Friday, August 18, 2017

It's a Man's World...unless, of course, you're a praying mantis.

And you guys think you have it bad!
Pity the plight of the poor praying mantis. Gather around for a little science lesson...

The other day my wife and I are sitting on the back deck. She's tending to a potted plant and says, "Hey! A walking stick!"

"Kill it," I scream, because everyone knows sticks shouldn't walk, a mutant aberration of science gone awry. And because everything I know about science I've learned from cartoons.

Upon further exploration, my wife says, "No...wait... It's a praying mantis."

Which is even worse. "Squish it! Get rid of it! For God's sake, destroy the beast!"

"No," says my wife, "praying mantises are good. She'll eat the bad bugs."

Hmm. "What in the world makes you think it's a female?" I ask.

She rolls her eyes, says, "There's a huge difference between male and female praying mantises."

I reached deep into the darkest pockets of my useless and dusty stored facts and plucked out something horrific. "Oh, yeah! It has a head, right? Because after the mantises procreate, the female eats the male's head."

"That's not the difference I'm talking about, but, yes, they do that."

"But why?" I knew the females feasted on heads, just couldn't figure out their motivation. "Are the females tired of a lifetime of male oppression? Are they into weird insectoid, extreme S&M and get carried away? Do they hate males?"

At this point, my wife's not a firm believer in the adage, There's no such thing as a stupid question. "They're just bugs doing...buggy things."

"Well...humans can't do it," I grumble.

Ever the scientist, my wife gives it more thought. "I imagine the males' head is full of protein and good for the eggs. Mantises only mate once, then it's off with the males' head."

"So...you're saying that the male kinda just hangs out, has sex once, then at the peak of his short life, he gets his head eaten?"

"Pretty much."

"...No wonder they pray all the time." 

For more strange science (not really) and weird wonders of the world (or at least a spooky lil' Kansas town in the sixties), check out Peculiar County by clicking....wait for it...RIGHT HERE! 
 

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Kansas Power Corporation!

Behold the mighty strength of the "Kansas Power Corporation!" Sounds kinda like a Trump side-dish, doesn't it?

Nope! Guess again! It's just another example of Hollywood's predictably insular view of Kansas. The movers and shakers in Hollywood think all of Kansas is generic, nothing but one giant burg of hick-town Mayberry hi-jinx. Now, granted, the drive across Kansas is hellish, nothing but flat, boring land for the most part, but still...there are big cities here and there.

Recently, my wife and I watched an episode of Supernatural. One of the heroes asked where the villain was. Someone responded, "Kansas."

That's all the cast needed to  pinpoint the villain's location. Because everyone knows the state of Kansas is tiny. Just one giant backward town. In the offending episode, a single utility company under the moniker of "The Kansas Power Corporation" covered the entire state's needs. 

Stop it! Bad Hollywood! No cocaine!

Research, writers!

I swear, popular entertainment abuses Kansas more than any other American state.

Kansas is depicted in one of three ways:

1) Hicks sitting around the ol' fishing hole. No teeth, no smarts, no shirts. Que the Deliverance theme. (Okay, granted there are pockets of Kansas that do indeed cater to this rather specific stereotype, but we also have big cities with indoor plumbing and everything!)


2) "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto" jokes. (It's time to retire this right now! It wasn't funny the first kazillion times either.)

3) The wild, wild west with shoot-em-ups in the dirt streets. (These days, the only shoot-em-ups in our streets are gangsta drive-bys.)

I say enough! I want to take Kansas back from the incompetent Hollywood writers! Set them straight! Educate them!

(And then move out of this Godforsaken state.)

Click here to read true tales of Kansas (um, except for the ghosts, multiple murderers, witches, and things that go bump in the night).



Friday, August 4, 2017

Accidental 3-D (in Technicolor!)

A fate worth lotsa tears, our TV recently went wonky. Three images: one blue, one red, one I don't know what you'd call it. 

Online "experts" said to fix the color convergence. I did that and it was still wonky. I tried getting more technical. I Googled "Wonky TV" and it led me to weird porn.

Here's the deal, I'm pretty dang sure these online "experts" are the same schmucks that sold us our refrigerator of an eighteen-year-old TV.

Blame it on Best Buy. One of the last mega-stores to have more clerks than customers (and just try and find one when you actually need one!), it's hard-sell city.
When my wife and I went shopping there, lo, those many years ago, the blue shirts were on us like a zombie invasion.

"Here's what you need," said Brian, "top of the line, bang-up model with the best hi-def image possible. Don't know about hi-def? This baby here's redefining the future!"

I was in awe of the TV. Brian's hair, too. Deal-maker. We bought it. (Of course Brian also tried to sell me on gold-plated composite cables--"They improve the picture 100-fold!"--but being no dummy, I opted for the plastic tipped ones).

Huge as a walk-in freezer, you could easily fit three corpses and a bag of chips inside this house of a TV. Awesome! Bigger is always better! And since Best Buy delivered (for an additional thousand dollars or something), double deal-maker!

Two weeks later, after the TV was delivered by griping men, Best Buy's model went half-price, a closeout deal. Technology wiped us off the face of the earth.

Buyer's remorse set in. But I loved the big picture, so I settled.

Until now, it's actually been a good TV. But it's time to shoot it, put it out to pasture. My wife and I have resorted to wearing old-fashioned, paper blue & red 3-D glasses. It works (kinda) with the triple image. But after a while, it's an eye-strain. Plus, my dog thought I was a giant bug and kept growling at me.
 
We bit the bullet, bought a new TV. 

But how in the world do you get rid of the old one? 

Trash men won't take TV's. You can't give 'em away (without some merciless jackass cutting the cord off for the meager copper inside, thus ruining a {fairly} watchable TV for someone else). I'll be surprised if my wife and I can even lift it outta the house.

I asked my wife the obvious, "Hey, what're we gonna do with the old TV?"

"Put it in the garage and put lots and lots of stuff on top of it."

For more life on the weird side, click here for my newest book, Peculiar County.


Friday, July 28, 2017

Welcome to Peculiar County

Peculiar County's a right hospitable little piece of Kansas. Just be on the look-out for things that fly in the night or creatures that don't sit right in any zoo. Here in Peculiar County, witches rub elbows with murderers and the mortician's daughter just might be about the savviest gal in town. The mail man's a bit off, the telephone operator's way off, and the librarian sisters were never on. Only in Peculiar County can you hear a ghost dog bark up a storm in the local hotel and see a tree--the Judge's Tree--you'd be best off not visiting once the sun goes down.

Peculiar County's my first young adult book for Books We Love publishing. Set in 1965, "old adults" can enjoy the tale as well. It's a ghost story, a nostalgic slice of early sixties small-town life, a misunderstood teen girl's coming-of-age saga, a comedy of Midwest manners, and a murder mystery. A love story, too. I think there might even be a kitchen sink in there somewhere if you look hard enough...

Why did I set the book in the early sixties? Many reasons. It's the decade I was born; technology hadn't yet ramped up to the point where it messes with suspense; it's an interesting era when society was rapidly changing in fascinating and unexpected ways. Most of all, I've always been of an opinion that the best ghost stories have always had a touch of nostalgia to them.

SO... Have I succeeded in my lofty goals? That's up to you, dear reader, to decide.

In the meantime, lay out that road-map of the bizarre and plan your day-trip to Peculiar County ('cause you don't wanna visit at night!). You can't miss it. It's just a hop, skip and jump away from Strange Town. Hang a left at Killer's Gulch. Skedaddle on through the Hellington Hills (make sure you have a full tank of gas) and whatever you do, don't look too hard or pay any matter to the unsettling sounds you might hear.

Peculiar County. Click here for the most peculiar--not to mention, cheapest--road trip you'll take all year. Preorder ebook version now. Official release on July 30.

Or click HERE to get the paperback right spanking NOW!

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Proper Etiquette of Meatsicles

Meatsicles are a beautiful thing.
When you're famished, when you wanna get right to it, when you don't want to hassle with such unnecessary utensils as knives, when you're absolutely exhausted, a meatsicle is your best friend.

Just jab a fork into a pork-chop and collapse onto the sofa in front of the TV. An oldie but a classic. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

So, the other night--in an ongoing, concerted effort to get away from the TV while eating--we gathered for dinner at the dining room table. I served pork chops.

My fork stabbed a chop, I hoisted it up. Before I took a bite, my wife shut me down.

"Stuart! What do you think you're doing?"

I looked around, looked at the dog, looked for logic. I kinda thought it was apparent what I was doing. "Um...eating." I gave the meatsicle a hearty shake.

"No. Use a knife."

"But...we always eat meatsicles."

"Not at the table we don't. Act civilized, for God's sake."

I said, "Fine, then let's go sit in front of the TV."

Well. That didn't sit well. 

Still, I couldn't understand where I'd gone wrong. I thought we'd long ago incorporated meatsicles into our culinary regimen. I was mistaken.

My wife went on to explain the rules about when and where meatsicles are properly accepted.

Stunned, I asked, "How come I've never heard of these rules before? Is there a book or something?"

"Just get a knife," she groaned, rolling her eyes into orbit.

This world is confusing enough without new rules being thrown at you left and right, especially when the rule-maker doesn't let you know. It's kinda like Trump tweeting new policy and unless you follow him on Twitter, you're in the dark.
Since the beginning of time, meatsicles have been a perfectly acceptable form of food and eating. Sure, cavemen didn't have forks, but it's a well-documented fact they'd jab meat onto sticks, an early precursor. And it's also a well-documented fact cavemen didn't have TV, so when they sat down at the dinner table, meatsicles were completely acceptable.

The way civilized people ate, not like those uncouth dinosaurs. 

Rules...feh.

Speaking of peculiar, you ain't seen nothin' yet! My new book, Peculiar County, is up for preorder and out July 31st. More about it next week.

In the meantime, click here to preorder one very peculiar reading experience (seat belts are mandatory).



Friday, July 14, 2017

We went looking for a TV and all we have to show for it is this stupid new house!

Bada-boom. And not really. But almost.
My wife--wise and almighty--told me we should never go shopping while "hangry," a term a candy bar commercial adeptly coined, equating one's hungry physical being with an angry mind-set. Ergo, don't make snap purchases at the grocery store.

Back to pertinent business, recently our TV went blinky, double-vision blue and red. It's fine if you wear those awful 3-D glasses with the impossible to clean and always smudged plastic lenses, but otherwise, unacceptable. 

Sunday afternoon, we set out to ogle new TV's. The modern technology mind-boggled, fossilized me into the prehistoric era. I didn't have a clue, still playing videotapes at home, for Gawd's sake.

Out of desperation, over-whelmed, we quit. Made a promise to research. Just like back in school.

On the way home, we saw a house for sale. "Open House," the sign read, a beguiling treasure trove awaiting we failed hunters. Being no fools, tired, "hangry," disgruntled, we slept-walk inside. And fell in love.

Thankfully, keener senses prevailed. We were in no position yet to buy a new house. (Just thinking about our collection of books and movies throws my back out of whack).

But enlightenment struck that day. Food shopping while hungry is one thing, a minor faux pas. Making major life decisions while your mind belongs elsewhere is another.

"Oblivi-shopping." Remember the word. I'm trademarking it.

Contracts should be enacted while oblivi-shopping. Within a 48 hour time period, buyers of a life-changing purchase should not be held responsible if the following preexisting conditions exist:

*Hunger;
*Irritability;
*Stupidity;
*Sleepiness;
*Drunkeness;
*Hemorrhoids;
*Pregnancy;
*Insanity.

I've made remorseful purchasing decisions under the influence of seven of the eight pre-existing conditions.

It's about time someone started looking out for hungry, irritable, stupid, tired, drunk, hemorrhoid-ridden, and sometimes insane people like me!

Caveat Emptor!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Our Dog Year (and it's only half over)

Pity poor Zak.
Healthy Zak!

Our beloved rescue dog was found as a puppy scavenging through trash, never possessing good taste in food. A mixed breed of indiscriminate nature, obviously Zak was at least part pit bull terrier. Because of that, he's faced a life-time of prejudice. My mom won't even go near him, terrified (even though her bite is much worse than his). People go out of their way to cross the street when we're out on walks. Upon Zak's entry at daycare, other pet-owners slip him wary, highly suspect looks. (Yes, Zak goes to daycare.)

But the thing is, Zak's a lover, not a biter. His licking might scrub your skin raw, but he won't hurt anyone. Unless of course you wear the U.S. Postal Service uniform. Then all bets are off. But for everyone else? He wants to meet you. Become pals. Have you toss a squeaky toy around, one he can tear apart in seven seconds.

Then Zak's world went grey. Six months ago he developed a limp. Of course, it didn't seem to hold him back. He powered through it, the way he doe everything. Problem is Zak's as stoic as Humphrey Bogart with paws.

We took him to his vet, who sent us to the animal hospital. Zak'd completely blown out his knee ligament. We faced several choices, none of them ideal. We settled on an expensive surgery, one where the doc would basically cut Zak's knee bones apart and reattach them in a new fashion, screws and a metal plate keeping everything in place until the bone healed.
Zak in first post-surgery Cone of Honor
Afterward, we found out just how much work was involved on our end. At least four months of keeping Zak quiet and calm in a small room. (Good luck with that, especially during mail delivery). Short walks, four times a day. Drugs, hot and cold compresses, massages, leg exercises...King for many, many days of sovereignty.

Alas, Zak couldn't climb steps. I volunteered to sleep downstairs with him in the guest bedroom on a lumpy twin bed, apparently built with masochistic, diminutive people in mind. Four months of sleepless discomfort and back aches.

Nothing mattered, though, not really. Zak was our dog, dammit. Besides, the neighborhood's rabbit population had grown out of control without his watch-dogging. Seriously. He needed to come back and rein in the terror.

When it came time for a check-up, bad news smacked us like a two by four to the head. Two screws had broken with the third bent. Somewhere along the line--a fall Zak had, too much exercise, something--things went haywire. But all was not lost. His bone had partly healed. Still, it was back to surgery for the dog, the metal parts had to come out.

After this new operation, Zak's incision started draining, then bleeding a lot. Several Sundays were spent at the animal hospital as the staff tried to diagnose it. At first, it'd been tagged as a seroma, nothing to worry about. But Zak's limp persisted, grew worse. The doc was concerned. For good reason.
Zak showing off, posing for Midwest Dogs Gone Wild. The final night before the BIG operation.
Zak went back under the knife for exploratory surgery. All day long, we waited. Silence. Finally, the doc called.

The news completely blindsided me. Zak's leg bone had developed a deep infection, rendered into mush. The doctor said we could put Zak through another iffy surgery, involving pins, pain, and many months, and the outcome didn't look rosy. Or we could amputate his leg, the doc's recommendation.

We chose amputation. It hit us hard, surprisingly so. Much more than it bothered Zak himself, I'm sure. But it felt like a deep loss. Mostly because Zak lived life hard, played like a hurricane, ran to beat the band and outrace all the other dogs in daycare. Frankly, he isn't food driven. Play is his ruling motivator. 

SO. Five months, four surgeries later, Zak's making a comeback. Eventually we hope to get him back into daycare, something he misses dearly. (My wife says I'm anthropomorphizing. The eternal debate in our household continues...).

My wife said it best..."It's better to have a healthy three-legged dog, than not have our dog back."
Ready for his first off-leash, three-legged rabbit hunt!
Hurry up, Zak! Those damn bunnies are multiplying like...well, bunnies!