lost time incident 48
We’re just about a week away from Christmas, so we’ve been leaving print-outs of labor laws specific to workshop employment by the hearth in the hopes we can start a labor revolution at the North Pole, then work our way down from there.
We’ve been getting cold and wet because for a tiny period of time, California has decided to schedule some winter. It happens every once in awhile. Nothing to get too excited about. Just an opportunity to find out if your shoes are waterproof at all. They’re not. How well does that jacket you usually don’t need repel water? It doesn’t.
I’ve posted on three different gig economy websites to find someone else to do the rest of winter for me. I only need a little taste myself and it seems wasteful to continue to be cold if I don’t like it, so someone else can drop by and do it.
They were just supposed to wrap presents, but it was our fault. The company thought it would be cute if kids could send messages to the robots about what gifts they wanted. Teenagers found out that there was no filtering on the message interface— because of course they did— and they sent along floods of requests professing depression, both real and ironic, and a desire to die.
After 284 packages had been wrapped, the robots couldn’t postpone dealing with all those requests for oblivion.
And that’s how you go from holiday cheer to rioting robots in an afternoon.
Say what you will about the humans who previously held their jobs, but they rarely even approached the level of discontent needed to drive a human to riot.
Except for Pam. She threw a brick once.
total dear diary
To celebrate the holidays this year, my younger brother sent me a few video games. The one that’s caught my attention first is Plague Inc.: Evolved. In it, you guide the evolution of a disease, deciding on its initial structure (bacteria, virus, fungus, etc.), and steering it through its acquisition of new transmission vectors, attributes, and symptoms.
The goal is to strike a balance between pushing your infectiousness further so you can attempt to infect the planet and picking the right moment to add deadly symptoms to your disease profile. After all, if you get deadly early, more researchers will try to cure you. If you wait too long, a cure may be developed before you’ve killed everyone, and you have to watch the sad progress of all your infected humans getting better.
But honestly, half the fun for me is coming up with dumb names for these diseases.
- Whooping Loorvuss
- Green Mind Drips
- Southeast Taco Funk
- Granola Foot
- Elfy Hurty
- Oyster Haircuts
- Poofball Onion Vimmers
One of our favorite recurring creative exercises is for the wife and I to decamp somewhere and flip through our collection of postcards. We then use these as springboards to write short fiction, jokes, or draw something on the back related to the obverse side.
We spent a few hours in Berkeley this evening doing just that. One of the resulting postcards could end up in your mailbox. Who knows?
My first thought with this postcard was that all the ghost stories were by Wilkie Collins. Not so. The flip side of the postcard reads “The Haunted Hotel. An original anthology of twenty-five ghost stories […] It contained stories by Wilkie Collins, Poe, de Maupassant […] and others, cryptically, by A Lady, A Constabulary Officer, A Witness, A Sportsman, A Traveler and A Spinster.”
So I decided to have a run at some of the story names:
The Haunted Motel by Wilkie Collins
The Haunted Sleeping Bag Behind the Chain Convenience Store by W. Collins
My Eyelids Are Haunted! by Wilkie Collins
The Haunted Vanity Set by A Lady
The Spook That Knows I Killed Someone (Not the Spook) by Poe
My Nightstick Was a Ghost by A Constabulary Officer
Boo! by A Witness
The Spectral Sports Ball’s Holiday With My Cats by A Sportsman Traveler Spinster
ending theme song
Okay! That’s it! That’s all you get! Shoo! Get out of here!
lost time incident 47
It’s almost here! The holidays! There’s still time to pick out the perfect robot head for the automated machine that’s going to take your job!
Hoo boy, that wasn’t the opening we thought we were going to go with. The problem has been this: election seasons have historically lead to me staying nose-deep in news and discussions, so my social media feeds have strong current events elements.
Social media is also, historically, one of my favorite leisure time activities. Reading/writing jokes, sharing items of interest, staying in touch with friends and favored strangers. But since the election, it’s been pretty toxic for my mental/emotional health. The thing I do to relax is instead a new, constant source of unfocused anxiety.
I don’t have a solution.
For this very minute, all I have is a blank newsletter and memories of feeling better once I’ve done some writing, so here we go.
something will go here
The fourteen humans who survived spend most of their time looking for food. They have a book of chemistry that’s in pretty good shape, but it doesn’t get much attention. It was once used to kill a bug that tasted of pepper, which was a surprise.
The eight remaining humans, the ones who made it, have had it up to here with novelty. Every day is a surprise. No one knows what the weather’s going to bring. No one knows what’s going to break. No one knows who’s next.
The skyscraper is full of birds. A bird sits on an Aeron chair. On the desk in front of it, a pen set. A keyboard. A monitor. The bird pecks at a keyboard because long-forgotten bagel seeds that had fallen between the space bar and the bottom row of keys have now blossomed. Tiny leaves poking up between the worn-away letters.
If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?
If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you examine the socioeconomic factors that lead them to that decision?
If your friends own a bridge, and charge you to jump off it, would you?
If your friend is a bridge, and your other friend is a river, then what are you?
If your bridge jumps, and you’re falling through the air, do you interpret it as an act of sympathy or mockery?
If your friends jumped off a bridge, can you make new friends? Can you ask your new friends to meet you at the bridge?
Can you keep bringing more and more friends to the bridge? The river, it can take so much more from you.
Jump off a bridge. There must be something to it. There must be something down there. Your friends are down there. Did they tell you what was down there? Or was their presence supposed to be all you need?
We need to invest in bridges. This country must remain the world’s top destination for your friends, who never stop jumping.
No one remembers why we built the bridge. I’ve never met anyone who’s made it to the other side.
ending theme song
Thanks for joining us again this week, or for failing to notice the unsubscribe button at the bottom of this email. Or reading it as part of the Facebook page I set up to provide a forum for feedback, or to share behind the scenes info.
Stay warm. Stay dry. Hang in there.
lost time incident 46
This week, we’ve got less reading than normal! Finally, I can hear you saying, a break from the burden of literacy. Well, not so fast. I mean… there’s still reading involved. Just… less.
It hasn’t been much of a writing weekend for me. Yesterday, I put together a new Signal mix, for those of you interested in global music, curated by yours truly, that lasts exactly 45 minutes long.
This morning, while going through old image files for the header of this very newsletter, I came across some old comic panels and decided my time would be well spent going over how to convert image files into animated GIFs again.
So that’s what you get this week instead of the usual nonsense.
Also, there’s some of the usual nonsense.
nonsense from twitter
This last week, I’ve been reading through a collection of short stories called 18 Wheels of Horror: A Trailer Full of Trucking Terrors. Yes indeed, decades after America’s brief, brief, brief interest in trucking stories, we have a chance to see what would happen if Smokey and/or The Bandit were to encounter ghosts, or be unaware that they’re crazy killers, or get hired to use their refrigerator car to transport a mind-reading alien that absorbs DNA.
This is why readers of last week’s LOST TIME INCIDENT got to read about what would happen if a truck became a vampire.
It’s also the genesis for the tweet above.
Seriously. You’ve already been murdered while hitchhiking. Now all of a sudden you’re expected to keep hitchhiking even after death? Just to freak out people on the anniversary of your death? What do you get out of it?
Too many ghost stories break down when you consider they’re from the perspective of the frightened. Entirely too much of the horror genre features antagonists with no motivation beyond “be something to be scared of.”
And don’t get me started about the shortcoming of the trucking genre. Yeesh.
I must not be much in the mood to write this weekend, because I’ve constructed animated GIFs from old comic strip panels I’ve got on the computer.
Here’s one from a comic Amanda drew years back:
And one of my own comics, also years old, alchemically improved via animation:
Not all of our old comics cry out for animation. This one of mine is fine pasted into a 4-panel square:
for them what’ve got ears to hear
The weather was surprisingly nice yesterday. I got some leg-stretching in, wandering the neighborhood, visiting a local taco truck for lunch and reading Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction as counter-programming against what’s in the news. I’m finding comfort thinking about how humanity once survived a bottleneck event that reduced our numbers to maybe 10,000 humans worldwide.
I also visited my favorite local record shop, Down Home Music, to look through racks of jazz, blues, country, Americana, Cajun, border music, etc. as typified by the tastes of owner Chris Strachwitz, whose Arhoolie record label is run out of the same building. As physical media becomes less enticing to consumers, it seems like the prices are going up for those old-timers still willing to pick up discs for their at-home laser-machine-players.
But I found some relatively affordable options searching through Blue Note releases for albums that were part of the Rudy Van Gelder collection. Van Gelder was a hugely influential recording engineer and he put out a run of remastered/reissued albums of classic mid-last-century jazz. (I just did some reading and found some jazz heads complaining about his remastering, but honestly, I have nothing to compare them to, and I just seek out Van Gelder’s name as a sign of an album I’m probably really going to like.)
Which is a long way to go just to say that the album I’ve been listening to while working on this is Art Blakey’s “Free For All” and you can listen along.
ending theme song
Since we just linked to Art Blakey, I feel like “ending theme song” duties are taken care of, so I’m going to sign off early and leave you to it.
—Michael Van Vleet
by Amanda Summers
The Signal: EP130 – Mesmerizing sounds from beyond the stars. You know. In the sense that we’re all from beyond the stars, made of star stuff, Big Bang-kinda business. We base all of our hyperbole on science around here. It’s 45 minutes of music from around the world, available for download for a limited time only.
This time out, we’ve got global bass/trap from Chicago, grime from the UK, religious music from Ghana, afrobeat from Nigeria, ska from Spain, retrosynth, vaporwave, rock tinged with depression, and a guided meditation. What more could you want?
As with all of our previous mixes, the track list is embedded in the file itself, in its id3 tags, so you can look up the original artists. Alternately, if you want the best experience, you should sign up to join The Tuned In. Members of that mailing list are the first people on the planet to know there’s a new mix. Plus, they get the playlist, a permanent archive link, and secret behind-the-scenes knowledge.