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Fred's dreams


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December 19, 2008
I dream there is a sparse crowd in a theater watching movies of old magicians. In the audience is Chanin, my magic mentor from my teen years. I am amazed that he’s still alive, as he must be in his hundreds by now. I try to talk to him about his salt trick, but he is more interested in his nursemaid. When we leave the theater we use vampires as a mode of transportation. We climb onto them and ride them to Borgo Pass, where we have to make a transfer.

July 6, 1999
I dream Gail and I show up after having missed a day at our editing jobs. Oddly enough, we find a very relaxed place with no stress and nobody seems to care that Gail was absent. To satisfy the authorities, my boss asks Gail to write on a piece of paper that she had mono. We wind up in an entertainment environment in which a production of Dracula is playing. Dracula is about to terrorize a group of hand puppets who are in bed together. I recognize this, of course, as the original Bela Lugosi version of Dracula. Then they run an old Three Stooges short made with replacement stooges after the originals all died.

June 13, 1999
I dream I am a modern-day Van Helsing working in the last minutes before sunrise to destroy Dracula, who is played by Kelsey Grammer. Grammer has to get back to his coffin and my associates and I have to kill him. Through my palm sized computer-communicator I see that Grammer is trying to con one of them into transforming him back into a human instead of destroying him with stake and garlic. I tell my associate that Grammer is lying; he’s trying to fool you and what you should do is load Grammer’s head with bullets.


books & writingthat's what he said, by Frank Wilson

Being true to the good and bad of thine own self

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No writer is quoted more reflexively than Shakespeare, which is too bad, because Will’s best lines not only repay close attention, but often demand it. Take the advice Polonius gives his son Laertes:

This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Spoken like a true courtier, which is what Polonius is — a temporizing careerist whose summum bonum is survival. He is also a “wretched, rash, intruding fool,” as Hamlet — uncharitably, but accurately — calls him after impulsively running the old duffer through in Act III.

It seems safe to say that, for Polonius, being true to yourself means nothing more than giving top priority to your own self-interest. My guess is that, in Polonius’s view, everyone is out for himself, and that this defines the extent to which anyone can trust anybody else — which is to say, hardly at all. It is a supremely cynical outlook, and how exactly it ensures against being false to anyone else is far from clear.

There is another play in which the notion of being true to yourself figures: Ibsen’s Peer Gynt. When Peer visits the trolls, the troll king explains that the difference between humans and trolls is that while, among humans, the maxim is “to thine own self be true,” among trolls it is “to thine own self be — enough.”

But how do those differ, really? In both cases, the standard remains … yourself. [Read more →]

on the lawtechnology


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I just discovered that Facebook has a breast controversy.

According to several news sources, the social networking site deletes photos of women if they are breastfeeding… or is it that their babies are breastfeeding?  Okay, I’m a bit confused on the verbiage, but Facebook is not confused about the Terms of Use.  If you have a Facebook account, you agreed to the Terms of Use, which includes the provision that “photos containing a fully exposed breast” are subject to removal from the site.  No caveat for when the breast is being employed in a mammary fashion versus the Girls Gone Wild display that was certainly the impetus for the rule in the first place.  And thus, controversy.

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family & parentingpolitics & government

Michelle Obama — get grandma into the White House

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Michelle, you’ve got the right idea … and I am speaking from experience. Do everything you can to convince your mom to move into the White House with you. I know she’s super independent and also wants to give your family some space to be a family — my parents said the same thing — but who really needs that much space? Don’t let her get away with it. Her moving to her own place near the White House just won’t be the same as you all living under one roof.

My parents moved in with us back in June and, honestly, it’s been fantastic. I never have to run out to get milk or eggs. I get weather updates every morning so I know how to dress myself and my kids. I change 50 percent less poopy diapers. I no longer need to feed the goldfish (although I wouldn’t expect mom to walk the new puppy coming your way; however, she may be willing to walk with one of the girls as they walk the new puppy). I get to sleep in every once in a while because my kids go down to my parents and bug them to get breakfast going. When my husband needs to work late I can still go out for a coffee to catch up with a friend. When my husband doesn’t need to work late we can put the kids to bed and then catch a 10 p.m. movie without worrying about a babysitter. Every once in a while my mom will cook (and it isn’t half bad). Plus, there is always someone to get my daughter off of her school bus when my husband and I are at work.

OK, so maybe some of my benefits won’t exactly translate to things you will get (or need) from your mom. However, what you will get is a comfort that is immeasurable. Knowing that there is someone else you trust, implicitly, living in your house is the unspoken benefit. Someone else there that will help keep your kids grounded and guide them when you and Barack get pulled away. Someone to read them bedtime stories when you are not around. Someone for the girls to talk to when they need the love that only a parent or grandparent can give. And I am not sure how Marian is with sweets… but my kids always know they get a little something extra for dessert if grandma is in charge.

So, to Marian, mother to the first-lady-elect and grandmother to two adorable girls about to transition into an entirely new world, move in to the White House. Your family needs you — and besides, you will get as much out of the next four years as they will. Just ask my parents.

politics & government

Herodotus, we hardly knew ye

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The father of history is a man named Herodotus, a Greek writer who lived in the ancient times before the birth of Alexander the Great or even Richard Nixon. Herodotus has been called the first “historian” in that he made it his business to write down the story of mankind as best he could with the available information in the 4th Century B.C., which was way before Google or Wikipedia.

As a result Herodotus has been referred to, even by some of his contemporaries, as “the father of lies.” His chief sin seems to have been a willingness to report popular lore alongside verifiable fact. For instance, during the reign of the Persian king Cambyses, the evil and murderous son of the first Persian conqueror, Cyrus, Herodotus wrote that a Babylonian journalist threw both his shoes one after another at the most powerful ruler in the world during a farewell press conference in Baghdad. 

Centuries later scholars of antiquity doubt if such a preposterous event could have taken place in such a heavily guarded and hyper vigilant venue as a close quarters photo-op by a universally unpopular and commonly detested foreign monarch in occupied territory.

Clearly Herodotus was just making this stuff up. And so, undoubtedly, will our current technological state-of-the-art Geek historian — You-Tube-Us — be rejected by future generations who will be expected to believe that the President of the United States was dodging hurled shoes like some kind of Whack-The-Mole video game.

Puh-LEESE! We all know how this kind of “live” video can be digitally enhanced, altered or completely fabricated. Will we expect intelligent life forms 2,500 years from now to believe that that was a a real event featuring the actual United States President, George W. Bush, grinning that infuriatingly guilty grin of his, ducking those Iraqi soles last week?

Fred's dreams

Amusement Park

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December 21, 2008
I dream I am attending some kind of professional conference that is held in a public park. The keynote address is about to be given from the top of a pyramid shaped tower/building. The building is very crowded, but they have speakers set up so you can hear from anywhere on the grounds. Suddenly, just as the speech is about to begin, the pyramid transforms into a huge amusement park ride that looks like a windmill. The people on the pyramid are thrown upside-down and spun in various directions. People are amazed at this new innovation, and I am delighted because a) it is magical-looking and b) I am not on it.

June 11, 2000
I dream I work as an attendant on a tower of death ride. My one job is to look for problems and push a panic button. At the end of the day, I am dropped off at a mall/arcade near my house and I run into my brother, Dan, who is trying to impress a young lady. The young lady instantly takes a shine to me. I charm her by using my foot as a puppet.

October 21, 1998
I dream I awaken on the floor of a garage on the edge of a seashore amusement park. My brother and I look for an attraction called “The Murder House,” a dark ride that you can only find by going through laundry rooms and maintenance areas until you come across a creaky old service elevator made of dark, rotting wooden slats. Other people seem to know of the ride, too, and we all go onto this elevator and press “down.” The elevator descends to a frightening, awful level filled with wailing demons that reach through the wooden slats and fondle us. The demons are genuine, and I am so scared that my brother promises to sue the amusement park for me.


Drone Machines

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A former bandmate of mine went to engineering school, then scuttled the guitars to write heavy metal with…actual heavy metal. Ground Control Magazine has a great video interview up with him now showcasing the sounds of doom and apocalypse he is able to wrestle out of his huge drone machines. It’s that rare circumstance of something totally unique being created, a pairing of uber-smarts and primitive roar.  

moneyreligion & philosophy

Anti-capitalist zeal has turned some mad-at-their-dad pseudo-anarchist types into quasi Christian proselytizers

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On Christmas Eve it seems appropriate to throw out a link to a column I wrote last year arguing that perhaps my fellow secularists shouldn’t be so eager to throw out the materialist baby with the Jesus bath water when it comes to the latter’s wayward birthday party. In part:

No less a self-described “dedicated secular humanist” than Barbara Ehrenreich has declared the War on Christmas over. “Christmas is not the exclusive property of those who think God came to earth 2000 years ago as a baby in Bethlehem,” she sniffed. It’s true, if hardly for the reasons Ehrenreich thinks, although I nevertheless look forward to reading the biting piece of investigative journalism detailing her time as an undercover mall elf trying to organize the workers against a cigar-chomping, red-suited bossman with a little round belly that shook when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

One has to wonder what exactly Ehrenreich, who compared “consumer culture” unfavorably to drug addiction in her 1989 book Fear of Falling, expects the end result of a simultaneous embrace of Christmas and scuttling of consumerism will be.

She and other secular humanists might hope Christmas will eventually morph into a paid national holiday for circulating global warming petitions and unionizing Wal-Mart workers with gift buying limited to items praised on NPR programs and wine from fancy vineyards. It is consumerism, however, not class war enthusiasts and pretentious do-gooders, that has made the holiday one that transcends, without overshadowing, our religious differences. Leave behind capitalism with its multitude of niche markets and we will almost certainly be left with a much more Christ-centric holiday. Do secular humanists not remember how much they hated it when all anyone could talk about was The Passion?

that's what he said, by Frank Wilson

Progress and remembering the past

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Famous quotes are usually taken out of context. In most cases, this doesn’t pose a problem, since the fact that they can stand by themselves has much to do with why they become famous. But sometimes the removal of context can be misleading.

Such has been the case with the one-liner that has kept the name of the philosopher George Santayana alive in the public consciousness: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Even people who have never read anything else by Santayana — which probably means, unfortunately, most people — are familiar with this vatic pronouncement. It is commonly cited by politicians and pundits as the clincher to reminding us that if we do not remember the lessons of history, we set ourselves up to make the same mistakes our predecessors made. A sound proposition, to be sure, but not what Santayana was getting at.

He wasn’t talking about history. His statement makes no mention of it. He was talking about the past. And while history certainly has to do with the past, it is not identical with it. History is the part of the past that has been recorded.

What Santayana was talking about was progress. [

conversations with Paula and Robertpolitics & government

Political entitlement — liberal hypocrisy?

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Paula: All this fuss over this Governor of Illinois’s corruption. Just indict the guy and be done with it; it’s not the first time we’ve seen some corruption in high places and won’t be the last. What really gets me is how in the same breath we’re told respectfully that Caroline Kennedy has thrown in her hat for Hillary Clinton’s seat and will probably get it. Now there’s a level of entitlement, given she has no political experience and doesn’t even think she should need to run, that I find pretty unsettling.


  Robert: I did not have a negative reaction to Caroline Kennedy wanting to be Senator. I figure a certain amount of celebrity and royalty is par for the course. I may be one of those folks simply dazzled by the celebrity, but the fact is that I “like” her. I have the sense that a person like her is the type of person who could make a great senator. She’ll use her celebrity for good causes.

To continue in the same line — the governor of the State of New Jersey spent $60 million of his own money to run for Senate and won. Does that bother me? No. Why? Because I think Corzine is a good guy. If I thought he were sleazy, then I wouldn’t have liked it. But I support his views and so I do. That’s essentially what goes into the way we tend to feel about these people. If we support their views and like them, we overlook the context; if we don’t, we decry it.


Paula: But that’s what appalls me. The hypocrisy — you’re admitting to it outright. [Read more →]


Aaron Sorkin can’t handle the truth

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Charlie Wilson’s War could have been a very powerful movie but ended up being merely amusing. All this talent, all this crackling dialogue and brilliant scene direction stopped short, as if the money abruptly ran out, just like it did for the covert ops in Afghanistan 20 years ago. Yet again, Aaron Sorkin takes a whack at a complex issue and runs away like a manipulative little girl as soon as it’s time for counterarguments. [Read more →]

art & entertainmentrecipes & food

The sushi apocalpyse creeps ever closer

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Speaking of sushi and regrets, as I was on this site just yesterday, Jeremy Piven probably regrets ingesting those massive amounts of tuna sushi, since according to widely circulated news reports he’s now suffering from acute mercury toxicity, leading to neuromuscular problems, extreme fatigue, and dizziness, and making him more vulnerable to kidney failure and heart disease.  

There is considerable skepticism, particularly among those closest to him, that Piven actually has mercury poisoning.  As to where this skepticism comes from, let’s just say that, reading between the lines of some of the news reports, it would appear that the Ari Gold character that Piven plays on Entourage may not be too much of a dramatic stretch for him. 

However, Piven’s pecadilloes don’t change the fact that mercury can be present in very high levels in tuna sushi, something that I’ll bet most sushi eaters aren’t even aware of.   Add that to the disturbing ubiquity of sushi in restaurants, grocery stores and other locations that are far from the ocean and in other respects utterly unqualified to be serving the stuff, and the impending sushi apocalypse I spoke of a while back may be creeping ever closer. 

My advice:  Get the salmon sushi instead of the tuna.  (And, while you’re at it, avoid any and all sushi from overfished species.)  Make sure your sushi chef doesn’t have any prison tattoos on his forearms.  Eschew delivery sushi, especially in the middle of the summer.  And if the restaurant you’re eating at is more than 200 miles from the nearest ocean or international airport, consider getting the tempura soba instead. 


his & hersmoney

Attack of the attractive saleswomen!

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If I get accosted by one more buxom 20-something woman trying to sell me skin care products, I’m going to scream.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m a guy, and there’s nothing wrong with looking… but you know the type I’m talking about. They lurk at the kiosks of your local mall, often wearing attractive clothing while sitting idly on their high chairs. When they see you walk by, they attempt to strike! An overly friendly sales pitch comes, and if they have their way, you’re walking off with $20 worth of herbal pillows, scented candles, or something else that probably winds up sitting in the back of a closet after one use.

As I found out when I did some last minute Christmas shopping, there are two such stands in my local gallery, the Stamford Town Mall. I previously knew about one at the left end of the mall because I let myself get suckered into the pitch a few weeks ago. While hustling to finish up before going on a trip, a lady of the mall suckered me in, scraping my nails and washing my hands for about 25 minutes before I finally gave in and bought a skin gel that I never opened. I vowed never to get suckered in again, and when I hit Pottery Barn this weekend to do some Christmas shopping, I hurried past the stand and thought I was in the clear.

I was free… at least until I was stopped on my way to the Barnes & Noble at the right end of the mall.

It was a different girl, but the m.o. was exactly the same. Low cut shirt, thick Israeli accent, attempting to sell me products born of materials taken from Nazareth or some other city with a holy reputation. She tried to give me her spiel, taking my hand and guiding me towards a cleaning bowl, but I quickly cut her off, saying that I’d already seen the demonstration. Her response? To give me a nail-cleaning demo that I also previously went through. I let her work, though I mentally checked out right around the time she asked me if I was going to buy something for my wife (I’m single). As soon as she brought up price, I bailed out by saying no and leaving for the B&N in one motion.

Victory was mine, but I am certain that another battle will arise soon.

family & parentinghealth & medical

My daughter has “significant hearing loss”

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A couple of months ago my daughter started saying “what?” a lot. At first we thought she was being a smart ass (yes, they start as young as four) and then we thought she was just choosing to hear what she wanted to hear. And then, finally, we thought, “shit, maybe something is wrong.”

It took five weeks to get an appointment for a pediatric hearing test at a well-respected hospital near us. In that time my daughter’s hearing seemed to get better, so we thought maybe it was a fluke — or whatever was wrong had passed. In retrospect, her hearing didn’t get better, we just talked to her differently. [Read more →]

getting olderreligion & philosophy

Regrets: I’ve had a few

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I was having sushi with a business associate the other day when the subject of regret came up. 

My colleague, who is much younger than me, said, “I really don’t have any regrets.  It’s not that I haven’t done things I wish I hadn’t done, it’s just that I made the best decisions I could at the time based on what I knew, and what I was capable of, at that moment. 

“And besides, I’m in a good place now, and maybe I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the mistakes I made earlier.”

There was something oddly familiar about her comments, and then I remembered that I used to say almost precisely the same thing when I was in my twenties. 

But I haven’t said it in years. 

Suddenly, a wintry image, or rather a progression of images, appeared before my mind’s eye: I pictured myself speeding down a highway through a very light and whirling and intermittent snow, so light that I couldn’t be bothered to turn on my windshield wipers. 

For the first few miles, the feathery flakes just blew away in front of my advancing windshield.  I felt vindicated, in an odd way, in my decision not to use the wipers.

Clearly, they weren’t needed.

All along, of course, a few random flakes here and there would stick to the glass, and a few droplets of mud as well.  But it didn’t make any discernible difference.

Even after 25 miles or so, though the windshield could have been cleaner, I suppose, the view remained completely unobstructed. 

But somewhere around the 50-mile mark, though the snowfall wasn’t any heavier than before, I realized that some terribly important line had been passed, though I hadn’t at all noticed it, many miles back.  [Read more →]

moneypolitics & government

The Bailout is Doomed!

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Take a look at this miniscule* sample of Pork Barrel spending initiatives:

Representative Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) $211,509 in olive fruit fly research in Paris, France.

Representative Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) $1,950,000 for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service.

Montana Senators Max Baucaus (D) and Jon Tester (D) $148,950 for the Montana Sheep Institute.

Representative Ann Esshoo (D-Calif.) $1.6 million for the Allen Telescope Array.

Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) $344,540 for the city of Chicago GreenStreets Tree Planting Program.

Maine Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe (R), and Rep. Thomas Allen (D-Maine) for $188,000 for the Lobster Institute. [Read more →]

advicefashion & clothing

When Goodwill happens to bad people

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Dear Ruby,
My thirteen-year old refuses to accept any clothes from thrift stores anymore. I totally can’t afford to do the mall thing. He’s completely unreasonable about it. What do I do? I feel like his entire future social life depends on me dipping into our home equity fund to buy him Abercrombie.

Oh, Cherry. Oh, Cherrrrry. Does anyone miss Steve Perry like I do?

Sorry, the point is that except for family funerals and weddings and professional portraits, thirteen-year-olds are legally emancipated from their parents’ fashion decisions as long as they’re not skanky. You can’t make them wear anything, really, and yet you must clothe them. Like, that is soo totally unfair.

You are required to clothe your children. You are not, however, required to clothe them in the style to which Tori Spelling is accustomed. Try to put $100 together and take yourself and your little ingrate to an acceptable mall, preferably with an outlet. And then you may have to sit in Starbucks while he wanders around in an agony of indecision and overstimulation until he finally blows it on probably only one piece of unattractive and inappropriate clothing. Then go home.

If there is any money left over, go to a very cheap outlet type place for whatever else he needs. Repeat when you can scrape together $100 again, twice a year is plenty. You may find that he will accept hand-me-downs from older, rock-star-type cousins if he has any. You may want to go find some new ones. Oh, and don’t ask his father to intervene, he won’t be any help.

The boy will get the message, or he’ll change his tune, or he’ll get a job. Win, win, win!

And, Cherry, baby, stop buying him anything right now. It’s painful, there are so many little polo shirts that would look darling on him, but it’s time to stop for a while. Whatever you buy — no matter how cool — he won’t wear. You’ve left your mark on it and to him it glows like a crime scene in black light.  He’s got to buy his own ugly crap for a little while — yes, with your money, more’s the pity.

The good news: rejecting free stuff from your parents is a phase that is over almost as soon as it starts.

Got a conundrum wrapped in an enigma and slathered with cheese sauce? Ask Ruby.

books & writingmoney

A Billion Tiny Humbugs

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OK. I admit it. For me, getting into the “Holiday spirit” this year has been more difficult than shoving a camel into a needle’s eye. Even though both my wife and I were raised in the Christian tradition, we do have Christmas lights, we do have an (artificial) tree, and we do have a bevy of berry-covered decorations, nothing is up yet. More, every trip to the grocery store and its continuous Holiday music gives me shivers. I’m actually tired of Bing Crosby and have begun, secretly, to hope for anything other than snow this season. So, go ahead if you want, call me “Scrooge.” I’ll just offer up another litany of humbugs.

But can you really blame me?

You see, this week, I packed up a box of personal belongings from my cell-like cubicle and made that confused walk to my car for the last drive home from work. I suspect, unless you’re really lucky, you’ve seen people clutching those small boxes packed with family photos and random mementos, and maybe you’ve even noticed that dazed look in their eyes. You know, the one that says, um, well, what now?

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fashion & clothingrecipes & food

What women want: ask Burger King

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According to Burger King’s team of experts, the way to a woman’s heart may not be through her stomach (I suppose they’ve tried that and failed?) but through her nose. Hence, a new cologne for men — Flame by BK — with a flame-broiled scent.

Of course, it only costs $3.99, so, perhaps, if marketed to an appropriate, not too picky, audience… Still, wouldn’t it be more chivalrous to buy the object of your affection a Big Whopper than tantalize her with the smell of it?

Also, how long before the FDA will demand warning labels: “Do not visit wildlife reserves while wearing this cologne”?

(Tip o’ the hat to David Brensilver.)

Fred's dreams


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August 25, 2008
I dream my brother and I get off a bus prematurely on the way to our home in Northeast Philadelphia. We see that we can get home faster if we cut through a combination slaughterhouse and industrial complex. We go through the well-landscaped and grassy front and are pleased to find no barriers to walking through the place. No one seems to notice us. There are various chutes and people doing their jobs, but Dan is confused about why the cows are staggering. I explain to him that they had been hit on the head with a sledge hammer prior to their being slaughtered. We wind up inside what appears to be the slaughterhouse boardinghouse, which features old time signs and a rack of post cards from days gone by.

July 18, 2000
I dream I am in my parents’ basement and magicians are doing a birthday party in the neighborhood. Some doves have gotten into the house and when I open the door to get rid of them several gigantic chickens escape as well. Also, Dave Jadico spots a white bear and calls 911. The cops come over to join Dave’s Bear Watch. The magicians try to get publicity by claiming they produced the bear by magic.

April 13, 1999
I dream Carter from ER creates an intelligent goat made out of fudge. The goat is lifelike despite its chocolaty brown color. At the party for its unveiling, everybody is impressed. Some people are spooked, but the rabbits at the party are beloved.

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