Jelly Babies, Maaan. Jelly Babies.

(We’re not talking jello now, people.)

You’d think there was, like, this religious decree or something, given all the places the jam’s showing up. This is no APPLE jam, now. That’s never not apple sauce. We’re talking strawberry rhubarb; some kinda weird peach/orange marmalade hybrid (still we’re counting it); lemon and blueberry; spicy habañero + some other fruit, I can’t tell, too hot; lemon marmalade, too, but limes are right out for some reason, no one wants green jam, I guess; and finally just some straight-up strawberry, boring as sin, but always tasty somehow, both with chunks-so-you-know-it’s-real and chunks-without-so-you-knows-it’s-not.

There’s a depth of feeling, a passion, a real love of jam that kinda permeates the place. But permeates, that’s just really not a strong enough word, you know, for what we’ve got going on here. Smeared maybe. Or shoved. Splattered, even, sometimes signifies given the kind of, whaddayacallem, morse code or braille scattered about underfoot some days. That would be some trick, I’m thinking, if you could pick up some kinda coded messages (or flavor) from tromping on the sticky floor. It almost might be kinda worth it… Nah.

Let’s get real here. Jam’s not for eating in this place. OK, let’s say you’re an ant: THEN it’s true. Jam is, in this place here, more like an observation, a libation, like those old dead Romans used to do, just spilling some of that old wine on the dusty floor to get some gods’ heads to turn away. (Never toward, man, that’s NEVER good.) There are times when I’m standing barefoot–or even worse, socks–on the sticky floor, not really thinking, more like just trying to drink a cup of coffee and not think, when it seems like toast is not so much a thing you eat as a staging ground for jam.

Let’s just say, I’m glad they’re not drinking coffee yet.

 

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Maze of the Blue Medusa

THE MAZE OF THE BLUE MEDUSA by Zak Sabbath and Patrick Stuart is an amazing piece of art. It’s one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever seen. Which is why I bought it.

Then I read it. It’s simply one of the most amazing and creative things I read in 2016 and maybe ever. It’s filled with maps and charts and strange creatures. The first time I read it, I stayed up way too late a couple of nights in a row reading it. It’s mesmerizing and a bit like being handed a key to a magical world. It reads the way my dreams tend to go, peering into a strange and distant land.

Not only that, but it’s a game as well. It can be played with D&D or pretty much any roleplaying game, I imagine, with a little tweaking. It’s a book that screams, “Here are hundreds of amazing ideas! I dare you not to use them!”

I’ve since used this book to play three games with three different sets of friends. It was simply hours of fun and every time it spun out in a slightly different way.

People who write and publish books as beautiful and imaginative as this one should be rewarded for their effort. Go buy a copy. If the hardcover price seems steep, you can always buy the PDF to preview it. I expect you’ll end up buying the book once you do.

 

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Intending to Jump

Once there was a frog who sat on a log. It was a brown log. The frog liked to call it his b-log or “blog”. The heron who smoked a pipe nearby thought that was a little too on the nose and decided to call the whole thing off.

Moral: Sometimes you gotta get out while the getting is good. Or even mediocre. Or, let’s not kid ourselves, when it’s pretty terrible. Really, isn’t that just the thing? How easy it is to just dump something online, no matter how good or bad it is. The internet, basically weaponized Tourette’s. Which, ok, it’s funny for a little while, but eventually it does get a little old…

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Al Giordano is Pretty Great

I wanted to write a little something about U.S. politics. I want to write something positive, because there’s a lot of negativity floating around these days. First, I’m going to provide some context. Second, I’m going to write about this guy Al Giordano (who I think is pretty great). Third, I’m going to try to tie it all together.

I’ve always been a fan of U.S. history. I think that we can learn a lot, not only about this country, but about human beings generally, from studying this 200+ experiment that we are fortunate enough to live in and be a part of. In spite of that, I wasn’t really that interested in politics. In 2000, I was firmly in the “they’re all a bunch of crooks” camp. Yeah, I was a (pretty disinterested) Nader voter in Oregon. I wasn’t sweating it though, because I was also pretty sure Gore was going to win. On election night in November 2000, I was sicker than I’ve ever been with a really high fever. I went to bed thinking the election would be over by morning. What a surprise to wake up and feel like I was still in some kind of fever dream. It didn’t take me too long to realize that I’d been pretty wrong thinking that it didn’t matter who won the presidency.

So, by 2004, I was starting to pay a little more attention to politics, specifically the Democratic primary. Then this guy, Howard Dean, came on the scene. I had never heard of him, but he was saying all the right things, as far as I was concerned, about political/corporate corruption (a la Enron) and the folly of the Iraq war. He was the first politician I ever gave money to and I started reading all I could about him. He had innovative technology, he had motivated supporters, he was raising a ton of money from small donors, and he seemed like a reasonable, thoughtful, decent guy. I was sure he was going to win the Democratic primary. But then he lost big. I was completely baffled. I realized I didn’t know that much about the Democratic primary process, but just kind of dropped it at that point. I listened to Barack Obama’s speech at the Democratic Convention that year and thought, this guy’s speaking my language! Still, I was pretty convinced that Kerry was going to beat the obviously–to me–crooked Bush administration.

So then four more years of the Bush presidency happened. It was a real drag to live through, but it didn’t affect me a whole lot, because I’m a white dude. When Barack Obama announced he was running for president, I was thrilled. I thought, this guy’s doing the Howard Dean thing. He might have a shot! He was the underdog and I don’t think, early on, anyone really thought he had much of a shot. At some point, I ran across this guy named Al Giordano who took the time to write in great detail about how the Democratic primary process worked, explaining each state primary or caucus as it came along. It was really eye-opening. Turns out, it doesn’t matter if you raise a lot of money or draw big crowds to hear you speak, if you don’t get the votes. Also, in the party primaries, the only thing that matters is delegates. I learned a lot from reading his patient explanations. I’m pretty sure I discovered Nate Silver through Al, too.

That’s why, when Obama lost the California primary, I wasn’t sweating it. I knew that Obama had already won the whole thing, in spite of all the screaming and the noise from all sides.

It’s been amazing to watch the Democratic primary in 2016, because it seems like a complete replay of 2008, an amazing piece of historical reflection.

Check out this oldest article from Giordano I could find: No More Drama

Only, instead of Obama putting together a multi-racial coalition to defeat Clinton and then McCain, Clinton has put together a multi-racial coalition to defeat Sanders and then (I hope) Trump.

So who is this guy, Al Giordano, and why am I writing about him? Back in August I started paying attention to all the political rumblings, Republican and Democratic, and I rediscovered Al via his Twitter account: https://twitter.com/AlGiordano

I thought Sanders was kind of neat. I was pretty skeptical of Clinton. I had no idea who O’Malley was. I assumed Al would be pretty down on Clinton again and pretty pro-Sanders. Imagine my surprise.

Turns out, Al and Bernie go way back. Al was a community organizer in the NE and organized to stop nuclear plants from being built, among other things. Al supported Bernie in run for mayor of Burlington and then again in his first run for the House. But he’s not supporting him any longer. Why?

Bernie Sanders is actively attacking the multi-racial coalition that put Barack Obama in the White House.

Ultimately, it matters who supports a presidential candidate. Me, I’m going to side with the people who elected Obama the first and second time.

So now, Al Giordano has stated that unless Sanders reins in his attacks on this coalition, he’s going to run for Sanders’ Senate seat in 2018. I believe he can do it, too.

Here’s the thing: I feel like Al would be the kind of Senator and politician that Sanders’ supporters imagine him to be.

Don’t be surprised when this guy named Al you’ve never heard of swoops into Vermont and becomes the next junior Senator in 2018.

He’s worth keeping an eye on: https://twitter.com/AlGiordano

 

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The General of Ice Cream

The General of Ice Cream had a dilemma. Too many people loved eating ice cream!

“Good god, man!” the general exclaimed. “Ice cream is a finite resource and every day we’re eating it faster!”

“So what?” the people all said. “What do you know? You’re just a general!”

“Fair enough,” the general said, “My years of logistical management in service of optimizing my people killing more people (over ice cream, always over ice cream, that damnably sweet stuff) don’t really qualify me to have educated opinions on much of anything except, well, exactly that.”

“Don’t worry about it!” said all of the actors. “That’s never stopped us before! Having an opinion (or acting like you have one) is fun!”

“Thanks, actors! I owe you one,” the general said.

“Don’t mention it,” said the actors, as they only pretended to eat the ice cream. “It’s hard to say your lines with a mouthful of ice cream,” they whispered. “If you watch us closely, you’ll see that we eat really oddly in movies and television.”

The general tried to get other people to listen to him. Everyone pretended like what he had to say was Really Quite Important, but eventually the general realized it was only an act.

“Oh what’s the use,” the general said, and ate some ice cream–one scoop rocky road, one scoop strawberry.

“Delicious!” the general said.

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Incurious George

(Why was he incurious?)

I’ll tell you why. Because.

You might think, because of his name, that Incurious George is a monkey. Nope.

Oh boy. Here he comes. Incurious George. Not getting up to any hijinks at all. Not needing to be rescued by anyone in particular, but specifically not some guy in a hat.

Incuriosity: not a word. You’ll be surprised to know. Especially because it is.

Incurious George was incurious about so many things: noodles, 17th century Turkish literature, why the bus is running late, that girl at the end of the bar, sassafrass, the reason why the joke is funny, metaphysical nonsense, artificial intelligence, the bones of the foot, why the sky is blue, what the king god is thinking up there on the moon, video games, what’s for breakfast, the benefits of clean living, sartorial inaccuracies in BBC period dramas, the difference between bourbon and whiskey, why it’s sometimes spelled whisky, grunge, different types of metal (geologic), different types of metal (musical), what’s going on with that Baader-Meinhof thing where once you learn a new word you start seeing it everywhere, juice.

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The Child

One time, a child was born. Let’s say it was a girl (it could’ve easily been a boy). She was cherished by her parents. Literally nourished by her mother’s milk. Her parents poured all of their hopes and dreams and love into her. Not all at once, but slowly, moment by moment, day by day, through the slow accretion of time. Sure, those parents messed up, they sometimes got angry or cranky or dismissive of her, but for the most part, what they did was good and true. And even from that first moment, she felt things so deeply, joy and sadness and anger and fear and happiness and laughter and crying and all the rest, there was so much. Eventually, from listening to her parents talk to each other and all the people around, she decoded language (it doesn’t matter which one) and shortly after that she began to speak her own words. She grew hair, fingernails, toenails, and teeth. She also grew up and out and up and out. At some point, she figured out how to stand and walk and run and then EVERYTHING changed. She didn’t have much to worry about, but sometimes her parents were terrified that something would happen, because she was so unconcerned and that’s what parents do. Everyone who was a part of her life loved her and left a little piece of something with her. And sometimes her parents worried about all the money they were spending, but, you know, it was WORTH IT. She soaked it all in. Soon, she went to school, where her teachers did the best they could (and sometimes not their best at all) to teach her some of what they knew. More importantly, all the children around taught each other about how to be friends and enemies and how to be alone and how to be together. Yeah, it was a big old mess of complicated feelings and ideas and some of it was good and some of it was bad. It all happened at the slow pace of time, as one minute clicked into the next. The parents got sort of used to not seeing her all the time, but it was still sometimes painful. They missed her fiercely, sometimes, at random moments. All of this takes time to talk about, because it happens for all of the other children too. So, anyway, she was loved, which is the best we can hope for, right? She LIVED. One day, a man with a gun shot her and 20 or so of her classmates, killing not just her, but all of the love, hopes, and dreams that had been poured into her. That was the end. Her utterly unique presence on this earth was completely and utterly ended.

Everyone who knew her wept.

Multiply times 20.

Multiply times 52.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

A) In the distant future, they all got tired of weeping. They rose up. They fought to end the mad slaughter of children and grown children.

or

B) They never stopped weeping.

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Safari Dave has Nothing on Curious George

(For getting stuck in places.)

Orpheus looks backward. *Spoiler Alert*

Adam and Eve eat the apple. *Spoiler Alert*

Odysseus comes home. *Spoiler Alert*

Hamlet/Othello/Macbeth/King Lear/etc die at the end. *Spoiler Alert*

Ahab dies at the end. *Spoiler Alert*

Anna Karenina dies at the end. *Spoiler Alert*

Jane Eyre marries that rich dude. *Spoiler Alert*

Frodo destroys the One Ring. *Spoiler Alert*

Darth Vader is Luke’s dad. For reals. *Spoiler Alert*

Beowulf kills Grendel and his ma. *Spoiler Alert*

Spoilers don’t exist.

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All About the Wizards

(I’m not talking about the basketball team, sorry.)

Zombardo the Wizard was stuck up in a tree. It wasn’t a pleasant place for a wizard to be, especially not one with a mild fear of heights (acrophobia) and a mild fear of cats (ailurophobia) and a mild fear of being caught up in a tree (dendrophobia). You’d think, being a wizard–and yes, there was a cat stuck up in the tree with him–that he could just whisper up some magic words and, poof!, be down on the ground or have turned the tree into a statue or made the cat float away like a balloon. Unfortunately, all this mild fear made those magic words slide right out of his head.

Zombardo sighed and gazed down at all the magic words piled on the ground.

“Nothing good can come of this,” he sighed.

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Crazy Old Mercurial Shoes

(Or is it feet?)

Zeus was feeling sad. The old thunder and lightning bit just didn’t strike fear and terror in the hearts of the hums the way it used to. Also, Hermes kept flitting around, asking about email and AOL and things like that. Apparently, their dial-up connection was just too slow. “Come on!” he’d said. “I can run around the world THREE times before I can download my email. We gotta get with the program, here!”

Zeus didn’t really see the point. Hermetic wisdom, ha! This guy was just as in the dark as all the rest. And Hera? Ho boy, where to even start. Zeus stared down at his sandals. One of the straps was fraying. Nope, they just didn’t make them like they used to. Hercules used to say that he’d worn the same pair of sandals through all of his Trials. Zeus believed it. Those sandals were solid. The smell though, phew! Zeus suspected that the stench might’ve contributed to Hercules’ legendary crankiness. Also, that lion? STINKY! Hercules hadn’t really figured out the whole sportswear thing, that’s for sure.

There was a crash and Hermes said, “oops.” Zeus looked over to see him holding a shard of one of his favorite vases. Zeus sighed and went back to playing Tetris.

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