End-of-Year Cleaning

If you’ve been paying attention to this thing, you may have noticed it’s mostly dead. Fatherhood and hobbies (also work and general family life) have kept me from taking much of an interest in politics or country life, except in that all politics is local (of course) and country life just is.

There was a guy who is fabulously wealthy and has a show and said some stuff about duck vaginas or something, that was the last pop-culture thing I read.

Since my fitbit account is running rampant and the wife is posting baby pictures to Flickr (which is great), I’m gonna chop that stuff out for now. Fuck off if you’ve been stalking me that way, or my family, you weirdo.

Anyways, merry Christmas and Happy New Years to you, if you for some reason have had your eyes come to rest here.


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Views on gaming and its effects upon kids (and some adults)

Draft One, a larger and meta-ironic sprouting of a seed of a talk on boredom:

In the interests of full disclosure and also disclaiming official stances for my employers, I admit I am a long-time video gamer and nothing I put in this blog post should reflect on the official policies of those who pay my paychecks.  Also, my opinions are my own and based (mostly) on anecdotes and my own first-hand experience, although my professional opinions are affected by training as a scientist/practitioner at a medium-sized, accredited University.  I have worked, and am currently working, in the field of mental health counseling as a therapist and have helped clients with serious mental health issues such as schizophrenia and bipolar mood-disorders, and have been employed specifically to target dual-diagnosis problems (that is mental health and substance abuse) in prison populations as well as in the juvenile justice system.  That said, I am a relatively new therapist – I graduated in 2010.  I say this so you know, well in advance, that although I know whereof I speak and have looked into it and handled it professionally, I am not far removed from the problem myself.  Video games being the problem in question.

Computer games.  Console games.  Hand held portables.  My first flirtation with video games was this device.  When the state of games advanced (I think I was around 6 at the time) we had a Magnavox Odyssey, an Atari 2600, an Intellivision, and a Commodore 64 and 128, and the various Nintendo 8-bit systems.  Some other vaguely remembered console had a big Dirty Harry-type gun as a peripheral.  I have been suckled on the teat of video game violence and was weaned on the arcade culture of Miami’s late 1980’s and early 1990’s arcades.  The comic store I came up in (Brother’s Grimm, sadly long defunct) had a Mortal Kombat cabinet that I dumped much of my teen allowance into.  I have played intensely violent computer games of all stripes: DOOM, Quake, Fallout 1,2,3.  Bioshock.  Games in which violence was a perk and was also the main attraction Street Fighter, Samurai Shodown, Time Killers. House of the Dead.  I have lost uncounted hours of my life to video game violence and digital entertainment.  Ok, enough.  Enough, you get it.

Before I proceed, I will share that I value the ethical and theoretical stances of the American Counseling Association, a professional organization of which I am a member.  I have not looked into any official stances of the ACA on behavioral addictions (or process addictions).  Whatever it is, I don’t speak for them or my colleagues in the trenches.  I speak for myself.  Video games are the culmination of human art.  I don’t care about this guy and his dumb opinions or the battle of semantics that is likely to ensue from this first premise.  If you can’t imagine a table of ping-pong when you play Pong and envision the battle of wills that must ensue, well, stick with criticism and put the paddle down, sir.  Roger must not have shared the consensual hallucination of fleeing willy-nilly from ghosts through a neon maze that many of us call Pac Man Fever.  I beat it, don’t sweat at night anymore but I am prone to relapse every couple of years.  Video games are the current pinnacle of our capabilities, the human imagination laid bare and available to be shared and laughed and cried over.  They are to my mind magical and amazing.  Also, they are a blight and a drug and a poison for children and ought to be avoided by sensible parents at all costs, as the risks involved in allowing your kid to consume video games (yes, all of them, Tetris included) far, far outweighs – I say it again for emphasis – FAR outweighs whatever benefits may come from that consumption.

We are at an interesting point in human history at which the possibilities available in the sensorium of the video game experience are now so advanced that for a small kid, maybe at a certain operational level of development, they are practically indistinguishable from reality.   I will leave out links to arguments on this issue, and I will present here what I am experiencing in my day-to-day job experience. I find that many parents that come to me report that their kids are irritable, aggressive, generally short-tempered and prone to tantrums when frustrated.  I do not know if this link that I propose is causal or correlational.  For example, it could be that households in which kids have these problems tend to be poorly supervised and parents, say, ignore the warnings on the label of (e.g. GTAIII now available on the nintendo DSi and iPhone platforms).  The kids may have poorly parenting parents so they play 4 or 5 or six hours of video games a day, and they are never far from sources of digital entertainment.  I point out that I have my iphone in my pocket as I write this.  I could (and likely will) play some violent game – currently Swordigo – before I go to bed.  Swordigo leaves out humanoid and anthropomorphic enemies, BTW, God Bless Them.  The same cannot be said for MW3 or Call of Duty:Black Ops, in which the primary point is to mow down human-controlled human-approximating enemies.  One of these titles is the highest selling form of entertainment of any kind, ever, in the realm of human pay-for-entertainment experience.  I encourage you to investigate more than I have.  I make, perhaps, some unfounded assertions.

The problems we are experiencing, as a society, stem (at least in my opinion) from a casual disregard of consequences for our actions, disrespect for human and non-human life, overconsumption, drive for stimuli, and (perhaps the most important, to my mind) the need to escape our own cognitive processes and experience.   Maybe due to poverty, or maybe gross cognitive dissonance about potentialities versus experience.  We have all been trained by Farnsworth’s box to expect things, we haven’t got them.  Now, we let our kids listen to another box – Nolan Bushnell‘s (or whoever you want to say started this chain of events) and we let it baby sit them and learn things that are patently unreal but seem very convincing.  Our brains and bodies have gradually been molded to deny some very simple truths, to eat things that are probably quite bad for us, and to take pleasure in the ceaseless and constant symbolic slaying of things that look like us.  Pac-Man.  I played a lot of Pac-Man and Space Invaders at a very important time when my brain was shedding the dendrites that just didn’t fit my experience.  That’s one thing; I’m behaviorally and cognitively primed to want more resolution and better graphics, less symbolic representations of amusing hypothetical events.  I really like, for example, the nauseatingly common Zombie theme that is ponderously crushing even the independent game world, now.  It’s just cool from a anthropological and sociological (not to mention psychodynamic and Jungian) sense.  And I get a little rush of adrenaline and dopamine when I evade a slow zombie in a digital house in a microcosm.  There, I put myself and my persona in the place of some stretch of pixels on a screen that has no soul or agency of its own.  I have only the smallest and least empathic sense of what it must be like to be (like some people I know professionally and personally) unceasingly entertained by the non-stop slaughter of others.  Especially so when it’s a small child with wild behavioral problems like aggression and tantrums, with a parent that tells me that NO, it’s not the caffeine and video games they have access to, my kids aren’t affected by these things.  I am often at a loss as to what to say.  I feel like we as a society are being trained for some calamity.  A zombie-pocky-clipse?  I hope so.  The slaughter our kids are being trained for would seem less barbaric if it were only committed upon the walking dead rather than our fellow humans.  Maybe aliens would be slightly better, although that’d probably be a loss as well.  Depends on the aliens, I suppose.

That’s it.  If you object to any of my points, feel free to send me a semi-rational argument or counter-anecdote.  I would be pleased to bat this one about.  I don’t want to give any video game people the impression that this is an attack on them (ahem Please Gabe Give Us Episode 3 Already ahem); rather an attack on poor parenting and failure to maintain adequate controls over kids’ media consumption.  On that note I’m gonna peace out.  Deuces y’all.

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noahms456’s photostream

Scott and Carly did the decoratin'.  'Twas nice.

Tha’s mine photostream

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I AM SEW DRUNK LOL. Being an Expedition into Boozesoaked Stitchery

Well, I admit this is an entirely new world to me.  I am sewing.  I got this nice pattern for what I thought was gonna be a simple slapdash affair.  Like, crank it out in 15 minutes type thing.  I mean, hell, some 18th century caveman (okay, cavewoman) without a sewing machine can do this, I got the benefit of a bunch of books, the interwebs, youtube videos, a 35 year old sewing machine, and a six-pack of Newcastle Brown Ale.  What could go wrong?  After a couple of beers and a long day of work, I couldn’t understand the instructions to save my ass.  Gusset?  Whiplash hem? Bodice?  Note: Bodice is one of my all-time personal favorite words… I was pretty dehydrated owing to the G__ awful heat.

Well, I think I cut the pattern okay.  May have overjudged the (my) size.  The damn thing looks like a tent so far.  I understand I need to gather the front a little (I can’t believe I just typed that out) but seriously, I look like I’m getting ready to set sail.  On these long stretches of seams you burn through thread like nobody’s business, too.  I needed to replace the bobbin like 3 times.  I admit I have a lotta stitches per inch.

The pattern suggests that everything be sewn by hand.  I tell you, Ms. Kannik (the fine proprietor of said pattern) is a sewing-crazed wanton.  If I tried to so much as hem this thing by hand I would needs must curl up in a balle and die!  Odds Bodkins! Hammer and Tongs!

Well, don’t sew drunk kids.  Bad news.  Bad news.  Ima need to go get some more muslin to cut out the body pieces.  I don’t trust my newcastle-laced stitchings.  A pun.  Beer and sewing.  You see?

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Sewing Pattern Recognition

When I imagine the future, it’s a terrible thing.  I’m thinking of Blade Runner.  Brazil.  Minority Report.  The Postman.  Yes, I might go so far as Waterworld.  I know, I know.  I just saw Repo Men today (a pretty good flick, btw).  And I just got “Zero History” – W. Gibson’s latest novel from the local library.  2 things about Gibson: 1) The books get less “future-y” and more “present-ey” and 2) He must have some sort of minor guilt complex for introducing us to “cyberspace” all those years ago.


Why?  Well, hear me out.  And bear in mind I live in Mennonite country (this seems an odd thing to write, upon reflection).  In the last couple of books there was a subplot that’s been developed into the central theme of this latest one.  Sort of a “fight the future” type arc that’s been hung there like he was staring at it and thinking real hard or something.  This thing about nice clothes.  You may have picked it up in the earlier books; the Rickson’s bomber jackets, bad reactions to logos.  Now he’s got this “plot device” of the post hoc militarization of civilian wardrobes.  Kinda scary; also perfectly true.  If you think his premise is a bad one, go check out my local Walmart where camo shorts in widely varying patterns are all the rage.  You see, the styles of the armed forces have like a 10 year curve into mass appeal and now we have things like neck ties because some dickhead Prussian officer had to keep the gravy off his placket.  (Bear in mind, I’m hungry as I write).  Long story short, in the book the end product of development is the anti-Old Navy “anti-label” Gabriel Hounds.


Anyway, thanks to Gibson I am reacting badly to mass-produced clothes.  Once you learn a little, you might be horrified at the shortcuts and shoddy workmanship that sweatshops gotta make so’s you can have a $12 pair of khakis.  That’s leaving all the “sweat” aside…  I was wondering why my pants have holes in all the seats… Well, it’s cause I settled for cheap shit.  And I got a closet full of cheap shit I don’t particularly like to wear.  Why?  Always hunting for something that looks good on me/always buying cheap shit/too invested to move on and throw that stuff into the Goodwill pile.


Uninformed purchasing of disposable goods.  Possibly the greatest problem in the modern western world.


The only thing I own that I really dig is my leatherjacket, and my biker boots from 17 years ago.  And my red chuck taylors.  But I’m growing up and I’m a professional and you can’t wear that shit forever.  So I’m gonna take my mother-in-law’s sewing machine and build me some clothes that look good on me and that will last for a long time and that are comfortable.  And fuck belts.  I don’t like belts.  I do like vests (or rather ”waistcoats”).  So I guess I should have suspenders.  Well, in short, I’m learning how to sew so that I can make sharp clothes that will last me the rest of my f’ing life and survive the zombiepocalypse.  Sort of a throwback to the old days when you’d have one suit for business, and a couple of stoutly-built and comfortable tailored shirts, and like a minimum gentleman’s wardrobe that could be carried around in a trunk rather than a truck.


Well, Gibson can start a thing that’s sucked us all in; hopefully this reactionary movement will spit us all out cleaner and more clothes-aware types in, say, 30 years.  By then we’ll have the chips in our skulls to learn tailoring fast, and we’ll use them to make neoprene double-breasted frock-coats to accommodate our swims to and from work.


I’ll fill you in on the details as they arrive.  Actually, I cut the pattern for the vest tomorrow, probably.  I’ll have the muslin made up this week, I should think.


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Searchers for Horror

As you may have gathered, I live out here in the sticks.  As if that weren’t scary enough, what with all the anger-y roosters and Snallygasters and Rats in The Walls (true story, I think, ask me about the smell some time), I’ve been hell-bent on finding something to titillate my scare-receptacles, and I finally found something.

I heartily recommend to you the site http://hppodcraft.com/.  Why, on the way into town today to get material for my next DIY project I happened to listen to their rendition of “The Picture in The House”, a story I first encountered in the Coral Gables Senior High library back in the early 90’s.  After nearly 20 years and untold re-readings, I sort of look at it as the quaintest of Lovecraft’s works.  But this podcast version… It’s scary.  You should put it on your headphones, or your stereo surround systems, or your Mythophonic Mi-Go Rendition Cannister, turn OFF the lights, and wait for the end.  It’s perfect!  I almost peed myself a little driving in broad daylight with the top down.  Even though I knew full well the ending that awaited.

Seriously, a bravura performance by Andrew Leman and effects work by some unnameable master.  The rise of teh interwebs means great things for people fond of “radio” drama, and also the Cthulhu Mythos.  Do yourself a mindblasting favor and check it out.  1d10/1d20 SAN

The other point that led me to post is that I have noticed some seriously creepy ramshackle… shacks around here.  I have mentioned them before, and this particular story by Lovecraft uses them to wonderful effect.  I am inspired to hop on the bike and submit a few pictures of the nearest ones.  We call the closest one “The House on the Troll Road”.  You might imagine why… but maybe I’ll post a few photos so you don’t need to.

Anyways, enjoy spring and uh, Tallyho!

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The Hills, But Not The People, Rise Wild

People out in the country, for some reason, are prone to keep to themselves.  Maybe it’s tradition.  Maybe it’s dietary.  I haven’t figured it out, yet.  I’ve been here almost a year this spring and I know almost nobody.  Is it because I am become a country type, driven to get away from the crowding and compression that cities bring?  Prone to let my neighbors manage their own affairs, as they are prone to allow me the same liberty?  Maybe.  Contrary evidence suggests that I dig bars and noise and the hustle and bustle of people moving quickly to and fro.  I heart New York.  I love it in June.  Or July.  Or March.

So I write off the notion that I moved out here to get away from people – my job requires that I dig interacting with people of all sorts.  Good people, and also the bad sorts that naturally gravitate to cities.  Also the bad sort that commits unspeakable acts in the countryside.  Bad deeds, it seems to me, happen everywhere.  Small towns, cultural centers, legislative hubs.  Bad Things go wherever people settle down for awhile.

For example, I am struck by some of the pernicious and foul acts that pop up every now and then in the charming little –burbs and –burgs and –villes that dot Maryland all smallpox-like.  Hog Maw, for instance.  It’s one of those things that proves that folks out in the boonies and left to their own devices will literally and figuratively cook up the weirdest shit.  Hog Maw, if you are unacquainted, is a charming concoction of pig stomach, pork, cabbage, and potatoes.  The stomach being stuffed with the other stuff, all roasted in an oven.  Offered as a ‘special’ every now-and-again in diners and breakfast joints that teem on the corners of aforesaid poxy towns ‘round these parts.  Tradition apparently drives the cooks that make it to roast it until crispy and leathery in mouth-feel, bland but nevertheless satisfying for some familiar but un-remembered reason.  And it’s curiously out of place amongst the Reubens and Cheese-steaks and Calzones and Chinese buffets that are so relatively common out here.  And it’s also certainly a thing brought from afar by the Stoic Germans and Dutch that fled the Oppressors on the Continent to raise pigs in the sticks of the New World.  Whatever corrupt seasonal rituals that led to Hog Maw must, to my mind, be somehow related to the Snallygaster that also flitters about in this neck of the woods.

What is a Snallygaster?  Not a food; in fact, the antithesis of food.  It’s a tradition that eats instead of is eaten by the good farming people here.  The Snallygaster, or schnell geister, is a Germanic “quick ghost” that swoops about in the woods and hills very near to where I live and makes off every so often with a child, or a horse, or a slave that no one will notice.  Some who have seen its bat-like wings, metallic beak, and tentacled head – and then lived to tell the story – have said that it feeds on the blood of its hapless victims.  Usually the victims were no one of any import who might be missed.  Predictable as clockwork, local community leaders cobble together some outcry that quickly degenerates into a wink-and-nod joke.  And, if I get my calculations about right, we are due for a rash of sightings and gobblings very soon in these foothills.  One might say, if they were inclined, that The Stars Are Nearly Right.  The cycle is about 40 years long.

Back in the early 20th century in Frederick County, they managed to inveigle the Smithsonian Institute and a President of the United States – Teddy Roosevelt, if you’re curious – who promised to make things better “if you can hold out long enough”.  But just as soon as the hew and cry of the mob began, and the people began to paint the seven-pointed stars that would keep the Thing at bay on their ramshackle barns, the Snallygaster settled back down and slept out the fuss.  They set down the pitchforks and torches and got back to the work at hand.  Sly mothers took  the opportunity, as they had for hundreds of years before, to threaten wayward children with the Snallygaster for horseplay after dark and wandering away where Children Should Not Go.  A deathless, timeless, demon relegated to a vague threat against high-spirited farm boys and their lusty milkmaid neighbors.  The shame of it defies further consideration! Before the paint was dry on their hands, the field hands forgot and got back to devouring pig stomachs and the virtue of dairy farmers’ daughters.  And things got sleepy and predictable before too long, and stayed that way for another couple of decades.

Why do I dwell on the lonely and misunderstood Snallygaster?  Well, I have faith in him.  It.  Not as a monster, but rather as a wonderful teaching tool about people.  We like to hearken back to the days of yore when things were weird and exciting, and we don’t feel the terror that we have a perfect right to still feel.  Heck, my sister-in-law distinctly remembers that as late as the 1970s, she herself was threatened with this sinister critter by her grandmother.  Looking back, she knows it was foolish, but… But when the wind howls across the hill, and the madwoman nighttime cries of foxes keen through the valley, and the stars shimmer above in their infinite menace…  Well, it’s not so easy, then, to forget.  In fact, that barn across the way that needs a little work might then seem like a perfect place for a winged thing to perch after its nightly rushings-about.  One might say that the stars are right, at that time, for a good barn-painting, and maybe to top it off you could embellish the job with a little with a seven-pointed star, just to be on the safe side.  Why?  Well, Grandpa had his reasons for everything, strange as they seem now.

And then afterwards, maybe you could get over to Union Bridge and sample the local diner’s – the Buttersburg Inn’s – you could try their Hog Maw and the horrible things your forebears brought with them (and thought they left behind) might be placated with a little roasted potato and cabbage, all stuffed in the innards of a pig.  And you could forget that terror that dwells near here, and go to bed on a full stomach and not worry so much about the howls in the night and missing people and those vast and hideous skies that loom above your barn out back.  The one that ought to have been torn down a long time ago if only you had the time and energy.

People out here in the country, like people everywhere I suppose, are weird.

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