The Story of the Goat

I feel like I never told you the story of the goat.

goatgooseOne of the first posts on this blog was ‘Goat Wisdom’, a quick little piece that fell out of me, originally as an exercise for the writing group, one of the daily challenges. The story formed itself and appeared to me quick, maybe more so than usual. I didn’t think much of it originally. I had recently returned to writing after a good few years away; it seemed once I got my fingers typing again the ideas started coming frequent and easy.

The little story popped right out. I was pleased with how it turned out. I submitted it also as my first piece for the website Eat, Sleep, Write. I started this here blog and want to put all my available writings all under one roof.

I’ve been culling works from old websites and blogs, some of them are buried a little deeper on the internet. Some of it took some crawling through the archives, but most of it eventually made itself available and I was able to copy it and refine it and put it up here or save for later.

In the archives, I ran across a forgotten blog. I had created it eleven years ago, one of my first internet forays. I was shocked to see it, at first I didn’t remember ever building it or working on it. It was short-lived, there wasn’t too much there at all.

One piece, though, was a bit of clumsy prose that I called Jalapeño Bridge, named after the song but trying to be something else. It was mostly about a guy wandering in the woods, getting lost in the trees and foliage, crossing a succession of bridges and finally at the end he comes across a goat.

I was shocked to read this. I knew it was essentially the same story as Goat Wisdom.

The details were a little different, and it seemed a little long and forced, but it ended up in the same place.

After I combed the internet I broke out the books. Not the notebooks, don’t be silly, not yet anyway.

These are the hardcover journals, the collections, the printed versions, perfect bound or homemade. In a green faux vinyl covered book, dated as 1993, I came upon some attempts at story telling that reminds me that I had no idea what I was doing at the time.

One of them was about this guy with a strange addiction. He went to strange ends to entertain himself in the hours and days between the moments he lived for. On this occasion when the story was following him, he had gone out trying to start a religion, just because it seemed like it would take a big chunk of his time and an extra dose of effort to get it off the ground. Near the end of the tale the man has collected quite an impressive following, and they demanded he share his wisdom. So he begins to tell a parable after which he can escape. He starts to tell a story about a guy who comes upon a goat.

I nearly split the sofa. I couldn’t believe it, again the same tale had come out and once again I didn’t recall ever telling it before.

Again a slightly different angle, in this one the goat could talk. But essentially came to the same conclusion.

Three times I had told this story, and three times I took slightly different routes, and never recalled telling it before. But it did always end up in the same place, and when it came down to the last line, when it came to the climatic conclusions, all three stories ended with the exact same sentence. Exact.

It bothered me a little that I didn’t remember either of the Goat stories, or the attempts I should say. Eventually it did afford me the opportunity, possibly forced me to refine the details until I got to the best version possible.

I probably won’t share the other versions, the early ones take a while to get into the meat of the story and when they do it comes across as a cartoon. I’ve been gathering and digging and finding all the better writings I have created, everything worthy of playing in public.

I would like to dig one day for the old words; buried, hiding in corner shadow closet darkness.  I would like to crawl again through the spiral notebooks I writ in before ever I learned to type or how to internet, the thirty-something college-ruled  Mead 5-star composition spiral notebooks, 10 x 7.5, three subject.

The thought sends an excited little chill through my spine. I am starting to hope, starting to wonder what may lurk there, abandoned and forgotten. Lost story lines, they have only been waiting for me to return when my skill has become proficient enough to properly tell their tale.


© Robert Emmett McWhorter

Contest Entry: Tempus Fudge It

I have a story entered in a short story contest, it is in the final running, and is being featured along with five other contenders on the Fiction 4 a Day website. You should go read it right now and vote while your opinion is fresh and your viewpoint is new.  The story is a little piece called ‘Tempus Fudge It’. It’s a warning shot the language becoming too muddy or the time line completely cluttered. Please take the time to read, not for me or the prizes I am sure to qualify for, but for yourself and anyone you know who relies on an alarm clock, or assumes that words will mean what you want them to say for just a few hours at a time.
Read, vote, repeat. Break the chains of concentric circular logic, even if it means you have to bite yourself in the ass.

People Meowing on Voicemail

catphoneIt has been an eventful month. I’ve lost all track of time, but it was the beginning of October when I started this blog. After a frustrating few days trying to learn the WordPress language, I think I finally have a handle on things, and I am happy with how it is turning out.

I am grateful to everyone who follows the blog, and especially those of you who take the time to read some of my stuff and comment. Really, that makes it all worth doing.

I’ve put over a hundred pieces online in the last month, so I know some of you are sick of seeing the irobert emails telling you another new post is up. That madcap pace will level off now, but I still plan to post 4 or 5 pieces a week.

I was looking through the site stats, and I love how detailed WordPress gets with the figures; I know which country reads the most, what time of day is best for you, and what sort of works most catch your attention. The most interesting category, though, is ‘search word results.’

I was reminded of one of the old blogs I kept, or maybe the old site I kept. At the time I would look at the stats and one that struck me as curious was the search word results, and ‘igloos’ was always on the list. This means someone typed ‘Igloos’ into Google and somehow wound up on my site. I still don’t really get it, but it was the impetus for me to name a short story collection ‘Igloos’ in a sort of if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them mentality.

igloosSo that was years ago, and was mostly forgotten about until the other day when I was browsing through my stats here, and particularly the ‘Search Word Results’. Some of them are obvious; Fiction, Surreal, Songs, Chicago– all this makes sense and it’s easy enough to see the connection. But one stood out on its own, ‘People who make cat meow sounds on answering machines’.

Someone typed this into Google, and wound up here. It’s just so odd and random and strangely specific. I don’t quite understand, but if this is you, I hope you will speak up and let me know what you were actually looking for and what you think about what you’ve found. Curiouser and Curiouser.

I will not be naming my newest short story collection ‘People Who Make Cat Meow Sounds on Answering Machines’ mostly because it’s just a little long. But maybe I will make a point to write some more cat-centric stories, felines who have trouble setting up their cell phone voice mail settings or something like that.

It’s just a little odd, but unless this is the first post of mine you’ve ever read, you know I like things at least a little odd.

So, thank you all for reading, however you came upon my site, be it a link you found written on the back of a business card, or in a google search looking for cat impersonators for your outgoing message. Glad you’re all here, ecstatic that I write some things that people get a kick out of reading, and dedicated to spreading a whole lot more weirdness into all of your lives…

© Robert Emmett McWhorter

World Wide Great White North

computeroldtimeOriginal: Sunday, August 22, 2004
‘There Was an Internet in the 1980s?’

Canada, as a country, is online. A larger percent of Canadians are computer owners than almost any other country in the world. If one were to take an ‘online census’, the number of Canadians counted would be among the top three nationalities.

Also, Canadians were the first country online. Many people do not know this. Our neighbors to the north originally began to fiddle with this wondrous tool and toy in the late 1970s. Originally email was called ‘cmail’ (‘see-mail’; ‘C’ for ‘computer’) and this nearly fumbled the entire project irreparably.

The Canadian government began shipping computers to people and issuing them cmail addresses. Mine would be something to the effect of ‘robertemmett@cmail.c’ as the Canadians, a much simpler people, hadn’t thought of the now indispensable ‘dot-com’. If they had succeeded, we would all be saying ‘such-and-such dot-see’ today; strangely this little phrase was nearly their downfall.

After a couple years the Canadian government began to wonder why the internet had not taken off; the amount of cmail being sent and received was extremely meager compared to the number of people who had computers and c-mail addresses.

As the ’80s rolled over into the 90’s the rest of the world began to catch on to the world wide web, and even surpass the Canadians numbers wise.

Years of research finally resulted in the knowledge that even though most Canadians are highly intelligent and very capable of learning and mastering computer skills, they were fundamentally incapable of communicating their c-mail address to each other or to anyone else.

The solution, it turned out, was quite simple. They changed the ‘.c’ to ‘.ca’ which still stands as a very popular internet affix today. Instead of trying to change the way people talk, they adapted to it. A lesson here to be learned for all.

Thanks to this, any Canadian can tell you, “my email address is such and such at dot see, eh,” and you will very likely be able to contact them…

(many apologies to my Canadian friends)
©Robert Emmett McWhorter

Live-Tweeting The End of the World

blowupHave we decided yet which Hashtag we’ll use when we Live-Tweet the End of the World?

The question was posed in one of my Writing Groups, ‘If somebody told you the world would end in seven days, how would you react?’

In my lifetime I have witnessed and survived half a dozen Raptures, the Mayan Apocalypse, Zombie Devastation, The Planetary Alignment, The Hale-Bopp and Halley’s Calamities, Dark Matter and Anti-Particle Cancellation, The Post-Nuclear End-Times Dystopia, The Magnetic Polar Reversal, The Hour of Judgement, The Global Financial Technological and Social Collapse, Quantum Wormhole Unraveling, a handful of Jeffs’ Latter-Day Tragedies and Camping’s Deseret Morning Cataclysms, The Outbreak of SARS, The Apophis, Elenin and other Cometary Collisions, The Aum Shinrikyo Armageddon, the Appearance of Maitreya, The Zeta Reticuli and Dog Star Alien Invasions and Annihilation, The Second Trumpet of Revelation and myriad Tribulations, The Hadron Collider Catastrophe, The Eleventh Insight of Secret Shambala, the Planet X Impact, The Harmonic Convergence, The Holocausts of Kaballah, Bahai and scores of other sects and religions, Nostradamus’ King of Terror, The Thawing Arctic Flood, Earthquakes, Tsunamis and similar Global Warming Doomsdays, The Cygnus Supernova and Black Hole Singularity, The foretold Second Coming and Subsequent Encores, the Mad-Cow and Bird-Flu Epidemics, Jim Jones and the Crisis at Jamestown, the Heavens Gate and Golden Dawn Predictions, the Celestine Prophesy, Millennial Terrors and of course Y2K…

I say, “Bring It On!”

And it better not be anticlimactic. We’ve invested too much and have been waiting so long , if we are disappointed there surely will be hell to pay. And no doubt we’ll expect a full refund.

©Robert Emmett McWhorter


Internet-AddictionSo, listening to the radio, I used to hear people say, “Double-U, double-U, double-U, dot…,” when mentioning a web site.

Recently, though, they have figured out the much simpler ‘Triple double-U, dot…,’ which is all very well and good.

But in the interest of further simplification, I propose that we introduce the word ‘Sextuple- U’ into the idiom.

Besides its obvious advantage of cutting nine clumsy syllables down to four, it does also start with the word ‘sex’ which is a good way to make the kids giggle, is bound to titillate distracted drivers and others who are just barely listening, and give rise to some hilariously awkward misunderstandings.

© Robert Emmett McWhorter

New App Prevents Drunk Dialing

HERMETIC LABORATORIES ANNOUNCED today that it has developed a new application for smart-phones called iBlow, and plans to offer it to the retail market in early spring.

The iBlow app works much the same as the breathalyzers used in the field by law enforcement. The user blows into the mouthpiece of their phone, where the breath is digitally analyzed to determine the users Blood Alcohol Level.

From there, the way the phone reacts is completely customizable, with different BAC levels and contact lists.

For instance, one could set their phone so that calling friends after one or two beers would be permitted, but calls would be disconnected or prohibited  after a twelve pack of malt liquor.

Also, you will be able to set it so after a night of heavy drinking, you would be able to call for a pizza, but all of your ex-girlfriends/boyfriends would be blocked.

Hermetic Labs hopes this will be a very helpful and popular application, and starting in April it will be available where ever liquor and cell phones are sold.
The company also expects to release similar apps for Ebay, to eliminate ‘black-out shopping sprees’, as well as social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. MySpace, however, will still require a seven drink minimum.

©2011 Robert Emmett McWhorter

Some thoughts While Waiting on a Download

59777_472276904594_4559975_nThere is something urgent we all must address before we proceed any further as a civilized species. It’s the matter of Time.

I realized it had become out of hand the other night when i was in the middle of downloading a new exercise program. I found the proper file //:sit_and_slim.exe and clicked on it. The little download progress bar appeared and started to determine how long this was going to take. And the estimate always fluctuates when you first start it up, doesn’t it? Kind of like an old Chevy; start it up and the gas gauge shoots to full, you have to wait a few moments to get any sort of realistic reading.

So the digital needle shoots from 18 kilobytes- per- second, up to 512 and back down a few times before settling. Estimated download time; five minutes thirty five seconds.

Now this is where i take issue.

Once it seems that the download (or whatever I have the computer do that is involved enough to warrant a progress bar) has settled into a nice pace and can give me a level reading of how much time it will consume, I try to plan the next several bits of my life accordingly. And I try to base my plans on the estimated time allotted.

Time has never been an easy thing for mankind to judge. I say judge instead of measure because I do not believe it to be a simple mathematical science, and in no way exact; everyone can understand the theory of relative time when its explained in the ‘an hour with a pretty girl is shorter than ten minutes with a boring book’ metaphor; there is also the idea that time slows down as one travels at rates approaching the speed of light; there are also those who believe that time is curved, or even that it actually moves backwards.

So given the complexity of the situation and the widely varied beliefs about time, I think it is commendable that we have found a relatively reliable way to measure the passage of communal events. I think its also particularly intriguing that even in the days before computers, electric light, even telescopes or sophisticated math systems, we- as a whole- have been able to determine that our little planet takes roughly 365 days to circle once around the sun.

By now, with advanced technology, we have determined the exact increment. We have made checks to previous theories, correcting our calendars and clocks as we learn more. The science of judging time has become so precise, that ‘one second’ is now defined as: The time needed for a cesium-133 atom to perform 9,192,631,770 complete oscillations.

Yet, invariably I come back to my computer exactly five minutes and thirty five seconds later and the progress bar reads ‘estimated time to complete: 2 minutes 08 seconds’.

It’s not my computer or my Internet connection. My computer is a hybrid of sorts; the processor is made of a highly sophisticated silica-like fungus which feeds on electrical impulses and reproduces quickly to meet my computing needs. For quicker Internet access i have a miniature sub-atomic particle accelerator buried under the house wired into a quantum-optic monster-cable; meaning that I am able to download the next ‘star wars’ movie even before it is filmed, as long as its not foggy out.

Besides, if it were my computer, the progress bar ideally would be able to take this into consideration. ‘Not running up to speed today, expect delays’ or some such thing. The computer should be able to see how badly it has estimated in the past and adjust accordingly.

But quite the contrary, I have found myself making such adjustments. After a couple weeks of arriving back at the computer early- only to see I still had minutes to wait for my downloads, or installs, or saves- I started mentally recalculating the times in my head. “Progress bar says ten minutes, I’ll come back in fifteen”.

One should not have to do this sort of math in ones head. Not with a computer sitting in front of oneself in broad daylight to see. Wasn’t the computer invented to alleviate us from such complex mental processes? Isn’t this the reason I have allowed it into my house? To do such work for me, instead of creating further headaches?

This frustration is only exacerbated by the fact that when I return to the computer after the adjusted allotment of time, the progress bar still reads “estimated time to complete: 1 minute 58 seconds”.

Now I begin to feel this inaccuracy is intentional. More than my previous feeling akin to ‘a watched pot never boils’, I now think that this is being done on purpose.

It reminds me of a lot of professional sports where play is based on a clock. The initial fifty eight minutes of a pro basketball game proceed much like any other fifty eight minutes, but those last two minutes can go on forever- and the bigger the game, the longer they seem to last.

And I am not talking about relative time or the sensation that time seems to slow down in moments of extreme excitement. I am talking about the very real fact that I can stand up from the television when the two minute warning clock pops up- I can make a sandwich and a cup of coffee smoke a pack of cigarettes download the latest fitness craze (weather permitting) excavate ancient ruins buried miles under my backyard and translate the fragments of writing found there-in and then return to the television- and there is still a minute thirty left in the game.

Who is behind this and why is this allowed to happen? Is it professional sports? The broadcasters? Or possibly the advertisers? This last thought seems the most plausible, as I return to check my download and see the progress bar surrounded by desperate ads all urging me to click on them.

Whatever the cause of this, I think it must be stopped. We have spent far too many thousands upon thousands of years getting to this point where we can describe so precisely the passage of time, only to let it be manipulated by outside forces with ulterior motives.

It makes me question how many of our senses, perceptions, devices and beliefs are fiddled with or altered to fit someone else’s agenda. How much of the information we receive- beyond being filtered by our own perceptual constructs- is corrupted before it even reaches us?

Or possibly, is our collective perception just simply that faulty? Instead of hinting at some sinister force deliberately misrepresenting measurements of time, is this actually showing of our ineptitude and the inherent flaws in mans attempts to describe the phenomenon which surround him? I imagine a galactic progress bar, which measures mans reach for enlightenment, and most surely reads, ”

one minutes twenty three seconds to go; evolution nearly complete”.

© Robert Emmett McWhorter (circa 2003)