Happy Turkey Day!

turkey2thumb

Have fun eating Turkey and stuffing and all that jazz.  We’ll resume the nonsense and what have you next week.

Really quick here are some things I’m thankful for.

I’m thankful…mainly I’m thankful that I don’t root for The Browns.

That’s the biggest thing by far.

YouTube B4 YouTube…LOMFG

Everyone knows what YouTube is. It’s a device that allows absurdly crappy videos to be made by people who shouldn’t be making videos. Then people watch them.  Like this:

Great isn’t it? Believe me, I know how this winds up happening seeing as how I, also, have a stupid video on YouTube.

But here’s the thing that a lot of people don’t realize. Crap like this was getting made loooong before YouTube and today I’ve decided to visit with some of my favorite internet videos that, in fact, were created with nary an internet in mind. That’s right, all of the following videos were made simply for the sake of making something really awful.  Not surprisingly a lot of them date from the late 70’s and early 80’s.

We’ll start with a video that is probably going to wind up in my e-mail inbox any day now.  Since the holidays are right around the corner it’s inevitable that one of my friends will get the hankering to view everyone’s favorite holiday related catastrophe, The Star Wars Holiday Special. If you don’t know what that is…consider yourself lucky. Basically, after the success of the original Star Wars movie, George Lucas decided to shit all over his creation and the end result was a television special that’s a cross between a variety show and every nightmare you’ve ever had.  By the end I’m not sure anyone actually took credit for what aired.

How bad is it? Well the clip I’ve chosen to post here is of Bea Arthur as an intergalactic bartender singing a drinking song in a cantina on Tatooine. Now, I know what you’re thinking and the answer is, “Yes, there is also a song sung by Carrie Fisher as well as, like, ten minutes where there is nothing on screen but wookies barking at each other.”

While we’re on the subject of my childhood being torn apart, let’s visit with a certain set of robotic cats that could turn into a single giant that carried a sword or something.  Everyone’s favorite…Voltron! You remember Voltron, right? I think there was a tiger maybe? No? That was He-Man? Well, whatever, all I know is I used to love Voltron as a kid. Then one day a few years ago I decided to revisit it. Never do that. I was shocked to learn that nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, made the slightest bit of god damned sense in Voltron. From a purely technical standpoint I’m not really sure why you’d take five different vehicles that could fire lasers and turn them into one very large, clunky, vehicle that only had a sword. But really what shocked me was just how utterly crappy everything about this show really was, from the production to the story to the voice-overs. I mean, I know it was a kid’s cartoon and all, but why does everything from the 80’s have to be so awful? I should never have gone back to this. In my memory banks Voltron was the awesomeness equivalent of Terminator 2  and Braveheart mating in a never-ending sea of bacon. Turns out I might have been remembering it wrong just a teensie bit. Now I’ll never have that Voltron back.

All I have left is the phrase, “And I’ll form the head!” Which I can thankfully still scream at a handful of people in my life and get a chuckle now and then.

While we’re on the subject of things from the 80’s, let’s visit with another classic. What do you think of when I say the phrases, “Self-help video,” and, “Ridiculous amounts of gold chains?” That’s right, Mr. T! This video actually went crazy-viral a few years ago, or at least the “Treat Your Mother Right,” song from the full-length motivational Mr. T video went viral. Which is a shame in my mind as there were so many other deserving moments from this…whatever this is. The opening alone deserves just as much attention.

Truthfully I don’t care to make fun of this one too much. Partly because Mr. T still scares me, partly because it mocks itself simply by existing, but mostly because, if you pop over to minute 3:33, you’ll see a very earnest and sincere Mr. T detailing what sort of self-help tips for kids he’s going to be giving over the course of this video. And, honestly? He comes across as very likable and genuine…if not horribly, horribly off target. Of course if you watch the first segment on “Shyness” things get a little creepy as, so far as I can tell, Mr. T’s main message is for kids to act like dicks to anyone who gets in their way. Seriously, go to minute 4:30. That’s the “shy” girl. The director isn’t listening to her so she bites his head off and then gives a stirring monologue directly to the camera before all but flipping off the director and then storming off-stage. Watch Mr. T grin a big moron grin at her as she leaves. Moving. And I know I’ll never be shy again.

To end things off we’ll visit with something that wasn’t made in the 80’s. Like I said, crap just seems to get made, regardless of time or internet access. The following is an actual movie. From the Philippines. About a male, gay hairdresser who transforms into a female superhero whenever he swallows a giant pink rock and says some magic words.  Now, this is based on a comic book that’s supposed to actually be pretty good, but I have to imagine the tone of the comic book is slightly more…un-retarded than the tone of the movie version. Either that or the Philippines is just the craziest place on earth and I really need to give it a visit.

Actually the more I watch that one the more I kind of want to see it with subtitles.

What are they arguing about while that giant frog approaches?

Bartleby Blows Off Some Steam

firethumb I decided it was time to drop another little snippet from the next book on the blog here, just to assure you that I’m making progress and that I’m not planning on handing you a briefcase full of shredded newspaper, calling it a new book, then high-tailing it to Ecuador.

Here we visit with Bartleby and Pintar. Pintar is new. Due to Bartleby’s…peculiar talents he has more or less become a bounty hunter since the last book; something I’m not entirely sure he’s thrilled about. But the things are out there and he can take them down so he’s let himself get cast in this role. Pintar is his handler as well as his secretary. I’m not positive how this got started but due to the large amount of information that Pintar needs to keep at his fingertips he has to stay in one spot or risk forgetting it, seeing as how everything around him, all the papers and computers and what not, don’t actually exist unless he’s thinking about them. There’s a couple of other characters like this, actually, who have volunteered to be record keepers now that such a role is needed, all of them figuratively chained to their location so they can keep their facts and information straight in their head and easily accessible when it’s needed.

Bartleby and Pintar are trying to track down a lead they received from a Mr. Pinkerton.

This is, as with the last snippet of Kyo’s workout routine, a very rough draft and completely unedited. And that’s intentional. Partly because I never edit as I go and partly because some readers enjoy seeing what my rough drafts look like.

Let’s watch, shall we?

Pintar was seated at his desk, papers stacked up all around him, his silver tea service sitting neglected on the corner, cold cup of tea undrunk. He was typing on a laptop, his face leaned in close to the screen as his eyes were tired. “Here,” he said, “this says the word Durango comes from an old Basque word Urango.” He shifted in his seat and turned to look back at Bartleby who was sitting behind him at another table. Bartleby was tilted back in his chair, his feet up on the table, there was a sloppy pile of magazines and newspapers dripping like thick liquid paper off of the table by his feet. He was staring at Pintar with a look that begged for mercy.
“Are you remembering this?” Pintar asked.
“I haven’t remembered anything you’ve told me in the past four hours.”
“I thought you wanted to figure out what Mr. Pinkerton meant by Durango.”
“I did…I still do…but we’re not doing that. We’re researching absurd trivia on the word Durango using a freaking dial up modem.”
“It’s satellite, not dial up.”
“Well it sucks!”
“Our internet is nowhere near as comprehensive as that of the humans, Bartleby. For research there’s no comparison.” Pintar turned back to the laptop. His head hunched in again and his eyes flickered over the screen. “Here’s a yarn shop called ‘Durango’,” he said, turning to a legal pad sitting next to him where he meticulously scratched out this information at the end of a rather long list of other bits of information.
“Oh. My. God,” Bartleby said, near exploding. “This isn’t helping. This can’t be helping. We had it back on the first two things we found. It’s a town in Colorado, it’s a state in Mexico. He’s there. He’s in one of them. Or he’s not. We’re not going to find him by researching yarn stores,” Bartleby tilted his chair onto the ground and popped up, pacing. “We need to go to these places and we need to look at them. I mean is this all you really want to do? Sit at this desk and just read things on your computer? Don’t you want to–” Bartleby caught himself as Pintar looked up at him. Bartleby froze and gritted his teeth. “Shit,” he whispered. “You know I didn’t…” he started, stopped, started again. “Look I know you’re stuck here and you can’t really move around as long as we have to keep all this shit,” Bartleby looked around at the stacks of paper and rows of filing cabinets, “accessible.” He looked at Pintar. Bartleby’s eyes were ragged. “You know that, right?”
Pintar nodded silently, half accepting Bartleby’s apology, half worrying at the wear and tear in Bartleby’s eyes.
“Okay…good,” Bartleby started again, a little embarrassed but building up annoyance again, “but seriously I can’t fucking do this any more. Four hours straight of anything, and I mean anything will drive me bat-shit.”
Pintar stared up at him, nodded again, then turned back to the computer. “Here we have the Durango Railroad Historical Soci–”
“Oh don’t you fucking dare!” Bartleby leapt across the room and tried to yank the laptop out of Pintar’s hands while Pintar turned away.
“Here we have an ad for a youth hostel in downtown,” Pintar said merrily as he dodged Bartleby and made it to the other side of the table.
“Pintar give me the fucking computer. Give me the computer and I’m going to look up some porn, like you’re supposed to do on the internet, dirty weird-ass highly-legal-here-in-Thailand-porn.”
Pintar, while enjoying this break from his normal monotony, was displeased with this possible use of his pristine computer and he began to compose himself again. As he settled the laptop down he glanced at Bartleby’s hands, stared for a few seconds, then he looked up at Bartleby’s face.
There was another sound and Pintar looked up as a pattering noise on the corrugated metal roof permeated the room. Pintar looked down again at Bartleby’s hands. “Maybe you should go blow off some steam,” he said, staring at the tendrils of smoke that were starting to curl up from under Bartleby’s fingers.
Bartleby looked down himself, then nodded as he lifted his hands. He stared down at the smoldering black marks where his fingers had been, his eyes staring tiredly into space. “Maybe that’s a good idea,” he said as he started walking towards the door. “I hate that stupid pun, though,” he shot off as he banged out through the door.
Bartleby stepped out into the jungle where a morning downpour was washing through the trees. He began walking, leaving the bamboo cabin behind him, the large-leafed growth swallowing him up as he continued walking, rain pelting down onto a hundred thousand bright green leaves. He stopped when he felt like stopping, his black clothes soaked, and he turned his head up, squinting his eyes tight as thick drops of rain pattered down against his skin. His chest lifted as he took a deep breath, some internal spring inside of him starting to unwind, some deep buried mechanism that was constantly checking and rechecking his mood, his anger, his temper, his entire being, to keep him in check, to keep him mentally focused on not letting go. His arms dropped to his sides, hands up, fingers twitching as the rain pelted his palms and slowly the spring unwound, his clothes drying as the rain continued to wash over them, then as he relaxed and let himself lose control completely the rain itself stopped touching him, each drop of the downpour vaporizing inches away from his body as steam billowed off of him and roiled away through the thick green jungle.

World Domination

The following is a map of all my visitors since about last June or so.  There is something very disturbing with this image.  Let us take a closer look and examine this in more detail.  First, the map.

worldmap

You see that empty spot right there in the middle of Asia?

mongolia2That’s Mongolia.

WTF, Mongolia? You’re too good to visit me? All the rest of Central Asia has visited me. But noooooooo…not Mongolia.

You know what I think?

mongolia3

That’s what I think.

Stupid Mongolia.

And don’t think I don’t see you over there, Belarus…think you can hide in Eastern Europe without me noticing?

mongolia4

Ohhh don’t you worry.

I’ll be gunning for you as soon as Mongolia falls.

It’s only a matter of time…

Things They Sell at My Bodega

Every few blocks in Manhattan you will come across a little store with an awning out front and a wide array of products inside. We call them bodegas…I have no idea why. Boston, apparently, uses that term as well while the mid-west uses “party store” or “corner store.” Taiwan is flooded with 7-11’s while in New Zealand you might hit up the “dairy” for smokes at four in the morning.

Here is my bodega (technically I have three in my area that I cycle through but they all look much like this):

bodega

Two points here.  First, these things aren’t giant mega-marts with tons of shelf space, they’re little stores which makes this next point so amazing to me, mainly that the ones in New York stock some really fucking weird shit.

We’ll start with what is, hands down, the most astonishing part of my local bodega: the lunch buffet.

Wings and potatoesOmm nom nom!

Not every bodega has one of these but a large number do and I have never, at any moment in my life, understood this. Who eats this stuff? More importantly, who cooks this stuff? I should point out that of the three bodegas in my area this array of victuals is found in the tiniest one. And it’s not a small buffet either.  Here, look:

Steam TableThat’s not a mirror at the end there, that’s more fucking steam trays. This is a crazy number of different foods.  They have a seafood section for the love of all that’s holy! How does a corner store sell this many different dishes *by the pound* at a lunch buffet? And why this stuff? I’ve been to plenty of buffets in my lifetime. Not a single one of them has had deviled eggs:

eggsNot to mention deviled eggs floating in what appears to be salsa.

Now, for all I know this is the single greatest meal to be found on the entire island of Manhattan. This could be a culinary trip through worlds of flavors and tastes the likes of which I’ve never experienced. But I’ll never know ’cause I ain’t eating it. Not a cliff I’m looking to dive off of anytime soon.

The good news is that you can wash down your deviled eggs with coconut water:

Coconut WaterI’ve actually heard of this product…sort of…I think. But it’s a cooking item, not a beverage, and that really doesn’t matter because I can’t find this crap in my local supermarket so why is a place that has one-fourteenth the refrigerator space stocking it?

Here’s a fun one:

Duraflame

I’ll repeat. I live in New York. Who is using these? I think I’ve seen one fireplace in my ten years of living in New York and it was sealed shut with bricks and had a TV sitting in it.

I have no idea what this is:

Menora PolishThe price tag should give you some indication of how big the box is, which is not very big at all.  It certainly does not hold the elaborate stainless steel menorah pictured on the cover. My best guess is menorah polish.You know, because the holidays are just around the corner.

The following is a picture of a bottle of white vinegar from a major brand. This is neither rare nor weird, I’d just never noticed how fucking stupid their slogan is:

vinegar

“The Natural Choice For Food?” As opposed to what? That’s horrible. “Vinegar: It’s the obvious choice for things that you eat.”

Now, let’s say it’s three in the morning and you find yourself ravenously hungry. You don’t want to order in a full meal because you have a few ingredients on hand that you want to get rid of, things like a sack full of toast points, a jar of sour cream and a bottle of champagne. Where do you go? Why, you go to my bodega…because they sell caviar:

caviershot

Oh, my caviar has a first name, it’s K-V-L-A-D-A-T-V-I-A. And my caviar has a last name, it’s S-V-O-R-I-S-T-K-R-Y-P-T-N-I-A…

We’ll end with what has to be the strangest product I’ve ever seen in my life. Technically I think this was actually being used by one of the people working at my bodega and wasn’t for sale, per se, but I don’t care. The point here is that this product is being made somewhere by someone and is then being purchased by someone somewhere else for use.

Tired of your dull, boring leaves?

Leaf Shine

You know it’s good because it’s from Holland.

In Which I Reference Myself

offcutsthumbSomehow staying in over the weekend to regroup from post-season baseball wound up with me being drunk for like forty-eight hours. Getting invited to yesterday’s Giants game, tailgate included, didn’t really help my plans for recuperation.

On top of non-writing duties I’ll be lucky to get through my word count for the new book and putting together a blog post is right out. So I’m just going to hit some highlights from the archives for the new readers I’ve been accumulating these past few months. It’ll be just like one of those clip show episodes that your favorite shows put out when they start getting lazy. How glamorous!

If you like any of this stuff please use the buttons at the bottom to Digg or Tweet or Facebook or whatever the hell it around. And submitting specific links to BoingBoing or the like is always appreciated.

The first obvious choice is my post on The 5 Stages of a Hangover. Remember that? It made us laugh, it made us cry.  Go read it now. I’ll just sit here in a cold sweat.

My short story “New York City Marathon” comes to mind. I feel I really captured how this city gets you drunk when you aren’t even trying. Go read it now. I’ll just sit here getting really angry at my neighbor’s cat for reasons I can’t remember.

Remember when I wrote my ten favorite moments from the 26 Stories project? I do. I liked the one about Kyo. Go read it now. I’ll just sit here scratching my skin. And you can bounce through the other moments by scrolling to the next post or the previous post.

I also liked “Liquid Calling.” Remember that? Crazy wasn’t it? With the stuff and the thing? Seriously though, out of all the twists I’ve written the one in this story might be my favorite. Go read it here. I’ll just sit here weeping.

If you’re a writer you might like the post where I talk about why I never want to think a story I’ve written is good before I publish it. It’s here. Go read it while I do something involving a hangover.

Remember when I saw that cliche walking around on the street? God that was funny. Go read it here.

Right. Wasn’t that awesome? What I’ve sacrificed in originality here I will now go pour into the new book.

Daylight Savings Time Explained

Time ChangeOver this past weekend everyone set their clocks back an hour, a yearly act that always results in confusion, questions and me wondering why I’m tired the next day at five in the afternoon.  Nobody ever seems to understand why we practice Daylight Savings Time so I thought I would clear things up.

In the 1930’s America was in the grips of the Great Depression. Jobs were scarce, people wore overalls and farmers attempted to eek a living out of the hard dirt of the barren mid-west.  This was a real thing that happened.

The Great Depression

Photo: Typical American Homestead in the 1930's

While pondering this predicament a savvy businessman began to think about the amount of sunlight in the day, when that light was present and how all of this related to the amount of time spent at work.

He came up with a groundbreaking theory:

fifties

Washington was quick to grasp the significance of this breakthrough and was swift to act establishing the National Daylight Preserve in a secret location and immediately seeking out sources of clean viable daylight. After several false starts they finally struck upon a deal with our friendly neighbor to the north…Santa.

That's Right, Bitches

That's Right, Bitches

Santa had been trying to offload all of his surplus daylight for years having long since been convinced by his marketing department that fur and robes were the look for him, not to mention the Elvish labor unions were breaking his back to cut his work week to five days a week. Back then the North Pole received more sunlight than anywhere else on earth and Santa knew that with a normal five day work week he’d never get toys made for all the good girls and boys. So when Uncle Sam came calling they struck a happy deal. Santa could dump excess daylight down south and make each work day last six months. There were some repercussions.

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All that was left was a way to sneak all this daylight past the shifty eyes of the Canadians who, for some reason, would probably most likely want to steal it. The answer was obvious: the mafia. With bootleggers already sneaking whiskey into they had the perfect infrastructure in place to smuggle whatever the hell they wanted across the Canadian border. Plus some bootleggers had their own reasons for wanting more daylight:

gatsby2

Things went smashingly for almost a decade with the government setting up a movable strategic reserve in a large ceramic container capable of retaining massive amounts of heat, similar to those used to bake clay: the American Reserve Kiln.

Then the forties came along and things went wrong in the only way things ever went wrong in the forties, the  Nazi way. Learning the secret location of the American Reserve Kiln, which was in Egypt for reasons I really don’t think I need to go into, the Nazis sought to dig it up and steal it. And when Nazis are after your American Reserve Kiln, or A.R.K., there really is only one place to turn (I am so very very sorry for that pun):

indiana

It belongs in a museum.

Dr. Indiana Jones chased the Nazis, in possession of the A.R.K., across half the globe from Tunis to Whythefuckareyoustillreadingthisastan before tricking them into opening the A.R.K without proper protection. Yeah. You know what happens at the end when all their faces melt? That’s why you don’t stare directly at an eclipse.

Dr. Jones was successful and returned America’s daylight reserves home and things remained peaceful until the early nineties when the criminal element that had helped to bring the daylight into the country in the first place began to feel like they had gotten a raw deal. They dispatched two of their best men:

pulp_fictionThese two waged an unholy war against southern California, rival mobs and traditional linear storytelling in their search for the current resting place of all our wonderful daylight…that god damned briefcase.

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They retrieved said briefcase and returned to their criminal boss, but then the T-1000…well I don’t need to bore you with the rest as everyone surely knows how that part of the story goes. But you probably never put two and two together and realized that this is the reason we now disperse our daylight over only half of the year.

Which is why you had an extra hour to get drunk last weekend.

You’re welcome.

October’s Contest Results

winnerthumbThis contest was for the die-hards so the entry level was lower than usual.  I mention this because we actually wound up with a repeat winner.  Red from way over on the other side of the world takes home another one with a last-second entry.  Strong work…although I might think about putting a limit on wins per year next time to give the other contestants not blessed with freakish good luck when it comes to random number generators a chance at winning as well.

The entries were great, I had a lot of fun reading your interpretations of my characters and book.  Most of you wanted some attempt by me to answer these questions as well so here goes, though I have to stress that there really weren’t many of these that had “right” or “wrong” answers. Basically everyone who entered received full marks and made it to the random number phase of the contest.

angelmontage

  1. What was Mary in her previous life, and how does it contradict her duties/identity as an angel?
    Mary was a nun her first time around. This past has put her at odds with herself as a tester as she seems to gravitate towards relationships and sex for her pushes. It seems to be a minor theme that in their second time around these characters wind up in areas that are almost polar opposites from their original lives.
  2. Which aspects of his life in the ancient world color how Epp handles decisions as an angel? Does his status as an ancient being influence your regard for him?
    Ball and ChainI get the feeling that as a Roman slave Epp was kept to a pretty strict schedule and discipline with his work. It’s worth noting that Roman slaves were all over the map as far as their relationships with their owners and a lot of these relationships were actually quite civil…you know, for slavery and all. I get the feeling that where Epp landed as a slave turned out to be a good fit for him and I definitely think he was encouraged to learn as much as possible there. I think it was one of the great ironies of his life that he flourished under slavery in a way that never would have happened as a free man.  As for the second part, well, I created him so I’m not sure I can answer that. I will say that anyone who sticks around for two-thousand years and keeps their eyes open you should probably listen to.
  3. Do you see Matthew as a hero or just an observer? What role does he play in the larger story?
    I started referring to Matthew in my head as a robot by the later parts of the book because he started reminding me of C-3PO and R2-D2. He’s very much a guide for the reader, though for me he does start to step up at the end.
  4. What’s up with the mountain tops? If you could go anywhere to peacefully contemplate the big issues in your life, where would it be and why?
    I have absolutely no idea why I started using mountain tops the way I did.  Whatever the reason I’m of the opinion it was the right choice.  Just look at it! As for where I’d go, it’d probably be Central Park…in the rain.
  5. What do you think Hector did for a living in his first life?
    Sorry. I’m not answering this one.
  6. If you were an angel and could “push” anyone in history, who would it be and why? What sort of outcome would you want?
    I’m pretty sure I listed a lot of my top candidates throughout the book. And I think all I’d want out of a push is to be surprised at the strength of the person I was up against.
  7. What does the title of Part 9, “Where Sarpedon’s Body Lay,” mean?
    trojan-horseAhhh…this question had so many of you Wiki-ing up.  There were some very good responses and I’m hesitant to write the “answer” here because the stuff you came up with was equally fun.  So I’ll just say that, in my mind, this is was the title means: Sarpedon was a soldier in the Trojan war and he pops up in the Iliad a few times before falling in battle. I was always struck in that book at how the battles were so fluid, constantly ranging back and forth across the beaches and the front of the Trojan walls and how the fighting could coalesce in a heartbeat around the oddest things. When Sarpedon falls some of his compatriots stop to retrieve his body so that it can be properly buried. Then some of his enemies stop to try and stop his compatriots so that they can’t give him a properly burial. Then more compatriots join in, then more enemies, then more and more and more and suddenly there’s a full on battle being fought. For me that was a lot like what was happening in the last parts of the book as things began to come to a head of their own accord in places nobody would ever have thought to prepare for them.
  8. Would you want to have Epp as a mentor? Why or why not?
    No, but it would probably be good for me.
  9. Matthew has a “thing” for cigars. Freudian aspect? Habit? What is the most realistic habit that the angels have in Probability Angels?
    Ha…I don’t do symbolism much and certainly not Freudian symbolism so that’s out.  The most realistic habit these characters have is their inability to keep time zones straight. Kyo in particular.
  10. Sum up what you think happens in the next book in one sentence.
    I can’t quite do it in one sentence but I’ll try and put together an answer using thousands of sentences.  You should have it in your hands in a little bit if all goes well.

Thanks to all who entered, congrats to Red and now I’m off to work on question 10 some more.