Tuesday, January 14, 2020
OK snowflakes - here's a dystopian thriller ready to obliterate whatever is left of your Adderall-riddled minds. Mr. Wind has created a world in which every single thing you do is recorded and available for viewing by anyone at any time. The sad part is that I'm sure a lot of you young people probably see nothing wrong with that! I mean, here you are, posting selfies of everything you eat, videoblogging yourselves picking your noses, and publicly rating every shit you take on a 5-star scale. But I am old enough to remember a world where dignity and privacy existed, and I found this book both spellbinding and terrifying.
I was going to call this book a futuristic cliffhanger, but the truth is - this future is not that far off! Look around you right now. Do you see the cameras? Look closer - they are watching you! The NSA, CIA, FBI, AAA, PETA, AARP, 4H, BBB, NBA, YMCA, LMNOP - they all want to know what you're doing. And why? Not for national security or anything like that - just because people are nosy fuckers, that's why.
The evidence is all around us. Just the other day, my son stopped by after his lecture at the university. After a nice discussion of how many holes in your shirt is appropriate for a professor and why he can't keep a girlfriend (perhaps two related issues), we talked about a book we were both interested in reading. Sure enough, just a couple days later, an Amazon package with no return address arrived with that exact book! How could that happen? Mr. Bezos - I know you are reading this, and while I appreciate the book, I will not be bribed! Did you know that if you sign up for Amazon Prime, they now insert a chip into your neck that can read your thoughts? It's amazing what people will do for a half-priced avocado at Whole Foods.
It's not just fancy technology that brings this on either. Wherever people exist, they will want to spy on other people. Take my neighbor, Margaret. I can see right into her dining room from my kitchen window, and half the time I look over there, she is just staring out the window at me, trying to see what I'm doing! And if I look from my upstairs hallway with my bird-watching binoculars, I can see her writing at her table, and I can make out little bits of it, and it looks like she is writing reports on my activities! Dammit Margaret - leave me alone! So enjoy this imaginative fiction for now, folks, because in a few years we'll be re-reading it as a documentary.
Monday, January 6, 2020
Jonathan Safran Foer wants us to stop global warming by no longer eating animal products. And unfortunately, he makes a pretty strong case that is difficult to argue with. But I'll tell you this - I am not about to let a bunch of facts and rational arguments stop me from eating delicious juicy steaks! I earned that shit, people! But I'll make all you crunchy eco-warriors a deal - I will offset my steak consumption by no longer taking showers. We'll call that a win/win! Showers are a hassle anyway, especially because my son-in-law never got around to installing that shower seat he told he would put in - thanks for nothing, Gerry! You're just waiting for me to fall, aren't you? Anyway, maybe every time I would have taken a shower, I'll just eat a steak instead. It's much safer. Besides, I truly doubt that I will be alive long enough to eat a number of steaks that makes any discernible difference to the climate. I'm afraid this is something that your generation is just going to have to deal with on your own. Thanks, snowflakes!
Also, I hope all you pinko tree-huggers realize that there is some sinister shit happening in the vegetable world as well. For example, are you aware of how mini-carrots are made? I always assumed that they had spliced the genes of a carrot with those of a chinchilla or a pygmy hedgehog or something - I mean, what isn't a GMO these days, right? But get this, those are just - I shit you not - regular carrots! This is the most shocking revelation since Soylent Green! Apparently, they just shave those normal carrots down until they're tiny, because Americans are too damn lazy to peel their own carrots or to eat something too large to put in their mouth all at once. The amount of waste inherent in that process is mind-boggling. And it is pretty sad to realize that mini-carrots are not an agricultural advance, but just the impotent, empty shell of a once-proud species, like a neutered dog or a moderate Republican. So don't lecture me about my well-marbled t-bone.
Here's the craziest thing that ever happened to me involving a mini-carrot (it was tough to narrow this down, mind you). One time, when I was pissed at Gerry (deservedly), I threw a mini-carrot at him across the room (you'll have to trust me that this was an appropriate response at the time). Somehow I missed, and the carrot landed in the garbage can and impaled itself lengthwise on the open end of an envelope, like it was getting a giant paper cut, and it stayed upright on the envelope on top of the garbage. OK, now that I re-read that, it doesn't seem as amazing as it did at the time, but at my age you don't always have such crazy stories, so cut me some slack, eh? And still, what are the odds of that happening? I bet if I gave you 100 mini-carrots, you couldn't do that once. Any takers? That's what I thought. OK, steak time.
Monday, December 23, 2019
It's becoming a bit of a personal tradition to read this book around this time of year. Some people have called me cold-hearted (bastard people, mind you), but this book does strike an emotional nerve at times. I mean, just to think of poor Jacob Marley, cut down in the prime of his earning potential, and by what even? It's a mystery. After a close reading, I bet it was a prostate thing - it would explain his demeanor when he returns as a ghost. It's the silent killer that no one wants to talk about, but here's a PSA - gentlemen, get yourself checked. I do it every year, whether I need it or not.
Anyway, this year I found this edition with the original typeface, and that was a nice novelty. The font reminded me of newspapers from when I was a kid. In the city, there was no paper delivery, so you had to go out and find a newspaper boy and buy a paper from him. The kids were a pain in the ass, and a weird lot too - always haggling about the price of papers, dancing around, and singing songs about New Mexico and stuff like that. Or maybe I'm crossing my memories with something, but in any case, it was nice when I moved out here and someone would actually bring your paper to your door. Now, of course, some guy just drives by at 40 miles per hour at 5 in the morning in a car with no muffler and chucks the paper out the window and you're lucky if it even ends up on your property, but hey, efficiency!
So I told my daughter Rachel that my Christmas gift to the family this year would be to not attend the big family Christmas dinner. I thought it would be a win/win, but Rachel told me with a straight face that everyone would miss me if I wasn't there, even Cousin Jim, the nose-whistler. I mean, Jesus - what the hell is up there that prevents him from breathing normally, and wouldn't you think that it could be removed? Do you think maybe someone stuffed a harmonica up his nose when he was a kid, and it's too close to his brain to operate? I can hear him from the other room even over the sound of my son-in-law pontificating about how walking the dog in the woods (for once) gave him a newfound perspective about nature and our relationship with the Earth. Damn it, Gerry!
So I guess I have to go, but I will not go quietly. My Christmas present to myself this year is the last jar of Ghost Pickles that I canned this summer (my spiciest ever!). I've been saving it for a special occasion, and I think this is it. My plan is to eat the entire jar in the morning just before I go over there, and then just let my digestive system take care of the rest on its own. Merry Christmas, suckers!
Monday, December 16, 2019
Ah, drugs. So useful for so many things. They are just right for scaring the shit out of your in-laws, making listening to Phish almost tolerable, getting into parties when you're too old to reasonably be there, creating temporary, artificial meaning in the midst of a purposeless existence, and in the case of Mr. Bigelow, facilitating one's exit from Mormonism. But just when it seems that he will be sucked forever into the underground Punk scene, there is a twist! Want to know what happens? Read the book, suckers! Meanwhile, let's talk more about drugs.
Here's one of the sad ironies about drugs. When you are young, when your brain is still not fully formed, when you have life goals still left to accomplish, kids to raise, and plenty to lose, drugs are everywhere! When I was in my twenties, I could hardly go to the post office or to an underground fight club without being offered drugs. They were everywhere! And it wasn't just the hippies either. The straighter the tie, the higher they fly! That's what people said anyway. And if I had a dollar for every schmoe I saw ruin his life with drugs, I'd have enough for a dimebag, at least.
But where would I get one? The flip side to all that is that once you have accomplished all you will in life, no matter how little that is, when you have nothing left to lose, no one to harm, no moral sensibilities left to offend, and nothing else to do anyway, the drugs are gone! I no longer get invited to parties where I can ask if anyone knows a guy, and if I went into the neighborhoods where I know people used to be selling, I would probably be dead before I was high, and that would defeat the whole purpose! What is a curious, very mature gentleman to do?
But there is some hope! Have you heard that they are starting to prescribe psilocybin to old people with "death anxiety?" They give it to people in supervised labs with whitecoat scientists guiding your LSD trips. I mean, can you think of anything more likely to kill a high than having to talk about it with a bunch of psychologists in the moment? And why are we not supposed to be anxious about dying in the first place? Off we go soon to perhaps something beautiful, and perhaps eternal damnation, and perhaps nothing at all, but hey, who gives a fuck, right? No worries, Mr. Psychologist, but if you really want me to feel better, maybe you could give me some privacy while I get my "treatment." And by the way - Jackson, if you are reading this, don't show your mother. It's embarrassing to have your own daughter give you "the talk" about drugs.
Saturday, December 7, 2019
Many thanks to both Dave and Kenneth for allowing me to be part of this blog tour. It is a privilege I hardly deserve, and a pleasure to read such a great book! I liked a lot of things about it - it had a novel idea, and it was a fast read with entertaining characters. It has action, humor, and nice tips on how to be evil, if that's your thing. And these all are reasonable things to say in a book review, right? More or less what you would expect? Certainly not "a bunch of snarky bullshit," as my son-in-law Gerry would have you believe. Are you fucking kidding me? This from a guy who didn't know that you can make corned beef hash without just getting it out of a can!
Some people can never get over their jealousy, that's their problem. Even when I did more or less give my consent for Gerry to propose to Rachel (I think my exact words were, "If you're going to do it anyway, then have at it"), he knew he could never really replace me as the top dog in her heart. And living so close just reminds him of his relative unimportance. If it were up to him, they would have moved to some hellhole like Arizona years ago, and I would never get to see my grandkids. And I can tell he's still plotting. Come to think of it, he would have been a much more successful devil's apprentice than that kid, Philip.
My relationship with my father-in-law was not like this. The first time Eleanor brought me home to meet her dad, I challenged him to Indian leg-wrestling. He kicked my ass seven times in a row, but he knew from that point forward that I wasn't afraid of him. And that was important later when I did things he didn't like, which was most of the time. But Gerry is so weak. You should have seen him when he came to ask for some help with a down payment for their house. We had already told Rachel we would give them the money, but when I gave him the line about how money was tighter than I thought these days, I thought he was literally going to cry. Pathetic. I still refer to it as "my house" sometimes just to watch him cringe. So I recommend this book to everyone, but especially to Gerry, who I think will learn some useful life lessons.
Thursday, November 28, 2019
The Gold Ring: Wall Street's Swindle of the Century and its Most Scandalous Crash - Black Friday, 1869 by Kenneth Ackerman
In case you were unaware, the story of Black Friday is a couple of rich assholes trying to get richer at everyone else's expense by cornering the gold market on the New York Gold Exchange. The market collapsed and the country was temporarily fucked. Sound familiar? Anyone? Jamie Dimon, perhaps? 150 years later, and it's the same old shit. God Bless America. At least I learned enough to put Tina in her place this time.
Here's the kicker, though. I called her up and asked if she would be kind enough to stop by with a real coffee (made from beans, by a human), and I started talking about what I had learned, and she explained that Black Friday is actually a holiday where - I shit you not - everyone spends the whole day shopping. Can you believe this bullshit? Can anything be less of a holiday than that? Is there a holiday where we spend the day sticking forks in our eyes? Or listening to my son-in-law talk about jazz? No, Gerry, it is not the goddamn notes that he didn't play! Tina talked about going shopping with her mom as if it was a recreational activity! Like fishing! Or drinking!
My philosophy on shopping is that you only go shopping when you know what you need, then you go in and get it, and then you leave. No wandering around like mindless sheep, impulsively buying whatever strikes your fancy, as if money grew on trees or expired if you didn't use it. I think I'm less offended by the idea of some rich asshole trying to steal all my money (looking at you, Bezos) than by a holiday devoted entirely to shopping. So sorry Tina, you may know more about Black Friday than I do, but you get no points for this one.
Wednesday, November 20, 2019
You know, even after everything that happened, I still do love Canada. It's a shame that there seems to be a tacit agreement between my family and the Canadian government that I am no longer allowed in the country. Because I keep finding more things to love - including this young Canadian's riveting debut novel about time travel, soul stealing, and parenthood.
I have talked to you about time travel before, but instead of revisiting my ever-growing list of people to kill and pickle recipes to steal, I want to discuss something else that this book really gets right - deference to authority! The schmuck responsible for everyone's souls dying only gets away with his nefarious deeds because people will basically do anything they're told by someone in a fancy suit. Even I am not immune! Just listen to what happened to me at the dentist!
First, I have to admit that I am no longer in peak physical condition. I have hypertension, bunions, hair loss, a bad eye, a worse eye, chronic osgood-schlatter syndrome, orneriness, sleep problems, pickle breath, arthritis, pumpkin spice allergy, and a wart - and these are just my G-rated symptoms! But I have always been told that I have wonderful teeth. And so I was a little peeved at my last check-up when I was told that there was a cavity developing that I should probably just take care of. Quick and easy, they said. But it's not bothering me at all, I argued. It will, they said. And that was the only verifiably true thing I was told that day.
If only I had read this book before that appointment, I would have told them exactly where to stick their rotating buzzy toothbrushes, but no, I just acquiesced like a good lemming. Predictably, it was a total shitshow. The young dentist (maybe just some kid who happened to be there for take your child to work day?) couldn't get the spacer in (whatever the fuck that is - that's just what they told me later), and he ended up scraping half the enamel off one of my teeth. I will never forget him staring down at me, frantically working this metal thing into my mouth, sweating bullets like the guy in Total Recall who is trying to convince Arnold Schwarzenegger not to shoot him because it's all just a dream. If only. You know, I have sometimes fantasized about living out parts of that movie, but not that part! Or the part where he pulls the giant tracking device out of his nose, for the record.
Anyway - now what have I got? One mangled tooth, with a "successful" filling that creates pain and cold sensitivity where it wasn't before. An angry message threatening a law suit that hasn't been returned. And a breakfast that consists of pickles on one side of my mouth and gin on the other, which is quite inconvenient. But at least I learned something. Which is, never go to the dentist. And also, question authority. And also, I'm sure that they would never do something like this in Canada!
Wednesday, November 6, 2019
I am a big fan of statistical anomalies. When something happens that defies the laws of chance, it temporarily creates in me a false belief that anything can happen, and that there is still a chance that the remainder of my life will not be a combination of meaninglessness and soul-sucking boredom followed by being spoon-fed soup. Of course, that idea is illusory, but on the upside, I do like soup.
Statistical anomalies even got me to watch the World Series last week! Now you know my feelings about baseball, so it took something special to convince me to waste a whole week of my time that I would have otherwise spent doing absolutely nothing. More than a week, if you count the time they spent on video reviews. He was out, for Christ's sake - just get on with it! Or safe - who fucking cares? It's baseball! The point is, the away team won every game of the World Series. Do you know what the odds of that are? If we assume that the home team has a 5-10% greater likelihood of winning any single game, and I break out my abacus here to compute this, the odds of 7 straight away wins are like who fucking knows? I can't do math like that, but it never happened before, so it can't be that likely. And just imagining 50,000 fans going home unhappy day after day after day tickled my funny bone enough to make it through all the games, with a healthy serving of gin for all the pitching changes. And congratulations to whatever team it was that won - I'm sure that was great for you.
Numbers can definitely be surprising sometimes - like the time I was shocked to discover that many items at Dollar General are priced higher than a dollar! Talk about some bullshit! People are afraid of the truth though. When I picketed Dollar General, did they lower their prices? No, they did not. Did I end up with a ticket for disturbing the peace? Why yes, I did. There is no justice in this world.
Anyway, this book has lots of practical information, like why professional hockey players are all born in January. That's an interesting anomaly, and a fact that is sure to make you popular with the ladies. I particularly liked the part of this book about the 10,000 hour rule, which basically says that it takes 10,000 hours or practice to achieve greatness at something. I don't know if I would have come up with that number, but it does explain why I am now the world's foremost expert at telling my son-in-law what an idiot he is. Jesus, Gerry - look what you turned me into.
Tuesday, October 29, 2019
This is a great collection of dark murder mystery stories - just right for the Halloween season. Too much candy, not enough murder - that's the problem with Halloween these days. Anyway, I especially liked the story where the police chase a demented murderer into a cave and they all get eaten by a giant hairy slug-monster. I imagined it like that creature from Stranger Things on steroids. Some scary shit! I could use something like that around here to deal with my neighbor's schnauzer. But you can never find a ravenous, bloodthirsty monster when you need one, can you?
This whole collection got me reminiscing about my childhood because fear played such an integral role in it. I remember lots of scary stories my parents used to tell us. Like the one about don't you dare go near Old Man Palmer's House if you don't want to get kidnapped. Or the one about you had better have all your chores done by the time I get home or I shit you not you will regret it. In retrospect, they seem somewhat less like stories than threats, but there is a blurry line, I suppose.
I'll tell you this - we didn't bat an eye at that kind of thing back then. These days, when all the 9-year-old snowflakes get their mandatory cell phones, they come pre-programmed with the number for Child Protective Services so they can report their parents if they forget to say please when asking them to stop playing video games at midnight. What the hell happened to respect? And Halloween is a perfect example.
When I was a kid, you assembled some kind of costume from what you had around the house and walked up and down the block, collecting a few small pieces of candy and maybe a couple pennies. It was a wholesome community event that brought people together. And now look! If you don't buy an expensive, full body Disney get up, you are the cheapskate parent, and that's if you're lucky. Half the kids out there see Halloween as an excuse to wear the most inappropriate clothing (or lack thereof) that they can find. "Oh bye Mom, I'm going to the party as a sexy clown kitten in a tornado - don't wait up!"
Which is not to mention that it is practically warfare in the streets to obtain insane amounts of candy. When I was still foolish enough to give out candy on Halloween, I would open my door with a bowl and before I could give anything away, I would be practically knocked over by hordes of bloody mutants and sexy fairies ravenously attacking my bowl. And don't even try to set limits on what they can eat, parents, unless you've already deleted that CPS number. Sometimes we have to take it upon ourselves to restore meaning to our societal rituals, so this year I am just going to focus on that feeling of satisfaction I get from that look on a kid's face as you hand him a box of raisins. That, my friends, is the spirit of the season.
Wednesday, October 23, 2019
There are people out there trying to get me, and you can't convince me otherwise. This suspenseful, intricate, deftly written murder mystery just reminded me of how far people will go. I couldn't help but relate to our brusque, headstrong hero, Newman. He's the kind of guy who can be a complete jerk but you can't help but love him anyway. I will admit that I have been described that way once or twice. The other shoe is persistently about to drop in this novel, and Newman justifiably seems to believe that there is always someone around the corner with eyes on him. And I can relate to that too! Just listen to what happened to me yesterday.
It started when I went up to the gas station to get some Takis. Have you tried these things? Not as bad as you would think. When you get old enough to count your taste buds one by one, you need something with a little kick. But that is not really the point. When I got home, the little string I leave hanging down over my screen door was INSIDE the door, definitive evidence that an intruder had been present. Since my children have forced me to have a "hidden" key for "safety" reasons, anyone with a metal detector can now break into my home at any time.
I entered my home slowly (admittedly, this is my default setting), and I grabbed the night vision goggles I keep by the door for emergencies and turned off the lights. Unfortunately, it was only 4:00 in the afternoon, so the sunlight made the goggles useless and probably did permanent damage to my bad eye and my less bad eye. There was a smell in the house, not unpleasant, and I could peer into the kitchen enough to see a foreign object on the counter. It was a kind of small, plastic bucket, and a gentle touch told me that it was still warm, indicating that the intruder had only just left, or in fact was still lurking in the shadows! I listened for a few moments but heard nothing. I opened the bucket and saw what appeared to be chicken soup. It looked and smelled delicious, but I am not an idiot. I considered my options.
My first thought was to run some tests, but most of my lab equipment was confiscated after my snake venom experiments. Did you know that you can buy that stuff on the internet? I knew it was shortsighted to have agreed to dismantle the lab, but a plea deal is a plea deal. With no better option coming to mind, I was left with no choice but to dump the entire bucket down the drain as quickly as possible. Nice try, assassins. You've got to get up pretty early in the morning to outsmart me, and today is not your day!
A followup: This afternoon I received a call from my daughter, who asked if I enjoyed the chicken soup that she made me. I replayed yesterday's events in my head, and I had to admit that this alternative explanation made some sense, although who is to say if she is in cahoots with forces unknown and just checking to see if I was dead yet. I didn't want to outright lie, so I told her that her soup had indeed made quite an impression. Perhaps a missed opportunity on my part, but who is going to complain about a dinner of gin and Takis?
Wednesday, October 16, 2019
I love science. You know why? It helps you make other people look stupid! Doesn't it feel great to drop a load of facts on some guy at a party spouting out about shit he doesn't understand? You know what I'm talking about. And so does my granddaughter Tina, I might add. She knows that there are only a few things in life I can't stand: 1) Sweet pickles (an abomination), 2) Being wrong (this rarely happens, of course), and 3) Being wrong about sweet pickles (not possible). So we have this little game of trying to catch each other making mistakes and teaching each other new things, and books like this come in pretty handy for that. I can pretty much guarantee that Tina knows shit about rifts in the space-time continuum.
But a terrible thing happened. We were having tea and apple tarts (aka gin in a teacup for me) after she got home from school and talking about the universe, and I made mention of the 9 planets and how to remember them with the mnemonic we all learned in grade school - My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nine Pickles. I have always loved that mnemonic device, for obvious reasons. Only Tina tells me that no, there are only 8 planets. A rookie mistake, I thought, for which I was happy to correct her. But she pulls out some bullshit textbook from school, and lo and behold, someone stole Pluto!
God damn it, scientists! What is wrong with you people? You can't just go around changing the number of planets whenever you want to. What is my eager mother supposed to serve us now - Nectarines? Noodles? Nothing? It just doesn't work any more. Pluto is still out there, and it is the same damn thing it was when I was a kid, only now someone ivory tower nerd wants to redefine what a planet is and isn't? No chance, kid. If you like outer space so much, why don't you do something useful, like get out there and find some aliens. There's no way Stephen Hawking would approve of this bullshit. And you just made me look like a fool in front of my granddaughter!
Do you realize how important science is, and what you have done? How are people supposed to believe you about important things like global warming, nanotechnology, and sharknadoes if you can just change facts in retrospect for your own convenience? This doesn't end here, scientists. I want a written letter of apology that I can show to Tina, or I am joining the Flat Earth Society. I will be waiting.
Wednesday, October 9, 2019
My daughter and I are "working on our relationship." She knows how much I love Stephen King because reading about other people's terror and misery gives me a moment of illusory joy thinking that my own life isn't so bad after all. So this book was a kind of peace offering from her. "Working on our relationship" essentially means that she comes over on the weekends, suggests a terrible activity, and instead of telling her where to shove it, I smile and say ok and then have to give up a Saturday's worth of reading to take a crochet class or learn to make bubble tea. Side note - what the fuck is bubble tea?
Anyway, this past weekend was beautiful, and she decided we would take a walk along the bike path near my house. The trees are just starting to turn, and it is still warm, and truth be told, I wasn't having the worst time. Then, out of nowhere, a motorcycle comes flying past us on the path, nearly knocking me straight into a patch of invasive garlic mustard that nobody from the city bothered to eradicate (your tax dollars at work, people). I let out a string of expletives that would make Captain Haddock blush, and demanded that my daughter call the police to have the motorcyclist arrested. She then told me that it was not a motorcycle, but rather - I shit you not - an "electric bicycle."
Are you fucking kidding me? First off, what the hell is an electric bicycle? It looks like a motorcycle, it's fast like a motorcycle, it could have killed me like a motorcycle - seems like a motorcycle to me! The only thing missing is the obnoxious noise, which you might think is an improvement, but at least the noise of a real motorcycle warns you when you're about to get run off the road. These things are silent death machines, presumably lurking around every corner to hunt you down like those damn Prius cars everyone is driving! Only for some reason, they let these "bicycles" on walking paths! I mean - doesn't the entire concept defeat the purpose of a bicycle in the first place? You can't very well say you went for a bike ride if you had an electric motor pushing you the whole time.
This is just another prime example of American laziness. These days, people need everything automatized for them, even their exercise! And every time they make something electric, the new version is leaps and bounds worse than the original. I hereby declare my official opposition to electric bicycles, electric cars, electric stoves, electric fireplaces, electric guitars, electric blankets, the Electric Slide, electric eels, Debbie Gibson's Electric Youth album, the electric chair, and electric toothbrushes. If you want clean teeth, move your damn hands!
Wednesday, October 2, 2019
Let me tell you, some crazy shit can happen in a Nashville bathroom. And sometimes the things that happen in our youth can have lasting effects on us, even if we don't remember all the details. This, as it happens, is a central theme of this beautifully illustrated memoir, as the author takes us through her family history in Vietnam and Malaysia and tries to piece together how her early life experience, and that of her parents, influenced the course of her life. But enough about this wonderful book, because it reminded me about this other story, and I'm sure you're all dying to hear it.
As a young man, I happened to find myself in Nashville on Halloween night. The circumstances of my arrival are inconsequential, but I found myself in a full body cow suit in some honky-tonky bar with a bunch of new "friends." I don't know which bar it was, but there was line dancing involved. And there was a crowd of "cow-girls" there that I was drunk enough to believe were interested in my cow-self.
So a bunch of us were piled into this big booth - me, some cowgirls, a pirate, a rodeo clown, and the man from UNCLE. The whiskey we were drinking was worse than the stuff my buddy was making in a bathtub in the shed behind his barn, but it was better than not drinking whiskey, so there you go. At one point, I got up to relieve myself, and when I returned, I had a story to tell. I was somewhat agitated, almost disturbed, but mostly excited to share some shocking news.
"You will not believe what just happened in the restroom," I told them. "It was profound." I started to tell my story, but just at that moment, another round of shots arrived, and we had no choice but to take care of them in the customary fashion. Then the man from UNCLE said something that offended one of the cowgirls. The rodeo clown came to her defense, and in a matter of seconds the table had erupted into fistacuffs! We were all unceremoniously escorted out of the establishment and thrown into the street, where, being Nashville, it was impossible to tell the real cowboys from the Halloween cowboys.
Somehow I ended up face-down in a hammock in somebody's yard, and when we all woke up the next morning, we agreed that just waking up was a victory of sorts. Then one of my friends asked me to tell everyone what had happened in the bathroom, and I shit you not, I didn't have a fucking clue. "But it was profound!," they said, so I spent the rest of the day waiting for it to come back to me. But it didn't! And to this day, I still have never remembered. The obvious questions plague me - what happened? Did it change me without my knowing? Is this why I'm so angry? At this point, I am running out of time and willing to try anything - hypnosis, psilocybin, sensory deprivation chambers. I would look for witnesses, but the time frame suggests that they are probably all dead. If you have suggestions, email me at email@example.com.
Wednesday, September 18, 2019
There is no fucking way I am going to buy gas from a gas station that makes you pay for air. Will not happen. Now I will admit that there is some debate in my family as to whether or not I should be driving at all "at my age," but my mind is sharp as an executioner's blade, and if Ms. Atwood can write a book this good at her age, surely I can handle going to HyVee for some Lean Cuisines and Metamucil.
But back to my point. It does not cost a gas station anything to provide air for you to fill your tires. But one after another, they are installing these indecipherable new air machines that cost 3 dollars and flash a bunch of lights at you while you check your tire pressure. And do you know why? Because people like you let them! You just shrug your shoulders, swipe your Kwik Trip reward card (Hey, free 264 oz. soda!), and surrender. You know where this leads, right? To a corporofascist state that will make Gilead look like Disneyland!
We have been here before, people. I can remember a time 30 years ago when I stopped by my son's house to criticize his lawn care and he offered me bottled water. "How can you buy this stuff?!?!," I exclaimed. "If you do that, people will think it is normal!" He assured me that he had gotten it at a conference and that no one would ever think it would be normal to buy the same water you can get for free, and now look at us! A bunch of brainless sheeple buying bottled water every day like our house was on fire. The only legitimate reason to buy bottled water is to smuggle gin into a baseball game. If you put a little hot glue on the cap, you can make it look unopened. But I digress.
The point is, if you think they will stop at air for tires, you are beyond naive. If you legitimize buying air, you will soon be buying the air you breathe. Giant air conglomerates will control the world's oxygen supply, and they will use it to oppress us all just like on Mars in Total Recall. I knew that movie would come true in the end! And so, even though the cruel irony of burning through gas driving across town to buy gas makes me want to stick a fork in my eye, I will keep doing it. For you. For Offred. For the children.
Friday, September 13, 2019
This is a charming love story with the unique twist that the lovers are connected across decades by the quirk of a magical Camcorder. Which rang true to me, because when we got our first Camcorder, it sure as hell felt like magic. And at my age, I am particularly susceptible to a story that messes with the continuum of time, and it got me thinking about all the things I might do if I could go back and have a second go at it.
Now I recognize that it is convention to say that if you could travel in time that you would first go back and kill Hitler. And I do appreciate that, so yes, first I would kill Hitler. Hooray for me! But then, I have quite a list of important things to get done while in possession of time traveling powers. Top of the agenda is to prevent the invention of many things that have done irreparable damage to modern society. These things include Roombas, clothing for dogs, Tickle Me Elmo, buttonfly jeans, the Macarena, pumpkin spice anything, skateboards, sweet pickles, and guns.
It would be tempting to stop there, having virtually saved modern culture. But I am just too altruistic for my own good. So I would go back and eliminate all acts of major injustice in the world. Like that time in 2005 when Pedro Mendes took a shot from midfield in the last minute of the game and Roy Carroll fumbled it over the line, but a goal was not given because referees always cheat for Manchester United and they always will. I would rectify that bullshit. Also, while I'm at it, racism, sexism, homophobia, and global warming. You're welcome.
But, as a romantic at heart, and inspired by this book, I couldn't stop without finding a way to bring together the lovers whom fate or history deprived of their possibilities - those real life Romeos and Juliets who deserve a second chance. I'm thinking about people like Cleopatra and Marc Antony, Heloise and Abelard, John Keats and Fanny Brawne, Lancelot and Guinevere, Harry and Hermione, my son-in-law Gerry and literally any other human being in the world other than my daughter, Donald Trump and a Kraken, and Bette Davis and yours, truly. You get one guess as to whether or not I will be returning to the present.
Tuesday, September 3, 2019
You know what really pisses me off? CLAMS!! For the life of me, I can not figure out what people see in these terrible creatures. Tell me, what is the point of a clam? No, really, I want to know. These ubiquitous little fuckers are ugly, useless, and prone to bring on an existential crisis. I mean it - go open up a clam, take one look and tell me that you still believe in intelligent design. Jesus.
Now that I have that off my chest, I owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Egan for this book, because he has provided me with a whole list of additional aquatic animals to be angry at. Sea lampreys, quagga mussels, Asian carp, just to name a few. These are some real nefarious little bastards wreaking havoc on our lakes. I happen to live in a Great Lake state, and I am old enough to remember catching lake trout and not ending up with botulism from out of control algae blooms. It was a beautiful time. Never to be seen again, from what I gather.
I kept waiting for the part of the book that would lay bare the evil of clams, but it never came! And that's what really gets me about these sea-weasels - they have everyone fooled. I mean, everyone knows that zebra mussels are demon spawn, but people think clams are so nice! And tasty! And happy! Bullshit! Happy as a clam? What the hell does a clam have to be happy about? It is immobile, repulsive, and eats algae all day. Kind of reminds me of my mother-in-law, especially in her later years (may she rest in peace).
A little while ago, my son and his girlfriend (yes, miraculously, they are still together) invited me to a "clambake." I do not make a habit of accepting invitations from family (or anyone else for that matter), but I was excited about this because I mistakenly thought it was some kind of ritual in which we would get to kill a shit ton of clams. To my chagrin, they were already dead when we got there, and we were supposed to eat them! Can you believe this shit? But there was gin, so it worked out. In summary, great book!
Monday, August 26, 2019
Well, I went to Canada and I didn't die. So I would consider this vacation a success. I don't even know exactly where in Canada I was, but the locals appear to subsist entirely on lobsters and potatoes, so I'm sure some geo-nerd out there can figure it out. And there are lots of cliffs that an old man can "accidentally" fall off of, but I kept my distance from my son-in-law Gerry while we were sightseeing, so no worries. I picked up this book to learn about this country before I visited, but it turns out that it was not a reference book or a travel guide, and this Mike Myers isn't even a historian. He did apparently write some pretty funny shit for a TV show once, so it wasn't that bad.
I'm sure the narrative from my family will be that I ruined this vacation for everyone, but it really was an honest mistake, and they forced my hand in the first place. We were staying in this big cabin not too far from the beach, and a short walk away (even for me) was this little bench behind some bushes with a great view of the ocean. It was a great reading spot, and I sure as hell didn't want the rest of my family to ruin it for me, so I didn't tell anyone about it. Which, as I later explained, was perfectly within my rights.
Now here's something that really pisses me off about Gerry. Whenever we go on vacation, he will pick up pamphlets from the visitor center and then - I shit you not - expound upon what he just read to the rest of us as if he were an expert on local history. I mean, come on. My son Lawrence is an actual historian, and he can't even button his damn shirts correctly, but he doesn't do shit like that. So when Gerry was on a particularly boring diatribe about the origins of confederation, I slipped out the side door and shuffled down to my bench.
At some point while I was reading, I must have fallen asleep (the book was about Canada, after all), but I think I was vaguely aware of some sort of commotion on the beach. When the police started arriving (in cars, not on horses, and without any funny hats to speak of, disappointingly), I stood up and encountered one of Canada's finest. The conversation went approximately like this:
"So, you're missing, eh?"
"I don't think so," (looking at myself to ascertain that I still exist), "Yup. Still here."
"You might want to tell your family that."
"Oh...Well, since you took the trouble to come out here, I wouldn't want to steal your thunder."
"I see. I'll take care of it then."
And that was the last I heard from him. And that was the nicest thing anyone said to me for the rest of the trip!
Tuesday, August 6, 2019
Today's youth are being corrupted by a host of perverse, corrosive influences - things like strawberry milk, house music, carnival rides that go upside down, and sweet pickles, just to name a few. And I have always counted video games among those destructive forces. I mean, have you even had a conversation with a teenager lately? If you somehow manage to get them to put their phones down for a minute, it's all they talk about!
When I was a kid, we played a game called Tougher, or "Tuffs." Essentially, you took turns punching each other in the chest until one person quit. If you didn't quit, then you were Tuffs. It was a great way to pass the time, built character, and multi-player games required no extra equipment. Nowadays, everyone wants to blow up aliens or monsters or whatever it is, but it's all fake! Instead of getting character, teenagers are getting tendinitis. What a world.
The other day, I was sitting in my front lawn guarding it against my neighbor's schnauzer, who had that look she gets when she's ready to do her business, when I heard the sound of my grandson's skateboard (don't get me started) coming my way. I do appreciate it when he chooses this route home, but I was dismayed to look up and see him 1) on a skateboard, 2) in the street, 3) without a helmet, and 4) LOOKING AT HIS PHONE THE WHOLE TIME! After telling him that the fact that he was still alive was a minor miracle, I demanded that he show me this Fortnite or whatever it was he was playing, but he said that I wasn't ready for Fortnite and offered to show me a different game instead.
Now I don't know what Fortnite is like, but the game he showed me was mind-blowing. It is a kind of wartime simulation, and your job is to defuse a series of bombs before they blow up, killing everyone! I can't even describe the tension as you start looking for bombs. I was sweating terrible old man sweat after only two minutes! There is this grid, and numbers that give you clues about how many bombs are around you, and each time you click on one, you might die! It is called Minesweeper, and I have never done something so intense! The numbers don't really make that much sense, and a bomb could go off any minute! By the time I finished, I was so in need of a gimlet that I made Jackson pour it for me while I tried to slow my breathing down. It took me 624 seconds, but I saved the world! Apparently, there are intermediate and advanced levels as well, but maybe for another day.
There is a truism about war that nothing you can read can really make you understand what it feels like to be there. So we rely on books like this, written with craft, insight, and power to shed a little light on the experience. After reading this book, I felt like I understood the Iraq War in a new way. But thanks to Minesweeper, it's like I was actually there!
Tuesday, July 30, 2019
So yesterday my neighbor, Margaret, accused me of throwing walnuts at her house. Can you believe this shit? I have been accused of many things in my lifetime, including vagary, vulgarity, vacuity, slipping a piece of fake ham onto the buffet at a Golden Corral, lying, cheating, stealing, excessive anger, insufficient anger, an appropriate level of anger directed at the wrong person, hurting my grandson's feelings through excessive pranking, acting my age, not acting my age, smuggling a penguin home from the Shedd Aquarium (that is an urban myth!), farting on purpose, failing to return a library book on time, breaking into the Watergate Hotel, malfeasance, disobedience, moral deviance, sloth, taunting a sloth, and jaywalking. First, I would note that I have a plausible excuse for almost half of those claims! I might also add that none of them are nearly as bad as the things that virtually every character in this book does, so stop looking at me like that.
I demanded to Margaret that she present her evidence that I had thrown the offending walnuts, and she told me that she had seen me do it. So, one point for her. However, one must consider the context! The walnuts are coming from HER tree, dropping onto MY lawn, and my assumption is that this was part of a years-long plan she concocted just to fuck with me. I told her as much, and her defense was that a) she didn't plant the tree (possible, but she looks about 130 years old, and the tree does not, so debatable), b) she can't control nature (didn't see her trying, mind you), and c) my response was still unreasonable and not neighborly. I'll let you be the judge of that.
After all, what does being a good neighbor really mean? Some people, in this book for instance, might try to be a good neighbor by taking in the semi-abandoned child of a pair of derelict drug addicts. Other people, like me, might try to be a good neighbor by teaching someone a lesson about personal responsibility using walnuts. Who can say which is the more noble action? These are the kinds of things philosophers have debated for eternity, and answers are elusive. Not convinced? Fine - then I want you to go google "Trump," read the first article that comes up, and see if you are still mad at me for throwing walnuts.
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
So now I have a wart. It is truly anyone's guess as to how long it has been there. My granddaughter discovered it while I was trying to bribe her to rub my bunions. Not my most glorious moment. You must realize that I am not even close to flexible enough to get my eyes down near my toes, so the chances of me noticing it on my own were pretty slim. In fact, I can't even say positively that it is a wart. The only diagnostic assessment was my granddaughter yelling, "Oh my God, it's a wart!" She seemed pretty sure though.
Still a lot of unknowns in this story, though. For example, how the hell did it get there? My understanding is that warts are contagious. At least, when Tina was crying and frantically washing her hands, that's what she told me. If that is the case, who would have possibly given it to me? I don't go anywhere. I try to limit my interactions with family, for obvious reasons. I wouldn't ever get close enough to any of my neighbors to allow them to touch me. I seem impervious to something like this. So much so that my assumption is that someone did this to me on purpose. I haven't quite gotten to how or why yet, but I will Miss Marple this shit until I get my revenge.
The next question is, at my age, do I even do anything about it? At my last physical, my doctor said that I would probably live longer if I gave up alcohol, and he had to take two days off to recover from my response. Longer is not always the goal, friends. It is quality of life that matters. And gin for breakfast is high quality. So back off, Dr. Buzzkill, and everyone else too. Tina was in no small hurry to share this story, and the general opinion of the family is to get rid of it. Which may be reason enough to keep it. I certainly didn't expect any sympathy from them, and I was right on that account.
But do you know who I think would be more sympathetic? Lance Pototschnik. This guy seems like a much nicer person than my family. And he has been through the wars as well. Among other things, he has survived a terrible skin disease, Uncontrollable Farting Syndrome, and Aimless Wandering Writer Disorder. And he still seems to have a very positive outlook on life and is able to find humor in painful things and write entertaining stories. He also has a gift for similes. Here's my favorite: "He sounds kind of like Chewbacca if he were really happy to be getting burned alive." I was so intrigued by that description that I found myself trying to recreate that sound. It wasn't easy, but I think I nailed it. The fact that I was practicing in the shower when my son dropped by unannounced for a visit led to an awkward exchange, but at least he didn't notice my wart!
Monday, July 15, 2019
This is a charming story about a young boy in 1805 who discovers gold on his family's land. And lo and behold, all of his problems are not solved! It reminded me of something I read about people who win the lottery. Apparently, more often than not they end up worse off than they were before. You know what I think about that? Bullshit! Show me the money, and I will prove that all wrong! If any of you people want to give me $62 million, I promise you that if I can not find a way to make myself happier than I am now, you will never hear from me again. You know what the problem with these lottery winners is? They're too young! If people my age won the lottery, we wouldn't possibly have enough time to screw up our lives the way young winners manage to do.
First things first - as soon as I become a millionaire, I am going to buy the Vlasic pickle company. Not because I want to own it or get free pickles or anything like that - I am going to shut that shit down! No more terrible pickles for America. Honestly, I get more crunch from the month-old celery in my fridge. Which reminds me, why the hell do I still buy celery? And all those sweet pickles? Truly an abomination. We are going to have a ritual destruction of all of them, like they did with all those disco records at baseball stadiums in the late 70s. That's right folks - Americans made musical bonfires because they thought songs like the 'Safety Dance' were the way of the future. And we wonder why the Taliban hates us.
After the great pickle cleanse, I will take my family on a tropical vacation. Not as a favor, really, but more as an act of revenge. After all those vacations where I had to play along and do what everyone else wanted, this vacation will be on my terms. None of the 'local flavor' nonsense my son-in-law is always going on about. Each day we will have a mandatory mah jongg tournament, and I don't give a shit if we happen to be in Tahiti - dinner is at an Italian restaurant and everyone gets fettuccini alfredo. Deal with it, Gerry.
Now don't get me wrong. I will perform many acts of random generosity - as many as it takes to assuage my guilt at being so rich. So there, I'm already more ethical than half the members of Congress. I may also swim in my money like Scrooge McDuck, but that's my business, so stop judging.
Monday, July 8, 2019
Big thanks to Arrow Publishing and Penguin Books for sending me an ARC of this great summer read. My bunions were really after me last week, and I had shit else to do, so I read it almost in one sitting, as I will explain in a moment. The novel moves quickly, with a plot unpredictable and twisty enough to keep most people off track. I mean, my son-in-law, for instance, won't even be able to tell you who killed whom after he's finished it, but that is admittedly a bit of a hopeless case. I, on the other hand, am a wily son of a bitch and can usually see plot twists a mile away. I know you're not supposed to promote yourself too much in a review, but to quote my second favorite Puerto Rican playwright, "I don't mean to brag, but dag, I amaze and astonish." (Yes, after that debacle, I did actually go see it, and I have to admit that I am a reluctant convert). Anyway, you've got to get up pretty early to sneak a whodunit past me. Remember The Sixth Sense? I was on that shit in scene 2!
Which leads me to another story about sniffing out a nefarious plot. While I was reading this book, really getting into a groove in my la-z-boy, I heard the unmistakable, noxious sound of skateboard wheels. The sound approached my house and then stopped. I looked out my window and briefly saw my grandson's head go past my side window. By the time I lumbered across the room to open the front door, he was gone, with no trace of his villainous deeds. He would later claim that he had seen my rake lying in the driveway and put it away in my garage, but who knows if that is true? After the stinkbugs and everything else, I had cause to assume the worst.
I'll tell you this. I was not going to wait around to let whatever plot he was hatching come to fruition. The best defense is a good offense, that's what I say. So I took action. Jackson has been dating a girl for the last few months, and from what I hear, Rachel isn't too keen on her, so I thought I might make my daughter happy while I got my preemptive revenge. I knew they would be at his friend's graduation party on Saturday, yet another party to which I was not invited. Never mind that I have known that kid literally from the day he was born or the fact that I delivered special birthday pickles to his house on multiple occasions. But I am not bitter. Not in the slightest.
So they're all at the party and what should arrive at the door, but a bouquet of roses addressed to Jackson with a note that says, "Don't worry - our secret is safe with me. Love, X." OK, I kind of wish I had been invited so I could see that shit go down. My granddaughter Tina said it was "epic." I didn't get too many details, but I did have a message from Rachel on my answering machine saying that we had to talk. Calling to thank me, no doubt.
Wednesday, July 3, 2019
First off, this is - I shit you not - an actual goddamn book written by actual scientists. Let that sink for a minute and ruin your day. That's right - while you are out there making peanuts slaving away for that supervisor that always looks at you funny, there are people making a comfortable living trying to figure out if a sea cucumber has an anus (it does). Kind of makes you question your life choices, doesn't it? Stay in school, kids! In my next life, I am going to be a seacucumberanusologist, and I am going to live that shit up.
You may wonder, is there anything actually interesting in this book? Shockingly, yes! Did you know that herring can communicate by farting? If you said yes, you are a liar and I want you off my blog immediately. If you said, no, here's another fun fact for you. A beaded lacewing can kill termites with a chemical fart. Now there's a nice conversation starter for a dinner party. Also, baby koalas eat their mothers' feces, and hyenas eat bones and have white shit. So there you have it.
My grandson gave me this book after a relevant conversation we had at a family dinner. It had something to do with the relationship between age and farting power. I was unable to find any extant research on the topic, but when Metamucil becomes a staple of your diet, what do you expect? I think he did it to shock or embarrass me, but please. The thing about teenagers is that they seem to forget that everyone older than them also used to be a teenager, and the idea that I would blink at a book about farts is ridiculous. And if someone gives me a book, I am going to read it and review it, so here we are.
If you are actually still reading this, I imagine it is because you are waiting for the summary of what farts and what doesn't. So here are a few highlights. Things that don't - jellyfish, anemones, pretty much all birds (though they are featured in the related volume, "Does it shit on your car?"), goldfish, sloths, and clams. Things that do - tortoises, buffalo, unicorns (inferred), pythons, wombats (who cares?), mongooses (not mongeese), geckos, hamsters, and humans, especially if they are familiar with my son-in-law's "authentic muffuletta sandwiches." Damn it Gerry, there is no "authentic" food that includes Oscar Meyer ham. For crying out loud.
Saturday, June 29, 2019
Now be honest - if you were organizing a blog tour, would you allow me to be part of it? Hell no, you wouldn't! You're also a bad liar. I understand that I can occasionally come off as abrasive, and there is a reason why I no longer get invited to dinner parties. Besides half my friends being dead, that is. But someone screwed up and let me in here, and because of that, I got to read this wonderful book! So take that, suckers. And a big thanks to Mr. Galley, who sent me a physical copy because those electronic book machines hurt my bad eye, and also my worse eye. Which is not to mention that I can't figure out how to make them work in the first place. Did it ever occur to you people that some things do not need to be mechanically improved? That perhaps an actual physical book is the pinnacle of reading technology? Damn.
Back to the book, though. Compelling characters, and a sinuous, intriguing plot. The basic gist is that Farden, our tortured hero, instilled with powers through magical tattoos, must use his courage and 'fuck all' attitude, as well as alliances with dragons and vampires, to ferret out a plot from a nefarious and traitorous enemy. No more details, for fear of spoiling, although in fact, there were some eerie parallels to a night in college that I spent half-naked under various bushes on campus, on the run from intergalactic beings bent on condemning me to a life in the salt mines of Xergan. Of course, it turned out that I had accidentally eaten my roommate's chocolate laced with Amazonian frog venom that night, but we worked it all out the next day. I suggested that it shouldn't have been unlabeled in the back corner of the freezer in the first place, but he was unmoved. That is some expensive shit, but we were able to negotiate an appropriate exchange.
Oh, pick your jaw up off the floor, you prudes. Yes, your parents did drugs. We did drugs. Our parents did drugs. All humans did drugs, going all the way back to when people would just dig a hole in the ground and fill it with nectarines and wait for them to rot and then eat rotten nectarines to get high. So get over it. At least when we did drugs, we did things that expanded our mind and brought us closer to god and the universe. Today, kids just sit around vaping marijuana juice, and the only things they get closer to are bags of flaming hot Cheetos and diabetes. So you can add that to the list of things our generation did better than yours. It's a long list, snowflakes!
Tuesday, June 18, 2019
What the hell, people? Am I the last person in the goddamn universe to find out about "steampunk?" Even the most ignorant people I know are already up on this. My son-in-law told me that steampunk is "the most honest form of American literature." I mean, Jesus, Gerry, do you even hear yourself when you say shit like that? I swear to God. My grandson apparently went to Halloween last year dressed as a steampunk, and even my granddaughter stopped her conversation with a squirrel long enough to tell me that she thought I would have known about this by now. Well, thanks everyone. You're all a huge help, as always. However, due to the kindness of Lesley Connor over at Apex Publishing, I got to read this steampunk novel, and now I know that I like it! Or at least, I liked this one. Lots of action, witty one-liners, good characters, and some poignant social and political allegory. Still, I have a few questions.
Honestly, I'm not sure I understand what steampunk even is. First off, are we in the past or the future? I mean, I can read the dates, but still. Second, there is clearly steam everywhere, but where is the punk? I asked my grandson about that, since he is the punk that I know best, and he said that if I couldn't figure it out, then I am more senile than he thought. That stung a bit, but touché, Jackson. Third, why does everyone dress like that? And fourth, if you write a novel but just change the available technology, does that count as a whole new genre? If so, I have a few ideas.
New genre number 1: futuristic space world sagas, except the only way to make fire is by rubbing sticks together. I call it Science Friction™. Now hold up a minute. I don't want to hear any shit from you people about making dad jokes. I was making dad jokes before you were born. I am incapable of shame. New genre number 2: explicit romance novels, only all technology related to sex toys is guarded by a reclusive family of bears. I call it Bearotica™. New genre number 3: Derivative novels from popular fantasy series, only they are all set in Houston in August and there is no air conditioning. I call it Fan Fiction™. I trust that none of these genre names have been taken, and I encourage all you writer types to get started. However, I have trademarked all the names, so you will all owe me big time royalties. It's not too late for me to make my millions!