H.S.T.

Posted by DmentD | Rambling,Reflection | Wednesday 11 November 2009 12:42 pm

I’ve been in a mood for Hunter S. Thompson.  Just re-read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and during this — my third dance with this particular work — I’m better able to read past the hyper-sensationalized drug-addled fog he’s put forth and pick out some gems of wisdom.

The most notable contrast between Hunter writing in the voice of “Raoul Duke” — a caricature of himself distilled to the very core of bad craziness — and in his own voice comes at the end of the book, specifically the “jacket copy” he wrote for Fear and Loathing.  In a brief few pages, H.S.T. soberly, and with a sudden clarity that takes such an immediate u-turn from the insanity of the book that gives you whiplash, explains that Fear and Loathing was a failed experiment in Gonzo Journalism… a phrase he coined at the time to describe what he envisioned to be a free-form method of writing — to buy a notebook and write down everything as it happened and publish it with no editing whatsoever.

What he ended up with was a mix of fact and fiction, with no discernible lines to tell one from the other.  It is a failure in that he never accomplished his original vision, but instead ended up writing something altogether different and ground-shaking. He accidentally invented a new genre of writing, one that continues to inspire writers to this very day.  His success was that he wrote something that not only entertained readers, but gave him immense joy and gratification to write.  He would take a break from banging out whatever assignment he was on to write F&L.  It was a vacation for him.

I’ve always considered writing the most hateful kind of work. I suspect it’s a bit like fucking, which is only fun for amateurs. Old whores don’t do much giggling.

I’ve found myself, again, very attracted to the way an author’s mind works.  While I do not agree with every gilded word that falls from him his mouth, I find Hunter — like Vonnegut — a very intriguing personality.  A number of the things he’s said strikes certain chords within me.  I stumbled across a number of quotes while searching out the one above, that just resonate happily through my head.  I’ll leave you with these.

Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.

A man who procrastinates in his choosing will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.

I understand that fear is my friend, but not always. Never turn your back on Fear. It should always be in front of you, like a thing that might have to be killed.

We cannot expect people to have respect for law and order until we teach respect to those we have entrusted to enforce those laws.

Good people drink good beer.

…and he would probably not agree with my conviction that a sense of humor is the main measure of sanity. But who can say for sure? Humor is a very private thing.

We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and — in spite of True Romance magazines — we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely — at least, not all the time — but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.

And, on the impending arrival of my 40th birthday…

It gave me a strange feeling, and the rest of that night I didn’t say much, but merely sat there and drank, trying to decide if I was getting older and wiser, or just plain old.

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Backyard Wildlife.

Posted by DmentD | Domestica,House,Rambling | Monday 19 October 2009 2:09 pm

I’ve had a few brushes with living nature the last week or so.  Nothing as severe as baboons flinging poop at me from the roof-line or anything… think a little more suburban.

Was talking on the phone and wandering around the house as I did so, out of a lack of anything better to do with myself, and stopped to peek out of my back patio door… to see a possum (an “opossum”, to be accurate) the size of a pug doing a slow balancing act as he walked along the top of the wooden fence between my yard and my neighbors.  This was a big boy!  This also explains why I occasionally find little dug-out spots in the yard and in the garden — no growing plants were harmed, but they were a little dug out around the roots — as something was foraging for insects and worms.

I stood and watched, entranced, as he climbed down a tree trunk and into the yard.  The spell was broken however when he started nosing around our newly acquired baby banana-tree plant, which was still in it’s original nursery pot and not very stable or able to be dug in without possible damage.  The second I opened the door, he quickly scurried off.

Last week, we watched a hawk hunt the doves that live in the trees in our back yard, scissoring through the branches and causing a huge ruckus among its prey.  More power to him, as the doves are obnoxious pains in the ass, and dumber than a sack of hammers.

I also had the startling pleasure a few months back, while exiting the parking garage where I work, of rounding a corner in time to watch a hawk take off from the concrete in front of me with a pigeon in its talons… again, I wish him much future success as the pigeons that live in the parking garage do nothing but scratch up the roofs of cars with their claws, and leave a pleasant layer of shit over everything.  Between the hawk and the cat, I can only hope the population dwindles rapidly.

Yeah, I know, I’m practically Doctor Dolittle.

Not the retarded Eddie Murphy version, though.

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In Other News…

Posted by DmentD | Cooking,Coolness,Rambling | Wednesday 14 October 2009 12:15 pm

… hooray for taco night!  Take my advice, add diced mushrooms and grated carrots to your simmering ground meat.  Trust me on this.

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Ghosts.

Posted by DmentD | Rambling,Reflection | Thursday 8 October 2009 8:00 am

It’s October, and October means two things… Halloween and Ren Faire — not necessarily in that order.  We’ve pulled the boxes of Halloween decorations down from the attic and started rummaging through them.  The living room is a glorious mess.

Since the storm 4+ years ago I haven’t had the same manic motivation for Halloween that I have always had.  Maybe it was knocked out of me by depression, maybe my brain was too busy operating in life-support mode to devote the neural energies toward it.  Maybe seeing those containers of useless Halloween decorations stacked on the lawn of my shattered house — my shattered life — perfectly intact next to the ruins of the rest of my possessions, the things that I would have happily traded every Halloween for the previous decade to have back, evidence of a lifetime of living… maybe that banished Halloween from my soul.

Lady said it best at the time:

I wanted to set those containers of Christmas and Halloween decorations on fire, seeing them sitting there on the lawn while we dredged through the ruined remains of the house.  Fat load of good they were to us, and a reminder of all the useful things we lost.

But regardless, we took them with us.  They were still reminders of good times gone by, every bit as useful in that regard as the photographs we lost.  How can you not go through your Christmas decorations and not remember when you got an ornament, or who gave you that star for the tree?

Two years ago I took part in staging Halloween with my friends who were hosting a party at their place.  I summoned the energy and as much enthusiasm as I could muster and built lots of great props and things, but I was still underwhelmed regardless.  The enthusiasm was more for the creative outlet than for Halloween, but it didn’t quite gel for me.  I felt out of sync with the occasion.  It felt like I had doused the flame further, rather than rekindling it.

Last year was the first year I actually took the decorations down from the attic and put a few out, but nothing like years past.  For some reason those containers of decorations seemed so large, and yet so full of stuff that I couldn’t be bothered to put out for the holiday, to make my home festive for the time of tear I looked forward to more than any other.  So many cheap and cheesy baubles, almost embarrassing for a guy pushing 40 to have around.  So many lights that would be more of a hassle to hang and take down, than to enjoy while they were up.  And what for?  No party of my own to decorate for… no constant stream of people coming around on the weekends during the month of October to enjoy it with me, to share my juvenile enthusiasm.

Last year I was a passive participant in the Halloween party, dressing up and showing up but not contributing.  The energy still wasn’t there.  It was just another day.

But I saw a glimmer, somewhere deep down in the darkness.  There was something there, it was weak and faint — but it was there.

This year, I feel like someone recovering from an illness: the will to move and act is there, but the body is still run down… yet gaining strength every day.  My head is getting into the right space — I can feel the tumblers clicking into place.  A little over a year ago my inner 8-year-old was given cotton candy and an espresso — by the cutest and most wonderful enabler ever to cross the Atlantic — and he’s been set loose to recharge my soul with his manic energy.

My soul has been running on fumes for too long — 4+ years to be specific.

I’m getting my juvenile enthusiasm back.  Who cares if a guy pushing 40 decorates his house with purple lights, skulls and crappy polyester cobwebs for one month out of every year?  Who cares if he dresses up like a tard for a party and has a marvelous time hanging out with others who dress just as mentally deranged?  Who cares if he gets covered in pumpkin guts carving jack-o-lanterns into the wee hours?

He cares.

He cares very much to decorate, dress silly, and murder pumpkins for his own enjoyment — anyone who doesn’t approve can just take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut.

I have always nurtured my inner-child… spoiled him to the point of being a brat.  He stopped coming around for a while, but has been visiting with increasing frequency the last two years.  I’ve missed him so much.

Now if you don’t mind, there is an 8-year-old in my head who is giggling at fart jokes, and he needs to have his espresso topped off.

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Growth.

Posted by DmentD | Aggravation,Domestica,House,Rambling | Wednesday 7 October 2009 12:01 am

Well, to keep up the blogging streak I seem to have stumbled into, I’m going to continue to talk about gardening.

For just a bit.

Our seedlings are doing well, with one exception… the onions.  We’re on our third try of germinating seeds and starting seedlings as a result of very few seedlings surviving from the first two batches.  They germinate perfectly, lovely little green shoots pop up, and a few weeks later they sort of rot away.  At first I thought it was a result of too much water, but honestly once the seeds germinate and I get shoots, I mist them daily and give them a light dose of water (in the well drained seedling bags we make) a few times a week.  The other seedling varieties are thriving where these are dying.

After a little homework, I think I have the solution.  Light.  Lacking a greenhouse, we have to raise all our seedlings inside, and the best place is near the west-facing windows of our dining room where we get the most light during the day.  It’s not as much light as I’d like, but we’ve had decent success there.  Doing some poking around online, it seems a lot of folks who start onions from seed use grow lights to get them to the point where they can be transplanted outside… depending on the “season” your onions are (long or short), it can be up to 12 – 14 hours a day.  We don’t get anywhere near that much light, and with the glorious rain we’ve been having the sky is more often than not overcast these days.  I think the poor little guys are just dying off from light starvation.

So, I’ll be setting up an inexpensive grow-light system in the next few days that will hopefully let me generate strong onion seedlings, and will more than likely give a good healthy boost to the tomato, broccoli and Brussels sprouts seedlings.  Stick it on a timer, and there’ll be nothing to monitor except growth.

There, that wasn’t so bad, now was it?

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Yet Another Gardening Update.

Posted by DmentD | Domestica,House,Links,Pictures,Rambling | Thursday 1 October 2009 11:22 am

So, yeah, apparently I can’t stop talking about my garden.  Suck it up, this is my blog and I’ll talk about my dry elbow skin if I feel the desire to.

I’ve been moisturizing… so there.

Anyway, I had the presence of mind to bring out the camera this morning while the pumpkin blossoms were still open and looking beautiful.  They are the most shocking shade of yellow-gold contrasting against the greens and browns of the surrounding yard, and they are HUGE.

Pumpkin Blossom

Pumpkin BlossomPumpkin BlossomPumpkin BlossomPumpkin BlossomsPumpkin Vines

Also, our seedlings are doing very well.  The broccoli and Brussels sprouts are growing like weeds.  Meanwhile the tomatoes are filling out nicely and growing more true leaves.  Another few weeks, and they’ll be ready to plant outside.

Tomato Seedlings

Tomato SeedlingsBrussels Sprouts SeedlingsBroccoli Seedlings

My constant, obnoxious companion while I work in the yard is the neighbor’s dog — a pitbull mix — named “Noisy Bitch” (ok, more like I named her that, but it has stuck).  From the moment she hears me open the patio door she starts barking incessantly.  I’ve tried making friends with her, to no avail.  She will stop barking as long as I bribe her with homemade treats — which she will happily and gently take from me through the fence — only to have her start yapping again shortly thereafter.

She has had some training as I can, most of the time, get her to sit on command in exchange for treats.  When she does sit, or otherwise obey a command, it’s like I’m using some sort of mind control to forcibly make her obey… the look on her face speaks volumes, as if to say “I’m sitting, but I’m doing so against my will, and I’m getting no pleasure from this humiliation at all… now give me the goddamn treat.”

I have on occasion used negative reinforcement on her when she barks or lunges, such as a quick shot of water from a spray bottle while I said “no” in a stern alpha voice.  Oh, she REALLY doesn’t like that, but she backs off and barks, growls, snarls and looks for all the world like she’s gonna jump the fence and go for my throat.  It got to the point where all I needed to do was show her the bottle and she’d back away noisily.  Now, I’ve abandoned the bottle, and when she won’t obey a command or barks viciously at me, I toss the treats earmarked for her over to Killer (again, our nickname for her), the other neighbor dog that went from barking at us from a distance, to practically hopping the fence to have us pet her.

I don’t think I’ll ever gain her confidence and make peace, but we’ll see.  For now, here’s a picture of that loving, gentle creature known as Noisy Bitch.

Noisy BitchNoisy Bitch

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Swashing A Buckle.

Posted by DmentD | Coolness,Domestica,Links,Pictures,Rambling | Tuesday 29 September 2009 1:01 am

September 19 was International Talk Like A Pirate Day, and in honor of the esteemed occasion, our friends over at Team Dandy threw a party.  The dress was, as you may have guessed, thematic.

Since all of my costuming perished in the flood, I’ve been sorely lacking the last few years — most notably around Ren Faire time.  This seemed like an opportune moment to start building the collection back up, for both Sweets and myself.  We could get good mileage out of the costumes this year, both for the pirate party and for Ren Faire.

Sweets has written an nice account of the costume making adventure HERE.

What I want to add to the overall experience are the following things:

Yes, I sew.  I can sew quite well — granted, I’m inexperienced at making complex things straight out of my head, but I am a masterful operator of a sewing machine and can follow a pattern (that isn’t written by cracked-out retards) with the best.  It’s a skill I acquired as a part of my “figure out how things work, and be creative with what you’ve learned” mentality.  This is a skill you learn quite rapidly when you are a die-hard Halloween/Ren Faire/Special Effects fan, and don’t have the money to buy pre-made stuff.  Additionally, in my case, I am exceptionally picky about the quality of what I buy, and the overwhelming consensus amongst commercial costume manufacturers is that everything must be made cheaply, lightweight, and temporary.  I call bullshit on that, and make my costuming out of heavy, long wearing material that both lasts forever and looks and feels like the era or theme I’m aiming for.

Yes, I’ll still kick your ass for sincerely mocking me for knowing how to sew — because no, sewing has not diminished my masculinity one bit.  *grins*

Enough people asked the following question that it’s worth mentioning: “where did you get that outfit from”, or more specifically “you MADE that?” The Captain’s jacket elicited the most surprise — not so much that it was me that made it, but that the jacket wasn’t professionally manufactured.  I’m flattered, I really am.  I made the shirt, jacket and pants… the sash too, but that’s really just a swag of fabric, as are the wraps around the boots.  All told it took 2 weeks of weekday evenings and one weekend, and the occasional need to share the sewing machine with Sweets.

I’ve swiped pictures from Sweets to show off here, and my only comment is: sofofabitch, I look huge!  I mean, I’m a stout guy, but the loose billowy shirt coupled with my “manly hero poses” makes me look like I need to start jogging the decks during voyages.  I wish I had a few regular poses to salve my wounded ego.

The next foray will be into leather working so I can make pouches, belts, hats and boots.  I’ve purchased quite a number of pouches over the years to go with my Ren Faire costumes, all the while griping about the prices.  Mind you, these were all hand made, and of exceptional quality, but it’s almost cost prohibitive to satisfy my tastes and needs.  I can make these myself, keep the cost down, and build to my specifications.

Maybe for next year.

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Piazza d’ Breadytalia.

Posted by DmentD | Cooking,Coolness,Domestica,Rambling | Thursday 10 September 2009 10:34 am

Suffice to say, sourdough makes a mighty fine pizza dough.  Made pizzas last night with a homemade sauce (tomatoes, roasted garlic, and tons of fresh herbs from the garden), baby portabella mushrooms, pepperoni, thinly sliced sausage and topped with a mix of cheeses.

Sadly, no pictures of said masterpiece.

We’ve got our technique just about perfect for making crispy pizzas at home, and it starts with firing up the grill and finishing in the oven.  The grill lets you get a nice high direct heat that you can’t get in in your home oven, and lets you toast and “pre-bake” the crust. What also helps is when I bought my grill, I splurged for a few accessories and one was something I’d never seen before… a perforated pizza pan with a long, insulated handle.

Start your oven pre-heating at 425 – 450 degrees, and your grill pre-heating on high.  Spritz the pan lightly with cooking spray, spread and shape your dough on a flat surface (not too thick, not too thin) and brush one side lightly with olive oil.  Flip it over onto the pan and lightly brush the other side with oil.  Once your grill is pre-heated and rocket hot, place the dough and pan on it and immediately lower the heat to medium/low — you need that initial burst of heat to “set” the bottom of the crust and start the browning so that the dough doesn’t sag through the perforations in the pan.  Keep an eye on the crust by flipping up an edge every so often and check for browning — the crust will start to rise and firm up, and that’s a sign that the crust is starting cooking through — and once the crust is firm enough, rotate it around a bit to ensure even heat distribution.  Once the bottom is evenly and lightly browned, flip it over (I use a combo of a broad flat spatula and tongs) and toast the other side lightly as well.  If you’re doing multiple crusts, re-heat your grill to high between each one.

Once the crust is done, transfer it off the pan and onto a large plate, tray, pan or peel and build your pizza to your tastes, leaving about ½” – 1″ of unsullied crust around the edge.  Don’t overdo the sauce or the crust will get soggy again during cooking.  Try not to build a mountain of toppings, a few even layers of thinly sliced items is plenty.  Don’t go overboard with the cheese… ok, you can go a little overboard with the cheese.

Once your pizza is built, slide it off the plate/tray/pan/peel and directly onto your oven rack.

Yes, directly on the rack… don’t argue with me, just do it.

If you toasted the crust well enough on the grill, there should be sufficient structural integrity to keep the crust firm and prevent drooping.  Putting the crust directly on the rack rather than on a pan will let the indirect heat from the oven travel directly into the pizza and finish making the crust crispy, rather than insulating it from that heat with the pan — which, yes, does eventually get quite hot but that takes time to get so… and metal pans have poor heat storage, so that even if you pre-heat the pan, it’ll lose all that heat the instant you put the cool pizza on it.

Optimally, if you have a pizza stone, you have the best of all worlds.  You pre-heat the stone with the oven, it stores a lot of heat and transfers it into the pizza when you place it on the stone in the oven.  In the absence of a stone, put the pizza directly on the oven rack.  Trust me on this.

Your three goals here are to 1) heat all the ingredients through, 2) melt the cheese and brown it a bit and 3) make the crust nice and crisp.  If you have too much stuff piled up, you lose all claim to balancing those and will either burn your crust to a cinder and/or render the cheese on top inedible long before the ingredients heat up.  Show some restraint wouldja?  This is all done by keeping an eye on things, but aim for about 10 minutes as a general guideline.

Take your pizza out of the oven, and show about 2 minutes of restraint.  Let it cool for those 120 seconds before cutting, and you will be rewarded with slices of pizza that don’t miraculously heal themselves back together with molten cheese.  Again, trust me on this.

Eat.

You know, I have absolutely no idea how this went from a “neener, neener… I had yummy homemade pizza last night” post to a “how-to”.  *shrugs* I went from no posts in a month or so, to “please, for the love of Jeebus, shut the hell up!

I do tend to ramble.

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Ancient History.

Posted by DmentD | Entertainment,Friends,Pictures,Rambling,Reflection | Wednesday 2 September 2009 11:59 am

Well, hell… I thought all evidence of me in the prehistoric “PB” era (Pre Beard) had been eradicated by my minions and the cleansing effects of Katrina.

Guess not.

So, before these pictures are used against me as some unsavory method of blackmail, I’ve decided to post them for the public record — because nobody is better at making a fool out of you than yourself.

My long-time friend Hitch dug these up (thanks a lot, man… like I needed a reminder of my larval stage of existence, and how old I’m getting these days) and posted them to Facebook, but since I vehemently refuse to drink that particular flavor of Kool-Aid, he emailed them to me so that I could swoon lightheadedly and have a good laugh.

The first three pictures seem to be from a costume-like event… let’s call it Halloween, because my crusty memory refuses to call up the actual facts.  In this first picture, you see a young, clean-shaven me on the left… apparently laughing forward through the years at the decrepit me looking at this picture now, as if to to say “holy crap, look at all that gray hair, you furry freak!”  To my right is MiltiMix, with his long-lost full head of hair.  We’re both considerably thinner than we are now… in fact, EVERYONE is thinner in these pictures than they are now.

Ah, here we get a better picture of the outfit… my ever-present (at the time) round flip-up sunglasses and pea coat — I was a frequent Army Surplus customer in those years — no less than three mock weapons, and a pair of handcuffs.  Jeebus, I’ve never been that skinny since.  That’s Hitch in the red robes and hockey mask.  He was one of the very few people who helped keep my very violent temper in check in those days… as tall as I was, he had me by almost half-a-head and 50+ pounds, and it took a big guy like that to keep me from being an idiot.  Mostly.

Gah!  Who let that ugly broad in here?!  Wait… that’s no broad, that’s Michigan’s favorite son, James the I/O Master.  Not much of an improvement, mind you.

The cheesy mustache era!  May it go back to the grave, never to terrorize the good people of Earth ever again.  That’s Hitch on the left (sans mask and robes), Susan on the right, and me second from the right (sorry dude, second from the left, but my brain ejected your name and replaced it with Cowboy Mouth lyrics about 10 years ago).

And one last throwback to the CM era. *hangs head in shame* I  think I overcompensate now by only shaving every other week or so.

To you, my unsuspecting readers, there is only one response to these pictures…

… and one last sentiment to impart from an old fart like me …

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Whatchoo Looking At?

Posted by DmentD | Links,Pictures,Rambling | Friday 3 July 2009 10:21 am

This seems to have been the week for being watched by dogs.  Not in the “furtive glance then look away ’cause hey there’s a squirrel!” kind of way, but in the “I’ve got my eye on you boyo, so watch your step” way.

The first was a pair of pooches in a truck at the post office.  There they were, sitting like humans — butt flat on the seat, leaning back — and calmly watching me walk back to my truck.  Their heads swiveled in unison to follow me, like a pair of sunflowers tracking the path of the sun.  Not once did they stir, not once did they bark, not once did they blink,  not once did they take their eyes off me until I had pulled away and entered traffic.  It was an eerie ghost twins in The Shining moment.

The StaredownThe StaredownThe Staredown

The second was a big ‘ol boy with his head out the window at a stoplight.  The light had just turned red, and we were going to be there for a few minutes.  This fellah’ sat there with his mug stuck out, and just watched me.  Nothing on the face of this earth could pull his attention away from me — not a cat, not another human in another car, not the other dog in the car with him that was methodically gnawing his hind leg off.  He even barked at me for having the audacity of pulling away from him when the light changed.

Happy Staredown

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