TBT: Blind In One Eye

Lots of good historical stuff for today.

In 1898 Kellog invented the corn flake, pretty much single handidly inventing the health food market. His idea was that crazy people needed bland food to chill out. It'd be another hundred years before we started worrying about carbs. Not a bad little run.

1898 also happens to be the year that my scottish ancestors left London and arrived in New york City, though I don't know if there was any connection to bland food.

In 1935 Penguin published it's first book which lead to the explosion of paper backs. I thought that was nifty seeing as how I'm working on my particular papeback right this minute. But there's nothing new going on there either.

But . . . as I was scrolling through all the different things that happened on July 30th, I kept rolling this one little tid-bit in my head.

On July 30th, 1863, President Lincoln issued the "Eye For An Eye" military order that stated for every black solidier prisoner killed, the Union would kill a confederate prisoner. And for every black prisoner sold back into slavery, a confederate soldier would be sentenced to a life time of hard labor.

I don't remember that particular part of Stephen Speilberg's movie.

Not sure if I ever even learned about that.

I also don't remember that from the movie "Glory" which is what we watched in the eighth grade instead of reading a book.

That sounds sad at thirty nine, but at thirteen, it was awesome.

I remember not liking that teacher very much anyway.

Anyway . . . an eye for an eye has been around for a long time.

The theory . . . not the actual practice.

It leads to the idea that we should let the punishment fit the crime. Like . . . you know . . . if you poke out my eye than I get to poke out yours.

So popular an idea that it's repeated throughout the Old Testament/Torah in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy . . . though times were tough back then . . . cause let's say I raped your daughter . . . after you finished stoning her to death . . . I owed you a camel.

Eye for an eye indeed.

Leviticus is a scary place.

But then the New and Improved Testament comes around and gives Jesus a little say in the matter.

He says something like: "I know you've heard an eye for an eye . . . but let me tell you what god really wants.  If a man hits you in the cheek, you do not have permission to hit him back, instead, offer him the other cheek to hit."

Like if you're punched in the face, you're not allowed to punch back, you're supposed to tell the guy he missed a spot.

That sentiment has been watered down into "Turn the other cheek." Which we all think of as just looking the other way, and not Jesus's original intention of "Gimme More"

Sounds like extreme pacifism until you get a few lines down when he tells you to pop out your eye if you lust after your neighbor's wife.

So much eye gouging.

Seems arcane, but just yesterday an ultra Orthodox jew was arrested in Jerusalem for stabbing five people at a Gay Pride Parade. No working on the sabbath, no touching of pigskin, just, you know, being gay in the same general area.

F@#$ing Leviticus.

I hope he's got enough camels.

Anyway, Lincoln always struck me as a WWJD kinda guy . . . more Temple on the Mount than dropping frogs from the sky, but he'd been pretty haggard by 1863 and so was probably in an Old Testament mood.

Maybe if he'd had a good night's sleep and a decent cup of coffee he might've been like . . . hey  why don't we make a fair trade . . . one of your guys for one of ours? In fact . . . had he been reading that first part in Matthew, he might've gone like: Hey, why don't I trade you two guys for one of ours?

That's probably what Jesus would do.

But this is the real world, sorta, and god isn't in the same ballpark of judgement that history is.

He needed this whole Civil War thing to wind down, and every soldier off the field is a soldier not fighting and a soldier not dead. (There is a lot more to it than that, but lets just think in generalities rather than specifics).

But the confederates were taking black soldiers and killing them outright, or selling them back into slavery, which is perfectly reasonable behavior in prehistoric Mesopotamia.

F@#$ing Leviticus again.

And Lincoln had to figure out a way to make that stop.

And since you can't reason with the ultra Orthodox . . . you have to speak their language.

Eye for an eye.

Everyone's familiar with that one.

Two caveats. One, scholars have come to the conclusion that it wasn't racial equality Lincoln was shooting for, he was just trying to violently intimidate the Confederacy.

I think that's a little cynical, but my Historian License is still in the mail.

The other caveat is that it didn't work.

Black soldiers were still either killed or sold into slavery.

Which is probably why it's one of those pieces you don't read about until you go looking.

And if you do go looking, make sure you avoid eye contact with your neighbor's wife.

No matter how good looking her corn flakes are.

Even Jesus thinks she's trouble.

Data Mine All Mine

After a nice long day of doing whatever it is I do, household asleep, me very suprisingly not, I climbed into my easy chair and decided to peruse Netflix for anything haven't seen, or at least, haven't seen enough of.

The categories have changed up a bit since last time I looked.

No more is it just a list a genres, now it's got categories like "What's Hot on Netflix RIGHT NOW", "What We're pretty sure you're gonna like." And "What's Hot on Netflix Right Now In YOUR AREA!"

There is a clear descrepency between the things I like and the things my neighbors are watching, which doesn't surprise me, but the specificity of it unerves me a bit.

It shouldn't.

Netflix has my area code.

If you belong . . . then they have your area code too.

And if you're in my area code, then there's a good chance that what you've been watching is going to show up on my queue.

Yes . . . I know you've been watching Transformers Movies, though for the life of me I can't figure out why.

Actually I know why . . . cause it's the same reason I've watched them.

With a cursory curiosity that begins with "Can it really be that bad?"

Followed by the conclusion ten minutes later that "Yes . . . it really is that bad."

I admit it . . . I've watched the first ten minutes of all of them.

But never much more than that.

I swear.

Which kinda leads me to my first thought about the whole data mining thing. See . . . I gravitate towards stand-up comedy, in depth documentaries, and sci-fi movies from the eighties, so when you open up my "recommended" list, you're gonna see . . . you guessed it . . . comedy, documentary, and sci-fi movies.

Their algorithm doesn't have to do a lot of heavy lifting in my case.

It seriously doesn't know what to do with all my viewings of The West Wing.

Anyway, I saw a stand-up comedian that I hadn't seen before, and the title looked at least a little intriguing, four out of five stars and such, so I put it up and leaned way back.

I won't tell you who it is, because it wasn't funny. Not a dismal trainwreck, but not funny. Set-ups that were tired and punchlines with little poetry.

It got my ten minutes.

But that was all.

I ended up settling in for a documentary on food labeling.

Did you know that sugar is bad for you?

Of course you did. But . . . did you also know that the recommended daily allowance is 25 grams, which is so far below the amount that is in just about every serving of processed food, that food companies don't list the RDA or the RDA percentage on packages?

Like if you were to eat four fig newtons, you'd be done for the day.

Food companies don't have to tell you that because technically, sugar isn't a nutrient.

They'll tell you the grams but not how it relates to a healthy dose.

Interesting . . . at least I found it interesting . . . which is a lot more than I can say about the stand-up comedian.

But here's where I get back to an earlier thought . . . see . . . it occured to me that Netflix knows how long I watched the routine.

It knows I got about ten minutes in, gave up, and went somewhere else.

And if it knows . . . is it possible the comedian knows?

Not my viewing habits personally, but do you think he gets a report that shows exactly how long a percentage of the watching population got before they got bored and went somewhere else?

Wouldn't it be possible that Netflix could dial up the exact joke that made people go "Ugh" and then send the comedian an email that says something like "You should probably get rid of that airline food bit . . . it's really not working."

Like I get a report each month that tells me how many songs I've streamed, which titles were more popular than others, but what I don't get, which might be nice, is how long the song was listened to.

Pandora, could, but they won't, tell me what percentages of my songs were skipped after the first thirty seconds to a minute.

They can, and they do, know when I've been skipped, and they adjust the number of my songs in the rotation accordingly. But I don't get any of that. I just get the percentage of a percentage of a penny.

And then I got to Taco Bell.

Which I can't afford.

Facebook does a little better job with sharing some statistics like that.

Like I know exactly how many sets of eyes scroll past my posts each day. Of those sets of eyes, I know exactly how many people clicked my link.

That's something I can use.

See . . . if fifty people see my post . . . and five actually click to read . . . that's a ten percent viewership.

Now let's say I wanna boost that on a friday afternoon, and I talk about pet ownership with a picture of a cute little cat and I get 100 views with 13 clicked links, I know that cute cat pictures can increase my readership by 3%. Not bad, but there are only so many cat jokes I can make before I start offending people.

Just some fun facts: I get around 10% when I use pictures, 7% when I don't. That's seems really obvious, but it's nice to have the numbers.

It also tells me my demographics. Did you know if you're reading this you are most likely a female aged 25 to 55, married with children, and you lean slightly to the right politically.

That means the family stuff works like a charm, but Donald Trump jokes do about as well as Hillary Clinton jokes.

That's what your data tells me anyway. Or . . . more specifically . . . that's what Facebook tells me your data tells me.

It could lie.

How would I know?

Most of you have some college. Thanks for that. Does my heart good.

But that's about it. I don't know who you are or where you live or how many fig newtons you snacked on, but I'm willing to bet it was too many.

Which leads to kind of this classic conundrum. See . . . the thought of data mining is a little scary.

A company used to have things like focus groups of ten, maybe twelve people pulled from wandering the mall. Now they literally have multi-billions of little decisions made by us everyday so they can tailor your purchasing to your statistical demographic.

It's not new. And in the case of helping a fledgling comedian amputate lame material, it could actually make the things we want, even better.

Like Guitar Center knows me pretty well. They know I come in every few months for strings, so I always get the email about string sales, and they know every few years I come in for a big ticket item, so I always get their big beautiful full color brochures.

They don't know I will never buy another pair of Martin acoustic strings again, no matter how good the sale is. Those things sounded like crap and broke on me during a really important show and I'm very unforgiving about things like that.

So the system isn't perfect.

But it can be a little creepy. Like Target knows when you're getting married, when you're moving, and knows you're pregnant before you tell your family. There isn't a lot about you that can't be gleaned with a thorough search of your browser history . . . so if you're a private person . . . time to get off the grid.

I'm not an alarmist. Though I can see why anyone would be. Like, the FBI showed up at this guy's door one day because he'd been searching for three days through hundreds of websites about poison, wife killing, hiding a body, and removing DNA evidence.

He wasn't a killer.

His wife was very much alive.

He was a script writer for CSI.

Doing research.

You could see how that could be confusing. And disconcerting. To both parties.

It's going to be interesting to see what happens when the "Too Much Information" Generation starts becoming political/economic leaders. Like . . . thank god we don't have twenty years of Tumblr posts from Donald Trump to have to go over. Could you imagine?

There's a Hillary thing with emails going on, but, f@#$, I so don't care. But imagine if she were forty years younger . . . would we be subjected to information about nude selfies and Tindr hookups?

Will we in the future?

That's very much possible and frightens me a lot more than the Thought Police.

Thankfully, we still have a good chunk of the first amendment alive . . . there's still some built in anonymity to the internet . . . and a good rule of thumb regarding anything you do online: Pretend like your mother is reading . . . cause she probably is.

And don't eat so much sugar.

It's really bad for you.  

HTT: How To Archeology

So I read this headline today about the confirmation of four skeletons being confirmed as members of the original Jamestown settlement.

It said something like "First English Speaking US Settlers."

It sorta had to qualify things like that because we're talking east coast settlers from around the year 1600.

For a little reality check, Europeans landed about 100 years earlier, Vikings had been raiding the coast 700 years earlier, and well, the land bridge that probably brought all the people that were already living on the two continents, well, they'd sorta been around about 11,000 years before that.

Not that they had really done anything special with the place in all that time.

They genetically modified a tasteless, nutriciousless, grain weed, into what we now know as corn.

That's about it.

Which you're probably saying to yourself . . . but wait . . . didn't they build empires like the Aztecs and Incans and Mayans? Great pyramids and roads and cities and such?

Well sure . . . but, and I couldn't freakin beleive this when I looked it up . . . those empires didn't get rolling until the 1300's. The first Incan cities were't established until around 1437 and were completely abandoned (conquered/anihilated/whatever) by 1572. They had about 70 years of pre-european fun and then the rest . . . history.

Put that into perspective, if the US lasted that long, we would've gone under in 1911.

Just before the First World War.

Imagine the world without 20th Century America. Can't say good or bad . . . but I can say different.

Anyway, despite the heat, and the dirt, and the having to teach undergraduate classes at a liberal arts college the rest of my life . . . I think I would've made a pretty good archeologist.

I like the puzzleness about the endeavor.

Dinosaurs are neat and all, but the rise and fall of civilizations can teach us so much about the present and the future as much as it can about the past that it is almost criminal that we don't teach history more effectively.

Like pre-internet, if you were to ask me about the timeline of humanity . . . this is what i could tell you.

Apes . . . Egyptians . . . Jesus . . . King Arthur . . . Columbus . . . George Washington . . . Abe Lincoln . . . Hiroshima . . . One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.

One small step indeed.

And nothing in between.

That's some serious tragedy right there. And it's not just limited to numskulls like myself.

After finding ancient recurve bows, european museum currators broke hundreds of them before an amature archer realized they were stinging them backwards.


But you can't know everything, and they just wanted to see how far the bows could shoot. Why? Because that will tell you buttloads about hunting and fighting techniques. It'll tell you about Fort structures and why they had to be a certain height. Warfare, colonization, and alpha-male pissing contests are the main drivers of all of human history. A little knowledge goes a long way.

I think if I were to be an archeologist I'd like to concentrate on all the really stupid things that were tried and should have failed but didn't and then summarily changed the world.

Take Jamestown for example.

Lets send a bunch of dandies and their manservants across the Atlantic to establish a colony and send us back gold.

That was the thinking.

That a bunch of upper middle class twats could arrive in uncharted land half a word away and within a few years build Downton Abbey. And it lasted just about 100 years until a fire burned most of the church which meant that the capitol had to be moved to Williamsburgh (where it sits today)

Jamestown, which by all accounts shouldn't have lasted the winter, lasted just thirty years shy of the entire Aztec Empire.

How rad is that?

Or how come after the fall of the roman empire the anglo-saxons saved Jesus but didn't bother to consider sanitation as important?

Running water? Screw that. Pee wherever.

India still hasn't figured out how to keep people from dumping dead bodies in the Ganges.


On average they speak three languages and yet still a massive amount of their population dies of dysentary.

Frigging dysentary.

My new favorite . . . and this is classic . . . and brings us right back to Jamestown . . . is that interred with one of the skeletons . . . was a little silver box.

The archeologists . . . I shit you not . . . haven't figured out a way to open it.

They know what's inside . . . a small bone fragment and a vial of what is probably Holy Water . . . relics like that were extremely very common for the era and the man was a priest.

But they had to x-ray the box.

Like . . . they had to use the power of nuclear radiation . . . to do what probably couldv'e been done with some needle nose pliers and a squirt of WD40.

Maybe they didn't want to contaminate it, but I'm pretty sure radiating something doesn't not contaminate things.

Anyway . . . they still can't open the box.

So the moral of today's How to Tuesday is simple. If you don't know what to do with your life . . . go be an archeologist. No matter what happens . . . you never ever not once . . . be bored.

Hot and sticky and bested by a four-hundred year old tchotchke, maybe.

But never bored.


I got to learn a fun thing this week.

Apparently I'm a bit of an over-pronator.

Along with being a procrastinator and a Leo.

It's really not anything that is that much of a big deal. It just essentially means that when I run, I kinda run on the outside of my foot and push off with my little toes instead of my big ones.

It's a fun bit of info, because earlier this month I'd been finding that during any kind of exercise my outside calves were screaming at me. I would have normally assumed it would be the rest of my body doing all the yelling, but no, it was the calves that were very super angry.

Which they had every right to be.

Because I was clearly not wearing the correct shoe.

A running shoe isn't just a running shoe.

Like one might think.

Nope . . . now they are very specifically designed for which style of running you'd been running all this time.

Supination, running on the inside of your foot.

Neutral, practically perfect in every way.

Pronation, me  . . . that one's me.

My calves were clearly angry because I was trying to force their pronating ways into a supinator's shoe.

It's like that feeling you get when you put your T-shirt on backwards. You could get away with it but you'd feel weird all day.

And when it comes to the literal shoe fitting, a lot of importance is placed on impact for the sake of all the muscles and joints and effluvia that makes you you.

Luckily . . . it was my birthday . . . and I was taken out to get new shoes just after learning this fun new shoe fact. (Thanks Mom and Jeff)

It was not hard to notice a difference right away. Like immediately.

So my concern here . . . (other than the fact that this is the longest amount of writing I've ever dedicated to footwear) . . . is why . .. if this is indeed a thing . . . why I'd never heard of it or noticed before?

Why don't shoes say what they are on the package?

I'd been running on the wrong shoes for a month thinking that my calves were just being little babies. I could've done real damage.

Well . . . maybe not real damage . . . but I certainly called a few outings short because my legs were gonna give in. (We're talking reducing a 20 minute workout to 15 minutes, I'm not an athlete nor will I ever play on on TV.)

Anyway . . . to make a long story fit a certain amount of column inches . . . there are certain things that just aught to be made common knowledge.

Like I shouldn't have gotten this far without someone explaining the importance of shoe structure.

I knew that new is better. They should be comfortable, not unreasonably ugly, and priced in the neighborhood of a good sit down meal.

But Nike just assumed I knew more than that.

Which is weird because back when I was in customer service . . . I always assumed the opposite.

I even trained my staff to always assume that the customer knows nothing. If you walked into my store, an I didn't recognize you, it was my duty to treat you like a stupid petulant child until you proved anything but.

Like . . . if you walked up to my counter and ordered tea . . . I would not just go get you tea.

There was a protocol. An entire dropdown of menu options and possibilities.

So . . . you walk up and say you want tea . . . the first thing I do is ask if you would like iced or hot tea. If you said hot tea . . . the next question I would ask is if you wanted black, green, or herbal tea.

(Yes . . . I know it's technically an Herbal Infusion, but remember, I'm talking to a stupid child at this point.)

Now, if you said you wanted a green tea, I would ask you if you wanted something smooth, grassy, or floral.

If you said floral, I could then point you to a very nice Jasmine Green tea.

That might seem like a lot of effort for a two dollar beverage, but there are literally hundreds of differing possibilities when someone says the word "Tea" and my crew was talented enough to single out one by asking four little easy to answer, close ended questions.

So I'm 39 and you would've thought that at some point in my life I walked up to a guy behind the counter and when I said the word shoes, I'd have gotten the pronation question.

He would say: Do you pronate when you run?

And I would say: I have no idea what you just said.

And then he would begin his stupid child speech with: Well . . . [insert eye roll] let me explain . . .

And so on and so forth.

The good news is that I'm now fully aware of this whole sub-genre of running shoe construction thanks to my step-dad's early research and a plethora of very passionate websites dedicated to this subject alone.

And I'm learning new things too . . . like how tightly to tie my shoes and how to make sure i use the upper-most eyelet to increase stability.

And my calves feel better.

Which is fantastic.

I think I shall go have some tea.

TBT: Word to Il Duce

So this one caught me by surprise.

Apparently . . . in 1929, the fascist government in Italy banned all foreign words.

Like . . . if you wanted to have a glass of red wine after work, you no longer could try the Bordeaux . . . you had to open a bottle of the Barola.

If you went to a movie, it was no longer il film, you now went to la pellicola, and afterwards you would go out and have a coda di gallo at the bottigliera instead of having cocktails at the bar.

Sounds a little terrifying.

Texting must take a very long time in Italian.

Though . . . I must admit . . . walking up to a pretty girl and saying slightly of the cuff

"Coda di gallo para bottigliera?"

Is a much better opening line than say . . . "Drinks at a bar?"

Italians must get laid a lot.

True story: in the 1200's, pretty much anything that was published was published in latin. Nobody spoke latin, it was just the universal way to write things.

Unless you lived east of the Mediterranean, and if you were, thanks for the system of letters and numbers.

East Asian pictograms would make typing this a total bitch.

Then Dante comes along (yes . . . that Dante) and begins for the first time to write in the vernacular of Tuscany and Rome and with his long epic poems and essays, he pretty much single handily gave the world the Italian language.

In fact . . . in France . . . they still nickname Italian "La Langue de Dante"

That's awful sweet of them.

If you think it's crazy that one man could give us language . . . think about this . . . Chaucer gave us English through almost exactly the same method . . . and a few hundred years later Shakespeare gave us an additional 1,700 new words and almost uncountable phrases that are still in modern use.

Wanna hear a statistic? Shakespeare used about 16,000 different words in total . . . by a little cheating with the maths . . . means around one out of every ten words he wrote . . . he made up.

And not unlike a text string between me and my wife . . . a lot of those invented words were pretty dirty.

I'll just leave that there.

Anyway . . . back to Il Duce (Or The Duke) if you wanna be a real jerk and Americanize his title, he comes into power in 1922 and promises to get the trains running on time.

Or so the story goes.

But timeliness is not a particularly fundamental Italian thing like it is here in the US.

They're never late for two things . . . meals and soccer.

Or il pasto e futbol.


Everything else, well . . . my absolute most favorite phrase in any language:

Que me frega, que tu fie?

Which translates precisely as "Why should what you do be important to me?"

But really means: Fuck if I care.

Now that doesn't mean Italians are by any means lazy, uncooperative, or in anyway blasé about all the stuff we take seriously, but . . . you know . . . they'll get to it when they get to it.

Not a particularly malleable group for a Fascist government.

But they tried anyway . . . god bless 'em.

And in 1929, with I'm sure a lot of patriotic fervor, they did their best to remove all foreign words from La Lingue de Dante and make it a crime to write their thoughts out on a typewriter instead of la machinna de scrivere.

That's my wife's favorite word to say in Italian . . . la machinna de scrivere.

Is it getting hot in here?

Anyway, the ban obviously didn't have a chance after WWII, American culture is just too damn pervasive . . . sorry about that, rest of the world . . . it's a little infuriating . . . I know . . . but if it makes you feel any better . . . we don't have a National Language . . . we keep making stuff up all the time.

What globalization is going to mean to the rest of the world's languages is anybody's guess.

There are some parts of Europe where people speak several languages fluently, which in a perfect world, would be the way to go . . . but I really super doubt it . . . and so does everyone else who has ever really thought about . . . so I can see the nationalistic need to ban foreign words just for the sake of saving a culture.

Which indeed . . . do need saving.

But we'll get to it when we get to it.

Twitter Twaddle

Nikki Menaj is clearly disappointed that her video for Anaconda wasn't nominated for the top pop Video Music Awards, but instead was shuffled off into the non-descript R&B category.

She's got rhythm.

She's got blues.

What she doesn't have is long legs and blonde hair.

Like a certain country pop crossover super-it girl.

That'd be Taylor Swift . . . if you already didn't know.

Nikki . . . god bless her . . . took to the Twitter sphere with hurt feelings and a thinly veiled barb at the statuesque Swift, which launched a whole Twitter buzz around who supports who and the unfairness of life when it comes to nominating rich/pretty/wealthy/semi-talented people for faux gold statues.

Swift was saccharine about the whole thing.

Makes me wonder how dark and dirty her private soul might be since her public persona is as cloying as a packet of Splenda.

It occured to me . . . as I write this . . . that if you were born in a year that started with a '1' there's a good chance that you have no idea what I'm talking about and are getting a little angry, but don't worry . I'll bring it home soon. There will even be a Mozart reference at some point . . . so hang in there.

The reason it caught my eye with enough attention to write about is several fold. One . . . I really miss MTV. The late eighties, early nineties, I'm not saying the music was all that good, but there were music videos on all day . . .

Lots of noise has been made about that from my generation. We miss when Music Television played MUSIC.

And I could take you through it from Thriller to Smells Like Teen Spirit.

1992 was the year MTV launched "Real World" . . . the first ever reality TV show. You''ll hear some notables say that "Survivor" was the first, or even give that moniker to "American Idol", but they're a whole decade off.

Never trust a notable.

Anyway, I also could go into the whole "Reality TV has killed civilization!" debate of which there are many fervent proponents. They will always quote Andy Warhol's bit about being famous for being famous.

And now I have too.

But I think what reality TV brought to us, wasn't necessarily the end of times. They didn't solidify the notion that trainwrecks make good TV. Watch 'I Love Lucy' or the 'Three Stooges'

Modern trainwrecks like the Kardashians and Honey-Boo-Boo are just spins on the same theme, just without heart.

And there in lays the difference.

I don't think bad/ridiculous behavior has ever not been part of the entertainment lexicon. What's new to me . . . and I think what leaves such a bad taste in our mouths is that reality TV has replaced slapstick with bratty indulgent behavior. Removed irony and replaced it unjustified bravado.


That's the word.


We usually reserve that word for toddlers who refuse to eat their vegetables.

But it's the right word for the era. These kids aren't fully realized entertainers . . . they're petulant ninnies.

I was trying to think of a historical parallel, like, was there a time when the Stones and the Beatles took to the airwaves and publically whined about the other?

Eric Clapton stole George Harrison's wife, but he never had anything but nice things to say about the man.

Bob Fosse made fun of Hal Prince in the movie 'All that Jazz', but in order to get the joke you had to be familiar with their NY rivalry, and he also poked fun at Cander and Ebb, Stephen Schwartz, Ben Vereen, himself, and he actually had his mistress Anne Reinking play, of all people, herself.

But there might be a thousand people who knew any of that.

Not 27,000,000 Twitter followers.

In the MTV era, there was that time when Jethro Tull beat out Metalica for "Best Metal Album"

The drummer for Metalica sniped a bit about that, but it wasn't at Jethro Tull so much as the Grammy Voters not knowing the difference between Metal and ProgRock.

In the mid-nineties there was a whole clash between East Coast and West Coast Hip-Hop which got extreme enough to leave a trail of bodies.

I can't even go into detail. I could tell you the difference between a Gibson Les Paul and a Gibson SG just by the sound of two notes, but hip-hop all sounds the same to me.

Not tonally . . . just under the category of uninteresting.

There's rivalry of every sort everywhere. But it's weird in subjective mediums.

Like who's the better impressionist? Monet or Van Gogh? And if we wanna go like super classical we could point to the rivalry between Mozart and Salieri, but in all honesty, I don't know if that was even true or it was just used to manufacture a plot for Amadeus.

So I really couldn't point to a historical parallel (setting politics and sports and science aside) where petulance has become so prevalent.

And poor Taylor Swift seems to get the lion's share of inhospitable tantrums from her R&B cohorts.

If I was her, I'd stop putting my stuff in the running. She's won them all twice over already. The next one ain't gonna make a damn bit a of difference to album sales.

And if I was Nikki Menaj, well I might ask myself if her video Anaconda, a three and a half minute dick joke, is even worth watching, let alone worth praise.

But her bratty little petulance got her on the front page of BBC News . . . so maybe, she, unlike me,knows  what she's doing.

HTT: How To Dog-Sitting

We got to dog sit for my dad this weekend, and I say "got to" because we actually requested the privilege.

We wanted to dog sit.

Although . . . the three of us had very different reasons to do so.

My son, the nine-year-old know-it-all do-it-all be-it-all, really really wants a dog.

He doesn't really know why, or what for, it just seems like having a dog is the kind of thing he should want. Also, not so secretly, he wants something in his room that will scare off the ghost in the bathroom mirror.

That's the new scary thing.

The ghost in the bathroom mirror.

Dogs are pretty reliable when it comes to fearless protection from bathroom mirror ghosts.

So he was excited to get the opportunity to show how good he would be with a dog. Prove he could be responsible and such. It's actually a very reasonable plan.

My wife too wants a dog.

Not because of the bathroom mirror ghost, but for a whole slough of reasons. The clacking of toenails on the hardwood floor. The wagging tale, the perked up ears when strangers knock on the door, the energy, the feeling of having a familly pet, the look of unconditional love.

That's probably the biggie.

The look of unconditional love.

That and she secretly hopes a dog will melt my cold cold heart.

Because I . . . absolutely . . . unconditionally . . . do not want a dog.

Nor do I want my cold cold heart melted.

But  I especailly don't want a dog.

Not that I have anything against them . . . in particular. Big ones scare me. Little yappy ones annoy me. They're very expensive, time consuming, poo and pee on things, they require their own shampoo, don't know how to use a fork, without opposable thumbs they have to experience the world with their faces, I'd mention that they leave hair everywhere, but so does my wife, and they don't laugh at my jokes.

They just look at you.

And wait for food.

So my reasons for wanting to dog-sit were simple. I wanted to show the other members of my tribe that dogs require things of you and the stuff they do isn't all that interesting after about an hour.

27 hours with some one else's dog would scratch that particular itch with no commitment or side effects.

Told you . . . cold cold heart.

Anyway, I thought for today's How to Tuesday I'd share a little bit about what I learned through the whole experience.

The first is a bit of a caveat. The dog in question . . . sweet adorable Lila . . . is a seven year-old boxer . . . well trained . . . doesn't yap jump or chew on things that are not hers . . . super energetic when it's play time, a big breathing meatloaf when it's not . . . she exemplifies the dog as family member. She'd sit a the table if she knew how to use a fork.

Now . . . every dog owner will tell you that their dog is part of the familly. But they're almost always lying. Unless they grew up in a family where face licking and leg humping were daily occurances. If you have to put a member of your family in the back yard when people come over . . . then it's not family . . . its a pet.

You don't see a lot of apartment listings that say "No Smoking and No 5th Graders"

But Lila's not that dog. Lila's people.

So if you are thinking of dog sitting, for whatever reason, make that first one an easy one.

Second is the level of concern dog owners have about non-dog owners taking the leash for a day or two.

Like . . . when I told my brother that I was going to be a dad . . .  that I was going to be responsible for the life of an entire human being for the next twenty years . . . he was like "Congratulations!"

When he found out I was going to watch a dog for 27 hours, he was like "I hope you know what you're doing . . . if it gets rough . . . call me."

Third, the instructions really aren't that tough. What to feed it and when.

We were warned against table scraps because doggy farts can be thoroughly unpleasant.

There was some concern about the heat in regards to taking Lila for a walk, but we all agreed that the rule of thumb would be when I break a sweat it's time for us all to go in. Easy . . . seeing as how I break a sweat from here to my car.

There was a lot of concern about bedtime. Where, when, with whom? But in the end, I just dragged her mattress/pillow/thingy over to the edge of my son's bed (remember the whole mirror ghost thing) and the dog followed me in, plopped down, and went to sleep.

And that was pretty much the whole weekend.

A little trepidation that we were gonna some how screw things up, a little "okay . . . that was easy" followed by a "what next?"

Which brings me to my final thought about the whole dog-sitting thing:

I never realized how boring I must be.

Poor thing waited on pins a needles for something exciting to happen and it never did.

I would move just slightly and she would jump to her feet, tail wagging, tongue ready to lick just about anything . . . and I was just leaning up to get remote.

So yeah. My life is not exciting enough for a dog.

And in the end, my son realized he'd much rather go swimming with friends than walk a dog. And my wife realized a dog may be all those other wonderful things . . . but it's a whole nother level of worry and concern and she's got enough on her plate just reminding me to shower daily.

As for my cold cod heart?

Softened . . . like gourmet ice cream.

But not melted.

I'll watch a dog, assuming it doesn't mind being really bored, but I'm not dog people.

Not yet.

Ayatollah'd You So

So I was scanning through my usual cycle of news sites and this story kept popping up about Ayatollah Komenei's response to the Iran treaty and the whole lifting of trade sanctions in return for some stern anti-nuclear proliferation.

In short . . . we wanna sell them iPhones but they have to promise not to build weapons to nuke the Jews.

Or something like that.

It makes sense to me because I'm a capitalist. It's much more fun to kill religious fanaticism with cheeseburgers and flat screen T.V.s than it is to launch drone strikes.

But that's just my opinion.

I'm sure there are finer points to concede.

Anyway . . . the stories were mostly about the Ayatollah dismissing the whole peace proceedings, saying things like "We were gonna stop building bombs anyway." and "We will never surrender to the arrogant U.S."

Which he did amongst a group of believers shouting "Death to America!" "Death to Israel!"

The stories were alarming . . . if you're the kind of person that gets alarmed about that sorta thing.

I thought it was a non-issue.

Let's see how many people show up to those rallies when half of Iran is sitting at home waiting for Comcast to set up their Wifi.

You miss your Comcast window and you're gonna have to wait at least another week to set up a second appointment.

Nobody wants that.

I also thought that the Ayatollah is a rabble rouser likened more to Jerry Fallwell and Donald Trump (sells tickets but nobody takes 'em seriously) than an acutal Head of State.

Religious leaders always sound like professional wrestlers to me. If Hulk Hogan stood up in the octagon and screamed "Death to Israel!" . . . we'd all be looking around for that grain of salt.

So I did a little digging.

Turns out . . . me . . . like totally super wrong.

The Ayatollah isn't a.m. radio. He's kinda like the top lawyer who oversees all three branches of government.

Imagine a democracy, just like ours, except that everything that passes through the legislation has to wait the final approval from a non-elected official.

The non-elected official who has a direct line to God.

That's gotta be weird.

I grew up in opposite land.

The framers of my constitution didn't want god within a hundred yards of the legal system. (anyone who says otherwise needs to read more and NASCAR less)

Article VI implicitly states that no religious test should ever be used on an elected official.

The First Amendment says believe what you want.*

There should have been a little asterix that coincided with a footnote to read : *Fuck if I care.

But after the dissolution/overthrow of the failed Iranian monarchy that . . . ahem . . . we set up . . . the Iranians set up their own democratic constitution with a religious leader at the top to make sure everything went along smoothly and in accordance with Sharia law.

Not the Suuni version of Sharia law.

The Shia version.

Which . . . is kinda like the difference between Blue M&M's and Green M&M's.

It's all in the Yellow Dye Number Five . . . baby.

But after you finish turning up your nose at the whole idea, it's kinda unique and interesting.

You build a democracy that debates the finer points, deals face to face with the rest of the world and then you get Ayatollah Hogan to beat the drums for the Wrestlemania crowds.

Imagine if when we passed the Affordable Care Act, three days later Rush Limbaugh (a prime example of a man who lived off of well-fare and food stamps and went on to be a very successful capitalist like myself) took to the airwaves in praise of what goverment can do for you.

Disciplined policy through rigorous public debate followed by a frenzy of patriotic furvor.

Not gonna happen, because of all those other pesky parts of the First Amendment, but an interesting thing to think about as sort of an intellectual exercise.

But just like Rush . . . the Ayatollah can't just do a 180 spin like that. For twenty six years he's had to keep an entire country alive under brutal wars, harsh economic sanctions, without anyone second guessing his motivations.

Death to America.

Death to Israel.

Good if you wanna keep your constiuents hungry for blood . . . totally counter productive when you want to enjoy Wendy's Dollar Menu.

One thing you gotta know is that this Khomenei isn't that Khameini.

Spelling differences aside, when we think of the Ayatollah, we think of the guy from the 70's and 80's.

Black turban, big black eye brows, deep deep black circles under the eyes.

The face of shear evil.

This one's softer. Cuddlier. Less Airline Hostage taking . . . and more Uncle Pull My Finger Ayatollah.

But he's gotta sound a little crazy for a while. We like to think in internet speeds, but hearts and minds move at Joseph and Mary on a Donkey speed. It's gonna be a while before the Netflix binge over takes the pilgramage to Mecca. Maybe even a generation or two.

So when you read newspapers, or watch the nightly news, you're gonna hear a lot of crazy. Blood boiling crazy. But don't forget that Iran is actually one of the most stable democracies in the region. Every place else is a totalitarian monarchy, or in the case of Iraq and Syria, just a total dumpster fire.

And the case is to be made that Iran is a huge financial supporter of ISIS, or IS, or whatever you wanna call those particular crazies . . . but don't you dare be so naive not to know that American Evangelical Christians are massive financial supporters of Palastinian Radicals because Israel is considered to be the land that will lead the charge against the anit-christ come armagedon. Can't have Jews leading the fight against the anti-christ.

Your tax dollars go to arming Israel . . . Your donations to the 700 Club go to arming the Palastines.

Seriously . . . look it up.

And don't forget that this is Uncle Pull My Finger Ayatollah. Even if Iran is to progress at the speed of the great industrial America it's still going to be another 120 years before women can vote, 170 til anyone can sit wherever they like on a bus, and about 220 years before transgender people get their own Reality TV shows.

Stability will come . . . and it will come in the form of fabric softeners, vitamin water, and toaster ovens. 

And when it does . . . don't forget that you heard it here first.

Now pull my finger.

TBT: Got Any More of Them Indulgences?

The 95 Theses.

No . . . Theses should not rhyme with Jesus.

But it does sorta rhyme with feces.

With that soft "TH" sound . . . like in thistle.

Anway . . . the 95 Theses . . . or the declaration of protest against the purity of indulgences.

Or better yet . . . the  paper Martin Luther nailed to the church. He got into a lot of trouble for that, but unlike Galileo, Martin didn't give a flying @#$%. He burned the church's letters telling him to chill out, practically started the Protestant Reclamation, and today in 1519, publicly debated theologist John Ech and claimed that the Divine Right of The Pope was sheer poppycock.

I'm not sure poppycock is the kinda word he used, we're still talking another 70 years before Shakespeare gets rolling, but I like to think of Martin Luther as sort of a fussbudget who changes the world by being a total crank.

Cranks should shoulder more civic responsibility.

Anyway . . . he was all cranky because the Pope needed some cash to refurbish St. Peter's Basilica so Rome started selling indulgences.

Memorabilia from the bible. Straw from the manger, cups from the last supper.

Blessed tchotchkes that will ease your suffering in purgatory.

Is it weird that there are only two vowels in tchotchke?

Anyway . . . Martin Luther didn't like that idea. The Pope shouldn't be selling god's love. And the Pope was like . . . "Dude chill . . . I just need an extra sink in the bathroom for those moments when me and my mistress want to brush our teeth at the same time."

And then Luther was like "I will not chill . . . in fact now that you mention it . . . I got 94 other things I wanna bitch about . . . in fact . . . after I've nailed those to your door . . . I'm gonna go out and tell everyone that you're just a skinny poo-poo head and we don't have to listen to you anymore . . . and tell the bishop of canturberry to get off my lawn!"

The was exactly 494 years ago.

Sorta. There was a whole calendar transformation right around Shakespeare's time, so we really don'tknow  when anything happened exactly. Scholars do . . . but let's asuume the rest of us are american and we ain't got that kinda time.

So the church splits and all hell breaks loose.

Did you know that there's never been a single religion that hasn't splintered?

Is it possible that God is THAT indecisive?

Food for thought.

Anyway . . .I was thinking about indulgences and our new Pope. Pope Frankie.

(It's actually Pope Francis . . . but Pope Frankie sounds awesomer.)

Do you think the bishops knew what they were getting into when they elevated him? Were they thinking that "It's cool, he's all quiet and pious and since he's mexican he's probably not smart enough to notice all the shit we've been up to."

For the record, Pope Frankie is actually Argentinian, and before beginning seminary school he worked as a chemical engineer . . . and no shit . . . a bouncer at a night club.

I do not think they knew what they were doing.

I wonder what history will make of Pope Frankie. Within minutes of the white smoke billowing out of the vatican, he did a complete 180 from the nazi rumblings of Pope BeneDickHead, and dragged the entire Catholic Church so far to the left he makes Hillary Clinton look like Anne Coultier.

It's like he said to himself that first morning . . . "Hey . . . I've got like ten to twenty years where over fifty million people are going to be hanging on to my every word. What would happen if I just cut through all the serious bullshit and tried to change the world for the better?"

Better in a Catholic sorta way. You still gotta confess your sins. You still have to accept the blood and body of christ. And you really shouldn't keep that roserie in the junk drawer. But recognizing that all religions have something to say, gays are cool, pollution is bad, prison systems are badder, and who needs that extra sink when it's just you in the guest house?

Pope Frankie doesn't sleep in the Pope's house. He sleeps in the guest quarters. He probably uses the hand towels more than once to reduce the laundry bills.  

I think cranky old Martin Luther would have liked him.

He might have been a bit peeved about all the trinkets at the vatican gift shop . . . but . . . we all need our little indulgences.

Ooh . . . look . . . thumbs!

I had a pretty good recipe slated for today, but I got a couple of messages about what's happening with the book, since I promised to write about it often, and so far . . . haven't.

It's  funny, I was thinking about it this morning . . . sipping tea of all things . . . a nice soft indian black tea with a touch of currant . . . it's only available in Disneyland . . . which is my way of saying I have connections . . . and I thought to myself "hmm . . . what is happening?"

Truth be told . . . no idea.

On the morning of July 6th I got an email from my editor, letting me know that whenever I had a final draft ready for her, we can begin.

She specified that "Final Draft" meant that I'm no longer allowed to wake up in the middle of the night and decide to rewrite the entire third act because there aren't enough ponies.

Which is silly.

There's already two.

Two ponies should be enough for any girl.

What's funny about that message . . . is . . . when I got her email, I was right in the middle of rewriting the first fifty pages.

Just so you know . . . the first fifty pages got me in the door . . . regardless of how I feel about them now.

I told her that she clearly knew her writers well, because rewriting was exactly what I was doing.

Just so we're clear, I was rewriting the 8th draft at this point.

She told me not to fuss too much and that if I'm concerned about certain passages, we can work on them together.

That is in fact . . . her job.

And I don't mean that in a smarmy "do your job lady!" kinda way.

I mean that in an "If I lean on her expertise . . . and let her do the thing . . . everything will be better."

Shush little crazy writer . . . it's grown-up time.

So I took all that bottled up anxiety/energy/whatever and made a mock-up cover image.

Looks cool. She liked it. That was a week ago.

Tick tock.

Tick tock.

Tick tock.

 That's not her pace making that noise, that's my inner nine-year-old.

My inner grown-up sounds a lot like my father.

He says "Go clean your room . . . have a piece of fruit."

See, while the entire universe is blazing through space at nearly the speed of light, everything's getting so fast that I could send a message that could circumnaviagte the globe quicker than sipping my Disneyland Tea, there are algorithms that can literally predict the future of things . . .

 . . . the publishing industry hasn't had a major upgrade since Guttenburgh.

The printing press guy . . . not the Three Men and a Baby guy.

Though, now I have a weird hankering for a Police Academy movie.

But seriously . . . the publishing industry WILL . . . NOT . . . BE . . . RUSHED!

There are 23 chapters, 213 pages, over 1,000 paragraphs, 8,000 sentences, AND 67,243 words all to pour over and think about.

I capitalized AND because they all have to work together. It's not just the 67,243 words that need combing through. There's content, pacing, continuity to deal with first. Then there's consistency; did I spell someone's name the same way throughout? Did I describe a couch as green in the beginning and then describe it as blue near the end? There's also grammer consistency.

That one's gonna take some time.

I have no consistency.

Like . . . none.

Like . . . . at all.

Poor Editorial Staff.

And I write in vernacular for . . . like . . . 90% of the book.

That means I tried to write the way people talk.

The way millennials talk.

Like um er totally like the way millennials talk.

It's gonna give a well mannered editor at least two or three gray hairs. I did apologize in advance.

I'm nice that way.

Anyway . . . that was a week ago and I've heard nothing since.

Which ABSOLUTELY does NOT mean I am unimportant. See . . . she has to read the entire book cover to cover, make an entire legal yellow pad filled with notes.

Then she has to do the line editing (which means pouring over sentences), which I already promised wasn't going to be easy.

Then . . . she has to digitize all her corrections so that I can clearly see which portions she has changed.

Lastly she has to compose an intricate email filled with positive but firm language, stroke my ego while pointing out some unnacceptable amatuerish mistakes.

Then she has to explain to me what "Stet" means.

I'm ahead of her there . . . Stet is a way for me to tell her that I don't agree with her changes and to keep it the way it is.

Vonnegut said that "Stet" is the most important word in a writer's vocabulary.

I've never used it before, but I can see how it would come in handy, especially if you're Kurt Vonnegut.

I highly doubt I will use it at all. I am neither married to words or passages or any but the most central of characters, and let us be honest, after 8 drafts, there ain't much left for this playwrite to do but to let a director put the damn thing on stage.

Still . . . 

It's thumb twiddlin time for now, until whatever comes next, and if this were a story, and I was the editor, I would probably tell the author to cut this entire section and get to the action.

Like a car chase or a sex scene or a montage.

Maybe introduce a third pony.

wait . . . I have an idea!

HTT: How To Garage Sale

So this weekend I got invited to help out with my sister-in-law's garage sale.

It was one of those cool neighborhood things where a bunch of houses put up stuff for sale.

I can only assume it was everything I should have expected it to be, because . . . well . . . I'd never actually done one before.

I've been to a few. Those college years when you're looking for something to help keep your 32" off the floor, but that was the old days when you couldn't mount it to the wall. When I see garage sales I usually take a quick glance to see if there are any funky looking instruments that I can add to my collection, but when I do it always turns out that I already have one of those, or I didn't bring any cash with me.

I never bring any cash with me.

If you steal my wallet, the best you're gonna get is my Safeway Club Card, and since I hate Safeway, it doesn't have enough points on it to remove more than a few pennies off the gallon at the gas pump.

But . . . you know . . . beggars can't be choosers.

Anyway . . . it was an interesting morning and I thought I'd share a few insights for today's How To Tuesday.

First: People like to show up early for these things. And the logic is sound. Most of the good stuff is going to be gone before 8:45am, so this is not a Black Friday for late risers. I got to the party around 8:56 and it was pretty clear everything had already been picked over by some very discriminating eyes and my poor sister had that wide-eyed adrenaline look of a Starbuck's barista after a frappaccino rush.

Second: No matter how big the pile of clothes, women will go through each item, hold it up, tilt their head, and drop it back down in the pile. Every single woman under 65 went through that pile in just the same manner.

Every single one.

The older ones clearly didn't have time for such frippery. They were after table cloths and fondu sets.

Now . . . I don't know about you . . . but I have never been enticed by a pile of clothes.

When I see a pile of clothes (that's not of my own making of course) I just assume that a homeless person died, or my wife got distracted while folding laundry.

Neither example do I want any part of.

So, without much fan-fare, I am now ready to define the biggest difference between a man and a woman.

A woman will pick through a pile of clothes.

A man will not.

Not ever.

Third: People will actually steal things.

Sounds crazy right? I mean who steals a $2.00 official lanyard from Disneyland? But there you go. And I know exactly who did it. It was the gal who was looking at the lanyard, asked how much it was, actually bought $7.00 worth of placemats and table cloths, which I could only assume she slid the lanyard under the fold, and then walked away.

When she was gone . . . no lanyard.

However . . . since I have no real attatchment to such things . . . I could only smile and assume Karma will take care of the rest.

and speaking of attatchment:

Fourth: This isn't a swap meet, consignment store, or Ebay.

You're selling things under the assumption that people will pay you actual money to remove things from your lawn.

You're not selling things for a profit. You're not offering good deals on repectable items. You're litterally DONE with these things and would like to shorten your trip to the dump.

I saw the guy across the street trying to haggle a chest of drawers that he had priced at $50 and the woman wanted to give him $40 and he wouldn't take it.

I could just see the motor in his head doing the math. He had probably purchased it for $300 ten years ago, spent six or seven hours putting it together, and had moved it lovingly to three different homes and he just couldn't see himself dropping the price any lower then $50.

Me . . . I would've said . . . "SOLD and I'll help you load it in the car!"

Things got a little tense when I cut the price of a plastic playschool set of shelves with only minor damage from $30 to $15.

The set sold in exactly 5 minutes.

I promised my sister that if she was concerned about it, I'd happily give her $15 just so I wouldn't have to carry those pieces back into the garage. She let it drop, but only under the promise that I make her dinner and get her really drunk sometime this week.

Also, there was a video game/laser gun combo that every kid under twelve zeroed in on. My nephew, god bless him, priced the combo at $25 because he had looked for it online and found that it was going for $50 used on Amazon.

He felt confident that a 50% reduction in price would move the item quickly. It seemed perfectly reasonable. Fair. A good deal in fact.

Despite being the number one item on every family's perusal list, it never sold.

I have a sinking suspicion that my son will ask to borrow it, it will be played with for exactly 14 minutes and 28 seconds before ending up on the floor and eventually finding it's way into his closet.

At least it's not heavy.

All in all . . . the sale was a pretty good success. They almost made their $goal, lots of the stuff that I thought would never go . . . went . . . and we had a good time.

In fact, there was one item that I had my eye on, a tiny unglazed ceramic tea-pot that is used in japanese tea ceremonies, which was offered for free as we loaded things back into the house.

I'm kinda a tea expert, and love that shit, but I don't drink japanese tea cause it tastes like grass clippings and cotton mouth. So I let the pot be her problem for now.

Though, since I'm writing about it, it's still clearly on my mind.

It's a good thing she wasn't selling her congas.

I don't have any of those.

Anyway, if you are gonna put on a garage sale, get up early, price to sell, let karma do it's thing with jerks, and remember that a pile of clothes is like catnip to females who are still producing estrogen.

Still makes my head hurt though.

Girls are weird.

Whud I Miss?

Apparently, June was a helluva month, not just for myself, but pretty much the entire world.

Kinda sorry I missed it.

Well . . . I didn't so much miss it as "Let it slide"

It's not like I haven't picked up a paper (or the digital equivalent: which is to say: Log ON), but I've kept my thoughts to myself mostly and haven't really posted a thing since summer vacation began.

I don't have writer's block.

That'd be silly.

I'm almost 39.

And very opinionated.

It'll be decades before I run out of things to say . . . and that's only if nothing happens between now and then.

Trust me though . . . things are gonna happen.

So it wasn't so much writer's block as it is: Get My Ass in Gear Block. I wake up late, make myself something (mostly a fried egg) then I get out my yellow pad and start doodling ideas. Somewhere between there I feed my kid.

Then lunch.

Then maybe some light pick-up.

Maybe a mock draft in Yahoo Fantasy Football.

Go for a swim.

Make dinner.

I really don't know where the time goes.

Then it's like midnight and I can't hold my eyes open for yet another game of Scrabble on my iPad and I give up on the day.

Okay . . . so I missed a few things.

There was that terrible shooting out in South Carolina. Guy goes into a famous black church and just starts unloading.

I might have made a joke here about prayer.

Which would have been tasteless.

I also would like to point out, in the U.S. there are around 30,000 gun deaths each year. That's about 12,000 homicides, 6,000 suicides, and the rest are accidents, police shootings, and believe it or not, home security.

There are about 32,000 automobile deaths.

Just about all of those are accidents.

Now, I know people who like guns . . . I love people who like guns . . . I'd have a gun if I didn't have kids, lived in the wilderness, and didn't spend so much money on gourmet coffee.

I just think it should be really tough to get one. I think you should have to take a test. I think you should have to register it every year. I think you should have to have it smogged every three years, and I think you should have to pay insurance on it.

Separate the sportsman from the crazy through economic pressure.

I think there should be a DSP: Department of Shooty People.

That's sounds all Big Brothery, which it is, no doubt about it. It's so much anti-freedom/big government, liberal quackery, that my inner Rush Limbaugh is making chortling noises just off stage left.

So it's not gonna happen anywhere near my lifetime.

Which I'm fine with.

There are 611,000 deaths each year related to heart disease. Aiming at high fructose corn syrup is a much better bang for your buck.

So to speak.

And I'll be the first person to change my tune when Cuba invades like in "Red Dawn" or the first three days of the Zombie apocalypse. I'd join a well regulated militia in a heart beat as long as they had good coffee.

In other news: The Affordable Care Act is safe once again. Gay marriage is now legal across the United States. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner split up after ten years of marriage. Two murderers escaped a maximum security prison. One shot dead. One caught and sent back.

The U.S. won the women's world cup.

But I'll make this prediction: Soccer is so lame.

There's been flooding in places that don't need water, and, like zero flooding in places that do.

Even my neighbor, who use to manicure his lawn with finger nail clippers, has let the browning begin.

Tom Brady is suspended for four games, which will mean nothing to you, and by the time this week is out, that suspension could be reduced.

This is why you don't start reading football news until August. Everything is meaningless conjecture until then.

Doesn't stop me from reading it year round.

I have a problem.

In cool news, the first solar powered globe trotting plane has made it across the Pacific. I am a huuuuuuuge supporter of solar power. I think it's hands down a better alternative fuel that all the rest combined. It's good to see it getting press.

In ME news . . . Daddy Sports Camp has been a healthy success. So far we've done swimming, basketball, tennis, archery, jogging, golf, piano lessons, and Xbox 360.

I'm waiting for my editor to hand me back a manuscript covered in red ink. Kind of a Catch 22. I want it to be perfect . . . but I also wanna know that she's paying attention. Her last note to me was that she was going to take some time with it.

I have no idea what that means.

This week I'll be building a sound curtain so I can start working on my narration skills (a side job as a reader for audio books looks a shit load more fun than working part time at a coffee shop). We will be designing and building planter boxes for an autumn garden once the heat waves have rolled over us. And I think that's probably it.

It's my birthday month.

I like scotch, guitar strings, white tee-shirts, and potato salad.

I need a digital bathroom scale, one of those refillable oil sprayers, and new pair of jogging shoes, scotch and guitar strings.

And a hair cut.

Actually . . . I'll take care of the hair cut myself.

Maybe Thursday.


"I wanna know how the hell you did it." she said.

She, being a best friend and fellow writer, and "how the hell I did it" meaning how the hell my first novel got accepted by a publisher.

The answer is straight up luck . . . don't let anyone tell you different. The right collection of words, in front of the right set of eyes on a particularly charitable day.

That . . . and I cheated.

No shame in that. None . . . like whatsoever.

I could probably go back to 1976 to how much I've been cheating, see, I wasn't born rich, but I was born loved and surounded by books, and got to spend most of my life having smart conversations with smart people.

That's where the words come in.

And probably the desire/ability to have something to say.

Much much much later, ten years into my marriage, my wife pledged to sacrifice her soul so that I could hack my way through Frost's less traveled road and still pay most of our bills.

I could've quit right then and there and called myself a success.

But let's put all that aside and just pretend that a novel (any novel) was inevitable.

Here's where the cheating gets intense.

See . . . I didn't want to just "write a novel" Sit down and begin typing on a word processor and just make it up as I went along.

I don't think I could've done that.  I'm a story teller for sure, but I'm not a yarn spinner, and after rereading my novel this weekend . . . I couldn't write a page of exposition to save my life.

I am no Stephen King.

But I was gonna write a novel anyway . . . cause . . . you know . . . inevitable. And having spent six months in the bowels of social media, I had this idea that I wanted to write about the current generation of teens and twenty somethings, their sense of pop-culture, information, identity, mental health, growing up digital, and discovering that truth is analogue.

I had ideas.

I had a character.

But I had no story, and probably couldn't write one if I did.

So before I put a single word on the page, I backed off the entire enterprise and looked at the process from each point of evolution.

First there's the writing. Then the rewriting, rewriting, rewriting. (Case in point: the novel is currently in draft seven and will be in draft eight by the end of the week, and I roughly calculated that it will be in draft fifteen by September 20th, the day I deliver the final)

I still didn't have a story . . . but I was already steeling my nerve that this was going to be a long arduous process and that I had the testicular fortitude to see it through to the end.

Cheat Number One: Feed the inner artist a handful a qualudes and get your inner technician ready for a long year.

The next piece of the whole shebang is to convince someone with money, to read, accept, edit, copyedit, finance, and market your book.

That's where it gets super tricky. The odds are totally super against you. The odds hate you, they hate your novel, they don't like your shoes, you really are a disgrace to humanity.

And that was thirty years ago.

Now publishers have ten times the submissions and a quarter of the liquid capital.

And self publishing is not an option. There's not enough chum in that bucket to attract even the most hungry sharks.

Thresholds of traditional publishing are as follows: Find an agent, convince the agent, let the agent do the work. You're odds have now gone from 1 in 1,000,000 to 1 in 1,000. And maybe you've made a new friend.

But agents are being marginalized even more than publishers. I'm not saying that an agent isn't worth her weight in uncut cocaine, but small to mid-sized publishers are taking submissions directly, and unless you've already got Jennifer Lawrence attached to the movie rights, there's a good chance the big boys aren't gonna return phone calls.

Threshold number one: The Pitch. This is your only chance to get anyone's attention. You've got one breath before your audience is bored and that really good essay in Chapter Three isn't gonna cut it. How can you describe your book in one or two sentences that conveys these three things?

FAMILIARITY: People don't like weird. They like what they know. You don't have name recognition as an author (yet). Cheese burgers, bro, no quiche.

You think Harry Potter was original? "An orphaned boy who learns he's a wizard and is whisked away to a world of magic and adventure."

That's the plot of Star Wars.

It took Van Gogh about a hundred years to be recognized. You don't have that kinda time.
NOVELTY: Doesn't that sound like the exact opposite of what I just said? Nope. A new spin on a classic tale. Repeat that ten times fast.

MARKETABILITY: Knowing how to sell it and who to sell it to.

Familiarity, novelty, marketability.

I've written that before, but it bears repeating.

And that's how I cheated. Instead of inventing a story, I stole one. I stole one from Shakespeare so I won't have to share royalties while stealing story, plot, character, pacing, dialogue, and whatever else there is to mine.

I didn't even need to hide it.

It's a selling point.

I just put the characters of Hamlet in the digital age. I could shamelessly ride on the back of The Bard, dumb down his words, elevate my own, meet in the middle, and now I have a fresh new novel the just happens to be "A new spin on a classic tale"

Say it with me again.

Is it cheating? Hell yes it is. Are there better more original novels by better writers? Yup . . . and they're all sitting on a shelf somewhere collecting dust.

But I'm counting chickens already . . . and I shouldn't be. I'm not officially a novelist until my first royalty check is cashed, and who knows how long that'll be.

Yet now that you know how I got in the door (luck and cheating), this next part is really where we get going.

See, there are significant flaws on just about every page. Not just editing errors, but language that is too passive, formats that change between chapters, I skip from verse to prose to free form poetry so fast sometimes it's hard to read. Not to mention the criminally bad exposition throughout, but especially at the beginning.

I solved many a problem by strip mining the genius work of another, but I've created several more in the wake of it all.

It's been six months since I'd read it, and now we wander with our bucket of chum into uncharted waters.

I know what I would like to fix. I have a sorta kinda sense of what I should let others fix. I have no idea which parts I'll just have to let be.

So that should answer my best friend's question. "How the hell did I do it?" . . . and sends us off into the land of "What the hell am I doing now?"

I'm back to blogging everyday, and if there's nothing new in the development of this, I'll go back to my earlier formated series.

I hope the story we journey over the next three months will be a good one.

Not EASY, but full of roadblocks, brickwalls, moments of indecision, a little heartbreak, some magic, a sorting hat, a lightsaber, and a rabbit with a watch to chase down a hole.