Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Thursday, July 28, 2011

We Who Are About to Dye Dilute You

Long before I began writing for fun and (no) profit, art was my creative outlet of choice. And though the image below is far from my best work, I've chosen to make it the first one I share here at The Wheel (apart from my computer animation) for good reason. Many pieces in my portfolio tell a story, but only this one comes with a story already in place...

What do you see when you look at this picture? I see my high school. In flames.

One morning in May during my senior year of high school, I arrived to find the front entrances blocked by police and a bunch of fire trucks. The place wasn't ablaze, however, so I circled around to the back entrance (using a somewhat illegal route through the neighboring VA hospital's property) and parked in the lot behind the gym.

The authorities kept us out of the school for an hour, but we soon learned the shocking truth: A substitute teacher had started a fire in my (commie) history teacher's classroom.

Sadly, it wasn't nearly as nefarious as it sounds. My (commie) history teacher (who wasn't really a commie (as far as I know, but he did teach The Communist Manifesto, collected Russian memorabilia, and only gave students in my A.P. Western Civ class who were communists A's (which is to say, none of us))) had been sick the previous day.1 The substitute accidentally left a window fan running overnight, and at some point it fell into the room and onto a pile of books. The fan rubbing up against the books all night got them pretty hot, and by about 6:00am the friction had started a good ol' fashioned book burnin'.

The fire consumed the books, as well as a nearby television set, while the rest of the room sustained extensive smoke damage and was closed off for the rest of the year. Of course, we had no sympathy for the teacher, in part because he didn't give anyone A's (even though A is also the first letter of the Russian alphabet), and in part because, as an (alleged) communist, he shouldn't have cared about his belongings.

But wait, there's more! (Which I suppose was pretty obvious, considering I haven't even mentioned the picture yet. (Until now, that is. But you should ignore this instance. In fact, ignore this whole paragraph.))

Eventually, they let us inside and directed us to our first period class. I had Creative Drawing, where we were in the process of making batiks. (A batik is created by applying hot wax to cloth (or rice paper, like we used), removing the wax once it has cooled, and then painting the surface with dye. The areas that previously had the wax will repel the ink (as you can see in my meager example above).) We'd been at work maybe ten minutes when they announced over the loudspeaker that we should instead go to homeroom, and then return to our first period class. We thought this was pretty stupid, but we did what they asked.

When we got back to the art room, one of the hotpots (used to heat the wax) was steaming. One kid jokingly suggested we avoid it, lest we start a fire. But once the teacher returned to the room, one girl went over to get some wax. She lifted the lid, and whoomp! (There it is. Wherein "it" is oxygen.) As soon as oxygen reached the pot's contents, we had flames a foot high.

The fire was contained, though. It only extended above the pot, not outward, and couldn't quite reach the (wooden) storage area above. Our teacher (a woman in her early 60s, and perhaps no longer with a firm grasp on all her faculties) grabbed the fire extinguisher, aimed it at the hotpot, and promptly... hit the side of the pot, knocking it over onto the counter. Which was, of course, lined with paper towels to catch the wax. In moments, the entire counter (about six feet wide, and extending the entire length of the room) was engulfed in flames.

The alarm sounded. I grabbed my painting and headed for the exit. The rest of the school poured back outside, fire engines summoned a second time. Some kids headed down the street to the 7-11, but the rest of us just sat back and laughed, contemplating where and how the day's next fire would spring up. An improper mixture in the chem lab, perhaps. Or maybe a piece of meatloaf would spontaneously combust in the cafeteria.

To our disappointment, we topped out at two fires that day. And even worse, the firefighters didn't believe us when everyone in our art class said we needed treatment for smoke inhalation at the hospital. Our laughs betrayed us, and we all had to go to second period.

And that, dear readers, is how a still life painting of a boot, an old rotary phone, and a potted plant will always remind me of the time my high school almost burned down. Twice. In one day.


1 By the way, if you're wondering about the over-abundance of parentheses in this post, I've reverted to my previous standard for the sake of sentimentality. Prior to my blogging days, I only used footnotes when forced.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Evolution of a Newborn

Early last week my wife discovered she had given birth to a hobbit.

Our son, a.k.a. The Professor, was barely five days old, but the evidence was undeniable. He was tiny, but had big feet, and every day he would eat breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, etc. (It probably didn't help that I'd look at his wee little hands and hiss "my precioussss.")

But soon other, conflicting evidence also became undeniable. His feet were not hairy. He did not reside in a hole in the ground. Nor did he live in the 'Shire (a.k.a. Cheshire, CT, which is 30 miles away). Alas, our hobbit was not a hobbit.

It didn't take long to figure out the truth, though. He was a pale child who we were advised to keep out of direct sunlight, and he stayed awake throughout the night. Women were uncharacteristically drawn to him, and he would feed by sucking on the flesh of another person. Clearly, The Professor was a vampire.

Except that he wasn't. Not only can he be seen in mirrors, but he has no adverse reaction to garlic, wooden crosses, or holy water. Once again, we were wrong.

Over the past week, we've come to a series of similar conclusions, only to find logical discrepancies every time:

He's small, with the right sort of hat, and sometimes has a dopey look on his face. Thus, we believed he was a dwarf. Yet, he doesn't work in a mine or live with six older brothers in a house in the woods, so that couldn't be right.

Like a werewolf, he has claws, and he howled during the full moon this past Friday night. Nevertheless, he didn't become hairy, his basketball skills didn't improve, and he's not in London.

We thought he might be a young Starfleet Captain: There's always a lot of beaming when he's around, sometimes he cries out what sounds like "KHAAAAAAN!", and he can't always control his Number One. But he only boldly goes where many babies have gone before, so that couldn't be it.

The Professor's head can nearly turn to face backward, he keeps us up all night with his unearthly wailing, and spews liquids from his mouth. Therefore, he must be inhabited by a poltergeist, right? Wrong. His face always remains angelic, and the power of Christ does not compel him.

Perhaps he escaped from a retirement home. He needs others to feed, clothe, and bathe him, has no memories of his youth, doesn't try to hide his infatuation with breasts, and looks like an old man when he cries. But we've checked with every place in the area, and they have no record of him.

Also, he coo coos, and kachoos, but never does he do them in a row like that, so it's obvious he's not The Walrus.

And then we hit upon it: Harry Potter! He can't see clearly without wearing glasses, he was brought to live with a muggle family by a bearded man who was somewhat hagrid, has a pet (stuffed) owl, and he always surprises us with how quick he is with his wand.

Unfortunately, he can't see clearly with glasses, either. And his scar was Photoshopped.

So it looks like we still don't know what sort of creature The Professor is. But maybe you can help us out with that. Any ideas?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fun With Homos

I like messing around with homophones, homonyms, homonids, and the like. A few of you may remember my discussion of we wee Wii weevils from a while back. Well, now that I'm a new father and spend more time awake thinking about inane things, congratulations! You get more of the same!1

And lest you get mad about me putting together a blog post with nothing but a list of horrendous homophones, you can also peruse 15 new photos of my week-old son (a.k.a. The Professor).
  • "You still need to repay me for that essence of sheep's eye you borrowed."
    "Oh aye, I owe you ewe eye eau."
  • When I competed in that International Pie-Eating Contest against King Juan Carlos of Spain and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, I'd have been victorious if not for four forefathers conspiring against me. Though I ate eight more than my competitors, I received no prizes; Juan won one, and they gave two to Tutu, too.
  • I sure hope the TV gods see fit to air Eyre Heir ere the end of the year. They'd better not fill that one empty timeslot with anything else. If they put a favorite of theirs there, they're going to be hearing from me.
  • Even if Orville and Wilbur had a strange coming-of-age tradition, don't just write "Wright Rite" right away. You need time to come up with a proper title.
  • Koreans believe fish have sun spirits, so don't scoff at Seoul sole sol soul.
  • "This may sound corny, but when I go through Mr. May's maize maze, rather than follow the rose roe's rows or the weighed whey way or the isle aisle, I'll compose an idle idol idyll and simply sing to myself until I'm out the other side," sighed Cy.

See? I told you they were horrendous.

1 The sleep deprivation isn't nearly as bad as everyone made it out to be. It may be because I've always lacked for sleep, or because I'm not working for the time being, or because I already once suffered through two weeks of the devastating combo of mono and insomnia (a.k.a. insomnimono). But no matter the reason, this minor sleep loss is child's play. Speaking of which, I can't wait to play with my child. (So far, his vision is blurry and he has no coordination, so the baseball just tends to hit him in the face.)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Class Is Now In Session

Date of Birth: 07/06/11 at 2:22 AM
Height: 20 in
Weight: 7 lb, 10 oz
Codename: The Professor

Two days ago — ten days after our due date and twenty hours after my wife was induced — my first child screamed his way into the world. Although Denise ended up having to have a Cesarean section,1 she and the baby (and I) are doing well, and he is the picture of health.2

I may have no problem sharing my name on this blog, or my wife’s name, or pictures of my son, or really horrible no good very bad puns, or random inane ramblings, or random insane footnotes,3 or long run-on lists of things that don’t really have much relevance beyond their first three items, I’m still not sure I’m ready to share my son’s name for all the interweb to see.

Thus, henceforth he shall be known here as The Professor, which I dubbed him the week he was the size of a plum, and which my sister has called him ever since. (If you’re confused as to why, here’s a Clue.) Not only does this give him a secret identity, making him a superhero of sorts, but it’ll also be fun to witness people’s reactions when I begin stories with “So, I was changing The Professor’s diaper when...”4

Anyway, I know The Professor will soon teach me many things about life.

And I look forward to learning every single one.

1 Unfortunately, we stalled out at 8 cm of dilation and were forced to go the way of the big C, but not until after we learned these valuable birthing tidbits: One, major contractions are called major for a reason. Two, the epidural is your friend. Do not badmouth the epidural.
2 Thus, the pictures above are pictures of the picture of health. (What? Like I’ve never written a useless footnote before...)
3 You need footnotes? We’ve got footnotes! We have original-source footnotes, extra-information footnotes, zany-aside footnotes, and of course rainbow-colored blinking Comic Sans footnotes. We’ve got obscure-reference footnotes, nested footnotes, and the-game-is-a-foot notes. Brand new, gently used, and factory seconds, we have them all. We have footnotes so far from the bottom of the page you’d swear they were shouldernotes, and others so small you’d swear they were toenotes. This Saturday only, half our footnotes are 50% off! So come on down to Cap’n Bill’s Discount Footnote Emporium for all your footnote needs!
4 Plus, it’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure! If you have fed your son breast milk, go to page 12. If you have fed your son sweet potato puree, go to page 63. If your son has been drinking like a sailor on shore leave but his diaper seems dry, pick up this book right now and use it as a shield.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Ye Gads, They Got Me!

I fully intended my next blog post to be the one introducing my son, but he's taking his sweet time getting here.1 So instead, you get this.

Blog tag. It's like laser tag, but without the lasers. Also, instead of running around an abandoned warehouse trying to shoot Neil Patrick Harris, all you get to do is sit at your computer and answer five questions. I barely eluded getting tagged by Heather Henry over at Little Red Henry, but then, like an idiot, I let my guard down2 and Bryce Daniels (of the Bryce Daniels Preservation Society) got me.

Shortly thereafter, Bryce had me sweating under the heat lamps of some interrogation room...

What's the first thing you do in the morning?
I try to uncuff myself from this chair and get the hell out of here. You ain't got no right holding me against my will. I'm innocent, I tells ya, innocent! I demand a lawyer! Actually, no, I take that back. I demand a bowl of ice cream. A bowl of ice cream, and the key to these handcuffs! In that order.

Also, a spoon would be nice.

How old do you feel?
Well, most of me feels 32, but my front teeth feel about 26 or so, and my molars even younger than that. I've got these scars on my hand that feel about 5 years old, and a cute little mosquito bite on my right arm that feels no more than a day or two old.

Serves you right for asking such a stupid question.

What's your sign and does the description match your personality?

This has been my sign ever since I first saw it two years ago in Placerville, ID, and I think it describes me splendidly. After all, my personality does not contain a single traffic sign.

Well, maybe "Wrong Way."
How do you like your caffeine?
I like my caffeine wrapped in a tortilla, sprinkled with cinnamon, topped with whipped cream and caramel, set on fire, and eaten whilst riding a yak across the Alaskan tundra.

What is your favorite cartoon character?
No no no, What is my favorite fictional second baseman. GIR is my favorite cartoon character. (Calvin would have given GIR a run for his money, except I consider Calvin & Hobbes a comic strip rather than a cartoon, and GIR has no money.)

Have you chosen a name for your son yet?
No. But we've got it narrowed down to three: Ozymandias Nebuchadnezzar Wilson, Azrael Gargamel Wilson, and Island Volleyball Wilson. Then again, Anonymous No Middle Name Wilson has a nice ring to it, too.

Eh, we'll probably just figure it out with a Ouija board, like we do with all our major decisions.3

Weren't there only five questions originally?
You shut your face.

Okay, enough of this nonsense. Where's my damn ice cream?

Fine. I'll get it myself. *expertly picks lock with shoelace* *throws cuffs at Bryce* *puts other words between asterisks* *leaves room*

1 He's currently six days overdue, which means not only has he inherited my procrastination gene, but he's also already figured out how to rankle his mother, the librarian.
2 My guard's name is Louis. He's really disappointed in me.
3 I'm kidding, of course. We no longer own a Ouija board, ever since my bowl of Alphabet Soup told us to get rid of it.