The Demonstration

The girls giggled as Sara Reddick held the banana, half turned away from it. Miss Coletti described her actions as she went along. “Carefully open the package and take out the prophylactic. Be sure you know which side is up; you want the body of the roll facing toward the reservoir.” She spoke as technically as possible, trying to keep the nervous tittering to a minimum. “Once you’re sure you have it oriented properly, gently—Oh, for Christ’s sake, Marcy!”

The class erupted in laughter as the banana fell to the floor, half-dropped, half-thrown. Sara shuffled to her chair and buried her face in her arms. Miss Coletti sighed heavily. “It’s not a rattlesnake girls; it’s a banana. You’ve all eaten them before; I’ve seen you in the lunchroom.”

“That’s not what it’s supposed to be, though, is it?” piped up Anise Johnson. She was a trouble-maker, always asking uncomfortable questions and making questionable remarks.

“It would be just my luck if it was her,” Mary Coletti remarked to herself. “No, Miss Johnson, that is not what it is supposed to be.” Miss Coletti always addressed them formally when she needed to show her displeasure. “But statistically, about a third of you have already seen and even touched what it is supposed to be, so it shouldn’t be too much for me to expect one of you to hold a banana for three minutes.”

“Then why not use a real one? Or you know…a dildo.” Anise whispered the last. Mary Coletti noted that she had some shame, at least.

“Because your parents would storm the building with pitchforks and torches; it was hard enough getting this simple demonstration past the PTA.” She gave Anise a hard and frank look. “Maybe you should be up here, since you’re so confident.”

Rising to the challenge, Anise strode to the front of the class and retrieved the banana from the floor. She held the banana at her groin and made humping motions. “Like this?”

“Something like that,” Miss Coletti answered, “but, if you don’t loosen your grip, your boyfriend will be your girlfriend before the end of the night.” Anise reddened, and almost dropped the banana, but recovered, and held it properly.

“Why do we have to learn this?” asked Tricia Parks. “Can’t the boys do it themselves?”

“Because people lie,” Miss Coletti answered. “And the best way to be sure a job is done is to do it yourself.” Because seventeen years ago, one of you had a father who lied, and a sixteen-year-old girl lost a year of her life and the only thing she ever really loved, Mary’s rebellious brain added.

She turned back to Anise, and continued the demonstration.

The Sentinel

He stands alone on the hill, the soft lights below him, watching.

People go about their lives, suffused in the warmth of their fires. Only a few know he even exists, a lone sentinel, freeing their minds from the terrors of the dark woods behind him. He doesn’t mind; he isn’t there for rewards, or accolades, or even recognition. He is there because he must be; it is what he was made to do.

In a room lit by fire and love, a little girl asks if the sentinel will be all right, and is answered by sad, knowing smiles. This will be one of his last nights above, if he survives it at all.

He is overcome with exhaustion and his shoulders sag. He has watched over the village for as long as he remembers, and, if he had heard the family below him, he would know they are right. This was likely his last night.

A desire for sleep suddenly tries to overwhelm him, and he fights it off. If he must go tonight, he will do so fulfilling his duty. There are frightening things behind him that must stay there; nightmares, secrets, and forgotten fears. He crumples a little more, but holds to his resolve.

A cool breeze restores him, somewhat. Not enough to make him stand tall again, but he knows now that will never happen. He just needs to make it through the night. When the sun rises once again over the village square, he can rest, his work done.

A stray dog, wandering from nowhere to nowhere, lays against him, sheltering against the wind. It licks him once in gratitude and once again in sympathy. After a few moments, it leaves.

The song of a snow bird rouses him from a deep contemplation. Had he slept? He didn’t think so. The village lay safely below him, still tucked into its valley. There are fewer lights now, but that just means the people are asleep, trusting their lives to their lone sentinel.

Gloaming came, and as the world grows lighter, his body becomes heavier. Finally, the sun peaks above the far hill. The sentinel sees it, smiles a soft, inner smile, and falls. His duty done.

December 1, 2020; Melt, from the Chinese ideogram, Rong.

YouTube Season 1 Episode 1

Audio in case reading isn’t your thing.

On the Road

It may seem weird. Some old guy on YouTube who’s not being embarrassing or adorable at his daughter’s wedding. I’ll even admit that I don’t have a lot to say that hasn’t been said before by smarter and more talented voices.

But that’s the thing. A lot of voices are being silenced lately. Admittedly, these are mostly cranks, trolls and wackadoos, and I don’t agree with a lot of—or anything, really—that most of them have to say, but that’s not the point. They are being silenced.

Yes, they’re being silenced by exemption from ostensibly private platforms owned by technically private companies. But they’re still being silenced. They are being denied a form of free speech that is assumed by the rest of us. Some of them are being attacked financially, even though there is no legal basis for denying them commerce.

I may get into that more in-depth, later. That’s a subject that deserves its own entry, not just a mention in a “Welcome to my vlog,” video. Today is all about who I am and what this is.

Anyway, it concerns me, this rush to silence the outliers. I’m all about ignoring people who are demonstrably crazy, or mocking them at least. Late night talk radio is one of my favorite sources of amusement. What I’m not about is holding you metaphorical hand over someone’s mouth, even if you know everything that’s going to come out of it is offensive or batshit. Or both.

If I choose not to watch Milo Yiannopolis videos or listen to Louis Farrakhan’s sermons, that’s my choice. When I hear Alex Jones nattering on in that gravelly voice like the weird old guy in the hotel bar at one in the morning, it’s my decision whether I will listen to him or phase him out while I imagine kittens boxing, or switch him off, entirely. I decide what’s good for me to hear, and what’s bad. I don’t need to have my content regulated like I’m a child.

That just leaves me to make my protest. Well, I’m old, which means much of my contact with my family and friends is via Facebook, so that’s not an option. I don’t even use most of the others, except YouTube. Anyway, it’s been my experience that leaving the party is the dumbest way to try to make your voice heard. Once you’re out the door, the ones who made you leave are free to interpret and reimagine whatever you had to say. Or ignore it completely.

I decided that I would protest the loss of voices by adding my voice in their place. Sort of an “I am Spartacus” moment, I guess. My hope is that I’ll encourage others to do the same, and they’ll encourage more. Eventually, the Internet will fill up with people saying things that other people don’t want to hear, and those other people will just have to get over themselves and not listen.

So, yeah, the format…I don’t like to have my photo taken, so staring into a webcam while I do this is not an option. Trust me, I’m doing you a favor. As I mentioned, I’m kind of old. I’m also bald in an unattractive, Dennis Franz sort of way, and I’m about three Big Macs shy of morbid obesity. These are not things you want to see on your computer screen unless they’re wearing a bowler hat and getting stuck in a doorway next to their ridiculously thin sidekick.

I’m using footage from my dashcam, because I own it. I’m too lazy to animate, I don’t have a lot of faith in the Fair Use defense, and streams of my gaming attempts would mostly be just the loading screen and thirty seconds of me getting pummeled because I tripped into a boss battle without picking up the golden macguffin. But I like to go places, and I like back roads, so you can vicariously enjoy the beauty of America’s federal and state highway systems. Map coordinates are on the bottom of the screen if you think you recognize something or want to go there.

Anyway, that’s why this is here. There will be more, soon, and you can listen to my unsolicited views on a wide array of topics. I have no expectation of ever being monetized, so there may be some cursing. There will definitely be things that offend…oh…pretty much everyone, eventually. I suppose I should insert a catch r

The Casual Notice Timeline of the MCU: Part 4

2000-ish to 2005 or so

  • A large green monster is sighted near Dr. Bruce Banner’s lab. The Bush administration, abetted by Fox News and MI6, declares war on southern Nevada and parts of Utah. General Thaddeus Thunderbolt “Sam Elliot” Ross is given command of the illegal expeditionary force and attacks Banner based on the incriminating evidence that he’s dating Ross’s daughter, Jennifer Connally. After an extended battle in the desert and, for some reason, San Francisco, the Green monster–now called the Hulk– is captured, but not before he uses an M1 Abrams as a baseball bat.
  • The Hulk is revealed to be Bruce Banner, after all. His abusive and batshit insane father is called in to assist the army, because when you are trying to contain someone who turns into a giant green rage-monster, the best way to do so is to contract the one person most likely to send him into apoplexy. This works out exactly as well as anyone could have predicted and the Hulk escapes after punching an underground bunker into oblivion.
  • The above two items never happened.
  • Tony Stark stops even pretending to run the company with his name on it, electing, instead, to do PR and sales, and drop off the occasional scribbled design for new hardware, while leaving the day-to-day business to his bizarrely loyal assistant, Pepper Potts and his father’s former partner, Obadiah “Bad Company” Stane. This move will surely benefit everybody.
  • Bruce Banner moves from the Alaskan wilderness to Rio de Janeiro (or possibly Sao Paolo, or Brasilia…it’s hard to tell) where he works on the floor of a soda pop bottling plant, because underpaid 3rd world factory workers never face stress.

2006-ish to 2008

  • Alarmed at Stark’s increasingly erratic behavior, the DoD assigns USAF Major James “Empire” Rhodes as his handler, with the mission specs that he is to (a) protect the asset (Stark) and (b) prevent him from becoming too much of an embarrassment. He fails spectacularly on both objectives.
  • While on a press junket in the middle east to show off top secret Stark Industries weaponry to the press and mid-rank officers, Tony Stark is caught in an ambush by an organized militia. He is presumed dead and never seen again.
  • Held captive in a terrorist camp/spooky cave, with a piece of shrapnel edging ever closer to his heart, Stark devises a magical energy source and a suit of plot armor. He murders his way out of the Terrorist camp, crashes his suit, and is rescued by an Army helicopter crew that just happened to be flying over an unoccupied section of desert for some reason.
  • Arriving home, Stark upgrades his original plot armor plans to be much sexier and have a bitchin red-and-gold metal flake paint job. Forgoing the usual testing process, he decides to fly his improved armor into the desert and murdalize some terrorists. He gets shot out of the sky by a pair of Air Force fighters.
  • His two trips to the Middle East having revealed how many Stark Industries weapons were illegally obtained by terrorist groups, Stark announce that Stark Industries, a weapons manufacturer, will no longer manufacture weapons.
  • Stane unethically uses Stark’s previous erratic behavior and his decision to terminate the company’s involvement in its one industry to unfairly influence the Board of Directors and have Stark removed as CEO.
  • Potts, while trying to steal proprietary company technology, stumbles upon evidence that Stane was illegally selling Stark weapons to terrorists and orchestrated the ambush that led to Stark’s capture AND used a collection of burner phones to rig the most recent American Idol. She gives this info to SHIELD agent, Phil Coulson, who promptly moves to arrest Stane.
  • Stane uses a piece of plot armor, originally based on Stark’s first suit, but with more weapons, a cup holder and a back-up camera, to escape the SHIELD detail sent to capture hi and goes after Stark.
  • Stark gets into a head-to-head battle against his father’s old friend, and owing to his brilliance and the advanced nature of his Mark III plot armor, is absolutely pummeled into obscurity by Stane who is wearing what can best be describe as, “a battleship with legs.” Stark is forced to save himself by using his magic energy generator to vaporize Stane’s head.
  • Stark announces that he is Iron Man (cue Black Sabbath…or the Cardigans, whichever you like better).