate a hamburger yesterday, and I don’t have hamburger magic!”

“Of course not,” Leslie said, loftily. “Meat doesn’t have as much magic as a plant.”

“Why not?”

“Because plants grow, of course! When was the last time you saw a piece of meat grow?”

This made sense enough. I hadn’t ever seen my hamburger grow although, given my liking of them, I wouldn’t have minded it if they did.

“Besides,” Leslie continued, “When you cook something, like you do a hamburger, a lot of the magic gets taken out of it. You gotta eat it without cooking it.”

I considered this for a moment, and asked, “How do you know all of this, Les?”

She just casually shrugged, as if to say, It’s common knowledge, you fool.

Leslie knew a lot of neat things, things that parents and teachers didn’t tell you. She knew about magic, monsters, and all manner of strange and fantastical people and places. She knew family who knew friends who knew family of friends that had personally witnessed secondhand accounts of the Lock Ness Monster. At lunchtime she would often tell me about Bigfoot, or Atlantis, or how Bigfoot sunk Atlantis.

How could I not believe her?

“Okay, I’ll try some,” I said, and my heart soared when I saw Leslie grin and clap in reply. I reached down, grabbed a hank of the foul, dusty lawn clippings and pulled. Not wanting to seem like a wimp, I quickly thrust the dirty grass into my mouth and began to chew, praying to Santa that the powers would be worth the taste.

*               *               *

That school year, Leslie and I were inseparable. We spent whole days together talking about everything and nothing. I would tell her about why monkeys were the coolest animal in existence, and she would explain to me the underlying physics behind spit-wad shooting. Many a recess was spent just wandering and telling stories and legends that each of us had picked up throughout our years. I would ask her to tell me about famous actors and actresses that I thought she had surely met out on the West Coast. After all, only actors, actresses and Lassie lived out in Los Angeles, I thought. She, in turn, would ask me to tell her about the ghosts and monsters that lived around here, like the Skeleton Man that lived at Loveland Castle. I especially liked telling her about the Skeleton Man because, invariably, fear would overtake her and she would cling to me in a strong, clenching hug.

During class time we would hold hands when the teacher wasn’t looking, and pass notes to each other. Granted, since both of us were barely literate, the notes mainly consisted of drawings and doodles of various unrecognizable figures and a few short, blocky words, but it was the thought that counted.

On one memorable occasion at recess, I even “went all the way” with Leslie: I kissed her on the cheek beneath the slide. She told me not to tell, though, because she was afraid that all of the other girls would laugh at her. In a true show of chivalry I agreed to honor her request, just as long as she promised to let me kiss her again.

The days went on like that, some memorable, some not, with most settling into a rhythm of sober joyfulness that comes from the contented fulfillment of early love and friendship. I cannot recall all of the memories or list them in rote, for each was one of those simple, golden experiences that flares brightly for just an instant, like a shooting star, and then vanishes into the subtle oblivion of thoughtless satisfaction. Suffice it to say that those days with Leslie were bright, luminous and joyful, some of the happiest times in all my days as a child.

Star showers cannot last forever, though, and neither can our golden days. The days with Leslie ended, as all eras tend to do. I didn’t understand then what “custody battles” or “visitation rights” were, and I didn’t care. I just knew that I was losing Leslie, and that the distance between me and her was one that I could not bridge.

The day that she left she gave me a note under the slide, and told me not to open it until that night. Then she kissed me, this time on the lips, and hugged me even though I had not even begun to tell the story of the Skeleton Man.

*               *               *

That night before bed, I put on my Flash pajamas. But I didn’t feel like running; I felt like reading. Crawling into bed, I unfurled the note that Leslie had slipped me, turned on my flashlight in the dark, and began to read. In her big, blocky letters, the simple note said only this:

Remember me.

                Love,

                Leslie

 

8
Discordian Recipes / Chocolate and Vanilla: the Eternal Paradox
« on: November 14, 2008, 03:35:37 pm »
As everyone knows, humankind has been at war with itself for centuries in hopes of resolving the question of whether chocolate or vanilla is better.  For far too long has blood been shed because of this matter.  Now is the time to discover the real Truth, allowing us to circumvent the conflicts of our forebears.  We must resolve this dilemma in order to end the pointless idealism once and for all.

Plus, I don't have a hell of a lot better to do right now anyway.

To resolve this, I propose a deep and thorough investigation be made into the inner nature of both chocolate and vanilla.  To start, chocolate and vanilla are both beans, although the method of their development is different.  Chocolate is grown from the cacao (pronounced [ka kow] in IPA transcription) plant, which is a variant of early unxylemated planting trees.  Vanilla, on the other hand, grows from a variant of the orchid known as Vanilla planifolia, which is a variant of the unblossoming vine plants that began to flourish in the middle Triassic period. 

Considering both of these facts, round one has to go to chocolate: its plant structure is far more sophisticated.

For round two, let us consider the overall process of converting chocolate and vanilla from plant material into the edible foodstuffs we know and use in our homes, stating that the more arduous and complex process shall be the victor (by way of the assumption that increased complexity = increased utilization of culinary technique).  First, chocolate: cacao beans are harvested from the plants leaves and left to sit and coagulate, or ferment, for a time of around 3-7 days.  After this time, they are roasted in a cylindrical-drum oven for 30 min - 2 hours, depending on bean consistency.  After this, the outer shell of the beans are removed, and the inner substance (called the "nib") is ground into a paste.  This paste, if allowed to dry, will become cocoa powder.  However, if treated with alkaline sub-bases and lechtin, the nib will ferment in what we know as solid chocolate.

Vanilla beans, on the other hand, take quite a different process to make them edible.  The beans must first be "cured," a process which can take almost 6 months to do.  During this time, the beans are wrapped in blankets and straw mats, heated for up to 48 hours, and then left out in the sun to "sweat" moisture off, which is absorbed into the blankets and straw.  After this, the beans must then be allowed to sit and simmer in a vat of alcohol (vodka is often used to give the resulting product a distinctive flavor), dissolved at 35 percent dilution into water.  Over 3 to five weeks, the beans will be superheated and cooled alternately, allowing every last drop of flavor to intermingle with the diluted alcohol mixture.  After that time, whatever is left must have the bean remains strained out, and then the resulting liquid is bottled as pure vanilla extract.

Thus ends Round 2, which definitely goes to vanilla.  It is a far more sophisticated foodstuff.

And thus we are brought to our final criteria, taste, of which I cannot give an account.  This is where you guys come in.  Chime in with your ideas about which flavor tastes better, and whichever one gets the most votes shall be considered the Grand Champion of Flavor by vote of 2 out of 3 categories.

Oh, and as always:

-Happiness

9
Literate Chaotic / Insightful Post Dump
« on: November 11, 2008, 07:24:21 pm »
Hey gang,

In my travels through the PD forums, I've been printing off and corkboarding a lot of the funny/noteworthy/insightful/just-plain-silly things that I've seen, simply so I have something to raise my spirits while at work. However, as a more long-term project, I've been collecting some of the posts and discussions on here in the hopes of one day archiving and binding them in a book so that when I'm old and decrepit, and my eyes have long since become useless, gelatinous orbs that simply serve to shield my brain from direct-air contact, I will not be forced to squint at a computer monitor to read them.

To that end - and with everyone's permission - I would like to post some of the more noteworthy rants, stories and NaNoWriMo projects on here, so that there is one easily accessible place to find them for both myself and anyone else who would like to read them or contribute their own posts. Also, because I am a blatant whore when it comes to my own work, I shall post some of the stuff I have written for the sake of anyone who would like to laugh at my creative faux pas (sp?).

I won't wait for people to chime in, but will simply start posting with the assumption that everything (not otherwise noted) on these forums is kopleft. If anyone says otherwise, I will edit the offending post and remove it.

10
Or Kill Me / OHEMGEE GUYS TRUE DISCORDIANS 23 ERIS FNORDLAWOFFIVESFNORD!
« on: October 30, 2008, 06:29:19 pm »
Sorry about the misleading title; just thought I should capture the essence of the "True Discordians."

I just got off the phone with a "True Discordian." Apparently I don't "respect the Law of Fives" or some shit. That is what is now leading to my "rise of the Aneristic illusion." I can usually put up with whatever quasi-mystical guilt trips that folks throw at me, but there are those days when someone who puts just one extra teaspoonful of crap in the Crazy Shit Bucket makes the whole thing overflow.

Quick details of my day for background:

1) Wake up, hungover. Get dressed for work.
2) Discover midday that hangover is actually masking sickness. Puke in disgusting office restroom.
3) Continue working, because Big Project is due today.
4) Get bitched at for coming in to work sick, deadline notwithstanding.
5) Eat lunch of crackers and water. Puke up lunch. Marvel at interesting colors therein.
6) Get call from "True Discordian" friend during lunchbreak. Bitch and moan about day, because I'm in a bitching and moaning mood.
7) Get 10 minute sermon about various outdated Discordian memes that make no sense contextually, but are meant to help me "reclaim the day."
8) Tell friend to fornicate himself with stick. Hang up and puke on shoes.


I like the Discordian irreligion, but I hate the Discordian religion. Now I'm not a violent man, but sometimes I dream of all the "TDs" cashing in their fnords for 23 horses which they can then ride to the fifth ring of hell.

Well, that's it. I'm going to go throw up some more and work on my project. Take care.

11
Or Kill Me / Durn-fool kids
« on: October 29, 2008, 07:50:40 pm »
In light of Halloween/Trick-or-Treat coming up soon, I thought I might try my hand at posting my first rant on the PD pages. This is actually a rant from a blog that I don't keep up anymore. The entry's original title was "Why Trick-or-Treaters Piss Me Off." It is still valid, because every damn year these little punks come around to visit. God I hate teenagers.

Anyway, hope you enjoy:

Why Trick-or-Treaters Piss Me Off
by M.O.


 I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking, "How could that jerk hate the little trick-or-treater kids?  They're so cute!"  Or, if you're one of the slightly more cantankerous viewers of this blog, you're probably thinking, "Yeah, I agree; little kids piss me off also."

   Well, I'm here to say that I have no beef with the little kids.  They are diminuitive, and loud, and annoying, but they work for their candy, dammit.  I sit outside every year handing out candy, and every little kid that comes by usually has a bright smile on his/her little impish face, and each and every one of those little buggers usually have on some pretty awesome costumes that I would have killed to wear when I was little.  No, my beef is not with these loud and zealous youngsters.  My beef is with the punk teenagers.

   You know who I'm talking about.  I'm talking about those sarcastic, obnoxious 14-17 year olds who come to your door, dressed in no costume except the vague and fruitless guise of a misguided Abercrombie and Fitch poser.  Wearing no costume at all, these little punks hold out their pillow case/bag/whatever, NOT SAYING "TRICK OR TREAT," and simply expect you to dump a handful of candy into their already bulging cache of sweets.  Then, they turn around without saying thank you and they walk off.

   What's even worse is when you try to corner them about the issue, and ask, "So what are you supposed to be?"  Many of them will be silenced by the audacity of this remark, but since obnoxious 14-17 year olds are naturally group animals, there will always be that one little shit who will say something like, "We're apathetic high school students," or

"We're serial killers, and just look like normal people," or

"We're ungrateful little jerks who don't have the money for costumes because our parents won't buy them for us, and we are whiney babies who won't go out and work to get a costume.  Furthermore, we're too cool to say 'trick or treat,' yet not too cool to go around collecting candy like idiots."

   Actually, I've never heard anyone say that last one.  I wish I did, because if the kids were honest enough to admit all of that, then I would have no problem in giving them candy.  Hell, I might even give them an extra bag of M & M's or something.  But they never do say that, and so they get what I call the Joke Prize: the nastiest, most generic gum that I can scrounge out of my candy supply.

   If we are ever going to stop the apathetic teenagers from being a drain on Trick-or-Treat society, then the Joke Prize must be embraced.  It is wonderful to see the look on those little turds' faces: it is a look of loss, of sadness and, most importantly, of defeat.  They know what their apathy has earned them.  It has earned them the stale, hard gum of the Trick or Treat bounty.  It is what they deserve, and the look of dejection on their face as they trudge away in their droopy pants and school hoodies will bring glee and triumph to your heart.  Trust me, it's not a cruel thing to feel good about their suffering.  This is how God would have wanted it.

  So I entreat you: for the sake of the cool-costume-wearing little kids everywhere, please help me in my cause to stop the tide of Apathetic Teens.  Embrace the power of the Joke Prize.  Start buying your generic, nasty gum right now, and give it time to get nice and stale for next year's Halloween.  Help your fellow Halloween lovers to ensure that Trick or Treating won't be ruined by these stupid punks any longer.

   Their happiness is our defeat.  So let us give them stale candy, and watch as they weep and curse at us, retreating to their dark and black-walled rooms to write poetry about how hard their life is, while some god-awful emo band wails unmelodically in the background.  That is their fate for their greed, and we should be happy to give it to them.

   Stupid kids.

12
Discordian Recipes / Golden Apples
« on: October 22, 2008, 06:29:06 pm »
Hey gang,

I'm currently reading the book "Gastronaut" by Stephan Gates, wherein he explains how to conduct a number of food-related experiments to elevate food from just a fuel source to something that is fun, exciting, passionate and new. I recommend it.

Anywho, endorsements aside, there's a section on gilding food that I think's rather interesting. For something like $25-$30 per leaf packet, you can buy gold leaf to melt down and cover your food in gold. This raises the obvious motivation to gild an apple (preferably of the Golden Delicious variety, because they are, in my opinion, the most scrumptious) and engrave it with "Kallisti."

To this end, I have a question and a few comments:

Question:
1) Does anyone know a way of preserving organic fruits for up to three weeks? I'm thinking of making an edible display of "Kallisti" apples (as well as a few gilded hot dogs) for a get-together, and I would like to be able to do the work in advance.

Comments:
1) In case anyone wants the book or anything, here's the Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=gastronaut.

2) I had a hard time finding gold leaf to gild with. If you want to do it, then be sure to check out a good craft store; most supermarkets don't carry food-quality gilding materials. Although, if you live in the Cincinnati, OH area, I think Jungle Jim's has it.


Well, that's all. Hope everyone's doing well.

~Happiness

13
Think for Yourself, Schmuck! / Project Eagle/PosterGASM
« on: October 22, 2008, 03:39:11 pm »
Hey, folks,

Newbie question here, but I am a newbie so I'm gonna have at it:

Concerning PosterGASM, is there anyone working on formatting posters/messages to modernize the ideas set down in the original Project Eagle? You know, the whole "Burn the polls ye sons of freedom" crap. I was just thinking that it might be a prime opportunity to do our own political campaigning. It might even be helpful to form mock political support parties to advertise messages, instead of just posting random posters around.

Granted, I'm not too into politics, but the idea of putting up posters with small text that says "Sponsored by The Two-Man Con, Inc.", or other such nonsense, sounds like a lot of fun.

I'm sure that, given a day or two to ruminate, good puns on "Democrat," "Obama," "McCain," "Vote," "Polls," etc. are sure to arise.

Okay, I'm done. Dissect/discuss/flame/posit intellectual queries at your leisure.

Happiness,
Jacob,
a.k.a. M.O.,
a.k.a. DPR

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