Witch Trials and Error

So, lately I’ve been watching a show called Salem. It’s been entertaining thus far, but last night the entertainment gleaned came from an unintended vector. Bear with me a minute. The Salem witches were trying to find out who killed one of their own, so they performed a “spell” in which they first removed a finger from the dead dude, placed a pound of coarse salt in a pan, buried the finger in it, simmered over high heat (uncovered), and added a bottle of blood. They then took the pan out of the fire, killed a frog over it, and sprinkled in some McCormick ® Italian seasoning (to taste). Lastly, they removed the fricasseed phalange, placed it on a foot-long spike and began reciting rhymes at it. When the rhyme didn’t work the first time, they just kept repeating it until the finger began to spin wildly before coming to a halt. Obviously, it was pointing in one direction. How could it not? At first, I thought the display was like a macabre version of spin the bottle since I know who the killer is and that he is the lost love of the Salem witch hive’s leader. They then followed the direction the finger indicated as the went looking for the witch hunter.

Now I’m no witch, but I am familiar with the scientific method and even cooking experiments that probably came out worse than their salted finger frog frittata attempt. I was left wondering how in the world they concluded that the steps above would produce a finger that could…finger their target. That was seriously unintended, by the way.

So, let us examine the process of trial and error that might have played out.

“I’m looking for a witch hunter,” says witch “A”.

“Say no more, fam,” says witch “B”. “We’ll just ask Dead Witch here.”

“Has that ever worked before, B?”

“No,” B begins. “But we haven’t tried it with the finger removed now, have we?”

“Brilliant!”

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“So, yeah. That didn’t work either, B.”

“What if we add salt and cook it, A?”

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“Looks like we’ll need to kill a frog on it, B.”

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“It’s biting, A!! Put it back in the pot! putitbackputitbackputitiback!”

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“Rinse it off. We gotta start over, bruh.”

“Let’s try some seasonings, A.”

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“I said Italian seasoning, B.” A shakes her head. “This is clearly cilantro, you daft bint.”

“Still no answer, A. Let’s put it on a nail.”

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You see where I am going with this? If they followed a pattern of failed experiments to find the solution that makes a severed finger point at the guy who killed the finger’s erstwhile body, they undoubtedly went through a great many steps, additions, deletions, and failures before getting it right. But why on Earth would anyone think to salt, season, cook, impale, and chant could produce these results? If this is indicative of the way magic might be used to defend oneself, it’s a wonder anyone would even bother. By way of example:

“Oh no!” Exclaims the evil wizard. “That good knight is charging at me on horseback! I must weave a spell of protection or invisibility! Let’s see here. I have some bay leaves, bits of dried mouse poo. Kill this snake on the concoction. Chant some clever sounding rhymey things about knights and frights and fights. And voila!”

Then the knight is all “Dude. I cut off your head fifteen minutes ago. Please shut up.”

“No. I can make this work. I just need to use oregano. Nobody ever sees people from Oregon.”

There is no rhyme or reason to it. Kind of like this post, really.

From Feast to Famine

I recently saw a couple of alleged “facts” that I found interesting. The first claim was that women are better able to accurately perceive personality traits of men they find attractive. This alone raises a great many points of interest. Would the opposite be true if we were 2016-07-23-14-24-37-0238speaking of a dude that was found to be unattractive? You know the ugly dude with a heart of gold, but women can’t see his good traits because he has a face like the mangy butt of a bull moose?
There there, good guy. You are entering the friend zone even as she pines away over the abusive serial adulterer with smoldering good looks. Shouldn’t these good looks have made him more susceptible to her vaunted powers of discernment? Or is it that she truly knows that the ugly dude is the good guy and 16807287_387838711592617_6832277088332156708_nthe hunky guy is an arse, but she really doesn’t care?

 

I would claim, at this point, that this first “fact” is debunked by the example above. However, there is another wrinkle presented in the second supposed “fact”. This one claims that women are more attracted to men who other women find attractive. I can get behind this one based solely on my high-school love life. It went something like this: There was me, the new guy on campus. All would remain quiet for a time until the new herd decided I was not, in fact, a threat to continued survival. Phase two begins when a brave young lady would express interest. Inevitably, there would be a slow but steady buildup of interested parties until such point a teen aged boy could hardly choose but must lest the now agitated males decide to form an aggressive pack. If you’ve ever stood alone against an entire football team, you’ll recognize how uncomfortable it is knowing that you can’t dip out but you should because you’d rather not be forced to drag your own carcass away from the scene of your own murder. In either case, this begins the domino effect that takes you from feast to famine which is kind of ok at the time because all the teeth in your stomach are a great appetite suppressant. One girl loses interest and *poof! They are all gone and I am a social pariah.

I propose that a different perspective can be gleaned from whatever survey determined the two aforementioned “facts”. Perhaps women are less adept a discerning good personality traits in a man as other women come to find him less attractive. Or maybe this is all hogwash and, like men, women see what they want in the one they are attracted to. Maybe they are just more attracted to the one everybody else wants. Holy crap I just realized that the ladies are as competitive as men. My teen years make so much sense right now…

This is What Happens When I Sit Down to Write

According to my Professor, I should be spending two hours a day writing in order to complete the first draft of short story that is due next week. “Write. Write. Write. And Write some more,” She tells us. I don’t think this is what she intended. But who can really know the minds of Professors anyway? Seems reasonable enough at first except for a few key points. First, we have to read like sixteen short stories and write critical reviews on a half dozen fellow student’s short story proposals. There are three proposals per student and each had to pose two to three questions they wanted input on in addition to the grading rubric. I hate that word, by the way. Next, write a critical analysis of setting in one of the sixteen short stories. No problem.

Herein lies the rub. It’s a creative writing course with a focus on fiction. While I love fiction, I decidedly suck at it. If you have read any of my blogs, you might be thinking the same thing. Rest assured that none of what you have read is fiction. I guess maybe non-fiction isn’t my forte either. So, I come up with these fictional short story ideas and we collectively narrow things down to the one I’ll focus on. Research is now required in order to write about that of which I know nothing. Have you ever tried to research something you made up? Resources are a bit elusive, truth be told. So, forty-seven and a half hours of research later, I’ve managed to come up with some pretty good stuff but my attention span is roughly equivalent to that of a goldfish and I ended up watching funny dog videos on YouTube, binge watching The Santa Clarita Diet’s entire first season, piddling around on Face Book, taking a nap, and writing this blog entry.

It is settled then, I’ll regale my Professor with a tale of a particularly spiritual Zen master frog with a sordid past… Maybe not. I actually just made that last bit up.

*Note to self: Explore the Tantric Toad idea. You could make him the savior of his people as they vie against the French and the Cajuns. Maybe some rednecks too. Yeah. They can come along. I guess it was too much for him to see the love of his life laying in a home for the legless. He really liked those legs. So did Pierre.

The Next Stokowski?

I got to attend the symphony while I was home on leave recently. I am a little ashamed to admit that at 44 years of age, this was my first symphony. I’ve always been a jeans, t-shirt, and rock concert kind of guy. The symphony never held any real appeal. I know now that this is because I never experienced one for myself. I’ll not go into great detail as to what pieces were played. I’m not an aficionado who is able to offer a cultured critique, but I thought it pretty good. However, I will share several observations that, at times, became quite distracting. To me. And anyone near me, it seems.

Before we got settled in, it occurred to Doc that she’d left her phone in the car and lest she become textually frustrated, I offered to go retrieve it for her. Besides, I was wearing a killer suit. There is nothing quite like the feeling a well-made suit imparts and I felt like walking around in it. Perhaps strut is a better term for it. Obviously not a Mick Jagger or Tina Turner strut. That would look ludicrous in a black, double breasted, pin striped suit. There is a point to this. Not the suit part. The me going to get the phone part. So, as I crossed the street to the parking garage, a young woman in a black dress (skirt?) and white button up shirt (blouse? Don’t judge me. I don’t know the correct terms for what she was wearing) was crossing in the opposite direction. She smiled in acknowledgement of my suit and cast her eyes downward while pushing her hair behind her ear. I’m not implying she only had one ear or that all the hair went behind that one. It just happened on one side. Anyway, I thought nothing of it except that she had a spectacular head of hair and a pleasant smile. As I entered the garage, a young jovial looking bearded fellow wearing black slacks and a white shirt (wait staff I presumed), came sauntering out of the garage with a lit cigarette hanging from his grin. It wasn’t until the show got underway that I remembered either of them. As it turns out, she was the first-string cellist. An odd sort of name for it, I think. She sat in the first chair. Maybe she should be first chair cellist? Later in the performance, the happy looking smoker came forward to play a duet with another guy. They both played these miniature versions of trumpets in a manner that impressed me considering at least one of them was a known connoisseur of cheap tobacco. The realization of what I’d witnessed struck during that duet. Flustered, slightly embarrassed looking girl followed at distance from the shadows of a parking garage by a grinning, smoking guy? My head went straight to American Pie and band camp, at which point I was promptly shushed. Do you have any idea what it is like to have all of this to say when it is apparently inappropriate to do so? I was sure my head would explode.

Then there was the choir. Oh, my God, the choir. They weren’t bad, mind you. I’m not a huge fan of choral music though. Their apparent lack of organizational acumen distracted me to no end. In my mind, they should have been arranged in some fashion by height. Ascending order. Descending order. Maybe like a pyramid. Give them all special stools so they were of uniform height. Anything but this random placement based solely on something as arbitrary as voice sections would have aided in calming the twitch in my left eye.

I also took umbrage with what instrument gets to lead. There was no piano present and the extent of my knowledge on lead instruments told me that the piano should lead. Being a former percussionist, I think percussion should lead in the absence of the piano. Doc informed me that the largest string leads when there is no piano. See where I’m going with this? If the piano makes noise by banging on strings with little hammers, it is clearly a percussion instrument. Without the hammers, it’s just a box full of wire. Therefore, the biggest drum should lead. In this case that would be the timpani. Boom! Percussion dominance established.

I should direct a symphony. The biggest drum would reign supreme. Center stage would be dominated by the largest Japanese hurricane drum I could find, and the choir (if I had one) would be as uniform in height as a platoon of Imperial Storm Troopers. Also, the members of the string section could consort freely with members of the brass section without the apparent stigma currently keeping two lovers from openly professing their affections. My symphony would be awesome. And possibly syphilitic. You never know where brass players have been.

It’s all about Sex. Except for Power and Ants

Oscar Wilde said that “Everything is about sex except sex. Sex is about power”. So, now I am second guessing this. If everything is about sex except for sex because sex is about power, then by extension isn’t power about sex because it is part and parcel to the “everything” that is about sex? BAM! Take that Foucault! Ooooh. Too soon? Or maybe too insensitive. I don’t do well at sensitive. Which is probably about sex and power since Oscar Wilde and Sigmund Freud apparently drank together and made everything about sex. But is everything about sex? Even power? Certainly, power can get you sex. Why else would beautiful women throw themselves at Pablo Escobar? Have you seen that dude with his tiny shirts and bloated belly? This is not the kind of dude I have been led to believe that women are attracted to. So here I sit, wracking my brains in an attempt to find something that is about something that isn’t about sex.

Behold! I’ve found it. *gesticulation with hands to mimic a magician. Leaf Cutter ants

Leaf cutter ants are almost certainly not about sex. I was introduced to them in Panama long ago. As a kid I was impressed by them. They built fortresses guarded by ferocious warriors who would rather lose their bodies than let go of you when you offended their heads. I loved screwing their world up when I was a kid.

I was all “HAHAHA! You have infrastructure upon which to move these leaf bits to your oppressive bourgeoisie figurehead? BOOM! I am Ant-Shiv! Destroyer of Ant-Worlds!” Then I would wipe out their puny ant roads and march impudently through their crumbling fortifications and laugh as they scurried about in confusion at the absence of their pheromone trails.

Look. I was in third grade. Don’t judge me.

Then they were all “Screw you and your liberation false deity!” As they deployed their Soldier caste to bite my legs and leave me with a primitive version of surgical stitches. Good times…

So, everything is about sex except for sex and leaf cutter ants. Sex is about power which makes it about sex. Leaf cutter ants are about pain that has nothing to do with sex. Seriously. That kind of pain isn’t kinky or in any way beautiful. There is nothing sexy about having pincers the size of your fingernail latch onto your delicate boy bits and leave just a bitey head attached while you run screaming and simultaneously stripping through the streets in a third world country wearing the tighty whities that should have kept ant heads off of your dangly bits.

PS. I like rum

PPS. I am also an proponent of the “write drunk, edit sober” philosophy.

 

Dear Army Sock Maker

Dear Army sock maker,
You suck. Find a new line of work. Preferably one that does not require the matching of length or color on anything under the sun. I pulled out eleven different socks this morning. I have no clue as to where the twelfth might have absconded. Though I did notice new coat hangers in my closet I have no recollection of buying. This may confirm the theory that socks are indeed the larval form of wire coat hangers. Given enough incubation time in a drier, they hatch and migrate under the cover of darkness to their point of origin to guard the other larvae. These eleven unhatched coat hangers are from a two different packs of size large, allegedly olive drab socks. Of these eleven, there were ten different sizes and 47.3 varying shades of a drab that were most assuredly not olive. Any olive that shade is unfit for human consumption. Some socks had entire panels turned almost tan and the panel for the top of the foot on one sock was rust colored. I refuse to relinquish them though as I insist upon get my money’s worth out of them.

Sincerely,
Me

P.S.

Your elastic vendor is ripping you off too and may be slipping spaghetti noodles into your purchases. Serves you right.

In Extremis

It happens every year. The Army mandated flu vaccine. I despise it more than I despise the anthrax and small pox vaccines. These are pretty much my top three most hated injections. This year was something of an anomaly in that I got all three of these. The trifecta of doom. Anthrax and flu happened on the same day. Once again I am left questioning the safety of combining diseases within my person and since the flu shot always gives me the flu, I had no way of really knowing if I was displaying anthrax symptoms or just flu symptoms.

As per my standard operating procedures, I filled out the pre-injection questionnaire with the claim that I do in fact experience a serious reaction to the flu shot.

“What kind of reaction do you have to the vaccine, Chief?” The medic asked.

“I get the flu.”

“That doesn’t count, Sir. Besides, it’s an inactive form of the virus. It can’t make you sick.” She used the same line of logic offered by the last twelve medics to give me a shot twenty-four hours before I get the flu.

“Look,” I began. “If I don’t get the shot, I have a 50/50 chance at not getting sick. With the shot, I get sick 100% of the time. Just let me take my chances.”

“Sir. This cannot make you sick.”

“So why do pregnant people, people with babies, and people with elderly at home get told not to take the shot? It’s right there on your questionnaire.” I needed to try a different tack.

“Because those people are more susceptible to the flu and we can’t risk injected people around those high-risk ones, Chief.”

“And you don’t see a flaw in this logic, do you?” I asked.

“Sir?”

“Just get it over with.” I caved.

It may be psychosomatic, but I always experience headaches shortly after this shot. I was looking for that reaction as I put my uniform top back on.

“Chief, you’re due for anthrax as well.”

“You can’t be serious. Is that even safe? You just gave me the flu.” I pulled my top back off and offered the same arm.

“Other arm, Sir.” The next medic said.

“But I got small pox in that arm.”

“When?” He began to put the syringe down.

“Four months ago.”

He picked it back up.

“Wait!” I balked. “You are going to inject one cow disease into the site of another cow disease? You medics are worse than the Russians who weaponized these cow diseases.”

So here I sit. In Korea with the flu, the muscle pain that accompanies the anthrax shot, and a bio-hazard bag of small pox band-aids under my sink that I’m afraid to turn in because the scab went missing. Hopefully down the shower drain, but I’ve already covered that in a previous post. I’m a walking biological weapon or self incubating petri dish at this point. I’m pretty sure Monty Python’s boys would gladly hurl my carcass over the castle walls at the French…

How I Became an Extroverted Introvert

My wife pointed out that I am no longer the introverted guy she married 20 years ago. This got me to thinking about how this came to pass. She is right (don’t ever tell her I said that) about me having been an introvert. I have leaned that way since I can remember. I was always awkward socially, terrible with and terrified by the opposite sex, reclusive, antisocial, and a bit of a fire bug. Basically a serial killer in the making if documentaries are to be believed. I never hurt animals though. I quite preferred their company to that of people. Sometimes I still do, truth be told.

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Really. Who wouldn’t prefer the company of these guys?

This isn’t me these days. Except for the socially awkward part. If you’ve read any of my blog entries, you’ll have seen some of the things that run through my head. More often than not, these things come out in social settings. Typically, they induce uncomfortable silences from those that hear me. Then I have to fill the silent void with things in hope of making it entertaining. My wife thinks this is how I came to be afflicted with Moosa. She still claims it to be a demented fabrication, but she’s a psychologist, not an M.D. If she was up to speed on her dementia she would know that mad cow is often mistaken for Alzheimer’s which is a form of senile dementia. And that is just half of the mutated thing I dubbed Moosa. Don’t judge me.

That said, memory is a funny thing. I don’t remember certain things that happened while living on Fort Riley, Kansas, that still entertain my parents to this day. I wasn’t even in the first grade yet, but they laugh when they tell me how I put little balls of poo in my dad’s combat boots. I don’t remember rubbing my junk on the sliding glass door while standing between the curtain and the glass. I guess it kind of freaked my mother out who was in the back yard watching funnel clouds with her friends only to have them point out a scrawny kid hitting a home run with a glass door while grinning like an idiot. Good times. These are the kinds of things I wish I could remember so I could introduce them as topics of discussion in polite company. Now they are just second hand stories rather than my own.

The crap I do remember from back then actually kind of sucks. Like my first exposure to a group of bullies. It was the same day I found a puppy and tried to keep it behind a little stone wall so I could go ask permission to keep it. I had to go back outside and break the bad news to the puppy, but dogs have really good ears and apparently he’d already heard through the walls and left without a goodbye. I clearly remember how upset I was. My mother skillfully distracted me by tying a cape around my neck so I could be superman. I must have been superman for days because it was just a few days later when I “flew” around to a friend’s back yard that I met my kryptonite for the first time. A group of older kids had my friend in tears and began threatening him with bodily harm if he didn’t beat me up. I decided I should be elsewhere because this was so not cool. They formed a ring around me and the butt kicking commenced. Brock Lesnar couldn’t have done a more thorough job. I dragged myself home and swore off of capes and became a bit of a recluse… for the next 20 years.

Somewhere in my mind, I linked that event to the Army. It’s understandable, I suppose. Most of my life has been linked to the Army. I guess my point is that I think this is where my reclusive, socially awkward nature originated. It didn’t help that we moved every three years and I was forced to find that one other kid with no friends. That got really weird when that other kid was female and we were both beginning to recognize that the other gender was more interesting than our own.

I think I’ve figured out when the shift took place in the social arena though. I didn’t like the idea of my brothers being in a combat zone while I sat safely ensconced in my isolation. I’d already been married to my wife for seven years and at 31 years old, I enlisted in the Army. I turned 32 the day I arrived at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, to become a cannon crew member.

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I was driven and climbed the rank ladder as fast as I could. Consequently, I was forced to be in front of a squad. I had to teach, coach, mentor, and lead young soldiers. This is pretty tough for one who has lived as introvert for decades, yet I was fairly proficient at it and this eventually led to my becoming a platoon Sergeant. The point is that the Army forced me out of my shell, made me face the uncomfortable and overcome it. I’d found my niche and that niche was in front of some of the finest human beings I’ve ever known.

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So here I am. A mid-forties social bug who now embraces the awkwardness. I love my unique brand of oddness. There was a time during which my concern over other people’s perception of me was absolutely debilitating. I’m glad that is gone. I like being the guy at a formal military ball who removes his dress blue uniform top to reveal his dress shirt’s sleeves and back panel are colorful patches containing bulldogs on motorcycles.

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I was the only person in the room full of officers and senior NCOs wearing a “party shirt” and it created a strange sort of conversational ripple as people turned to look. It was actually fun rather than mortifying. Now I kind of enjoy it when I introduce a topic of discussion that leaves others feeling awkward and unsure of how to respond. Welcome to my world, peeps! Embrace yours. It’s the only one you got.

You’ll Never Find Your Super Power While Wearing Clothes

I had a fun little thought while I was showering this morning. The bathroom is where most of my most interesting thoughts come from, after all. I like to think that my best thoughts arrive in the bathroom because clothes inhibit free thought and creativity. I’m telling you, if I were dressed right now I’d still be staring at a blank page with no idea where to begin. Sure, one might mistakenly think the shower thought phenomenon is due to the absence of distractions in the bathroom. There’s just the mirror. And maybe some books. Not in my bathroom though. E-readers don’t live long in there. Other than shaving my face, I can’t tell you when the last time I even looked in the mirror. Except for that time last year when my face started sliding off in the hospital. OK. So that was the last good look in the mirror. But in my defense, one’s face sliding off is something one shouldn’t miss. I was all “Yo, Adrian! I can’t spit.”, but my wife didn’t think it was funny and neither did the doctor who immediately had my head rushed into an inordinately loud magnetic tube. Anyway, the whole blaming it on distractions thing seems like a bit of a stretch. It’s totally the clothing’s fault.

So I was rinsing the soap out of my hair (and no I don’t use shampoo because Army regulation keeps my hair so short that shampoo seems like a purely superfluous amenity) when I realized that my eyes were open. Not that big a deal at first glance, but bear with me. I thought back and realized that I’d been doing this whole open eyed thing for most of my life. When I was a child though, I could chemical burn my corneas in the shower with eyes shut and goggles on while using baby shampoo. It took no effort whatsoever. Now it feels like I have to put forth a great deal of effort to get lye flavored pain in my eyes. Not that I want to do so of course, but you get the idea.

I puzzled it out and had something like an epiphany. One or two things could have occurred to make this possible. 1) As I aged I grew this Neanderthal-like forehead that shields my eyes while the wrinkles I developed serve to divert water away like drainage ditches. And 2) My ludicrously thick eyebrows serve as self-grown sham-wows that soaks up all the water and protects my eyes.

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I actually felt the need to go watch that commercial right then and ended up watching Apocalyptica and people interacting with pet ocelot videos. The ocelots, of course, took me to an Archer episode… Sorry. I’m back.

The point is that my body reacted to external threats and mutated accordingly kind of like when Deadpool spent the weekend in that little chamber-o-torture to make his mutations manifest. Long story short: I’m one of the X-Men, y’all! One childhood dream now checked off the bucket list. Granted, it may not be effective against Magneto, frost giants or dark elves, and it’ll get me nowhere with Scarlett Johansson unless I paint myself green and live as an angsty teenager who then develops a gothy “I’m always angry” attitude. Maybe I could jump brands and use my unique abilities to help the Justice League fight Poseidon. BAM! Problem solved. ‘Tis what I do. Well, that and divert water.

Doc is going to be so stoked when she gets this call in the morning!

If anybody has good name suggestions for a dude who fights off evil with his water dissuading facial features, please share.