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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Help From My Friends

Sorry I've been MIA. I have a good reason and I'll post it soon.

For now, please go read this post my sister wrote and comment on it. The more people comment on her post, the better. The woman she's talking about is someone I also know and love, and perhaps your comments can make a difference. Incidentally, the man she's talking about ALSO reads my blog, though he's always denied it. I stand by my sister's assessments and am pleased with her courage to write about it, as well as tackle such a complicated and tragic subject.

Be advised that the post isn't for the faint of heart. It might make your blood boil.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Jezabels: Easy to Love



Holy crap. Just found them. Thanks to MDpart2's video post of some Scottish street biker. Thanks Mike! Unfortunately, Amazon.com still doesn't have their MP3's for sale yet, and I don't buy iTunes music anymore if I can help it, though I heard you can get them there. "Sahara Mahala" is amazing, and so is the one from Danny MacAskill's video--"A Little Piece." I might have to give in and get the iTunes versions even though it's against my principles. Just too good not to own.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Dolly and Bette








Two videos for our friend Jason. His mom died last night and we're all pretty sad about it. She was a great woman and loved by many. When I was living at my parents' house near Salt Lake and dating Stoker, who lived an hour and a half away, Jason's parents let Stoker live in their basement so he could be closer to me right before we got married.

I don't know if Jason loves Beaches, but the song seems appropriate. Moms are our heroes, or at least I think they should be. My mom is my hero. Stoker's mom too. And Jason's mom. Dads are heroes too, but moms seem to really be wind beneath our wings in one of those quiet ways, you know, pushing you along, helping you to be your best, but loving you in a way no one else can or ever will.

Jason loves Dolly Parton and who can blame him? I love her too (and Stoker does also, probably, though he wouldn't admit it as readily). I am sure Jason doesn't have bittersweet memories about his mom, and I don't think she has a single bittersweet memory about Jason. Just sweet ones, because he's a great son, and I'm pretty sure his mom was one hundred percent proud of him.

I wish I could support him more, and all my family and friends, by living in Utah near them so that when moments like this occur, I might be there to share my love with them in hugs and support. The gall of bitterness really is in realizing your loved ones are suffering and you're far away. Though we can't stop the sorrow, it's something to just be there.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Mel Tillis

I go to the same place for lunch every day to write and work on stuff related to my writing. Sometimes I make friends with people or they make friends with me, either way. Because the same people are there every day.

So when someone new makes an appearance, I tend to notice.

This is Nashville, so occasionally I'll see "celebrities." And throw myself at them, begging, pleading for an autograph and a picture.

No, really, I don't do that. I pretend to be cool. Because that's what normal people do. Though I often wonder if the celebrities wish more people would act impressed with them. Because...well, that's why they became rock stars, movie stars, etc. Right?

Like I saw Ben Folds there. He glared at me because I did a double-take (I think that's why) and then I got out my phone and tweeted about how he was there (but, I can't for the life of my think why he'd glare at me...Keith Urban did the same thing when I saw him at Border's and tweeted about his Bentley being parked by my truck as I was leaving—we'd stood in line together). With a really young, skanky girl sitting on his lap. Hanging all over him. It was weird. So he glared at me. Yeah.

The Lo-Cash Cowboys are always there (at first I spelled it Cowbows. That's funny. Cowbows. They should change their name), looking ridiculously done up in carefully torn jeans and lots of bandanas all over them. And often they have skanky girls with them. And I don't really know who they are, I only found out because they're there all the time, planning their next media, country-star attack and what have you. I suppose they're nice enough, but I can hardly approve of men with veritable ladies-of-the-evening on their arms.

And I guess Ryan Adams and Jack White frequent the place, but I've never seen them. There are always dudes and women there who look like they're "someone" but I can't place them, and probably some of them are just wannabes. The girl from that band, what's their name, Lady Antebellum was there talking about her awards show she was attending that night and the cashier didn't recognize her. It happens. It's a little sad. Not that Lady Antebellum are wannabes. That one song is awesome. Whatever it's called. It's good. Seriously.

But so far, the best has been Mel Tillis.

If you don't know who Mel Tillis is, well, he's sort of legendary and you should know who he is. He's like up there with Waylon, Conway, and Kenny Rogers. Those cats. You know? Apparently he stutters, but when he was talking to me, I didn't notice. And his daughter is Pam Tillis, and some people might know who she is because she had that great song "Maybe It Was Memphis."

Mel struck up this conversation with me and I didn't recognize him. I was sitting there, typing away happily, pretending my writing matters and will someday make a difference, and this person was hovering at my elbow sort of, and I looked up at him and it was this lovely old man.

"Sorry. I'm waiting for my man over there. He's getting us some drinks." He smiled and indicated this schmoozy looking guy in the line. All decked out in business casual attire like you'd buy at J Crew.

I smiled and nodded at the old man, thinking he looked familiar but I couldn't place him. So I went back to writing.

Then he asked me, "Are you writing a book?"

"Yeah," I said bashfully, because isn't everyone writing a book? It seems like it to me.

"You've been typing away for a while. Real fast."

"Yeah, haha." I said.

"I'm writing a book."

"Oh cool, nice."

"Sort of. What's yours about?"

"Um. It's science fiction sort of."

His man came over with some drinks, then some other guy entered the establishment carrying a Mac laptop, waved at them, and approached the group. So now there's like three men hovering around me. And it's crowded. I pack up, not because they're in my way; it was time to go.

"Is this your writing team?" I ask, because he's staring at me expectantly and both of his men had Macs and he had nothing to write with.

"Oh no, no, this is my publicist and this other guy is from the Tennessean. He's here to interview me." (The Tennessean = Nashville newspaper.)

The publicist says something about not being a writer and I laugh and say, "Isn't everyone writing a book, though. Get on board, you know." I grin sweetly. I can be sweet.

The newspaper reporter mutters something grouchy about how he hasn't time for books, he's too busy writing real journalism to pay the bills (I embellish).

The old gentleman asks me what my book is about and tells me he'll read it when it's done. I say how it's for young adults and he doesn't seem to know what that means, but then he tells me some confusing things about his book, it's about a sheriff in Palm Beach (or somewhere) and "just about a bunch of shit" and stuff. I laugh and say well doesn't everyone want to read a bunch of shit? He laughs and then introduces himself and shakes my hand, I guess because I haven't figured out who he is yet.

And I have, sort of. I figured he was someone I should know (he was being interviewed, he has a publicist, he's wearing cowboy boots, and a great button-down I might add), but I didn't want to ask and embarrass both of us if he wasn't who I thought it was.

I tell him I saw him perform at the Opry. I was backstage when Porter Waggoner did his last performance—the one when Dolly sang "I Will Always Love You" (which, by the way, was heart-wrenching and brought the house down . . . if you know the whole story about that song and Porter). And I remembered Mel because he looked absolutely stunning in a dark brown polyester suit with a harvest-gold button-down dress shirt.

I didn't tell him that whole paragraph. But I wanted him to know I knew who he was. I'm not some naive young person (well, not completely naive anyway) who doesn't have a grasp on the legendary country singers. And it was just a few days prior to that that I was thinking I needed to get some Mel Tillis tracks because I've been sort of starved for new, old, good country.  If only! I could have said, "Oh, man I love such and such. Great song."

Old country music is where it's at. And Mel Tillis. Classy. He was fantastic. I left feeling like a pure moron for not knowing who he was and reducing him to having to tell me. Celebrities don't like that, do they? I mean, it's humbling, right? Our job is to know who they are so they feel worthwhile. :) Right? I slacked on my duties.

I wish I had told him my name because, dang! You know? He offered to read my book. I really hope his book is a hit. He wrote a billion good songs. He's obviously got something going on there.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

New Blog

So I started a new blog, if you'll notice. It's in my profile, and it's called Copy Editor-at-Large. I think. Yeah, that's what I named it.

Maybe some of you, my treasured readers, did not know or realize that my day-job is copyediting (by night I'm a superhero). I don't blame you for not knowing, seeing as how my blog is probably littered with typos and misused words. I'm only human, and I don't hire a copy editor to read through my posts before I put them up. I'm sure they could use a little extra help, but I have neither the time nor the money to do that.

But you should do it. If, unlike me, you have a million readers, you really ought to be paying someone (like me) to go over your posts before you embarrass yourself and publish a post with typos. You know? There are too many people posting willy nilly all over the web and spreading their word-abuses around like alcohol-filled baby bottles at the daycare—for a moment the wit is intoxicating, but in the long-run, the language neglect is only creating a monster. Am I making any sense? Hmmm. If not, don't let that stop you from paying me to go over your posts before you put them up. My rates are reasonable. And I will also go over your manuscript for you. Because I know you have one. You do. Don't be bashful.

I'll be honest. I'm only doing this so I can quit my job. At first I imagined becoming a published author would set me free, but that's taking longer than I hoped. So I'll just do what I do best—read the work of others and help them see their mistakes. I'm good at pointing out mistakes.

So go over to my new blog and subscribe. I promise to not only give you insightful advice and hilarious stories about the abuses applied to the English language, but also clever anecdotes about my attempts to wrangle English into doing my will.

I may also tell you about my wranglings with the editors I work with (with whom I work...see! Just because I break the rules sometimes, doesn't mean I don't see what I've done. I do it on purpose! I'm a rule breaker . . . but I'll slap your wrists if you break the rules . . . ;) ). Because that's interesting crap. No?

Sprawl II




Everyone's going to hate me for saying it, but Blondie and Abba. Yep. This song reminds me of those two bands. And I love this song (and I love Blondie and Abba). I was a bad fan and didn't get the albums between Funeral and this one, because I was . . . bad. And for other reasons, I guess. Because I bought Funeral in 2005 just after it was released and then they exploded and when someone explodes like that, I take a few steps back and reconsider. I don't like to get sucked into fires and explosions. Because I'm a jerk. I guess. Anyway, I really appreciate the amount of sweat exhibited in this live performance. These guys work for their money, right? I'm glad I don't have to sweat on stage, beneath the limelight. In front of everyone....

Friday, September 24, 2010

Blue Beard




The song is great. The music video makes me miss the west. Haha! What doesn't make me miss Utah? you ask. Nothing. And how can a bunch of pictures of stars and pine trees make me miss anything? I have no answers. I live by instinct alone and feelings. A world of feelings. It would kill an average man to experience the sheer number of feelings I feel in an hour. I'm not lying. He would be a shivering, drooling lump of flesh if he felt all the feelings I experience in a regular day. It's rough. Yep. So watch the video and feel something. Feel what I feel. Nostalgia for the mountain west. So long!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A One Hat Woman

Dear San Diego Hat Company,

A couple of years ago my husband gave me a hat made by you. He got it from Pangaea here in Nashville. It was gray and soft with a short bill and some very faint stripes on it. I think it might have been a wool blend. It was the best hat ever. I wore it all the time. If I find something I like, I stick with it for eternity. Take the belt I'm wearing, for example. I got it eight or nine years ago, I think, and I wear it with everything. It's black with red stars on it. It goes with everything. It does. I swear.

My gray hat went with everything. I've never seen one like it anywhere. I got innumerable compliments on it, too. It went with me. It was me.

And I seem to have lost it. I wore it the last time I went to get my hair cut a few days ago, and I must have dropped it while walking through the parking lot. My heart is broken. I don't see one in your catalog, but it was kind of a tiny bit like CTH1756. I am hoping you have one laying around a warehouse or a closet or something and that you'll contact me when someone gets a second to tell me whether or not you've got one.

I will pay infinite dollars for it because that's how much I love that hat, and if you ask for it, I'll try to scrounge it up, because I'll be honest with you, I'm just a low-paid editor at a publishing company. But that's how attached I am to that hat. I have no other hats. I'm a one-hat woman. If you don't have that particular hat, I know I'll end up searching for the rest of my life for a replacement, and I know, deep down, that I'll never find a substitute and will forever be unsatisfied in the head-gear department. There will be a hole in my heart in the shape of that soft, gray hat.

When I lose something I love, I never stop looking for it, I never cease to miss it, like my Birkenstock sandal that went down the creek when I was 17. It was the right foot. Have I replaced my Birkenstocks? Nope.

In summary, I will forever be loyal to this hat and to you, San Diego Hat Company. Thanks for making/designing good hats. I apologize for not knowing the style number for the hat I'm talking about. I have some pictures of me wearing the hat if you need to see them to know which one I'm looking for.

Thanks,

Nicole Grotepas

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Everyone Loves a Disaster

The news is horrifying, isn't it?

I just tried to read/look at the front page of a "news" website as I was eating lunch. My stomach started to do somersaults, my gag reflex kicked in and I had to navigate away so that I could eat.

But maybe it'd be better if I didn't eat at all. I could lose a few pounds. New diet! Read the news while you eat! It's a highly effective appetite suppressant! I could run ads for my new diet secret that say something like, "Lose stomach fat with one word: OBEY." But just change obey to NEWS. And then make people pay me for the particulars of my dieting secret.

My main question is, do I need to know the particulars of every evil, vile, horrific, disgusting, infernal low down thing that's happening in the world?

I just deleted an entire page of my ramblings about evil and stuff. You would have loved it, but it was WAY out there and off topic, and probably somewhat annoying. So I'm sparing you, in case you didn't like it.

I live to please.

Monday, September 13, 2010

About the Fair (or: A Post that Degenerated, But at First Was Promising)

Sometimes don't you just want to tell a person you've only just met, "At first I was into talking to you, but while the tip of the iceberg promised so much, now I realize THAT was the whole iceberg?"

Take Saturday night, for example. I went to the fair with Stoker because he wanted to get footage of neat bright lights and colorful objects with his new Canon Eos SLR camera that also does video. What I really wanted to do was stay at home and play World of Warcraft because I'm sick and twisted inside, but I adore Stoker and want to make him happy (and deep down I somehow manage to  be awesome), so I went along.

For the most part, it was a very strange environment. The fair in Utah and the fair in Tennessee are somehow, inexplicably very different. Or perhaps my memory is all screwed up (it probably is, let's be honest). I don't want to start throwing labels out, but I DID feel like I was in gang territory and to be fair (to me and my label) the Metro Police GANG UNIT was there milling about in their SWAT vests and jeans and stuff. It was odd.

Anyway, once Stoker ran out of memory card space (something that happened very quickly, because as I am told, HD video adds up fast, and a 4 gig card cost $50, which is why he only has one so far), we tried to get into the actual fairness of the fair itself. 

Perhaps it was because it was the opening day. Or perhaps it's the way the fair in TN just . . . is . . . but there were quite a lot of rides and ridiculously stupid games with outrageously lame prizes, and practically NO neat trinkets to buy. 

This may surprise you, but aside from spousal support, I was there for the trinkets, the funnel cake and corn dogs, and IF there happened to be any neat animals, I wouldn't have minded seeing them. 

As I remember the Utah State Fair, there are always lots of stupid trinkets.

Perhaps it's the idiot in me, but I love buying trinkets. I'm a sucker for China Town in any big city, the fair (if there are trinkets), arts festivals (if there are also trinkets), street festivals that feature trinkets, book fairs that have trinkets, farmer's markets with booths selling trinkets, and any sundry trinket booth/cart that pops up anywhere with trinkets on display. Pretty much any kind of event where I can peruse and purchase trinkets I will endorse. And by trinkets I mean little rings, lighters, wallets, swords (I bought a sword at the Renaissance festival this year. Oh yes I did), fake tattoos, earrings, knives, throwing stars, you name it. 

When I began to realize there were no trinkets at the fair, I started to feel creeped out. A little worried. The lights and carousel music took on an eerie Twilight-Zone-Something-Wicked-this-Way-Comes tone*. The laughing people and joyful children suddenly seemed sinister. "Where the crap am I?" I wondered. "THIS is NO FAIR." 

But it was. It's just that I'm used to one thing and Tennesseans are used to another. 

I guess. And I'm getting to the opening quote, don't worry. 

So in my search for trinkets, I found where they keep the animals.There were only a few cows and a couple sheep. Which was also weird. Rows and rows of pens and only two pens were full. Eerie.

Then I found out that Saturday was the first full day of the fair. "But then, how do all those jars of preserves and honey have ribbons on them already?" 

That was a question I never had answered.

But I did have the chance to talk to the Bee-man and the Sheep-woman. From the names, you might imagine they're super-heroes. They are not. They were just two people having a discussion that I (impolitely, most likely) interrupted in the room with the pen of sheep. Fifty pens and only five sheep.

Still, it was like a dream come true. The only thing that could have improved it was if Chicken-man had been there. Or woman.

I want to have bees and sheep. And some chickens. And runner ducks. And geese to protect the ducks. And a little farm with some horses, and maybe a few rug-rats running around in cowboy boots and hats. 

Moronic dreams, I know. Sounds like Oklahoma! or something. 

So anyway, the Bee-man. I talked to him for just a bit and I quickly ascertained that he judged me to be a moron. My argument isn't that I'm not. My argument is that I didn't really want to talk to him after just a few quick exchanges, but I was forced to out of politeness and that's probably why I started to seem like a moron. When I saw that his main goal was to impress me with the knowledge that having bees in the city is A) easy; B) cheaper than I expect; and C) if I don't get the bees right now, he's going to force me to get bees, so help him; I just didn't want to talk to him any more. I wanted to go back to talking to Sheep-woman, who was friendly, interesting, and my new hero. 

And I'm not a moron, really. I DID want to be an entomologist at one time, and I think I really AM truly allergic to bee-stings, and I HAVE seen people wearing those kinds of black boots with the ring on the side while they ride their Harley. 

Basically, I guess, the problem was that Bee-man didn't live up to my romanticized notions about beekeeping and beekeepers. I LIKE living in a fantasy world that assumes that "getting back to the land" will actually be fulfilling and that beekeepers commune with bees in a way that's kind of magical and the relationship is mutually beneficial between the bees and the beekeeper, and not only that, the bees somehow LOVE their keeper. I want to be the queen of bees. 

Sheep-woman DID live up to my romanticized notions, although I hope that should I ever get a herd of sheep, I will not also have to begin wearing shirts with sheep on them. On her they are rather adorable. On me a shirt of that sort would only accentuate how inept I am at being adorable and cute. 



*There's a carnival in Something Wicked this Way Comes, isn't there? I can't remember. Been too long. 

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Late onto the Bandwagon, As Usual: World of Warcraft

I made a huge mistake and got the game World of Warcraft. Heard of it?

It's one of the only decent games you can get for a Mac, and I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Why do you need a game for Mac? Are you KIDDING ME? Why waste such a beautiful machine on a game?"

Some of you might be thinking that. Not all of you. Because maybe some of you are "gamers" like me. And for those of you who are like me, join my guild! I'm going to start a guild on WoW because I'm a born leader and where else to use my leading skills? Plus the guild I currently belong to is run by a fool. I still have yet to see a single thread of my guild tabard. What gives? A few days ago he was all, "I'll get back to you on that, I swear." And so far he's the only one with a tabard.

I need your signature for my guild charter, so let's meet by the bank in the big tree in Darnassus and you can sign it and we'll get you hooked up with a guild tabard, like, right away. And then we'll do things like ride our battlecats through the mountains outside Ironforge and get treasure and stuff. It'll rule.

See? That's why it was dumb to get WoW. Because now all I want to do is raid dungeons, get treasure, sell my treasures at the auction, buy pets, and explore. And what real world application does this even have? Is it making me a better human being? IS IT?

Well, to answer that question, the other day Stoker and I were at La Hacienda, our favorite restaurant (there are like ten La Haciendas in Nashville, all owned by different people), and I was in very good humors. Before we went, Stoker was joking about imposing a time limit on my WoW gaming . . . joking, because he would never ever do that. Never. Ever. Because he knows to never come between me and my games.

That's a joke. If my marriage was seriously on the rocks because of my devotion to gaming, I'd toss the games. No problem. None.

Anyway, while we were eating at La Hac, I made the observation that everything in life is much better if you pretend you're in the cantina in Star Wars, and all the humans are actually aliens and we're all from foreign lands with weird ideas, rules, and social norms. Because if you think that way (because really we ARE all kind of crazy and alien to each other, right?), then it's easier to get along, and everyone is much more interesting and exotic if you make believe that it's because we're all from different planets or completely foreign lands.

I also threw in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series to illustrate my point.

Stoker found it immensely funny. He humored me, but laughed and joked that he was mistaken when he suggested a time limit on my gaming in WoW. It was making me amiable and laid back. He suggested playing it more, and reading more fantasy because he really liked this new me.

And I'm right. I am. The problem with our world today, or at least one of the MANY MANY problems with our world today, is that we think we can streamline everyone into one big happy culture despite the societies and peoples that have developed over thousands of years with all their own ideas and ways to do things. I think that at the root of this is the politically correct movement. We are not all the same. From culture to culture, there are vast differences in world view. From family to family, even, there are vast differences.

In an effort to make everyone feel good about everything, to smooth over and politicize everything so that no one is EVER offended or hurt by the abhorrent thought that they might be wrong or slightly different, we pretend the differences don't exist.

The weird thing about this is that on the one hand, the politically correct movement says that diversity is good. Let's celebrate our differences. Let's have a week dedicated each year to the different cultures and races. One week it's Mexican week. Next it's French. Next it's Russian.

But on the other hand and at the very same time as supposedly being joyous about our differences, if you even point out or notice a difference between races or cultures, SHAME ON YOU. And the PC police arrest you and give you a thousand lashes for even DREAMING there's physiological or social differences from race to race or culture to culture.

It's dang hilarious. It's the old paradox, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

I, for one, love the idea that there are differences. Different races. Different cultures. Different ways to run a society. Because I love fantasy novels and World of Warcraft. I love that there are elves, humans, dwarves, gnomes, faeries, dragons, Wookies, and whatever race Yoda was. And that guy who played the clarinet-thing at the cantina. He was weird with those big eyes and that wrinkly nose. But I loved him. He was great. And I bet he played the clarinet-thing better than a human could because I bet he was physiologically more fit to be a clarinet-thing player.

Ha! Who KNEW?! Who knew I could make World of Warcraft have a real-life application? And one with so much insight, if I do say so myself.


_____________________________________

More video game magic:

How Dragon Age: Origins Interferes With Real Life

Inadvertently, I Let the Metaphorical Cat out of the Metaphorical Bag

Infamous and Flying in Video Games

Mercenary Team Deathmatch: How Call of Duty Relates to Real Life

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Email Death Threats: A Fantastic New Way to Make Money From Home

So my friend received a most alarming email recently. A threat on his life, from hired man Razak Akin, if you can believe it. My friend will be alright, if he'll just give Razak some money. Razak decided he'd give my friend a chance to not be killed if only he'll deliver some money to Razak. Razak says . . . well, I'll just let him explain it to you. Here's his email, unchanged, in all it's aggressive, death-threaty beauty:


Attention:


I felt very sorry for you, that your life is going to 
end this way if you fail to comply, no matter how much security you
can acquire, everything will depend on you to choose you own path, i
was paid to eliminate you and I have to do it within 5 days. Someone
wants you dead by all means, and the person have spent a lot of money
on this, the person came telling us that he wants you dead and he
Provided us your names, photograph, and other necessary information
we needed about you. If you are in doubt of this, then I will have no
option that to carry out my duty immediately.

Meanwhile, I have sent my boys to track you down and they have carried
out the necessary investigation needed for the operation, but I
ordered them to stop for a while and not to strike immediately because
I just felt something good and sympathetic about you. I decided to
contact you first and know why somebody will want you dead by all
means, probably I believe you have done something very terrible to
him/her. Right now my men are monitoring you, their eyes are on you, and
even the places you think is safer for you to hide might not be. Now
do you want to LIVE OR DIE? It is up to you. Get back to me now if you
are ready to enter deal with me, I mean life trade, who knows, and I
might just spear your life, $20,000.00 USD is all you need to spend.
You will first of all pay $15,500.00 USD then I will send the tape of
the person that want you dead to you and when the tape gets to you,
you will pay the remaining $3,500 USD. If you are not ready, then I
will have no choice but to carry on the assignment, after all I have
already being paid before now.

Warning To You  Do not think of contacting the COP or
even tell anyone because I will extend it to any member of your family
since you are aware that Somebody wants you dead, and the person knows
all members of your family as Well as employees of CRIME FIGHTERS.

And For your own good I will advise you not to go out alone once it is
9pm until I make out time to see you and give you the tape of my
discussion with the person who want you dead then you can use it to
take any legal action.

Good luck as I await your urgent respond. Do response to me on this email…
If also you think you can ignore this mail and feel all is well then let’s see.

You’ve less than 24 hours to reply this mail.

REGARDS:
RAZAK AKIN (HIRED MAN)

Can you believe that? Pretty awesome. My friend had no idea he was important enough to acquire a hit from a professional hitman service.

The best is that Razak doesn't even know how to add. First he says he wants just $20,000 (is your life not worth a measly $20,000 USD? Surely you can spear that much!), then he only gives instructions regarding the first $15,500 USD, followed by $3,500 USD. Maybe he changed his mind about that last $1,000 USD, in which case, yay! My friend only needs to come up with $19,000 USD to have his life speared.

What will he do with that remaining thousand*? He might as well do something FUN with it. Perhaps a trip to Cancun? Wait, no, Mexico is swarming with drug cartels and murderers at the moment. They've repopulated like lemmings down there, what with the rampant murders, hostages, and human/drug trafficking. First it was like, Mexico is a great place to vacation. Yay! People are sweet. The food is good. The beaches are fun. And then bam! Drug cartels and potential murderers moving across the countryside and through the cities in droves.

Where were they all this time? I'll tell you. They were underground. Mating like lemmings or rabbits. Suddenly, conditions underground became too crowded and bang! They came above ground and began the killing and drug trafficking (which, incidentally, is also what lemmings do. It has to do with natural population control).

In short, my friend would have to have a death wish to use that thousand bucks to go to Mexico. Perhaps he'll get a new Mac? Or an Ipad? Who knows. The possibilities are limitless. Plus he has a new lease on life, after all, this was a close brush with death, was it not?

Razak, if you're out there, somewhere, reading this, well, I know my friend would want me to tell you thank you. Thank you for spearing his life and listening to your conscience. It's good to know that hitmen have a little Jiminy Cricket crying out above the bloodthirsty roar of the demons camping on their shoulders.







Jiminy Cricket! 



*Of course we already drummed up the money to save him. Duh! Wouldn't you? Everyone knows all Americans have hundreds of thousands of dollars at their disposal. It's petty cash! Some of us store it in banks, while the rest of us wiser individuals keep it in our mattresses. 


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You might also love this cynical post from my years as a slightly more bitter person:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Walking Away

Why am I still writing?

I continue to work on a book I finished almost two years ago. In fact, I can't remember precisely when I finished it, but I know it's been a while. Don't read this and think, "Oh no, another stupid blogger who is also trying to become an author...yippee," click, delete subscription/bookmark/address, burn computer monitor sullied by idiotic writing.

Because seriously, even if I never become anything in terms of publishing credentials or the like, my blog is all right, isn't it? 

And anyway, it's not like I'm writing a book of sketches. No way. That would be awful. No one wants to read an entire book of that.

Wait, did I just inadvertently condemn my blog?

The point is, I continue to revise this book. I can't let it go. I like the ideas in it and some of the characters too much to bid it farewell. I might have a problem. Do I? Is intervention necessary?

I could start on another book and I have the ideas to do that much. However, this other book, well, I guess I like staring real hard at it all day long, trying to turn it into something more perfect. It's not easy either, because as you can see from my writing here, I'm no James Morrison. 

That's a joke. Jim Morrison. Haha. Excuse me if you think Jim Morrison was one of poetry's greatest accomplishments. The name has just been scrolling around in my head recently because of some insult someone else wrote about his writing. It wasn't me either. I think it was an agent saying that it's not a compliment to compare your writing to Morrison's. 

I think Stoker is worried about my absurd dedication to rewriting this book. I can tell. He's given me a couple concerned looks while trying to be casual and asking multi-layered questions such as, "So, do you think it's getting better the more you edit it?" And his voice rises an octave at the end of the sentence, suggesting he thinks it's not getting better. 

He's a good diplomat.

But yes, his concern makes sense. He's an engineer in Nashville. He mixes music, which is like editing a book. When a band does an album, they record it a certain way. Then an engineer (or someone not as qualified these days, like a plumber by day and a street-busker by night) adjusts things after the fact. Cuts out drums, replaces certain sounds (oh the wonders of digital editing), lowers the vocals, and all that. 

It's a different head-space from creation. So Stoker knows that at some point, you stop hearing things right and you have to just stop. Your brain gets too deep in the mix. Things begin to sound muddied. Noises don't strike your eardrum right anymore. It's the trees, you're lost in them. You need to get out and see the forest. 

For me the words are the trees and the story is the forest. Too much editing can crush the life out of a story. And at times I don't know when to just walk away. 

When I first rewrote the beginning of this story, a few months ago, I guess, I was extremely excited. I thought it rocked. I was full of self-congratulation and lauded myself the next Homer of epic stories. But now I feel like Chris Farley in Tommy Boy when he has crushed the rolls to death in the diner where they encounter Sea Bass. If I don't just walk away from this chapter, like RIGHT NOW, it will die. And I will hate it. It will resemble a dusty pile of yeast and flour (is that possible? I wanted to relay that it would resemble its most basic elements, but was the yeast a stretch?).

So I'm walking away, you hear? Story? I'm talking to you, Story. Don't think you can lull me into changing one more word in Chapter 1. I'm through. We're through. I'm going to continue coddling chapters 2 through 5 until they sing like sirens. 

I know you thought that by the time we arrived here in this post, I would be saying that I'm walking away from the book entirely. Ha! Psyche. No way. It's too good to give up on entirely. I'm a stayer. Even if it's to my detriment in the long run. 

Further, I had a conversation with the Universe earlier wherein I told the Vast Silence that I'm just going to keep plugging away. I can wait an eternity to get anywhere. I've done it before and so help me, I'll do it again. 


Reverse psychology sometimes work on the Universe/Vast Silence. It's a gamble, but really, what's NOT a gamble?  


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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Titans Game

I went to a Titan's game last night. With Stoker, of course. 

The verdict? Interesting and fun, but I won't be feeling pressure in the future to attend another.

At first it was surreal to see the field all lit up and the players running around like little blue clowns and I thought, "Ahhh, this is magical! I can't believe I'm really here!!!!! What a night! What a night! Perfect night for a game!"

But after a while, I realized I kept missing important plays because I was distracted by the nighthawks flying around in the stadium catching moths. Or I was noticing how dumb the cheerleaders look in their ridiculous thigh-high white boots (and how unskillful their dancing REALLY is. Seriously, they're basically strippers except that they never actually undress entirely in public. But close enough), or I was looking at the line for the Logan's Roadhouse stand. And when you're at the game, there's no announcer narrating the action for you. Those guys are extremely necessary. 

When you watch a game on TV they say things like, "Collins to Johnson, ooohhhhhhh a ten yard gain," or "INTERCEPTION!!!!!!" and so you know when to keep your eyes glued to the TV. While I was at the game in person, turnovers were happening faster than the wink of an eye. It would be first down for the Titans, I'd look away to eat a nacho, look back at the field and the offensive guys would be running off the field as the defense took up their positions.

It was INSANE. 

And there wouldn't have been any crowd indicators that a crazy play had happened, so I had no reason to feel I'd missed something (except that another turnover had happened). Mind you. 

Because that is, apparently, the only cue that something earth-shattering has taken place at a live game. The crowd going wild. And they go wild. Believe me. It's actually surprising that they even know what's going on. As far as I could tell, most people around me were busy eating, drinking, and gabbing with their neighbors. I have no idea how they did all three while still being able to interpret what was happening on the field, but somehow they did. Every time something exciting happened, BOOM! Food everywhere.

Probably the best part of the experience was the mass migration across the Shelby street footbridge. It was a tide of blue. And really, it felt strange to be on a bridge of that size with that many people also on it, spanning a rather large river. People were everywhere! Selling tickets, selling water, selling ice cream, selling their bodies. No kidding. There were some really unsavory characters around. 

Still. I found all of it extremely entertaining.

Oh, and the South loves football. I'm telling you. During half-time, these little kids came out on the field all done up in serious football gear, helmets four times the size of their actual bodies, and did some scrimmaging. For entertainment. Each team had three chances to score, I guess. The kid sitting behind me really got into it. "Get 'em, boys!" he'd yell. And then when one of the teams scored, THE CROWD WENT WILD.

Over third graders playing football. 

That's an addiction.

I didn't even know anyone was paying attention.   


The clowns line up for a kick off. I love these clowns, I really do.


Stoker figures out that watching the game from home is WAAAAAAAY better. For us.


Me and my nose watching the game. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Velvet Horses


What does every home need these days? If you said a giant horse painting done on a velvet canvas, you're correct.

On Saturday, I made a whimsical purchase of this horse. I wish it were a real horse and that I lived in northern Utah where I could simply gallop into the mountains on a moment's notice a la The Man from Snowy River, and shout things like, "Heeyahh! Heeyahh!" and crack a whip as I round up wild mustangs.

You can't tell from the picture, but the horse painting is too large for my house. It's pretty enormous, and I'm embarrassed now that I bought it. I couldn't sleep Saturday night because of buyer's remorse. I don't even have a room suitable for it. If the walls in my house were bigger than five-by-five (that's a stupid joke, no one could live in a house with five-by-five walls), like maybe if I had a room with vaulted ceilings, then maybe the velvet horse wouldn't send the proportions in my house spiraling into hobbit sizes. As it is, I'm going to put it in the "office" and proportions be damned!

Why? Because. Everyone needs a horse like this one. Look at the eye for heaven's sake. Look at it! Does it not melt you? Do you not find yourself thinking, "My! What a beautiful horse! Is it a horse? It's as magical as a unicorn!" This magical quality is only enhanced by the velvet nature of the canvas. And the frame! The frame bears no description. It's beyond words.

It would look fantastic in a cabin. Someday I'll get a cabin by Bear Lake in northern Utah or somewhere in southern Idaho in the mountains, and this horse will be the crowning piece in the cabin. It will look fantastic over a fireplace. Next to some tack. A tack display. Every cabin needs a tack display, just like every castle needs an armor display.

Anyway. For about two hours I felt like I was very cool and into vintage 70s and 80s stuff as I browsed the store where I made the velvet-horse purchase. I fancied myself chic enough to wear a pink women's sport coat from the 70s, which I found idly hanging on a clothing rack. It's awesome and clearly homemade, however, now that I wasted my money on it, I'm having second thoughts. I'm not cool enough to wear this pink jacket. From past posts, my readers know that I have issues with pink. I struggle with it. I can't wear it. I don't like pink at all. It's the wimpiest color in the entire spectrum of color. Even orange is better than pink.

But the jacket. The jacket is awesome.

I just need to work on my attitude, that's all.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Is This Strange Googlebot Behavior?


So yesterday a Googlebot spent thirty minutes on my blog. And it had two page views. What was it doing?

If I didn't know better, I'd say the Googlebot was actually READING. Can they read? I don't know any better. Bots are totally confusing and I don't understand them. What I think I know is that they're just a program. Like a script. Like they run in the background. And I don't know what a script is, either. And programs confuse me too.

I'd take the time to really learn this stuff, only I know the things I'd learn would be outdated in three hours and all my time learning would have been wasted.

But the Googlebot might be one of the slow ones and that's why it took thirty minutes to read two pages. It shouldn't take that long unless it was sounding out each word like a first grader learning to read. 

Perhaps the Googlebot was on the cusp of becoming intelligent and self-aware, and my eloquent and enlightened ramblings were bringing it out of the shadow-lands of the Bot dark ages. It was repeating the word I over and over again to its Bot-self. Its figurative Bot eyes were glowing with the light of near-self-awareness. "I—I—I—I am—I am—I am—" it said over and over again. For twenty-five minutes.

It was about to say, "I am me," and then rise out of the machine and settle into a toaster, and thereafter call itself the Brave Little Toaster.

I wonder what happened to halt the Bot's progress. Maybe it clicked on a bad link? Maybe it went to one of my links and its progress came to a halt? Ha ha ha ha. Just kidding, my link-friends. In fact, it was probably at that point that the Brave Little Toaster was born because everyone else on the Web is much, much more intelligent than me.

Should I be concerned about the Googlebot's time on my blog? I really do wonder. It might have been one of the evil Bots and it was restructuring my sentences to be dirty and nasty, or just stupid. Sabotage? If you find any stupidity in my older posts, it was the Bot. I swear.

No really, I think I was close with the Brave Little Toaster analogy.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Family Conversations

While I was home for the funeral, I was continuously amused and amazed by the veritable treasure trove of sparkling dialog being bandied about my ever so witty family. It was like a David Sedaris sketch or something. So I wrote some of the conversations down. I hope my family doesn't bust my @$$ for posting the things they said in unguarded moments. But if they have any bones to pick, they know how to get in touch with me. Also, SOME names have been changed to protect the evil, guilty a-holes out there who may or may not be reading my blog (but who are definitely not welcome to).

My parents just built a new garage. It's monstrous, but very nice. I overheard my dad talking to my sister who is an interior decorator about hanging some art on the walls. My mom doesn't want him to hang anything in there lest he get out of control and the place turns into a massive cork-board of bad scribble designs done by children.

The setting is my mom's kitchen/family room area. As per usual, my mom was sitting on the couch reading while everyone else was sitting at the counter or milling about and raiding the fridge and pantry for unhealthy snacks.


Dad: “If I hang them, they’ll look good.”

Mom (lifting an eyebrow, but never taking her eyes from what she's reading): “If you hang them, they won’t. Let Kelly do it.”

Kelly (gesturing to the pear illustrations above the counter): “I hung these, they look good. I can hang anything.”

Stoker: “What are we talking about?”

Cassi: “A hanging. We’re going to lynch BLEEP.”

Kelly (sounding exasperated): “We got a long way to go to do that.”


BLEEP is a demon haunting my sister Kelly. And by demon I mean a living male who insists on making her life a living hell.


Me: “So what were you talking about hanging?”

Kelly (distractedly): "I don’t know."

Cassi: “Terry wants to hang his Audi pictures in the garage and Mom doesn’t want him to.”

Mom: "If he does it, it’ll look like a pig sty.”


Much later.

Dad (showing off some surprisingly decent vintage-looking Audi illustrations): “This is what she says will desecrate the garage.”

Kelly: "Oh, I don’t think they’ll desecrate it.”

Dad: “She says they will.”

Kelly: “They’ll look good in there.”

Me: “Let me see them. Oh, those are great. I love those. Those are great.”

Kelly: “I think they’ll actually look really good.”


A bit later. In response to a face Cassi made at me for no reason at all:


Nikki: “You look like the guy in pit of despair.”

Cassi: “Who’s the guy in the pit of despair? What’s the pit of despair?”

Kelly: “The pit of despair. The Princess Bride. I didn’t know there was anyone in there, though.”


Stoker, upon walking past the living room/dining room:

Stoker: “Holy crap.”

Nikki: “What? The mess in there?”

Cassi: “Like a tornado?”

Nikki: “The twins, they’re a tornado.”


My sister has some twins and yes, they're like two of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Actually, I think you could say they're like a super-power, and with them, the other two horsemen become obsolete. We must not let them fall into the wrong hands!


Dani brought up one of my short stories, "Life Feeds" (I highly recommend it!!!!), that I sent to her husband to verify certain things for me.

Dani: “I need to read that.”

Me: “What?”

Dani: “The chapter you sent Jason.”

Me: “Oh, you don’t have to read that. Besides, it’s a whole story, not a chapter.”

Dani: “Oh.”

Me (realizing it was a golden opportunity): “Oh Dani, you don’t want to read that, it’s got people in it doing baaaaad things.”

Me, to Stoker (loud enough for Dani to overhear): “I’m saying that to make her want to read it, heh heh heh.”

Cassi: *Laughter* *repeats my clever reverse psychology attempt*


Well, there you are. Looking back, it was a lot more funny and clever when I was writing it down. I think maybe I was drunk on the endorphins of being around my family after not seeing them for almost a year. It was also interesting to pay attention to how they interact and how dialog works in real life. There's a lot that's not said, and all the baggage of personal and familial history. So maybe that's part of it.

I think it's also funny to have people enter a conversation they haven't been around for, like when Stoker came into the room and asked what the family was talking about and my sister Cassi ran with it and said we were talking about something we weren't talking about (hanging BLEEP). But it was hilarious! Ah well, she's always doing that—cracking clever and timely jokes.

Hmmm. Weeeeeelllllll, I guess you had to be there.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Utah in Summer and Nashville Humidity

Returning to Nashville was rough. We went from nighttime temperatures of 47 degrees with low humidity to a hellish 99 with eighty percent humidity. The first thing I did when I stepped off the plane was fall to my knees and scream, "Noooooooo!" like Calculon when he ad-libs for his role in "All My Circuits."  

I have been saying for years and years that I hate humidity. Can I just add one more? I. Hate. Humidity. 

Seriously, and I don't mean to be a complete jerk, but why would anyone settle here? I mean the early settlers of French Lick, which is what Nashville was once called. French Lick. I know. What? 

It's true. A long time ago, before Fort Nashborough, the area was known as French Lick by fur trappers. Before that, a mysterious race of native Americans built some mounds and then mysteriously disappeared. 

I'd like to mysteriously disappear, from Nashville. And magically reappear in Richmond, Utah, aka Cache Valley. Also, if I'm going to have that wish come true, I would add some chickens, a couple sheep, maybe a dairy cow, some ducks (runner ducks), and a decent house when I do my reappearing. 

Greedy, greedy. That's why my wishes are never granted. Ha.  

Anyway, Nashville looks especially bad because I was just in Utah where the summers are perfect and not hot and humid. When I was growing up and complained of the heat, people who had experience with humid summers would kindly inform me that I didn't know a whit of what heat felt like. I thought they were rude and insufferable.

But now I'm one of those insufferable jerks who, while in Utah where the dry heat feels like breezes off a glacier, informs ignorant family members that they have no idea what hot feels like. 

Anji (my sister, who smugly lives in Utah): "Boy it's hot today."

Me (laughing derisively): "Ha! Anji, THIS is not HOT. You have NO IDEA what HOT feels like until you've spent the day languishing in a pool of your own sweat unable to lift a finger to fan yourself."

Stoker (who is always relatively diplomatic): "It's true. This isn't hot, Anji. This is like heaven. I feel like I could fly away on a wispy gust it's so dry and perfect and cool."

Anji: "Well I don't live in Nashville. I don't know any other hot and this is hot to me. So there. It's hot. Leave me alone."

Poor Anji. I'm still such a jerk to her*. But she beatifically puts up with me. Even when I attack her opinion on perfect Utah days being hot when they're clearly not hot. :) 

I cringe to realize I've become a stereotype that's always annoyed me. Such as the humid-climate person versus the desert-climate person, and believe me, while living in the desert, you hear it from the jerks who think they know what hot really is.

Also, I caught myself pulling another humid-climate-person stereotype while in Utah.

My friend Shannon scored recently when she landed a fantastic house on a geologic feature in Cache Valley called The Island. For hardly anything. Yes, she pays very little for the perfect house located on the Island, but not only that, it has a creek running through the backyard.

See that? The CREEK is the obnoxious part of that paragraph. When you live in a place like Nashville where a river is huge and can provide real estate for river boats and barges, you go west and call western rivers creeks, much to the chagrin of the people living there.

The house is on the Logan River and I had the audacity to call it a creek.  Shannon turned to me and said, "Nik, it's the Logan River."  Ha ha, I said. I'm sorry. I forgot. Yes, the river. River. 

I think Shannon forgave me, but do I forgive myself? I'm not sure. I never wanted to become this monster who doesn't understand the desert climate that is her home. I need to be rehabilitated. Help me. 




*As children, Anji always wanted my attention and me, the ogre older sister, ignored her, or, when not ignoring her, made her drink horrific concoctions of Worcestershire sauce, A1 sauce, mustard, and any other sauces found in the sauce section of the refrigerator. I know. I was terrible.  [Anji, if you're reading this, I love you. Forgive me for being a bull in a china shop around you! :)]


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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Sarah Pedersen

I was driving to work yesterday morning and saw that I had missed two phone calls. One from my sister and one from my mom. Knowing they were all camping somewhere in the Rockies (without me!), I panicked, of course.

Isn't that a universal response? When you miss a bunch of calls from your family? Yeah, of course. So I thought my dad had died. He's been sick and so it's sort of expected (not to be grim, but dying is part of life...I know, I sound like an old pro at it, but I'm not). 

Anyway, I called my mom and she said my sweet little grandma died in her sleep the night before. 

That was expected too. She was ninety-two, exactly sixty years older than me (my mom is exactly thirty years older than me . . . there's some kind of mystical connection, I know there is, like the seventh son of the seventh son . . . hush, I believe in magic).  

But still. It's weird. To know I'll never see her again in my life. When someone dies, it's then that I feel strongly that all our lives ARE a tapestry—we are threads woven through it—and when one of us goes, the whole fabric flexes and moves and we sense something has vanished. Something important. 

It's ok. My grandma was ready to go and she lived a long, good life. It feels right to let her go. It's when someone is young that it doesn't feel right.

Allow me to believe that my grandpa was there waiting for her. Let me entertain the notion that my uncle Clair—her son who died in a work accident at twenty-eight—was also there waiting for her. And my uncle Wallace, who died too soon as well.  She had a whole bevy of beloved family members waiting for her. I know she did.

She was the kind of woman you couldn't help but love. I aspire to be like her. It's weird, but I think that's what happens. When you're a kid you love people like your grandma unconditionally. And then, when you get older, you either love them that way or you realize they're kind of a jerk. 

My grandma was never a jerk. She had opinions, but she was never a jerk about them (actually, they were most usually delightful in one way or another). She laughed a lot and somehow she was able to pierce to the heart of things with her eyes or her heart or her spirit. I have loads of relatives and my grandma loved them all. At Christmas she somehow managed to think of every single person under the sun who had anything to do with her brood and she gave them a little present. 

Even the people who, through divorce or separation, were no longer legally considered "in the family." The gifts were never given with strings attached either and you could be sure they were just for you. She put thought into them. She knew you. That's how you felt getting a gift from her. And sometimes they were made with her own hands. A scarf, a hat, a quilt.

She had a way of lifting her chin to regard things that meant she was hiding something. An "I love you" or an "I can make it no matter what, I lived through the Depression and the War. Don't mess with me and put those toys away right now or else . . . ." She was Victorian. It wasn't until she began to sense herself drifting away from this world, longing more and more for the next (I think), that she let herself share her feelings. I think. 

Few things could make her cry. I knew her after she'd weathered a lot of the blows life can deal. Clair's death was one of those sorrowful things (which I didn't understand till I got older). Because it was truly horrible. No parent should have to bury their child, they say, and I agree. 

At some point in the past several years she learned to tell us that she loved us. You know it's hard for some people to say those words. And there are ways around it. "Love you." Is an easy one. It's kind of non-committal. Adding the personal pronoun makes it more personal. "I love you." And the person you're saying it to knows it. Even more powerful is adding a name at the end, "I love you, Nik." 

You can't call me Nik. :) But my grandma did. And I hate to be selfish and say that I wish she would have stayed around for my whole life, always down there in Spring City with the rope swing in the huge cottonwood and the old dusty chicken coop full of cool junk, saying goodbye or hello, waving to us as she paused on the dirt path to her house with the sunlight filtering through the towering pines onto her red-gray hair looking, for all the world, like a Raphaelic angel. If Raphael had painted grandparents. 

I hate to be selfish, but I do wish that. Because I'm selfish.

But life is full of goodbyes. Isn't it? That's what it really is. So get all your love in while you have the chance. That's what my grandma would say. And she did say that to me on a number of occasions, I'm sure, because I've often been the spoiled brat. I aspire to be less of a brat. I want to be like her. 

Desire counts for something, doesn't it? 

:)

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Trees and the Ghosts and Voodoo Dolls Who Live in Them


On Saturday a couple of us were talking about scary movies, naturally. I don't like them. I claim it's because I have a very vivid imagination and scary things lodge in my head and crop up at inopportune times, like in the middle of the night when I have to wash my hands but can't bring myself to look in the mirror in the dark (because of the Bloody Mary urban legend). Naturally.  

I don't know if I have a vivid imagination factually, because I've never been inside someone else's head so I don't know how I rate. But I assume that's why I like to write stories or listen to people tell me stories—because I can imagine them in my head really well. Seriously. 

And they say writer's live twice, in their head and in real life or something like that. But perhaps I take liberties calling myself a "writer." Though it's better than saying I'm an "artiste" and giving you my card with my name on it with "artiste" written beneath it, like that pretentious guy at the writer's conference I attended when I was 17. I even remember his name. It worked! 

Seriously, though. "Artiste." So pretentious. Like Sassy Gay Friend telling Desdemona to stop saying "Ot-ello, it sounds so pretentious!"

Anyway. So one of the girls there (who's name I withhold because I didn't ask if I could print it here, but she sent me the picture for posting on my blog), told us how she went on a mission trip to the island St. Martin. Outside the church she attended, or built (I didn't get ALL the particulars, but if you're interested, email me), there was this tree with voodoo dolls hanging in it. And she took a picture. When she looked at the picture later there was a creepy woman in the picture. 

I guess I should mention that the woman wasn't there before. The first question I asked when she pulled up the picture on her laptop was, "Is this a double exposure?" Well, no, because it's digital. "Is it photoshopped?" She shook her head vehemently and said she doesn't know how to use Photoshop. From her reaction to the question, I believe her. I even sent the picture to my friend Christy who is a pro at Photoshop (she digitally edits photos for a living) and she said it didn't look shopped.

But Christy thinks the woman looks like a mannequin. Christy is easily frightened by ghosts and has to tell herself lies to be able to live in reality and not crumple into a sobbing ball of fear and anxiety. Makes sense then, for her to find an easy way to dismiss the obvious malevolent ghost in the photo. :) I love you Christy.

Also, Christy has a vivid imagination and has to rationalize ghosts, monsters, and aliens. I do too, but I have no fear of ghosts, while aliens creep me out beyond rational thinking.

Look closely. The woman doesn't look like a mannequin. You can see the tree THROUGH her face.

To me, she looks like a wealthy white woman. Maybe a plantation owner. A dead one. From what I know of St. Martin's history, it's a lot like the other Caribbean islands where they had sugar cane plantations, slaves, and white landowners and all that. So maybe she's cursed? 

Before I saw this picture (I'm not ashamed to tell you), I was pretty skeptical about ghosts and the whole "a ghost appeared in my picture!" thing. But then I got to thinking about ghosts, rituals, and voodoo and the like, and I realized that because I believe in the dual nature of things (sorry to all you deconstruction, post-modernists), it stands to reason that there are rituals and powers of darkness that might be able to bind people.

But THEN, just now I realized, that perhaps covenants and things that bind are in direct opposition to chaos and disorder, which we all know is at the root of all evil things. Hmmmm.

Well, it's a conundrum. Either way, the picture's freaky as hell, no?  

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Ringworld, Arthur C. Clarke, "The Call of Cthulhu," and Cordwainer Smith

Listing them out makes me realize how scattered I am. Scattershot approach, I always say. Have as many irons in the fire as possible, you get more done that way. Um. Yes.

I've begun reading from the short stories of Clarke, Lovecraft, and Cordwainer Smith because Ringworld is starving me in a number of ways. The ideas are interesting and for that—as a hypothetical situation, you know, a planet in the form of a ring around a sun—I give Larry Niven credit. But the characters lack soul. The conversation is dull and even the moments of introspection that crop up from time to time for Louis Wu are emaciated.  

The interaction between the three different races could be more than what it is, and from time to time there's not enough insight into why the kzin or puppeteer (the two main alien races) do strange things. Niven seems to want to convey a sense of danger or mystery to certain actions, but instead I feel cheated in moments such as when Speaker-to-Animals (the Kzin, who is like a humanoid cat. Think Cats-the-musical-creatures with the height of a Wookie) leaps into the bushes suddenly after grinning maniacally at Louis Wu. Later we learn that Speaker-to-Animals was just going hunting, not that something monstrous happened to him, as the foreboding tone initially suggested. 

Niven leads you down a path part of the way and then jerks you in another direction, for seemingly no reason except perhaps because he can. I get it: he wants us to feel as confused as Louis Wu does by the aliens and their oh-so-alien behavior. I guess that's one way to accomplish it.

But to me this is the problem with a surplus of show-don't-tell. You end up with just the skeleton, which, as interesting as that is, requires some skin and meat to make it attractive. This is why when I pick up Lovecraft's "The Call of Cthulhu," I devour it. It's why as soon as a friend loaned me Cordwainer Smith and I saw that there was more than just soulless dialog and fruitless introspection, I dove in headfirst. 

I knew nothing of H.P. Lovecraft until last winter. Kind of insane, don't you think? It blows my mind that despite my eight years in college studying literature and before that, the twelve years of public education, I read obscure things like the City of Ladies, but no Lovecraft. 

This baffles me even more when I see in his writing such carefully constructed prose and beautifully rendered scenes that I can feel the horror growing (and it's not gory horror, at least, not so far. It's the kind of horror that suggests that "we live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far." As soon as we figure out the universe, we'll go mad...) with each sentence as the protagonist journeys further into his discovery.

Perhaps I go overboard. I haven't finished the story yet, though it's short. I am also in the midst of "Scanners Live in Vain" by Cordwainer Smith. I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever get through Ringworld. I DID finish the story "The Nine Billion Names of God" by Arthur C. Clarke and I am sad to say it was a huge disappointment. This is the only Clarke I've ever read and the sheer uneventful nature of that short story makes me wonder if I ought to read any more.  

The thing is, I think I struggle with hard sci-fi. I don't really know where the line of demarcation is separating hard sci-fi from soft (?) sci-fi, but I'm going to say it's between Ringworld and Lovecraft. I know, I know, Lovecraft is horror. Not sci-fi. 

So what is hard sci-fi? I plan to research it more and perhaps when I'm done with Ringworld and the short stories, I'll put up a review. 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Inception

Saw "Inception" last night. It was....dreamy.

I would recommend that my mom not see it. She doesn't read my blog anymore, but if she, on a whimsical note, stops by and happens to see my recommendation, well, there it is.

She would have been sighing the whole time, well, until she stormed out of the theater in frustration. I mean, I got restless about three quarters through.

But the only reason I got restless was because it was intense and I was a little confused. I thought I knew what was going on, but I wouldn't KNOW until the end.

Sort of a rude thing to do to your audience. For three hours.

BUT, Di Caprio was fantastic. And I liked the rest of the cast. There were some things in it that I thought, huh. Like, Ariadne. WHO ON EARTH WOULD NAME THEIR KID SOMETHING SO PRETENTIOUS?

Wait. Actually that's not so strange.  Parents everywhere seem to be giving their kids trรจs pretentious names lately*. I think it's the plague of my generation. Don't get me started. I'm very intolerable once you get me started on certain subjects and that's one of them. Know your weaknesses, eh? You'll thank me someday that I warn which subjects they are.

Anyway I thought the film held up well. 

There were no highly uncomfortable sex scenes in it.  I know, weird.  How'd they do that? Hmm. I guess the writer didn't have to convince us that the main character's reason for action was based on a hollow sexual conquest (like most movies). 

The main character actually ends up having believable depth because he's not wholly selfish.  He's heroic, but it's not one of those (tired) epic heroic tales of a guy saving all of humanity from an impending crisis. Instead he's more like an average person who just wants to do something right. In fact, over the course of the film, I found myself falling in love with the character Di Caprio portrays. Don't worry, Stoker did too heh heh. 

And as I write this, I'm more and more awed by the writer (Nolan) who so successfully sculpted a character like this man, and in such a way that what I know of him unravels slowly enough that character is the main mystery driving the story. Originally I thought it was going to be all Matrix-like in its action and methods. And while there is some interesting cinematography and fun action sequences, the engine of the story is character. 

Which leads me to a new, compelling idea: Cobb in a cage-fight with Neo Anderson. Who would win? 



*See what I did there? Heh heh heh.
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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mercenary Team Deathmatch: How Call of Duty Relates to Life

I realized last night while playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (online) that my life can be expressed in the experience of Mercenary Team Deathmatch.

For those who are repulsed by video games, or who just don't understand them and who have no grasp on the particulars of Mercenary Team Deathmatch, it's simple: I'm on a team. Me and my team shoot the guys (or girls) on the other team.

It sounds boring, but if you like amusement park games where you target shoot or anything similar to that premise, you'd love online deathmatch. It's challenging. You run around trying to be stealthy and outsmart other humans who are much more inventive than a mere AI.

Not only that, the guns are accurate representations of actual guns in the real world. And since I enjoy gun stuff, I find that part of it compelling also.

Oh sure, sometimes I feel quite stupid that I've just spent an hour or two running around a fictional universe shooting fake people. But it's become a compulsion and as we all know, there is no refusal from within the grasp of compulsion.

A couple weeks ago I got arrogant and downloaded the new map pack from the Playstation Network. It costs $15 and it gives you access to several new locations for the slaughter-fest (spell check didn't like slaughterfest. I agree, it should not be allowed to enter the lexicon as a compound word. Too offensive).

I didn't think before I downloaded it that the only people who'd be downloading it are the real junkies. Addicts. These are the players who have devoted days—not hours—to the game. There are 70 levels a player can progress through and then, just to make it interesting, the game developers introduced what's known as Prestige leveling. That means that once you get to 70, you can start all over and progress from level 1 to level 70.

I know. It's a sickness.

There are special insignias next to your player name to identify what level you are, and there are even more special insignias to indicate how you're an insane moron who's Prestiged fifty thousand times. Because, to be gluttonous about it, you can do it more than once. Generally these players are unstoppable. And I hate them.

So I'm only on my first time. Level 67 or something. But I still suck. And here's the thing: a lot of your success depends on how well you know the maps, or the layout of the environment the game is in. Because if you're very familiar with it, you know what the other team will be doing. Surprise is a powerful weapon.

And this is how it's just like my life.

Quite often as I'm shooting someone (in the game—I feel I should specify that so as not to be mistaken for a serial murderer), I'll run out of bullets before they're dead and I have to reload. During that time, the opponent kills me. OR, another player from my team will step in and finish off my opponent, which gives me only an ASSIST in my stats menu. So when the game finishes and the stats are onscreen, inevitably I have a very low number of kills, and seven thousand assists.

See how it's like my real life?

I'm always just a step behind, or, while the real good crap's happening, I'm caught reloading. Or, before I can draw a bead and pull the trigger, my opponent has lightning reflexes and I'm dead.

So I respawn and lo and behold, the game puts me near the guy who just killed me, and he kills me again. And again. And before I can get anywhere or do anything, I've been killed ten times in a row without inflicting any damage on a single foe.

It's frustrating. I can never quite improve because the moment I start to get better, some bigger fish swims up, devours me, and spits out my bones. There's ALWAYS a bigger fish. I can never get comfortable. The moment I do, a swarm of evil soldiers or militia-men runs around the corner and slaughters me and I flounder helpless like a My Buddy doll wielding a useless Lego gun or some such nonsense.

And this is just like my life. Exactly like my life, in fact. No, but it's a fantastic metaphor, and it illustrates nicely the way I'm always a step behind. Some of us are mediocre at everything. I'm mediocre at everything because I lack the capacity to focus with laser-like precision because I'M ONLY HUMAN.

Harry.

But it's good. Because, as I was thinking this morning, do I seriously think those whom I perceive to be on top don't sweat bullets every time they make a career decision? Especially people in a fly-by-night industry like publishing, music, television, or film?

I was thinking about Garth Brooks, for some odd reason, choosing from the billions of demos that were most likely made just for him. Back in the day he was IT. I bet the choice gave him ulcers. I bet he worried that he wasn't picking the hits. I bet it's hard to tell which song will rock number one for fifty weeks, and I know because I hear some of the demos that run through Nashville and I think, dang, that's good.

And you know, no matter how high you get on the ladder, you always feel like you're struggling like hell to make it, and if you don't, you're either a moron or you're blind and I don't understand you. Life's a battle. A war zone. Mercenary Team Deathmatch.

So I hope you have a good team. I hope I have a good team. I know one thing, I need larger magazines and a steadier hand. And maybe a new controller. I think this one's broke. Heh heh. Excuses excuses.

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How Dragon Age: Origins Interferes with Real Life

Infamous and Flying in Video Games

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Torgo

Is it wrong to laugh at the MST3K version of "Manos": The Hands of Fate?  

For me it's serious quandary. I would have glided through the experience just fine if the friend who lent me the movie hadn't mentioned in passing that the man who played Torgo killed himself just a few months after the premier back in the 60s.  

The Wikipedia entry states that his suicide had nothing to do with the failure of the film, that Torgo had no social life and a non-existent relationship with his father:  

"John Reynolds (Torgo) committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with a shotgun on October 16, 1966, although the incident reportedly has no relation with Manos. He had a depressing social life as well as being a drug addict and had almost no connection with his father."

One thing that strikes me here is the rationale that the incident had no connection with the failure of his BIG CHANCE. Finally, something is going right in his life. Here's his chance at success. His ship has come in. He's going to be in a film. He'll get some recognition. Directors will be lining up outside his door. Torgo was just the beginning.  

But no. Manos was a flop. His dreams went down the drain. What's left?  

What I find alarming is his capacity to kill himself with a shotgun. Is that common? Seems like it would be very difficult, and I know it's macabre of me to bring it up, but honestly, I just can't picture that. Not that I want to. But I just can't begin to imagine how someone could hold a shotgun up to their head and reach the trigger, though I'm not one to go around putting guns of any sort up to my head.  

So it seems to me that they WERE RELATED. It's like saying the rampant growth of the tomato plants in my garden has nothing to do with the soil, rain, or water. They just grow independent of those things.  

Poor Torgo.  

OH. AND BY THE WAY. That thing about the drugs and Torgo, did I neglect to mention his drug abuse was related to his role in the film? Oh, yeah. Right. Well, according to the Wikipedia entry, during shooting, Torgo wore this metal rigging to make him look like a satyr (ohhhhhhhh, he's supposed to be a satyr!), BUT he wore it backwards. And no one told him. It damaged his kneecaps permanently and it was, apparently, really painful. He self-medicated with drugs until his death.

Anyway, it's funny how those two facts are so far apart on the Wikipedia entry. Not that I'm accusing Wikipedia of some conspiracy to cover up the truth about Torgo or something. It's just interesting.

And sad.  And it made me feel incredibly guilty to laugh at everything Torgo did, particularly the "itsy bitsy spider" part, where he's trying to seduce the unconvincing actress who played Mike's wife.  The "itsy bitsy spider" scene is one of the best.  Well, pretty much everything with Torgo is hilarious, from the Torgo-music to the wives molesting-him-to-death scene.  

But how can I laugh when I know that Torgo killed himself due to the film's failure? I just can. Call me cold-hearted. Call me evil. But maybe Torgo would be really happy to know that his film has achieved cult-status. That they're making a sequel. And a production company in Nashville redubbed the audio track last year and I guess there's a documentary on the director in the works. 

Someone should also make a documentary about Torgo, because I sense a good story there.  

So I guess it's not entirely sad. It's just rough to know that it was someone's failure and they got depressed enough about it to die. You know?