Sunday, April 19, 2015
Friday, April 17, 2015
The Morning After
Tina dressed by candlelight and then went outside to look at the man who had been hit by lightning. His body, still on fire, was being consumed; a scent of burning flesh mixed with plastic filled the air. The burning tree cast a strange, flickering orange glow over the yard, further enhancing the bizarre nature of the scene. He was obviously dead: his head and shoulders had been almost obliterated by the strike. The barrel of the rifle the man had been carrying was fused at the end. The path the lighting took to the ground was outlined by a vivid red line of seared skin along the man’s side. His torso was relatively unscathed; it was covered by some kind of military vest with a holstered pistol and various tools and compartments.
Tina returned to the house to call the sheriff. The phone was dead. She became terrified at the thought that there might be other people in the woods around the farm and reluctantly got the keys to her car. Tina’s drivers license was restricted to daylight hours but she felt that she had to get away from the farm. As she began to drive away, she heard a ‘whoomp’ and turning to look she saw the body of the man engulfed in a fireball. She drove away as fast as she dared.
Sean tried to console Mary as best he could. He was unsure what her remark meant, but after a few minutes Mary had regained her composure enough to tell Sean about the her ‘coyote vision’ in the scrub land behind the motel.
“The Brotherhood is beginning to catch up to us. That assassin was looking for you and me, and Tina as well, I’m afraid.” said Mary. “We should call Tina and warn her."
"I'll give her a call. If The Brotherhood is behind this, they probably won't stop with this attack." said Sean as he phoned his aunt. His call was answered by a recorded message stating: “Service to this area is not possible at this time. Please try again later.”
“The storm must have knocked out the phone lines." said Sean, “We'll have to try again in the morning.”
“Suddenly, I’m exhausted.” said Mary. “It’s hard work being Thor.”
“Well, now I’m wide awake.” said Sean. “I think I’ll have a cup of tea in a warm bath.”
When Sean was finished with his bath he crawled back into bed and spooned next to Mary. He sniffed her hair; it had a faint odor of ozone.
The Leader of The Brotherhood checked his email for the tenth time in the last hour. His operative was supposed to confirm the completion of his mission by 0300. It was already near dawn in Virgina, in a few hours he would have to face the other members. It was becoming apparent that the mission, his mission, had failed. Roger Ramsen had failed. The Brotherhood’s members were skeptical of this plan, now there would be little to stop them from a vote of confidence. The position of leader had always been held by a Regelind: Grandfather was the first, his father the second, and now John Regelind III.
“With no sons to take on the mantle, the line would be soon over anyway,” he mused. “Perhaps it was better this way, I've lost my touch.”
In Decorah, Tina had finally found the sheriff and persuaded him to come out to her farm. The sun was just beginning to rise by the time the sheriff and Tina arrived at the farm. The tree was still smouldering, but the body was almost completely destroyed. Only the weapons and other metal items remained in a recognizable form. The sheriff examined the weapons in the charred residue carefully and then radioed in to his dispatcher, telling her to call FBI. As he was talking, Tina heard the telephone in the kitchen ringing.
Sean had woken early, the sky was lightening but t would be nearly an hour before the sun came up. Mary was still asleep. He went out to balcony and called Tina. The phone rang several times before Tina picked up.
“Tina, are you alright?” said Sean, “Mary was concerned about your safety; she had a vision of the farm last night.”
“A man was hit by lightning, by the old tree. He had guns. The sheriff is here now, he's going to have the FBI look at what’s left of him.”
“O.K. Tina, that jibes with what Mary experienced last night.” said Sean. “Don't tell the sheriff anything about The Brotherhood. We're in Billings, Montana and should be in Seattle by nightfall. Is there someplace you can stay?”
“I'll see if Edwin can put me up. I might be able to get into the assisted living facility if there is an opening." said Tina, as the sheriff walked into the kitchen, “thanks for calling, Sean, I'll call you tomorrow in to Seattle.”
“Who was on the phone?” asked the sheriff.
“That was my nephew, Sean.” said Tina, “He’s on his way back to Seattle with his new bride. They got married here last week. He called to let me know where they were.”
“He married that black woman, the one who’s been in in the news?”
“Mary Robinson. Yes, I guess they both a little famous, from that business in Iceland a while ago. She’s a sweet girl.”
“I remember the story. She’s his boss, isn’t she?” said the sheriff.
“Was his boss. She sold her business.” said Tina. “Although she still might be, in some ways. They’re good kids.”
“I’ve put in a call to the F.B.I.” said the sheriff, “That man wasn’t just an unlucky prowler. His weapons were Soviet military issue. You don't have any enemies from Russia?”
“God! No.” said Tina.
“Do you have someplace you could stay for a few days? I’m sorry but this area will be under investigation for a while.”
“Yes, I know someone.” said Tina. “Let me get some clothes and things.”
The sheriff’s radio crackled.
“That's the F.B.I..” he said, “Get your things, I’ll take this call in the car.”
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Butterick's Practical Typography
Butterick’s Practical Typography is a concise and readable primer (in the form of a website) for basic typography on a word processor and, more importantly (for me at least), the web.
What the site is good for is giving a sense of how elegant typography can add clarity and a sense of quality to one's writing. He shows how all those pesky commas, dashes and brackets can be properly wrangled, as well as giving formatting, layout and font recommendations. Mr. Butterick’s primary concern is type for print, some of his ideas about web type might be a little picky; I like to indent and space paragraphs. I find that it really helps ‘the flow’ of a story; he says use only one or the other, which I find a little crowded on a web device. He isn’t into graphics at all (ergo: no illustration with this post), which I happen to think is almost a must for most web sites.
While not 100% in agreement with the author, I am at about 99% (more on that later.) Matthew Butterick is a writer, typographer and lawyer. His first book Typography for Lawyers covered a specific field of typography. The fonts he has created offer elegant alternatives to the usual dismal mess of system fonts installed in modern personal computers.
Monday, April 13, 2015
Today I thought I would share some of the websites I’ve been recently frequenting:
No surprise here, I’ve been following Auður for over eleven years now! Her I Heart Reykjavík site is “By far the best Icelandic website of which I am aware”, even if I do say so myself. She’s turned it into a multipurpose portal with tips on Reykjavík attractions, car rentals, and even offers up the opportunity to personally bask in the glow of her fabulousness on her walking tour of Reykjavík. The tour has been getting rapturous reviews; look it up on TripAdvisor if you need further persuasion.
Another site I've been visiting a lot lately is the Já map site:
Unfortunately it does use the clunky Google Maps style navigation, (the Apple Maps version is much easier to use) but in spite of that drawback I return to it because it is the most detailed Iceland map available; it even includes bike paths. Speaking of bicycles, here's a screenshot of another site I’ve been looking at:
If you need a bike in Reykjavík, Bike Company is the place to get one. The day rates are rather high, but if you email them you can get a pretty good weekly rate in the off season. The last time I was in Reykjavík I used my rental bike every day, finding it to be especially handy when going to the swimming pools:
I’ve been to three of them, although I wouldn't rank them the way the Grapevine did, but each has its own merits and debits. These mostly outdoor pools are a must-visit, even if you have to shower naked before entering.
If you are starting to detect a trend here this next screen shot will reveal the underlying theme in today's post:
I AM GOING BACK TO ICELAND!
If the third time's a charm, will the sixth time be twice as charming? I intend to absorb as much culture as humanly possible in my seven days there and will definitely make it a point to catch Auður’s walking tour.
Sunday, April 12, 2015
Sunday Matinee - #15
The Tire Farmer was filmed in 1970 at a chemical dump near where I grew up. The tires are in a field of caustic soda (lime), a byproduct of an air reduction process. A few years later it was excavated and used to treat agricultural fields. Interstate 94 goes over where it once was.
Friday, April 10, 2015
Mary drove from Saint Cloud to Fargo. On the west side of the city she stopped at an anonymous local-chain gas station which was attached to a Subway sandwich shop.
“This food is evil,” said Mary, looking at her sandwich. “It may be the lesser of two evils when compared to Twinkies and Mountain Dew, but it is evil nevertheless.”
“Fuel. Just raw fuel.” mumbled Sean between bites as he drove west on I-94. “Even the lettuce tastes flat; as flat as the country around here?”
"Any landscape without mountains in the distance seems weird to me.” said Mary. “Or one without an ocean view.”
“A sea of grass.” replied Sean. “We could move out here, into an old farmhouse. Do you think anyone would be able to find us?”
“The Purloined Letter approach?” said Mary.
“That might have worked in Poe’s day, but everything’s connected now.” said Sean. “We wouldn't last a week. Are you making any headway in those books of Emily’s?”
“Yes. I’m sorting it all out when I sleep. Yesterday, in the churchyard, I received the final revelation of my powers. The Book of Keys gives the precise instructions on how to enable them. When I sleep my ‘superego’, or whatever one may choose to call it, shuts down enabling my inner mind to work. If you don’t mind driving in silence, I’m going to nap some more.”
“I’m fine, although this road is straight and flat, we’ll be getting some varied terrain in a few hundred miles. If you are awake by then you can drive.”
“O.K., are you sure you can handle it? I'll be out for a while.” said Mary.
"The coffee is bad, but it’s strong."
As Mary slept, Sean thought about what steps they might have to take to insure their safety in Seattle. He already knew that their apartment in Seattle had been under surveillance. Although moving would be an option, any new place would have the same issues. He’d check into renting another unit in the same building—leaving their existing apartment intact—at least they would be able to get some sleep with, and the situation when the baby came would just have to be dealt with later. Sean had felt safe in Decorah but he knew that the security it offered wouldn’t have lasted long, especially since they would be unable to ‘hide out’ at Tina's after she sold the farm. Things would probably change a lot between now and then; he surmised that it was best not to over-think the whole thing.
The time passed uneventfully. Mary was deeply asleep, murmuring from time to time, and didn’t stir until they were well into Montana, approaching Glendive.
“Hmm,” began Mary, yawning, “we‘re out of flatland, I see. How long have I been out?”
“Over five hours,” said Sean, “we’re in Montana now. We can stop in Glendive, it’s about three miles ahead.”
“My sleep schedule is going to be messed up for a while, I’m afraid.” Mary said, “Hopefully, my old office at ADR hasn't been changed yet. It's perfect for an all-nighter. You can bring in a cot and join me, but I get the sofa.”
“That's not a bad idea. I’ve been thinking about our security situation. A few days spent in the bowels of ADR would give us a chance to reconnect without exposing ourselves. I've come up with some other options as well.” said Sean.
“What are you thinking?” said Mary.
“We should keep our current place as a ‘front’, but see if we can rent a furnished unit in the same building. How's your relationship with the rental agent?"
“Tight. I’ve saved his ass a couple of times on background checks. He’ll keep his mouth shut.” Mary said. “There’s your exit.”
It was six-thirty by the time they got back on the freeway. Mary begged off driving and as soon as they were on the freeway she resumed her slumber. Sean drove on through the sunset and by ten o’clock had reached the same motel they had stayed in previously. As Sean was checking in, Mary waited outside the car, sniffing the air. She could sense the presence of her ‘friends’, the coyotes.
The assassin was waiting, in the dark, in his truck on an overgrown cow-path, well hidden from the road. He was parked about a quarter-mile away from his target, which was on the other side of a wooded hill. At one-thirty A.M. he got out of the vehicle and strapped on his assault vest and slung a rifle over his shoulder. The vest’s holster contained a high-power handgun. The firearms were backups. His lethal weapon of choice tonight was much smaller: its appearance and size was similar to an asthma inhaler. It contained a fast acting poison which would breakdown without a trace under heat. After he had ‘neutralized’ his targets, his plan was to loosen the gas fitting at the stove, letting the house become a bomb. A timed incendiary would ignite the gas and destroy the dwelling. Some carefully placed, untraceable accelerants would insure that the old timber-frame house would be completely consumed. By that time he would be out of the state, on his way back to the east coast. He strapped on a pair of night goggles and headed for the woods. A distant thunderstorm covered the sounds of his walking through the underbrush.
After Sean and Mary had been sleeping a couple of hours, Mary woke up; she thought she had heard a call from the coyotes. In a state of heightened awareness, she put on her clothes and went out to the picnic area behind the motel. She walked past the benches and out about a hundred yards into the brush. Standing still, she was aware of the coyotes around her in the scrubby plain. As she felt their fur brush her legs her mind began to form images—images that she knew were coming from the eyes of the animals. The images became clearer and after a time she was able to make out Tina's house with a light shining from the kitchen and a thunderstorm raging in the sky behind it. As the viewpoint of the images kept shifting, Mary now understood that she was seeing through the eyes of many coyotes, coyotes in Iowa who must be somehow connected with those around her.
Suddenly the images merged into one, centering on a man, with a rifle, in military gear. The coyotes surrounding her were agitated and began whining.
“I miss the kids already. And Edwin.” thought Tina, as she unsuccessfully tried to sleep. But there was more to it. There was an underlying sense of dread. Something was not right. That feeling, along with an impending thunderstorm, had roused Tina from bed. She went into the kitchen and put water on to boil for tea. When the tea was ready she took it into the parlor.
“Coolumonlou… coolumonlou… moolumaloo…” Mary intoned, channeling The Book Of Keys, and the animals became quiet. Mary now understood what was happening. The man was an assassin, sent to murder Sean and Mary. He was a day late, but that fact wouldn't save Tina. She knew that she had to act. She began another chant from Emily's book, this one much more powerful:
“Acheratte… secherratte… naberettu… acheratte… secherratte… naberettu…” As she kept chanting, the man continued to walk toward the house. Faint wisps of St. Elmo’s Fire formed a crown about his head. Mary continued her chant: “Acheratte… secherratte… naberettu… ”
The man was now in the farm yard and had paused in the shadow of a tree.
“GETAKKA!” Mary shouted, and her vision was illuminated by a flash of lightning, a flash which engulfed the man.
Tina had only been sitting for a minute when a brilliant bolt of lighting, arriving accompanied with a simultaneous boom, shook the house and interrupted the electrical service and plunged the parlor into blackness. After the echoes of the thunder had died away, Tina went to the window. The tree in the yard, the one which had been damaged in a previous storm, was burning. On the ground next to it was a body, also on fire.
After the vision faded, the coyotes dispersed into the brush and a dazed Mary wandered back to the motel room. In the darkened room she tripped over a chair and fell onto the bed, waking Sean up.
“Mary, are you all right?” said Sean. “What happened?”
“Oh Sean, I've just killed a man.” said Mary, crying.
Wednesday, April 08, 2015
Obscure Track of the Month
Hoo boy. This is without a doubt the strangest record in my collection. Cosmic Rock Show was from Minnesota, I've heard that they were from Duluth and that it consisted of the semi-famous Michael Yonkers and his brother. This was released in 1967 or 1968, I found it in a Salvation Army store in the early 70s. A unique take on the old folk standard, it comes off as a cross between The Animals and The Mothers of Invention.
Interestingly enough, I once bought a used tape recorder from Michael in 1978—it may have been the very one used to record this masterpiece! This is the "B" side, the "A" side, "Psiship" might be even nuttier: Sun Ra meets Wildman Fischer.
There is a very small cult following for this record, if you ever happen to encounter a member of it, RUN AWAY!