Foreign Languages Are Funny

The magical works of Walt Disney have spanned the globe and found their way into every culture imaginable. During this process they, naturally, were translated into every language you can think of. When you throw YouTube into this equation you wind up with the ability to see your favorite childhood songs sung in utterly unintelligible gibberish (assuming, you know, you don’t speak the foreign language in question). The result is…well I don’t know what the result is but it’s entertaining:

My preference lies with the Asian translations. Here is the Japanese version of “Under the Sea.” The only video I could find was taken from a video game…which makes sense all things considered.

This one is fascinating, it’s nearly every version of Timon and Pumba’s hula dance strung together:

It’s probably worth mentioning that the results aren’t necessarily funny. I mean the above songs are all sort of the “silly songs” of the movies. It isn’t surprising that the translations wind up being rather slap-stick (though apparently pulling off “silly” in German is a challenge).

I offer the Russian “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” as a counter example.

I rather enjoy that version.

We’ll end by going back to bat-shit crazy with the Finnish version of “Yummy Yummy Yummy I’ve Got Bugs in my Tummy.” I get the feeling that even if you speak Finnish this still seems like insanity.

The Story So Far

I mentioned last week that I’ve been trying to write a recap for Probability Angels for ages now with no luck. They always came out sounding horribly clinical or they were just a droning list of events with no real personality. Neither result being something I’d want to read. Then it occurred to me that maybe I wasn’t the right person to be recapping in the first place and from there things started to fall into place.

So here for your perusal is the recap that I will be putting at the beginning of the new book.

THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR PROBABILITY ANGELS!

This is not an excerpt or a blurb on the back cover sort of thing, this is as condensed a retelling of Probability Angels as I could muster. But it’s important to have something like this since it’s been years now for some of you since you read Probability Angels. Obviously I encourage you heartily to revisit it, but I understand if you just want a quick refresher before reading the sequel.

So here it is. Like I said, I was having no luck so I brought in a friend to take a crack at it. My friend’s name is Matthew and I think he did all right:

Hi. My name’s Matthew. I think we’d better sit down here for a minute. I need to fill you in on some stuff.

We’ll get the weirdest thing out of the way first: I’m dead. Have been for decades now. I was actually killed by a mugger in Queens back in the 80’s. The thing is, I didn’t quite die all the way. I stayed here in this world. And I’m not alone. It turns out that since the dawn of time people like me have been sticking around after death to pitch in with the whole “progress of humanity” thing. In fact, we may have helped bring about the dawn of time in the first place…but we’ll get to that.

Basically anyone who dies in a specific way, sacrificing themselves for not one but two loved ones, ends up with the choice of remaining in this world after death and doing some good. See, when that mugger in Queens fired that gun my wife was standing next to me and there was only one thought that went through my head: “Take me not her. Take me not her. Take me not her.” Then I woke up at my own funeral. Turns out, though, that it wasn’t just her I was protecting. Turns out she was carrying my unborn daughter at the time. I had no idea. I didn’t figure out that little secret until twenty years later. In fact figuring that out was what triggered my choice: either stick around and help push humanity forward, or pass over to…well to whatever the hell happens next.

Everything up until that moment when I had to choose, all the years between my death and when I learned about my daughter, had been child’s play. I look back at that time as sort of an incubation period. We call the ones who are still waiting to make their choice “newbies.” They’re basically just imps.  They fuck around in your lives and they get cash for it. I thought it was awesome but on the day of my choice Epp explained just how much more was going on.

Epp is short for Epictetus. He’s kind of my mentor. If the name Epp sounds funny to you it should. It’s ancient Greek. Epp died about two-thousand years ago and has been pushing humanity ever since, so I sort of have some big footsteps to follow in.

Which brings me to the work. The act of pushing, or testing, is…well it sucks. Basically I take your worst moments and try to make them into your best. There’s as many different methods of doing this as there are testers, but the basic method is to take your raw emotions and tweak them so that you maybe grow a bit after a bad patch. You know? I sort of force you to make lemonade out of your lemons. Rather than letting you dwell on shit I try and make you rise above it. Shakespeare, Helen Keller, Beethoven, Newton (Newton was actually Epp’s biggest push to date),they all had one of us working in the background. Hell, if someone is famous enough for you to have heard about them then odds are there was one of us behind the scenes making sure they didn’t become complacent, or quit, or fail to live up to their potential. And those are just the big guns. It works on the small scale too. My first push was a little grade-school girl who had just been dumped by her little grade-school boyfriend that day. Together we took all her hurt and made her soul run a little deeper. We wound up writing a poem.

The methods of doing this range from tester to tester. We aren’t quite ghosts. I should point that out. I can take physical form and you’ll see me standing next to you just like anyone else. But…well…we can do other tricks too. I mean, if I concentrate I can cause enough friction in the air to light my cigar into a perfect red ember. Pretty cool, right? And I’ve only been dead a few decades. Some of the older testers have been studying the universe for so long they can really do some crazy stuff. Of course, the more you humans learn about the world the more tools we have to play with. So it’s mutually beneficial. Not that you have any idea we’re around. Humans have a way of explaining us away in whatever terms they need to. I guess some call us ghosts, some call us angels, some call us the house settling. But if I appeared and then disappeared in front of you, your brain would come up with some easier to understand explanation than an appariting human.

But back to the work. If it sounds sort of rough for the human involved, that’s nothing compared to what the tester goes through. I actually have to revisit the moment of my own death in order to push you. You think that’s fun? It’s not. And if it goes wrong I can be obliterated. But it’s where we draw our energy from. It also wears us out like you wouldn’t believe so after a push we get to head up to the mountaintops for a rest. The mountains are sort of sacred. Nobody is allowed up except testers who have recently pushed and anyone they invite up. Everest is sort of home base, that’s the mountain most of us use. You should see it through my eyes. The place is littered with testers sleeping off their most recent pushes. Sometimes you go up and you nap for a week or two, but after a big push? Well a tester can go up there and not wake up for a century.

Of course if the work sounds bad you should see what happens if you shrug it off. See, if you don’t put in your work testing humans you start to rot. If a tester gives up and stops working, after a few decades they cease to really be a tester. They…well they turn into a zombie really. Though nobody uses that word. We just call them rotted things. They change as they rot and they become hungry as hell and they can’t push anymore so they have to feed on humans, other rotted things, or us testers to avoid the hunger. Luckily they’re also slow and stupid and so they tend to just rot away in the graveyards. Or they used to. But we’ll get to that.

First let me run you through a few of the other testers I’ve gotten to know. Outside of Epp there’s Mary. She’s a former nun and is quite beautiful. I mean like she’s smoking hot, though a little short maybe. She was a little unsure of herself when we first met but she came into her own as a natural leader after the fall. There’s Bartleby. He’s a bit of a blow-hard and a show off but he’s an all right guy once you get to know him. Also he got tossed to the far side of Mercury by Epp (long story) and when he made his way back he was a little messed up. The guy bursts into flames uncontrollably. Or he used to, he still gets smoky when he gets emotional but he’s learned to control it pretty well. Good thing too because he was a big part of our defenses during the bad times.  Let’s see…there’s Gregor and Hector. Gregor worked for the Council, which is the closest thing we have to a governing body. Gregor and Epp had a clash a few centuries ago, something about how Gregor went about creating the myth of vampires. I didn’t really get all of it but the dude looks exactly like Count Dracula. Or what I always thought Dracula looked like from the book. It’s freaky. But he and Epp had a falling out over something that happened back then and Gregor was punished by the Council. They starved him out, preventing him from pushing to draw energy for decades. There’s a lot of different opinions on this little bit of our history, whether Gregor deserved it, whether the Council had the right to punish him, stuff like that. Everyone told me that this was ancient history and that Gregor was over it. Anyway, that’s Gregor and then his second in command is Hector who is a dickhead. If you’ve ever met some hotshot bouncer at some douche bag club somewhere who gets off on being an asshole to you because he can then you’ve got a good idea of what Hector is like. He’s this big dude who always wears these mirrored sunglasses. And, finally, there’s Kyo.

We’ll hop to a new paragraph for Kyo. His full name is Kyokutei and the guy used to be a samurai. And as if that wasn’t cool enough, something went seriously wrong during Kyo’s death so that he never quite made his second choice fully and was an aberration. I don’t know the exact details of how he died but the result was pretty cool because he was indestructible, none of our rules applied to him. He also didn’t need to push so he was never up on Everest taking naps. He’s a bit gruff and a loner and he and Epp have this crazy relationship. They’re like brothers the way they fight sometimes but they also have a ton of respect for each other. If that makes sense.

Anyway, that was my life for maybe three months. I had just made my second choice and was just learning how to push and was trying to learn how to harness the new powers I had since I was no longer a newbie when everything fell apart. See it turns out that Gregor wasn’t as forgiving as most people thought. He had plans. Remember those rotted things I mentioned earlier, the zombie-ish things in the graveyards? The testers who had given up and rotted away? Well Gregor figured out that if you fed them healthy testers that they would grow back. And when they grew back they grew back fast and strong. Thing is there was always one part of their body that stayed rotted away forever no matter how much they fed. Big reveal here…remember Hector and how he was always wearing mirrored sunglasses? Yeah. Nothing under there but rotted out eye sockets. So Gregor had slowly been building this army of resurrected dead by feeding them testers and his second in command was one of them. Which is fucked up. I think he just wanted them as a bargaining chip but it wasn’t long before Hector turned on him, bashed his head in, and assumed control of his army. God, Hector is such a dickhead.

It was bad in the beginning when Hector first came after us. Nobody had any idea what was going on and we had to retreat to the mountaintops. There were plenty of casualties and we took some big hits. Kyo and Mary were surrounded at one point and she was knocked out and he couldn’t figure out how to get them to safety so he pushed for the first time in his existence to get Mary up to Everest. They got out okay but Kyo was no longer an aberration nor indestructible. He’s just a normal tester now.

We lost Epp too in a manner of speaking. Hector had a bunch of us trapped in this cathedral, see we can’t really travel around if we don’t know where we are or where we’re going. And the rooms at the top of this cathedral were basically a maze and nobody could get their bearings to jump in or out and there were like a hundred rotted things coming for us. So Epp sacrificed himself to get us out. He opened up a vein and they pounced on him going for the easy meal, not to mention that Epp was so powerful he must have seemed like an all you can eat buffet to them. We got out but the cathedral collapsed and as Epp was falling and being devoured alive he…well I don’t know what he did but he managed to leave his body right before he hit the ground. And he travelled around the world as pure energy before reentering his body. Yeah. I can light a cigar at will and he can do shit like that. Problem was, though, he lost so much of his energy while traveling that when he got back into his body he wasn’t one of us anymore. He had crossed over the line and wasn’t a tester, he was a rotted thing himself. Not in personality mind you. I mean he’s still on our side, but he isn’t one of us. Not anymore.

Things were bleak for awhile but up on the mountaintops we learned to fight back. All the tools we used to use to interact with you humans were revisited to see what could be used as weapons. The ability to control atoms is powerful stuff and we have testers who can call down lightning, testers who can create solid walls of air, testers who can whistle and break your neck with sound waves. And we’re always coming up with new ways to protect ourselves.

Then things all came to a head at this teenager’s birthday party in some middle-American suburb. Katie Packer was her name. There was a fight, a big fight, and we managed to drive back Hector’s army. A large part of that was that some of the rotted things decided that they weren’t on Hector’s side. One zombie in particular, Jonathan, who looks like a freaking jungle explorer, managed to gather a bunch of disgruntled ex-members of Hector’s army together and with their help we won the day at Katie Packer’s eighteenth birthday party. The zombies broke and most fled. Kyo and Bartleby almost pinned down Hector too, but he got away. Not before they managed to blind him, though.

That was about six months ago. A lot has changed since then. A lot. I mean Bartleby is off…well you’ll see. Frankly I’m just happy to still be here. Most days I feel like a little kid who’s been dropped into the middle of a war between immortals. It helps to try and keep a few things in mind. I chose to be here, that’s a big one. I chose to stick around and do some good. I loved my wife and my daughter enough to give me this chance and I took it, and that was my choice, so I try not to complain. Remembering that helps during the bad times.

Mainly though? Mainly I just try and keep my head down, learn what I can and not fuck things up too much for you humans.

It’s your world, after all. I just died in it.

Those Go Together?

Much is going on behind the scenes here at Joseph Devon Industries. A lot of seriously messed up zigs in the first draft have been corrected into zags. There’s a lot of interesting art arriving for the countdown to release. I’ve dug up a few new places and ways to promote and share this new book with readers. The recap for Probability Angels finally fell into place this week too. I’ve been working on that for months but it was going horribly and then I decided to let a friend of mine come in and take a crack at it and it was done in a day. It needs editing but after that it will probably be appearing here for your perusal. And, on top of all of that, there’s the fact that I’m Batman. So the crime fighting has been exciting as well.

Oh crap, I probably shouldn’t have told you that.

Bah! I can trust you right?

Anyway, in spite of all of that going on I have nothing to say. So here is the weirdest ad for soup that I’ve ever seen in my life:

Last Sunday’s Cooking

The pots were rallied and the pans were rounded up again this past weekend for some more adventures in cooking.

If you ever cook anything anywhere for anyone, always start with one of these:

No matter how badly you mess up the rest of your meal, people will remember the delicious cheese and olives.

The rest of the menu was very simple. Normally I like to cook 80,000 dishes and take over my friends’ apartments for hours on end, but this time there were only three dishes. Although they did take lots of time and space so that was good.

The simplest was a zucchini pancake:

Shredded zucchini was salted heavily and allowed to sit in a colander for twenty minutes to purge out moisture. Then it was wrapped in cloth and squeeeeeeeeezed to get more water out. Then some beaten egg whites (soft peaks) were folded in with some seasonings, flour and sugar. Finally it was pan fried in oil. Very nice. And no I don’t have a picture of the final product. That would make too much sense.

The second dish was osso buco. This sounds crazy fancy but it’s just veal shanks seasoned, dredged in some flour and seared off in oil:

These then get transferred to a dutch oven. Actually you can brown the shanks in the dutch oven to start with but there was some pan confusion so that didn’t quite happen. Anyway, deglaze what you can with chicken stock and some wine, throw in your normal trinity and some fresh herbs (rosemary makes things happy) and put into a 350 degree oven for about two hours making sure the liquid in the pan covers the shanks. Pull when fork tender.

The final dish was insane and wasn’t actually my department. My friend made raviolis. Home made raviolis. Like the pasta was from scratch.

Isn’t that pretty? Flour and eggs and a pasta roller and you get these nice sheets of pasta. They then get cut:

This basically amounts to slave labor, constant kneading and rolling and sheeting and cutting. But it’s fun. There’s a lesson there about the nature of work and your attitude towards it but never mind that because here’s the crazy part: the raviolis were BEET raviolis.

Baked beets were shredded. And yes I know this looks terrifying:

Then they were mixed with ricotta and seasonings. And yes I know this looks trippy:

Then the ravs were stuffed creating an army of scalloped pasta to do one’s bidding:

Pretty weird looking, rather labor intensive, very delicious.

A poppy butter sauce makes a nice finish.

Also you should drink wine.

Like a  lot of it.

Well WTF?

I have, roughly, seven hundred kabillion bajillion places on the internet where I have a presence. Actually that’s an exaggeration. The true value might be slightly less. But there are a lot of different places on the web where readers interact with my work and then can leave comments for me. And some of these presences are on sites whose rules I don’t exactly understand. I have the time, brain power and patience to really drill down into one or two sites. I’m a very happy Twitterer for example. While on other sites I basically just throw down a link to this page and then never revisit again.

Facebook is one of those sites that I do play around on a bit. Which was why I was shocked to suddenly, while mucking about on my page, hit a button and discover a bunch of reader comments that had up until that point been hidden. It was like, there’s me, la-la-la-la, and I hit this button and it’s all of a sudden PATCHOW!!!! and a bunch of very kind and flattering comments from happy readers appeared. It was baffling and annoying. These nice people read all about Matthew and Epp and then reached out to me to tell me how much they enjoyed my work and because I’ve never hit a button on my Facebook page that, quite frankly, I didn’t even know existed, I had no idea this was going on.

So…yeah. That happened.

Oh and this is what I was posting on Facebook while I made this discovery, though it seems sort of secondary after that whole wrinkle presented itself:

There it is, the new book in word cloud form. You can click on it for a larger view.

Why the fuck did I use the word “back” so many times? I just noticed that.

Who Writes This Crap, Anyway?

The act of rewriting is sort of like mood archeology. You sift through the pages and each chunk of writing represents your mood and attitude from whatever day it was written. Some days are lackluster, some days are brilliant and some days give off a very, “Let’s just get through this scene and we’ll polish it up during rewrites,” sort of vibe.

The chunk of writing I went over today fit into this latter mood. I was quite obviously relying on my current-self to pick up the slack for my past-self.

One such nugget was as follows:

“The full moon hung in the dark sky like a white bowling ball lodged in fudge.”

Very poetic.

Then there was this, my personal favorite:

“A tester appeared, most likely having a name of some sort and probably some distinguishing characteristic or something on his clothes making him memorable enough to be identified later in the scene.”

Scintillating.

Traction

It’s very weird what happens to one’s workspace while suffering from a tweaked shoulder, or torn muscle…or whatever the hell is wrong with me. In a mere three days everything has had to shift ever so slightly. Working at my desk for even short periods of time is problematic, my hand starts to hurt like hell, so there are now various mobile stations where work of sorts is performed all over my room. My ottoman has filled in heroically as a desk as have a chest-high set of drawers. Bits of tabletop that I never knew existed are suddenly the natural place for notebook and my laptop. Also, my ass hurts from sitting on the floor so much.

You never really think about how everything around you is shaped so as to serve the average human body functioning in it’s average range. Take something like “sitting in a chair” out of y0ur repertoire and suddenly it’s like furniture designers are freaking mad men. Or sadists. Or Willy Wonka.

But my arm is getting better and we’re crunching along as usual, though a bit slower, and my response time on emails is horrible at the moment. Apologies to anyone with an email in my inbox.

I’m very much looking forward to when I can resume my usual routine of slouchy posture and desk sprawl and Cheetos consumption and intricate crafting of character and story into a novel.

But mainly the Cheetos thing.

My Body Vs Me

I have a strange predicament in my life wherein my own muscles and bones attempt to attack me and cause physical pain. Some equate this with “growing old,” and I suppose there is some support for that idea, though my neck has had it in for me since college. Anyway, over the course of this past weekend, me and a friend of mine were waiting for our elevator to drop us off at the correct floor and, since the wait was taking up literally seconds of our precious time, my friend drunkenly decided that he was bored and that he should throw a karate kick at me. Long story short, my shoulder hurts a lot.

On the upside I did stumble across this in the instructions for my icy-hot-heat-pad-thing:

I’m no math whiz but with a patch that lasts 8 hours how much of a risk are we at that people will be reapplying more than 3 times a day?

Not only would you need to stay up through the night to break this rule, you’d also have to fundamentally alter the reality of space-time.

I guess better safe than sorry, though.