Jun 27, 2014

Three Exotic Diseases You Can Only Get on Weekends


Don’t look now, but you have a parrot on your shoulder. You may be coming down with pirate fever.


Boppy Erlandsdottir claimed the elves had infected her with hopping sickness because she once went camping and had to relieve herself in the bushes, her bodily fluids staining a pebble of great value to the supernatural inhabitants of the place. Now Boppy can’t walk anymore — she hops from place to place, kind of like a bird. It’s exhausting.


Thomas McDougal, renowned preacher of the Stainsbury Church of Godly Renewal, nearly succumbed to purple dyspepsia at the age of nine. On discovering blueberries, plums and other purplish foods would fatally clog his digestive system, he received a heavenly vision in the shape of a woman with feathers for hair.

And the vision said:
God hates smokers, single women, black women, feminist men, babies of socialist parents, people who drive on the left, especially the Japanese, and people who can’t stand the sight of raccoons getting their freak on. Go now and spread the good news of his love for everybody else and preach to the impious that they may see the light and one day join the ranks of the blessed. If they start repenting now they could maybe apply for janitorial positions and the like. We’re understaffed up there.

by Mark Facey

Doesn't it look like a fun germ to hang out with? Bet it likes beer.

Jun 21, 2014

Five Things You Were Born to Do (While Drunk)

Do you know of any stories or novels where the protagonist starts out drunk? And by drunk I mean intoxicated, inebriated, smashed, wasted, shitfaced, falling-down drunk on alcohol. And by alcohol I mean a number of beverages that look and taste different but all lead down the same path when you consume them: Delirious happiness followed by low-quality sleep and a hangover and/or alcoholic coma.

Scanning the Internet for quotes — because I have sold all my books and computers and given the money to the poor, and am writing this blog post on a 22-year-old Smith-Corona hooked up to a stolen TV set — the body of evidence I have sampled shows that alcoholic ecstasy is conspicuously absent from the first lines of well-known books [1]:

On a January evening of the early seventies, Christine Nilsson was singing in Faust at the Academy of Music in New York.
--Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence
Dirk Moeller didn't know if he could fart his way into a major diplomatic incident. But he was ready to find out.
--John Scalzi, The Android’s Dream
Having placed in my mouth sufficient bread for three minutes' chewing, I withdrew my powers of sensual perception and retired into the privacy of my mind, my eyes and face assuming a vacant and preoccupied expression.
--Flann O’Brien, At Swim-Two-Birds

And that’s about as much statistical science you’re going to get out of me.

I don’t think authors have adequately pondered the limitless possibilities of kicking off with a drunk protagonist. Everything they do automatically becomes more challenging and therefore more interesting! Consider now these five examples I have made up for your instruction [2]:

  1. Bunglor the Dragon-Slayer needs a shot of liquid courage to face the crystal dragon terrorizing the village of Tlix. With a belly full of mead and poetry on his lips he departs to face the dragon, having forgotten his sword at the inn. Such is his confidence.
  2. Henrietta Marks, CPA, is under investigation for tax fraud. As a result of showing up drunk for work. The injustice of it! Vodka martinis make all her troubles fade into a mist of whogivesafuck, and thanks to a spilled beverage she meets her future husband, Dick Vogel, an entomologist, freemason and former filmmaker for the BBC. Will they live drunkly ever after? Will Henrietta go to jail? 
  3. Henry Marks (no relation to the lady above), house painter, recently divorced, drinks a few ounces of bourbon before he starts a new job. The alcohol releases Henry’s inner Mondrian — the Victorian house he's painted looks like a geometric zebra with scarlet fever and the owner’s not happy. The owner sues Henry and  the case makes the local paper. Someone posts a photo of the "Mondrian house" to imgur and it goes viral. The story makes national news and the house becomes a tourist attraction.
  4. Shaun de la Torre becomes famous as the world’s first drunk freeclimber. “Always carry a flask of something on you,” he advises. “Gets rid of the vertigo. Plus if you look down after you've had a few swigs, you feel like you’re losing your mind, so you train yourself not to look down pretty fast.”
  5. Lucy Pelletier doesn’t play blackjack until she’s had at least four shots of vodka. This unlocks Pelletier’s wild talent. She doesn’t realize this, but she’s a psychic and if she can look you straight in the eye, she can read your mind. Many a blackjack dealer, male and female, has mistaken this for flirting, which actually helps. 


I realize that alcoholism is A Very Serious Matter and one should not joke about Very Serious Matters. It is unseemly. It is immature. It is, on occasion, hilarious.
Do not drink alcohol for therapeutic ends. The beneficial effects are short-term only. Also, do not take medical advice from me; I am not a doctor, I only play one on Twitter.

[1] Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas doesn’t count because a) Thompson and his lawyer were doing drugs, not just alcohol and b) non-fiction (in the loosest possible sense of the word). Also, “well-known books” means whatever you can find mentioned on Wikiquotes or Goodreads.
[2] These may seem somewhat obvious to you, but, hark to the anecdote about Picasso’s squiggle on the napkin and the fortune he asked for it, claiming it took him two minutes and a lifetime to draw that squiggle. It took me years of practice to come up with these five vignettes.

Jun 20, 2014

3 Snapshots in the Life of an Underground Sandwich Artist


The moment that preceded my knocking on grandma’s door was fraught with tension. An abnormally monochrome beetle watched my every move from its sentry post beside the gilded doorknob, guarding it with the same clouded eagerness as Persephone's when she grips the pomegranate. Persephone a redhead — the beetle agreed that was ridiculous.


So I packed my bags and got on a train to Salzburg, where I planned to dig up Mozart’s bones and do unspeakable things to them. Also see my Austrian grandmother whom I have not visited for years. She would like to hear of my exploits in the Finnish Mafia.


As a child I wanted to become a matador, but broken bones and a face built for psychological violence led me to join the secret police. Nobody really said or did anything; one day I woke up and my induction was complete. My first partner was Frank, a sadistic vegetarian.

Only a sadistic vegetarian would drive a thing like this.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood were a group of English painters who liked redheads very much. Evidence below:

Exhibit A: Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Exhibit B - Sophie Gengembre Anderson

Exhibit C - this is what happens when you leave a fish and a corn cob alone in a room.
You can take my word for it or you can read up on Ulisse Aldrovandi.

Jun 18, 2014

The Chomping Mouth at the End of June

Briony’s nightmares started with these two-minute videos that appeared online every Tuesday. On a speckled kitchen countertop, two hands in latex gloves placed a blue tea mug and filled it partway with a dark, viscous fluid. With every new video the hand poured more of the fluid into the mug.

Emma Snow and the Yeti
by Matthew Grabelsky

Briony, a variant of Bryony, apparently used to be the name of a Eurasian vine used as medicine.

Yetis do not exist, but it might be fun if they did.

I don't know whether anyone is making videos of the kind I describe in the story prompt above, but I do know of one person who started a series where she just counted numbers off of her microwave display and that was it. After a couple dozen videos, most of the viewership had quit but a few brave souls were still tuning in and waiting for some kind of revelation.

Jun 14, 2014

Just How Much Fuel Does a Chicken Need to Cross the Road?

Cantor checked his watch again. The horizon refused to change, remained empty of known figures. No red chassis sparkling in the desert sun, no driver’s face. Cantor needed a ride.

The woman he waited on did come, finally. The vehicle, however, brought questions to his mind. Of the undesirable kind.

Art by Matthew Grabelsky

Fun facts about chickens:
1. Absolutely none.

Other facts about chickens:
1. They have actual ear lobes. I didn't know that.
2. The area of the back adjacent to their tail feathers is called the saddle. I didn't know that either.
3. Some argue that, when you die, you are reunited with all the chickens you have ever loved.

Also by Matthew Grabelsky

4. All chickens possess a beak with which they pick up food off the ground and proceed to swallow it. This process is commonly known as eating. Chickens do not chew because they are impolite.
5. The domestic chicken is a subspecies of the red junglefowl.
6. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night because chickens project worry and disquiet by telepathy. They do not control their telepathic projection very well; their thoughts just wander around until they enter the mind of someone sensitive enough to understand.

by Giedre Domzaite

7. A "chicken scheme" sounds weaselly and illegal, but I assure you, you have nothing to fear. Unless you hate coding.
8. Chickens do not enjoy the weekend the way normal people do.
9. Buckethead will one day save all the chickens of this Earth (and possibly outer space) from the tyranny of human appetites.

And also have a thing for cows.

Jun 11, 2014

Where's Your Occam's Razor Now?

My fellow orange-pickers had all turned into shrimps.

Yes, man and woman-sized shrimps in aprons and hats and torn dungarees, going about the business of picking oranges from indifferent trees.

And I wanted to scream.

But I was a shrimp myself. I had no vocal tract!

Photo by Andy Reynolds

Fun facts about the shrimp:

1. It has six abdominal segments.
2. It possesses genitalia.
3. It worships the unknown sea god Glalbolagis the Unheard-of.
4. It has segmentary endopods that attach laterally to the masticatory part of the mandible.
5. But no vocal tract.
6. A shrimp will eat anything, even plastic or giraffes.
7. Most of what we know about the shrimp is codified in Dungeons & Dragons, 3rd Edition.
8. Americans eat around three and a half ounces of seafood per week.
9. The shrimp may have claws. Approach carefully and always proffer a suitable gift in the first instance.

On takepart.com, author Richard Connif writes:

"Depending on their weaponry, different mantis shrimp species get classified as either “smashers” or “spearers.” The smashers have hammer-tipped claws. They strike with a force of 1500 Newtons, about 335 pounds. 

"To put that in perspective, it takes only a little more force—1900 Newtons—for a human karate punch to split a concrete slab an inch-and-a-half thick. More to the point, the hammer can smash open a clam shell or a snail. Some hammer-type mantis shrimp are aggressive enough that if you put one in a standard fish tank, it will burst through the glass (and possibly come hunt you down)."

A hit with the ladies, that mantis shrimp. Make sure you always hire a couple to liven up your dinner party or brunch at the Hilton.

Jun 6, 2014

Three Premises for Tales of Horror, Inspired by Heavy Metal... And Who Knows What Else

Maybe it’s just me, but Friday strikes me as a metal sort of day. You know what else metal fans gravitate toward? Horror movies. In my teens, I began a long-lasting affair with heavy metal music and scary movies. So the following prompts are, in a way, tribute to some of the forces that shaped my imagination. Let’s open the chthonic gates and see what comes out.

by Jeffrey Alan Love

Nightmare Number One

Consider a species older than humanity. They hail from a star so distant it may have gone nova by now. They can’t remember the star’s name, or what they call themselves.

The first stirrings of poetry among humans slowly tease them back from millennial sleep. As they wake, their changeable bodies come to resemble those of black rats.

They will make their homes in tunnels and sewers, listening to Sumerian poets and Greek tragedies. To Shakespeare and Beckett and Brecht. And when they feel strong and ready – which they will, soon – the black rats will take our words, leaving us mute and bewildered. Looking each other in the eye, but struggling with a leaden silence.

A crystallized pyramid of rodent bodies will emerge from the deepest pit of their underground colony and depart for the void, to look for signs of civilization elsewhere.

Musical Inspiration:

Nightmare Number Two

Jeremy finds his body slowly turning into a guitar. The pain takes on the quality of music, by and by, and its melodies grow long and involved, the fingerings quick and frenzied.

Nobody notices. Not in the street, not at home, certainly not at the church where he never belonged.

Nobody understands that his body is changing. That the substratum of Jeremy’s mind has turned into musical notation. Whenever he tries to speak Jeremy shoots out a flurry of tritones and pentatonic scales. Jeremy’s wife hears complaints about the fridge; his kids ignore him; the pastor suggests prayer meetings and a deeper connection with God.

At night the torrent of song becomes unbearable. It replaces his dreams with funeral dirges and laments. And Jeremy’s heart strings tense and vibrate and wail as a shadow plucks at them — until dawn creeps in through the window or the pain lulls his body into a coma.

Musical Inspiration:

Nightmare Number Three

A post-human race of time travelers hides among us, causing panics, ordering assassinations, motivating kill-crazy cultists and creating as much disinformation as they possibly can; all for scientific purposes. These post-humans revel in their role as improvers of the human animal.

Musical Inspiration:


What will you do with these story premises? How far can your imagination take them?

Jun 5, 2014

When Clever Bugs Roamed Freely in the Kingdoms of Man

Yesterday I had to skip blogging for reasons various and sundry. You know those times when you run yourself into the ground and your body just compels you to take a break? Yeah, that's what happened. Moral of the story: pay attention to what your body tells you. But here I am now, with the story prompt that you've been waiting for. Enjoy!

The Stone Butterfly Dreamed of Waking Up Again
by John Magnet Bell

The butterfly just wouldn’t stop asking questions.

Who is Sogarthi?

Why do you have to kill him?

Why is he evil?

Rholanda sliced the air with her dagger. The butterfly, head intact, lit upon Rholanda’s shoulder.

Because you said so? What does that mean?

Hypostasis 5
by John Magnet Bell

Did you know that Society6, the artist community I'm a part of, is offering free shipping worldwide on prints, t-shirts, phone cases and more, until June 8? 

That's right. But you need a magic key to get that sort of goodness. And, guess what, I have just such a key for my friends and readers.

Let me just ask an honest question: Do you love art? I'm assuming the answer is yes. Well, that's something we have in common, you and me:

These are a few of my prints. Click here to get free shipping when you buy one.
Don't you want free shipping? Everyone wants free shipping, no matter where you live.

Or, maybe you've run out of space for quality art on your walls, because you're that sort of person. But hey, how about a t-shirt, tote bag or laptop skin? Because I have gorgeous stuff for you to wear - to the beach - the casino - the boardwalk - the Parisian promenade - and make all your friends wonder where you got your swag

Yes, both you AND your computer can wear my art.
Click here and get free shipping when you buy.

And now you can even embellish your bathroom with my cosmic stuff!

See you tomorrow. 
Enjoy some great music in the meantime!