Thanksgiving-Day of Mourning

The holiday of Thanksgiving reminds us to appreciate the immeasurable beauty and bounty Nature bestows upon us which, over the last 5,000 years, became a sort of reward for the creatures most magnificent–a given. It has its roots in the oldest of farming traditions, celebrated sometime between October and February, when there was little to do as farmers except to admire ones harvest.

Back in the day the farmer used surplus grains and other products to brew and distill alcohol, get shit-faced and give thanks to whichever deity he deemed responsible for the harvest. The echoes of these festivals can still be heard in present-day Carnival celebrations around the world.

However, these festivities all celebrated (and celebrate) one culture, one specific lifestyle, one civilization whose wealth was attained at the expense of all others. Our Thanksgiving is also a celebration of this arrogant and destructive behavior, conscious or not, as the abundance we have has become proof of our deservedness, and others unworthiness.

Native Americans always celebrated their harvests and the abundance of Mother Nature, universally during the year and specifically in the fall. When the Europeans arrived in Massachusetts, however, several things changed.

From the start of the 17th century, European explorers visited the East coast and brought the Natives a most unwelcome gift: disease. In fact, the diseases that spread throughout the region devastated many tribes, leading many scholars to suggest that without these diseases, there would have been no room for the Pilgrims to land at all.

When they did finally arrive–six weeks before winter–they came utterly unprepared to deal with the harsh New England climate, and with nearly empty food stores. Many resorted to robbing Native American storehouses and graves in which, among other things, corn was buried, and many more did not make it through the first winter.

In addition, the once mighty Wampanoag nation, who had driven many Europeans like John Smith away in previous years, was now greatly weakened by the disease, while their hated rivals–the Narragansetts to the South–were less affected. In other words, without the disease the Wampanoags would probably not have made a peace treaty with the new settlers, and Thanksgiving as we know it would never have been celebrated.

Finally, the Pilgrims only made the event an annual occurrence in the 1660s. Before that relationships with the Natives grew increasingly strained, beginning in the late 1630s. In 1637 Pequot natives believed an English trader to be guilty of kidnapping their children and murdered him. As they gathered for their Green Corn Dance ceremony to bless the growing harvest, settlers surrounded them and burnt them alive. Those who managed to escape the flames were cut down with swords. All told, about 700 Pequot men, women, and children died that day, and Governor Bradford decided to hold the first, so-named “Thanksgiving” to celebrate the event.

The Europeans true face lay exposed. Our Thanksgiving celebrates the annihilation of the Pequod nation, and, indirectly, the genocide we engineered upon Native Americans in our country.

In 1621, however, things looked different. Natives and settlers needed each other, and did their best to respect the other side. The gathering they organized marked the first time in history where civilized whites and uncivilized natives came together to celebrate one thing: gratitude.

The event should inspire us. If vastly different peoples living such dissimilar lifestyles can celebrate together for three days as these long-forgotten souls did, then it may be possible to live harmoniously together despite our differences. We should not leave this piece with images of civilized failure and destruction, but with one of unity. Let us all break bread together, and give thanks.

Event Zero: The Etiology of Etiolation

There was once, 5,122 years ago, a peaceful paradise in a part of the world dotted by volcanoes, and which from time to time shuddered when Mother Earth rolled over in her bed. The gifts she bestowed upon the people who lived there were too precious and abundant to reject and run from, however. These people took their chances living there instead of somewhere without the constant threat of a natural catastrophe.

Fruits and vegetables grew large and long there, there were precious stones and rocks with which they could both adorn themselves and make tools. Fish and game were everywhere, and the hillsides were covered with the herbs they so valued for their medicines.

The people lived tied happily to the ground beneath their feet and were thankful for the manna Nature granted them. They prayed to their thunder god and made offerings to him gladly.

When they weren’t busy farming the land.

It was sometimes so hard to say no to all that Nature offered them…

They lived high in the mountains where the air was pure and clean, and next to a crystal lake under the shadow of high mountain peaks. The valley was surrounded by these peaks and teemed with every kind of flora and fauna one could imagine.

Then one day one of the volcanoes awoke with a pain in its gut. It groaned and shook and sputtered smoke into the sky. Red fire seeped out of its crater, and the people grew fearful. What have we done to incur the volcano’s wrath? they asked themselves.


Their neighbors could have told them what they had done, but they were not talking to their neighbors anymore.
To their horror, they watched as fire serpents from the volcano stopped up the runoffs the mountain streams had followed to two immense rivers to the South. The lake began to rise in the bowl they called home, and soon their settlements were engulfed.

Explosions began to tear at the fabric of the sky. Fire rained down on them, and many perished. The animals they had kept were also destroyed.
As the eruption reached a cataclysmic peak, they saw the image that would haunt them all forever:

A figure rose from the crater.

The people were terrified. It was plainly visible even from great distances, and it was clear that the figure must be truly gargantuan.

Still it rose. Out of the crater and into the sky.

At night the stony cracks in its side revealed the same red fire coursing through its body as in the unholy crater. It lit the creature in crimsons and yellows and oranges, and steam rose from its snout, pointed ever heavenwards. It was made of stone, living stone, stone alive with fire.

Nothing could stop the forces of the exploding volcano, and this creature was its lord and master.

Over a short period of time, the Tower rose to a stupendous height. Its image dominated the horizon, and none could take their eyes from it.

What does it portend? they asked themselves. Are we doomed?

One by one people were smitten by the rage of this fierce volcano god. The survivors ran for their lives but distance meant nothing. Time meant nothing. Their prayers meant nothing. Their supposed innocence and superiority meant nothing. They asked what good their thunder god was, if even he had turned tail and was hiding.

The Tower had already reached the thunder god’s foyer. He was challenging the highest one directly! He threatened the thunder god’s wife! All of the gods seemed to be in hiding; none dared to challenge this menace from below.

Then the battle turned. The Beast was injured on a lower extremity, and threatened to crumble. Inspired, the thunder god rallied and hurled one lightning bolt after another at the dreaded creature. Finally, the Tower collapsed under its own weight, hurling a last hellacious death cry across the heavens. The thunder god buried it quickly under the mountainside and the people were again safe.


But were they?

Some doubted everything they had ever learned. Where had our god gone when we needed him most? they asked. Why had he let so many of our brothers and sisters perish? Why had he allowed our livelihoods to be destroyed? Did he really deserve to be top dog?
Maybe it was time to cast their lots with a different higher power? One from below and not from above…

They went back to tilling the fields, but much of the land was either scarred forever or under water. Plants barely grew because clouds from the eruption blacked out the sun for years afterwards.
They built new homes with thick walls to make them feel safe. Inside these walls, though, something was happening to these people. They began to feel as though they were privy to secret knowledge, and were therefore special. They spent hours upon hours, day and night, sleeplessly tossing and turning in their beds, racked by pangs of conscience and delusions of grandeur, endlessly asking themselves what they had done to deserve their fate and if they did not deserve better.

They could not put the Event behind them and wallowed in grief within the thick walls of their homes, out of the light of the sun. At some point the grief turned to rage, and these people lost. They lost their pasts, they lost most of their relatives, they lost their connection to a higher power, and, well:


It’s a simple, well-known and understood procedure in horticulture.

Because the eruption forever destroyed the lifestyle they had enjoyed for so long and forced them to move South down the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, they lost touch with their roots.

Because of the lack of light both up in the sky and within the walls of their comfy homes, and because they no longer had to divert energy to their roots, thoughts exploded in their minds like the branches of an unhealthy tree; they had too many and they went beyond the borders of their own consciousness. They became tangled and knotted and they wasted so much energy trying to untie them they were always tired.

Some turned out to be productive: when they pondered how they could increase yields, for example, they invented irrigation and drainage. When they pondered how they could convince their neighbors to donate lands to grow these increased yields upon, they were visited by Prometheus, who taught them first to smelt metals, and then all about the miracles of tin-bronze. The weapons they made from this metal transformed them into invincible hordes. When they needed proof of their own supposed excellence, they invented precession and mathematics, as well as astronomy. They built towering pyramids that touched the sky like their Great Hero.

Some of these thoughts were less productive. Many of their women began to have some serious, paralyzing, terrible and fearful thoughts. Without solid ground beneath their feet where there roots could take hold and grow, and now with ample space within their own minds to stretch the branches of their imaginations, these women invented mental illness. Of course, their husbands were not immune either.

They would go on to believe that they were the most important beings on Earth, and never wasted a moment before trying to prove it.

They asked themselves:

How cool would it be if someone or something could really defeat the One Most High? The Tower had been so close…

And finally, because of the lack of light and their own lack of desire to let themselves be seen (and healed!) by the sun, their leaves paled. They lost the color of their skin.

Nigerians call them Oyinbo-the people with the peeled-off skin. Natives in California called them “half-human, half something else.”

They raised a dream from the Earth below their feet, one that shone as brightly (in their minds) as the sun. And one that, strangely, caused cancer almost as though it were a real, radioactive sun.


They built the first civilization this world has ever known, and we call these people “Caucasians.”

Olympic Heroes


This piece does not have anything, directly, to do with the Olympics. As many of you are hopefully aware, the “Olympic” in “Olympic” refers to a religious place: Mt. Olympus in up top Greece, the seat of the gods.

The words you will find below were also inspired by a report I just watched on UTub about the Patriots 8th day of training camp. For those of you not interested in football, or sports in general, give this a chance–it’s not about either of those things. For those interested in the sport, keep reading, I’m reporting on some serious issues here that need to be heard.

The Pats 8th day of training camp gives us a good place to start, because it was reported that on this day, with the 1st, I’ll say it again, 1st game of the season still over a month away, 17 players missed practice because of one injury or another.

Fans familiar with the sport will dismiss this point. They argue that it is normal for this time of year, when the pads come on and people start hitting each other. They also mention the pesky COVID problem, which is an issue, yes. I have watched football and played ice hockey long enough, however, to say that this is total bull puckey–the injuries I’m talking about were there before COVID and are still there now. The fact that 17 players are unable to suit up for the 3rd or 4th day of padded practice should be taken at face value: it is an indication of a larger issue.

Anyone interested enough in football, especially fantasy football, has looked at an injury report at one time or another. Every goddamn week there is a mile long list of injuries to players of every team. Many of these are concussions, which is still a nagging issue in the NFL, but one I will refrain from discussing here, you’ll soon see why.

What does one see in these reports?

Plantar fasciitus. ACL. MCL. Strained/pulled/torn hamstring/quadriceps/calf. Sprained ankle. Knee issues. Turf toe. Hip issues. Stress fractures in the foot. And, of course, the ever-present Achilles injury.

Any fitness professional worthy of his talent will look at this plethora of lower extremity injuries and remember that before Nike invented running shoes with a padded sole, most of these injuries to these extremities were nearly unheard of. In my personal opinion, this revolves around the fact that we want to put as much distance as possible between us and the Earth, and nature will exact its revenge for this crime. However, as I say this is my opinion. Let’s stick to the facts…

Pride.

Pride is one of the seven deadly sins. It drove Lucifer out of Heaven. It also drove Lucifer to attack heaven.

For those of us who were not on a sports team in school, who among us can forget the feeling of sheer terror in the hallways, especially as freshmen or -women, when a sports team member came toward us in the hallway? They were never alone. They traveled in packs, like dogs, and even barked and yelped like canines at pep rallies. And yes, they bit.

All that testosterone had to go somewhere. I don’t think many of us can debate that athletes, from High School upwards, are a prideful lot. Are they all vain? Of course not. But a large mass of athletes, as soon as they put that jersey on, begin acting as if their association with this or that team elevates them in the school hierarchy, and many become bullies, in true warrior fashion, to prove their superiority.

Pride is one of the seven deadly sins. It drove Lucifer out of Heaven. It also drove Lucifer to attack heaven.

At this point I’d like to return to Achilles, for whom the dreaded and all-too-prevalent injury is named after. Achilles was the greatest of all Olympic warriors, and he brings us back to “Olympic.” He was killed when someone shot him with an arrow in the…heel. Strange that more people have not wondered about this. The hero was invulnerable everywhere else in his body because Mama dipped him in the river Styx, but she had to hold him somewhere–his heel–and this point became his only weakness.

Even if that were true, why should an arrow wound to the heel cause death?

The Greeks did not develop their stories in a vacuum. Most researchers now agree that their mythical realm was copied from those of earlier, Middle Eastern cultures. If one looks at the myths of these peoples, all of them, no matter how different these people were from each other, made reference to heroes with less than optimal leg health. The Greeks included others with this malady: Hephaestus, the first Smith (not his real name), also had a lame leg. His Roman counterpart as well.

Why?

All of these ancient religious systems owe their existence to the Hurrians, who were the first to mention lame heroes, as well as cosmic wars. They also told the tale of one mighty “hero” bold enough to attack Heaven; yes, the first known occurrence of this literary theme. I cannot say exactly how this lame-leg story originated, since a book discussing it is forthcoming, I can only say two things: 1), there is a perfectly logical, scientific explanation behind the phenomenon. And 2), this problem would not exist without toxic masculinity.

Because we love football, and the masculine, win-at-all-costs-mentality, AND we also consciously choose our footwear solutions instead of Nature’s, we will be permanently plagued with the same injuries every week.

And NOT just on a professional football team’s injury report.

Podrick-The Problem Child

just minding my own business here…wouldn’t hurt a fly…

What do you do with a problem child? You know the type: those who never seem to get it. They are the first to screw up and the last to apologize. They are incorrigible, self-absorbed, stubborn, rebellious, do not take to punishment well, and they are certainly not made to succeed in school or other structured formats.

Podrick himself is an Iberian hound, a breed infamous for not handling punitive measures well. He did not have a happy childhood. He grew up on the streets. He was mistreated wherever he went and only knew violence. Podrick fought for the scraps he found and somehow survived. If he was human his nickname would surely be “Shifty…”

Two wonderful people took him in and gave him a home and a structured life; he no longer had to fight for his meals. The owners had patience with him, something that must be noted for all of the reasons listed above and more.

It is easy to take someone out of the streets, a famous expression goes, but difficult to take the streets out of that person–or animal. When someone shows him attention or is about to give him a treat and another dog comes–he now lives with 5 others–he will get jealous and snap at the interloper. When I take the dogs for a walk he’s the first to cause problems: if you put a leash on him he will not walk. It’s either Podrick without a leash or no one walks.

Then, during the walk, if you pass anyone he’s the first to rush up and bark. If that person also has a dog-good luck. Podrick is always the first one ready to scrap. He’s like an Irish street urchin, a little Connor McGregor. At home he lives with two mastiffs, one of them has 100 pounds or more on him–does he care about his chances in a fight against Chewie? He does not. 

He is the first to dart into the forest to chase something and get lost. He once chased a cat up into a tree–he followed it up! When the cat jumped down, about 10 feet, he did too.

He will never heel. He will never heed your commands. He will never know respect or care for another creature. He trusts no one and, at least when he came to live here, was very aggressive because of the permanent fear that camped inside. 

So what does one do with such a creature? Send him to an expensive doggie boarding school, where dog psychologists and trainers can look after him 24/7? I’m sure many guys out there have also considered another possibility.

Someone who is, obviously, of little use to anyone or himself is best suited to take a long journey to the other side, if you get my meaning. Put him to sleep and let god sort ‘em out!

Before we go ahead and do that, let’s all remember one thing: Podrick is the way he is because of his environment. He grew up living this way, and no other, and has all these problems because of it. He sure as Hell did not create or help design this place to his liking. Further, how many of us “get it?” How many of us cruise through this life because it all makes such perfect sense?

How many of us are mistake-free? How many are ready to apologize for their mistakes (America certainly isn’t, see “Slavery” and the pesky Native American problem)? How many of us are always ready to change and better ourselves. How many of us are ready, for example, to do something with the information that sugar, red meat, and gluten are not good for you and WILL cause health issues at some point down the road?

How many are open to new ideas and do not rebel to better ideas about how to get through the day? How many of us understand that punishment can be for our own good, and that learning is so good for us that we should engage in this activity as often as possible? 

Finally: and be honest, how many of us are shining examples of physical, mental, and emotional health? I once knew a woman that always showered with the lights off because she couldn’t stand the way her naked body looked. I met another recently who cannot be alone in silence. She always listens to headphones and sleeps with the TV on. She is suicidal.

Agile readers will have already guessed what I am trying to say here: if you get rid of Podrick, because he is a danger to society and no good for himself or anyone else, you’ll have to keep those ovens stoked. Podrick won’t be the only one visiting the Happy Hunting Grounds today.

*Side note: this mentality of doing away with whatever doesn’t fit is motivated by greed. There is unlimited abundance out there to be had, the abundance a dog will fight over in the streets, but only if we all play the game. It is no more easy to refuse this abundance than it is to refuse anything that gives us great pleasure, WHICH MEANS…one day they’ll be coming for you…

Instead of ending this piece on a frown-face emoji depressing note, however, I will inform you that, in fact, there is something Podrick responds to very well (besides food).

Love.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH…

With 5 other dogs to compete with, the small but wilful Podrick has to be firm to make sure he gets enough attention and doesn’t feel shortchanged with his morning massage.

Should one of these things happen, he is immediately thrust into the earlier version of himself. He bares his teeth and snaps, he is aggressive. He does his best but fails to mask his fear. Most of all, he doubts that his own personal Hell is ancient history and he is now in Paradise.

We should all be able to understand Podrick. We are all mistrustful, full of doubts, are afraid and confused, especially when we start something new. As soon as we leave our familiar little comfort zone–no matter how uncomfortable this zone may really be–make new decisions and make the leap: that’s when things get nerve-racking.

The best medicine for these situations is love. Sometimes little creatures need help standing on their own two (or four) legs, and love props us up. Showing people who are having trouble adjusting a little extra attention is a way to show that love and support; a way to build bridges. At times this action may seem difficult: why should Podrick be rewarded when the others are cheated because of him?

Our walks are the best example. Three of the dogs are well-behaved and always return whether they have a leash on or not. Podrick and the two mastiffs, however is a crapshoot. Their record was about 6 hours. After letting them run off the leash one day they took off and didn’t return until 6 hours later. Podrick is the first to lead the others astray.

But since he won’t move with a leash on, the two mastiffs are always forced to wear a leash.  They suffer for his faults.

But giving him the love he needs also comes back; he is grateful and shows in it in his the way he accompanies us wherever we go. Yes, the little rebel inside shows its face every now and then, but he is much more at peace now, and we’re all grateful about that.

Chill mode-I can sleep like this, too..

He lets himself fall into life with all of its wonderful possibilities.

I’m sure we can all learn something from Podrick.

#priorities #loverules #gettogether #helpdonthinder

Uprising! The Clash of the Titans

This movie from 2010 may be familiar for many younger viewers; however, I shan’t be discussing this cash-grab because, as one reviewer said: “The film is a sham, with good actors going for the paycheck and using beards and heavy makeup to hide their shame.” It had good actors (Ralph! How could you do this to us!), most certainly special effects and, I’m guessing, someone with boobs. I will also not speak of the “original” from 1981, which I DESPERATELY wanted to see when it came out but it never happened and now the effects are…dated, to say the least. Not even Lawrence “of Arabia” Olivier can fix that.

Instead, I will remind readers that before this was filmed, the story was, like, a book. It had everything! Bloody battle scenes. Superpowered deities. A human side, pain and love experienced in wholesome, bite-sized morsels. Cool and horrifying creatures. And boobs. You know those Greeks..

The original story is known as the Titanomachy-or the War of the Titans. In it the evil Titans rise from the underworld and, despite Zeus being the most powerful member of the Greek pantheon, sure give the Olympians a run for their money.

Typhon attempted to overthrow Zeus for the supremacy of the cosmos. The two fought a cataclysmic battle, which Zeus finally won with the aid of his thunderbolts. Defeated, Typhon was cast into Tartarus, or buried underneath Mount Etna, or in later accounts, the island of Ischia.

One of the reasons the Titans were so fierce is because they have Thyphon, or Typhoeus, fighting on their side. Typhon is known as the “father of all monsters,” and, if you are into that sort of thing, he could beat Godzilla like a dog. He is described as a “monstrous, serpentine giant,” a fire-breathing dragon, and “terrible, outrageous and lawless” (by Hesiod).

Further:

“Strength was with his hands in all that he did and the feet of the strong god were untiring. From his shoulders grew a hundred heads of a snake, a fearful dragon, with dark, flickering tongues, and from under the brows of his eyes in his marvellous heads flashed fire, and fire burned from his heads as he glared. And there were voices in all his dreadful heads which uttered every kind of sound unspeakable; for at one time they made sounds such that the gods understood, but at another, the noise of a bull bellowing aloud in proud ungovernable fury; and at another, the sound of a lion, relentless of heart; and at another, sounds like whelps, wonderful to hear; and again, at another, he would hiss, so that the high mountains re-echoed.”

Perhaps the most important description of this creature comes from the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, in which it is said the being is “like neither gods nor men.”

So what was he then?

Google tells us that the beast: “Typhon was … the personification of volcanic forces.”

Volcanic forces…Hmm-that doesn’t sound much like religion anymore. But let’s get back to it for now; I quote Wikipedia:

“Typhon attempted to overthrow Zeus for the supremacy of the cosmos. The two fought a cataclysmic battle, which Zeus finally won with the aid of his thunderbolts. Defeated, Typhon was cast into Tartarus, or buried underneath Mount Etna…

Typhon mythology is part of the Greek succession myth, which explained how Zeus came to rule the gods. Typhon’s story is also connected with that of Python (the serpent killed by Apollo), and both stories probably derived from several Near Eastern antecedents…”

These points are not only interesting, they contain hints which describe a handful of more relevant truths. Number one-there is nothing more cataclysmic than a volcanic eruption. Secondly many eruptions also include the phenomenon of lightning storms (see above*), which usually occur after the eruption has petered itself out. It would be very easy to assume that one’s own thunder god defeated the Titan with thunderbolts after seeing this.

I will not mention “Typhon being cast into Tartarus” or “buried beneath a mountain”–these mirror actual geological events which have been repeated at intervals throughout history (most recently in 2006 (Mt St Helens)–except to point out that although Greece has volcanoes, none have played a role in its cultural history, which explains why the Greeks desired to bury the giant under an active, Italian volcano.

Which leads is to the gist.

Why not under Mt. Olympus, where Zeus lived? And where the battle was fought, presumably? Others say it was fought in Anatolia–but that’s an even farther trip to lug a dead behemoth. Why schlepp the giant all the way to Italy to bury him? The only possible explanation here, which the last sentence of the quote above supports, is that these stories were not native to Greece.

Eastern Anatolia is home to a vast volcanic landscape, and the Bronze Age culture living there–the Hurrians–composed the original stories after one (or more) eruptions between 5- and 6,000 years ago. In fact, all of the people of the region told their own tales of a singular behemoth that attacked the heavens–“Titan” means to grow swiftly, and they are known as very naughty boys (and girls)–in earlier traditions. All of these stories had the same eerie similarities, and, in fact, there is really only one variant in these themes, one occasion where the plot does not play out like the others.

In the Greek version, as in all preceding Near Eastern versions, as well as the nearly identical Swedish AND Indian versions (!!); in all of these stories the thunder god was victorious, and the beast lay smote. The one exception?

Mesopotamia.

Here Ninurta kicked everyone’s ass.

For those who do not understand the significance of this, I’ll have you remember that western civilization were based on the Mesopotamian model. Which also means that we have all adopted a way of life based on that of a civilization who worshipped the very real, fiery, underworld demon who rose up and overthrew the gods of the heavens.

Well that’s not a comforting thought, is it?

*-Photo by Marc Szeglat on Unsplash

My Worst Fear: The Bible Belt [shudder]

I open my eyes.

All around me are closely-cropped lawns and guys with flattops.

Passersby in polyester and squeaky patent leather shoes and names like “Vern” and “Lois” greet each other with phrases like “Mornin, Vern!” and “How’s your husband’s carbuncle, Lois?”

Songs by prissy blond dimpled teenagers about the wonderful wholesomeness of shoe-fly pi blare out of speakers I can’t see.

Children-all white-take group pictures in the park displaying the same glow-in-the-dark tombstone teeth.

Someone mentions Bob Dylan and is propelled by glares instantly over the state line.

The last time anyone said anything original or interesting was 1947-a statue commemorates him in a corner of the park but it is only used as a pigeon toilet.

People wash their cars on Sundays, and then golf.

The women knit. And gossip.

Everyone knows everyone, which means no one has the balls to change, lest he or she be labeled an agitator.

The most popular music is by Francis Scott Key or something, and is played by people wearing porkpie hats. One musician might be holding a washboard.

The preacher raises fire and damnation every week. For a town so utterly boring and monotonous, you would think, by his sermons, that it was Sodom. Or Gomorrah. Or both?

The librarian loves to shush people.

The library is now empty. Nothing to see here.

Pleated skirts are still a thing.

So are chinos.

The Carpenters “Top of the World” is now blasting from the speakers I still can’t see, which is good, because if I could I would batter them down with a Louisville slugger. I realize I have entered the lowest rung of Hell.

A little boy with an arrow-straight part carved into the side of his skull stares at me from behind a table. A sign says “Lemonade 50 sents.” The only reason I don’t tell him to go fuck himself is because I know his parents made him this way. So I go ahead and take a dump in the middle of his parents’ lawn. They are not enthused.

With a start I wake up. Everything is broken and I sigh contentedly.

“It was only a dream,” I say to myself.

Kevin and Albert

Kevin was a farmer. He was a serious man, a proud man, and one not afraid of work. Every morning his grime-caked hands laced up his muddy boots long before the sun fjorded a path through the end of the Night. He went out into his fields and worked them until his back was bent. He touched his plants, trying halfheartedly to get to know them. If it would help his situation, why not try? He asked them (in English) what they needed to grow strong and tall. His balance column depended on it.

But they never answered him.

Albert, Kevin’s brother, lived not far away to the northwest. He tended sheep. All day every day Albert wandered with his flock into the hills. To pass the time, he plucked long grasses and stuck them in his mouth. He let his hands pass through the ends of these grasses, turning lazily from side to side. The grasses felt warm in the morning sun, and tickled his skin almost lovingly.

The shepherd had a squarish head he tilted often to one side, as he did when he watched his sheep. He admired their climbing ability, and their sureness of foot. Some of them could do amazing things when they were allowed to bounce free across the hillsides.

All of the ladies downtown found Albert to die for. His deep, dark eyes hid behind curly locks that hung loosely and untamed over his forehead and into his face like dark tendrils of morning fog in the mountains. They concealed a mysterious place–the land inside Albert’s mysterious eyes–and there were few places many of the girls down in the town below would rather visit.

Albert didn’t seem to care. He loved being in the hills with his sheep, all of whom he knew by name.

“What’s the sense in giving them names if they’re just gonna end up as doner kebap?” Kevin asked, almost angry, whenever he would hear his brother call his sheep.

“I have to, you know,” Albert paused dreamily, looking to his beloved sheep, “keep them together.”


Time passed and Kevin grew bitter. His only joy was opening up his bottle of freshly-distilled Rotgut every evening, which supposedly helped him sleep better. He was plagued by bad dreams. His back, also, kept him awake on many nights, Rotgut or not. Sometimes he thought of the hussy that left him for hours and hours. Sometimes he had ugly thoughts, convinced not only that his wife had done the deed with someone else, but that this someone else was none other than Albert.

He had seen the way ladies looked to his brother. Never once in all his years had a woman looked at him that way.

There was a lengthy list of things Kevin had never experienced. He had never been able to travel; his farm prevented that. He had never been able to afford nice things, and was lucky most months if he could pay the bills. And, worst of all, he had never enjoyed a period where all of the variables had smiled upon him. It was never just moist enough. It was never just sunny enough. It was never peaceful and free from scavengers enough to be able to say: now everything is in place for my crops to grow like never before and grant me the wealth I deserve.

In particularly dark times he even wondered if maybe he was doing something wrong, though thoughts like these were quickly dismissed. They meant he would have to change something in order to become happy. No one wanted that.

Suns rose and fell over his decrepit, sloppy farm. One day at high noon, when the sun was being especially unmerciful, he stopped pushing the plow behind his haggard oxen and put his hands on his hips. He wheezed. No matter how he pushed himself there seemed no end to the plowing. Then his left arm started to tighten, and he collapsed into a freshly cut furrow, there where slopes of moist, overturned earth mixed with fresh ox dung.


When he awoke he was in his house. He lay on his couch and stared up at the cracks in his crumbling ceiling.

How much longer would his house stand, he wondered.

His brother came in and put a fresh, cool, moist rag on his forehead.

“You’re a sight,” he said.

Kevin groaned. “Been worse,” he said.

“If that’s true don’t you think it’s time to change something?” Albert asked. His voice always bothered Kevin. It was quiet and soothing, almost like a woman’s. He had inherited too much from his mother Evelyn.

“It’s just dumb luck,” Kevin said, shaking his head. “It’s so easy. Sow the seeds. Grow the seeds. Harvest the crop. Enjoy. But something’s always going wrong. Not enough rain. Not enough sun. Too much wind. Planted too early or too late.”

“The lightning storm last summer during the drought that burned everything to the ground. Then came the boll worms, the aphids, and the desert locusts.”

“The soil went bad-too much of the same crops too many years in a row. Remember how long I needed to figure that one out?”

Albert nodded.

“I remember sandstorms. Floods. Cyclones. Wasn’t there also a meteor? And the droughts, all those droughts.”

“I built irrigation canals,” Kevin reminded his brother. “Sure did. But only after two or three crops failed,” said Albert, looking out the window.

He was getting bored again, Kevin realized. His younger brother lacked focus.

“Those irrigation ditches are a pain in the ass to keep unclogged,” Albert looked back at Kevin. “Don’t you think there are just too many signs telling you not to live this way, this latest episode being the icing on the cake?”

“Dad started living this way,” Kevin said coldly. “What’s right for him is right for me.”

“But..”

“You and your damn sheep can go flock yourselves,” cursed Kevin with as much venom as he could muster, which wasn’t much, given the circumstances. Albert began walking to the door.

“Do you think I’d just give up on Dad’s dreams?” Kevin shouted weakly. “He did something extraordinary! I won’t let him and his accomplishments be forgotten!”

“No talkin’ to you..” said Albert over his shoulder. He opened the door and was gone.


Kevin had to face some hard truths over the next few months. If he wanted the farm to survive, he would have to think of something fast. He did his best to work himself back into working shape, but he was preoccupied. How was he to pay his bills and save the farm? He was not getting any younger and had no one to help him take care of his land. How long could he keep it up before dropping into another furrow and never getting up?

One day the butcher, a man named Dave, came to visit. Even though Kevin didn’t like him–he didn’t like anyone–he enjoyed a visit. It gave him an opportunity to curse his fates with someone who might just understand him.

But Dave was doing well, and wasn’t really interested in Kevin’s sob stories. He had actually come to talk business, and was ready to offer top dollar for a few of Albert’s sheep.

“Have you talked to him already?” Kevin asked him.

“Awww, you know his schedule,” the butcher said. “He’s up in the hills for hours before the sun rises. Sometimes he doesn’t come down at all. Once I saw him in town selling sheep milk, and I told him I wanted to talk business with him but he ignored me.”

“Well, he knows what he’s doing,” Kevin said, mad that he could not find a sympathetic ear. “Don’t know what I should do.”

“Just talk to him,” said Dave. “Maybe you could mention that if he gives me his rebellious rams and curious ewes taking care of the herd will be easier for him. No one running off or getting uppity.”

“Yeah, you’re right!” said Kevin. “He can only benefit. And it’s not like we want the whole herd..” Dave the butcher went away a happy man.


“Why not?” Kevin asked, incredulous.

“Dave’s an asshole,” answered Albert. “He can go fuck himself.”

“It’s better for you,” pleaded Kevin.

“I’ll decide that,” said Albert.

Darren, an angry ram, was making his presence felt. He began butting at all the rams around him. Albert stared.

Kevin followed his gaze.

“He could hurt someone, or one of your precious ewes,” he said. “What’ll you do then?”

“I’ll deal with that when it happens,” Albert answered.

A puffy ewe named Cora skittered over the ridge, too busy to look back.

“She might not come back,” said Kevin.

“And she might just learn something she can use over there,” said Albert.

“Albert, please…,” Kevin begged. “I…”

“This is about the farm, isn’t it?” Albert said, looking in his brother’s eyes. “You need the money to save it, don’t you?”

“Albert, you can’t do this to the memory of our father!”

“Fuck him,” said Albert. “Fuck you and fuck your stupid farm.”

Albert wandered off, his hands reaching to feel the stalks of the grasses his sheep were feeding on. His face rose to the sun, and he basked in its golden warmth.

He didn’t even know why he picked up the rock. He was going to toss it away and go home. But he wasn’t going to toss it away. He could toss it at his brother. But he wasn’t going to toss it at his brother.

“Hey, Albert!” he said, trying to sound friendly. Then he hopped over, more spry than he had been in years, and buried the stone in his brother’s beautiful sun-splashed face. He felt Albert’s hands flay upwards to defend himself, but it was all over. The first blow had been struck. There was nothing there to defend.

Still Kevin kept hitting and hitting and hitting…

He and Dave the butcher became great friends.

The Mentality Of The Modern Man

This piece concerns itself with the values and ideals of humankind in the 21st century. Please refer to the appropriate study materials. As you’ll remember, based on a historical survey of the origins and development of the modern society and its absorption of Christian values, we may safely conclude contemporary humans exude tolerance, gentle behaviour, profound optimism and a lack of obsession with time. They are careful and considerate, concerned for the welfare of his or her or its gender-undefined fellow citizens and creatures in his or her or its environment. They routinely practice fair, decent, polite, and helpful attributes, simultaneously rejecting selfish and pointless ones for the benefit of the larger good.

Humans today rejoice upon the successes of others, to the point where achievers are sometimes rewarded with rides upon massive, winged pink elephants, costs be damned. The realization that our welfare is inherently bound to the fortunes of others is deeply rooted in such species, so much so that each is prone to offer sums of money to downtrodden strangers, from specie of the lowest denomination to many-digitted bills.

Human brains appear to have cast away the self-absorption of previous centuries and aeons, as demonstrated by the near total rejection of material goods and superficiality on a grand scale. Gone are third autombiles, or the 6,000th pair of shoes, the second summer home or the yacht inside the yacht; instead, peoples of the world naturally stride for the well-being of all creatures, which, as we are all aware, does not involve fake body parts or $1,000 T-shirts.

It is particularly refreshing to view today’s youth in current popular ditties, easily viewed in various social media platforms and computer simulations, who all hold hands and sway to the rhythm of the uplifting ballads, and sing with the glory of all the angels in heaven about peace, love, and understanding.

By Elvis Costello.

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)

Why did I eat that Sloppy Joe?

By One Salient Oversight at English Wikipedia.

Many people consider this the worst movie ever made, either this or “The Room” (2003)-I vehemently disagree. Plan 9 is a human odyssey, starring vastly underrated professionals, masters at their craft, who are trapped and under siege in what may as well be called “The Attack of Life Itself.”

Sometimes I wonder if the original title would have been better suited in Mr. Ed Wood’s quest for success on the big screen, but apparently the world was not ready for “Grave Robbers From Outer Space.”

The movie’s taut storyline joins a race of white, humanoid, English-speaking aliens who travel through the vast recesses of space to Podunk, America where they hope to prevent us humans from creating a doomsday weapon which would destroy the universe if it functions better than the Hubble Telescope. If the plot had a weak point, and I vehemently oppose the idea that it might, it would be that the viewer is asked to believe we humans would be interested in such a weapon (which, for brevity’s sake, I shall henceforth refer to as the “Uranium Pew-36 Explosive Space Modulator”), never mind the ridiculousness of the notion that we, gentle and loving humans one and all, would want to detonate such a device.

To prevent such a catastrophe, the aliens implement “Plan 9”-hence the title (ed.)-which is a scheme to resurrect the Earth’s dead, referred to as ghouls. If there was another weak point in the story, and I highly doubt there is, it is that the viewer is forced to wonder what happened to the other 8 plans, because surely any of them must have been better than this, but that is neither here nor there.

Since they went with #9, we are rewarded with 1), the joy of seeing Swedish professional wrestler Karl Erik Tore Johansson, aka Tor Johnson, lumber clunkily in his zombie persona, a real highlight of the film because that’s how zombies move, and, more importantly, Bela Lugosi (yes, that one), who wasn’t technically “present” for the shooting of the film. Mr. Lugosi, despite the handicap of having succumbed to a heart attack and the dastardly side affects of his morphine and methadone addictions, masterfully conveys a zombie/ghoul/vampire/dead thingy? in practice images director Wood shot for another never-realized project and added in later. One of these scenes was of Lugosi standing in a graveyard-extending his spooky zombie-cape sideways: the graveyard was actually part of Tor Johnson’s suburban home, because why wouldn’t it be.

Other images of Lugosi in the film, like where he creepily approaches the camera with his cloak masking the lower half of his face, were sadly played by Mr. Wood’s wife’s chiropractor, who was taller and thinner than Lugosi and looked nothing like him, and also could not match the latter’s gravitas on stage, much to the chagrin of the viewer (if there were any).

But we were discussing the plot…

This zombie uprising was step one in the aliens’ plan, and definitely not a cheap ploy by Wood to cash in on the audience’s interest in zombies and aliens at the time; step two involved the zombies wreaking havoc and inciting chaos, which would logically force humanity to listen to the extraterrestrials who caused the disaster. Otherwise these aliens, whose alienness is marvelously indicated (solely) by their crazy fashion choices, would rub out humanity with armies of undead–but hopefully things would not escalate this far, as Mr. Wood was on a shoestring budget.

I will not spoil the shock ending for you, mainly because I don’t remember it, but I will mention I was on the edge of my seat throughout, or was that when I saw Cinderella III: A Twist In Time (2007)?

The main charater was played by Gregory Walcott, who was also known for having roles, and who brilliantly conveys a tall, muscular, stoic, and somewhat interested human being for most of the movie. Another role is taken by Maila Nurmi, better known as Vampira, whose two talents ensured her many many supporting roles in other films, all of witches names escape me at the moment. Despite Google. Lyle Talbot played someone in the film, and was, like, good, but his claim to fame was that he never turned down a role (not even this one). The role of Bela Lugosi was played by Martin Landau, who stole the show and rightfully won the 1994 Best Supporting Actor award for his efforts, although I realize now I am speaking of a different Tim Burton/Johnny Depp movie depicting the making of this masterpiece, and not the original.

While we are here however, I must add that the wrestler George “The Animal” Steele’s portrayal of Tor Johnson in the ’94 version somehow surpassed the celestial acting heights the latter reached during the film, especially with his growling.

At this point it would be remiss if I were to neglect to mention the dynamite that held this film together; I speak of course of the narrator, played by Jeron Criswell King (born Jeron Criswell Konig (King-german)). Mr. King was a wildly inaccurate psychic known as The Amazing Criswell*, but went by the appendage Charles Criswell King and was sometimes credited as Jeron King Criswell. [aside-No I am not making this up, why?]

The Criz’ delivers his lines in a dreadfully serious, stentorian manner, and if you are unsure what “stentorian” means then listen to C-dog for two minutes and you will never need (or want) to hear any further examples of it. The Crister also claimed to own a coffin and sleep in it, but that is also neither here nor there.

I would love to mention, as well, with all the attendant glee, that ”Chief of Saucer Operations Thomas Edwards said that the government has been covering up saucer attacks, and a small town has been annihilated.” I gleaned this sentence from Wikipedia, as my memory had somehow glossed over the fact that there was a “Chief of Saucer Operations” in this movie.

Can you imagine him at dinner parties?

“And what do you do, Mr. Edwards?”

“I work for the government,” he says, chin up, proudly. “I’m Chief of Saucer Operations.”

Oh, man…

Also thought this one was pretty good: “Realizing that their weapons are useless, they sneak up behind Clay and knock him out with a wooden club.”

Oh yeah, the “plot,” the events revolve around the pilot Gregory Walcott, played by Jeff Trent, or vice versa, it doesn’t really matter. Somehow this pilot and a beat cop find themselves in the command ship doing what the US government was unable to do the whole movie. They rescue the girl, who was trapped? and Jeff and evil baddie alien #2 Eros fight. If there is another plot faux pas, and I vaguely suspect there might not be, it is that this Eros person has a lot of sway amongst the almost American-looking aliens, yet is still not the commander; this position is occupied by the “alien” known only as The Ruler, which leads to confusion in the heirarchy of the invading alien army of two? three?

Anywho, a fire breaks out which destroys the alien ship. The humans get out just in time [SPOILER ALERT!], and when the ship explodes the zombies logically decompose into skeletons, because that’s what happens.

I also don’t think the Uranium Pew-36 Explosive Space Modulator is used. Or built. It isn’t mentioned after the, like, beginning.

Further roles include the alien ruler, called The Ruler, played by John Cabell “Bunny” Breckinridge, who was a drag queen, surprisingly, and, if “Ed Wood” is to be believed, actually a hairdresser. Additionally, Dudley Devere Manlove expertly played Eros, and had one other role in the “talkies”-he played someone in another science fiction B movie called The Creation Of The Humanoids. Plus also he did television. And radio, whatever that is.

Sadly, this would be the last time this talented crew would work together. For some, like “Bunny” Breckenridge, it would be their first and last foray into the world of feature films. But just this once, the stars aligned to allow these brilliant creative minds to..um.. create the immortal masterwork known as Plan 9 From Outer Space.

Who’s up for Plan 10?

*-he claimed that Denver, Colorado would be struck by a ray from space that would cause all metal to adopt the qualities of rubber, leading to horrific accidents at amusement parks.[ He predicted mass cannibalism, and the end of planet Earth, which he set as happening on August 18, 1999 (it didn’t).

Burnt Umber

Life is hard.

I know. Wise words, right?

Ofttimes life has the capacity not only to drag you down, put you to shame, give you a wedgie, stuff you into a toilet head first and flush (the dreaded swirly), but also cram you into that old lady in the Black Forest’s oven, where you’ll be proverbially torched like Hell-meat and served up as a smorgasboard for someone with a candy house.

Shoulda known..

Burnt Umber champions that lifestyle!

Burnt Umber is the color of our flag. We march into battle, equipped with our potent weaponry (minus the firing pins), led by clowns who have never read anything longer than a Dr. Pepper label, at the behest of a white male with a swimming pool and a dissatisfied wife at home (the latter needs the heat the former most certainly has), for the good of ?, and fall like the ships in my old Space Armada game for the Intell ‘O’ Vision.

What are we doing here? How many warnings must go unheeded before someone says, “Hey! Let’s march under a flag of a different color! Let’s march to the beat of different drum!” And everyone will break down into individual discussion groups to decide that it’s best not to stir the pot. Or do any other clichés.

It is the color of Salieri’s mediocre Army in ”Amadeus.” It is the color of failure. The hue of the rust eating away at the floorboards of the car my father picked my mother up in for their very first date-yes, she could see the ground through the holes between her feet and no, she was not impressed.

Burnt Umber is the smell that follows us into our dreams. Burnt Umber graced the skin of our last president. Burnt Umber is the color of our Heart Attack Submarines at Subway, the buns of our Fatburghers at Burgher Thing, and all of our doughnaughts.

Burnt Umber is the film covering the memory of the time we were abused. Burnt Umber is the chorus to our elegy, played by a Burnt Umber zombie, sung in the Burnt Umber Church, under the watchful eye of our shepherd, the good Reverend Burnt Umber.

Nothing depicts any of these ideas better than Jerry Lundegaard, protagonist of ”Fargo” (1996). Strapped for cash, he pays a couple of backwards-ass jailbirds to kidnap his wife, intent on collecting the ransom money from his well-off father-in-law.

Shockingly, the plan works to perfection, unless one counts the endless dead people that “happen” during its execution (haha!). The money is buried in a field in the middle of nowhere, and, fun fact, a woman really froze to death looking for it. The Coen Brothers may be a little at fault here, since the movie began with the words “This is a true story.*”

Anyway, near the beginning of the movie Jerry, a car salesman, takes a car from the lot and transports it to the other middle of nowhere to where the two jailbirds are waiting-it will be the car they use during the crime.

The car, a tan Oldsmobile Sierra, is not called as such by our hero Jerry.

It is a Burnt Umber Sierra.

Onward Christian Soldiers!

*-Perhaps the woman should have stayed till the end, where it was explained that everything in the movie was fictional (yes both things can be true).