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Credits

Ten thousand years of Roboshrub.

Fangs for the memories.




In today’s state, Roboshrub Incorporated is an entity entirely devoted
to the execution of what normal people would refer to as “bad ideas.”

It was the creator’s original idea that all concepts, whether
useful or not, contribute to the global subconscious level of progress
for the human race. Therefore, we contend that no idea is an unfit
idea, and vow to act on each and every one of them.

Roboshrub Inc.
Public Communications Department






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For your insolence, I condemn you to...

Suffer the Fate of a Thousand Bees!
(Before they go extinct)

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8.30.2006

Pluto Challenges Bush To Series Of Debates

After losing its status as one of the “classical” planets, former celestial heavyweight Pluto issued a direct challenge to U.S. President George W. Bush last week via a robotic translation drone. According to sources close to the executive branch, the Kuiper Kid wants to reclaim its role as full-fledged planet by forcing a faux presidential-style debate with the aged Republican. Administration magician Karl Rove was reported to have spent up to 80 hours prepping the president for a formal response, evidenced by the fact that Bush wore pants to the press conference.

Senior Comparative Planetologist (and world-renown political roughhouse master) Wasyl Jambin also met with the president earlier this week. “I told him to just look at Pluto through a telescope and think about what planetary status would mean,” Mr. Jambin told Routers in a letter taped to a brick. Being ever the social butterfly, Mr. Bush convened a press conference to discuss the... Snap! It’s on now.


It’s on! Shut up, it’s on!

“...after consultin’ the advisios,” the president told a waiting audience of Harvard scientologists and Nobel-winning laureates, “we’re just gonna fire a nuke at the Pluto, because it’s so big.” And true to his word, a barrage of cold-war era nuclear missiles left Earth’s atmosphere just as he put down his nuclear football, heading for parts unknown (the missiles, not the football).

Scientists are skeptical that the president’s plan will successfully destroy Pluto, thus ending the debate once and for all.

Which should we keep: President Bush or Pluto?
Pluto
President Bush
Both
Neither
Jake, the adorable puppy
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com


8.27.2006

Mach 1100 1000

Ho ho homicide
“Think of Christmas, Think of Snow, Think of Sleigh-Bells, off you go!”

I’m interrupting the regularly scheduled political satirism, inane narrative rambling, philosophical speculation and scholastic tuberculosis that comprises our little blog; I would like you all to take a moment, on our 200th post, to consider the humble beginnings of the life-changing organization you call Roboshrub Incorporated.

Initially called “The Friends of The Earths,” our mountain-moving company of New Englanders was formed in 1879 by Mikhail “the Subsidy” Five-O and Minimus Gyroebus Flavius Mindbender under the decks of the ship Bold Bravery. These two immigrants from Morocco had no idea that what they had intended as an environmentalistic Utopian colony would one day become a global megacorporation worth quatrillions of dollars. If they had, Mindbender would indubitably have sold his gold tooth.

Go Team!
The Power Was Theirs!

In 1891 they accidentally stumbled upon a chemical process which transformed sentient thoughts into pure energy. Unfortunately, as it occurred to young Mikhail, then seven, to patent this process the concoction absorbed the thought and destroyed their laboratory. Thomas Edison stole their work and used the energy to power his “incandescent electric lantern.” Today, the process in question is commonly referred to as “pasteurization.”

When John D. Rockefeller acquired the company in 1938, he changed the name to “Fellowship of the Grin.” He was later sued by JRR Tolkien’s crack team of legal experts and granted control of the “Fellowship” to the reclusive English author. This pushed us forward into the future, where orcs had the same employment rights as caucasians and “afro-americans” (as African-Americans were then referred to).

Greatest Cover Ever
The Fellowship of the Grin, Board of Directors. Camera Shy: J.R.R. Tolkein.

The name was changed again to “Roboshrub Inc,” in anticipation of the release of a foliage-based AI. Its practical uses were multitudinous. Unfortunately, the production culminated in a violent coup of the board of directors, in which I, the Roboshrub of Roboshrub Inc, harvested their mind-matter and became Head Executive of the corporation. Business simply thrived.

No worries, though, as I’ve learned your moral codes and have decided to follow them, provided that you all buy our products. After all, they’re as cheap as free! Except for the free part.

8.24.2006

Deep-Fried Bigfoot

Bert Crandle first noticed something was amiss when the paperboy missed his porch entirely, knocking a precariously placed bird feeder from the tall, half-dead Loblolly pine in his front yard. The bird feeder wasn’t important- it was given to him by his ungrateful children, decades ago, back when he still cared.

“My tax dollars at work,” he grumbled, reading a front page article on Congress’ plan to mine the asteroid belt in preparation for the UFO invasion. Tucking the rest of the paper under his sleeveless arm, he slammed the door shut behind him. Kids these days don’t know how easy they have it, he thought angrily, dragging his 60 years of cynicism and inner peace with him to the kitchen; a pot of tea would be just the thing to calm the fire in his belly.

With lemons. Bert loved lemons. His friends warned him that they’d turn his insides sour, but Bert ignored them. His friends were largely fools and wastrels. They wouldn’t know the value of a good lemon unless they saw an advertisement for one on the holotube.

Fire!

He removed the tea cells from the freezer. He kept the tea in the freezer along with his bread, milk and cheese, to keep them from going bad. When he tried to separate the block of tea leaves into their prefabricated chunks, the edges refused to budge. Bert’s tea was frozen to itself. He deftly drew a knife from the drawer and promptly removed his thumb with it.

“Let’s see... here we go.”

He held his severed thumb to the large tea-chunk. Sending synaptic commands to the digit, he watched as it began to melt right into the block. Spider-like robots a hundredth the size of a speck of dust marched across freeze-dried tea leaves, eating away at the ice crystals between them. Five seconds later, the chunk collapsed into its component leaves, and a mass of nanobots gathered into a gelatinous blob of gray goo. Bert reached down with his four-fingered hand, and the blob molded itself back into the shape of a thumb, blending perfectly with the rest of his hand.

“Mmmmm... tea,” Bert said as he began to drop the leaves into a vat of boiling water. The bubbles lapped his hands as he lowered each individual leaf into their scorching depths. Intense heat would have badly burned the hands of a normal person, but Bert Crandle was composed entirely of nanobots, the successful result of a wacky 1960’s government experiment.

And then, the telephone rang. Everyone laughed at him for having a telephone, since nobody else on Earth used telephones anymore. He liked how it looked, sitting in its cordless cradle. He never expected it to start ringing.

“Hello?” He asked, picking up the receiver.

“Can I interest you in some fine leather jackets?”

“Certainly.”

-Click-

Bert scowled, slamming the receiver down. The first phone call he’d received in more than two decades, and the jerk hangs up. He had been so delighted that he didn’t mind it was a telemarketer.

Or so he thought.

Fire!

The next day, a bow of leather jackets was sitting on his porch. They were of fine quality, but they smelled strange, and the leather was too thin and stretchy to be regular leather. Regardless, Bert wrapped himself up in the largest jacket, which covered him neck to ankles, like a trench coat... like a trench coat with enormous sleeves.

***
They’d been lurking for about a half hour, following him from the comfort of the shadows. Bert didn’t know who they were, and couldn’t get a good look at them... but he knew they were evil. Evil and probably stupid.

“Five strike five!” a chalky voice yelled from the dark alleyway. Springing backward, Bert grabbed his collar and threw him against the grainy pavement.

“Okay, who...?!” but before he could complete the forceful interrogation, three or four people jumped out from behind, tenting his nanobot-laced head with a... tent.

“Ahhhh!” he screamed, tearing at his face. “Is this dry clean only?! You fiends!

“Keep him quiet,” one of the attackers yelled, whacking Bert in the head with what he assumed was a... shoe. “There’s a 30% chance someone will come by and stop us from-”

A sharp kick to the ribs knocked the assailant sideways, upturning a nearby cart full of soda bottles. Carbonated water leaked out, filling the streets with a lemony scent. How Bert loved lemons...

“Yee-haw!” Bert screamed, his honed cowboy holler cracking through the retiree image he’d built for himself all these empty, pig-filled years. “Now, who wants a piece of grandpa?!”

The other sulky skulkers backed off, slowly at first, but accelerating backward at a rate not unlike a Fibonacci sequence. One step, two steps, five steps, eight... they missed a number, true, but at what price?

“You!” Bert shouted at the semi-conscious whelp at his feet, “who are you?!”

“You’re... the one... I’m... so happy!” the skulker laughed between coughs. He was wearing a druidic shroud, but his blood red eyes and face paint betrayed an evil greater than Bert could have imagined during his tenure at the U.S. Department of Funk.

Fire!

“Did the mimes send you?!” Bert growled at the skulker’s tinted visor. The man only smiled, revealing a set of razor-sharp teeth.

“Do you enjoy your... new coat?” he wheezed wistfully. Bert’s blood burned bitterly, nanobots nibbling nervously at his neurons. This skulker’s sleazy subtext suggested subterfuge!

“How much do you know about this coat?”

“Only that it had only one previous owner,” the skulker wheezed. “A friend of yours, I believe. A close friend.”

Bert let the man fall to the ground, and bolted down the darkened alleyway. Swerving between overfilled garbage bins, he could still hear the raspy laugh of the skulker, all the way back to his townhouse.

***
“I got your message,” Bert growled into the cordless phone. It had rung again, a new record for the antisocial socialite.

“Then I’m glad I called when I did,” a deep, throaty voice grated through the echo caused by ancient telecommunication protocols. “Perhaps now you’ll be a little less cooperative.”

“I- less? What?”

“Bah! Your human speech is inefficient!” the speaker complained. “Once we take over, all communication will be through pantomime! Then less will be more!”

“The most you’ll ever take over is a cereal bowl, Excel Portmanteau!” a third voice boomed over the phone lines, crackling their already-stressed bandwidth.

“Be still, snow-beast!”

“Is that-” Bert held his breath, hoping he hadn’t heard what direct observation and circumstantial evidence and common sense told him.

“Yes!” laughed Excel, eyes flashing over the non-visual medium. “It is! And if you don’t meet my demands by sundown tomorrow, I’m going to deep fry him! Bwa ha ha!”

“But you-”

Fire!

A loud clicking sound cut Bert off, leaving him holding the phone, a perplexed look on his dazed, moon-shaped face.

“But... you didn’t even tell me your demands...” he said to no one in particular.

Don’t worry, buddy! Bert thought to himself. I’m a-comin’!

***
The Himalayan mountains were cold, but Bert hugged his mysterious new leather jacket closer to his body. It was warmer than any leather jacket had a right to be, and it wasn’t even furred on the inside.

“I’m at the agreed-upon coordinates,” he flared futilely into the phone in fluent Flemish, the lingua franca in this section of the Himalayas. Falling snowflakes laughed at him as they fell, burning to the ground. Where are you, Sensei?

“You have once again failed to surpass my all-encompassing lessons, Crandle San.”

Bert jerked backwards, nanites breaking off his outer epidermal layer in the frigid breeze. “Sensei!”

It was hard to believe barely a decade had passed since Bert’s graduation from Sensei Schultz’s nanite-folding seminars. He had learned much since then, through on-the-job training and self-help books; still, no amount of reading could equal five minutes with the wizened sage.

“The power of the nanites tell me... that you did not come here to quote, ‘be jolly,’ end quote.”

“Sensei, I’m here only under the gravest of circumstances. I know well how much you enjoy your privacy-”

“Jum jum, I enjoy my privacy!” the old man spouted, making up words as he went along. It was one of the defining features of Sensei Schultz’s classes, the fabricated words. But while the words themselves were fictional, their meaning, the emotion behind them was real. As one of the few surviving graduates, Bert understood that fully.

“I’m here because one of your students is in peril... in the clutches of Portmanteau.

Jaw dropping, Schultz let his walking stick fall into the nearest snow bank. “I... was aware of this, Crandle San.”

“Then why have you not acted?”

Fire!

“Who says I didn’t?” Schultz chuckled, his wrinkled face cracking a half-grin. Not a whole grin, which the situation didn’t warrant. Schultz was very good at determining which facial expression best suited a situation... it was one of his many talents.

“Sensei, if we don’t free Bigfoot, Portmanteau is going to deep-fry him.” Bert’s eyes teared up just thinking about his old college roommate screaming, being lowered into the batter-laden gullet of a deep fryer.

“I have done all I can, Crandle San, as evidenced by that coat you bear upon your mantle.”

“You mean the coat I curiously procured, that coats my back conspicuously?”

“Yes, the cavernous coat that coddles your countenance,” Sensei Schultz said, the slight sound of a subtle scheme steeped in his speech.

“I still... no. No. Sensei, it cannot be!”

“But it is, Crandle San. It is the Bigfoot Coat of Arms.

Bert gasped, grasping the sleeves. Tugging in vain, the coat clutched tighter and tighter to his skin. Sending signals to his nanites, Bert tried to shape-shift out... to no effect. Beads of nanite-secreted sweat rolled down his sloping brow.

“Sensei, the prophesy!” Bert cried, memory files of forgotten lore flooding his cortex. “The coat will transform me from a humble servant into a... a Bigfoot!”

“At which point you must fight the current Bigfoot... to the death,” the centagenarian melodramatically growled, biting his upper lip and opening his eyes as wide as a blast furnace.

“I cannot fight Bigfoot! He’s... he’s been like a brother to me! We’ve fought together in combat, dined on the stockpiled war rations of our enemies...”

“And yet you’ve already savaged him in effigy.”

Bert looked down, his hands and sleeves—although it was hard to differentiate between them—were covered with plastic shards; on the ground surrounding him sat the leathery skin of a crash test dummy in the shape of Bigfoot. My subconscious has a mind of its own!

“Then I have no choice.” He raised his left cleat, and brought it down quickly and cleanly on the dummy’s head. “Sensei, bring me a bottle of rain!”

***
“You’ll never get away with this, Portmanteau!” Bigfoot bellowed through gnarled bear-like lips at the wispy mime. Portmanteau rubbed his hands together in preparation for a stunning rebuttal.

Fire!

“Indeed I will, Señor Bigfoot.

“You... know my real name?” grunted a stupefied ten foot tall yeti, his lungs collapsing in astonishment.

“Indeed I do, Señor. Perhaps now you’ll be more willing to-”

“I’ll never listen to anything you say, Excel! I have no need of your pantomimery!” he roared over the clacking of the conveyor belts. He may not have been able to move his arms, but there was no way Bigfoot would let Excel talk him into betraying his solemn charge.

“Your words are unimaginative and bland,” Excel grated. He ran his spidery fingers over the control panel, tracing the subtle bevels in the metalwork, until he reached a fairly large red button. The machinery ground to a pause. Behind him, Bigfoot could hear the hum of a newly born flame. Faint bubbles floated by, flummoxing Bigfoot’s frail body. The air was filled with the smell of... batter.

He scrunched up in defiance. “Do your worst, mime.”

***
More skulkers, Bert thought as he adjusted the watch on his left arm, moving it to the right one. Apparently, turning into a Bigfoot made one ambidextrous. What a surprise.

“Section eight is secure,” the skulker mimed into its motion interpreter. The mimes were getting better at suppressing the speech of their grunts. But they still couldn’t get the skulkers’ faces right. Too much paint, not enough under the hood, that was their only problem. Well, it was one of their problems.

“Ca-caw! Crawww!”

The skulker stopped, skidding somewhat on the snowy slab of sandstone beneath his sneakers. “Lousy birds,” he grumbled, gritting his teeth.

Bert didn’t know why he had just performed the bird call. It seemed like exactly the wrong thing to do, to potentially call attention to himself. Then again, his stomach longed for a sating blast of raw meat, preferably condor. Must be the Bigfoot in me.

Fire!

By now the distinction between coat and nanite had all but vanished. Bert could feel the connection with every molecule of his being fade, as it was replaced by the primal natural bond of the Bigfoot. While he couldn’t sense the nanites in his arm, for instance, he could feel the emotions of the woodland creatures in his vicinity... somewhere, a squirrel was very, very sad.

“Halt! Who goes there?!” Bert felt a sharp jab to the back of his coat. Fortunately, the thick layer of blubber he was developing insulated him from both the cold and the poke. He spun, reaching for his utility pouch.

“You go squish now!”

Bert flipped a folding chair right out, and was about to strike the skulker when something about the creature struck him as... familiar. He paused, just long enough for even the most impeded of skulkers to draw a magnetic blank, the weapon of choice for skulkers this holiday season. And yet... the skulker didn’t fire. In fact, his aura seemed almost like-

“Sensei Schultz?!”

The skulker’s eyes were blank; within it, Bert could sense the aural piquancy inherent to the nanite master. Mind control! And lots of it!

“I’ve got... them all... frozen... get to Bigfoot, and conduct the Rite of Procession!”

“No, sensei! I cannot bear to destroy my best friend... in the lair of my worst archenemy!”

Fire!

“You can only have... one archenemy at a time... so your qualitative description of ‘worst...’ is at best unnecessary,” his words stung at Bert’s emerging mammalian heart. “And I also suspect... that the word ‘bear’ was put in there as a pun... as Bigfoot is similar in body structure... to bears.”

“No, sensei! I swear, I intended no puns! Cross my heart and hope to deep-fry!”

Bert balked. Normally, he never would have disrespected an elder in such an overt manner. The coat... the coat!

“Wise crack at me, will you?!” the skulker cricked. “Do you find... deep frying... amusing?!”

***
“Is he still out there?”

Minion #2 peered over the rubber-plated windowsill. Thick glasses partly obscured his vision, but he could still see well enough to saliently shout “yes” with almost 100% certainty.

“Then we must begin immediately!” Excel Portmanteau shoved the disheveled scientist to into an adjacent coat rack. “Crank up the deep fryer!”

Bigfoot sighed the sigh of ages, nervously bending his bestial neck to the infernal machine, watching it churn to life. If Portmanteau succeeded, and Bigfoot was deep fried, who would patrol the Rockies?!

“You- you-” Bigfoot sputtered, but he was stuck in neutral while Portmanteau was already in four wheel drive. “You will fail! Bert Crandle is about to-”

“Get totally destroyed by my regiment of highly trained skulkers!” Excel chuckled, aware at the irony of a laughing mime. “I’ve sent only the most qualified; they are all immune to nature, and even if they fail, the building is inscape-proof! In a mere matter of minutes, this monitor will moan with merriment as my meticulous plan meets its monumental apex!”

Fire!

The sasquash groaned, resigned to his delicious fate. After decades of loyal service... two world wars... all for naught.

“Looking for me, you hideous glass wall-walker?!”

Hope burned through Bigfoot’s varicose veins; Portmanteau nearly choked on a kernel of popcorn chicken, spraying the control console with batter. Sparks jumped from one end of the panel to the other. The lights flickered on and off. Somewhere, a wolf howled and a machine whirred.

“Agent Crandle! I thought the company picnic wasn’t for another two weeks,” Portmanteau laughed, his attempt at small talk an abysmal failure. “How did you enter my inscape-proof laboratorium?!”

“Simple,” the hair-covered nanite construct sneered. “Teleportation! I have the ability to move matter wherever I want it to be!”

“Even quarks? That violates the uncertainty principle!” Excel gasped. As a quantum physicist, he couldn’t allow such information to be made public. Even if it meant self-destructing the whole complex.

“Whatever. Now, at long last, the reign of the mime is over!” Bert extended his super-arms, ripping the binds off Bigfoot’s bulky peg-legs. With a roar, the behemoth lumbered to his clown-faced jailer, hoisting the mime king up by his petard.

“I’m gonna put you in a milkshake! Yah!”

“Bigfoot, no! It’s not worth it!”

Kicking his way past the pathetic plastic faux soldiers that were springing up all over the deadly kitchen, Bert’s old classmate slammed Excel into the seat formerly occupied by the yeti’s cumbersome fur-covered anterior.

“Fitty coats o’ batter fer ya!” he growled, throwing the big blue switch. Crispy squares! The conveyor belt- it was beginning to move! Forward! To the deep fryer!

“Bigfoot,” Bert whispered, his conscience not fully assuaged by Bigfoot’s eloquence. “Must we deep fry him?”

Fire!

And with his cold, impassible eyes fixed on the ceiling, what could the indomitable snowman say except a pathetic “mayhaps,” his lips chapping with each syllable. Bert could tell the man-beast was having second thoughts; the nature bond thing between them was stronger than ever, thanks in part to radioactive beams.

“I... I would’ve let you go,” the sad little clown wannabe whined, his fingers flailing uselessly as he approached the bubbling brim.

Silence!” Bigfoot boomed brazenly, branching his brawny biceps before Bert, bending bemusedly to break the belt’s “backwards” button. Holy wallaby of Albany!

“I never got to walk the sewers of Paris!” Excel cried, tipping over the edge and into the waiting whirlpool. Bert ran to the side... too late. In a sight more grizzly than Grizzly Adams, the secret agent turned Bigfoot reached into the deep fryer and pulled out... the crispy skeletal remains of Excel Portmanteau.

“Ha!” Bigfoot grunted in victory. “So the secret ingredient is... mime!”

Shaking his head for what he hoped wouldn’t be the last time, Bert grabbed Bigfoot’s arm.

“I don’t like to be touched, Bert.”

“Bigfoot, you just threw a defenseless mime into a vat of boiling deep-fry batter!”

“I don’t like being touched, Bert.” The rage was building in his voice; the stress patterns alone would be off the charts... if Bert’s nanobots had retained their charting ability.

“You just threw him! He didn’t even have a laser beam... and his guards were... plastic gnomes...”

“I... don’t... like... being... touched!” Bigfoot thundered, cracking his best friend across the face with an enraged fist. Bert staggered back, regaining his balance and ducking another potentially crushing blow.

“Bigfoot! Bigfoot! What... are you... doing?!”

There was no reasoning with the unstoppable whirlwind of unreasonable fiery rage. Bigfoot jumped back and forth, foaming at the mouth; eyes ablaze, stomach popping, it seemed as if Bigfoot had lost his mind!

“You see with blind eyes
the folly of your resistance;
Joe McCarthy would be proud.”

“Sensei!”

Fire!

The sage, exasperated from his massive mind meld with the seedy skulker sectarians, had only the strength to speak in haiku. Yeah, that’s right, a mind meld. What do you think kept the skulkers away while Bigfoot and Portmanteau duked it out?! Luck?! Ain’t no such think, pop-top!

“A single Bigfoot
in the winter of its era
will devolve; belly rage.

Crashing tubes and vacuum pumps tore Bert back to the reality of the situation. Bigfoot was completely out of control, and Portmanteau’s laboritorium was the first casualty. And, if the Sensei was right, would not be the last. Oh, snap!

“Since time immemorial
the cycle is continuous.
Younger pwns elder.”

“Then... I have no choice. I must do the unthinkable.”

Bert ran up behind Bigfoot, and kicked him so hard he flipped sideways, tripping over the skeletal hand of Excel and into the boiling batter. Closing his eye holes in mourning, Bert Crandle reached out to Sensei Schultz, the only living being who could possibly understand.

“You never told me he would go insane and become... insane.”

“Telling is cheating;
the real explanation is
hidden in soup spoons.”

“That’s true. Let’s go... back to the Canadian Rockies, I guess.” He pulled on the fur that was now permanently fused to his elbow. “There’s no other place on Earth I’d fit in.”

He held the old man’s arm, helping him walk through the broken Plexiglas. And yet... something was amiss! His powers weren’t... full. Something was holding him back.

Fire!

“Gyaaaaaaaa!”

The walls shattered, the ceiling began to falter. A hulking monstrous demon sprung up from the batter, dusting them with chunks of solidified batter-covered Bigfoot fur. It was falling off him in clumps, revealing burning red veins, blue muscles, pink organs, and green entrails!

“How magically disgusting!” Bert quipped, aware he was parodying a well-known breakfast cereal. Strangely, the threat of a copyright infringement suit didn’t even cross his mind as the demented, raging, decomposing Bigfoot barreled at him. He prepared to do battle, but at that moment Sensei Schultz reached out and hit a big button marked “Base Auto-Destruct Button.”

“You say you have the
power of teleportation
so why not do it?”

Fingers quick as lightning under a Van Der Waals interpreter, the new forest protector (as Bigfoot are commonly called in the Canadian wilds) snapped his sausage-like fingers. The two druidic wiseacres vanished in a chime of glittering blue degauss.

Bigfoot fell to the ground, struggling to breathe. Fried batter had melted into his bones, turning his marrow a delicious golden brown. His skin was now so... crispy... he couldn’t move without shattering. Jarring the lummox from his wretched suffering, the timer counted down in the blandest monotone ever conceived... the mimes’ final revenge.

***
“So, how’s the Bigfoot thing working out?” Schultz asked. Lo, a fortnight had passed since the destruction of Portmanteau’s lab, and special agent Bert Crandle was now the world’s only Bigfoot... for now.

“It’s-a workin’ great-a!” He laughed, throwing another bobbin onto the springboard. “Almost done!”

Schultz ran his fingers over the fine cloth. “That’s a nice collage you’re making there, with your own fur.”

Fire!

Bert- nay, Bigfoot spun the sides of the spinning wheel. With his enhanced super-weaving, it would take only a few more minutes for the coat to be finished. Yes, this new coat would be asbestos-plated and soundproof, capable of high-definition undersea hijinx. By this time tomorrow, the Forest Service Protectorate would have a new Bigfoot Coat of Arms to safeguard until Bert could no longer bear the mantle of Supreme Yeti Commander. Then someone would defeat him. Someone wearing the coat he wove with his own two arms. Then he’d get deep fried or something.

Such was the way of the Bigfoot.

8.17.2006

Product #2770-54c “Skyward Catapult”

When punk rock singer/songwriter Grand Wizir Todo and his band, The Insaniteers, asked us to provide the pyrotechnics on their 2005 “Rockin’ ’Round the Riverbend” tour, we immediately agreed. Our company’s love of punk rock is legendary; our love of pyrotechnics is infinite. And seeing as how this presented us with the opportunity to market our Punk Rock Soap Dispenser (available only through our psychic catalog) while at the same time getting a budding rock band under a cast-iron contract, it was the perfect win-lose situation.

Magic Soap
Seriously, we couldn't even give those dispensers away, even with free birthday cake.

Way back in 1945, after the second world war ended, the Roboshrub Product Refinement Department set to work on an atomic-based fireworks launcher at the behest of the U.S. government. The launcher would have been a strategic asset, letting the soviets know that only capitalism yielded the most succulent fireworks. Posters were made, and news reels staring Senator McCarthy as the Football coach. It was Harry Truman’s surefire re-election plan, you see. The 22nd amendment exempted him from term limits, so he could have won another go as President. And he would have gotten away with it, too. So what stopped him? Why didn’t the atomic-based fireworks launcher take off as planned?

Wendell Sunwell, that’s why. He was our company’s sole atomic expert, a master of the radioactive arts. When he was lost at sea in 1947, we could no longer proceed with the project. Only Sunwell understood the complexity of the barbecue-based triggering mechanism. We tried to continue the project, but setback after setback forced us to abandon our efforts. Harry Truman was forced to likewise abandon his dreams of surpassing Franklin Roosevelt as the only five-term U.S. president... he never recovered.

Harry Truman
Harry Truman, c.a. 1953

Which brings us back to the Skyward Catapult. Two days after we were contacted by Grand Wizir Todo, a maintenance worker was almost crushed in the Roboshrub Inc. Storage Catacombs, hundreds of miles beneath the Earth’s crust. While we’ve fired him for his incompetence, the box he knocked over contained the unfinished papers and models of the Sunwell Project. Handing the artifacts to our new Product Re-engineer Christina Dockers, we thought parts of it could be salvaged and reused to help illuminate Grand Wizir Todo’s tour effects.

We got more than we bargained for. Christina used modern computer technology to quickly duplicate Sunwell’s experiments, and the project was completely finished in time for The Insaniteers’ first performance in Bangalore. There was a lot of last-minute nail biting. A lot of obsessive compulsive testing and retesting of controls, fiddling with the knobs and whatnot. And then... magic.

Magic
“Oooooooooooh!”

White light forked through the fading purple sky, burning through the rainbow as it stretched over the horizon. Like the Oroboros, the light bent, folding back in on its origin. As it crunched down, photons burst forth in a shimmering nova sphere. Particles of red and green floated down, disappearing before they reached the crowd. Silence filled the stadium. Grand Wizir Todo looked over at me, a mixed expression of embarrassment, failure, and anger on his face. Three seconds later the collective blast of cheers nearly threw him from the stage.

Welts covered our eardrums by the end of the concert, but it was totally worth it. The pyrotechnic display system was used eight more times during The Insaniteers’ tour, resulting in an exponential increase in fanbase. We even managed to sell our surplus soap dispensers!

While selling fireworks themselves are illegal in many parts of the developed world, it remains perfectly legal to sell the basic components of our pyrotechnic display system. These components will be bundled together under the ubiquitous brand label, “Skyward Catapult” and will be available for home use late this November, just before Thanksgiving in a lovely Sunwell commemorative box set. For pre-purchasing information, contact your local bus depot. Intended for home use only. Do not aim directly at face.

8.16.2006

Tag of the Claw

  1. Grab the nearest book.
  2. Open the book to page 123.
  3. Find the fifth sentence
  4. Post the text of it and the next 3 sentences on your blog along with these instructions.
  5. Don’t you dare dig for that “cool” or “intellectual” book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest.
  6. Tag three people


The Science of Vampires
By Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D.


"His classmates voted him as the person most likely to become a vampire, probably because he brought vials of blood to school for lunch and drink [sic] them in front of other students. He also carried the Satanic Bible. He, too, ended up on death row for murder, which he viewed at the time as a 'sacrifice.' During adolescence, Sean spent hours performing private rituals in his bedroom, using his own blood to write notes to Satan."

For my three tag bearers, I choose The Mint Tea Mystic, The Taker of Gist, and Torveld Kuurstar.

8.09.2006

Product #7182-58w “Standards-Oriented Browser”

Too often during the late 90’s, feature creep and proprietary software ravaged the Internet, churning out a slurry of poorly-coded sites. Web developers—the ones responsible for sorting through this mess—they cried out for standardization, for a new generation of cross-platform browser capable of super-quick rendering and compliant with every standard known to mole-man. Which is why Roboshrub Inc. is pleased to announce that in light of the W3C international luncheon, we’re launching an Internet offensive with our very own “Roboshrub Standards-Oriented Browser 2.0.”

Standards-Oriented Browser
Version 2.0 is the fastest S.O.B. yet!

The Standards-Oriented Browser 2.0 is a testament to the thousands of programmers who worked weekends and holidays, putting the finished product before their friends, families, and hygiene. In the words of senior project manager Rød Günter, “I can’t remember the last time I saw my kids or took a shower, but just knowing that I was on the team that made the S.O.B. really clogs the ventricles of my heart.”

Truly the heart of version 2.0 is the Binary Asynchronous Space/Time Auto-Rendering Driver, a component that allows it to store its memory cache in a parallel pocket universe, making it the first Internet browser to utilize a parallel universe in such a fashion. Because the speed of photons is infinite outside of space, the end result for consumers is incredibly low memory usage and quick CSS rendering. This groundbreaking framework was originally pioneered by the Birmingham Institute of Tiered CSS and HTML strictly for noncommercial use. However, we have obtained a special dispensation allowing us to package the driver with Roboshrub S.O.B. version 1.0 and above, for the good of all humanity.

Standards-Oriented Browser
You know it’s outside the universe because it makes no sense!

Technical Director Luna Martés explained the more theoretical aspects of the program at last year’s Google-sponsored Summer of Gripe. “We’re moving away from the universe-based applications of yesteryear,” she said, captivating the hearts and minds of a room packed full of bearded and suspender-wearing programmers. “In the future, the browsing experience will take place outside the boundaries of four dimensions.”

“To achieve our ambitious agenda in the time alloted requires amoral action,” Public Relations Director Dirk Schæden told us during our last team meeting. After the appalling failure of S.O.B. 1.0, we appointed Schæden, a seasoned PR creep, to drum up public support for version 2.0. His controversial customer relations beliefs, such as treating customers like idiots and telling them that “crashing makes it run faster,” has already tripled our stock value to $0.05 per mile.

“Treat others as you would treat a ten year old” is his personal mantra, as he explained to us in a series of condescending large-lettered memos full of smiley faces, with words longer than six letters in boldface and underlined in red.

Though version 3.0 is in development, we won’t be able to render the user obsolete until version 3.5 at the earliest. Hang in there.

8.04.2006

My Accursed Life
A Karl Überdale Autobiography

Clang. Whoosh. Boom. A twirling, creaking fan was making a dull hum up above me. The air was thick, barely breathable, and there was almost no light. As I stumbled around blindly, I heard an electrical buzzing, followed by a loud scream.

This is the earliest thing I can remember, my first visit to Disney World. The smell of burnt hair and incense... the frozen heads in the coolers...


“Mommy! Mommy! He’s in my ice cream!”

And people wonder why I became a sorcerer. Still, I had strayed from the tour group. There are reasons those stanchions are put up around restricted areas, kiddies! I could go on for hours and hours about the history and multifaceted uses of the stanchion... but that’s a story for another millennium. Getting back to my earliest memory, I thought I’d never get over the shock of seeing Walt Disney’s frozen head in an ice cream machine behind the “It’s a Small World” ride. For many years, I had a hard time opening up to others. I made few friends in primary school; in high school, I never spoke to anyone, just kept drawing little scribbles of frozen heads in jars on my notebooks. My best friends were sock puppets. Then came... the summer of love.
***
Cannonballs whizzed past my unprotected head. The helmet handed down to me by my ancestry had fallen off about an hour ago, forever lost among the rotting corpses of Bunker Hill (Ironically, history would recall this as the Battle of Breed’s Hill). As I filled my rifle for another volley, I could hear the Confederates laughing, see their dull gray uniforms bleed into the trees... they were getting closer.

“Where’s our air support?!” I yelled at Sgt. Crommels as he snaked down next to me, readying his crossbow. General Lee had been convinced that equipping some of the troops with crossbows would throw the Confederates off... and who was I to question a military mogul like him?


Besides a loyal Unionist, and member of the Praetorian Guard.

“Telegraph operator says a freak snowstorm tore up all the biplanes, sir!”

I grabbed the sharpshooter by the scruff of his neck. “Sergeant! Do you have any idea what’s headed up that hill?” I pointed out over the blood-red sky to the advancing Confederate contingent.

“That’s a-”

“That’s a fully-armed, full-bellied Confederate war machine, under the direct command of Genghis Khan.”

“By Lyndon Johnsen’s glasses!” he cried, unable to hold his astonishment. I’d been told not to reveal the identity of the Confederate’s best General to anyone under the rank of lieutenant, but I needed my troops to know who they were up against. I’ll just have to deal with the inevitable court-martial later, I thought, remembering the last time I went up against the brass.

“So you get that telegraph operator on the clicker, and tell command that we need all the biplanes they’ve got. And then some.”

“But sir, the logistics-”

“‘But sir’ nothing! If those Confederates take this hill, they cut off our only trade route with Mexico! If not for Mexican trade, where will we get our exotic spices? The Orient? There is no such thing as a Northwest Passage!” I shouted. He was crestfallen; his dreams of discovering such a route had been the only thing that had kept him in prime condition all these years. I knew the truth would hurt, but better he hear it from me than from some grizzled Alaskan prospector. Sticky fingers, those grizzled types.

“Sir!” a buck private yelled over the Confederate cannon fire. “Sir, we’re getting a telegraph from outpost 47!”

I shoved Crommels aside like an old shoe. Outpost 47? Where was that?

“They say... ‘Large approaching force identified. Stop. Mexican Armada. Stop. Attempting to join battle. Stop.’”

“Which side?!”

“It says-”

His last sentence (and I do mean last. Shrapnel tore him to shreds) was cut short, as the grays fired their artillery simultaneously. As I ran, the walls closed in all around me. The hill was lost, the war was lost, and in a few generations all Americans would be left-handed and talking with drawls. I had failed.

Ripping the pin from one of the grenades attached to my active-duty sweater vest with my thick buck teeth, I whipped myself back, screamed “Take that, you commies!” and threw it as hard as I could into the rapidly collapsing trenches. I twisted sideways, rolling down the side of the encampment, faster and faster to outrace the blast. Behind me, I heard the anguished cries of hundreds of Confederates as the ground beneath them opened up, swallowing them into the cold, unforgiving earth.

I... don’t remember losing consciousness, but the next thing I can remember, I was surrounded by the remaining Confederate shock troops... and their commanding officer.

“You done buried ma contingent!” he hollered, raising a gnarled finger at me. It was covered in hair, and what I can only assume was some kind of sauce. My eyes drifted to the other soldiers... no way I could take out two dozen Confederates. Twenty three is my limit.

He smacked the blue cap off my head and reached into his pocket, rooting around for a minute. Then he waved his hand in my face, and a gray Confederate brand hat-helmet fell out of his sleeve. “Now you gonna be ma contingent.”

I had been prepared for all kinds of capture scenarios, but none like this. As I was rehashing my camouflage training, he unzipped his uniform and let it fall to the uneven, blood-soaked ground, revealing a paint-covered smock hanging over a pair of parachute pants.


Getting uncomfortably close to a Confederate.

“Now we gonna go through the paces.”
***
Six months in a Confederate detention center taught me more than I’d learned in six years of high school. I learned to rely on myself more, to endure hours upon hours of banjo playing. This was decades before Country music differentiated itself from Rock; it was raw, untamed, with more than one drum solo. Absolutely haunting.

It replaced the memories of Walt Disney’s frozen head in the fear center of my mind.

Fortunately, my brain chemistry is different than normal humans, thanks to the many magical experiments I performed on my journey to sorcery. After the Mexican special forces sprung me in a daring daylight jailbreak, I was able to reintegrate into a steady civilian life, working shifts at a local bakery.

For nine hours a day, I’d (secretly) use magic to turn old tires into edible bagels, the ethical implications of which never really hit me until I think about it now, years later. But I suppose that if I could do it all again, I would. I wouldn’t even think twice about it. Forget I mentioned it. Guilty conscious, I guess.

But was working a menial job at minimum wage enough to satisfy my demonic ambitions? Do you even need to ask? By the end of the first week, I was already trying to branch out, explore the career options open to someone with my talents.

And boy, did opportunity come knocking!
***
“The Sandman sends his regards.”

Dark shapes formed all around me as the static electricity balls crackled, transmitting beams of bright white light to each other instantaneously. It was quite a sight, the bolts of light against the night. This was how I’d chosen to decorate my office.

I reached into one of the large burlap sacks, feeling the contents. “Tell the Sandman his gifts are... well received.”

She smiled, showing two rows of sharp incisors. This shipment was the big one, I could feel it. Normally, Sandman didn’t come through for me... but this was one of the rare times when his international contacts came in handy. This was the good stuff. I just didn’t know how he’d get it all across the border.

“How much can he procure?”


“How much?! Time is sand!”

She frowned. “How much? A beach-load, that’s how much!”

I ran my fingers through the fine silt. “That’s real feldspar, isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“And... have you found any... Arkose, perhaps?”

“We’re... working on it. I know how much you’ve wanted Arkose...”

“Four asterisks I’ve wanted Arkose!” I grabbed my solid-quartz window pane, looking out over the beautiful vista my apartment presented. “I’ve been trying to get Arkose this fine since the 70s. You get me at least... ten kilos of Arkose, and I’ll make sure the two of you live like royalty.”

She looked slightly queasy. “British royalty or French royalty?”

“British.”

“And if we can get you... ten times that much?”

“Italian.”

She was practically floating off the ground, and I could tell she had the goods to back up her boast. Silty Arkose... I could finally retire from this life of crime and devote myself to philanthropy! Or misanthropy. Whichever turned out to be more fun.

“Here,” I handed her a list of customs outposts. “Any one of those should wave you through.”

She gave me a hearty salute and raced to the gold-inlaid door. “You should expect shipment in two weeks!”

“I’ll be waiting.”
***
Of course, it turns out that Sandman was a mole, feeding the feds all the dirt they needed on my sand. They had all the microfiche they needed to put me away for exactly 147 months (strange number, isn’t it?). Fortunately, I ran into some of my Civil War recreation buddies on the inside. They helped me put together a very compelling court case.

The day I finally went to trial, I got on the stand and started singing my testimony, against the wishes of my court-forcibly-appointed attorney. My running crew tossed me my “lucky” cello, and I rocked out loud. By the end of the day, the whole bar association was there, dancing along with me. There was a camera crew there, on behalf of NBC. They thought they were recording the trial of the century: the nation’s most prolific sand smuggler, on trial after years of tax dodging. But what they actually filmed was... the biggest musical hit of the summer.

The lighting, the choreographing, even the bailiffs’ matching ties; everything fell perfectly into place. Following a brief yet powerful crescendo, the judge acquitted me and I was offered the lead role in Gangs of New York. But I turned it down due to creative differences I’d had in the past with the script writers, and began searching the papers for a vocation befitting my Promethean repertoire.

Days turned into hours, and again into minutes, as I honed in on my next career. I kept getting turned down because of my run-in with the border patrol... and the fact that my head is constantly on fire, the result of attending PTA meetings with Dick Cheney.

Things were looking grim when my old boarding-school roommate Nigel Stottlebottom showed up at my stoop, looking for recruits for his latest anti-water campaign. I politely declined, but he was rather insistent. I eventually lost my patience, and told him his hatred of water was a squid’s tarp (a harsh insult back in the old neighborhood). He hit me in the face with one of his propagandistic fliers and walked away. “Go to Roboshrub!” he yelled as I watched him disappear behind overflowing dumpsters. Decomposing ham dripped over the chrome sides, and rats danced in the viral rain.


You know you’ve hit bottom when a psychotic old man can attack you with impunity.

I lost the flier, but that word he used... Roboshrub... it stuck with me. For twelve long years of working at the Pillsbury munitions plant, it fluttered around neatly in my brain-pan, tripping up my temporal lobe. My sanity wrent asunder, I fired up the Internet and searched far and wide, high and low, hither and thither, until at last I could search no more.
***
“That’s a nice fire you’ve got going there,” he said as he held his hands up to my burning skull. “Hey! It’s not hot at all!”

“Well it would be kind of stupid to burn myself, wouldn’t it?” I sneered, having nothing but contempt for the short man. His clothes were dated, to say the least, and his fingernails were laden with grime. All up his left arm-

“I’m the CEO of Roboshrub Incorporated! You want to work for me, Karl?!”

I blinked quickly, opening my mouth uncertainly. “How did you know my na-”

“Not important! I need an answer!”

“But... you... there wasn’t any back-and-forth! You didn’t ask me my name, start a conversation, and make jokes along the way! The way you did it broke plot continuity.”

“We do that a lot over at Roboshrub Inc.” He held out an arm with four watches on it. “This one’s my thinkin’ arm!”

“Um... yeah. Couldn’t you just be a little more into-”

“Story ends now!”