Friday, January 30, 2015

DotTeeVee: College Hockey Line Brawl Fight: Ferris State at Minnesota State 1/18/14

Let me tell you an apocryphal story. Some guy asked me if I was going to watch the "Big Game" this weekend. My response, of course, was "Yes, I'm definitely going to watch the early afternoon regular season hockey game. Thank you for asking." I'm told there's some sort of Katy Perry devil show and/or thirty second corporate mind-washing video competition, but I'll probably pass. When you're a hockey fan and you sometimes struggle with the appeal of American Egg Ball, it happens. I've got my loyalties, mixed up and sad as they are. Does this mean I'd also watch College Hockey? Well, no, obviously not. Until now. And what better jumping off point to a world where "Ferris State" and "National Champion" can be said in the same sentence free from negative qualifiers or sarcastic negation than the night the exciting world of all against all ice wars finally made its way into the otherwise insomnia-curing college game.

We start off with a "draw" and the puck finds a way, as it generally does. Ferris State is taking on Minnesota State in a game with major championship implications. The hired killers from Big Rapids, Michigan are currently ranked #3 in the nation, but trail 4-2 to the Mavericks (You're dangerous Minnesota-Mankato, I like that). Obviously, something big needs to happen if the visiting Bulldogs are going to get back in this game. Maybe a technically superb play? Selfless teamwork that inspires? Putting that black disk in the correct net? No, how about a giant fight instead.

A centering pass fails, and we get some shoving after the officials call for a stoppage. The crowd, starved for anything resembling conventional entertainment, is going wild. "Yee haw! Shovin'! Push 'em again!" It's hard not to share this enthusiasm.

Come back here so I can push you away from me!

The shoving quickly escalates, once it becomes clear that pushing someone who is on a nearly frictionless surface is not going to accomplish much in terms of inflicting the physical harm they so richly deserve for trying to pass it near your goal. The grabbing begins and everyone ends up in a standing dog pile behind the net. Not in Wayne Gretzky's office, have some respect. Naturally, this results in deafening cheers. It's almost like anti-social behavior is more entertaining to the average Ice Gang fan than poorly executed cross-crease attempts.

This is how we re-tweeted before there was an internet.

The crowd is now throwing "stuff" on the ice, according to the announcer. Here, take my car keys, junior goons! Then it's time to drop the gloves and the reaction to our "first college hockey fight!" is simply off the charts from all involved. "Look at Adams!" shouts the other commentator. Yes, please do. He's feeding some poor bastard the meat candy and earning the socially prescribed "Ten year old watching first porn" reaction from all involved.

  I lost my full-ride athletic scholarship over this and ended up a human derelict, but it was worth it.

Just as I got tired of looking at Adams it's time to look at some other guy, who is also fighting. All five guys (actually ten, but who cares, right) are going! We get some speculation over whether the goalies will also participate in this ritualized destruction of one's NCAA eligibility, but it's impossible to say at this point. It appears the officials are even ready for battle, as a Minnesota State player gets manhandled by a zebra. Fortunately for whatever remains of his pride, the ref doesn't actually take advantage and throw some fists.

An official who can kick a much larger player's ass.

Gradually the belligerents become arm weary, collapse to the ice and/or get soundly whupped by the officiating crew. As this plays out, the goalies start trying to make their way toward center ice and what will certainly be perhaps ten seconds of comical and ineffectual flailing. Meanwhile, the crowd gives the players a standing ovation, a positive memory that will hopefully make the lengthy suspension and memory of getting horse-collared by a 150 pound official sting a little less. 

The goalies wave at each other, while unrelated footage of an unhappy coach is shown. That's ok NCAA college hockey broadcast, I can just use my imagination.

"And most importantly, have fun out there."

We do that 1920s phone booth trick, you know the one present-day readers, except instead of a phone booth it's the penalty box. Ferris State bench players look on with interest, realizing that their playing time is about to go way up with most of the team now on punishment. We shut the little doors on the penalty box to make escape impossible and everyone can now think about what they've done.

Komment Korner  

Yes you won the McNaughton cup... congrats hopefully you realize that its a glamor trophy 

I don't understand hockey

Pushing and shoving oh boy!!!  Thats Mankato State for you.

I was at thice game go mavs

Actually a lot of them are Canadians as well, MNSU has a guy from Latvia too.

Aaron Zehner is the author of "The Foolchild Invention" available in paperback and e-book format. Read free excerpts here and here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

News You Can't Use: Water Is Black and Stinks In Southern California Community

Since milk is poison, soda recipes are mostly inspired by failed chemical weapons projects, alcohol is of the devil and fruit juice contains sugar that could make you nervous it stands to reason that lots of water will be the healthy answer to all your "What fluid should I pour into my face hole?" issues. That is, unless it has the color and consistency of tar and smells like an open sewer. Then, maybe take your chances with milk and learn to wash yourself with liquified deodorant sticks.

For months now families are complaining about black and smelly water pouring from their faucets, toilets, and showers in a Southern California community just south of Los Angeles.

If there's water pouring from your toilet the fact that it resembles what goes into the bio-hazard bag after an embalming might not be your only problem. This has been going on for months with no solution in sight, a true testament to the amazing power of complaining.

“We don’t want to drink our water, because our water is black,” said Emy Sebastian, a citizen of Gardena California. “My daughter says, ‘Mommy the water is black and it stinks. Why does the water stink?’ She doesn’t want to wash her clothes.”

I tell her it's probably because of something she did.

The phenomenon has been going on too long for residents and they don’t feel that enough is being done to correct the situation.

It's a phenomenon! Get caught up in it! Wooo! Also, when what is being done could be accurately described as "nothing," it's a safe bet it's not enough to solve this mess.

Diane Morita, disgusted by the smell, told NBC4 Southern California, that the water “has an odor of rotten eggs or sewer smell. I’m concerned because it’s getting worse, if it’s even safe.”

"If it keeps burning my mouth and causing hours of stomach pains I'm probably going to drop down from eight glasses a day, physician's recommendations be damned."

Morita explained that she has been told by Golden State Water Company, the utility that services Gardena, that the water is safe to drink.

Naw, it's fine. Let me hang up on your now. All I do is have this conversation, all day every day. People are such whiners.

The utility has told NBC4 that that they are investigating the situation and insist that the black water is an isolated occurrence.

Well, I'm mollified by this obvious ass-covering.

Now in chunky style with radical midnight colors!

Kate Nutting, general manager for Golden State said that “the water is clear right now we will continue to investigate to determine what caused it last Wednesday, what has caused it in the past so that we can prevent it from happening again.”

She then spent the next six hours playing "Free Cell," broken up only by spinning around in her office chair.

One person said that a Golden State official told her he would credit her account $10 for the expense. She says it’s not enough.

When the government actually should pay people, it suddenly pleads poverty. Oh well, I'm off to get my free phone for myself and my ten imaginary family members.

Full Story.

Komment Korner

Ah yes .... the virtues of dysentery.

I don't remember Jesus ever saying He was the last prophet.

Knock off the Islamophobia.

So now they can drink chlorine? I know you can put it in a pool but drink it?

It's looking like a real breakdown in governing in California.

Aaron Zehner is the author of "The Foolchild Invention" available in paperback and e-book format. Read free excerpts here and here.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Video Game Slush Pile: Uncharted Waters New Horizons

Last time I did my best to convince you that managing an airline via a gaming system that is now mostly confined to museums is a lot more fun than the latest murder simulator. Today it's back to the Super Nintendo for another forgotten classic. What can I say, I was never made aware of blast processing or how "Sonic's fast!" so I ended up with a SNES. What was lost in tiny spiny mammals of above average speed was more than made up in bizarre role-playing offerings such as our current subject. I was a big fan of "Pirates!" back on the Nintendo, so this seemed like a spiritual successor I'd get right into. Well, not exactly. Playing it again as an adult I can both appreciate the depth and shake my head at some of the more tedious elements that scared me away when I was young and more demanding when it came to electronic sixteenth century ship simulators.

Trade various types of wool! Engage in highly abstracted battles!

Reading the manual (Yes, I read game manuals and even derive enjoyment from said activity. I'm well aware that this makes me the hardcore 0.01% of Old School gamers) suggests that you're getting into a very demanding and gritty historical RPG. It's somewhat jarring when you actually start playing and are faced with various cartoony nonsense. You can choose from six different characters who each have their own storyline and goals, usually wacky stuff like finding lost continents, repaying tea debts and bloody vengeance against the murderers of your lover. All right, maybe that last one is a little less goofy. Either way, the colorful 16-bit presentation lends a certain whimsy to your floating rob/murder/exploit natives operation.

Let's be very clear: they are two different men.

Depending on your character choice you'll be pushed toward either exploration, trade or piracy and the game keeps track of your success in all three of these areas. This means you can treat the game as a sand box and just ignore whatever quest you're supposed to be doing, although it's definitely easier to just do what the game wants you to do. Exploration was my favorite type of game. The combat just didn't seem very engaging and trade is just mind numbing once you figure out a few good routes and have to repeat them over and over to gain gold. Adding insult to injury the character that's supposed to trade takes a bunch of loans where he promises to pay back 1000% returns on the initial investments. Maybe business isn't really his thing after all. Or totally is, if he pulls an ENRON.

Take one lousy galleon and everyone gets all pissy.

Exploring earns money either by discovering monuments, cultural items and exotic animals and returning the finds to a wealthy patron or mapping the world for a cartographer. There's a large and reasonably accurate map of the world to explore and it's fun to see what you'll uncover next. Once you get back home you can wow local cocktail waitresses with your amazing tales of adventure. Sadly, these women are firmly from the four magic phrases school of communication and also think it's socially acceptable to respond to a story of a penguin encounter with "Did it bite you?" No, but you can.

Wait until you see some of the "interesting plants" I've got back at my place.

Various storyline elements trigger as you gain fame and open up more opportunities. You might even get to meet with a ruler (they're all autocratic jerks, even the ones from Republics) and earn a royal title by appeasing the whims of inbred European nobility. The game keeps track of your "friendship" with the major nations and even let's you defect to another unlikable crowned head, an act that will probably make the game unwinnable for most characters.  

That's another somewhat surprising game element: some choices can totally ruin things. For example, I tried to low ball the price of a ship and the merchant was so offended he wouldn't deal with me again. On the plus side, you can invest in ports and grow their industry, even winning neutrals over to your nation. Money talks, let me put this Spanish flag up, etc.

The game had some "controversial" elements that, in typical wussy Nintendo fashion, were toned down (Gray blood, yay!). The churches were changed into the bizarre "Round Earth Society" and taverns are "cafes" where you might eat too much food and get a belly ache. It's gutless, but hardly surprising. We don't want completely marginal groups getting offended and creating massive free publicity, after all.
Charging backward with its brightly colored much like a human.

I still haven't beaten this game, although I'm pretty far into it. After I finish the exploration character I've been playing as I might try some piracy one more time, but selecting a ship and watching numbers go down isn't as awesome as it sounds. Don't even get me started on the dueling card game. It makes one long for the massive strategic depth of "War."

Graphics: Pretty standard 16 bit stuff, not even any token Mode Seven effects. A lot of the characters look like elves for some reason. The ships look like ships. Probably a bit below average, over all.

Control: Sailing the ship is easy and you can even use "auto sail" to cut out the tedium that even the game manual admits can easily crop up. The menus are a little confusing at first, but for the most part are decent. Combat is a turn-based abstraction, so nothing to say about that.

Depth: There's a lot of opportunities to dig deep into the game's economic engine, but that basic game play is actually pretty shallow, relatively speaking. It can really turn into a grind, although you're free to try something new at any time. Things like national loyalties and the individual wealth of ports are a lot less pressing when you're just playing an individual instead of running a country.

Overall: I didn't fall off the edge of the world.

 ...who are two different people.

Aaron Zehner is the author of "The Foolchild Invention" available in paperback and e-book format. Read free excerpts here and here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

News You Can't Use: NFL Finds That Patriots Used Underinflated Footballs

We've reach the point in the calendar year where more people are tired of some football than ready for it, yet a story of massive importance and endless chances for innuendo has just broken, a few weeks before the big Katy Perry concert with accompanying sportives. Apparently a league that generates more annual revenue than the GNP of most eastern European nations has issues with inflating their balls. Instead of the expected big balls, we got shriveled up little soft ones. It's a story AC/DC would love, assuming they were into sports instead of old age dementia and murder-for-hire plots.

The Patriots used underinflated footballs on Sunday night.

We blew most of the $20 equipment budget on pizza for after the game and Katy Perry, so you can see why this happened.

The next question is how did it happen?

Please leave the bee-keeping, Sherlock Holmes. We need you to make one more big score.

The league inspected each of the Patriots’ 12 game balls twice at halftime, using different pressure gauges, and found footballs that were not properly inflated.

No, this does not mean a corrupt testicular cancer charity will be ruining an entire month of football next year. Also, I like how they noted the problem and then did nothing to correct it. Yup, gone flat. Oh well, it's not like this is a huge billion dollar event or something.

According to ESPN, 11 of the 12 game balls were found to be underinflated by about 2 pounds each. The NFL specifications say they must be inflated to 12½ to 13½ pounds.

This rule is right under the one that forbids robot players and right before the one that explains in about 10,000 words how to determine if it's a "catch."

If the Patriots are found to have deliberately doctored footballs, the organization can be fined a minimum of $25,000, and if the NFL finds the incident egregious, the Patriots could potentially lose a draft pick.

It would be like fining me two cents and then telling me I have to skip a Wednesday blog post sometime this year.

In 2007, commissioner Roger Goodell took away a first-round draft pick and fined Patriots coach Bill Belichick after determining the team had spied on an opponent.

"Sneak in and get their plays. If anyone asks why you're there, claim to be Peyton Manning."

The Patriots defeated the Colts, 45-7, on Sunday night to earn their eighth Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. The next day, the NFL confirmed it was investigating whether the team used underinflated footballs.

Much like the time my Dungeon Master cheated and forgot I had Mordenkainen's Faithful Watchdog cast, this should lead to fantasy football do-overs. My 13th level Half-Dragon Fighter/Magic User/Colt's Starting Quarterback never really died, because of soft balls.

The Colts reportedly grew suspicious after linebacker D’Qwell Jackson intercepted Tom Brady late in the second quarter. A softer football is easier to throw and catch, especially in rainy conditions, as was the case Sunday night.

It's so easy to throw I was intercepted!

According to Newsday, Jackson gave the ball to a member of the Colts’ equipment staff, who notified coach Chuck Pagano, who then relayed a message to general manager Ryan Grigson in the press box. He contacted Mike Kensil, NFL director of football operations, who then told the on-field officials at halftime.

The NFL, it's the tattling league! "That guy ran into me, I'm telling Mr. Kensil!"

The game is a corrupt mess, but we still have classy and family friendly halftime entertainment.

Mike Carey, working the broadcast booth for CBS, surmised that “It looks like they still spotted the ball for a kicking ball, waiting for one of the ball guys to come down and give them a regular ball.”

Imagine the glory of being one of the "ball guys" and providing "regular balls" to interested parties.

It’s possible that cold temperatures affected the pressure of the footballs, but it was an unusually warm 51 degrees at kickoff.

Cold weather changes pressure? Sounds like witch talk to me.

The Patriots led, 17-7, at intermission, and outscored the Colts, 28-0, after the officials seemingly corrected the ball issue.

Great job kids, go and get your tokens.

Komment Korner  

Aaron Rodgers says he deliberately over-inflates the balls 

Tom Brady must be getting youth enhancing drug treatments as well.

Soooo, they scored more in the second half with the "correct" balls

The dude doth protested too loudly.

So why does each team get their own balls?

I'm dick to my stomach right now.

Aaron Zehner is the author of "The Foolchild Invention" available in paperback and e-book format. Read free excerpts here and here.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Choose Your Own Adventure #14: The Forbidden Castle

I've been mostly doing Twist-a-Plot books lately, which is obviously not a positive trend that should continue. However, my inability to get my hands on Choose Your Own Adventure #13, next up in the semi-sequential order I've been doing these ($50 for badly damaged R.A. Montgomery drivel...pass) has slowed my progress a bit. I've finally decided to just skip it and jump ahead to today's subject, the sequel to Cave of Time. Yes kids, that sort of laziness is nothing new. There's probably a hip new By Balloon to the Sahara re-imagining/reboot coming soon, complete with an actual real person for an author.

Compounding the inherent laziness of a totally unnecessary sequel, this one is only going to be set in one time period and location, medieval England as imagined by a lazy American. I guess it could be argued that this more narrow focus might present a tighter narrative, but in reality I'm fully expecting a historical setting that was "researched" by watching an Errol Flynn movie with the sound off in a bar at 1 am.

Featuring floating medieval Zardoz head. "The sword is good..."

Like any real hardcore addictive personality type I promised I would quit the Cave of Time, and yet here I am taking another tab of acid entering the cave again. This time it's somehow "darker" which really doesn't jive very well with my knowledge of optics and the properties of light, but the upshot is I trip, fall, black out and wake up under a tree somewhere. Bum trip. I hear the sound of hooves and metallic clanking and wisely decide to hide my ass rather than face mounted robots or whatever is causing' all this.

How to "time travel."

Surprisingly the sounds aren't dressage androids, but are actually mounted knights. They're all "Did you solve the riddle of the Forbidden Castle?" and "Naw, brah, I got nothing." Apparently this is some sort of watered down Holy Grail analogue, complete with a reward from the King of "half of Wales" to the successful champion. It just better be the half with Wrexham or this is just another trick bag, that's all I'm saying.

With the predictable failure of their virtue quest established, they continue on about foreign spies and putting suspicious people into "dungeons." Man, this is better than Game of Thrones. Faced with the reality that I "can't hide forever" I decide to reveal myself to these canned heroes and hope that the well-known reputation of poorly educated and violent individuals from a time period where washing yourself was considered "Witchery" to handle novel stimuli and unusual obvious outsiders will carry me through.

They decide I must be a "spy" because of my unusual devil garments. Witch, heretic or non-accredited alchemist I would have accepted, but this seems somewhat illogical. I mean, an infiltrator would try to blend in, right? This is why you guys are going to be career heavy cavalry instead of realizing the dream of becoming an exchequer or catchpole. You got to use your head. 

 The real money is in wrangling up debtors, not silly honor quests.

So I get pitched into the dungeon. We finally get some of that legendary pre-Renaissance tolerance when another inmate fearfully declares that my clothes are "made by the devil!" Again, I know this era wasn't exactly an intellectual and social golden age, but you'd think people wouldn't immediately freak out at the sight of denim or whatever. It's slightly different material that probably looks a lot like what they're used to. It's not like I declared the Sun was the center of the Solar System or something.

Time to face the jurisprudence of this era. I'm marched to a stake surrounded by kindling. Yup, so far so good. After being assured that innocent people don't burn (I don't think you've actually tested this out, dude) I'm set on fire and die a horrific death. Well, that was tidy.  

For all my dawgs on City Councils that read this blog.

Another short run, ruined by an attempt at historical accuracy of all things. I can't really say much more about this one, I never really got out of the blocks. If you're looking for a portrayal of medieval times were the average person isn't a deeply superstitious idiot (those look like spy and/or devil threads!) this is not the place to go.

  Also available on eight inch floppy disk for your IBM 5150!

Aaron Zehner is the author of "The Foolchild Invention" available in paperback and e-book format. Read free excerpts here and here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

News You Can't Use: This Robot Exercise Coach is Available Round-The-Clock

Hey everyone, how are you doing on your exercise and weight loss goals for the New Year? Sorry to hear you all failed, I really am. But hey, maybe with the help of an exciting new robot trainer you bloated humanoids can successfully decrease in mass and improve overall biological functioning. That is assuming you're elderly and live in Singapore, but since that is my blog's main demographic I feel quite confident in making that leap. I'm kind of a big deal in Jalan Kayu-Seletar, just sayin'.

Senior citizens at the Lions Befrienders Senior Activity Centre at Mei Ling Street now do not have to wait for scheduled exercise activities in order to stay active, thanks to an exercise robot developed by three electrical engineering students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Singapore don't play. Not only do they tear up the butts of petty vandals, now they come up with aggressive and almost certainly mistranslated names for their Afterlife Waiting Rooms. Not only do they befriend big cats, they now can avoid that annoying wait for that PBS chair-exercise show via robotics.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S.A. nursing home advances include only hiring felons who have that special letter from the prison that says they are totally reformed and coming up with exciting new ways to say "no one is stealing from your loved one, I'm sure it's just something he or she is making up to get attention."

The robot, named Xuan, features a tablet with an animated face on top of a plastic structure. Its neck, arms and wrists are able to fully mimic human movements. 

Let's take a look at some of these fully emulated human movements, shall we?

Johnny Five wants you to get in shape!

Everyone do the right angle! No lady, you're obtuse!

Do the motorsickle! Also note all the employees whose new job is "make sure the robot doesn't somehow obtain sentience and begin killing people."

Xuan can give instructions on 15 simple arm exercises focusing on flexibility and circulation, such as raising one's hands above the head before lowering them.

As opposed to the average American college freshman who can give instructions for maybe five or six simple arm exercises, at best.

Komment Korner  

Although it looks like a POS (Peace Of S***) now, this is the start, in a few years, it will be an robot that looks fully human doing this thus causing yet another industry to succumb to the magical world of electronics and now those health coaches are losing their muscle cause they can't get any business. I refuse to use any 100% machine operated gadget (i.e. self check out lanes, vending machines). My money isn't worth much but it is worth putting food in the stomach of a human. Does not matter what you do from working retail to packing Styrofoam peanuts in a cardboard box to peeling off dead animals off the highway. If you bust your rump and take pride in the work you do, I will support you any way I can and with a prideful smile, salute you for giving it a honest day's work.

Aaron Zehner is the author of "The Foolchild Invention" available in paperback and e-book format. Read free excerpts here and here.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


High School fucking sucked. September of the Fish year wasn’t even over and Joe Smith had already had more than enough of it to write a steady load of god-awful rejection misery poetry for the next century. This was not what the television and the Cinema Industrial Complex had promised in the lush fantasies they painted.
It couldn’t be chalked up to simple life loser-ism, either. Eighth grade had been awesome, good friends, easy classes, girls developing and discovering that loose behavior is often rewarded in western society. The next four years looked to be overflowing with more of all that good, plus getting high on all sorts of drugs and pounding crotch. Instead of LSD-drenched stickers and girls gone wild he had entered a world of freshman kill days, hours of dreary homework each night and a total and complete failure to deploy the pocket rocket. Somehow all those dear old friends were always in different classes on the other side of the impossibly sprawling campus. In their place was an endless sea of faces riddled with skin problems and naked hostility toward grade nines. 
There he was, on all fours picking up scattered government texts after having them unceremoniously “dumped” by an upperclassman. He was getting used to this routine, it had already happened at least a dozen times. Granted this was still better than another fresh fish who had lost three teeth to a toilet seat during a swirlie-gone-wrong, but that thought provided small comfort at best. Who knows what the next kill-day would bring, after all. He might end up left for dead in a locker or broom closet. 
“Pick that shit up, boy. What the hell are you doing?” It was the grizzled voice of a man from the Greatest Generation, or at least the Less Great But Still Not Bad one that had fought communism and the fear of nuclear incineration with the awesome weapons of toughness, conformity and duck-and-cover. An Old Lion, in other words. The voice, coarsened from decades of smoking ultra-high tar selections, demanded respect. “Come on, get up! Show some spine!”
The owner of the voice was one of the school’s instructors in the physical culture, or at least that was the official cover story. It was just as possible, maybe even probable, that this member of the Old Guard was actually a deranged but basically good-hearted drifter who had infiltrated the school for inscrutable reasons. The incredible power of confidently acting like you belong somewhere is not to be underestimated. Just strut around like you own the place and very few people will call you out on it. This is especially true when the individual in question is all stoic ruggedness and decades old barely legible Marine corps tattoos
“Get up! Shit!” A wrinkled, spotted claw enveloped Smith’s soft upper arm and brought him back to full verticality with a single exertion of ancient sinews. “You gonna take that shit the rest of your life?” Sometimes silence is the only answer a person can manage. “Well? Cat got you?”
“Nah…no, sir.” Fluid filled gray eyes seemed to look into his soul. Even the relaxed grip of that claw easily restrained the tremendous natural impulse to turn and run. The bell rang. He was late. At this particular moment that could not have been more meaningless. The tomes of political correct thought were still littering the ground, completely forgotten. There was only this moment, this life-changing confrontation with something that was more an elemental than a fellow human being.
“Don’t lie to me you little fuck!” Despite being the only two still in the halls of learning it seemed impossible that no one heard this outburst from the old man of dubious actual authority. Maybe it was heard and simply ignored through fear. Smith was shaking as if in the clutches of an epileptic aura. It was a small blessing that his underwear remained unsoiled. “Yeah, you’re the type that never fights back.” The words came as a Camel cigarette flavored hiss. “That’s your generation, no fucking balls.”
“Please don’t kill me!” At the time the plea seemed perfectly sensible. This was going to make one wonderful funeral for his family: dead at fifteen, biggest accomplishment was figuring out how to masturbate, killed by a crazed veteran of foreign wars in a high school hallway. Freshman kill day wasn’t supposed to be literal, for fuck’s sake.

“If I was gonna kill you, you’d be dead already, just like all those yellow heathens I bagged for Uncle Sam.” The gravely whisper was now barely audible. “No, I’m going to change your life. Meet me in the school gym at 3:30.” For a moment the grip loosened and even the beginnings of a smile were evident on the age-devastated face of the veteran. “You can’t even imagine what I’m going to do for you.”
Just as quickly, the smile vanished and the grasp became tighter than ever. “If you aren’t there, I’ll hunt you down like one of those damn reds.” Determined madness blazed under the watery surface of his eyes. A few moments later he was gone, leaving the First Year dazed and disoriented.
Suffice it to say very little actual learning took place in that afternoon’s Pre-Algebra class. Somehow “zero the hero” seemed less important in the face of an imminent encounter with mortality at the hands of a real life Iron Man. One scenario after another flashed through a mind that was not yet fully formed. He imagined push-ups ‘til puke, followed by having an unloaded pistol pressed to his head and repeatedly fired without result until he’d been completely reduced to quivering jelly. Then the real pain would start. Maybe it would have been best if the old soldier had just dropped him in the hall. Quick and merciful, as opposed to the Geneva Conference outlawed prisoner of the high school war torture that was awaited.
Yeah, this was a long way from taking “roof hits” in between getting sucked off by sexually precocious and totally legal jailbait.
“Smith! What is the answer?” The mortality fantasies melted away. On the board was the number “7” with brackets around it. What kind of witchcraft was this?
“I don’t understand.” If his first month needed a motto, this one would have sufficed.
“Just provide the answer.” Oh, well. That’s what you wanted. Fuck.
“Twenty Nine?” The entire class was silent for two heartbeats and then erupted into studio-audience at a buddy sitcom style uproar. He barely even felt the sting. What was looking like a fool compared to actual, imminent, physical dissolution? It doesn’t even rate.
The final bell rang and he performed the dead man’s walk down to the school’s weight room. He’d only been there once before, during an orientation. That brief visit was enough to dissuade any return. Everything in there seemed to be rusted or falling apart from neglect. This was the lair of monsters, not any normal, right thinking Fish Year. But there he was. The man from the old guard was waiting. It was time to die.
Twenty minutes later he was squatting for the first time in his life. It hurt, it felt ridiculous and the fear of being murdered hadn’t entirely dissipated. In spite of these things he felt drawn into this new world. Muscles were filling with blood, violence chemicals were being released into the gray mush and a connection was forming to a forgotten past, a past when man was nothing but another animal. No, more than that and not even a little bit less. The smartest, toughest, baddest animal on the planet. The vilest beast with the mind of genius. On to the dead lifts. The weights hit the cracked, wet concrete floor with a satisfying crash. He let loose a primal howl. The rugged golden ager gave his silent approval, arms folded over his chest, an unlit cigar hanging from cracked lips.
There was no turning back after that initial rush. For months he met with his new mentor after school. The lifts steadily increased as fall turned to winter. He was slowly transforming, deep within a cocoon of iron and brick. The slow process of evolution, ape-creature to master man, happened in secret over that long cold winter. The mystery of nature, the change that is unseen but completely undeniable. When he emerged from the crucible in the spring he had become a man. There was a freshman kill-day that corresponded with April fools. An upper classman tried to dump his books and earned a fist to the face that knocked him out cold. As he was being taken away to begin his suspension he saw the wrinkled face for what would prove to be the final time. It was glowing with pride.
He might have died, he might have simply left content in the knowledge that his job was done. Smith never did find out, but so much of what the remnant of a past age taught was now internalized, from diet and exercise tips to how to be a man. The actual physical presence of this strange benefactor had begun redundant. The young man continued to train and soon found himself becoming the king of the school. The respect was earned, and with it the hot, hot birth canals that are inevitably offered up to the alpha male. He wished it would never end, that he could stay in this world forever.
Then it did and he was forced out into the adult world. This time, however, there was no one to guide him.

Aaron Zehner is the author of "The Foolchild Invention" available in paperback and e-book format. Read free excerpts here and here.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

News You Can't Use: The Average College Freshman Reads at 7th Grade Level

Today's story combines two of my favorite things: "Woo, College, Let's Party, Woo Woo!" and massive systemic failure creating a generation that in a decade or so will be charitably described as "easily ruled." While the non-college troglodyte has presumably lost all faculty for human speech and even the most basic empathy, our best and brightest would consider Captain Courageous to be an indecipherable jumble of confusing language and distressingly absent hash tags. Yup, it's time for another article about our national toboggan ride down Thrill Hill.

The average U.S. college freshman reads at a seventh grade level, according to an educational assessment report.  

Meanwhile the average seventh grader reads at the level of a second trimester unborn baby. Let's just face up to it. These grade levels, created in more optimistic times, have now lost all meaning. They're making us feel bad, so it's time to just lower all standards and pretend the problem has been fixed until it predictably crops up again.

“We are spending billions of dollars trying to send students to college and maintain them there when, on average, they read at about the grade 6 or 7 level, according to Renaissance Learning’s latest report on what American students in grades 9-12 read, whether assigned or chosen,” said education expert Dr. Sandra Stotsky.

Horny vampire owns heavy industry and Lil Suzie goes to 1984 land are about the best we can hope for out of Generation Nothing. Spending money on education, is there a bigger shuck?

Stotsky, a Professor Emerita at the University of Arkansas, served on the Common Core Validation Committee in 2009-10, during which she called the standards “inferior.”

Another University of Arkansas snob. We can't all be "Hogs," after all.

Also, hey high achievers! If you're good at noticing obvious failure and really good at vanishing when it's time to propose solutions then you, too, could make that Validation Committee chedda.

“The average reading level for five of the top seven books assigned as summer reading by 341 colleges using Renaissance Learning’s readability formula was rated 7.56 [meaning halfway through seventh grade],” Stotsky told Breitbart Texas.

Today we'll be discussing Mister Bunny Gets a New Home. Next week I'll get a phantom illness and cancel class via a note on the door. Go Hogs!

The study also found that most high school graduates don’t do much with mathematics past eighth-grade compared to students in other high-achieving countries.

Yes, we're still getting smoked in "Rithmetic" too, in case you were wondering.

“Indeed, they seem to be suggesting that a middle school level of reading is satisfactory, even though most college textbooks and adult literary works written before 1970 require mature reading skills.”

After 1970 the average literary work became a pretentious word salad that no one really understands or enjoys regardless of education, so that's at least not a problem.

“For almost 100 years, there have been many surveys in this country of what children prefer to read. Despite changes in immigration patterns, family literacy, and cultural influences, what boys and girls like to read has been relatively stable,” said Stotsky.

It almost suggests inherent differences, but I'd like to keep my sinecure position, thank you very much.

According to Breitbart Texas, Stotsky is credited with creating the strongest set of k-12 academic standards in the country while working for the Massachusetts Department of Education, and is responsible for developing licensure tests for prospective teachers.

Can't wait to see that Phoenix-style comeback that these new standards bring about.

Komment Korner 

The schools' failures do produce excellent lemmings, which are beloved by politicians.

Perhaps that is the real motivation behind Mrs. Obama's food lunch program.

After being forced into retirement (thanks Congress/Obama) I am starting at a University in the next week.

Many college grads now don't have sense enough to pour piss out of a boot.

Ever heard of the 5 finger rule?

Aaron Zehner is the author of "The Foolchild Invention" available in paperback and e-book format. Read free excerpts here and here.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Crazy Ralph's 2015 Predictions

As we face the prospect of another exciting revolution around a mediocre and uncaring sun, who better than a tertiary character from a 1980 slasher film to put everything into perspective? Whether biking around, warning campers or being garrotted in the middle of voyeurism he's definitely the man with the plan for the year to come.

Aaron Zehner is the author of "The Foolchild Invention" available in paperback and e-book format. Read free excerpts here and here.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

How Come No One Likes My Unlikable Characters

Writing about bad people is fun, but is it fun to read? In a lot of cases the answer is “no” especially when the character in question is simply a one-note banality of evil with none of the “that’s wicked sexy” the reader demands. Arguably worse is attempts to have it both ways, where the character that does awful things is really a good guy who owns unspecified industry and treats his workers well and that sort of drivel. It’s wishy-washy. So how, then, do we rehabilitate the horrible alter egos we create to the point where they’re entertaining and not just a reflection of our deeply seated psychological issues?

The answer you always get is they must be interesting. This is true, although it’s a bit of a tautology. “How do I make a character interesting?” is the next obvious question and there no further help is usually forthcoming. It gets down to the technical skills that are not easily acquired. That’s not an answer anyone likes. We live in a “5 Weird Tricks for Doing Brain Surgery!” world, after all.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not really in position to offer avuncular tips to new comers, what with my grand total of two published novels and general aura of self-contained arrogance that resists all new ideas mightily. Still, I’ve noticed a few things that might prove useful or at least non-detrimental, failing that.

There are no heroes or anti-heroes, just protagonists. Just accepting that statement will save you a lot of time and misery. The protagonist must connect with the reader. This is why your story about the guy that kills people and that’s the whole story isn’t the massive crowd-pleaser you envisioned. It’s also the reason why unlikable designated heroes are just as bad at the other end of the spectrum. We have to start by asking ourselves why anyone would care. If that question doesn’t have a good answer, it’s time to start over.

Not actually a significant source of Motorsickles.

That might be the hardest part, admitting that not every idea for a character is pure brilliance delivered by an unseen hand, that not every plot idea is the most amazing thing anyone has ever seen or ever will see. I know I struggle with it. “Me, have a bad idea?” It doesn’t even seem possible, right? The truth is it happens all the time. Learning to distinguish what would work and what wouldn’t is hard, but hey no easy solutions, journey of a thousand miles, all that disappointing reality.

Beyond that, watch out for points of no return, actions that are so reprehensible that the character can never be redeemed. There are actions where a reader simply will opt out, where you’ve gone too far. Don’t cross that line. It’s hard to say where that event horizon lies and, again, it’s something that must be felt rather than known. My rule of thumb is if I think something is too much, it definitely is. If I don’t, it still might be. If you’re less of desensitized cynic than I, this process will actually be much easier.

The bottom line is have fun with your protagonists and make them really shine out as something memorable. If there’s one sin that’s never forgivable, it’s mediocrity. Nothing bland, please. Make it righteous as all hell and everything else will fix itself.

Aaron Zehner is the author of "The Foolchild Invention" available in paperback and e-book format. Read free excerpts here and here.