April 2013


The isle of Cevkawesi in the East Indies, known as Kawas to the Dutch and Portuguese, was of little interest to Europeans prior to Dutch consolidation of their colonial rule post-1814. It was small and mountainous, with few of the spices or safe harbors desired by the VOC or the Crown in Lisbon.

In fact, Cevkawesi was best known for the volcanic eruption of its central peak in 1800, one which violently ejected much of the central island into the sky and left a caldera full of seawater. While paling in comparison to the eruptions of Tambora (1815) and Krakatoa (1883), the eruption still caused a localized cooling and mild tidal waves in nearby harbors, with ashfall recorded in Jakarta and Singapore.

However, archival research has indicated that the island may have been inhabited at the time of the eruption. The Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie archives in Amsterdam show a visit to Cevkawesi by a trading vessel in 1787, and the master’s official report includes mention of oerbevolking (aboriginal inhabitants), ruïnes van steen (stone ruins), and hindoe beelden (Hindu statues). The ship’s master’s notes indicate that there was little of economic value, mentioning that the inhabitants were squatting in the structures and did not appear to have the technology to make such structures.

In a controversial paper published in the Historical Bulletin of Southeast Asia and Oceania, a group of scholars argued that the VOC records indicate a relict population of a much larger empire or entity living on Cevkawesi and surviving in monumental architecture from an earlier period until the time of the eruption.

The paper went on to propose a number of origins for the “stone ruins,” from the Sailendra dynasty on nearby Java circa 800 AD to the Mataram kingdom circa 1000 or even the later Srivijaya, Singhasari, or Majapahit empires. A totally unique and independent origin was also discussed (the VOC ship’s master mentioned being unable to understand the Cevkawesis despite the presence of a Javan translator in the ship’s compliment).

It was possible, however unlikely, that the inhabitants of Cevkawesi had an entirely unique culture, architecture, and language.

Whatever the case, the answers lay buried on the flanks of the island. Volcanologists estimate that the eruption would have unleashed multiple pyroclastic flows into Cevkawesi valleys, scouring them clean of all life and burying any structures deeper than Pompeii.

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As she’d been told, Millie followed the silken thread into the center of the maze, where an old cabin lay. It had been wracked by the elements, leaning sideways and with barely a few flecks of paint remaining, but she wormed her way inside regardless.

It was nearly dusk, leaving the interior nothing but long shadows and dust. A table was the only piece of furniture still standing, and a deeply lined sheet of parchment lay upon it. Just as the instructions had said, Millie folded it, moving the parchment along creases that had been worked countless times before.

She laid the resulting origami owl atop the table.

“You have observed the ritual properly,” the owl said in a voice that was at once the rustling of dead leaves and the rending of old books. “Ask your question.”

Millie took a deep breath. “How do I bring him back?”

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Bennie could thereafter be seen cruising around town in souped-up, expensive cars, since he could apparently find no other outlet for his newfound wealth. He seemed to rotate fairly equally between a red For Mustang, a yellow Chevrolet Camaro, and a lime green Dodge Charger. Townsfolk seeing those new and expensive vehicles on the road began to derisively refer to the trio as “Ketchup, Mustard, and Relish.”

For his part, when Bennie was told of the nicknames, he enthusiastically adopted them as his own, and added themed trim and custom nameplates to each car. In addition, he began recruiting flunkies to drive the cars with him in a trio so that all three condiments were out at the same time.

All of that was, naturally, before the accident that spread Ketchup, Mustard, and Relish all over what soon became known in local circles as “Hot Dog Street.”

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Many film critics preface their lists of notable cinema with the term “the best.” The best movies of the year, the best movie of all time. It makes for dramatic copy, but it’s also highly inaccurate. It would be better for them to simply say that the list contains their favorite films of the year, but that makes less attention-grabbing reading and removes the gloss obscuring the fact that all moviegoers, even critics, are subjective viewers. Only through consensus over time can anything have a claim to be “the best.” Everything else is just “my favorite.”

This explains why occasionally you’ll see a moviegoer or critic defend their love of a particular film (as the late Roger Ebert notoriously did with Burt Reynolds’ Rent-a-Cop) despite the fact that it’s nowhere near perfect cinema. A favorite movie is like a favorite car or a favorite pair of jeans–you love it for what it is, warts and all.

I recently realized that my favorite movie, at least insofar as I can name one, is 1993’s Jurassic Park, an assessment reinforced by its recent reappearance on the big screen.

Jurassic Park is in many ways a synthesis of other things in its director’s oeuvre. It combines the broad optimism evident in E.T. and the unrelenting horror from Jaws into something that’s its own beast, apart from the book and the many, many creature feature imitators that followed. There’s action, adventure, laughs (mostly courtesy of Jeff Goldblum, much more effective as a scene-stealer than a lead in the sequel), and a real human element as well.

That’s one criticism that “serious” critics leveled at the film that I never agreed with–that the special effects are great but that the characters are cardboard. I don’t think anyone was robbed at Oscar time, but Grant and Hammond have significant character arcs. Grant, the curmudgeonly character who hates kids, is forced to come to terms with his parental side by guiding the kids through the park; willing to scare a kid to death for insulting a dinosaur at the beginning, he’s ready to give up his life to protect one by the end.

And Hammond (a much different and more sympathetic character than in the book) has his idealism and showmanship tempered by harsh reality. Not only the controller who’s lost control, but an old man faced with the sobering reality that his dream may have cost the lives of the people he loves. My favorite scene in the film doesn’t involve any dinosaurs or special effects, but rather Richard Attenborough musing quietly on his life of showmanship over bowls of melting ice cream.

I’d be the first to agree that Jurassic Park isn’t a perfect movie. Several subplots from the book are shoehorned in and left dangling, most notably the mystery of the sick triceratops and the “lysine contingency.” Despite its screen time we never learn that the triceratops was becoming sick by eating West Indian Lilac as a crop stone, and the throwaway mention of the lysine contingency adds nothing to the picture other than a hurdle for future sequels to grapple with or ignore. The conceit that all the park workers except the main characters leave the island due to the storm (or perhaps daily, it’s not clear) strains credulity.

But still, I find myself as thrilled and engaged by Jurassic Park now as I was in 1993. Even a few notes of John Williams’ magnificent score are enough to make me want to pop in the DVD. It’s not a perfect movie, but it’s perhaps my favorite.

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Mikkalsen would often show off his gear, particularly to the younger mercenaries that he often mentored. Most eventually asked about the 9mm crimson cartridge that he kept on a lanyard around his neck.

“That’s my red bullet,” Mikkalsen always said with a grin. “It’s enchanted never to miss, and I keep it for when I really need it.”

In the Kraithari Coup d’Eat of ’24, when Mikkalsen’s mercs were pinned down by artillery strikes being called in by a spotter on the ground, one suggested that he use the red bullet.

“I don’t really need it yet,” said Mikkalsen. He killed the spotter with a well-placed shot to the head with a normal bullet.

During the Siege of Ulmar-Kam in ’27, Mikkalsen was among the mercenaries pinned down at the docks by a sniper while the last ship out of town was casting off. Again it was suggested that he use his red bullet.

“I don’t really need it yet,” said Mikkalsen. The sniper was crushed by a shipping container that Mikkalsen dropped on him from a nearby crane.

In ’38, when bounty hunters from the Imar of Callicob were pursuing Mikkalsen with orders to bring him back for torture and dismemberment, the merc, injured by a broken leg and a bullet wound, sent his fellows on ahead.

“I need it now,” he said, removing the red bullet from his neck and loading it into his sidearm.

When the Imar’s men caught up with him, the found Mikkalsen already dead–with a single red shell casing on the ground next to him.

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.enaJ dennirg “,ydaerla retcarahc laer a ekil erom leef I”

“.gnola lla ti gniod neeb evah eW ?ees uoy t’naC” .dehgual drahciR “,lrig teews raed ym ,hO”

“.won thgir taht od s’teL” .enaJ dias “,suineg a er’uoY”

“!ytixelpmoc citameht dna evitarran rof tuo ti gnilzzup fo rehtob eht ekatsim ll’yeht dna ,ereht gninaem erom si ereht kniht lliw elpoep ,daer ot tluciffid yrots ruo ekam ew fI .ylesicerP”

“?noitacsufbO”

“!noitacsufbO” .deirc eh “!ti tog ev’I” .gnihtemos no gnittis neeeb dah eh rof( teef sih ot tohs ylneddus drahciR

“.tuo dnats sevlesruo ekam ot gnihtemos od ot deen ew lleW”

“.noitpircsed a em nevig neve t’nsah eH .tniop siht ta smihw s’rohtua eht rof teppup kcos erem a ,lla retfa ,ma I” .drahciR dehgis “,nekat enoN”

“.esneffo oN .sretcarahc laer on dna tolp on htiw yrtne golb gnirob yrev a ni kcuts er’eW” .enaJ dias “?od ew dluohs tahW”

.derob gnikool dnuora tas enaJ dna drahciR

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Sperduti, Clemente. “L. R. Badeau on Being a Full-Time Unicorn.” Hopewell Democrat-Tribune 4 Apr. 2013, University ed.: A2+.

Lots of children adorn their folders and lockers with unicorn stickers, and Lisa Frank’s cosmic vision of the creatures was long haute couture for elementry schoolers. Lynn Ruelle Badeau of Hopewell has taken that fascination a step further: she has become one of the nation’s few full-time unicorns.

Ms. Badeau spoke to the Hopewell Democrat-Tribune earlier this week: “I’ve always been fascinated with mythological creatures, not just because of their beauty, but also because of their potential to do good and serve as a symbol,” she said. “I was an equestrian and a hiker, and loved nothing more than long wilderness hikes and off the trail rides.”

Badeau had long been an admirer of books like Peter Beagle’s The Last Unicorn and its 1982 film adaptation, but it wasn’t until she graduated from Southern Michigan University’s Monaghan School of Business and began working as an accountant’s assistant that she began thinking of making her fascination into a full-time job. “I thought of majoring in something that involved chasing unicorns, but the closest thing the school had–art history–had a really awful placement rate. So I made the ‘grownup’ decision and became an accountant.”

Five years of clock-punching at the Hopewell accountancy firm of Heliotrope, Burgher, and Mendicant changed her mind. “It’s a good thing no one saw my expense account sheets,” Badeau laughs, “I covered every inch of empty space with unicorn drawings. I got the work done, but 90% of my time was daydreaming about being a unicorn.” She maintained her equestrian and wilderness hiking pursuits on the side, but holds that “it just wasn’t enough.”

It was a Motion magazine article about Venado un Cuerno that really opened Badeau’s eyes. “I read about Mr. un Cuerno in SoCal, who’d been a unicorn full-time for almost a decade, and realized that there might be a way to live the dream.” She struck up a correspondence with un Cuerno, who she credits as her mentor, freely sharing tips on how to live and work as a full-time unicorn.

At first, things were difficult. “Being a full-time unicorn is tough!” Badeau says. “You really miss your opposable thumbs, and a diet of grass and rainbows is a difficult adjustment for someone used to burgers and fries!” She started with part-time unicorning, on weekends and after hours, but soon found the courage to quit her 9-5 job and move into 40-hour unicorn weeks.

“There are some challenges,” admits Badeau. “You need people to help brush your coat, and driving anywhere requires a trailer and hitch. It’s difficult for people with hard hearts to see me, and I have an instinctive fear of non-virgins that I have to control with special veterinary medication.” But it’s all worth it, she says. “Especially with children. Asking if they can ride me or touch my horn and then seeing their faces when they’re able to…it’s the best feeling in the world!”

Lynn Badeau now lives and works full-time as a unicorn, taking only the occasional weekend or holiday off to “wear clothes, use fingers, and watch Netflix” for a change. While she’s coy about how much she charges per appearance (Badeau’s website has a price quote generator), she often works for free or at the behest of the Department of Natural Resources, teaching children about conservationism and the environment.

“I’m a nerd at heart,” Badeau says, noting that she has appeared as a guest in such respected shows as Dr. What, Blade Runner: The Series, and Star Trek the Third Generation. “I’m able to make a living with my dream and educate besides. What could be better than that?”

From an idea by breylee and this article.

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The diode implants were inexpensive and enough to keep inaction or an unhealthy diet from negatively impacting a person’s muscle mass and tone. Combine that with the burgeoning industry of “tweaking” babies by choosing the most attractive and ideal combination of their parents’ genes, and the conclusion was clear. The most recent generation had far more people that were in the highest tier of human attractiveness. They were also among the most highly educated generations in history, and enjoyed the benefits of unprecedented technological infrastructure.

Why, then, were they also some of the loneliest and most disconnected people in history?

Academic struggled with the facts for years. Generation A, to use the somewhat debased term that became popular in the media, had in theory every possible convenience and every reason to succeed. And yet they failed in droves, boomeranging home, crashing out of jobs, or struggling by on minimum wage slavery despite abundant opportunities. And the suicides…paramedics in major cities took to calling them “type A fatalities” with their peculiar brand of gallows humor

Most dire, though, was the epidemic of so-called JCVs, named after one Joyce Carol Vincent. Young, attractive, and highly educated people would sequester themselves in a tiny space, often ringed with computer monitors and other technology, and live their lives through the mediation of a glowing screen, only rising to use the restroom or to eat. And many of them died in that posture, either from wasting away or the long-term effects of a sedentary lifestyle that the diodes couldn’t help.

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The cul-de-sac along the side of the Goldsmith building had once held a condenser which had helped keep the loading dock cool even in the most blistering summer heat. With the new AC system located on the roof of the expansion added in 1997, the fenced-in area had become something very different.

A refugee camp.

Dr. Maarten, from the Department of Biology in abutting Peter Hall, knocked on one of the two wooden gates in the cul-de-sac wall. Both gate and wall were easily nine feet high and built from faded but sturdy pine.

An eyeball appeared at a knothole in the gate. “Password.”

“$5.75,” Maarten replied.

Whispers behind the pine. Dr. Maarten hoped he’d gotten the password right; it did fluctuate day by day, after all.

The door swung open. “You’re clean, come on in.”

Maarten gratefully joined the circle of other PhDs, graduate students, and other Southern Michigan University personnel who were already there. He pulled a battered carton of Marlboros–$5.75 a pack according to the sign at the Gas n’ Gulp just off campus–and lit a fresh coffin nail. Such was the lengths to which SMU’s campuswide ban on smoking had driven people. Someone had told Maarten that intelligent people like professors and lecturers should be smart enough to know better than to smoke; Maarten’s first instinct had been to punch that person in the face, since the nicotine content of his blood had been particularly low that day.

Another knock at the front gate. Maarten, as the most recent arrival, had gate duty. He peeked through the knothole and saw only a blue jacket.

“Password?”

“$11.90.”

That was the price of cigarettes in New York City, not Michigan; Maarten knew immediately thanks to blog posts and colleagues from the Big Apple that assumed their vice tax burden was shared by all.

As he pondered what to do, Maarten saw a flash of silver through through the hole. “It’s a raid!” he cried. “Cheese it!”

The front gate opened with a bang as the assembled smokers fled through the back. DPS officers swarmed into the smokers’ refugee camp, handcuffs ready, pepper spray and tasers in hand. The smokers tried to flee into the narrow allwyways between buildings, only to be confronted by mounted officers bearing down on them with nets and truncheons.

Only a few managed to escape the sweep, the rest being led back to the station in chains.

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One night—it was on the twentieth of March, 1888—I was returning from a journey to a patient (for I had now returned to civil practice), when my way led me through Baker Street. As I passed the well-remembered door, which must always be associated in my mind with my wooing, and with the dark incidents of the Study in Scarlet, I was seized with a keen desire to see Holmes again, and to know how he was employing his extraordinary powers. His rooms were brilliantly lit, and, even as I looked up, I saw his tall, spare figure pass twice in a dark silhouette against the blind. He was pacing the room swiftly, eagerly, with his head sunk upon his chest and his hands clasped behind him. To me, who knew his every mood and habit, his attitude and manner told their own story. He was at work again. He had risen out of his drug-created dreams and was hot upon the scent of some new problem. I rang the bell and was shown up to the chamber which had formerly been in part my own.

His manner was not effusive. It seldom was; but he was glad, I think, to see me. With hardly a word spoken, but with a kindly eye, he waved me to an armchair, threw across his case of cigars, and indicated a spirit case and a gasogene in the corner. Then he stood before the fire and looked me over in his singular introspective fashion.

“Wedlock suits you,” he remarked. “I think, Watson, that you have put on seven and a half pounds since I saw you.”

“Seven!” I answered.

“Indeed, I should have thought a little more. Just a trifle more, I fancy, Watson. And in practice again, I observe. You did not tell me that you intended to go into harness.”

“Then, how do you know?”

“I see it, I deduce it. How do I know that you have been getting yourself very wet lately, and that you have a most clumsy and careless servant girl?”

“My dear Holmes,” said I, “this is too much. You would certainly have been burned, had you lived a few centuries ago. It is true that I had a country walk on Thursday and came home in a dreadful mess, but as I have changed my clothes I can’t imagine how you deduce it. As to Mary Jane, she is incorrigible, and my wife has given her notice, but there, again, I fail to see how you work it out.”

He chuckled to himself and rubbed his long, nervous hands together.

“It is simplicity itself,” said he; “my eyes tell me that on the inside of your left shoe, just where the firelight strikes it, the leather is scored by six almost parallel cuts. Obviously they have been caused by someone who has very carelessly scraped round the edges of the sole in order to remove crusted mud from it. Hence, you see, my double deduction that you had been out in vile weather, and that you had a particularly malignant boot-slitting specimen of the London slavey. As to your practice, if a gentleman walks into my rooms smelling of iodoform, with a black mark of nitrate of silver upon his right forefinger, and a bulge on the right side of his top-hat to show where he has secreted his stethoscope, I must be dull, indeed, if I do not pronounce him to be an active member of the medical profession.”

I could not help laughing at the ease with which he explained his process of deduction. “When I hear you give your reasons,” I remarked, “the thing always appears to me to be so ridiculously simple that I could easily do it myself, though at each successive instance of your reasoning I am baffled until you explain your process. And yet I believe that my eyes are as good as yours.”

“Quite so,” he answered, lighting a cigarette, and throwing himself down into an armchair. “You see, but you do not observe.”

This entry incorporates some text from public domain books at Project Gutenberg.

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