Thursday, November 30, 2023

Overheard at Table 1: Hank and the Reaper

Hank and the Reaper

Reaper: OK, Hank - can I call you Hank? - it's time, old pal.

Henry: Well, I knew I couldn't stave you off indefinitely.

R: You had a good run.

H: Outlived all my enemies and most of my detractors.

R: Can't ask for much more than that.

H: Well, I've received my prizes on Earth.  Time for my prizes in Heaven.

R: Oh, there are prizes awaiting you, but they're not in ... well, you'll see.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Overheard at Booth 1: The True Virus

... and when they looked back on those fateful times, they realized that the physical virus was not the true killer, but the mental virus.   THAT was the virus that rotted the mind and brittled the soul, until there was nothing left of the human animal but confusion and blind rage.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Overheard at Table 3: Jared Leto Biopic

Is it just me, or does Jared Leto look like his award winning role is going to be in a Charles Manson biopic?

Well, I did hear that he says he wants to play a pedophile.

Ew! Gross!

He said he's be training for it.

How to you train for ... OH, SHIT!

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Overheard at Booth 1: Disassociation Tomato - written on Nov 18

Disassociation Tomato 2023 November 18


We jumped through a portal and came out the armoire door in a hotel room.  I went over to the window and saw the downtown skyline.  It seemed like we were on the fourth or fifth floor of the hotel.

I put down my backpack on the shelf that had a chair and could be used for a desk.  Above it was a TV screen that looked like the main display panel on the bridge of the USS Enterprise.  It was a beautiful, massive screen.  It looked like it took up the space of the entire wall.  

Also, it was SO THIN.  Barely bigger than the thickness of a cigar box.

I asked Acsa how they did that – I mean, TVs have tubes and electronics and stuff in them.  These are things my friends know better than I do, but I’ve never paid attention much.  All I know is that our TV is on a big shelving unit, which is also made for my dad’s stereo equipment, and sits right on top of the space where he keeps his record collection.

This TV was mounted on the wall, and also had an arm where it could be pulled out and moved to an angle, probably so that you could see it better from the bed.

There was only one bed.

And two of us.


“I need to tell you something,” Acsa said. She took off the hat and the goggles and sat down on the edge of the bed.   “COVID is bad.  I mean, really bad.  Actually worse than the Flu Epidemic of 1919.”

“That the Spanish Flu?” I asked.

“If that’s what you guys call it, yeah.   But COVID is not only worse because it killed millions, and I mean MILLIONS across the world, but it was also worse because it destroyed the ability of people to agree on what reality is.”

“What does that even mean?” I asked her.

“It means this,” she held up her tricorder (I am not going to call it a “cell” – no way, no how, not ever.  It is a tricorder!)  “Everyone was hooked to this.  Everyone believed this.  And there were many many MANY voices on this, and they were all chattering away, and they confused so many people that many more people died.  People died who didn’t need to die.  And really, there is no amount of mathematical study of probablity or Potentialities that will ever give us an accurate number of who might have been saved and who might have lived.”

“That’s horrible!” I said.

“Yes, it is.  And now, I want to tell you, that you could have stopped this.”


That was weird.  Look, she just took me to some Mad Max post-Apolcaptic hellscape, and I’d been seeing deserted streets and empty grocery stores and people afraid to get close to each other, and everyone masked up and running around like they are all “duck and cover” and now Acsa is telling me that somehow I’m the key to all this?

I was like, “No.  No way.”   I’m not THAT guy in THOSE novels who has the secret to “save the day” and all that.  Not me.

It wasn’t me, though.  It all had to do my band, the Ardmore Gongmongers


Asca laid out the case like this:  Dan Maxwell, our bass player, the third of the triad that is the Ardmore Gongmongers, the same guy who described himself as the “John Entwistle” of the group, and wrote songs like “Cecil the Aardvark” (I heard it – it was on the iPod.  It’s HILARIOUS!) … was the same guy who COULD HAVE STOPPED COVID.

Ok, I can tell that you guys are probably rolling your eyes right now, but let me try to explain it to you the way Acsa explained it to me:  Dan, after the band broke up after college, went on to continue his studies in biology, and became a biologist working for a diabetes medicine manufacturer, looking for better diabetes drugs.

If Dan HAD NOT been in the band, he WOULD HAVE met a Chinese exchange student in his medical program, and he would have gone into the field of virology, where he and she would be married and work with both American and Chinese companies, working on treatments for various viruses – like the Spanish Flu of 1919.

What is the one way that Dan takes this course?

No Ardmore Gongmongers.

There are no Ardmore Gongmongers if I’m dead.

At 15.

By a gunshot to my head.


So that’s how it plays out.  Yeah, it’s kind of like a twisted “It’s a Wonderful Life” – kinda like what Howard the Duck experienced in Bizarre Adventures #34 (I love that issue, by the way – I have a mint copy that I keep sealed and I have a copy that I read)

I told Acsa, “Look, in a world with all these millions of people …”

“Billions,” she corrected me.

“Billions,” I said.  “Not just one guy can change things like that.”

“No,” she admitted, “Dan doesn’t make a cure for COVID or anything, but he and his wife work on a team that helps to mitigate the spread.  What they do doesn’t STOP it, but it makes it so that not everybody dies.   And when COVID is just like the flu, it never makes all the people freak out and confuse so many people.”


And to show me what happened, Acsa showed me on her tricorder.  We also spent all afternoon watching the television.

I saw people in Italy, not leaving their houses, singing to each other from their balconies.

I saw refrigerator trucks parked outside of hospitals in New York City, where they were holding all the dead because people were dying so fast and filling up their morgues.

I saw stories of people emptying shelves of toilet paper.  (Didn’t really understand the toilet paper.  I mean, come on guys, just use a washcloth if you have to!)  (I know that might sound gross, but … for real!)

Then I saw government officials of the state saying that we needed to get people back to work and if that means that they give COVID to grandma and grandpa and they die, then that’s the price to be paid to make sure that America stays strong.

That last one really hit me.  That I think weirded me out more than anything else.  That sounded like what they taught us in school that the Soviets tell their people.  DIE so that the STATE can live.

What the hell kind of place IS 2020, when my country started sounding like the Commies?


And then … she showed me the other news: the idea that spread that the government had made COVID to kill the elderly.  Ideas that the Jews had made COVID.  That the Liberals had made COVID.  That the Chinese had made COVID to kill THEIR elderly, but they just messed up and it got out of their contol.  That the Chinese had made COVID to kill AMERICANS.   

That COVID didn’t exist.
That it was just the flu, and the government was using it to control people.

Acsa said, “These were real deaths, real deaths of real people, but the real death was the truth.”

“What was the truth?” I asked her.  “What exactly IS the truth?”

“The Truth,” she told me, “is that everyone who lives anywhere HAS to agree on what reality is.   If they don’t agree on what is happening in front of their eyes, everyone dies.   Alone and scratching at each other’s eyes.”


Look, I know this is hard to believe.  This is hard for me to believe, even now.  But this is the part where I have to let you know that this is coming.  It’s coming.  It’ll be here in 35 years.  I don’t know if I’ll be still around to see it – I mean, to see it AGAIN.  But it’s real.  

Acsa knew it only as the past, because she was born decades after it.   But for her, it was still in the memories of those who’d lived through it, and there had been a lot of “sorting out” she called it, to determine what could reliably be called the “truth” because the survivors who had lived through it were the ones who had completely different sides.  

Which is weird, because all the old people I know are in total agreement: they all grew up in the Depression, they all fought in World War II, they all lived through the 50s and saw their kids become adults in the 60s, and they all agree that everyone my age has it good and that none of us would ever be able to live through the same kind of hardships they had when they were all 15 years old.

Acsa’s old people are completely different.  Half of them say that the world was ripped apart by COVID, and the other half say that COVID never happened and no one ever died, and that the other half just created COVID in their minds in order to try to take their guns away.

I can kinda see why Acsa wanted to spend most of her time with dragons rather than with people.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Overheard at Table 1: NaNoWriMo Shuts Down Forums

Why we can't have nice things.

No idea if any of the grooming accusations are true, but let's just all admit that there are no safe spaces anywhere and it's very sad when some of the spaces we hope were safe turn out not to be ... or at least are accused of not being safe.

But then, I haven't been using the forums anyway. I just use NaNoWriMo to try to finish my novel.

To The NaNoWriMo Community,

We're dropping in to communicate to a broader audience about concerns that were brought to the attention of the Board. The concerns we received related exclusively to activity on our online forums. Though individual issues were varied in nature, they led us to a singular conclusion: that closing down the forums until issues could be properly resolved was the right first step. 

We are aware that a great deal of misinformation and innuendo on the matter is circulating. Though we cannot control speculation and sensationalism, we can be transparent about the questions we’ve received and the action that has been taken. 

The issues brought to our attention include:

  1. Inconsistent moderation and lack of attention to resolving complaints

  2. Concerns about the safety of minors (one volunteer moderator accused of grooming was complained about for not being removed from the forums in a timely fashion)

  3. Dynamics between moderators and community members; concerns about inclusiveness and staff conflicts of interest

The decision to temporarily shut down the forums was made out of a desire to stop and investigate, and to exercise an abundance of caution. Online forums cannot serve as safe and welcoming community spaces without a large-enough team of well-trained moderators.

We are also a 25-year-old community whose growth has outpaced that of the resources in place to support it. It is the Board's opinion that now is the right moment to pause, meaningfully resolve problems, and address complaints and match resources to needs. It's time to press the reset button on the forums. 

This will take time and we appreciate your patience. In the meantime, we need to make a few things absolutely clear:

  • The vast majority of complaints sent to the Board have not been verified, including claims about child grooming. It is important to draw a distinction between the voluntary, precautionary measure of proactively shutting down the forums and measures that might be taken if our thorough investigation confirms the truth of any of these complaints. 

  • The Board received its first complaint on November 7th. This was the Board’s first knowledge of these issues and the first community member outreach that any current Board member had been sent. 

  • Since that date, the Board has been transparent and responsive. You are welcome to view our official statements and findings on the NaNoWriMo main forums

  • We have primarily communicated on the forums about this, but we realized that some commentary was warranted more broadly, which is why we're sending this email. 

Maintaining the Magic of NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is a rich, dynamic, global community that reaches far beyond our online forums. Around the world, countless authors are writing amazing things. NaNoWriMo has tremendous reach beyond the forums that continues to lend support and resources to writers. 

Though some of what is being said about the organization is unflattering, we hope you will review our responses and conclude that we are operating to the highest standards of integrity in this matter. We have volunteered to serve on this Board from an abundance of love for the organization, its people and what it aims to do. We will work hard to regain your trust.

We'll end with a Fred Rogers quote we like about what truly happens in challenging situations. "Look for the helpers. There is always someone helping." We want to acknowledge the hundreds (if not thousands) of community members who step forward every day and who have stepped forward in this moment. For every concern we've received in our inbox, we have also received words of encouragement and offers of help.

In Partnership,

The NaNoWriMo Board

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Overheard at Table 2: The Dead Kandinskys "Buy the Dip"

The Dead Kandinskys say,

"They tell us to buy the Dip but they never tell us how much the Dip costs?

Last time when we bought the Dip, we got the Dip home, and it turned out to be a Doofus.

So, we returned it, but they would only exchange it for a Dork."

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Overheard at Table 2: Disassociation Tomato - at the Bookstore


As I sat there, reading, the owner of the bookstore came over with a stack of books crocked under his arm, which he started shelving.  The man looked like he was almost seven feet tall, and had a grey hair that looked like it was once auburn, there were still flecks of red among the grey, which made me think of Autumn turning into Winter, and his long arms and big hands made him look like the perfect Book-Shelving-Machine, the way he pushed books aside to make space for others.

"You're the owner, right?"

"Yes," he said, smiling.

"Nice place you got here."

"Thanks.  I think so, certainly."  From the stack that he was carrying, he pulled one and handed it out to me.  It was a thin trade paperback, looked well-worn and read.  I took it and looked at the cover, a grey cover with an illustration on the front of a boy with a dragon and a cat.  

The title was "Catcher of the Writers."


I looked up at the owner of the bookshop.  I don't even think I said anything.  I think my mouth was just open.  He smiled at me and moved past me, toward the back sections, where I think Acsa was wandering around.   His grey cardigan flapped open and I saw that he was wearing a t-shirt that had the words Ardmore Gongmongers wrapped in a circle around what looked like a shovel.  The shirt was old and faded, and I got the impression that he got it when he saw the band in concert, several decades ago.


I opened up the book and the first line was "I hated the way she smoked, the last time I saw her alive."

Those words really hit me.  I didn't know why then, and still don't, now - how I knew, I mean.  But they were written about my mom.  I just knew.  The description went on to talk about the bandages around her wrists, and the way they trembled as he held her cigarette in the mental ward at the top floor of St John's Hospital.

Yes - exactly where I am now.  In the same room.  Telling you all this onto this stupid tape machine.


Look, I'm getting a little tired here and I kinda want to stop here.  Let's pick this up tomorrow, OK?


OK, let's start again.  Guess I'll get back to where I was - in the Catcher of the Writers.

After the intro, it went on to say, if I can remember it all, something like this:

    If you really want to hear about it, you’d probably want to know what really gave me the love of            reading and literature and all that, but honestly, I’m not going to tell you – not because I’m some sort     of Holden Caulfield jerk*, but because I truly do not know.

There was an asterisk after "jerk" and at the bottom of the page was printed 

    *I am a different kind of jerk, entirely)

Then, the book goes on with this story of a story that he - me, I guess - had read somewhere...     

    I remember a short story that I read once.  A Christmas story.  It was written sometime between the        20s, to the 50s... probably 40s are the most likely.  I think it was in a collection of short stories that        had been printed in the New Yorker. 

    It was about 4 pages long, and it was about a guy, can't remember his name, but I think it was                 George.  He walked up the steps to a Christmas party, and when he walked inside, all the presents         were sitting on the table, and while everybody else was congregated in the other room, he went             through the tags and added his name to each one.  "... and George" 

    Such as "Love from Charles and Sue ... and George!"

    Or maybe the story was at a wedding reception ... that would make more sense.

    I don't know.  That's all I can remember.   Kills me that I can't remember the story, or be able to find         it.  I've looked through my books, the collections of short stories, the collections of Christmas                 stories, collections of New Yorker stories, but I can't find it.


Really freaked me out how this writing sounded just like me.  I kid you not, it was like it was written by me and at the same time, FOR me.  Part of me was smiling because I was thinking, "Cool!  A book written by me that I didn't have to do any work on!"  

Yeah, I know by now this meant that at some point I'd have to put in the work on this book - writing, reading, notes, plotting, researching, editing, re-reading, MORE editing, all that crap.  But I bet there would be a TON of people who would love to just have an idea and then just it into some machine that would spit out a book for them.

But then I thought, that would probably be a loser way to go.  I mean, can you really call it YOUR book if you didn't really put the work into it?

But anyway, I skipped through the Catcher of the Writers and the main aspect of it seemed to be that this guy (me) comes to realize that his main point in life is to encourage other writers, other artists, other musicians, to create, create, create. 

It keeps coming back to the idea that the creative impulse inside humans is the only thing that ultimately saves us from destroying ourselves entirely, both as individuals and as a collective body.

(That's a quote I lifted from the book)

Another passage that I read that really struck me was this - goes something like:

        Marcel Proust once wrote, “… the only true paradise is always the paradise we have lost.”

              But what if that’s not true?

        At least not entirely?

         What if the one true paradise is the one that we have never seen?

        The one that we wish for, the one we yearn for? the one that we see in our dreams?


         What if the one true paradise is the spouse that we have created in our minds?

        The house that we have pieced together out of photos of houses in magazines, or the insides                     of houses that we have seen?

        The rolling ocean when we live in a land-locked state?

        The open fields when we are living in the urban jungle?


        The paradise that we have lost is the one that we can never reclaim, but the one that we have not             yet obtained, that paradise is always perfect, always true.

And that, right there, got me as well ... it speaks to the idea that we should always keep dreaming, keep creating: music, books, art, whatever, because at the end of the day, what we leave behind of our art is the only thing that we have given to the future, and it is the only thing that makes other people, as well as ourselves, feel as though life is worth living.

Art saves lives.  Music, photography, poetry, all that stuff: it saves lives.

And sure, yeah, some - a lot, actually - of artists kill themselves, but have you ever wondered if maybe their art actually kept them alive longer than they would have otherwise? 

Take Hemingway for example - he gave us all those books, all those short stories, but if he hadn't have been a writer, he probably would have taken himself out a long time before.


Look, I know you guys aren't letting me out of here anytime soon, but I'm telling you know, that ... I don't know how to say it ... but I - know better, now.  I know.

Just wanted you guys to know that, too.