lost time incident 15 – becoming an all sorts piñata

Michael Van Vleet in Paris

lost time incident 15
Today is International Worker’s Day and to celebrate, I got enough sleep. Woke up feeling alert, an unfamiliar enough sensation that it was worth remarking upon. Made coffee. French roast. I don’t even know if the French roast coffee that way or if it’s a misnomer. I was there in Paris— see above photo— but I forgot to ask anyone. I do have a French colleague in the office who was surprised that her countrymen got credit for the French press I use to make coffee in a more professional context.


I don’t think I was going anywhere with that, but here’s a secret: Much of the time, I’m just letting my fingers start a-typin’ just to see what’s going to come out. That’s right. I don’t value your time. Ha!

There’s a breeze coming in through the front door and a cat is hanging out on my right leg, providing a counterbalance to the laptop on the left leg. My wife is laughing at internet summaries of a show about murder, so we’re all in a good place.

How are you doing?

It’s such a gorgeous day out there that it’s enough to make you forget that they won’t all be this pleasant.

[optional soundtrack: Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – “I Need Never Get Old”]


the position or velocity of dogs




autobio corner
In the small town I grew up in, for many of the years I lived there, there was nothing terribly remarkable about the town itself. Downtown we had a grocery store, a 5-and-dime, and a used bookstore where a nice old lady named Linda enforced a rule that you had to sell her a romance or sci-fi novel first if you were going to buy one yourself because otherwise they’d all go out the door. She had trouble keeping those genres in stock.

Every weekday at noon, through the soles of our feet, we’d feel the deep bass hum of the gravity wave factory just outside of town, down-by the Wal-Mart, generating energy and keeping the bills paid for most of the families of the kids I went to school with.

Our school mascot was the Comets, since our county had a higher than usual incident rate for attracting rocks and space ice, pulled out of orbit and into our outdoor swimming pools, our mini golf arcades, and our competition-grade cross-country running courses. Our sports teams weren’t great, so the local newspaper used lots of “crashing and burning” imagery when covering our matches, but our logo was fantastic: the comet wore a fierce expression, lip curled, and three sharp points came off the back with orange highlights to create the comet’s tail.

Things picked up when I hit the teenage years, though, because that was when a lunchtime pulse pulled in the Object, as it was originally called. It fell down by the woods where rumor had it Chad and Lisa had once been caught having sex where the grass was at its tallest. Who knows what happened out there behind the woods. One time Terry said he was walking around back there and came across a big pile of those full-head Halloween masks, half covered in brush like someone was hiding them out there. Said there was a wolf man and some kinda fish, but it had been raining and the pile of masks looked gross so he just left them alone. Weren’t there the next time he went back though.

The Object hung about those woods, waiting for kids to wander near. The kids who went out there to smoke found it first. It rumbled at them, wobbled a bit… but mostly it listened. Erik said he figured it belonged to one of the families whose homes had their backs up against the hill, like maybe it was a pet that wandered off, but it was the size of a refrigerator.

Of course now, with the benefit of hindsight and with the insight of world-class scientists, the consensus is that it’s a very clever probe designed to acquire language via some mimicry algorithms. We’re still not sure it knows what it’s saying, but most of what it learned to talk about was: which kids in the nearby middle and high schools sucked, which teachers sucked, who was a slut, and to say it was a big fan of many of history’s worst dictators and serial killers. I’ve heard that when they originally put up that tent around it and the government folks moved in, the first thing it asked them was how much they enjoyed a particular impossible sexual position, then affirmed that it liked it very much. “It’s the best,” it said. It then laughed with a series of barking hard-K sounds.

Any hope of learning more about its origins seemed to be dashed. It wouldn’t answer questions, if it ever had, instead preferring to copy the questions asked of it, or would fill silence by singing advertising jingles, but with all the original advertising copy replaced with “shut up,” but matching the original melody precisely.

Transcript. Note: Capitalization used to indicate relative volume.
THERE WAS ONCE IN THESE WOODS. NOW SAY JERRY. MELT STEEL BEAMS. I AM STUPID. Listening? Fucking RULES, man. SUCK DiiiiiiiiiiiiiCKS. High five for Hitler. Mitts. Mitts. Comets. Kek kek kek kek kek kek. After me, REPEAT. Ooored. Errd. Bored. Ting bored. Geh. ♫shut up shut UP shut up SHUT UP shut-shut-shut [advertising medley of 20 minutes cut].

But times change. Things progress. I bet it’s repeating smarter stuff now that scientists are talking to it. With any luck, maybe they’ll even notice they’re getting nothing back.

current events
During a walk home from work, apropos of nothing, I remembered that in elementary school I had a class where each week, we were meant to study current events. We had to grab a newspaper from our parents, cut out an article, bring it in and summarize it.

The memory that came back to me was that one time, I found an article about ninjas and brought that in. Even had a picture of a ninja next to the article. I have not yet remembered what the article was actually about, but it was easier to understand than the conflict in Israel, or whatever was on the front page back in the 80s.

It’s just weird. Little fragments from an earlier life, still bumping about inside my head.

[memory tosses down a smoke bomb and disappears again]


ending theme song
I’m going to keep it a bit short this week, folks. Even though my head is buzzing because I ate WAY too many licorice all sorts. So let’s keep things focused so I’m imparting only the most important information. Okay. Cannonball Run 2 is full of talented people but it’s awful.

We’re already going astray a little bit.

Let’s see. Amanda and I created some more art postcards yesterday. We may have almost enough to send to every subscriber that I actually have an address for. If you’ve moved in the last however-long and don’t have an explicit memory of letting me know, well now you can. Maybe right now?

This week’s chunk of fiction was inspired by Simon Stålenhag’s Tales from the Loop which I backed on Kickstarter and was so excited about, I stuck it on a shelf and ignored it for months. I was waiting for a special occasion to flip through it and today ended up being that special occasion.

Also in the mental mix was the news that Stephen Hawking and Mark Zuckerberg want to fire tiny nanobots out into the universe to see what’s out there mixed with what happened when Microsoft set a chatbot loose in Twitter, only to see it turned into a racist monster within a day.

Thanks as ever to my wife Amanda for providing original illustrations.

Hope your weekend went well. I have to go and see if the internet knows what the antidote is for too much licorice.

Later, gators,

Michael Van Vleet

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