Archive for June, 2009

Things That Are Awesome.

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

As of 8:20ish PM today I will be considered one year older and still fairly useless. To commemorate this occasion, I have prepared a list of things that I think are probably awesome. I can’t be sure, but you may find some of these awesome as well.

-Surfing using a fin whale as a board. Alternatively, a fin whale surfing using you as a board.

-A spork that can cut a grown man clean in two with a single blow.

-Volcanoes full of lilies that erupt in showers of flower petals rather than ash. Tragically, the flower petals remain superheated.

-Boats that are made of an alloy of light and sound and painted gravity-coloured.

-Gigantic people that appear harmlessly misunderstood but are secretly plotting to become business executives.

-Mr. Potatoheads that come with potato bugs.

-Sumo matches held inside deep fryers the size of the Skydome.

-A sports stadium that was designed by a man who thought he was drawing up blueprints for a toaster oven.

-A seventy-nine-and-two-eighths-year-old human skeleton that enjoys combining long walks on the beach, vodka, and gunplay.

-A rhinoceros that’s mad as hell and not going to take it any more.

-A patch of chrysanthemums that bud into a diorama of Hitler being kicked in the forebrain.

-Cloning dinosaurs willy-nilly.

-A gold made of solid statue.

-An Olympic sprinter and marathoner brother and sister team that accidentally swap events.

-Using a single stick of gum to blow a bubble bigger than your head while thinking about sex.

-Building a supercomputer from used honeycombs and superconducting material.

-Really big animals that just don’t give a hoot about you except as a snack or back scratching device.

-A dragon that forces villagers to bring it a virgin sacrifice once a month that gets nothing but overweight men in their forties who spend their time trolling webcomic discussion forums.

-Owls that fight crime, or better yet, owls that commit crimes and are then caught and tried by a jury of their peers.

-Court officials who must make it a temporary part of their jobs to track down an expert in bird-based communication.

-People that aren’t afraid to marinade things at random.

-Puppies that grow up to be cyborgs.

-Somersaulting over national landmarks.

-Frisking law enforcement agents for drugs while giving them a stern talking-to.

-Circus cortortionists that train their children from birth to be international assassins.

-Enraged middle-aged tradesmen snapping under the strain and eating entire tractor-trailers in a single chomp.

-A man who’s flipped off every single person he’s ever seen. With both hands.

-Quintuple amputees who live normal, fulfilling lives.

-Angry young cows that terrorize sleepy dairy farming towns in the Midwest.

-Babies that fire dynamite from their mouths when you burp them.

-A hundred-and-fourteen-year-old man that can still perfectly pronounce the name of every dinosaur he memorized when he was six.

-Gigantic doom temples dedicated to peace and true love.

-Deities of Frisbee and lawn darts. One, the other, or both.

-An atrocious amount of casualties and horrifying death inflicted by the power of friendship.

-When someone uses a multi-billion-dollar supercomputer to run a spellcheck on the word “parsnip.” Especially if they’ve spelt it correctly.

-The universe performing a multi-billion year game of charades using trillions of galaxies in order to physically spell out to humanity and every other species of intelligent life that exists that they’re not worth its time.

-Rappelling down the surface of the sun while wearing nothing but a healthy glow of skin cancer.

-Sharks that grow old to a peaceful retirement where they can fondly look back on all the times they appeared on the Discovery Channel.

-Extremely resentful and bitter plates of fish and chips that blame you for all the world’s ills.

-A homeless man that becomes CEO of a multinational corporation by killing each and every one of its managerial staff in unarmed combat.

-Foodstuffs being used as transcontinental weaponry.

-Books written entirely in the genetic information of palm trees.

-Global superpowers that admit that they don’t know what the hell they’re doing, and never have.

-Judges with pronouncedly obvious body language that base their verdicts on rock-paper-scissors against the defendant.

-A closet that eats people based on fashion sense.

-Performing the full stage version of West Side Story on the plume of a geyser.

-Sassy, independent subatomic particles that aren’t afraid to say what’s on their minds being rudely shoved into the Large Hadron Collider and unceremoniously accelerated.

-Giant, heavily-armed, human-piloted robots that spend their time tidying up major cities and filtering the exhaust out of the air.

-Cloning dinosaurs helter-skelter.

-A man with astonishing superpowers who spends most of his time playing mid-1980s video games.

-A dream of a penis being interpreted by a professional as a metaphor for a penis.

-Any tree that deliberately and fatally falls on someone with premeditation.

-The graveyard-pit formed from the rubble of a series of tubes located at the center of the internet, where old memes go to die.

-A man who can snort objects the size of his hand into his nostril that has never contemplated doing drugs.

-Defeating an enraged saltwater crocodile with nothing but dental floss, 2 fluid oz. of urine, and a heart-to-heart, life-changing, one-in-a-million relationship counselling session.

-Cacti that only stand still when somebody’s looking.

-Cats that will walk over to the dying bodies of their owners to meow crankily at them for not having dinner ready.

-A gangsta with an upper-class British accent and camp gay mannerisms.

-A hidden doom fortress located inside a volcano on top of a mountain that is underwater. On the moon.

-Things that don’t make any sense to humans and never will.

-The superpowered result of a forbidden love affair between a sweet potato and an Idaho Russet.

-Something larger than your head that you can, and are actively encouraged to, eat.

-Lethal edged weapons crafted wholly from gelatine. Or gelatine composed entirely of lethal edged weapons.

-Globally-ranged ballistic missiles designed to hug you at over mach 14 before you even know they’re coming.

-A glacier boasting a keen sense of joie de vivre.

Happy birthday to you all.

Copyright Jamie Proctor, 2009

On People.

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009
My cultural anthropology course is wrapping up on the 22nd, and as such this is a very good time for me to inflict knowledge upon you without warning and with extreme inaccuracy. Then again, if you’re reading this site you probably had it coming. Now that my rationalization is complete, let’s begin…..

Anthropology can be sort-of defined as the study of humans. The study of other species can get lumped under entire categories (zoology, herpetology, icthyology), but no, we have to hog an entire field of study to ourselves, because we’re that special. Though exactly what type of “special” is sometimes not obvious. Anthropology itself can be hacked into four big chunks:


The typical archaeologist at work

The typical archaeologist at work

The study of past cultures through examination of their material remains. Tragically, these remains usually lean more towards broken chunks of dinnerware and less towards platinum-engraved golden vases with symbols depicting enormous ancient evils. Still, despite the waning interest many feel towards archaeology when they realize its practitioners are not bull-whipping adventurers, it plays a vital role in understanding exactly how those interesting folks white people genocided used to live before we killed them and smashed up their stuff and then looted and raped whatever was left over.

Biological/Physical Anthropology:

The magic of biology lies within.

The magic of biology lies within.

Loads and loads of stuff. From genetics to forsenics to examining apes uncomfortably closely, biological (or physical) anthropology states that examining “the human condition” is for sissies and gets down to examining the bolts, nuts, and other assorted equipment that allow us to fill our busy time watching Raiders of the Lost Ark and masturbating, although hopefully not both at once. A subfield within physical (or biological) anthropology is primatology, because chimpanzees and company are just close enough to human that we feel compelled to make endless documentaries about them while killing them for bushmeat. Let no one say that humans do not do unto others as they would do unto themselves.

Linguistic Anthropology:

An intriguing and deep example of languages and cultures colliding.

An intriguing and deep example of languages and cultures colliding.

The study of how hue-mens lurn 2 spek gud. Language and culture can interact in all sorts of interesting ways, such as Inuktitut having lots of words for snow or present-day English having lots of words for calling someone homosexual in increasingly less-than-complimentary methods. Tracing these interactions is the job of linguistic anthropologists, as is the task of discovering the roots and sources of modern languages, and the preservation of failing or extinct ones. Here’s a do-it-yourself activity: show a linguistic anthropologist a sample of leetspeak just to see what happens, and try to get the whole thing on tape.

Cultural Anthropology:

The frescoed ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

The frescoed ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Petroglyphs from Gobustan.

Petroglyphs from Gobustan.

The lolcat, from photoshop and brain damage.

The lolcat, from photoshop and brain damage.

The study of culture, that ill-defined mass of beliefs, prejudices, accepted common knowledge, values, attitudes, and symbols universal to humans the world over. It’s adaptive, society-defining, personality-shaping, and sometimes so mind-bogglingly complex that you wonder how in heaven’s name the collection of bipedal fruitcakes you know could manage to remember half of it, let alone create it. It’s as expansive and varied as the imagination of a toddler on 100 cc of sugar injected straight into the jugular, and sometimes its products seem even less realistic than that metaphor. And without it we’re not all that much. It influences or controls when, how, and what we eat, sleep, and drink, what we find attractive, hot, disgusting, and boring, our gender, the roles of our gender, our religious beliefs, our outlook on life, the universe, and everything, and whether or not we’ve heard of Douglas Adams.

The issue with culture is that a lot of it is based on symbols, and one of the qualifiers for symbols is that they are basically stuff that gets arbitrarily assigned value – they symbolize something entirely different from their actual properties (like a lion or eagle symbolizing nobleness/freedom/who gives a toss). This means that most of anyone’s culture makes no sense, which presents an excellent explanation for why ethnocentrism (the judging of another culture by your own culture’s standards, underlined with the smug, wine-scented trace of self-assured superiority) is bull: you’re judging another person’s arbitrary crap by the quality of your own arbitrary crap. This doesn’t mean that you have to tolerate anything and everything without exception (such as, for example, burning witches, or invading continents and wiping out most of the indigenous population through disease and warfare while not really acknowledging them as “real people”). It just means you shouldn’t automatically presume that you’re right because your society is right because you were born into it which means you’re right repeated ad nauseum.

When it comes down to it, cultural anthropology tries to take you by the forehead and jam that ignorant, insular dome of yours into the billion different varieties of human life on the planet, and if you come out of it dizzy and going “woah, I think I see the innate absurdity and familiarity of all cultures, including my own!” then it’s probably succeeded in its goal: removing your head from your backside. Then, if you’re like me, you eat some salty deep fried foods and forget all about it. Cultural anthropology can be frustrating like that.

All original material copyright Jamie Proctor, 2009.

  • Picture Credits:
  • Indy grabbing the idol: Screenshot from Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981.
  • Outhouse: Public domain image from Wikipedia by user Oven Fresh
  • Terrible subtitling on Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith: Someone who did not conduct his linguistic anthropology properly.
  • The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel: Michelangelo.
  • Gobustan Pictoglyphs: Public domain image from Wikipedia by user Baku87.
  • Yet another lolcat: The internet. Somewhere.

Storytime: The Highwayman.

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

November 2nd – Finished moving in – both the bedroom AND the living room are now furnished with my total of five bits of furniture. The bathroom I’m leaving as it is. This house really is a piece of shit – three rooms, one garage, and ten feet from the highway. God knows what sleeping’s going to be like. This job had better pay off…

November 3rd – Apparently when someone says “we’d like to hire you” you should know that they are also saying “if the five better-qualified applicants all drop dead of heart attacks within the next two days.” Assholes. Now I’ve got nothing to do but sit around in this shack, with nothing but fifteen boxes of Kraft Dinner for company, and check the classifieds. And I don’t know if I can take much more of this… last night was hell. I just sat there in bed with my eyes wide open listening to that goddamn highway; the noise was almost hypnotic. I could barely blink. My eyelids are so dry that I still don’t think I can.

Well, it’s nine. Time for another night from hell.

November 4th – The classifieds suck. But they did offer me five minutes of entertainment when fashioned into crude paper airplanes and hurled across the room. Then one bashed into a wasps’ nest that had been quietly sitting unnoticed in the corner of the living room and I had to spend the next hour fighting for my life. I really do hate this house.

Now for another restful sleep.

November 5th – What is it with this town; did all the jobs fly south for the winter?! Out of the five thousand, nine hundred, and forty-two cars that passed last night, not one stopped in this cow-pie village. Yes, I counted. In addition, two thousand, three hundred and seventy-six trucks went by last night. And one boatmobile.

Three nights with no sleep and no blinking – strange, I don’t seem to need to anymore – have glued my eyelashes together into two solid masses. It’s almost a good thing – gunk had started to accumulated on my eyeballs, but now I can kinda twitch my cheeks and these things brush ‘em off.

Night four begins in five minutes.

November 6th – I can’t blink anymore even if I try. I’m getting better at the eyebrow wiping, though. Now I can do it almost as instinctively and periodically as blinking. Whoop-de-do.

I’m starting to get more used to the highway sound, but I still can’t sleep. Not that I care anymore.

November 7th – Yeah, still no sleep. I think my eyeballs have enlarged; somehow, there doesn’t seem to be much room left for my nose in the middle of my face now. Also, my premature baldness has accelerated. It’s like the house is determined to drag me down with it.

November 8th – I couldn’t sleep last night, so I moved into the garage. I won’t say I fell asleep, but I got some rest. I’ve just noticed that my skin’s getting all weird now – almost calloused-hard, but smoother – so maybe that has something to do with it.

Time for another evening of highway music. Y’know, I almost welcome it now. Though since my days are spent looking at the classifieds without really reading them, I guess anything’s an improvement.

November 9th – Rested in the garage again. I think I’ll move in here.

I’m getting fat. Not sure how, since I’ve only been eating Kraft Dinner, and that’s twice a day. All I know is that I have to go sideways through doors. Getting harder to turn myself around, too. I’m looking forward to a good evening of highway.

I think my eyeballs met this afternoon. My perspective just went “bink” and there they were. Makes spotting flies before they land on me a helluva lot easier.

November 10th – When I came out of my rest this morning, I was listening to the Pussycat Dolls somewhere behind my left ear. What was left of my hair had twisted itself into a little aerial overnight. Found out I could change channels by sticking my finger in my ear and swivelling it, switched it to a classic rock station, and left it. Useful. I’ll turn it off for the highway tonight, though.

November 11th – I lost my nose this morning. I’m pretty sure that no one else besides Michael Jackson can say that. I just came out of rest and it was gone. Feh, the thing was too big anyways. Although it had been getting smaller recently. Commemorated the moment by switching my head to Michael Jackson for five minutes, then turning it off when I remembered how much I loathed his music.

November 12th – Stopped eating Kraft Dinner. Not really hungry anymore, although I keep getting bulkier. It’s getting harder to even use this Dictaphone – my fingers are getting stubbier.

Highway was nice last night.

November 13th – Gasoline is surprisingly tasty. No, really, it’s great. If it tastes bad when you drink it, you’re just not doing it right. The trick is to pour it into your ear.

That’s odd… my other ear vanished. Probably not important.

November 14th – I’ve discovered that it’s far easier to move around on my hands and knees than any other way. Well, I think they’re my hands and knees. They’ve kind of blended into my arms and legs. Eh, same difference.

November 15th – My teeth have intertwined into some sort of grill. This is really, really, REALLY bad news. I hate rappers, and I hate bling. At least the grill isn’t gold – it’s more shiny, like stainless steel.

November 16th – Thought I saw something on my grill, looked in a mirror, and realized it said “Honda” right in the center of it. Also found out that my nose hasn’t vanished, it just shrank. It looks like some kind of little ornament sitting on my hood. I mean face. Whatever.

November 17th – Der grill haff competely fealed off my teef. It’f getting hard to tark. Feh, who caref. Der highfay iff ‘ooking ‘etter and ‘etter. I fink Im gonna go for a drife foon.

Problem iff… the garaffe door iff fhut. Im gonna haffa get fhrough it fomehow, an’ my handff are gone.

Hey… there’ff some high-octane fuel in here. Wonder who left it?

November 18th – Vrrroom, Vrroom, Vrrom, muuuuuuururrrrrrrr – screeeeeeaaaaaaacccchhhhh…



Copyright 2007, Jamie Proctor.

Storytime: Rocks.

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

Rocks. Damned rocks.

There they go, on as if without end, past the horizon and the horizon beyond it, over and onward, backwards and forwards, in front and behind. Big ones, medium ones, and little ones that are just chips off the first two kinds. Rocks. Damned, damned rocks. Black, jagged rocks. Damn them.

I don’t know a lot about geology, but I’m sure these aren’t granite, gabbro, slate, sandstone, flint, or limestone. They’re just rocks. Black ones. Come to think of it, they might be obsidian. Who knows? Not me.

I hate the rocks. I hate them so much that there’s barely any effort in it anymore; the kind of old, polished hate whose reason is a solid and fused mass of issues and grievances all tangled up beyond unknotting. Still, easy examples leap to mind.

They’re rough. Very rough. Rough and uneven, hell on your feet, like walking on sandpaper forever and ever. They have sharp edges to cut yourself on and blunt ones to stub your toes against, and there’s never telling which you’ll see next. The sun lies funny on them, so you can never tell if that’s a shadow lurking there or a hidden indentation that’ll trip you up and send you stumbling, grating feet and fingers alike as you flail and struggle to keep your balance, grasping at rocks to save yourself from other rocks. It’s self-defeating, like everything else here.

It’s a Sellennian custom, you know. I don’t know how long they’ve been doing it, but it’s been time enough for them to make it an art, an art out of a criminal sentence. They serve out the verdict (guilty as hell in our case, with loads of witnesses to boot – god, we almost deserved acquittal on grounds of mental incompetence), they let you stew over the prospect of a long, hard slog through a prison, years of your life delicately sliced off day by day, and they watch you squirm very calmly and politely, and then, discreetly as hell, they inquire if you would prefer the alternative sentence. It’s all very polite and very neat and, in retrospect, funny as hell. I tell you, no matter how well-known it is that Sellennians have no sense of humour, it’s a lie. They like a joke as much as any of us, it’s just that they’ve got stuck on this one and like it too much to let go, setting up the delivery and listening to the punch line over and over and over again. They never get tired of it.

So, cautiously, you ask what this sentence is. And they lay it all out for you, openly and without a fuss: you must walk.

It’s a long way to walk, they say – halfway across the planet’s largest continent, they’re more than willing to produce a map and give you measurements and distances – but it’s doable. They’ll give you supplies of a sort, and drop you off with a bunch of other people who took the same deal. They never let you go in a group smaller than ten, and some people have to wait a few weeks until they’ve got a full quota. If you wait for more than a year, they let you go. Or so they say. I’m more than sure that no one’s ever been able to test that promise.

The supplies aren’t a lie. They shoot you up with something in a series of injections with pointlessly large needles. They say it’ll keep you going without food or water for months and months, maybe a year or more, if you’re lucky. I don’t know how it works; if I did, do you think I’d have sunk to trying to knock over a bank? It also cuts down on your need for sleep, which, they so graciously inform you, should reduce the duration of your little pilgrimage by quite a lot. It doesn’t work like you’d think; it’s not that you don’t sleep anymore, or that you sleep less. It’s that your sleep isn’t sleep anymore. You’re only half-awake, half-asleep, and you can walk like that. It’s harder, and you slip up more often, but you don’t feel it as much until you’re awake again and you’ve got another cut, another bruise, another scrape to watch and not-quite-notice over the days it takes to fade.

What it all adds up to is that there’s nothing to distract you from your walk. You’ll get tired, yes, but once you get tired enough you’ll drop into half-sleep, not-sleep. You’ll get hungry, but it’s not real hunger. And you can get as thirsty as you please, but no further, because you really aren’t. Which, strangely, doesn’t make it any less of an irritant.

Anyways, after they’re done pumping you full of mystery drugs and nutrients, they pack you into a cargo flyer and zip you off smartly. It takes a few hours, and then you’re being set down above what you have been told is one of a score or so locations within a few hundred miles of the center of the continent. Start walking in any direction, says the pilot. Sellenn’s coasts are packed with one-hundred-percent of its population, so as soon as you hit the sea, you’re safe in civilization again. Make it to the coast, and you’re free with all charges cleared, no matter the crime. And they won’t hinder you in the slightest, which makes the whole thing even funnier.

So, right off the bat, you get together with your fellow convicts and erstwhile hikers and have a little chat. You pick directions, ask if anyone else wants to come, and set out. Sometimes it’s in twos and threes, sometimes all in one big bunch, and sometimes they all walk alone from the beginning, out of sight and into mind after the first few miles. Still, the distances bend and stretch as some fall behind and some pull ahead, and the angles of their paths waver unwittingly. Past the first month or so and you’ll walk into people you’ve never seen before in your life, on other courses, moving in other directions, from other starting points. There’s no point in talking to anyone by then, and you’ll move past and around and alongside them with the laden, uncomfortable silence of two men passing in a tight corridor as you walk, hundreds of feet between you while the overlarge sun shines in Sellenn’s wide, damnably-blue sky, beaming down on both of you and the rocks. The rocks don’t mound into hills, they don’t roll into valleys; just rocks, rocks, rocks, all the way from wherever you are down to within a few miles of the encircling coast that surrounds you completely at all times yet remains infinitely out of your reach. Maybe that blurred line in the far distance is the darkling ocean of Sellenn, lapping quietly at a forested shore. And it’s definitely just another row of rocks, squatting on the horizon, blotting out time and sanity.

After a while, your mind starts playing tricks on you. Have you seen that rock before? You shift your vision, halt your pace, and squint, and then decide that you haven’t. Then you resume your trudge, all momentum lost and weariness creeping up in you once more, and sure as the sun rises, five seconds later you’ll have stopped and looked again. The déjà vu will lurk in your hindbrain unceasingly for hours, long after the worrying rock is lost to sight, tickling strange dark thoughts. Have you looped back in on yourself? Are you walking in a circle? No way to ever know.

The sun doesn’t help. It’s hot. Not hot enough to bake, but hot enough to make you uncomfortable, and the damned rocks absorb enough heat in the daytime to get to that exact degree of temperature that makes bits of grit and rock dust stick to your sweat. It doesn’t end when the sun goes down either; the moon comes up and you bump into things even more often with the decreased visibility, its shiny white light just enough to ruin night vision, yet not quite enough to see by. You’ll think about resting, stopping, but then you start to imagine things. You imagine every second between you and the end of the nightmare, and then you imagine those moments of time as a vast pile of those damned rocks, heaped up high in front of your goal, every black stone a second spent walking. Then you imagine resting, and watching another stone drop onto the pile with every idle second. It doesn’t take long for you to start moving again, if you halt at all.

Now and then, people die walking. You come across the bodies; or, more rarely, you’re close enough to see it happen. They come to a spot where they need to clamber up a heap or sidle around a ledge, and they just keep walking, bodies smacking on black, uncaring rocks. The pettiness of it all is the bit that’s really funny, the part that must have the Sellennians slapping their knees. Dying by walking into a canyon, dejected and hopeless, is a tragedy. Dying by falling into a three-foot pit that you should’ve, could’ve stepped across is comedy. For some people. Sellennians.

I’ve been out here for who knows how long. I have no watch and lost track and interest after day eight. I could’ve been out here for two months or three years already, and I wouldn’t know. How long it’s been isn’t what’s bad. What’s bad is how long it feels. It feels like hell, real hell, the kind with no devils or demons or brimstone, the kind that’s realized that all you need to make someone truly face despair and crumble is an eternity of small cruelties and inconveniences towering over you. Forever. This isn’t a bad approximation, for something within the finiteness of life. It certainly explains the ones who walk to their deaths. If the worst theories of the afterlife are true, they’ll at least have experience, and hopefully, a change of scenery from rocks. And if it’s anything else – anything, down to and including utter oblivion without hope or any other emotion, thought, or shred of existence – than it can only be a relief.

Whenever my thoughts head this way, I find myself losing focus on my walking and collect a few scrapes before I pull myself back together. Maybe one day I’ll just go with it, go out without a bang or even a whimper. I’ll give a Sellennian a chuckle, another repetition of the same old vaudeville sketch, another delivery of the finely-aged punch-line. God knows how long it’s been being told, or who the original comedian was. If this is as close to hell as I think, at least Satan, whatever else anyone can say about him, has a sense of humour.

Is it a bad thing that the idea of the chortling Sellennian makes my spirits lift? Just the idea of happiness, anywhere. That it can exist somewhere, somehow. Maybe. I don’t know.

Is that blur on the horizon Sellenn’s tranquil sea? Or is it more rocks, black, jagged rocks. It is. It will be. Forever and ever.


“Rocks” copyright Jamie Proctor 2008.