Sunday, March 29, 2015

Snake Queen

I'm dreaming. I know I'm dreaming. It doesn't lessen my terror.

I'm in Israel (as a tourist? Perhaps; my dream isn't providing much back story).

I walk into a large synagogue-mosque with pews divided down the aisle between Jews on the right and Muslims on the left. I know I'm dreaming, and I know how sophomoric this would be if it were an actual bit of fiction, but it's only a dream.

I'm sure that someone is going to set off a bomb in here. People start filing in ahead of me wearing backpacks that I'm worried contain explosives.

Once the synagogue-mosque is full, a rabbi starts speaking. He's wearing a white robe and papal hat. Having never been to a synagogue, I realize that my mind is using the pope's regalia to fill in the blank.

"What a day we have here, where Israel and Palestine have come together to worship," he says. "We are all closer to death."

This elicits shouts of consternation from both sides of the religious divide.

As the shouting continues, the rabbi and the imam unfold a yard-long length of connected sachets containing a brown powder. The imam pours some water into one of the open sachets, and it grows to the size of a large bag. Then the imam and the rabbi begin eating from the over-sized sachet like dogs feasting on kibble, or children bobbing for apples.


I'm somewhere else now. In my dream, I call it nextwhere. A friend of mine has just bought a new car. He asks me to come along on its maiden voyage, but I decline. There's something else I'd rather do, but I don't know what that is.

One good thing about dreams is that regrets are easily erased; so when I decided that turning down my friend's offer to christen his new car was a bad idea, he was still there when I returned and hopped in.

No car has ever looked like this. Compact, with room for a single driver in the front seat and one passenger in the back, I start wondering who the hell would want to drive such a tiny thing. It was like a phone booth on wheels. In for a dime, in for a dollar.

As we're racing down the highway, obstacles start to appear: first a crashed bus, then an oil tanker engulfed in flames. Ronnie (not his real name) is driving at an incredible pace, but in the back seat all I can see is danger.

"Ronnie, pull the fuck over," I say. Even though I'm dreaming, I feel really bad about using the F-word.

We stop and get out of the car. I ask Ronnie for a cigarette, but he's not there anymore. Instead, a curly haired, sinewy man with a face covered in motor oil and a ten-year-old boy approach.

The man and the boy are speaking Spanish and arguing. I understand none of it. After their back-and-forth concludes, the man tells me he knows a good place to hide. I don't know what I should be hiding from, but I follow him anyway.

We drop down, one after another, into a basement full of cinder blocks and paint fumes.

The man is shouting to the boy in Spanish, shoving him to the center of the basement's concrete floor. Then he strips the boy of his T-shirt and shorts. The boy looks terrified.

"Hey!" I yell, finally aware of what is going on. "Leave the kid alone!"

The man walks over to me. He's breathing through his mouth and nose at the same time, menacingly.

"Don't get in my way," he says in English. "I don't want to bring you pain, but I will. All you need to do is watch."

There's a small twine rope hanging down from the ceiling. I grab it.

"You even think about hurting that kid and I'm going to strangle you with this! You got it?" I scream.

I strangled him with that. Then I put a shard of glass into his dead forehead. I wanted to put a period on the sentence.

I don't know where the fictional dream-boy I saved is now, but hopefully he's somewhere comfortable.


"Dan, come on!" my roommate shouts. "Aren't you done yet?"

"Almost, but I don't know what to call it," I say.

"How about 'Asshole of the Year,' or 'Requiem for a Jerk?'"

Snake Queen

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Exes and Ohs

Right now, the Miami Heat have 150/1 Vegas odds to win the NBA title. It might as well be zero, because there is no way that the Heat have a chance. None. Basketball doesn't work that way. Since 1991, 24 years, here is the list of champions: Bulls (6), Rockets (2), Spurs (5), Lakers (5), Pistons (1), Heat (3), Celtics (1), and Mavericks (1). Eight teams in 24 years; there is no parity in basketball.

Another takeaway from that sample is that the only two Finals "upsets" came in 2004 when the Pistons beat an imploding Lakers team 4-1 and in 2011 when the Mavericks beat the Heat 4-2 in the first year of the Heatles mini-dynasty.

There is no parity in basketball. There are transition periods. What Golden State and the Hawks have done this season has been fun to watch -- but neither team is going to hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy (the Warriors are much closer to it than the Hawks). Neither will the Grizzlies, Clippers (I've picked the Clippers at the beginning of the past 2 seasons to make the Finals, and they always underachieve), Bulls, Thunder, Mavericks, Blazers, Raptors, Wizards, etc.

In my somewhat-knowledgeable opinion, only three teams have a shot at the 2015 NBA title: the Spurs, the Cavs, and the Rockets. The Warriors might get in there, but I doubt it. It's fun to watch Klay Thompson and Steph Curry play Pop-A-Shot, but that shit won't win you a chip (it might get you some Chuck E. Cheese tickets to exchange for a green plastic army man or a silver-painted handgun key chain, though).

That is what I think. Now here is what I want.

The Heat are currently matched up with the Cavaliers in the East's 2-7 seeding. I am not a bitter man, but I want the Heat to face LeBron James in the first round. I want the Heat to beat the Cavs in the first round.

The Heat beat Cleveland 2-1 during the regular season. Of course, the regular season means little when it comes to playoff match-ups, and the Heat might get smoked, probably will get smoked -- but i want it like Pookie craved the crack pipe.

Because if, by some miracle, the Heat could knock LeBron's new-old team out of the playoffs in the first round, however unlikely*, Kevin Love would probably bolt, right?

That would be my championship. I love a good comedy.

* David Blatt vs. Erik Spoelstra: I'm picking the high school dance chaperone who's seen the gymnasium and kids sneaking in airplane bottles of liquor a few times over the frustrated parent who doesn't understand why his children keep leaving their milk-stained math homework on the kitchen table.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Killing Words

Heavy fire.

Out of breath, I duck behind a stone barrier and check my ammo. Only three gofuckyourself bullets remain in my side pistol. My machine gun is out of ifuckedyourmothers. Aside from my special weapons, which I've been saving for a long time because I bought them with a gift card my mother gave me on my thirty-ninth birthday, my diebitch melee weapon is all I have if I run out of pistol ammo.

Curtis019Hotlanta has me on the ropes.

"Coming for that ass, bitchcakes," he says into his headset.

I can hear him approaching. I want to flee, find another cover, but that would mean certain death.

I check my inventory. I have two remaining eatadicks that I'd forgotten about, but they won't help me now. I'm going to have to go deep.

"Say hello to my little friend," Curtis019Hotlanta shouts into his headset just as he lobs a niggerfaggot grenade over the barrier. I scramble and make it out with 19% health. Could be worse.

I run in to a poorly rendered cinder-block building while Curtis019Hotlanta cackles maniacally afoot.

"Run, run, run, but you sure can't hide, bitchcakes. I'm going to kill you with my dickinyoureye knife."

I run up three flights of stairs and come out on a roof. I have a clear look at the doorway, but I have to time my shot. I pull out my yoursisterownsavaginadinerandthespecialtyisallyoucaneatsnapper but hesitate. I try to switch to my didyourparentshaveanykidsthatlived, and that's when the bullet struck me.

I'm on my back, and my enemy is standing over me.

"Say goodnight, bitchcakes," he says as he fires a youeatcumforbreakfast bullet into my skull.


"Deus ex machina!" I scream into my own headset.

Then I turn off my computer, thankful to be alive after narrowly escaping death.

Now I have a fourth-grade spelling test to prepare for. Frau Kovacs is going to be so disappointed if I don't ace it.

I'm confident that I will spell pity, petty, pitiful, plentiful, and fuck all correctly.


Friday, March 20, 2015


I love seeing nature: flora, fauna, all of that shit. What's the allure of camping, though? Why go into the forest to put up a tent and start a fire when you have a home at home? I don't need mosquito coils or a fire; I have walls and windows and central heating! And electricity! I don't want to cook beans from a can! I can order pizza from home, the place where I live and pay a mortgage. By the way, and I'm shitty at French, but "mort" is the French word for death, I think. "Mortgage" is the English word for debt, so they're pretty close. But to get back on topic...

I can't plug a hair dryer into a tree stump...yet! We're probably working on it. Yellowstone is going to have WiFi soon. "Getting back to nature" is going to become "exactly like home." You won't have to wipe your ass with leaves -- they'll probably install working toilets with bidets.

Getting closer to nature is a joke. Nature is like, "Who the fuck invited you? We had a good thing going on, and then you had to show up. Fuck you, we're going to send some bears and shit into your territory...and then you're going to kill them."

I will, however, admit that it is sometimes fun to sleep outside.

I've done it a few times near subway stations. No bears that way.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Emma Dilemma

Everyone whom I spoke to insists that Katie Masterson is a good person and would never intentionally bring harm to others. Her neighbors, friends, and the people she worked with are stunned by last week's mauling death of Heather Carter by Emma, a Sumatran orangutan from the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens.

Yet the details of the case, currently under investigation by the Cincinnati Police Department, remain murky. Masterson, a 13-year veterinarian at the zoo, is reported to have taken Emma from her enclosure and to her own Pleasant Ridge home, a clear violation of the zoo's policies.

Several cell phone videos of the incident that have appeared online [WKB5 has chosen not to link to or broadcast the videos], which depict a woman screaming and running from Masterson's home and then being tackled by what looks like an ape, are chilling.

I was able to speak with an EMT specialist on the condition of anonymity who described Heather Carter's injuries:

"Her whole [expletive] face was ripped off, man. No skin. No lips. All I could see was teeth and eyeballs."

Masterson was taken into custody shortly thereafter, but the search for Emma continued for several days. She was finally captured in Mt. Airy Forest two days ago. Sources at the scene have described her as being weak and dehydrated.

"She was about dead," one official was heard to say.

"There's no motive yet, but maybe we just found our murder weapon," another official said.

"Like a mystery novel plot"

Not much is known about Heather Carter, a former Washington school teacher. Her social media accounts show that she was acquainted in some capacity with Katie Masterson, but the nature of their relationship remains vague.

"I saw her at the house for the first time probably two months ago," neighbor Dennis Jurgen told me. "Then a few times after that. It didn't even register to me. Why would it? If Katie was in a lesbian relationship, good for her. But a [expletive] orangutan? Nope. I definitely never saw that."

Another neighbor, Terry Kearns, has a different account.

"Katie was taking that monkey home a lot. She'd walk him on the front lawn, and I'd be like, "Seriously? This is going to end badly."

"I mean, I've read my share of mystery novels, and the best murder weapon would be an animal that can't stand trial or an icicle used as a dagger and then it melts."

"There's some shit going on in the media now, and it's probably clogging the toilet of the actual police investigation."

Yet another neighbor was quick to express his opinion.

"What's that gorilla who had the cat? Kiko? Koko? She had a little kitten called All Ball. They're both probably dead now."

Can a primate stand trial?

That is for a grand jury to decide. Is there testimony that an orangutan could provide to shed light on this murder, or would it be considered inadmissible? Currently, there is an online petition to have Emma hanged on live television.

Monday, March 16, 2015


I can't believe I'm doing this. This isn't right. I'm terrified. I want to stay right where I am. But I keep getting pushed to go forward, move down the line. What have I gotten myself into?

I was hoping I'd be too small, not ready yet. But I'm apparently big enough to get on this ride. I can hear people all around encouraging me to hop aboard, to join in the fun.

"Here he comes!" someone shouts. "Make way for the big boy!"

The actual ride only takes a few minutes. There are some loops that really scared me, but overall it wasn't as bad as I imagined.

I'd totally do it again.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Social Networking

   Hey, long time no whatever. Given that we're such close friends -dare I say it, bosom buddies?- I figure we can cut to the chase. No horseshit, Wang.

    Do you recognize this individual? Does that face ring any bells? Is she your sister, mother and/or lover? Is the person in that picture you? Serious inquiry, because I haven't the slightest idea who she is, yet Facebook seems to think I know her.

    The other folks on the abbreviated list make sense, insomuch that there are mutual friends involved, thus Facebook could be forgiven for trying to tell me who my friends are, but when it gets to the point of social media suggesting ostensibly random people become friends? Ridiculous. In response, I did what any rational person would do - I sent her a message.

    I mean, she could be the best friend I've never met! We could chat about the latest episode of Girls, compare notes on dating, take selfies at Pizza Hut, rally behind whichever social issue is the featured flavor of the month, talk behind each other's back, etc. The possibilities are endless!

    She has yet to respond, and while I doubt we'll start having slumber parties any time soon, Facebook has spoken, so let's see how this plays out, shall we? 

West of Neptune, East of Nightmare

"There's a little restaurant I used to go to. Chinese joint. A tiny lady ran it. Her name was Fannie, or maybe Frannie, I don't remember. It wasn't her born name, of course. She was so small that it looked like a strong wind would carry her away, like a leaf in fall, you know? I don't know why, but I think about her often. She's probably dead now."

Dr. Zielinski waited. The patient wanted to talk, and saying anything would have interrupted the performance.

"They used to serve alcohol to minors. My friends and I would crowd in there sometimes on Friday or Saturday night when we were in high school. I didn't drink then; that came later. They eventually got busted and lost their liquor license. For a foreign-run business to lose its liquor license for selling alcohol to minors, and with all the bullshit rumors of Chinese restaurants serving cat meat, it's amazing that they stayed alive. It's still there: a take-out place smaller than a two-story house garage. That place is immortal."

"It seems that mortality is something you think about often, Mr. Dauplaise,"  Dr. Zielinski finally interjected. Why do you think that is?"

"Well, everyone does, right? Honestly, I just want to talk. That's what I'm paying you for. The psychiatry is a bonus, I suppose. I was on a bus the other day -- my car was in the shop -- and some guy started whistling. It was the theme song from some movie that I recognized but couldn't remember. And he was whistling well. But it bugged the shit out of me, that this guy was just basically performing, unasked, in public. If a bird starts singing, it's pretty, but when a 200-pound man does it on a bus it's ugly, even if the melody is sweet. I guess we're just predisposed to hate ourselves. Anyway, that's why I'm here. I want to talk, and I figure that if I'm paying for the hour, I can say what I want without annoying anybody."

"I appreciate the honesty," Dr. Zielinski said. "Please, go on."

"I've been having weird dreams. In one, I was approaching a gray building that was a shelter for stray dogs. But the closer I got the more I realized it was a prison for unimaginably huge wolves, like Fenrir from the Norse legends. So I got up to the building, and I see all these incredibly menacing beasts, and I'm as scared as I've ever been, awake or asleep, but these monsters didn't even acknowledge me. I woke up, and I was relieved that it was just a dream, but I was also annoyed that I was ignored in my own dream."

I also dream about space travel, and I think about the planets. Like, what if 3,000 years in the future travel agencies are booking trips to Mars instead of Aruba?

I think I'd like to see Saturn."

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Kung Fu Ninjas and Werewolf Zombies Fight All Night

Pittsburgh (AP) — Authorities called to the scene and witnesses' accounts have described it as an amateur video shoot gone wrong. At least one middle school student, Alvin Ayes, is in critical condition at Heritage Valley Hospital. Early reports indicate that two or three other students may have been involved in the incident. Their identities and medical statuses are unknown at this time.


"Jimmy, just put on the mask."

Jimmy Kent did not want to put on the horse head mask. For one, it was 34 degrees, and humid. For another, it was a stupid idea.

As written -- in the back pages of Jimmy's Trapper Keeper during third period math the previous Friday -- the scene involved two hoods: Jimmy, and Ritchie Kent, with whom Jimmy shared a surname and an eighth-grade classroom but little else. The duo would mug an old man. They were supposed to be a pair of opportunistic juvenile delinquents. They came across a drunk while cutting class, stole his wallet and whiskey flask, then got lit and spent the little money they absconded on arcade games and hamburgers before being caught in a standoff with police. The last shot was supposed to be an homage to Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid.

But now with Colin and the goddamn horse head mask.

"There's no reason for it, Colin," Jimmy protested. "Why the hell would I be wearing a horse head mask?"

"Um, because I said you are," Colin Moss answered. "If you don't want to be in the movie, go back home and watch TV and jerk off, loser."

"It's my script," Jimmy said. His voice had lost its timbre.

"Says who? Get a lawyer, loser. I have all the equipment. You're fired. Get out of here. Hey, Alvin! Want to be a star?"

Alvin Ayes wanted very much to be a star.


@moviesfordudeswholikemovies: still going ahead with the film altho one of the roles was recasted. Stay tuned for more nwes crewpies

@moviesfordudeswholikemovies: Excellent news! @Alvinaction01 is stepping up! This guy has WHAT IT TAKES


Flat and oblong. Perfectly smooth. This was the one. It had to be. Alvin hefted the rock in his hand. He had seen his uncle do twelve skips. His own personal record was eight. He was confident that he could break both with this rock. He backpedaled a few paces, planted his feet into the sand, and started running.

He stopped himself just as he reached shore, reeling to keep balance. The rock could perhaps skip a hundred times, or two hundred. But Alvin didn't want to lose such a precious stone to the bottom of Glendale Lake.

He put it in his swim trunks pocket and walked back to the high ground, where someone was playing acoustic guitar and people were laughing.


"I just can't get my head around it, Rich. You're failing French. Your mother speaks French! She was born in Marseille! Are you retarded or just stupid?"

"Maybe I'm both?"

That elicited a swat from Paul Kent. To Senator Kent -- who wasn't a real senator but who ruled the house -- a "swat" was defined as not being as hard as a punch but not as weak as a slap.

"Go finish your fucking homework."

Ritchie wanted to respond that he already had, but he didn't want to press his luck. No Whammies.


Colin Moss gathered the cast and crew "Okay, everyone, day two! We're going to make it through this! But I need you all to keep a strong composure. Today isn't going to be easy. We are all going to have to make sacrifices to see that this thing comes to life."

"I've rewritten the first scene. Alvin, you're playing the drunk. Ritchie, you and me are the hoods. Instead of mugging the drunk, we're going to strangle him then get shot by the cops. We just don't have the time to stretch out the story. Jimmy's script was full of shit like what the sun looked like shining off the bodies of ants."


"Hey, you old drunk man! Got any money? If you do, give it to me now!"

"I have money, but the only thing you're getting from me is a fistful of fuck-you!"

Ritchie jumped on Alvin and started choking him.

"Yeah, Ritchie!" Colin shouted, breaking character "This is so real! This is so real!!"

Ritchie Kent stood up and walked toward the hulk of a burned-down Toyota. He dropped his head on its rusty frame and began crying. He sobbed silently at first, but soon he sounded like doom incoming.

"Ritchie!" Colin shouted. "Get your fucking ass over here so we can finish this shoot!"

Ritchie collected himself and got his fucking ass over there, but he wasn't about to finish the shoot.

"Colin, I killed him. I killed Alvin," Ritchie said. "I liked him. I choked him until he stopped breathing. I don't know why I did that."

"Because you're an actor. You're a born star."


Pittsburgh (AP) — The trial of two teenagers accused in the death of a friend is set to begin tomorrow. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


Donald Simmons was preparing his daughter's school lunch.

"Ew, what is that?" Stacy Simmons asked.

"It's a ham-and-cheese sandwich, Stace," Donald said with a sigh. "If you're unfamiliar with a ham-and-cheese sandwich, you might have been kidnapped by aliens and replaced with an eight-year-old lookalike intent to take over the world. If that's the case, you're starting low by infiltrating Hope Elementary. Should have started at the White House."

"There's mold on it."

"No there isn't. It's freekeh. It's a grain. It won't kill you. I also mixed a little wasabi into the Miracle Whip to spice it up, so don't complain that it looks spoiled."

"Mom uses real mayonnaise. She says Miracle Whip is blast friendly."

"I think you mean blasphemy, kiddo. And your mom says a lot of things, not all of them true. Go get your bag and clean socks, the ones I put on your dresser."



The sandwich didn't look right. It wasn't the green freekeh or the wasabi added to the Miracle Whip; it wasn't the processed cheese slice, either, which Stacy always discarded, sometimes tossing it toward the ceiling to see if it would stick, and often it did (it also often dropped to the floor during third period, once on Tommy Brewster's head). No, there was something in that sandwich that was off-putting in an intuitive sense to Stacy.

"Connie!" Stacy shouted across the room to Constance Westwood, her frenemy. "Wanna trade lunches?"

"Maybe. Got any grapes?" Constance said. That was their routine.

"Nope, but I have a soy milk juice box and some pencil shavings. Lots of fiber."


Connie Westwood changed color like a traffic light: first red, then amber, and finally green. It happened during fourth period just as Mrs. Pottruck was explaining particles and matter.

"Just remember, when you're cold you want to hug yourself, and that's what particles do when the temperature is low. But if you're hot...oh my god! Connie, what's the matter? Jenny, get the nurse!"

Jenny got the nurse.


Constance Westwood did not die. She did, however, suffer a mild stroke that paralyzed the left side of her face. Six days after the "incident," her classmates went to visit her at Millinocket Hospital. Stacy Simmons faked sick that day. So did her father.

"Dad, what's in the refrigerator? It hurt Connie, and it might hurt other people, too."

"That fridge won't hurt anybody anymore. I'm taking it to the dump and making sure it's crushed into nothing."

"Are you sure it will never hurt anyone else?"

"Honestly, Stace," Donald Simmons said, "no. But I have to try."

"Don't you mean 'we'?"

"Of course."


Homo Sapiens are funny creatures. From birth their instinct is to shroud themselves in wares. I've seen small children and grown adults wrap themselves up in the weakest of attire, believing that it is their armor, that such feeble material will protect them.

 The time to strike is now. I've found a doorway.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

A Time and and a Place

"Cheddar Bay Biscuits!" Jasmine shouted.

"I can't find the fucking bathroom. Is it outside? Do I have to walk around this Christing building to take a piss? Seriously?"

"I'll have another lemonade."

"The Pacific Ocean lobster tail hurts my gums. Is the lobster from the Atlantic or Pacific ocean?"

"I could turn you into roadkill with the back of my car. Sit down, shut up, and stop clapping every time the door opens, Peter. It's not fucking Ronald McDonald. It's just some asshole with his mother in a wheelchair."

"Could we have some more Cheddar Bay Biscuits, please?" Jasmine said.

"Just a second, sweetie."

"Gordon, I think that man is holding a pistol."

"No. No."

"One lemonade. Anything else?"

"Someone call the police!"

"Is it someone's birthday? I can hear fireworks."

"Get on the floor, Peter."

"Don't. Please don't."

"Dad, I want to go home now," Jasmine said.


Eight years, man. You didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

In May of 2007, my year of exile, I made the pilgrimage from Bundang to Purple Record in Hongdae. I lived in Hongdae during my first year on the Peninsula, and, as a twenty-something-year-old with a lot of disposable income, spent a lot of that money buying CDs there. Sometimes I'd pick up an album from Tower Records in Sinchon or HotTracks at the Kyobo bookstore in Gwanghwamun, but if I wanted to find an album from a lesser-known artist, Purple Record was where to find it.

And so that's where I headed on a Sunday afternoon. I wanted two albums: El-P's I'll Sleep When You're Dead and Modest Mouse's We were Dead before the Ship even Sank. Those are the last two CDs I've ever bought.

I got home and devoured I'll Sleep When You're Dead, then threw on We were Dead...while dozing off. I was unfamiliar with Modest Mouse at the time and bought the disc solely because Johnny Marr played lead guitar* on it. My first thought before sleep took me was that lead singer Isaac Brock sounded the love child of Mick Jagger and Tom Waits**. My second thought was that I had to discover more about this band.

I went through the Modest Mouse discography in reverse order, starting with We were Dead..., then Good News for People Who Love Bad News, then The Moon & Antarctica. It was revelatory. I was hooked.

Then the years passed by, one after another, with no promise or even a hint of a new Modest Mouse record. No One's First and You're Next, an EP from 2009 might be the last of them, I thought.

The waiting was the hardest part.

But that wait is over. Strangers to Ourselves, Modest Mouse's first album in nearly eight years, is set to be released on March 17th. And it's incredible. I know this because instead of purchasing albums in tangible stores, I now have to download them by spurious means.

I feel more than a little guilty*** about it, and I would gladly pay for the album, but the absolute shitfuck that is iTunes Korea won't let me.

Float on.

* poetry

** Who else has a name that can also double as a sentence? It can't be a long list.

*** but there isn't a jury in this country that will convict me

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

How Marvel Wrested the Mutants from Fox's Cold, Dead Hands

Agents of SHIELD is back*. Excelsior!

Marvel has maintained that its films (Marvel Studios) and TV shows (Marvel Television) are mutually exclusive, but that's malarky. The dissolution of SHIELD after the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier directly led to the plot of the second half of Agents of SHIELD's first season, which increased praise -- if not ratings -- for the show. The episodic nature of the inaugural season's first half was jettisoned, and the show actually had a purpose under the Marvel Universe umbrella.

I like to think that was always the plan. I don't think Clark Gregg or Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen would have hopped aboard if they thought SHIELD was just going to be some Marvel-branded television B-team apart from the films. At the same time, I'm sure Marvel wanted to set up a bumper. They didn't want the possible failure of Agents of SHIELD to negatively affect their cinematic hot streak. It's a golden age for cable drama, but network TV is still considered a slum.

Now, and very deftly, the events of Agents of SHIELD's second season is affecting what's to come in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Since 2008, Marvel has had tremendous success with their studio films and characters: Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy. That success means that within the next five years, we'll see the Marvel superhero film roster expand to features for Ant Man, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, and Ms. Marvel.

Yet two of Marvel's signature franchises have remained out of the company's reach: Spider-Man and the X-Men. In the late-90s, Marvel filed for bankruptcy**. To keep its head above water, it sold Spider-Man's film rights to Sony and the X-Men's (and the Fantastic Four's) to Fox.

A Devil Dinosaur's bargain, to be sure.

But a funny Ben Grimm happened. Marvel, utilizing its B, C, and even D-list heroes, couldn't lose. The Avengers -- and 11-year-old me would find this insane -- became more popular than Spider-Man and the X-Men. Hell, even the Distinguished Competition, with Batman and Superman, arguably the two-most-recognizable superheroes in the world, have been trying to play catch-up.

Two weeks ago, it was announced that Sony, which owns the film rights to Spider-Man, reached a deal with Marvel Studios to have Spider-Man appear in an MCU movie (speculation suggests that it will be in Captain America: Civil War). Sony will produce its own Spider-Man film in 2017, one apart from the two dreadful Amazing Spider-Man movies, and with the role of Peter Parker once again recast. Marvel's Kevin Feige -- who has done for comic book movies what Walt Disney did for animation and John Lasseter did for CGI animation -- is a consultant.

Yet Marvel still doesn't have one thing it covets: Mutants. Superheroes always have a story for how they acquired their powers. Superman is an alien who gets his strength from Earth's sun; Spider-Man was bitten by a radioactive spider and can climb walls; Captain America was injected with an experimental drug to turn him into a super soldier; Hulk was blasted by gamma rays, LOL, whatever that means.

So unless you're an alien or a god, comics always tried to explain, however inanely and often idiotically, childishly, how normal human beings achieved superpowers.

In 1963, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created a short cut. What if superheroes were just born that way? The X-Men, Mutants, solved that problem, while metaphorically addressing issues such as racial inequality and radicalism.

It's a subject that has been mined for countless morality tales, but only because it remains a timeless story. The strong prey upon the weak, and the weak fight back.

And it's a tale that Marvel would love to tell. Unfortunately, Marvel, as part of its deal with Fox, has no rights to the word "mutant."

They do, however, own the rights to the word "inhuman."

The Inhumans are basically mutants. They live on the moon and their ruler, Black Bolt, can't talk because if he did the volume would make your head explode. He has a tuning fork instead of an A on his forehead. It's great. They have a giant dog named Lockjaw that can teleport. There's also Medusa, whose hair is so voluminous it can make your head explode. Then there's Karnak. I've never been sure exactly what Karnak does. He looks a little like Paul Shaffer and Piter de Vries.

(I swear I'm not on hallucinogens.)

Anyway, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are going to be in Avengers: Age of Ultron. They aren't mutants; they're Inhumans. This would all be very easy to follow if everyone watched Agents of SHIELD, so stop asking me so many questions while I'm trying to watch this movie, Wanda.

* after an outstanding 10-episode run of Agent Carter

** For what cost, Holo-Foil Cover?