Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Students Injured in Lab Explosion
LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- A glass container of nitric acid exploded during class at a California State University science laboratory, leaving three students with minor cuts, authorities said.
Two women and one man were hospitalized but their injuries were not serious.

Nothing caught fire and nobody was harmed in the blast at the Los Angeles campus shortly after 9 p.m., fire officials said.


I love these kinds of stories. Totally empty. Full of fearmongering. My synopsis: In a routine chemistry accident and nothing at all happened to anyone.

Might as well be: Hey Parents, its 4:15 p.m. and Do You Know Where Your Children Are?

Fuck fearmongering.

There are enough things that *really* go bump in the night.

Like my upstairs neighbors.

(Won't go there.)

Or like creepy guys that hang out in bushes and peer in your windows at night.

Those guys suck.

Of course some would say they go *crackle* in the night.

(Y'know -- leaves and such?)

(Ah, forget it.)

Here's another headline: Moore Misses Showing of 'Fahrenheit' in Bush Town 

At the last minute Moore decided not to show up. He offered no explanation.

My explanation: he suddenly realized that grandstanding in the middle of Texas was much more dangerous than grandstanding in rural Michigan. Some redneck posse probably already had a bead on his fat ass. Bless him for being smart and keeping himself alive. He wouldn't be nearly as effectual dead.



There are many nutrients human beings need to stay alive. We need calcium, iron, sodium, Vitamin C, etc.  There are many "trace elements" we need, too. Trace elements are nutrients present in such minute quantities that they cannot be identified, let alone measured. How we know we need them is that we end up with wierd cravings for food that can't be matched to a physical need for any of the known ingredients.

I have identified one such crucial (and previously discounted) life-sustaining element. I call it "wasabi peas".

Now, again for the Panacylum record, lets get something straight here: I hate peas. Detest them. Loathe their very existance. If peas aligned themselves with Jesus in the Final Struggle, I'd join Satan. If peas wanted to pay off my car or give me a lifetime achievement award, I'd thank them for the consideration and annihilate them with herbicide.  

I make an exception in Indian Food where Peas, with their nasty, mealy "I-Just-Rolled-Out-Of-A-Rodent's-Ass" taste, are unable to overwealm the general deliciousness.  

Wasabi Peas are different. See, they aren't really peas. They may look like peas, and they may once have even shared DNA with peas, but through a process of prolonged dehydration, salination, and heavy application of dried wasabi powder, they have become something else entirely.

They start just salty and crunchy, with a tinge of sweetness in the background. You chew for awhile, marvelling at their unique zestiness,  confident that you have escaped unharmed. Then, just when you have begun to relax, the wasabi's time-delay mechanism kicks in and they go critical, causing your head to swell to the size of an unnaturally large canteloupe,  & you to grip your desk (or,  in extreme cases, your chest), & bright white flashbulbs to explode in your eyes, & your glands to brim.

In short, a very intense burst of sensation hovering just between extreme pleasure and extreme pain. 

As your heart rate slows and your vision clears, you casually look over your shoulder to make sure no one saw your brief, self-induced leap over the Edge.

You wipe your nose with your sleeve, check to be sure you haven't run out of Wasabi Peas, and repeat the process over & over & over until your body feels like its been violated by a group of sadist-trainees fresh from cattle prod school.

Anyway, I discovered today, as a craving for this delicious snacks came upon me, that my blood must be very low on Wasabi Peas. Peanemic, I call it. I hope the FDA recognizes their important contribution to our knowledge of trace elements and overall nutrition. 


Yesterday I skipped work to have a doctor appointment. The two month old faint red patch on my leg is probably exczema. 

"Try this cream. It should take care of the problem in a couple of weeks."

"Cool. What if it doesn't?"

"We'll have it biopsied -- just in case."



I spent the rest of the day hauling stuff and painting. I came to two near-simultaneous epiphanies about painting:

1. I love painting. It is very meditative, with a physicality to it unlike other types of manual labor. It is not accompanied by the usual post-modern sludge one wades through in other types of work. Plus paint itself is a truly bizzare substance with many states of matter (solid, liquid, elastic, matted-in-armhair). It never seems to behave the same way twice. 

2. I really suck at painting. I do not have the fine motor skills or patience to smooth every last lump or make sure that everything has consistant texture.  I prefer to make up for this lack of skill by applying layer upon layer of gusto.

Slap it up, smooth it out, move on.

There's a philosophy to live by.

Monday, July 26, 2004

I was reading on Bellow how her new boyfriend bought her a sweet little Chinese dress in Hong Kong that forces her to show off more of her leg than she's comfortable with. Now he expects her to wear it in public.

I must confess that I am pre-disposed to minimalism when it comes to clothing.
As far as I'm concnerned, the nakeder folks allow themselves to be, the better.  The moment humanity graduated from fig leafs to animal skins was a sad day for all of us. Now we actually think that clothing is the norm and nakedness is the strange. 

But allowing for the fact that this guy couldn't very well wrap up nothing in a box and ask his lady to put it on when he returned home, I think it takes an extraordinarily gutsy individual to
do what he did. Trying to wade through the bewildering ocean of women's clothing possibilities, balancing "sexiness" with "sluttiness", cost with functionality, washability with color, etc. is simply beyond the capabilities of most men. (& judging by some of the dowdy, nasty things people wear around here, I'd say its beyond many women, too.) Leaving out my own choice in wardrobe for a moment, which is only 'minimalist' in the sense of I give it minimal thought, minimal care, and expend minimal dollars on it on a regular basis, I will further elaborate on how this guy's purchase of a skimpy dress for his woman was a darn brave thing to do.

I know because I've done it.


Stop me if you've heard this one before. Oh wait: you can't stop me. By the time you read this I will have moved on with my day. (At this very instant I'm probably drawing stick-figure horses on the bathroom wall or stalking wild woodchucks through the Patomac estuary.)  You're just going to have to put up with me repeating the same story over and over on this blog.

I bought my wife clothes, once.

Just like the couple represented in "Bellow", my wife and I were a new item. We had embarked on an oversea adventure in Old Europe, learning how to study abroad by guzzling copious quantities of booze, flirting endlessly, and snapping photographs of every cornice and flock of flying buttress that came our way.

It was her birthday. The big 21st. She and her friends had dashed off to Italy for the weekend, leaving me to prowl the gritty streets of Linz. I needed a gift for her. Since it was a big milestone in her life *and* was the first gift-giving occasion of our relationship, it had to be something unusual. Something to demonstrate to her what a sensitive, sophisticated guy I was (translation: it was too early in our relationship for me to buy her lingerie).

It had to show that there was no limit to what what she could expect from a life with a man like me.

I settled on clothing.

Not some frilly, lacey thing to accentuate her petiteness and make her feel like a sex bomb.
Nor some skimpy skirt or bathing suit she'd feel compelled to model for me.
Nor a sleek jacket pounded from the flesh of some endangered rodent, or a pair of silly socks.

I bought her a shirt.

A bright yellow-green one because green was her favorite color and yellow was mine.

It had absolutely no adornment at all. It was made of cotton. Yet on account of my having paid $30 for it, I knew it could not possibly be just an ordinary T-shirt. I also knew that the more money one paid for clothes, the better they must be, and therefore the better my tastes would appear to be.

When she got back from Italy, I eagerly handed her the box.

She eagerly (if a bit nervously) opened it.

To her credit, her smile never wavered. She flipped the shirt around a few times to make sure she was not missing some logo or personalized message on the other side.

She proclaimed her undying gratitude at having received such a fine gift.

I went away, pleased as punch.

I think she might have worn it a few times that summer.

We remained in love and had many more adventures in Europe, stayed together upon returning home, and are now married.

Seven years later, upon discovering that sad little shirt in the closet it hit me that I had given her the absolute worst, cheesiest gift ever. And for her 21st birthday, too...

So I sympathize with both KathrynJane (of Bellow) and her new man in their current, awkward clothes-exhange, but I know that no matter what happens it cannot be as awful as what I gave my wife on her 21st. 

They will be fine, whatever happens.  

Drat. I had posted a short story I scribbled out for the contest this past weekend but then I realized that there is a requirement that it "not be published" anywhere else. Email me if you want to read it (its amusing but not amazing). I'll post it next month after the winners have been announced.


Friday, July 23, 2004

Just in case you are bored today, I just found the ultimate use of an afternoon: a website that allows you to virtually snap bubble-wrap. And to think, some people say the cyber-revolution is dead.  
For discovery #2 I regale you with my discovery of an obscure blogger shortcut: hitting SHIFT + CTRL + A = an HTML shortcut for hyperlinks. Never knew that. I always manually typed in the HTML, which is extremely tedious. I figured I was just lazier than my (otherwise extraordinarily lazy) techie pals. Now I know I wasn't lazy, I was just ign't.  

Last night I had a dream I was the only guy in a big, empty house surrounded by gorgeous women in soft T-shirts and shorts. There was a bucket of warm, soapy water and sponges enough to go around. Indirect lighting cast soft shadows and a radio played continuous hit music. Outside the air was warm and pregnant with summer rain.

Oh wait, that wasn't a dream. That was me for real washing the walls of my new house while the ladies painted.

Sorry fellas: all this time you thought it would take an act of God & an unlimited supply of GHB  to get an opportunity like that. What you really need to do is buy yourself a money pit in desparate need of repair. Betty's will take pity on your helplessness and come from miles around to participate in whatever filthy enterprises you and your imagination can conceive (in my case, painting, scrubbing and spackling).  

Sure, I know an evening of housework might not be quite the thrill you'd get at an all-night party with the Emperor Caligula, but what'd you do last night, guys, hmm? Probably sat in front of the TV, joystick in hand, playing X-Box; or guzzling lite beer & wishing you knew of a way to keep members of the opposite sex in the same room long enough to hear how sexy you sound belching "Free Bird" in C major.

Well, I just revealed the way: come over to my house and I'll put you to work. Be there at seven. I'll have a sponge ready. 


Thursday, July 22, 2004

This post brought to you live from Suitland, Maryland, home of the Suitland Federal Records Center where yours truly, Clay Sails, awaits the arrival of various confidential documents pertaining to poor souls who drown, exploded, succumbed, or otherwise perished during the 'Good War' (The Good War = World War Two, the *Great* War = World War One. Don't ask me why.)

I'm writing from yet another restricted computer which is probably being watched by junior-grade agents from CID, CIA or SNUFFLE.

Hey secret-agent(s) men: nah nah nah nah

Just try cutting me off. Try silencing this font of free speech. Try hustling me out of here like Linda Ronstadt at an NRA Black Tie (& uzi) gala.

I dare you.



I double da 


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

This Just In

Saudi Terrorists Free the Head of U.S. Hostage

Well then, I guess its good that freedom was the
top priority.   (*badum-CHHHH*)

Jenna Bush Sticks Tongue Out at Reporters

Paparazzi hear this: Bush licks back.

Pot is More Potent And Dangerous Than It Was in the 60s

Alternate headline: Fear of Pot is Just as Potent and Dangerous as it Was in the 60s

Clinton Aide Steals Top Secret Documents from National Archives

It depends on what the meaning of 'steals' is. If by 'steals' you mean walks out of a high-security reading room with documents stuffed in his underpants than, yes, its stealing. If you mean 'accidentally spiriting away certain incriminating documents after they inadvertantly fell into one's undergarments' well then, no, its not.  Clearly not.


We crossed the finish line yesterday. Bought the house. Singed so many forms my hand froze into a claw. I tried raising it to ask the title attorney what exactly I was signing, but I accidentally poked my wife in the eye.  Fortunately, the attorney had a drawer full of eye patches ready just in case. Nothing had been left to chance. There would be no delaying the form-signing.
After getting through the paperwork we patted ourselves on the back and drove to Home Depot. We had an appointment to meet our renovation consultant. Normally, the hired help you find at Home Depot are poorly trained, sullen, and difficult to work with. Our guy turned out to be a big, hairy guy named Vigo with meat-breath and he was anything but those things. 
Vigo was great. Vigo could fix anything.  
We had some stubborn 1970s wallpaper that no one had been able to remove. Vigo took one look at it, shrugged, and backed up to it like a dump truck. Within seconds, his plummer's crack had peeled that wallpaper right off. 
We needed a refrigerator moved from the basement to the kitchen. It was a very heavy refrigerator. It was filled with frozen deer steaks for our upcoming housewarming party. Vigo examined the unit (and the steaks) carefully,  peeled off his shirt, and hefted the fridge with one twitch of his mighty nipples.
"Vigo take vitamins," he said, beaming proudly.
With skills like that, we found much work for Vigo. 
Later in the day, our Puppy Consultant came by with a batch of 9 week old Australian Shepherds. They wriggled and writhed, sniffed and snuffled and yapped playfully at everything.
Vigo ate them.
Vigo washed them down with water from the water heater.
"Vigo, would you mind re-wiring the electrical panel?"

Vigo didn't mind. In fact, he never found even a single cause for complaint during the entire day. He rewired the entire house in under an hour using little more than his mother's famous fussili (which he kept in his utility belt) and a jar of imported capers.
Later, our Feng Shui consultant arrived. Everything was fine except for the television set.
"Your antennae is facing the wrong direction," she said, doing some swift calculations and re-adjusting it appropriately. The previously-clear signal became snowy and garbled, but the chi or wa or chakram (I get mixed up which) came into proper phase with the spirit world.
Vigo ate her.
After switching the rose bushes from the front yard to the back, re-tarring the roof, and shoring up a minor crack in the foundation, it came time to say goodbye to Vigo for the day.
"Vigo no want to go," he said tearfully.
"We know, Vigo. But we'll have you back soon."
"Soon?" He said, brightning.
"Yes, very soon," my wife said.
On his way out the door he grabbed a pile of discarded brick and an oak tree he had accidentally upended while weeding the yard.
I've never been much impressed with the help we've gotten at Home Depot, but after our experience with Vigo, I cannot recommend it more highly.

Monday, July 19, 2004

I just read an article about a new "IPOD" Macintosh just unveiled.

Here's all I have to say about it: *PFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFT*

Coming in at $400, the 40gig model bosts it can hold "10,000" songs. Yeah, only if you're playing Brittany Spears and Marc Antony. Try putting 10,000 Beethoven 5th Symphonies on their: your little Ipod would go all shmokey-wokey, Mr. Jobs.

But we'll play along. We'll pretend our entire music collection is comprised of little radio-friendly pop tunes. To play through an entire list would require an average of [2.37 min per song X 10,000]/60 = 395 hours/24 = 16.45 days = over 2 weeks straight. That much sound going into two ears could drive one bonkers.

Friends, we must remain strong together. We don't need no stinking Ipods, new or old. As for myself, I've got a perfectly good record player. It plays one side of a record at a time, then I get up and flip it and play the other side. No fiddling with obnixious menus or playlists. No batteries or rechargers. No "drat, my Ipod fell down the drain again" when you're brushing your teeth.

No stylish multihued plastic case.

No unhinged jewel cases.

Who needs all of that hip flexibility at their fingertips? That glistening 24 bit sound pouring straight into the cereberum.

I am going to stand firm.



Friday, July 16, 2004

Well, my Friday got a bit more interesting. Just came back from a closed-door meeting with Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon. He was ostensibly there to congratulate my department (policy) on its good work over the year. It ended up a 90 minute question & answer session which, to the credit of all, did not deteriorate into a lovefest. People asked him tough questions about the war on terror, Abu Gharaib, Darfur etc. To his credit he did not dodge the questions or expend undue breath blowing smoke up everyone's ass.

Many of you who have followed this blog or known me a long time know that, despite my almost universal dislike and distrust of the current administration, and my general lack of confidence in their basic competence, I have always harbored a great deal of respect for Donald Rumsfeld. This stems partly from some of his earliest days in the Pentagon, when he revealed himself to be a dogged and coherent force of reform, but it also stems from the fact that despite his nearly 4 decades of government service, he still possesses an extremely nimble mind. I see him as practical, knowledgable and -- although maybe not as important -- damn captivating. Many see in him an evil genius at work -- a puppet-master on the scale of Goebbels with the personal dynamism of Hitler.

I see a competent pragmatist with similar principles to mine (liberty, self-determination) but a different political outlook. I see a philosophical moderate with a tough job and an ability to be as ruthless as necessary to get it done. I may not agree with him on the best means to the ends we have in common, and I don't expect to be sending him a Christmas card, but he has earned my admiration. And he will continue to get it.

Friday, A Day Without Limbs

Why, hello there, Friday. Good to see you again. How are the kids? Oh wait, you're a day of the week. Spawning is not in your DNA. A bit sad, that, isn't it? No little Friditas to fuss over. No interminable weeknight gatherings at Indian Princesses. No glued macaroni mosaics stuck to the fridge til she's 17 and feels compelled to make a grand, temporary exit with flourish. No burning through her college fund to fuel your midlife crisis (no driving a silver Porsche to the moon, no rekindling an old flame at the Hermitage).

You got no limbs to go along with that no DNA. That's a bummer, too. No midnight strolling along the riverbed, sage and creosote stinging your nose and arms, absently flicking a lighter. No impossibly soft dirt between your toes or shoulder shrugging at incomprehensible coyote ululations.

There's lots of things you ain't got, now that I think about it. Don't feel too bad, Friday. We all ain't got lots. Take me, for example: I ain't got a pet monkey named Rex. I ain't got an eyestalk or a bolt-on elbow in the middle of my chest. Or a can of potash in my sport coat, or a stock portfolio, or a penchant for Italian platitudes.

I got what I need though & so do you. You got Time on your side. Time enough, anyway. You can catch up on the laundry (if only you wore clothes). You can count every grain of sand at the beach. You can watch every episode of the Andy Griffith Show 5000 times if you want.

At least until folks don't need Friday no more. Or until some corporate efficiency expert decides to pinch off Saturday and Sunday & leave you the Last Day of the Week (i.e. "the Sabbath", the day of non-drinking, the day of non-karaoke, & non-screwing in the back seat of someone's non-limousine).

Until then, though, you're alright Friday. You can stick around. I'd like to see more of you.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Faced with less than a week to pack and move, with only two bookshelves completed out of an entire apartment of clutter, a thousand chores to do, in desperate need of sleep, I came home from work last night and did what any self respecting, hardworking man would do:

I played "Diablo" on the computer for 4 hours.

Then I made spaghetti.

Then I went to bed.

I know that this might seem a bit irresponsible to you busybodies out there but you see there's this village and its being overrun by Evil and only I can stop it.

Plus, I made it to 6th level.

I wield a flaming flail and have a magic shield.

I slew countless minions of Evil and came several steps closer to killing the Big Bad Guy that inhabits the bottom of the labrynth.

I may never get moved, but The Villagers will soon be safe.

A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

You dig?

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Last Week

Monday: I toiled. Must have gone fine. Can't recall.

Tuesday: I probably toiled. Don't remember Tuesday.

Wednesday: Toiled. My wife learned that the really cool job she thought she was going to get is no longer going to be available.
This put a damper on our anneversary, which was already a bit of a wash since our life is currently on hold on account of our purchase of a house. We ate steak at an expensive restaurant. The steaks were not very good. (On Captain Natty's excellent suggestion, I tried a "Manhattan" for the first time, which is basically a combination of whisky and vermouth. Mine came with a dead fly in it for no extra charge.)

Thursday: Toiled. We learned that our home loan might not be accepted on account of my having a contract job. The final decision depended heavily upon a letter that my boss would need to write telling all concerned that I would have a long and fruitful career at the Defense Department. Thursday my wife cancelled the comprehensive car insurance on my Escort, since I've been paying comprehensive for 7 years but the car is now only worth about $1500.

Friday: Toiled. Learned that my boss couldn't write the letter till Monday. And she couldn't word it in such a way that would put smiley faces on the loan people. So we would probably not get the home loan. Also Friday I discovered that the driver window of my Escort (recently absent comprehensive insurance) had been broken and the faceplate of a fairly decent stereo (the only thing in the car that still works besides the annoying seatbelt reminder buzzer) was gone. No house prospect, no driver window, no car stereo, and (as of Thursday) no insurance.

Saturday: Sat glumly around the house, contemplating the financial and emotional ruin that would accompany the loss of our bid for the house. Saw "Anchorman". Laughed at the culmination of Jack Black's cameo when a certain object went sailing off the end of his foot.

Sunday: Sat around glumly. Utterly spanked the Brothers Shehadeh at Magic (left them in tears both of them). Went home and immortalized my crushing victory by changing my name to "Clay Sails: Eternal King of All Dominaria". Felt hollow afterwords.

This Week

Monday: Toiled. Received word that my boss would not be able to write the letter herself but instead would have to send it up the chain of command so that the fate of our house/future/financial well being would rest in the hands of a series of institution lawyers and beurocrats. Spent several nerve-wracking hours trying not to yell at my boss, whom I generally have very high regard for. Received a not-very-watered-down letter from her boss. Sent it on. Received confirmation that the loan had been approved several hours later. Also learned that the insurance paperwork hadn't gone through, so we actually still had insurance at the time of the incident. Except that the deductable is $500 so we'll be paying for everything out-of-pocket.

Tuesday: Its finally sinking in that we "dodged the bullet" and can now see the "light at the end of the tunnel" (i.e. that final, magical closing day when, after two months of wading through the nitty gritty of house purchasing without experience or a real estate agent for guidance, we might actually get keys to the place).

As for whatever else is going on in the world: I'm oblivious. I absolutely hate, detest, despise election years (and the assembly line spin that fills the news).

Yeah, that's my life of late. Grand, ain't it? Next week I'll blab about:

Painting a house.
Carpteting a house.
Cleaning the ducts of a house.
The evil of electrical contractors.
The joy of rototilling a dead lawn.

Stay tuned.

Friday, July 09, 2004

This morning I came up with lyrics to accompany a melody that's been kicking around in my skull lately. The song reminds me of something I've heard before, but I can't quite place it. No big deal. See what you think:

Hey Mr. Tambourine Guy, play a song for me,
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to.
Hey Mr. Tambourine Guy, play a song for me,
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.

Though I know that evenin's empire has returned into sand,
Vanished from my hand,
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping.
My weariness amazes me, I'm branded on my feet,
I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty street's too dead for dreaming.

Hey Mr. Tambourine Guy, play a song for me,
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to.
Hey Mr. Tambourine Guy, play a song for me,
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.

Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin' ship,
My senses have been stripped, my hands can't feel to grip,
My toes too numb to step, wait only for my boot heels
To be wanderin'.
I'm ready to go anywhere, I'm ready for to fade
Into my own parade, cast your dancing spell my way,
I promise to go under it.

Hey Mr. Tambourine Guy, play a song for me,
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to.
Hey Mr. Tambourine Guy, play a song for me,
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.

Though you might hear laughin', spinnin', swingin' madly across the sun,
It's not aimed at anyone, it's just escapin' on the run
And but for the sky there are no fences facin'.
And if you hear vague traces of skippin' reels of rhyme
To your tambourine in time, it's just a ragged clown behind,
I wouldn't pay it any mind, it's just a shadow you're
Seein' that he's chasing.

Hey Mr. Tambourine Guy, play a song for me,
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to.
Hey Mr. Tambourine Guy, play a song for me,
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.

Then take me disappearin' through the smoke rings of my mind,
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves,
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach,
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow.
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free,
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands,
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves,
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

Hey Mr. Tambourine Guy, play a song for me,
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to.
Hey Mr. Tambourine Guy, play a song for me,
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.

I play it for you next time we meet.
In The Headlines

"Man Attempts to Visit Every Starbucks Store"


"Saturn Rings Comprised Mainly of Ice, Mud."


"Americans Are Reading Less."


"Dirty Joyce Letter to Nora Barnacle Fetches Record Auction Price."

My dear Barnacle, how I lust for thee...

"Kerry and Edwards Spend Day in Ohio."


"Ex-Los Angeles Mayor Puts Foot in Mouth"

(you get the idea)

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Attention all Writers:

At Butchie's urging, and despite the fact that I will be moving the weekend of the event, I have signed up for a fun-looking 24 hour short story contest on

There is a $5 entry fee but the applicant pool is fairly small and the prizes are good.

The way it works is: they give everybody a topic and a word-length maximum, the contestants then have 24 hours to craft it into a story that somehow (& however tangentially) pertains to the topic.

You try it. (Scroll down about 1/3 of the page and you'll see the blurb.)

Also, I would like to give a shout out to one of the most amazing blogs I've found of late: check out "Bellow" (linked to your right). Her writing is simply amazing (& funny).

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Blog De-Icing and Other Miracle Stories Inspired by My New Saviour

I have not mentioned it, but I've been having a severe blog problems lately. Not with mine, per se, but with yours. Mainly due to the fact that your blog won't update. Thus, I am left, always and daily, staring at stale posts you wrote a month ago regarding events now long Past in the day to day Tumult of your life.

It is very frustrating and I blame it entirely on the U.S. Federal Government, who (in its concern over security) has decided that no one should have access to updated web data. (Not that I confuse your blog with "data" but the problems are interrelated).

Reading blogs from home is an option but rarely excercised: my 56k modem revs up to 23k then disconnects with alarming frequency. However, despair not, ye reader: all is not lost forI have found my savior in the form of:

Tim Robbins.

Yes, you heard me. That ugly, loathesome, puff-haired fruitcake whose mediocre acting skills are neither so horrible to merit this angry diatribe, nor so noteworthy to inspire much in the way of spirited defense (except from you several diehard contrarians, bless ye).

How and why has this uninspiring (if occasionally inspired), insipid, ubiquitous, "has-been" earned both my unflatteringly ribald emnity as well as Simultaneously (and perhaps counterintuitively) adopted the title of the One who has Saved Me From Wasting Away Unexposed to My Favorite Blogs?

I'll tell you.

His hair, that's how and why.

His over-moussed, parted-in-the-middle, fugly-assed, late 80s doo.

My hair (of late), too. Allow me to explain.

I've never been one to much concern myself with my hair. Up until 6th grade I had paper-white hair as thin as hospital broth which, though entirely unembarrassing, remained forever beneath a blue hood (pulled so hard down across my scalp that my Dome fairly resembled a robin Egg).

At some point I dropped the hood, learned the miraculous girl-attracting power of shampoo, and watched amazedly as my limp white mane Transformed itself into a wavy, ungovernable shag.

I followed this up some years later by growing it out to shoulder length, matching it with a similarly unruly Bantito moustache, and adopting the persona of Man Gone to Seed.

Enter my mid-20s relocation program to the East Coast.

Enter a haircut or two.

Enter humidity.

Enter some Evil Nefarious Hair Spirit whose entire Purpose seems to be Punishment for those of us who have had the audacity, however infrequently or unjustified, to include Vanity among other less noisome Characteristics (such as extreme Hair ambivalence).

...and now, frequently, without intending to, with or without the application of mousse, in the mirror at My House, I come face to face with the fact that, just as he is losing his, my formerly Sanctified Crown has become the Sole (and perhaps final) resting place of:

Tim Robbins' hair.

It is awful.

Someone has surplanted my own beloved, harmless mop with his.

And so now you understand me, dear reader, if, in a fit of hatred for the One Whose Hair I Have, I have occasionally adopted his Persona and lashed myself outrageously in a most Publick manner, perhaps in the very Comment section of a Blog near you...

(not that I'm admitting to as much, mind you)

(not that I, Clay Sails, would stoop so low as to adopt a False Name in cyberspace)

...but just in case it ever happen(-s,-ed), you'd understand, wouldn't you?

I'm banking my Reputation upon it, because it DID happen: all of it. Every last word of it. To the T.

And something miraculous came of it.

Just this morning, possessed in one such fit of Impersonation-inducing Rage, I, posing as the One upon whose Head this Nightmare began noticed that, as if by magic, several blogs which had been frozen in time (like Tim Robbin's ragamoffin, popcorn maker, tornado-blown, basement-rug, wishes-it-was-a-hairpiece, c.1987 head) had become un-frozen.

The month-old blog time-warp had reversed itself.

I could suddenly read current postings.

I had access to Story Stream.

The Ice had broken. I was like unto Lazarus raised from the Nether Heap of permanent blog obsolescnece.

And for this, somehow, against all odds, and without Presenses to True Understanding, I have Mr. Robbins to thank. He has Returned my Bile and Vitriol with Grace and Extreme Favoratism, even though I have stolen his hair.

Bless ye, sir.

Mr. Tim Robbins, bless ye.


Wax and other Nonexistant Absurdities.

Millions and millions of dollars are spent every year trying to determine the national mood. Political futures are gambled and pissed away on mere guesses of how America feels its doing.

Here's the problem:

America doesn't exist.

[Blog Editor: Rewind, Clay. You've ceased making sense. Try posting about something more accessible. I suggest: wax.]

I'll try this again for the benefit of my handlers:

America doesn't exist.

Sure, you can look out your window and probably see trees and asphalt and expressways that belong to 'America'. You probably live in a 'state' which has been conveniently (if recently) been given a name like Arkansas or Oregon. You may even consider yourself a citizen of 'America' and are (as I write) loading up the pickup with gasoline and shotguns. (My next post: 'Lynch Mobs Do Exist').

Take up a handful of soil beneath your feet. (note: if all you have is nylon carpet beneath your feet go outside and find some soil. Its a nice damn day and you're wasting it inside reading a blog. Just kidding, of course.)

Chances are that soil used to belong to an equally fictitious places called, variously (depending upon where you are): Spain, France, England, Kahokia, Russia, Holland, Mexico...etc.

Sure sure, whatever. Its fine and well to recognize that America is the New Kid on the Block. It Stole its property from older countries and peoples. But see, even those older nations were nonsense. They are/were just convenient (though by no means universal) catagories to define broad regions and people over time.

Prior to them there was: Rome, Gaul, Breton, Saxony, Muscovy, Carthage, Maya, and a whole bunch of other formerly prounouncable place names all the way back to the first cave-people who decided that systematic grunting to deliniate territorial boundaries was far preferable to pissing daily on 300 square miles of African jungle.

But back to America, because if it can be Mapquest'd, it must exist, right?


Had the internet been invented a hundred and fifty years ago, you would have been able to mapquest the glorious Raj of Sarawak, the Caliphate of Ankara, Hanoverian principalities, Austria-Hungary, Old Cathay, the Sandwich Islands etc. You might have been a citizen of one of those places.

Not only are all of those countries gone, along with their patriots who swore they were "eternal" and whose dead heroes could/would *never* be forgotten, but they never existed in any common form.

But back to America.

America's borders have never been static. What we currently call America started as the renegade maritime provinces of a single overflung empire -- just thirteen out of eighteen or so (the remainder being what we now call "Canada"). If America has some distinct essense based on geography, then I'd have been born a Spaniard because in 1776 California was Spain. You Pac-Northwesterners would have been Russian. You Midwesterners would have been French or Souix or Creek or Kickapoo. You Texans would have been Spaniards, soon to be citizens of that other great independent North American conqueror: Mexico.

As the Anglisized colonies pushed west, they progressively lost their essential Englishness. Not only did the logistics of frontier life eliminate longstanding cultural practices, but other people converged upon the territory seeking to recreate life in their own (equally dubious) ideal. Of course, life is not ideal without lots and lots of fucking, and in the interest of furthering national progress, Norweigians fucked Germans who fucked Scotspeople who fucked Irish people who fucked Italians who fucked Greeks, Creeks, Africans, Indians, Turks, Poles, Chinese, Arabs, Russians, etc. A great Roil and Amalgam of older cultures and skins combined through fucking to eliminate America's claim to nationhood based on cultural continuity. Thanks to this type of blending program, American culture is and will always be steeped in a vast, unresolvable squabble over who brought which elements to the table.

So borders are fluid. Nations dissappear. Words for nations dissappear. Culture evolves.

What about the symbols of nation? The flag, the statues, the national seal.

Fortunately, I have no knowledge whatsoever about the origin or transformation of the national seal.

However, the flag has remained steadfastly unchanged for, oh, about sixty whole years. Not long.

There is talk about eliminating the national anthem and replacing it with another song.

Folks in D.C. are covering the breasts of venerated neo-classical statues formerly thought to be a universal symbol of our cherished liberty.

Defining country, let alone defining its "mood" is like squeezing pre Trimspa Anna Nicole into a tutu: the second you get one part to fit, something else bulges out.

So forget about it. And forget about just pretending (as we all do) that America really exists. As communications and interconnectedness become more integrated, many of the cultural conceits that we used to rely upon as evidence for a unique national character will either fall away or be absorbed into a new, worldwide system of human organization. "Country" will be as antiquated a term as "caliphate" and "principality".

If you are currently putting wax in your ears to drown out this meandering proof, be advised that quietude will not be tolerated on this blog and, of course:

wax does not exist.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

I wonder if there is a political movement celebrating militant apathy.

Maybe I should start one.



Saw "Spiderman 2" yesterday.

I was hoping to be blown away.

To be proven that being jaded about superhero flicks was unjust.


...I wasn't blow away.

"Spiderman" didn't suck, it was just so-so, and not as good as the first one.

Sure it had unusual features for this type of movie (decent acting, likable characters) but fighting the bad guy (Dr. Octopus) took a back stage to constant fretting and rumination about "who Spiderman *really* is". As if Everyone has some sort of fixed Identity that must be recognized before Harmony can exist in our lives, as if the Key to It All is some Pre-Configured Essence beyond our control.

And there were some memorably bad lines such as when Spidey's girl says "Go get 'em, tiger!". Nothing as bad as the travesty that was "Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones", but there was an awful lot of slow gazing into Eyes, and unrequitted longing.

Oh, and Spidey sort of lost his abilities partway through the movie. There never was much of an explanation how or why this happened. Just some random wisdom from the Oracle (er, I mean "Aunt May") about him "not embracing who he really was". If true (as they are shown to be), confusion immediately arises as to whether Peter Parkers abilities were indeed spider-bite induced in the first place, or some wierd byproduct of Will (some Metaphysical Cartesian transform) that grants him the ability to produce webs and stick to buildings by merely thinking he has the ability.

This internal conflict was resolved when Dr. Octapus whisked Spidey's girl to the obligatory Precipice from which she cries piteously for Rescue. He does not dissappoint this time. Indeed, his Scream of Primal Rage as he frees himself from Rubble proves inextricably that, despite his ordinarily whimpy demeanor, he is actually prone to fits of Rage and Instability not to be reckoned with. Proof of Spidey's "inner darkness" allows viewers like me to maintain the fantasy that despite the emasculating influences of Modernity, Capitalism, and Impending Decrepitude, I, too, might be capable of heroism.

As long as I'm waxing Philosophickal, from a Freudian perspective, the "Spiderman II" is even funnier:

Whimpy Guy wins Sexy girl's heart by ensnaring her in copious amounts of White Sticky Stuff.

Don't worry: you're safe. I'm not even going to go there.

Friday, July 02, 2004

There are actually people worried about laughing too much, or too loudly, or having too much fun. Perhaps they feel that in our collective chortling we will happen upon some unfathomably dissonant harmonic that cancels the sun. Or perhaps, as Sols goofy children, shame it so that it ceases to shine.

Ever notice the wierd light that surrounds new mothers?
Not the mother-goddess candle cult infatuation of weeknight TV, the yellowed halos around Mother Mary. Not the
phosphene glare of too many nervous hours over a crib backlit by
battery-powered kermit. I finally figured out what it is.

New mothers before they are tired emit the light of dying stars.

Maybe I see it in them because I can't see myself, now 30, doing whatever it is I do.

Maybe I glow, too.
In the absence of anything meaningful to write myself this morning, I direct you to the blunt, difficult, and corageous words of Bill Cosby as reported on

Cosby frequently gets ridiculed for being too 'white' and not understanding 'his' people. I think that, like Chris Rock, Cosby knows how to tell it like it is, however uncomfortable and, at least in this case, unfunny.

You go Bill.