Monday, June 24, 2013

Big Bad Moon On The Rise

*A baby girl in Sweden gazing at the night sky sees the Super Moon and assumes it' a giant breast bursting with yummy milk. But why can't she touch it? It seems so close. Tired of waiting, she eventually closes her eyes and the moon mysteriously disappears.
But does it really disappear? If, as modern physics teaches us, reality is almost exclusively a matter of perception, then a case can certainly be made for the one minute moon / the next minute no moon hypothesis. If at any given moment not a single person on Earth is looking at the moon, then in effect there is no moon. Which is why I myself make a point of looking at the moon at every opportunity. The consequences of a sudden moonless situation are simply too dire.

*A male reader writes in search of an answer to a fairly timeless question:  Are all women insane, or is it only the women I get involved with?
The short answer: yes and yes. If we assume that all women are insane (and as men do we really have a choice here?), then any one of them you become involved with will also be by definition insane. Only an insane person wouldn't be able to see this. On the other hand, dear reader, if you yourself are insane, your ability to perceive insanity in others is virtually nil. So what you're probably asking is ... Why do I invariably drive all the women in my life insane, and once I have accomplished this, why do I invariably feel the need to complain endlessly about it?

*The moon may also be a factor:
Women are notoriously more psychically receptive to lunar emanations. A 1957 study, conducted by an all-male group of Presbyterian "social scientists," concluded that men should take whatever steps necessary to prevent their female counterparts from gazing directly at a full moon, particularly if it's Super-Sized.  Symptoms may include a general increase in sensitivity, a desire to talk about the future, a disinclination to spend more than eight hours a day in the kitchen, a tendency to dress scantily, often to the exclusion of any and all undergarments, shameless displays of affection and, in extreme cases, a proclivity to actually initiate sexual activity.
Good Lord!

(note: this study was mostly discredited in the late 1960's, for all the obvious reasons; Professor Paula Gemstone Delaney, of Cornell University, concluding that if it were possible to harness all the energy men put into projecting their insecurities, idiocies and blatant insanities upon women, the nation's dependency on foreign oil could be eliminated in a matter of days.)

* News Headline:  "A small cadre of narrow-minded, sexually-repressed, religious zealots with assault weapons murders a mixed group of Chinese and Uzbek tourists in northern Pakistan."

And I just have to wonder what members of the U.S. House of Representatives were doing in  northern Pakistan in the first place?  Was it a fact finding mission gone seriously awry? Was Michelle Bachman one of the ringleaders?  Did she perhaps see the full moon rising, misinterpret it as a sign from God that the world's end was imminent and give the order to open fire? Will she somehow manage to blame the entire incident on Obamacare?

(Meanwhile, who knew there was such a thing as Uzbek tourists?)

* In the news 2:  During recent riots in Turkey CNN had one of its reporters, Jane something-or-other, on the ground, in the midst of the action. They cut to Jane, who's standing in the middle of a large crowd of mildly agitated Turks. Only thing is, Jane is wearing a large, complex-looking, full-face gas mask. Seriously. Talk about being over-cautious and looking really stupid in the same breath. More absurd, however, CNN anchorperson what's-his-name starts asking her questions. Jane's answers, unfortunately, are rendered completely incoherent by the ridiculous mask.

"So Jane, what exactly is the situation on the ground there?"
"Mmk u luw suti wa okup ewoww. Cowee shuzzz vergg ptku."
"Are you seeing many casualties?"
"awa lep merzz cawaaj jup jip saaaap."
"Any sense of what the soldier's intentions may be?"
"Wuug la rura corbu mur falarx cowchu, mur mur mahgii rahlbb."
"Sounds slightly ominous."
"Bllob wip shazpi feelf."
"Ekte oou ledpof."
"Thanks, Jane. And you stay safe out there."

This actually happened, by the way, whereas this .......

*Back in the CNN studio:

"Did you understand anything Jane just said?"
"Not a word. I assumed she was attempting to speak Turkish."
"Or it could have been the moon."
"Right, the Super Moon, obviously having a deleterious effect on Jane's already fragile mental state."
"I'm pretty sure that theory was discredited."
"Mostly discredited. There's a difference."
"So if anyone asks ..."
"We definitely go with the moon excuse."

......... probably did not. Although ...

Friday, June 14, 2013

Query First, Absolutely No Attachments

 How to write the perfect (okay, nearly perfect) fiction query.
 Or why you have less than a snowball's chance in hell of ever getting this garbage published.

 Type of book: Should precisely define and locate your book within the nearly infinite and mostly incomprehensible jungle of all other books.     Example:  Sort of a novel, I guess.
 Title:  Should be clever and catchy, if possible bearing little or no relation to the book's actual content.   Example:  Marilyn Monroe vs. The Humanoid Flesh Eaters Of Upstate New York

Genre: In fact, a trick question; while announcing the genre of your work is required, the vast majority of literary agents insist they do not represent "genre" fiction. Selecting a genre, therefore, is in effect the metaphorical equivalent of slitting your own wrists.

"Found your writing to be exciting, sexy and brilliantly unique, but unfortunately we don't do genre."

 Basic rule of thumb: be as genre-vague as possible. Employing multiple genres, if possible to the point of absurdity, is a proven method of getting noticed.
Example:  a speculative, quasi-erotic, dystopian, multicultural, urban, nanopunk, family saga       

Story Outline  (a.k.a. the irresistible hook)


 "Something pretty weird bad is happening in Rochester, N.Y., and you're like so what else is new, but this is bad beyond bad, cause, and who the hell knows why, people are like turning into cannibals, running around like crazy famished fiends and eating people, and you're like holy crap, what is up with this, and you're running too, like a lunatic for your own life, and eventually you figure like what the hell, and you pull out your last pack of smokes, even though you like totally swore on a stack of holy books you'd quit, but then if this ain't a mitigating circumstance what is, and so you're trying to at least finish one smoke before you're, you know, eaten, and then out of the blue there's this cannibal right up in your face, and it's like thanks for nothing God, but then, like wham, a fucking miracle happens, cause the cannibal is back-peddling away from you, trying to tear its own face off while shrieking at the top of its lungs, and it hits you - these fuckers can't stand cigarettes."

"Maybe it's like passive smoke damage paranoia or something, who knows, but you're all of a sudden thinking you may not get eaten after all, all you got to do is keep smoking, except the city is turning fast into a ghost town, and in this dark day and age cigarettes just ain't that easy to find, so now you're like searching for smokes while at the same time ducking the cannibals, and then, lucky you, you run into this totally weird Born Again C girl, who latches on to you and would rather rip your arm off than let go, scared out of her head, but she won't stop whining, and you're like, why don't you just send up a flare or something, give the crazy ghoul people our exact G.P.S. coordinates, and by the way shut the fuck up, but that ain't going to happen, cause Jesus has like bailed on her big time and she knows it, so you're like, hey nutcase chick, calm down, have a smoke, and she starts like really freaking out, screaming cigarettes were conjured by the Devil himself, smoking is a sin against God, blah, blah, blah, and how she would rather be like torn to pieces by inhuman monsters than smoke a single cigarette, and you're like, fine, have it your way, cause that's pretty much what's going to happen, probably like really soon."

"Meanwhile, it's still day one in scary nightmare cannibal land, and you're like already really fucking exhausted."

 Agent responses:

1:  This is the absolute worst query I've ever read. In fact, it's so bad that, for sickeningly perverse       reasons I can never hope to fully fathom, I actually want to read more. God forgive me.

2:  Are you like fucking kidding me?

3: Will there be a sequel?  I sincerely pray not, but will there?

4:  Novels are rarely if ever written in the third person singular. There is a good reason for this.

5:  Please send the manuscript in its entirety, so that we witches (sorry) agents can perform upon it a ritualistic burning.

6:  This so blows. For the first time in my life I actually envy the illiterate.

7:  Loved your query. Unfortunately, the market for experimental, postmodern, high-school-dropout, ironic horror/humor is virtually non-existent.

8:  If by any chance you're actually Thomas Pynchon, please inform us immediately.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dangling By A Linguistic Thread

One of the drawbacks (one of the many, actually) of living in a foreign country is that people sometimes talk to you. Shocking perhaps, but nonetheless true. No way around it, really.  Even in a country where the indigenous inhabitants generally abhor outsiders, consider them overly provocative, prone to rash and unpredictable verbal outbursts. And it's usually the deep, existentially challenging sort of stuff they want to talk about - can you eat fermented soybeans? do all Americans carry guns?
And you're thinking, damn, I wish I had my gun with me right now.
Adopting an expression that conveys scary intensity, or some quasi-dangerous version of mental illness, doesn't much help either.  Basically, people can't resist the urge to talk, even if it's to someone they consider the last person on Earth they'd care to speak with.

 Namely me.

I've tried wearing a sign around my neck conveying in several languages that I definitely do not want to talk to anyone, about anything, under any circumstances. There's always some guy who has to walk up and talk about the sign.
"So, like, what's with the sign?"
I point to the sign.
"Yeah, right. So, like, what does it mean?"
"It means," I say through gritted teeth, "fuck off!"
"So you do want to talk."
"Only to insult you and your entire family. Is that your wife over there? She's not pretty, not even a little bit."
"Yeah, tell me about it. She can't cook either. You married? Does your wife wear a sign? I wish mine would wear one."
At which point I remove the sign and begin whacking him atop the head with it.

Due to a brain injury suffered in childhood my primary foreign language processing center tends to be erratic; it splutters, yawns, fades in and out on a misguided neuronal whim. Most people's F.L.P.C.'s resemble a smoothly functioning computer network manned by highly efficient, smiling nanobots; mine looks like a telephone switchboard from the 1950's, run by one tiny, demented leprechaun. So when I'm forced to listen to someone talking in one of these jargon-riddled lingos, a typical sentence comes through something like this: 

 word - word - void - word - void - void - word (maybe) - void - word - void - void - void - word

And that's on a good day. By the time I've weighed all the variables and pasted together a possible meaning the speaker has generally given up and stormed off in a repressed rage.

I occasionally have the opportunity of spending a brief amount of time in a rather small room with several Chinese people (I know, it sort of sounds like a punishment, and in a way it is). They generally pretty much ignore me, but just having to observe them interact amongst themselves can be disconcerting. Chinese is a fairly aggressive-sounding language, laced with no small amount of barking and spitting; combine this with the Chinese person's proclivity to stand very close to anyone he or she is speaking with and the whole thing starts feeling a bit like happy hour in the psycho ward.
Anyway, recently one of them broke protocol, got close enough to actually touch noses with me and commenced what I can only describe as an all-out linguistic assault, Cantonese style, complete with waterworks.  Content, of course, was mostly elusive - the withered neurons in my foreign language center having immediately begun waving little white flags - but I definitely sensed a threat in progress; some sort of tirade perhaps on the corrupting influences of American culture, or possibly a not so subtle boast of emerging global Chinese superiority.

So I said,  "Oh yeah? Well at least where I come from people don't eat dogs."
"Dog?" he said in English. "I like dog."
"Why am I not surprised?"
"You have dog?"
"Like I might give you that information."
"I love a puppy."
"You monster!" 

Turns out that the guy keeps a Chocolate Lab as a pet and had merely come over to me to ask if I'd care for a cup of tea.

Not that sticking exclusively to one's native tongue ensures risk-free communication.

Recently I was foolish enough to attempt downloading the updated, 'new and improved' version of Skype, which surprisingly was simple enough, until the new version demanded my password.
My, uh ...
I have no idea.
What's the point of a secret password if it's so easy to remember?

Long story short, I had to open a new Skype account and choose a new password, which I can't exactly recall now, but that's neither here nor there. The only problem was that all the contact information from the original account had vanished. Okay, no big deal.  I want to call my daughter, so all I have to do is go into the Skype phone book and find her name. Except that there are like a hundred Skype users with the same name. How is that even possible? I decide to go into 'Skype Help' and inquire.

How is that even possible? I ask.
Everything is possible with the new and improved version of Skype, Skype informs me.
What now?
Start calling numbers. You have nothing better to do, and who knows, you may get lucky.

Call 1:
"Hello, this is your father."
Sustained silence.... "Look, just because my mother was stupid enough to marry you, like what, a month after my real father's bizarre death in that chicken coop, doesn't mean you're my father now."
"Well, I ..."
"And if you're calling to ask me to set you up again with one of my friends, just forget it."
"Uh ..."

Call 2:
"Uh, hi. This is your Dad."
"What? Are you out?"
"Of prison. Ma said another five years. At least that's what she's hoping."
"Uh, I am out, but I'm chained to the, uh, chicken coop."
"And just so you know, Dad, I never believed you mugged all those old women."

Call 3:
"Hello, it's Daddy."
"Oh, so that's your thing today."
"My ... thing?"
"The Daddy fantasy. Okay, Daddy, but I have to tell you that I've been a very bad girl."
"Well I hope it had nothing to do with the mugging of the elderly."
"Okay, look, the naughty little girl thing I get. But the elderly? No way!"
"But ..."
"Screw you, weirdo!"

And all of a sudden the void starts looking a lot more appealing....