Category: personal info

A Haunting: My True Story

Unrelated, but my grandmother would have called this a crick.Last Wednesday night, the house was silent.

I’d just set my iPhone’s alarm. I was well situated in bed, and slowly descending into a haze of unconsciousness. At the edge of my darkening senses, I noticed a slight disturbance.

“Hert tort murdatort,” it said.

The noise briefly tickled me awake, but I soon succumbed to sleep’s gravity.

Friday, I was up late. I killed the Netflix window on my laptop, waited out the shut down process, and closed the lid; checked the locks, brushed my teeth, turned off the lights, cracked the window.


“Blurgen murgle gomtorl,” said a nearly inaudible voice.

After a moment’s consideration, I came to the conclusion that one of our neighbours, an elderly pair of ex-bankers, was also burning the midnight oil. My mind floated a note of concern – Mr. Banker had recently fought off cancer, and had had the situation compounded by a heart problem. Nine days earlier, we’d seen him wheeled from his home on a stretcher.

I couldn’t help but recall my own grandfather, who’d spent his last week in a darkened room with a murmuring television. He’d only been waiting at that point.

“Dor blor quant,” said the ghostly TV.

I went to bed.

Yesterday morning I’d intended to rise at the usual time, but, as my iPhone began to bleat the theme to The Monkees, I punched the snooze button. Ten more minutes seemed a critical necessity.

I found, however, that I couldn’t quite recapture my slumber.

“Tolk borl gumshaw,” remarked the apparition.

Though I couldn’t make out the words, the cadence was familiar: A morning news anchor, small talking.

In the days of my youth I’d awoken often to the sound at my grandparents’ farm. I’d never been successful in rising before either of them, and would often steal some last minute warmth from the blankets while listening to a similar muttering from the kitchen. This memory brought to mind the smell of baking bread and freshly made porridge – staples of my weekend visits.

Realizing my catnap was a failure, I braced myself, then rose from the bed.

The window was closed. It was an odd thing, as I like to sleep in a chill, and usually leave it slightly ajar.

It also meant the disembodied voice couldn’t be emanating from next door.

“Gurkle murk,” said the spook.

That’s when I realized it wasn’t my ailing neighbour which was haunting me: It was my own toddlers. Turning to our nearly abandoned alarm clock, the settings of which had obviously been knocked awry by tiny fingers, I wheeled up the volume and turned off the chattering radio.


The WeebinaxUsually posts here are meant for entertainment and public consumption – this one is a sign post for my own historical purposes, a huge victory banner to reflect upon in my future.!/JRDSkinner/statuses/91527786795245568

Let’s just say a lot of my stress, and the source of many of our recent delays, has been conquered. We have slain the Weebinax.

The Bird

The Maltese Falcon
Jessica May ought to have the edited version of FlashCast 25 in my grubby little hands shortly, but, in the meantime, have you fully enjoyed our weekend releases?

Tonight we’re off to the bright lights and cold pavement of the city, so that we might take in The Maltese Falcon on the big screen. You’ll have to excuse me if I get a little wound up on the topic in today’s blogging: it probably ranks above Casablanca for my favourite Bogart film.

Warner hated to see actors smoking on the screen, fearing it would prompt smokers in the movie audience to step out into the lobby for a cigarette. During the filming of _Maltese Falcon, The (1941)_, Warner told director John Huston that smoking in the film should be kept to a minimum. Bogart and Lorre thought it would be fun to annoy Warner by smoking as often as possible, and got their co-stars, Mary Astor and Sydney Greenstreet to go along with the joke. During the initial filming of the climactic confrontation, all four actors smoked heavily. After seeing the rushes, Warner furiously called Huston to his office and threatened to fire him from the picture if he didn’t tell Bogart and Lorre to knock it off. Realizing their prank had backfired, Bogart and Lorre agreed to stop smoking on camera. However, when the next series of rushes came back, it was obvious that the *lack* of smoking by the actors was taking away from the sinister mood of the scene. Huston went back to Jack Warner, and convinced him that the smoking added the right amount of atmospheric tension to the story, arguing that the characters *would* smoke cigarettes while waiting nervously for the Maltese Falcon to arrive.


Bogart & Lorre, still from The Maltese Falcon

The topic also reminds me of this fantastic Adam Savage talk from TED. It’s a bit of a geek-out-on-pixie-sticks, but the ride is definitely worth the price of admission.

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Sam Spade refers to Wilmer as a “gunsel”, a term the censors assumed was a slang reference to a gunman. […] It is more usually an “underground” term which refers to a person who is either a “fall guy” or a “stool pigeon”, in which case Spade is making both a direct and an indirect reference to Wilmer’s character.


Wilmer the Gunsel - still from The Maltese Falcon

Parenting Pro-Tip

Still from 28 Days Later
Having multiple school-aged children is like licking a mangy goat that’s just finished wildly rampaging through the scariest of the Center for Disease Control’s storage freezers.

Either burn everything they’ve worn in their school day and put them through a series of intense radiation baths, or consider living in a hazmat suit for sixteen years.

I may install a kiddie pool full of antibacterial hand-sanitizer in the front yard.
Kiddie Pool

Burning Traditions

Birthday BlazeAs part of Jessica May’s birthday celebration, we held a small blaze in our freshly constructed backyard fire-pit. Standing at the flame’s edge, my mind wandered back to the last time we’d had such a gathering: at our old place of residence, a year, and a lifetime, ago.

The momentum of memory didn’t stop there, however. I recalled the summer evenings, in my youth, when I would listen to the flat and broken tones of my grandfather, singing along to some maudlin cowboy tune while staring into the smoke and sipping at his hops. Then, further back, a recollection of my own father, before his death, stoking high the fire, and warning my seven-year-old clumsiness against getting too close.

Captured by the sequence, my mind’s eye went even beyond – to the tales of bushwhacking and lumber camps that my mother’s father had imparted from his own adolescence, and to the lonely embers my father’s father must have gathered about while still a boy himself, when the land had yet to be cleared for farming.

Neanderthals gathered about a fire - from,8599,1912195,00.html

There are few common threads that run through the course of human history. If you were to present a bungalow, gas range, or memory-foam mattress, to a traveler from a previous age, they’d little understand their provenance – but, lead them to a simple fire, and they’d recognize an ageless, and universal, hospitality.

Jessica May's Birthday

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Hello, and welcome to Wednesday.

It’s Jessica May’s birthday, which means today’s blogging will be rather random, and may involve epiphanies regarding cake.

Birthday Cat - found at:

For any who might be moved to do so, the best non-physical gift to give her would be to join the Flash Pulp Facebook page – her heart swells each time she sees it grow.

The upside is that #162 ought to be up quite early.

The various customs with which people today celebrate their birthdays have a long history. Their origins lie in the realm of magic and religion. The customs of offering congratulations, presenting gifts and celebrating – complete with lighted candles – in ancient times were meant to protect the birthday celebrant from the demons and to ensure his security for the coming year. . . . Down to the fourth century Christianity rejected the birthday celebration as a pagan custom.

– Schwäbische Zeitung via

A True Story From My Youth

Centurion: Defender Of Rome

Warning: This post deals heavily with items related to Flash Pulp #128 – The Absent Idol: a Collective Detective Chronicle, and if you intend on listening to/reading the episode, but haven’t yet, please do so before continuing into this bit of personal history.

As I remember it, the summer of my sixteenth year was a stand out. It was the last I would have without the restrictions imposed by a job, or a girlfriend, but it was also probably the first in which my parents allowed me the freedom to indulge in the sort of all-night tom foolery that became the signature of my late teens/college years.

The net was young, and IRC was the place to be.

The winter previous, while wandering the shady alleys of online chat, I met a fellow by the name of Carl – Faithful2 was the handle he operated under – and we struck up a quick friendship largely revolving around old PC games. There was a title in particular, Centurion: Defender Of Rome, over which we wasted many hours in conversation.Centurion Screen ShotNow, you must understand that those were frontier days – the idea of abandonware had just begun, and, like many boys at that age, we were both predisposed to minor hooliganism.

When the freedom of summer finally hit, we carried out our plan to create a channel entitled #ClassicWarez, to exchange games which had fallen out of production.

I’m certainly not encouraging piracy, it was simply what was done at the time – and from June to August of that year, we were kings.

The channel exploded in popularity, partially due to the selection we maintained, and partially due to the ridiculous conversations Carl and I would publicly get into.

There was a lot of debate regarding the merits of the death metal band Cannibal Corpse.Cannibal Corpse's The BleedingDespite the fact that I never met Carl face-to-face, we spent a good eight hours a day, seven days a week, in as close a proximity as the internet would allow. We built a cadre of friends; we exchanged personal details in private messages; we made common enemies.

One humid July evening, Carl admitted to me that he suffered from depression. Often.

I did my best to encourage him to talk to someone about it, but he made it clear that any sort of assistance would have to move through his mother, who, as I heard it, was not a terribly fantastic lady. He started talking of suicide.

As a sixteen-year-old, I did my best – and I think I helped him, for a while. By the end of August, he’d stopped mentioning it.

Then Carl moved, as he was about to attend his first year of college, and we fell out of touch for a few weeks. I got busy with high school.

We appointed successors to our channel, then both bowed out.

I’d still pop on and leave Carl a message here and there, but we’d always maintained the immediacy of IRC as our primary method of communication, and our interactions generally became something like:

wyrd: hey
faithful2: hey
wyrd: how’s things?
faithful2: They suck, but I can’t really explain right now, I’m late for biology.

Well, that’s probably a translation to ease my conscience. In truth, I know it was just as often my own departure – to attend to my first real girlfriend – which brought the conversation up short.

By the end of September, we’d both drifted off. I made a few attempts to track him down in October, but he was never about – I assumed it was school-related. Sometime in the middle of November, however, I became worried.

That’s when my detective work began. I spent days wandering our old haunts, /whois-ing any familiar nicknames I could think of that we’d had some acquaintance with.

Finally, just after midnight on a Sunday, on a network entirely unrelated to the one we’d frequented, in a channel of ill repute, I found a lady who’d been a common friend. She delivered the news via a link to Carl’s college’s website.
A November Sunset.  Fred K. Lawrence, Chicago.He’d stolen some cyanide from one of the school’s labs, and, on the tenth of October, he’d swallowed a lethal amount.

Trying to describe my grief to my parents was tough – they’d already turned in for the night, and were in little mood to hear what ridiculous new drama their son had gotten involved in on the internet. I was told to go to bed, as I had class in the morning.

Digging deep into my log files, I pulled out the number Carl had given me the previous summer, in case some emergency cropped up in our tiny empire. I hadn’t tried it in my recent search, as I’d thought he was half-way across the country from his parent’s house, getting an education.

Knowing she was on the west-coast, and thus that it was about 9pm her time, I tried calling his mom.

Unable to understand why someone from the internet might care so much, she finally placated me with a promise to send me a picture of Carl in the mail, took down my address, then hung up.

I never received the photo.
No Face - a grab from a stranger's flickr streamIn a comment to FP128, Barry, a fantastic gent, mentioned: “I just wonder if this isn’t a case of a bunch of people sticking their nose in where it doesn’t belong.”

Exploring the nature of privacy online is one of the reasons I created the Collective Detective, but there’s another question the CD is meant to ask: “Why and how is ‘real life’ supposedly separate from the internet?”

What is asked, and what is owed, in an existence entirely built around communication?

I don’t have an answer yet – but it’s something I’ve been wondering about for over a decade and a half.

Buried Treasure

I was finishing up the final draft of last night’s script when Jessica May burst into my office, a battered tin in her hand.

“I just found this. You open it.”

She’d been poking around the basement’s dropped ceiling, an easy hiding spot for the Pacino-loving hooligans who’d occupied the house previously.

Now, she doesn’t mean to cast aspersions on the people who lived here before us, she doesn’t mean to imply they may have forgotten a stash of used heroin needles, and a dead cat, in the ceiling, but –

I opened it.

Tin of CardsMostly baseball cards from the early 1970s, with a few ’91/’92 Wayne Gretzky cards on top.

Any suggestions on how to proceed?

March Of The Tin Can Man


Just a quick clip of the little robot I built with the Eights – mostly as a test to see how difficult it is to get video from my phone to the internet.

Also, how is it feasible that my iPhone can supposedly generate HD video, and yet most security footage still looks like it was recorded on a hand cranked, black & white, Super-8 camera?