Author Archive | Mark A. Rayner

The perils of evolution

One day you wake up and watch the sun rise, ripe and scarlet over the savanna, and you know it can never hold you back.

The next, you’re unable to hold a conversation with other humans in the flesh, and you have the attention span of an unhinged hummingbird. Inside your head there are noises that would have terrified you before, on the plains, but now they are the background radiation of your mind. You’re surrounded by voices. Within this clamour there is only the silent pulse of a thought that never comes, an impulse suffocated by plenty, a drive misdirected by old mythology.

You long for the reality of stone, the scrape of grass on your bare legs, and the silence of nature, tooth and claw. You wonder if you should Tweet this yearning, but — hey, new Facebook interface!

Alltop used to hunt Facebook in the old days. Originally published in 2011, and now a part of Pirate Therapy. I thought I’d post it again, in light of the new FB changes :)

9 old words for the modern age

Old manuscript page and the letter g


The use or choice of words.

This post is a meditation on vocabulation, particularly, old words that we may want to revivify for our current age of the Internet and excess.


The # symbol.

I learned this one from one of my journalism students who believes this is a much better term than “hashtag” and I agree. Do you? Then let’s get an octothorpe about this started on Twitter!


Throw through or out of the window.

This word is better-known than many of the others on this list, but I’m including it because it’s still pretty obscure. I learned it when I lived in Prague, and was shown by a helpful tour guide at the Castle where certain politicians were “defenestrated”, i.e., thrown out of a window, when their services were no longer required. Perhaps this is a term we should put back in practice?


A bad habit or custom; a vice [c. 900-1400]; unthewed, ill-mannered, unruly, wanton [1200- late 1300s], unthewful, unmannerly, unseemly [c. 1050-early 1300s].

This strikes me as a useful word that we could use a bit more while we’re looking at some of the crazy behavior we see, especially on the Internet. So the next time you spot a troll, you can call them “unthew” to put them in their place and confuse them at the same time.

Humbug, hoax, pretense; [from] nineteenth-century French.

This one is particularly useful, given how much of this we have to deal with on the net.


A glutton; one who over-indulges in and over-consumes food, drink, or intoxicants to the point of waste.


Food or drink that makes one idle and stupid; food with no nutritional value, junk food.

Both of these strike me as useful, given our consumerist society. Possible uses: “Dude, I was a total shumpgullion last night. Too much libberwort!”


A libertine (one who is unconstrained by convention or morality).

I like the word “libertine” but I’m always worried people think I mean the word “liberty” or “liberal” — they’re all from the same roots, of course. The use of holer is related to the previous two words, but it has the added benefit that most people will probably understand what you’re saying because of it sounds a little bit like “whore”. Of course, it’s better, because “holer” has lost its gender implications.


A low rumbling sound; hence, the motion of the bowels, produced by flatulence, attended by such a sound; borborygmus; Scotch.

Murmuring, grumbling; sometimes applied to that motion of the intestines which is produced by slight gripes. This is one of those rhythmical sort of terms for which our ancestors had a peculiar predilection. It is compounded of Suio-Gothic (the ancient language of Sweden) kurr-a, to murmur.

Okay, this one isn’t necessarily about our current age, but my theory is you can’t have enough funny ways to describe farts.

Some of these come from the excellent word-nerd blogs: Obsolete Words and A Lackadaisical Lexicon for Laggard Logophiles. If you have other favorites words and resources, please leave them in the comments!

Alltop is such a funny holer, I’m curmurring my pants.

The Disney Gang

They called themselves the Disney Gang, despite the fact that two-fifths of their members were clearly aficionados of the Popeye milieu.

In fact, Chester “Popeye” Doyle was their leader; he did a crack impression of the pugnacious cartoon sailor, and liked to bludgeon enemies with a pillow case filled with cans of spinach. Barry “The Duck” Trepanning did an excellent impression too, though this made him completely incomprehensible during the high stress moments of their many bank jobs and shootouts. During the Mud Lick Massacre he did a classic Donald Duck freak out that had the cops in stitches, even while Detective Sergeant Reynolds bled out. Both of the mice were menacingly quiet, and police were never able to identify the bodies, so we don’t even know who they were.

And of course Reggie “The Wimps” Testeron, like their hero Walt, thought arson was hilarious.

Alltop is a firebug of comedy. Awesome photo via Twisted Vintage. Originally published September 2010.

Introducing the Venkman Brothers

two clowns on the beach, looking at the ocean

Herbetron and Merculia Venkman came from a proud line of Norwegian clowns, and were determined to climb to dizzying heights in America. They gazed at the ocean, their white chins pointed up with pride, their red noses threatening to fly off in the stiff Atlantic breeze.

Herbetron, in particular, had a vision. He could see a time when the world would laugh with them, not at them. Well, the world would still be laughing at them, they were clowns after all, but it would be laughs that THEY had crafted and guided. They would be laughs of dignity.

Then a piano fell on them.

Alltop once had an accordion land on its foot. Awesome clown photo via Twisted Vintage. Originally published October, 2010.