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4.4.02 -  Art, In Heaven

Let's take a break from all that foolish writing business, and look at some reader art!  Be careful viewing at work, though, some of this stuff is semi-racey.


Lee created the above picture, in honor of my self-imposed baldness (actually, my hair has grown back almost all the way).  Thanks!


This is dope, fly, and, dare I say, quite possibly phat!  Shannon made this for me.  It's somewhat apropos for my current job in the hizzood.


Leth made me this a while back, when I was toying with the idea of having graphics all over the place.  Yes, that's my face.  And my hairline, practically.   


Corny as all git-out, but I like it!  You can even see my baby butt in there if you look real hard!  From Chefelf!


Here we go!  Steve knows I'm all about the honeys.  This is a callback to a bit I did on irrelevantly sexual ads.  If I weren't so lazy, I'd link to it.  Thanks, Steve!


Cripes!  I was actually advised not to post this one by the creator, since the model depicted is apparently quite litigious.  I'll say!  I'll keep this one anonymous, so if she sues me, I'll bear the full brunt of her, um, attack.  I like how the logo looks carved in there.  Down below.  If you look down there.  C'mon, look.


This is from Brad.  I... It's... see, the... Hm.  Nope, I don't have a clue.  Weird!

Anyway, thanks for the art, pholx!  Seeya tomorrow.

More art here!


4.3.02 - Writer's Blargh

There's an old saying that goes, "Never start any article or piece of writing with 'There's an old saying that goes...' or you will be rounded up, put into a pen, and machine-gunned to death, right alongside people who start articles with 'Webster's Dictionary defines tenacious as...'"

I hate when people do that.

I'd have to say, though, that my least favorite hackneyed writing crutch appears most often in the dreaded "interview article."  Rather than just present the standard, straightforward Q&A format, the writer subjects the reader to paragraph after paragraph of useless information, often using such devices as "He sat back, his eyes twinkling mischievously, while considering his answer."  Oh, did he.  Other items that will litter the interview:  cryptic winks, devilish smirks, thoughtful frowns, broad smiles, noncommittal shrugs, contemplative sighs, and about fifty different kinds of nods.

But the worst, the worst, is when the interview takes place over lunch.  For example, from a recent New York Times article:

"BEING a movie director," Barry Sonnenfeld said, "is all about answering hundreds of questions like 'Do you want the green one or the red one?' "

He grabbed half of his sandwich, melted Brie oozing from the sides, and took a huge bite, chewing thoughtfully.

Okay.  You know, I understand how it is.  I really do.  When you're interviewing a celebrity, you're probably gonna have to do it over lunch.  But Jesus Christ, I don't need to know about his fucking sandwich (top left).

Look, I happen to be a big fan of Barry Sonnenfeld.  I love the guy.  But I don't need to know what kind of sandwich he's eating.  I don't need information on how he chews, thoughtfully or otherwise.  I don't need to be advised on how or when he sips his iced-tea or leans back in his chair or folds his napkin into progressively smaller squares while he mulls over his reply.  Don't.  Need.  To.  Know.

I realize there are deadlines and column lengths, and that writers have to fill in all that space with something.  And hey, they probably had to listen to the interviewee talk through mouthfuls of food, so it probably sticks out in their memory.  But it's lame, and I'm sick of seeing it everywhere.

And anyway, if you must do it, if you must riddle me with pointless details of the guy's lunch, why not go all the way, for once?  Really provide me with information.  Go all out.  Like this:

"BEING a movie director," Barry Sonnenfeld said, "is all about answering hundreds of questions like 'Do you want the green one or the red one?' "

He grabbed half of his sandwich, melted Brie oozing from the sides, and took a huge bite, chewing thoughtfully, his central nervous system coordinating the effort between the skeletal muscles of his jaw, mouth, and tongue.

His incisors, molars, and premolars easily broke the bread and cheese down into smaller particles, increasing the surface area and allowing the enzymes in his saliva to penetrate the food and bathe it with salivary amylase, which breaks the chemical bonds between the carbohydrate molecules, changing them into smaller sugar molecules.  Meanwhile, the melted Brie got a dose of lingual lipase, Sonnenfeld's fat-digesting enzyme.

Of course, Sonnenfeld's brain had already been working on the digestive process before his first bite of the sandwich, his endocrine system transmitting messages to glands in his mouth and stomach, increasing the flow of digestive juices in anticipation of the meal set before him, as do the brains of many successful directors.

His saliva having sufficiently lubricated the food, Sonnenfeld swallowed, and the pasty glob of lunch squeezed through his funnel-shaped pharynx, down the ten-inch long esophageal passage and into the director's single-chambered stomach. There, the sheets of muscle surrounding the stomach walls contracted, mixing his food, and the lining of his stomach secreted gastric juices, such as hydrochloric acid, which dissolved the food while at the same time killed any harmful bacteria present.  A protein-splitting enzyme called pepsin got to work while Sonnenfeld sat back in his chair, gave a droll smile, nodded cherubically, and carefully considered his response.


4.2.02 - Child's Slay

Since I'm spending so much time around kids at my current job, I'm also spending a lot of time ignoring them and thinking about myself as a child.

Today, for instance, I was thinking about the greatest fears I had as a kid.  And I don't mean things like the boogie man or sharks or getting beaten up.  Those all frightened me, sure, but I'm talking about the things that were huge and important and scary in my mind as a kid.  The big issues, the living nightmares.  The threats to my very existence.  A few I recall especially well:


Man.  Remember the time in your life when quicksand was mentioned 5-6 times a day, minimum?  It was just fascinating to us as kids.  We all knew where it was (the jungle) and what it looked like (regular sand) and what it did (sucked you down immediately to your death with no hope of escape).

We also knew how to get out of it, but I don't think any of us really bought it.  "Lie on your stomach, don't thrash, and swim across the top of it."  Yeah, okay, we'll see who is cool enough to not flail and struggle and scream as this DEMON MUD is SUCKING YOU DOWN TO HELL.

Anyway, it was a huge topic for us.  I think that, as a youth, had I ever opened a newspaper, I would have been shocked to see a complete absence of stories about explorers being sucked to their deaths by the hundreds in the uncountable quicksand patches that dotted the globe.  These days, no one talks about quicksand anymore, not to me at least.  Apart from one or two Gary Larson cartoons, it's become a non-issue.


Lockjaw, to me, meant you open your mouth one day, and then you can never, ever close it again.  Ever.  After I heard about this for the first time, about three months passed, during which I would not open my mouth any wider than it took to slide in individual Cheez-Its.

I'm not sure why lockjaw was quite so scary to me, I mean, it can't be worse than cracking your head open after falling two stories, the thought of which never stopped me from climbing onto and jumping off of my friend's roof.  I guess lockjaw just seemed like a horribly random thing, sounded like it could happen to anyone at any time, and eeesh, imagine not being able to close your mouth.  Ever.

I found the idea of lockjaw chilling, and frankly, I still do.  Eep.

Apple Seeds

Simple equation.  Apple seeds = cyanide!  BEWARE!  DEATH FROM APPLES!

If you eat apple seeds, you die.  Sure, you could maybe eat one or two, but that was it.  I knew what cyanide was, sort of, a deadly poison gas.  I thought if I actually bit into a seed, a bitter-smelling puff of yellow smoke would hiss out, and I'd collapse, choking, to the ground.  And it somehow didn't strike me as odd that on the one hand, my parents were constantly encouraging me to eat apples (rather than the Oreos I preferred), while on the other hand, the seed of an apple might completely kill me.  I think it should have occurred to me that either apple seeds were harmless or that my parents were trying to kill me.

I also remember even earlier in my life, being told that if you swallowed an apple seed, an apple tree would start growing in your stomach.  It even happened to this one kid.  He died.  Fer real.


Sure, I knew the difference.  Step on a rusty nail, you get tetanus, fall over, and die.  Get bit by a strange dog, you get rabies, foam at the mouth, fall over and die.

Unless, of course, they got you to a doctor in time.  But that was the scary part, because the treatment for both was the same:  FORTY SHOTS.  Administered RIGHT INTO YOUR BUTT.

Needles were scary enough as it was, but this was forty of them!  I'm sure I thought you got them all at once, too.  The doctor would load the forty hypos, stack them up in some sort of H.R. Gigerian skeletal metal needle rack, all pointing in the same direction, then jab the entire forty into your arse at the same time.  Sure, it never stopped us from running around junkyards being chased by strange dogs, but it made us run a little faster.


NAMBLA.  Jesus Milhouse Christ.  Nothing, and I mean nothing was more horrifying to us as little boys than NAMBLA.  Sure, my parents told me not to talk to strangers, but nothing made me follow that rule like hearing about NAMBLA, breathlessly, from a friend of mine one afternoon.

"These grown-ups, right, these old men, they're in this club, and they like to have sex with boys.  It's called NAMBLE."

"NAMBLE?" I asked, my jaw dropping wide (but not too wide -- lockjaw).

"Yeah, the National Association... Men... Loving... Boys... Loving Each... each other, something like that, I think.  NAML... BLE.  It's something."

It was something.  It was terrifying!  Every adult male that we didn't already know personally became a member of NAMBLA.  All men everywhere simply couldn't wait to lure us to their club and have sex with us.  And the thought of it actually happening was, well, unthinkable.

One day, while we were walking home from school, probably talking about quicksand, a car pulled over and this shabby looking guy offered us a ride.  We said we didn't need a ride, and he peeled off.  It was true, we didn't need a ride, being only a couple blocks from home.  

But the real reason we said no:  NAMBLA.


4.1.02 - Drawn and Quarterless

In a past life, I was probably someone who was amazingly honest with people.  Too honest.  I probably used the phrase "Yes, that outfit makes your butt look big" only slightly less often than "Wow, your child is exceedingly ugly."  I probably offended everybody with my tell-it-like-it-is nature, and perhaps I was able to handle the inevitable thrown fists or hurled daggers or crudely sharpened mammoth tusks (I'm not sure how long ago this past life was) that were jabbed at me as the result of my brutal honesty.

The karmic result is that, in the life I'm currently slouching my way through, I am: a) physically unable to fend off so much as a partially paralyzed seven year-old, and: b) completely incapable of telling lies.

Believe me, I have no personal objections to lying.  In fact, I should be good at it.  I'm creative, have a good imagination, possess nearly no morals whatsoever, and do a lot of stupid things that I should keep to myself.  It's just this:  I never manage to pull off a lie without some sort of hitch.

So, the other morning, I'm waiting for the bus, and I decide to buy a newspaper from one of those square metal vending machines you see on street corners.  I pop a quarter into it, pull the creaky little spring-loaded door down, and remove a paper from the top of the stack.  As I do this, a rather huge, angry looking guy comes up to me, and asks if I have a quarter.  Demands, really, that I have one.  For him.

"No, sorry, I don't.  Do you want a paper?" I ask, holding the vending machine door open for him.

"No, I need it for the bus," he snorts, as if this should have been obvious to me.  He glares at me expectantly, perhaps thinking that I should have checked with everyone in the vicinity, making sure they had ample coinage for the bus before squandering my last quarter on something as frivolous as a newspaper.  Then again, perhaps he's thinking that he could crush me into a disc the size of a quarter and feed me into the coin-intake slot on the bus, which he probably could.

"Oh.  Well, sorry, I don't have one."  He keeps staring at me, looking extremely mad, and I start to worry.  Is he going to beat me up?  Mug me?  Can I outrun him?  I hesitate, keeping the newspaper-vendor door open, thinking that if he makes a move, I can always jump onto the spring-loaded hatch, which would then snap upward and propel my tiny body onto the safety of a nearby rooftop.

Finally, he looks away disgustedly, and shoves his huge fists into the pockets of his bomber jacket, which is flecked with the blood and tissue of small, timid, harmless pipsqueaks like me.  Okay, his jacket isn't actually flecked with blood.  That's not true.

But neither is the fact that I don't have a quarter.  I have several, in fact, along with a couple dimes and nickels, in my backpack.  But I need them for the bus as well, not just for today but for all week.

So, I've gone and lied, and this always where the problems start.

I release the spring-loaded hatch of the newspaper vendor, which slams shut.  At the same moment, I feel an intense, jarring pain in my ears.  This is because as the door slammed shut, the locking bit snagged on the cord of my walkman, yanking the tiny earphones out of my ears.  If you've ever caught the cord of your earphones on anything, the kind of earphones that you actually stick into your ears, you know exactly what I mean.  It hurts enough to snag the cord on a stationary object, like a doorknob, and here I've snagged it on a piece of metal traveling at roughly 413 miles per hour.

Ouch.  The real problem, however, is that now the cord is stuck in the door of the vending machine, which is closed and locked.  As I rub my sore ears, I realize just how big a problem this is, since, although I have another quarter and can easily feed it into the machine, open the hatch, and get the cord out, I can't use that quarter while the big angry man to whom I've just lied about the aforementioned quarter is standing there, angrily, two feet away and facing in my general direction.

Cripes.  Am I going to have to abandon my earphones?  I try wiggling the door, I try pulling the cord, I try whimpering, but nothing works.  To make things worse, as I am hunched over, trying to slide the cord out, my backpack slips off my shoulder and hits the ground, making a noise I'd describe as:  "CHINGLE!"  It sounds as if every single bit of change I owned decided to gather in the same pouch and have their own little mosh pit.

Despite my change doing its best to broadcast its existence to the big angry man, he doesn't seem to notice.  He's watching the bus approach, and I relax for a moment, thinking, "Okay, he'll get on the bus and I'll be free to use my quarter."  Then, of course, the whole reason he asked for a quarter comes flooding back, along with the realization that I need to get on the bus myself, and I start jerking and yanking the cord like mad.

Finally, I decide to do a little pantomime, wherein I search the pockets of my backpack, in what I hope appears to be a rather hopeless fashion, with a look on my face that indicates: boy, what a futile search this is, as I'm positive I don't have any change in here, but I might as well look, 'cos you never know, right?  And then:  Lo!  What is this? my expression seems to say.  Do mine eyes deceive me?  Has fortune, in all Her wisdom, smiled upon me this day?  A quarter, I do declare, in my very sack, wherefore earlier there were but naught!

It's hard to get all this across with just facial expressions and body language, mind you, and it probably appears to any bystanders as though I'm having a major stroke.  Still, I persevere, finishing it all off with what I hope is a convincing double-take, as if I had just given up but then spotted something, my neck turning to the left and then snapping back hard enough to loosen a few fillings.  My eyebrows jump in surprise, as if a couple of eager fishermen had snagged them on the end of their hooks, and then I slowly produce the quarter in stark amazement.

My little pageant seems to have been for naught, because Angry Guy has begun stalking the other way down the sidewalk, possibly looking for an armored car to upend and shake vigorously until a quarter rolls out, so I just stick my quarter in the machine, yank the cord free, and hurry onto the bus.

So, once again, as always, I am horribly punished for fibbing.  I just hope I enjoyed that past life, the one I'm paying for now, and I hope karma will ease up on me in the next one.  

'Cos I can't handle much more of this.  Honestly.


Okay, only two Diversions (left sidebar) for this week, but both centering around rabbits (for Easter) and your mouse pointer (for pointing).  Be warned, the second one has some very loud sound and possible nudity.  Also, there's a new link in Outsourcing (right sidebar), as I've joined an SF Bay Journal Writer's Non-Webring type thing.  So, that's what that is.  Thanks to Jenn for making me one with the Collective!


Last Week on Not My Desk!

Alas, Alack, Alarm
Bag Reel
A Hyena ate my Dingo Baby!
Missed Connections

My Desk Archives

Smurf Rescue
Donkey Kong
Space Panic

More VotF

Mary Jo Pehl Interview
Kids Page
The Temp Test

Hall of Henchmen


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Publishing Progress
NMD On Paper
Chapter One

All material 2000 - 2002 by Christopher Livingston, except for this statement.