The Count's Blessings

That's an understatement.

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Stinkbugs: Red China’s Relentless Spy Menace?

As the United States’ status as a super power continues to dwindle more and more by the day, its debt to China grows almost equally in a nearly perfect example of an inverse relationship.  So is it merely a coincidence that, within just this past decade, we have begun to see a miniature, shield-shaped Chinese army infiltrating our homes—despite our best fortifications —every year in the late summer months?

I am talking, of course, about Halyomorpha Halys, or the Chinese stinkbug: a pestilent, bumbling breed of insect that seems to have been naturally designed for no other purpose than to flutter about and bother creatures who possess the capability of hate.  But is it really nature that is to blame for these uncompromising annoyances, or could it be, perhaps, the Red Asian Empire coming to collect its debt?  Let’s look at the facts.

The plague of skittering grief arrived in our great state of Pennsylvania a short time ago, and under mysterious circumstances.  How, after all, had they managed to travel here from such a faraway land without the help of greater forces?  Surely a handful of bugs loose in a traveler’s carry-on bag could not be a large enough number to cause such a coast-wide infestation the likes of which we see today.  Their already-suspicious origin and uninvited presence serve as the first clues in our investigation.

Now consider the creature itself:  a quiet, resilient, plodding and determined bug that is slim enough to fit through a crevice of any size and looking to stake a claim in your American home.  Their rounded, shield-like shape reminds one immediately of a crest; a family crest.  One’s family is one’s honor, and if there is one thing we know the Chinese think we do not have enough of, it’s honor.  You see it all coming together?  Well that, dear reader, is only the beginning.

Red Asia's Brown Menace

Study the above photo for a few moments.  This is the enemy.  At first glance it appears to be an oddly shaped and seemingly harmless child of nature, but don’t be fooled.  It is actually a mass-manufactured spy robot of the Chinese Red Army.  Observe:

Genuine schematic

Crafty, compact, and quiet, Halyomorpha Halys is the ultimate spying machine.  Literally.  They are capable of entering any structure through vulnerabilities you’ve never imagined, they love your bedroom, and they’re content to perch themselves on your wall while you go about your daily business.  And they’re from China.  What more proof do you need?

The last bit of evidence I urge you to consider pertains to that of their colloquial nickname, the stinkbug.  This term is an uncharitable testament to the odor they emit in the event of their pulverizing demise.  It is because of this that many wood-dwelling humans who are haunted by droves of the pests will use a custodial home vacuum device to remove their presence.  It is of utmost importance that you do not do this.  

You see, as the creatures are clearly robotic, they are without life from the beginning.  Banishing them to the dusty bowels of a vacuum cleaner does not kill or disable them, but consequently allows them to cluster inside, combining collected data and resources (especially the microphones) to become a sort of sentient spy colony inside of a strangely shaped metal and plastic device.  And it is there where the overworked Chinese analysts learn our habits and discover our darkest secrets.

It is from this data that they will determine what kind of Chinese-manufactured products you prefer as well as determine the best way of advertising said products to you.  And in this respect America will unknowingly buy its way out of debt with China.  My God.  They must have started years ago.

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I Repeat. I Fucking Hate the York Fair. (Part 2)

CONTINUED FROM PART I

Boxall's I-Got-It saves my sanity.

Boxall’s I-Got-It is the most astoundingly genius thing ever created by mortal man.  And it’s not because I find a bouncy, gimmicky version of Bingo with the promise of plastic trash prizes to be particularly fun.  I’m talking from a businessman’s perspective.  Check this shit out:  

Each game costs $.50, and goes pretty fast.  I’d reckon they can go through 2 games in just over a minute-and-a-half.  Each I-Got-It tent houses 90 seats, of which most are almost always occupied (granted, many York County residents take up the space equivalence of 2 seats, skewing the numbers slightly).  Let’s say, conservatively, there are 70 seats filled, at 1 game per minute, for 1 hour.  70(people) x .50(price per game) x 60(minutes) = $2100 dollars.  Schwing!  After paying their small staff $10 or less an hour, and giving out these $3 prizes…I’d bet the average I-Got-It tent profits over $1500 an hour.  And that’s being conservative.

On top of that, the Fair’s got three of them this year.  Holy shit.  I’m honestly starting to consider opening up a string of I-Got-It halls county wide so I can take the firehall bingo crowd by storm.  If I can get a connect to a Taiwanese junk distribution emporium, I’ll be golden.  Or at least aluminum, spray-painted that color.

You know who else put a smile on my face?

Her.

This lady.  No, not the one with the cankles in the crassly loud shirt.  I mean the smiling blonde lady running Uncle Nick’s Candy Game.  Why is she smiling?  Because that shit is almost as genius as Boxall’s I-Got-It, that’s why.  Who knows how much money she’s saved by buying a warehouse full of candy in bulk (or knocking over an M&M-Mars candy truck, as I like to fantasize), but this game produces about $5 every 20 seconds.  Sure, these two games are like gambling, but only the bookie is making money.  You’re making candy and junk.

So I eventually make my way over to memorial hall to get out of the heat where, inside, I find that Jesus is a hot commodity this year.

Praise him.

There’s something important in this box for you.

...And I thank him for it.

Yes, Jesus had two stands under his belt this time around, while the Chamois cloth and balance bracelet guys were underexposed and unappreciated once again.  To make matters worse, He wasn’t even selling anything!  The nerve, Savior of all Men, the nerve.

I chatted up the bowling promo girl for about 5 minutes, charming her with a ration of my gummy worms and somehow forgetting that my intentions of today’s wardrobe was to make myself look slobbish, exceedingly white, and unappealing.  That part of the story actually becomes quite funny, so perhaps I’ll have to touch upon that on the (now evidently necessary) supplementary entry.  I just accumulated too much damned material to fit everything in.

Outside again, I hear one of the funniest pair of sentences ever uttered by a child under the age of 8 in my entire life.  ”Lemonade just makes your body feel so good.  Lemonade is so good.”

Caught off guard by this true, yet existentially clever statement, I am forced to turn and laugh.  His father, who couldn’t have been more than three years my senior, must have been in Been-Dealing-With-This-Kid-All-Day Mode and missed the young philosopher’s epiphany, but I was thankfully there to catch it.

And that was the last positive thought I had before the fear crept in on me.  I could feel the presence of my arch-enemy, the source of all the great digestive turmoil caused by the calorie-slathered cuisine of this carnival of vapid horrors.  And lo, when he is called upon by the elder Gods, he is known as:

Little.  Fucking.  Richard

Little.  Fucking.  Richard.  The ruse.  The fraud!  This overweight, hard-of-sight entrepreneur is the high Templar of corn dogs.  Just look at that, they’re pointing directly at him!  And he’s got his hands in everything; a finger in every pie, all varieties of doughs.  Fried doughs.

He's everywhere.

He’s absolutely everywhere; keeping watch on his deep-fried empire.  Those beady, coke-bottle-magnified eyes follow and scrutinize your every move.  And it was with that terrifying realization that I knew I had to escape.  

I made my way through the bustling crowds in that late afternoon sun towards my exodus; freedom.  You’ve won once again for one more year, York Fair.  Perhaps we’ll meet again in another decade.

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I Repeat. I Fucking Hate the York Fair. (Part 1)

The sky was relatively clear, the air was warm, and the sun beat down upon my black shirt like the fury of the gods.  A wardrobe mistake, one might infer.  But this ebony cloth depicted three howling wolves, and I knew that with it, I would slip into the York Fair crowd seamlessly; anonymously.

As some of you may well know, I have been quite vocal about my distaste for this little money-vampire in the past and equally in the present.  In 2002, I wrote an article about it that still gets brought up to me by people until this very day.  But 2010 marks (what I think is) my 10th year York Fair boycott anniversary, so I thought it would be apropos to do a little follow-up text by actually revisiting the coveted, human-dignity’s-train-wreck that is America’s Oldest Fair™.

The beginning of today’s little adventure came about pretty mildly at the convenience of having a friend in the car parking business, so I got to dump my jalopy off for free and with relative ease.  Free parking is essential, because to pay for both admission and parking at this event would be borderline masochism.  

No, it wasn’t until I got to the front gate this time around that I ran into the first of many soul-crushing farces being levied upon Fairgoers this year.  Observe the following photograph:

$70 Season Pass...Genius!

  Pretty unassuming, right?

If you are aware of the popular slogan associated with the York Fair, “Wind it up and it runs 10 days!”, and apply this to a $6 entry fee, one would deduce that to go every day for the entirety of the Fair’s stay would cost $60.  ”Outrageous!” you’d bellow.  But fear not:  They were thinking of you and are offering Season Tickets.  Great!  Surely they’re’ll be a price break involved!

Price break.

The fuck?!  That’s not a price break, that’s a price-break-you.  No thanks, fellas, I’ll just pay normal admission everyday and save myself some dough, here.  Oh, but who am I kidding?  There really is no way to save money at the fair unless, of course, you want to spend the entirety of your stay inside Toyota Center watching shit fall out of animal asses for free (more on that later.  Actually no, we’ll just leave it at that.)

But it’s definitely not in the admission cost where they fuck you; it’s the rides.  As I remembered, most ticket booths would offer an all-day bracelet for the rides, costing around $25.  Long gone are those days, I suppose, as the best deal they can offer you is 55 tickets for $51.  A surprisingly adequate price break, given that tickets are $1.25, but those tickets are, of course, finite.

Tickets are cheap.

The average ride costs 4 tickets, so at $1.25 a ticket you’re going on a ride for $5.  Sometimes rides are 5 or more tickets.  Your kid and his friend each ride 5 rides and before you know it, you’re buying another 55 tickets.

One ridiculous looking fucker was 10 tickets.  Twelve American dollars to ride one ride at the fair.  Well, at least we can say with confidence that everybody gets their money’s worth riding these great machines, right?

I scoff at the thought.  The average 4-ticket ride is about 2 minutes long, sometimes less.  The stomach churning flying-swings ride at the front gate (5 tickets) is in the air for a whopping minute-and-a-half before the pixelated operator starts the lowering-and-slowing process.  At 90 seconds, a $6.25 ride means you’re paying roughly 7 cents a second to have fun.  For fuck’s sake man, you can get 15 minutes worth of enjoyment at an arcade for 50 cents if you pick the right game.

"But I go to the York Fair for the food!" Most of you shall now, ever so feebly, utter.  Well, let’s go ahead and discuss the Fair’s food.

In a nutshell.

The name of the above place is totally no-frills, no-bullshit.  They call themselves exactly what every other shop on this God-forsaken slab should:  Fried Dough.  That’s precisely what you get when you come to the York Fair with an appetite.  Corn dogs,  battered vegetables (for the nutritionally conscious), funnel cakes, deep-fried twinkies, breaded Oreos.  Breaded Oreos.  My You’ve-Gotta-Be-Fucking-Kidding-Me meter goes on the fritz and I have to go inside.  Somewhere, anywhere.

I take refuge in the cool corridor that is attached to the towering stadium, where I see mostly more food stands.  I start to notice a trend among all of the vendors:  the $4-5 price point.  Everything at this place is begging for you to break out your buddy Lincoln at every other turn.  

One place boasting its Pennsylvania Dutch heritage was slapping together ham and cheese sandwiches on Holsum brand rolls straight out of the bag for $4.25 a pop.  We’re talking, like, the sandwich your mom would put in your lunchbox every Tuesday morning, here.  My dwindling pocket was insulted, and my eyes desired to see new, more promising things.

So now I’m back outside, looking for something to catch my eye besides every other tattooed teen mom that seemed to populate the Fair’s core demographic this year, and I come across the great tent of horrors, or the freak-museum-of-what-have-you.  ”No,” I thought to myself, “you mustn’t spend your money on such frivolities.”

I was, at first, content with this decision, until I noticed something very peculiar to the far left:

Olga Hess, my long lost relative

Olga Hess?  Why, she must be of relation to me!  And science is keeping her alive?  I felt that I must have a look at her condition, and I knew then that I couldn’t leave the Fair until my concerns were satisfied.  I paid my $2 entry fee and walked in.

The tent featured your usual, gimmicky, schlocky bullshit.  Dead goat stuffed in a jar, 2-headed turtle pattering about, replica of mummified two-headed baby.  Replica.  Clearly not alive, and clearly not the two-bodied, one-headed child that was advertised.  Alas, I heard a brute woman’s voice coming from the back of the tent and thought for sure that it must have been the tragic bellows of Miss Olga, the headless girl.  My path to her, however, was temporarily blocked by a carn-type who was meticulously pulling out grass patches that he didn’t like.

I was wholly disheartened to find that the woman on the other side of the wall was, in fact, not my anatomically unfortunate relative, but an overweight, vulgar woman in her early twenties with piercings on her upper lip, sprouting long tubes of plastic which, if I was put to a guess, were intended to look like whiskers.  The horrible wretch of a creature then, without any provoking or desire from the crowd, proceeded to twist a screwdriver all the way into her nose while I winced, thinking about the anything-other-than-this-shit I could have spent my two dollars on.

The pathetic soul then briefly fluttered a top-hat in our faces, making some vague mumbling about needing insurance, but I think she wanted us to give her money.  The look on her face was entirely nonchalant and uncaring, as if she knew that her morbid routine was not worth any of our hardly-earned cash, and that this “insurance dance” was just her thoughtful way of giving us another reason to despise her.  I came for Olga, you bitch.

My heart was in a wreck.  I was swindled out of my $2, did not reconnect with my long-lost kin, and was unduly subjected to some strumpet’s self-mutilation.  Surely, I thought to myself, I can find something in this Hell-hole that is good; something that affirms this event’s very right to exist.  And there, in a moment of clarity, it appeared over the horizon…

TO BE CONTINUED IN PART II

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Untitled (Post #1)

Why write?  Why create?  Why work?  Is the need to do these things just a contrived, mental labyrinth of our own design; purposed in finding us a mate, a salary, or, dare I say, happiness?  Or is it perhaps a mere escape from the mundane, incessant routine agenda of everyday life?  Can it not be both?

The real troubling question is:  What happens if you get what you want?

If I should get married tomorrow, have a kid in 9 months, have a high-paying job and an outlook on life that I consider entirely “happy,” would my desire to write, create, and work for myself cease to exist?  I like to think that it wouldn’t, but if my only purpose in doing these things is actually nothing more than a means to obtain that generic form of happiness, then there would be no reason to continue this work.

That being said, it’s easy to imagine that what I fantasize as happiness could, in actuality, be nothing more than routine life once it’s no longer new, and I’ve gotten “used to it.”  The need for that creative escape will still churn inside my mind, no doubt, and though I’d have less time to devote to it, it would surely still do the trick.

But what if my pipe-dream of “making it” in the creative world comes true; to make a living doing what I normally do for fun? What if the things I cherish as sweet evasions of ‘normal’ life become the bores I wish so badly to escape?  Perhaps these questions are more troubling than my first, but I am surely not going to stop writing, creating, and working just to avoid their answers.

I do this work because I need to know that I can.  I create to achieve, explore, and make myself proud.  I do it for the right to daydream.  I write to exist; for the right to exist.

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tumblrbot asked: WHAT IS YOUR EARLIEST HUMAN MEMORY?

Quite an interesting and difficult-to-answer question, tumblrbot.  I vaguely remember bits of conversations and trivial life events from my second and third years of life, but I’d say the one that sticks out the most in my mind is the time when I unwittingly plunged two small keys into our living room wall sockets.

Wow, come to think of it, maybe the sum of all my life’s parts really comes down to that one event.  Thank you for the self-realization, tumblrbot!