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Copyright © 2004 Coltrane Productions.
All rights reserved.
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Mona Lisa's 1,000 Words
We asked the author of Hodge Podge to explain what the heck it is. His response:
What is this?
It is a collection of writing from my college years. But that hardly is fair.
It is everything that isn't in Insert Stupid Catchphrase Here. That is, if it wasn't an essay or column, then it's in here. But that makes this sound like a book of leftovers.
Well, perhaps we can determine what it is by way of analyzing what its contents are. Hmmm, poetry, fiction, research reports, articles of establishment, random silliness, parodies, one-act plays. Quite a hodge podge.
A hodge podge.
Well, now it is Hodge Podge. Everything that does not fit into a neat, tidy, 100-page category. I wrote a good many things in my five years as an undergraduate, and the fact that I have no desire to write some of them ever again has only added to the urgency to bind them for eternal reference. Now, when a future employer asks me to list three materials used by the Confederate press in 1865 as a substitute for newsprint, I can look it up: wallpaper, old textbooks, and cotton rags.
Brian F. Schreurs
Front and back cover art by Todd Harry Lane
Of my compilations, this was without question the hardest to put together. It would be so easy to censor myself -- "That sounded fine four years ago, but do I want to 'fess up to it now?" I had to keep reminding myself that the point of compiling all this material was not to just have a permanent record of my major works, but also to capture that essence of the period. Once something is edited, the original inspiration for it is lost ever so slightly. Yes, I may have more current information now, and I certainly would make the additions or corrections if I were to rewrite a piece, but half the value of this volume is to see what I thought of something at the time I wrote it.
Hey, maybe I was wrong. Now we can all have a laugh at my expense for being so na´ve.
But the worst parts are the ones that reveal a little bit about the author. "Do I really want everyone to know about that?" I ask myself. I take comfort in the knowledge that most people will miss references to anything really private. Ha ha ha. I can see the letters already.
I suspect the fun for you, the reader, will lie mostly within the fiction and poetry. How much can we take to know about microorganism lifecycles? On the other hand, I still take a certain dark pride in the way I systematically dismantled and discredited the very experiment on asthma that I had worked on all semester. At least I was being honest.
Some of the material herein would require explanations for you to completely understand; a frame of reference, if you will. You will not be getting these explanations. Much like the dead mouse the cat brings home as a present, I leave these works for you to ponder alone.
Annotated Table of Contents
- "Woodchuck Reading"
- Is it possible to divine the future by counting woodchucks along your daily commute and interpreting their behavior? Probably not. But this piece explains how to sound like a raving loon from trying.
- "Ode to Zenith Computers"
- A weird little limerick.
- So, a priest, a feminist elf, a brooding mage, a dwarf named Schwingheimer, and a pickpocket decide to rob a bunch of orcs. But first they have to escape the angry townsfolk. It doesn't get any better from there. EXCERPT
- "Ode to Sylvia"
- Re-reading this ode to a former teaching assistant brings tears to my eyes... from embarrassment. Please skip over these pages.
- "All I Really Need Is Batteries for My Remote Controlled Car"
- Now, poetry isn't my favorite thing, but I still like this one. This tribute to RC cars is destined to be a classic, compiled in English compendiums for generations.
- "Avenging His Grief"
- A battle-hardened warrior in a medieval land with lizard steeds gradually comes to understand the circle of warfare as he seeks vengeance for the slaughter of his family. EXCERPT
- "An Abuse of Power"
- The bard from the previous story returns and discovers, mainly, that supporting characters are seldom ready for prime time.
- "Another Abuse of Power"
- So what happens when the line between artist and creation collapses in the middle of a science-fiction shootout?
- "The Effect of Mild Exercise on Asthmatic and Non-Asthmatic Subjects"
- The title is pretty self-explanatory, really, but the best part is that the research was a dismal failure. Rather than try to prop our bogus numbers, this report shredded the very study it was supposed to support. Attention flunky researchers: choose your writers carefully.
- "Syrup In My Stirrup"
- In one of the few songs I've ever written, a rancher laments the difficulties of enjoying a civilized breakfast on the range.
- "25 Reasons Why Small Lizards Are Better Friends Than Dogs"
- No, really, that's about it.
- "The Competitive Ability of Chlorella and Selenastrum In a Closed System"
- To this day I don't know what a selenastrum is, but the buggers breed like crazy. Good thing other critters eat them in the real world, or we'd all be speaking selenastrish.
- "Introducing the Select-O-Matic Research Term Paper"
- Before the internet made it easy to buy tailor-made term papers, we had this. Multiple-choice areas helped complete the paper, Mad Libs style. EXCERPT
- "In Defense of the Confederate Battle Flag"
- Censorship is bad, mmmmkay? Even when it's censoring things you don't like. This piece attempts to deconstruct the common arguments for lowering the Confederate flag, a hot button of anger and censorship in the states that once belonged to this short-lived nation.
- "A Collection of Great Dance Poems"
- Moving along....
- What might the classic Blue Oyster Cult song "Astronomy" sound like if you were seriously tripping? Are they really singing about the futons inside Fenwick's car? As if the original wasn't wacked enough. EXCERPT
- "Green Eggs and Hamlet"
- Oh sure, it's been done, but it's still fun to do the legendary Hamlet soliloquy in Dr. Seuss style. This one is better than the copycats anyway. EXCERPT
- "Hamlet, Somewhat Abridged"
- Let's face it, there's no such thing as too much picking on The Bard. In this attempt, I distilled the entirety of Hamlet to six characters and five minutes. A great little play for any social gathering where you have six people willing to act ridiculous. EXCERPT
- "A Discussion of Business"
- I once found myself in danger of being fired for having long hair. My response was to try to weasel out of it by writing an essay to the owner. I soon had an exciting new job, elsewhere.
- "Articles of Establishment"
- Funny the amount of paperwork you have to endure just to start a campus club. Sheesh.
- "Reaction to Descartes' Evil Genius Hypothesis"
- I once fancied myself an intellectual. I think I was a source of much amusement to those who actually were. But, at least I have a real job.
- "The Press Through the Birth and Death of the Confederate States of America"
- No, wait, it's actually pretty cool. Stop and read it. By the end of the war, newsprint had become a scarce commodity, as the Union pretty well destroyed what little industry the Confederacy had. How would you like your newspaper printed on tattered cloth? Civilization hangs by a delicate thread. EXCERPT
- "A Look at Light: I Wonder What There Is to See?"
- When's the last time you analyzed the cost of using a lightbulb? Mmm-hmm, thought so. Slacker.
- "Some Notes on the Amazon Rain Forest Crisis"
- The problem with statistics is that they're so darn easy to twist. But, with a little careful research, the truth can unravel.
- "Automobile Recycling"
- Did you know that cars are one of the most efficiently recycled durable goods ever made? This short piece takes a look at what happens to a car after you wave goodbye.
- "Tire Recycling"
- Tires can be effectively recycled, even though they often aren't. This piece takes a look at what we could be doing with them besides breeding mosquitoes.
- "Vindictive Reporting"
- Reporters are human, and as such they occasionally succumb to the temptation to use their powers for evil. When a reporter becomes vindictive, and no editor reels him in, the truth is buried under a seething mound of venom and bile. EXCERPT
- "Left Turn"
- A poem celebrating aspects of American life.
- "Georgia Avenue"
- Of course, I wouldn't street race. Street racing is illegal. But sometimes I hear things. This particular one struck me as interesting.
- A poem about replacing a car radiator? What the heck?
- A sliver of what Army boot camp was like. EXCERPT
- "Sergeant's Heat"
- ...and now I take the same scenario, and imagine what it might look like from the drill sergeant's point of view. Amusement ensues. If I wrote this stuff while I was there, I'd be dead.
- Another poem, this one about classwork. I doubt Emily Dickinson ever worried about what rhymed with "crap".
- "Hold Please"
- Can't explain this particular poem.
- "The Messenger"
- This poem's a neat little piece about shooting a rifle.
- "Noah Was Here"
- Okay, this story is worth the nine bucks all by itself. Three teens venture off to the top of a mountain, and discover open-flame pizzas, barbed-wire fences, coconuts, bogged-down trucks, and rain. Lots and lots of rain. EXCERPT
- This poem is about a deer to young to be afraid.
- They have it coming to them.
- "Something's Missing"
- This particular poem is a brief conjecture on the process of writing poems with deep inner meanings.
- "Broken Ones"
- More reflections of Army life, this time in verse.
- "Top 10 Things That Would Be Different if GM Built Computers"
- Sure, it's played out now, but it seemed cleverer at the time.
- "Dog Gone"
- What is going on in the minds of dogs? No way to know, really, but it's fun to speculate. Yet, is there something behind the stares, a message so tantalizingly close, yet just out of reach...? EXCERPT
- "The Battle"
- This is just a fun poem. I'm not gonna spoil it by telling you what it's about.
- Ever have someone dump you? Then this poem may ring true.
- "The Dangling Participle Inn"
- You had to be there.