David Raffin

Cursed objects and the purchase thereof

Not every item at The Old Curiosity Shop is cursed. In fact, those that are we keep safely behind the counter. You may only gaze upon them in the presence of our highly trained staff. Touching is forbidden unless you are over the age of eighteen and are certified to handle cursed objects. We will not sell a cursed item to any customer without a full background check and a waiting period.

An exception to this is the cursed item grab bag by the door. Pick a box, any box. You never know what you will get and that is part of the fun. As always, re-gifting from the grab bag is forbidden. You get what you get and what you got is yours and yours alone.

Some items, however, are magical without the added onus of being cursed, per se. There is no extra charge for this. The magic, we give away. This saves the consumer from having to pay the magic tax, which can be hefty.
No magic tax on any item bought this year. We eat the magic tax. Literally. We transform it into cupcakes that we sell next door. Please stop by on the way out. This is how we pass the magic tax back onto you.

Buy three objects and you may refer to them as a Trinity. No charge.
The Old Curiosity Shop. Unending Bargains! Ceaseless Havoc! Eternal Joy! Constant Dread! Free Parking! Soundproof Walls!

A shadow’s nose

The famous image of a nose scrawled all over the world in graffiti, a running joke or a profound statement that something has gone off?
Is it based on one specific person’s nose or is it based on an amalgam of every kind of nose; an everynose?
The answer is, of course, “no one knows.”

Mark Of All Trades: An Interview With DEVO’s Mark Mothersbaugh « The WILD Magazine

Great interview in The Wild magazine with Mark Mothersbaugh of DEVO.

The people that are able to influence our world the most are evil! But their techniques work! We were impressed with Madison Avenue, that they could talk people into doing things that were bad for them. But what if you used those techniques to spread good information?
[…] It seemed that subversion worked better in our culture than rebellion.

Mark Of All Trades: An Interview With DEVO’s Mark Mothersbaugh « The WILD Magazine.

Their last album was Something for Everybody.

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The Taoist Farmer

A man who lived on the northern frontier of China was skilled in interpreting events. One day, for no reason, his horse ran away to the nomads across the border. Everyone tried to console him, but his father said, “What makes you so sure this isn’t a blessing?” Some months later his horse returned, bringing a splendid nomad stallion. Everyone congratulated him, but his father said, “What makes you so sure this isn’t a disaster?” Their household was richer by a fine horse, which his son loved to ride. One day he fell and broke his hip. Everyone tried to console him, but his father said, “What makes you so sure this isn’t a blessing?”

A year later the nomads came in force across the border, and every able-bodied man took his bow and went into battle. The Chinese frontiersmen lost nine of every ten men. Only because the son was lame did the father and son survive to take care of each other. Truly, blessing turns to disaster, and disaster to blessing: the changes have no end, nor can the mystery be fathomed.

The Lost Horse,
Chinese Folktale.

As told by Ellen J. Langer, in” The Power of Mindful Learning,” Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley, page 99-100. (1997).

More versions of this story here.

Witness the kitty cat

A Hapgood and Fowler erotic adventure

Hapgood stared at the crime scene. Actually, he stood at the crime scene, his back to the area of the actual crime. In front of him sat a black house cat. The cat stared to the left of the actual crime scene. Hapgood carefully observed every  subtle move the cat made. Behind him a small group of lower-level detectives scoured the scene for evidence.

Fowler walked over and stood at Hapgood’s right. “Ball Peen Hammer,” said Fowler with the tone of one who is discussing the weather. “Rusty.”
“Mildly interesting,” replied Hapgood. “But this cat. This cat undoubtably knows something.”
“Undoubtably,” replied Fowler.

The lower-level detectives paused activity and watched Hapgood and Fowler. “I think Hapgood and Fowler are on to something,” one of them whispered to another.
“Undoubtably,” said the other.
In the law offices of Clark and Frederik, Clark entered Frederik’s office and sat down. There was blood splatter all over his suit, heaviest on the right side.
“Did you use the rusty ball peen hammer?” asked Frederik.
“Yes,” said Clark.
“Good. Did anyone see you?”
“Just a cat.”
“That’s probably all right.”
Back in their office at the station Fowler held the cat in his arms, slowly stroking it. “Have you seen this?” he asked. He tugged at the collar around the cat’s neck. Attached to it was a name tag.
“No,” said Hapgood. “I have, until now, concentrated wholly on the behavior of the cat.”
Emblazoned on the tag was one word: “Witness.”
“A name?” asked Fowler.
“A description,” said Hapgood.
“At least he is a friendly witness,” said Fowler.
“Yes,” said Hapgood. “Not like the badger.”

“Ball Peen Hammer,” said Fowler.
“Rusty?” asked Hapgood.
“Yes,” said Fowler. “I feel like I’m repeating myself.”
“Two could be a coincidence,” said Hapgood. “I wouldn’t put a lot of weight on it yet.”
“Slow and steady wins the race,” Fowler said.
Hapgood was watching a hamster run on a wheel. Fowler joined him. Behind them detectives worked on a second crime scene involving a rusty hammer.

“This rodent was in a perfect position to see everything,” said Hapgood.
“That is true,” replied Fowler. “He could not have left the scene. But I would like to point out that doesn’t mean he was watching. He could have been looking the other way. He could have had his eyes closed. He could have been blinking.”
“Can you murder a man in the blink of an eye?” asked Hapgood. “What do hamsters dream about? Was there something more interesting to look at in the room at the time?”

“Those are some intriguing questions,” said Fowler. “I’m not sure how we can get answers from the hamster.”
The younger detectives stopped detecting and looked toward Fowler and Hapgood in wonder.
Frederik walked into Clark’s office at the firm and sat. Blood splatter covered the left side of his suit, as he was left handed. “Volley,” he said. “Your turn.”
In the office of Hapgood and Fowler sat a very happy cat.
“The cat ate the witness,” said Fowler.
“One witness ate the other witness,” said Hapgood. “Don’t worry, we’ll get it in the end.”
‘The press are calling these the ball peen hammer killings,” said Clark.
“What about the fact that the hammer is rusty?” asked Frederik.
“Papers are rife with inaccuracy, I’m afraid,” said Clark.
“They are missing the whole point,” Frederik said.
“A cat is curious,” said Hapgood. “A hamster is perfectly positioned to see everything in a room. But a bird can talk.”

In front of Hapgood and Fowler stood a grand cage, and in that cage a parrot.
“Extraordinary,” said the rookie detectives gathered in their wake. “Tremendously exciting. All senses aroused.”
The bird looked directly at Fowler and said “Murderer.”
Hapgood asked, “Did you commit all these crimes?”
“I am afraid,” said Fowler, “That the eyewitness testimony is strong.”
“You’ll need a lawyer. Luckily, these cards have been at every scene.”

What you see

In all fairness, the wicked witch was also known to screech “What a world!” when she was extremely happy.
So, for the half-observant monkey – all was well.

Things in which

Things in which some people believe: miracles, daydreams, me.

Things one can be the prince of: peace, darkness, frogs, whales.

Places you can rock: you can always rock the Casbah.
Times in which you can rock: all night (but only if you party every day), around-the-clock, ages.

Things that come in packs: wolves, cigarettes, fools, some inclined animals, mentalities, lies. Malarky comes in bunches.

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I came here to praise Robert Sheckley.

I came here to praise Robert Sheckley.

He was a prolific short story writer. In the fifties and sixties his work was featured in many of the science fiction magazines of the day (and there were more of them then.) Sheckly was witty. He could write a hell of a story about an alien who burned down orphanages on many planets.

I have all of his old short story collections. Some of them are tattered. One of my favorites, Shards of Space, is the most tattered. It is almost split in two. It came that way. The lady at the used bookstore, years ago, said, “I’m only going to charge you a quarter for this, but I won’t buy it back.” As if I would trade back a Sheckley collection.

While a master of the short story he did write a small number of novels. They tend to be episodic in nature, novels that are really groups of short stories with the same characters. Novels such as Journey Beyond Tomorrow aka The Journey of Joenes. This is a great novel presented as the biblical text of a religion in the future which follows the life of Joenes, who travels the world before and after WWIII. Intermixed is ancient myth. There is also political commentary about McCarthyism, the book was written in the late 50s.

For a time he lived not 50 miles from me and I regret that I did not go see him. My friend Richard F. Yates was also a fan and Sheckley was mostly forgotten as an author by then in the US. He was considered a master of the golden age abroad and died while in Russia speaking about his work in 2005.

A number of his stories that appeared in Galaxy magazine were adapted for radio and appeared as episodes of X Minus One. Here is the episode The Native Problem. (By the way, the ebook of The Status Civilization is free.)

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