Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

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Like my brownhouse:
   crop circles and UFOs
Sunday, May 17 1998


n Saturday night, Wacky Jen heard from Nicole Truxell (a writer for the the C-ville Weekly) that a pilot had spotted crop circles in an abandoned farm's hayfields a little to the west of Charlottesville south of Barracks Road. Nicole had checked these out and found them to be for real, and was apparently working on an article for Tuesday's issue. Wacky Jen called me today and asked if we wanted to go explore these for ourselves. I'd just woken up, but it sounded like our sort of adventure, so I said "sure."

Wacky Jen rendezvoused at Kappa Mutha Fucka with an older, balder gentleman named Durwood who was also interested in seeing the crop circles. Durwood was eager to go immediately, but nothing happens rapidly at my house, especially if Johnny Boom Boom is coming along. So Durwood headed out to the purported site of the crop circles ahead of us. In good time, we also got going. In our contingent was Jessika, Johnny, Deya, myself and Wacky Jen.

Our destination lay behind a gate that was clearly posted "No Trespassing." That's nothing in the general scheme of obstructions, so we continued on, through moderately big hay fields, most of them uncut. The "crop circles" were supposed to be in one of these fields, but neither we nor Durwood could see anything. We ended up exploring a burned out farmhouse for awhile. It was full of fire-distorted treasure: a stereo whose face had melted Daliesque and whose last record, a Loretta Lynn L.P., looked like frozen ripples on an alien pond. A toy tractor trailer rig had been so deformed we had trouble telling what it was; to me it resembled a miniature work by the 60s abstract sculptor John Chamberlain. Jessika also found two bottles of perfume shaped like cats and an Elvis with melted hands.

Durwood was impatient to keep up the search for crop circles, so we got back to the task at hand. He thought he could see them from beyond the farmyard in a field we'd already passed, so we doubled back to look again.


e found them alright. They were set up in the pattern of an equilateral triangle, each angle (as well as the triangle's center) having a circular swirl of crushed grass. Each angular swirl-circle was connected to the central swirl-circle by linear paths of crushed grass. The angles and distances looked to be precise though it was impossible to get a good sense of it except from the air, and we didn't have an airplane. There had been no path leading to it originally, but of course after our arrival (and departure), there were all kinds of paths.

Big deal, so we'd found the crop circles. They weren't so spectacular. Only Jessika wanted to believe they'd been formed by alien space crafts. Wacky Jen had a far more mundane explanation; that they'd been created by art students whom she vaguely knew. But then one of us saw something surprising in the air: two specks of light very far apart a little above the eastern horizon, traveling rapidly southward, gradually changing in brightness until they vanished completely. We all looked up and could clearly observe them. They were going far too fast to be weather balloons or even military jets, and they made no sound at all. I'm not shitting you about this either, we all saw them, even our straight man, Durwood. What we'd seen had been, not to be too mysterious or anything, unidentified. And flying. And, it would appear, they were objects as well. Hmmm. It would have been appropriate for Scully and Mulder to suddenly be seen wading towards us through the waving waist-high grass.

In the middle of that big hay field there had been no shelter from the Sun. We were all covered with sweat. What else could we do but go for a swim?


acky Jen headed further west down Barracks Road through extremely wealthy horse country. The houses were enormous edifices, every one of them a palatial mansion, though some were clustered together closely in the ultimates of upscale developments. Some genius had evidently discovered that the land wasn't important to city slicker millionaires, and as long as they had their houses, the vast tracts of surrounding bucolic scenery could be dispensed with.

Along the westmost edge of the relatively flat land, where the uninterrupted foothills begin in earnest, a wide stream called Mormon's Creek runs south to north. The creek, relatively undeveloped and pristine, has exposed a number of large rock ledges, outcrops and even cliffs. Those in the know from Charlottesville's sticky streets frequent it in droves on hot summery days such as this one. The place we were headed was somewhat off the beaten track to the south, a place called "the Rock." As we approached it, we encountered Joanna Road Rage flying towards us from the opposite direction in her enormous brown Volkswagen Vanagon. Aggressive as they are, they came very near colliding on the narrow gravel road. She was just coming back from "the Rock," disappointed to find the adjacent field (the place where one parks) taken over by some folk festival and that sign said it was "by invitation only." Such signs might be enough to stop Joanna Road Rage, but not us, certainly not Jessika or Wacky Jen. Jen was sure she could sweet talk the folk music people if they presented any resistance. We drove in past the gate amongst the vehicles of the folk music people and parked and climbed out without anyone raising any objection. I guess the sign at the front was mainly intended to keep rednecks from showing up and sexually harassing all the cute hippie chicks; I know that can be a big problem when you're trying to organize Earth First! gatherings.

Even if there had been a problem, it turns out that we knew a good fraction of the folk musicians we saw playing, and they surely would have smoothed out any problems with, say, a security detail. Har har.

We made for the water and all of us except Johnny Boom Boom took off the bulk of our clothes and hopped in. Johnny sat in the shade smoking cigarette after cigarette, occasionally chuckling and saying, "Oh my Ged!"

Despite my aquatic incompetence, I was able to doggie paddle across the deep part of the creek to the sand and gravel bars on the other side. Little kids over in the finer part of the sand bar waged a momentary sand battle until one of their mommies told them to quit. When they dispersed and I had access to the sand bar, I built a sand castle in the shape of a pentagon with three turrets. Wacky Jen came along and added little grass stems to the top of each turret, like banners. She and I stood back and looked at it briefly and then spontaneously took turns narrating a "historical account" of a civilization along this river that was attacked by another culture that had perfected the military art of stone skipping. As we narrated, we skipped stone after stone into the structure, causing minimal damage. Before long, we'd completely exhausted the cobble bar of all its flat stones. At this point our ongoing narrative spoke of the "discovery" that skipping rocks was no longer necessary. This discovery was explained by Jen (in the manner of Adam Smith) as being partly the result of a depletion of the "resource" of flat rocks. Hurling stones directly, "it was found," worked even better, no matter what shape they were. Our throwing lots of round rocks exposed a fresh new layer of flat rocks, and our narrative then spoke of a "retro movement" in military history, back to the art of stone skipping. After we'd completely leveled the castle, we summed up the narrative by saying that intrepid search parties had finally landed at the ruined castle and discovered that it had never been occupied, and that no one had really known why war had been waged against it for generations.

That "narration" was all very entertaining and provoked much laughter, but when I was a little kid, my brother and I used to do such tandem fantasy-play narrations all the time as we played in the stream or with our toys.

On the other side of the river, we sunned ourselves for awhile longer as folksy blue grass music wafted over to us from under the music tent. Too bad there was no hot dog stand.


n the way back to Kappa Mutha Fucka, we stopped at the Barracks Road Taco Bell, where most of us had Gorditas, but not Jen or Johnny. Jen was almost apologetic for getting bean burritos instead. She usually tries as best as she can to do as Romans do whenever in the Taco Bell.

Once home, Deya discovered that Turtle of My Head Talking (an online journal based in rural Maryland) had swung by [on his way home from camping in the Peaks of Otter] and pinned 16 Megabytes of RAM to my bedroom door, what a pleasant surprise.


fter I'd spent a long time secluded in my room, I came downstairs to find Shonan and Natalie visiting, while Morgan Anarchy, the boy Jesse and Johnny Boom Boom socialized on the front porch. I found myself chatting with Shonan and Natalie. They have more of an intellectual bent than most of the Kappa Mutha Fucka crowd. We soon found ourselves talking about the joys, challenges and pitfalls of journal keeping. It turned out that all three of us keep or kept detailed journals, but I'm the only one who actually lets the world read mine. Natalie uses a computer for an entirely opposite feature; password protection makes her feel secure that she really can say whatever she wants, resting assured that no one can read it {always a problem with a written diary, excepting the one I once wrote completely in fake Greek [which Nancy Firedrake can read, by the way (I know this because she told me what crazy stuff I'd written on the back of Cello Music)]}.

We were all, by this point, drinking Natural Ice. I was especially impressed by how quickly Shonan and Natalie were putting them away.


esse suggested that we all go to a nearby water tower on the top of the hill above Fontaine Avenue and start a camp fire. That sounded like fun to all of us except Johnny Boom Boom, who always objects to the possibility that he might be forced to walk more than, say, a block.

We gathered up a backpack full of beer and some cardboard for starting a fire and set out. The trail up the hill to the water tower was impossibly dark, and Johnny refused to go, lagging at the bottom of the hill in a basketball court behind some UVA faculty apartment.

At the front gate of the water tower is a large pile of lumber and debris removed from the UVA grounds. There's more than enough firewood for a camp fire every night of the year. Morgan and Jesse got a fire going in short order, we drank a few more beers, then we climbed the fence to get to the water tower itself.

It was a broad, hockey puck-like structure, a different shape than most water towers I've seen. It sat directly on the ground, a big metal water tank. A ladder went up the side, but the bottom section of the ladder had a shield over it barring access. It wasn't much of a blockade; Morgan and Jesse easily climbed around it, as did Natalie and I once they explained their technique to us. Shonan couldn't get it, and he stayed behind at the camp fire while we all climbed to the top. It was at least forty feet tall.

On top of the water tower was some large crude graffiti that Morgan and friends had put up there years ago. Now it was all defaced and meaningless; during a fit of paranoia during the Big Fun era police impoundment of Ray Snabley's car - decorated with similar graffiti - they'd climbed up the tower and obscured most of their creations. Walking around on the surface of the tank or stomping on it made all kinds of loud strange noises that echoed and reverberated throughout the structure ominously, giving rise to doubts of its overall structural integrity. The sky above was almost completely pristine. The clear dry cloudless air let down the star light while scattering almost none of the artificial light of Charlottesville, very little of which could be seen directly even from this high vantage point.

Back at the campfire, Natalie, Shonan and I had a long drunken discussion about one of my favourite subjects, survival of the fittest, and the fact that we - our genes and our rules of social conduct - are the way they are because they had to be that way for us to make it to the present day. I try to use evolutionary principles to explain all the quirks and characteristics of humans, usually with surprising success. Shonan was mostly agreeable to my line of reasoning, but not Natalie. I guess she prefers less reductionistic, more poetic explanations. As I began deconstructing romantic love to a simple force for maximizing reproductive fitness, she nearly threw a fit. She was so intoxicated that she had difficulty coming back with any satisfying counter-arguments, usually resorting to shouts of "fuck you!" and disappearing briefly into the woods to urinate. She's much weirder than I'd thought.

By this point, Morgan and Jesse had retreated down the mountain, bored by our drunken stabs at intellectual conversation and dismayed by the sudden realization that all the beer had been depleted.

[Meanwhile Johnny Boom Boom fell asleep in a little tyke playground. Eventually a cop showed up to investigate. He told Johnny to put his hands in the air, but not to wave them like he just didn't care. After Johnny explained to the cop that he was lost, I guess the cop told him how to find his way back home.]

See a photo essay describing today's crop circle excursion.


one year ago

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