Thursday, December 29, 2016

Hanging with the Goon

I found dis here photo on teh inteweb, not sure if it is Uncle Thom after New Years or Nick Nolte.

Greetins and salutations, all you intenet trolls! Dis is teh Goon and I'm here to bring well wishes and sieg heels from teh basket full of deplorables, aka teh wilderness folks. When I last talked to yas, I was bringing up all teh good points fer voting fer teh two candidates, Hellery Clinton, and Supreme Leader Trump. Welp, I ended up making a choice! I voted fer Mr. Trump 'cause he's fer white folks and I don't know no colored people 'cept Snup Dog and Hernando, and teh latter is really an alien from Venus or some place, which explains why he don't know nothin' bout Cinco Dey Mio or any of them udder Mexican holidays. Lest you think that teh Goon is racist, lemme ask yu somethin: Is it racist to be fer ur own particular brand of person? I liek to think taht it ain't, 'cause how can yu be racist against ur own mudder and fadder? I'm sorry, i think I lost myself somewhere out there in teh great blu yonder. I was tryin to repeat somethin Uncle Thom told me, but like most of his gibberish, it went out one ear an into another. It was Uncle Thomm who convinced me taht Hellery was truly teh devil, because she murder some guy named BenGayZee and stole all teh emails in teh world. Also, Uncle Thom said she was a woman an' he ain't know no woman taht could ever operate anything more complicated tehh a toster oven, though usually when he has a woman, he puts her in teh pit till she's good and ready, so I don't think he's really using much of a sample size. Plus, Sumpreme Leader Trump said he was going to give all teh white people teh Meixcans jobs but with better wages and tickets to teh Toby Keith concert. I told Thom he could have my tickets. I think Toby Keith ain't worth a bag of penises.

So now taht Trump is Supreme Leader, I suppose taht makes us teh evil Empire like in Star Wars. I tell ya, I am really lookin forward to becoming a Stormtruppen an havin a blaster rifle. I just hopes it hits something, 'cause in teh movies tehy couldn't hit teh broad side of a barn. I would also kinda liek to be a jedi but I guess I can't because teh jedi are all extinct or something. I talked to Hernando 'bout it an he said taht when his people come in teh space ship, tehy'll beem me up and make me a Force wizard an give me all teh candy in teh world. I said "alright," 'cause I really don't have nothing better to do but watch teh world burn.

Thares been a lot of negitivity in 2016. I hope teh Supreme Leader helps us get over it. Sometimes I have dreams where I'm a giant baby held in captivity. I has orange hair and a poopy diaper and I smell something awful. I wunder what it all means. I wunder what any of it means. Here's to 2017. Let's hope teh rebels don't blow up teh death star an get us all killed.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Hillsdale Paranormal Society's Guide to Avoiding Troll Beasts

One way you can tell a troll beast is from the way they flaunt their stolen human skin.

Howdy dudes and dudettes, we're approaching the new year and Christmas is past, which means we're still in peak troll beast season, FYI. For those not in the know, a troll beast is a creature masquerading as a human through the use of a stolen human skin. Pretty gnarly, right? Most people encounter troll beasts every day, yet they don't know it. For all of you nascent monster hunters out there, however, it's pretty easy to detect one if you know what you're looking for. The Hillsdale Paranormal Society has your back, as always, and me and my boy Trent quickly hammered together this guide so that you all don't get assaulted and flayed by a pack of hangry troll monsters when you're trying to return all those pairs of underwear your uncle Larry bought you, the freak.

Numero Uno) Avoid Walmart. Really, this one should be on any person's life guide, 'cause Walmart is a breeding ground for troll beasts and denizens of the night. I've met a couple vampires there, but they were the Hot Topic kind of vamps, which are super-lame, for whatever that's worth. Troll beasts don't understand how to eat like a human, so they frequent big department stores to stock up on things they think humans eat, like boxes of pop tarts and toilet paper. You can always tell a troll beast by what they've placed in their shopping cart. If it's full of ten bags of cheese wiz and an equal amount of tampons, you know you got a live one. Usually they try to get your attention by grabbing your arm and asking for a price check, like you work there. I recommend a full punch to the face, focusing on their teeth. Trolls don't have many teeth, and they're strangely protective of the ones they have, so if you manage to knock a chomper or two loose, they should loosen their grip enough for you to make like Marky-Mark back in his Boston gang days when he was assaulting random Vietnamese dudes and get the hell outta there.

Numero Dos) Watch out for amorphous creatures. Like, I'm not digging on fat people, but if you have a suspicious excess of adipose tissue, like, so much so that you're dragging around your muffin top in a wheelbarrow, then you might be a troll beast. Human skin is elastic, and once separated from the flesh becomes rather stretchy. Troll beasts in general tend to be lumpy and over-fed, so when they stuff themselves into their stolen human skin, they kinda stick out like Donald Trump in a room full of classy people.

Numero Tres) Be aware of their political affiliation. Troll beasts tend to vote conservative, because most Republican policies weaken the lower classes and make them vulnerable to predation by troll beasts. If you're in a northern state and you see someone sporting a confederate flag on their shirt, then you should automatically be suspicious, not just of said creature being a troll beast, but of that person being a dumbass, because they definitely are. This goes double for Trump supporters, which are almost entirely made up of troll beasts, because Donald Trump is the troll God. So like, don't let him in your house or nothing, even if he is the President. Dude's also half-Reptilian, so that's like another reason.

Numero Quatro) Avoid the local utilities department. Like, I know I had something better for number four, but I had to pay my water bill the other day, and lo and behold, the place was full of troll beasts! There must be some kind of conspiracy or something. From now on, I'm mailing in my bill (if I pay it, that is!).

Happy new year, bros, and watch out for troll beasts and leshens, and try to stay remotely classy, like Marky-Mark and John Cena. Peace.

I think this is just a crazy person, but it could be a troll beast.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Esteemed Critic Chooses Five Songs to Describe 2016

The President Elect likes his baby meat rare, I hear.

Another year has gone and passed, and we all had quite a terrible time of it, I must say. In addition to the loss of musical geniuses Prince and David Bowie, the United States of America elected noted cretin and professional bore Donald Trump to the highest office in the land. It is ironic to the Critic that the political party that is always complaining about the decline of Western civilization threw its ideals to the wind and boarded the Trump train, but what place has irony in politics? What place do reason and thoughtful discourse have in this brave new world? One has to wonder what will happen to art, true art, that is, the kind of art that I have long been a purveyor of, as opposed to the consumerist detritus most of the country consumes. There is little money in true art, and money has been voted to the top of the political food chain. No one will be paid except for those who have plenty, but I suppose if we are not all annihilated during the course of the next four years, some notable art will be produced.

To celebrate the conclusion of this awful year, the Critic has decided to pick five songs that describe what it was like to live through 2016. You all are forewarned: do not listen to these songs in a row unless you wish to accelerate the creeping ennui you feel. Please remove all sharp objects and firearms from your vicinity before enduring the gauntlet I have prepared. The Critic bears no responsibility for lives lost while reading his work. With that being said, let us commence with our baleful task.

Song #1) Limp Bizkit's Nookie

Do you remember what it was like to be teenage boy during the new millennium? This song brings back the awfulness of the Critic's adolescence. In this choosing, Fred Durst represents the angry white male, who in the blindness of his anger, supported an unskilled demagogue out of a misguided assumption that said demagogue would to something to alleviate his pain. They did it all for the nookie, America, so we can take that cookie and shove it up our asses! Unfortunately for them, the Cheeto in Chef enjoys shoving cookies up everyone's anuses. Prince told us what it sounded like when doves cry. Limp Bizkit lets us know what it sounds like when a hemorrhoid bursts.

Song #2) Trace Adkins' Honky Tonk Badonkadonk

I can see you now, gentle reader, saying to yourself "aw, shucks, that ol' Critic just don't like to have any fun!" How perceptive of you, reader. I truly loathe "fun," but if "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" is one's idea of a good time, then perhaps you should get someone to drive you to the mental health ward where they will determine in no uncertain terms what exactly is wrong with you. This song represents the uneducated masses who are barely sentient enough to tie their own shoes, let alone pay attention to politics.

Song #3) The Black Eyed Peas My Humps

"My humps! My humps! My lovely lady lumps!" If our President Elect were not so scared of black people, I could see his liking this song. Of course, when the detention camps are founded, and his bandmates will be among the first to be committed. Small justice, that. My Humps represents the glorification of petty vices.

Song #4) Taylor Swift Shake It off

The Critic would like to know when Taylor Swift became an institution. Every single song she has ever written is about a goddamn high school romance or break up. I know it is pedantic of me to critique a pop musician for writing about relationships, but for Christ's sake, give it a rest, girl. I challenge anyone to tell me why this song was a hit. It has little melody, and the chorus is repetitive, incoherent drivel. The Ryan Adams cover was even worse, but I chose to mitigate your horror. You are welcome. The Critic chose this song for its mediocrity, because "mediocre" is my word of the year for 2016.

Song #5) Ween's You Fucked Up

Okay, the Critic takes it back. He actually kind of likes this song. 2016 was a fuck up. It was a stopgap on the road of human progress, a bellwether toward reactionary revisionism. We do not need anymore of 2016. Hope springs eternal, eh? 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Weightlifting: Overhead Pressing 200 lbs

Olympic weightlifter Bill March strict pressing over 300 lbs.

Since bench pressing became too painful due to a partially-torn labrum, the overhead press has become my main upper body lift. Hitting bodyweight has still eluded me, however; my best strict press is 190 at 205. I'm currently weighing in around 193-195, and my press is somewhere back in the neighborhood of 185-190, so I'm reasonably close to a bodyweight press. There seems to be no magic formula for strict pressing, other than a decent amount of volume and a commitment to form. My current program, which I believe will net me a 200 lbs press very soon, is below.
Sunday: Overhead Press--115*5, 135*5, 145*5, 155*3-5, 165*1-3, heavy single (175, 180)
Dumbbell rows for 3 sets, high reps.
Thursday: Overhead Press--115*5, 135*5, 145*5, 155*5, 160*5
Some sort of arm work, usually for high reps.
All of these presses are done out of the rack, yet I think it's beneficial to switch it up with clean and presses on occasion. I've found you can't press quite as much after cleaning, but the increased difficulty of the start position helps when you return to pressing out of the rack. Making sure your lats are tight and your arms are tense definitely aids your pressing when attempting heavy weights. As far as recommending assistance exercises, the push-press isn't bad to add on occasion at the end of a workout. I'll add five pounds to whatever my last set was, and bust out a couple sets of 3. With the push press, you want to make sure your legs are just aiding the initial movement of the barbell; otherwise, it becomes more of an accessory lift for the jerk than the strict press. Back when I benched, I thought the two lifts were intertwined, for when one increased, the other would as well. I've found that dips and triceps extensions resulted in elbow pain, though my elbows suck. Thus ends my pressing recommendations.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

What They Found After Draining the Swamp

1. Ted Cruz's original form, sans skin (no one returned alive).

2. Several alligators.

3. A voodoo cult, whatever the hell that is.

4. George Washington's wooden dentures.

5. One of Trump's horacruxes (a printout of several years' worth of Tweets that must be destroyed with the tooth of a basilisk).

6. Paul Ryan's stinky running shoes, along with a rotten poster of Ayn Rand that his wife made him throw out.

7. The remnants of Mitch McConell's chin.

8. Piles of poo-poo.

9. Rum-Tum-Tugger.

10. The massive spider that controls the Republican Party through a mix of mind control and sweet, sweet web-milk (web-milk is the most delicious of all the milks).

11. Toby McGuire's career.

12. The Constitution of the United States (thanks Obama!).

13. Trump's tax returns.

14. The hidden gold stash of the Dread Pirate Roberts.

15. The original, unedited version of the Star Wars trilogy.

16. The souls of all who run for political office in Washington, kept in iron chests for safe keeping and future retrieval.

17. Clouds of swamp gas obfuscating a downed UFO.

18. A whole lost season of the X-Files.

19. More stinky poo-poo.

20. The sick, rotten heart of America.

21. Emails, oh so many freaking lost emails.

22. A pair of fake hands for President-elect Trump.

23. More sadness than you can possibly believe.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

What I Want for Christmas

It's that time again! Time to celebrate a now secular but once Christian holiday shoe-horned on the 25th to replace pagan festivals that were probably a lot of fun (but too much fun for Christians). Let's get into the spirit of commercialism by listing all the shit we want people to buy for us. This is my blog, so I'll go first.

Gift #1 (stocking stuffer) A Justin Beaver. This adorable little rodent makes dams out of garbage and gnaws on your eardrums while you sleep. To be honest, I just want one so that I can kill it.

Where to buy--No clue, but you can probably find one down by the river if you smoke enough meth.

Gift #2 A new President. Hey, the joke's on me! Everyone's getting a new President come January! Unfortunately, it's Donald Trump. The high point of his administration will probably be Twitter finally mustering up enough balls to ban him from their terrible service. The low point will inevitably be when we all perish in a nuclear apocalypse. So yeah, can we re-gift this maniac? Is there some small Slavic country that needs a new fascist dictator?

Where to buy--ask either Russia or the God that surely does not exist (otherwise we wouldn't have Donald Trump as President).

Gift #3 Tables, Ladders, and Bears. Look, the tables, ladders, and chairs format is tired. We need to spice it up for a new generation. Vince McMahon views wrestlers as disposable commodities. Lets add some bears in the mix. I know Big Show wants to go out in the death grip of a grizzly bear. Make it happen, WWE. This is Trump's America.

Where to buy--WWE Network (It's just 9.99!)

Gift #4 Dishonored 2. I mean, if you really want to get me something, I really dug the first one.

Where to buy--the Internet.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Writer's Block: The Sandwich

The Sandwich

What is left

In this burned-out bungalow

But scattered crumbs

Tracing a trail

Leading from my room to yours.

I had it once;

Once there was something

I held it in my hands

The impalpable made tangible

A flame lit by the invisible rays of the sun.

You can't start a fire

To save your life.

Similarly, I can't find anything to eat

But a moldy disease someone left

Festering in the corner of your room.

Jesus, take this thing

Divide it amongst the people

Let it nourish and sate

Their terrible, ravenous hunger

And then leave.

Honestly, I don't deserve

The sandwich.

You do; I give credit

Where it is due.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Writer's Block: 2016

The silent sounds that sink slowly
The sober songs that stick around
A beating lasts in perpetual motion
The mugger rank and reeking of privilege
So what?
The corpulent creature relaxes
Content with its sagging tumescence
Death, you see
Gives it a boner.
I have nothing
My hands, you see, are empty
Yet scars, you see, are still there
Seeing is not believing
You can watch a murder and trust in death
You can burn a village and dust in ash
You can eat your neighbor
And keep rhythm with his bones.
I can’t see what you see
You cannot feel what I feel
Hate is what it spews
Pouring out in wet, hot spurts.
You can’t kill a disease
But you can try.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Weightlifting: Box Squatting

Box squats are an exercise a lot of people have written off as useful only for geared powerlifters. Lifters who compete in squat suits have to fight against the elastic tension of the suit as they descend; they have to learn to sit back and use the stored energy of the suit for the ascent. Raw lifters don't have much to gain from box squats, since the movement removes the stretch reflex (the bounce out of the hole, so to speak). I agree that having a big box squat does not mean you'll be able to squat the same amount of weight without that box under your ass. However, if you don't care about your competition squat (and let's be honest: most people shouldn't) the box squat allows some advantages over the raw squat.

First, you can control how deep you descend. Deep squats can be very hard on your hips--for years I've done deep squats, and I've developed a hip issue on my left side where my hip cracks and pops painfully after working out. After stopping deep squats and replacing them with squats to a high bench, my hip pain has been greatly mitigated. Most of the great lifters in weightlifting and powerlifting eventually had hip surgery, including Ed Coan and John Grimek. If you're not chasing a world record, maybe you shouldn't go deep.

Second, deep squats really work the glutes and hip flexors more than the quads. If you're trying to build strong legs, squatting from a high box will really stress those muscles, in my experience. I do my squats to a high bench, with the bar in the high position. I keep tension in the muscles as I descend. When I touch the bench, I pause for about a second before pushing with the legs to lock out the weight.

You could just do half and quarter squats without the bench, however, I do think there are benefits to touching the box. If you favor one side when you squat, lowering to a box and then pushing off evenly with both legs is easier. Of course, hitting the depth that you want is also easier with a box under your ass.

In conclusion, I'd try box squats if you're having hip issues. At some point, you have to consider your general health. Weightlifting is fun, but you can't keep doing an exercise that's causing you pain and furthering the degeneration of a chronic issue. I ditched the bench press earlier this year because I couldn't press without pain. Now I've done the same to deep squats.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Voices of the People: Meet the Deplorables

Pointless Venture was just as surprised as everyone else that America chose to elect Donald Trump President of the United States. Clearly all those polls were full of shit! We took to the streets to meet people who voted for Trump and have them explain their reasoning.

Deplorable #1: Brent Atkins

Age: 26

Employer: BorgWarner

Hobbies: Waving Confederate flags, removing mufflers, masturbating over diesel engines, cheating on his girlfriend with high schoolers.

Reason for voting for Trump: "Goddamn 'merica is a mess and our small towns are dying. Whose gonna do something for us young white dudes? Donald Trump, that's who. Also never much liked Mexicans or getting consent 'fore I grabbed a chick by her pussy. Speaking of which, my girlfriend's liberal POS brother said it was ironic that I thought a New York billionaire would be compelled to fight for the working class. I told 'em that Trump was gonna drain the swamp, and then I kicked 'em in the face."

Deplorable #2: Candice Lawrence.

Age: 35

Employer: Stay at home mom.

Hobbies: Gradually letting herself go, keeping the kids busy with video games, desperately trying to make husband love her again.

Reason for voting for Trump: "I don't involve myself in politics that much, but all the ladies in my book club love Ivanka, and her clothing line is just fabulous! I once stayed at Trump International Hotel back when my husband used to take me on business trips, and it was the definition of luxury. Also, I'm a little scared of black people, and I hear he's not too big on them, in general."

Deplorable #3: Anita Dooger

Age: 40

Employer: In His Holy Fire church

Hobbies: Producing offspring, reinforcing the patriarchy by being submissive, visiting Walmart.

Reason for voting for Trump: "I always vote Republican because abortion is a crime against God, and I believe President Trump will repeal Roe versus Wade. The President can do that, right? My pastor told me that Obama and Hillary were demons sent by the Antichrist to drown America in sin.  Plus there are too many homosexuals about! What happened to traditional American values? It is very hurtful to be labeled a bigot. One day all the homos and unwed mothers will perish in a torrent of hellfire, and the faithful will rejoice!"

Deplorable #4: Bretfart1942

Age: 22

Employer: Community college dining hall

Hobbies: Trolling for the lols, finding weird porn, collecting Japanese Schoolgirl dating simulators.

Reason for voting for Trump: "Obviously for the lols! And for Pepe! The feminists have taken away too much from us. They're the reason I've never been intimate with a woman, because any woman that would refuse to have me is obviously a feminist. Political correctness is really lame, and I resent having to act like an actual adult instead of a man-child. Oh, and Trump would totally be for Gamergaters. Maybe he'll force Twitter to give Milo Yiannopoulos his account back."

Monday, November 14, 2016

Conan Brothers Q&A

MakeAmericaFascistAgain asks "Wow. Donald Trump is President. Who could've seen this coming?"

Arnold: Anyone who has ever been outside a city.

Dave: So you weren't shocked that Hillary Clinton isn't our first female President?

Arnold: Hell no. Let's be honest. Hillary wasn't the best candidate. She's had Republicans dragging her name through the dirt papers ever since Bill was banging interns. The media constantly reported on the email scandal; she had Vladimir Putin, super villain extrodinarie, and the freaking FBI against her. And to top it off, she was a woman. There's a majority of men that will never vote for a woman, especially one that looks like their grandma.

Dave: So if she was hot, she would've won?"

Arnold: Probably. Too much of America was counting on people to be logical about politics. I know people who voted for Trump because he is against abortion. They just handed Biff Tannen the nuclear codes. Hey motherfucker, what's more pro-life: making sure people end unplanned pregnancies, or preventing the annihilation of our entire planet?

Dave: What about the people who voted for Trump because he's "an outsider?"

Arnold: He's an outsider in terms that he's an asshole. Yeah, I'm sure a New York billionaire is going to change the system. The guy who is likely to appoint Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani might really shake shit up.

Dave: Have the trolls won?

Arnold: Yes. Lolfaces for everyone.


BigMusclesBill asks "What do your training routines look like right now, guys?"

Arnold: Old age is finally getting to me, boys.

Dave: You're 31.

Arnold: But I've been training for a long time. I have a partially torn labrum in my right shoulder. My left hip clicks and pops painfully if I squat deep.

Dave: So you've stopped lifting, right?

Arnold: Fuck no! I've had to ditch the bench press and deep squatting. My focus is now on deadlifting, power cleaning, and overhead pressing.

Dave: Why don't you share your routine?

Arnold: Sunday: Power clean for 4 sets of 3, then either a final heavy triple or a single. Deadlift for 3 sets of 5, attempting a 5 rep max. Monday: Strict press, usually 5s or 3s with a goal of 30 reps. Push press afterwards for 3 sets of 3. Upper back assistance, usually pulldowns for higher reps. Tuesday: Bench squats for 5 sets of 5, then arms for higher reps. Repeat this cycle, though I usually go heavier on my second deadlift session. Only one day off per week.

Dave: Sweet.


StrappedferCash asks "What is the worst fast food restaurant?"

Dave: Any fast food restaurant.

Arnold: Taco Bell without a doubt. You eat Taco Bell, and you can almost immediately feel your bowels protest.

Dave: You don't like mystery meat?

Arnold: It's only like 35 percent beef. If it were 100 percent, then they couldn't sell you cheap tacos.

Dave: I love how when you unwrap a Taco Bell burrito, it always looks like it has passed through someone's digestive system already.

Arnold: Run from the border, people. Especially now that Trump's President.

Kill it! Kill it with fire!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Now They'll Have to Take My Stupid Opinions Seriously

Wake up, liberal America. Time to stop sipping your Starbucks lattes and tweeting on your Iphones made in the Orient. Real Americans have spoken up in defense of liberty, particularly our beloved freedom to be as awful to one another as possible. If you queers were getting comfortable, thinking that you could get married and treated like real human beings, then you got another thing coming. You see, me and all of my fellow bigots feel validated now. We can drive down the street waving Confederate flags and shouting racial slurs and not feel like a bunch of assholes. The next time some woman starts complaining about rape, we can tell her to fuck off to Saudi Arabia, where she can experience some real oppression. The troll king supreme is in the White House. Welcome to America, you commie pinkos. You're about to get your asses kicked and it's about time.

No more blackies complaining about the police shooting their gang-banging asses. No more Mexican criminals coming over the border, 'cause the wall is coming and they're gonna pay for it. No more egg-heads warning us about global warming. Don't they know that this shit changes from year to year? It used to be warm when the dinosaurs walked around with Jesus; at least, that's what I heard on Facebook. No more Democrats acting as the voice of reason because the Republicans are in control of Congress and the White House, and Paul Ryan is going to get his budget passed, hallelujah. Then we can get rid of food stamps and disability and all that shit, though my ex-wife and my cousin Billy are going to be screwed, come to think of it, but that ain't no big deal. Trump is going to cut taxes and get rid of Obamacare and the economy is going to come roaring back like it was 1950. Everything from 1950 is coming back. No more bossy women in the workplace. No more diversity hirings. We'll get to drink in the workplace like on Mad Men. I'm gonna be Don-fucking Draper and it's going to be awesome.

Come to think of it though, I don't know much about advertising. I don't think we are expected to know things anymore, to be honest. It's hard work knowing things. I'd rather see some shit on the internet and instantly believe it than find out if it's really true. We got big-picture guys to do the thinking for us now, real men like Donald Trump and Mike Pence. Newt Gingrich, too, and Rudy Giuliani. You want diversity, assholes? How about a bunch of old white men put you in your place?

The next time someone asks me to fact-check myself, I'm going to fact-check their stupid face with my fist. It's time they took my "stupid" opinions seriously.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Welcome to the Post-Reason World

The sun spills across the horizon like blood leaking from a wound. A man emerges from a pickup truck and marches toward the polls. He doesn't look like you, probably, but he looks a lot like me. He prunes trees for a living, removing the overgrown branches for a reasonable sum. One time he had a Mexican guy work for him, and though he worked hard, he fired him after a while because he was an illegal immigrant. His girlfriend is always complaining about some lesbian waitress at work that takes all of her hours. His dad once had a rental property in Cincinnati, and it took some maneuvering to evict a black couple who had stopped paying rent. Half of his friends are addicted to heroin. The town that he lives in is populated by the walking dead--the unemployed, the unambitious, the purposely obtuse.

He's walking toward the polls because his America sucks, and he wants to make it great again.

It doesn't matter that the candidate he's voting for is dangerously unqualified for the office of President of the United States. He doesn't read the news much, and when he does, he gets it from social media, from people very similar to himself. He trusts his grandma any day over some college-educated journalist who lives in the city. The conventional media doesn't report much on people like himself. All they talk about is black people being shot by the cops or how bad women have it. Most of the cops he knows are pretty good people, and his relationship with women is complicated. His first job was cleaning tables, and his manager was a woman, and it was hard to take orders from her. Society used to afford white men certain privileges, and now women, minorities, and homosexuals are getting all the perks, or at least that's what his Facebook feeds tells him.

Democracy is a reckless, powerful thing. It puts power in the hands of individuals, who cannot possibly know what it is like to run a country of 300 million people. To obtain this power, all one must do is register. You are not required to know anything about policy or the global economy. You are not even required to understand how government works. So many of us look for a panacea, a simple fix to all of our complex problems. The thing is, complex problems do not have simple answers. When so little is asked of us, is it no wonder that we elected a demagogue? We believe that we each live in our own little insular worlds, but that's not how things are. It's too easy to forsake reason, because reason is not prized by most of us. We are emotional creatures prone to tribalism. Reason is just a side-effect of our supposed intelligence.

Idiocracy was a good movie, but I never wanted to live in it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Consummate Politician Apologizes

Look folks, it's been a tough election. In my long career as a politician, I've had to apologize for a great many things, but this year has been an anomaly. Never before has so much bull been floated about as legitimate news. Never before have I lied so much in such a blatant manner. Facts have not mattered in this election. Neither has policy. Nobody wants to hear a coherent position on abortion or global warming. Tribalism has overtaken partisanism. When we look across the aisle, we see the enemy, not a fellow American. Is there one great surprise waiting for us today, on election day? Part of me yearns for it, while another wants to collapse with fatigue. This is perhaps the first time I've ever had a guilty conscience. I must say that I am sorry for most of what I have done.

I'm sorry for the disparaging remarks I said about illegal immigrants. I'm sorry for implying that a judge of Hispanic descent was unfit to serve his office. I'm sorry for saying that the cops, and not African Americans, are the real victims of police shootings. I'm sorry for surrounding myself with such bad people like Newt Gingrich and rat-fink Rudy Giuliani. I'm sorry for having Peter Thiel campaign for me, because I think he may be a vampire. I'm sorry for implying that former President Clinton might be a rapist (still think he might). I'm sorry for not denouncing all the white supremacists that have supported my run for President. I'm sorry for steering the Republican Party toward civil war (actually, not sorry for that, hah). I'm sorry for objectifying women, and I apologize for lusting after my own flesh and blood. I also have to admit that the groping allegations are like one-hundred percent true. Sexual assault is something that me and my fellow Republicans are confused about, so maybe I should take a class or something. So I'm sorry for that. Also sorry for saying that global warming is a Chinese conspiracy when I know that it is really the most important thing we need to be concerned about if we want to continue to live on this planet. I apologize for telling people in the Rust Belt that the steel industry is going to return if I am elected President. I'm sorry for saying that I will revitalize small towns across the nation because I really don't know what to do besides cut taxes for rich people like myself. I'm sorry for making fun of fat people and disabled people. I'm sorry for ever discovering Twitter.

There are more things that I need to be sorry for, but the aforementioned are all that I can remember at the moment. Just one more thing: vote for me today, on election day. I have said that I am sorry. A vote for me is a vote for America. Just like always. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

New Music: Row the Boat

This is actually an old song I wrote probably sometime around 2009 or so. Because I haven't written anything musical in a while, I thought I'd share it. I was always proud of the lyrics.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

This Is a Harbinger of Things to Come

I have become convinced that we're in a parallel universe that split off from our main universe right around the conclusion of the Republican primaries. In this new bizarro universe, Donald Trump has a decent chance of becoming President of the United States and the Chicago Cubs just won the World Series. What else is possible in this strange new world? Pointless Venture would like to speculate.

Within the next year, Disney will decide to remake the original Star Wars trilogy using former Mouseketeers.

Soon, we'll get hoverboards and flying cars like Back to the Future promised us.

Anytime now, aliens will visit the earth. They will demand to see the Ancient Aliens Guy, and Giorgio A. Tsoukalos (the dumbass with the crazy hair) will become the High Counselor to the United Federation of Planets.

Global warming will be revealed to have been a Chinese scam, in that the Chinese are responsible for most of the world's pollution.

Vladimir Putin will say "Fuck it," and open up a moonbase complete with sharks that have laserbeams attached to their heads.

They will remake Frank Herbert's Dune and it will be awesome.

Cold fusion will be mastered and we'll get all that cool future-tech we always wanted.

Hitler will be resurrected as a cyborg by a joint project headed by Russian scientists and Trump supporters. The world will be united in taking down the new Nazi/Russian/Trump menace.

Scientists will discover that we are living in a supercomputer generated simulation, and no one will stop looking at their mobile phones long enough to give a shit.

Half-Life 3 will just show up on Steam unannounced and it will be the greatest game of all time.

The Cleveland Browns will win the Superbowl next year.

The earth's magnetic polls will switch places, resulting in all sorts of zany highjinks.

How I Met Your Mother will be erased from the collective memory of the human race, and we will all be better for it.

Poop will stop smelling so bad, and we'll know what dogs see it in.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Esteemed Critic Reviews Civ 6, Shadow Warrior 2, Black Mirror

Look at all those wonderful little units about to do my bidding.

The Critic has been immersing himself in Polynesian shell art as of late and has only emerged from his studies to review two video games and a tv show so that he can pay the bills, which have been piling up, if you must know. Appreciation for fine art is at an all time low; nobody will pay me for my twenty-thousand word dissertation on how cubism changed queer culture, and I spent half a year writing it! Of course time spent on a piece does not automatically bolster its quality, but it's as good an indicator as any, as far as the Critic is concerned. Until I can sell my Cubism piece, I suppose my analysis of Manhattan toilets and their multitude of extraneous uses will have to wait.

Civilization 6: One of gaming's most venerable series, Civ 6 has the same base game every Civilization does. A lot has been tweaked beneath the hood, however, so much so that it will take some time for you to understand Districts and the new tech trees and Amenities and...wait, I guess I don't understand any of that. It doesn't matter though, because you'll want to play one more turn for your dopamine fix. It is really impossible to review a game in its nascent state that will consume months of your life. Let it suffice to say that, after fourteen hours, Civilization 6 is as addictive as ever. The game does have a Western view of history--Montezuma as the leader of the Aztecs? Gandhi as ruler of India? But who cares when your delightful little cartoon units are prancing about industriously, spurred on by their Puritan work ethic. Let it be known that I am a conqueror at heart, though I sometimes try for a Culture victory. Games are like a good bacchanal--it's all about roleplaying, baby.

It does not look nearly as good as this clearly doctored screenshot.

Shadow Warrior 2: Wild Hog's sequel to their 2003 reboot is something of a surprise. Instead of a throw-back shooter similar to this year's Doom reboot, we get a Diablo/Borderlands lootathon and procedural-generated maps. Loot in games has always stressed me out; I have enough junk lying about my house, I don't need my virtual inventory clogged with countless upgrades and stat-boosting detritus. Nearly every enemy slain in Shadow Warrior 2 will drop an upgrade that you can use to customize your weapons, of which there are many. The weapons are the best part of Shadow Warrior--you can make an acid-spitting chainsaw and dual katanas that shoot electrical beams. The non-PC humor falls flat, however. Lo Wang, your avatar, is basically a bad South Park joke. The story is also a mess this time out, for I found myself clicking through cutscenes just to get back to the action. Graphically, the game looks good most of the time, although human characters look as though they were stolen from Quake 2 (not a compliment). If your looking for a shooter, I would suggest the Doom reboot first. If you have any money left over, then maybe give Shadow Warrior 2 a try.

Black Mirror Season 3: Sort of a Twilight Zone for the tech generation, Netflick's Black Mirror is one of the better programs on the ubiquitous streaming service (which is nearly 3 billion in debt because of their original content). Indeed, the first episode, "Nosedive," featuring Bryce Dallas Howard in a pastel-coated future where every social interaction is rated on a five star basis, had the Critic deleting his Twitter account and scouring Facebook for needless personal information. There are a few duds, such as "Playtest," a predictable spin on the dangers of virtual reality, and "Hated in the Nation," about internet vengeance served through hacking a government nanobee program (I think I just coined a new word). But the horrors of "Shut Up and Dance," and the ethereal beauty of "San Junipero," which tells a tale about two women falling in love in a simulation for elderly people, will have you glued to the screen.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

If Hillary Wins, I'm Pooping My Pants

This election is rigged, folks. We gotta do something about it. Those able-bodied enough to engage in voter intimidation are welcomed to exercise that god-given right. I am not one of those patriots, however. The only form of protest or rebellion I can participate in is the ancient ritual of pants-filling. If Hillary wins, by God, I'm going to do it.

There's a taco bell close to my place. I'll have my nurse drop me off there with about ten dollars of spending money, or ammunition as I like to call it. My digestive system could never handle the call of the border. I eat a taco and I'm a ticking time bomb.

Then it's on to Wal-mart. It's quite a hike, and quite frankly, I don't know if I'll make it. But once I get inside, I'm letting it rip. I'll try to hold it until an appropriate trigger, like if I see a Mexican family or a college kid. Soon as some dreadlock-haired doofus crosses my path, BOOM, my pants are crapped. The smell will hit them immediately. I'm told its reek resembles the stench of carrion after several days alongside the highway. Aforementioned doofus's eyes will start to water. Passersby will vomit into any nearby receptacle. Children will run screaming. Someone will call the cops. Through it all I will continue my journey, a walking bioweapon sowing feculence and ruin.

They will listen then, when I have pooped my pants. I'll tell them about how they failed to prevent the disintegration of our great republic. I'll tell them that I am a harbinger of the apocalypse, just a taste of the horrors to come. They'll take away our guns, our churches, our ability to say socially unacceptable things. Well come and take it, I say. See if you can get close when I've filled my pantaloons with two pounds of poorly-digested taco supremes.

I see myself as a figure to inspire future generations. They'll write about my dung-coated britches the same way they wrote about Rosa Parks. Perhaps I'll spark a movement, a united brotherhood and sisterhood of elderly patriots, filling their pants in unison, taking one last collective shit before the world they knew changes. Because that's what this is about, really. Change. Everything changes and I'm plain sick of it.

You can hold your nose, liberal America, but I'm letting loose. There might be some friendly causalities along the way, but the foundation of our country must periodically be refreshed with the dookie of revolutionaries. You may think I crapped my pants because of incontinence. But I did it for America.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Writer's Block: The Human Condition

Just discovered this awful old poem in a notebook. I probably wrote it at a slow farmers' market, hah.

The Human Condition

rain falling like black leather,

A smitten fool counts his change,

Blood between his fingernails,

A thesis hanging on his doorway.

"What do you smell?

What seems to be on the wind,

Repeating its name like an epitaph,

The last chapter of a banned book?"

He doesn't know; what can you know,

Standing in the fetal position,

Hunched over like a man taking his last breath?

Love is the grease that sticks in his teeth,

Love is the weight that stoops his shoulders,

Love sits in his chest like an atom bomb.

The sky changes, its mood as sour as beer.

"What do you feed a dying man?

The same gruel you feed everyone else."

Who is this stranger speaking to the wind,

This wretch haunting alcoves, smoking steam,

Making plans that will never materialize?

He is you or me; he is just a vessel,

A trick played by a bad magician,

A rock that moves and speaks.

You strike anything enough,

It will crumble.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Death of the Internet

So the internet died today. Magical hackers from the planet Russia shot so many packets up the ass of the net's backbone that it can't walk straight for days. You try in vain to quickly find a nice rack on Google image search but that little circle keeps spinning like it has nothing better to do. Visiting youtube is like being transported to the year two-thousand. Everything is so goddamn slow. How the hell is one supposed to receive their daily dose of dopamine? At this rate, we'll be tossing sticks at one another outside like they used to do in the old days when we weren't a race of Candycrush-playing cyborgs. Hello Reality, it's me. Nice to see you again. I guess.

What were the old days really like? Phones were stuck on walls and people actually bought music and video games from stores. Libraries were used by regular people and not just hobos looking at pornography. People talked to one another and looked each other in the eyes. When you wanted to go somewhere, you had to pay attention and get directions. Twitter was something birds did. Facebook was a long-lost Lovecraft story. Google sounded like a mix between a fart and a burp.

We knew things back then. We didn't have machines do our processing for us, as well as our socialization. This sounds like revisionism, doesn't it? A wise old sage fondly remembering days of the past while taking advantage of the technology of the present, irony be damned. I might as well wax poetic about the days before irony, back when people believe in ideas instead of eviscerating them. The ironic man has nothing to say, he just wants to laugh at you for believing. Don't ask me where I was going with this. I've lost the internet. I have no direction home.

Is there a binary choice between Netflix and the cinema? Between Ma Bell and the IPhone? Between Twitter and a real human being? It's either all or nothing; that's the American way of seeing things. Good and evil, shades of gray be damned. I've tried to have it all like the rest of you. I have no philosophy of things.

My son stares up at me with gray-blue eyes, his face describable only by a self-coined word: tunky. It comes out of the mouth in baby-talk. What sort of future will he live in? An augmented one with personalize advertisements beamed in directly to his brain through the infolink he had installed there as soon as he could scrape together the cash? What wondrous technology we are capable of, only to use it for our basest pleasures. Hedonism is in, you know. It never goes out of style.

Before the internet died, I had fever dreams. Let's not pretend it won't come back, fortified and worse than ever. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Hanging with the Goon

Dis here's me uncles Thom and Lester talkin' bout polictics.

Well folks, teh erection is just weeks away and teh country will decided who will become top chef in chief. Now somehows theres a bunch of undecided people, that is, if yur listenin to teh literal media, so I thought I'd lay it all out simple like so's people would know who would make teh best president outta hellery and Teh Donald. Here goes my attempt at reasoning using ma double-brains (taht is a subject fer another post.). It won't be perty, but as my pa always said, she don't need to have all her teeth to make a decent box of hambooger helper.

Butfer you can vote fer Hellery, you need to ask yerself "Where is all teh emails?" Apparantly, Hellery had some emails that she took outta her computer so that tehy wouldn't find out she was besties wit teh devil or something like taht. I've tried getting emails outta my compooter before, but after smashing it wit a hammar and lighting it on fire, I has yet to find my own missin emails, so I sympathize wit Hellery. I also believe taht emails are private corrispondance between two consenting adults, so if Hellery is friends wit teh devil, it really ain't nobody's business. I have a lot of bad friends in bad places, but so what? I still get to work a half hour late just like everbody else. Apparantly also Hellery is in bed wit Wallstreet, whoever taht is. I used to know a Backstreet but I never mets a Wallstreet. Also teh worst thing abouts Hellery is that she's married to former President Slick Willy, who plays teh saxophone and has had manny lovers. If you can stomach all of that, maybe you should vote for her, I dunno.

Teh big alternative to Hellery is Teh Donald. My family is very pro-Donald; Slack has already had a Conferderate flag made wit Donald's face on it, and Willy has went aroudn thrownin bricks wit Donald's name painted on em threw people's windows. As far as I can tell, teh main message of teh Donald is that he hates persons of color and likes to grab women by tehre genatals. I was always told taht those were bad things, but I guess teh times, tehy are a changing just like taht jew Bobby Dylan said. Slack says taht when teh Donald becomes furur, everbody will get there own trailer and a tweleve pack of bud light along wit their welware check. SO I guess if yu like Bud Light you should vote fer teh Donald.

Personally, my main issues is what are teh canadates going ta do about all teh trash in my yard? Will one of em send tah secret service to come clean up all tah poo and girlie mags? A bear got in my Uncle Thom's cabin and made an awful mess that's blown across teh valley. It really is an ecological distaster. Maybe teh Donald will make Hellery clean it up after she gets done being in jail. I dunno. Vote wit yur heart, not yur brain.

Monday, October 10, 2016

A Brief Review of the Second Presidential Debate

Boy, this was hard to watch. Why do we do this, by the way? Why do we parade our two presidential candidates out on a stage so that they can try to get the better of each other? Because that's what this was really about; there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell that Trump was going to talk about policy, because he can only respond to policy questions with a mess of adjectives like a child caught in a lie. No matter what you think of her, you have to admit that Clinton actually tried to answer the questions asked, whereas the Donald just rambled incoherently until the moderators had to shut him up. I just want to note a few things I noticed while crying inside.

1. Trump isn't running for President. I mean, this has been obvious for a long time, since he's refused to adhere to the norms of respectability presidential candidates usually cling to, either out of incompetence or because of some insane strategy (I suspect the former). He straight up said that he'd appoint a special prosecutor to look into Hillary's misdeeds if elected, and then he said he'd throw her into jail, which elicited a cheer from the brain-dead crowd. Yes, people, let's praise this clown for just threatening to jail his opponent. Dictatorships usually throw their opposition into prison; Trump doesn't want to be President, he wants to be dictator. Keep that in mind when you vote for Gary Johnson because you can't stomach a Clinton Presidency.

2. Donald Trump doesn't talk to or agree with his running mate. Mike Pence is a prick; as Indiana's governor, he's responsible for the misleadingly named Religious Freedom Act, which makes it legal for employers to discriminate against homosexuals because of their (the employer's) religious beliefs. He's also respects women about as much as your average right-wing Republican, though as far as we know, he doesn't grope them in public like the Donald. Maybe the guy's insufferable in person. Trump must think so. When caught by the moderator in a contradiction with his running mate for praising Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad (Trump said Bashar is killing ISIS; what Assad has actually done is commit genocide against his own people), Trump responded that "he hasn't talked with (Pence) and that "they disagree on issues". Keep that in mind, people. Donald Trump can't even agree with his own running mate, whom he picked.

3. Trump doesn't know shit. Like the first item on my list, this has been obvious for a long time to any sane person. I don't know how you could listen to any one of the Donald's rambling, incoherent answers to basic policy questions and come away with the opinion that he's fit to be President of the United States. He seems to not be aware of how the government works; in an exchange with Clinton about tax policy, he blamed her for not being able to change it single-handedly as a Senator, ignoring the fact that there was a Republican President in office at the time with veto power. Trump also appeared to be ignorant of the genocide being committed in Syria and claimed to "know nothing about Russia." He said that "Russia was new, in terms of nuclear," whatever that means. This man isn't fit to run a hotdog stand, let alone the highest office in the land.

4. None of it matters. To the average viewer at home, it doesn't matter that Trump has no policies. What mattered is that the Donald got a few good one-liners in on Clinton, because the debate format is a reality-show stage, and the only thing Trump is good at is being a reality-TV star. I'm sure we'll see some people claiming that he won the debate, which is ridiculous. When challenged by the moderators, he responded by shouting over them. He interrupted Clinton eighteen times. Not one of his answers was even moderately coherent. But none of that matters. This is a hell of our own doing. Let us hope that it only lasts one more month.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

You're Going to Get...It

Drink it You're going to get it. I don't know when, or where, or what the circumstances will be, exactly. But rest assured, man. You're going to And when you do, it's going to be bad.

I'm keeping a list, you see. A list containing all the names of people who are going to some day. A list of bad people who just don't understand the gift. What is the gift, you ask? If you don't know, that may be a problem. Because you might be on the list. The list to

"It" is the worst thing you can imagine. "It" isn't some stupid clown that is really a giant spider or any bullshit like that. "It" is something unimaginably horrible, like a Donald Trump presidency or a Nickelback album. "It" is like global warming times ten or a used pair of John Cena's jorts. "It" is the smell Kevin Owens releases backstage after he's had eight taco supremes from Taco Bell. What you need to understand is that "it" is super bad. You don't want to get "it."

You know people who are going to People who hate nice scarves, for one. People who don't appreciate the benefits of DDP yoga, for two. Folks who don't listen to the Jericho podcast, for three. Anti-Canadian reactionaries, for four. The list goes on and on. Most of the people I know are on it, in fact. Maybe that says something about me. Maybe I'm a little hard to get along with. Maybe I make more enemies than friends. You know why that is? It's because I'm the greatest of all time.

Yesterday I was at a Starbucks, and I ordered a white mocha. It took them five minutes to make it, and I had to wait in line with all the degenerates who definitely As soon as my drink was finished, I grabbed a hold of the flunkie with the horn-rimmed glasses who was behind the counter, and I told him that he had to kiss my biceps or he was going to get "it." He just stared at me with fear in his face, paralyzed with the fear of "it." It's amazing what power a genderless pronoun has in today's world. You would've thought I'd threatened him with a loaded gun. Maybe that's the best analogy. "It" is like a loaded gun. You don't want me to put "it" in your mouth.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Weightlifting: Olympic Weightlifting for Beginners

I had to use a picture of former Russian lifter Klokov because America sucks at lifting.

Due to the popularity of Crossfit (or so the internet tells me) Olympic lifting has underwent something of a renaissance, though I doubt you'll find too many people in your globo gym snatching or clean and jerking, since most people are terrified to do either without rubber bumper plates. Because of a shoulder injury, I cannot bench press anymore, so I decided to forgo powerlifting for the moment and work on learning the Olympic lifts. It's been an interesting experience so far, though I have yet to put any impressive weights overhead (unless you consider 210 lbs impressive, which you shouldn't). Unlike the powerlifts, you can't simply muscle up a heavy snatch or clean. The art is in moving under the weight; it requires quickness, agility, and decent form. Certainly strength is required, yet unfamiliarity with the lifts means that if you're a beginner, you're probably not cleaning or snatching a decent percentage of your squat. Below, I'm going to discuss some initial problems I've had and their solutions, as well as lay out a program to follow.

Snatch problems (haha! Keep your minds clean, folks): The snatch is pretty hard, I must admit. My two biggest problems are a soft lockout and not moving under the bar. Both are connected, I imagine; when you don't get under the bar enough, you catch it with bent elbows. Plus, I have ridiculously long arms, which means I have to use the widest grip. The tendency to over pull is great and must be recognized. Currently, I've snatched 165 lbs in a power snatch style, meaning that I've caught it around or above legs parallel to the floor. I need to work on quickly squatting down as soon as the second pull starts. Practice makes perfect, so I snatch three times a week and start my workouts with this lift. I'd recommend searching youtube for videos of elite lifters snatching, and then using the pause button to really nail down the form in your mind.

Clean and Jerk problems: Really, I don't think this lift is particularly hard, at least compared to the snatch. There is a desire to press the bar, but it's not hard to overcome. Really, I just need to work on my clean, which is around 235 lbs. My best front squat is 315 lbs. Your clean and jerk should be about 85 percent of your best front squat, so saith the internet, so I should be cleaning around 265 lbs. Just like with the snatch, it's about moving under the bar. I certainly pull it high enough.

Programming: Obviously I'm no expert at these lifts, but this is how I've gone about learning them. I try to do the Olympic lifts and squats three times a week, and then work in upper body days in between. Switching to the Olympic lifts will not do much for your upper body if you're doing them right, so it's important to press, do strength pulls, and add arm work. Here's the program I've concocted:

Sunday: Snatch for 8-10 singles, working up to a heavy weight. Clean and jerk for 6 singles following a similar progression. Back squat for five sets, starting with 5 reps for lighter sets, then working up toward triples or doubles.

Monday: Strict press for 5 sets. Lat work, choosing from snatch grip rows, dumbbell rows, or chin ups for 3 sets of 8. Barbell curls added unless choosing chins.

Tuesday: Same as Sunday, except Jerks omitted for heavy cleans, and front squats added. Usually I do 4 sets of 3 for front squats.

Wednesday: Same as Monday.

Thursday: Same as Sunday.

Friday: Off.

Saturday: Optional upper body day.

So that's how I've went about tackling the Olympic lifts. I'll give a report on my progress in a couple months.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Diary of Mitch R. Singer

In a house. Somewhere.
The tranquil domestic scene. A lawn with a gnome out front, judging the passersby as they pass by. An automatic sprinkler system to keep said lawn verdant and youthful. I never knew how much I desired an artificially beautified lawn. One-hundred pounds of nitrogen fertilizer are dumped on my yard a year. They say that the excess nitrogen gets into the water system, that it kills ecosystems and poisons our world. What is our world but the microcosm that we live in? All I know is this yard and the pristine house resting behind it. If you ventured down my street, you would have trouble distinguishing my house from any other. I'll give you a hint: it's the one with the well-cared for yard. The yard that was manicured by a god.

At a basketball game.
The children run the court in their oversized jerseys, awkwardly fumbling the ball, their limbs slender like sticks collected for kindling. One of those children out there is mine; I cannot tell you which, not right now. Every so often I lose myself in the blur of surroundings, in the ever-present excess of detail. I'm like a toddler wandering the main strip of Las Vegas; everything is bright and flashing and moving. Sometimes I remember different lives lived by a stranger, though that stranger seems familiar, always familiar. He probably has my disease is what I figure. My wife suddenly grabs me and says that Billy has scored a goal. Great job, Billy. Let us pray that whatever I have is not genetic.

Date night. Stranded on a hillside, with the moon lurking like a spotlight in the sky.
My wife puts her arms around me. We stare at the city down below, twinkling like the stars hidden by its light pollution. It seems like I am an everyman always perched on the corner of a cultural zeitgeist. Though I wear the trappings of a plebeian, I always transcend my origins, somehow. It will go wrong, you know. It always does. Someone gets tossed into the drunk tank, and they look at his hands and find them covered in blood. She asks me if I love her. I say "yes," like I'm answering a game show question. In the background, I hear the buzzer.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What Babos Wants

I found this picture when I googled "baby monster." I'm pretty sure that's Curt Schilling.

What Babos wants, Babos gets. When Babos hungry, Babos let's you know with a bellow. Or maybe grunt. Babos likes grunting. Sometimes, Babos even grunts when satisfied. Babos also farts when satisfied. Burps too. Babos is not in control of his actions.

Often, Babos likes to get a little shut-eye early. Like around eight o'clock or so. Four-thirty in the morning is Babos's favorite time to wake up. Babos can't understand why big people lie in bed so late. Maybe big people should sleep more during the day like Babos. If Babos could communicate with more than just grunts and farts, Babos would tell big people this. This is one of many sources of frustration for Babos.

Another thing Babos can't understand is why big people don't want to hold him all night long. It is very warm and satisfying to be held while sleeping. Nothing infuriates Babos more than to wake up and find that he is in the babby cage. Babby cage is cold and hard, and impossible to sleep comfortably in. Babos wishes big people understood this. There is much that they do not understand.

Big people try to get Babos to eat something besides baba. Nasty stuff like mashed carrots or bananas. Babos has known nothing but ba since his emergence. Little late to be switching to new source of nourishment. If only big people understood the deliciousness of ba or the infinite chewability of rag. Then they wouldn't make Babos try to eat nasty orange poo.
Speaking of poo, Babos would like big people to know that he has no problem sitting in it. Wet diaper, well, that's another matter. But poo, well, he doesn't mind it if you don't.
Babos would also appreciate it if everyone sang to him. What they sing, it doesn't matter. It can be nonsense words. Babos just likes to hear a tune. Night noise also fine. Babos really just prefers a constant din.
Now that Babos has delivered his list of demands and needs, he hopes they will be satisfied to the letter. You wouldn't want to make Babos angry. You wouldn't like Babos when he's angry.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Conan Brothers' Q&A

CMDunk asks "I know you guys are WWE fans. How do you think they're doing with the brand split?

Dave: I dunno. I only watch wrestling when I'm high, and I can't remember shit.

Arnold: Smackdown has been the shit. Raw has been interesting, at least, but you can still tell that Vince makes the decisions. Despite having all that talent, Raw still manages to tell incoherent, illogical stories, where Smackdown does the opposite. Smackdown actually has me caring about the Miz and Dolph Ziggler; Raw has me bored with Sasha Banks, Charlotte, and Bailey.

Dave: I didn't think they had the talent to split the brands, but the split made it obvious that talent isn't their problem. It's the McMahons.

Arnold: Shane hasn't worn out his welcome yet. Although they seem to be building to a Brock Lesnar vs. Shane match...

Dave: Brock Lesnar verses anyone at this point is a snore. I can't believe they let him murder Randy Orton on stage.

Arnold: Vince is terrified of Brock. I figure most people are, but you'd think a billionaire wouldn't be.

Dave: Billionaires are people, Arnold. Just like the rest of us.


DrumpFerFuhrer asks "What do you think of the conspiracy to hide Hillary Clinton's health problems? Liberal media is at work again to take away our freedoms."

Dave: There's a liberal conspiracy to make me insane. I can't handle all of this election crap.

Arnold: Dave hates the news. He'd rather live in ignorance.

Dave: I really would. I don't need to hear some moron try to make sense of Trump's nonsense. As far as Clinton's health, do you really think she's less healthy than Trump? Trump is fat as shit and his skin is the color of a dried hot dog. Neither of them is going to be winning the Crossfit games, for chrissakes.

Arnold: I get tired of the echo chambers and the disconnection from reality that they require. Like, the shit Trump's said would've buried Mitt Romney. You ask half of his supporters about his racist remarks and they're like "he didn't mean it." Oh really? So we're not supposed to believe the man at his word? Actually, that's a great idea, because he lies constantly.

Dave: They say the same thing about Clinton.

Arnold: Clinton is a typical politician. In a normal election cycle, I'd be against her. Trump is a walking piece of human detritus. I don't care how many people Hillary personally shot in Bengahzi or how many hookers Bill has hidden in his closet. Trump is a harbinger of destruction. You just can't tear the system down and start again. We have to live here, people.

Dave: Hear, hear!


GamerBoyz asks "Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Play or not play?"

Dave: Play if you liked the last one.

Arnold: The story is complete shit, though. The main premise is that augmented people are now discriminated against and forced to live in ghettos, yet in the first game, only the rich could afford augs in the first place. Everyone speaks in cliches and Jensen is such a humorless douche. Human Revolution had some hanging plot threads, but it was interesting all the way through, whereas Mankind Divided has me lost at the start.

Dave: The fact that DLC is going to be available soon is a kick in the balls as well.

Arnold: Yeah, maybe the game should've included it at the start.

Dave: Still, the game plays better.

Arnold: It's still Deus Ex. Never has one man crawled through so many human-sized air vents in the name of truth and justice.

Dave: I'm playing as a hacker/stealth character. I haven't shot anyone with anything besides a tranquilizer rifle and a stun gun.

Arnold: Yeah, every time I'm in a fire fight, I die.

Dave: Just like in real life.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Heart of the Thief, Chapter 4

In chapter four, the barbarian Josun becomes involved in the conflict for the Heart of Rankar. Will he save Cassilda from the flames? Did the Thief survive his leap into the sea? There will be some formatting errors because the text never copies over perfectly from libre office. Also, I switched from the present tense to the past tense halfway through, and I haven't went back yet and edited previous chapters. This is a rough draft, so don't expect it to be anywhere near perfect. To catch up, read previous entries in this series here. Before I started posting whole chapters, I was dividing each section into parts. This current post is part eight.

Chapter Four
Josun leans against a tree trunk, carefully filling a pipe with dried cannabis, the night air heavy with the sounds of boisterous, drunk men. Tenderheart. The derogative sticks in his throat like an insect. Around the fire they dance in the distance, spilling beer over each other, reeking of urine and the blood of the vanquished. The prisoner, a witch, hangs from a cross before the flames, body bruised and battered, victim of a religious fervor that had seized the Barbaroise after the successful raid. We slaughtered men who did not raise arms against us. They were weak and cared nothing for their lives; that was the rationale, but it didn't sit well with the dark-haired warrior. There was no honor in killing the helpless, though the forest god demanded blood, and there were plenty who wished to spill it. He does not exist whispers Josun, though no one is around to hear his words. How many of those revelers believed in Prax? It was likely that they had given him little thought but simply used his name to justify their craving for violence. Tradition, tenderheart. That's what they would say. They slaughtered indiscriminately because they had always slaughtered indiscriminately. They raped because they had always raped. They burned ships and set fire to villages because that was the Barbarosie way. Their strict adherence to tradition was a method of avoiding thought. Terran never thinks concludes Josun, pressing the pipe to his lips. He wished to do something, perform an act of rebellion to shock them, the predator people, but instead he stood mute and solitary, lurking in the woods like a spirit, haunting the fringes of the celebration.

He had felt this way for a long time now, and had fought against his feelings, initially believing them to be a sign of weakness. Warriors who did not thoughtlessly murder were weak; any showing of empathy for a person outside the tribe was treated as an act of betrayal and considered disrespectful to Prax. Josun had went to his glen, had prayed beneath the ancient oak tree, had demanded strength, courage, and bloodlust, yet his prayers went unanswered while his doubts grew. Beneath that oak lies thousands of bones. It was true; they buried the skulls of the vanquished around its roots and hung femurs from its branches. A roost for vultures and a home for creatures of carrion. Who knew how old that foul tree was, and what had attracted the Barbarosie to it. It was not a holy place, but a living monument to a century of needless killing—they might pray to Prax beneath its bows, but no one approached the tree at night, for they thought it to be haunted by the vengeful spirits of the sacrificed dead. They were always fearing spirits, and so constantly performed gestures to ward them off, spilled wine for the dead during every meal, whispered words of protection when climbing atop a roof or passing under a ladder. It was true that the Barbarosie had an excessive number of names for ghosts, and debate was often had on what particular specter had caused what particular domestic disturbance; for instance, poltergeist were blamed for breaking a chair leg, while gremlins stole milk, though not cheese, which was the favorite plunder of fairies, who could change size and crawl into your home through the tiniest of spaces. Josun had never seen a fairy, but he knew rats ate cheese, and chairs broke either because of their faulty craftsmanship or the excessive size of their sitter. He also knew that men killed because they were savage, cruel, and fearful.

A month before, they had raided a village to the south, located just on the outskirts of the Great Woods. The people were called the Furmise, and the Barbarosie traded with them, visited their taverns, shared mead around their fires and called them friend and neighbor. Such infiltration was a tradition; you gained the trust of the people, and then sneaked in during the night and knifed them in the back. There was a boy, fourteen or so, that Josun had befriended. The lad followed the Barbarosie around when they entered the tavern, standing a respectable distance away, but eagerly approaching whenever an opportunity presented itself to ask questions and attempt to gain favor. He admired the tall, rugged people, spoke of their “savage honesty” and “noble bearing” while making it clear that he intended to join the tribe someday, seeing it as “a harmonious, communal existence with nature.” Where he had received such ideas, Josun didn't know—perhaps Coriver, who was known to enjoy fabrication and whimsey, was responsible—but the boy proved steadfast in his ideas, and repeatedly asked Josun about how to initiate himself among the Barbarosie. There was, of course, no way to join the tribe other than by being enslaved, and women were the preferred gender to take into slavery. So Josun told him that his wish was impossible, and that his idealization of the barbarians was greatly misplaced. “We're murders,” he said to the boy, looking him straight in the eyes, “rapists, thieves, and backstabbers. We glorify violence above all human virtues. When you look at me, you do not look at a human being. You look at a force of nature, a gnawing hunger that eats its brothers and sisters until its children grow old enough to devour it and take on its burden. I am not a noble savage. I am a killer of things. There is no honor in being a killer of things.”

He had told Coriver those same words only to have him laugh and shake his head. “Nobles and dead men have honor. It is not a luxury we can afford,” he responded. “Who has told you that we are an honorable people? When has honor been a concern of the Barbarosie? Certainly not when we lie corpses atop the roots of the ancient oak. When blood is spilled for Prax, we do not ask for forgiveness. Every life is available for the taking. The only right one has is the right to die.”

“If we do not care for honor, then are we an evil people?” asked Josun.

“All of mankind is evil, that cannot be argued. We hate each other, we long to better ourselves at the detriment of our brothers. I, as you know, cannot help myself when I see a woman that I want. This scar, here, on my left breast, is the price I paid for one such longing. The man who gave it to me died with an axe in his skull, and I took his wife only minutes afterward, tears of grief still wetting her eyes. Was that an evil deed? Yes, I suppose it was, though I am not half as bad as most, you know. If I am among the best, what does that say about men? What does it say that I hate you at this moment for bringing this argument to me? Why are you so worried with honor and evilness? You cannot change what we do, nor can you change what other evil men do. If you wish to have honor, go ahead, but I will only laugh at you for it, and no one will thank you, and eventually you will die to a less honorable man, who will have decided that he wishes to live and so seeks a dishonorable advantage that your honor prevents you from taking. Talk no more about honor and evil, Josun, for the words mean nothing to me, and they mean nothing to the world.”

Coriver's response only deepened the loathing he felt for his tribe. The burning of the shivering men was a tragedy, a needless thing that happened only because of the presence of the witch. She was not long for this world, for she had suffered at the hands of the tribe and would burn soon if the Barbarosie did not pass out from drunkenness. Did she deserve to burn? He was not sure if witches were truly abominable as the tribe insisted. Surely there were evil witches, but evidence should be presented, and what evidence did they have? The only thing he knew was that they, the aggressors, took her from her ship in chains to be abused and burned on the cross. Coriver thought that men were valueless, but perhaps it was only the Barbarosie who were.

“Honor is what separates us from beasts,” he says, taking a puff on his pipe. From his vantage point, he could see the witch rather well; her head sloped downward, long hair (so black it was almost blue!) obscuring her face. Still, he remembered that face, with its aquiline nose, jutting chin, and green, fiery eyes. She looks the ideal image of a barbarian queen he thinks before catching himself. Those times were long gone, the ancient days when the Barbariose ruled for hundreds of miles beyond the Great Woods and enjoyed tribute from forty peoples. King Cimmeron, last of his line, slayer of the dragon Gorgan, father to a thousand children… no, the old stories were fables, cobbled together by oral history and musty artifacts. Everyone in the tribe claimed to be of Cimmeron's blood, though the valor contained within his ichor must have been diluted years ago. What about you, Tenderheart? There before him on the cross was a maiden fair, like in the old stories. Already a deep calm was settling in, soothing his worries, narrowing his purpose. Damn what they say about witches. What a waste to kill a woman like that, an innocent woman who had harmed none of the Barbarosie.

Emptying the ashes from his pipe, Josun leaves the edge of the forest and moves toward the burning pyre. There are a few revelers remaining, though most have slunk off to their beds or collapsed on the ground. He steps over one drunken warrior, a lazy-eyed sot who he particularly loathes, and has to catch himself from kicking the unconscious fool in the ribs. Off to his right in the darkness someone is vomiting; close to the fire, three men sing a melancholy song in each other's ear. It is a familiar melody in a minor key, though the men sing it poorly, their words falling out of their mouths, syllables garbled almost beyond the point of recognition. The heat that radiates from the pyre is intense; the witch's cross hangs precariously close, so close that her visage wavers in the warmth like a hallucination. The wood crackles and pops—the sounds of spirits fleeing, according to tradition—and Josun pauses to listen for their voices, straining his ears. There is a hissing beneath it all, as though a serpent writhes in the pyre's center. It is simply moisture escaping the wood he reasons, yet part of him will never be content with that answer. What use does the world have for a rational man? The tribe has no use for such men and neither do the peoples that they prey upon, for Josun has been met with superstition time and time again. Human sacrifice, the burning of entrails, the mad interpretation of celestial events… and now the burning of a witch.

Her face is different, having changed as he approached. Her hair is lighter, auburn almost, and those sharp features that were so intriguing have been replaced with softer, rounder edges. Pretty, yes, but this is not the same woman who had fascinated from a distance. Am I seeing things? he wonders. Perhaps she had cast a spell to manipulate her visage, though that is impossible, for she was immediately placed in lead shackles. He doesn't know what to think. That face before, the one he saw while approaching, looked like a face that could understand him. This woman, wavering in the fire, looks coquettish to the point of deception, not unlike some tavern wench desirous of the coin in his pocket. Still, he walks around her, circling the cross like a wary animal, wondering how it has not burst into flame. They have torn her clothes, bruised her flesh, beat her about the face, yet the witch looks peaceful somehow, as though she were simply resting and not smoking before a pyre. The shackles bubble on her wrists; she breathes a low sigh of exhaustion, sagging toward the heat like a burned blade of grass.

“You can't burn a sorceress, you know,” she says sleepily, eyes closed, sweat evaporating on her face. “Not with heat this timid. She must be placed in the middle of a huge fire and doused with oil and be made to swallow charcoal and lard. Even then, some won't burn, especially those who have the gift of fire. You barbarians must have never burned a real witch if you think this will harm me.”

“They will cut your head off if you don't burn, believing you to be a demon or a hellspawn or a nattmara,” replies Josun.

“What if I am a werewolf? Do you know the proper way of killing one?” asks the sorceress.

“You must skin it and strangle the person inside,” says Josun.

“That sounds right. I really don't know. I was asking you.” She straightens, pulling her head back, eyes still closed. Her right cheek is swollen and purple, and a large gash oozes above her right eyebrow. “Well, what are you here for? To gawk? I am beaten, good sir. I have been too cavalier, too indiscriminate in my planning. I have erred, so to speak. Tell me, though: where is the Heart?”

“Terran, the chief, has your things.”

“What will a fool like that do with the Heart of Rankar? You know what it is, right? I could eat the world with the thing. Do you know of Pliny the Black? He is the greatest sorcerer that ever lived. He was born a thousand years ago and has traveled through dimensions, attaining a form that is, more or less, immortal and indestructible. But I will see him in agony for millennia; I will reduce him to a mute, limbless creature that cannot see or hear and who must crawl on its belly, trapped in darkness, isolated in pain. Revenge is my life's work, barbarian. Certainly a savage like yourself can appreciate that.”

“Do you deserve to die?” asks Josun.

“Who doesn't? Death is inevitable, even for someone like Pliny the Black. Without death, life could not adapt, and our species would've vanished long ago. Death is necessary. Everything will die, even the universe. Some say that it has already started to happen, that we are entering the twilight of the world. Rankar's sacrifice was not enough, and his heart beats slower and slower. Do you know that there were other organs, once? His entire body was divided amongst one-hundred civilizations. His liver went to the Atlanteans, his lungs to King Osiris, his brain to the darkest regions of Zerrica. One after another, they consumed his holiness out of desperation, eager to stave off the darkness, the entropic coldness that lingers, waiting for the final death. The Heart is all that is left. Your chief holds the lifeblood of the world in his uncouth hands. How does that make you feel? Even now he could be smashing it to bits.”

“The old myths are lies, stories made up to fool the weak-hearted, to explain that which has no simple explanation. There are no gods,” replies Josun, shaking his head. “The Barbarosie use Prax as a pretext for their love of killing. He does not give us strength, nor does he watch over us. If I denounce him, he will not rise up from the earth to strike me down. He is no more real than your Heart of Rankar.”

“The gods are dead, that is true. Maybe we did invent them to use as foils. Perhaps the Heart was created by man or some vanished ancient race. Regardless, it is powerful and not a thing to be trifled with, and I want it back. Will you aid me, barbarian? Will you rescue the fair maiden? Honestly, I am very fair; these wounds your tribesmen inflicted will disappear as soon as my shackles are removed.”

The witch stretches her body away from the cross, pulling on her chains. She was dangerous; he saw it in her eyes, knew it in his bones by the supple way she moved. When have you run from danger? He was not a coward, but he was also not a fool. Taking his ax from his holster, he approaches the cross and strikes at its base, quickly hewing through the wood and causing the gibbet to fall away from the fire. She lands hard on the earth, twisting her bonds, immediately trying, he notices, to bring the lead shackles closer to the fire where they would soften and melt. Not so fast he thinks, seizing the chains and pulling her away from the heat and out of the light. The witch doesn't make much noise as she struggles and digs her heels in the ground like a stubborn mule, but one strong tug of the chain sends the sorceress sprawling to the earth, and Josun doesn't give her a chance to regain her feet, pulling the along easily, as though the captive weighed nothing. Seeing her thrashing about, legs kicking and arms flailing, seeds desire in his heart, bringing forth old thoughts from a time when he naively enjoyed his rapine and slaughter. It was ill-advised to lie with a witch, for it was said that doing so would make a man impotent and only capable of siring demons. Josun did not believe such nonsense, yet he was hesitant to take the witch, for such behavior, though normal for a barbarian, was unbecoming of a warrior. Besides, he wished to work with this woman, though what particular use she would be was not yet clear. He was not above striking bargains or asking for ransom, though it was possible that he could work something out with the sorceress involving the stolen Heart. 

Regardless of what the future may hold, he would not remove her bonds for the time being, since he knew nothing of her powers, though his doubt was substantial. Finally reaching a moonlit clearing, he stops and gathers the chain in his arms, pulling the witch close before sitting himself on a tree stump. A pond lies nearby, and the chorus of the bullfrogs is loud and constant. Somewhere in the distance a wolf howls, a long, meandering wail. Josun clears his throat before staring at the witch, willing her to speak.

“You are not a gentleman, Barbarosie,” says the witch, spitting grass from her mouth.

“I have not touched you, witch. I am speaking with you, having freed you from the gibbet. We do not know each other, therefore trust has not been established. Tell me: what bargain can you make? Why should I value your life?” Josun stares into her eyes, his face stoic as though carved out of granite.

“Removes these shackles and I shall grant thee three wishes,” replies the witch, smiling her battered lips.

“What a fool you must believe me to be. I know you are not a djinni. You are obviously not from Zerrica. You are a sorceress and they have elemental powers, no? What is your talent, witch? Be truthful; I can tell when you are lying.”

The witch's gruesome smile grows. In the moonlight, she looks deformed, as though pale nodules grow from her cheeks and chin.

“I am an electrician, a conduit, as they say in the more refined schools. Through means not entirely understood, I am able to draw energy from extradimensional sources and manifest said energies in an electrical form. That is my base talent; I have many other powers taught to me by a great wizard who lies at the bottom of the Sullen Sea. Listing them all would take too long, and besides, you wouldn't understand. What's important is that you know that I am powerful and capable of great destruction. I am someone you want to work with, not against.”

“This Heart, what will you give me if I steal it for you?” asks Josun.

“Do you want money? I can get it for you. Do you desire to be the chief of your tribe? I can plant an idea in their heads, and they will think that they thought it. Is there someone you wish dead? A woman you want? Ask and you shall receive. What shall I call you?”

“Josun,” replies the barbarian. “What is your name?”

“Cassilda,” says the witch. 

“I will steal the Heart and then we will talk. There is a cave close to here. That is where I shall place you.”

“I am not a piece of furniture, Josun. If you remove my shackles, I can retrieve the Heart myself and save you the trouble, and reward you just the same.”

“Let us go to the cave,” replies Josun, ignoring her argument. “We will talk later.”

Cassilda knew there was nothing more she could say. The Barbarosie, after all, were not known for being open to persuasion.

The sun beats down upon his face like a roaring fire. Something crawls on his leg, something with sharp legs ending in a point. As consciousness comes, so does an intense thirst, as well as an awareness of parched lips and aching muscles. Where am I he wonders, fluttering his eyelids and immediately blinking in the harsh light. The sound of waves crashing against the shore; the smell of salt and rotten fish; a general feeling of having been abused and beaten by the sea. Groggily, he struggles to raise his torso from the sand. There, on his leg, is the source of the stabbing pain—an enormous blue crab crawls over his limb, stabbing at something attached to his right boot. With all the strength he can muster, the Thief kicks the creature, which results in it moving little, as well as a retaliatory blow, this served by the monstrous crab's gigantic pincher. Pain shoots through his calf muscle as chitanous claws sink into his flesh. His hand instinctively moves to his belt, where he finds his knife—thank Rankar—and with one deft lunge, the Thief severs the offending pincher, leaving it still attached to his leg. “Run, you bastard,” he spits as the crab waddles away, greenish fluid leaking from its body. It takes all of his might to peel the still-twitching claw apart from his flesh. As he discards the pincher, he notices what the crab was after—a juvenile lion shark, its twin-jaws fasted tightly around the heel of his boot. What luck I must possess. Thrown from the ship, yet washed ashore and narrowly escaping dismemberment by shark and crab—there must be a god watching over him. There was a god of thieves, after all, though he couldn't remember his (or her) name. Religion was a subject that he generally preferred to avoid thinking about.

Looking around, the Thief notices that the beach is littered with the wreckage of the ship. A few corpses lie across from him, already being picked apart by gulls and crabs. Most of the Shivering Men were likely swallowed by the sea; he couldn't imagine such an apathetic people swimming for their lives. Picking himself up, he finds that his clothes are intact, though he has to surrender his boot to the locked jaws of the shark. Hobbling toward a corpse, he kicks the birds away and again rejoices at his luck, for the dead man has the same size feet as him. With a new pair of boots and a terrible thirst, the Thief turns and makes for the woods that lies just beyond the beach to search for a fresh-water stream or a road to civilization, his thoughts on immediate needs rather than the Heart or Cassilda.

The woods is cool, its heavy canopy offering protection from the hot sun, the trees old and twisted, with limbs winding like snakes, curving out and upward. Having spent his life entirely within Capetia, he knew nothing of the forest, though he was quite certain that trees like these did not exist anywhere around his home city. They possessed an ancientness, however, that was familiar—he had the sense that they were saplings when the cornerstones of the Duke's palace were laid. Heavy vines hung from their boughs, along with flowing blankets of moss, creating a yellowish-green palate that enveloped details. Indeed, not long after he entered the forest, he knew that he would be unable to return to the beach, so similar were his surroundings. This fact made him uneasy; he was a man who always identified any possible escape routes of wherever he was, but here, in the woods, with the fresh air and constant bird chatter and impenetrable vegetation, he was at the mercy of his wandering feet rather than his wits.

After hours of blind walking, he stops at at the first discernible change in the environment, a wide clearing. Finding a nice spot on a stump, the Thief sits down and removes his boots to rest his aching feet. The grass is high in the clearing, yet there are stumps all around, a sign that trees have been felled by human hands. Some sort of civilization must be close—a small village, likely—and that knowledge raises his spirits. During his hike, the facts of his situation dawned on him—he was at least one-hundred miles from home, possessing no knowledge of how to return, without coin, and without the Heart—and depression started to spread its tendrils into his brain. His love of wine and women came from the fact that they improved his mood, which could become quite dark if his mind had too much time to wander. Self-reflection was an examination that he avoided, choosing not to think too long on his deeds and past, a helpful survival strategy, in all likelihood, considering his career. The Thief did not consider himself to be a good man or a bad man, but simply, just a man. Still, he was burdened by a particular moral code that had been established when he was quite young, and although he didn't consciously know it, he did do his best to adhere to those principles even while he was, for instance, robbing the remaining inheritance of a fallen family.

On the edge of the clearing, he spots a plume of smoke rising. The wind changes, bringing the smell of a pyre. Shouts carry, deep, masculine voices of triumph and inebriation. Likely the Barbarosie he thinks, putting his boots back on. He would receive no hospitality from them, but there would be provisions to steal, and very possibly, the Heart. Shrugging off fatigue, he heads in the direction of the smoke, keeping himself low to the ground, hiding amongst the tall grass, taking long, soft strides while minding his foot placement. The power he possessed would not work in the daylight in an open field—he needed people and shadows to disappear—but he was still skilled at sneaking, no matter the environment. Soon he reaches the edges of the clearing. A thin line of trees separates the field from a small village of thatch-roofed dwellings, simple structures constructed of logs and held together by mud. In the center lies a large building that resembles an overturned boat. The mead hall reasons the Thief, also concluding it to be the probable residence of Terran, who would have claimed any notable possessions of the sorceress. A great pyre has been built on the outskirts of the village and men dance about it, laughing and drinking. Out of the crowd comes a woman with a cross on her back; she falls, and the men spit and kick at her before dragging her to her feet. This will not go well he thinks, as they stretch her shackled hands, binding them to the cross with chains. Despite Cassilda's betrayal, he had an inclination to help the witch—death by burning was a terrible way to go—but there was nothing he could do in the daylight against a tribe of barbarians. He would have to wait until nightfall to descend into the camp.

Josun entered the mead hall in a drunken, foul mood. He was never one to lack for courage; that was true, yet it took more than steady resolve to confront the leader of his tribe and demand his property. Barbarosie could claim anything as their own if they were willing to fight for it, though the owner could refuse and pick another to fight in his stead. If conflict was not desired, the defendant would often chose someone dear to the challenger, such as a family member, and thus the matter was abandoned. Josun was not sure that Terran would defer, since he obviously thought the young barbarian weak, and one of a chief's primary tasks was to make sure that every fighting member of the tribe was a worthy raider and capable of unprovoked violence at a moment's notice. Still, he wanted to be certain that the chief would fight him personally, and so consumed a great deal of mead in a short amount of time. Unlike his tribesmen, usually Josun refrained from drinking because it dulled his inhibitions and incited his worst traits—at his drunkest, he was a mad, spitting demon, unable to discern friend from foe, and likely to lash out at anything that moved. Alcohol stirred up a ferocious anger that the normally stoic man kept hidden deep within himself, even during the heat of battle. For once that rage might be called upon for a purpose.

The hall was full of Barbarosie in various states of inebriation. Some lay comatose on the long table, snoring in their own spilled mead, while a few danced to a captive lute player, who had somehow managed to keep himself alive by his art, which mainly consisted of singing bawdy songs. He was quite skilled at improvisation; he interpreted events as they occurred, inserting the names of his audience in each lyrics, till the song became something of a nonsensical record of the drunken doings of the tribe. As Josun passed him, he caught a bit of the music, which was uncharacteristically a dirge:

How long we wait for fair Agrippa,
Tossed upon the ravaged plain,
A maiden youth, who walked alone,
With beaten brow and heart of shame,
Her hands as white as shimmering seas,
Frozen like the arctic bends,
I cannot wait forever, my love,
Forgive me for your banished name

Agrippa was not a maiden fairthe grizzled raider sat on the floor before the musician, his eyes swimming in his head—but the song seemed to have an effect on him; tears streamed down his cheeks and into his silver-flaked beard. The dancers, if they could be called that, lazily sauntered back and forth, heads downcast, their mood a slow, dying rhythm in time with secret currents of melancholy that flowed beneath the floorboards, ending in Terran's head seat. An omen thought Josun suddenly. The lute player had changed; he didn't look the same, though he wore the same stained green tunic and played the same battered lute. His eyes were sullen and his cheeks sunken in, as though he had had nothing to eat for a great while, and his cup, which before had always been overflowing, lay overturned on the floor. It is just the end of the revelry reasons Josun, but his doubts did not leave him. 

The chief sat at the head of the table, Coriver at his right, a slave wench on his left. The two men were engaged in heated conversation, their great hands and giant heads moving in frantic gesticulation, while the wench leaned on Terran, looking neglected and bored. Josun noticed bits of food scattered about in front of them, half-gnawed chicken legs and broken pieces of bread, discarded like the leavings of beasts. Coriver seemed to be getting the best of the debate; his eyes were impassioned while his lips moved rapidly, spitting out words like curses. Ultimately, who was wrong or right did not matter, for the chief ended the conversation with a raise of his hand and a single dismissive word. “Ale!” he yelled, slamming his tankard down against the table and rattling every objection on it. The waiter came quickly, nearly stumbling over his feet, terror plain on his submissive face. He reached for Terran’s tankard, but before he could seize it, the chief had grabbed him by the edge of his tunic and pulled him close. “Ale, not mead!” he screamed, giving the waiter a good shake before sending him sprawling backward with a push of his arm. His companions laughed as the skinny youth crashed into a misplaced stool and bounced his skull against the floor. “That’s my favorite tankard! It’ll be your head if you dent it,” screamed Terran, shaking his head. As he looked up, he saw Josun staring at him, and a wide grin grew across his ruddy face.

“Tenderheart! What a pleasant surprise! You have returned from your sulking, I see. Coriver, I do believe he has shed tears for the Shivering Men. What terrible deaths they had. Does it bother you, my friend, that they died in a terrible manner? What say you, Coriver?” asked the chief.

“Nay,” said Coriver, smiling at Josun.

“Wench, why does he answer so?” asked the chief.

“Because he is a warrior,” stated the wench, shooting daggers at Josun with her eyes.

“Aye! Because he is a warrior and not a tenderheart like the creature who stands before me. I do not understand what has happened to you, Josun. Your father had red blood; he murdered and raped hundreds before his passing. I have had patience with you because of your father, who was a true Barbarosie. Yet I feel I have been too lax, too generous in my judgment. You are not a warrior, Tenderheart. The time has come for you to leave the tribe.”

“Perhaps,” said Josun, holding eye contact with the chief. “Terran son of Gerard, I claim the Heart of Rankar as my own. Give it to me or meet me in battle.”

Terran looked taken aback. His ruddy face grimaced and his porcine eyes narrowed. Coriver seized his shoulder and whispered in his ear, glancing periodically at Josun, lips moving quickly, concocting a plan. The revelers in the hall stopped what they were doing and stared at the chief, glasses of ale held limply in their hands. A heavy ambiance settled over the room, a tenseness that was exacerbated by the sudden cessation of the lute player's music.

“What is this Heart of Rankar you speak of?” murmured Terran finally.

“A relic belonging to the witch. It should have been found on her person,” replied Josun.

“And how do you know this? Who has told you of this thing?” asked the chief.

“The thief wanted it, the one who disappeared during the raid. It was the organ he referenced.”

Terran smiled and reached underneath the table, removing an object wrapped in cheese cloth from his satchel. He placed it on the table and gestured toward it, as if to say this minor trinket? 

“On what grounds to you claim this possession?” asked Terran. “Why do you want it?”

“That is irrelevant,” said Josun. “Will you accept my challenge?”

“Coriver will accept your challenge in my stead,” replied Terran, staring down at the Heart.

Josun's spirits lowered. He had grown up with Coriver, and although the two men no longer saw eye to eye, he had too many fond memories of battles fought together and conversations had after drinking ale, sharing in triumphs and tribulations, to callously draw his ax and take the man's life.

“You have not the stones to face me yourself?” he asked.

“Dissension! One cannot call into question the courage of the defendant!” roared Coriver, jumping up from his seat. “And you, of all people, question the chief! The man in you has died, Josun. You do not accept our ways; you belittle them, you speak of alternatives that do not exist. We are raiders, wolves of the land and sea, and our glories are done in the name of Prax, lord of the woods, god of the Barbarosie. His spirit demands blood, and we are his arm in the world, feasting on the dead, taking their possessions as payment, as gifts from our deity. What would you have us do? Hang our swords on our walls and plow the earth? How many men have you seen bent over, kneeling before diminutive sprouts, clasping their hands together and praying for rain and good fortune? We do not ask for such luck. Prax favors the bold, and so we reap and maim. Such is the way of the world and to claim otherwise is a denial of one's true nature. So question Terran not; either leave and never return, or draw your weapon and do battle against Coriver, a true barbarian who remembers the names of his fathers.”

The audience erupted into cheers and the stomping of feet. Josun knew that he had lost, that his plan had failed, and that he had no escape beside dishonor. Reluctantly, he drew his ax from its holster.

“Meet me then, Coriver, who fights in the stead of Terran. I will kill you, though I have loved you as a brother, and after I have taken my ax from your throat, I will claim the Heart of Rankar and leave this woe-begotten tribe who has forgotten that the Barbarosie once ruled a vast empire stretching for a thousand miles. I will make my name in the world, and when I have, I will return to bring honor back to my kinsmen. Prax is not my god; I pledge allegiance to myself and not something that I have never seen and never will.”

Coriver had removed his gladius and taken a step forward to meet his former tribesman when the doors of the hall parted and a barbarian stepped through, shouting and waving his hands. “The witch! The witch has escaped!” he said, drunken eyes swimming. During the ensuing ruckus, no one noticed a cloaked figure step out of an alcove and move toward Terran. He held an ale pitcher in his hands along with the chief's favorite tankard, and after filling the cup and placing it before the distracted man, he departed, slinking back into the shadows from whence he came.

“It was you, wasn't it?” asked the chief of Josun, rising from his seat. “The thief didn't call it the 'Heart of Rankar.' You must've freed the witch, and now you do her bidding. Seize him!” he said. The tribesmen encircle Josun, who slowly lowers his ax. “You will not have a challenge, for you are guilty of treason, and therefore lose your rights and privileges. Wait… where is it? The Heart, it is missing, you have stolen it, haven't you? Does your witch walk among us, invisible? Grab him, take him outside! We will burn him in her place to satisfy Prax, and then we will search the woods until the witch is found.”

They came at him all at once, lunging at all sides, and his hand was caught before his ax could find a scalp. Strong arms took hold of his limbs and pulled backward, dragging Josun toward the door. Outside, the fire had burned down considerably, but they soon transformed it into a roaring pyre by adding old dried wood to the flames. The cross was pulled down and Josun tied to it, though it took several men to hold him as they bound his wrists. Their faces were joyful as they did the work, and no one questioned the ethics of Terran's hasty verdict. Josun was silent even as he resisted and his eyes stared ahead, mind blank with the realization of his fate. He had not expected Terran to fight him, and Coriver would have been his match, so death was an option he had considered, though to have his life ended by fire would require much stoicism on his part, for he would die with dignity. But is there any grace in death? He had rejected the fatalism of the Barbarosie, who saw death as the natural state of living things. It didn't matter to a barbarian how they died, as long as they killed and maimed many beforehand. To glorify death as a transcendent experience was a foreign idea; Josun, despite his iconoclasim, could not quite wrap his head around the idea of a death meaning anything other than a loss of life. What point was there, therefore, to remain dignified? Those who took part in his killing would likely not remember it; too many deaths remained in their future to find something special about his own. He, of course, would not remember it, having ceased to exist. It was part of the old ways he concluded. Like his honor and his ideas about raiding, the desire for dignity in death was an atavistic trait somehow preserved in his blood.

As they raised the cross and held it up with ropes before the fire, Terran approached and held his arms up high, signaling for quiet. The gathered tribe stood silent and grim; Josun could feel the heat drying his face. They seemed less a tribe of men at this moment and more a gathered will, a mob force that acted by impulse, driven purely by their immediate needs and aggressions. Tall, lean, hungry men with jutting brows and arms like meat hooks—they stood silent, motherless, awaiting judgment from the only authority they recognized. They could never be civilized he realized, looking over the crowd and seeing the same savage face. As he did so, he lingered on the visage of a youth who stared intently at him as though he was particularly aggrieved by Josun's actions. Is it the Furmise boy? It certainly looked like the youth who had wished to join the Barbarosie. Same fair features and blonde hair and ingratiating eyes. Yet it was impossible—they had slaughtered the Furmise, killing every man, woman, and child in the village before burning it to ash. A specter then? Come to witness my demise? “I warned you!” shouted Josun suddenly. The boy kept staring, his mouth curling upward into a sneer. “I told you I was a killer of things!” said Josun. Traitor mouthed the boy, eyes unblinking. Honorless, disloyal traitor. It was true, for he had betrayed them in his heart, and the weight of that betrayal came crashing down on him, pushing him closer to the flames.

“Tenderheart,” began the chief, “you are no longer a member of the tribe, having made a treasonous plot against my person, as well as conspired with a known witch and engineered her escape. The Barbarosie do not forgive, nor do they forget, and so you must die by fire, the burning of your flesh serving as a sacrifice to Prax, who shall wipe your weakness from this earth. You may beg for your life, if you wish, though it will do you no good, unless Prax himself intervenes. I judge you guilty. Tribesmen, let go your ropes and let the criminal...”

At that moment, the sky changed. The moon had been out, big and full, yet suddenly clouds came and blotted out its light. A rumbling uttered from the clouds; lightning flashed unnatural colors, crimson reds and emerald greens. Rain poured down in heavy streams as though a deluge had been unleashed from some celestial river. The unusual appearance of the storm immediately unsettled the Barbarosie, and many rushed for their homes, though Terran, Coriver, and their men remained. Through it all, the old chief glared up at the heavens, his countenance expressing rage and wonder at the source of the disruption. “It is Prax,” said the men who held up Josun, yet Terran shouted at them to be silent and wait for the passage of the tempest. “It isn't Prax, it is sorcery!” said the chief, pointing at Josun before removing his knife. Seconds after his utterance, he was struck by a bolt of lightning; his entire skeleton was briefly illuminated in green, glowing fire. Tendrils of electrical energy sparked from his person, showering the earth and jolting everyone present. The men holding Josun let him go and fled; the cross toppled onto the smoldering coals of the pyre. Only Coriver lingered, gazing transfixed at the electrified corpse of his leader, whose eyeballs were leaking from his smoking sockets. Everything had happened so fast—the image of Terran's electrocution was seared into his mind's eye, however—that his brain was still processing information and had yet to give him any direction in what course of action to pursue. When the second bolt of green lightning struck a nearby tree, incinerating it in a flash, Coriver made the correct choice and fled with the rest of the men, abandoning Josun to the elements.

He lay there in the coals, his flesh charring with the heat, every second a pain-filled eon. Eventually she pulled him out and let him lay in the mud, rain stinging his marred face. Even before she spoke, he knew it was her, that she had somehow escaped from the cave, for how else could the storm have saved him? Her first words were not, however, an expression of pity or remorse.
“Where is the Heart?” she asked.

He didn't know what to tell her.