Smashing!


And then it happened.  Despite all of my careful planning and practicing, I forgot everything I was going to say.  This is a common occurrence in college students when we are forced to do presentations.  We are meant to read our papers but to not stare at it.  We are supposed to just sort of glance down, absorb all the words, and then spew them out like a vocabulary sponge.  The problem with this method is that it is quite easy to lose one’s place, which leads to one becoming flustered.  Once one is flustered one inevitably starts to babble nonsense because the silence is just too awkward.  I had lost my place, and i could feel the fluster rising in my bowels like a vengeful eagle.  I had a choice to make, and i chose instead of being sad to be smashing!

My thought process.

You see, there is a recent (or perhaps not so recent, I do only get internet access in my cave once a week) internet fad in which one replaces someone’s face with the face of Nigel Thornberry.  Above is a great example, but there are many others, like this one

The movie would have been much more smashing like this.

If you don’t know who Nigel Thornberry is, then I pity you, because you missed out on a big part of the late 90’s and early 00’s.  Nigel is a character from the cartoon “The Wild Thornberrys,” in which Nigel and his family traveled around the world making animal documentaries.  He described things that he liked as “smashing!”  You probably wont find this post amusing in the slightest if you never watched the show, but if you are a truly devoted fan of my blog and wish to slog through this post, then more power to you I suppose.  Now, where was I?

Ah yes, my paper.  I had worked on this particular paper for over 3 months, it was my senior thesis after all, and I had forgotten literally everything about it and had lost my place while reading.  I think it was about crime in ancient rome… or maybe fish.  This was bad, but don’t worry, gentle reader, for I was not in any true danger.  The penalty for messing up one’s paper had been recently reduced from beheading to a mere 13 lashes from the ol’ cat o’ nine tails, but even though death was not a possible outcome, the situation was quite perilous indeed.

“Ahem,” I said, clearing my throat.  What could I do?  Smashing, I need to be smashing!  And so I became smashing, as smashing as even Nigel Thornberry himself.  Once the transformation was complete, I remembered everything.

A brief depiction of my metamorphoses.

“You know what?” I said, picking up my papers and tossing them in the air, “Who needs these old things?  I’m sure that you and I are quite done with hearing papers read, am I right?”  There was a general nod of assent from the audience.  some of the sleeping people had even woken up from the fluttering noise of my paper blowing out the window.  I gave the room a quick look around until my eyes finally rested on an individual who had been on his computer during all of the presentations.

“You!” I said, pointing at him.  He jumped in his seat and looked around, wondering who I was pointing at, until he realized that there was no one near him.  He pointed at his chest and mouthed the word “me?”

“Yes, you!  Come hither.” I beckoned with one of my fingers.  He came to the front and stood before the podium.  “What is your name, lad?”

“Roger.”

“Smashing!” I turned back to the audience and gestured to roger. “Roger is going to help me demonstrate the difference between manifest theft and non manifest theft in ancient rome.”  I set a pen on the podium and then turned around to face the wall.  So far, so smashing!

“Now, Roger,” I said, still facing the wall, “If you would be so kind as to take my pen from the podium and then signal once you have accomplished this simple task.”  I waited for but a few moments until I heard a slight cough from behind.  I spun about.

“You rascal!” I roared, “You’ve stolen my pen!”  Roger looked absolutely terrified.  He held out his hands in protest and began mumbling something about me telling him to take.  I laughed, which seemed to calm him somewhat.

“Roger, Roger, Roger… this is just a demonstration!  I know you didn’t actually steal my pen.  This was merely a demonstration of non manifest theft.  If the audience will recall, I didn’t find out anything of mine had been stolen until after the deed was done.  That’s why it’s non manifest!  I didn’t actually see it happen  Now, if you would be so kind as to return the pen to the podium, we can continue.  Good, that’s good.  Let’s give a round of applause to Roger here folks.  He’s doing a great job.”  The audience, now all interested in what I was doing, politely clapped.  Roger seemed to be encouraged by this, and he puffed his chest out a little.

“Now, roger, I would like you to once again steal my pen, but this time I will be watching.  Go ahead whenever you are ready.”  Roger strutted over to the podium and plucked my pen off of it with a flourish.  The audience gasped a little at his boldness.

“You rascal!” I roared, “You’ve stolen my pen!”  Roger gave me a quite demeaning look and smiled.

“Yeah?” he asked, holding his arms out wide and turning to the audience, “and what are you gonna do about it, nerd?”  He barked out a harsh laugh and I grudgingly gave Roger a mental commendation.  He was playing his heart to perfection.  The audience booed him and shouted that he should return the pen to me this instant.  Smashing!

“Why,” I responded, pulling a gladius, a Roman style sword, from it’s hiding place under the podium.  Roger turned at the hair raising sound of metal scraping. “Kill you, of course!  Such is the cost of manifest theft, you simple fool!” I raised the deadly blade high for a killing blow.  It’s metal glinted harshly off the fluorescent lights, and for just a moment, we could imagine that we were not in a science classroom at all, but were instead standing on the blood soaked sands of the arena.  I was a mighty executioner, Nigelus Thornberris, and Roger was but a runaway slave, condemned to death by stabbing.  Such spectacles were common enough in the Roman world, though not as popular as the gladiatorial bouts that brought such fame to the colosseum.  He looked up at my sword with fear in his eyes, but I had no pity.  Killing was my business, and business was good.

In a flash, it was over, and we were back in the science room, with it’s cold tile floor and institutional overhead florescent lights.  Roger was on his knees, his hands clasped before him, pleading for his life.  All of the bluster that had characterized his performance beforehand was gone.

“Roger,” I sighed, shaking my head and lowering my gladius, “Roger, Roger, Roger… I’m not going to kill you!”   Roger sagged with relief.  The audience muttered in disapproval.

“Oh thank god,” Roger breathed, “for a minute there I thought…”

“That’s the guards job!  Guards!”  Two praetorian guards burst into the room in full battle gear and marched over to roger, who backed away in fear.  They quickly closed upon him and grabbed him, and then dragged him away.  The bewildered Roger couldn’t seem to decide between screaming “No!  Nooo!” and  “What?  How?”

“Smashing!” I laughed as he was dragged out the door, “That guy had been pissing me off with his incessant typing for the past hour!  How rude!”  The audience followed my example and burst into laughter as well.

“Now, if you would permit me,” I sad, pulling out a collection of papers from behind my back, “I would like to continue reading my paper.”

“Smashing!” They all responded, and so I read.

Smashing!

Sunday in the Renaissance with Brian


I like Renaissance festivals.  There’s something magical about being able to step back in time to a long forgotten age.  I should know, I do it often.

“What, you go to medieval fairs a a lot?” you might ask

No, I’ve only ever been to three or four.  I actually travel back in time, or at least used to.  I’m a time traveler.

“What?”

Yes.

“Time travel?”

Indeed.

“Like doctor who?”

No, no!  More like Hiro from Heroes, I just sort of wish myself there and suddenly, with a glint in my eye and a twinkle in my toes, I am whisked away to a new age.  It’s all terribly complicated, so I’ve drawn a diagram to help you understand:

In step 1 we see that I am in a normal house with a dog outside. If we then go to step two, we can tell that something has changed. I am now in a castle, with a plague rat outside. This is time travel

But I found that with time travel comes a host of other chores that one must inevitably complete before being able to go home.  They include but are not limited to: storming castles, slaying monsters, rescuing princesses, assassinating Caesar, impaling heads on spikes, putting spikes through heads, completing dark druidic rites and cooking feasts.  The list goes on and on, but the one thing that all of the items have in common is that they are a chore.  We time travelers grow tired of them after a while, and so we often find ourselves attending modern re-creations of the past such as civil war reenactments and Renaissance festivals.  It helps us when we are jonesing for the oh so familiar thrill of traveling back in time and we aret required to save any kingdoms.

And so it happened that my friend Brian and I decided to visit the Georgia Renaissance Festival a couple days ago.  I was very excited.  One of my favorite things about renaissance festivals is the people who inhabit them.  They are consistently interesting and irresistibly bizarre.  Look at this guy, for instance

scary guy

A medieval batman, perhaps?

I could tell it was going to be a good trip, but even as we entered I began to notice some striking dissimilarities between this festival and the actual renaissance.  First off, though there was a frightening, obviously insane woman sitting in mud and playing a wooden flute at the gates, I failed to find any dead peasants in the gutters or in the street.  It is inattention to detail such as this that detracts from the overall festival experience.  The nerve!  I decided then and there that once I got back to Birmingham I would send a strongly worded letter to the host of the event with my suggestions to increase historical accuracy.  Take the water, for instance.  It was clear and drinkable, and I didn’t even taste a hint of syphilis.  Preposterous, I know, but it only gets worse, I’m afraid.

historical inaccuracies abound at the medieval fair

Where are the hanging bodies of thieves? Where are the indentured peasants tilling the fields? WHERE IS THE AUTHENTICITY?

A blast from a horn caught Brian’s attntion, and we followed the sound to a stick thin 40 something year old man who was dressed in all black and had a purple feather sticking out of his hat.  Rediculous!  I assumed that he didn’t know that purple dyes were very expensive during that time, and the color was reserved almost exclusively for royalty.  I held my tongue, however, not wanting to ruin what ever it was he was about to do.  He told us to wait because, as he put it “I am going to do stuff.”  It turns out that he was a hypnotist, but not just any hypnotist, mind you, he was in fact the worst hypnotist on the planet.  My patience had run thin.

“A hypnotist?” I asked him, scoffing, “Absurd!  Hypnotism wasn’t even invented until the 19th century, a good 300 years after the time period for this fair!  How do you explain that?”  He looked at me for a long time.

“Shut up kid.” He said dismissively, and then began his act, which involved telling a woman that he was going to hypnotize her, asking her to close her eyes, and then pushing her on the ground and saying He then passed around a hat that we were supposed to put money in. I was about to challenge him to a duel upon the jousting lists when my friend Brian dragged me away.  He must have known what I had been thinking.

I glanced back at the terrible hypnotist one last time, and saw to my terror that this man was watching me with great interest.

Who does he think he is? Blade? A monk? A Serial Killer? All three?

“Your costume is horribly inauthentic!  People didn’t have leather coats like that back then!” I shouted at him.  He merely eyed me and took another sip from his mug.  I count myself lucky that I never saw him again, though I am quite certain that on some lonely, dismal night, many years from now, I will be in my room, writing, when i hear a tinkle of broken glass from the living room.  I will walk into the room to discover this man standing in the exact same position and in the exact same costume, and the last words I will ever here will be “Who’s inauthentic now?”

We made it to the jousting lists just in time.  Some horribly obese women who were wearing disturbingly tight corsets were trying to sell the crowd $5 pennants to support a knight.  Apparently, each side of the arena was assigned to a knight who would be jousting and you were meant to cheer for only your knight and boo the other one.  Our side was the fated to support the evil Amadeo, a rakish scoundrel from Italia, whose horsemanship was as sharp as his goatee, and who would win at any cost.

You can tell he's evil because he's wearing red and black. Oh, and because he's FOREIGN

I was reather pleased with our choice in seating.  This Amadeo seemed like a real go-getter, and I was certain he would bring us victory.  I squealed with glee as none other than King Henry VIII himself came on to the field and sat on his throne. The referee knight on the field began a long diaribe about jousting and rules and honor and other such nonsense that I’m sure I would have completely ignored if I would have been able to hear, but as it was I could hear nothing other than the inane fool standing right behind me with a cart full of beef jerky who was shouting”BUYYYY MYYYYYY JERKYYYYY!!!” about every 5 seconds.  Whenever his voice became tires he would take out a bell or whistle or horn to make as much noise as possible.  I turned and gave him the most irritated look i could muster.

“Has anyone ever bought our jerky?” I asked scornfully.  He thrust out his chest defiantly for just a moment, until his whole body sagged and his head drooped down wards.

“No.  Never.” He cried as tears dropped from his eyes.  I felt a pang of pity for him, and nearly reached out to console him, when he suddenly lifted his head, still crying, and tilted it slightly askew as he extended to me a ragged piece of beef jerky.

“So would you… would you buy one?  My beef jerky?” He asked, his hands shaking.

“No, never.” I replied dryly, turning my attention to the joust that was just about to take place.  The ref seemed to have finished and the games were about to commence.  We had all come to see some knights in full armor ride horse and hit each other with things.  Preferably lances, but any other sort of weapon would have been acceptable.  What we got instead was a insulting farce of  knights charging wooden dummies and catching rings out of the air with their lances.  Amadeo’s opponent caught more rings, and so he was pronounced the winner.

“Absurd!” I roared, standing up and waving my plastic beer cup around, sloshing it’s delicious contents on the spectators around me.  “We came for blood!  Blood damn you, blood!”

“What’s that peasant saying there?”  King Henry roared back, shoving himself out of his seat and pointing an accusatory turkey leg at me.

“He says he wants blood my lord!” said the referee knight.  Ridiculous!

“Blood?  Blood!  Ha Ha!” The king laughed.  His face suddenly darkened, and he looked right at me and in a deep, threatening voice said “Then blood you shall have.  A Joust!”

“A joust!” shouted the ref.

“A joust!” cheered the crowd

“A joust?” asked the knights, suddenly worried

“Yes!  A joust!” King henry confirmed.  He waved at some squires who brought at wooden lances to the knights, who eyed them nervously.  It was at this point hat I was beginning to wonder whether these guys were even real knights at all, or if they were just actors that the festival hired.  A horn was blown, and in a flurry of hooves and flash of steel they charged, their magnificent beasts racing down the list towards one another at breakneck speed!

a Joust

It was quite thrilling!

The day was getting better and better.  The knights were actually pretty good at jousting, and the crowd was really getting into it.  We cheered, we gasped, we booed, we cried!  After two bouts, however, the king stood up and looked at the ref angrily.

“What’s this?  Why are they still using these practice lances?  Go on!  Bring out the real ones.”

“But my lord, is that… legal?

“I will make it legal.  I’m the king, after all.”

“But, my lord, I don’t think that we should…”

“Guards, take this man to the tower!” He ordered, and several armored me approached the ref and pulled him down from his horse.  The dragged him off while he screamed “Noooo!”  The crowd stood up and cheered.  This was great fun!

“You there!” said the king, pointing at one of the squires, “You’re the new referee, but don’t disappoint me.  You know the price of failure!” A scream cut through the hot afternoon air and ended in a sickening crunch.  “Now, bring out the real lances!”

The squire climbed up in the old ref’s horse and nodded at two other squires who went fetched the lances.  The knights must have looked very worried indeed, but as it was we couldn’t see their facial expressions inside their helmets.

“Much better!” The king said, sitting back down.  “Now, commence the joust, and may the best man live!”  The crowd roared it’s approval as the knights took their positions.

“Amadeo will surly win this one!” I said to the little kid next to me, “He’s a real go getter.  Plus, he’ll do anything to win.  That other guy is toast!”

“But, won’t they die?” asked the kid, looking up at me with worried eyes.

“Well, yes, but it’ll probably only be one of them who dies!  There’s no need to worry, Amadeo will win!  You do want Amadeo to win, dont you?”

“Um… yes?”

“Good boy,” I said, ruffling his hair.  The horn blew and the knights thundered towards one another and we stamped our feet and hooted like howler monkeys.  When the two met, the sound of steel upon steel rang out across the land, and we all held our breath in anticipation.  When their horses finally parted, my side of the lists began to cheer like madmen.  Amadeo’s lance had gone straight through the other guys chest, killing him soundly!  I turned to give the kid a high five, but he had gone.  The king stood up and we grew silent.

“Well struck, Amadeo!  You are this days champion!”  He screamed.  We cheered even louder as Amadeo took a victory lap.  Our revelry was cut short, however, by the arrival of police officers who arrested the King and shut down the festival.  He had apparently gone mad from the heat of his robes.  I heard that he was thrown in jail after a long trial, and his daughter Mary took over running the festival.  She proved to be a poor ruler as well, and was deposed so that his third daughter Elizabeth could take the throne.  One of my friends went last sunday and said that she was a fair and just ruler, at least compared to her predecessors.  Such is the way of the world, I’m afraid.  The best renaissance festival I have ever been to also happened to be the most illegal.

But Oh! To Be Freshly Pressed!


I am currently enrolled in a class at university called “Roman Republic and Empire.”  We have learned many things, but the most interesting fact to have lazily drifted into my mind is that the penultimate goal of the Roman experience was to win a Triumph.  A Triumph, for those of you who have not taken Roman Republic and Empire, was a parade for a conquering General, where he was allowed to ride in a chariot with four white horses as the citizenry of Rome cheered his name and shouted insults at his captives, who were towed behind the general in chains.  It’s where we get our word triumph from.  The triumph was the highest honor a Roman could receive, and was the dearest wish of every Roman citizen since time immemorial.

Triumph General

A roman general in Triumph. Note his four white horses, legionary standard bearer and captives.

“This is all well and good,” you may be saying as you slowly lose interest, “but what does this have to do with anything?  Your title has nothing to do with the Romans.”

“Why, my dear Watson!” I would respond, shaking my head and chuckling to myself, “My title has everything to do with the Romans.  Did you not know that WordPress.com has it’s own triumph?”

“Conrgoblin, whatever are you talking about?  How could you have a triumph on wordpress?”

“By becoming freshly pressed of course!  Now be quiet and listen.  Everyone who creates a wordpress blog hopes to one day become freshly pressed.  It is our goal, our dream, even!  Just like the romans of ages passed, we want our own triumph.  To become freshly pressed is to be victorious!”

Tomb Robbers triggering a booby trap

Here we see some tomb robbers becoming "freshly pressed" by a clever booby trap. Their prayers for mercy will most likely go unanswered.

But what is being freshly pressed?  Blogs that are freshly pressed are displayed on a special tab on the main page of wordpress.com!  As you might expect, this brings a great increase in traffic, which in turn will greatly increasethe ammount if people who follow your blog if it is good, or increase the amount of apathy or even hatred you receive if your blog is bad.  I have often thought that the worst sort of comment a blogger could ever receive would be a self styled Ignatius Riley replying to a post with a mere “Ho hum.”

I have always yearned for the honor of becoming freshly pressed.  There are of course criteria that one must meet to even be considered.  I have included a list of the criteria here, for your reading pleasure.

The Criteria of Freshly Pressed

1. Write unique content that’s free of bad stuff.  This includes language, images and other nasty things.  No wonder I have yet to be pressed!  I break this rule all the time.  You may have noticed the pictures in this post have deviated from my standard “google keywords and then post the image’s that a find with some pithy title” approach to blogging.  All of these new images are painstakingly hand drawn, and are owned by yours truly.  I also have written a single swear word in this post so far!

2. Have visuals.  Checkity-check!  I use visuals all the dam… err… darn time!

3. Sacrifice a bull on a full moon.  What a happy coincidence!  I do this anyway.  Well, I say that “I” do it, but that’s not entirely true.  I get my cult to help me, too.

Cult of Cybele Sacrifice

A fairly accurate depiction of our monthly meetings.

4. Cap off your post with a compelling headline.  I think all of my headlines are compelling, especially this one

That’s really all there is to it!  When these four things are completed, there will be a knock on your door.  Don’t be afraid.  Go and answer the door, but make certain to open it with your left hand.  If you have no left hand, than you must use your left foot.  A man wearing a trenchcoat and fedora will be waiting for you.  You will not be able to see his face, nor would you want to!  He will extend his hand, and you must give him exactly 3 trout fins, which he will eat.

How to be freshly pressed

The proper procedure in the vitally critical "presentation of the trout fins" stage.

Warning: Do not look away.  It is important to have your head bowed but still be able to watch him.  Upon consuming the trout fins, he will sing a song.  The lyrics are unimportant, but be sure to remember the melody, which you must hum back to him after he finishes.  Do not hum the melody incorrectly.  If you sing it back to him correctly, he will nod and leave.  As soon as he is gone, shut your door and pour salt on the floor in a protective semi-circle around the threshold, and then immediately go to sleep.  If you did everything correctly, you shall be freshly pressed the next day!  I hope this guide has helped you in your goal to become freshly pressed.  Leave a comment if it did, or even if it didn’t!  Oh, and here’s a picture of an awesome Latte I had one time.

Latte

It's from a place called Red Katz in downtown Birmingham, Alabama. Please freshly press me!

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