Archive for January, 2008

I’ve been out of sorts the last few days. The shock to my nervous system from finishing the revisions “shocked the monkey”, and I found myself entering near dementia with all the psychic ripples in my “Motorhead” pond. My personal hygiene took a nosedive, and while I managed to maintain the outward operations of business-as-usual, inside I felt as if my efforts had stirred up a lot of detritus from the depths of my own personal Mud Lake.

These kinds of stunned doldrum episodes can last for days, with all manner of images, memories and ideas coming to the surface. This time, I was ready with my glass-bottomed boat to catch a glimpse of whatever mudgulpers might wade past. Oh, wow, the things that I caught a glimpse of, I’m going to need an additional vacation to meditate on. The Icky Girl Power really made an impact on me. Which is okay, because I was voluntarily leading with my jaw this time. But crumbs, I really got it handed to me this time, and the tussle ain’t over yet! Thank goodness I got more skills and tools this time around.

One of this things that came to the surface was my old childhood fascination with the old television series In Search Of…, and some of the subject matter from that show. In case you never saw it, Leonard Nimoy (yes, Mr. Spock) hosted a half hour show program in which an attempt was made to explain some “mystery” from a list of “extraterrestrials”, “magic and witchcraft”, “missing persons”, “myths and monsters”, “lost civilizations” and “strange phenomena”. Leonard Nimoy would narrate as evidence was put forward, scenes were re-enacted, and highly dubious explanations were put forward. All of this was accompanied by a synthesizer soundtrack that can only be called “eerie”, “otherworldly”, and “scary as all hell”.

My memories from that time are a little dim, but I couldn’t get the soundtrack out of my mind, nor could I get over the episode about Bigfoot, which frightened the poop out of me as a youngster. Fears that Bigfoot would break into my house and attack stem from various sources during the seventies, but this program did nothing to help with that, and I would be very afraid at night, staying up late with the light on and wondering what I could do to protect myself.

So I hit the old Youtube pool and found a host of episodes from the show, including the Bigfoot episode. Many of the episodes I remember seeing. Crumbs, I’d forgotten how much I used to be a regular watcher. The music was even creepier than I remember, and even in the safety of my own home, I felt the clutch of fear from childhood return. Every unknown noise freaked my scene out! The music from the UFO episode caught a hold of my brainstem and started to replay in my head even after I’d stopped watching.

Then I found the scariest episode of all for me. The one about the Amityville Horror. That episode scared me so bad I had to sleep with the covers on and with a flashlight in my hand back then. There’s this scene where a doll’s eyes open and turn red with a satanic glow, and that scene gave me many sleepless nights. Actually watching the episode, with the spooky red room, the story behind the doll (an evil monster imaginary friend that would mess a kid up for life), and the scene with the girl singing “silent night” on and off as she went in and out of a room, well all that stuff brought back so many memories in a flood that I had trouble sleeping for several days.

At night, I tossed and turned so much K sent me to the couch downstairs. And even with three dedicated cat protectors, they all fled upstairs and left me alone to freak out about Bigfoot, UFOs, the voices of plants, Dracula, and of course the scary doll creature from the Amityville Horror. It didn’t help that I had to go into the basement to use the Jakes at night, to avoid waking up K (her own work situation has taken a rather weird turn, so she needed the sleep). I heard phantom cats using the catbox in the basement, I felt cold chills from sixth sense spooks, and images of horror flashed before my eyes before I could flip light switches on.

And meanwhile, my old fears of Icky Girl Power came back to me as well. Blob capable of coming through the sink as I wash my hands sends thrills down my spine. Green slime from the UFOs with Leonard Nimoy narration as spooky music plays in my head over and over. This goes on for two nights. I’m scared out of my wits with childhood memories and present day fright seizing a hold of me so bad I’m afraid to close my eyes and get off the couch. So I go back and watch the episodes again, and I wonder why on earth these things aren’t on DVD, because its a fabulous show.

I mentioned skills and tools. Well, I’m not a kid anymore, at the complete and total mercy of the unknown, although I’m not immune to it. Maybe the only difference is that I know how much I stink, both in terms of hygiene and ability to cope. I refuse to let the spectres of fear dancing on my head completely have their way. I engage them in dialogue, I demand they explain themselves. I interact with Bigfoot, I chase off the UFOs, yelling at them “HEY! YOU FORGOT YOUR BUTT PROBE!” like a stupid fool. I confront the scary red eyed doll as big as I am trying to choke the life out of me and I say “That all you got?” I can’t explain the impossible conflict between my pathetic little life and the vast unknown, because it makes no sense and there’s no solution.

Except that things start to happen. You can’t reach into the deep slime and not be affected, but neither can the unknown. The night terrors don’t fade when the sun comes up, nor does the immediacy of their demands, but then the music I’ve been listening to lately starts playing in my head. All the CDs I got for Xmas, The Verve, The Ocean Blue, and my new obsession, Neko Case, who has been a phenomenal find for me. It’s as if something else wells up inside of me and gives me a break. I step back and I get my head back on straight. My fears take on different shapes and forms, and I realize things are trying to talk to me and tell me important information. I’m not safe, but I’m not completely vulnerable either, and I write down stuff.

The psychic wave passes, and I start getting a hold of things again. I know I’m going to have to dive again into the waves, but its okay, there’s all sorts of scary, interesting, and lively material for me to tackle when I’m ready. I clean up my act, shave and shower, brush my teeth, all that good stuff, and I feel a little human again. I don’t smell so bad, nor does my breath make me want to gag anymore. Important stuff is happening. There are ghosts in my house, and I’m doing my best to relate to them. I didn’t even know how scared I was of Icky Girl Power until I went in search of it. I don’t know if I can come up with some of the outrageous explanations Leonard Nimoy posits in the show (some of them are really WTF moments of logical deduction), but when it comes to the irrational and the subjective, perhaps the way out really is in.

Some things are better left unknown. If you swim in the dark lake at night, you have to be ready to scrape your feet on the slimy skin of the creatures that might be resting on the lakebed. Maybe our explanations for the unknown are no better than the ridiculous assertions of the show. And sometimes you catch a glimpse of something wonderful, or you feel something slither under your feet as you tread water, and you get to tell a tale gathered around the warmth of a fire in the dead of winter.

Last night, the mysterious unknown did its thing, while I had a good night’s sleep.

Now that I’m taking a temporary break from the writing madness, psychological feedback has set in, and I’m feeling out of sorts.  My brain hurts, as if Gumby took two bricks and bashed them together with my head in the middle.  Yet, I’m wired and can’t seem to relax.  Strange aches and pains are showing up all over my body.  The cats must sense this disturbance in The Farce.  They’ve been laying on me and falling asleep all of yesterday and last night.  “Quick, he full of hole, pin him down!”  Sheesh.

A year ago yesterday, I started writing my book. I’d accumulated my material and worked out the framework about four months prior to that, but it was January 20th when I sat down and got busy. In three months, I’d written the draft – what I like to call the naked ore version. Since then, for the last nine months I’ve been working on the revsions to beat the book into shape and flesh out the material. The last few days have been the hardest, since the most difficult revisions have been near the end. I’ve re-written characters, scenes and descriptions in numerous places. In others I’ve taken out things that didn’t work, or I’ve added things I hadn’t thought of at the time. All during this time I’ve scoured the internets for information on how to make my writing better, and ways to improve my story. I’ve hit the bookstores and the libraries on the off chance I might find something useful. I’ve also dug through my own piles of available information for inspiration and contemplation.

Surprisingly, I found that things came to me at the right times, as if doors opened up for me because I had decided to do this thing. I’ve been devouring knowledge and in some cases, spitting out or tossing aside what didn’t make sense to me or didn’t work. I’ve been working on my formula, my own personal special sauce and it’s a blast. Difficult work, but addictive and exciting.

Now that the major revisions are done, and on a strangely auspicious date, I can ready myself for the next step – the polish and editing stage. I don’t anticipate it will be as tough as the first revison, but I have a suspicion it will take some time. I’ve already noted 3 or 4 places that will require a further revision, and there are some continuity issues that don’t quite fit together. There’s also the question of errors and mistakes that might lie hidden. I’ve caught most of them, but I just know there are many left. I’m just going to have to rely on an outside perspective for that angle.

For now, I’m going to step back for a little while, and let the whole immensity of it percolate and brew. I’m going to spend the next week or so concentrating on my cover choices, and refreshing my memory on what kinds of requirements I have to work within for Lulu. I’m very excited, because this is a major step forward for me in getting my work out there for people to experience. I’m making stuff!

Okay, so I’ve been digested and electrocuted. Now what? Time to get slimed, that’s what! This creative exercise isn’t through yet. Moving on from The Green Slime, the next thing that came to the front of my ape’s brain was an old board game I used to have. In terms of timelines, it does seem like I’m moving forward. I saw Beware! The Blob first, then I was exposed to The Green Slime. Now comes the moment when I had the Slime Monster boardgame!

This is getting into the late seventies. Around that time you could buy these small plastic trashcans of greenish slime. There was also a purple slime version with plastic worms inside of it. Don’t ask me what you were supposed go do with the stuff. If it got on the carpet it was very hard to get out. It tended to dry out over time and lose its “slimeness”. If you didn’t get it out of the carpet before it dried up, it turned into something resembling cement. And the slime always smelled gross.

Along comes this game complete with four plastic victims looking up and screaming in agony, four land mines with counter lever action, a spinner for movement, and best of all a plastic slime monster with tub of slime. The monster came in four pieces. There were the two legs, a body cavity with two drool funnels, and a top with the creature’s tiny forelegs and yellowy eyes. The creature was, of course, quite green.

The object of the game was to get from one part of the board to the armory at the end without getting “slimed”. At the start of the game you plopped the slime from the tub into the body cavity part of the monster and put the “top” on. The slime slowly began to ooze out the fangs and onto the game board. The monster moved around randomly, leaving a growing trail of goop. I’m not sure what happened to your game piece if it found itself under the slime monster by some twist of ill luck, but I’m sure it wasn’t good.

If you reached the armory, you would get a mine and start moving it around in anticipation of where the monster would move next. The monster’s feet were curled, with a space under them for the mine to be slid under. If it landed on a space that was mined, you slammed your fist down on the lever and ker-splat! The monster would flip over and fall apart, spewing slime everywhere. Hooray, the slime monster is defeated! Talk about an incentive to be first to blast the slime monster to kingdom come. Oh, yeah, usually this meant slime got on the carpet.

What might this have to do with the current round of psychological inquiry? This time we have the entire process put down to a friendly boardgame, rather than a cinematic re-enactment. The point, as before, is to survive long enough to reach the “solution”, or the “goal”, whereupon one receives the ability to deal with the “monster”. In this case, the “monster” has evolved from a formless jelly, to a charged physical entity, and now to a toy that incorporates both solid and semi-liquid characteristics. The monster’s hostility has been overcome and assimilated into a simple, but instructive play device for children.

Or is it perhaps that the game embodies a ritual experience of the actual re-enactments? The risk is that the carpet will be stained (or a mess made), so the actual “danger” of the original experience is still present to a degree. Unlike the stalemate of the movies, this suggests an actual beginning (slime monster comes to town) and an end (slime monster goes ker-blooey). Is this what the manifestation of the unconscious, this ultra feminine force ultimately wanted to arrive at? A figure in a kid’s game? The blob, the green slime, the slime monster, they just wanted to play and have fun (and devour, electrocute and stain the carpet) since they were in the neighborhood?

Don’t get caught by the yucky scary monster until someone turns the tables. Good real life survival advice. And learning to play with the unconscious and understand its contents is also good real life mental health advice. But the deeper message, I think, is that these movies and the boardgame not only reveal a process and a lesson, they also speak of the fear people have of female power. There’s a need to throw up taboos and superstitions in order to protect one’s identity from the invasion of this powerful force. A lot of the activity by the protagonists consists of running away, putting up barriers, and searching for ways to contain the threat. But the contamination of cooties is never defeated for long, just until the next outbreak. The next eruption into consciousness finds the problem needing to be dealt with again and again.

A certain amount of active participation is needed to move forward (even if the activity is still primarily reactionary and hostile), or else everyone would be gobbled up into unconsciousness. A relationship of any kind requires an interaction of back and forth to arrive at a conclusion of any consequence. The solution in this case seems clear to me. Female power wants to play and have fun! Okay, so that complicates things and makes for unpredictability. It’s a real problem though. A lot of the world is still stuck in the Blob mentality.

Where are you on the scale? Do you have a boardgame for your encounter with female power yet? Me, I’m going to need a break from all this playtime. Running away from the yucky scary monster until I can turn the tables is exhausting work, even for a dedicated weirdo like me. As the credits start to roll, I wonder what might be the next stage of development in this imagination.

The end?

Okay, so like I’m eaten alive by the Blob, right? Well, no. If only it were that easy. There’s another movie in the chain of gross girl germs that unsettled my young brain stem when it comes to female power archetypes. It’s an old movie known as The Green Slime. It’s a science fiction movie where an asteroid is hurtling towards Earth on a collision course. Of course, that means bad news, so the space men and women of the international space station of action and adventure send a rocket to the asteroid to set a bunch of atomic charges and blow the space rock sky high before it hits the Earth. The space people accomplish their task, but when they return to the space station, their boots are covered in a green slime they picked up on the asteroid.

The space suit cleaners blast the suits with “germ killing energy”, except this slime absorbs energy and grows into two-tentacled, one-eyed monsters that kill through electrocution by touching you. The more energy the creatures absorb, the more they multiply. Pretty soon, the creatures start to slowly take over the space station and the crew fights a losing battle against them.

The creatures can be killed (by laser blasts from the laser guns the crew carry), but there are so many of them, that the crew is unable to do more than give ground and think of ways to slow them down. Eventually, the crew blow up the space station and escape in a rocket back to earth. But is this really “The End?” The green slime might have managed to get on the rocket, which the way the movie ends you can’t help but wonder.

This is another one of those movies that scared the pants off me. There’s a scene where a maintenance worker is trying to repair a circuit room that has lost power, back when the green slime creatures are only just starting to infest the station in individual incidents. It’s dark, and the guy is bumbling about, when this glowing eye opens. You know the dude is doomed. That scene where the eyeball opens has scarred me for life!

How did I get to here from the Blob? I let the free association carry me to the next line of thought, and I remembered this old movie. You didn’t want to touch these creatures, because they’d electrocute you and you’d turn into a crispy critter. Like the Blob, their presence grows greater with every scene, and they take over what up until now has been a nice, orderly male-dominated space game. It’s another of those “escape the onset of evil icky goo power” movies. Again, we have the invasion from outer space of a “monster slime”, and once more it’s up to the hetero-normal couple to work together to fight against the evil menace of nasty alien contamination.

This time the fear is not so much of being “eaten” by the Ultra-Feminine Uber Goop, but of being touched and losing control. It’s a development in terms of the psychological outlook behind this adventure yarn. The danger is more individualized (by the numerous collective tentacled creatures) and easier to deal with (gun phallic symbols actually work now), but the problem is unchanged. The transport vehicle (a tiny rock in The Blob, a tiny canister in Beware! The Blob, now an asteroid you can land a rocket on in The Green Slime) has grown in size, suggesting a more immediate impact problem. Green is the color of putrification, and of rot. It is also the color of spring growth. Things are growing and at the same time rotting away. There is change and transformation going on.

The movie has to present the typical fear of a feminine force “moving in” and draining all your energy away for it’s own purposes, taking over by means of gradual increase of numbers. The only solution is to “break up” by “exploding” the residence the encounter takes place in, also known as the space station of “the relationship”. But that only works until the next asteroid shows up. There seems to me to be another puzzle here, where the issues of the Blob were not resolved. Instead of “the present”, we are in a sci-fi “future world”, indicating this happens later along the line. The issues are the same, contact and inter-relation. But how do you relate to crazy green aliens with tentacles, coming toward you to give you the electric embrace of crispy death?

Okay, so the Blob relationship didn’t work. Here comes a new relationship, and things are similar, if not quite the same as before. It’s another go, as it were, and now you have to deal with more mature concepts (moving in, cooperative adaptation, boundaries – how much are you willing to put up with before you bogue out and call it even). One could look at it as simple case of infection, like a skin rash or athlete’s foot, to be treated with medicine as one would any non-intelligent (as far as we know) life force intruding upon our territory. Or one could imagine it as a wake-up call to learn a new lesson in relating to something important.

Obviously the unconscious thinks this is important enough to keep sending rocks-as-spaceships to establish contact. The problem is, the slime takes over everything, as a psychic infection is likely to do. It destroys personal relationships and wrecks the rules by which a society lives by. The ego has no choice but to enter a reactive state and try to preserve its fragility by retreat, stalling and in this case, scorched earth.

I say thee nay! I’m going right up to these green slime monsters and I’m bringing rubber gloves and boots. Shock me Amadeus.

It’s a typical Satyrday night. I’m mixing up the medicine, a nice tangy rum punch designed to make me more receptive to the forces of the universe while I do my chores. One can easily learn the secrets of Kung Fu while scrubbing the bathtub of scrum, it’s all a matter of training. I’m also chopping up the ingredients for my yummy beef stew. K and are planning to watch some Grey’s Anatomy to a steaming bowl of stew and a glass of thick, rich milk to make a party in our tummys (so yummy, so yummy).

Cooking is an unpredictable venture. The formula of a recipe should ensure a consistent result every time, but the real world operates on a random adventure generator on a regular basis. You can’t always count on what kind of experience you are going to get out of life. So it is that as I’m mixing up the punch, it turns a brilliant red, and no matter how much I try to get it to behave, it remains red, instead of the off-orange and feathery brown it usually is. I examine my ingredients, and realize I bought a bunch of juices that have nothing to do with the original recipe. Well, it’s always dinosaur hunting when I have to go to the supermarket, and its likely that the robots in disguise had me so distracted that someone else pulled the strings when I made my juice selections. I do try to be open to outside messages, after all.

I start work on the stew, and for some reason it turns out a deep red color instead of the brown-brothy color it usually does. I look at my ingredients and I realize that instead of using my jar of home-jarred tomatoes, I used a can of Nature’s Promise tomatoes instead. I shake my head and realize I’m acting on some kind of puppet-master control field and try to get to the bottom of things. The stew and the rum punch taste excellent, it’s just they are, well this shade of red that I feel means something. You know, like in that scene from Close Encounters when the main character starts realizing there’s some meaning to what they are building with a mountain of mashed potatoes.

So I sit down and I visualize the color red in my mind, and decide to see what comes up. The image that flashes into my brain is the Blob, from the old 1972 movie Beware! The Blob, a sequel to the original movie in 1958. Whoa, that takes me back. The last thing I want to do is consume anything that reminds me of the Blob, because that thing was a deadly poison that killed and consumed you if you touched it! But here I am sucking down a ceramic cup of the good stuff and preparing a pot of stew that has a meaningful connection to that which scared the pants off me as a kid.

As a young pouchling, I watched a lot of movies on the TV. Back then independent stations were more common, and even the big networks had a creative side. The late night monster movies were a staple back then, and you could always be assured of picking up something weird past ten P.M. One movie I saw was, of course, Beware! The Blob. It made an impression on me as a kid.

At the end of the original The Blob movie, the creature known as the Blob is frozen and dumped somewhere in the north pole with the titles “The End?” showing. The intimation is that this is not the end of the matter. Beware! The Blob (also known as Son of the Blob, which I think is false, more like daughter of the Blob) picks up from that loose end.

An oil pipeline worker digs up a canister and brings it home. The canister contains, you guessed it, the Blob. It thaws out, and starts eating everything in sight. A pair of young love birds clue in to the danger while the authorities stall. The blob is a nasty, icky, bright red jelly creature that can move quickly and squeeze through any crack to reach it victims. It sticks to you like glue, and quickly engulfs you to digest your body. As it absorbs animals, insects and people (it apparently doesn’t like plants) it grows in size. The only thing that stops it is cold. If you freeze it, the blob can be stored and transported (as it was in the original movie).

In Beware! The Blob, the final showdown occurs in a skating rink, where the hero of the movie finally lures it onto the ice rink and turns on the cold, freezing the creature and saving the town. The sheriff poses in front of the creature, and the lights of the news media thaw a piece of the creature where it reaches out to grasp the guy’s boot. Again, the titles “The End?” appear as the movie ends.

This movie terrified me as a kid. The Blob could appear anywhere and strike quickly. Once it got a hold of you, there was no escape. You would live long enough to be absorbed into the creature and turned into liquid lunch. In one scene, a guy gets a haircut, and as he’s getting a shampoo from the barber, the blob squeezes out of the sink drain and snags the guy by the head. I absolutely refuse to get my hair shampooed at a hair cut establishment to this day because of that scene.

In the movie, the presence of the creature is always accompanied by a spooky sound tone. That musical tone has lodged itself in my brain, and I always jump when I hear that exact tone of music played somewhere. The Blob ain’t gunna get me! Although, where could you run? Your only hope would be to splash it with cold water or throw ice cubes at it.

The memory is not quite as fierce or terrifying as it used to be. I’ve had to go about my business despite the fear that at any time that sound might begin, and I find myself washing my hands while a red slime oozes out the drain and tries to get a hold of me. But I haven’t forgotten that primal terror, the fear that would keep me from going to sleep at night, because the light in the hall was making that same dull hum as the Blob.

As I’m stirring the pot, and mixing the punch bowl, I realize in a sense I’m consuming the Blob at this very moment! You can’t escape the Blob, only postpone the inevitable. The creature always thaws out and comes at humanity again and again. The test of survival never ends. Of course, in the movies, consuming the Blob is always fatal (the guy who drinks it from his beer can dies horribly as it consumes him from within). The Blob comes from outer space (the deep unconscious), and needs to eat everything in sight (to what end?). The idea of anyone consuming the Blob and surviving is as preposterous as the existence of the Blob itself.

The thought strikes me that the Blob is an archetype of feminine power, engulfing everything and devouring all in its path, growing larger and stronger. I’m cool with that, as long as I don’t lose my own individuality in the process. It’s the hero/heroine pair up in the movie that always defeats the Blob, or more accurately, puts it on hold until next time. So perhaps the individuation of certain characters is what moves the plot along. The Blob is too strong for any one person to take on, and yet, it’s the individual response to the reality of the growing Blob’s power that determines the outcome.

I’m thinking that the Blob represents nothing less than the fear of girl power. That nasty contamination by women that always wrecks things and makes life more difficult. What does the Blob want? It must be looking for a connection of some kind, and anyone who doesn’t measure up to the requirement gets eaten alive. The people who are smart enough to flee or avoid contact with the Blob might be the very people the Blob is trying to contact. The Blob comes from outer space (the heavens), maybe it’s trying to make contact, and the outer space girl power needs to hear a message from the right person to move things forward.

The Blob keeps getting put off, because we love the fear of running from the gross girl germs that might give us cooties. The movies keep coming. But maybe it is way past time the process moved to the next level. Humanity has to grow up eventually, or be stuck in a never-never land of childish dependence. I hear the message, I’m not a kid anymore, and I’m letting the Blob get inside of me!

Being an artistic sort of fellow, I find great pleasure in discovering my inner adaptations of creativity. One tool I am most pleased to have discovered is the sticker. Part of me enjoys combining them in unusual ways to create interesting scenes. Very often I use stickers in my cards for occasions of various sorts, to kick my message up a notch.

I don’t go into rub-on transfers, even though they are superior in appearance to stickers. I’m not much of a fan of the “raised” stickers that seem to have come forth in recent years. Puffy stickers can be good, and interesting textures can make a sticker extra special. But the stickers that amount to paper constructions of animals or accessories with an adhesive backing don’t do it for me.

I’ve been serious about my acquisition of stickers since 1993. That’s when I was playing a lot with stamps, markers and stickers to enhance my letters to friends. I started going into craft stores and picking up stickers that helped me express my metaphysical explorations. Pretty soon I found myself keeping a regular eye out for interesting stickers and they started to arrive. While I wouldn’t consider myself possessed of a rare collection in the least, I like to think I have a wide variety of common stickers that serve my purposes.

The memory-album phenomenon, where you create a photo album and trick it up with stickers, paints and ribbons, never caught a hold of me. I find the concept cool; it just doesn’t float my boat artistically. I like looking at my pictures or my keepsakes individually and then putting them back away in their containers. It’s my particular way of meditating on my past.

So, what do I have? Well, I try to keep a bunch of stickers indicative of holidays like Easter, Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and Saint Patrick’s Day. I keep a lot of dinosaurs, animals and sea creatures. Gemstones, stars, suns and moons. The current popularity of pirates has caused me to develop a large assortment of ships, chests, and treasure maps. Vegetables, fruits, and junk food are in the mix. Flowers, trees and grasses. I’d better not forget the miscellaneous crowd, made up of various strange acquisitions. For example, I have a collection of Botan Rice Candy stickers from my days of raiding the local Japanese food store.

There are sticker books in the mix as well. Usually these are on the higher end of quality. Celtic monograms, Pennsylvania Dutch symbols, Whales, Monsters, and Paintings of famous artists. I usually use these to seal envelopes with, since they are so large and make a nifty centerpiece.

I have gaps in my collection, primarily because stickers are considered a “feminine” activity and therefore most subjects are presented from a nurturing or non-threatening point of view. Sports and military stickers are often just not very “cool”. It’s as if the mainstream sticker manufacturers don’t want the “feminine” audience to get too excited by getting a hold of active or exciting subject matter.

There’s been some change. For example, stickers depicting glasses or containers of alcohol have been showing up, and that’s a plus. Sticker sets with a theme (like the wild west) have allowed certain types of symbols to leak into the mainstream. But for the most part it’s very hard to get stickers of, say, spaceships, construction equipment, or race cars.

I imagine there’s this character walking around town dropping off sticker packs at various random locations. This character is able, by means of advanced magical technology, to keep tabs on what people are buying where and when, and who they are. I like to call this character the “Sticker Stasher”. Now if I could only find out where this elusive being is hiding all the good stuff!

Every now and then I come across a new store with a forgotten stand of stickers at the back, and then “everything’s coming up videos”. Or a fresh batch of stickers with a new take on Xmas trees or presents will come in, and I can use them to replenish my stock. There are the bargain bin collections for a buck where you pick up several hundred awesome first-rate farm stickers. And of course the odd sticker collection that comes as a bonus with some other craft set you buy. Pick up a box of cards, get some stupendous frog stickers while you’re at it!

I wonder how certain stickers come into my possession. Is the Sticker Stasher teasing me with small crumbs, testing my devotion to this lost art of accumulating instant symbols for accentuation? Oh, will I ever level up and see some new trick or glorious collection? In the meantime, I’ll have to content myself with such odds and ends as I can find, and making things of interest to delight my friends and those fortunate few who find themselves receiving a surprise.

As I mentioned earlier, I encountered an advent calendar with some issues I found disturbing. Well hey, the unpredictability continued and I recorded the results. I don’t know what to make of it other than a mistake in the printing process, which is the likely explanation. If I take it as a meaningful coincidence, then I chose it out of the large pile of calendars because it belonged to me. The calendar of mismatched pictures in need of a person capable of unlocking their secrets. And so I shall! The time has come to make sense of the senseless jumble before me!

Dec 11
Picture: Scary snowman smoking a pipe, with branches for arms
Candy: What look like a pair of boots from the eighties
Meaning: To stay ahead of the evil snowman, use the moonwalk boots

Dec 12
Picture: A pair of ice skates
Candy: A snare drum with drumsticks
Meaning: Use the skates to cross the frozen lake, then play the drum to crack the ice

Dec 13
Picture: A present tied with twine
Candy: A sleigh with three presents in the back
Meaning: The present is a trap! Steal the sleigh and the three wise men’s stuff instead

Dec 14
Picture: A field of stars
Candy: A glob with a halo and wings
Meaning: Don’t look at the night sky, or an alien will appear and kidnap you

Dec 15
Picture: Sleigh
Candy: Basket of daffodils
Meaning: Ditch the sleigh at the greenhouse and pick some flowers

Dec 16
Picture: Four lit candles of various sizes
Candy: Wreath of mistletoe with candle in center
Meaning: Put the smallest candle in the wreath to open the wise men’s presents safely

Dec 17
Picture: A child’s wooden sled
Candy: A toy choo-choo train engine
Meaning: The train is useless. Put the gold, frankincense, and myrrh on the sled and drag it behind you.

Dec 18
Picture: A house surrounded by snow
Candy: A boot with a buckle around the ankle
Meaning: Break into Santa’s house and steal one of his boots

Dec 19
Picture: Plate of food, maybe a loaf of bread
Candy: Teddy bear
Meaning: Feed the ravenous bear with the food Mrs. Santa left in the kitchen for her husband

Dec 20
Picture: Two dolls
Candy: Six pointed star
Meaning: Give the dolls the daffodils and they will give you the six pointed star

Dec 21
Picture: A roll of ribbon
Candy: A lantern
Meaning: The lantern is set to explode, take the ribbon in case you need to tie up somebody

Dec 22
Picture: A pile of candy, including lollipops and wrapped sweets
Candy: A mushroom (???)
Meaning: The candy is deadly poison. Eat the mushroom instead to gain an extra life

Dec 23
Picture: The eighties boots, confirming that my identification of Dec 11th’s candy was correct
Candy: A sleeping crescent moon with a nightcap on it
Meaning: Leave the moonwalk boots with the moon. When the moon wakes up, it’ll eat the evil snowman

Dec 24
Picture: A valentine heart with a lit candle sticking out the top (That is so lewd as far as symbols go, I’m taken aback)
Candy: Messed up gremlin looking Santa Claus (K’s own words, as I had no clue)
Meaning: Oh no, Santa Claws has come to get you! He’s a little slow if you took his boot, so use the valentine’s heart from Dec 7 and the second shortest candle to destroy him with the power of love!

So, if I have this right, Christmas is a time of overcoming life-threatening obstacles and gathering the right quest objects to defeat the monsters. I suppose that’s my Xmas experience in a nutshell. This advent calendar was pretty cool now that I think about it. It showed me some weird stuff relevant to my own inner process. I guess we get gifts relevant to our situation if we remain open to the possibility.

Which begs the question, what strange and wonderful things might you run into or pick up by “accident” or “design”? What does that reveal about yourself?

There are times when interacting with the mutants and the alien organisms gets a little too much to put up with. I’m all for the carnival of beings on this planet earth, but steering my cart clear of undead ghouls in the supermarket and jostling with humaniform robots for a parking space? It gets on my nerves. I love that the critters come to pay me visits, but sometimes I feel bad they have to go all the way into the hungry sprawl of the Wump World just to talk to a human being. Too much posse!

It’s at times like these I pack a lunch recharger and a water refueler into my pack, punch in the coordinates for a nature node, and hit the road Jack. Now, unfortunately most nature nodes are also crawling with apprentice-humans, so it’s a bit of a wheel of fortune these days. Too many carbon based units infesting Enterpris…I mean Earth and interfereing with her surface functions. You don’t always get to achieve escape velocity and dodge the psychic gnats of horde sprawl, particularly when it’s a daytrip from your local star system. To get away you have to go way out there, but those sorts of events take planning, lest you end up with a package of gummi bears between you and hunger in a ravine somewhere.

But the forces of nature exert their own pushback, and the ani-mani-mals have means of diverting the humans away from the important places. The struggle to achieve civilization tends to leave psychic scars that make one susceptible to natural misdirection. Fine with me! I’m just here to get away from the freaks and geeks, and enjoy the sensation of less noise. The critters and the growy things are always happy to show you what they got if you will stop thinking for ten seconds and listen. There’s something to be said for the contentment of munching a ketchup and baloney sandwich on a boulder by the riverside while a dragonfly skirts the surface of the water chowing down on mini-flies.

So, one day K and I are doing our duties, when the inhumanoids make an all out attack on our sanity and our patience. We pack up the required allotment of iron rations and hit the nearest Level 1 nature node we can think of for the experience points. We need some cheap level-up, right away! We decide on a river trail park we know that is close enough to be immediately feasible and hit “warp”.

The strip of public land is accessible via a warp trail that goes through some really pricey real estate, where the chronically afflicted with money are wisely separated from the general population as a matter of health. It’s a convoluted road, and easy to get lost in, but people find it just the same. Once you reach the designated de-warp slowdown and landing cycle, the trees envelop your conveyance and the mansions and ranches of the well-to-don’t fade from sight like the recovery of a sick patient under the care of a miracle cure. Park, spin the wheel, and see how infested the grounds are with humans.

Today, the latino fishermen are out in force. These individuals dive into the river and swim towards rocks in the thick of the current. They climb aboard and lay out a simple line and hook, no rod, and catch fish. It’s dangerous, and their disregard of the safety warnings extends towards litter awareness. The rocks along the shore are often littered with empty beer cans and tangled fishing wire. Throw in a steady trickle of generic dweeb family units from whitesville, complete with yowling brats in stroller transports along mud paths, and loud voices proclaiming their fear of not talking which is known to lead to thinking.

K and I hit the trail and reach the broken terrain border, which slows the crowd down and increases the distance between them. Soon, we’re in rocky, dense overgrowth and putting the noise behind us. There always seems to be a point at which the human contamination factor comes up against the power of nature, and you cross over into the “wild zone”. We spot a darkly colored salamander and know we’ve arrived. K examines the growy things while I take in the ambiance and consider what’s on my meditative table for reflection today. Now that I’ve got extra brain power not being tied down by jibber-jabber and personal space violations, I may actually be able to have a thought! Totally awesome.

We find a nice, isolated stretch of boulders enshrouded by trees and plop down to watch the water go by. Time to break out the lunch and bask in the separation from the people. This is what is known in some esoteric circles as honoring the hermit. A lot of emphasis gets placed on how important it is not to be “unmutual”. A lack of social contact is taken as a sign of mental illness. People who want to be by themselves are seen as not being right in the head. Well, taking it to the Carl Jung level, I’d say the same could be said for people who want to always be hanging around other people. Isolation and aversion to people can lead to madness, but it can also lead to intelligence. It’s unhealthy to interact with people all the time.

Grover of Sesame Street sings a song about this (“What Do I Do When I’m Alone?”), which errs on the side of social contact. But it also makes the point you can be alone and it’s okay. As the population of the planet of the apes swells, it becomes more difficult to retreat from the pressure of the collective with all it’s impersonal demands and complications. You can’t have a chit chat with the hermit if you aren’t listening at the door for this elusive person’s knock. If you are willing to retreat from people, you are willing to let people retreat from you. Too often, people turn into psychic cannibals because they start turning towards their fellow people for sustenance. They are so used to being around people all the time, they start becoming pathologically dependent on them for solitude. That’s when the brain-eating happens, and it ain’t pretty.

Go climb a tree is not just a witty saying. It’s a piece of genuine real world advice. Get lost! Bug off. Go away. Leave the tribe and get your head back in gear. Remove yourself from the collective and go to your room. Your sanity depends upon it. Only when you are ready should you go back to the hopper. Judging from the need for people to form unconscious groups even in a park setting, I’d say the vast majority of apprentice humans on this planet still need to work on it.

Back on an even keel, K and I rejoin the horde and slug it out again. Who knows what kind of plot we’ve advanced by taking time out to refresh the health points?

Now that the holiday madness has past, I’ve been able to take stock of the post-santa-claws damage.  My car’s engine mount succumbed to the forces of doom and collapsed, just in time for my yearly inspection.  So I’m socked with a repair cost and delays during the nebulous holiday spirit that means every mechanic is doing the total dodge.  As if that weren’t enough, Frankie caught a lite sneeze, and needed a vet visit to get the kitty drug hook-up.  Sometimes, if you really try, you can feel the jackup gnomes with their vacuum in your wallet.  I must have landed on the square in my personal board game where I have to lose 2 turns.

My friend Liephus gave me a minor linkdump, which gave me a chuckle.  He’s all about the funny, and I think that’s a good a life goal as any.  First off, he sent me a link where a group of video game “experts” do a “scientific” study.  They show a compelling correlation between the time it takes for a game avatar to encounter a “crate” and how good the video game is.  See, it’s a staple in video games that there are crates everywhere.  They conceal “powerups”, “heals”, and “ammunition”.  They are often used as scenery or obstacles to liven up what are otherwise boring environments.  Some games start you out staring at a crate (and therefore are traumatic, horrible games to play), while others take half an hour before you encounter a crate (you have just found gameplay better than any vice you can imagine).

Second, he introduced me to Korean professional StarCraft matches on YouTube.  I think StarCraft is one of the greatest computer games ever made, and a heck of a lot of fun to play, either solo or against other folks.  In the matches, video game players fight to the death on-screen for fabulous glory and prizes.  The Korean announcers lose their marbles following the ebb and flow of play, which is pretty funny.  Some folks dub over them with English (such as DiggitySC), and give it that understated, but deeply satisfying humorous edge.  It’s all about the funny!  Just one more match, and I’ll head off to bed, I swear.

K and I have been watching Grey’s Anatomy, Seasons 1 and 2.  I think House is by far a better “medical” drama, but I like the premise and many of the characters of Grey’s Anatomy.  I loathe the main character, Meredith Grey, however, and her One True Couple counterpart Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd.  She’s very much an example of “The Beautiful Lady without Mercy”, making it all about herself and caring not a whit for what happens to other people.  I sense a post of some kind coming out of this in the future.

My Pa noticed the work I was doing on my rum punch recipe, and gave it the enthusiastic thumbs-up.  Then he passed along to me some vital ingredients.  It appears that I have yet some kung fu techniques to work on, and will likely have to modify my alchemical concoction.  Or perhaps do an addendum post on the matter.  But it’s very encouraging to have my efforts be recognized and have the parental unit pass along another part of the secret recipe down.  On K’s end, she’s been fiddling with crepes, trying to duplicate her Ma’s baffling ability to create rolled-up sugar crepes of smooth munching satisfaction.  She got a pair of really cool cookbooks from the holiday loot-fest, and has been readying to level up her baking skills.  Which reminds me, I have to summon the Cookie Aphid and go back to basics – the Chocolate Chip Cookie of Doom.  I’ve been experimentin’ a little too much, and need to return to solid ground.

Plans for the garden this year are already being made.  The entire garden gang got together the other day and drew up preliminary plans as to what will be planted, and how it will be harvested and stored this year.  There’s some fence work, sod-busting, and composting in my future I fear.  The ground is cold and damp, and the planting many months off.  But this year will be a new level with more hit points and better rolls, I can feel it.