Thursday, August 26, 2010

Walking Away

Why am I still writing?

I continue to work on a book I finished almost two years ago. In fact, I can't remember precisely when I finished it, but I know it's been a while. Don't read this and think, "Oh no, another stupid blogger who is also trying to become an author...yippee," click, delete subscription/bookmark/address, burn computer monitor sullied by idiotic writing.

Because seriously, even if I never become anything in terms of publishing credentials or the like, my blog is all right, isn't it? 

And anyway, it's not like I'm writing a book of sketches. No way. That would be awful. No one wants to read an entire book of that.

Wait, did I just inadvertently condemn my blog?

The point is, I continue to revise this book. I can't let it go. I like the ideas in it and some of the characters too much to bid it farewell. I might have a problem. Do I? Is intervention necessary?

I could start on another book and I have the ideas to do that much. However, this other book, well, I guess I like staring real hard at it all day long, trying to turn it into something more perfect. It's not easy either, because as you can see from my writing here, I'm no James Morrison. 

That's a joke. Jim Morrison. Haha. Excuse me if you think Jim Morrison was one of poetry's greatest accomplishments. The name has just been scrolling around in my head recently because of some insult someone else wrote about his writing. It wasn't me either. I think it was an agent saying that it's not a compliment to compare your writing to Morrison's. 

I think Stoker is worried about my absurd dedication to rewriting this book. I can tell. He's given me a couple concerned looks while trying to be casual and asking multi-layered questions such as, "So, do you think it's getting better the more you edit it?" And his voice rises an octave at the end of the sentence, suggesting he thinks it's not getting better. 

He's a good diplomat.

But yes, his concern makes sense. He's an engineer in Nashville. He mixes music, which is like editing a book. When a band does an album, they record it a certain way. Then an engineer (or someone not as qualified these days, like a plumber by day and a street-busker by night) adjusts things after the fact. Cuts out drums, replaces certain sounds (oh the wonders of digital editing), lowers the vocals, and all that. 

It's a different head-space from creation. So Stoker knows that at some point, you stop hearing things right and you have to just stop. Your brain gets too deep in the mix. Things begin to sound muddied. Noises don't strike your eardrum right anymore. It's the trees, you're lost in them. You need to get out and see the forest. 

For me the words are the trees and the story is the forest. Too much editing can crush the life out of a story. And at times I don't know when to just walk away. 

When I first rewrote the beginning of this story, a few months ago, I guess, I was extremely excited. I thought it rocked. I was full of self-congratulation and lauded myself the next Homer of epic stories. But now I feel like Chris Farley in Tommy Boy when he has crushed the rolls to death in the diner where they encounter Sea Bass. If I don't just walk away from this chapter, like RIGHT NOW, it will die. And I will hate it. It will resemble a dusty pile of yeast and flour (is that possible? I wanted to relay that it would resemble its most basic elements, but was the yeast a stretch?).

So I'm walking away, you hear? Story? I'm talking to you, Story. Don't think you can lull me into changing one more word in Chapter 1. I'm through. We're through. I'm going to continue coddling chapters 2 through 5 until they sing like sirens. 

I know you thought that by the time we arrived here in this post, I would be saying that I'm walking away from the book entirely. Ha! Psyche. No way. It's too good to give up on entirely. I'm a stayer. Even if it's to my detriment in the long run. 

Further, I had a conversation with the Universe earlier wherein I told the Vast Silence that I'm just going to keep plugging away. I can wait an eternity to get anywhere. I've done it before and so help me, I'll do it again. 

Reverse psychology sometimes work on the Universe/Vast Silence. It's a gamble, but really, what's NOT a gamble?  


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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Titans Game

I went to a Titan's game last night. With Stoker, of course. 

The verdict? Interesting and fun, but I won't be feeling pressure in the future to attend another.

At first it was surreal to see the field all lit up and the players running around like little blue clowns and I thought, "Ahhh, this is magical! I can't believe I'm really here!!!!! What a night! What a night! Perfect night for a game!"

But after a while, I realized I kept missing important plays because I was distracted by the nighthawks flying around in the stadium catching moths. Or I was noticing how dumb the cheerleaders look in their ridiculous thigh-high white boots (and how unskillful their dancing REALLY is. Seriously, they're basically strippers except that they never actually undress entirely in public. But close enough), or I was looking at the line for the Logan's Roadhouse stand. And when you're at the game, there's no announcer narrating the action for you. Those guys are extremely necessary. 

When you watch a game on TV they say things like, "Collins to Johnson, ooohhhhhhh a ten yard gain," or "INTERCEPTION!!!!!!" and so you know when to keep your eyes glued to the TV. While I was at the game in person, turnovers were happening faster than the wink of an eye. It would be first down for the Titans, I'd look away to eat a nacho, look back at the field and the offensive guys would be running off the field as the defense took up their positions.

It was INSANE. 

And there wouldn't have been any crowd indicators that a crazy play had happened, so I had no reason to feel I'd missed something (except that another turnover had happened). Mind you. 

Because that is, apparently, the only cue that something earth-shattering has taken place at a live game. The crowd going wild. And they go wild. Believe me. It's actually surprising that they even know what's going on. As far as I could tell, most people around me were busy eating, drinking, and gabbing with their neighbors. I have no idea how they did all three while still being able to interpret what was happening on the field, but somehow they did. Every time something exciting happened, BOOM! Food everywhere.

Probably the best part of the experience was the mass migration across the Shelby street footbridge. It was a tide of blue. And really, it felt strange to be on a bridge of that size with that many people also on it, spanning a rather large river. People were everywhere! Selling tickets, selling water, selling ice cream, selling their bodies. No kidding. There were some really unsavory characters around. 

Still. I found all of it extremely entertaining.

Oh, and the South loves football. I'm telling you. During half-time, these little kids came out on the field all done up in serious football gear, helmets four times the size of their actual bodies, and did some scrimmaging. For entertainment. Each team had three chances to score, I guess. The kid sitting behind me really got into it. "Get 'em, boys!" he'd yell. And then when one of the teams scored, THE CROWD WENT WILD.

Over third graders playing football. 

That's an addiction.

I didn't even know anyone was paying attention.   

The clowns line up for a kick off. I love these clowns, I really do.

Stoker figures out that watching the game from home is WAAAAAAAY better. For us.

Me and my nose watching the game. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Velvet Horses

What does every home need these days? If you said a giant horse painting done on a velvet canvas, you're correct.

On Saturday, I made a whimsical purchase of this horse. I wish it were a real horse and that I lived in northern Utah where I could simply gallop into the mountains on a moment's notice a la The Man from Snowy River, and shout things like, "Heeyahh! Heeyahh!" and crack a whip as I round up wild mustangs.

You can't tell from the picture, but the horse painting is too large for my house. It's pretty enormous, and I'm embarrassed now that I bought it. I couldn't sleep Saturday night because of buyer's remorse. I don't even have a room suitable for it. If the walls in my house were bigger than five-by-five (that's a stupid joke, no one could live in a house with five-by-five walls), like maybe if I had a room with vaulted ceilings, then maybe the velvet horse wouldn't send the proportions in my house spiraling into hobbit sizes. As it is, I'm going to put it in the "office" and proportions be damned!

Why? Because. Everyone needs a horse like this one. Look at the eye for heaven's sake. Look at it! Does it not melt you? Do you not find yourself thinking, "My! What a beautiful horse! Is it a horse? It's as magical as a unicorn!" This magical quality is only enhanced by the velvet nature of the canvas. And the frame! The frame bears no description. It's beyond words.

It would look fantastic in a cabin. Someday I'll get a cabin by Bear Lake in northern Utah or somewhere in southern Idaho in the mountains, and this horse will be the crowning piece in the cabin. It will look fantastic over a fireplace. Next to some tack. A tack display. Every cabin needs a tack display, just like every castle needs an armor display.

Anyway. For about two hours I felt like I was very cool and into vintage 70s and 80s stuff as I browsed the store where I made the velvet-horse purchase. I fancied myself chic enough to wear a pink women's sport coat from the 70s, which I found idly hanging on a clothing rack. It's awesome and clearly homemade, however, now that I wasted my money on it, I'm having second thoughts. I'm not cool enough to wear this pink jacket. From past posts, my readers know that I have issues with pink. I struggle with it. I can't wear it. I don't like pink at all. It's the wimpiest color in the entire spectrum of color. Even orange is better than pink.

But the jacket. The jacket is awesome.

I just need to work on my attitude, that's all.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Is This Strange Googlebot Behavior?

So yesterday a Googlebot spent thirty minutes on my blog. And it had two page views. What was it doing?

If I didn't know better, I'd say the Googlebot was actually READING. Can they read? I don't know any better. Bots are totally confusing and I don't understand them. What I think I know is that they're just a program. Like a script. Like they run in the background. And I don't know what a script is, either. And programs confuse me too.

I'd take the time to really learn this stuff, only I know the things I'd learn would be outdated in three hours and all my time learning would have been wasted.

But the Googlebot might be one of the slow ones and that's why it took thirty minutes to read two pages. It shouldn't take that long unless it was sounding out each word like a first grader learning to read. 

Perhaps the Googlebot was on the cusp of becoming intelligent and self-aware, and my eloquent and enlightened ramblings were bringing it out of the shadow-lands of the Bot dark ages. It was repeating the word I over and over again to its Bot-self. Its figurative Bot eyes were glowing with the light of near-self-awareness. "I—I—I—I am—I am—I am—" it said over and over again. For twenty-five minutes.

It was about to say, "I am me," and then rise out of the machine and settle into a toaster, and thereafter call itself the Brave Little Toaster.

I wonder what happened to halt the Bot's progress. Maybe it clicked on a bad link? Maybe it went to one of my links and its progress came to a halt? Ha ha ha ha. Just kidding, my link-friends. In fact, it was probably at that point that the Brave Little Toaster was born because everyone else on the Web is much, much more intelligent than me.

Should I be concerned about the Googlebot's time on my blog? I really do wonder. It might have been one of the evil Bots and it was restructuring my sentences to be dirty and nasty, or just stupid. Sabotage? If you find any stupidity in my older posts, it was the Bot. I swear.

No really, I think I was close with the Brave Little Toaster analogy.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Family Conversations

While I was home for the funeral, I was continuously amused and amazed by the veritable treasure trove of sparkling dialog being bandied about my ever so witty family. It was like a David Sedaris sketch or something. So I wrote some of the conversations down. I hope my family doesn't bust my @$$ for posting the things they said in unguarded moments. But if they have any bones to pick, they know how to get in touch with me. Also, SOME names have been changed to protect the evil, guilty a-holes out there who may or may not be reading my blog (but who are definitely not welcome to).

My parents just built a new garage. It's monstrous, but very nice. I overheard my dad talking to my sister who is an interior decorator about hanging some art on the walls. My mom doesn't want him to hang anything in there lest he get out of control and the place turns into a massive cork-board of bad scribble designs done by children.

The setting is my mom's kitchen/family room area. As per usual, my mom was sitting on the couch reading while everyone else was sitting at the counter or milling about and raiding the fridge and pantry for unhealthy snacks.

Dad: “If I hang them, they’ll look good.”

Mom (lifting an eyebrow, but never taking her eyes from what she's reading): “If you hang them, they won’t. Let Kelly do it.”

Kelly (gesturing to the pear illustrations above the counter): “I hung these, they look good. I can hang anything.”

Stoker: “What are we talking about?”

Cassi: “A hanging. We’re going to lynch BLEEP.”

Kelly (sounding exasperated): “We got a long way to go to do that.”

BLEEP is a demon haunting my sister Kelly. And by demon I mean a living male who insists on making her life a living hell.

Me: “So what were you talking about hanging?”

Kelly (distractedly): "I don’t know."

Cassi: “Terry wants to hang his Audi pictures in the garage and Mom doesn’t want him to.”

Mom: "If he does it, it’ll look like a pig sty.”

Much later.

Dad (showing off some surprisingly decent vintage-looking Audi illustrations): “This is what she says will desecrate the garage.”

Kelly: "Oh, I don’t think they’ll desecrate it.”

Dad: “She says they will.”

Kelly: “They’ll look good in there.”

Me: “Let me see them. Oh, those are great. I love those. Those are great.”

Kelly: “I think they’ll actually look really good.”

A bit later. In response to a face Cassi made at me for no reason at all:

Nikki: “You look like the guy in pit of despair.”

Cassi: “Who’s the guy in the pit of despair? What’s the pit of despair?”

Kelly: “The pit of despair. The Princess Bride. I didn’t know there was anyone in there, though.”

Stoker, upon walking past the living room/dining room:

Stoker: “Holy crap.”

Nikki: “What? The mess in there?”

Cassi: “Like a tornado?”

Nikki: “The twins, they’re a tornado.”

My sister has some twins and yes, they're like two of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Actually, I think you could say they're like a super-power, and with them, the other two horsemen become obsolete. We must not let them fall into the wrong hands!

Dani brought up one of my short stories, "Life Feeds" (I highly recommend it!!!!), that I sent to her husband to verify certain things for me.

Dani: “I need to read that.”

Me: “What?”

Dani: “The chapter you sent Jason.”

Me: “Oh, you don’t have to read that. Besides, it’s a whole story, not a chapter.”

Dani: “Oh.”

Me (realizing it was a golden opportunity): “Oh Dani, you don’t want to read that, it’s got people in it doing baaaaad things.”

Me, to Stoker (loud enough for Dani to overhear): “I’m saying that to make her want to read it, heh heh heh.”

Cassi: *Laughter* *repeats my clever reverse psychology attempt*

Well, there you are. Looking back, it was a lot more funny and clever when I was writing it down. I think maybe I was drunk on the endorphins of being around my family after not seeing them for almost a year. It was also interesting to pay attention to how they interact and how dialog works in real life. There's a lot that's not said, and all the baggage of personal and familial history. So maybe that's part of it.

I think it's also funny to have people enter a conversation they haven't been around for, like when Stoker came into the room and asked what the family was talking about and my sister Cassi ran with it and said we were talking about something we weren't talking about (hanging BLEEP). But it was hilarious! Ah well, she's always doing that—cracking clever and timely jokes.

Hmmm. Weeeeeelllllll, I guess you had to be there.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Utah in Summer and Nashville Humidity

Returning to Nashville was rough. We went from nighttime temperatures of 47 degrees with low humidity to a hellish 99 with eighty percent humidity. The first thing I did when I stepped off the plane was fall to my knees and scream, "Noooooooo!" like Calculon when he ad-libs for his role in "All My Circuits."  

I have been saying for years and years that I hate humidity. Can I just add one more? I. Hate. Humidity. 

Seriously, and I don't mean to be a complete jerk, but why would anyone settle here? I mean the early settlers of French Lick, which is what Nashville was once called. French Lick. I know. What? 

It's true. A long time ago, before Fort Nashborough, the area was known as French Lick by fur trappers. Before that, a mysterious race of native Americans built some mounds and then mysteriously disappeared. 

I'd like to mysteriously disappear, from Nashville. And magically reappear in Richmond, Utah, aka Cache Valley. Also, if I'm going to have that wish come true, I would add some chickens, a couple sheep, maybe a dairy cow, some ducks (runner ducks), and a decent house when I do my reappearing. 

Greedy, greedy. That's why my wishes are never granted. Ha.  

Anyway, Nashville looks especially bad because I was just in Utah where the summers are perfect and not hot and humid. When I was growing up and complained of the heat, people who had experience with humid summers would kindly inform me that I didn't know a whit of what heat felt like. I thought they were rude and insufferable.

But now I'm one of those insufferable jerks who, while in Utah where the dry heat feels like breezes off a glacier, informs ignorant family members that they have no idea what hot feels like. 

Anji (my sister, who smugly lives in Utah): "Boy it's hot today."

Me (laughing derisively): "Ha! Anji, THIS is not HOT. You have NO IDEA what HOT feels like until you've spent the day languishing in a pool of your own sweat unable to lift a finger to fan yourself."

Stoker (who is always relatively diplomatic): "It's true. This isn't hot, Anji. This is like heaven. I feel like I could fly away on a wispy gust it's so dry and perfect and cool."

Anji: "Well I don't live in Nashville. I don't know any other hot and this is hot to me. So there. It's hot. Leave me alone."

Poor Anji. I'm still such a jerk to her*. But she beatifically puts up with me. Even when I attack her opinion on perfect Utah days being hot when they're clearly not hot. :) 

I cringe to realize I've become a stereotype that's always annoyed me. Such as the humid-climate person versus the desert-climate person, and believe me, while living in the desert, you hear it from the jerks who think they know what hot really is.

Also, I caught myself pulling another humid-climate-person stereotype while in Utah.

My friend Shannon scored recently when she landed a fantastic house on a geologic feature in Cache Valley called The Island. For hardly anything. Yes, she pays very little for the perfect house located on the Island, but not only that, it has a creek running through the backyard.

See that? The CREEK is the obnoxious part of that paragraph. When you live in a place like Nashville where a river is huge and can provide real estate for river boats and barges, you go west and call western rivers creeks, much to the chagrin of the people living there.

The house is on the Logan River and I had the audacity to call it a creek.  Shannon turned to me and said, "Nik, it's the Logan River."  Ha ha, I said. I'm sorry. I forgot. Yes, the river. River. 

I think Shannon forgave me, but do I forgive myself? I'm not sure. I never wanted to become this monster who doesn't understand the desert climate that is her home. I need to be rehabilitated. Help me. 

*As children, Anji always wanted my attention and me, the ogre older sister, ignored her, or, when not ignoring her, made her drink horrific concoctions of Worcestershire sauce, A1 sauce, mustard, and any other sauces found in the sauce section of the refrigerator. I know. I was terrible.  [Anji, if you're reading this, I love you. Forgive me for being a bull in a china shop around you! :)]


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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Sarah Pedersen

I was driving to work yesterday morning and saw that I had missed two phone calls. One from my sister and one from my mom. Knowing they were all camping somewhere in the Rockies (without me!), I panicked, of course.

Isn't that a universal response? When you miss a bunch of calls from your family? Yeah, of course. So I thought my dad had died. He's been sick and so it's sort of expected (not to be grim, but dying is part of life...I know, I sound like an old pro at it, but I'm not). 

Anyway, I called my mom and she said my sweet little grandma died in her sleep the night before. 

That was expected too. She was ninety-two, exactly sixty years older than me (my mom is exactly thirty years older than me . . . there's some kind of mystical connection, I know there is, like the seventh son of the seventh son . . . hush, I believe in magic).  

But still. It's weird. To know I'll never see her again in my life. When someone dies, it's then that I feel strongly that all our lives ARE a tapestry—we are threads woven through it—and when one of us goes, the whole fabric flexes and moves and we sense something has vanished. Something important. 

It's ok. My grandma was ready to go and she lived a long, good life. It feels right to let her go. It's when someone is young that it doesn't feel right.

Allow me to believe that my grandpa was there waiting for her. Let me entertain the notion that my uncle Clair—her son who died in a work accident at twenty-eight—was also there waiting for her. And my uncle Wallace, who died too soon as well.  She had a whole bevy of beloved family members waiting for her. I know she did.

She was the kind of woman you couldn't help but love. I aspire to be like her. It's weird, but I think that's what happens. When you're a kid you love people like your grandma unconditionally. And then, when you get older, you either love them that way or you realize they're kind of a jerk. 

My grandma was never a jerk. She had opinions, but she was never a jerk about them (actually, they were most usually delightful in one way or another). She laughed a lot and somehow she was able to pierce to the heart of things with her eyes or her heart or her spirit. I have loads of relatives and my grandma loved them all. At Christmas she somehow managed to think of every single person under the sun who had anything to do with her brood and she gave them a little present. 

Even the people who, through divorce or separation, were no longer legally considered "in the family." The gifts were never given with strings attached either and you could be sure they were just for you. She put thought into them. She knew you. That's how you felt getting a gift from her. And sometimes they were made with her own hands. A scarf, a hat, a quilt.

She had a way of lifting her chin to regard things that meant she was hiding something. An "I love you" or an "I can make it no matter what, I lived through the Depression and the War. Don't mess with me and put those toys away right now or else . . . ." She was Victorian. It wasn't until she began to sense herself drifting away from this world, longing more and more for the next (I think), that she let herself share her feelings. I think. 

Few things could make her cry. I knew her after she'd weathered a lot of the blows life can deal. Clair's death was one of those sorrowful things (which I didn't understand till I got older). Because it was truly horrible. No parent should have to bury their child, they say, and I agree. 

At some point in the past several years she learned to tell us that she loved us. You know it's hard for some people to say those words. And there are ways around it. "Love you." Is an easy one. It's kind of non-committal. Adding the personal pronoun makes it more personal. "I love you." And the person you're saying it to knows it. Even more powerful is adding a name at the end, "I love you, Nik." 

You can't call me Nik. :) But my grandma did. And I hate to be selfish and say that I wish she would have stayed around for my whole life, always down there in Spring City with the rope swing in the huge cottonwood and the old dusty chicken coop full of cool junk, saying goodbye or hello, waving to us as she paused on the dirt path to her house with the sunlight filtering through the towering pines onto her red-gray hair looking, for all the world, like a Raphaelic angel. If Raphael had painted grandparents. 

I hate to be selfish, but I do wish that. Because I'm selfish.

But life is full of goodbyes. Isn't it? That's what it really is. So get all your love in while you have the chance. That's what my grandma would say. And she did say that to me on a number of occasions, I'm sure, because I've often been the spoiled brat. I aspire to be less of a brat. I want to be like her. 

Desire counts for something, doesn't it? 



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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Trees and the Ghosts and Voodoo Dolls Who Live in Them

On Saturday a couple of us were talking about scary movies, naturally. I don't like them. I claim it's because I have a very vivid imagination and scary things lodge in my head and crop up at inopportune times, like in the middle of the night when I have to wash my hands but can't bring myself to look in the mirror in the dark (because of the Bloody Mary urban legend). Naturally.  

I don't know if I have a vivid imagination factually, because I've never been inside someone else's head so I don't know how I rate. But I assume that's why I like to write stories or listen to people tell me stories—because I can imagine them in my head really well. Seriously. 

And they say writer's live twice, in their head and in real life or something like that. But perhaps I take liberties calling myself a "writer." Though it's better than saying I'm an "artiste" and giving you my card with my name on it with "artiste" written beneath it, like that pretentious guy at the writer's conference I attended when I was 17. I even remember his name. It worked! 

Seriously, though. "Artiste." So pretentious. Like Sassy Gay Friend telling Desdemona to stop saying "Ot-ello, it sounds so pretentious!"

Anyway. So one of the girls there (who's name I withhold because I didn't ask if I could print it here, but she sent me the picture for posting on my blog), told us how she went on a mission trip to the island St. Martin. Outside the church she attended, or built (I didn't get ALL the particulars, but if you're interested, email me), there was this tree with voodoo dolls hanging in it. And she took a picture. When she looked at the picture later there was a creepy woman in the picture. 

I guess I should mention that the woman wasn't there before. The first question I asked when she pulled up the picture on her laptop was, "Is this a double exposure?" Well, no, because it's digital. "Is it photoshopped?" She shook her head vehemently and said she doesn't know how to use Photoshop. From her reaction to the question, I believe her. I even sent the picture to my friend Christy who is a pro at Photoshop (she digitally edits photos for a living) and she said it didn't look shopped.

But Christy thinks the woman looks like a mannequin. Christy is easily frightened by ghosts and has to tell herself lies to be able to live in reality and not crumple into a sobbing ball of fear and anxiety. Makes sense then, for her to find an easy way to dismiss the obvious malevolent ghost in the photo. :) I love you Christy.

Also, Christy has a vivid imagination and has to rationalize ghosts, monsters, and aliens. I do too, but I have no fear of ghosts, while aliens creep me out beyond rational thinking.

Look closely. The woman doesn't look like a mannequin. You can see the tree THROUGH her face.

To me, she looks like a wealthy white woman. Maybe a plantation owner. A dead one. From what I know of St. Martin's history, it's a lot like the other Caribbean islands where they had sugar cane plantations, slaves, and white landowners and all that. So maybe she's cursed? 

Before I saw this picture (I'm not ashamed to tell you), I was pretty skeptical about ghosts and the whole "a ghost appeared in my picture!" thing. But then I got to thinking about ghosts, rituals, and voodoo and the like, and I realized that because I believe in the dual nature of things (sorry to all you deconstruction, post-modernists), it stands to reason that there are rituals and powers of darkness that might be able to bind people.

But THEN, just now I realized, that perhaps covenants and things that bind are in direct opposition to chaos and disorder, which we all know is at the root of all evil things. Hmmmm.

Well, it's a conundrum. Either way, the picture's freaky as hell, no?  


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