The Write Stuff

April 30, 2006 at 2:23 am (Uncategorized)

A 18-year old Harvard student with a book deal worth a half million dollars is accused of plagiarizing another author and chaos ensues. Her book isHemingway.jpg yanked from the shelves and the blame game begins. Upon closer scrutiny, it becomes clear that the young lady is more of a prefabricated celebrity than a bonafide author. Her publisher and a powerful literary agent have arranged for her to pen a story they hoped would become a teen sensation and lead to a whole series of money makers. She was to be sort of the literary equivalent of Britney Spears without the dumbass husband, I guess you could say.

It's hard to decide if we should feel sorry for this once rising star. I mean, most of us would be willing to work our asses off and produce something completely original if someone were to dangle a $500,000 carrot in front of our noses. But then, most of us aren't teenage college students working under that kind of social and economic pressure.

poe.jpgAnd there's always the possibility that Kaavya Vishwanathan (pronounced just like it's spelled) will survive the fallout and thrive on the name recognition. Sometimes the paradigm "there's no such thing as bad advertising" is absolutely true. Nothing sells like a scandal. And now, people who have never heard of Vishwanathan may be racing to the bookstores just to pick up a copy of her book and see what the wailing is all about. At any rate, it's ugly. And this on the heels of the James Frey, "I had a few too many wine coolers in my day, but let me tell the damn story my own way, will you?" fiasco.

What is it with reporters and authors these days? It's been one scandal jack_london.jpg after another and now there's giant mistrust for anyone who makes a career out of the written word. Back in the good old days, writers were accused of hard drinking and womanizing, but that was okay, because they were tortured artists, goddamit. Writers drank, got into bar fights and occasionally traveled to Africa to shoot big game and affirm their manhood. Now it's just lies and damned lies and there isn't even that much boozing and hound dogging going on.

I think it's clear that, in order to produce an upsurge in sales of my novel, I need a really hot scandal. I'd be happy to do the hard drinking thing, but it's been done to death. No, I need something with perversion Chiamark.jpgand lies and cover-ups and a 300 pound baboon named Charlene and a dentist chair and a Chia Pet. Not that I've given this any thought. I welcome your ideas.

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Carnival of souls

April 29, 2006 at 3:36 am (Uncategorized)

Look carefully at the following figure and you might surmise that the Pink Panther spent the last 30 years in a basement. Panther.jpgGood work, super sleuth! This is correct. This once proud fellow has been down with the spiders and mold for three decades, enduring bitter winters and stifling summers in the dark. He was found one recent weekend in the basement of my childhood home but now he resides with me. And wait until you see the after photo. Old Pink has undergone reconstructive surgery to replace foam in his neck and legs and soon a dose of stain remover will restore his luster.

Why, you ask me, in your gore crow voice? Because the panther was a coveted toy in my childhood and it is not good to discard such an icon a second time. Plus, the pink beast was obtained through a bit of luck and some fluke of physics. Mainly, my brother won him by tossing a dime onto a glass plate and my, how I hated the son-of-a-bitch for it. I spent every dollar and every dime I had trying to win a pink panther of my own but could never duplicate his feat. I think this somehow effected my emotional development and resulted in the fine, neurotic person you see before you today.

Whether or not the reanimation of the Pink Panther will bring about a flood of good fortunate and a new appreciation for simple joys remains to be seen. But it serves as a fine segue into the matter of carnivals. Which, incidentally, were also largely responsible for my development.

The carnivals contributed to my growth chiefly because they are creepy. But in addition to that, I had a terrible encounter with a dead woman at one. No, really. It was at one of my beloved carnival freak shows that I stumbled on THE WOMAN WHO HAD BEEN BURIED ALIVE. Alive.jpg

She was kept in her original coffin, but a pane of glass replaced the upper lid so that you could stare down onto the horrified, skeletal face of premature interment. Bony fingers were hooked into claws and appeared to scraping at the lid of the coffin. Hollowed eyes stared up in terror and the rictus mouth seemed to shriek. Try as one might, a person above ground will do a poor job of imagining the mortal agony and horror of being confined alive to the grave. The corpse in the coffin at least provided some insight through the unspeakable, frozen expression about her features.

I stared down at that woman for a full five minutes and then wandered away in a daze. If I were Jim Morrison, I'd claim that her frantic spirit leapt into mine and for all my life I've been wandering around with the soul of a very old woman. But that would prove detrimental to my already beleaguered reputation, so I am not going that route. In fact, I'm going no route at all. My only ambition was to write non-stop for three minutes or so and regurgitate the last day's thoughts.

Do with it what you will. Clutch on to the Pink Panther concept and tell me about your childhood toys and adult good luck charms. freaks.jpgShare your thoughts on the carnival, such as the time you rode the zipper too many times and puked right on your date's head. Or tell me how the freak shows twisted your mind, as well. We'll start a self-help group for victims of carnival trauma. I think we're allowed to drink at the meetings.

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The Great MT

April 28, 2006 at 2:26 am (Uncategorized)

You know how there are people in the world who really get it when you ask them one simple favor? Like, if you really don't want anyone to mention your birthday, that person will understand and abide by your wishes?

I'm not one of those people. Happy Freakin' Birthday, Mainetarr. Please imagine me blowing one of those loud party favors in your face and placing a ridiculous, conical hat on your head. And while you're at it, prepare yourself. The entire Lost Sole crowd, the loved and hated alike, have assembled her together to sing "The Wind Beneath My Wings" to you. We've been rehearsing for weeks and I think we've risen to the level of truly awful. Are you ready, Lost Sole players? And a-one, and a-two…

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Settle down, MT. We don't have the proper acoustics in here for that. And even if we did, we probably don't have more than one or two decent voices in the whole lot. That's alright though, because the sentiment is there. Everybody loves Mainetarr, man. She's one of those rare breeds who can be combative and loveable at the same time. You're the glue around here, sister.

*sniff* I promised myself I wouldn't cry. Bear with me, people. Imagine we're sitting around a table littered with bottles and glasses. wench.jpgWe have already consumed enough liquor to fuel a flight to Venus. Normally staid bloggers are suddenly hugging each other and slurring "I love you man," to people they can't even see. We are here battering our livers to wish a happy birthday to the beloved Mainetarr. One by one, we stumble to our feet to toast her. And the harder we try to be sardonic and cruel, the more we gush our real feelings for the blog warrior.

I know I'm squinting out of one eye and weaving back and forth as I struggle for the right words. But simplicity is best in matters where feelings are utterly sincere. You've been one hell of a friend, MT. You've been a life-changing friend and the very definition of uncompromising loyalty. You always manage to pull new batches of enthusiasm from deep pockets when my own is flagging. I owe Sole21.jpgyou tremendously for all you've done. I can't deliver a Bette Midler song or send a strip-o-gram. But at the very least, I can embarrass you in the blog. I mean, is that the mark of a true friend or what?

A toast! Drink heartily and regurgitate Mainetarr stories into the wee hours. Here's to her relentless spirit. Here's to her magnificent charm. Here's to her boundless pursuit of joy and the infectiousness of that trait. Here's to all things Mainetarr. Now, if anybody needs me, I'll be hiding. I promised her I wouldn't mention it.

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Spongebob on crack

April 27, 2006 at 4:07 am (Uncategorized)

Christ, some criminal suspects are ugly. You can hear police putting out a bulletin on this guy: a man with a mullet and a sponge for a face. Subject described as porous and as skanky as God ever made a man. Sponge.jpgI mean, look at him! You'd be reluctant to clean up cat vomit or wipe down the underside of your toilet with that spongey bastard. And I wouldn't be so mean spirited about old Sponge Bob Mullethead, but this guy is wanted for attacking a teenage girl and raping her somewhere in Oregon. I mean, I know it's tough getting dates when you have holes clear through your face, but dude… get the Internet.

Okay, I'm done raving about this guy. Ten years ago, we had a woman running amok in the Lewiston area robbing stores and pharmacies. Hell, she even robbed a shoe store. I mean, who does that?

The interesting part though, was the composite sketches. Each one depicted a rather ogrish young lady with horrible acne. In police and media circles, she became known as the acne bandit. Not real creative, but hey. Neither was The Boston Strangler.

Eventually the woman was caught and, yup. Those witnesses were right. She had acne from the hairline down to her chinny, chin chin. I had rather hoped she was sticking up stores to pay for some radical new medication, something poetic like that. But no. She was looking for drug money.

When I finally snap and start pulling bank jobs, you people will never know it. The police bulletins will consistently describe an obese man with a tiny head. That's because I am able to ping pong between 170 and 300 pounds at will.

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A blast from the past

April 26, 2006 at 2:49 am (Uncategorized)

Good morning. Today is April 26, 2006. There will likely be much talk about life changing events that occured two decades ago. On 26 April 1986, at 1:23 AM, reactor number four at the Chernobyl nuclear power station exploded. The radiation released was over a hundred times more than that chernobyl04.jpgof the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The death toll from that disaster is still debated. Some say fewer than 50 people have died as a result, others insist hundreds of thousands have died either directly or from cancer and other long term health problems. That's not to mention the birth defects and deformities some believe are linked to the lingering effects from the Chernobyl explosion.

Me, I have no idea. I've been reading historical accounts of the disaster and trying to remember where I was when it all went down. Frankly, I can't. It was 1986, I was just out of high school, and keg parties were still the mostmark4.jpg important events of my life. There was also a lot of bad weed going around Waterville and… well, things get hazy. I wish I had a photo of myself back then, with the long hair and the bandana (around the head, not around the leg. We weren't Scott Baio fans, for chrissakes). I have none, however. And so I'll just insist that I was a clean, responsible lad who probably looked like this.

It's funny. I remember where I was when Regan was shot (at a wooded area known as Devil's Chair with two girls and a dirt bike), when Lennon was killed (sleeping off a hangover after raiding a liquor cabinet the night before) and when the space shuttle exploded just two months before the Chernobyl mess (sleeping off a hangover and planning to get up just in time to go to night school). Nuclear nastiness in the Ukraine? I have no idea.

Lauper.jpgAt any rate, we had little to worry about on this side of the world. Billy Idol, Poison, the Go Go's and Cindi Lauper (whom I had a crazy crush on) were on the radio, the Sox were starting their run to the World Series, Crocodile Dundee, Platoon, Aliens, Pretty in Pink and Blue Velvet were at the theater, a rack of Stroh's was selling for about $2.59. Good times, man. Good times. The only one I know who wept uncontrollably after news of Chernobylwhitehouse.jpg spread was sportswriter Randy Whitehouse, who remarkably, was fully bearded at the age of 14. I mean, look at the eyes red with tears. Look at the bellow of anguish forming at the lips of the hirsute, junior high-aged Whitehouse.

Because I really have no point to all this — I was just waxing nostalgic for 1986 after hearing a Loverboy tune — here are the top ten hits from April of that year. While people were choking and dying in the Ukraine, we were getting down to Falco. It's sad. It's just very sad.

1. "Kiss," Prince & The Revolution

2. "Rock Me Amadeus," Falco

3. "Manic Monday," Bangles

4. "Addicted To Love," Robert Palmer

5. "West End Girls," Pet Shop Boys

6. "What You Need," INXS

7. "Harlem Shuffle," Rolling Stones

8. "Let's Go All The Way," Sly Fox

9. "R.O.C.K. In The USA," John Cougar Mellencamp

10. "Why Can't This Be Love," Van Halen

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Things that go bzzzzzz in the night

April 25, 2006 at 2:25 am (Uncategorized)

naughty.gifBack in the late 80's, when much of the state was underwater from the spring floods, my friends and I went to the river banks in Waterville to witness the destruction. The entertainment level of the chaos went up several notches when an adult book store was swept away by the rising river, and all of its lascivious wares went floating away with it.

There! Floating languidly like a disabled torpedo, a pink vibrator bobbed its way along the river. Beyond that, an uninflated blowup doll, ripped free from a box, her mouth wide open with fright. Down river a ways, just a few feet blowupdoll.jpgfrom shore, a contraption we initially believed was a baseball bat. When a friend reached for it, he found it was far more pliant than any bat and he dropped it as though he'd been bitten. It was a double-headed dildo that no doubt caused all the eels in the river to fall in love.

The Ben Wa balls must have sunk to the bottom at once. We never saw any of those. But we saw leather whips and strap-on weenies, penis pumps and pocket vaginas bouncing along the waves like refugees swimming in from the island of Gomorrah.

Good times. You just can't go wrong with things that buzz and things that grind in gyrating circles on ball bearings. The adult novelty store spilled its product line into the river and it was like the community's diary flapping open to the really juicy pages.

They make stuff these days (I think I read it in my Better Homes and Garden) that you won't even recognize at first glance. Things that look like extraterrestrial house plants but that are designed to manipulate this and stimulate that.

Most cities have at least a couple stores that sell these things. When a new adult store opens up, the prudes express their shock and dismay. Then they quietly send a friend to pick up products for them and then the hubub subsides, except for a low buzzing sound late, late at night. Communities learn to ignore the dark windows and triple X's on the door and its a peaceful co-existance. People have a variety of needs and those stores address them. Everything is fine until a flood or a new band of prudes roars through the city.

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By SEANNA ADCOX
The Associated Press

April 21, 2006

COLUMBIA — Lucy’s Love Shop employee Wanda Gillespie said she was flabbergasted that South Carolina’s Legislature is considering outlawing sex toys.But banning the sale of sex toys is actually quite common in some Southern states.

The South Carolina bill, proposed by Republican Rep. Ralph Davenport, would make it a felony to sell devices used primarily for sexual stimulation and allow law enforcement to seize sex toys from raided businesses. Pocketrocket.jpg

"That would be the most terrible thing in the world," said Ms. Gillespie, an employee the Anderson shop. "That is just flabbergasting to me. We are supposed to be in a free country, and we’re supposed to be adults who can decide what want to do and don’t want to do in the privacy of our own homes."

Ms. Gillespie, 49, said she has worked in the store for nearly 20 years and has seen people from every walk of life, including "every Sunday churchgoers."

"I know of multiple marriages that sex toys have sold because some people need that. The people who are riding us (the adult novelty industry) so hard are probably at home buying it (sex toys and novelties) on the Internet. It’s ridiculous."
The measure would add sex toys to the state’s obscenity laws, which already prohibit the dissemination and advertisement of obscene materials.

People convicted under obscenity laws face up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

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Brilliant disguise

April 24, 2006 at 3:52 am (Uncategorized)

It is with a dawning sense of confusion and disappointment that I realize we had Street Talk going for nearly a year and I never once got into trouble. Sure, the blog was eventually blow apart by a team of webmark5.jpg demolition experts. And sure, we nearly took down a half dozen other blogs with it. But personally, I was never yelled at, threatened or sent to the Fort Kent bureau for blog misconduct.

I realize this probably disappoints you a great deal. I understand. But I assure you I tried real hard to rile people. Hell, we were drinking, cussing, throwing stuff and even posting photos of naked people, including Santa Claus, in there. I mean, what's a guy have to do to get into trouble with a newspaper?

The news is littered with stories of reporters getting canned or suspended for one violation or another on a blog. Typically, the trouble lies in deception. Maybe I should have used a fake name and said mean things about my editors. The problem is, when I say mean things about editors, I want full credit for my remarks.

No, I haven't used a fake name since I was running the bars ("Hi there. Phil Parker, movie producer from outta town. Is it hot in here, or is it you?") Other than that, I've been declaring myself Mark LaFlamme without variation. This is particularly important since you people discovered my true identity from the 1980's.

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Columnist who used fake name has blog suspendedIn the last few years, newspapers around the country have been testing the waters of the seldom-restrained, often scrappy world of Web-based journalism by setting their reporters loose to write their own blogs.

Last week, the experiment backfired for The Los Angeles Times. The newspaper suspended the blog of one of its columnists after it was revealed that he had posted comments on the paper's Web site and elsewhere on the Web under false names.

Michael A. Hiltzik, 53, a business columnist and a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the paper, acknowledged using the names Mikekoshi and Nofanofcablecos not only in posts to his own blog, but on other Web sites as well.

In a statement on Mr. Hiltzik's blog and printed in the paper last week, The Los Angeles Times said Mr. Hiltzik's actions had violated the newspaper's ethics guidelines, "which requires editors and reporters to identify themselves when dealing with the public." That policy "applies to both the print and online editions of the newspaper."

The incident has underscored the difficulties that can arise when a newspaper gives free rein to staff writers on the Web. "You give up a lot of control. It requires an enormous amount of trust," said Mickey Kaus, a columnist for Slate.com.

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Please feed dog

April 24, 2006 at 12:02 am (Uncategorized)

Vegas (109) copy1.jpgAvert your eyes if depictions of grim death disturb you. Look away if images of loneliness, pain and despair offend your delicate sensibilities. The following is the paradigmatic face of suffering.Or maybe it's a perverse hoax. I really can't tell you. I can affirm that the dog shown here is as dead as anything I have seen. I can vow that the sign next to him is completely genuine and that the photos are untouched. Beyond that, you're on your own.

We came upon the dog while driving out of the expanse of Area 51 in the Nevada desert. It lay beneath a stop sign just before the highway leading away from the compound. The corpse was lashed to the signpost with a coil of wire. Tufts of fur clung to the bleached bones and the dead beast smiled that rictus smile of death.

The circumstances in display the photos tell an unsettling story. A small, domestic animal bound to a pole on a very short leash, left alone under baking, desert sun and exposed to frigid desert nights. How long the animal could have survived like that is anybody's guess. You can only trust that it was a miserable, painful and horrifying crawl to the end. You can almost hear the agonized beast's frantic whimpers floating across the desert.
Or maybe the pooch was hit by a car on Route 375 and left beside the road. Some yucksters may have discovered the corpse weeks later while taking a leak during a drunken ride through the desert. This wits could have created the sign with a magic marker and assembled the grim scene in seconds. You can see this group wetting their pants in merriment as they envision the horror on faces of tourists.

Too close to call, I'd say. I'll leave it up to you. The PLEASE FEED DOG spectacle of March, 2005. Authentic horror? Or grisly stunt?

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Ring of fire

April 23, 2006 at 1:40 am (Uncategorized)

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I walked across the scorched earth among the burning trees and felt like the last man standing after the apocalypse. Around me there were crackles and pops and hissing as the last of the living things exploded and burned. Fire had come with an appetite and it laid waste to all in its path.
Of course, this was a mere woods fire and the devastation was limited to grass, leaves and dead tree limbs. Occasionally, the flames come with just enough savagery to remind us all that it rules us rather than the other way around.
It’s a wonder, really. We can split atoms, fire machines through the air and land them on comets, build super fast microchips the size of a tick’s eye. Yet one of the oldest elements in the universe still confounds us. When fire gets its blazing fingers on something and finds it good, there is little we can do about it.
When I was a boy, there was a neighborhood kid who sneaked out his bedroom window one night so he could resume partying at a house a block away. He drank and smoked alone into the wee hours, perhaps grumbling at how unfair it was that his parents wanted to exert such control over him.
The kid fell asleep with a cigarette, caught the bed on fire and perished in a wall of flames that burned through the upper floors of his sanctuary. For days, other kids would walk to the scene of that grisly death and look upon the charred remains of the house. For us, it was a glimpse into the pit of punishment. Our childish imaginations insisted on conjuring the sights and sounds and physical sensations as we imagined what it would be like to die by fire.
My Godmother died in flames after she returned to her burning home to retrieve a doll collection. I imagine the horror of that death too, imagining her ablaze as she ran screaming, lost and in pain, with an armful of melting dolls.
There is little reason to wonder why fire has become the avatar of man’s vision of hell. With fire comes immense destruction and unspeakable pain. It has always been both friend and foe to our species. We cook by it and it lights our way, but there have also been those who set out to cleanse perceived demons by burning people on stakes of wood.
A half million years after prehistoric man learned to use fire for his own gains, we are still mesmerized by it. When a house burns downtown, hundreds of people will gather to watch. Some will drive from a distance and bring their children. The destruction it wreaks is swift and indiscriminate. The most powerful man on earth can construct the grandest home with his awesome wealth, and it will still be reduced to rubble if fire wants it.
As the songwriter says, fire is the devil’s only friend.
So, the week of the burnings, when fire moved across the region almost logically, like a traveling magician, people stopped and took notice. They smelled smoke and something primitive in them recoiled. Because as enthralling as it is to watch the flames — of a blazing house or a campfire — we know that fire can take away everything.
In Turner, walking the burned path left behind by the hungry flames was like strolling the landscape of a burned and ruined world. My imagination gets to me. For a few moments, I was time traveling. I was the only homosapien on the planet after the comet struck and wiped out the dinosaurs. Or I was the only witness left after man finally went to far with his technology and scorched the entire race. In the beginning there was fire, and so fire marked the end.
Or some such thing. It was a surreal moment. And I imagine it was surreal in Auburn, Bethel and all the other towns where fire was once again proving its dominance over man. And it all reminds me once again what they say about those who make careers out of battling ancient force: Where all others run from the flames, firefighters run toward it.
Firefighters are an incredible breed. They wade into oceans of fire to save people and property. They voluntarily take on a force from which the rest of us instinctively flee. They are able to battle flames because they understand them. But understanding fire leads to the knowledge that you can never defeat it, just maybe knock it down for another day. Fire will exist long after the rest of us have vanished into memory.
So, I’m waxing poetic about fire while my clothes still smell like smoke from the latest inferno. I have no point, really. Just the healthy respect for fire and for the people who go to war against it when called upon.

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Comparing scars

April 22, 2006 at 4:16 am (Uncategorized)

My favorite scene in Jaws is the one where the three drunken shark hunters are hanging out on the boat and comparing scars. It's the ultimate in male bonding. While I have a dozen scars from top to bottom, I have few wild tales to tell about them.

As a boy, I once had a three-quarter inch shard of glass stuck in my heel for three days. After three days of agony, some barbarian I hope never to see again, plucked the thing out with a set of needle nose pliars. He did give me a shot of liquor before this meatball surgery and so that part was good. ist2_280569_nail_head.jpg

 

During a brawl as a teen, I got yanked over a metal table and a stray sliver sliced me in a very delicate region. We're talking centimeters here, people. One or two of them to the left, and my byline would read Marguerite LaFlamme.

I knew a kid who could jam nearly the entire length of a pen up a nostril. I knew kids who would put cigarettes out on their tongues. There were those who carved initials onto their arms, held lighters next to their arm until the skin was black and blistering, or forced sharp objects under their fingernails.

Me, I'm not one for self-induced pain. The glass in the foot and the near castration by end table were minor, childhood trauma. I wish I had weirder stories to tell and I welcome your's. I understand Mainetarr has a few scars from her Tomboy days and perhaps she could be enticed to tell a tale or two. Me, I'm off on a road trip. I've got to see a friend who's been hitting the speed pretty hard and playing with power tools.

ANDY DWORKIN, The Oregonian

One day last year, a 33-year-old Oregon man picked up a nail gun and put it to his head. Just what drove him isn't clear. Personal problems, mental illness and methamphetamine all probably played a role. He fired. And fired again. And again. Twelve times.

Six nails clustered between his right eye and ear. The heads caught on the skull; the points pushed into the brain. He shot two nails below his right 6NailHeadB.jpg ear, four more through the left side of his face. At some point, he reloaded: Eight of the finishing nails measure 11/2 inches, four have 2-inch shanks.

A day later, he went to a small Oregon hospital. He said he had a headache. Doctors saw nothing strange, at first. None of the nails stuck through the skin, and hair covered most of the pinpoint wounds. Then they took X-rays. Astounded, the doctors gave him a tetanus shot and put him on a helicopter to OHSU Hospital. There, surgeons peeled back his face and removed the nails with pliers and a high-speed drill. Doctors gave the man antibiotics and psychiatric treatment. Twenty-five days later, he walked out of Oregon Health & Science University a little weak but, physically, healthy.

"At this point, he's made a full recovery," said Dr. G. Alexander West, the neurosurgeon who led the team that pulled out the nails. "This guy was blessed in some way. I mean, that's incredible really."

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