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Behind the Times

That part of the world’s population waiting with bated breath beside their computer screens were no doubt shocked to their very marrow by the non-appearance. The rest of the world’s 7 billion people, however, somehow found the strength to carry on with their lives despite the fact that this post is half a day late.

 

I can only offer my profoundest, most sincere apologies (while accepting no financial liability of any kind). I would have written something had I but been able to get to my computer. Unfortunately, at my usual posting time, the keyboard was at the other end of a mountain range of stuff stretching majestically from one end of my bedroom to the other.

 

It all started two and a half days ago when it occurred to me that since my new job will almost certainly involve having to bring work home, I should probably make a few adjustments to the area around the desk in my bedroom in order to make it easier to use. I wasn’t thinking of anything too drastic, of course, just a few minor tweaks here and there. It had long annoyed me, for example, that getting a pen or pencil always involved groping up to the elbow in the darker recesses of my desk drawer. Then there was all the information I’d been given relating to my new job. It should clearly be kept in files somewhere near at hand.

 

Unfortunately, every inch of prime real estate on or around my desk was already occupied. Indeed, the only significant amount of space anywhere in the entire bedroom was an unused portion of shelf at the back of the built-in closet. This left me with only two choices. I could either take myself nearer that space or bring that space nearer me. Upon careful consideration, I brilliantly deduced my desk would not fit into the closet, so I took the bold step of pursuing the second strategy.

 

I began by loading up the shelf with some little used books. This had the effect of coaxing the space from the back of the closet out onto a bookshelf. Then by filling the bookshelf with some old CDs, I could transfer the space to the area the CDs had come from, namely the top of the wardrobe.

 

In this way, I planned through a series of cleverly coordinated item relocations to bounce the space around my bedroom—the top of the wardrobe, the back of a drawer, under the bed, next to the bookcase—until I eventually managed to maneuver it onto my desk, where it would at last be of some use. It was a strategy familiar to anyone who ever played one of those sliding picture puzzles as a child.

 

Sadly, somewhere around the middle of my bedside cabinet, my plans escalated wildly out of control like WW1. Before I knew it, I was embroiled in a full-scale tidy up. The next two and a half days were entirely occupied with filling bags, loading boxes and taking trips to the compactor. So much dust was thrown up into the atmosphere, crops yields for the next few years are likely to be adversely affected.

 

Thankfully, the task is all but finished. The Andean range of clothes, books and documents that once separated one side of my bedroom from the other has gone and the area around my desk is once again the perfect environment in which to work. I’m now ready to face whatever my job throws at me, provided it isn’t difficult, heavy or explosive.

 

 

© Bun Karyudo and the BunKaryudo Blog (2017)

(All Rights Reserved)

Missing My Cue

I had a good time. It was awful, but I had a good time. The it in question was my performance at pool. I knew roughly how the game was supposed to be played. I had to use the stick thing to push a white ball toward one of the many other balls scattered around the table. When hit, this second ball would then obligingly fall into one of six holes, leading my opponent to cheer and clap wildly and insist I go again.

 

Unfortunately, this is not how things actually turned out. The problem was, we rented a table that had a set of badly defective balls, not to mention pockets that were far too small. That’s why, no matter how energetically I used the wooden pole to whack the white ball in the direction of the stripy or spotty ones, I could never get any of them to disappear down the holes.

 

The sad result of being forced to use such substandard equipment was that at no stage did my playing partner have an opportunity to applaud my efforts, although I did at least manage to elicit a couple of sniggers from the people at the next table. How wonderful to know that I was able to bring a little joy into their lives.

 

Yet, despite being deceived into renting abominably substandard equipment, I can truthfully say that I still had an enjoyable time. This was because the person I was playing against was a) an old friend back in town for a brief visit, and b) of a level of sporting excellence very similar to my own.

 

Things were slightly awkward at the beginning of our game, of course. We’d never played pool against each other before—indeed, I hadn’t played pool against anyone for a couple of decades—so my friend was uneasy for the first ten or fifteen minutes. He didn’t relax until it gradually became clear to him that the standard of play I was exhibiting was an accurate reflection of my true ability and not the first stage of some elaborate Paul Newman-style hustle.

 

We did our best with the skinny wooden bats we were given and waved them enthusiastically all over the place, but the balls remained stubbornly on the table throughout, although in an impressive number of different configurations. We had so little success in clearing the table, I eventually came to believe neither of us would ever be able to get anything down a pocket, even if we held a ball directly over one of them and tried hitting it through with a mallet. Eventually, we completely ran out of time to clear the balls, having only booked the table for two hours.

 

It was true our game had not been as successful as I’d hoped. In fact, by the end, it seemed to have provoked an alarming degree of amusement from nearby players. Nevertheless, daunting as it was to walk right past all those stifled guffaws, I somehow found the courage I needed. It came to me the moment I realized there were bars on the restroom windows. Since the beer had been pretty good, and also because I felt sorry for the staff, I decided not to make a scene and complain about the faulty balls and pool clubs they’d given us. Instead, I simply paid my money, threw my change toward my jacket pocket, and sprinted for the door.

 

There was some talk of continuing the sporting theme of the evening by next going bowling. But then my friend said he was pretty sure players were not allowed to throw their bowling balls with two hands. This seemed to complicate the rules unnecessarily, so we gave up and decided to go to an Irish pub instead.

 

 

© Bun Karyudo and the BunKaryudo Blog (2017)

(All Rights Reserved)

Accidents Waiting to Happen

Amazingly, I haven’t done it yet. As I unlock the side gate to my apartment building after work each day, I look down at the drain grate directly beneath my feet and gulp. I know it’s only a matter of time. I’m just one dropped key away from having to spend a fun-packed evening groping around up to my shoulder in filthy water.

 

The drain is an accident waiting to happen. But it’s not the only one in my life. Take my new coffeemaker, for example. The water is stored in a plastic container that clips on to the back of the machine. Unfortunately, it doesn’t attach very well, and so a slip is inevitable. The day is certainly coming when the entire contents spill Niagara-like from the edge of the counter and cascade down over the assorted plugs and adapters underneath. On the bright side, I enjoy a rousing firework display as much as anyone.

 

Or there are the two guitars that I keep by the foot of my bed. Some morning, I will certainly trip over one or other of them as I get up. It’s even possible I may trip over both at the same time—one for each foot—and roll with them along the floor in a cacophony of splintered wood, snapping strings and unearthly caterwauling, like a slightly more melodic version of a Justin Bieber concert.

 

But even when we can see the risks we are running, sometimes we simply cannot avoid them. The bedroom is tiny, and so the guitars have to stay where they are since there’s no other place for them. Strictly speaking, I suppose I could tuck them into bed beside me at night. But then my wife would have to sleep vertically while leaning on a guitar stand—something that up to this point in our marriage, she has never shown the slightest interest in doing.

 

Now, you may be wondering why I’ve taken to worrying about all this. After all, I’ve been living with the dangerously placed drain for over a decade, the guitars for about the same, and even with the potentially pyrotechnic coffeemaker for the last three or four months. What explains the sudden upsurge in my anxiety levels now?

 

As many of you know, I have recently handed in my notice at the company where I’ve worked for the last eleven years. In a couple of weeks, I will start a new—and in many ways, quite different—job. I have my fingers, my toes and both my eyes crossed that I won’t be an accident waiting to happen.

 

 

© Bun Karyudo and the BunKaryudo Blog (2017)

(All Rights Reserved)

Something to Chew On

A coin! A coin!

 

This was the thought that rushed excitedly through my head as I stood on the street corner waiting for the lights to change. But when I looked down and fixed my gaze on the small, circular shape I’d spotted with my peripheral vision, my dreams of quick financial gain were once again dashed. Instead of a shiny, gleaming and commercially exploitable metal token, all I found was a black patch of congealed gunk.

 

I considered it for a moment with some puzzlement. What was that…? Suddenly, the answer hit me. I was looking at the remains of a long dead piece of gum. Ordinarily, my thoughts on the matter might have ended there, but on this particular day, I was delighted to have something—anything—to take my mind off the impending bank visit my feet were so unenthusiastically dragging me toward.

 

Goodness, so this was the final resting place of what had once been an eager young piece of gum! How incredibly fascinating! Immediately, I threw together a few deeply ponderable questions of the kind likely to distract a jittery mind:

 

  • Did pieces of gum sit hopefully in packets wondering which sidewalks they would eventually become part of?

 

  • In whose particular mouth had this piece of gum served? Had it been in and straight back out again, or was it tumbled slowly around and around like a rubber boot in a washing machine?

 

  • Speaking of which, what was gum’s footwear of choice? In other words, what did the average piece of gum prefer to be trampled by?

 

The lights changed and I began moving forward again, over the road and onward. This was when I realized the splotch I’d left behind was far from a solitary case. In fact, the entire sidewalk around me was strewn with little black stains of flattened gum, as though some delinquent Hansel had staggered drunkenly to and fro, leaving an impossibly chaotic trail for me to follow. I hoped he and Gretel didn’t expect rescuing any time before they were ninety.

 

But this fanciful notion merely begged the question: who was really dropping all this gum everywhere? When I had to wait again at another busy road, I casually and without raising the slightest suspicion gawked directly at the mouth of each pedestrian around me. Yet despite being fairly generous with the time I allocated per set of chompers, I detected no telltale signs of chewing whatsoever. Of course, whether this meant the various jaws around me were entirely free of gum or were just cemented tightly together by it was difficult to say.

 

Hmm… Did office workers even chew gum? I thought for a moment, but I couldn’t remember ever seeing anybody with it at work. I certainly didn’t use it. The thought had never even occurred to me. Besides, I had the strong impression that any such chewing during working hours would be frowned upon by my boss and our customers. Admittedly, this wasn’t something I’d ever asked about. Rather, it seemed to fall into that category of actions not explicitly mentioned in the company rulebook but which were nonetheless unlikely to enhance your promotion prospects, like commuting to work in a tutu or attempting to conduct all meetings in Klingon.

 

On reflection, it seemed office workers might not be the most likely source of the gum carnage at my feet after all. The pleasures of a surreptitious chew seemed slight indeed when set against a career in tatters. A more likely group of culprits might be the students from one or other of the various colleges in the neighborhood. This held particular plausibility for me since in my student years, I had known someone who chewed on gum more or less continuously throughout his waking life. Even now, as I sit here and try to recall his appearance, the part of his face I can picture most clearly is his ever-moving lower jaw, around which I then have to sketch in his other features.

 

Interestingly, when asked why he chewed so much gum, he didn’t always give the same answer. He generally said it was to keep his breath fresh. He did tell me on one occasion, however, that he’d started it years earlier as a way to prevent nail-biting. He found his constant use of gum expensive, he’d said, but at least it was not nearly as painful as chewing fingernails down to the quick. I thought he had a point—particularly if they were his fingernails.

 

Although either or both of these explanations may have been true, I did also hear him mention to a female classmate that chewing was scientifically proven to increase concentration and mental focus, and that whenever he’d been allowed to chomp, chomp, chomp his way through a test, he’d always performed much better than those around him. Whether this was because his score had gone up or theirs had gone down, he hadn’t gone on to say.

 

I vaguely remembered other students chewing gum at college too, although none of them in the same industrial quantities as my friend. Yet I couldn’t recall ever seeing any of them carelessly tossing gum onto the ground. On the contrary, the chewers had shown nothing but the greatest consideration for their fellow students, disposing of their unwanted gum well away from the feet of their classmates. Instead, they’d attached it to the underside of whatever chair or desk they’d happened to be nearest at the time, from which convenient location the cleaners could simply and hygienically remove it at a later date with nothing more than a few quick taps with a mallet and chisel.

 

But this still left a puzzle. If it wasn’t office workers or students who were strewing gum all over the sidewalk, who else could it be? I wondered if it might be children. Perhaps on their way to and from school, they covered the entire neighborhood with their “mouthiwork,” turning innocent-looking walkways into what amounted to fly paper-laced death traps for other pedestrians. It made a certain amount of sense, but given that I was seldom on any stretch of street at the same time as children nowadays, it was difficult to be certain.

 

I tried thinking back to my own childhood. Had I discarded gum on the sidewalk? I was fairly sure I hadn’t, although I had remarkably few memories to base this confidence upon. I’d tended only to buy gum if I could afford nothing else in the store since it’d seemed to involve ten times the work of other confectionary, but with one-tenth the payoff. I remembered it tasting pretty good to begin with, but then my lower jaw being caught in a painful and seemingly endless cycle of chewing something that was soon totally devoid of flavor. For all the joy it brought me, I might as well having been chomping on a bicycle tire.

 

I’d persevered with my chewing through the pain barrier mainly because I’d been told it was easier to blow bubbles successfully when the gum had become tasteless. Unfortunately, bubble blowing—like knuckle cracking, tongue rolling and finger whistling—was just one more thing my young body seemed physically incapable of doing properly. I’d begun the same way as everybody else, flattening the gum against the back of my teeth, slowly opening my mouth, pushing a little of the gum forward with my tongue, and then blowing into the proto-bubble thus created in order to get it to inflate. But no matter how hard I’d blown, the process had always seemed much harder for me than for everybody else, as though I’d been the only one trying to inflate a rubber welcome mat.

 

Occasionally, after what seemed like hours of excruciating effort, I’d managed to create a barely swollen, bright red bubble, which then formed the perfect complement to my massively swollen, bright red face. Far more often, though, I’d succeeded only in sending the gum shooting at high speed toward whatever happened to be directly in front of me at the time—be it a TV screen, a streetlight or the back of the school janitor’s head.

 

Remembering this period of my life, I looked down again at the haphazard scattering of black dots around my feet. It was entertaining to imagine every single one of them representing some earnest eight-year-old’s failed attempt to blow a bubble. I smiled and then I sighed. Ah, here I was yet again treading the grim, familiar path to the bank. However much I preferred to dwell on what had long gone, my thoughts were always eventually dragged back kicking and screaming to what was yet to come.

 

Like so many people around the world these days, I spend much of my time worrying. I have a mortgage I have to meet, a son starting college this year, tax demands and utility bills I can barely pay. Too little money comes in, too much money goes out—and the entire rickety edifice of my finances is built upon a job with no security. What if I get sick? What if I’m made redundant?

 

Perhaps this was why I found myself looking on the black marks scattered here and there across the sidewalk with such wistful nostalgia. I didn’t miss the gum. Not really. What I missed was the carefree nonchalance with which I had once chewed it.

 

© Bun Karyudo and the BunKaryudo Blog (2017)

(All Rights Reserved)

Trying to Hang On

The white plastic disk is much the same size and shape as a piece from an Othello board game, and is easily the most useless thing in there. Even as I type, I can see it out the corner of my eye, tucked between the stapler and the scissors, trying desperately not to be noticed. I’m not sure how the magnet-less fridge magnet ended up in my drawer. At some point, it presumably became detached from its magnetized base and tumbled from the fridge. It must have been quite a fall to take it around four corners and through a couple of doors into my desk.

 

I pick it up between my thumb and forefinger and examine it carefully. I’m not surprised it’s been hiding. There’s not much call for a fridge magnet that has to be superglued to a fridge. What on earth can be done with such a thing? Too small for a doorstop, too light for a paperweight and too simple for Fourier-transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometer—the truth is, all that remains of the fridge magnet is a worthless, plasticky lump that’s not much good for anything.

 

I try not to think about my job.

 

No, I have to remain firm and focused. It may seem harsh, but given my extensive paperclip and rubber band collections—not to mention my fine selection of colored pencils—space in the drawer is tight, and so I simply cannot allow any freeloading. Every item in there has to contribute if it’s to justify its keep.

 

Still, it can’t have been easy for the poor thing: its entire purpose for existence ripped away from it like that. In the end, I decide the best I can do is try to use the magnet-less magnet as the inspiration for a short essay. If I succeed, the plastic disk will be able to hold its non-existent head up high and live among its fellow drawer-dwellers without shame. And if I fail? The wastebasket looks up evilly and grins.

 

So, magnets…

 

Like many people, I found them fascinating as a child. I remember, for example, a lesson in elementary school in which the teacher pushed a bar magnet slowly toward little round magnets scattered here and there on a table top. Each of the round magnets in turn moved slowly backward at the bar magnet’s approach, something I found it highly amusing at the time. Looking back on it from this vantage point, I find it stirs uncomfortable memories of my university days and the success my geeky friends and I enjoyed as we attempted to meet women during student parties.

 

I suspect this image may surprise some people since the more natural association of magnets with romance is of opposites attracting. In fact, this also happened at the student parties—individuals being drawn irresistibly together from opposite ends of the room until with a final snap, they locked firmly at the mouth—it just didn’t happen to me.

 

So let’s jump again, this time to a happier memory from when I was about ten or twelve. I remember being in a variety store and passing a display of cheap compasses, really little more than toys. Having just enough money, I decided to buy one. As I looked carefully at the various needles and their orientations, I realized I had an excellent selection of norths to choose from and I wondered which to go for. I really had no idea. In the end, I shrugged my shoulders and selected the one pointing in the most interesting-looking direction. This was admittedly a slightly unexpected episode since compass needles are supposed to be permanent magnets, but I guess sometimes, permanence isn’t eternal.

 

Of course, some magnets are in a sense not actually magnets at all, but are instead temporary electromagnets created through the use of electric currents. This is the technology I get to see close up whenever I go through the metal detector in an airport. And then get to see close up again 3 seconds later. And then again. And again. My hand luggage gets off no more lightly, since it’s being blasted with X-rays at the same time. And even after all that, I am very often asked to open my suitcases for inspection when I arrive at my destination. Some readers may make the very reasonable suggestion that security staff might simply never before have seen someone passing through an airport with a bag on his head, but in fact, I generally remove my bag when I travel by airplane to ensure my appearance matches that shown in my passport photograph.

 

Despite these past run-ins with magnets, however, I find that on balance, I’m glad magnetism exists. After all, if the phenomenon in all its forms were to disappear tomorrow, we would immediately run into very great difficulties. First and most obviously, the notes on our refrigerators would fall instantly to the floor. A related issue, and one almost as catastrophic, is that refrigerator doors would no longer stay closed. They would therefore have to be tied shut with, say, a firehose or a bedsheet wound up to form a rope. The devastating problems this would cause when trying to get milk for our cornflakes in the morning are almost too terrifying to contemplate. As well as this catalog of horrific aftereffects, it may also be worth mentioning in passing that the entire universe would—according to the science website I checked two minutes ago—completely disintegrate. Needless to say, this would also be something of an inconvenience.

 

So despite the problems I have with it at airports, I think I may decide to keep magnetism after all. This bighearted decision on my part will not only allow the universe to continue existing, but also help organisms as diverse as sea turtles, pigeons and monarch butterflies avoid getting lost as they go about their lives. This is because these creatures—and many others—are thought to use our Earth’s magnetic field to help them find whatever destinations they seek.

 

The most interesting example of all is probably that of the European robin, a smaller and cuter fellow than its North American namesake. Research suggests this remarkable bird may literally be able to see magnetic fields as variations of shade superimposed on its normal view of the world. Even more remarkably, it seems the ability depends only on the bird’s right eye, which has to see sharp and well-defined images for this magnetic sense to work properly. The scientists know all this because special goggles were created to allow changes to be made in how clearly the birds could see out of each eye. “European robin goggle maker”—now there’s an occupation to put in your passport.

 

I can’t help feeling a little envious of the robin. Hoped for successes, dreamed of achievements—I have cherished destinations I’d like to navigate to in my life too. Sadly, I have little idea how to reach most of them. How much easier it would be to have the equivalent of arrows superimposed on my world to point me in the right direction. As a bonus, when it came to social interactions, perhaps fate could add helpful annotations.

 

  • “Speak now.”

 

  • “Smile here.”

 

  • “Pause and look thoughtful.”

 

 

But navigation through life for we mere humans is a far less easy thing, for fate has decided not to provide us with any such helpful hints. Whether the choice before us is trifling or massively consequential, often there is nothing for it but to shrug our shoulders and choose whatever lies in the most interesting-looking direction.

 

 

 

© Bun Karyudo and the BunKaryudo Blog (2017)

(All Rights Reserved)

Flowers Grew on Me

I never thought much of flowers when I was a boy. Other than the occasional enhanced interrogation of a daisy for the purposes of gathering romantic intelligence, I had no real use for them. It wasn’t that I actively disliked them, but rather that I simply couldn’t figure out what on earth they were good for. I had a lot of time for their big brothers, trees, but with the best will in the world, it just isn’t that easy to climb a daffodil.

 

Adults often told me that flowers were breathtakingly beautiful or overwhelmingly exquisite, but when I looked intently at, say, a buttercup—my head cocked to one side and my finger on my chin—my own personal level of whelming never got anywhere near over. Flowers looked okay, but throughout my childhood, I was seldom moved emotionally by anything unless it was served with ice cream or covered in a chocolate coating.

 

As far as I could see, flowers were little more than petal-laden bribes to insects, and I couldn’t help noticing I wasn’t an insect. Unsurprisingly, I was more excited by bribes aimed directly at my own species, such as strawberries, raspberries or blackberries.

 

Indifferent as I was to the blooms themselves, however, I was much more enthusiastic about the types of place where flowers were often found. A grassy expanse covered in buttercups and clover, for example, was a thrilling place to run around with a jam jar and try to catch bees, butterflies or hoverflies. Riverbanks and the margins of ponds were even better. Yes, there were flowers to be found there, but I preferred poking around among the stems trying to coax froglets to jump into my hands.

 

Flower-strewn hedgerows were another place where all sorts of wonderful things could be found—hairy caterpillars, snails, and spiders, to name but a few. The creatures in all these environments were endlessly fascinating. Slugs moved around on slime—how cool was that! Toads caught things with their tongues. Spiders could construct amazing webs. But all the time in the background were flowers, seemingly not doing anything beyond grinning inanely.

 

When I entered adulthood, I realized flowers did have uses after all. Women seemed to be particularly fond of them for some odd reason, so they became a convenient and easily purchased token of affection for any female member of my immediate circle. As I got a little more sophisticated in their use, it became clear that blooms could even convey messages. In other words, I could say it with flowers, as the slogan goes. A bouquet of golden peonies, pink roses, poppies, dahlias, and maiden-hair fern, for example, said, “Congratulations on your wedding!” Three tired looking tulips in a plastic bag said, “I remembered it was your birthday seconds before the supermarket closed.” And of course, the messages could go both ways. Nothing said, “Don’t forget next year!” like a tulip stem rammed up a nostril.

 

As I’ve become older, I’ve gradually begun to appreciate flowers for themselves rather than as a kind of glorified email for use on special occasions. In part, this is because I’ve now lived in the city for many decades. Indeed, since I’m in an apartment building, I don’t even have a garden. As is so often the case in life, I didn’t appreciate what I had until I no longer had it. My wife and children, on the other hand, grew up in the city, so do not feel the loss of connection to the natural world in quite the same way. The only real knowledge my children have of flowers is through playing a video game called Plants Versus Zombies. I don’t have the heart to tell them that real gardening is rather different. For one thing, it doesn’t usually involve bazookas.

 

Another reason why my attitude has changed is probably as a side-effect of middle age. No longer able to keep pace with caterpillars and slugs, I have had to settle instead for any parts of the natural world that still move more slowly than I do. On those occasions when I am able to make it to a park, I’m relieved to find I still retain sufficient speed and agility to catch up with clumps of flowers before a change of season withers their blooms.

 

But perhaps the biggest single change of all has been my slow but steady development of greater appreciation for shades and contrasts, hues and color tones. There may be all sorts of possible explanations for this phenomenon, but my own best guess is that this is yet another response to the passing years. Now that my hands have the sensitivity of boxing gloves and my range of hearing has restricted to the point where I can just about catch an air raid siren approximately three inches from my head, I’m fast running out of sensory options.

 

© Bun Karyudo and the BunKaryudo Blog (2016)

(All Rights Reserved)

 

 

NOTE: Today’s post is a slightly rewritten and expanded version of one that has already appeared on my blog. My apologies to those who have seen parts of it before, although it was from the very early days, so I don’t think there will be many of you! I’d have preferred to write something from scratch, but there was just no time, so I thought a half-new post was probably better than no post at all.

Nothing of Note

Not a thing…

 

Not a single thing…

 

As I leaf through the pages, I find myself becoming increasingly alarmed. I can see nothing, not even page numbers. What on earth am I going to write about? It may sound as though I’m blaming my notebook here, but of course this would be a silly way to frame my problem. I’m actually blaming my notebooks. I have four of them and they’re all responsible.

 

There’s really no excuse for this lack of results. The notebooks are kept in strategic locations on and around my person so they can generate ideas around the clock. No matter the time day or night, there is always a writing surface of some kind nearby where new comic ideas can materialize. Without these notebooks, who can tell where the jokes might be forced to appear? The kitchen wall? The tablecloth? My eldest son’s forehead?

 

My notebooks vary considerably in size and shape, enabling them to fill different roles in my comedy production line. Unfortunately, these precision-engineered inspiration-capture-and-containment devices have been of no real help to me at all this week.

 

Consider, for example, my navy blue notebook with its heavy-duty plastic covers. It boasts an impressive 10 x 7-inch page size, yet although this means vast expanses of pristine writing surface are available for the appearance of comedy gold, literally nothing has turned up on any page for well over a week now. That’s right! My notebook has not seen fit to provide me with anything at all! Not even so much as an elementary school fart gag. It has been a lamentable performance and has severely shaken my faith in this notebook’s abilities. Given its current form, I’m not sure it could come up with a suitable first line for a knock-knock joke.

 

Perhaps I’m expecting too much in this case given that, strictly speaking, my navy blue notebook isn’t actually a notebook at all, but rather a washed-up 2014 Business Diary in search of redemption. Oh, I’m sure it had its excuses. No doubt it could cite sluggish economic conditions or natural lows in the production cycle for its failure to shine during its big year. But the fact remains, from the beginning of January to the end of December 2014, the only entry it managed in twelve whole months was, “Wed, March 5th: staff meeting.” That’s a lot to try to explain away with volatility in herring prices and the unexpected strength of the Albanian lek

 

Now I don’t remember precisely what went on in 2014. When I try to look back at it, I discover it’s hiding behind 2015, so I can’t see it clearly. I’m even prepared to admit that 2014 arrived during something of a lean spell for me in my career, coming as it did slap-bang between leaving high school and the present day. Nevertheless, I simply cannot believe a single staff meeting in March is an accurate reflection of the no doubt stellar work I was doing at the time.

 

My black and green notebooks do not even have this excuse of being originally intended for some other purpose. They are pocket notebooks and fit easily into almost any jacket or coat. I try to carry one or other about with me at all times. Rather than deciding on a clear favorite, I alternate which of them I take with me because I’m trying to engender a healthy spirit of rivalry between them. In this way, they will attempt to outdo each other in the production of comic gems.

 

That, at least, is the theory. But this week, they have let me down badly. A careful look through both of them just before writing this essay confirmed what I’d already suspected: neither has done a stroke of work for over a week. Personally, I fear they may be trying to set up a cartel. The logic is clear. By working together to severely disrupt the flow of jokes, they hope to drive the price of humor through the roof, allowing them to make exorbitant claims for whatever tiny amounts they do produce—even jokes so weak they should really be propped up in bed with some cocoa.

 

Who can tell what outrageous payment demands they may make? Drop capitals in all opening paragraphs? Illuminated borders? Plastic lamination of individual pages? No matter what they have in mind, though, they will soon find that writing gags for me is no laughing matter. I’m not by nature a cruel man, but I do have a steely determination when it comes to my writing. I’m afraid I’m quite prepared to rip a page or two right out of a notebook if I feel a lesson is in order.

 

The last of my four notebooks, the grey, is the one I feel sorriest for, and also the one I’ve been most disappointed by. Unlike the others, it has only a soft paper cover rather than a hard plastic one. Originally, I tried taking it to the office with me in my workbag, but being unable to protect itself as it got pushed, squeezed and jostled, the notebook soon became little more than a tattered shadow of its former self.

 

Such heroic sacrifice could not but be respected, and so I began using the robust blue notebook to take to work with me instead and gave my battered grey one pride of place on the bedside table. Whenever I’m lying awake in bed late at night and seeking humorous inspiration from the ceiling, the grey notebook is the one that always manages to produce the best jokes. I’ve come to rely on its input and trust its judgement. But this week, I opened it up wondering what it would have in store for me and found there was nothing at all.

 

Despite my disappointment, there’s no way I would resort to physical threats with the grey notebook. It has already suffered quite enough in the cause of comedy. Unlike those shiftless good-for-nothings the green and the black, the grey is clearly trying it’s best. It’s simply that, given the way it has been knocked about over time, it’s no longer the notebook it once was.

 

I suspect the fact I’ve been so exhausted recently has not helped either. I’ve slept like a log for the past week, and so have not been there to encourage my faithful friend by oohing and aahing admiringly as it came up with its puns and one-liners. It’s even possible the poor old thing found it difficult to concentrate on producing humor with all the snoring I was doing in the background.

 

So I’m afraid, much as I wish it weren’t so, I have absolutely nothing to write about for my blog this week. This being the case, I have no option but to cancel today’s post and hope that by this time next week, my notebooks will have begun supplying me with topics again.

 

 

 

© Bun Karyudo and the BunKaryudo Blog (2016)

(All Rights Reserved)

 

 

NOTE: I’m afraid a family health situation means I probably won’t be around much until January. I apologize, for that, but with luck everything will be back to normal in a few weeks. (This message is likely to be on my site for a while, so please feel from to ignore it from now on.) 

Falling Down and Looking Up

It’s the direction in which I’m least proficient and the one I think least often about. Perhaps it’s not surprising that I regard it a little differently from the rest. After all, compare it to the other directions. I often have occasion to move, say, left or right. The morning walk from my bedroom door to the bathroom would be impossible to survive without my ability to sidestep two frantic teenagers as they race up the hall one way with an undershirt over their head and then hop down it the other trying to put on a second sock.

 

Forward is very familiar too. There are all sorts of things—dinosaur skeletons, huge insects, candy bars—that have always had the power to mysteriously draw me forward as if by magnetic attraction. I barely have to move my legs. And as for backward, it’s a direction I explored not twenty minutes before starting to write this post.

 

“GrRAARGhh, GrRAARGhh, GrRAARGhh!”

 

That’s approximately the noise my wife made. Most of those grraarghh’s were probably words, but if so, they were quite unrecognizable at the speed at which they came rocketing in my direction and exploded around me.

 

I’d been asked to look after the stew for twenty minutes while my wife popped out. I’d definitely given it an outstanding, high-quality stir shortly after she left. But then time had played a nasty trick on me by accelerating massively when I wasn’t looking. I assume the entire population of the world must have been running about at comically high speed like the Keystone Kops, but I hadn’t noticed because I’d been hard at work with my iPad sketching out some keys ideas for this post on Angry Birds.

 

This prank on the part of time meant that when my wife returned, I hadn’t yet had an opportunity to give the stew a fourth, a third or even a second stir. Yet despite this, there was still very nearly half an inch of water at the bottom of the pot and the kitchen hadn’t burned down. As you might expect, in her relief, my wife took careful aim and bombarded me with all sorts of gratitude.

 

“GrRAARGhh, GrRAARGhh, GrRAARGhh!”

 

Sheer humility then forcing me to step backward out of range.

 

Of course, some may be resolutely unimpressed by my proficiency at moving left and right, backward and forward, aware that all four of these directions exist within the same geometric plane. Such an attitude would be rather unfair, however, since I also have tremendous familiarity with down. In fact, it’s probably the easiest direction of all for me since I can get there with virtually no effort on my part, particularly after a heavy frost or a snowfall. I can also truthfully boast that I am able to locate down when drunk, although total inebriation on my part has been a rare state for several decades now, and it’s possible I may have lost my edge.

 

I’m even capable of finding down in pitch darkness, such as at four o’clock this morning when I woke to find an earplug had fallen out and so had to scramble about on my hands and knees over the bedroom floor trying to find it. Failure in this mission was not an option if I wanted to have any chance of returning to sleep, but this left me with a problem. I didn’t want to wake my wife, which meant I had to search for the earplug without making any noise she could hear and without turning on the light. Sadly, my skills in bat-like ultrasonic echolocation were not quite sharp enough for the task.

 

In the end, I dealt with this tricky situation by using my smartphone as a flashlight. Not only did I succeed in finding the missing earplug, but I even managed not to get distracted and start playing Angry Birds while I was down there. My iron resolve on this matter was admittedly made easier by the fact that I don’t actually have Angry Birds on my smartphone, only my iPad.

 

Now, anyone who has managed to follow my ducking and diving, weaving and sidestepping until this point in the post, will notice there is still one direction I have not yet talked about, namely, up. This is the one I obliquely referred to in my first sentence. I think I may have said something at that time about not being very good at traveling in an upward direction, but I’m not sure because I said it way up there at the top of the page and that’s a lot of climbing.

 

It’s true that up requires effort. Perhaps an even bigger issue for me, though, is that it simply rarely occurs to me to raise my eyes that far. In the street, I pay some attention to what my feet are doing. It’s never a happy experience to find myself treading on chewing gum, broken glass or small dogs. I also make a certain amount of effort to notice what is in front, to the left, to the right and even behind me. This is generally how I avoid adorning the front grille of buses, taxis and delivery trucks with my presence.

 

Up, on the other hand, is a direction I’ve often struggled to see as relevant. Obviously, I am not making the extreme claim that I never look upward. I may glance at the sky before I leave my apartment, for example, to check if I need an umbrella. Similarly, on the way back home in the evening, I’ll occasionally walk along the street while gazing at the moon. It’s safe to do so at that time; the dogs have all gone to sleep.

 

In general, however, I don’t look up nearly as often as I look in other directions. There are some advantages to this. For one thing, it explains how it is that I can happily type out this post despite being sandwiched between my wardrobe and my bookcase. It’s because I only ever seem to notice what is in them, but remain strangely oblivious to what is precariously balanced on them. Thus, the prospect of my inevitable doom under an avalanche of child artwork, forgotten certificates, photographs, Christmas wrapping paper and old Amazon boxes has never interfered with my productivity as a blogger.

 

Yet although up has never meant very much to me, I had a surprising thought about it recently. You see, ever since I was old enough to be aware of politics, and regardless of whether I personally agreed with their policies or not, I’d always regarded the presidents of the United States with a certain awe. All of them, even the frankly second-rate ones, were in a sense representatives of certain powerful ideals, like democracy, tolerance, liberty, opportunity and equality. It was a kind of looking up I’d been doing for years. I only realized it for the first time last Tuesday when I finally stopped.

 

© Bun Karyudo and the BunKaryudo Blog (2016)

(All Rights Reserved)

 

 

NOTE: I’m afraid a family health situation has arisen recently and it means I’m not going to be able to spend nearly as much time on WordPress as I’d like. With any luck, everything will be back to normal by about early January, but until then, I’m going to be pretty tied up much of the time. I intend making a real effort to continue posting once a week, and of course, I’ll definitely respond to all commenters and stop by your blogs. Much of my other reading is likely to be unavoidably curtailed for a few weeks, though. I sincerely apologize, but it’s really beyond my control. (This message is likely to be hanging around for a while, so please feel from to ignore it from now on.)