Friday, March 31, 2006

Try this, it Works!

Would you like to know the secret to happiness? Sure you would. We all want to be happy, right? Well, I don't have the secret to happiness, so tough shit. Hold on now, don't go clicking off to some other blog, one that treats you with respect and stuff. Stay here a minute! I may not have the secret to happiness, but I do have another great secret. Something better. For you see, I possess ...


And lets face it, getting what we want makes us happy. At least for awhile, before we realize that obtaining material goals provides, a best, an illusory and short-lived euphoria that seems very similar to happiness, but eventually leaves us feeling empty and forlorn. And in today's society, that's about all anyone can really expect.

Whether you believe me or not, there is a way to get EVERYTHING you WANT, all the time. And the best part is, I'm going to tell you for free. Why? Because I'm a nice guy. And I can't figure out how to hook up a PayPal account. So here you go. Here it is. The secret to getting EVERYTHING you WANT.
Complain, complain, complain. Complain constantly, bitterly, with vitriol and venom. Complain loudly, complain constantly, complain in an annoying voice. Do not stop complaining, bitching, whining, and demanding. No matter what they say, no matter the reasonable, intelligent reasons they might conjure up to explain why you are not entitled to the thing you are asking for, keep complaining.

You don't have to make sense. You don't have to be right (in fact, it helps things out if you're not). You don't have to be nice. Just don't resort to violence, or touching. For some reason in our society, its ok to stand in a store and berate your salesperson for 40 minutes straight, but if you poke him in the shoulder, you're going to jail Johnny Bad-touch!

This technique is definitely not a "get rich quick" scheme. Properly executed, the UCS (Uunreasonable Complaint System) will take days, weeks ... maybe even months. Or years. You don't know until you try. You might have to bitch and whine every day for several weeks. The technique does require a significant time committment, but if you stick with the program, then eventually you will get what you want.

I know, you're probably sitting there right now, shaking your head in disbelief. Even though you've never tried my techniques out. You know, there's a word for people who doubt something without ever doing an empirical research. That word is "fucker". Don't be a fucker. Give it a try.

The best part is, the technique works with pretty much everything. Want the store to replace your DVD player because your kid put it in the bathtub, along with the cat, plugged it in and turned on the shower? Just complain. Come in every day, stay for at least 2 hours, and complain. The best part is, they have to listen to you. They can't just walk away from you, or call you an asshole, even though its clear to everyone around you that you are an asshole.
You may be wondering exactly how you go about complaining. What things should you say? What points should you raise? The beauty of the UCS is this: it doesn't matter. Jut bitch and whine - remember, you don't have to make sense! You can use any argument you like. In fact, the less sense you make, the better. Try these tried and tested statements, copyrighted by the UCS system!
  • My dog got a free collar with the leash
  • Justin from next door gets a free upgrade to large-sized fries at McDonalds
  • But someone else here said I could
  • That's riduculous!

The last one is used whenever anyone who is arguing against you comes up with an intelligent, logical, and salient point.

So there you go. Take my words of wisdom out into the world with you, and enjoy. Once the PayPal account is up, you can thank me. It should be running soon; I'm just waiting for my constant, hour-upon-hour complaint emails to PayPal to bear fruit.

*** Warning ***: this technique does not work with sex. It used to, but someone started calling it "stalking" and "harrassment", so now Johnny Law has closed that particular door.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Sipping Lemonade

Sitting on the back porch, leaning back in my chair, watching the children scream as they run around the yard. Sometimes, that’s not a good thing. Summer days, drinking lemonade, playing hide and seek. Good interpretation. One might even say average. Fairly common. Frozen to my chair, my world shredding as my child was set aflame, trying desperately to extinguish the flames. That’s the version I went through last night.

You can piss off the wrong people. I know that seems pretty obvious. We see it all the time in the movies. Bad men who occupy a certain criminal element of an organized nature. You know, the mob. Anyway, you see the movies and TV shows, and you know what those guys will do. Ok, true, those guys are real. They are out there. But its hard to imagine that your life will ever meaningfully impact with individuals on that level. They seem semi-mythical, like celebrities or politicians. It was equally as difficult for me to imagine that my life would ever become entwined with the Mafia’s as it was for me to believe that I might one day meet Tom Cruise in a nightclub.

Sometimes, your life does cross over that line. You step away from the average, normal and expected, and into a world where car bombs destroyed lives, where angry lone sharks broke real legs. The problem was, and I guess still is, this: when your life crosses the line between the mundane and the cinematic, how the hell are you supposed to know? How can you possibly guess that today is the day your life becomes a made-for-TV movie?

I first met Otello Giovanni at my kid’s soccer game. That’s his real name. I should probably use a fake name instead of his real name, but fuck him. That’s his real fucking name. He’s in the yellow pages, call him up, tell him I said hi. What the fuck is he gonna do, kill me twice?

But I didn’t know any of that then. To me he was just another Italian guy I saw at our kids’ soccer games. Sure, ok, some of the parents do get out of hand, yes. We like to scream and yell, let our kids know we support them. Better than this pussy “no-yelling, no-score-keeping, everybody-gets-a-trophy” bullshit they got nowadays. Anyway, Otello was a bit too much, even for us. He slapped a ref once, knocked the guy down.

Next I saw Otello was years later at a fundraiser. My employer, a politician whose name I do wish to protect (fuck you Otello Giovanni of 1484 Windwillow Crescent), was speaking to Otello when I arrived. I didn’t know what the conversation was about, but there was obviously some kind of agreement reached, as they shook hands and then hugged. Otello left immediately afterwards.

Next we met, things were more private. I was at work, late at night. Burning the midnight oil, as well as any chance I could have of things like a normal family life. Anyway, I was leaving, and in the elevator going down. Doors open on 12, and this guy gets on. It takes me a few seconds, but then it dawns on me. Otello, I remember. I wonder if he is connected.

Then Otello starts talking. He tells me about how his uncle, who owns a construction company, is desperately in need of a good job. An honest labourer, he says, lain low by bad luck and circumstance. He then offhandedly mentioned that he had heard that I happened to head the committee that was in charge of bids for construction on a retirement center.

He then said that he would hate to see me miss an opportunity to give an honest man a new start on life. He mentioned that he thought I had a beautiful family, without saying how he knew about them. He said they deserved a chance at life too. Everybody does. He said he hoped that I made sure that everybody did. It might not sound very threatening now. In fact, as I read it back, I feel vaguely silly. But trust me, it was fucking terrifying at the time.

But I stood my ground. I don’t know why. Maybe I had ethics. Probably because I hadn’t realized that my life had become a movie. Or maybe I had. Maybe I thought that my life was a movie, but that I was the star. As the star, I could make mistakes or lose things I loved, but I would always survive, and would succeed in the end. If so, I would be ignoring the fact that for every star, there are a shitload of nobodies that die off early.

And if my life was a movie, it was my first one. The chances of me landing a lead in my first movie were pretty slim. The odds would seem to indicate that I had a bit part, at best. A minor walk-on, designed to illustrate just how evil Otello Giovanni was. Or for comic relief. Otello was most likely the villain, and the hero was some other guy. Someone like me, only better looking with a great agent.

The long and the short of it is, I refused to play ball. I awarded the contract to the lowest qualified bidder, as society expected me to do. As was my job. Otello wasn’t happy. He indicated his unhappiness to me in the form of a bomb. Placed in my gas barbecue. It was pretty well known that I loved to barbecue. All summer long, almost every night, as a matter of fact.

As luck, fate, or the director would have it, I was feeling particularly tired and lazy on the night after the bomb was planted. I carried the steaks out and put them on the cold barbecue (one of my secrets, by the way – start cold) before returning to the kitchen for a beer. On my way back, I sat down on the porch; daddy was too tired to cook.

Justin had turned seven just three days earlier. He asked me if he could start the steaks. He said he was almost a man, and men barbecued.

I said ok. It was a short, sweet, proud moment.

I wish I had awarded the contract differently.


I love writing. Before I go much further, I want to make the following disclaimer: Ash does not think he is hot shit just because he is a writer. Ash is fully aware that he has nothing published (well, apart from one poem), and does not earn a living from writing. Ash is not pretentious. Ash is also fully aware of the irony that arises by writing in the third person to claim that he is not pretentious.

Ever since I have been a kid, I have wanted to write. I did write a fair bit as a teen, and have tried several times as an adult to get works published, but have met with little success. But I stick with it because I love the process. There is a thrill that comes when a good idea hits you. You just know the idea is good, inside, and that satisfaction is unlike anything else I have experienced.

So, if I'm unpublished, how can I claim to be a writer? There is a lot of debate about what makes a person a "writer". Some people say you have to be published. Others claim that being published is not enough - your works must be well read. However, some wise person (I can't remember who) was once asked what makes a person a writer. His reply was this: "Writers write". I.e. if you write, you are a writer. I like that definiton.

I have been pretty remiss in updating my blog as of late. I think its largely to do with the fact that I don't get a lot of time to sit down and write, so when I do I prefer to work on one of the several projects I have on the go right now. I'm currently working on a full-length motion picture (along with my friend Craig), a novel, as well as a couple of short films (again with Craig).

The full-length picture is a horror movie. It will require a pretty hefty budget, so after it's done we will be shopping around for a production company. Now the short films, thats another matter. We're likely going to be producing those ourselves, and I have to say, I am extremely excited about the idea. My belly button keeps puckering every time I think about it.

Of course, I have absolutely no idea how to actually produce and film a movie, so its going to be a hell of a learning experience. I've been doing some extensive reading on the subject, including advice on how to avoid the pit falls that threaten new producers. For example, I have learned that it is not a good idea to sleep with attractive female actresses. I can't claim that I would necessarily heed that advice, however.

So, the next few months should be fairly interesting. I've completed one script, pending reviews and alterations, naturally. I'm looking into storyboarding now, and am considering some software options to assist with that task. All I know is, it's going to be fun. Of course, six months from now, I will probably post a blog entry entitled "If I had Known Then...".

Friday, March 24, 2006

Bathtime News

Apparently, some guy in Afghanistan is on trial for converting from Islam to Christianity. This now adds "religious freedom" to the list of things that are illegal in Afghanistan. Other activities which have been made illegal in Afghanistan include "poking Muslim clerics with sticks", "free thought" and "farting on elevators".

Evidently, a critical bug has been found in Internent Explorer, an Internet browswer which, up until now, has been very stable, offered much in the way of power and features, and has seen few problems. Oh, sorry, did I say "Internet Explorer"? I thought they were talking about Firefox.

Pope Benedict XVI created 15 new cardinals, praying that the red garments they now wear would inspire them to an even more "passionate love for Christ, for his church and for all humanity." Each robe costs approximately $2,300.00, and the hats run about $900.00 apiece. The pope made his announcement about "love for all humanity" from within his multi-billion dollar palatial home. The poor and hungry were not available for comment, as they were busy searching for food scraps in Vatican dumpsters.

The creators of South Park have killed off Chef, over problems which arose after Isaac Hayes (the voice of Chef) quit the show. He did so as a result of recent 'intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs' expressed by the show. Those religious beliefs being his own. Apparently, Hayes was not bothered by episodes that lampooned Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Fuck you, Isaac Hayes. Fuck you in your intolerant, brain-washed ass with a rolled-up copy of Dianetics.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Have I ever mentioned that I love my dog? I have been a life-long dog owner, and I have loved (platonically, for those sick bastards reading) each and every one. They have all been special in their own ways, and I remember each fondly, and miss them dearly.

Ayla, however ... well, she does tend to stand out. She is probably the smartest dogs I have ever owned, and learned most of her tricks in less than 15 minutes. Sit, shake, play dead, etc. were all learned very quickly. Some of that might have to do with the fact that I have learned from past dogs how to train, but mostly I think its because she is so smart.

Right from the start, I taught Ayla to come when she was called, and to stay near me when we go for walks. As a result, I don't need a leash when I take her out, because I know she will always obey my commands, and won't range too far.

She is such a gentle pup. The closest she has ever come to fighting with another dog occurred once at the leash-free park. Two dogs had started to fight, and Ayla ran straight for them. She ran in between them, using her body to keep them apart. She broke up the fight, all on her own. For her troubles, she got bitten in the face, and still has the scar. The bite was probably accidental, and was obtained as one dog was lunging for the other, and was blocked by Ayla.

Once when walking her in a park, she spotted a squirrel and ran off after it. She was so close to the squirrel that by the time I realized she was after it, she had already caught it. Being Ayla, she caught the squirrel and proceeded to lick it. The squirrel, naturally enough, responded by biting her tongue. Ayla doesn't lick squirrels anymore.

For those of my friends that visit Ayla and get tired of her licking, there is a lesson to be learned here. Next time she licks you, just bite her tongue. Oh sure, Ayla understands the command "no kissing", but as far as she is concerned, this is a time-sensitive command that lasts for a maximum of 35 seconds.

Ayla is addicted to licking, and loves nothing better than being allowed to lick someone's face. Ever since she was a puppy, she has been this way. It was really bad at first. One day I decided to just sit there and let Ayla lick my face for as long as she wanted, no matter how long it took. I gave up after 7 minutes and 35 seconds. I just couldn't take any more.

She actually taught herself the word "kiss" - I kid not. I had never used the word to her, and had never taken the time to teach her any words linked to licking. ONe day, I was sitting at my computer, and Ayla was lying on the floor. I looked at her and said "Give me a kiss". Immediatley, Ayla lept into my lap and started licking away. I was surprised, as I had thought I was going to teach her the word, but apparently she already knew it.

Ayla likes to sleep under the covers. She is the first dog I have ever had who prefers to sleep under blankets. Much to my surprise, my cat Crystal also likes to sleep under blankets. She is definitely the only cat I have ever met who likes this. The two of them do seem to be a lot alike in many ways, and get on famously. For example, the cat will allow Ayla to lick her to her heart's content, as long as Ayla is willing to be bitten.

Ayla is an amazing dog. I'm going away to Chicago soon, and my friends Peter and Bernie will be watching her for me. I really appreciate this, as I can go away without any worry, because I know they love Ayla, and will take care of her. Of course, Ayla adores them too! Also, they'll be taking her up to the cottage, which Ayla absolutely loves. Plenty of swimming, treats, cats to lick, and cuddling up under the blankets!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Ok, I'm not making any value judgements here. I'm just presenting the following coincidences for your consideration.

I had been browsing websites for research for my novel. I was looking for instances of the word "God" on a web page. Hence, Screen Shot #1.
You will notice that the search box, down bottom right, naturally contains the word "God". I had been doing this searching hours ago, and later I came back to the computer to check my blog stats.

See that "Geovisitors" icon? Its a cool toy that lets you see a map of the world, with the physical locations of your site visitors shown on it. As per the next Screen Shot.As you can see, I randomly selected one of the visitors. I swear it was random. When you click one, it gives you the option "View in Google Earth". I decided to do so. Hence, the third and final Screen Shot.I saw this cross, and it made me feel pretty good.

Meditations of a Bus Taker

No, I did not steal a bus. However, as I have been rendered - through a vicious trick of fate - carless, I have been taking advantage of public transportation over the last two weeks. Taking the bus is very different from driving.
First off, bus travel is far less stressful. The drive in to work on the highway would often leave me in a funk, contemplating various methods of revenge against idiot drivers. Most of these fantasies involved me wielding some form of weapon, such as rocket launchers, catapults, and low-yield nuclear devices.
The bus ride is calm and peaceful. I get to read, listen to music, and people watch. I really enjoy watching people, as you learn so much from observing habits, especially over successive days. I have identified several individuals, and know a bit about them, such as where they like to sit on the bus, whether they prefer to read or listen to music, and how they react to being stared at by total strangers.
The problem with the bus simply boils down to time. It takes about an hour and a half to get to work, and the same amount of time to return. 3 hours of my day taken up in transit. Now a car, that takes on average 20 minutes one way. So, even though cars cause me more stress and less entertainment, they also represent a significantly lower drain upon my most precious resource.
I like to sleep in, and I like to stay up late. Two of my favourite things, as a matter of fact. I have to go to bed at 11:00 at night now, and that makes me feel like I'm about 107. I also have to get up at 7:30 am (as opposed to 8:45 am when driving), and getting up that early makes me feel like peeling kittens.
So, I've decided that a car must enter my life sooner, as opposed to later. Now of course, armed with my rather encyclopedic knowledge of cars (if you define the word "encyclopedic" as: lacking any serious knowledge or common sense) I will be heading off to see what the automotive world has in store for me.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Coffee's Ready!

Ah, ya gotta love breakthroughs.
I haven't been doing much active work on my novel over the last month or so. I had been writing a fair bit, but I got to a point where the stuff I was producing was ... well, crap. I tend to write in spurts - I spend weeks or months just thinking, sorting ideas and thoughts, allowing my creative juices to percolate. I never know when I will be ready to write, but when I am ready, I know it. Of course, this sometimes comes at inconvenient times (like in the middle of the night, or out at a restaurant), but when the time comes, I have to obey the urges.
By the same token, if I try to write when I am not ready, I produce crap. I had written a good 2,000 words of crap when I finally stopped trying to force myself to create, and took a break. Yesterday, I was sitting at work when suddenly ideas began to flood into my brain. I love these moments, because its almost like I'm just a passive observer, writing down ideas that come seemingly from no where.
Of course, thats not the case, they come from my own warped mind. Its a difficult process to describe, but it can't be forced. No amount of concentration on my part will make the words come out before their time. Instead, they need time to percolate, running through my subconscious. Eventually, I know, the ideas will suddenly coalesce, and I will be able to write again.
I could never write something on contract, under a deadline. I know if I did that it would be like a death sentence for me. As soon as I felt constrained, that I had to write, I know I would freeze up as the creative part of my mind rebelled against the idea of a timetable and schedules.
So, its back to work writing, as I gleefully cut the crap out of my novel, and get on with writing something I like.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Left Turn, Clyde

Did I mention I'm stupid?
My car is dead, and I've been borrowing my mother's car to get back and forth from work. No, that's not the stupid part yet. My mother left on the weekend for a 2-week road trip, leaving me with no car. No worries, I thought, I'll take the bus. Sure, its about 2 hours each way, but hey, that's life.
I talked to some coworkers who had taken the bus before, and found out what busses I needed. I took the bus for the first time this morning. It was a pleasant ride. It was nice to be able to sit back and relax, enjoy the scenery, and not worry about highway traffic. Unfortunately, my iPod ran out of juice after 10 minutes because I forgot to charge it last night.
No, that's not the stupid part.
I watched the route carefully, and got off at the proper place - a large bus/train terminal in Burlington. All I had to do was get off the bus, and go west, then south.
I went east. Then North.
Yes, that was the stupid part.
Instead of a 10-minute walk to work, I hiked for over an hour. Not just on roads. No, sticking to the roads would have been smart. I decided to take a short cut. Through the woods. After all, there was a path, right? Good idea, right?
No, stupid idea.
The path was muddy and frequently washed out. Did I mention it was raining? Did I mention we have had unseasonably warm weather? Did I mention the spring run off? Well, I have now. At one point I had to backtrack, because the path - which by this time was paved - was actually flooded by a stream - sorry, raging river - which had overflowed its banks. There was no way the sad little culvert beneath the path could handle this volume of water. The river flowed over the path, and off the other side, leaving it completely under water.
Eventually, I got back to a road, which lead through a featureless, bleak and barren subdivision. Perhaps you are familiar with these places ... miles after miles of identical housing, without a single variety store or gas station to be seen. Just homes. Homes of people who don't want a wet, strange man knocking on their door.
Eventually I reached Burl-Oak road, which was quite a shock for me. After all, I was expecting it to be another road, miles away. At this time, I realized the full depths of my stupidity, and I despaired.
Even though I had my cell phone, I couldn't call a taxi. I didn't know any Burlington cab company phone numbers. So I walked, and walked, and walked. In the wet, cold rain. You may think its redundant to refer to rain as wet, but if you think back to any time in which you have been caught out in the wet, cold rain, you will remember the feelings, and excuse my apparent lapse.
Eventually I reached an Esso station (I actually walked 20 yards past the first gas station, a Petro Canada, because I HATE Petro Canada) where the guy behind the counter gave me the number of a local cab company. Well, at first, he said he didn't know, and then I pointed out that he was standing within arms reach of no fewer than three phone books. After he grabbed one of the phone books, then he gave me the number of a cab company.
I called the cab, and then waited for 15 minutes while a woman at the pay phone argued loudly with a gentleman named Mike. Apparently, she did so give the money to Julian, and if he's saying that she didn't, then he's a lying bitch, who never was no go anyway. Or some such.
I arrived at work, feeling about as shitty as I have in a long, long time, and suffering from a raging case of self pity. After about 10 minutes, I discovered that my supervisor Howard (a man I respect) had just left work. It seems he had to go drive his aging dog to the vet to have her put to sleep. Suddenly, being tired, wet and cranky didn't seem to matter to me much anymore.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Fun With Search Engines Reducks

Once again, its time to play one of my favourite games. This is the game where I check out all the neat-o keen search phrases people use to find my website. Wheee!

Search Phrase: helen shapiro
Notes: Ha! Whoever was searching for information about Helen, he's sure to be in for a surprise when he reads in my blog that she created the universe.

Search Phrase: what does burke and hare
Notes: What does Burke and Hare what?

Notes: One can't help but wonder if this person was doing some general research, or was planning for his future?

Search Phrase: is red bull bad for your health
Notes: Sure, I have had some pretty nasty things to say about Red Bull; mostly to do with the fact that it is a "fad" drink, and about as enjoyable as being punched in the mouth by a cotton glove dipped in nutrasweet. However, its not bad for you, as long as you drink it in moderation, and avoid mixing with alcohol. Above all, if you possess working taste buds, avoid taking Red Bull internally.

Search Phrase: Can you marry your cousin in Georgia?
Notes: Hah! Looks like the guy from California found out he'd have to travel in order to get married.

Search Phrase: Tim Hortons is Evil
Notes: Sad, but true. It didn't usedta be evil, I swear. It was good, and honourable, and just. Now, its just a corporate bitch.

Search Phrase: car matience
Notes: I love this search, especially considering they spelled "maintenance" wrong. This is even worse when you realize it was a google search, and the first thing Google shows you when you make this search is the correct spelling.

Search Phrase: cousins fucking
Notes: Oh, for the love of God, can someone truly be so depraved as to get an extra thrill from hardcore porn if they think the participants are related? On the other hand, maybe its just the would-be cousin-wedder looking for pointers.

Search Phrase: asher
Notes: What?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Your Friendly Neighbourhood Spy

I was writing a short story last night (this one) and I needed to do some research online. The Internet really is the writer's dream. No more annoying trips to the library. Research that would once take days now takes minutes. You can find out almost anything, on almost any topic, with just a few keystrokes.

In my story, the protagonist had played chess against IBM's supercomputer. I couldn't remember the name of this computer, so a quick Google search for "IBM Supercomputer" yielded the name. Next, I wanted to get a list of famous scientists, so of course I Googled it. Next, I wondered about the feasibility of concealing electronic equipment in a wooden case. So, off to Google with the search "concealing electronics in wood", followed with a quick search on airport security.

For my next Google search, I typed the words "Hello FBI/Homeland Security Agent. How are you?" because, lets face it, the odds are that my searches were registered and flagged. Sure, Google tries to keep this information private, because for some reason they still respect the individual's right to privacy. However, it turns out the government has other ways to get at this kind of information.

Back in 2002, the US Government initiated a massive data-mining project called "Total Information Awareness". The idea was to go around and gather as much information online as possible, sift through it using computers, and investigate possible security breaches. It was a neat little program, if one can overlook niggling issues such as the individual's right to privacy.

Once the public heard about it, the outcry was huge, so the government scrapped the program. Or so they claimed. What actually happened was more insidious. They shut down the program, packed up their computers and the data, and moved the program to a buried office inside the Defense Department. All done very secretly, of course. After all, you wouldn't want the American Public ... *ahem* ... I mean terrorists, to find out. That you were spying on them.
There currently are over 120 different federal data mining projects underway. There may be more, but we don't know. I am certain there are probably federally created malware and spyware projects that we don't even know about. Hell, look how long Sony got away with it.

So, naturally, the question is, is it ok for the government to spy on its people (and the people of other countries) and violate their constitutional rights to privacy, all in the name of combating terrorism? Well, I suppose you could make the argument that it is, if the program was at all effective. But according to media analysts, these programs generate an astronomical number of red herrings, which put an enormous drain on investigative resources. Time and effort that could be better spent pursuing more traditional avenues of investigation (that incidentally do not impact as greatly on our rights and freedoms).

It boils down to this: By using the threat of terrorist activity to justify invasions against the rights and privacy of its own citizens, the US has altered its own constitutional mandates. In effect, they have changed the nature of their own country from one that respects the rights of its citizens to one that constantly orders illegal wire taps, and uses other methods to spy on its own people.

This is the real tragedy. America has been forever altered, and is no longer the country it was prior to 9-11. Sadly, they have done nothing to combat the root causes of terrorism, and have instead focused internally. If the US government was serious about ending the threat of terrorism, they'd stop meddling in the affairs of dragons.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Working Title

The chess set was huge, worn, old, made of oak, or maybe beech. He was nowhere near an expert in wood types, a lapse for which he atoned by being an incredibly good chess player. He had played on everything from a crude, hand painted cross-section of log to a sophisticated glass and silicon interface designed to communicate with Deep Blue. He had won both games.

He picked the up the chess set, and tested its weight. It was solid, but its weight was not a burden. It felt good in his arms. The dark squares were the same wooden hue as the case, but the lights seemed to be a cleverly interwoven mother of pearl inlay, the seams so faint as to seem nonexistent. He pulled it open, its worn iron hinges squeaking slightly as it eased open.

Inside, the blood-red silk lining enfolded 32 pieces of individual perfection. Hand carved chess pieces, each so cunningly wrought as to be at once unique, still a part of a set. Of all the ideas over the past for chess pieces, ranging from army men to characters from The Lord of the Rings, of all these myriad ideas, this was the best, the most wonderful, the most right. The chess pieces were scientists.

They were there, beautifully carved: Pythagoras, Nietzsche, Einstein, facing off against Curie, Salk and Hawking. These famous thinkers, and others, completed the chess set.

“How much?” He asked as he casually placed the set on the front counter.

The young man behind the counter frowned, a twitch in his left lip causing his pencil thin moustache to jump and dance. He glanced down at the set, and then back at his customer, appraising the value of each. Numbers rose and fell in his mind as he tried to figure out exactly how much he would pay before walking away.

“Forty bucks,” he said finally.

“Done.” He counted out forty dollars on the counter as the young man lip twitched in disappointment.

Set up at home, the set completed his parlour. A front bedroom, converted at no small expense, into the ideal environment in which to sit and enjoy a game of chess. Mahogany bookshelves held worn and comfortable books, paperback and hardcover, each lovingly read. A large, hand-painted wooden globe, which stereotypically enough opened up into a mini-bar, set next to a glass display case containing statuary of various vintage movie monsters.

He stared at the set, slightly adjusting the overhead lamp so that the circumference of it’s light perfectly framed the chess set. Which side would he choose? White had its advantages, but black … well, black just looked good with his hair. He sat down behind the blacks, and gazed in awe and delight at the board. He closed his eyes, and then opened them again quickly at the sound of a faint scuttling?

Thoughts of mice fled as he watched one of white’s pawns slide forward two squares. He lifted the board, and tapped at it, listening for hollow thuds. He checked underneath, his fingers probing the felt lining. He carefully returned the board to the table, replacing the two or three pieces that had fallen. He was pretty sure this set was not electronic.

He examined the white pawn that had moved forward; it was Steven Hawking, complete with wheelchair. So incredibly well carved it still caught his breath. He returned it to the board, and sat down behind blacks once again. Hesitantly, he reached up, moving one of his pawns forward. A second later, a second white pawn slid into play. He brought up his knight, watching in amazement as - a moment later - white mimicked his move.

The game lasted 42 minutes. His opponent was good, but was locked into a fairly predictable pattern of offensive play. As the white king toppled, he sat back and tried to figure out just exactly what had happened.

“I’m telling you sir, it’s made of wood.”

“Yes, yes, I know that you imbecile, but inside, it contains circuits or some such, yes?” He was insistent.

“No, we’ve passed it through the x-ray detector twice. Its just wood, damn it.”

Sometimes it paid to have friends who worked for airport security. Chess players had friends from all walks of life, from doctors to pimps, from dressmakers to drug dealers. Even a few celebrities, friends of friends, that kind of thing. The point was, a chess player was always, first and foremost, a chess player. Everything else was just baggage.

He brought the set home, and returned it to its place. He set out the pieces, and again sat down behind black. He watched the table closely, carefully keeping his thoughts neutral. Concentrating on nothing more than his multiplication tables. He then stopped, and thought that it might be nice to play a game of chess. Wishing he had someone to play against.

A white pawn slid forward.

He played for hours, stretching on into days, grabbing the occasional short nap and ordering take out food when hunger consumed him, he placed chess, he played chess, and he played chess. Every time he wished it, an opponent would appear. Not physically, of course, but somehow a new opponent would move the white pieces against him. He had long ago given up any notion that the set was somehow computerized. The players were too fluid, too individual; these were no computers. These were living people. He always knew the difference, even when he played against Deep Blue.

After some time – perhaps two weeks – he decided to come up for air. He showered, and fell into bed, waking some 14 hours later. After another shower, he was ravenous, but fridge contained only a single jar of lidless mustard, which now seemed to contain a hard, brick-like substance, which held firm a long neglected butter knife. The sword in the stone, he thought as he dressed and headed out into the world.

In the café, he sipped slowly at his coffee as he spread the morning’s paper out in front of him. He hadn’t missed much, it seemed; certain scandals were waxing, others fading, some going strong. More of the same, not much had changed.

Near the back, sandwiched between an ad for shoes and an article on muffin tins, he saw it. The headline was shocking Freak Chess Deaths, it read. Forensic scientist Dr. Daniel Whitman released a somewhat surprising study today, which seems to indicate something of an epidemic.

“I came upon the data quiet by accident,” he spoke at an informal press conference. “I saw two similar cases cross my desk in the same week. The first was a suicide; some poor guy put a bullet in his eye, and was found sitting at a chessboard. He had been playing white, and white had clearly lost. I’m something of a chess buff myself, so that detail stuck with me.

“Then, about a week later, a woman was killed, stabbed in the back by an unknown assailant. She was found slumped over a chess set, playing white. Her body had knocked the pieces over, so nobody knew who had won her game. But it was strange. Two deaths, each sitting in front of a chess board, each playing white.”

Dr. Whitman decided then to search through recent records, and see if there had been any other deaths involving chessboards. “Computers are amazing things. Records nowadays can be queried instantly; searches take minutes instead of months. It was easy enough to create a search targeting the keywords I was interested in. I got about forty hits.

Of these forty, seven turned out to have something in common with the original two. In each case the involved the death of an individual who was seated in front of a chessboard, had been playing white, and had appeared to lose the game. And all nine of them had died within a two-week interval.

“Obviously, I was flabbergasted. Understand, I am not in any way suggesting that someone is somehow causing the deaths of chess players. The methods of death have ranged from murder to suicide, from heart attack to collapsing ceiling fan. No, these deaths were all different, apart from the fact that they happened in such startlingly similar ways.”

Dr. Whitman’s report is designed to show how sometimes life can behave in strange patterns.

He slumped back, his mind whirling, as he thought about the article. Nine people dead. He was stunned. He then realized that the people who had been mentioned had all died in the local area – people who lived no more than about a hundred miles from him. He started multiplying, dividing the country up into similar-sized chunks of land. Then the world.

His coffee fell to the floor as he rushed from his table, across a busy street to the Internet Café. He pulled out his timecard and fed it into an available slot as he navigated the web. He loaded Goggle and searched for “death chess board white”. He skimmed through entries for chess sets, chess web sites, offers to teach the reader to play chess, and came to rest on one entry. Doctor Notices Dying Chess masters.

He skimmed through several more pages of similar content, and had almost quit, when he saw an entry for some blog. The preview read “Somebody has it in for the chess players of Grand Rapids. In the past two weeks, four of my friends, all great chess players, have died…” He clicked this link, and read through the blog entry. Four chess players, each playing white when they died. One had an asthma attack; the next had died from alcohol poisoning. The last two were both heart attacks.

He returned to Google, and after another page, he found another link. Russian Chess master Missing. The article reported that a famed Russian chess master had failed to show up for a game against the Swede. He had been found dead in his dressing room, sitting down in front of a chessboard. He had been playing white, and he had obviously lost.

The article then went on to say that two other well-known Russian chess experts had died. Another was missing, and would not answer his pager.

He returned home, and made his way slowly to the chess room. He flicked on the overhead light, and looked down at the board. How was it even possible? How could he be killing people with a chessboard? He looked at the board, his eyes sliding from the white side to the black, and back again.

He approached his customary position behind black, and stopped. His gaze turned towards the opposite side of table. Why not? He thought. It's not like it could really matter. He sat down behind the whites.

Slowly, he slid his pawn into play. After a moment, a black pawn thrust forward in challenge. The game was intense and sharp, right from the start. His opponent was shrewd, making short, calculated advances and punishing any errors on his part with cruel efficiency. Already, Jane Goodall and Sir Isaac Asimov had been taken, and things weren’t looking very good for Darwin.

Before long, he knew he had lost. Da Vinci was backed into a corner, protected only by Galileo and Max Planck. Planck fell quickly to Sagan’s cruel sword, and Galileo was too far away to help. Da Vinci was in checkmate. He heard the soft fall of a footstep behind him, and closed his eyes softly. He sighed as the bullet ended the game.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Now THAT's Power

"The Republican lawyer shot by Dick Cheney in a hunting accident in Texas last weekend has emerged from hospital and apologised to the US Vice-President for all the trouble the shooting caused."
Holy fuck. That's power, folks. Imagine being so fearsome that you could shoot a lawyer in the face and have him apologize to you. I mean, not only was Whittington shot in the face by Cheney, the traveling shot actually triggered a minor heart attack. Which, naturally, caused Wittington no end of soft, tender feelings towards Dick.
I mean hell, I don't care who shoots me in the face, and how accidental it might be: I'm still going to have some anger to deal with. "Sure, accidents happen," I'd say angrily, "but dude, you shot me in the FUCKING FACE!"

Of course, I might be more inclined to keep my mouth shut if the guy who shot me could have me killed. And lets face it, if Whittington spoke out against Cheney, the rest of their Republican buddies might stop liking Harry. As might the CIA.
Hell, the press made a bigger deal out of Clinton shooting Lewinski in the face, and she wanted him too!

As an aside, the article goes on to say "Mr Whittington, whose face was still bruised but otherwise appeared healthy..." Now, I don't know about you, but even with the bruises removed, I think one of the last adjectives I would use to describe Harry's face would be "healthy". "Vulpine", "mottled" and "scary" all come to mind long before "healthy".
So, the moral of the story is clear. If you want to be able to shoot lawyers in the face with impunity - and hell, who doesn't? - then go into politics.

Friday, March 03, 2006


The more I learn of the world, the more I despair.

This planet is a pretty place, and as a species, we've been shitting on it for thousands of years. Worse still, we complain about other people's shit while expecting other people to clean up our shit. In the end, shit does flow downhill, and the meek shall inherit the cesspool.

Political ideals are corrupted by greed and turned into politics. Politicians, far from serving the needs of the people, exist solely to line their own pockets, funneling as much wealth as possible into offshore accounts. Any politician with the desire to truly serve the masses is either corrupted by the system or consumed by it. Politicians make themselves rich, and they make each other rich. Occasionally they throw one of their own to the lions of the court and the jackals of the media, in order to satisfy the occasional rumblings of outrage from the video-stupified masses.

In this world, you either take an active role in this process, or you are victimized by it. To hell with "dog eat dog", our society is actually based upon the concept of "fuck or be raped".

Yeah, I know, not a very funny post. But sometimes, I am forced to remember that the world really isn't a very funny place.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

How to Choose a Cat

My Favourite Bathtime Gurgles is proud to announce the first in a series of helpful "How to" guides.
Many people love cats, for reasons that still remain mysterious. Science has proven that cats are the physical manifestation of demons upon this Earthly plane, and are responsible for such activities as demonic possession, night terrors, and the creation of Reality TV shows.

Still, cat ownership flourishes. If you absolutely must buy a cat, here are some helpful hints on how to go about doing so.

1. Make sure that the establishment will allow you to handle the cat in question before taking it home. Many times, pet stores try to dispose of dead animals by hiding them inside the body of a live cat. A friend of mine once took home a cat, only to discover later (after the warranty had run out, of course!) that it contained the corpses of a gerbil, three guinea pigs, and no fewer than 106 hamsters.

2. Choose an animal that looks healthy. While it might be cute to watch a constant trail of mucus dripping out of a cat's nose, chances are the cuteness will fade after you are forced to constantly shampoo cat-snot out of your carpet.

3. Pick a cat you like. Many times, people make the mistake of choosing a cat with radically different political views, thinking that it will be fun to have debates, and talk politics with the cat. After awhile though, this thrill wears off. Cats tend to mock those who hold differing ideaological values, and will often crap in their shoes.

4. Reject the animal if he or she attempts to scratch or bite you, or hisses. This means the cat is likely a terrorist, or perhaps is infected with AIDS.

5. Run through the following check list to make sure your potential kitty measures up:

Eyes - there should be two.
Nose - check for white powdery residue around the nose. Many of today's cats are addicted to cocaine.
Ears - The ears should be free of piercings. Cats with ear-piercings are 205% more likely to steal your car than cats with unpierced ears.
Fur - The cat's fur should be clean, and free of bugs. Pet stores often bug the cats they sell in the hopes of overhearing something incriminating, and then blackmailing you.
Anus - Why would you want to check out your cat's ass? Pervert.

If you follow these helpfull hints, you and your cat will be sure to have a long and happy life together.