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Inspirational Reads

Friday Morning Latin Lesson, Vol. XLVI

October 30, 2009

So, here we are, on the eve of Halloween. That must make it All Hallows' Eve Eve, or something? That's a holiday, right? At this point in the week, we'll take any excuse to cut out of work a bit early.

But, it's Friday morning, and that means Latin time. But, Halloween is a Celtic holiday, right? There can't be any connection with Rome. Don't be so quick to believe everything you've heard on the History Channel. There is, in fact, a connection with ancient Roman holidays and Halloween.

Remember when I told you about how the Romans believed in ghosts? The ghosts in question were called lemures, which was a term applied to malignant or evil and restless spirits, usually indicating that their corporeal forms weren't interred properly. Either that, or someone pissed on their graves during a particularly drunken Saturnalia celebration.

Anyway, lemures typically roamed the night, possibly seeking vengeance on those who wronged them, looking to set right what once went wrong, and hoping that each time the next leap would be the leap home. Most likely, the idea of lemures came from Romulus, the ancient founder of Rome, needing to appease his twin brother, Remus, whom he slew by beating him in the head with a shovel. In case you're not up to date on your feral children-ocentric mythology, Romulus and Remus were twins who founded the city of Rome and decided they'd leave it up to the local deities as to who would get to name the new city. So, Romulus stood on one hill and Remus stood on another waiting for a sign. A flock of birds flew over Romulus, who subsequently grabbed his package and gave his brother the finger. Remus reportedly said "se te futuas, podex", which Romulus didn't take so well. Romulus, instead, decided to let his shovel do the talking and bashed in Remus' skull, which we can all probably be thankful for, because the "Reman Empire" doesn't sound nearly as awesome.

So, Romulus, suffering from Catholic guilt a good 800 years prior to its invention (Rome is, after all, the seat of the Catholic world), decided he needed to sate his brother, but rather than apologize, he started doing the Remuria festival (which later, through an etymological law whose name I forget, the /r/ became an /l/). The Lemuria, as it was celebrated--especially in the more rural parts of the empire--consisted of the head of the household rising at midnight on the third day of Lemuria and walking barefoot around outside the house, throwing black beans over his shoulder while looking at the ground. This was repeated nine times, and each time he tossed some beans over his shoulder, he would say, "With these beans, I redeem me and mine" (but, you know, in Latin). Now, if this didn't scare away all of the evil spirits lurking in the dark, someone inside the house also bashed together bronze pots, shouting "Ghosts of my fathers and ancestors, be gone!"

Lemuria was celebrated on May 9, 11, and 13th (the 13th being the night when the lemures were exorcised), and because of this, it was considered bad luck to get married in the month of May. So popular was the idea of Lemuria that it kept being celebrated even after the Empire fell, so in 610 (or maybe 609) AD, Pope Boniface IV consecrated the entirety of the Pantheon in the name of Mary and all the Saints on May 13, thus rendering the 13th of May "All Saints Day." This was a day to celebrate all the saints and martyrs recognized by the church as having been important to the foundation and spread of Christianity. Eventually, this new custom became popular and the traditional sense of Lemuria faded away. In the first half of the 8th century, All Saint's Day was moved to it's current position on the calendar--November 1--in order to offset the pagan harvest festival, Samhaim. Samhain was also a pagan celebration of the dead, which lead to the current form of Halloween, the name "Halloween" being derived from "All Hallow's Eve", a reference to the Christian holiday celebrating the saints and martyrs.

And, of course, for Halloween, we don't give out beans and bash pots together anymore. If you try that kind of bullshit, you'll be punished. In order to make sure you don't get stuck with a stinker in your hollow, plastic pumpkin tomorrow night, try firing this off in the face of that cheap old man trying to pass off that black and orange peanut butter shit as candy:

Aut da mihi dulcia, aut stercoris hunc saccum et deponam id tua porticu!

Pronounced: "Oat da mee-hee dool-key-ah, oat stair-core-eese hoonk sah-koom et day-pone-ahm too-ah id poar-tee-cue!"

Hovertext for the translation, and someone give her some damned candy!

I'll have you know, this was the most audacious attempt I've made at translating something from English to Latin, and I did it mostly on my own. My wife helped with a couple of noun endings and some word order, but other than that, it was all me, baby. And, quite frankly, I'm a little proud of that.

Now, this festival, Lemuria, is not to be confused with the mythological sunken continent that was supposedly located somewhere east of Southeast Asia and Australia. And, as an extra side note, "lemures", being night spirits, lent their name to lemurs, as they were seen primarily at night.

At this point, I would normally wish you all a good weekend and a Happy Halloween...but wait, there's more! Consider this a little bit of bonus Latin, in order to stave off the flaming bags of shit on my doorstep.

Do you know what today is? It's Tory Belleci's 39th birthday! And I know of at least one person who is quite the fan of Mr. Belleci's work. Myself, I'm a fan, as well. I mean, yeah, Kari's hot and all, but when it comes down to making the show entertaining, I think Tory's a lot better at it than any of the others. With that in mind, it's only appropriate that we learn a phrase that I he surely must utter every night as he turns away yet another fan.

Nimiast miseria nimis pulchrum esse hominum...

Pronounced: "Nee-mee-ahst mee-say-ree-uh nee-mees pool-chroom ess-ay home-een-oom..."

Still more hovertext. And I apologize, but the shirtless pictures I found of Tory weren't really all that great, at least for my Latin-lesson needs

I had a friend in college who married a guy named "Tory", and for a moment, I wondered if she married this Tory, but she lives in New Jersey now and her last name is "Bellace". Oh, and her husband's name is John, not Tory. But still, it made for a decent story. For a second or two.

You're right. It sucked. Now just take your candy and get out of here.

The Invisible Wall

October 29, 2009

So, here we are, at the third "scary story" in Pearl's little "tell a scary story" game that she came up with this year. First, I wrote a funny scary story in which I frightened my friend Steve in an otherwise empty church. The second was a work of fiction that I apparently unwittingly stole from Drag Me to Hell. The third and final work is the true story, and most likely what Pearl had envisioned when she started this thing. It will probably be short, but since it's true, it might be more powerful. Enjoy.

I will say, now that I've finished it, this was the only one of the three that actually creeped me out while writing it. With that in mind, I hope you enjoy it.

My mother is a great weaver of tales. She likes to talk and she likes to tell you a story. Sit with her long enough, and she'll regale you with exploits from my childhood, like when I hit a raccoon late one night in the car my father had bought three days earlier. Or maybe she'll tell you the tale of the night I left the cast party of the high school musical in order to try and have sex with become better friends with Olivia Chambers. Or maybe she'll tell you the tale of my younger brother and his first wife, or my aunt and my grandmother arriving at our house on the day my sister was born, or of the day my uncle severed a vein in his wrist trying to open a window at The Lake. Or, better yet, she'll tell you of the time my aunt farted in front of my prim and proper grandmother (their mother-in-law) and how it sounded just like someone had stepped on a duck.

She loves to tell stories. These are some of her favorites and get dragged out at every holiday or family gathering. If you sit around her long enough, she'll hold court and tell you each and every tale she has, no matter how inappropriate or embarrassing.

Except for one. This one, she rarely talks about. And when she's done with this one, she usually has to wipe her eyes, and not from laughter. She wipes her eyes out of fear, the fear of what might have been.

It was Halloween night back in the mid-60s. My mother was about fifteen or sixteen, which would make her younger sister about fourteen or thirteen. My Aunt Margarite, being the youngest, also had the longest leash. My mom's older sister, Victoria, was probably either already moved out or off at night school learning to become a nurse. Sometime around midnight, my grandmother tasked my mother with finding my Aunt Margarite.

My mom and her best friend, Elaine, went through the downtown of our sleepy little town, searching for Margarite in order to bring her home, but to no avail. They went down past the river, by the rows of churches that sat there dominating the landscape, and then worked up the hill on the far side of town. There was no signs of Margarite. There were plenty of signs of the havoc left in her wake, but of my aunt, they saw not a thing.

Having come to the top of the hill, they stopped near the grain silos for a smoke. After taking the break, they worked back west and toward home. They came to my great grandmother's house and stopped in for a moment, to see if Margarite was there. No luck, but she had been by in the not too distant past, apparently. As they left, my mom and her friend decided to move down the hill toward home, hoping that my aunt had shown the common sense to finally finish with her Halloween fun and head off for bed.

As they came to the alley that ran behind my great-grandmother's house, my mom's friend had an idea.

"Let's head down here and cut out toward the edge of town," Elaine suggested. "Maybe she'll be out here at one of the gas stations. We can cut down the river road and back toward home if we can't find her."

My mom agreed, and so they began the walk down the alley. As most alleys are, it was poorly-lit and narrow, lined with garages, sheds and residual outhouses, vestiges of a day in the not-too-distant past when the town had no plumbing. And, of course, being the middle of the night, it was quiet.

They chatted quietly as they walked, thinking nothing of it, looking around for any signs of my aunt. As they walked along, suddenly, they were stopped. Some invisible force was holding them in place. They could not move; they could not push through it.

My mother, at this point, gets a strange look in her eye as she recounts the details. She trembles visibly a bit. The hair on the back of her head stood up as she suddenly felt an evil, malignant wave wash over them. She looked at Elaine; Elaine looked at her.

"Let's get the hell out of here," my mom said. They backed away for a few feet, then turned and ran. They came out of the alley and immediately turned to go home. A few minutes later, they were at the house. Margarite was already there.

Elaine stayed the night, not wanting to walk home with some supernatural occurrence fresh in her memory, and thought of being out alone with whatever created that sense of pure, unadulterated evil was enough to make her almost weep. That night, they sat up and talked most of the night, falling into a fretful sleep in the predawn hours. When they woke, they did not speak of what had happened in the alley the previous night. It was light out; it was a brand new day, and hopefully whatever had been there was gone.

Two days later, they found the body of one my mom's cousins stuffed into one of those old outhouses in that alleyway, her throat slashed, and, as my mom puts it "unspeakable other damages to her body." She was of an age with my mom, well-known throughout town, and very well-liked, and by all accounts that I've ever heard, very pretty and very friendly.

To this day, the murder is unsolved.

Just Twist That Knife a Few More Times before Pulling It Out, Please

October 28, 2009

As I fancy myself one of those writing types, I subscribe to the online version of of Poets & Writers magazine. And by subscribe, I mean "sign up for their free monthly newsletter", because if it's free, it's probably good, right? Except for sex with Tara Reid. I like my big, fake breasts to not have Frankenstein-esque stitch marks on them, thankyouverymuch.

So, yesterday, I got the newest version of the newsletter. Being that everyone was so gushingly praising of the little fiction story I put together last week for Pearl's scary story Thursday game, I've toyed with the thought of maybe submitting it to one or two of these writing contests. Because, if I won, that would be full-frontal awesome, right? Right.

With that in mind, I actually took the time to peruse this month's newsletter in order to glean whatever important information I could find therein. So, what to my wandering eyes should appear, but this:

Et tu, Iohanni?

Surely, there must be more than one Jonathan Karp in the world, though, right? Because, you'd think, a stand-up, great guy like Jon would have lent me some advice on how to get some of this shit I've written published, maybe even offered to pass it along to someone in the biz that he knows. Right? I mean, Karp is a very common and popular last name?

Because I couldn't believe the Jon would ignore me like an internet stalker, I went ahead and read the article to make sure it wasn't him. And the verdict is, well...I'll copy and paste some of the article here so that you can read it and draw your own conclusions. I think my mind is made up...

Why don't you tell us about how you got your start?

Well, I grew up in Boston, and if you're from Boston, then you love the Sawx. And if you don't, then why do you hate America so much? Being that they were always robbed of a World Series title, I had a pretty disappointing childhood. When I decided it was time to select a career, I figured I would enjoy working in a field where the rejection and disappointment that I felt as a child would actually help me excel. The publishing industry seemed like a natural fit, and man do I love writing up some rejection letters!

What do you look for in a manuscript when you decide to try and publish it?

I have a rabbit problem in my yard here at Humble Karp Acres in Bawlmore, so I like to see any book that focuses on killing rabbits. I hate those little fuckers. So, if you want to get on my good side, write a story with lots of rabbit death in it. Hell, write it in rabbit blood for a nice touch. That way, if I don't like it, I can give it to my dog, Brady, to tear up while I'm gleefully typing out your rejection letter.

Do you have any advice for someone trying to get their foot into the door of the publishing industry?

Try to focus on the important topics at hand today, like how awesome Tom Brady is. In fact, it would help if you were Tom Brady. I mean, seriously, he threw five touchdowns in one quarter against Tennessee and he goes home and gets some good goal-line penetration with Gisele Bundchen. If that's not a best-seller, then I don't know what is. If you're not Tom Brady, then you better be Jonathan Papelbon, otherwise you're 80% of the way to the rejection pile. Have I mentioned how much I love writing rejection letters? It's almost as great as my award-winning fantasy football team, but not quite. But, seriously, try to be more like Tom Brady. Start by not sucking.

What books really speak to you?

Faithful is probably the best book I've ever read, but I've also got a soft spot in my heart for The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, not that Gordon was all that, but the cover art is awesome. Oh, and I can't forget Then Belichick Said to Brady. That's a classic. Also, Twilight.

Is there anything that puts an author straight on the rejection pile?

Being a motherfucking Yankees fan. You don't need to write a book if you're one of those assholes. Just buy another ring. You've got enough money. You don't need to be clogging up the shelves with your bullshit. I don't like people who use "r"s at the end of their words. Learn how to talk and how to spell, people! Also, if you can't pronounce "Worchester", then you should just be put on an island somewhere with a hairdryer and a bathtub full of water.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case...

Totally Blowing Shit Up Tuesdays: Do You Sense a Pattern Here?

October 27, 2009

In case you haven't been paying attention--and why should you, right?--I've had a bit of a theme going throughout the month of October. Oh, you picked up on that, did you? Well, good. I meant for you to.

And, no, it's not about me being angry and bitter when not lovingly plied with coffee every morning, noon and night. No, I'm talking about Tuesdays and how we've been blowing up pumpkins on them. Even on days when I'm supposed to be expressing my undying and wholesome feelings of love and lust and anything else starting with "l" for my wife, we had exploding pumpkins.

And do you know why I've blown up a pumpkin for every Tuesday?

Because I fucking hate pumpkins.

It's true. I'm pepophobic.

It all happened in those halcyon days of my youth. I was no more than four or five, I believe. My father was taking me trick-or-treating. It was just he and I, so either my brother wasn't born yet or he wasn't old enough to join us. I guess there's an outside chance that this could have happened when I was seven, but that would have made him three and he probably would have been with us.

Anyway, we had just gone to my Uncle Duff and Aunt Jan's house for tasty sweets. That meant our next stop along the way would be my Aunt Caroline and Uncle Marlowe's house (small town America, remember), and then a stop at my cousin Jamie's and then back down the hill to home. We used pretty much the same route for most years, only branching out later in life when I could walk further and haul my load home, because my dad wasn't going to carry it...not so much because he was trying to make a man out of me, but mostly because he had to carry my little brother and his candy.

So, as we were heading toward Aunt Caroline and Uncle Marlowe's, there was a big, kind of spooky-looking white house that sat at the corner of the alleyway that went to my aunt and uncle's house. It was one of those houses whose exterior was at one point white, but under years of neglect and somewhat harsh weather conditions, the paint had turned dingy and drab and in several places had been stripped away and hung in long, tattered tapers from the clapboards. The porch, as well, was mistreated and misused, with insipid gray boards bowing and buckling on the ends, no two matching up and making a proper seam.

Sounds like a perfect house to take your kid to, right?

Well, the light was on, so my dad decided we should reap some extra ill-gotten gains there. As I mounted the creaking, bowing steps, I noticed to the left of the door, a jack-o-lantern staring out toward the street. It sat between the door and the window that overlooked the porch. It was poorly-illuminated by the porch light, which hung on the right-hand side of the door. However, the jack-o-lanterns face glowed with a preternaturally evil light.

Not to mention, this thing was fucking huge. It was easily as big as I was back then, at least height-wise. I could have easily crawled inside it's hollowed-out shell. There was no way in hell I would do such a thing, however, because it was pure, unadulterated evil.

I only say this because, as I approached the door, the jack-o-lantern cackled at me. Madly. In a deep, resonant voice that smacked of paternal confessions shortly after lopping off your hand.

"Happy Halloween, Little Boy," the pumpkin boomed, cackling once more.

This rather unnatural series of events scared the living fuck out of me.

It was at this point that I did what any five-year-old who just had the living fuck scared out of him would do: I started crying. I ran off the porch just as the woman who lived in the house came running out to scold the pumpkin for scaring me. I remember seeing her bend over in front of the jack-o-lantern and waggling a finger in its face, telling it that it was a bad pumpkin for scaring me. However, the pumpkin responded to her scolding in that same harsh, forbidding, booming voice, rendering her attempts at allaying my fears moot.

She tried to encourage me to come up on the porch, but I would have none of that bullshit. I just wanted to leave. My dad, however, tried to coax me up onto the porch as well. I still refused. He then tried to explain to me that the pumpkin had a microphone hidden inside and that there was nothing to be afraid of. Great. A pumpkin with electronics wired inside? The pumpkins were turning into fucking cyborgs? No thanks. I remained steadfast--and teary-eyed--in my refusal to climb onto the porch.

So, the woman brought me my candy. I don't even remember what it was. I just wanted to get out of there. Finally, after receiving my hush money sugar-infused treat, we continued on our way, first to Aunt Caroline's, and then home.

And that, my friends, is why I love seeing these obnoxious orange orbs getting their explosive comeuppance.

I love how that one guy sought shelter by standing in front of the semi trailer. Brilliantly done! Encore!!!

Now, I love thermite. You love thermite. We all love thermite. That fiery concoction of aluminum powder and ferric oxide has made an appearance here on several occasions. Each time, it's warmed our souls (and chewed the hell out of whatever it was raining down on). It's so fantastic that it gives you a little warm feeling deep down inside. In fact, my toes are a little warm just thinking about it now.

That being said, this could be the dumbest thing I've ever seen:

The one chick did have some big tits, though. Big tits or not, you won't find me sticking my hand down into a mostly-sealed container trying to ignite thermite and then attempting to run from it as it shoots liquid metal cascading down onto the benchtop in front of me. I'm guessing that was water she was shooting it with there at the end, but still, I personally wouldn't get that close to it.

Safety first. Especially when blowing shit up.

Liquid Inspiration Anew

October 26, 2009

Oh, happy days are here again! *sip*

Yes, after what was the longest week to ten days of my life (it seems now, looking back over it), my coffee pot has been replaced. *sip* Ahhhhhh...

It makes things easier since I've spent the past two days at home with sick kids. Well, the kid today isn't sick like she was yesterday, but she's still coughing up vibrant yellow mucus. Mmmm. I think I'll move on to my next thought before I take another sip of coffee.

What's that? I seem in a better mood? Not swearing so much? Actually somewhat pleasant? Well, it could be the coffee (90%), but it's probably also the two hour nap I took on the couch this morning after putting the boy on the bus and shipping him off to school (10%). And for some strange reason, my wife last night was like, "Are you sure you want to stay home with her today?" Well, honey, it's such a big sacrifice sleeping on the couch and drinking coffee all day, but I think I can make it. It is our wonderful beautiful daughter we're talking about.

So, if you're just sitting there this afternoon and I come busting in and dance you around the room, singing some bawdy sea shanty, you'll know that I really don't mean anything by it. Just smile, shake your head, maybe let a light blush touch your cheeks (I'll leave the decision as to which cheeks up to you) and think, "Oh, that Indefatigable One...he's all full of caffeinated goodness!"

Oh no. I better go. I'm almost to the bottom of this cup. Not to mention, the rest of the pot isn't going to drink itself. Although, if it did, that'd be a sight to behold. Plus, I'd be forced to make some more.

Because I can.

Oh, and by the way...I was wearing a pair of green pants on Saturday. I changed them at halftime, and look what happened!!! Clearly, I need to burn all my green clothes when football season comes around. Which is too bad, because I like wearing them on Thursdays...

The Funniest Word I Know

October 25, 2009

I'm sure you've probably played that annoying game with the cup and a ball on a string. Myself, I've never been very good at it, which I know must be a shocker to you. We're talking about a guy who, upon his first attempt at playing tennis, decided to hit the ball as hard as humanly possible. As my friend Joey and I stood there, watching the ball sail off into orbit, we decided perhaps we should play basketball, instead.

I don't do things lightly, which is why I'm always flicking my wrist as fast and as hard as humanly possible in order to send the ball (or ring) out into the space around my hand. Sure, it flies fast, but it doesn't hang in the air long enough for me to get the cup under it. After a few thousand tries like this--because it doesn't occur to me to not fling the ball as hard as possible--I give up and go play basketball.

Anyway, this little game has a name: bilboquet.

I wonder if trying to get a large-breasted, air-headed blond on a stick would be "bimboquet". Or just easy. Hahahahahahahahahaha! I made a sexual joke about the ease with which one may part a blonde's thighs. I'm so original!!!

The word--and hold on, because this might shock you--is French in origin. The French word bille means small ball (CQED...get it? It's a French joke!*) and coupling it with the word bouquet, which is a spearhead found on a coat-of-arms.

The use of this one might be a touch tricky, but I think I can work it in. Since the magnum opus features lots of nobility, I can see a scene at a court and then I can mention some attendant or advisor sitting in the corner, idly amusing themselves with a bilboquet. Sure, it might seem a touch out-of-place, since there's no France in the story, but I don't care. It would still be somewhat timely, and besides, you don't need a French maiden just to use a French-derived term in a book, right?

And, you never know...maybe someday it will help you answer a question of Jeopardy, kind of like when I told you what "thaumaturge" means or, like this past week, when the Battle of Actium was an answer of Jeopardy. And, if you ever get on the show, you can thank me with a small sliver of your winnings.

* CQED = "C'est qu'elle dit" which means "that's what she says".

Setbacks and Delays

October 24, 2009

So, I've had a couple of a problems this past week when it comes to the writing process. Well, four, to be honest. The fourth, though, is just that I haven't really wanted to. I've been, you know, putting together blog posts and such, looking up the Old English form of "to dip" and what not. You know, important shit.

Anyway, the first problem is that I've been writing in a variety of places, and this means that I've got my stuff scattered over a couple of jump drives and my computer right here. I mean, I have an idea what the word count is, but I don't have the actual numbers. The other thing is, I haven't wrestled with Excel yet to set up my handy spreadsheet telling me where I am in the story. So, what you'll find below is just a rude approximation. And by "rude approximation," I mean the last four digits of my phone number from college.

The second problem is that I've come to a point in the story that I've been kind of dreading, for the lack of a better word. See, despite what you might have read here on these interwebs earlier this week, I'm not much of a poet. Oh, sure, I can dabble in the art a bit. I've acquired a touch of fame for my haiku at work. However, I've come to a spot in the story where one of my characters goes to the Oracle of Delphi.

Now, the Oracle herself didn't speak in poetry. Actually, all she did was pretty much rave and foam at the mouth as she sat on a stool over a crack in the earth that leaked toxic gasses into the chamber in the heart of the Oracle and she slowly poisoned herself. However, there were a group of priests who stood around, interpreting what the Oracle herself was saying. These are the bastards currently acting as the thorn in my side. See, when they spoke, they spoke in lines of hexameter. Originally, I thought, this won't be a problem...six syllables...pfft...eeee-zee.

Then, suddenly, I realized that hexameter means twelve syllables. Per line. And I had to redo everything I had done before and, well, it didn't go so well. In fact, it didn't go at all. In fact, I started finding other things to do rather than write. In fact, that's what I'm doing right now.

And then the third major issue was that I spent a couple of nights putting together the post for Thursday for the scary story thing that I was doing alongside Pearl's (though her story is scarier because it really happened...I dabbled in a bit more Greek myth with a modern twist). And, while I knew everything that I wanted to do with the story, I did need to do some research--which was mostly looking at pictures of mostly naked brunettes. Who's willing to go the extra yard to please you all? Me, that's who.

So, I haven't gotten as far as I wanted, but I've learned that I can type on the laptop and watch Notre Dame fuck up again play, which helped me get some extra work done last week.

5328 / 100000 words. 5% done!

Friday Morning Latin Lesson, Vol. XLV

October 23, 2009

It's not often than I have a plea for help thrown in my direction. I mean, aside from the occasional damsel in distress trapped in a tower or something. This one is of an entirely language-oriented plea for help.

This is just what I found a couple of weeks ago when my good friend (and probably yours, too) Jace over at Sawdust and Cowpies needed some help with the origins of a certain phrase. The phrase? Royal dipshit. Cowguy himself suggested that it clearly has roots in Latin and, well, he's half right. Let's take a look, shall we?

Royal (or its seldom-used variant, roial) comes into English via French. The French form was roial which is derived from the word roi meaning "king." Roi has its roots in Latin, of course, from the word rex, most often seen in Tyrannosaurus rex (king tyrant lizard...if you don't mind mixing your Greek and Latin). Rex was turned into "royal" in Latin through the suffix -alis, which is used to turn nouns into adjectives, thus producing regalis.

Dip, however, is English. It is found in the Old English verb dyppan, which means "to dip". Over time, the y turned to an i and we dropped the end part, most likely in a way of dyppan--->dypp--->dipp--->dip (modern form).

Shit is also English, but has a root in common with German and the other Germanic languages. Originally, in Old English, it was scite, which cognates well with German scheiße, Dutch schijt, Swedish skit and Norwegian skitt, as well as Icelandic skitur. Eventually, we turned the "sc" into "sh" and dropped the long i sound to the modern "shit".

Now, while we've had royal as an adjective since the middle of the thirteenth century, throughout most of the centuries it was used only to refer to things good enough for a king. However, since the 1940s, royal has taken on a second meaning, and this one implying that something is colossal on a grand scale (like a royal ball, but in a negative sense). Interestingly enough, the word "regal" entered into English a couple centuries after royal, again through French with the same Latin roots, but it's meaning has retained that of stately, befitting a king.

Dipshit, interestingly enough, is only about forty years old. It pops up around 1962 and comes via the military. In order to figure out whether the latrine was full and a new one needed to be dug, someone would have to go and check it. Usually, the least popular guy in the unit and/or the man of lowest rank would be given a stick and told to go check the depth of the shit in the latrine. Since we already had dipstick from the 20s and the birth of the automotive industry, those clever military guys coined "dipshit" for the poor moron who had to go to the latrine and check its remaining free volume. Dipshit then came to be used for anyone of lower intelligence who might be found spending their free time poking sticks into piles of shit to see how deep they are.

Now, since we've just taken an exciting trip down through the derivation of the phrase, we might as well learn how to say it in Latin, right? Right!!!

Mergivit ipsa stercum regium!

Pronounced "Mare-gee-weet ip-sah stair-coom ray-gee-oom!"

Hovertext for the translation...more for tradition than need...

If you must have a literal translation, it is "he has dipped himself in royal shit". I realized it's a little different than "he's a royal dipshit", but I thought that having it in the past tense makes more sense than "he dips himself in royal shit". The phrase also means "she has dipped herself in royal shit", but you'd have to change it from regium to regiam.

If you wanted to turn this toward a person and say "You're a royal dipshit", change it to mergivisti instead of mergivit and then use the proper masculine or feminine form of the adjective.

That's a lot of learning. Anyone got a drink?

The Last Temptaion (of Michael)

October 22, 2009

Again, I'm skipping out on the TMI Thursday fun in order to bring you the second scary story. And, now that Lilu has said that I can love her in a creepy way (which is convenient, because I was wondering what the fuck I was going to do with that trenchcoat my in-laws gave me a few years ago), I'll be getting back to the TMIs soon. In the meantime, I'm playing Pearl's game of telling a scary story. Last week was the scary funny story. This week is the stab at fiction. It won't be too long. I hope.

The bar was hazy with smoke, but Michael could sense her long before he saw her. The first glimpse he caught was her legs, long and sexy, perfectly toned and complemented by the sheer black hose she had stretched over them hours ago. She had them crossed at the knee, like any lady would, with her ankle kicked up enough that her shoe dangled by the toe. She bounced her leg gently, causing the shoe to sway rhythmically on the end of her foot. Though he knew it was rude and, frankly, smacked of desperation, Michael could not tear his eyes away. He slowly sipped the glass of wine--an inky red that clung to the sides of the glass like it clung to his palate. He swirled it idly while staring at her bouncing foot and eying her perfect legs.

Finally able to tear his eyes from her shoe, he followed the smooth line of her leg up to her thighs, where he could just see the hints of lace at the top of the stockings. As she shifted on her seat, he caught a flash of bared flesh, and his heart hammered in his chest. His breathing became shallow as he longed for the second to drag out to eternity, so that he could stare at the sweet, elusive slice of leg until he had his fill. He knew it would never be enough. He consoled himself with a pull of wine that warmed his body and helped calm his nerves. His breathing lessened, his heart quieted.

His eyes continued to climb, over the flare of her hips, obscured by the tail ends of her unbuttoned jacket. The white shirt underneath was tight enough to leave nothing to the imagination, but loose enough that it wasn't unseemly. She had full breasts heaving against the buttons across her chest. Three buttons had been undone on the shirt, but how much of her bosom she left revealed was unknown as she had her body turned away from him. For a few moments, he thought to move his seat so that he could appreciate her from a different angle. Another illicit flash of thigh held him where he sat, and another sip of wine kept his heart from exploding.

It had been over a year since he broke up with his girlfriend--or rather, since she had simply walked out on him. For a while, he avoided the bar scene, hoping to find someone at work or at church. Neither fulfilled his needs, and the clubs were filled with people too young for him. Taking another sip of his wine, he wondered at what point college girls failed to recognize him as a viable sex partner. With a sigh, he set the now empty glass on the table. For a second, he thought about leaving and going home, masturbating, and simply falling asleep. He looked up at the sex goddess at the bar one last time.

Her eyes met his.

For a second, his heart hammered in his chest, unbound lust and desire coursing through his veins. He was unsure if she was looking at him or looking through him, so he offered a slight smile. She returned it, then looked away, casting her eyes down at the empty stool beside her.

He had been invited. If he hesitated, the moment would be lost.

Unsure of how he got there, he found himself in the seat beside her. He tried to summon a line to the front of his mind, but with a small sigh that he hid beneath a bit of nervous laughter, he simply introduced himself.

"Hi," he said, "I'm Michael."

She smiled. Bright, white teeth flashed between her ruby lips. She turned away from him for a second and the faintest tint of color came to her cheeks. For a second, he wondered if he had been too forward.

"An old name," she cooed. Her voice was smoky and sexy, carrying the lilt of an unidentifiable accent--something European, he was sure, but he could not place it exactly. Her olive skin marked her as from the Mediterranean region, but he could not guess any more specific than that. She swept a stray lock of her beautiful, tossled brunette hair back around her ear before she spoke again.

"Named for the Archangel, the leader of God's army," she continued, still looking down at the bar. "I've known many men named Michael..." she trailed off. Then she looked at him. Their eyes locked. "But not many of them could capture his beauty as well as you."

Her eyes were beautiful. Soft and velvety brown, they looked as though they stretched into eternity. Smoldering fires burnt in their very depths. For a second, he felt as if he could drift into them, float there for all eternity, be sucked away forever. She blinked, slow and languorously, summoning him back to reality. "It is an old name. A powerful name. You carry it well."

He felt himself blushing. "Yeah, well, my parents are Catholic. They chose a name they felt was strong and powerful, yet still Christian." He chuckled softly, as if to dismiss the topic.

"Are you Catholic?" she asked, her features neutral.

"Well...I guess. I don't know. I go to Mass. I think there's a God. Sometimes I even talk to him." He felt nervous. "Are...are you Catholic, too?"

She smiled again, this time without showing her dazzling teeth. "No, but I am familiar. I'm somewhat of a historian, with a great interest in religion, you could say. What do you do?"

"I'm middle-management in a telecom," Michael admitted. "It's a decent job, pay's good, but it seems like the glass ceiling is a little low. Especially these days."

She smiled a knowing smile and sipped the last of her wine from her cup. "Can I buy you a drink?" Michael asked, unsure of what to say next.

"No," she said, and his heart sank. "It is getting late. I should go." She picked up her purse and pulled it over a shoulder, sliding from the stool in one smooth, sinuous fashion. She took a step from the bar and hesitated, looking back over her shoulder at him. "You could offer to walk me home," she suggested.

A few seconds later, they were on the streets, walking together. The cool night air caused their breath to fog before them. They passed a few moments together in silence, the open space of the city streets a stark difference to the closeness of the interior of the bar.

"My name is Lamia, by the way," she said, sliding a hand between his arm and his side. "I do not think I introduced myself earlier."

"I don't believe I've ever heard that name before, Lamia," Michael said, smiling at her. He felt the closeness of her body to his, and his insides involuntarily pulsed with desire at her touch and proximity.

"It's Greek," she cooed, leaning her head on his shoulder as they walked. "It's an old name. Like Michael." She paused for a second. "Pardon me, but I think I had too much wine. It's been a long week."

"I'm sorry to hear that," Michael offered. His smile had melted some, but his insides still pounded with lust.

"Don't be. It's not your fault. I just get...grumpy...this time of year." They walked in silence for a bit, passing in and out of the amber halo of the halogen lamps lining the sidewalk. "But, you could make me feel better."

His breath caught in his throat, but he cleared it with a cough and they continued down the street, Lamia guiding the way, until finally they arrived at her apartment. It was a part of town Michael was not familiar with. Her apartment building looked old, like it had been here forever. She fumbled in her purse for the key, and Michael stood by, hoping that he didn't appear to eager to be invited in. As she unlocked the door leading to the interior of the building, he began to step back from the door, but she grasped his wrist gently.

"Oh, do come in. At least for a bit," she said, smiling. "I can make some coffee."

"Okay," Michael agreed, and pulled the door open for her. She led the way up the steps, and Michael stared at her perfect ass as they ascended each flight until finally they came to her landing. Again, she fumbled with the key in the lock until the door swung open. Her apartment was small, but well-furnished. A gentle smell of incense, roses and vanilla came from the interior of the apartment.

"Please," she said, "please come in."

"Thank you," Michael responded, stepping in. She took his coat and hung it in the closet along with hers. She stripped off her jacket and kicked her shoes to the side. Despite her long, lithe legs, she was amazingly short. In a second, she had crossed the room back to his position.

"Let me show you the place," she offered, taking his hand. Michael noticed, finally, that she was showing an amazing amount of her ample cleavage, and when Lamia noticed him staring at it, she smiled, biting her lower lip slightly. She pulled slightly at his hand.

"This is, of course, my living room. It's mostly for show. This is the kitchen," she pointed toward and opening in the wall through which he could see a refrigerator and a small amount of counter. "I spend most of my time in my study," she said, pulling him in a different direction and leading him into a small, cozy room with walls lined with bookshelves. "It's so relaxing in here to read or think. I do a lot of both. It's also a good place to enjoy some coffee." She winked at him, a gesture that showed all the subtlety of a punch to the face. His breath caught in his throat once more.

"But, I spend most of my time in my bedroom," she hissed, taking his hand in both of hers and walking backwards. She smiled brightly as she led him into the room where a magnificent four-poster bed dominated the scene. It was hung with thick, velvety curtains of the deepest scarlet. A black-and-white damask bedspread was pulled up to the pillows, but turned down for her on one side.

As he was admiring the decor, she pulled him down toward her and hissed into his ear, "If you can wait a moment here, I can slip into something much comfortable..." As she spoke, she unfastened his belt. A flick of her hands, and his pants were undone and they fell to the floor. She nibbled on his neck, as if to make the invitation more enticing.

Wordlessly, Michael walked over to the bed and sat down. He noticed that her closet doors were covered with floor-to-ceiling mirrors. His attention was quickly returned to the doorway of the bedroom as Lamia reappeared, wearing only a bra and panties and her black stockings. She carried a bottle of wine in her hands and two glasses. She moved across the room easily, seeming to float rather than walk. She opened the wine and sat on the bed next to him, offering a him a glass. They toasted one another, and Michael drained the glass. Lamia did the same. She smiled.

"Lay back," she cooed, her voice low and sexy. He did so, and she climbed on top of him. He felt the power of her thighs on either side of his hips, felt the strength in her hands as she held him pinned to the bed. For a moment, a voice in his head told him he should run, should flee, just to get away, but he ignored it. All he could focus on was the warmth of the wine in his body, the fire burning in Lamia's eyes, the smooth, sinuous touch of her body rubbing next to his, and the heady aroma of the incense hanging in the air.

"Please," he begged, his voice barely above a whisper, "'s been so long."

"Oh, I know," she hissed back at him. "That's what made you so easy to lure back here." Her eyes flashed with a deep and powerful fire, and she smiled as she swayed back and forth over him, her movements serpentine, her gaze hypnotic. She opened her mouth again, and Michael slowly noticed that her teeth had grown longer, sharper. He shook his head, trying to force the image from his mind. For a second, her face appeared more angular, almost reptilian. The fire flared in her eyes once more.

"What..." he began to say, but the breath escaped him. He looked over toward the mirrors, but instead of the gorgeous, sexy woman he thought he was going to make love to, he saw an enormous abomination that was a mixture of a woman and a snake. He turned back to look at her. He wanted to scream. He wanted to push her off and run away, but the image above him was of the same woman he had lusted for in the bar. He tried to tell her to get off him, that he needed to leave, but he couldn't form the words.

Smiling the dangerous, wicked smile with long, pointed teeth in her mouth, she lowered her face toward his. Her lips barely brushed his, but the breath was pulled from his chest. He suddenly felt cold. He wanted to turn his head away from her, but he couldn't. He glanced over at the mirror, and it looked as though the snake-woman abomination was crouched over his body, pulling a cloud or a fog from his mouth to hers. He felt colder still, and now weaker. He tried to resist her, but couldn't. His body no longer responded to his mind, and slowly, ever so slowly, his arms and legs began to go numb. Again, he tried to scream, but no sound came from him. He tried to fight, but his body refused his commands. He tried to cry, but no tears would come.

Finally, he closed his eyes, and everything was dark, cold, numb, and silent.

Lamia stretched, sliding off the stacked pallets and away from the dessicated, shriveled corpse. She slid across the dusty floor of the abandoned warehouse, her body suffused with another meal. This one was full of lust, full of life. She would not have to feast again for some time. Quickly, however, she made her way from the scene. Someone would find the body soon, and they would want to ask questions. It was better if she was not around.

As she slithered out of the warehouse, she changed again. Once more, she stretched long, sexy legs as she strode quickly from the warehouse. Her heels clicked on the pavement. For a second, she looked back and smiled wistfully.

It was too bad. He truly had been the most beautiful Michael she had ever met.

Except for the Archangel himself, of course.

Black and White and Evil All Over

October 21, 2009

I might have mis-read this headline earlier when scanning down CNN's website...

...because my first thought was "What, are they going to drool all over everyone?"

And then I read the article and thought "Yes, terror suspect does make more sense..."

As you were.

To Sleep Perchance to Dream: Aye, There's the Rub

So, I had a dream last night.

I suppose I have dreams every night, but this one struck a chord.

I was hanging out with my grad school buddies again, Dr. Assy and Captain B. You might remember Captain B from suck such pick-up lines as "California? I'm from Connecticut! They both start with C!" Dr. Assy was the other guy I lived with in grad school.

Well, we were back together and we all had our respective degrees. This was kind of odd because two of us are married and Dr. Assy is busy curing Cancer or some other sign of the Zodiac. But, we were hanging out and, when the three of us were together, there was usually a lot of alcohol involved. I may or may not have mentioned this in the past.

So, we're hanging out, talking, my buddies and I, in this dream, when Dr. Assy does his patented arm-wave. This was something that happened one night during a particularly drunken Groundhog's Day where we passed out watching an endless loop of The White Shadow on ESPN Classic. At one point, Dr. Assy started waving his arms around and I was like "What the hell? Are you an anemone now?"

"No," he responded, "there's just a lack of alcohol in my vicinity."

When you get science-type people drunk, you get conversations featuring words like "anemone" and "vicinity". And "backside attack".

So, in my dream, Dr. Assy is waving his arms around looking for alcohol, but there is none. I decide it's my duty to head down to the liquor store and buy some alcohol for the three of us. Captain B decides he's coming with. I start walking through a bunch of, what I can only describe as passenger cars on a train, because I keep opening and closing doors and ending up in a long, hallway-like area. And Captain B is right there.

I can tell, because he's got his hand on my back. And, apparently, he's getting more and more desirous of that alcohol, because he's pushing me harder and harder to get to the liquor store. Now his hand on my back is beginning to hurt. Finally, after about ten minutes of this, I turn to tell Captain B to fuck off, stop pushing on my back. But, when I turn, he's not there.

"Ah, hell," I said, "this is a fucking dream."

Which instantly caused me to wake up. Only problem? The pain in my back was still there. As lucidity slowly returned to me, I realized that my wife was sleeping with her knees in the middle of my back. *sigh* Once again, I've turned into Al Bundy.

Since it was the night of our anniversary, I decided not to start pushing her around the bed (heh), but instead shifted myself around so that I slept around her knees. After a couple of minutes, apparently satisfied that she had ruined a decent part of my night sensing me shifting on the bed, she rolled over and fell back asleep. A few minutes later, I also fell into a steady, dreamless slumber until the alarm went off a few minutes later.

Notice how I told this entire story about Dreaming, and didn't mention Sandman once.

Well, guess I fucked that up...

Original Poetry

October 20, 2009

Language was developed for one endeavor, and that is...Mr Perry?
To communicate?
No! To woo women!

A poem:

"Thank you Jesus," I often say,
Upon waking nearly every day.

"For the gift of this wonderful wife,
Whom you gave me to share my life."

As I gaze upon her in our bed,
Wearing a giant Madeline head.

Happy Anniversary!

And what says love and happy anniversary better than exploding pumpkins?

Exploding Pumpkins

In case you were's nine years. And they're using dry ice in sealed soda bottles.


October 19, 2009

You'll excuse me if I'm a little addled. My wife broke the carafe for the coffee pot on Friday night, so I'm starting my third morning without coffee. It's horrible. A million howling voices are in my head, each vying for my attention, all of them demanding a caffeinated release to silence the other 999,999 voices. Fortunately, I'm making due with the muddy ditch water here at work and, even though it's not the finest coffee in the land, it was a dollar well spent.

I came to a sudden realization this weekend that sheds new light on the patheticdom that is my life. Remember a couple of weeks ago, when I was being all clever about telling you how to say "jump the shark" in Latin? I was telling you how I don't really watch any network shows?

Well, I was thinking about that this weekend while freezing my ass off taking my kids to their school carnival. My two favorite shows right now: Dirty Jobs and Phineas and Ferb. That's pretty much it. Now with Monk in its final season and both it and Psych having come to their fall finales, I'm left with a show about rolling around in shit all day and an animated show detailing the formulaic adventures of step brothers and their pet platypus.

Even my regularly-enjoyed shows, The Simpsons and House, fall at an inconvenient time for me. They come on while I'm trying to wrestle the agents of entropy into their rooms for the night put the kids to bed, and I can't afford DVR and I'm loathe to just record them and watch them later. I suppose I could try and catch them online, but...*shrugs*

I guess it's probably better, as I'm trying to push forward with my currents work(s) in progress, but still, even creative genius needs a night or two off to rot his mind with whatever amusements the flickering box in the room can offer me.


Wow...I can feel the coffee slowly suffusing strength and sanity back into my body. Oh, how I've missed you, demon of our modern age.

Apparently, I'm not the only one not watching enough television (that's what we call a ham-fisted segue, kids). These morons in Colorado with the weather-balloon kid would have done themselves a service had they only watched the Mythbusters in which they took, what, 45 weather balloons to lift someone off the ground? Sure, that was a full-grown man, but evens scaling it down, someone should have been like "Hmmm...maybe the math here is off a little bit...". I mean, I have a five-year-old boy, and I sure as fuck hope that I'm not 45 x what he is.

According to the sources I searched, it took over 4500 party balloons filled with helium to achieve lift-off. And that was just for a four-year-old.

A quick check of the math shows that it takes approximately 16 cubic feet of helium to lift one pound. Let's assume that a six year old weighs around 55 pounds, that'd require 880 cubic feet of helium to lift him. And that's just to lift him off the ground, not to shoot him off into the stratosphere like these people were claiming.

And here's the thing: no one called them on this until they found the boy hiding in a box in the attic. No one was like "Yeah, bullshit! There's not enough lift in that thing to take a six-year-old off into the the atmosphere." The media slurped it up like fucking nectar and ambrosia and now we're stuck with these two asshole parents on every fucking news outlet being total asshats.

Then I saw a bunch of comments on various news stories while I was doing the research for how many balloons it took for Mythbusters to lift someone off the ground, and they were predictably asinine, as well. "I'm praying for this family during their tragedy." (typos marking the author as being barely literate corrected) Well, I'm praying for you for being so fucking gullible you'd probably look to see if the word was written on the ceiling.

Okay, now that my hackles have been raised, here's something that might make you feel better. It did me, with a couple of notable exceptions. It's the 20 All-Time Coolest Heroes in Pop Culture, as compiled by Entertainment Weekly. My only complaints are that Batman is way cooler than Spider-Man and Super-Man, and I think Buffy should have been higher, but it's tough to argue with those who ranked above her.

Award Winning Sesquipedalianism

October 18, 2009

Finally! All of this crap hard work that I put into this blog has paid off, especially on the Sunday slot. Okay, sure, there's the 131+ gorgeous followers and then of course Some Guy telling me about how I helped him with Jeopardy once. Oh, and Soda & Candy giving me a golf clap whenever I use the word "paucity".

But I have something to polish up and put in the trophy case.

Have you guys met Travis? He likes to fish. He's also a big fella who doesn't like sleeping in the back of Mitsubishi Outlanders, and he wonders if there will be bacon in heaven...a curious query, to be sure, since God was pretty cut-and-dry on that whole "don't eat the flesh of pigs" thing, and Jesus was the King of the Jews. But then, there's a company called Blue and Gold that makes delicious peppered bacon, and Blue and Gold just happen to be Notre Dame's colors and God loves Notre Dame, or so I was led to believe while I was there. Therefore, with Blue and Gold getting God's blessing, there probably is bacon in Heaven.

Can you see why I like reading this guy?

Anyway, Travis skated in here one day on a TMI Thursday (I think the one where I was kissing Margaret and puking at the same time). I went to see what he was all about, found discussions of bacon and a color-coordinated dissection of his...ampleness...and was like "I'm following this guy."

I'm even able, as I am with so many others, to overlook the Twilight references to see the truth and beauty behind the writer and the exquisiteness of his blog. But, seriously, people, stop with the Twilight obsession, okay? I mean, Christ, you don't find me obsessing over poorly-written stories, do you?



Anyway, Travis saw fit to saddle enrich my life with an award, and this one is one I can actually be less ashamed proud of: The I Use Big Words... Award.

I was relating the whole saga of not wanting to turn on the heat in my poorly-insulated house the other day in his comments section and trotted out the word "parsimonious" (you know, just like I did yesterday when I recycled the not-wanting-to-turn-the-heat-on story?). So, I figure that's a good one for my Sunday bout of wordly edification:

parsimonious: adjective frugal to the point of stinginess, restrained, sparing. Exhibiting parsimony.

It comes from Latin parsimonia from pars-, part of the perfect tense of the verb parcere meaning "to spare, to save" and -monia, which is a suffix denoting an action or condition. Like pneumonia (a condition of the lungs).

I've described a couple of characters in the big story as being overly parsimonious, which allowed for them to, in times of war, hire more knights for their personal protection. So, it's already been used, but I'm too lazy to look up where I've written it in.

So, there you have it. A brand new award and a how the word parsimonious secured it for me. Plus, you have a new blog you may or may not want to read, depending on your opinion of bacon and Heaven.

Also...I wore a green shirt yesterday. It was the only long-sleeved t-shirt I could find. That's why Notre Dame lost. It has nothing to do with the fact that our defense still can't figure out how to tackle. It was my fucking green shirt.


I'm So Cold...I'm Shivering...

October 17, 2009

Every year, I become increasingly aware of how soft I've become.

It used to be that, come fall and winter, I was hearty. It was my time to shine. Cold? Pfah! Not until your eyebrows have frozen! I'm one of those idiots who would be in Green Bay, shirtless, with something painted on my chest rooting on my Packers. Or, at least, I used to be one of those idiots.

Something has happened over the last seven years. I've lost that constant internal fire that kept me warm (trust me, the insulating layer of blubber is still there, probably moreso now than when I was living in the midwest). My Calcifer has gone out. Someone call Sophie!

I took my kids to their fall carnival this morning. It was probably somewhere in the mid-fifties when we arrived. There was a pretty stiff wind coming straight out of the north...but still. It wasn't like I was left upon the wild, windswept plains of Siberia. No, I was still in North By God Carolina, but I felt the cold. I felt every biting, snarling, wind-whipped attack on my body from it. I wasn't even underdressed! I was wearing a long-sleeve t-shirt and a wind-breaker. This would be standard attire well into December for me back when I lived in Indiana. Now? I wanted to curl up and cry like a little girl.

No offense to the little girls out there.

Being the rather parsimonious penny-pincher that I am, I was refusing to turn the heat on until November. Bold, but I do live in the South now, a place where people from the north go to escape the winter chill. However, the other day I came home and my wife was wearing a coat indoors and, I'm not certain, but I think I could see my breath misting out as I exhaled. I dozed off on the couch later and awoke with my elbow--of all things--chilled and numb.

Grumbling curses to anyone who would listen, I got up, turned on the heat, and immediately felt better. Well, maybe not immediately. There was that prolonged stink of dust burning on heating coils that filled the house. After that faded, then I felt warm.

I'm not about to bitch, though. Despite the fact that I've softened up in the face of Old Man Winter's icy breath, I still prefer that to the hot and steamy summers. I can at least dress for winter. I can only take so much off for the summer before they arrest me or try to roll my beached ass back into the ocean.

As for the carnival, it was fun. The kids had a good time, and that's what matters. Although, we waited forever to get onto the bungie run--you know, that thing where you strap yourself into a harness and run as fast as you can down an inflatible aisle with a bungie chord attached to your back? Well, we waited because there was no one to supervise the "ride", and so people were letting their kids take fifteen, twenty minutes a turn. Finally--and predictably--just as Tank was climbing into the thing, someone showed up to supervise. "You get three turns," she trilled.

This lasted about 30 seconds.

The next ride over was an inflatible obstacle course. No one was watching that one. So, we went there. I paid my four tickets and let him run through it five times. It was like vigilante justice. I was kind of like Batman on the playground--except, you know, without the multi-millionaire playboy alter-ego, millions of dollars worth of awesome gadgets, kickass car, cape, cowl, miles of caves beneath my sprawling and stately manner and lantern-like jawline. So, really, I was nothing like Batman.

Because I'm pretty sure Batman never gets cold.

Friday Morning Latin Lesson: Volume XLIV

October 16, 2009

Ah, it's October. This means that (for us in the northern hemisphere) we're now hurtling toward fall. The leaves are changing. The air is cool. In a lot of places, it's already fucking snowed. October brings to mind thoughts of beautifully colored leaves, frost on the pumpkins, foggy mornings, cool misty evenings, and beer and cleavage. What? I'm talking about Oktoberfest!

Oktoberfest is a chiefly German celebration, however, as we're wont to do here in the States, we've decided to embrace any cultural tradition that involves copious amounts of beer, giant sausages and pretzels, and comely wenches in low-cut tops.

Now, the Romans were familiar with beer. Truth be told, most of the ancient world was familiar with beer and it's amazing ability to turn ugly people hot. It is becoming increasingly accepted that humanity did not develop agriculture just to raise grains for the baking of bread. In fact, beer was just as important for early man's survival as was the bread. For one, in order to brew beer, you must boil the water, killing any potential pathogen lurking within the water that could kill you through excessive shitting and the subsequent dehydration that followed. Another, boiling the grains helped to extract out nutrients, thus making them more easily taken up by the body during digestion. Yes, that's right: for early man, beer was a kind of health drink.

During the time that Rome was just a city state, a kingdom and a Republic, beer was also an important drink. It was enjoyed by all levels of Rome's citizens, but it was especially favored among the lower classes. However, after the Punic wars and the sacking and destruction of Carthage, Rome just happened to own all the best areas around the Mediterranean for growing grapes. With thirsty tongues willing to pay good money for wine, the leadership in Rome--enjoying their full treasuries--decided to turn their noses up at beer and leave that for the savages to the modern-day Germany.

And the Germans couldn't have been happier. Oh sure, they enjoyed the wines, too, but beer was their specialty. And, while the Romans had the market cornered on wine grapes, the people of north central and northeastern Europe had a different plant to use for their alcoholic beverage of choice: hops. Hops prefers to grow in the middle latitudes, where the year is typically a bit more cool and a bit more wet. Areas across the Low Countries and through Germany (they also grow pretty well in Idaho, Washington and Oregon...a certain mildew wiped out the hops fields in New York) are best suited for the cultivation of hops.

The use of hops in beer was first noted in 822, but chances are it had been used before that. Hops, with a lot of various naturally-occurring compounds with fused aromatic rings, serve as wonderful preservatives for beer (they're anti-oxidants--hooray, beer is good for your heart!) and the sharp flavor balancing out the sweetness of the malt is just a bonus. The ever-industrious Germans, with all the ingredients in place, were the first to start brewing on a large scale. You can see why beer is so intricately linked with German cultural identity. In fact, the Germans developed a law--Reinheitsgebot--that dictates that the only ingredients allowed in beer are water, hops, malt and (later, when they figured out what it was) yeast. It might go without saying, but the Germans take their beer seriously.

Originally, Oktoberfest was a celebration of the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig I of Bavaria with Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen and was held in Munich in 1810. It was the beginning of various unifications that would bring about the modern country of Germany. According to various stories, Ludwig was so excited about his upcoming nuptials that he ordered a special lager be brewed in honor of his lovely bride. This brew had a special mixture of spices and flavorings in it and was then placed in caves to age over the summer. The resulting beer, called a märzen, is the brew most identified with modern Oktoberfest styles of beers (usually lumped under the title of "seasonals" by clueless bar owners).

Wow, all that typing and historical context has made me thirsty. Better limber up my tongue and jaw!

Cogito sumere cervesiam alterum!

Pronounced: "Cog-gee-toh soom-air-ay care-way-see-om awl-tair-oom!"

Translation in the hovertext! The delicious, delicious hovertext...

Alternatively, you could also say "Cogito sumere potum alterum!" This would be in case beer is not your drink, or you've angered the gods and have developed an allergy to hops, rendering you unable to drink the sweet nectar of the hops vines.

Now, if you'll excuse me...I need to go curl up on the floor into the fetal position and cry.

*Therefore, let us drink! And, I would love to suck your breasts...

Ooooh, Spooky!!!

October 15, 2009

While I heart LiLu with every part of my being possible, while trying to not let it get creepy, I'm going to take a small break from the TMI tales for the next few turns of the Thursday cycle. There's a wonderful lady from Minnesota named Pearl who is just magnificent. She's one of those sweet-faced, innocent-looking ladies who revels in her dirty mind and has many an adventure on the public transit systems of the Twin Cities. Pearl also happens to be hosting a little Story Sharing Event on Thursdays where we tell scary stories, and I've decided to join in. I've got two scary stories which are true, one frightening, the other amusing. And then I'm going to try my hand at a short bit of fiction.

Today, we're going to do the true-but-funny story.

This takes place in my college years. Now, you've already met my friend Will on several occasions. My senior year, he lived next to me and oh the adventures we had. There were many a night when we stayed up too late, drinking, talking or, sometimes, smoking a cigar.

However, there was a third member in our little party. If Will was the Phineas to my Ferb, then Steve was our Perry. Like a platypus, Steve just sort of laid around making growly noises in his throat. Yet, he was adorable, in that duck-billed sort of way. I lived with Steve for a semester, and while he was a good guy, he had a really strange personal schedule. He would stay up until two or three in the morning, and then sleep through all of his morning classes. He'd get behind on his work, which would force him to stay up later to catch up, which would cause him to sleep later and miss his classes. He came back to the dorm late one night, after the library had closed, and I heard him say, "I have so much work to do! Oh, hey, I think I have time for one game of Tetris."

Despite all this sort of nuttiness with his schedule, Steve was a virtuoso. With everything. If it was mildly musical, he could play it. And play it well. He was truly talented, which is why he was studying music in college. To this end, Steve would often stay up late at night--when he wasn't trying to get caught up on missed assignments--practicing the piano, or composing, or just playing to relieve some stress or quiet some nerves.

One night, Will and I decide to take one of our late-night walks around the campus, where we'd shoot the bull and discuss important world events. Our walk eventually took us to the chapel basement where, conveniently enough, you were allowed to smoke. It was an old cafeteria used primarily for the priests who lived on campus, and some of the students. Now, it was basically a free space for clubs to meet and for people to come and hang out in the middle of the night.

So, there Will and I are, sitting in the chapel basement, and we pull out a pair of Arturo Fuente cigars--remember, we were in college. Try not to judge. We blaze those things up and over the course of an hour or two, we smoke them down. The air is fucking blue with cigar smoke. It's hanging in layers like the curtains of the tabernacle. We're admiring our handywork when we hear piano music coming from above.

It's sometime around two o'clock in the morning. Will looks at me and smiles. "That's Steve," he says.

We sneak up through some of the by-ways of the church and peer into the sanctuary, and, sure enough, there's Steve at the piano, practicing and writing some music for one of his classes.

"We should scare the Little Purple Guy," I suggest.

Will agrees. But, we decide it's too much to try and stay quiet all the way down the aisles of the church. So, we go back down to the basement and come up through a different accessway. This one opens up right next to where the piano is stationed toward the front of the sanctuary. Conveniently, there's a column close by. I've sketched a rough drawing of the situation to try and help you visualize what's going on.

Will and I hide in the doorway, watching Steve. He plays for a little bit, then turns and looks over his shoulder toward the altar. Behind the altar is a door that leads to the back of the church and is connected to the hall where the priests live. Apparently, sometimes, one of the priests would sneak down and listen to Steve play the piano, and so he kept checking to see if someone was there. Each time he looked, no one was there. I guess it was creeping him out.

Finally, he reached down to get some pencils, and I slipped out of the doorway and stood behind the pillar, peeking out as I could. Steve kept playing, I kept watching, waiting, trying to plan my next move. Will, all three hundred pounds of his erin-go-fuckin'-braugh, hid in the doorway.

Ever seen 6'1", 300+ pounds of Irishman try to hide in a doorway? It's quite comical.

So, I stood there, planning my next move, watching Steve. He's playing quietly. I'm thinking about trying to crawl across the floor and grab his feet from under the piano, but I don't think I can pull it off. So, I watch and wait. The chapel is painfully quiet except for Steve's playing, and the rushing sound of my own breath in my ears.

Steve turns once more, and reaches for something in his bag, so I leap out from behind the pillar, and, as Steve is turning around, I slam my hands down on the piano and give a wordless shout.

Steve looks up at the sound with a wide-eyed, terrified look on his face. He, too, gives a wordless shout, and heaves his pencils at me.

"Oh!" he says, after collecting himself. "Oh, oh, God, you scared me." I am doubled-over with laughter at this point. So is Will. Steve holds up his hand, which is involuntarily trembling. His voice is a wreck. His breathing hard and labored.

"Oh, oh, wow. You guys did a good job," he says. "You really scared me. Look, I'm still shaking." And then, he gets weird in a way that only Steve can. "Oh wow. Thank you, guys. I needed that. Oh, oh, the cleansing power of fear." He takes a deep breath.

"What are you guys doing here?" he asked.

"We were in chapel basement and heard you playing," I said. "We decided to come up and see what was going on."

"Oh, wow. Thank you guys, again. Oh, the cleansing power of fear. I feel so alive!" And then, "What were doing in chapel basement?"

"Smoking cigars," I said.

"Cigars? Oh, I want a cigar!"

So, all three of us head back downstairs. Steve proceeds to smoke two cigars. The air is absolutely thick with our pollution. At this point, I'm pretty much exhausted, the adrenalin no longer coursing through my veins after frightening my buddy and former roomy out of his skin. I excuse myself and go home to the dorm where I brush my teeth and fall into bed.

The next day, I asked Will how long they were in chapel basement. He told me they were there for a couple more hours. Steve smoked two cigars, and then threw up. I guess that's how they knew it was time to call it a night.

I realize that telling the story is nowhere near as frightening--nor as funny--as it was when I was there, but it is one of my favorite memories. For other, probably better-told scary stories, check out Pearl's site and follow some of her links.