First Place in #ThursThreads (Probably The Grossest Piece I've written This Year)

This piece is a little, um, gross. I entered it in the #ThursThreads flash fiction contest hosted by Siobhan Muir. If you're prone to squeamishness, do yourself a favor and ... read it. You only live once. :) The prompt was: Experiencing new cultures can be weird.

  

thrus-threads-winnerAccording to the Brochure

The winsome, long-haired native girl shoving shaved, locally grown, organic palm fronds into my anus was an expert. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't say I was enjoying the experience as much as the brochure implied I might, but, as a craftsman myself, I recognize skill and appreciate a deft touch.

And the overstuffed vinyl massage table I laid face down on turned out quite comfortable. Although I admit, I was initially intimidated by the set of leather, aftermarket ankle stirrups attached at its foot. Necessary for safety, according to the brochure.

Fresh cut, bendy green palm fronds contain loads of chlorophyll. The anti-aging properties of the chlorophyll leech out as the palm fronds wither. A process, according to the brochure, which takes several hours to several days, depending on an individual's natural acidity and pH balance.

According to the brochure, palm fronds were a well-known ancient remedy to promote vibrant health and longevity. Apparently one thousand years ago it was common in this part of the world for people to walk around with palm fronds up their asses. ("Hiya Bill, you look a little stressed. What's up?" "Ah, nothing Tom. Wife's nagging me about patching the thatch on the roof ... and I got this green stick up my ass again.")

Experiencing new cultures can be weird, so I'm always happy when hotels provide stacks of free brochures filled with things to do. Tomorrow I'll invigorate my chakra with a relaxing soak in a pool of fresh alpaca urine.

 

http://www.siobhanmuir.com/siobhans-blog/thursthreads-week-209-winners

Inspired By Reddit Word Prompt: Never Been Clipped (by Matt Lashley)

Inspired by Reddit word prompt: You are a powerless human who is known to be the source of all superpowers in Earth. To end all conflicts, heroes are out to kill you. Meanwhile, the villains protect you. 

Never Been Clipped

by Matt Lashley

The power source isn't what you think. In fact, I didn't discover it myself until I turned twelve--and then, completely by accident.

It was mom's birthday. And, just like the five birthdays before, my dad gave her a gift certificate for the nail salon up the road, "House of Beauty Nails".

Back then I thought dad was either unimaginative or cheap. It wasn't until years later, I learned he'd been sleeping with his secretary and she was the one who regularly picked out mom's birthday gifts.

This time mom took me with her to the nail salon. Because it was her birthday, I didn't mind going.

Before the incident, save a few details, I don't remember much about the salon. But I do remember one tiny Korean woman with a face like a porcelain doll, a great figure and long jet black hair gathered into a pony tail held at the top of her head by a jeweled band. She wore four inch heels, super tight jeans and a white t-shirt with the words "House of Beauty Nails" screen printed in cursive green letters on the back.

I remember as the tiny, beautiful lady led us to her station, the ends of her hair fanned into a thousand little fingers brushing the the bottom of her tiny, beautiful butt.

She was a wiggle walker and with each wiggle the pony swayed like a silky black flag in a gentle breeze, the little frayed ends of the flag brushing lightly across the bottom of her perky butt cheeks.

Now, because I mentioned butts a few times, you might assume I'm a butt man. And you wouldn't be wrong. But this story doesn't hinge on my predilection for butts over boobs or legs, so forget I said anything. It's just a happy childhood memory that I enjoy thinking about from time to time. Especially now, when happy is in short supply.

As mom took her seat in the oversized, red vinyl lounge chair, I took a seat in a metal folding chair across from her and picked up a glossy but tattered Cosmo with an empty rectangle on the bottom corner where the address label on the magazine's front cover had been ripped off.

I flipped through the pages, alternately looking at the ultra skinny magazine models and sneaking peeks at the Korean woman's tiny butt every time she stood to go get something. And then, out of nowhere ...

Mom asked if I'd like to have my nails done too.

Sure, I said without much thought.

Ever since playing footsie under the lunchroom table with Sally Peterson, my raging hormones caused me to ache for nonfamilial female touch.

Anyway, I thought, it couldn't hurt my chances with the ladies to have nicely clipped and filed nails. Maybe Sally would see how well I took care of them and play footsie with me again.

I took my seat in a red vinyl chair beside mom's. It was cool to the touch and way more comfortable than the metal folding chair.

After a minute, a different Korean woman came out from behind a door in the back of the salon and headed toward me. She had a face like an oatmeal cookie, a body shaped like a cardboard box with crunched corners and shaggy, cropped hair that fit her head like a burnt tree stump.

She was certainly no porcelain doll, but I didn't care. A woman's touch was a woman's touch. And anyway, when I masturbated later, I'd be thinking about the porcelain doll and Sally's feet.

"What you like?", the lady asked me.

I looked over at mom with a question on my face. "He'd like a clip, a file and clear polish," she said.

"Sound good," the lady replied and nodded her head. And then ... all hell broke loose.

It had to be something to do with the nail clippers. Specifically the type of metal in them.

Up to that point, the only attention my fingernails had ever got was a good nervous gnawing when faced with a math test I forgot to study for or the occasional bend backwards while playing tag football. They had never been clipped.

The lady rolled a small, narrow white plastic table in front of me. Then she took my right hand in her left hand and placed it palm down on the table. She placed her left hand palm down on the back of my hand a little too firmly, as if to hold it down in case I decided to yank it back for some reason.

In her right hand, she held the largest chrome plated nail clipper I'd ever seen. If I wasn't at a nail salon, I'd have thought she was prepping to cut a bolt lock off a bicycle or head over to the Home Depot to cut links out of a roll of chain link fence.

"Hold still," she said.

"Okay," I said.

"You feel pinch, it okay," she said. "Maybe bleed. Still hold still, okay?"

Blood? Pain? I looked over at mom. She stared back with an empty eyed, mother-knows-best look, devoid of emotion and lacking her usual empathy. It terrified me.

"Um, mo--," I didn't get the word mom out before, in one deft, lightning quick move, the box-shaped lady grabbed my index finger with her left hand simultaneously bringing the oversized chrome clippers to my finger with her right hand.

I felt the metal of the clipper press against the top of my finger followed by a burning sensation that started in the tip of my finger and shot its way up through my forearm, then my biceps, through my shoulder, up my neck and behind the socket of my right eye.

I cried out. The pain came in waves, as if someone was jamming a ruler sized shard of jagged glass into my frontal lobe then pulling it out over and over.

I tried to jerk my trapped hand backward. The lady pressed down and tightened her hold on it. I pulled my left knee up to my stomach, lifting my foot inline with the her sagging, right boob. I kicked forward with all my might.

The lady let go of my hand, fell back out of her chair and let out a low, cheek flapping sound like the sound an air filled balloon makes when it's let go to fly in uncontrolled spasms around the room.

The chrome nail clipper clanked, bounced and rattled to a stop on the hard tile floor. I looked at the lady. She was on all fours, her face was red and her eyes were wet. She took a breath and reached for the clipper. I quickly stood and kicked her in the head with enough force to score a fifty yard field goal on a windy day.

"Stop!" the lady grunted from down on her hands and knees. "Stop. It the only way."

"The only way for what, you daffy bitch?" I yelled, pulling my foot back for another kick.

"She's right," mom said. "Stop. She's right. It's the only way. You must have them clipped. You must release the power."

During the scuffle, the porcelain doll with the tight butt had circled to my right a few feet away. She held a black automatic pistol pointed at my head. For a microsecond, I imagined a bullet in the brain might feel better than having that shard of invisible glass stabbing me behind the eye again.

"Mom," I said. "Mom. What is this. Tell me what's going on."

"Sit for a second. Let's talk about it."

"No. I won't sit. Tell me what the hell is going on."

"Okay. Okay. Just calm down." She slowly sat back in her red vinyl chair. "It's your finger nails."

"W-what?"

"Your finger nails. They are the keys. They hold the power. To save Earth. They must be clipped."

"The hell you say," I said. A phrase I'd heard my dad use when discussing politics with the neighbor.

"It really is the only way," mom said.

"True it the only way," the lady said from the floor.

"I don't give a shit," another phrase I'd heard dad use. "You're not touching me with those damn things again." I got up and backed my way toward the front of the salon.

"Shoot? I shoot him?" the porcelain beauty with the tight butt holding the nine millimeter asked.

"No," mom said. "Let him go … for now."

I ran out of the salon and sprinted the fifteen blocks to my house. I burst in the door, stood in the entryway out of breath and yelled for my dad. He came from the living room with the cordless phone in his hand.

"Dad," I said. "You're never gonna believe what mom ..."

"Son," he interrupted. "Let me see your hands."

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The Ol' Switcheroo Writing Prompt: Tell A Story That Seems Like Horror, But Shift the Genre With the Last Sentence of the Story

chsarlie-brown-lucy-footballMark's legs felt wobbly, unsteady, as if all the cartilage connecting his tendons and bones had been replaced by strands of silly string. His heart beat hard and fast at an uneven tempo, like a first year band student was banging on a base drum embedded in his chest. And he was hot. Really hot. Sickly hot. The streams of sweat running down his forehead, over his cheeks and into the corners of his mouth tasted like a mixture of pretzel salt and lukewarm tequila shooters.

Mark wiped the beads of perspiration from his brow with the sleeve of his jacket. He was nervous. Really nervous. Sickly nervous. And why shouldn't he be? It's not every day a man knows his life will end.

The robed man standing above Mark intoned instructions in a calm, self-possessed voice that reminded Mark of the hum of an electric power station. Mark barely comprehended the monotone words but when they ceased, he instinctively knelt before the man and lowered his head in submission.

For a moment, Mark tensed every muscle in his body and imagined jumping up and sprinting out the door, never looking back. But he knew any escape attempt would be met by force and when, not if, he was caught, there would be hell to pay. In the end, after the tears and screaming and threats, he'd end up back here. No, he thought, far better to accept fate with dignity.

After several minutes of agonizing silence, the robed man motioned for Mark to stand. Mark stood. The robed man resumed his toneless incantations then suddenly stopped, turned to Mark and stared down expectantly into the space just above Mark’s eyes.

Mark stared back dumbly, like a big hairy gorilla forced to momentarily stop eating bananas and masturbating in order to recite Pi to the hundredth place. The robed man, perturbed, repeated his incantation. This is it, Mark thought and he braced himself.

"Do you, Marcus Arnold Asbury, take Delores Francine Tilton to be your lawfully wedded wife to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?"

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If You Write 450+ Words for a Weekly Flash Fiction Contest and No One Is In the Comment Section to Read it ...

Last night I entered a piece in Alissa Leonard's #FinishThatThought weekly flash fiction contest.oops-def-matt-lashley

I never feel 100%, alpha-male confident in the pieces I submit to contests--this submission was no different.

I liked it okay, but I know I'll reread it today and smack my forehead while thinking of all the mistakes I made in it.

Then I'll reread it tomorrow and see the illogical flow I'd somehow managed to weave in and asked readers to follow and smack my forehead wondering how I could have been so dumb. And then, forgetting my own strength and that a propensity for genetically weak neck muscles run in my family tree, I'll smack my forehead again and my head will pop back, tilt up and expose the giant slot in my throat where I hide all my PEZ candy.

pez-candy-ad-matt-lashleyAnyway, I submitted the piece an entire day late. An. Entire. Day. And didn't realize it until two hours later. Forehead smack! (Don't take my candy!)

As best as I can tell, here's what happened ...

While scanning Rebekah Postupak's (who, btw, has the perfect last name for a self service mail and package store) Flash Universe  page for flash fiction contests, I conflated the date and time of a different contest with the date and time of #FinishThatThought.

Besides feeling a bit silly, no harm was done. The upside is, anything that compels me to write words and show them publicly is a win.

---

Prompt: start with--[I] didn't know who [he] was, but [he] was definitely not my [husband]. 

486 words

@MattLashley_

Mrs. Washington Itches for a Fight 

Eighty-eight year old Mabelle Washington didn't know who he was, but he was definitely not her postman. The four o'clock summer rays beat down mercilessly and the glare bouncing from the cracked white sidewalk in front of her faded pink house made her squint. Even still, Mabelle was certain, the man coming up her walkway was not her mailman. And she ought to know.

For the last fifteen years, come rain or shine, except for the Lord's Day, she'd spent every afternoon on her front porch in the wicker rocker Joe'd made her for her sixtieth birthday. Since retiring from her job as a teacher at the county middle school in the summer of fifty-eight and Joe up and leaving this world two years after, she had nothing better to do most days than to sit in her rocker and watch the night sky squeeze the light from the sun.

She inched forward in her rocker to size up the imposter. He was strange looking, like he'd jumped right off the front cover of that idiotic MAD magazine, all ears and freckles donning that hormone-induced, sex-crazed, half boy, half man, imbecilic grin she'd watched every seventh grade male child wear for the three months after his balls dropped. Damn little perverts.

She'd heard about this type of thing on the nightly news. Sexual deviants buying fake badges and knocking on doors pretending to look for lost neighborhood children so they could get inside a house and prey on naive housewives and widows. The world was fast becoming a terrible place and she was glad Joe didn't stick around to see it.

As the charlatan climbed the first step, moving ever closer, she was certain. This fellow didn't look at all like her postman. HIs gait was too long, his shoulders too slouched and he carried an air of trouble about him that she could smell just like she could smell those dope smoking hippies in the park. She tightened her grip on her heavy wooden cane and shifted her weight forward preparing for the fight. By god, if he wanted trouble she knew she was just the one to pack it, wrap it and deliver it to him with bells on it ...

"Afternoon, Mabelle. How're you this fine day?"

He knew her name. She fell back into her chair and opened her mouth to speak. But her tongue was as dry as if someone had just shoved the world's thickest saltine cracker down her gullet and chased it with a fistful of sawdust. The most she could muster was a weak "Harrumph." that sounded more like she was conjuring a wad of phlegm than delivering a stern rebuke.

"Mrs. Mabelle, this package came for you from Dr. Waterman's. Just need you to sign for it. You told me last week to be on the lookout for it and rush it over if I could."

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Publishing A Satirical News Website, It's A Milestone Sorta Like Publishing A NaNoWriMo Novel No One Will Ever Read ... Sorta

I did it. No, not that. No, not that either. I mean I did it. The big one. You know ...

I finally did something with badthinker.com.

It's a satirical news site that no one will ever read. But that's okay. Writing stuff that no one will ever read has never stopped most poets.

  • It gives me a place to write. Short pieces. Fast. 
  • It gives me a place to tinker with code, like adding subtitles to my Joomla articles. Joomla is PHP driven. I don't write code in PHP. I'm more of a Python guy.

Don't let anyone tell you writing code is too hard for you to do. About 7 years ago, back when Silverlight was a thing, I taught myself XAML and C# and wrote an entire project for a major company in it in about 2 months. Silverlight was/is awesome. I even used Silverlight to develop a prototype app and launch a start up with investors and everything. Too bad things didn't go our way.

Anyway, I discovered Python while managing a team of about 45 people. Our production job systems was broken and the support team needed to retool, so I wrote a system in Python that worked nicely as a stop gap for three months until we could commission a dev team to build a scalable enterprise solution.

And reports -- I wrote a lot of automated reports in Python. When you're managing large teams of people in a factory-esque environment, data-driven systems are not optional.  

I used Python to hit MySQL, Sybase, Oracle, Postgres, SQLite -- and the awesome thing-- I was learning Python as I went. I didn't know it from REXX (an IBM mainframe language I dabbled in fifteen years ago working as a systems programmer/DBA on big iron (z/VM, s390, zSeries).

Python is fast, easy to code in, easy to create in, easy to build in. I can literally have an idea and implement it in code almost as fast as I can write a blog post. It's like reading work by a certain type of author, something in you lights up. Python is like that for me. It fits me and my style of thinking.

Anyway, once you get a few fundamentals under your belt, you can pick up just about any programming language and hack around. Don't let anybody tell you different. Most popular languages were created between the same bookends, the same paradigms--I/O, processor, memory, storage, binary code--so of course they're going to be similar.

So, yeah, Bad Thinker. It's okay if nobody but me ever reads it. It's mine and I like it.

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Struck Down But Not Destroyed

Entered: https://christianflashweekly.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/cfw-event-34/

Results: Runner up

@MattLashley_

962 words

Struck Down But Not Destroyed

The preacher watched as the bright red stream from his left nostril snaked the grooves between the beveled aqua blue tiles and puddled at the hair clogged drain. He struggled to stay conscious. Lying there, sucking wind and bleeding in the shower room at the 52nd Street Y, he questioned his instincts, his path, and, God forgive him, his faith. Even still, he prayed. Prayed the two young men would leave, prayed someone would help, prayed this cup would be removed.

“Stomp him again Bart!”

Bart obliged his cheerleader and, for a fifth or sixth time, slammed his size twelve work boot into the fallen preacher’s unguarded midsection. For good measure, he put all his weight on it, compressing it, and performed a crude, grinding Chubby Checker twist. The preacher lay on his back helpless, pinned.

Bart twisted a few more times, stopped his punishing dance, and stepped off. The preacher’s midsection decompressed and a sound, like the one a Baby Alive with low batteries makes when a child presses its tummy, passed his lips. To guard against the next blow, the preacher pulled one leg up, closer to his chest. The other leg, numb, would not bend. So he laid like a battered and bruised, lower case, cursive letter “k” and with every breath involuntarily moaned like an energy depleted baby doll.

“Told you, preach. Don’t want no prossalatizin’ round here,” Bart said.

Bart’s cheerleader chimed, “That’s right preach. Ain’t you never heard of the separation of church and state?” The cheerleader had no idea what the phrase meant, but he’d read it on a bumper sticker once and liked the way it sounded.

“Grab his wallet an let’s go for someone comes Bart.”

“Ain’t done yet.” Bart’s face twisted evil and he raised a leg and size twelve over the preacher’s head. The preacher cringed, pulled his forearms in front of his face and semi curled his beaten body to protect vital organs. Bart put down his leg without striking a blow, then grinned and mocked, “Ha, preach! Guess ya won’t be going so boldly from now on, will ya?”

Bart reached into the preacher’s pocket, took his wallet, then he and his cheerleader left. But not before turning the levers of all six shower heads leaving the preacher in a torrential downpour of fluoridated city water.

Cold water sprayed the preacher and pooled around his back. He laid for some time. When he tried to get up, the lights in his head flickered violently as if a hyper kid with ADD was rapidly flipping a switch connected to his ocular nerve. The strobe effect made him nauseous and he retched.

He tried to get up again. The lights still flickered but slower, just about blinking speed. He clumsily shifted into a wobbly crouch, then transferred all his weight to his good leg and stood a little bent. Immediately the spinning room and his throbbing head joined forces and demanded his body reassume a horizontal position. He fought to stay up and managed to for three, maybe four seconds.

Then the spinning room picked up speed and tossed him sideways like a dinghy in a thirty foot swell. He stuck out an arm, stumbled obliquely and groped air, then wall. Slimy wet wall. His hand slipped and one hundred sixty-five pounds of bone, flesh and spirit-filled preacher tumbled hard. His head hit last with a hollow thud like the sound of forty ripe cantaloupes being thumped at the same time.

All at once, the flickering lights, the spinning and the nausea stopped. The preacher wasn’t sure he was alive. But he thought, or at least he thought he thought, and that was something.

His mind raced back seventeen years to seminary, the day after final oratories. He sat at a large important man’s desk and the solemn dean, or was it Dean Solomon?, who had a reputation for telling it like it is sat across from him.

“Son, some men are born leaders, natural leaders, biologically charismatic, built to persuade, motivate and move. Son, that’s not you.”

It stung.

What bright-eyed seminary student didn’t dream of standing in front of hundreds or thousands every Sunday delivering powerful, persuasive, thought provoking sermons? Changing lives by the dozens. By the hundreds.

“Nothing wrong with being generally adored and widely admired,” the dean said. “The world needs those types. God uses them. But the world needs your type. God uses them too … and could use a lot more of them.”

In his heart he knew, knew it all along. His calling was more localized. More individualized. More personalized. His type didn’t draw a crowd, didn’t command the spotlight, didn’t demand worldly respect. Sure, like most, he’d chased those things once but in his heart, he knew they weren’t for him.

No, his type believed being thankful for what you could give outweighed being thankful for what you could get. And his type, he, lived life according to that belief.

Then his mind raced back further, to his baptism. But the water was cold, too cold, freezing in fact, and he was drowning.

Ice cold water ribboned with red filled his nose. He sucked some of it into his sinus cavity. It burned and snapped him back into reality. Carefully he got to all fours. A mixture of blood, water and tears streamed from the point of his chin. Battered, bruised and heartbroken, he crawled toward the door.

This wasn’t the first time he’d been punched, kicked or robbed while working at the shelter. He doubted it would be the last. The thing he didn’t doubt, if he, his type, didn’t give to the hopeless, the helpless, the lost, the outcast, the downcast, the broken people, the people like Bart, no one would.

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And Just Like That She Was Nineteen ...

 

taylor-lashley-2014

And just like that she was nineteen. He was sure when she went to bed the night before, she was seven.

He remembers kissing her, tucking her in and saying I love you.

He remembers turning out her light, standing in her doorway and watching her eyes, those big brown eyes, gently close.

He remembers the odd rush of feelings she inspired -- peace love, tranquility and the primal rage he would unleash on anyone who tried to hurt her.

Yes, he was sure about it, she was seven the night before. And just like that, she was nineteen.

 

Happy birthday my beautiful little princess. I can't believe you're nineteen. I love you forever plus one.

 

 

 

 

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Forgetting The "t" In Several Words Looses The Venom Of A Villainous Grammarian Sparking An Untoward Retort From A Guy Stuck In Pseudo Late 19th Century Writing Mode

image2993The following is a paraphrased retelling of a (not so) heated exchange between an anonymous male and an anonymous female in a community forum. To the best of my recollection this story is both true and accurate (and I may have been one of the participants.)

The setup: Someone (maybe me) posted a comment in which two consecutive words were missing their lower case "t's".

Caused by a sticky key? Perhaps.

An unintentional bungling by a typist who singularly prefers fingering keyboard keys with a single finger? Probably.

In retrospect, a minuscule pea of a mistake bobbing in such a thick porridge of mistakes as to reduce it to largely unworthy of any attention much less a random opining and judgment? Definitely.  

Providing entertainment to break life's daily monotony? Well, yeah.

The exchange:

"Such sloppily edited comments lead one to assume the other cares little about reputation, propriety and, frankly, civility. ", wrote she.

"In fact, one cares for correctness in commenting as much as one cares for a newly come John Grisham, but not quite as much as one cares for Sunday supper at Grandma's, but quite a bit more than one cares for experiencing a bowel movement.", wrote he.

Continued he, "That is unless, of course, one has not experienced a bowel movement in several moons. Then, of course, one is forced, not by simple wont nor by rule of self but by sheer necessity and by rule of nature, to, with due haste, relocate experiencing a bowel movement to the preeminent spot on one's list of things wholly worth caring about."

"Such vulgarity.", replied she.

"Quite such.", replied he.

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"Watts Up With That" Brings the Hammer Down on Trolls, Crushing Numerous Fictitious, Rabble-Rousing Skulls with One Mighty Blow ... Sort of

Some trolls are funny. Those are the trolls I can put up with (or up with put?).orange-hair-troll-image

It's the hate filled trolls with little white bits of saliva gummed up in the corners of their mouths I skip over (as opposed to skip under?). As you read the posts of these folks, you almost feel the flecks of body temperature spittle propelled by blasts of hot, garlic-infused bad breath flying at you as fast as simulated rocks in a Windows 98 Starfield screen saver.

Trolls are like MSNBC's Chris Matthews or John McLaughlin or anyone in the McLaughlin Group ranting six inches from your face. I like Chris Matthews ... sometimes. Just like I like Rush Limbaugh ... sometimes. I like the McLaughlin group ... all the time. I listen to all of them much less than ten years ago; mostly a clip here or there when someone posts some irresistible link bait or when I'm visiting a sick friend running a Dilaudid drip in a hospital equipped with basic cable.

anger-management-imageAnyway, trolls, like beauty and the odd bent eyelash, are in the eye of the beholder. 

Anhtony Watts cites a study on his Watts Up With That? site. The study covers topics like: everyone hates trolls, trolls are bad, trolls have personalities that only their mothers can love and how most trolls wet the bed until the age of thirty-seven.

Given the topic is troll crushing, it's funny to remember that almost anyone from Anthony's WUWT community would be considered a troll when commenting on any pro-AGW climate science piece posted at The Guardian or Skeptical Science. No matter how many "facts" or credentials you bring to the island, the natives will consider you a hate-filled, trouble-making, rabble-rousing troll. Being a dissenter in most Internet communities will land you the antagonist's role in a small town theatre production of Lord of the Flies faster than you can say "I ought to be chief because I can sing C sharp."

After reading Anthony's post and comments, it occurred to me that some folks might consider Anthony's 2014 trip to Michael Mann's presentation bold while others probably considered it a form of trolling. It's widely known that Anthony disagrees with Mann and his attendance served no other purpose than to stir the globally warmed pot of job-producing, economy-driving, planet-killing CO2.

There are trolls that are unfunny and just plain boring. Most "truther" type trolls fall into this category. They're so trollee they don't even know they're trollee. To them I say, Beat it trollee buddy. But as long as it's funny and not too degrading or personal, I say keep on trollin'.

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The AdContrarian Humorously Debunks Perceived Successes of SocMed Complaining

The AdContrarian delivers a funny and insightful diatribe on the impact of social media (SocMed) complaining. The term Digital Graffiti is a clever, although slightly inaccurate metaphor (not to mention already used in a different hows-our-product-1-800-freecontext). I suppose its brick and mortar equivalent would be spray painting an overpass, abandoned house or temporarily stalled railway car with unflattering epithets about a business that "done you wrong".

As usual, The AdContrarian boils the soap of marketing down to its common liquified components. And I usually find his stuff 99.99% pure.

After reading the post, a thought on a different angle occurred to me: if every complaint about a company or brand on Twitter was rewarded by a $5 coupon, that's a pretty brilliant marketing strategy. It's like a next gen "How's my driving? Call 1-800-555-1234" bumper sticker. But with the coupon strategy, you let a customer vent AND you send him/her a coupon to spend in your store on your (probably) overpriced goods. Win/Win

rail-car-grafMaybe someone will come up with a GroupOn style app called ComplainOn or GroupComplain or PileOn. The app would let customers vent class action style for the promise of coupons.  The company gets free feedback and the customers get unwittingly marketed to because ... they asked for it. I expect McDonald's and Taco Bell would get more complaints in one day than they get in an entire month. (Of course, McDonald's would be "lovin' it".) Especially if the coupons were for french fries or soft drinks.

Yep. There's a million billion dollars in that idea.

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Beef. It's What's For Dinner. But Only If You Hate The Environment

Please. For the love of jeebus. Stop eating beef. It's killing the planet. I'll spare you the science, but it's out there and it's real and it's scary.

In Stanford, Ca., scientists discovered cattle produce gas. Lots of it. And that gas is warming the planet. Based on that revelation, I've just discovered that scientists are not immune to the law of "Every Generation Believes They Invented Sex".

The law of Every Generation Believes They Invented Sex:

"Young humans, saturated by a flood of hormones, write songs, make jokes and change fashion to cope with a rush of new sexual urges. The young humans believe older humans lack necessary capacity to understand the songs, jokes and fashion."

Before you scoff, there's proof the law is real. It's an easy experiment and you can do it right now. Ready? Okay ... 1 ... 2 ....  think of your parents having sex.

Can't do it can you? There you go. Absolute proof that younger generations don't believe older generations know anything about sex.

Back to cow gas killing the planet. I've heard this before. Ten years ago or more. If you weren't in diapers or taking naps after recess ten years ago, you've probably heard it too.

So, I'm pleading with you all -- sop eating beef. Not only will you feel good about stopping global warming, you'll make it cheaper for me to buy t-bone steaks.

(image: Reuters)

 

 

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Climate Science And Horse Racing -- Place Your Bets!

Climate change science debating is fun to watch. Scientists on all sides and flavors (the skeptics and the convinced) go at each other like Tyson and Hoyfield. No punches are pulled, thinly veiled insults are hurled without regret and the occasional ear is bitten. When it comes to verbal sparring, career-ending/making peer reviews and pound for pound ridicule, these guys and gals hold their own.

Some ear biting is cute ... some isn't.
Images: versedonline.com and pinkbluelovescute.com

Today's climate change hot topic is continual adjustments to historical temperature data. The issue moved into the spotlight a few weeks ago when national media reported on a post by Steven Goddard (aka Tony Heller). The post claims adjustments, including estimated data for up to 40% of the USHCN dataset, caused a fake warming trend in the USA by cooling the 1930s and warming the 1990s. 

There are three sides in this debate: adjustments are good, adjustments are bad, need more data and more context.

On Judith Curry's Climate Etc blog, Zeke Hausfather explains the rationale behind the adjustments in this post. It's interesting and thought provoking as is the debate that follows in the comment section.

One commenter raised an apt analogy about the adjustments. It got me thinking. (No small feat.) The analogy is clever. I posted it below with my reply:

A fan of *MORE* discourse | July 7, 2014 at 9:39 am | Reply

Question  Why does the Daily Racing Form publish “adjusted” Beyer speed figures for each horse? Why not just the raw times? Answer  Because considering *ALL* the available information yields *FAR* better betting strategies.

Question  Why does the strongest climate science synthesize historical records, paleo-records, and thermodynamical constraints?? Answer  Because considering *ALL* the available information yields *FAR* better assessments of climate-change risk.

These realities are *OBVIOUS* to *EVERYONE* — horse-betters and climate-science student alike — eh Climate Etc readers?

When I signed up to be a stud in the breeding program, this isn't what I had in mind.
image: sodahead.com

My reply:

Matt L. | July 7, 2014 at 3:52 pm | Reply

The Beyer speed analogy got to me. It succeeds at what it was designed to do. Kudos.

As I am oft wont, lay curiosity (in climate science and horse betting) forced an immediate investigation into Beyer speed.

As a thought and pattern matching exercise, the Beyer speed analogy is quite good. However, within a few minutes, I found an erudite bettor who supplies a different take on the underlying premise that Beyer speed, while working as designed, furnishes reliable data on which to bet one’s wad of cash. He wrote:

“The theory:

Horses that can win races are the ones that can significantly IMPROVE their previous race speed figure. Today’s winner is not the horse with the highest figure from its last race but the horse that is most likely to REACH its highest figure today. Bold-face Beyer figures function essentially as mirages, optical illusions that distort racing reality. Yes, they are more than reasonably accurate most of the time. But they are not worth their face value, for an accurate rendering of the past is not the same thing as an objective prediction of the future. Better stated, the past performances are something that should be seen dynamically, as if they were part of a moving process.”

It seems climate science and horse betting share more than one initially thinks.

I enjoyed the analogy. As we attempt to understand scientific research, numskulls like me could use more of them.

It behooves each of us to acquire and maintain at least cursory knowledge of the data and the ideas surrounding climate change. Plus, because it reminds us just how beastly our species can turn when trying to "win", watching the occasional ear bite, like chicken soup, is good for the soul.

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Inspired By Reddit Image Prompt: Blood Train (by Matt Lashley)

Inspired by Reddit image prompt "Tickets Please" (image credit: Joel Kilpatrick)

tickets-please-joel-kilpatrick

Blood Train

by Matt Lashley

The recirculated air on the night train was tangy. The metal in it gritted between your clenched molars, coated the tip of your tongue, brushed against the roof of your mouth. Smelled like hot iron. Tasted like blood. Young mothers, old women and smart men don't go out on nights that taste like this.

Nobody ever called me smart.

"Today is your lucky day old man", the lanky, twenty-something blonde guy in the shiny maroon windbreaker holding the six inch Bowie knife said.

I pressed my lips together, sat still and looked away from the blonde standing over me. I slightly tilted my head down like an old wolf. A wolf not looking for a fight, willing to wait his turn. Willing to let the younger, stronger wolves eat first. A psychological trick they taught us during training. What to do if captured by the enemy. One of the few things I still remembered.

The lanky blonde leaned in toward me, holding the Bowie in a closed fist behind his back. Ready to strike, if challenged, like a single-fanged rattlesnake.

"Hear me, old man?" he said as he leaned down into my face. "Today's your lucky day cause I'ma let you get your stuff and get the fuck outta my seat. Now move beetch!"

Out of the corner of my eye I saw the blonde's cheeks were as dimpled as a warped golf ball. A bout with adolescent onset acne he apparently lost. His breath, lingering above me, smelled like milky ranch dressing several decades past its expiration date. Left in an unplugged refrigerator. At the dump. In July.

"Brush your damn teeth pizza face," I grunted. Shit. I could never keep my mouth shut.

He straightened. At full height he was five foot eight give or take a quarter inch for the heel on his wing-tipped, leather lace ups. "Well look here, Dante," the blonde said to the bigger, dark-haired man wearing a similar shiny, maroon windbreaker sitting one seat over from me. "Old man actin' tough. Don't look tough though. Sure actin' tough though."

If I was acting tough, I wasn't trying. I missed my grandson's ninth birthday the day before. Today I went to the park early to stake out my spot for the night and found a Wolverine action figure some kid left in the sandbox. I thought my grandson would like it. I was taking it to his house to leave on the doorstep.

Dante, without looking up, said, in a low, disinterested gravelly voice, "Fuck 'em."

Smiling, the blonde leaned down again and stopped two inches from my face. "Wooo. Hear that old man? Dante gave me the go ahead to fu--."

Before he could finish his sentence, with a short, strong stabbing motion I jammed Wolverine's outstretched arm into his right eye with my left hand and used the palm of my right hand as a pummel to pound the action figure's feet and secure the toy deep into the blonde's eye socket. His eye made a squishing sound followed by a small pop--the same small pop a kid makes fish-hooking his cheek and letting a wet slip pop out.

He dropped the knife at my feet, screamed and with both hands, pawed at the plastic, yellow X-Man buried ass-deep into his face.

I jumped from my seat, using my shoulder to knock the screaming blonde backward. He twisted and fell into the seats across the aisle. He face-planted into the hard plastic, violently thrusting the toy even further into his head.

One down, three to go. A guy with an ax, a guy with a machete and a guy, their leader, named Dante with a baseball bat. Next step, grab the knife and cut off the snake's head and the body follows. I figured slicing Dante's jugular would be close enough.

I squatted like a power-lifter over the Bowie knife. Keeping my head up and my eyes on the remaining three gang members, I reached for the knife between my legs. Dante dropped his newspaper and reached into the seat beside him for what looked like a nail-spiked wooden baseball bat. I'd seen fewer nails used to frame a house.

Just then the loud hiss of air brakes filled the air. In the following half second, the subway car lost thirty percent of its momentum, causing every person in the car to lean in the same direction. And everything on the floor not bolted down slid in the same direction. Including the Bowie knife.

The Bowie knife skidded behind me. Damn. No way to reach it without exposing my back. Only one way to go. Forward.

From the power-lifter's squat I drove forward like an All-American defensive end. My right shoulder hit the ax guy's midsection and I heard him expel air in an "Oomph".

I wrapped my right arm around his hips and grabbed his right leg just at the Achilles with my left hand. He fell back, dropping the ax. I lay on top of him. So much for not exposing my back.

I felt a hard thud against the right side of my lower back immediately followed by waves of pain signals shooting through every nerve ending in my body, keeping time with my spasm-ing kidney. My vision blurred. My ears rang. I felt the urge to throw up the bottle of Jack I'd had for breakfast and the bottle I'd had for dinner. I'd been here before and knew I'd be pissing blood for a month.

"Hit him again, Dante," the guy I was laying on said. "Hit this old bastard in the fuckin' head."

I knew I couldn't take another hit from the spiked bat without suffering serious damage. Before Dante could land the next blow to my unprotected back, I rolled, slid and flipped the ax guy so he was on top of me. We were face to face and, for a moment, I could see the blissful, ignorant, psychotic happiness in his eyes. He thought he had me.

And then Dante's next blow, already in downward motion when I performed the flip and slide, hit its mark. Or what was supposed to be its mark. The ax guy's eyes rolled back, exposing two tiny, wet chicken eggs. Then his eyes rolled front and stared at a point beside my head. Then his entire body went limp.

Using my arms, I pressed his torso up and scooted back and out from under him. As I scooted, his head jerked up and back, stretching his neck, exposing his throat unnaturally. Then his head fell back down. Then it jerked up and back again. And fell back down again. It was weird, inhuman. For a moment, I imagined the involuntary contractions were symptoms of the guy turning full-fledged zombie.

"Fuck!" yelled Dante, "The bat is stuck in Tyrone's skull. Fuck. I can't get it. Marcus the bat's stuck. Slash 'em Marcus."

That explained the jerky head movements. No zombies. Thank god for small favors.

Marcus was slow. By the time he lifted his machete above his head to strike, I'd completely slid out, crouched back into a power-lifter's squat, grabbed the ax handle with both hands in the middle for leverage and, in one underhanded move, brought it blade side up into Marcus's crotch.

The blow wasn't my strongest, but it was strong enough to cut through denim and split scrotum meat. Which caused Marcus's testicles to succumb to gravity and drop from their broken home and into the cold, harsh world like a couple of orphans.

With the machete held above his head, Marcus looked down at the cut material and rapidly growing blood stain between his legs. He looked back up at me. He looked back down. He dropped the machete to futilely (some may say fruitlessly) cup his crotch, attempting to keep his balls from falling out of his already vacant ball sac.

As soon as the machete hit the floor I grabbed it, stood and surveyed the situation. Marcus was on his knees now, busy: bleeding out and searching the subway floor for his balls. No longer a viable threat. The guy with the spiked bat embedded in the back of his skull was, well, he was a guy with a spiked bat embedded in the back of his skull. Threat risk zero.

The blonde guy with a yellow Wolverine wedged in his eye socket was sitting in the front of the subway car on the floor sobbing and complaining in a curiously monotone voice about everything being dark and his brain being on fire. That left Dante. Dear leader. Fearless leader. Played whack-a-mole with my kidney leader.

Dante had given up on the spiked bat and had taken a position by the sliding doors where he furiously punched the red emergency alarm button.

I stepped over the body with the spike in the skull and moved toward Dante.

Dante backed toward the closed sliding doors. "Look man," he said. "You won, okay. You won. You got this." He put his hands out, palms up. I moved closer.

"C'mon, man," he said. He tilted his head slightly down and away, Not looking me in the eye. Did he have training too? Or did it just come naturally to some people?

I raised the machete and brought the fat end of the curved blade down hard just over his left eye. The blade split his skull, sunk in several inches and exposed brain. Dante looked at me, his eyes half closed, and said, "Aw, man." Then he crumpled like a long sleeve dress shirt falling off a hanger.

I moved toward the blonde. Even though he'd stopped crying and talking, I decided it'd be in bad taste to pull the Wolverine figure out of his eye to give to my grandson. The claws would probably be bent anyway. Maybe the kid would like a shiny maroon windbreaker instead.

Another hissing sound filled the air. The subway slowed, then stopped. The doors slid open. The platform was empty. The air was sweet.

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Running Notes On A Series Of Philosophy Lectures Given By Peter Millican Published By University Of Oxford: 1.3 From Aristotle to Galileo

Just for fun I'm watching a series of lectures given by Peter Millican in 2009. The lectures are published on YouTube by University of Oxford. 

aristotle quote 3(Sidebar: What a fascinating time we live in. The Internet, still in the infantile stages of its role in the technological extension of the human mind, serves up crunchy bits of knowledge to patrons like plates of calamari from the local crab shack. Had such a resource existed during my high school years, my grades may have been slightly less dismal. Ah, yes. The qualifying helping verb "may"-- the lament and soft security blanket of classic underachievers, dreamily upstaged only by the as oft employed hypothetically trance inducing "if only".)

I'm excited to hear the lectures.

I'll warn you ahead of time, my worldview specifies humans are, at their cores, consumed by self-interests at the expenses of other entities and, by nature, slouch toward less than virtuous existences. And only two forces are capable of taming the raging beast of self-interest: the spooky, malleable idea called love or the equally spooky and malleable idea called fear. This worldview is ingrained in me and I expect bits of it to splatter my commentary and note taking.

1.3 From Aristotle to Galileo 

Notes:

  • traditional world crumbling, terrible tensions, wars, question arose: How can we know what's right?
  • science (scientific method of answering questions I assume) beginning to take hold of world
  • Elements:
    • earth-natural motion downward
    • fire-natural motion upward
    • air
    • water
    • ether - to describe the heavenly bodies (planets, stars, moons) because circle around the earth, do not follow the motions of other elements
    • *all elements strive to reach a some end (because it wants to) - this doesn't tell you why something happens, just that something does

my note: scientific explanations of the time were not always correct. much like today, almost all (all?) knowledge is correctly prefaced with "As far as we know ... "

  • The explanation "objects do what they do because they do" led to "but why?" e.g. why does a sled pushed on ice keep going after the force behind it has stopped?
  • Fundamental shift in thought: Galileo - sled keeps going because naturally motion of things is to keep going in the direction at the same speed. What needs explanation is, why it stops.
  • 1608 - telescope invented, Galileo enhanced and used it to look up into the sky, able to measure, study heavenly bodies 
  •  

 

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Enamored With Hardboiled Detective Noir Flash Fiction

phillipmarloweIf I had to pick a genre to write, it'd be hardboiled detective fiction. I'm not exactly sure when I fell in love with this style of writing, but I know it had something to do with Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammet, James CrumleyPhillip Kerr and evenings spent in front of a 19 inch television (with a broken dial that clicked through 12 channels) watching The Rockford Files and Magnum P.I.

And if I had to pin down why I love this genre more than any other, I'd say it's because of the similes. The similes, the heroes and the humor.

Here's my attempt at something hardboiled-ish submitted to a Siobhan Muir's flash fiction contest (slightly edited).

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Lifting my head to look around wasn't the grand success I imagined it would be. The room spun and I felt like I'd just gone twelve rounds on the Tilt-O-Whirl at the county fair. But I knew better. The fair wouldn't come into town until the cool fall and, even inside, it was hot enough to melt the dime store lipstick off a five dollar whore.

I was bound to a wooden chair with enough duct tape to hold a gorilla. Flattering. The chair was thick, sturdy. The kind of chair that kids in school were trained to hide under in case a tornado touched down or Russia decided to drop an A-bomb and kick off a little mutually assured destruction.

I looked around out of my right eye, the one not completely swollen shut. There was just enough light to make out an exit sign about three hundred feet away and a brown stack to my left marked in big red letters "FOOD AID TO AFRICA" and in smaller red letters underneath "Corn". Judging by the foul, sour mash smell, the corn had missed the boat to Africa by about eight months.

The goons who'd beaten on me like a spirit-filled gospel singer beats a tambourine at a holy rollers' church revival would be back soon. I'd told them they had the wrong guy, that I wasn't the guy that'd stolen the money. But they knew, like I knew, I was lying.

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Flash!Friday Submissions For May 1, 2015

flash-friday-prompt-matt-lashleyLast week's "Catch 22" prompt made me think. Hard. Which made me cry. Thanks Flash!Friday.

Two submissions:

@MattLashley_

Existentialism Isn’t For Everyone

The woman bound in the backseat of Albert's Nova looked peaceful, cherub-like. A fat snoring cherub snoring deep and throaty snores that reminded Albert of the night spent camping by the swamp with his sadistic uncles during bullfrog mating season.

“It means you exist to exist, dumbass,” said an uncle as he used a pair of pliers to pinch of a wiggling frog's left rear leg.
“I don't think so,” replied Albert.
“And that right there is the plum beauty of it, ignorant wretch.”
“Huh?”
“He means you can think what you want and it don't matter because existence is accidental. As a result, nothing we do or think matters. That defines truth. You tally whackin', peter pipin', bushel peckin' idjit.”
“How can nothing define anything?”
“Nothing don't. You do. You are one hardheaded sumbitch. You sure you our kin?”
“Don't make no sense.”
“Don't have to.”

The Nova hit a pothole and the cherub woke.

“W-where am I?”
“Where do you want to be?” asked Albert.
“W-who are you?”
“Who do you want me to be?”
“What are you going to do to me?”
“What do you want me--to hell with it--lady, I’ma take this here Bowie knife and do whatever feels good to me.”
“What if it doesn't feel good to me?”

It was at this point Albert decided existentialism was for losers.

---

Look Into My Eyes

It was happening again.

“Gerard, look into my eyes,” Marla whispered. Gerard scrunched his shoulders, like a turtle on the verge of retreat, and pretended he hadn’t heard.
“Open your eyes. Connect to me.”
“Oh god,” Gerard grumbled. Which, in the heat of passion, Marla mistook for a lover’s fevered moan and matched him with a few of her own.

Gerard had been born with an unusual malady: Eyes open, he could not get aroused. Eyes shut, he was 1970’s Heffner on Viagra.

Think of a marionette, he’d say. Pull the string, leg goes up. Release the string, leg goes down. After hearing this, most American women assumed he was manufacturing an excuse to be emotionally distant.

Helga, a Swedish exchange student shaped like a tulip bulb on top of an inverted tulip bulb, had reacted differently. “Yah. You cannot look my naked eyes because the leg of puppet plummets? Yah. Let’s do the sex, yah?”
Score one for language barriers.

This relationship would end the same as the others. While gathering her things, Marla would say, I feel trapped. Your lack of intimacy is purely psychological. And sitting on the edge of the bed, looking into the distance, feeling trapped himself, Gerard would wonder if Helga was in town.

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Two Flash! Friday Entries for Dec 12, 2014 -- And One Did Alright -- Yeehaw!

Competing in Flash! Friday is more than a job (actually it's not a job at all) it's an adventure!

There's a great group of folks that create short fiction every Friday. I believe somewhere between 65 and 100 (the number varies depending on the weather) people write stories every week. Reading their stories is a quick way to get a fiction fix. This week marked the first week of the new year of competition.

 

flash-friday-wine-glass@MattLashley_
141 words

Results: 1st runner up

Internet Dating Makes Me Nervous

Quarter 'til eight.

The naked woman reflected in the entryway mirror holding the hammer and a glass of fine, grocery store box wine has a pale, squishy belly that looks like a thick slice of Wonder Bread dipped in milk. I pretend she's not me. She smiles. Her teeth are nice. Probably uses whitestrips.

Ten 'til eight.

A stoned marching band bass drummer has taken up residence in my chest. My heartbeat is heavy and out of sync. Wonder if this one will live up to his macho chatroom persona? MommasBadBoy666, GitHerDone69 and TheRibbedTickler were all strikingly, STRIKINGLY disappointing.

Five 'til eight.

I'm shaking like a D-list celebrity in rehab. Gulp the wine. Toss the glass. Dim the lights and slip into the shadows. I expect DangerRanger82 will be just as pathetic as the others. And just as easy to kill.

 

@MattLashley_

156 words

Results: Did not place

Jenny Got Another Chicken For Her Birthday

Jenny continued plucking the chicken with her toes while Jerry sipped wine through a bendy straw. For the last twenty years, Jenny asked for the same thing for her birthday. This year she even spelled it out: D-I-V-O-R-C-E. Jerry still heard “chicken”.

“Jenny, gaze upon the luminous auburn celestial sphere suspended over the jutting crags.”

Jerry loved stringing fancy words together and often said, “Language is a muscle. You got to exercise it otherwise it could only do girly push-ups.”

Jerry raised a leg and placed a fine Italian gerbil skin moccasin on the rail, kicking over Jenny’s feather pile in the process.

The feathers stirred then settled, revealing the winning lotto numbers in ancient Sanskrit. Unfortunately Jenny had only taken a semester of Spanish in high school and Jerry, convinced a guy could learn more on the mean streets than in the classroom, had walked out of Pre-K during story time and never looked back.

 

Photo: Wine Glass. CC2 photo by BlakJakDavy

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The Hush of The Waves

Entered: https://flashfriday.wordpress.com/2014/11/28/flash-friday-vol-2-51/#comments

Results: Did not place

@MattLashley_
158 words

The Hush of the Waves

I walked the shoreline for an hour, though I knew it would do no good. The tide was going out. Wet sand squished between my toes, softening the callouses. The salty breeze invigorated me and I inhaled it like an addict taking one last drag on the pipe before rehab. Crashing shore breakers plugged my ears with white noise and, for a while, the world around me disappeared, or maybe I disappeared from the world.

At the lifeguard’s tower, I turned and walked back the way I’d came. Back towards the ugly truth, hers and mine. Mostly hers.

I passed the landlocked fish again, still alive, still struggling. The opening and shutting of its gills, much slower now, seemed in sync with my own heartbeats. If fish could scream for help, I imagined this one would.

Before long I was back where I’d started. She wasn’t. And I didn’t expect her to be.

 

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There's A World ... Where People Create For The Sake Of Creating ... And I'm Stumbling Across It

For me, it started at Flash!Fiction then Micro Bookends and spiraled. What I'm experiencing is like going to Paris or Italy or anywhere I haven't been and moving from destination to destination simply on the word of the people I meet.

I did this during a trip to Santa Cruz, CA last summer: I got a morning coffee, chatted with the baristas, was joined in conversation by another coffee-seeking patron and before I knew it, I'm watching a surfing contest at Steamer Lane and eating Thai food for lunch at the best beach front Thai place (steering clear of the worst). Now I'm doing something similar through Twitter.

So far, every person represented in my anemic Twitter follower/followee count has given me somewhere new to go. Some awesome. neat-o place I'd have never found on my own. It's pretty great.red rose silver spoon

It's not all red roses and silver spoons. I've added a few folks who endlessly tweet about how great their so and so product is or they insist on broadcasting inane self help tips that eventually tie into some kind of product they're selling. I don't begrudge these folks because selling is a numbers game and everyone knows it.

(It takes up to n number of "touches" to get a sell. I'm one of those touches you're not going to "sell". So I guess I'm a bad touch. Or a good touch, depending on how you look at it.)

These days I prefer the world of artists. People who create for the sake of creating. It's a beautiful world behind velvet ropes tucked inside a great big ugly one -- sort of like Disney World and central Florida. (I'm from Florida so I can mke fun of it.) Except Disney charges admission. And is part of a massive conglomerate. And you can't buy chewing gum. Maybe it's not exactly a Disney World after all. 

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A Friday Flash Fiction Submission (And A Rhyme In This Inscription)

flash friday oct 24 2014 promptWriting good fiction takes a lot of hard work. Writing great fiction takes a minor miracle. I don't write good fiction or miracles, but I enjoy participating in a micro fiction contest named Flash! Friday from time to time. Like last time, I allocated a time box of thirty minutes. 

This time the words came fast and I was done in ten minutes. A feat owing, in large part, to the interesting prompt and to the local public library.

Yesterday the local library held a book sale. At this book sale, on a folding formica table, I found a worn paperback copy of The Unabridged Mark Twain for which I exchanged a jovial librarian's assistant a slightly less than shiny quarter.

mr goodbar king sizeAt three pounds, the book is by far one of the two pound for pound best purchases I've made. (The other was a king size Mr. Goodbar which I purchased on a golf course for a nickel.) That night I read the foreword by Kurt Vonnegut, After Jenkins and The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.


Some folks report reading makes you a better writer. I'm not certain this is true. If it is, this betterment likely depends entirely on the quality of the writing read. However, I do believe reading, in this instance, made a me a faster writer.

My submission:

"Why Clarence Hatry, you 'ol coot. Didn't no one ever tell you, you ain't supposed to look a gift horse in the mouth?"
 
"Gift? You call this here nag a gift? Her teeth is yellow and brown as that buttercorn squash rottin' yonder by the fence post. Straits is dire round here, but don't think for one secon' you gonna foist this here swaybacked butter-toothed beast on me Sam. Don't care how good ah price you give. You think that buzzard's up there circlin' for that rotten buttercorn squash? Well he ain't. Buzzards is opportunistically inclined carnivores, Sam. That one there's on a reconnaissance mission eyeballin' this pitiful used up creature anticipatin' her impending demise after which he'll send word back to his wake what'll swoop down an pick off what little meat's left on her tired ol' bones."
 
"Alright Clarence, alright. Knock fiddy bucks off it for ya."
 
"Throw in a quart of that sweet corn liquor?"
 
"Yep."
 
"Deal."

 

 

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Is It November Yet? I Can Hardly Wait For Christmas (And Dunne)

I publicly confessed my affection for the movie Dumb & Dumber and its two main characters, Lloyd Christmas & Harry Dunne, way back in the year two thousand and something. I don't remember the exact year, but I do remember putting it on my MySpace page way back when Facebook was primarily used by Ivy League undergrads to play Am I Hot or Not with other Ivy League undergrads.

Over the years, I've watched it from opening sequence to beginning credit roll at least twenty times. (Okay, probably more like thirty.) Why? Because I like it. I like it ahh lot.

In fact, I like ahh lot of movies and ahh lot of shows, but there are only a handful I would take with me if I were trapped alone on a desert island with a solar powered generator, a backup diesel generator, a flat screen TV, a TiVo and a barcalounger. Dumb and Dumber is one.

(Followed by True Grit, Tombstone, Something About Mary, Pulp Fiction and probably the complete Andy Griffith Show and Twighlight Zone series. And The Killing. And Luther. And Unforgiven. And House of Cards. And Red Dwarf. And Archer. And The Gimore Girls. And ...)

I watched the trailer for Dumb and Dumber To. It's funny and clever. Here's to hoping the trailer reflects the movie.

image: New Line Cinema

 

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Playing With Adobe Muse Turns Into Working With Adobe Muse

I heart Joomla! And always will. Lately I've been "playing" with Adobe Muse. (I'm already a huge fan of InDesign and Edge Animate. And I'm starting to use Illustrator and Photoshop more than I use GIMP and Inkscape.)

Joomla handles a different workload than Muse. If I ever put the effort into turning badthinker.com into the Onion-esque satirical destination I know it can be (in my head), then Joomla is by far and away the CMS de résistance. But for building simple, elegant web designs really fast -- Muse is fantastic. So far, it's the ultimate WYSIWYG++ editor.

Recently I built a Joomla! site. I tweaked the CSS and fonts as usual to get a certain look and feel, but I wan't satisfied with the result. (The site is essentially a souped-up landing page.) As an exercise, I decided to put the design and copy in Muse. Within two hours I had a fully functioning site (including menus, contact and product pages).

Writing the copy along side the graphic and design elements reminds me of InDesign. Not bouncing back and forth between article editor and browser rendering eliminates any context switching penalties and contributes to the flow of copy on the page. Trés kewél.

One drawback is Muse doesn't handle dynamic content well yet. The solution is to use free blogger platforms and "embed" it into your Muse genned code. Unless the blogging site uses your domain name, not a great idea because of the suboptimal implications to site SEO.

For me, adding dynamic content is an easy solve. I return to the arms of my sweet Joomla! and point the Muse blog link to it. A few tweaks to the Joomla! CSS template and violà! A consistent look and feel and a transition transparent to the casual reader. (Geeks, of course, can tell. Whether they use browser dev tools to check the source or view the site through the most advanced graphics card and monitor available or use a mirror to look down a wishing well backward predicting the future as I type this ... geeks always know.)

*Quick grammar insight re: backward vs. backwards -- American English always use backward. British English use backwards as an adverb and backward as an adjective.

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All the kewl kids are doin' it! Flash Fiction Submission - June 13, 2014

Write 140-160 words  based on a pic and a prompt. It's easy. It's fun. It's flash fiction!

Several months ago, I discovered a site that puts on a weekly flash fiction contest. I competed that first time and again this week.

If you're like me (or like I was), you may not know flash fiction from Fred Flinstone. Here's a definition. It's darn fun. The contest starts every Friday and lasts for 24 hours. To make it (even) more fun and to reasonably cap my inevitable obsession over every word, I limit my time to a total of thirty minutes: 15 minutes writing and 15 obsessing. This type of pressure really wrings the juice outta the ol' creative sponge.

This week I read most of the entries and commented on a few. There were some great stories and lines. You can read them here: Flash! Friday

The image and my entry, inspired by something I read somewhere some time ago about inner dialogue, are below.

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Matt L.
@MattLashley_
159 words

“My arms hurt, Joe.”
Opening your mouth ain’t gonna make ‘em feel any better. 

“I know sis. Mine too. Be there soon.”

“The sand is burning my feet.”
Blisters cause callouses. Won’t feel the burning after that.
“Walk faster and try not to think about it.”

“I’m hot Joe.”
Everybody’s hot. Not everybody’s complainin’.
“It’s July, sis. Gotta pick the crop when the crop’s ready be to be picked.”

“I got a sticker in my finger.”
Life’s full of stickers, sis.

“Joe, it’s bleeding.”
Life’s full of blood and stickers. Just how it is. How it’s always gonna be.
“Camps close. Soon as Mr. Johnson weighs our haul, we’ll wash your finger over by the well pump.”

“Joe, when’s momma comin’?”
Ain’t sure she’s ever comin’.
“Just a few more days sis. She went to find daddy. Keep walkin’. Almost there.”

“Daddy’s gonna buy us back real soon, ain’t he Joe?”
Been six weeks already.
“Yeah sis. Real soon.”

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Matt Writes Anything

"I love talking about nothing. It is the only thing I know anything about."  - Oscar Wilde