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The Chang Sisters

We don’t know much about the Chang Sisters other than they were monks who had taken a vow of silence at the Tiger Nest monastery in Bhutan. They keep to themselves, don’t cause any trouble, and they manage our communal kitchen as well as anyone, so no one feels the need to pry any further. Still, all of the residents of the Phalanx are very curious what their story is, none more than I.

I started hanging around the kitchen after morning supper to help them clean up, but mostly to watch them. They may have taken a vow of silence, but that doesn’t mean they don’t communicate. They seem to be of One Mind, completely connected, and I’m certain there is some sort of telepathic communication between them, but I’ve learned they also employ a secret coded language they’ve shown me hints of.

Their system involves egg cartons (specifically 18-egg cartons) and the ancient Chinese text, the I Ching, or Book Of Changes. The system seems rather simple, yet I still have no idea what they’re saying. I discovered that the way they rearrange and/or remove eggs from the carton translates into symbols. Each row of three eggs, depending on the number of eggs in the row, can represent a solid or broken line. Three lines form a trigram and the eight trigrams that are the foundation of the I Ching represent everything in the universe: heaven, lake, fire, thunder, wind, water, mountain, and buttocks.

Buttocks.

Buttocks.

I love buttocks.*

With the eight trigrams the sisters are then able to construct the 64 hexagrams (six lines), along with the Judgments, that make up the I Ching. Thus, using only a carton of eggs, the Chang Sisters have a perfect little microcosm of the universe with which to communicate.

While they’ve coyly revealed their method of communication, I have yet to understand it, but I get the sensation that it is not of this time, or of this world. They seem to be divining from another dimension for a present that resides in a dachstant future.

#61 Chung Fu.

JUDGMENT: Inner truth. Pigs and fishes.

Good fortune.

It furthers one to cross the great water.

Perseverance furthers.

*The Meatmen, “Buttocks.”

 
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Picasso Horse

This collage began as a sketch, but it caught the attention of a publisher I had worked with previously and they liked it enough to use it for the cover of a book on gambling. The book is now out of print, but I think it was titled, The Handicapper’s Guide To Chariot Racing.

Anyway, the horse has changed. The horse did not have that look of horror on its face when I made this collage. At that time, the horse was happy, or at least normal—I don’t know much about horses—now, however, he looks positively terrified.

The reason for the terror, I’ve gathered, is because the horse has learned that his body was not drawn by Picasso but by me. Apparently he was under the impression that he was a great work of art and worth a lot of money. Upon learning that he isn’t a Picasso, he’s become rather violent. I know where his confusion comes from, but I swear we talked about this.

What happened was I was at LACMA walking past a Picasso when I overheard someone say: Pfft, my kid could do that.

I’ve heard the sentiment many times and I always think, yeah your kid could do that, your mom could do that, anybody could do that—but they did not do that, Picasso did that.

And that’s when it suddenly occurred to me: wait, can I do that?

I’ve always presumed I can do that, but I had to admit I had never tried. Seems pretty easy. But then Picasso did once say: it took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.

Is making child art that difficult? I decided to find out by trying to replicate a childish Picasso.

The image I chose to copy was a drawing titled, “Battle Of The Centaurs III,” which features a couple of ham-fisted centaurs scrawled with a stubby pencil—just garbage. My attempt isn’t exactly like Picasso’s horse, but it’s “close enough for jazz,” as I like to say. (I like to say that because jazz sometimes sounds like a group of people learning how to play their instruments.)

I thought the horse understood his body’s provenance, but apparently not. The horse, of course, is furious. He demands that I provide him with a body by Picasso, or—much like Frankenstein’s Creature—he’s promised to murder my friends and family.

Pfft, my kid could do that.

 
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Teddy Bear Picnic

If you go down to the woods today / You're sure of a big surprise.

If you go down to the woods today / You better go in disguise.

For every bear that ever there was / Will gather there for certain because.

Today's the day the teddy bears have their picnic.

The tune of “Teddy Bear's Picnic” (originally titled, “Teddy Bear's Two-Step”) was written by John Walter Bratton in 1907. The words were later added by the Irish lyricist Jimmy Kennedy in 1932 and, at the time, it became a hit song. It also was the soundtrack for a number of popular movies during the silent film era. I was surprised to learn that the song was also part of the Grateful Dead’s repertoire—apparently Jerry would play it as a tuning song between jams. It was the Dead’s adoption of it that made me think, “What a peculiar song,” and wonder if there wasn’t something more to this ridiculously innocent piece of music.

Indeed, it was clear from my initial research that the song is not what it seems. It appears, for instance, that “Teddy Bear’s Picnic” is, among other things, an alien incantation disguised as a children’s song. I’ve been given to understand that large congregations of teddy bears gather a couple of times a year at secret locations, usually in a Designated Bear Meadow (DBM) near the junction of three rivers, where they create a ceremonial circle out of silver pearls and summon beings from a distant star. The teddy bears get drunk (sacred mushrooms may be ingested), they sing and dance, then they perform their queer picnic song. Apparently the song is an encoded signal that is transmitted to the distant star, Alnilam, at the center of Orion’s belt. Soon after, an astronaut from Alnilam would arrive in the center of the circle, impart some secret teddy bear knowledge, distribute space honey, deliver some encouraging words, and then return to Alnilam.

We’ve learned from Bratton’s recently released journals that he didn’t compose “Teddy Bear’s Picnic,” but rather wrote it from memory after hearing it performed at a teddy bear ceremony that he purportedly attended. Bratton, it seems, was a member of a secret New England society with origins in an ancient Celtic bear cult (likely Druidic).

 
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Wigs

Before a major battle in the French countryside with the Devil Rat forces that occupied the territory there at the time, Dacchus requested advice on how to crush his opponent on the battlefield the next morning from one of his favorite oracles: Vivian Verimetal, The Jungian Young One, aka The Lady Of The Lake. For the price of a pillowcase filled with four weeks worth of dreams, she’ll answer any question you ask.

Unfortunately for Dacchus, at the time of his visit, Vivian’s talents were much in demand due to the anxiety surrounding the troubles. Because delivering her divinations to clients took up the majority of her time, she had abandoned customer service altogether and outsourced it (quite literally) to the plants in the box outside her windowsill. Vivian would convene with the spirits at the bottom of the lake and obtain the prophecy, as usual, but then she would telepathically send the prophecy to the plants who would type it out for the client. This allowed Vivian to focus on her primary talent of divination while continuing to provide excellent customer service to her clients. Plants are naturally very friendly.

That was the idea, anyway. The problem was that Vivian’s plants were having difficulty learning to type. Or using language. Or both. Plants are great at counting—how else do they know when to seed?—they’re great with numbers, but words? Not so much.

For instance, in Dacchus’ transaction Vivian’s answer was: WINGS.

As any good general would know, this meant: air attack. Employ your ravens, your jays, use your long distance artillery, etc.. But Dacchus never received this valuable advice because instead of WINGS the plant forgot the N and typed: WIGS.

While Dacchus managed to escape the defeat unharmed, his forces suffered heavy losses. The scavengers on the field after the battle were surprised by the wide array of brightly colored hairpieces strewn across the muddy grounds, which included two of the four wigs that Dacchus had donned for the skirmish.

When Dacchus next visited the Lady Of The Lake, he didn’t bother with any questions. Instead he lifted his leg and pissed all over the plant.

 
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Hail Ursa

Not many people know that Hera first changed Callisto’s son, Arcas, into a sea monster—a magnificently disgusting creature with slimy tentacles in all the wrong places. When Zeus found out what his wife did to his illegitimate love child, he was pissed. He was like, Hands off the kid, Hera. Not cool.

Then, to show that he was serious, Zeus made his wife’s insides come out of her ears.

Hera said, Fine, fine, whatever, I’ll change the kid back, just put my gutty bits back in my ear.

Zeus returned Hera’s insides to their rightful place, but the second Zeus turned his back, Hera transformed the boy’s mother into a bear.

HAHA! Hera exclaimed. Now you’re a bear!

I’ve always wondered, why a bear? I mean, a bear is a creature with few disadvantages. Obviously, in going from nymph to bear, Callisto would have to make some lifestyle adjustments, but it doesn’t seem like much of a punishment.

Anyway, while Callisto roamed the forest as a bear, her love child, Arcas, grew up to become King of Arcadia. He did quite well for himself and was famous for his hunting prowess. One day while out hunting Arcas came upon a great bear and he raised his bow and arrow to shoot it. The bear, of course, was his own mother, Callisto. Having not seen her son in so many years, and forgetting that she was a bear, Callisto approached with open arms to embrace her son. Arcas took aim, but just before he fired his bolt, Zeus intervened and turned him into a bear also. (What’s with all the bears?)

Zeus then put the mother bear and her little bear into the heavens (presumably to avoid future complications?) where they are now known as the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.

Ursa Minor is also known as the Little Dipper with the Polaris star marking the tip of the handle. The handle traditionally correlates with the Little Bear’s tail, but I can’t help thinking that it’s a leftover tentacle from Arcas’ brief stint as a sea monster.

HAIL URSA!

 
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16 HANDS

The ancient Egyptians had a rather gruesome, but efficient, system for determining how many enemies were killed in battle and how to pay their soldiers (who were presumably working on commission?): in order to get paid, every soldier had to cut off the right hand of every enemy he slew. Soldiers were compensated only for every right hand they presented.

I learned of this practice because archaeologists recently uncovered a pile of 16 right hands in the sands of Egypt. A pile of hands in the sands.

Dacchus experienced this weird nonsense in the underworld firsthand. And Dacchus wondered: what do they do with the hands after they count them?

They make wine with them. Hand wine. Dacchus tasted this disgusting concoction and determined it delicious. Dacchus enjoyed the Egyptian hand wine so much that he decided to start his own right hand winery when he returned to the surface. First order of business, we need a name.

Hand Made Wine

My Right Hand Wine

Wine Made Right

Liquid Applause

Handshake Winery

Hand To Mouth

All Hands On Dreck

Don’t Drink The Hand That Feeds

Hands Sup

Cool Hand Puke

Palm Plonk

Stigmata Cellars

Hooch Of Palms

Slit Wrists Mitts

Cabernet Sauvignpalm

Hands Down Best Wine Ever

Wriestling

Plonko De Mano

The Phalangerist

Hand Job Wine

The Middle Vinger

Wine Maintenant [for the French impaired: maintenant = now, main = hand]

Thumb Screw Vineyards

What Did The Five Fingers Say To The Face?

Finger Lickin’ Good Vino

Liquid Knuckle Sandwich

The Palmmelier

Hand Jive Juice

Pinky Ripple

Thunder Finger

Fingo Vino

Thumbsucker

The Taste Of One Hand Clapping

Nail Salon Winery

Dacchus surely missed a few, so we look forward to your contributions. Plaze.

 
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Bear Crab

Tania was at Art Basel a couple weeks ago and she would often share the restaurants she visited with me. One of these was Klingeli. At Klingeli, Tania ordered the spargel, or white asparagus, for her main. Spargel season is pretty exciting in Europe. For Europeans. I mean, spargel is good, I like it, but it’s just asparagus. Albino asparagus, sure—asparaghost?—but it makes your pee stink just the same as regular asparagus. Le même chose.

As I was perusing Klingeli’s other menu offerings I paused on the surf and turf.

SURF AND TURF … 49.

Entrecôte, Bear Crab, Cima Di Rapa, Kritharaki, Cauliflower, Jus.

Wait. Bear crab? What the fuck is bear crab? And why didn’t Tania order that?

“Tania, why didn’t you order the fucking bear crab?”

She did not respond to this question because, presumably, she was stuffing spargel in her face. I would have ordered the bear crab. For the simple reason that I require an answer to the minotaur question: is it a bear body with a crab head, or a crab body with a bear head?

My first thought was: bear body, crab head. As evidenced by the vintage illustration shown here.

Here’s the best thing about the teddy bear crab (as it is also called): “Despite its name, it is not friendly and shouldn't be housed with other crabs.” Does not play well with others. You know why? Because it carries weapons. No kidding: the teddy bear crab picks up poisonous, stinging anemones and uses them to fight off predators and catch prey. And, as I learned, they aren’t the only species that does this. Boxer crabs, aka pom-pom crabs, also wear stinging anemones as gloves. It gets even weirder.

“Researchers discovered that removing one anemone from a Lybia leptochelis crab induces a splitting behavior: the remaining sea anemone is split into two clones which subsequently regenerate into two intact sea anemones. A crab with no anemones will steal from another crab, both splitting their lone anemone into two.”

So, yeah, I would have ordered the bear crab. Apparently it comes with a side of whoop ass?

And do you know what the best way to eat a pom-pom crab is? Raw, raw, raw.