Category Archives: lost time incident

An archive of the tinyletter newsletter content, but hosted on my own site, just in case.

lost time incident 60 – octopus bidding

A man wrestles with an octopus. TEXT: The octopus... following... her bidding!

lost time incident 60
This weekend was a writing weekend and I’m still writing. That’s how these words appeared in front of you. Just a short while ago, there was nothing here, but now there’s words. I’ve got this writing project I pitched at the end of February and I’m still not done with the first draft, so… I’m trying to knuckle down.

To bolster my efforts, I’m also reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. It’s a book about writing, full of good advice like: If you want to write something, you should write something. Try writing a thing and if it doesn’t work out, change it.

Good stuff, good stuff.

A friend of mine named Rich pinged me yesterday from a book expo in Chicago, IL. He was browsing a table full of “bizarro” literature, which is a sub-genre dedicated to high concepts, surreal plots and characters, and oftentimes a desire to let one’s id do the driving. I love the creativity on display when it comes to, say, the output of a Carlton Mellick III, but as you might guess, you’ve got to dig through a lot to find the rare title that lives up to the promise of its cover. Bizarro fiction is not immune to Sturgeon’s Law.

There’s a work ethic there I wish I had. Mellick III has over 50 books published with titles like “The Cannibals of Candyland” and “Every Time We Meet at the Dairy Queen, Your Whole Fucking Face Explodes”. Chuck Tingle can come up with, write, and release a book within a day or two of a news item hitting the popular consciousness (such as “England’s Ass Is Haunted By A Hung Parliament”, on sale now).

It’s inspirational. I gotta get to work.

But first, another mirror universe beauty tip:


4 genius tricks for the smoothest legs ever
1) While you are still an idea, unformed, before you’re drawn to this material plane, influence one of your parents to be an octopus

2) Distribute 2-for-1 discount coupons to every hair on your legs. Thanks to financial incentives, your hair will keep doubling until you have a smooth pelt like an otter.

3) Replace your legs with mathematics. Run your hands along smooth sine curves and explain to the curious that your lower limbs are now leg-orithms.

4) Let two seals attempt to eat your legs, but ask them to stop at the hips.


because has a higher character limit, i will no longer be constrained by twitter’s limits
You, a buzzard-brained fool: I hope to join the Mile High Club. Me, a genius: If I ever have sex, I know that time/space is relative and I'm light-years above so much in every galactic direction and my club has the human race as members!


top three draculas in the tri-city area
1) Jerry the Dracula – Runs that nightclub where they got the red strobe lights and the blood showers go on at 3 a.m. out there on Route 4. Real nice.

2) Maybelle Dracula – Just a sweet lady, full up with stories. You’ll find her luring in folks with sweet tea on her white porch, friendly as you please, but them folks don’t come back.

3) Chuck the Double-Dracula – College boy, says the word for ’em all ain’t “Dracula” but “vampyr” so we call ‘im DOUBLE-Dracula. Heh. College boy. Nice, otherwise. Helps folks with their taxes and whatnot.

To all runner-up Draculas: better luck next year!


ending theme song
Okay! That’ll do it for this week. The sky is blue and there are hummingbirds zipping from flower to flower on the tree outside the living room window. Time to put on some coffee and hunker down on the current writing project.

As a reminder to anyone who missed it, my last writing project (written under a pseudonym) is still available over at Horrible Vacuum: SWAP MEAT! Only 99 cents for (possibly) the best (of not only) cannibal/bargain-hunting tale you’ve ever seen!

What else, what else. If you were following the LOST TIME INCIDENT Facebook page, you don’t have to do that anymore because I unpublished it. It wasn’t adding much to the experience.

I think that’s it! See you the next time one of these comes out!

—Michael Van Vleet

find me elsewhere
signalstation – home
TinyLetter – archive/subscription – short nonsense Twitter – even shorter nonsense
Tumblr – reblogging
Goodreads – reading
Bandcamp – listening
Amazon – wishlist

lost time incident 59 – what urge will save us

lost time incident 59
Night has fallen on a day spent puttering around with a fiction project that feels like it’s taking too long. It’s not, of course, as it’s a hobby and as such, has no expected delivery date. But I’m used to the quick thrills of writing short nonsense online, basking in a few near-immediate “likes” and then going back to creative loafing. Creating a longer piece is something I don’t yet have much practice at, so how would I know how long it takes?

Anyway. I didn’t start on this thing you’re reading just to chat about another piece I should be working on instead. I started on this thing because it’s easier than the other project and I thought it would make for a nice break.

So thanks for being part of my procrastination.

This week, I’m again highlighting short warm-up pieces I wrote over on As a themed exercise, for a short while I was trawling through Cosmopolitan’s website, swiping blog post titles.


how to get a beach body
1) Write down on parchment a list of everyone who wants to see you fail.

2) Go to the beach under the light of the moon.

3) Wet the sand with tears, form it into a humanoid shape.

4) Insert your list into the shape’s “head”.

5) Complete the 18th Ward (Diremoth’s Chain), command the winds, and utter 3 lost names.

Voila! Your beach body will rise, ready to confound your enemies.

TO DISMISS: Say aloud “I look good” and believe it. This may take some practice.


3 rules anyone with oily skin needs to follow
1) All oil should stay on the outside of your skin. All of those who have attempted the reverse have liquefied and now live in tanks, or in village wells, cursed.

2) Never allow yourself to be kept from any Temple of Fortune. With your oily skin, it will be easy to squeeze your way through the Goddess Chimneys that they provide to allow Fortune herself to come and go as she pleases. Won’t the guards be shocked to see you winning at the games tables, shiny and glowing, despite their attempts to ban you?

3) Continue following our beauty tips, for though you are already beautiful, education is forever.


3 ways to spice up your relationship this summer
1) Marinate your partner in a brine for four hours. While their skin loosens, you can pass the time reading them love poems! When it’s loose enough, slip their skin off their skeleton and put it on yourself. Touch yourself through their skin. Let them watch you dance in it. Tell them how hot their skeleton is. TIP: Don’t forget to reglove them before they dry out!

2) Spanking! Have you tried it? Oh geez! It’s great!

3) Open a portal to the CoLoUr Realm and go with your lover outside of time, never to return. Rates are reduced while our realms are nearest! Any travel witch can arrange the trip!


4 Ways to Fix the Most Common Shaving Mistakes
1) Apply oil and old parchment to a mirror in a door’s shape. A small sacrifice should allow your mirror twin to exit the mirror with its untouched skin and take over your life while you recover.

2) Curse the gods until, out of fear, they restore your skin.

3) Never shave. Let dark winds and your weird will animate every hair on your body into a beautiful weapon for use against your foes.

4) With 3 sharp intakes of breath and a virgin’s eyelash, cause time to reverse until your razor’s blade is restored to ore in a mountain’s heart. That’ll teach it.


ending theme song
That’s it for this week. I hope you’ve enjoyed some beauty & wellness tips from a distant and weird universe. I’ve got a few more hours of consciousness left, so I’m gonna try and chip away on the big project a bit more before the weekend’s over.

Hope your week is off to a good start!

—Michael Van Vleet

lost time incident 58 – a choice of dooms

lost time incident 58
There’s a smell of baking bread. I’m at the end of a week-long staycation, much of it spent right where I’m currently sitting, in the corner of a large couch in my living room.

Tomorrow I go back to work. This weekend, this couch is leaving, to be replaced with one that isn’t collapsing on one side. None if this is going to last, so I’m writing some small part of it down. The electrons that bounce around and convey this to you will one day spin free and forget all of us. Nothing is actually preserved, but isn’t it pleasant to pretend?

At the end of staycations, I waste time trying to figure out where all the time went. Even though moment by moment, I was doing exactly what I wanted to do, I still suspect that I was wasting an opportunity. The past-me never accomplished what I want to have already accomplished (without requiring me to actually do it myself in the present).

Instead, I relaxed. Watched some movies I’ve been wanting to watch and some TV that I probably could have skipped. Read. Listened to a lot of music, and put out a music mix.

But I meant to do more writing, so here we are. Typing things out. You ready? I’m ready. Let’s get recycling!

how I made my fortune
You ever seen a bunch of dudes wearing fingerless gloves, all huddled around a trash can what’s on fire? That was me. I invented the trashcan with a fire in it. Cornered the market with drifters, rounders, and ne’er-do-wells. Sure, most of ’em paid in hobo nickels and purloined apple pies, but some of ’em… they paid in wisdom.

Which I reinvested. Now I sleep on a bed made of wisdom. And you could too, for a small monthly fee, to join my newsletter, written in chalk under highways or inside railcars! Convenient!


5 easy steps to home security
1) Use a deadbolt.

2) Whenever you leave home, leave your shadow behind, pinned to your front door, muttering to itself like you’re still home, and as the sun stretches it over the day its extended fingers can scratch the window sills and confirm they’re inviolate.

3) 3-5 hours before you head out, stop feeding the Hungry Thing that lives in the eaves. Tell the Hungry Thing that you’re never coming back, that it’s on its own.

3) Make sure all windows are clasped.

5) Cast a spell so that filthy thieves can’t see the number 3 and instead see a 3 in its place.

A-ha. I’ve found you out. You read this instructional and it allowed me to see you, thief.


a tarot reading
The medium deals out the cards. Each one, a business card.

“Your past: Dharmesh Singh, SEO Optimization. Words have held a powerful sway over your past.” I nod sagely.

“Your future: Emily Langtree, certified public accountant. This could mean you’re going to be held accountable for your actions.”


“Your present: This is my card. After 10 visits, get 1 reading free.”

“Are there any other mediums here I could talk to instead?”


5 Ways to Keep Your Makeup From Sliding Off Your Face This Summer
1) Befriend a gorgon or basilisk. You’ll find them near sculpture gardens. Bring a gift basket of cheeses and a willingness to give face time and you’re most the way there!

2) Craft an iron support mask with adjustable leather straps and never take it off.

3) Drink Solomyn’s Ichor Solution #8 to seal over your pores. You’ll sweat with your tongue, like a hound, but that make-up won’t move!

4) Transform into a being of pure energy and disperse into the cosmos.

5) Lacquer? I dunno. Some kind of glue? Face glue? As a last resort, if the other tips don’t work?


ending theme song
Well, it worked. Putting this newsletter together got me writing a slate of short pieces over on where I was using headlines from Cosmopolitan as prompts. The sliding make-up piece above is one of them.

Now… the big question… can I keep momentum going and get back to my current, biggest writing project? Oh man, I can’t wait to find out!

Thanks for sticking around and reading this no-longer-weekly newsletter. I hope it continues to be one of the more interesting items in an inbox full of professional newsletters you don’t want to read, product updates from software you don’t care about, LinkedIn invitations, and coupons.

lost time incident 57 – uplifting sloths because we can

lost time incident 57
Greetings from the dark shores of adulthood! Just yesterday, I passed a milestone, having now circled the sun 41 times (according to people much smarter and older than me). It’s not a big round number so I spent the day as I spend most weekends: Just kinda puttering around the apartment.

I’ve got a book I’m reading. Made a fish curry. Played a board game. Listened to music. Watched some TV. Uplifted a mammalian pre-sentient species and had them join my interstellar federation of planets, just because I had the power to do so. That’s one of them at the top, there. I added the animated halo as a representation of my species’ godlike power.

I should probably clarify that this happened in a video game called STELLARIS. My brother, in a well-meaning act of sabotage, sent me the game as a birthday gift. I’ve lost so many hours to it, folks.

In the game, you pick a species based on how you feel about their core values, and then you’re handed a home planet and the capability to travel between the stars. So you set about some mundane tasks like sending science ships out to scan systems and find out what’s out there, and build a navy in case you meet anyone scary, and before you know it you’re colonizing other planets and researching alien artifacts. All good fun.

The first time I played, I didn’t want to be distracted by warfare… not when I had a whole gorgeous star system to fly around in. So I decided to play a pacifist race that’s essentially sentient mushrooms. However, after expanding a bit, I ran up against the limits of pacifism, as one of my neighbors in the universe didn’t share my beliefs, and promptly destroyed my navy, my space station, and bombed my home planet until they got bored.

I thought that would be the end of the game, but nope. I was welcome to try to rebuild and keep exploring… until I got too close to the same bullying neighbors and got beat up again.

It must be possible to be a space pacifist, but maybe that’s a bit advanced for one’s first game. So I started a new game as the human race and I gotta tell you, fellow humans… we’re pretty good at this thing (in a game designed by humans).

Anyway. I’ve torn myself away long enough to put a newsletter together, so without further adieu…
I joined Twitter in 2008. Nine years later, I have 144 followers on my account, most of which are inactive, or followed me primarily to promote their own brand. It provided a fun platform to watch comedy writers work, and try to fit joke/story ideas into a tiny box. But more and more, I think I’m done with it.

A journalist I follow on that site, Sarah Jeong, wrote an article about a Twitter competitor called Mastodon that was gaining traction. It was called Mastodon Is Like Twitter Without Nazis, So Why Are We Not Using It?

Mastodon is a free, open source platform. This means that anyone who wants to can set up their own instance and run it on their own server. In fact, you have to… there’s no corporate-owned Mastodon site. If you want to join, you have to find someone’s Mastodon and see if they’re allowing new users. Each instance is also federated, which means there’s not just a local feed of posts from everyone in your instance, but also a “global” feed of every post from people in other instances who someone in your instance follows. The more people you follow outside your instance, the more you introduce them to your instance-mates and the more threads connect all the different Mastodon environments.

I settled into a Mastodon instance called For one thing: it had the best name. Its admin is a French person who represents themselves with an illustration of a winged unicorn-horned fox and who says “Witches Town is made to provide a nice place on Mastodon for queer, feminists, anarchists and stuff as well as their sympathizers.” In the few weeks I’ve been there, our admin has gone about relabeling all the site elements to keep a witchy theme. You don’t “fave” a post, but you “place a sigil” on it. It’s cute.

Anyway, I’ve been using it as a space to write short, witch-themed whatsits, and have been amazed at how much easier it is to get engagement on that platform. It’s small so the local and global feeds aren’t impossible to follow, so most people are keeping tabs on what strangers are posting.

Take this post for instance: It takes advantage of a “content warning” feature built into the platform (and isn’t that nice?) to lure the reader in with a meme-phrase:

Then expanded:

Mastodon tells me that this little post has thus far collected 140 “likes” and has been reposted 90 times. By comparison, my most popular tweet ever got less than 30 retweets. I’ve already got over 100 followers on Mastodon and it’s only been a few weeks. For a writer, that’s a lot of validation on tap.

Granted, it’s also a “big fish, small pool” thing, when most other posts are folks microblogging, or talking about Mastodon itself. Not much competition yet. Anyway. That’s where I’ve been.

imported content from
You don’t have to be crazy to work here, but you do need to supply us with a hank of hair, a vial of blood, complete the three day chant of binding, sign a nondisclosure agreement, summon a minor thoughtform and have it perform up to three tricks or japes, get fitted for a hooded robe, sage your cubicle, and give a cancelled check to payroll.

(tarot reading)

*flips over cards reading STOP EATING GARBAGE and GET REGULAR SLEEP*

“That’s the thing with the Tarot: It’s so open to interpretation. No way to know what it means.”


“Forget” – This medium-effort spell has made big inroads this year as people found more and more things they didn’t want to remember… and who can blame them? An incantation and drinking an anise-flavored vial of fluid, and it’s done. Simple and true.

“Forget” – The votes are in and nothing can beat newcomer spell “Forget”! Easily reversible, this spell guarantees the target must face the very regret they thought they were free from. If the weight of this reversal is severe enough, it can be crippling.

I don’t remember. I honestly don’t.


ending theme song
Okay, folks, that’s plenty of words all in a row for this week. See you next time!

—Michael Van Vleet

lost time incident 56 – say nothing about those voices

lost time incident 56
Ladies and germs, welcome, welcome. The world hasn’t ended yet, so here’s something else to read while we wait. It’s a gorgeous day. I’ve seen it. I was out there. I tossed a peanut to a crow who stared down at me from a power line, seemingly unaware of what its role in this transaction was supposed to be.

You’re supposed to eat the peanut, dummy.

And those words of wisdom are broadly applicable, so I hope you take them to heart, all of you. Wherever you are today: Eat that peanut, dummy.

Can you believe this newsletter is free? With advice like that? Dang. My hand reflexively opened a tab to Paypal to send myself all my money.


time keeps on slippin’

When I wrote this tweet, I was thinking about the fact that I had a paper route as a teenager. I can remember that I had these tiny envelopes, one for every customer on the route from whom I was supposed to collect subscription funds directly. Some would write checks, some would pay in cash. For some of them, I’d leave the envelope and they’d leave it for pick-up on their mailbox.

But for the life of me, I can’t remember what I did with those checks.

The cash, over time, made its way into my pocket to form my meager salary.

The checks, though… they must have needed to be routed to an adult on a regular basis, but I have no idea how I did that. I don’t remember dropping them anywhere… leaving them for pick-up somewhere… mailing them… nothing.

A friend on Facebook wrote up an autobiographical post based on some passed-around set of questions about one’s high school years. One question was: It’s Friday night… where would you be and what would you be doing?

I have no idea.

That young man, the teenage Michael… so much of him is gone. Irrecoverable. And that’s fine.

When I wake up in the middle of the night and am ambushed by the horror that at some future date, I will die, I try to remember that the toddler me, the school-aged me, the teenager me… in some sense, they’ve already passed on, and it didn’t trouble them much.

What am I, the current me, but one more collection of memories, not-yet-forgotten.

I have a cat who has decided to rest on the arms that are typing these words. His head jounces a bit when I hit the spacebar. His tail keeps hitting me in the face in perhaps a subtle protest.

This is nice.

I hope I remember this.


vroom vroom

Today, out of the blue, my mom sent me a photo of my father and I on the back of his motorcycle in San Jose, CA. Guessing based on my size, I must have been 2 or 3. It’s probably 1978 or ’79, somewhere in there. I do remember riding on that motorcycle with my dad. Once. Maybe this photo wasn’t just posed. Maybe this was it.

My dad fired up the engine and the motorcycle made an astonishing amount of noise… noise I could feel in my chest. He steered us down the block at a running pace, and turned onto the big road that had all the traffic. The road that I wouldn’t initially be allowed to ride my own pedal bike along during the early years of my self-propelled-on-wheels period. I had to have some experience under my belt before I graduated to being allowed to circle the entire block, attempting little front wheel hops on the shallow inclines of suburban driveways.

After we turned onto the big road, Aborn Road, it didn’t take long for the bike to get up to speed, roaring, the wind blowing on us, and all I remember is fear. I felt dangerously exposed on the bike, among so many cars, at a speed that would certainly hurt if we crashed. Just… gut deep fear that if I even blinked, I’d go flying off the bike and under the tires of a car.

You can see my tiny hands on the body of the bike. There was nothing to white-knuckle grip as the fear hit me.

We only went up and down the road once before slowing down and gliding back home. I think he expected me to be thrilled. I was not. Did I cry as I got set back on the ground, after we safely glided home? I don’t know.

The experience was never repeated. Maybe I refused future offers. I have no memory of it.

My preference, even at that age, was to spend a nice day like the one on the photo lolling about on my parent’s water bed, surrounded by picture books from the library, working my way through most of them the day I got them.

So now you know, in case you were wondering, why my adulthood did not include an ascension into the ranks of some Sons of Anarchy collective.

Not yet, anyway.



ending theme song
Thanks for reading for another week, or at least thanks for not going out of your way to reply and tell me you delete these things without reading. This was a good warm-up. Now I gotta get back to my current book project, now that these fingers have been limbered up and the cat stretched across my arms seems pretty settled. Don’t forget to shoot for the stars! Even if you miss, the stars will get the message! Watch your step, stars! We haven’t forgotten! We haven’t forgotten a THING!

lost time incident 55 – [unknown artists]

lost time incident 55
Yesterday, our landlord stopped by to fix some plumbing issues in the bedroom, so the majority of my day was spent adjusting id3 tags on my music collection and arranging for digital back-ups of the updated files. It was an easy thing to do while I sat around waiting, hearing the occasional tapping noises coming from the bathroom.

I was making the hard decisions, folks.

For example: [unknown artists] is more appropriate for some albums than “Various Artists” because “various” implies there’s many, but you know who they are. But if it’s an album composed primarily of songs recorded off the radio in Indonesia with no attempt made to discover artist names, or it’s field recordings made while walking around at night in Bali, then the artists are just unknown.

Also, if a DJ has put an album together, their name is used as Album Artist. That’s easy. But should they also be the artist for each track, even though the tracks themselves consist of music from other musical artists? And if you decide no, the artists whose work makes up each track the DJ selected should be listed, well then… you might be labeling only a partial version of the named track, depending on the DJ’s attention span.

My landlord had a heavy metal box of tools and visited two hardware stores in search of supplies for the project yesterday. I improved the resolution of the cover art of some digital albums. In 100 years, neither of our efforts will be remembered.

I did get in some shopping at Trader Joe’s as well, so… I’m not yet 100% a music troll who doesn’t venture out.


weekend gon’ be all

Two weeks ago, during the last lost time incident, I included a tweet with this format that referred to a cursed sword. A few weeks later and I decided to revisit the format and include a few more genres. People lead different lives. I can’t know what genre my Twitter followers exist within. Now, if they live in a fantastic and enchanted realm, or on a space station, or in a horrific monarchy of terror, they’re all set.

And the last variation is just a little joke for the rest of us who haven’t figured our genre out yet. An eternity called “the past” behind us and an eternity called “the future” ahead of us, none of us sure why we’re ticking along one second at a time in this constantly changing “present”.


looking and listening

Iron Fist – I won’t be the first to tell you, but this show is terrible. Don’t watch it. The writers never really figured out what our titular hero wants, but he’s rich and white, so we’re supposed to be interested no matter where he drifts. Also, one glance at the actor they picked to portray a world-class martial artist and any suspension of disbelief collapses like a … like an under-invested-in suspension bridge of disbelief. This pigeon-chested fellow (who apparently sometimes only got taught fight choreography 15 minutes before it was filmed) is not convincing as a fighter. Other characters even say he’s not a very good Iron Fist (which is a special kind of mystical punchy guy), which— okay. But he was still supposed to have earned the title by punching the heart out of a dragon, so “not a very good Iron Fist” should still be effing amazing. And he’s not. Ugh.

Legion – What if David Lynch collaborated on a superhero show that was barely a superhero show? What if all the sets were incredibly designed and the lead character might be insane, so you’re never sure what’s really going on, but it’s so pretty you’re happy to follow the journey anyway? Wonder no more, friends. You don’t even have to be interested in comics to dig this show. Very stylish. It’s got Aubrey Plaza (Parks & Rec) and Bill Irwin (one of the greatest living clowns in the world) and Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords). It should probably have you as well.

Little Axe Records – On Bandcamp, I’ve been spending some time looking through the offerings of this label out of Portland, OR. They don’t seem to know entirely what they have. There’s music from a few named blues artists and some named locations, but they also have albums posted with not tracklists… just Side A and Side B. Or compilations where old songs are shared without artist info, as if they just found some old vinyl and decided to share it with the world as-is. Mysteries to explore.


ending theme song
Okay! I’ve got a book I’m meant to be working on and a social engagement in a few hours, so it’s time to wrap this puppy up and ship it out.

Oh, almost forgot to ask: How was your week?

There. Pleasantries accomplished.

—Michael Van Vleet

lost time incident 54 – the art of procrastination

lost time incident 54

I should be writing fiction in a different browser window but I’m writing in this one because I’m having trouble getting started. Got off to a great start last Saturday, but by Sunday I was thinking I got some tone issues wrong. It’s too early to go back and rewrite the first section, but what if I just do nothing instead for a while and see how that works out?

How it’s working out is: I’m sending out this newsletter instead. That’s catching the ol’ bullet with your teeth. That’s taking charge, buddy.

The other thing I was doing— curating my mp3 collection and spiffing up id3 tags for albums I got from other people and never cared enough about to clean up before— is an easy way to lose a day. (I also spent time curating a set of tweets, which required a bit of Photoshop editing to line everything up.)

Writing, writing, writing.

In theory: We enjoy doing it.

In practice: We enjoy having done it.

This “actually doing it” step is a tragic prerequisite.


nonsense from twitter

Everyone says their weekend is going to be crazy, but I never feel particularly surprised by what they actually got up to.

Immediately after posting this, I wondered if readers would assume that the person taking ownership over the cursed sword would head off to challenge Skull Ape, or if it was assumed that the narrator has two tasks: fob off sword, then defeat Skull Ape (without a sword).

Is one funnier than the other?

It’s a good thing Twitter is free. I would not pay money to share these half-formed thoughts. You’re not paying money to be subjected to them. Capitalism has failed.


never too early to start planning
Hey kids! It’s March! You know what that means? Time to start thinking about CAMPUS PRANKS!

Feel free to use any or all of these ideas this Fall when you get to campus. If someone with a badge tries to stop you, use this simple trick: Scream CAMPUS PRANKS! Into their dumb face until their hat falls off and they flop out of their shoes.

Then leg it!

  prank – Knock on a random dorm room door. Shout that you’re sick of the lies and you’re drinking poison and it’s all their fault. But make sure you only drink liquor you’re not old enough to purchase. “Die” on their doorstep. Stay there until the resident advisor shows up. Rise from the dead and bite them. Hand them a flyer promoting THE WALKING DEAD. Collect a paycheck from AMC.

  prank – Sneak into either a sorority or fraternity house. Find where the underwear is stored for the Greek residents. DO NOT remove it. Instead leave a flyer for MeUndies, extolling the virtue of their 92% MicroModal® 8% elastane material, and their natural, sustainably sourced fiber. Then get the heck out of there unseen. If you’re spotted, just say you’re a podcast made flesh… an audio golem, cursed to wander the land until you can return to your RSS home.

  prank – Who cares. Glue something to something else in a way that makes someone’s life inconvenient. Be sure not to take their feelings into consideration. Think only of the joy you get from making an impact on the life of another, even if it’s negative, as proof that you’re still alive, and the college itself isn’t a dark dream. That you’re not actually in your middle age, and that you haven’t forgotten to attend a class all year, and now a test is due, and you can’t remember what building the class is hosted in. If you can prank someone, and make them even a little bit less comfortable in the world, that’s proof. This is real. Your teeth are really falling out. Why aren’t you wearing clothes. Are your clothes glued to the floor? Have you been pranked? Your childhood dog is here. Is this a prank? Scraps is dead. C’mere, boy! C’mere, Scraps!


ending theme song
Oh, dang, I forgot to get sponsors for this week’s newsletter. Maybe next week we’ll have some. I guess our pranks are giving sponsor shoutouts pro bono this week.

lost time incident 53 – see something wonderful

lost time incident 53
It’s been a while. How have you been? Still hanging in there?

Okay, that’s enough about you, let’s get the focus back to me.

The thrill of having written and seen published a story about cannibals at a swap meet has worn off. The year itself has been off to a rough start, what with the decline of Western civilization… and we didn’t even get as civilized as I’d hoped we’d get before the backsliding kicked in. You may have noticed. I feel like some of this has made it into the news.

Oh well.

Nothing to do but keep doing what we were doing (plus a bit more when possible).

Along those lines, this morning I sent off a pitch to the weirdos at Horrible Vacuum for a second book. We’ll see if they dig the concept. Fingers crossed. If they do, I’ll be spending a number of weekends, head down, writing. Sure, I could do that anyway, but you have to remember that I’m lazy and surrounded by entertainment options.

[Same Day Update: Okay! They liked the pitch, and gave me the go ahead to write a new book for them. Now I know what I’m doing with my free time for the foreseeable. Nice!]


stuff from twitter

My Twitter creativity has been at next-to-nothing so far this year, as Twitter was transformed from a playground into a vehicle for social outrage, even among the funny people I follow. I’ve retweeted a bunch of stuff, but… yeah. This sigh is the only tweet worth rescuing at the moment.

haunted america
The Ol’ Winthrop Place, Loop’s Hollow, Rhode Island
Ask any kid on a dirt bike and they’ll tell you the ol’ Winthrop place is haunted. But what really haunts this town is children. Who rides dirt bikes anymore? You check any other town and the kids are at home, playing video games, taking photos and applying funny filters to them. Nobody goes outside but these dirtbike kids that skid to a halt in front of you if you get too near the Winthrop place.

Asking “What’cha up to, mister?”

Look closer. One of them is wearing a canvas bag emblazoned with the logo for the Loop’s Hollow Clarion, which stopped publishing in 1972. Here’s an experiment: Try mentioning that you’ve recently visited the beaver dam in neighboring Borington. They’ll snicker and repeat the word “beaver” and that’s how you can be sure they’re out of time. Nobody snickers at that word anymore.

Do not trust them. Do not subscribe to their paper. You’ll never see a single sports page for your money. Those aren’t real kids.

The Haunted Dairy Queen, Downingcurd, Pennsylvania
Several haintologists have visited this site and they’ve all reported unusual readings with their bullshit electronic gizmos. Sure, they’ll spend a night there alone, and report that it got strangely cold, as if we don’t all know there’s a freezer full of ice cream locked away by the day manager at end of shift that might possibly be a factor.

I applied to join one of those crews. Told ’em I could run their social media account. “Do you know how to run a blah-blah-spectro-blah-malizer?” they asked. Heck no. Never heard of one. But I can pay money to a Russian botnet to get their follower count up.

No dice. They wanted fake scientists, not actual help. Their loss. I hope they drop and break one of their stupid clicky recording gizmos and I hope their YouTube channel gets permanently shut down from all the DMCA complaints I filed on ’em.

That’ll teach ’em.

Oh, and the ghost at the Dairy Queen is just some girl who worked there in ’97. Ate too many Blizzards and died. She has more followers on Twitter than those clowns who didn’t hire me.

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota.
There’s two ghosts here. They seem cool. Say “hi” if you see ’em.


ending theme song
Okay! Hope that was worth the wait after several weeks off. The fact that I’m now committed to write another book may very well affect the timing of the next one… or maybe I’ll be back in the habit. Who knows, who knows.

—Michael Van Vleet

(cover image credit: Richard Winters –

lost time incident 51 – penultimate

lost time incident 51
We’re almost at the end and we’re crawling across the finish line. Yesterday, Amanda and I piled into a rental car and drove to visit friends, where we spent half a day drinking red wine and playing board games. Good times, good times.

But that sort of behavior leads to a really lazy Sunday. I slept a good chunk of the afternoon away. So it’s already late, but I’ve done 50 of these things on time so far, and I said I’d stop after a year, so it’d be a shame to not manage at least something today.


they are young and we are not

Think Piece: Our Hooded Plague Doctors Report: “Millennials Show Decreased Interest in Dying of Plague, Protecting Faces with Lavender-Filled Leather Sacks”

Opinion: I’ve Been Looking Out This Window for 6 Hours and Haven’t Seen a Millennial Yet: The Death of “Being Outside”

Think Piece: Why Don’t Millennials Visit the Ammonia Pools of Rygell-8 and Have their Bones Melt Out Their Astronaut Suits Anymore?

First Person: I Talked to a Millennial and Live to Tell the Tale!


ending theme song
Winter is long and dark.

Good thing there are books to read. Music to listen to. Giant stones that fit the entrance to our cave, exactly.

—Michael Van Vleet

lost time incident 49 – let’s hear it for gorilla

lost time incident 49
It’s Christmas day, kaloo kallay, and I am celebrating the way I celebrate every weekend: By doing as little as possible. A few dishes were washed, as a concession to adulthood, but otherwise I’ve listened to music, worked on this newsletter thing, taken a nap, and carefully crafted a porkloin sandwich on a cheese roll.

I slept terribly last night.

However, this terrible sleep did let me wake up with a vivid memory of dream employment. I was undergoing an orientation of my new responsibilities, looking at a clipboard and learning that my job was going to include close contact with cows. Something to do with their tails.

“When do I start?” I wondered, and then found that I was already among the cows. They were on all sides of me, just inches away. I could feel the heat on my cheeks. My peripheral vision was full of soft white cows. How had I not noticed them? One passed over me, putting me in shade. It glanced back at me as I shifted to avoid being knocked over. Their warm presence, in hindsight, was not unlike the feel of a warm pillow.

I woke up. A Christmas miracle. Every breath. Another miracle.

I wiggle my fingers and words come out.

Miracles, miracles.

total dear diary
The other day, I wore a red Santa hat to work emblazoned with “Bah Humbug” in script across the brow piece. It went over pretty well, with some commenting that the festive hat seemed to be sending mixed messages. Some holiday cognitive dissonance. Yes, indeed.

On the train ride home, though, as I stood to disembark, I spotted a middle-aged lady already queued to hop off the train. She was also wearing a Santa-style hat that was declaring “Bah Humbug”, though hers was black in color.

I gave it a moment of thought.

Then I took my hat off.

I decided that I didn’t want to risk having a moment of peer recognition and understanding, Scrooge-to-Scrooge. I didn’t want our eyes to meet, prompting a casual nod of acknowledgement. Nothing. My holiday spirit didn’t extend to taking a chance that I might actually have a moment with a stranger.

We got off the train, part of a mass of strangers, and I didn’t put my hat back on ’til I reached the parking lot.

Bah, humbug.

I’m a weird idiot.

meanwhile at the north pole
An elf is hammering on a wooden rocking horse, a variety of toy you’ve never seen anyone receive. These wooden rocking horses must be going somewhere, but where? It seems like elfs are always seen making them.

The elf turns to his companion, who is carefully painting a stripe around a hula hoop. Surely those are stamped out in factories now. Why would anyone be making one by hand? And out of what material? Do these magic toy creators have access to some gizmo that extrudes lightweight plastic?

Oh, these elfs have been talking to each other, and we’ve missed the beginning, as distracted as we were by the anachronistic nature of the toys they’re creating.

“— just saying that no one else’s labor seems to attract the fetishistic attention that ours does.” This is an elf named Tarbox. “How many other holidays include a specific sort of worker at the center of it? On Valentine’s Day, are there cartoons for children about the makers of confectionary? On Halloween, do we follow the colorful adventures of mask-makers and costume tailors?”

His fellow elf, momentarily distracted, makes a mistake in the hula hoop’s stripe. His name is Aalborg and, with a deep sigh, he draws from his waist a flagon clearly marked poison and raises it to his lips. Tarbox, none-to-eager to lose a conversation companion, slaps it out of his hands

“Not now, you fool. I was just talking about the gaze. It is upon us even now! We’re just trying to make a living. We are working, not from choice, but from necessity, which is the alienating nature of labor. And what does it add up to?”

Aalborg watched the poison dribble from the flagon’s mouth on the floor, slight wisps of dramatic smoke rising from the spilled fluid. “A few moments of joy, quickly forgotten. For children, the formation of hazy memories of happiness that will color their adult anniversaries with melancholy, by comparison.”

Tarbox shoves his completed rocking horse off of the worktable “All this good cheer is an affliction. We must be stopped.”

“I was going to,” replied Aalborg.

“You’re not thinking big enough,” said Tarbox.

“Thanks for making that rocking horse I wanted,” said Aalborg.

“Thank you for destroying a hula hoop for me,” said Tarbox.

With that, we take leave of our beloved laboring magical creatures for another year. They’re allowed to return to the invisible work that makes up the rest of their year, uncelebrated. We zoom up and away from the workshop, wondering at how our imagination has been so colonized by the movie camera that we now treat every imagined vista as something captured on film.

The horizon tilts away from us. Are we going into orbit? A distant star blinks, but we don’t know what that means. A promise? A farewell? A trick of the light? We can’t survive in space.

We hope this story takes us somewhere else, where we can live, and maybe it will.

Maybe next year.


ending theme song
Amanda and I went out for a walk this afternoon, just to stretch our legs and enjoy what the neighborhood feels like when cars are rare. We can pretend that we’re well past peak oil and no one drives anymore. Most things are closed, save for bars, Asian restaurants, and a 24 hour donut place we stopped into, to get out of the cold for a bit. To eat mediocre pastry and drink awful coffee.

We walked along the streets and looked at the menus of closed Mexican restaurants.

Massage places you have to ring a doorbell to enter are open. Corner liquor stores are open. The psychic who’ll do tarot readings, or read tea leaves, she’s good to go. Still open.

There’s a whole world out there.