Twenty Answers, Questioned

Listening to the DTMF, darkly, which definitely isn't a looking glass, Alice. 1) Do you have forensic evidence?

2) The proof of that is in the pudding, not the margarine.

3) How do you know?

4) Why do you say that?

5) I doubt it.

6) Not unless I woke up in Maine this morning.

7) What are you, the queen of Shiva?

8) What are you, the king of Vishnu?

9) Did you actually count them?

10) When pigs fly.

11) When flies pig out.

11) When fruit flies.

12) I'll bet you say that to all the liars.

13) That isn't an answer.

14) Why can't we be friends?

15) You must be thinking of the other Bob.

16) I don't think that's what you really mean.

17) Why do you always have to be so mean?

18) Prove it.

19) Is that all you ever think about?

20) Why?


Twenty Questions, Answered

Looking through the glass, darkly, which definitely isn't a looking glass, Alice.

1) If I get all the way through this, do I get a prize?

2) Who do you think will win in 2012? Palin or Quetzalcoatl?

3) When company arrives, is it better to show them the door or wait until they notice it on their own?

4) I hate the twelve days of Christmas. Why can't we have four, or thirteen?

5) How can I be sure that Mick Jagger isn't my biological father?

6) Why does it only hurt when I laugh?

7) What should I do if my mother gives me the finger?

8) Why am I being watched?

9) Why is the alarm on my cell phone waking me at random times during the night?

10) Is there some such thing as Virginia?

11) Our Thanksgiving turkey this year had absolutely no white meat. Neither did our neighbor's. You only like white meat. Do you know anything about that?

12) Why did you take a picture of my bathroom window for this? Are you a stalker?

13) How many morons does it take to unscrew a light bulb?

14) Did Janis Joplin really think that freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose? I mean, nothing left to lose is four words, not one. Or was she just making a joke?

15) Is it possible to be wise and unemployed at the same time?

16) Why is there an interdimensional portal on my front lawn?

17) I don't drink, use drugs, or watch TV. Is something wrong with me?

18) I've been told I have the mentality of a five-year-old. Is that a good thing, or a bad thing?

19) My neighbor says she's my friend, but my friend thinks my neighbor is a liar. Who do I believe?

20) Why?

1) We'll see.

2) Do you think this is my first rodeo? Everyone knows they're the same person.

3) It depends on how many are in the party. Long division is an effective method for separating the company from the crowd, since multiples of three generally indicates a problem during the invitation phase. Multiples of twelve means that someone has removed the hinges, thus eliminating the need for a doorbell.

4) Your revolving credit account doesn't accumulate much interest in only four days, which means your lender's children don't get any toys for Christmas. Thirteen throws off the cadence of the song, which means no one would want to sing it anymore, which means no holiday spirit, which means your lender's children don't get any toys for Christmas. What a Scrooge you are.

5) You can't. No one can ever be completely sure about that.

6) It doesn't, really. It hurts all the time, but laughter has a magnification factor of 10, while weeping only magnifies things by 8x.

7) It should be carried in a shirt pocket, or hung around one's neck on a shoelace. Refrigerators are never appropriate places to store gifts from one's mother.

8) That's paranoid. I'm the one being watched.

9) It isn't. What you perceive as randomness is due to the pseudorandom timing algorithms used for synchronizing spread-spectrum encoding of voices from the other side of town. True randomness occurs only in nature, and is beyond technology's present state of the art.

10) Nice try, Santa. Don't you have something to do right now?

11) No.

12) How do you know it's your bathroom window? Since you brought it up, maybe that's your wavy, distorted face I see every morning while I'm brushing my teeth. Do my teeth fascinate you? If you're so fascinated with teeth, maybe you should get a set of your own. Maybe you should mind you own teeth, stalker!

13) Only one. Those who nod and smile in approval may have a strong aversion to light, or may simply enjoy the sensation that comes from walking into walls.

14) It wasn't a joke. She was being ironic, but that isn't always the same thing. For example, say you lose your wallet in a crowded restaurant, and then when the waiter brings your dinner, there's your wallet hiding under the sirloin. It's ironic because the wallet you ate for dinner was the same one you needed to pay for the dinner you ate, which was really your wallet all along, even though you didn't know it until there was nothing left to lose. Something that's in your stomach isn't lost. That's all Janis was really trying to say.

15) Don't be stupid. Wise people always have jobs.

16) That isn't real. By the way, I'll need the names and addresses of anyone you might have mentioned this to.

17) I'm sure it's nothing. By the way, I'll need the names and addresses of anyone you might have mentioned this to.

18) It depends. Some five-year-olds still require diapers, while others are autonomous, potty-trained adults in miniature. Whether or not the comments you mention are intended in a positive way depends on how you handle yourself in the bathroom.

19) Which one is better looking? That's the one you should believe.

20) Ask Alice. Or Adam. Or Odin.


Exercising Demons

Don't be fooled. It's still a demon. Just cute. Proper nutrition and a daily fitness regimen are as important to our wellbeing as clean laundry. The proof of this can be seen in the faces of those whose steady diet of frozen burritos and soiled undergarments has robbed them of the vim required to get out of bed on weekends. Vim isn't a right but a responsibility, even among those fortunate enough to have only one chin.

In a similar way, the demon with whom you share your body and soul can't be expected to keep its mouth shut at the grocery store if it hasn't done a bloody thing all day. Demons need exercise, too, especially when their nutrition is hampered by the childish whims of their hosts. Of course it's going to whine, and of course it's going to hide inappropriate items in the shopping cart when you aren't looking. And yes, we all know how awkward it is to have to explain why your head is rotating as you wait in the checkout line.

To maintain the health and longevity of one's demon, it's important to recognize the difference between the needs of the otherworldly versus those of the merely physical. While your body may be grateful for the opportunity to walk to the neighborhood convenience store for a pack of smokes, the bulk of your demon exists in the fifth and sixth dimensions, leaving only its four stubby legs on which to navigate the physical plane. Since the average demon is roughly the size of a chipmunk, putting it on a leash for your evening stroll generally isn't worth the time and effort required to fasten a collar around a neck that isn't even in the same dimension to begin with.

Fortunately, there's an easy way to provide your demon with the exercise it deserves. Your local pet-supply store probably already stocks everything you'll need, including the colorful plastic tubing favored by hamsters and other small rodents. How much tubing you'll need depends on the size and layout of your home, but a good rule of thumb is to multiply your home's square footage by 3.14, then add the resulting number to your demon's height in the fifth dimension. An exercise wheel isn't recommended for demonic applications, as demons are nocturnal creatures, and also quite unable to resist the impulse to run.

Its fitness needs met, your demon is less likely to insist on snack foods and other quasinutritional items from your grocer's freezer. This will not only reduce your monthly food bill, it will ease the tension during those long waits in the checkout line. Shopping is sufficiently stressful already without the embarrassment of unwanted head rotation, which isn't going to happen if your demon is sleeping peacefully after a good night's workout.

Of course, if you happen to be a night owlor just an owlthat won't apply to you. If it isn't possible to modify your sleeping habits, you may want to look into the possibility of ordering a demon from a different part of the world, where sleeping hours more closely approximate your own.


Phases of the Dreaming Moon

Escaping the prison planet New moon
Dreamer in the matrix
Many among many
Always alone.

Full moon
Dreamer in the vortex
One among many
Forever alone.

Blue moon
Dreamer in the mirror
Two among many
Never alone.

Excavating the Subbasement of Deity

Don't expect Qaotlkumquatquetzalquat to want eggs for breakfast. As you know, Quetzalcoatl is slated to appearby which I mean reappearin three years, give or take. Since he's been here before, the act of returning will be a relatively straightforward matter, but not every deity owns a reliable timepiece.

Take, for example, Quetzalkvetch and Coatlkvetch, the dissimilar twins abandoned at birth by Quetzalcoatl's mother, who had little desire to multiply by three the dissonant clang of odd consonants rubbing against displaced vowels every evening at suppertime. Cursed with a poor sense of timing and no wrists on which to hang wristwatches, their return to various worlds led to embarrassment when it became evident that they weren't returning so much as arriving for the first time, which, while dramatic, isn't at all the same thing. Sacrifices are difficult to plan when no one is sure which deity might be expecting one, and if there's one thing a vegan deity can't stomach, it's a big plate of hardboiled eggs left on the alter overnight.

Of course, these issues won't be a problem for Qaotlkumquatquetzalquat, Quetzalcoatl's third cousin twice removed, who had the foresight to nip such problems in their respective buds long before they had the opportunity to ruin her schedule, or her appetite. Her entourage will include a jeweler to freshen the battery in her chronograph, and a botanist, whose responsibility it is to prepare the lotus blossoms that form the foundation of Qaotlkumquatquetzalquat's healthful diet.

What lies below that foundation is anyone's guess. After all, no one could expect Qaotlkumquatquetzalquat to carry a shovel in her purse, or a backhoe. That would be absurd.


How I Became Funky

Claws belong on Santa, not on a bathtub. I haven't taken a bath since it first dawned on me that I might go down the drain with the water. The idea of sitting in a big white deathtrap with no clothes on is frightening enough already, so whoever decided to put claws on certain bathtubs was either sadistic by nature, or simply too preoccupied with the feet of predatory beasts to care about my personal hygiene.

Sure, a hundred years ago the clawfoot tub was more novelty than necessity. In those days, no one wanted to take a shower because most of the water invariably wound up on the floor, but that was before Hitchcock invented the shower curtain. During initial testing, he often stood just outside the tub in order to measure the effectiveness of his plastic brainchild, asking the tester how she was getting along while picking at his fingernails with a hunting knife. A modified version of his frequent "How ya doin', eh?" queries would later become his trademark opening line as he traveled the globe in search of retail opportunities for his new line of bathroom fixtures.

A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then, and even more down the drains of modern tubs equipped with sliding barriers designed to prevent unwanted flooding. The custom molding that hides the claws of certain ancient bathtubs hasn't yet been adopted by certain owners of certain turn-of-the-century carriage houses that served as apartments for certain tenants who may not live there anymore due to a fear of clawed bathtubs, not to mention being washed down the drain, but I didn't think the place would still smell like that a month after I moved out. Sorry.


How Do We Forget to Communicate?

The new communication
One hundred forty characters
Of txt
This is progress?

Well, maybe I can use this for writing poems then. Let's see...
I tweet not
Therefore I am
A twit
Hear me roar.

Lovely poem, if I do say so myse

Curses. I was just getting to the interesting part when I ran out of space. My thumb hurts now, too. Can't imagine using this for actual...oh no
Hello world. It's me. You know, the guy with the pink mustache. Right, I can post to my blog from my phone now! How cool is...crud I'm out of spa

Second-guessing Preconceptions

Where does it all stop, really? One particularly troubling facet of human awareness is the ability to perceive ourselves in the act of perception. I include you in this group, dear reader, simply because I know that dolphins don't give a fig for reading, while squirrels lack the attention span to even make it to the second sentence. This amounts to double jeopardy, since I've already made two assumptions based on nothing more than my own perception, which might be a misperception. In other words, how can I ever be sure that second-guessing my first perception is any more reliable than first-guessing the second?

For example, let's say I'm staring at that tool shed over there behind the tree. How do I know it's really a tree? It might be a flounder, or a Volvo. And since I keep all my tools in a small paper box behind the stove, the whole idea of a tool shed is absurd. I don't need a tool shed any more than I need a second set of teeth, or pockets. When I removed the pockets from every pair of pants I own, I knew it would prevent the dangerous buildup of dryer lint, which is explosive. There's no need to second-guess that.

When I perceive myself in the act of misperception, I stop to ask myself one important question: How can I trust myself to keep track of which perception I'm working on at the momentthe copy or the originaland (2) what's the point of wasting precious nutrients on a mind that can't even make itself up?

But then I have to laugh, because that's what vitamins are for.  


Water Dreams

Water Dreams

An old dream
A sunlit labyrinth
I know the dreamers
By name
Janus approaches
I tear the reason
From my mind
She will be free.

A black dream
A lightless labyrinth
Two shadows
Two dreamers
One is immobile
I push the shadows
With intent
She will be free.

A new dream
A liquid labyrinth
I know the dreamers
By heart
One is drowning
I pull the water
With my fingers
She will be free.

Eyeing Copyright

Hey, isn't that my stuff on your site? Guess what? Right, it's test time! You won't need to sharpen your #2 pencils, because even a dull pencil can ruin the look and feel of a perfectly good LCD, and probably won't improve a CRT display, either. Use a marking pen instead.

Ready? Begin.

1) It's okay to use any words, images, or other original material I happen to find on the Internet on my own site, because if their creator hadn't wanted me to use them, (s)he wouldn't have left them lying around like that.

[ ] True [ ] False

2) It's okay to use any words, images, or other original material I happen to find on my computer on my own site, because if their creator hadn't wanted me to use them, (s)he wouldn't have left them lying around like that.

[ ] True [ ] False

3) I'm the rightful owner of any photograph or video in which I appear. The photographer or videographer can't claim copyright in that case.

[ ] True [ ] False

4) The absence of any words or symbols expressing ownership (e.g. Copyright © 2009 Somebody All Rights Reserved) means that any rights to ownership are expressly waived.

[ ] True [ ] False

5) Someone I know personally won't mind if I use his/her words, images, or other original material. There's no need to ask.

[ ] True [ ] False

6) Original ideas aren't protected by copyright law. That's what patents are for.

[ ] True [ ] False

Okay, time's up. Put down your marker, pass your test to the person in front of you, and we'll see how you did.

. . . tick tock tick tock tick tock tick . . .

Well, we have a problem here. Most of you marked questions one through five as true, and question six as false. That's a score of zero, which is an F, which means no restroom privileges for a week.

Diapers are in the box by the door.


Freedom Is A Lonely Word

Sometimes it's just another word.

Freedom is a lonely word
When others choose a path for me
And knowing what the choice will bring
Required, still, to turn away
From everything that might have been
Had love been there to close the door
And kept the candle burning.

No more the truth, for truth brings pain
But pain is how we learned to sleep
Among the rocks, below the trees
Above the world that tore our souls
And keeps our hearts forever chained
To lives that have no meaning.

But pain belongs to others now
The path is clear; the past has gone
Away toward another dream
Where love is never cast aside
And made to live in shadowed rooms
Without the hope that kept us warm
When life was meant for laughter.

Semantic Existence

If you can play one of these, you might be a carbon-based lifeform. Then again, you might not.I had just begun leafing through the latest issue of Rolling Stone when Keith Richards' impish grin brought my cheerfulness to a grinding halt. Shock and amazement were quickly replaced with the usual mix of anger and resentment. Sure, Johnny Depp is in the photo, no doubt to keep Mr. Richards from slipping out of the frame just as the camera shutter opens, but that sort of thing has been going on since the dawn of drugs, alcohol, and highly amplified music. There's nothing noteworthy about that. What's remarkable is Keith Richards' very existence. How, I sobbed, is it possible that this man continues to live?

The answer, of course, lies in the realm of semantics. Over the years, you and I have been conditioned to make certain assumptions about what's alive and what isn't, but carbon-based lifeforms aren't the only ones who can play the guitar. As anyone with a symbiotic implant will tell you, the ability to speak doesn't automatically go hand in hand with musical talent, otherwise it wouldn't have been so impossible to transcribe Mr. Richards' speech, as the caption below the photo clearly indicates.

I'm not suggesting that Keith Richards is a sock puppet, even though Mr. Depp is rather obviously attempting to create that impression in the magazine photo that triggered my fretfulness in the first place. That possibility was discussedand dismissedduring a series of late-night discussions with Rotten Robert, whose presence at so many early Stones concerts lends a certain credibility to his analysis. I'm only suggesting we stop and think about what's possible, really, versus what we want to believe for the sake of semantics.

Tonight, as you stand on your roof gazing up at all those stars in the sky, ask yourself how many are really still there, and how many are merely tardy light arriving long after their sources have gone on to other venues. Then give Keith Richards a call. I'll bet he won't answer.


Time Flies

My my . . . where does the time go? Are you sure you want to know?

The minute I woke up this morning I knew something was terribly wrong. Seven cups of coffee didn't help, and four more didn't help, and the pot I made after that made my head feel like a balloon, which helped a lot. I do some of my best thinking when my head is extra large, which is reason enough to have a professional grade, cafeteria-size coffeemaker in my bedroom.

But that isn't really the point. The point I wanted to make has more to do with the feeling of heaviness this morning. After my second pot of coffee, I decided to get out of bed and have a look around. That's when I noticed the clock on the kitchen stove, and the one on the wall, and all three clocks in the bathroom. I noticed the rest of them, too, but that doesn't really matter because I stopped putting gas in them a long time ago, so they just sit there.

There's only one clock I can really trust, and that's the little "atomic" clock on my nightstand. I put the word in quotes because it isn't really atomic, which is a comfort to me when I think about how many nuclear missiles the Mexican government has pointed in my direction. I have absolute trust in my "atomic" clock because its weight never varies, which has to do with spring-loaded inertial mechanisms far too complicated to understand.

Anyway, after carefully weighing every clock in the placeusing my "atomic" clock as a referenceI realized that exactly one hour had landed on top of preexisting hours, most likely at some point during the night, and probably for reasons having nothing to do with the flipping action of our planet's magnetic field due to recent lunar flares. The dispatcher at the local police department seemed confused about the reason for my call, and most of my neighbors thought I might have eaten too much Halloween candy, although a few offered more.

Then the light came on. Of course! All those little goblins scratching at my window last night had simultaneously gorged themselves with the spoils of their crusade, mouthful after mouthful of sugary treats stuffed into their mouths until, at exactly 2:00 this morning, they had all ballooned at once, creating exactly the sort of gravitational trampoline that frightened Einstein and made him cry. This had left Mother Nature no choice. She had called Father Time, threatening to go to the media with certain details of past relationships if he didn't do something, immediately and without hesitation.

He had, of course, but having severely underestimated the accumulated gravity of time as he shoveled minutes and seconds into the hole behind his cabin, the resulting time-pile had overwhelmed the capacity of the outhouse, leaving only one possible outcome. Flies. Lots and lots of flies. Time may be money to some, but to others it's nothing but flies, and who needs all that pesky buzzing, anyway? Not me.