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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Art, Bart, Cart, Dart, F...

  Art is stranger than fiction.  I can't say that's definitely true, but this is an election year so truth doesn't matter as long as it sounds good.
   And art is art whether it sounds good or not.
Or even looks good
Yes, art can be creepy
Maybe freaky
And full of mixed messages

   And not just flat art.  3-D art describes life in few words.

   Sometimes Art's just a matter of perspective.
I wouldn't walk under that bird.

Or near this tree

Or into this giant baby?
Sometimes I think our artistic sanity is hanging by a thread.

   Art can involve nature.

Sometimes the suns lends a hand
 Or a foot
Or does the work all on it's own
Sometimes the trees branch out
And animals join in as well.

   Swifts - nature's aerial artists.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Dirk Destroyer Part 39 Chapter 20

Dirk Destroyer, yada yada, Another post, yada yada.  Read responsibly, yada yada.

Chapter 20
Knowing It

We didn’t play any music that night. We spent most of the night talking about jousting, until the dawn was just beginning to break.
“So anyway,” said Dirk, “I haven’t been all that straightforward with you for the last… oh say, five thousand years.”
“Oh,” I said.
“It’s this whole thing about oblivion. I haven’t been going there. Well, that’s not true; I went there the first time, just to see how it was. I didn’t like it much.”
I wanted to say something like, “I knew it!” or even, “I suspected as much,” but I didn’t like to lie to my brother when I had actually been clueless.
“So they don’t have cigars in oblivion,” I asked.
“Not as far as I could tell, no.”
“That was probably a good choice then,” I said. “Is there any reason you didn’t tell me before?”
“Yeah,” said Dirk. “You have this habit of obeying authority, and I figured if a Light Bringer asked you, you might tell them I haven’t been going there.”
I wanted to be furious. I had been furious with Dirk once a couple of thousand years earlier. I don’t remember what it was about, but I do remember that I really enjoyed it at the time. Unfortunately, Dirk was probably right, so I gave up on the whole furious thing and asked, “So… where you been?”
“Different places,” he said. “You know the trans-dimensional dial at the school of amazing stuff is great for traveling.”
“You never mentioned the trans-dimensional dial.”
“Well, it just never came up.”
“So why are you telling me all this now?”
“’Cause Uriculous is right,” he said. “This time they’re going to cast us both out, and it’ll be forever.”
“I finally have a girlfriend and…”
“I know,” said Dirk. “The timing sucks, but I have a nice three-bedroom in a place called So-Ho. It’s a pleasant little neighborhood in a den of iniquity called New York. I think you’ll like it – at least until you get a place of your own.”
I signed heavily. “I haven’t known Ono that long, but I’ll ask her if she wants to go to the planet So-Ho, orbiting New York with me.”
“Sorry Brother,” said Dirk. “She can’t come. We can’t even bring Swampy. It’s gotta be just you and me.”
“Stuff you wouldn’t understand.”
That was probably true. “Well then,” I said, “this is good-bye then, Brother. I can’t go with you.”
Dirk shook his head. “You have to.”
“What do you mean, I have to. You aren’t the boss of me!”
“Two.” He motioned to the world around us as if I hadn’t noticed what planet I was sitting on at the time. “It’s going to be destroyed – well, most of it, anyway.”
“You’re going to destroy Two?”
“Not me,” he said, “the sheep. It’s called global swarming.”
“I knew it!” and I shouted that much louder than necessary. All my life, and it was getting to be a pretty long life, I’d wanted to say, ‘I knew it!’ I’d heard other people say it a million times – maybe more, and not being able to say it myself starting getting me down four or five thousand years ago, and it had just gotten worse with each century.
Of course I could have said, ‘I knew it!’ any damn time I wanted. I didn’t have any physical restrictions that prevented me from uttering the words, but I wanted the first time to be special. I wanted the occasion to mean something like… like I actually knew what I was shouting, ‘I knew it!’ about.
Did I really know it, or did I just suspect it? I remembered in the cave with All Bore that I guessed it. Was that the same as knowing? When do you know it’s right? Was I just cheapening myself by saying, ‘I knew it!’ when really I only kinda thought it?
You don’t stand up and shout triumphantly, ‘I kinda thought it!’ It’s not the same, and now that I was thinking about it, I felt a little nauseous, considering that I’d wasted my first time when I wasn’t really sure.
I felt cheap and used, and I wanted to blame Dirk, though I knew I only had myself to blame.
Only had myself… I knew it…
No, that didn’t work.
“You might be worried about Ono,” said Dirk.
Oh my goodness! Ono!
“You can’t let the planet swarm with Ono on it!”
“Big Brother,” said Dirk. “You know better than anyone else that I’m just a guy like everyone else. Sure I learned a few interesting things in the school of amazing stuff, but nothing to stop this.
“But there is hope.”
“Hope?” I said as if I’d never heard the word. Dirk knew I’d heard it. I mean you don’t go living even a couple centuries without hearing the word, hope.
“Phasia,” he said.
“The big continent with the polite hard-working people who are good at math?”
“That’s the one,” Dirk confirmed. “Phasia won’t get swarmed. As a matter of fact, Phasia would be having a sheep shortage right now if Uriculous allowed any use for the beasts.”
“How, why?” I said, hoping the two answers were sufficiently related so I wouldn’t have to guess which question he was answering first.
“A long time ago,” Dirk said, “the Phasians figured out that putting up fences didn’t bug the sheep. They started putting fences around their homes, and then around their barns, then around their villages and fields. Finally Phasia was just full of fenced, sheep-free areas, and they started connecting them. Most of the sheep wandered elsewhere.”
“But Ono’s not in Phasia.”
“But you have a Showr Rinn monk with you, right?”
“They’re from Phasia. I’ll bet he’ll be willing to take Ono with him.”
“So I’ll go too!”
“I don’t think so, Elmer. How good are you at math? But that girl of yours looks bright. I bet she could add two and two. If you ask the monk, he’ll take her back to Phasia.”
“But who will protect her from Lustavious?”
“The Light Bringer.”
“He’s a masher, is he?”
I had no idea what a masher was, and contrary to Dirk’s implication, I could add two and two, but I was embarrassed that my obsession over saying, ‘I knew it,’ had distracted me from Ono’s welfare, so I let both pass. As it turns out, I didn’t need to worry about letting it pass because Dirk was already moving on.
“So you’re defending her from the Light Bringer?” asked Dirk.
“Well… no,” I said. “But I was planning to, once we figured out a way to stop them from casting us into oblivion.”
Dirk raised his eyebrow in the way he did when he thought I was being particularly dense. “You know we can’t stop them from casting us out,” he said, “and if you haven’t been defending her, who’s been doing it so far?”
“Swampy mostly,” I said, “and Lip Ton Tease the one time.”
“I’m assuming Tease is your monk,” said Dirk. “It sounds perfect to me. Once we’re gone, she’ll still have Swampy and she’ll be off to Phasia with the monk. She doesn’t need you.”
Sometimes Dirk meant to be hurtful; sometimes it just came naturally.
“The important thing,” he said, “is that you hold onto that scratchwing. You have to hold onto me with one hand, and the scratchwing with the other.”
“What’s so important about the scratchwing?”
“You wouldn’t understand it.”
“I’m getting tired of hearing that! That’s what you said about why we couldn’t take Ono!”
Dirk stepped up to me and gave me a man hug. It’s the kind of hug where you wrap your arms around the other guy as much as you can without bringing your torsos together. Dirk had very long arms and like so many things, he was skilled at man hugging. “Ono would probably die if we tried to bring her,” he said. “You and I are very durable. That’s why we’ve been around so long. Trans-dimensional travel is no picnic, Brother. Even if she survived, she’d probably be missing legs, arms, an eyeball – maybe half her nose. I don’t think she’d like it.”
I tried to get my brain to think of something to say – something masterful and creative. As usual, my brain, which is very good about keeping track of how many cigars I had in my fanny pack – none at the moment, was not particularly functional when it came to things that were masterful or creative. “You sure?” was all I could come up with.
“It’s all for the best, Brother,” said Dirk. “I bet she likes Phasia. There are lots of showers there.”
“So when does it all happen?”
“The casting out? It’ll happen when Uriculous and the Light Bringer corner me. In other words, it’ll happen soon. I’ll try to stay away so you can make arrangements with the monk. When you’re done, wander off and find me.
“But make sure you have the scratchwing! It’s very important.”
“I understand,” I said, lying because I didn’t understand at all, but not understanding had been a pretty common occurrence when my brother was around.
“Alright Buddy,” said Dirk, slapping me on the arm. “It’ll be good spending time together after all these millennia. I’ll show you around New York. If you’re good, I’ll even introduce you to the Stevens twins. I can’t tell them apart, so you can have whichever one you want.”
“Are they women?” I asked.

He gave me that eyebrow thing again.

And now for no reason other than it's in the news - here's a song we've all heard too often.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

What the Hell?

Fellow Go Figure Reads writer, Stanley McFarland is working on a project about hell. He writes on a blog a few times a year, and it’s usually something long, churchy, and egg-heady. It’s pretty boring stuff, but feel free to check it out. boring blog  
Anyway, Stanley says he’s reworking the concept of hell, and he asked me what I think of it. I wanted to say that hell was reading long, churchy, egg-heady blog posts about stuff I don’t understand, but seeing as he writes for Go Figure Reads, I decided I should be more helpful.
So here are the top ten ways that I see hell.
1) An eternal presidential campaign.
1a) A campaign where the two major candidates are the worst people I can think of. Wait! Are we in hell already?
2) Gnats.
3) Endless root canal session with about 50 trillion requests of, “just a little wider, please,” from my polite demonic dentist.
4) Celine Dion tribute on steel guitars.
5) Being next in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles while the person at the window refuses to leave until he can vent his complaint one more time…
6a) I pay to go to France with friends and find I’m the only one in my group that doesn’t speak French…
6b) And doesn’t understand art…
6c) And doesn’t like wine…
6d) And is allergic to stinky cheese.
7) All Award Shows, All the Time!
8) Lima bean Pop Tarts.
9a) To have that dream again where I’m back in school and I’m not wearing pants
9b) And find out it’s not a dream.

10) Any given day in Caitlyn Jenner’s life.

      Then again, some animated characters don't seem to mind hell.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Dirk Destroyer Part 38 Chapter Twenty

I suppose it’s a little late to mention it, but those chapters that are spelled out (like Twenty,) are diversions from the story, while those that are enumerated (thanks CL for giving me that cool word,) (like 21,) move the story along.
Kinda cute, right?
Well who asked you?
I don’t care if I did ask you – I thought it was cute even if nobody else did. Remember, this entire magnum opus (‘nother cool word, but this time I got it from Star Trek reruns,) is free of charge.
But back to the beauty of these nonenumerated diversional chapters (wow am I cranking out the cool words tonight!) You can take these chapters almost like short stories and you might even understand what’s going on without reading the previous 37 Dirk Destroyer posts.

Chapter Twenty

The scratchwing and bellow had been such a fine combination for instrumental duets that when I was born people in my village thought they had been part of civilization forever. Two years later when Dirk was born, most people still held the same opinion.
Though the scratchwing is a precision instrument and the bellow more tonal and percussive, it was the fad of composers in my youth to ask the direct opposite of each. The result was a musical product that resembled a raptor swimming under water next to a leviathan farting.
It was unpleasant, but it was art, and to expect art to be pleasant is common, base, uncultured, and ignorant. The annual art endowments were thus awarded to the artists, composers, choreographers, sculptors, and nose pickers who most made you wish that your head was an internal organ.
Those were heady days for the arts.
Dutifully, Dirk and I studied music and practiced every day. Dirk developed a sardonic sense of humor; I developed allergies; and our mother went through three divorces.
I remember a particularly cruel punishment I received in middle school after my rendition of V. D. Popengut’s ninth inversion was greeted with applause by my classmates. I was forced to listen to the correct interpretation repeatedly until I was light-headed from loss of blood and mucus.
It was into this world of poignant artistic integrity that Captain Kangar Fassentinker rose to prominence. Kangar Fassentinker was a tug boat captain on the continent of Pogo where his primary trade was to take tourists to the one toilet, or loo, as they were called down there, that flowed in the correct direction. Captain Kangar –loo as he was popularly known to the inhabitants of those parts, had very little adult trade, as most people over the age of seven felt no need to see a toilet flow the correct way more than once. Smaller children however, could never get enough of it, and after some time, parents began habitually leaving their children on his tugboat before leaving for work, or to score drugs.
Kangar Fassentinker was not pleased with this turn of events. An accomplished scratchwing player in his youth with four suicides to his credit, Captain Kangar-loo began playing his scratchwing – not properly, but in a contrarian fashion - in opposition to the accepted artistical forms of the day.
Unfortunately, the children of his tugboat nursery had not yet developed the sophistication necessary to understand that what they were hearing was asinine, derivative crap, and so they loved and adored the Captain almost as much as he loathed them. The Captain lived in an increasingly unbearable world of happy children, swirling water, and deplorably pleasant music.
After twenty-five years, and a dozen unexplained drownings, Luke Gandolf, a writer of fantasies, and creator of toys that were particularly harmful to children, remembered his dear Captain Kangar-loo, and bailed him out of jail, in order to bring Kangar Fassentinker’s music to the world.

Unfortunately, only a handful of Fassentinker’s pieces were released to the world including his exquisite third duet for scratchwing and bellow before Fassentinker slipped on a cube of ice and accidentally impaled himself on an ice pick left carelessly propped, point up, on the floor. This occurred at the apartment of the aforementioned composer, Vladimir Draculo Popengut, who was the only witness to the event.

Not sure if Danny Kaye was Fassentinker or Popengut, but I love his movies.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Crank Calls

I don’t believe in crank calls. I never called a store to ask if they had Prince Albert in a can. It’s not that I don’t like a good joke – I just don’t like aggression, and there are few things more aggressive (in my humble opinion) than to activate a klaxon in someone’s home, place of business, pocket, or blue tooth that demands immediate attention.
So I don’t believe in making phone calls of any description, not to mention crank calls.
Transforming a call into a crank call when someone aggressively rings a bell in my ear is another matter entirely.
Ring, ring
Headley: Beauchamp, ques-que-sais?
Caller: I’m very sorry; I was looking for Headley Hauser. I seem to have called the wrong number.
Headley: De rien. (hangs up.)
Of course I’m counting on the caller having neither a knowledge of French, nor an ability to distinguish that my accent comes from that part of France that is just west of Greensboro, North Carolina.
Maybe that’s more properly in Quebec.
If the caller responds in French, I would probably say – uno momento (completely ignoring the fact that that’s Spanish,) put the phone receiver down and leave the room. They can wait all day if they want – I don’t mind the phone staying off the hook. What’s the worst that can happen – I miss a few phone calls?
As soon as email came around, the telephone was dead to me. I hear that some folks say that as soon as texting came around, that email was dead to them – but they’re barbarians and they don’t even write out their words properly.
But still the phone hangs on the wall in my kitchen taking up space like that slicer/dicer machine that does EVERYTHING… except I’ve yet to use it out of fear that it will scoff at me for not properly appreciating julienne fries.
Yes the phone is on the wall and NOT in my pocket. Why anyone would want to carry around a device that can rip them out of the serenity of driving in rush hour traffic, or the enjoyment of an ice cream headache from sucking on a Friendlies Fribble, I’ll never know.
Once in a while that phone on the wall rings, and the routine begins again – “Volkov, kak va?”
I’ve made a point to learn foreign-sounding names and terse greetings in 15 different languages. I may not remember them all correctly, but it’s not as if my goal is communication. That’s why I had to stop using my Spanish greeting – too many people understood what I was saying, or even corrected my gringo pronunciation.
Those who know me well are not fooled. They just ignore whatever I say.
Headley: Jer shrr Li.
Caller: Yeah, Headley, you need to tell Go Figure Reads to move your books out of my store, nobody’s going to buy them.
Headley: War yaoww chyoo tser-swor.
Caller: Right, and soon, please. James Patterson is coming out with a new book he had someone else write for him, and if I don’t display 30 cases, a crack CIA strike team will burn my building down.
Headley: Wor ting boo-dong
Caller: Yeah, you too.
I know I had a point to make here.

If you can think of it, give me a ring.

But the master of phone humor will always be the beloved Bob Newhart.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Dirk Destroyer Chapter 37 Chapter 19

The Fellowship of the Bring and their target, Dirk Destroyer (whose real last name is McFarland,) are in close proximity.  Between them is Dirk's brother Elmer (who is narrating this story and is also named McFarland,) and Ono, a magical, confusing young woman who makes Elmer's 8000-year-old heart go pitter-patter.

 Chapter 19
Showing Off

In hindsight, mentioning that Dirk was going to meet me was probably not a good idea.
“Ah hah,” said Jonma Claim, now thoroughly possessed by Uriculous.
“The inverted stewpot has shutdown for the day,” Mage-e-not explained. “Now all the pols are out eating rubber chicken and looking for Champagne money,” (or something like that.)
“Too shmuch shmoney in shpoliticsch,” said Jonma Claim who was apparently not thoroughly possessed by Uriculous.
In spite of the occasional blurt, Jonma Claim was not about to let me out to wander freely and meet with Dirk.
“Ish our Schance,” said Jonma Claim in an increasingly bothersome lisp. “Wesh getsh shou botsh togesher.”
“Which we could have done where we were last night,” said Mage-e-not.
“Doeschent schmatter,” sputtered Jonma Claim.
“The other place had better showers,” said Lip Ton Tease.
“And fewer pigs,” said Lustavious, who had mistaken a mound of pig excrement for a mound of dirt to sit on.
“Doeschent schmatter!” repeated Jonma Claim around great gobs of spit that found their way to the few remaining un-besmirched areas on Lustavious’ bandage. “We wash shim, and we getsch boschhh.”
“We wash him?” asked Tease.
“Wash shim!” corrected Jonma Claim. “Wash shim, wash shim, wash shim!” He was pointing to his eyes, until we all got the message.
“I don’t think you lisped this badly when we started out, High Priest,” sang Lustavious.
“Wash shim!” Jonma Claim snapped.
So they washed… watched me – all of them, even Jonma Carry – even Swampy. I started pacing, not because I felt like pacing, but to see what they would do. Every pair of eyes watched me back and forth. I started jumping. Whatever other skills I might lack, I have always been a fine jumper. Every pair of eyes watched me up and down.
I was about to start somersaults, when Tease said, “The sheep.”
“Washaboutem,” said Jonma Claim.
“Wash a bottom?” asked Tease.
“I think he means,” said Lustavious, “what about them.”
“They’re back.”
“Baaaaaaaaaack,” said Mage-e-not.
A phalanx of sheep, rams in front, ewes in back, and little lambs eating ivy on the side, marched lock-step toward our position.
“Not sheep-like,” said Lustavious.
“Schut upsch!” said Jonma Claim.
They formed up twenty paces away, then their phalanx split.
“What are they doing?” asked Mage-e-not.
“Schut upsch!” said Jonma Claim.
“Should have stayed where we were,” muttered Mage-e-not.
Through the opening in the phalanx came eight sheep with branches across their backs forming a crude platform. On the platform was a large ram.
“Completely un-sheep-like,” said Lustavious.
Jonma Claim didn’t say ‘Schut upsch,’ or ‘quietsch,’ or ‘do shnot dischturb,’ or even ‘no moleschte por favor.’ He, like everyone else in our party but Ono and me, were focused on the ram standing on the platform.
“Dirk?” mouthed Ono quietly, and I marveled that she could mouth as difficult a name to mouth as Dirk, as perfectly as she did, with such a subtle question mark inflection.
I clawed out of my marveling enough to grab the scratchwing that Dirk had given me and nodded my head in the affirmative – (except in the land of Pogo on the other side of the planet, where such movement of the head meant a negative, or ‘hey, the water in the loo is moving the wrong way,’ depending on the occasion.)
Apparently Ono was not from Pogo, because she understood my affirmative nod – at least she didn’t go off to watch the water in the loo, which was a good thing, because we were quite distant from the nearest flush toilet which happened to be at the inverted stew pot, where at that very moment, they were flushing the day’s legislation to make certain that no voters ever read it.
I have to be honest. I had no idea if they were flushing the day’s legislation at that very moment.
The ram opened its mouth and did not say Bah. It said instead, “Uriculous Wisehind!” which is something I had rarely if ever, heard a mammal other than human, or politician say.
“Uriculous Wisehind,” repeated the ram with a lovely little goat vibrato through the hind part. I mean to say the vibrato vibrated through the end part of Uriculous’ last name – or “hind.” As far as I could tell the ram’s hind part was unaffected and remained unvibrated – not that I habitually study the hind parts of rams or other male mammals.
“Uriculous Wisehind… answer me!”
“Yesh?” said Jonma Claim.
“Ewe… Ewe… ewe… BUG ME!”
The words bug me were not capitalized in speech, of course, but they were very loud, and on further reflection the ram might have been saying “you” as opposed to “ewe.” Of course, it being a ram, and rams having a fondness for ewes, it was a natural mistake on my part, as I’m sure it might have been for many people – especially those who were accustomed to the preferences of sheep, both sexually and by association to think that the ram was speaking of the female of his species, and not a short, bald, possessed human male.
Though Jonma Claim did not enunciate his reasoning, he chose that moment to leave the area, as did all the party, even Ono, who mouthed a rather lengthy message to me, which though I am certain must have been mouthed perfectly, my inadequacies in lip reading left me with only, “so long.”
“So long,” I said to all of them, including Ono, hoping that it was a sufficient response to her mouthed message.
I walked up to the ram on the platform and said, “You know, I could really use a cigar right now. Do you have any?”
“Eat me,” said the ram. Then he climbed down from his platform, and moments after reaching the ground the phalanx became a much less un-sheep-like flock.
“Come on now Brother,” said Dirk standing up from the back of the flock. “That was some first rate work.”
I had to agree. No one can do simultaneous animal control, telekinesis, and ventriloquism like Dirk. Each was a natural ability, but it takes talent and thousands of years of practice to make them work in concert so well.
“You have the scratchwing,” said Dirk, handing me a cigar and match. “Good, come this way.”
So I went, which is the mirror reflection of come, which would make Dirk the mirror…

I’m not sure what that last sentence meant, but I went with Dirk.

Of course we know that sheep never do stuff like they did in this chapter.