Exhibit 7.13

For some reason, employees at the company where I work are walking over to a gym to play dodgeball tomorrow. Frankly, I'm all for it. I can't say I was ever actually that into real dodgeball but the video game Super Dodge Ball (or, as I like to call it, real dodgeball) for the NES was my favorite game as a kid/awkward teen.

I don't even know where or how we acquired Super Dodge Ball. All I know is that by the time I was 14 I was pretty much unbeatable. Mostly that was because by 14 my friends were too busy buying cologne and getting in fist fights after school to actually play me, but it wouldn't have mattered.

The premise of the game is simple. Your dodgeball team travels around the world to play teams of ethnic stereotypes in crude approximations of the countries they come from. For instance, in China, you play in front of a picture of Mao. In Kenya, you play on dirt. For the better part of my life, I assumed that the people in Iceland actually did live on large sheets of abnormally slick ice thanks to this game. After you beat all of the insensitive caricatures, you have to face a sub-human, undoubtedly cheating team from the U.S.S.R.

Even though communism had more or less collapsed by the time I played this game, it certainly didn't diminish my thrill every time I beat Boris (the Soviet's best player, naturally) and his gang of Politburo-backed hoods. I imagine this is how Ronald Reagan felt all the time.

Anyway, assuming what I did in a 20-year-old video game is applicable in the real world--and honestly, why not assume that--I should be both amazing at dodgeball and have unusually shiny hair tomorrow.


Exhibit 7.12

I feel like I need something new at the top of this blog before everyone falls in love with Scott Kleeb.

I thought about posting a picture of Jeremy Roenick, but that would just be strange. Well, too late now:

Nobody loves that.


Exhibit 7.11

For Nebraskans

Scott Kleeb has decided to run for the U.S. Senate. He faces a tough primary against a guy who was a Republican until a month ago (Nebraska Democrats - Catch the Fever!) and then an even tougher election against former governor and current rubber stamp Mike Johanns.

You may remember Scott for almost beating Adrian Smith in Nebraska's 3rd district (one of the most conservative in the country) last election, and he's pretty much everything this state needs in a senator. With a master's degree in International Relations and a Ph.D. in History with a focus in Agricultural Economics (all from Yale), Kleeb is the rare politician capable of understanding the problems facing Nebraskans and Americans on a level deeper than their party's bullet points.

I don't know, I could say more but this should be enough: He's clearly the smartest, most principled candidate running. Nebraska can keep electing hacks and pretending our best aren't leaving the state, or we can support one of the few who came back to build something better than what the Mike Johanns of the world have proven capable of. I think it's worth supporting. So check out his website, volunteer, or write a check.

Hell, I'd vote for that chin alone.


Exhibit 7.10

Great lines from the movie we saw last night:

"POTUS is in hand."

"Can you lose him?"

"Control has been compromised!"

"I’ll ask you again, where’s my brother?"

"He’s gone rogue!"

Yep, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was one fantastic movie.


Exhibit 7.9

I realized I had an error in my pointless numbering system. This issue has been corrected.


Exhibit 7.8

Rocket Science

We watched the movie the other night. It was good. Not amazing or transcendent or anything, but just a good movie that wore a lot of its references on its sleeve yet was actively trying to defy expectations of where the narrative was headed. It also caused me to listen to that first Violent Femmes album again, so that's a plus. By the way, that album is more than 25 years old.

Albums that came out a month before Violent Femmes:

  • Prince*, 1999
  • Marvin Gaye, Midnight Love

Albums that came out after Violent Femmes:

  • The Smiths, The Smiths
  • Talking Heads, Speaking in Tongues
  • Prince, Purple Rain
  • Tom Waits, Swordfishtrombones
  • Willie Nelson/Merle Haggard, Pancho and Lefty
  • The Police, Synchronicity
  • Kelly Clarkson, Breakaway

Albums that came out on the same day as Violent Femmes:

  • Michael Jackson, Thriller

I don't know, maybe this isn't shocking information if you were around to experience them at the time, but it seems wrong somehow. Just be glad I'm giving you this information now rather than betting you at a bar that Violent Femmes was released before Purple Rain**.

Anyway, I actually wanted to post about this type of rocket science. Did anyone actually think they were going to be able to hit it? You won this round, military-industrial complex. I'd like to think a chant of USA! USA! broke out immediately afterward, but this was in Houston, so that was probably already happening***.

*By the way, when you search for Prince on Wikipedia, it takes you to an article on the monarch and not the artist. We need to fix this fast before Prince finds out.

**I wouldn't do this.

***I've never been to Houston.


Exhibit 7.7

Stock Photography Review

One of the most common ways to utilize stock photography is as a stand in for a company's sickly, jaundiced employees. While low wages, poor working conditions, and fluorescent lights might make already unattractive employees appear malnourished and unhelpful, the timely use of a stock photo can let the public think a company's workers are clean, moderately attractive people versed in the use of a floral kerchief:

Now that's an employee you expect to answer the phone at your cable company. She may not have a computer, but she has a series of indistinguishable white binders full of answers. She hasn't yet mastered watch-to-kerchief coordination, she does have a pleasantly theatrical way of posing while talking.

The important thing is to find a photo that screams competence when you put a picture on your contact page.

Headsets: Check.
Diversity: Check.
Business formal attire: Check.

Oh, so close. On the plus side, the lady on the left looks like she's terrified of having to answer any questions anyway. Somebody should get her some helpful white binders.

As this person clearly has no idea how to hook up a computer, it's probably best to avoid this photo. While the mouse and cpu-less keyboard with its monitor set up perpendicular to the keyboard may look high-tech, it's probably not going to lead to effective, accurate answers.

Rather than who will be answering, stock photography can also be used to portray those who will be calling. The picture you choose will say a lot about your company.

This one says: We're perverts.

This one says: We're perverts.


Exhibit 7.6

This was my Valentine's Day present from Heather. I've been wanting this poster for a long time. Needless to say, it's awesome. Actual conversation between Heather and the woman at Hobby Lobby when it was picked up after having been framed.

Woman: Ugh, who'd want a picture of Elliott Gould?
Heather: My boyfriend. It's for Valentine's Day.
Woman: Oh, and it says bullet. Who'd want that for Valentine's Day?
Woman: Well, I guess it's too late now.

This is what I got for Heather:

There was a necklace too. Still, I totally lost this holiday. I mean, I know that's not how a person should think about it, but it's true. I lost big.


Exhibit 7.5

An announcement from The Cupboard:

The Cupboard would like to apologize for the lack of pamphleteering we’ve done recently. As always, The Cupboard has excuses and plans.

Since we began, we’ve being trying to find ways to deal with the problematic business of publishing a monthly anonymous online and in-print literary pamphlet. Unfortunately, while we’re proud of everything we’ve printed, getting the quality of submissions The Cupboard hopes to print has been difficult. Perhaps not surprisingly, anonymity is a deal breaker for many writers and while most journals are awash in submissions, we get shockingly few.

So we’re going to change. The Cupboard will still be a pamphlet, only of much greater quality and design than the current model. No longer will we be anonymous, but will instead feature a single author of prose each volume. You might even call these new, nicely printed, single author pamphlets chapbooks. We won’t—The Cupboard is a pamphlet—but you might.

Longer and greater announcements are forthcoming, but just know that The Cupboard will continue. We hope you’ll consider submitting and subscribing once everything is settled. We’ll be in touch.


The Cupboard


Exhibit 7.4

Another great Clean Part Reading Series this Saturday with another great poster. If you've never been to Lincoln, that really is how it looks. The city council is hoping to add a third dimension soon.

Exhibit 7.3

Pitchers and catchers report for spring training today. In honor, some baseball links:

*Here is a blog dedicated to featuring each baseball card from the 1988 Topps Set. This was one of my favorite sets as a kid. I think I had about two dozen of the Kevin Seitzers from this set. For the record, he's number 275. I can barely wait.

*This is K.C. Star columnist Joe Posnanski's blog which is pretty much essential reading whether you like sports or not.

*Baseball Genius/Doctor/Royals Fan Rany Jazayerli has just started a Royals blog. His first post spells out his qualifications if you're not familiar. Needless to say, the fact that the Royals have some of the best baseball minds as fans/locals (Rany, Bill James, Rob Neyer) and the best sports columnist in America writing about them (Pos) makes them by far the most spoiled of any team that hasn't reached the playoffs in over 20 years.


Exhibit 7.2

I have a short story in the new issue of CutBank which you can learn all about here. It also features work by Tomaz Salamun, Matt Hart, Dennis McFadden, and many others. Plus, cool silhouette art by Andy Smetanka. I haven't had a chance to read it all yet, but so far it's fantastic.

My story is titled "The Department of Calamitous Events" and is notable for being my only story inspired by Heather's car. See, her car has a very idiosyncratic way of automatically locking the doors when you least expect, and I like to imagine what scenarios the engineers foresaw where this would be a safety feature rather than a confusing and threatening inconvenience. Of course, it is a VW and it's possible the random locking and unlocking of doors is the number one crime prevention technique in Germany. This is probably what fahrvergnügen means.

After that thrilling description of its origins, I can't imagine anyone will ever read that story. I'm okay with that as long as you read the rest of the issue.


Exhibit 7.1

On Editing a Novel #4

TURNING YOUR NOVEL INTO A LEGAL THRILLER. It's probably become clear that the painstaking fictionalization of your adolescence isn't nearly as emotionally tortured as you hoped. If publishing your novel is less important to you than accurately describing your junior prom, you should skip to step #18 'ACQUIRING THE PUBLISHING RIGHTS TO TOAD THE WET SPROCKET SONGS'.

If you are interested in seeing your novel published, it is probably time to turn it into a legal thriller.

First you'll need a plaintiff. And then a defendant. It's not important that you know the difference, only that you make one of them someone big and evil while the other is small and scrappy. This is best done by making the bad guy literally three or four times as big as the good guy so that there is no confusion. The judge should still be normal sized.

To complete the transition, simply do a find and replace for the following phrases:

Tea Biscuits -> Legal Briefs
No -> I object
"I want to tell you something." -> "If it pleases the court."
Stabs -> Files
"You can handle the truth." -> "You can't handle the truth."
Her -> Habeas Corpus
Home -> All the Way to the Top
"I need you." -> "We need to find McMurphy!"
Prison -> Law School
Love -> Jurisprudence

Now your sentimental tripe is a daring legal thriller.

Exhibit 6.27

Nebraska Election Showdown

Thursday - Barack Obama at Omaha Civic Auditorium
Friday - Chelsea Clinton at UNL and The Coffee House (?)
Friday - Michelle Obama at undetermined location
Saturday - Mike Gravel at The Touchdown Club in North Platte

Okay, one of those is probably fake.


Exhibit 6.26

Election Thoughts

*Clearly enough people aren't talking about this.

*Sort of seems like people are understating how big of a win this was for Obama. 10 days ago he would have won half the states he won and gotten beat much worse in others. I know they more or less split the delegates, but isn't that a win for the non-presumpitive nominee?

*You've got to think that Romney is smart enough to see that he can't win a three person race and that Huckabee has nowhere else to go. It's not like Huckabee is going to wake up tomorrow and start yearning for the days when he wasn't hanging around Chuck Norris and was best known as the funniest unemployed guy in the church men's group.

*Worst case scenario for the Democrats: Super delegates end up deciding the race for Clinton who then has to face McCain. The base would (rightfully) feel cheated and McCain will have spent months drumming up support. Clinton v. McCain = scary if all of this recent Democratic enthusiasm disappears without Obama.

*Worst case scenario for the Republicans: Pretty much what has happened. Honestly, they can only go up from here. As much as your average moderate or independent might respect McCain, Republicans can't forgive him for speaking his mind on immigration and taxes.

*Can you imagine being Romney's kids and watching him pump another $10 million into the race? I mean, that's enough money for an invisible car or to have Prince play your 25th birthday party. Maybe they don't care. I guess it's not like I resent that when my dad buys a pair of shoes the money could have bought me space shoes in the future.

*The big winner last night: That's right, the Drake University men's basketball team. 21-1 and winners of 20 straight. Congratulations, boys.

*From here: Looks like Obama is pretty much going to clean up for the rest of February but it won't matter. This will never end. Expect to see a lot more Tucker Carlson than usual.


Exhibit 6.25

Went to see Chris Bachelder read at Nebraska Wesleyan last night. He was fantastic, reading a gripping section of his book U.S.! which is apparently about the repeated assassination and resurrection of Upton Sinclair. Hard to beat that.

He also has an e-book available from McSweeney's here. Go take a look.


Exhibit 6.24

On the Super Bowl

*I'd like to take back everything bad I said about Eli Manning during the fantasy football season. Seriously, Eli, we can make this work. Give me another chance.

*I would have been sad to live in a world without smug commentary from the '72 Dolphins.

*Troy Aikman and Joe Buck are horrible. At one point Joe Buck seemed not to understand the concept of a false start and immediately after Brady badly missed Moss in the end zone, Aikman talked about how dialed in he was. Not a good showing.

*We are going to be allowed to talk about how Brady was yelling at his receivers--including Wes Welker on a badly-thrown ball that landed somewhere in Flagstaff--now, right? I mean, he spent all game pouting as if he just found out Leonardo DiCaprio was sitting with Gisele upstairs.

*From Petty I was hoping for "Wild Flowers," "Change of Heart," "Walls (Circus)," and a guest spot from Dylan and Jeff Lynne on a surprise version of "End of the Line." I'm half serious.

*Petty did play three tracks off of Full Moon Fever, and thankfully one of them wasn't "Zombie Zoo." So that's good. I love Petty. He seemed really relaxed out there. In other words, he was the exact opposite of Tom Brady.

*Mike Campbell doesn't get nearly enough respect.

*I know they are out of the running for the greatest team of all time now--and I hate them--but I doubt we'll ever see a team as good as that Patriots team. They are dirty, dirty cheaters, of course, but for more than half the season they dominated a league designed for parity in a way that no other team ever has. For the other half of the season, they were merely incredible.

*On the other hand, this videotaping scandal is about to get really ugly. I'd say the odds of Belichick coaching the Patriots next seasons are about 50/50. This isn't going to be good for anyone.

*One of the commercials featured Donkey Lips from Salute Your Shorts. In other words, watch out Blake Sennett. You may have Rilo Kiley and The Elected, but your reign as most successful former Salute Your Shorts cast member could be short lived.


Exhibit 6.23


I don't remember what I expected when I picked up Tom McCarthy's book, but it wasn't exactly what I ended up getting. The premise of the book synopsizes really well: something falls from the sky and nearly kills our narrator at which point, armed with a large settlement, he begins to experience distinct visions which he then tries to painstakingly recreate. What I didn't see coming is that the key phrase in the synopsis is 'painstakingly recreate.'

In most books, the room around the plot is filled with side characters or subplots. You might be reading a spy novel but the spy might be in love, etc. McCarthy's book is adamant in sticking to its main plot and the stubbornness is admirable if not always thrilling. The narrator hires actors, architects, and set designers to reenact a moment that may or may not have actually happened to him, and once he becomes bored with that reenactment, he begins another. What's really fascinating is that though the premise is odd, the sheer exactness and mundane nature of the initial reenactments--finding the right smell of liver, scattering the ground with cigarette butts--can make it a bit of a chore in places though that's undoubtedly the point.

I almost loved this book, but in the end I think I admired it more. McCarthy is a great writer though his prose isn't particularly poetic or showy. His great gift is finding a way to get inside the scenes we see again and again and make it compelling each time. For a writer, it's a bit of a high wire act of a novel. With no other plot and only one other major character--the "facilitator" hired to oversee the reenactments--there isn't anywhere to hide in a novel like this. There is one character with one inexplicable purpose.

I imagine most readers will have either accepted the premise or put the book down at a certain point, and it's frustrating when late in the book a possible explanation is offered for why the character is demanding these reenactments. At that point, I'd already decided I didn't want an explanation and it comes off as a little heavy-handed, the one explanation in a book where even the narrator's accident doesn't get one. We get early on that he's not the most reliable of narrators, but the beauty of the book is that the only thing to hold on to are his responses to the scenes he plays again and again. We're at his mercy to tell us what's real yet he doesn't. Only he can tell us why he's doing what he's doing and though we are so closely in his head in every way, he never does. Each tiny bit of zen happiness he gets when the scene is done exactly right is what propels him, and the book, forward. We may not understand why he chooses the scenes he does or why he chooses at all, but we understand how it makes him feel. No explanations are necessary.

I suppose something should be said about the end. It comes quickly and the actual mechanisms of it are telegraphed pretty obviously. As the reenactments take the narrator closer and closer to danger, the mundane is no longer enough and the book's ending seems appropriately inevitable.

Ultimately, I'm not sure quite how to feel about the book. I didn't always enjoy reading it due to its exactness and straightforward prose, but those are also the things that brought about its best moments. At one point I was certain the book should have been a novella, but as it went on I realized it would have been pointless if the description had been condensed. There were times when I wanted someone to tell the narrator that what he was doing was crazy and times when I wanted him to do crazier things. It's that kind of book. Until the ending, the book seems purposefully designed not to force the reader into new meanings. Its steadfast single-mindedness makes the reader enact all of the twists him or herself. The book keeps doing what it's doing while our perceptions of it shift because, like life, it just keeps going through the same motions. Perhaps the narrator is just better than the rest of us at picking the moments that matter.

Exhibit 6.22

I realize I'm throwing off my not at all thought out numbering system here, but I wanted to add to the above thoughts that Rhian Ellis and J. Robert Lennon both read and gave some thoughts about the book over at Ward Six. You can find hers here and his here.

I discovered their blog through Dusty and was surprised to find out they had both read the book (which I had just started). I've purposefully avoided reading what they had to say about it but am on my way there now. We can even race.