Well, I've got a few minutes to kill, so let me just open up the Houston Chronicle here and see if anything has been going on in Houston for the last week. I'm sure there's been nothing to have me worried about living there for several years.
Houston's still waiting for some rain
- And I'm still waiting for Sommersby II. We all have problems. [takes drink of water]
No relief in sight for scorching Texas heat
- [spits water comically]
Heat advisories in Texas remain through Saturday
- Well, I'm sure it's not an emergency.
Heat emergency declared for Houston
- Oh my.
Love in Action van brings water on 101-degree day
- Yeah, but it's Houston. Surely they're used to this.
Heat reaches record for Houston
- Oh, I'm sure it's not a disaster.
Punishing heat prompts Houston disaster declaration
Foot injury leaves Yao's future with Rockets in doubt
I'm so shaken I'm not just rethinking Houston, I'm rethinking America's victory in the Mexican-American War. Jesus. Are we sure Yao's foot isn't just melting?
Well, I've got a few minutes to kill, so let me just open up the Houston Chronicle here and see if anything has been going on in Houston for the last week. I'm sure there's been nothing to have me worried about living there for several years.
So while I'm trying to finish this thing I've been working on I've been pretty much useless as a person, a blogger, and--less noticeable a drop-off--a tennis player. That's not going to change today. Sorry. This is the best I've got:
Things that should exist but don't
A mid-level Black Cherry soda. I don't even know if I like Black Cherry soda, but it puzzles me that it's exclusively produced as either a 2-liter 79¢ store-brand product or as an expensive gourmet glass-bottled product for your average soda bon vivant. I don't know why I'm worried about a particular flavor's market segmentation, but these are the thoughts I have when I get lost in the soda aisle at the Hy-Vee.
Things that do exist but shouldn't
Music from a band that featured both Neil Young and Rick James.
Well, you can add 'In The Mynah Birds' to your list of things Neil Young and Rick James have in common. Alphabetically, it should go between 'Have Been to Cleveland' and 'Love Black Cherry Soda.'
Since they share a song writing credit, I like to imagine Neil Young and Rick James sitting around Toronto in 1966 throwing out ideas.
James: I think we should add more cat growls.
Young: Cat growls are about the horrors of Vietnam.
James: Let's finish the song at the Tim Hortons.
These are also the thoughts I have when I get lost in the soda aisle at the Hy-Vee.
Like most of the world, I'm mourning Michael Jackson's death by pretending it happened in 1992 while wearing my officially licensed Billie Jean® baseball t-shirt for a period of no less than seven consecutive days, just like the Bible says.
And in case you doubt its authenticity, here you can clearly see the Official Michael Jackson Seal of Approval™.
Yes, this is a shirt I own. Yes, I only wear it for 1980s-theme parties. Yes, you may borrow it.
Oh, and of course I've also been watching YouTube videos all week.
Honestly, until this week the last time I thought about Michael Jackson was when Dave and I had a conversation in Chicago about his song "Liberian Girl." Apparently Dave used to think the song was called "Iberian Girl."
"Iberian girl/You came from Seville or/Lisbon..."
We thought this was very funny. I'm willing to admit we might have been wrong.
So The Cupboard--which is about to release its next volume--has a blog, but nobody ever updates it because Dave has his fancy new site where he writes about odd things he sees and I have this one full of disclaimer-laden posts disproving my magical abilities. So we're sort of at an impasse. Naturally it's Dave's fault.
Dave: The Cupboard needs a blog.
Me: Great, I've been too embarrassed to write about fantasy football on my blog.
Dave: No. It will be about writing and books and The Cupboard.
Me: Can I write about He's Just Not That Into You? It was a book. I didn't read it, but in the movie...
Me: Sometimes I play old video games and maybe...
Shockingly, I have never posted on The Cupboard's blog. If it can't be a dumping ground for all the humiliating thoughts I have just enough dignity to refrain from posting here--and you can imagine how bad that stuff must be to somehow not make the cut--I really don't see the point. Okay, I do. I love the idea of having a blog for The Cupboard, but I think we're going to try something new: a podcast.
Why? Because when one thing isn't getting enough attention the best thing to do is add another project. It's still a ways away from coming together, but I think we're going to feature both our authors and other writers, publishers, romantic comedy cast members, etc. Okay, Dave's telling me we won't feature that last one. But otherwise I think we're on the same page and are excited about having a forum to let writers give readings and talk about their work.
Look for it, um, soon? Sure, why not. Soon.
Why I Will Never Write About the Royals Again
As always the Royals have completely fallen apart since I did so much as write their name here. And it's not so much that I control their destiny--I do--or that I can change the direction of their season with a mere mention--I can--or that I have the power to do this with anyone I write about on this blog--this kid is now dead--no, it's none of those things. It's that you don't believe me. It's okay, neither does the Royals' management and you don't have the benefit of the letters I send to them (maybe using a lambskin scroll and ink made of cherries was a mistake, but I was just trying to be classy, Dayton Moore).
So let’s take a look at the five games following a mention of the word ‘Royals’ on this blog (and I’ll limit it to usages that indicate the baseball team so all of my Prince Harry gossip posts don’t count. I don't want there to be anything skewing this highly scientific exploration of my magical power). In reverse chronological order:
* 6/17/09 – Record over the next five games: 0-5
Oh, god, this went worse than that time the kid I mentioned died. Combined score over these five games: 53-21. And it's not just the losing that's bad, it's that this came on the heels of a nice four game winning streak where it looked like the Royals had figured things out. Now Coco Crisp is likely out for the season, Kyle Davies is in AAA, and I'm writing posts that mention voodoo and Jose Guillen together in an upcoming sentence. Things really came apart quickly.
* 6/10/09 – Record over the next five games: 4-1
Okay, I forgot about this one, but it’s only one small mention in a post otherwise about robot baseball players. I’d say it’s likely that whatever demon is in charge of this thing was too bored to read the entire post so didn’t get the chance to stick pins in the hip of the Jose Guillen voodoo doll he has. In the demon’s defense, I think everyone would have felt that way.
* 5/22/09 – Record over the next five games: 2-3
So this was just a mention of the proper name of Rany Jazayerli's radio show, but I'm counting it because it slightly proves my point.
* 5/19/09 – Record over the next five games: 1-4
So this one really proves my point. My point: I don't remember. But I do remember mentioning a lambskin scroll up above. So basically I'm coming off as crazy but forgetful and therefore incompetently crazy. I'll take that.
* 5/13/09 – Record over the next five games: 2-3
Speaking of crazy, this is the second post in a row where I've mentioned that I believe I have magical powers.
* 4/16/09 – Record over the next five games: 3-2
Which means it might be time to quit this blog. Seriously, this is either going to end with me jumping out of my office window because I believe hitting coach/boyhood hero Kevin Seitzer has to me how to fly (and work a pitch count) or, slightly more likely, I'll move to a town where every post has to be about how much hotter it is than Lincoln today.
* 4/07/09 – Record over the next five games: 2-3
This was the Tom Berenger-heavy season preview. Sure, I mention them the next day, too, but I'm not going to count it because they went 3-2 over that stretch. Okay, fine, I'll count it. But I'm not doing it for you, I'm doing it for science.
So, after a mention on this blog, the Royals went 17-23 over the next five games, good for a .425 winning percentage and negligibly below their season clip of .426. I don't know if that counts as 'magical,' per se, but it's something. Okay, not really. More likely it's just 'vaguely not at all spooky but tainted by sample size and the principle accountant's lack of understanding of basic math concepts.'
Just for fun (fun?) I did the same thing for 2008. After a mention on this blog, the Royals went 20-25 over the next for games for a .444 winning percentage, basically indistinguishable from their season mark of .463 (trade one loss for one win and they're more or less identical). So 'vaguely not at all spooky...,' right?
It might mean I'm slightly more likely to write about the Royals during a losing streak. Which means that their losing is probably part of the reason I'm a fan (fan?). Which means I'm still both crazy and incompetent. Yep, crazy and incompetent, just like Trey Hillman.*
*Just a joke, George Brett!
A fly just flew into my coffee. And not like you might think, like the fly was cruising around the room, landed on the lip of the mug, and slowly worked its way too close to the liquid. Nope, this fly dive bombed right into the cup and went out with a tiny little splash, just like Goose. It was the oddest thing I'd ever seen an animal or insect do except:
A squirrel fell out of a tree in front of me yesterday. And not like you might think, like the squirrel was running around a low branch, jumped down, and ran off fine. Nope, this squirrel fell from a fairly high branch and landed with a thud on its back. Sure, like any teenager on a skateboard, it tried to play it off like whatever happened had happened on purpose, but in the brief moment the squirrel and I shared a look, it knew that I'd seen everything. It ran away--and I think did sort of a little ollie to try to retain some rodent-dignity--and got right back on that horse (by which I mean tree).
There's only one explanation for this convergence of events: in addition to this newfound interest in skateboarding lingo, my recent and much delayed puberty has given me the mutant power to confuse otherwise infallible* creatures with my very presence. This immediately makes me more interesting than anyone on the hit NBC drama Heroes.
*Okay, infallible outside of their respective failures to understand the concept of glass and to defeat the neighborhood birds. That said, who's to say any of us truly understand glass or aggressive sparrows.
The most common reaction to Deer Tick's concert last night seemed to be a muttered string of swear words. When the last notes of their closing medley of "Sleepwalk/La Bamba" [ed note: Carlin helpfully set me straight here.] ended and the house lights came on everyone looked around and said horrible things. Personally, I went with something like "Sweet Holy Hell Jesus" because the show wasn't just good, it was nonsensical blasphemy good.
And concerts can be great for a lot of reasons, but I haven't been to many where it is almost solely the band that makes it feel like you're lucky to be there, like you're going to chastising people who missed it, like you're watching something special. Typically there's the drinks or a singularly attuned crowd or something so personal that when all your friends are bored you're having revelations like, "You know, I think I will marry Roger."
But last night I wasn't really drinking, the crowd was okay but nothing incredible, and Roger and I just wouldn't work as a couple.
So for approximately the 8th time in the last 8 posts I'm breaking my rule to not write about things I do in order to let you know that Deer Tick = good. You should check out their old album ($5) and their new album. You should see them in concert.
If concerts aren't your thing, you can also see them at lunch. They seemed to enjoy making lunch plans.
Be Prepared for Literally Anything
This course description comes courtesy of Z. who found it while looking for a Medieval Baskets class for under $10 and came away doubly disappointed.
Have you ever found yourself in a primitive or survival situation, with nothing but your hands to carry all of the food and game that you were finding and capturing along the way? No? If you ever were, you might be interested to know that you actually could do something about it, if you only knew how to make a basket! In this class we will learn techniques for making several types of baskets using all natural, local supplies. And as a group, we will construct either a melon basket or a sapling basket (both, if the class is large enough) using the same primitive techniques used by the indigenous cultures for ages. Tuition: $12
Well, have you? Huh? Huh? No, I suppose not. If you had, you'd have starved to death basketless and alone in a state park somewhere instead of having accidentally found this blog while looking for stock photos of kittens.
If you'd like to look at any of SCC's other fine summer classes, the catalog is right here. I'm already signed up for the one about doubling my mind power. So if you notice me blogging twice as hard come fall, you'll know why.
God, there are going to be so many posts about kittens...
* I feel like I can post this now that the Royals have won 4 in a row and the seagull game is a distant memory, but Joe Posnanski had a comprehensive rundown of embarrassing things the Royals have done during this era of futility. My favorite is still the time in 2005 they led off the game batting out of order. Retrosheet describes the situation toward the bottom of this page.
At the time I remember the general reaction being somewhat muted as it was almost so unprecedented that no one quite realized how dumb this was. The Royals lost that game 5-0, as if after David DeJesus had to bat twice to start the game they just said screw it and decided to try harder the next day. Or they realized Runelvys Hernandez was the pitcher and that it didn't really matter anyway.
* The question: Which guy from Three Men and a Baby is your favorite/would make the best cake? The answer.
* Here's another great interview with Chris Higgs where he says interesting things and insists that he doesn't have children. I'm sure it won't surprise Chris to learn I disagree with a fair bit of what he says--he obviously has children if people are asking him about them--yet we often times end up loving the very same books. I don't know how or why that happens, but I like it.
A Retroactive Running Journal of an Attempt to Beat Streets of Rage 2 on Saturday
0:01 - Ryan and I haven't even started the game and already my hand hurts from all of the high-fiving. Ryan is a married high school history teacher. I am a guy who still owns a Sega.
0:02 - We choose Hard rather than Hardest. Ryan would like it pointed out that we have beaten it on Hardest and were so excited we took pictures of the television screen. I would like it pointed out that we totally did beat it on Hardest and will prove it if questioned. So, um, feel free to question. I took the framed pictures to work with me today just in case there's any questioning.
0:03 - As always, Ryan chooses Skate while I go with Axel. Axel is the game's most balanced character with his power, stamina, etc. all rated three stars. Skate is the game's most dated character with his power, stamina, etc. all rated Jean-Michel Basquiat.
0:09 - I consider telling Ryan the story of how I bought this Sega from our friend Chris's ex-girlfriend's little brother but realize that's pretty much the entire story.
0:12 - We breeze through the early levels while wondering if some of the hoodlums we're beating up ever really had a chance at a normal life. I mean, if your name was Stonta what choice would you have except to walk back and forth across an alley holding a knife?
0:13 - We barely even need these turkeys that someone is leaving under street signs to refill our health.
0:14 - Just so we're clear in case you haven't played this game, these streets are full of rage. Rage and Butterballs.
0:17 - Skate's best move is roller skating over to an enemy, jumping on the enemy's back, and punching the enemy's head. Skate's worst move is wearing a yellow tanktop after Labor Day.
0:20 - We've lost our first lives after some poor turkey management. It's not looking good. Ryan has a look on his face like I just told him that Alexander Hamilton is my favorite president.
0:30 - I unwisely mention how I once tried to talk Ryan into using a character other than Skate when we were struggling to beat the game on Hardest. This conversation nearly ended our friendship back when we played this game a lot. We've come a long way since 2006.
0:31 - Ryan hasn't smiled in ten minutes.
0:33 - Things are going a little better since we've gotten past the swamp monster and the kick boxers.
0:34 - We get very lucky on the beach level. High five! The only thing that can stop us now is the Sega freezing. There's at least a thirty percent chance that won't happen.
0:45 - We've spent the last fifteen minutes or so discussing how the bad guy--Mr. X--was able to acquire such a diverse collection of henchmen. Do the jet pack guys hang out with the professional wrestlers after work? Where did he get a monster and does the monster get paid in turkeys? How is it that he has both ninjas and fat guys who breath fire?
0:46 - We both agree that instead of kidnapping Jean-Michel Basquiat's older brother--Randy Basquiat--Mr. X would be better served putting his considerable freak management skills to work by starting a circus or an all-night Arby's.
0:47 - So, um, is there an all-night Arby's? Because I could go for some curly fries served to me by a shirtless guy swinging a lead pipe right about now. It'd be like going to an Arby's in the afternoon only there wouldn't be a line.
0:50 - Justin comes over, sees what we're doing, and looks a little worried about us when he realizes how much we're talking to ourselves. We tell him that we once beat the game on Hardest and have proof if he questions us. He declines to question us.
0:52 - Things are going okay or at least better than they were. Still, beating the game seems unlikely as we're out of continues and we still have to make it through the bad guy's lair.
0:53 - We forgot about the robots. We also have to make it through the robots. So just to recap, the bad guy is spending his time kidnapping 18-year-olds rather than using his army of robots and ninjas to some greater purpose like conquering Spain or opening an all-night Arby's.
0:57 - This conversation has happened at least ten times tonight:
Ryan: Get your turkey.
Ryan: Get your turkey.
Me: Not yet.
Ryan: Dude, get it.
Me: I know what I'm doing.
Ryan: You won't make it.
Me: Your mom won't make it.
1:00 - Axel's best move is punching people in the face. Axel's worst move is punching Skate in the face "on accident."
1:01 - So we've surprised ourselves by making it to Mr. X. He rewards us by shooting us with a machine gun. Which makes us wonder why he didn't give poor Stonta a machine gun back in the first level in order to end this thing before it escalated to Fire-Breathing-Fat-Guys level. Instead poor Stonta took some punches to the face, was kicked by a kid wearing roller skates, and was eventually stabbed with his own knife (which I believe is what Stonta means in Russian).
1:05 - We did it! Where's the camera?
1:06 - Justin is now refusing to question or fist bump us.
7:04 - Final conversation:
Ryan: Remember how we beat Streets of Rage earlier?
Me: Do you think Arby's is open yet?
Justin: I don't think you guys ever did beat it on Hardest.
Our Friend Chris's Ex-Girlfriend's Little Brother: Do you want to buy my Dreamcast?
Stock Photography Review
There have been or will be a lot of birthdays among some of the most important people in my life this month. My sister Kaitlin's birthday was June 1st. My brother Jeff's birthday is June 16th. Lincoln Saltdogs pitcher David Humen's birthday was June 11th. Happy birthday, everyone. Especially you, David. You most of all.
In honor of the siblings (and, more importantly, some other guy) here's some birthday-related stock photography.
I don't really have anything to say here other than that I initially thought those were giant Mike and Ike's which sent me to the Just Born company website to see if they also made giant Hot Tamales. Then I started looking at the Peeps and, well, it's now dark out, I've got a day's worth of stubble, and at some point in the last 18 hours I tried to send a text message to my parents' home phone asking if I could borrow $1,800 in order to develop a gallon-size Hot Tamale mold.
This is better than the last time I looked at the Just Born company's website when I woke up in the geographic center of the United States with an empty bag of Jet-Puffed marshmallows, a sticky pocket knife, and an army of poorly whittled marshmallow bunnies replicating Khalid ibn al-Walid's famous flanking maneuver.
So I guess what I'm saying is, good luck, kid.
In most cultures, gifts are given by ascending height in a precisely ordered queue so as to increase the family's odds of being used in an AT&T billboard campaign.
Which birthday is the whipped-cream birthday again? Oh, right, the last one.
Look, I know the kid is bummed because she only got half-inflated balloons and wilting flowers for her birthday, but the fact that they ordered a frowning cake leads me to believe this wasn't totally unexpected.
Why doesn't anyone like Julia?
Maybe it's because she's always changing clothes and eating flaming candles when we're not looking. In fact, I'd say that's exactly why we don't like Julia. But it's not why we hate her. No, that's something only she knows.
Since this came up on a search for birthday, I can only assume this kid was born on December 25th. Hey, so was this guy:
Stock Photography Jesus is my favorite Jesus. All you need is a tanned white guy with a beard, a ghost costume with some rope tied around the middle, and access to an old stable.
This isn't birthday related, but Stock Photography Jésus the Québécoise Gangster is my favorite Jésus the Québécoise Gangster.
See, I hate that. That takes all the fun out of guessing which box is the one crying.
It's like how at your wedding I'm going to get you something from Crate & Barrel and you're going to know it because of their boxes. Except this time it's a baby rather than whatever is exactly $65 on your registry. I'm just going to stop typing now.
(still not typing)
Jésus the Québécoise Gangster had forgotten he'd planned the kidnapping on the same day as his birthday. I've just been working so hard it completely slipped my mind. It's not easy to time an explosion at the stroke of midnight to distract the guards. Who has time to plan a soirée and an underhanded seduction? Besides, who would I invite, François the getaway driver? I don't think so, he explained to the judge's daughter. Do you think my son will remember to call?
I don't know what's going on with these two. They make Julia seem well-adjusted. Maybe we should set her up with blue-shirt guy.
10 things I've learned about the Lincoln Saltdogs today, or, alternatively, 7 things about the Saltdogs then some stuff about robots
1. The Lincoln Saltdogs continue to exist
2. Tomorrow is pitcher David Humen's birthday
3. They're currently in last place
4. They're probably still better than the Royals
5. The promotion for June 14th is to not sell peanuts
6. I missed the auditions to sing the national anthem by several months
7. Pete Rose Jr. has not been on the team for five years
8. One of their pitchers is named 'III Cory' or, more likely, is a robot named Cory III9. As a robot, Cory III hasn't given up any runs but has been on the DL
10. A good joke for a robot pitcher going on the DL would be, "I hope he doesn't have to have Autommy Johns surgery."
11. It's unclear how Cory III affects the likelihood of a Base Wars-esque league where mortal men compete against machines
12. What is clear is that Michael Biehn would be the first overall pick in that league's human draft
13. How many hotdogs will it take to make me feel good if I go to tonight's game and there's not a robot pitcher?
14. Probably four
Out Stealing Horses
This book, in both best and worst senses, is exactly what I expected when I joined the company book club: a well-reviewed, inoffensive novel about some elderly Scandinavian (I was very specific about what I expected). I think I've written before about the politics of how books get picked in clubs like these--and I use club loosely here as it's really down to myself and at most two other people--and the priority isn't to come up with something thought provoking, it's to come up with something that everyone can finish. That way we can get together, have lunch, and shrug our shoulders when it's time to talk about the book. With rare exceptions, no one seems to love or hate anything so the conversations on the book never quite seem to go longer than six or seven minutes before everyone has moved on to discussing the quality of the restaurant's fries.
And so Out Stealing Horses counts as a success in that we all finished and the restaurant's fries were pretty good.
To be honest, it was a bit of a struggle to finish to the point where I put it off so long I had to wake up early to read the last thirty pages of the book the morning before the book club lunch. It's not a bad book and, for me, it's not a particularly good book either, just a slow story of a senescent Norwegian widower who takes to a remote cabin near the Swedish border in order to more or less relive the life he had with his father as a boy in 1948. I'm trying to think of an American equivalent, and the closest I can get is a leaner, more past-focused Richard Ford, a deeply intimate story that values it's realism to a point near inaction. Or maybe it's just that first-person, present tense narration which usually sets off warning signs for me. It's not that there aren't books written that way which I enjoy, it's just that there are so many memorable ones I didn't.
There's also the run-on sentences. My god, the run-on sentences. I certainly don't care typically, but they're not put to any particular poetry here. The following isn't the most egregious example, just one I found on a page I flipped to:
'We'll soon see to that,' he says, pulling out the choke on his saw, which is a Husqvarna and not a Jonsered, and that too is a relief in a comic sort of way, as if we were doing something we are not in fact allowed to do, but which is certainly really fun, and he pulls the cord once or twice and slams the choke back in and then gripping the cord firmly he lets the saw sink as he pulls and it starts up with a fine growl, and in a trice the branch is off and cut into four parts.
But Petterson--I might suggest dropping that extra 'T,' Per. It's going to make it much harder for you to find souvenir shotglasses with your last name on them and we all know 'Per' is a lost cause, too--does accomplish something really great here, and it's all about his efficiency and structure. He moves seamlessly between the present and memory and he parallels just enough to make his storytelling efficient but rarely gimmicky. A lot of ground gets covered in these 230 pages, and it's hard to think of any other contemporary American books that get us so inside a character in such little time. Not to mention the setting, some of the ancillary characters, hell, even the occasional Nazi. Somehow he managed a book that is both a slog to read and remarkably tight in its construction. I really don't know how he did it.
And so maybe it's not so much like Richard Ford's work at all but just the Norwegian equivalent of Zadie Smith's lyrical Realism (which I wrote about here). Certainly there's a pretense to beauty here, if not in the composition than in the imagery which is lush and wild no matter the time period. In any case, it's the kind of simple beauty that begs you to ponder it, deep rivers and cloudy skies and the like. Perfectly acceptable, maybe even meaningful, if you want to give it the time.
But reading this morning--flipping pages like it was a history textbook the morning before a test--it all felt a perfunctory, just another man thinking about how what was once promising grew so quickly old.
On Editing a Novel #15
DRAFTING A COHERENT SET OF RULES TO GOVERN THE TIME TRAVEL ASPECTS OF YOUR NOVEL. Everyone loves time travel. It's fun and easy and never confusing. It allows us a glimpse inside of ourselves to see what we'd look like in period-appropriate pants. By traveling back in time, we are freed from history and presented with a myriad of possiblities for a new present. Step on one bug, and the consequences are limited only by our imaginations. Anything could happen, like a present where Germany won World War II or, say, one where Hitler is Pope or even a crazy one where the Nazis have taken over the Eastern seaboard and everyone in Baltimore speaks German.
(German Omar says, "fü' sicher.")
So literally anything, anything with Germans. Which is why it's important to make sure that when drafting your novel you present your readers with a consistent set of rules to say what is and is not possible when your hero(ine) goes back in time.
(Note that your protagonist cannot and should not go forward in time. That's just stupid. If you want to write about such silly things skip ahead to #21 IT'S BEEN DONE BEFORE BUT HAS IT BEEN DONE...ON MARS? or #61 MOVING YOUR NOVEL INTO THE FUTURE BY THE ADJECTIVAL ADDITION OF THE WORD SPACE, OR, ALTERNATIVELY, HOW DO WE SOLVE A PROBLEM LIKE SPACE HITLER? )
We're not physicists, but, after much prayer, we've learned that this is how time travel works:
* Despite there being are an infinite number of realities, each branching off from a decision, anything done in the past can only change the present in one very obvious way. For example, if you go back in time to avenge your father's murder, in the present everyone will have mustaches.
* A person disappears while time traveling and is gone from the present for as long as they're in the past. This leads to two things: 1) Their spouse being like all what the hell and 2) Company softball team members considering their participation unreliable.
* There will always be one character who can explain everything . You'll know which character this is because they'll have a chalkboard, unkempt hair, and look like Jeremy Davies.
* When a person sees their past relatives, they'll always look exactly like the person only with cowboy hats or whatever.
* A person can make money by time traveling. But not by telling people they've invented a time machine or taking advantage of the magic of compound interest. Nope, the only way to make money is sports gambling. For example, have a character in the present casually mention that they heard the Cardinals were 9/2 to win the division in 1982. Have your time travelling character say, really, that's interesting while rubbing their chin. Then the character takes $200 out of the ATM, travels back, etc.
* Some things are inevitable and you cannot change them.
* But some things aren't and you can change them.
* The most memorable song from the era will always be playing loudly whenever the character first gets out of the time machine. For example, in 1956, it will be "Hound Dog." Always. And nearby children will be dancing funny and wearing their shorts too high. This may be disconcerting until you explain that the time machine navigates based on short height.
Those are the rules. Everything not specifically covered here is fair game. So if your novel is not going well, you can have a character travel back in time halfway through and invalidate everything that has come before. Do not be tempted to then delete that first half of the novel. It's important to your character's spiritual journey and to your page count.
Adventures in Automatic Spelling Correction
So it's not uncommon to have MS Word correct the spelling of something I'm writing and guess the wrong word. This happens for several reasons:
1) I am a poor speller
2) Really bad when writing fast
3) So bad that I'm often times far enough off that the anthropomorphic Paperclip or whomever just throws up his hands and says, "I don't know, screw it, let's just assume he wanted TMNT 2: The Arcade Game."
This is fine as most of the time I do, in fact, want TMNT 2: The Arcade Game.
But last night's spelling correction was unprecedented. Not only did the program guess wrong, but it was so far off as to leave me running to my dictionary to find out the definition of the word it corrected to. Keep in mind, this isn't spelling being suggested, this is spelling it is automatically correcting as I type, presumably because these errors or so common that the program can say fairly certainly what the writer intends ('teh' becomes 'the,' for instance).
In this case, it corrected my misspelling of seeing (I believe in my typing haste I threw out 'seinng') to the word 'seining.' Now, maybe it's just because I've lived a life that's been delightfully landlocked--full of corn detasseling and talk of four-wheelers--but I had no idea what this word meant. Maybe--and that's a pretty soft maybe--I would have known this word's more common noun form, but as it was I was quite confused.
(Being much smarter than me, you probably already know that 'seining' is fishing done with a seine and a seine is a large net that goes into the water vertically then gets drawn up and together. Please feel free to tell me whether or not I should have known this. In return, I'll tell you whether or not you should be able to diagram the triple option offense).
Seining doesn't even seem to be the preferred term for seine fishing. The only explanation for this is that someone at Microsoft must have a father who's a North Atlantic fisherman. Otherwise, I have a hard time believing anyone ever uses the word 'seining' outside the following sentences:
1. Are you seining I can't catch any fish? Get it, Larry? See, it was a joke for North Atlantic fishermen like Silas Ballmer.
2. What does 'seining' mean? I should totally write a blog post about this that goes on for far too long.
You'll be happy to know that this change actually made my work better. Now in the middle of an otherwise normal conversation, two characters get to have this exchange:
Harold: Sorry about the blindness.
Phil: Guess I want be seining the cherry blossoms again after all.
Harold: What does seining mean? I should totally write a blog post about this that goes on for far too long.
Phil: Can you walk me home first?
Hey, everyone, it's The Chapbook Review! It's full of great reviews of your favorite chapbooks (like the Calls' Pocket Finger) and an interview conducted by Lakers fan Chris Higgs of (presumably non-Lakers fan) Blake Butler and vice versa. And it just so happens to have two different reviews of Mathias Svalina's Play (which, as always, you can pick up here).
Matthew Simmons says, "It’s a madcap little book, by turns funny and disturbing."
And Andrew Borgstrom says, "Mathias Svalina intimidates me. I’m scared to review his book."
Both of the reviews are super nice as is the site itself which is such a great idea that I'm still a little upset you didn't think of it.
A Cumulative and Evolving List of the People I Would Want on My Team Should Any of the Following Occur: 1) War between Robots and Humanity Fought across Post-Nuclear Wastelands, 1983, and the Guns 'N Roses-Era 1990s; 2) War between Aliens and Humanity Fought in Space or on Recently Colonized Planets Undergoing Terraforming until Communication Break Down Following Mysterious Wreckage Discovery Being Investigated by a Team of Space Marines of which I am a Member; 3) War between Aliens and Robots and Humans Involving Any of the Previously Mentioned Conditions Excluding the Guns 'N Roses-Era 1990s Sub-Clause; 4) Rogue Marines Take Over Alcatraz and Threaten San Francisco with Stolen Chemical Weapons in Order to Force the United States Government to Acknowledge Their Fallen Comrades Whose Deaths Occurred During Illegal, Clandestine Missions and Who are Using Human Hostages to Prevent Direct Assault from Government Fighter Jets; 5) Scenario Identical to Scenario 4 Only the Disillusioned Marines are Using Hostile Aliens and/or Robots as Hostages; 6) All Prior Scenarios are Null and Void Should Any Coincidentally be Occurring in a Deep Sea Exploration Scenario Where High Pressure Nervous Syndrome Might Be a Possibility; 7) Maybe I Just Want to Talk through Some Stuff; 8) Amendment to Scenario 6, Not Null and Void If There are non-Water Based Hostile Aliens in the Deep Sea Exploration Scenario, Even if Said Aliens are Different than the Aliens at War with Humanity in Scenarios 2,3, and 5; 9) Whatever Happens in the Cancelled CBS Drama "The Magnificent Seven;" 10) Game of Horseshoes, "Polish" or standard; 11) Whatever Happens in the Cancelled CBS Drama "The Magnificent Seven" plus Aliens and Robots but Not Minus Shotguns; 12) A Predator is Running around and We Can't Find Danny Glover
1. Cross-Armed Michael Biehn
That's the list.