Sunday, April 26, 2015

Everybody was Kung Clu fightin'.

This cat is fast as lightnin'. 

Fred's hands are lethal weapons. Oh, yes. 

They're not, like, registered or something. No one's hands are registered as weapons. Not even in New York, where everything is considered something that ought to be regulated. Not even in Georgia---although they may start having to register breasts

What was I saying? Oh, yes---I was telling you about my lethal hands. Martial arts, you know. Well, actually, it's not an unarmed martial art, like karate or boxing. This is actually an armed martial art, like kendo. We call it Kung Clu.

We use these weapons. To deadly effect.
There are six weapons (the candlestick, the lead pipe, the rope, the knife, the wrench, and the revolver) usually associated with the mastery of Kung Clu, although two others (the horseshoe and the poison bottle) are sometimes seen in variations. We masters of Kung Clu are unmatched in the martial use of candlesticks and lead pipes and wrenches, let alone ropes, knives, and handguns.

I go about speaking to groups---sometimes on purpose---to encourage youngsters interested in the martial arts to consider Kung Clu, although it is challenging, and very few who take up the sport get beyond the Mustard Belt. Here are some of the questions I frequently get asked. We refer to these as Frequently Asked Questions.

Q: Isn't that an odd variety of blunt objects? Why the candlestick, monkey wrench, and pipe? Why not a billy club, or a bo stick, or something cool like that? 

A: Silly boy. Kung Clu evolved out of self-defense using common household objects, the kind of things that could be carried about without arousing suspicion. Over time certain ones fell under greater focus as weapons, and now are regarded as traditional. It doesn't mean I couldn't use my skills with, say, a tire iron or an ax handle.

Q: What's the big deal about a martial art with guns? You point, you shoot.

A: Foolish, foolish child! A master of Kung Clu may kill his foe by shooting him, but when the evil foe is found, it will be impossible to determine how he died. I've seen multiple detectives unable to figure out whether a shot man was strangled with a rope, stabbed, or bonked on the head. They didn't even know where the foe was killed. Such are the mysteries of Kung Clu.

Q: Is it just for boys?

A: Heck, no! One of our most famous practitioners, known as Miss Scarlet (not her real name), is a female-type woman. You wouldn't want to cross her in the Library, let's just say that.

Q: Are there other, similar martial arts?

A: Yes, there are. There's Monop Olix, which trains its adherents to fight using objects such as a top hat, iron, thimble, dog, or hotel. Life Arts just uses cars to run people over. These martial arts are crap.

Q: Have there been studies of the culture and history of Kung Clu?

A: Absolutely. I recommend Death Be Not Fun by Dr. B. Black, Trapped in the Billiard Room by Prof. Edgar Plum, and Beat Your Opponents to Death with Hard Objects by the Rev. Thallo Jacob Green.

Q: Are there any other skills taught in Kung Clu?

A: The detection of secret passages is one of our most popular auxiliary skills. You'd be amazed how much time you can save by finding a secret passage to the can, for one thing. Others include deduction and inference, and proper identifications of colors.

Q: Those weapons all look pretty dangerous. Does Kung Clu teach us how to peacefully subdue an opponent?

A: Foolish boy! Grow up! It's dangerous out there. What, you think this is some kind of game?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Face the Fred.

Mr. Philbin, Official Friend of This Blog, has complained that I'm constantly showing Fred cartoons, but have yet to reveal my actual face. For example, last year we had Fred's choices for Easter bonnet:

For some reason Mr. Philbin maintains that this is not my actual appearance. Fie!

All right, maybe it's an artist's impression. The fact is---well, you've heard the expression "a face made for radio"? Well, imagine how much worse a face made for writing is.

I thought about running a gallery of writers' photos, but decided not to. I wouldn't want to scare the children.

But you know, Mr. Philbin may have a point. The link between writer and reader is surprisingly intimate. I'm asking people to buy and read my books; the least I can do is to let 'em see my mug. So therefore, without further ado, here, for your enjoyment, is the first posting on the Internet of Fred's actual mug.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Salute to tools!

On yesterday's post I detailed the ferocious battle I had to remove two Red Barberry bushes (known also as Japanese Barberries, a shrub brought to the U.S. from Japan in 1875 as an early means of weakening American resolve), which would have been impossible without the help of two great hand tools. Today I would like to offer my:


I picked up both of these more than 15 years ago, when I finally escaped apartment life.

The first is my crosscut saw, a little Stanley number, which I've used to build tables, shelves, a workbench, sawhorses... maybe not well, but I've used it, and any errors are mine, not its. I had to get rid of some large branches that I could not remove with the hedge clippers so I could get far enough under the bushes to dig and pry them out. Stanley made quick work of those large branches. We salute you, Stanley!

The other is a plain ol' shovel, but a shovel that I got at Kmart for $8.99, or $12.25 in modern picayune dollars.

How do I remember the price?

The digging in rocky, root-crossed soil was hard enough, but I also used it as a pry bar to get under and lift the plant (the larger of the two weighed around a hundred pounds, I estimate). This little shovel did not weaken, but stood up to the task, blade, handle, and shaft. We salute you, KGro shovel!

Here's something else about these tools: Both were made in the United States. Perhaps that says something about their longevity? American-made tools may cost a bit more, but they get the job done and keep doing it.

You may say: Hey, it'd be better for the economy to buy cheap tools that break easily so you have to buy more. I say, cram your broken windows fallacy where the sun won't shine through them. Believe me, my money has gone for plenty of other things where it has not had to go for tools. Fred does his bit to help the economy by spending his way to penury.

One other thing that came in handy---not made in the U.S., but grown here.

Yes, my dog Tralfaz was outside "helping"; it was great to have something for him to enjoy, and a big root cut from the evil red plant was just the thing.

You can still get made-in-America Stanley saws; sadly, it looks as though Kmart's KGro line no longer offers shovels, or at least they don't appear on the Kmart site. But I am sure you can still enjoy your yardwork with U.S.-made tools.

Just be alert for any offers on Russian or Iranian plant species. I suspect those nations would like to weaken us, and they'd use ornamental plants to do it if necessary. And it can be an enduring problem. After all, we've had peace with Japan for 70 years, but we're still dealing with the effects of their Ornamental Shrub Initiative.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Feed me, Freddy.

Spent a good hunk of Earth Day pulling up freaking bushes from hell.

These were Red Barberry bushes, planted by dingdongs who wanted to landscape with cheap, deer-resistant shrubs. It's true that the deer hate them. EVERYONE hates them. Except birds, which is a good time to remind everyone that birdbrain is not a compliment.

The Red or Japanese Barberry is an invasive species, brought here from Japan to cultivate. Thanks to the birds it has slipped the leash, and now goes on its merry way, choking native plants, usually in stealth mode (meaning, "seedlings generally revert to the green form" per the Native Plants site, so you don't always see them until they've strangled everything).

You can use special power tools to get rid of these things, but the only power tool I had that was useful was the hedge clipper. After they were trimmed back as far as possible, it was down to the shovel, the saw, the plank (for leverage), and hand-to-hand combat, ripping out roots from underneath. As you can see, there's latticework right behind this shrub, which made it difficult to use leverage to the best advantage. Plus, the bastards fought like hell. They have roots like cables, and pricklers that can pierce leather work gloves. I think Little Shop of Horrors was inspired by them.

Now I got a hole in my plants.
Anyway, I was happy to spend Earth Day doing my bit for the environment. Well, the native environment. Of course, it involved uprooting and murdering plants, so maybe that was a net loss for the environment. But, with the exception of a small amount of electricity for the hedge clipper, I only used the completely renewable resources of blood, sweat, tears, and cursing to get the job done. So I figure the Earth is saved now. You're welcome.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Peace, earth, love, ketchup.

So it's Earth Day, the day we celebrate dirt. And aren't we glad for it! Without dirt we would have nowhere to stand. Our houses would sink. Our roads would collapse. Hooray for dirt!

We should all stand shoulder to shoulder to fight the enemies of dirt. Take that, laundry detergent!

Yes, Earth Day is a day for brotherhood. And since National Brotherhood Week is no more, we seek some new period in which to get together and be brotherly. Earth Day is all we got. So today, like brothers, we should punch each other over whose turn it is to take out the trash.

No, we should all work hard to get along today. The International Day of Peace isn't until September 21, and by that time, especially with our national eagerness to give monstrous regimes their own atomic weaponry, we might all be dead. So let's celebrate now.

To that end I have tried my hand at peacemaking between mortal enemies, sworn foes dedicated to the destruction of each other. Of course, I refer to McDonald's and Burger King.

I thought we could start with condiments. As Julia A. Fletcher Carney once wrote,

Little deeds of condiments, little words of love,
Help to make earth happy like the heaven above.

Or something like that. 

Very standoffish at first, refusing to get together. Let's see if we can coax them out of their, uh, shells.

That's better! Mixed together we see that all packets bleed the same; there's no BK tomatoes, no McD tomatoes, just all our tomatoes. And we---

Uh-oh. Didn't see that coming.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

PSA from the dog #1.

Hello, friends. It's me. The dog.

Friends, I'd like to ask you to think about your doors. Sure, you like doors. They keep things in. They keep things out. But have you considered the high cost of doors?

That's right -- every day millions of dogs find themselves on the wrong side of doors, and there is nothing they can do with their cute li'l paws to help themselves.

They want to go out; they're stuck in. They want to go in; they're stuck out. Completely helpless against the oppression of the doors. Poor pups!

What can you do about it? Well, you can start by getting rid of all your own doors! Then your doggie can roam about freely, a happy little chap. Is that too much to do for your friendly canine companion?

Why not start today? Just take down a couple of doors. Maybe to the backyard! Maybe to the toilet! You'll see immediately how much happier your dog will be.

Tell your neighbors about it! Even if they don't have dogs of their own, they'd surely love impromptu visits from your own fuzzy pal. Who wouldn't?

Thank you for listening friends! And remember:

Every time you use a door 
You make your doggie more and more. 

This has been a public service announcement from the dog.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Rebel jerk.

Sometimes I wonder how a free people who are supposed to be able to handle themselves responsibly could let things get this far.

"Do Not Eat."


And here I thought it was a breath mint, a little something at the bottom of the bag to freshen up after wolfing down all that jerky.

Silica gel packs, included in everything from jerky to vitamins to new shoes, are nontoxic, so munch all you want! Well, probably a poor idea, since they are made of sand and quartz and included to absorb moisture. They may also include a dye that could be sickening.

There's a part of me that wants to chomp on one just because they said not to---that Fred, he's a rebel---but I've resisted. So far.

But aside from us renegades, who needs to be told not to eat this stuff? Babies don't have the sense to not eat objects, but they can't read anyway. So there goes Baby, eating away at the jerky, and he comes to the silica packet. Well, he can't read, can he? In it goes!

What about blind people? Aren't they entitled to eat jerky? Should the warning be written in braille?

Why don't they put that same warning on other things? It appears we can't be trusted to figure this stuff out. God knows there are plenty of things you shouldn't eat---bowling balls, shoe polish, nails, pipe fittings. Some of them, like the cotton in pill bottles and the lid on yogurt, also come in food. Shouldn't they be labeled DO NOT EAT?

On another topic, if I got a few hundred boxes of these packs, and piled them around the house, would that lower the humidity in the summer?

Well, that's basically what DampRid is for, and I've put a few of those around with no noticeable effect, although I expect it would work well in small spaces like boats and closets and bathrooms and cellars. But not the whole house. So I guess using however many Do Not Eat packets wouldn't help the house either.

Another advantage of DampRid is that it doesn't come in food, so I won't consume it in my feeding frenzy. I haven't noticed the words DO NOT EAT on the side of the tub, so I haven't been tempted to go at it with a big spoon. Yet.

Yep, I'm a rebel and I'll never ever be any good.