Monday, December 26, 2011


i have a little monster
that lives inside my head
i find it's much more scarier
than the ones under my bed

at night it rules my dreams
and gives me a bad thought
in the day it bids me to do things
i know i shouldn't ought

and when i leave my house
at the start of each new day
despite the colors and sunshine
it makes the whole world grey

when people make me mad
i never scream or shout
i think about the future day
when i'll let the monster out

many others harbor monsters
many people just like me
and some day we will lose control
and the monsters will be free

but if you look around you
you'll see it has begun
look how people treat each other
the monsters, they have won

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Grand Romantic Delusions Chapter 04: The Breakdown

     It's a terrible thing, the public eye. 
     Once you have its attention, your life is no longer your own. It scrutinizes you with its x-ray vision, digging into your past, affecting your future, poring over your very soul—and invariably, it finds you wanting.
     The mainstream media or MSM* is always looking for a narrative to catch the interest of the reader, viewer or (more likely these days) the half-listener. And if your life doesn't live up to those expectations, you're a disappointment to society. So what were we supposed to do? After all that happened to us; after the rescue efforts and the TV coverage, we didn't really have a choice. I think we both knew it wasn't the best decision, but at the end of the day, we knew we had to get married.
     I don't know ... does anyone ever feel like things are all right? I used to imagine that other people did. Now I'm not so sure. Maybe I'm not so different from other people. After all, in our own minds, well ... as the old expression goes, we're all the protagonists in our own life stories ... or something like that. (My memory's not what it used to be, and I'm too lazy to look it up.)
     I guess that makes my story a tragic comedy, because the protagonist is a hapless fool.  In order to really explain what happened, I guess I should introduce myself first:

     My name's Celia Wright, and I was a loser.

     Now, if when you first hear the word "loser" you immediately think of someone who's failed out of school, lives with her mother, and never helped anyone or did anything worthwhile, you're on the wrong track. I guess I'm what you'd call a "successful loser" in that I graduated college with honors, excelled in my field, made decent money, got married to a nice and attractive guy, had a really great kid—all the things that are supposed to mean success in our society. But it wasn't enough. Or rather, it wasn't right.

     Lewis and I met in College. I was in graduate school—earning my Ph.D. in Education, while he was still working on his undergraduate degree with an eye towards an MBA at Haas.
     The details of our meeting aren't important, nor are they remarkable. We met at a party, both of us a little tipsy on cheap White Zinfandel (everybody was drinking that crap at the time), and just got to talking the way people do when they find themselves together in social situations. He walked me home and promised to call me the next day, which he did. Next thing I knew, we were a couple.
     We'd been dating a few months, when we decided to move in together. I'm not sure whose decision that really was. It just seemed like the thing to do at the time, since he was spending most nights at my place anyway. And then, a year or so after that, I think we were both starting to get a little tired of each other. It wasn't anyone's fault or anything, but you know how relationships just sometimes get stale? It was like that.  If things had continued on, we would probably have gone our separate ways before too much longer. 
     But that was before the Big Earthquake.
     Lewis and I were in the mall when it hit. As anyone who's spent any time in California knows, no matter how many times you experience it, it's still a gut-wrenching feeling when the ground starts to shake. We immediately ran for the exit, but got separated in the rushing crowd.
     Most buildings in California are built to withstand some pretty major quakes, so it came as a surprise when one section of the mall actually collapsed. Apparently there was a small problem that somehow slipped past the building inspectors. I managed to get outside, but couldn't find Lewis anywhere.
     If you lived anywhere near the Bay Area in 1994, you might even remember me. My fifteen minutes lasted just under two days, and were spent agonizing over Lewis and talking to community papers and local TV news:
     Do you think he could be alive and trapped in there? 
     Have you given up hope? 
     The community is praying for you! 
     If you could talk to him now, what would you say? 
     For two days they searched the rubble—and I must have been interviewed twenty times in that same span. The big story was all about the "young couple who were torn apart too soon." People held vigils. Vigils! They sent me flowers and gifts. Donations came in. The whole thing grew out of anyone's control.
     Then, when the emergency workers found Lewis it was quite the spectacle. Once they got him on a stretcher and pulled him out—before he'd even had more than a sip of water—some reporter was in his face with a microphone and a camera, and television lights. She told him how the whole community had been waiting with me, and how everyone was so happy for us, and then asked him what his plans were for the future and how glad he was to see me.
     So the big dummy just up and asked me to marry him right then and there. He could barely speak, but there he was on live TV proposing. So what was I supposed to say? No?
     We were married in February the next year. And in the end, it turned out to be almost as big a disaster as the construction on that mall.

     Now, Lewis wasn't a bad person, per se. Nor was he inattentive—if anything, he was too clingy. At first, the renewed attention was kind of nice. I'd had a few bad relationships before him—you know the kind: the guy's all about you when nothing else is going on, but as soon as some of his buddies want to come over to play video games, or go out and do "guy" things, he acts like your very existence is somehow more inconvenience than he can handle. Yet, as soon as you want to have some time with your friends, he's asking, Why would you want to go out without me? Don't you love me? Are you seeing someone else?
     My first hint of trouble with Lewis, though, came during the planning for our wedding. Most guys just want to know where to get their tux and when and where to show up and say, "I do." They leave the bulk of the planning up to the bride—and/or her mother—or so I've been told. Not Lewis, though; he insisted on being involved in every aspect. The biggest problem was that even though he wanted to help make decisions, he could never make up his mind! He very nearly drove my poor mother into an asylum. Ultimately, I got my own way in just about everything. I think he mostly just wanted to feel like he was part of it.
     The first couple of years were actually rather nice. We had each finished our respective studies and started careers. We had a daughter, Isabella, the November of our second year married. The third year was a bit difficult—we were first-time parents, after all—but we struggled through it. Things were a bit easier the next two years; Lewis was always a caring, loving man. He made a good father, too, and he really doted on Izzy.
     My career took off. I was on a team which published a very important and acclaimed academic study on early childhood learning disorders. We moved north when I was hired at the University of Washington as a research professor.  Lewis got a job in Marketing at a local publisher—nothing terribly exciting, but he brought home about as much money as I did. We bought a nice, older house in Lynnwood and worked to fix the place up. We lived quite well, in terms of physical comforts.
     It was after we'd been married about five or six years that things started to change. I don't know if it was a case of Is this all there is? setting in, or if it was simply a realization that we didn't really quite fit together, or what—but we started doing more and more things apart. We spent more time at our jobs or hanging out with our respective work friends. I know Lewis didn't really enjoy his job. He also started drinking noticeably more. 
     Lewis had always displayed a tendency to over-think everything he did, but it started getting worse. It got so he spent a half hour every morning just lying in bed and agonizing over whether he even wanted to get up and go to the office. He always did go, of course, but by the time he'd make up his mind, he was always running late.
     Then, one Saturday morning when Lewis was sleeping in, I went to check on Izzy. She would have been about five or six years old at this point. I listened to her play-acting with some of her toys. Her teddy bear, Mr. Snoofles, was having an argument with Stinky the Skunk over what they wanted to do that day. The dialogue that Izzy came up with really shook me up. Stinky was berating Mr. Snoofles for changing his opinions to match whatever the skunk wanted. I knew right then that our relationship in general, and Lewis's neuroses in particular, were having a negative effect on Izzy's development.
     I talked to Lewis about it, but the whole thing just seemed to make him worse. It was like he suddenly worried that every minor decision he made was going to hurt his daughter, too. He couldn't handle it. Within a couple of months he would suffer a mental break-down … but, more on that in a moment.
     Lewis started disappearing for days at a time. He just needed, Time away to get my head straight, or so he said. I never thought he was cheating on me, or anything like that. Hell, that would have been easier to handle! He said he liked the freedom of the open road. I think he mostly just liked the idea of making simple decisions like which way to turn at an intersection. It wasn't until later that I found out he was heading far into the Eastern countryside—into places with long stretches of road where intersections were rare.
     Then one day I received a phone call from the police. Lewis had stopped the car right in the middle of the intersection of 45th and Eleventh—one of the busier intersections in town—and wouldn't budge. Every time an officer approached the vehicle, he started screaming nonsense about how "What's done can't be undone," and how did they expect him to decide where to go, when any direction could cause a breakdown in his life stream, or some such nonsense. He'd also blow on the horn and shout threats on occasion. He had something in his hand, and they weren't sure if it was a gun or some other sort of weapon. (Lewis was driving my X3 that day, so it had my plates and my U-Dub parking permit, so they contacted me quickly.)
     By the time I arrived, the police were routing traffic around the area, but it was a mess. Lewis was sitting in the car—the ignition was off and the windows were down, and he was crying. As I approached him, I saw that he had a calculator in his hand, as well as a small notepad and a thick black Sharpie.
     And, of course, there were the news cameras, and they wanted their story.
     "Lewis," I said. "Honey? Is everything all right?"
     "Probably not," came the response, in between sobs. "It's hard to know, though." He fumbled at a couple of the buttons on the calculator with a finger. I remember noticing then, for the first time, that his fingers were kind of short and stubby for a grown man.
     He continued; "It's assigning meanings to the values that's so hard."
     "OK, well, maybe I could help you with that. Would you like that?" He looked up at me, confused.
     "You could do that?" He didn't seem to notice anything of the chaos around him.
     "Of course, honey," I replied. "You know, we could just go to the coffee shop over there, and—"
     "No!" He interrupted me. "Don't want to go to any shops … too many possibilities … options … menus."
     "All right, then. How about we just go home? I'll order a pizza and we'll sit down together and … and assign meanings?"
     "Yeah, that would be nice."
     "Great — that's all settled, then. Why don't you just scoot over, there, and let me drive?" 
     Not that the Seattle PD had any intention of letting us just drive away, obviously. Not after what he'd pulled.
     The minute I had him distracted and he'd held his hands up into view long enough for them to see it wasn't a weapon in his hand, an officer had eased up to the passenger side of the car. As soon as Lewis unlocked the car and began to scoot over she pulled the door open and hit him with the taser. Two more officers ran up to assist her, and a third came up behind me and pulled me away. Clearly Lewis wan't a threat to anyone, but they were all very frustrated, and weren't about to take any chances.
     Once we were all on our feet again, the news crews rushed the scene, yelling out questions. I just repeated "No comment" until I found myself in the back of a squad car. I could hear Lewis trying to answer their questions, though, and even asking some of his own. He was pushed into another car and we were driven downtown.
     After hours of questioning, they finally let me call Gina—Izzy's sitter—and explain to her what had been going on. Of course, she'd already seen the whole thing on the evening news.
     Once it was all over, and we were released, I got Lewis in to see a really good therapist, but he resisted. Even when he did go—and he was under a Court Mandate, he didn't seem to want to work with the doctor. After a year he finally managed to do the bare minimum required to get himself released. And then, he started taking his long trips again.
      I just couldn't take it any more. After ten years of marriage, I finally filed for divorce.

     Sometimes, I feel guilty about the whole thing. I ask myself whether I could have done something differently, or why I hadn't really noticed the warning signs. I wonder to myself whether our lives would have been different if I'd paid more attention. What if I hadn't taken the job at U-Dub? Would he have found work that better suited him? What if we hadn't gone to the mall that day? What if I hadn't gone to that party, and we'd just never met? Would he have married someone else? Would he still have had his breakdown?
     It's then that I realize I'm starting to think like Lewis: over-analyzing the past and worrying about every decision I've ever made. That way lies madness, and I have been witness to it.
     Since then, I've re-married. William is a really wonderful, level-headed man. I'm much better off and, I think, so is Isabella. She is almost old enough to drive herself, now. She hasn't shown any signs of her father's neurosis, but I'm keeping a close eye on her just the same.
     As for Lewis … Well, the last I heard he met some woman on one of his long drives through the desert. They moved out east somewhere—Indiana or Ohio, I think. I tried to keep track of him for a while, but eventually, I just gave up. For a man who has a problem making decisions, he sure has moved around a lot.

*The acronym MSM is also frequently used to refer to Mechanically-Separated Meat. This product bears an uncanny allegorical resemblance to the product produced by the other MSM.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Grand Romantic Delusions Chapter 05: The Agent

         Katie abruptly left the registrar's station after pretending not to have the required paperwork, or to even understand what was going on around her—the language barrier and all. What was with that guy? How had she missed with him?
          After all her careful preparation, working on her "chance meeting" with the target, he had completely blown her off. Her "Svetlana" character had never failed to hook a man before. Usually her eyes and smile alone were enough to get a man to at least talk to her. Hell, every other man in the BMV was making eyes at her. Could he have known? Impossible! Hanlon had been very careful—they never met at the lab, so O'Keefe would never have seen her there. Besides, the man struck her as kind of goofy—she doubted very much that he even so much as suspected he was being watched.
          O'Keefe had seemed to be obsessed with the frumpy woman ahead of him in line. Maybe he was just realistic enough to know he wouldn't have a chance with a woman that looked like Svetlana. She had practically thrown herself at him, though—that had always been enough to make men lose logic altogether. So why hadn't it worked with him? She might have to try a different tack.

          Sergeant Michael Hanlon, USMC, Ret. was everything one would expect in a former Marine. That is to say, he was clean and neat, he had perfect posture, and he was utterly diligent in his duty. He was an honorable man who did his job to the best of his ability, and even at his age he could probably kill you before you even had time to fully form the words, "Oh shit!" in your mind, let alone say them out loud. Unfortunately, very few of the people around him had anything like his sense of professionalism. Frankly, he thought most of them were idiots, though he would never say so out loud.
          Katie McEllern stood stiffly before him. She had never served in any armed forces, but she knew this meeting was nothing less than an inspection.
          "You came highly recommended," he began. "But I never heard of you before last week."
          "That's the way it is in my line of work, Mr. Hanlon. If I do my job right, very few people know I've done anything at all."
          "So how am I supposed to tell the difference?" He paced around her where she stood. "And you will address me as Sergeant, Sgt. Hanlon or Sir. Mister Hanlon is my dear departed father, God rest his soul."
          They were in the middle of a hotel suite. The meeting had been arranged for here because Sgt. Hanlon didn't want Katie to come into contact with the target before she had all the details.

          Katie stepped outside and quickly scanned the parking lot. There he is. Seth O'Keefe was getting into an older model Camaro. It was light metallic blue and rusty, the driver's side door coated in primer. The license plate was "S3CR3TS" and on the back were several bumper stickers—most of the Heavy Metal Band Name variety, and one which read: "Labelle Research: We Know What We're Doing, So You Don't Need To."
          He backed out of his space and drove towards her. Quickly she turned to her left and walked past a flower shop and then a music store. She stopped and watched the reflection in the window while pretending to look at a collection of instruments. She noted that the hood of O'Keefe's car was also covered with primer. West-siders, she thought. Do they ever finish what they start?
          Once he passed her, she made her way across the parking lot to her own car: a late-model white 4-door Honda Accord—about as inconspicuous a car as one could find. They'd sold hundreds of thousands of the things, after all. She would have to catch O'Keefe's attention some other way. Perhaps after casually bumping into each other one or two more times she might convince him that Svetlana was his "destiny" or some such nonsense. She'd have to play it carefully, though—if he suspected he was being watched, running into her too many times too soon might set off alarm bells in his head.
          As she pulled to the end of the parking row, O'Keefe suddenly sped by, going the opposite direction from the one in which he'd left. Hmm … curious, that. What's his hurry? He hadn't so much as looked in her direction, so she decided to tail him—all the way to the library right next door to the shopping center where the BMV was located.

          "We think we may have a security leak at Labelle Research. That's something I will not tolerate."
          "And so you want me to plug your leak?" Katie replied, "I can do that."
          Hanlon handed her a folder. "O'Keefe is the name. Seth Davis O'Keefe. He seems to have taken an unusual interest in the labs."
          "And curiosity is not something you encourage—at least not outside the scientific staff." She took the folder and sat on the couch. "Please, make yourself comfortable … Sergeant." She motioned to the chair across the coffee table from her.
          The sun was just rising, but her room on the 14th floor faced west. The red-gold light was beginning to stream between the other, taller buildings in the area and create an intricate interplay of shadows and reflections on the river. It was a beautiful autumn day in the Midwest, with bright skies and just a few large puffy clouds floating about. Katie could get lost on a day like this, were she outside, but for now—down to business.
          She leaned forward on the couch and opened the folder on the table in front of her. There was a picture of an average-looking guy with medium-length blond hair, sideburns and a soul patch. He had light grey eyes that gave his face a sort of empty look. There was a data sheet attached:

Seth Davis O'Keefe
2500 Cortona Rd.
Columbus, OH 43204

Birthday: September 24, 1983 
Sex: male                    Race: caucasian
Ht: 5'10"                      Wt: 170
Marital status: single

Education: 2 Years at CSCC, no degree
Department: maintenance

          O'Keefe parked his car out away from the bulk of the cars in the lot. What? He's afraid to get a scratch on that beat up old piece of shit? She noticed that the passenger door was a darker blue than the rest of the car—the rest that wasn't primer, that is. She watched as he checked that his doors were locked and then made his way to the library. He had a large book in his hand. It appeared to be the book that O'Keefe and the frumpy woman had been discussing in line at the BMV. Holy Shit, she thought. He's trying to track that woman down!
          Katie parked her car nearer the building and went inside.
          O'Keefe was standing at the counter arguing with a library clerk. It seemed the library didn't just give out information on who had checked out what books.
          "But this is important," he was saying. "I think this woman's friend is the love of my life. Don't you understand? Don't you have a single romantic bone in your body?"
          "I'm sorry sir," replied the librarian. "My hands are tied."
          O'Keefe slumped. "Fine then." 
          He turned to walk away when the librarian interrupted him.
          O'Keefe turned back, hopefully. "Yes? You changed your mind, and can help—"
          "No," he replied. "But I can't let you leave with that book. It's library property and you're not the patron who checked it out."
          "How do you know that? Did you look in the computer and see who did check it out? Who was it?"
          "No, sir. You just now told me you didn't."
          "Oh … yeah." He turned and bolted for the door, the librarian yelling after him.
          Katie stifled a laugh and hurriedly turned towards the nearest display shelf. She doubted O'Keefe would notice her in his desperate rush for the door, but she didn't want to take any chances.
          She turned to watch him push his way out the door and stumble into the parking lot. He dropped the book in the process, doubled back, picked it up and ran for his car. 
          Katie walked back outside, casually. O'Keefe almost fell once again and then spent several seconds fumbling for his keys and dropping the book once more in the process. He unlocked the car and dropped the keys, as well, before picking them back up, along with the book and getting into his car. He almost slammed his own leg in the door, he was in such a rush. And he never once stopped to look around him. If he had, he'd have realized that no one from the library was chasing him.
          The car started and O'Keefe pulled out of the lot with a squealing of tires. He screamed by the library and into the shopping center parking lot. Someone in a pick-up truck had to swerve and stop to avoid him as he pulled out on to the main street and headed west as fast as he could, the blare of the pick-up's horn behind him.
          What an idiot, Katie thought. Could he really be involved in industrial espionage?

          "Wait … this guy works in the maintenance department?"
          "He's basically a janitor," said Hanlon, finally sitting down. "We know we have a leak, and believe it or not, he's our most likely suspect."
          "So … he never graduated college, never married, and he's native to the area. Seems an unlikely candidate."
          "Well, it all seems to check out. We run down records on everyone who applies to work for us. Though …"
          "Though, it's always possible his records have been doctored," she finished for him.
          "Yes—that." Hanlon continued, "And it's always possible someone else got to him after he came to work for us."
          "A competitor, you mean. Like another research lab?"
          "Maybe. Or, possibly even a foreign agent."
          "So … you think the Chinese or the Russians or someone might be using the janitor to get top secret information out of your government-contracted research facility?"
          "Or, the Israelis, yes."
          "The Israelis?"
          "Oh, yes. There are projects at Labelle that would definitely interest them."
          "Such as what?"
          "Well, obviously, I'm not at liberty to divulge that information. To be honest, I'm not exactly privy to all the goings-on in the research department myself."
          "Aren't you the head of security?"
          "Yes, but there are some things even I'm not allowed to know."
          "I see."
          They sat in awkward silence for several minutes. Katie shifted uncomfortably on the couch, looking over the target's file, while Hanlon sat in his chair, still as stone.
          Finally, Katie said, "Well I would suggest I start by either making contact with him or running my own background check."
          "However you wish to handle it. My sources tell me you know what you're doing."
          "Your sources are correct. You know my fees and expense arrangements?"
          "Yes—they're fine."
          "All right then. I'll take the job." They both stood and reached across the table to shake hands. "I'll have the contracts sent over this afternoon and will begin work in the morning."
          "Thank you, Miss McEllern."

          This day had been nothing but a waste of time. Perhaps it was time to do a little more background work.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Serious Man

I'm just sayin', is all ...

Sometimes the world just seems so bleak and serious; it's just a bit too much to handle. I've had some ideas floating around in my head ... things I want to write, things I want to explore in a humorous way — but sometimes it all just feels so pointless and just ... wrong. Why should I waste my time writing silly little stories, when the world is such a fucked up place? Shouldn't I maybe try to do something about it?

And then when I look at the sheer scale of all the fucked-up-ness, I despair. What the hell am I going to do to fix things? I can't even keep my own shit together, so how am I supposed to try and fix the whole bloody world?

"Ignorance is bliss," the expression goes. Maybe I should just ignore the world and move on with my own little life - enjoy what I have while I'm here for what little time I have. But that, too, feels wrong; it feels selfish and petty. And besides, if everyone just gives up then they win. Whoever they are.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Video Games Are Art

See? I told you so.

It's nice to see that the Supreme Court to can make a correct decision on occasion. You just have to be a billion-plus-dollar industry, and they'll see your side of the argument.

Monday, May 2, 2011

World Domination, part 2

"OK," said Vicki. "How do you propose we do it?"

"Well," I replied. "That's the problem, isn't it?"

Everyone looked at me as though they expected me to say something. This went on for a good couple of minutes. I think maybe they thought I was composing my thoughts before explaining a plan to them. I wasn't.

"Don't look at me," I said. "I just came up with the solution. You guys need to figure out the details."

"Hurngh we sh'pshta fighuhr zhaddout," asked Mumbly Joe. "Wehrr jsht reggl'r peeplsh. Ain't gotsh anarshneller annythinh."

"True," I continued. "But I think you're looking at the problem from the wrong perspective. We don't want to use physical force. We need something clever ... a silent, unrecognizable coup d'etat. We need to take over without anyone realizing we've done it."

"Oh," said Crystal. "You mean the way big business already did it starting in the eighties."

"Yeah ... something like that," I confirmed. "But I don't want to take two or three decades to do it."

"So the Pearl Forester Method is right out," giggled Jerry. Once again everyone went silent, as we all turned to look  at him. "You know, from Final Sacrifice? When she decided to rule the world one person at a time?"

"Oh, yeah," I laughed. "I remember that one now."

Joe added a hearty "Rhowshhdowrrrr!"

After a few minutes of laughter, followed by wiping the tears from our eyes, I tried to get the group re-focused. That was going to be the problem with this bunch: keeping them on-task. "Herding cats" didn't even begin to cover it ...

"All right, all right," I said. "Let's brainstorm. I think we mostly know what we'd do once we took over, the question before us is how to do it. Let's hear your ideas - just start throwin' 'em out there."

"You know," said Jerry, "The most direct way to gain power would be to take it from someone who already has it."

"Go on." I replied.

"Well, we could kidnap a Senator, or a General, or something. Or maybe the President."

Vicki jumped in: "I like the concept, Jerry, but the execution is probably beyond us. People like that have big-time security."

"That's OK, though," I added. "We're just spitballing here. Keep throwing out ideas, and we'll see what sticks. Just put that one to the side for now ... we'll probably want to revisit all of these ideas, once we have them out there. In fact, someone oughtta take notes. Gary? You always seem to have a notebook, do you mind?"

"All right. But don't think this makes me your personal secretary or anything."

"Not a problem, Gary."

"And while we're at it, I have an idea for the list, too." Gary reached into the satchel under his chair for a notebook and a pen. "It would be easier to kidnap the CEO of a big company, probably. They don't usually have the kind of security a public official does, and - as Crystal pointed out - they have all the real power, anyway." He began scribbling down notes.

"All right. That's good. Keep 'em coming." I looked at Vicki. "You have anything?"

"Hmm ... give me a minute, I'm thinking."

"OK." I turned to Crystal. "You got anything?"

Crystal arched an eyebrow at me. "You know, I think I just might. We could take over a news outlet and just put out fake news. Cause a panic about ... say, some food additive or vaccinations or something ... then propose a solution that only we could provide. You know how quick panicked people are to give up power."

"That's true," I said. "I might also mention something about a man with a hammer viewing all problems as nails."

Crystal squinted her eyes at me. "What are you trying to say?"

"Nothing. It's actually not a bad idea. It's just funny that this would be your plan, considering your fields of study."

"Actually," added Jerry, "Speaking of fields of study: why don't we take over the internet? Once we do that, we can tell people all sorts of things, and a good twenty to thirty per cent will likely believe anything we tell them, no matter how crazy it is. From there, it's pretty much the same as Crystal's plan. The two plans could easily work in concert."

"There!" exclaimed Crystal, feeling vindicated. "Count yourself lucky. If I had a hammer ..."

"Calm down, Crystal. I didn't mean anything by it, honestly. It was just an off-hand remark." I looked around the table. "OK, anyone have anything else? Come one people! Ideas! No matter how crazy they seem."

"I think I have something." It was Vicki. We all went quiet. "No matter what the final plan - or combination of plans - is, we will probably need money to pull it off. A lot of money."

"OK. So I guess the first step is what," asked Gary. "Win the lottery?"

"Or hack someone's bank account," suggested Jerry.

Vicki shook her head at these suggestions.

"OK, then, what," I asked. "You have a plan for getting a lot of liquid cash in a way that won't draw too much attention?"

"No," she replied. I have a way that will draw quite a bit of attention, but it won't matter."

"Well, what is it, Vick? What's your plan?"

"Yeaagghh. Whashotta ideeaagh yogotsh, Wicki," added Joe.

"I suggest we find an extremely wealthy bachelor or bachelorette, and seduce them into marrying one of us."

We all gave her with a What then? look.

"Then we have them committed. Gain total control of the estate. After that, we do the other plans. Or even all of them. Throw everything at the wall, until something sticks. Crash the internet. Cause a health panic. Kidnap the President. Run one of us for office, as well. Blow up a dam, or something, I don't know. Just go nuts."

"And then," I continued for her, "when people are good and panicked, we offer them hope of salvation from all the insanity."

"Exactly," said Vicki, wearing the most wicked grin I had ever seen on a woman. 

I'd never been so turned on in my life.

Friday, April 8, 2011

New Blog

I'm kind of a history enthusiast, so I started another new blog

American History Y

The explanation behind my reasoning is here:  Y? Why NOT?!?


Thursday, March 3, 2011

World Domination, part 1

Hey ... did I ever tell you about that time I took over the world?

It all started when a bunch of us were sitting around at the pub - I can't tell you the name of it - there are some secrets that still need to be kept, after all - it's a legal thing. So, let's just call it "The North Mountain Tavern" for purposes of the story. It was a basement pub somewhere in or around the campus area, and that's about all I can tell you without violating the terms of the settlement.

Anyway, a bunch of us were sitting in this basement pub, knocking back some cold beers. Aside from me, there was Jerry, Vicki, Gary "the Pro", Crystal, and Mumbly Joe.

I guess I should tell you a little bit about these people. Also, I should tell you that their names have all been changed in order to protect the guilty parties.

Jerry liked computers. He'd been playing around with them since he was a kid, and already had is undergrad degree in some kind of computer-related field - Computer Systems Engineering or Information Tech or something like that. He already had a full time job in the IT department at a local company but was working on his Master's.

Vicki was the real brains of our group. Most people think it would be Jerry, because he was so good at dealing with computers, and was good with numbers, and had that egghead look about him. Don't get me wrong, he was brilliant in his way, but Vicki was smarter. Like, real-life smart. She could look at any situation and get to the root of the matter without batting an eye. She was the only one of the group who beat me at games far more than she lost. Any games, too: board games, video games, puzzles, chess - you name it, she'd beat me four out of five times, easily. Oh, and she was a Journalism Major of all things. Of course, back then you couldn't swing a dead cat on campus without hitting a Journalism Major ... or three.

Gary was about ten or fifteen years older than the rest of us. He'd been attending THE University* since before most of us were in grade school. I don't know if he just had a hard time making up his mind what he wanted to do with his life, or if just ... like ... everything interested him and he thought he could learn it all. Maybe he just enjoyed being a student so much that he couldn't bear the thought of graduating. He'd changed majors at least half a dozen times, too, so he was the quintessential "Professional Student" - which is why we all called him "the Professional". He pretended that it bothered him, but you could tell he really sort of liked it. Probably because it made him sound cool ... like he was some kind of assassin, or something.

Crystal was fortune teller. She read palms, worked out horoscopes and did card readings and such. She was majoring in Social Work with a minor in Food Science and Nutrition, and was pretty much exactly what you'd expect a Fortune Teller to be like - at least on the surface. She always smelled of sandalwood or patchouli and wore loose-fitting blouses and flowing sashes, floral-print shawls and hoop earrings, and long colorful skirts with sandals. She believed in peace and free love and would smoke just about anything other than tobacco. She loved to get high and listen to the Dead and Phish and just dance and spin around. She was the total mystic-hippie package ... apart from the violent outbursts.

As for Mumbly Joe, well, he was a vampire. How he became a Creature of the Night was a long and twisted story unto itself, so I won't go into the details here. Suffice it to say that he grew up in West Virginia about a hundred years ago, and that the night he was turned, he'd been in a bar fight which left him with a dislocated jaw and part of his tongue bitten off. (You see, whatever condition you're in when you're turned, you're stuck with it for the rest of your unlife.) Between those facts and his archaic hillbilly accent, most of us only understood about half of what he said - and that was on a good night. So, you can guess why we called him Mumbly Joe.

Finally, there was me. Well, you already know all you need to know about me, so ... moving on:

As I was saying, we were all sitting around in this basement pub, drinking beers and people-watching, when the idea just came to me in a flash: We could solve the whole world's problems. In fact we had already solved most of them over drinks during the course of the last couple of years. What we lacked, however, was the proper leverage ... some method by which we could implement our solutions. So while the others were discussing the merits of the oatmeal stout produced by a local micro-brewery in relation to Guinness, I hit upon the first part of the plan: the six of us needed to take over the world.

"Hey guys," I said. "Everybody shut up a minute."

They all stopped and looked at me. Crystal's eyes narrowed, but the rest of them seemed ready to hear me out. Mumbly Joe just drooled a bit.

"I have an idea, and I think it's a good one. So I want you to hear me out."

"Well, get on with it," replied Jerry. "What's so earth-shatteringly important?"

"I think we need to take over the world."

"Wait ... what?" That was The Pro. "Why would you want to do that?"

"So we can fix things."

"Fix things how," asked Vicki. "And what things, exactly?"

"Everything," I said. "So we can fix everything."

"What ... " began Gary. "You mean like poverty and disease and ..."

"And war and world hunger. Yes ... all of it."  I leaned my chair back against the wall and folded my hands behind my head. "That's right. You heard me. All of it."

Vicki chimed in again. "O.K. So let's assume you actually manage to ..."

"We," I interrupted. "Let's assume we manage it."

"All right, fine. Let's assume we manage to take over the world. How would you actually fix everything?"

"Just think about it," I said. "How long have we all known each other? Wait ... I mean how long have all six of us been coming to this bar and drinking and talking together?"

"I'd put it at twenty months, a week and two days." That was Jerry again. He always knew weird shit like that. It was like he had a calendar, clock and stopwatch inside his head. He could also usually tell you the temperature within a degree or two. He was Rain Man, but without the fake movie autism or the freak-outs.

"All right, almost two years." The others nodded. "And in that time, we've had how many conversations?" 

"Jerry, I meant that rhetorically," I held my hand up to stop him from giving me the answer. "The six of us have had many discussions ranging from the deepest philosophical topics such as the nature of Thought, Existence and Truth to the most trivial, such as wondering just exactly at what point George Lucas had the idea to make Leia into Luke's sister. And in each case, whether the topic was metaphysical, economic, political or just nerdy-as-all-hell, we always manage to come to a reasonable consensus."

"So what," asked Crystal. "Just because we all finally came together on a decision that D&D 4th edition is clearly inferior to every edition that came before it doesn't mean we're qualified to solve the world's problems."

"Right, Crystal. Absolutely. But think about it a minute. Why is it the six of us, with such differing backgrounds, can manage to find common ground, when the legitimate socio-political structure of this country can't seem to agree on the freaking temperature outside the damned Capitol building?"

"For starters," Vicki chimed in, "politicians are too busy trying to score their own political points and never actually listening to what anyone else has to say. Well, anyone who either doesn't agree with them already or doesn't have a large campaign contribution at the ready. And absolutely never, do any of these people take the time to actually understand the others' points of view."


"Also," said The Pro, "that old saw about there being 'two sides to every issue' is total bullshit."

"Yeah. There are usually as many sides to an issue as there are people considering it," added Crystal.

"Usually, though it boils down to somewhere between three and five major opinion groups," said Jerry.

"And the only reason people believe the two sides narrative," continued Crystal, "is because that's what the two parties and the corporate media servants want the public to believe."

"It's easier to control the public mind, when you narrow the debate down to false dichotomies," put in Vicki.

I held up my hand again. "You're all one hundred percent correct. But how do we get past all of that?"

"You'd have to change public opinion," said Jerry.

"Or bring down the mainstream media." A wicked smile was growing across Crystals face.

"Or, I think what he's getting at," said Vicki, "is you just bypass it altogether, and set up a new system."

"Right." I nodded. "And in order to do that, we need to take over the world."

*Some people will understand the reason for the special emphasis on the word "THE" and what it means. Anyone else ... doesn't.