This is part of serialized short story. I posted the beginning on 11.03.2012, and if you click on the label, “The Adventure of Alphus Gibb,” you can see all the available pieces together. I’ll be posting new segments on Sundays. I hope you like it.


            Gauss Anne was sitting again at Alphus’s small kitchen table. She was on a break from counting snowflakes, and Alphus had told her the story of his first pet and of his sister and of other things he was missing. “Were they making it okay? Are they on their way back?” he wanted to know.

            “They’re dead, Alphus.” Gauss Anne told him.

            “I don’t know what you mean.”


            She grabbed a spatula and took him over to the radiator where he had an infestation of black beetles. She swung at them.

            “Dead.” She struck several beetles in one go. Some had their exoskeletons fracture completely, and their legs splayed evenly out to the sides. Others, that had only been partially hit, struggled limply, half their bodies pinned to the carpet.

            She kept swinging,




            This wasn’t all that informative. She tried to explain, “When things die, they don’t come back, Alphus. You lose them. Do you understand me?” She rested and looked up at him. His hands were up around his head, and he trembled.

            “No. I don’t understand.”

            “I guess it’s complicated.”

            “But… I can’t stand it.”

            “You’ll get used to it. Even though you know about death, now, you’ll forget that it happens. Everybody does.”

            “I don’t think so….”

            “Here, would you like a try?” She said, handing him the spatula.

            At first he took it hesitantly and then repositioned his grip more with more purpose. Whack! Hard, he came down on the beetles.

            “Ah!” he screamed, looking shocked at the most recent splatter of beetle guts. “I think you’d better go” he told Gauss Anne. 


Albums of 2012

Alright, so I apologize for something -- I woke up at 2:30 this morning to catch a plane after I had stayed out past midnight with friends. But this post needs to be written. We have no time.

I liked music this year, better than last year, I think. It had to compete with BBC radio dramas and the Planet Money podcast, but a few (10) albums definitely prevailed. I'm hoping you can find something on here that you like:

10. Best Coast, The Only Place

I have a thing for Bethany Cosentino. She says the things that you're supposed to be too embarrassed to say. She owns it, does it with humor, makes me feel better about myself. This new album is a great summer, walk three blocks to Lake Michigan, audio fill. And just like you might guess from the name of the band, she likes the state of California, and being one with strong home-state allegiance, I can support this kind of thinking.

9. Passion Pit, Gossamer

This album didn't wear as well as I had hoped, but for about the first month after I got it, I listened to it constantly. It's got some of the buzz and energy that made Manners such a break out, but it underscores that with some melancholy. I love melancholy.

8. Taylor Swift, Red

There's been a lot of talk about Taylor Swift it seems like. I think people lose sight of the fact that you can be a very successful artist and make some good music without largely appealing to white men with Mac Books. I heard "We are Never Getting Back Together" on the radio, and I was so pleased with the direction she's taking in her music. It's nice to see her grow up a bit from "You Belong With Me". She's at that crushing, angry, joyful stage where you can actually get over someone, and her music has a little bit more of a punk feel to it. I even like her music video -- she's push-pulling with Indie culture in kind of a strange way. The only thing I don't like is in the very end, where she looks at the camera and kind of shrugs. Come on, Swift, your album sold 1.2 million copies in its first week, you should have the confidence to play that thing straight. 

7. Slow Club, Paradise

This album is some great Indie pop. (It's Mitch's favorite of 2012, if you're interested.) The guitar lines are gritty, the singing's pretty, and the drums... I don't know, they sound good, pounding like a heart. My favorite lyrics: "I think that next summer, if we're still all alive we should try (we should try) to jump into some water and focus on getting high."

6. Alt-J, An Awesome Wave

Gosh, is this catching, and about every minute the songs take some dynamic turn. I'd call it art rock, but unlike most art rock, it makes a great running mix. The only weird part about it is that  Joe Newman sings weird, a bit like Kermit in his rebellious youth. It adds a feeling of insincerity to the music.

5. Nils Frahm, Felt

This album is mainly classical piano, but it's layered with small static, breathing, wood hitting together. The story behind it is that Frahm likes to play his music at night, and in order to not annoy his neighbors, he's covered the hammers in his piano with felt, muting it almost completely. He then puts the microphone really really close. Because of this it picks up all kinds of soft side sounds that otherwise would be completely drowned out. It creates a feeling of intimacy, of which I'm a total sucker. 

4. Now, Now, Threads

This is a kind of somber rock. (Mitch is sitting next to me comparing it to early Death Cab.) It's a bit like a car trip over Snoqualmie Pass -- murky and brooding. I guess I don't have too much to say; they have a great sound. Check it out.

3. The Very Best, MTMTMK

This is a collaboration between a Swedish producer and a singer from Malawi. We went to their show this year with Mikey and Julie, and I've never had more fun at a concert. We stood up front and danced so hard -- and it was easy to dance; it wasn't self-conscious; it was easy, necessary. (Granted, we did sneak in a couple flasks of whiskey.) The words are a mixture of English and Chichewa, and it's been nice this year -- with all this apocalypse talk -- to listen to "sky could fall down any day; nothing lasts forever anyway; as long as I got you here with me, we okay. We okay." Mikey's take on it was that if The Very Best came to Chicago every single week for a concert, he would go and love it. I agree.

2. Macklemore, Heist

I wasn’t sure about this guy at first. Mikey and Julie showed me the music video for “Thrift Shop.” The video is so cool… impenetrably cool. Like these-people-would-never-be-friends-with-me cool, and you never want an unbalanced power relationship between you and your music. But when the album “Heist” came out, I decided to give it a chance. I was surprised to find that it was exactly the opposite. It’s infectious, and it’s not trying to be your friend, exactly. Instead, it makes me feel like I already belong. (Wow, that sounds cheesy. And since listening to tunes for me is a largely individual, headphones in, leaving me to my thoughts experience, that level of drippiness might persist throughout. Nobody’s making you read this.) But, really – I hid in this record this year. While sincerity is generally treated as a kind of disease, Macklemore makes advocating attractive. He makes being genuine look possible again. (And he’s from Seattle, which is just bonus.)

1. Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel [...]

When I heard this album, I was entranced. It was the summer and over ninety degrees in our apartment with the AC running; I was having a long-distance argument with a close friend of mine; and I put on NPR’s early streaming of this album to pass the time. And remarkably, for me, I could put up with the waiting, with the sitting on the hot patio waiting for my friend to call. Apple sings like the crazy person we’d all be if we were a bit more honest and, you know, brilliant. I like it because the album sounds afflicted – afflicted by the burden of being conscious: of mortification, of mental loops and ruts, of desire, of unsentimental isolation. (“Oh, the periphery. They throw good parties, there.”) Musically, it’s spare and percussive, something to get caught up in rather than hum along to. Listening to it gave context to my problems and agitations – that being human is a dense experience. “Being human is a dense experience” as I write that I see how opaque that statement is, clunky, ambiguous. Listen to Fiona Apple’s new album, she expresses it much better. 



This is part of serialized short story. I posted the beginning on 11.03.2012, and if you click on the label, “The Adventure of Alphus Gibb,” you can see all the available pieces together. I’ll be posting new segments on Sundays. I hope you like it.

            Alphus Gibb kept to himself mostly, and his birds, and his fireplace. He liked to warm himself with tea and hot chocolate. His mother believed that peppermint tea would cure anything, from menstrual cramps to bloody noses, and Alphus had inherited this drinking habit.

            One day, his half-sister Suzan, who lived in the next town over, called his phone. “Hello Alphus,” she said. “This is your sister, Suzan. I was wondering if you’d be interested in a pet frog.” Pet frog! Suzan was a biologist. She had wanted to study the absurdities of life since the operation that had made her Alphus’s “half” sister.

            Suzan was born a conjoined identical twin. She and Lisa were attached at the hip, well, pelvis. One of them facing forward and the other backward. Or both facing forward, from their individual perspectives, and both of their sisters facing back. Masha, their mother, decided that they were okay just like that. “If they can survive, then how is it logical to separate them?” She reasoned. She also figured it would be easier for her this way, only having to keep track of one, besides Alphus, of course.

            The girls were four when Alphus was born. When they were ten, the girls started getting very sick. Lisa looked the worse for it. They were both fatigued and pale. Black splotches started appearing all over their body, and from these splotches hard nubbins started to form. As the weeks passed, these nubbins started becoming all-out horns. Little horns everywhere. After about a year of this, Masha took her children to the doctor.

            The doctor was quite pleased that Alphus’s eyes were completely open after being shut for the first couple years of his life. Now they were sleepy-looking and a darling shade of blue. The doctor was less pleased about the sisters’ horny condition.

            “Now Masha, why didn’t you come to see me sooner?” The doctor asked. Masha looked at him with compassion and tried to help him understand, “Dr. Hootzenhouse, I am under the impression that adversity is the good soil of character. I didn’t want to rob my girls of that. It is only practical to start growing their thick skin early. It helps tremendously in dealing with the world.”

            Doctor Hootzenhouse gave his customary nod of ascent. Still, he said, “And despite all that, I am glad you brought them in. Your girls have a severe case of Raptor Pocks. It’s got their innards in a pickle; the livers, both, are weak. Hearts are palpitating. Lisa’s spleen has run dry. And they’ve developed eczema, which is unrelated. The only cure for this is eggs.”

            “Eggs?” said Masha.

            “Yes, eggs” replied the doctor, “scrambled, poached, in a tortilla, on Sundays, through the holidays, before church and after, over easy, dry, with bacon, with Mr. Benedict, nested, sunny side up, in the rain, hard boiled, omelets, even deviled if you are willing to put in the work. And don’t forget drowsy eggs and brown eggs and eggs put in a stack and ones in your back pack and those cooked on the sidewalk and frozen and pickled and whipped into jelly. And put a little bit of egg in your salads; I find that delicious.”

            “Do they have to be chicken eggs?” said Masha.

            “I think that’s your best bet.”

            When I was a boy I ate four dozen eggs thought Alphus.

            So they ate eggs in all the ways the doctor had suggested. Alphus resented this. His affinity towards things Beauty and the Beast did not extend to the character Gaston. His neck looked like stretched silly putty, the shape of his head was gross, and he did and said nasty things. That his family was embracing Gaston’s eating habits stressed Alphus immensely.

            In not too long, the eggs had helped – the girls shed their horns, leaving sharp things all over the carpet – but their cholesterol went through the roof.

            Lisa eventually complained of a pain in her calf. When that pain got extreme, the family went back to see doctor Hootzenhouse. The doctor predicted a blood clot in her leg, and suggested that they go to the hospital in the next town.

            The town next to what was to become snow country, America was over two hours away. The four, or three, depending on how you look at it, piled into Masha’s economy-sized car. By the time they arrived, the parking lot of the hospital was dark, and it was raining. The lights of the emergency room reflected gold and silver off the puddles. Alphus sat in the front seat of the car; his chest was tight. Everyone had been very quiet. The car had bumped violently as Masha had pulled off the main road.

            “Alright Lisa, Suzan, take off your seatbelt” she said before stopping the car. Masha could be very efficient in times of obvious crisis. Alphus watched his mother rush through the emergency room doors that slid open with a pressurized woosh, her arms around his sisters’ waist. She had left the car door open. The entrance to the hospital was lit up all the way around. It had an aura or halo like it was the subject of some medieval painting. Fluorescent light shone from within and the doors accepted his mother and sisters like gracious sliding jaws. He got out and wandered in after them.

            He waited in the room with the shiny floors until he fell asleep. When he woke, Masha told him that surgeons had cut his sisters apart. A nurse with short hair stared at him with a sad face. Alphus felt strange to have her looking at him like that. The clot in Lisa’s leg had traveled to her heart, and it was the doctors’ opinion that Suzan’s heart could not pump enough blood for both of them. When they had been separated, Lisa had died. As far as Alphus understood, she had just gone away somewhere. He only saw the one half-sister anymore.

            Would Alphus like a pet frog? He had never had a pet before. He wanted his first pet to be perfect. He had considered goldfish, iguanas, puppies, mice, he’d even gone to the store to hold some of them. But he had been unable to make a decision, not knowing which one of them would be perfect.

            “A frog would be nice” Alphus said.

            “Perfect. I’ll have someone bring it over to you.”

            In a few days the messenger arrived. The doorbell rang, and when Alphus answered it, he found a lidded cup sitting on his door mat. He peered into the sip hole to see what was inside.


            Alphus was worried the frog would hop away as soon as he opened the cup. He tipped it in the bottom of his largest Tupperware container, holding his breath. He felt slightly dizzy knowing the next couple of minutes were completely unpredictable, worried that the frog might startle him.

            Alphus tilted the lid off the cup. Nothing came out. He poured the frog out. It slid out on its back – nose then belly then legs. It’s underbelly was grayish pink, stillborn. Alphus did not understand. It lay there like it had no care for the world using its bulbous eyes as a prop.

            Alphus set about making its new home more comfortable. He added some mancala stones for their pretty red and pink colors and some water. He thought that frogs liked water. The frog lay on its back and stretched out its hind legs until all its joints were extended.

            Alphus watched it from morning to night. He wanted to get acquainted with it, wanted to know what it was like. It was his pet, his first pet.

            In a week, Suzan called to check in. When Alphus told her about how it was acting (Well, I think it’s sort of shy…), she told him to let it go in the backyard.

            Alphus could not see the benefit in this. “Alphus,” Suzan explained, “in biology we learn that sometimes after something bad happens, animals stop moving just like your frog. They don’t respond when you talk to them; they won’t eat the food you set out for them. It’s best if you just throw it into the backyard.”

            “It’ll be in a better place” she added.

            Alphus was sorry about this. He wrapped his burgundy robe around him and stepped onto the end of the porch. The yard of snow was spread in front of him. He bent his head over his frog, and it was then that he noticed the smell. It was putrid; he felt like retching. Alphus held on to the container and hurled his frog away. The frog flew, the stiff hind legs tumbling over forelegs over nose, body, belly, eyes. The pretty stones flew too, disappearing into the long-dead raspberry bushes.

            Alphus went inside and cried a little bit. He decided he wanted nothing more to do with biology; Suzan could keep it to herself.

            Outside, the quail cult had its first quaily sacrifice. They pecked the frog’s body with no remorse, and the frog didn’t mind either because it was 


Didn't Know I Had It So Good

I was on my way home from a friend’s show last week. It was Friday night around midnight. I walked along Belmont to the red line; people were hanging out in groups, doin’ some hollerin’, being loud. I got on the train and pulled out my book – feeling a little funny to be out in public reading late on a Friday. At the next stop a guy got on and sat across from me. There was an announcement over the speakers, and the man started saying something to me. I didn’t catch it. He stared at me as we went from stop to stop.

He was young, about my age. Six-foot, broad shouldered, muscled. Wearing a gray sweatshirt, gym shoes, sweat pants, carrying a gym bag. He could’ve been a college student, maybe a shooting guard.

I put my bookmark in between the pages as I prepared to get off. When I did, he leapt up, ready to exit. We got onto the platform, and he strode, fast, out in front of me. We descended onto the street.

There were plenty of people around. That stop seems never to be deserted. He kept walking quickly in front of me, making backwards glances at the people he passed. At Albion I turned left, cutting across some grass to make my way quicker. He made a sudden left turn and put himself still in front of me.

It was obvious, at that point, that he was altering his route to stay with me. He was walking so briskly that I decided it would be fine to just slow down and let him get a ways ahead of me. As I slowed down, he slowed down. I slowed down to a grandma’s pace and then to a tourist’s pace and then to a tourist talking to her friend’s pace (which, I assure you, is ridiculously ridiculously slow). He stopped. And started coughing into his arm until I caught up with him.

He was about four feet away from me, walking slightly in front, taking glances back over his shoulder. I didn’t know what was going on, but something was definitely going on. I got out my phone to call Mitch – I don’t know what I was going to say if he answered… “A man is being very stupid about pretending not to follow me, please help.” But I at least showed him I had a phone and that it was a crappy phone so there was no sense in robbing me. And maybe I thought it’d be good to let him know that I had someone to call, that I know people.

Mitch didn’t pick up. I was coming up to the alley along the train tracks that I turn on to get home. I didn’t see anybody walking on it. If I turned there, nobody would be able to see me or him. 

At the last second I stopped; the man kept walking straight and turned his head to watch me as he walked under the bridge holding up the tracks. As soon as he was out of sight, I turned up the alley and ran all the way to my house.

I got there and felt pumped up by adrenaline. When I kept pacing around, Mitch asked what was the matter, and I told him. Life growing up in Colorado Springs was too insulated for this. The most exposure I got was being approached by homeless people for money, and the most excitement was (maybe) getting asked to prom. Now I live in Chicago, and it’s crazy: good-looking men try to follow me home. 



This is part of serialized short story. I posted the beginning on 11.03.2012, and if you click on the label, “The Adventure of Alphus Gibb,” you can see all the available pieces together. I’ll be posting new segments on Sundays. I hope you like it.

            One morning, when Alphus went to feed the quail cult living under the long-dead raspberry bushes, he noticed a shrub where a shrub should not have been. It wasn’t that he had particular rules banning shrubbery from growing in that location; in fact, it was even pleasing to the eye in that it broke the otherwise monotonous snowscape of the backyard. It’s just that it wasn’t there the night before.

            Alphus had to maneuver carefully across his lawn. First, of course, he had to shimmy up the snow that sloped out from under his eaves and then mindfully step onto the fresh powder from the night before. The snow was so old that there wasn’t much chance of his sinking the four or five feet to solid ground, but he was in danger of sticking a foot through the fresh stuff, to where it covered his shin and got in his slippers and so forth. He proceeded as lightly as possible.

            The shrub, upon closer inspection, was not so evergreen as it had looked at first. It did not have needles or branches and instead had a more reptilian sheen. It rose out of the ground in a cylindrical shape that bulged slightly on top. He was puzzled and still more puzzled when it swayed even though there was no wind.

            Suddenly it doubled in size. It now looked more like the back of a person than a shrub, a person in a long green coat. Alphus was relieved; he had no experience in botany.

            The girl stood four feet tall and was dressed in an ankle-length green coat and an orange knit cap with a bombom. She did not turn towards Alphus so he slowly wandered his way around to face her. Her orange bombom flopped backwards as she looked up and started jabbing a pen at the air.

            “Excuse me,” said Alphus as she used an ungloved hand to produce a notebook from inside her jacket and scribble something on it. Her hair was rather stiff and cut in a severe line below her chin. Her bulbous gray eyes did not focus on him as he began to bob his hand in front of her…

            “What!” The girl formerly mistaken for a shrub exclaimed. In her surprise, she sat down hard in the snow. “Who? Who let you in here? I’m sorry, but I should not have to tell you that this space, at least a five-meter radius and a height of ten along the z-axis in cylindrical coordinates, which I would be crazy not to use given the initial conditions, has been set aside for scientific research. Damn apes walking on two legs, escaped from Africa over the Bering land bridge before that sucker got flooded, always stepping in front of a person obviously engaged in productive research, what do you want this time?”

            Alphus shrugged and offered her his hand to help get her out of the snow. She rejected it and scampered up on her own. After she dusted herself off, she jumped again, surprised to see him standing in front of her.

            “Are you applying to be my assistant? Well, here’s something: the flock of quail living in these dormant raspberry bushes,” she said looking somewhere over his left shoulder, “have become practically subterranean; they have tunnels running all along this area. And frankly, someone must be feeding them. They shouldn’t be alive in such a climate, but besides that they are fascinatingly normal. Just fascinating. You can catalogue them and write me up a report.”

            Alphus noticed how efficient the girl was in talking; for how much sound she made, she moved her small mouth hardly at all.

            “Please sir,” she noticed Alphus again, “you are standing in the middle of my research. Can you please move five meters to the left?”

            Alphus did so, approximately, and the girl continued to follow the movements of various snowflakes with her pen and scribble things in her notebook.

            Alphus fed the quail from a distance. He couldn’t tell if he was entranced with his new friend (Is she my friend now?) or just confused. His ears rang a little bit from her shouting. He walked back onto the porch and then inside. It was the first time in his memory that anyone other than himself and the quail had been in his backyard.

            An hour or so later the girl was still there. Alphus put a pot of milk on the stove to simmer. Then he squeezed in the bottle of syrup to make it chocolatey brown. He took his reserve mug out of the cabinet – he only ever used the one since he never had company; he was pleased that in his good forethought, he had bought another just in case – filled it with the steaming liquid, and plopped a daub of light whipped cream on top for effect. He stepped back out onto his porch.

            “I have hot chocolate.” He offered.

            “You again.” The girl said, “Alright, make yourself at home, I suppose. You seem to have already taken the liberty of mentioning chocolate in the middle of my research, so why not disturb me more. But anyway, the data seems to be supporting my hypothesis which is a good sign but I dare say not as interesting as something I had not predicted. Like the cure for cancer – tee hee – in snowflakes. Ha ha ha. You, I suppose, yes, I will take your hot chocolate. Though I doubt very much that the Curies took hot chocolate breaks. No, they worked long into the night until they caught pneumonia, their fingers blistered, and their eyesight went. I suppose I should stay humble and not even consider the possibility that I might ever be ranked among them. It appears there will be no dual Nobel Prize for me – hot chocolate break.”

            She walked up to the porch and followed Alphus inside.

            “What’s your name?” He asked as they sat down at the small kitchen table. He watched her drink.

            “Gauss Anne Worlby,” she said, both hands, a painful shade of red, clasped to her mug. She had to lift her arms up to chest height to get them on the table. She stared into her beverage, watching the bubbles that had collected against the lip slowly pop. She muttered something about surface tension.

            “Doesn’t it bother you?”

Without waiting for him to answer, she continued, “The snow. People seem to forget that non-stop snow for more than twenty years is inexplicable! They accept it, entirely accept it. Just like they’ve done with toasters or with the fact that the immense bulk of this planet does not pull us through the crust and suck us all the way to the core! Doesn’t it bother you? Intrigue you? That the moon doesn’t fall into the ocean and that flowers have five or eight petals but not six or seven? You know that ice floats?”

            “Um,” said Alphus.

            “What’s yours?”


            “Your name, obviously. What’s your name?”

            “Alphus Gibb,” Alphus shrugged.

            He wasn’t sure why he shrugged. He knew that that was definitely his name. He was about to repeat it more confidently and took a breath to speak again as Gauss Anne said,

            “That’s okay. Gibb. It means that at least you may have some relative that went to Cambridge with the rest of them and contributed, even, something to the field of thermodynamics. No, not bad at all. Pleased to meet you, Alphus.”

            Alphus blushed, unsure of what to do with the breath he had just taken.

            “Welp, work to do,” said Gauss Anne and headed to the front door. She had a tendency to shuffle more than walk. She opened the door with a bang and closed it more emphatically. Alphus sighed which was a relief because his head had started to hurt. He continued to sit by himself at the kitchen table thinking nothing. When he was done, he drank the dregs of Gauss Anne Worlby’s hot chocolate. 


The Top Ten Sexiest Aliens of All Time (and Space)

Admission: I didn't actually come up with ten. But if I could actually get a list like that together, wouldn't it be cool? I'm thinking that this could blossom into a wonderful discussion where we help introduce one another to new aliens with giant sex-appeal (and maybe tentacles).

Before we get started, I want to make it clear that I know of many more aliens than those that made this list. I'm not a sci-fi super geek/ expert by any means, but I do have a fondness for the genre and have been steeped in a diluted pot of it since I was a child. (And also, as genres go, I think it's one of the more fun ones.) The list is so short because I found myself being rather picky. Jessica and John (my alien-sexiness panel) talked it over with me and offered many more ideas, but I only wanted to choose those whom I was personally attracted to. Please, feel free to fill the comments with your own preferences.

I placed upon my list two other restrictions:

1. If the alien looks just like a human, their alien attributes must significantly enhance their sex appeal. They can't make the list based on the good-lookingness of the actor who plays them. This is why no Cylons made the list -- the sexiest, in my opinion, of the lot of them is one that you don't even know is a Cylon until very late in the series. And of their Cylon attributes -- how they put their hands into mechanized goo or get rebirthed out of more goo -- nothing can be said. The Cylon Raiders are actually a bit sexy, I think, in the same way that horses are a bit sexy. But John pointed out that they weren't actually aliens anyway since the Cylons were built by Cylons which were built by Cyclons which were [...] which were built by humans.

Jessica was more rigorous in her exclusions. She and her co-workers decided aliens who looked like humans were disqualified altogether.

2. I limited my list to one alien per story/universe/series. I did this because I thought that the post devolving into a close look at why I think the ninth doctor is sexy and the tenth doctor is sexy and the - etc. - would be dull.

So I actually have a top four sexiest aliens of time and space. Drum roll:

4. The Elites

These are aliens from the Halo universe. They are the most powerful alien race among the Covenant (a sort of alien UN). Elites are sexy at least partly because of a lack of competition - the rest of the Covenant is pretty ugly. Brutes are big and stupid, Grunts are small and stupid (but kind of cute), Hunters are large colonies of worms... Elites, though, are bold colors and they're fast and smart and tote an array of phallic-like weapons. (And although they have all those weapons, their seemingly preferred death-blow is a kick to the face, which says, arguably, that they like being close to you.) John takes issue with their backwards-facing knees, but I'm untroubled.

3. Q

From the Star Trek universe, Worf loses out to Q for me, which might be an unpopular choice. (It was to Jessica.) I will admit that somewhat in violation to restriction #1, Q earns several sexiness points for his dashingly well-formed chin. But his alienness helps immensely -- he's somewhat of a contradiction. (And complexity is sexy.) He's humanity's ambassador and judge from the Q Continuum. Their interests are in whether or not humanity deserves to exist; whether or not our potential makes up for the harm we've done to one another and to the universe. It is, essentially, a question of our responsibility, maturity, and goodness; all the while, Q himself acts immaturely and even maliciously. He's a great boy with a magnifying glass and we are his ants. Of course, this could all be a cover for his tenderness towards humanity, and through all his bored-seeming stunts, his pranks, his disrespect of authority, I think he has a deep-seated good heartedness and a desire to see humanity become something more than we thought we could be. 

2. Predator

Obviously. As Jessica points out: dreadlocks and fishnets. I'd like to add to that list his bulging, albeit slimy, quadriceps.

I saw Predator for the first time at Jessica's house in middle school or high school. (I can't remember when, exactly.) She was having a party, maybe a birthday party, and the movie was on in the living room. Since lots of people were over, the movie was muted. I was transfixed. I watched the whole thing - sans sound - and don't remember talking to anyone. After I finished, and most people had gone home, I started the movie over. This time I watched it with the sounds on. That night, when I went to bed, I had a wonderful dream: I dreamt that I was in the jungle, lying next to a lake who's banks were squeamy gray mud. The Predator was looking right at me! and I had to keep covering myself with this mud. I slid slowly and slowly into the lake. The jungle was full of bright greens and teals. I don't know if that sounds like fun, but I had a very good time.

And if that doesn't do it for you, there's still the dreadlocks, fishnets, and irresistible thigh muscles. (Obviously)


Not just a time machine and space ship, the TARDIS is an alien in herself. She gets put (somehow) into a woman's body in one Doctor Who episode. She tells the doctor that she stole him rather than the other way around. And while sexiness is often thought of in terms of a viewer and object - of something to be determined by staring at something and making a static judgement - I think the sexiest trait in someone/somebeing else is the ability and opportunity to go with that person (or, you know, whatever). To  go see other things with that person, to set out for time and space, to be headed in the same direction - especially in a brand new one. 

Because you know what they say: "New directions lead to nude erections" and what's sexier than that?



This is part of serialized short story. I posted the beginning on 11.03.2012, and if you click on the label, “The Adventure of Alphus Gibb,” you can see all the available pieces together. I’ll be posting new segments on Sundays. I hope you like it.

            “Let me just talk this out with you: The starfish cycles of birth and death that I have tabulated and the overall population ODE can be modeled by a Fourier series meaning the total number of starfish base on time, t, of course, is loosely based on an exponential function dependent on the initial population, but here’s what interesting: the birth rates that I have recorded can be modeled by a triangle wave, which is where the Fourier comes in. It appears that the number of births per unit time rises until a point, the end of a period, where the rate drops to zero and then eventually rises again. The wave is half rectified, of course. Oh ho! We can’t have a negative birth rate, now can we? No, starfish crawling back into their genetic lineage is not allowed. At least, I’ve yet to see it. Don’t you think it’s fascinating?”

            Alphus gazed into her eyes, or he tried to at least. Gauss Anne was so excited that she kept gesturing very close to his face and tracing invisible numbers and symbols onto the table. When he wasn’t flinching, Alphus made prolonged eye contact with the tops of her eyebrows.

            Gauss Anne Worlby had not let a lack of school get in the way of her education. In fact, school would probably have hindered her learning experience. She had no patience for the distraction of her peers or for the dull hours spent sitting in a classroom. Like Alphus, Gauss Anne was immensely preoccupied, but her interest in animals and rocks stemmed from their potential as subjects of study and not at all as companions. She would not enter their world as a follower waiting to be initiated but as a Bazaov with notebook in hand. She wanted to get at nature’s secrets, and the only relationships she was interested in were ones like the speed of light’s relation to the medium through which it traveled or a movement’s relationship to the electrical impulse coming from the brain. 


The End of Star Trek

I've watched through "Star Trek: The Next Generation" in the past year and a half (seven-season's worth!), having watched many many episodes live or recorded on VHS when I was younger.

I re-watched the very last episode recently, a two-parter and probably the most excellent stuff the show has to offer (beautiful performances by Patrick Stewart, well-crafted story, heart-wrenching imagination-prying outcomes, etc.).

Captain Picard has become unstuck in time (a la Billy Pilgrim) and is deliriously jumping between three different time periods. In one time, he's just received his assignment as captain of the Enterprise (scenes taking place just before the pilot episode), the second is pretty much present-day as far as the show's arc goes, and in the last one, he's an old man, retired, working in a vineyard, and suffering from an advancing neurological disease. In due course, Q (more on him in a later blog post) shows up and tells the captain that he will be responsible for destroying HUMAN EXISTENCE. (Q even takes the captain to the dawn of life on earth and dips his hand in the primordial soup!) Captain Picard has to convince the crews in all three periods that he's not crazy and to trust him with their lives.

What I think is brilliant about this episode is that it showcases what's undying in that franchise - the reason episodes are still played in movie theaters and that people my age dress up as Deanna Troi for Halloween - the relationships between the characters and the lives they make for themselves on the Enterprise.

[And, really, this is what brings anybody back to a particular TV show. Sure, the situation is necessary: the Jeffersonian must join the FBI to solve murders, there must be an appointed Slayer, the Bluth family must run out of money and have made deals with Sadam Hussein. (There must be a serial killer on the Miami police force.) But without Brennan's and Booth's slow-burning romance, Buffy having her high school buddies and their tweed-clad British librarian, and, well, the family belief that once you open the vodka you have to finish it or else it'll go bad - without those things, without the relationships, nobody would watch.]

The Captain and his crew manage to pull together in all three time periods - overcoming their unfamiliarity in one and the eroding effect of age in another - to save humanity. Q says to Captain Picard, once they've succeeded, "That is the exploration that awaits you -- not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting unknown possibilities of existence." It's a wonderful line, for sure, breaking open the imagination as to what future, well, enterprises the Enterprise could pursue, what new adventures...

But my favorite thing, the master stroke, happens after this. Some of the crew (the senior staff) are in Commander Riker's quarters playing poker. Many episodes have featured similar scenes for their cold opens - the weekly poker game that the crew have made a tradition. The episode and the season and the whole of The Next Generation ends with Beverly losing and Riker raking in all her chips; Deanna joining the group to play; Worf, Geordi, and Data already there; and finally Captain Picard entering to the group's momentary silence. It turns out he's just there to join them, and he sits down at the table. Data gives him the cards to deal, and in the last seconds of the episode he stops and looks up (in a wonderful Patrick Stewart-ian way) and says that this - this playing, this gathering, the hanging out with them - is something he should have done a long time ago.

Because maybe the charting of the most important unknown possibilities of existence is finding out that you don't need to be alone.


Alice Munro

            When I read Alice Munro, I don't get the impression that, like me, she has the need to name things. She writes short stories, and the collection I'm on, Runaway, is called "the synthesizing work of one of literature's keenest investigators into the human soul," according to the back of the book. And while I try to most keenly investigate the human soul in my life, I constantly sweat about figuring out what's going on or what might be going on just beneath the surface of things.

            Munro's primary characters tend to be educated, sexually competent women who are displaced somehow - away from home, but, of course, still in Canada. She builds suspense and arranges her plots around everyday conflict. She captures nuances - or maybe not even nuances but things that are instead, usually, considered to lowly to notice. Things considered feminine or embarrassing or tragic or undignified, those things Cosmo magazine hints at when they make lists like "10 Things You're Doing to Push Him Away." And anyhow, she seems to have these things readily available to put onto the page. I recognize them immediately when she writes, but I can't at all seem to capture them on my own.

            I went home to Colorado a few weekends ago, and I sat at the counter in my parents's kitchen and proclaimed my espoused beliefs to my mother who was making breakfast casserole. "Women disappear after college." I said. "It wasn't until my twenties when I found out that any women were good at cool things - like writing or playing in bands. I got the impression that being female was a great handicap. All that mattered was how I looked." Etc. Etc. My mom looked at me sadly and asked, "What are you fighting against?" At which point, I started to ramble because I don't know, actually; it's so hard to pin down. Being a feminist quickly starts feeling like trying to root out a conspiracy, so I begin talking like a John Berger video. There are academic explanations for what I feel and what I'm trying to express, but they're all pretty dense and I don't usually have the patience for them. And good luck sitting someone down and explaining that they should respect you just as much as a man because there are these things called signs and signifiers and codes and cultural myth that condition your perceptions. (Repent! The end is nigh.)

            Alice Munro, though, does not get so caught up, and she's more soaring than fighting in her prose. Here are two examples:

“Her professors were delighted with her—they were grateful these days for anybody who took up ancient languages, and particularly for someone so gifted—but they were worried as well. […] When the teaching offer came they urged her to take it. Good for you. Get out into the world a bit. See some real life.

             “Juliet was used to this sort of advice, though disappointed to hear it coming from these men who did not look or sound as if they had knocked about in the real world very eagerly themselves. In the town where she grew up her sort of intelligence was often put in the same category as a limp or an extra thumb, and people had been quick to point out the expected accompanying drawbacks—her inability to run a sewing machine or tie up a neat parcel, or notice that her slip was showing. What would become of her, was the question.”
          - “Chance”


                  “Avie never had a job, and nobody expected her to have one, with all those children. But she had more spare time than anybody would have thought, and she spent most of it reading. When the great switch came in women’s lives—when wives and mothers who had seemed content suddenly announced that it was not so, when they all started sitting on the floor instead of on sofas. And took university courses and wrote poetry and fell in love with their professors or their psychiatrists or their chiropractors, and began to say “shit” and “fuck” instead of “darn” and “heck” – Avie was never tempted to join in. Maybe she was too fastidious, too proud. Maybe Hugo was just too much of a sitting duck. Maybe she loved him. At any rate, she was as she was, and reading Leonard Cohen wouldn’t be any help to her.”
-                           - “Axis” 

            Which is why I like fiction - well, one of the reasons. It gets at the same ideas that philosophy does and theology and psychology and sociology and semiotics and cultural criticism, but it does so without having to bludgeon those ideas into a framework. Fiction does not require the author to name the ideas or to prove them. But the story does need to stand up on its own, to make sense, to entertain, and that's hard (maybe impossible) to do without truth, without the author being on to something, being at least somewhat keen in her investigation of the human soul.



This is part of serialized short story. I posted the beginning on 11.03.2012, and if you click on the label, “The Adventure of Alphus Gibb,” you can see all the available pieces together. I’ll be posting new segments on Sundays. I hope you like it.

            No one remembers snow country’s real name. The town was once a bustling spittoon of commerce complete with parks and a hopping Slung Your Jug, where tourists could enjoy gas, donuts and company. Residents lived in the real world amidst the stresses of school, finance and relationships. Then it started to snow.

            When the snow came, Alphus was in fifth grade. He was a quiet boy, intent on finding a special rock each day and stowing it in his pocket. The snow was a light dandruff at first then increased to splotches – like insects dead upon windshields: round and unique, appearing in random patterns, and inconvenient when present in swarms.

            On his birthday, the students were let home early. The snow fell in big web-like chunks. The ground melted the first flakes, but since then no one has seen it. Roofs broke in, and tree limbs sagged. The snow crept up to cover half of bottom-story windows, and let children to jump safely from tall decks and low roofs. The snow built up for about a week, and then, though it continued to fall from the sky, the level on the ground stayed the same.

            School was canceled the day after Alphus’s birthday and the day, the week, and all the years after that. Business’s closed one after another. Only people who lived in their offices and who invested a large amount of their identity in their careers continued to work. Things became rather sedentary. Alphus did not finish elementary school.

            In the mornings, as was his habit, when Alphus donned his robe and fed his quail companions or if he happened to take a walk to see his mother, Alphus would behold his next-door neighbor. Behold: the man had a tan round belly and a hairy chest. This was apparent because he would stand on his driveway in only his lime-green swim trunks and fireman boots and grill himself a bratwurst before noon each day. Alphus tried to avoid his neighbor. The lime-green shade of the swim trunks was unsightly.

            To keep this up, the neighbor would wrestle his truck through the snow over to the food warehouse, and he’d buy the largest pack of bratwursts available. Alphus had seen these packs – dogs wrapped tightly in plastic like spongy teeth or a fleshy anemone. It hurt him psychologically.