Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ask The Hardass 2

The Hardass has been a bit busy lately, punching criminals and eating their getaway vehicles. He has, in fact, been recovering from a weekend he spent underneath the wreckage of a parking garage. He had intended to punch out one of its corners to prevent a bandit from gaining entrance, which worked, but one of his arch-enemies foiled him by causing the structure to fall on him.

Gravity, you bastard, when will you learn?

Thankfully, he was able to file his way out with his chin, so he is back with us today and ready to answer your questions.

Dear The Hardass,

I spend a lot of time driving. I was wondering what you think I should do about the people that get in my way and stay there.

--Wanting in Westminster

To be perfectly honest, I never have that problem. This is my vehicle:

But if I were on a tight budget, I would invest in a pickup truck from, oh, the early 80s. Make sure it’s rusty. Remove the front and rear bumpers. Replace the rear one with a six-foot log, with the bark and twigs still on it. Bolt an old refrigerator to the front. If at all possible, drape small animal pelts over various edges, and fly a skunk tail from the antenna. Exhaust system? Remove it and replace it with lengths of drain pipe and old Folgers cans. Guaranteed nobody will mess with you then, and the whole setup will cost you about $300. Cheaper, if you steal.

Dear The Hardass,

What's a breast?

Blind, Naive, and Gay in Kansas

Scientifically, they are objects that grow on strippers. Or sometimes they are installed on strippers. Either way. Poetically, they are a reason to smile. I pride myself on my versatility, too, as I am actually more of an ass and leg man. I suspect you have similarly worded, but diametrically opposed views yourself.

Dear The Hardass,

What do you think about high definition TV? I’m not sure how the whole February switchover is going to go for me. Do you have any advice?

--Pixilated in Pittsburgh

HD televisions are every bit as tasty as the regular kind, but I do miss the explodeyness you get from the old cathode-ray tube sets of yesteryear. Those were real fun to punch and throw. A big, wide screen does tend to impress the ladies, however, so look into it.

Dear The Hardass,

I’m thinking about getting into needlepoint, but I really like the patterns and textures you can get with crochet. Is now the time to try new things, or should I stick to what I know?

--Yarned in Ypsilanti

What the hell are you talking about?

Dear The Hardass

Needlework, my good sir, is what I am talking about. There is no need to be rude.


Yes, there damn well is. Needlework, you say? Sounds like you’re a drug lord. I am on my way to your den of iniquity to break you into a thousand and twelve tiny pieces. In that sense, yes, it IS time to try new things. Get used to being 1012% closer to omnipresence.

Dear The Hardass,

A co-worker at my office knocked me down and took my sandwich. What should I do?

--Bullied in Bullisville

Find him. Knock him down. Eat his computer.

Until next week, folks! Send in your Hardass questions via the Indulge in Stupidity comments section, and I'll see that he reads them.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Granola Prose XVI

"It's a type of foreshadowing," explained the Writer. "You first meet the gophers when Tiberius describes his expulsion from the Nitwit court, and then we tie it up in a neat little flying package."

"It still wouldn't hold air. It's very similar to the way your plot isn't holding water."

The Writer wrinkled up his face. Plots weren't supposed to hold water. Buckets were supposed to hold water.

"It's magic or something, I guess. Geez. First I'm explaining stuff too much, and now I'm not providing enough detail." The Writer held up his forefinger and thumb, half an inch apart. "I'm this close to scampering into a dark room and pouting," he warned.

"I'm just trying to keep you from being lazy. There's too much of that in fantasy writing already. Don't want to bother explaining how something works? It's magic! Killed off a favorite character by, oh, dropping him into a chasm during a duel with a three-story, fire-breathing demon? Just give him some different colored clothes and bring him back with magic! See where I'm going?"

"On some Tolkien fan's hit list?"

"Not specifically Tolkien. I do, however, like the demon. Ember. He's cute."

"He's supposed to be evil."

"He tries so hard to be vile. Just like a kitten!"

The Writer flicked some granola out of his ear with a most carefree finger. "Duly noted. I have taken your advice, dried it, salted it, smoked it and buried it deep in a concrete bunker for later consideration."

"Just make sure your contrivances are at least half-believable. And put more Ember in there."

"And then I put on eight padlocks," the Writer said with a dramatic snapping-a-padlock-closed motion he repeated seven times.

"Sir! He's barricaded himself in his cave and he's going to take off before we can stop him. Please advise!" one of the dark fairies said, speaking into a flyie-talkie.

"And how is he going to do that?" came the rasping response. "You and about twenty others are standing right outside the launch door, right?"

"Teehee, yes, but he's wily, sir."

"His airship is made out of gophers, Jenkins. He can't be that wily."

As it turned out, Tiberius was a little more resourceful than he looked.

"Roight! Looks like they got us penned in roun' the sides, so we'll scarper out the roof! Press the button, willyer Ember?"

The demon favored Tiberius with a sour look and poked the button of a garage-door remote with a scaly finger. A shower of dust and loose pebbles followed a grinding noise as the ceiling split down the middle. The crack widened. The tubulent night sky was within reach! All they had to do was fly the Zepeppilin straight up!

The fairies swarmed in and surrounded the airship in seconds.

"Bugger," said Tiberius.

"Oh, those lousy fairies!" The Writer keyed in the command to print, waited while his inkjet shook and clattered and snatched the sheet of paper when it landed in the tray. He wadded it up and threw it away.

"Not turning out how you expected?"

The Writer applied the Backspace key. "No. I don't want them to get captured, but it looks like they're going to."

"It really is totally under your control, you know," his lovely spouse said, prodding him encouragingly with a Craftsman® prodding rod.

"A good Writer," said the Writer, leaning on an imaginary podium, "invents characters that write themselves. That's when they really come alive."

"I'll open a window then, shall I? Just in case it's Stubs?"

"Everyone to the dirigibibble!"

Becky vaulted over the low edge of the Zepeppilin's passengerbox. Stubs hesitated.

"Come on Stubs! Tee-damn-hee!"

Stubs noted a duck. It looked malicious.

"Wonk," said the duck with a nasty inflection, and eyed Stubs balefully.

"That's an evil duck," said the stalwart dwarf, pointing. "I know it. I'm not getting on that thing."

"Who, Edward? Evil? Well, ain't that a load of pony!" said Tiberius, patting the duck on the head. Edward tried to bite him.

The fairies gave up trying to catch the doorknob. "Stand back! I'm going to break the door down!" said a voice. There was a frantic buzz of wings and a sharp "tink!" noise, like a teacup being set down on a saucer.

"Ow! My shoulder! My beautiful shoulder!"

"Aw, they'll pay for that, Rufus, don't you worry! They'll pay pretty pennies for damaging your good playful nudgin' shoulder!"

"Another question," said Stubs, taking another hesitant step toward the dirigibibble. "Where did you get what could be only described as a magically annoying doorknob, Tiberius? If that IS your real name."

"Stubs! What are you doing? Get IN here!" shouted Becky.

"Er, yeah, yer lil' mate is right. We're kind of in a Bob Murray here! If we snaps open the launch doors real quick-like, and makes a run fer it, I think we have a chance!"

Stubs was about to make another very pointed argument about not trusting the Zepeppilin and its operator when he saw a flicker of movement out of the corner of his eye. It was that rogue duck. The evil one, with nothing but murder on his mind and crackers in his stomach. Edward! Edward reached out a foot and flipped a lever! Under the lever were the words "Throw Lever to Spring Trap

How could he have missed that?

The air filled with the whine of rope whizzing through pulleys, and a steel cage dropped out of the gloom above, neatly penning in the Zepeppilin and its occupants.

"Ah HA! Good work, Edward! I have you now, dwarf! " said an all-too-familiar voice.

"Um. No you don't," said Stubs. He was standing about six inches from the bars of the cage.

"Fuck!" screeched Tony. "Off by only about six inches. Now I have to haul that cage back up so you can get in."

"Run! Run, Stubs! Teehee! Get out of here while you can!"

Stubs didn't need to be told twice. As the front door began to splinter under the pressure of the fairies' candycane chisels and with Edward's cancerous quacking ringing in his ears, Stubs ran blindly into the the yawning darkness at the back of the cave.

"That sounds like kind of a disturbing turn of events," said the Wife, her chin on the Writer's shoulder.

The Writer stared blankly at the screen. "It is. But hey. This is what they wanted, my characters, and this is what they jolly well get. It's like they were just trying to get captured or split up or eaten or whatever. Now I have at least four separate paths to illustrate with my craft. My craft only goes so far!" he whined.

"Aww, your poor craft. How about you take a break and we go get that ice cream I promised a few chapters back? We'll go get you a twisty cone and a Gunky Dog at that place you like."

"Captain Cholesterol's? They closed that down at least two years ago, hon."

The Wife jerked a thumb over her shoulder at a metal cylinder with what looked like a lot of cooling fins on it.

"Time machine," she said.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ask the Hardass

Fresh from the pub and cured of his amnesia, The Hardass is all too happy* to lend our reader bits and shattered pieces of his craggy advice. The Hardass has been around for a while, but not a really big while, for that would make him sound old. Which, ladies, he is not.

Dear The Hardass,

I have some friends who like to go out drinking all the time, but I'm not really into that scene. I usually end up driving in my own car so I can leave early without dragging my friends out with me. What should I do?
--Stumbly in South Bend

Punch them. Seriously. Wait until they have a shot glass in one hand and punch them in the eye. Then steal their booze and cars and rack up a whole bunch of credit card debt and take off your pants in front of a policeman. You might as well. If you're too stupid to think of an excuse not to go until after you've already gone, you're probably screwed no matter what you do.

Dear The Hardass,

I am an attractive woman in her mid-twenties. I like to wear revealing clothes and sleep around, but I don't like it when men stare at me or make comments. What should I do?
--Slutty in St. Paul

Call me.

Dear The Hardass,

I voted for this one guy, but another guy won the election. I'm pissed! How do I handle the disappointment, and, particularly, all my gloating friends?
--Pissed in someplace that starts with P.

Dump on their lawns. All of them. Friends, politicians, whoever. One stipulation, though: You have to gloat about it to their face. No stealthcrapping. You have to take credit. Don't take no shit about your shit, either. Presumably the candidate you voted for was big on accountability as well?

Dear The Hardass,

It's me again. Are men always going to stare at my breasts if I show them off?

Yes, we will.

Dear The Hardass,

So what is it with breasts, anyway? What makes them so fascinating?
--Bouncy in Bartonville.

As your pseudonym neatly encapsulates, it's because they're bouncy. Bouncing things fascinate males as soon as their motor skills develop to the point where they can accurately track them. Superballs, trampolines, Silly Putty, basketball...the list goes on. The training starts at infancy with the birth of a "bouncing" baby boy. And seriously. You should call me.

Dear The Hardass,

I'm not that slutty girl. I'm just a curious dude. But if you know her number, could you hook me up?
--(Not personally) Bouncy in Bartonville


Dear The Hardass,

I've just become a father! I'm so happy, I could puke! How would you raise a child?
--Reproductive in Repr--um, Raleigh. No, wait, uh...

I wouldn't. I would give it away as soon as possible to avoid all the stickiness that children fill your life with. But if I had to, I would definitely, DEFINITELY raise him to hunt dinosaurs.

Dear The Hardass,

But she's a girl.

Don't care.

Dear The Hardass,

A kid at school knocked me down and took my bike. What do I do?
--Dispossessed in Dayton

Find him. Knock him down. Eat his house.

That's it for this week, Time Wasters! If you've got a question you'd like answered by The Hardass, just Indulge in Stupidity below, and I'll see if I can find him.

*Read: Forced to by his superiors for eating the flags outside the police station.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Granola Prose XV

Becky and Stubs reached over to knock on the door. The ground shifted beneath them. A crack appeared between the ledge they were standing on and the side of the mountain. The fissure, at first a mere spiderweb, widened quickly, sending a shower of small rocks down the face of the cliff.

“Stubs, don’t move!” Becky braced herself against the mountainside. “This ledge isn’t quite strong enough to hold us both if we shift our weight at the same time. Lean back and I’ll try to reach forward enough to open the door.”

Stubs obeyed and leaned backward. Becky reached out, grasping for the doorknob. Her fingers brushed against it and she gasped when the knob giggled and moved to the other side of the door.

“Oooh! That tickles!” the doorknob said, its voice high and wavering.

The ledge collapsed. Stubs, thinking quickly, used the head of his hammer to catch the broken cliff edge. With his right hand grasping the hammer, he reached his left down and snatched Becky’s wrist as she slid past. Groaning with exertion, he managed to haul her up far enough to grab the lip of the cliff. They hung there, gasping for breath and gazing up at the wooden door with its ridiculous doorknob.

“Well, I guess this is it,” Becky said. “Teehee. Oh, well. It could be worse.”

Stubs looked at her. “How could this possibly be worse? We’re going to die!”

Becky chewed her lip. “Sorry. The turd taffy is slowly poisoning my mind. I can feel myself growing increasingly optimistic even as the situation worsens. Here we are hanging from a cliff above an open chasm and all I can think of is what a wonderful view we have from up here. It’s driving me crazy, too. Tee-friggin’-hee!”

Stubs felt sorry for her and tried to shrug, but found this impossible to do while dangling from a cliff. “How about we split that last swine wad? It’d be a shame to let it…”

The door burst open, its frame immediately filled by an immensely fat man who looked at Becky and Stubs with delight.

“Well, blimey, if it ain’t Becky and the dwarf!”

“Tiberius!” Becky recognized the portly man from Sticky Jake’s gopher ranch. “What are you doing here? Where’s Sticky Jake? Have you always had a Cockney accent?”

Tiberius looked bashful and rubbed his toe in the dirt. “I was thrown out of ‘is lordship’s service,” he said mournfully. “’e caught me over-polishin’ ‘is pogs one mornin’ and ’ad me flogged. Then ‘e tied me to an ‘erd o' gophers and ‘ad ‘em drag me into the wild. So ashamed, I was, that I set meself up in business ‘ere in the mountains away from folks.”

“And the accent?” asked Becky.

“It’s part o' me new identity.”

Stubs looked around at the desolate landscape. “Seems in your effort to escape the shame, you might have also limited your customer base.”

Tiberius grimaced. “Yes, well. Me business model’s a work in progress. Ain’t you the dwarf what couldn’t hold ‘is—”

“That’s also a work in progress,” Stubs interrupted. “I’m improving. You’ll notice I’m hanging from a cliff at great peril and haven’t…how about just helping us up?”

Still miffed, Tiberius paused.

“We might be able to use your services,” Becky added.

Tiberius pulled them both to safety and led the way inside. He made a grand sweeping gesture. “Behold Tiberius Airways, the only dirigibibble comp’ny in the Mysteriolith Mountains! This fine craft you see ‘ere is the mothership. I call it the Zepeppelin.”

“That’s a dirigibibble?” asked Becky and Stubs in unison.

The contraption was smaller than the Loneos and not nearly as appealing. It floated a few feet off the floor and was made from gopher pelts, all stapled together (the obvious influence of Sticky Jake) to form an oblong balloon shape. Underneath the balloon hung the passenger compartment, which was actually a cardboard box reinforced with massive amounts of Duck Tape. Some of the ducks were awake and quacked menacingly.

Tiberius looked crestfallen. “Disappointed?”

“I…kind of thought it would be bigger,” Becky said.

“And more air-worthy,” Stubs added. “Are you sure this is safe?”

Tiberius bustled forward and caressed the dirigibibble. “Quite safe, quite safe! Tiberius Airways ‘as never ‘ad an accident.”

“Has it ever had a flight?”

Tiberius ignored the question. “Will you be needin’ me services?”

Becky and Stubs exchanged glances. Becky sighed. “It would appear we have no choice. It’s either employ Tiberius and reach the wizards quickly or I go crazy and the Syndicate takes over the world.”

A loud yawn interrupted the Writer’s concentration. The Wife, who was again reading over his shoulder, removed her Impacto Anti-Vibration Air Gloves™ and flexed her cramping fingers.

“I hate it when you use obvious dialogue to explain the plot. Do you think your readers are morons?”

“I’m just trying to make sure they understand the seriousness of the situation,” the Writer said. “After all, if there’s nothing at stake, there will be no tension.”

“If you have to keep stopping the story to explain what’s going on, then perhaps you have some editing to do.”

The Writer paled. “I’ve asked you not to utter that word in my presence. You know I abhor foul language. Now go back to your…whatever it is you’re doing.”

“I’m building a bomb shelter in the basement. But it requires that I remove a portion of the foundation. Hence the gloves.” She waved them in his face.

“Bomb shelter!” The Writer bounced a little in his chair and jerked his head toward the Wife, accidentally filling his ear with granola. “Do you really think that’s necessary?”

“Are you planning to send this story to your agent?”

The Writer nodded.

Backing slowly out of the room, the Wife pulled on the gloves. “In that case, I have work to do.”

Tiberius performed an excited jig. “Well, then, I suppose you’ll be in a hurry to be on your way!” He walked to the Zepeppelin and peered into the passenger box. He reached inside and appeared to be shaking someone awake. “Come on, mate! You’ve got passengers!”

They heard a long yawn and saw two arms extend out of the box as its occupant stretched. The arms were stick thin, the hands scaly, and the webbed fingers were tipped with sharp, talon-like nails. Slowly, a head appeared. Large, bulbous eyes blinked sleepily and a mouth, lined with tiny, pointy teeth, gaped in a giant yawn. The creature hopped out of the basket and surveyed the visitors. He appeared to be quite bad-tempered.

In spite of herself, Becky grinned. "He's adorable!"

Tiberius patted the creature’s head. He wasn’t more than four feet tall and had reddish skin. His face was creased with a perpetual frown. “Meet my best pilot,” Tiberius said. “His name is Ember and ‘e’s quite the little demon.”

“Misbehaves, does he?” asked Becky.

“No, ‘e’s really a little demon,” Tiberius said. “Found ‘im wanderin’ through the mountains. Apparently, ‘e’d been sent out to cause mayhem and got lost. He tries to act fierce, but ain’t really such a bad sort.”

Ember made a clawing motion toward Becky and Stubs. “Rowr,” he said.

“Well, let’s get the dirigibibble onto the launchin’ pad,” said Tiberius. “These folks ‘ave important business to attend.”

“Is it really safe to travel through the mountains at night?” Stubs asked. “It’s hard enough to see where you’re going in the day.”

“Actually, I’ll think you’ll find it much more to your likin’,” said Tiberius, grabbing hold of a towing rope.

Together, he and Ember managed to haul the Zepeppelin forward and tie it securely to anchor pins sunk deep into the rock. Tiberius pulled a lever and piece of the wall slid aside, revealing a stunning view of the Mysteriolith mountain range. The sky was dark, but the moon was out and bathed the mountain sides in silver light. It reflected off the snow on the peaks, sparkling and almost festive.

“I’ve never been in the mountains after dark before,” said Becky. “Why is it so much clearer and, well, nicer at night? Isn’t that sort of backwards?”

Tiberius looked around as if searching for spies and lowered his voice. “It's all the Fairies' doin'."

"They make the mountains all scary and dangerous? Isn't that a little contrary to their core value? Optimism, I mean?"

At Becky's words, the floor began trembling. The clear sky filled with storm clouds, blotting out the moon. Lightening flashed and raised the hair on the back of their necks. Tiberius paled and ran to shut the sliding door. It was almost closed when something appeared in the opening and blocked it. A fairy, grinning horribly, perched on the cliff edge and held the door open. It was smiling, but the expression was sinister. This fairy seemed different, somehow, not the normal sickeningly cheerful nymph Becky was used to, but dark and threatening. Looking over the fairy's shoulder, Becky could see several more on the way, their whirring wings reflecting the flashes of lightening.

The wind had picked up and the Zepeppelin strained at its anchor pins. Tiberius was struggling with the fairy, trying to push it from the ledge so they could shut the sliding rock door. Becky and Stubs joined the fracas and together managed to push the intruder out of the opening. The fairy gripping the edge of the door with his hands and, reversing his wing motion, used the backward thrust to hold the door open.

Ember leaped forward and, grabbing one of the fairy's fingers, chomped down with his tiny teeth. Startled, the fairy yelped and let go, but forgot to adjust his wing strength. With the speed of a rocket, he shot backward down the mountainside and out of sight.

"Rowr!" said Ember.

Tiberius wasted no time slamming the door. He turned to Becky. "You're one of them, aren't you! On your way to join them!"

Becky shook her head emphatically. "No! I'm not! I'm trying to stop them. Teehee!" She clamped a hand over her mouth.

Tiberius began dancing about, pointing at Becky accusingly. "The Call! That's 'ow they knew where you were!"

Stubs looked at Becky and she nodded. "He's right. If anyone with the Call begins questioning the Syndicate, it immediately sends a warning to their headquarters. It's their way of eliminating opposition before it can spread."

There was a pounding on the front door. Having abandoned their efforts to pry open the rock wall, the fairies were concentrating on the wooden door. They could hear giggling and knew the doorknob was giving the fairies a difficult time.

"Bed of roses!" swore one of the fairies. "I can't catch it! Sit still, knob!"

"Quick!" Tiberius said. "That door won't 'old 'em long. While they're busy, we might be able to make a run for it. Everyone to the dirigibibble!"