Dead Caterpillar


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How to read: a guide for adults

Wednesday, Jan 23rd, 2019

There are so many books about leadership these days. I haven’t come across a book about followership but I imagine there are quite a few more followers than leaders in the world. I don’t know why there are no books on followership… Perhaps that is why no one seems to know what they’re doing.

Likewise, there are quite a few books on writing but none on reading, and I imagine there are quite a few more readers than writers in the world. I would write a book on how to read but I don’t think my target audience would know how to read it. Here’s a blog post.

First off, slow the fuck down.

Someone once bragged to me that they had read 30 books over the summer. I imagine this same person sprints through beautiful gardens and hastily shoves fistfuls of fine dining down their gullet.

Don’t gallop where you should trot — don’t skip steps down the beautiful spiral staircase — It is perfectly okay, even necessary, to pause, occasionally, and think about the words on the page. Ponder that shit. Seriously, pay attention. You can learn everything you need to know about human nature from books. You can live a thousand lives through books.

People read books as if they are watching a movie. It’s ludicrous to pause at the end of every scene and reflect upon what has just occurred in the movie. It’s ludicrous to watch a quarter of the movie one day, a quarter the following and the rest spread across a week’s span.

But for book reading, that’s how it’s done.

If you get to the 30th page and you are still uninterested, drop it. Reading requires patience, not long-suffering. Reading only requires long-suffering if you choose the wrong book, which leads me to my next point.

Don’t choose the wrong book.

Easier said than done, of course. If you think a good man is hard to find, try finding a good book.

Be suspicious of young adult novelists such as Suzanne Collins or John Green. Don’t get me started on the fault in The Fault in our Stars. John Green’s writing sucks — and I don’t say that because I hate John Green. I hate John Green but that’s not why his writing sucks.

Of course there is an easy, low-hanging explanation for the sudden popularity of young adult novels amongst, well, old adults. Many critics of this generation have succumbed to it, lauding the perennial belief — passed on from prior generations no doubt — that each generation is somehow stupider than the one which came before, and thus the reading comprehension level of adults has sunk so low, they now read the equivalent of children’s novels.

But as hasty as I am to call people of this generation stupid, I am surprisingly not a proponent of this theory. People of this generation are in fact stupid but that’s not why young adult novels have risen in popularity.

It is not the readers who are at fault for a lack of interest in adult-adult novels, but the writers. There is little room for the pretenses of the pen in a young adult novel, little room for “the gaze of the mid-day sun” and the “slow-settling of the winter dreary” — whatever the fuck that means. Who the fuck talks like that anyway? I’ll tell you: writers who love the smell of their own farts. Writers who are so impressed with themselves, they fill their books with overly-flowery language, gaudy descriptions and sheepish sentimentality.

What can I say? Life is not a Robert Frost poem.

Thus we all turn to Harry Potter, because J.K. Rowlings competent and simple prose is refreshing and unpretentious. It’s how we actually talk and think. The story is at least coherent and – by way of wizards, dragons and magical spells – says something true about the world we live in. It’s more realistic, relatable and true to life than “the slow-settling of the winter dreary” — wizards, dragons and all, not withstanding.

Ugh. The classics are worse.

I’d be tarred and feathered for saying so in literarry circles but I prefer ketchup labels to Kerouac. Print labels to Proust. The back of milk cartons to Conrad (look mom, I’m alliterating!). That’s not to say there aren’t classical authors that have won me over — Twain, Dostoevsky, Pope and, at the risk of sounding a tad pretentious, Erasmus. But as for James Joyce and Kerouac? I don’t agree with the literary circles on that one.

After all, what do literary circles know except how to expound upon highly overrated Academic Literary Opinions in relatively simple geometric shapes.

Uphold and admire that which speaks to you, not that which speaks to some turtle-necked literary critic. The world is full of Yale yodels and Harvard schmucks telling people what to like. To hell with them all! They are blind and stupid sheep in the world, just like the rest of us — except they are even more blind and stupid for not knowing it.

Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

New York Times bestseller’s list doesn’t mean shit, either. Let us not forget Stephanie Meyer. And as far as popular things in general go, let’s consider that it was once fashionable to die your teeth pitch-black in some parts of Asia. People once believed steam engines were the end of the technological evolution. Andy Warhol was a thing, for Christ’s sake – popular opinion means fuckall.

Proust just doesn’t do it for me. I like what I like and hate what I hate. You should too.

To quote the snobby food critic from ratatouille: “I don’t like food, I love it. And If I don’t love it, I don’t swallow.”

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Screenwriting 101: barfing

Tuesday, Jan 22nd, 2019

Every screenwriter knows that barfing is the easiest way to inject emotion into a scene. Just discovered a rotting corpse? Barf. Just heard about the death of a loved one? Barf. Drank too much? Easy, barf. Barf, barf, barf.

BWWWWWWWAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!

The scene suddenly changes tone. It becomes emotionally charged, gritty, guttural…

Because life just ain’t pretty, man.

And that’s why, for screenwriters, barfing is the greatest discovery since “I’m pregnant.” You want the viewer to take notice. Eliciting any kind of strong emotion is a win, even if that strong emotion is disgust.

Generally, you want to get a good barf in within the first few minutes of an episode or movie. This is a great way to shock the viewer into the plot. “Look, over here! Hey, there’s traumatic stuff going on! This scene is interesting! Look!

BWWWWWWWAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!

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The pinnacle

Monday, Jan 21st, 2019

I remember distinctly the pinnacle of my career as a wisecrack.

It was middleschool. My history teacher had just finished explaining how the Americans had ambushed the French during a battle in the French and Indian War.

“The French were toast,” my History teacher said.

“… Don’t you mean … French Toast?” I said.

The crowd goes wild.

And in the midst of all that laughter, in those few moments, all of history appeared to me as a setup: not just the French and Indian War but the colonization of America before that, the invention of French toast before that, sliced bread and the discovery of grain for culinary purposes before that and — going back further — the creation of the universe.

All of history had been put into motion to set me up for the joke that brought me to the pinnacle of my career as a wisecrack.

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Give a man a fish

Saturday, Dec 15th, 2018

Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish, and you still haven’t fed him.

He has to sit by the riverbank all day, with his line in the water, waiting, hoping that one of those little fuckers starts to tug the line. And that could take hours, even days. The man has starving children waiting at home. Their lives depend on the fickleness of fish for christ’s sake. And even if he does catch the fish, does he know how to fillet it? Cook it? Does he have a fishing license? Are there even fish in this river?

Just give them man the fish, you fucking asshole.

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A tribute to noses

Saturday, Nov 17th, 2018

Editor’s note: This article is part of a curious series on human body parts. Read the first article in the series, ‘On the subject of feet and hands’, here.

Well. What can be said of noses?

We all have them. Unless, of course, you are Lord Vouldermourt, or a drunk driving burn victim. That’s really the only time we realize the importance of noses, when they’re no longer there… Take away the eyebrows and you’ve got one of the central ingredients of a timeless Da Vinci masterpiece. Take away the nose and, well, let’s just say you are more in Van Gogh territory.

Thus, I feel the nose is somewhat under-appreciated as far as facial features go — despite it being an absolute necessity, it hardly gets any praise. All other facial features — Lips, mouth, eyes, cheeks – can be objects of admiration (“She has the most beautiful eyes!” “Lips of an angel,” etc), but noses … You won’t find anyone saying something to the tune of: “Yeah man, that babe is HOT. Did you see the nose on that one?!”

Anyway, that’s all I have to say about noses right now.

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Happy 100th post!

Thursday, Nov 15th, 2018

It has been eight years since I started this blog, as part of a school project and this is officially my 100th post. I know I’m not exactly prolific. It’s not that I don’t have things to write about … I do. But getting them out of my head is excruciating, and there’s risk involved. What if I accidentally let out something too revealing? Like the fact that “Truly Madly Deeply” by Savage Garden is  on my most recently created Spotify playlist?

Fuck.

Anyway, I’ve got plenty of good shit to write about. Like, why does every straight girl get a gay bestie but every straight guy doesn’t get a gay girl bestie? I don’t get it. I want my lesbian best friend. I want my lesbro.

Do straight up white people really think they are being more cultured when they choose chop sticks over forks? How many times do you need to drop a dumpling before it stops making you look “more cultured,” and starts making you look … like an absolute idiot?

Oranges are the worst fruit by far. No one likes them because the skin is too difficult to peel off. Whenever someone offers me an unpeeled orange, I want to punch them in the face. I suspect the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was not an apple but in fact, an orange.

On that note, if there is a God, why didn’t he put more marshmallows in Lucky Charms?

Huh? Huh? Why God why?

Forget about all the suffering in the world — that, I can understand. It’s the ratio of marshmallows to toasted oats in Luck Charms that has me perplexed.

Did God deliberately put less marshmallows in Lucky Charms to test our faith? Surely if there was a God, he would have put less pretzel pieces and more rye pieces in chex mix. I love the little rye pieces …

Like I said, I’ve got tons of Good Shit to write about. I like to think of my opinions as savory little gourmet chocolates which I indiscriminately hand out to people: police officers, family, neighbors, passerbys. They’re the best opinions out there, in my opinion. Here’s to 100 more of them.

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Fuck pants

Friday, Nov 9th, 2018

I’ve been thinking real hard lately about shit that annoys.

While we have entire holidays dedicated to being thankful, we rarely take the time to consider all the shitty things in life. Now I’m not talking about the obvious shit like horseflies, homework, waking up early and such, I’m talking about the real subliminal shit. The shit that you didn’t even know annoyed you.

Take pants.

Even though pants can often be itchy, irritable, hard on the crotch, not to mention completely unsuitable in the summer months — no one dares question pants. And those who decide to not wear pants are branded outcasts and pariahs. Just try walking into work one day without pants, and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

For the longest time, we are told, women were forced by the patriarchy to wear dresses. Then suddenly one day, women started saying “fuck dresses,” and bam, no more dresses. I feel men need a similar movement. In lieu of pants, I propose we just wear boxers and white tees.

I declare war on pants.

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Screenwriting 101: on TV, everyone drinks their coffee black

Monday, Oct 29th, 2018

So you want to have a morning breakfast scene, but you have just one problem. The main character is supposed to be a badass. Naturally, badasses don’t carefully pour teaspoons of sugar and cream into their coffee.

Even if your main character isn’t a badass, what are you going to do, have a whole scene dedicated to the main character going into the cupboard, taking out the sugar, carefully pouring teaspoons, going into the fridge, getting cream, pouring it…do you even have all those set pieces? How much screen time is this going to take? What if the actor drops his spoon… the entire scene needs to be reset. It’s a logistical nightmare.

Let’s face it. Cream and sugar is not very cinematic.

Much simpler to just have the damn character drink coffee black. Bonus points for subtly hinting that the main character is a badass, take-no-prisoners sort of guy. After all, anyone who drinks their coffee black is a confirmed badass. It’s practically in the job description.

So now you have an entire generation of people drinking their coffee black, because, thanks to television, it has been subconsciously instilled in them that it makes them badass.

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Screenwriting 101: confusion is better than boredom

Sunday, Oct 28th, 2018

Anton checkof famously said, “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired.”

J.J. Abrams, the creator of the Lost television series, famously amended the statement to, “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one, polar bears.”

Story-telling has come a long way since Checkov’s days.

Seriously, just throw some confusing shit in there. Polar bears. Smoke monsters. Abstract dream sequences. Have at it! No need to explain anything, really. It doesn’t need to make sense. The people who think they understand it will be impressed with themselves and the people who don’t understand it will be impressed with you.

It is much better to confuse the audience, than to bore them.

Confusion is the state of the human brain while it tries to make sense of things. And no matter how non-sensical the concept, no matter how absurd the premise, the brain will always work to create an explanation — even if no such explanation exists.

This facet of human nature is brilliantly personified in the character John Locke in Lost. The writers of Lost went out of their way to express what was going through John Locke’s head as Ben Linus choked the life out of him. His final words?

“I don’t understand.”

Nor should he. The writers of Lost were having a laugh. I can hear now, the arguments being made in the writers room during the planning for this episode: The inanimate and impersonal universe of Lost doesn’t have an agenda. There’s simply nothing to understand. Why not just pump out a bunch of bullshit plot turns and, then allow people to ascribe their own meanings, symbolism and interpretations? After all, that’s what happens in our universe!

“A great big frozen wheel, The Dharma Initiative, the smoke monster, glowing yellow light — throw it all into the mix and leave people to their own devices to understand it!”

It is much better to confuse the audience, than to bore them. Inscrutability is easily mistaken for profundity.

Plus, even if your plot doesn’t make sense, there is always a chance the sheer strength of the actors will carry the production, like it did with, say, True Detectives or the Usual Suspects. Matthew Mcconaughey and Woody Harrelson could gargle shit while doing handstands in front of a camera and it would still make a great TV show. Put Kevin Spacey, Benicio Del Toro and Gabriel Byrne in a room together. Get them in a room. Given enough time, there is a chance an oscar will spontaneously materialize in the center of it.

Sometimes, people can justify a poor acting performance due to a weak script. But they are rarely aware enough to recognize a performance which sells the script. True Detectives and The Usual Suspects are grade A examples.

“The best scripts don’t make the best movies.” – Linklater’s Waking Life

That’s because movies aren’t words on paper. Movies are inflections, expressions, glances, the way people walk, the way they talk. You can’t write that stuff.

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Screenwriting 101: Make every character a Damn Catholic

Saturday, Oct 27th, 2018

So you want to broadcast the main characters thoughts and intentions, but you don’t want to do a voice-over narration in your movie. Soliloquies are so sixteenth-century and you’ve used up your quota on dream sequences. You’ve considered displaying a giant digital marquee, with large scrolling text, over the main characters head, but thought better of it.

How will you communicate the characters thoughts to the audience?

Simple, just make the character a Damn Catholic.

Allow me to set the scene.

“Father, it has been 3 weeks since my last convenient plot exposition.”

Viola!

At that point, the character is your talking puppet. Just have him say whatever the fuck you want. He can explain his reasons for just about anything. This makes your job – as a writer – a heck of a lot easier. It is founded upon one of the basic tenets of good writing: tell, don’t show. Or something along those lines.

Bonus points for ex-catholic or a person struggling with their faith (“father, it has been 3 years since my last confession”). In the post-modern era, topics of faith — even handled unironically — are like, so profound. You’ll probably get awards for it (or at the very least, a highbrow New York Times article).

If Catholicism isn’t your schtick, try Alcoholics Anonymous, or, simply have the character go see a psychologist to tell-all. After all, everyone in the real world has psychologists. They’re convenient, affordable, and not weird at all. I know tons of people in the real world who have psychologists. They’re all famous serial killers whose auto-biographies I’ve read, but still, I know of tons of them.

Psychologists are so commonly abused for plot exposition that screenwriters eventually needed to come up with a shorthand or nickname for them, because they got tired of writing out the word “psychologist” (too man syllables). I’m referring to the word “shrink”, which is a word I actually haven’t ever heard spoken in the real world. But it’s a part of the everyday speech in TV-land.

Perhaps the only people who can afford psychologists are rich hollywood executives – the people in control of these narratives. Stories of ordinary life are told through the lens of the rich an famous. Much like history is re-written by the victors.. did you know Hitler once saved a puppy from drowning? I didn’t think so.

Let’s face it, we’d all love to have a “shrink,” a nice, well-dressed authority figure solely devoted to hearing us bitch and moan about all the annoying shit in life. This is emblematic of all television and movies: present an idealized version of the world, a world we’d like to live in, not one we necessarily do.

If TV-land wasn’t such an idealic place to be, we wouldn’t spend so much time there.

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Planet of the Chickens

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

What is up with everything being organic these days? Organic milk, organic eggs, organic celery. Is there somewhere I can go to buy inorganic celery? Some sort of reverse Whole Foods? I’d like to buy the inorganic kind. It’s probably cheaper and will last longer.

I roll my eyes every time I see “organic” or “free range” on the egg carton. I prefer my chickens caged before I mercilessly fry their unborn children over a stove top, sprinkle them with chives and devour them whole. That’s right, I’m an apex predator, bitch.

I’m sure there’s some parallel Planet of the Chickens universe where humans are kept in coops and fed grain pellets all day, so I don’t feel bad at all. Trust me, if the chickens had their way, we’d all be grinded down into little nuggets to be packaged and sold in happy meals. Luckily, the evolutionary cards just didn’t play out that way.

I love Chicka-fil-a’s clever “eat more chicken” marketing slogan, although it’s somewhat morbid if you think about it for too long.

Those cows really are going to die. They’re going to be eaten and they’re pleading for you to eat a different animal, so you’ll eat less of them… it’s fucking morbid.

Anyway, of course I’m only kidding about preferring chickens to be caged. I’m actually a big advocate of “free-range” eggs and chicken products. I don’t mind paying a few extra cents so chickens roam around a little bit (they can even stretch out their legs) before I eat them and mercilessly fry their unborn children over a stove top, sprinkle them with chives and devour them whole.

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed by the author of this article do not represent the views of the author of this article. Good luck working around that one, Peta.

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How many social media icons should you have on your site?

Wednesday, Apr 30th, 2014

Social media icons are like assholes. If you have more than one, something is wrong.

Yes, you heard that right, one. Not eleven, not one hundred: ONE.

Because this … this this this despicable practice of molesting my eyeballs with icons everytime I scroll down a page has got to stop.

This has got to stop:

I mean did you really think your news article about the upcoming gubernatorial election was going to be a smash hit on pinterest?

Do facebook friends need to know about your visitor’s anti-fungal cream purchase?

Is your company about us page, however provocative, really going to take twitter by storm?

And Porn Sites! Ahhhhh! Social media icons on porn sites!! Ahhhhh! Okay let me preface this by saying I’ve never personally visited a porn site (of course not, that would be perverted). But I know a guy who visited one once and he told me all about the abundance of social media icons there.

On. Porn. Sites.

Really?

I must ask: Is such content shareable with family, friends, coworkers? My friend who visits porn sites (actually not my friend, but a friend of a friend) told me that he freaks out every time he sees a facebook share button on a porn site. He’s terrified by the prospect of accidentally clicking the share button and exposing his 82-year-old grandmother to “xxx hardcore latino milf doggy style.”

“But if I don’t have the share buttons, my content won’t get shared!”

Come on, if your visitors lack the motivation to copy and paste the url into the address bar, your content isn’t that great. If your content really is God’s gift to the internet, I assure you, people will find a way to share it. If you’re unhappy with how much your website is being shared, publish better shit.

Social media icons aren’t achievements. They’re not badges or flair. You don’t get internet street cred or extra points for having them. They add noise and clutter. They’re distractions. The more options you present to visitors, the more you cripple their ability to make decisions and the more you detract from user experience. And for anyone that does websites for a living, user experience is God. Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

So get with it people … Less social media icons, better content!

 

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The Poop Argument

Sunday, Apr 27th, 2014

One of the reasons I don’t believe in God is because Jesus pooped. That’s right, you won’t read about it in the bible, you won’t hear about it in Sunday school … But we all know it happened. And I just can’t picture the son of god, the holy of holies, oh king of kings, sitting on the crapper and dropping a load.

I call it, The Poop Argument. Argumentum ad Poopum.

What’s even more difficult to imagine is the image of God boning Mary… Wait, that’s right, early Christians came up with a workaround for that one. Sex is an animal act, unfit for gods — therefore, virgin birth! Immaculate conception!

Such is the reasoning of the idealist. The idealist does not see the world for what it is. The idealist sees the fairy tale version: symbols and oversimplifications, how he wants it to be and not how it truly is. It is the only way he is able to justify his beliefs, by putting everything into neat little ‘idea containers’. The idea of pooping doesn’t fit into the idea container for God. The idea of sex doesn’t fit either — hence the need for the doctrine of virgin birth.

Have the great theologians ever pondered whether Christ had a boner? I would think it quite difficult for a human male to live to the age of 33 having never experienced a boner. Not to mention biologically impossible. So then we are left with this image of the son of God, at some point in time, walking around Nazareth with a hard-on … what is one to think?

Best not to. If one is to remain a true believer, anyway.

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What you might have missed watching “Cloud Atlas”

Saturday, Apr 26th, 2014

Most people probably think it’s about reincarnation or something. Cloud Atlas has reincarnation in it, but isn’t about reincarnation. Sort of like how Star Wars has politics in it, but isn’t about politics. Or, perhaps a closer parallel is how Star Wars contains strong elements of eastern pantheism (the Force, everything being part of God, etc) but isn’t about eastern pantheism.

That being said, Cloud Atlas is less about bodily reincarnation and more about soul reincarnation. Less about identities recurring throughout time and more about ideals: “Fear, belief, love – phenomena that determined the course of our lives. These forces begin long before we are born and continue after we perish.” After all, it’s our ideas that make us who we are, not our bodies. Bodily reincarnation is questionable theory but idea reincarnation is indisputable fact.

The first idea is conceived by Adam Ewing aboard the Prophetess and it drives him to free the slave. In the Cavendish storyline, Ewing is reborn as a Scotsman. He still has the soul of the abolitionist, and the qualities of the abolitionist are awoken when he witnesses Cavendish and the old timers from the Aurora house being oppressed by their tyrannical nurses. When they ask for help (“Are there no true Scotsmen in the house?!”), just as the black slave asked for his help in a past life, he does not hesitate to free them, because his shtick is that he’s a freedom fighter: in his past life as a slave abolitionist, in the future life as the rebellion leader, and in the present, as a Scotsman. The action of freeing the slave is what made him this way. All his future incarnations embody that ideal.

Cavendish, finally being freed from captivity, writes a book about his experience in the Aurora house. The book is adopted into a movie. Thousands of years in the future, the movie or “disney” in future-speak is watched by the fabricants Sonmi 451 and Yoona-939. Just before Yoona is killed, she says “I will not be subjected to criminal abuse,” recited word for word from Cavendish’s disney. The inclusion of this line is meant to signify that her actions were inspired by Cavendish. Later, Sonmi, inspired by Yoona-939′s martyrdom, becomes a symbol of the revolution. Much much later, she is deified and becomes one of the moving forces in the islander storyline.

So you see, were it not for Ewing freeing the slave, he would never have become an abolitionist, Cavendish would never have been freed, the Disney never produced, Yoona never martyred and the revolution never begun. It all fits together perfectly, like puzzle pieces. Hence:

“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others. Past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”

There are multiple other threads to follow. The Ewing-Cavendish-Sonmi connection is only one thread. For instance, the slave in Ewing’s storyline is reincarnated as Luisa Rey’s father (the source of her inspiration and journalistic integrity) which has ties to both the Cavendish and the Frobisher storylines. You could spend all day charting out the numerous connections, the causes and effects. That is the central theme of Cloud Atlas: cause and effect. It’s nothing new, any well-crafted story can demonstrate cause-effect, but doing so across multiple timelines, with dozens of characters in dozens of different circumstances and dialects is what makes this movie unique. Cloud Atlas is an illustration of idea reincarnation.

At the end, Ewing’s father-in-law tells Ewing “No matter what you do it will never amount to anything more than a single drop in a limitless ocean.” The movie then cuts Sonmi 451′s execution, the climax of the revolution, which was in fact the very effect of Ewing’s actions. The hidden meaning is that Ewing’s “single drop in a limitless ocean” did have an effect all throughout time … and it all started with freeing the slave.

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A poem about brownies

Monday, Apr 14th, 2014

One should never indulge upon the choclatey mixture used to make one’s brownies.
A task which should be undertaken with a firm and unwavering resolution,
Lest one slip into a choclate-induced trance,
Lest one lose control of one’s self,
And end up with …
Really fucking thin brownies.

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