Sunday, April 28, 2013

208 Words About Parts 6, 11, and 12 of "Shadow Spinner" by Andrew Leon (Random Word Reviews)

Reading these books is like when you wake up in the middle of the night and thought you heard something, but it's all quiet.

And then something shrieks to high heaven and attacks you from behind.

That is the only way I can describe the actual physical feeling I get as I work through each installment of this serialized horror story.  Each section contains the requisite scares and horror imagery that Leon does masterfully: the man with no eyes, shadows with a rubbery physicality,  holes in reality appearing, corpses dragging themselves through broken windows.

But underlying all of that is this deeply unsettling feeling that there's something even MORE scary coming down the road, a sense that seems to come through by part 12 (which is as far as I've gotten so far) when a literal new world opens up, and the idea that all the creepy things that happened so far as merely precursors to even creepier things seems to be coming true.

The story works on two levels, as the best horror does: constant frights from the bevy of monsters and supernatural events, but setting up a fight over souls and worlds that raises the stakes even higher.  This book is shaping up to be a masterpiece.


Art by Rusty Webb,
at The Blutonian Death Egg

In Random Word Reviews, I get a pre-determined number of words, chosen randomly, between 1-750, to review something.  Read more of them here.

"Shadow Spinner" and "Andrew Leon" were also mentioned in all these other posts about serialized stories, his excellent Christmas/horror story (hard to pull off!) and his other great book, The House On The Corner, which he answered 10 1/2 questions about.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Your Saturday Morning Feel-Good Song.

Suitable for:
-- hearing on a Friday, but saving until today to post.
-- Making plans to go check out a new playground later on today.
-- Deciding to go swimming instead.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Maybe I'm getting a little lax on the rhyming thing? (Poems 32 and 33)

But whattaya gonna do about it, huh? That's what I'd like to know.

These poems are part of the many moods of a Friday:

Hot Actress: Elizabeth Banks
(ALSO: NSFW? Sorry that's a bit late.)

A Note on Absence

by Martin Corless-Smith

The story over having wished it otherwise

The water surface/friendship

The drunk euphoric

Good Friday music

Not in this lifetime

A fig tree grows

No miserable deed will do

Space and time, dimensions that just bring more of this

For anyone who has a nose

Show gratitude

A king sat in a box

8 p.m. Friday

rain defeating snow

a space too narrow to pass through

Hot Actor:
Chris Hemsworth

I wish I'd written this poem.  I'm glad I read it:

Battle of Will & Exhaustion, Mother & Child

  by Jenny Factor

Two knights surrounded by dinosaurs
are cornered in the kitchen--all threat and bluster.
Action figures always act
even as night tries to soothe them under.

I am the one who laid a nervous hand
on a child's exhausted threat and bluster.
The bunk bed creaks as the story settles,
as night's cool hand tries to soothe us. Under

a Seussian drone I am thinking, anxious,
about someone with a nervous hand.
Will he sleep? Will he sleep? When will he sleep?
The bunk bed creaks as the shipboard settles.

What is the myth of a woman alone
who's thinking through Seuss? Her thoughts are drones
serving a terrible queen of their own.
Can she sleep? Will she sleep? When will she sleep?

The toilet's crystalline drip and the ghosts
of the walls are a myth. And this woman, alone,
is a captain steering too close to the rocks
where the ocean is serving a terrible queen.

Up on the cliff of a Friday midnight
the toilet's crystalline drip and the ghost-
ly snore of the sleepy one riding his dragons
can steer this sad captain away from her rocks.

"Rock me to sleep," cries the wild girl at twenty
up on the cliff with a young man at midnight.
Far below, waves from the sea of Alaska
snore back and forth filled with moon's breath and dragon.

Up on the cliff of a Friday's midnight,
rock me to sleep with the sound that the fridge makes.
Warmth of a tub, hole of a drain.
Memories sleep in the seas of Alaska.

Action figures always act
upon the cliff of a Friday's midnight.
Warmth of a bird's heart. Chill of a stone.
Two knights surrendered. The dinos snore.

Hot actress:
Malin Ackerman

I had another one, but it was long and I'll leave it for another Friday, perhaps.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

I'm too old for this crap. (Sundays With The Classics)

I really think this time I might quit reading Ulysses for good.

I have rarely given up on a book, because I don't like to start a book and then stop a book, but I honestly cannot see the point of continuing to struggle through this book.  Why am I doing it? I keep asking myself.

Once a week, I force myself to sit down and read one of the current classics, and I use that term loosely, and in that sentence, or I suppose it's a clause, there is the root of the problem:  I force myself.

Has anything good ever come of being forced to partake of entertainment? I say no.  Forcing someone to do something almost certainly deprives that thing of any entertainment value and virtually guarantees that the person will not like it.  Consider an example: suppose you are doing something.  Reading, or watching tv, or juggling, or whatever, and someone hollers at you and says "Hey, come look at/listen to/smell/experience this book/video/shoe/thing I found."  Are you predisposed to enjoy that thing? Not if you are me.  If you are me, you are probably annoyed at the person and think "Oh, god, here's two minutes of my life gone now," which says a lot about me, a lot about the kinds of things people foist off on me, and probably very little about real people and/or the real world.

But that is me, and that is the problem:  I am not enjoying Ulysses anymore, and haven't for a long time and I feel, at 35% of the way through a book, that I have given it a fair shake to turn into something and it's not.  It's really not.  It's so far away from turning into something enjoyable, in fact, that I cannot conceive of the set of circumstances under which this book would become meaningful for me to read.

The latest, and last, installment that I read consists of exactly the same freaking thing that all prior installments have consisted of.  Want to write a James Joyce novel? Here is how you do it:

A. Think of a character.
B.  Now think of 753 other people with vaguely similar sounding names.
C. Now give all 754 of your people nicknames they will use for each other.
D. Begin talking about your "main" character.
E. Randomly skip from the main character's 'adventures' to things the other 753 people are doing.
F. Introduce roughly 200 new people, all at once.
G. Have you made up some of your own words to use? Try that. It's fun!
I.  Remember that main character? So does the reader. MAKE SURE HE DISAPPEARS FOR LENGTHY PERIODS OF TIME.
F. In fact, screw the reader? Is he still working on making it through the book? Time to shift perspectives, sometimes in the same sentence! MAKE HIM WORK FOR IT.
G. Now mention that the sky is blue.

That is a James Joyce book.

There is no point to this, or at least none that couldn't have been made in a short story that might have been mildly amusing.  There is no plot structure. There is no imperative taking the reader forward.  I think it has been months, in real time, since I heard from Bloom and I cannot even remember what it was Bloom was doing.

I tried treating this book as poetry, enjoying it for the language, as I was told to do by someone, but there is a limit to even the amount of 'poetry' I can take, and I'm giving up.

I get it, James Joyce. Things were grim for Dubliners.  They were poor. They had lively minds. They thought about sex and God and death. And the town was dirty.  Or I assume I get it, because if I have gotten any meaning from your book, it was in spite of you, not because of you.

It's not even that the book was written a hundred years ago or something like that.  I mean, I know that some books are harder to read because writing styles were different and language shifts and all, but this book was written around the time that Mark Twain was writing and... probably other people were writing, too, and I've read older stuff than Joyce, and didn't find it so comically bad.  It's not like the book is 400 years old and written in old English.  It's just deliberately hard to read, and what is the point of that? Why work to make your book more difficult to read than it has to be?

I'm sitting here, and I'm actually getting more than bored, I'm getting a little annoyed, that I've spent so long working on this book, waiting for it to become something that was worth my time, something that I wasn't working to read, and it has not.  And I'm 44 years old, and I work 50 hours a week and have household chores and obligations that take up a lot of my time, so I haven't got an infinite amount of time for entertainment, and I get annoyed when some of my entertainment time is taken up with something that completely fails to be worth my while, as this book has.

When I began this post, I wasn't 100% sure I was going to quit.  Or at least I thought I wasn't 100% sure, but looking back on this, I think my mind either was made up and I didn't want to admit it, because it feels like quitting.  I don't like to quit, and I don't like to think that everyone else in the world, or at least that portion of everyone else in the world who has read Ulysses is smarter than me or better than me because they were able to read this stupid book and (maybe?) enjoy it.  But I suspect that many people who claim to have read Ulysses either did so because they were forced to or did it out of a sense of obligation, the way I picked it out, originally -- "This book is famous I must be supposed to read it"-- or maybe they're lying.  I'd be hard-pressed to believe that someone read this book purely voluntarily and also enjoyed it.  If someone made that claim to me, I'd be suspicious of them and not like them much, the way I am when people say "I never watch television."

And if everyone's reading it because we think we're obligated to read it, WHY?  I made this point a long time ago when I did a post about the crappy books we're foisting off on kids in schools, the point being that whatever merits you think you are teaching, there are better ways to teach them than forcing kids to read something.  Want to teach kids about star-crossed lovers? DO NOT USE ROMEO AND JULIET, it is hard to read and frequently boring.

Want to teach people about life in Dublin at the turn of the century, Ditto Joyce. Which would make a good name for a character in a story and I may use that one of these days, but I digress.

I am not against difficult-to-read.  Possibly one of the most difficult books I ever read was Foucault's Pendulum, by Umberto Eco, a book that was dense with mythology and which drops the reader in at the near-end of the story and the circuitously loops back around to tie everything together, and it was extremely rewarding, but that is because there is "Difficult-to-Read" in the sense that the topics are weighty and the story is complex and so forth, and there is then "Difficult-to-Read" in that the story is poorly written and stupid and made hard to read solely for the sake of being hard to read, like the way David Foster Wallace managed to make a joke of a book (literally; it was called Infinite Jest) and have critics adore it probably mostly because of the Emperor's New Clothes effect.  I put Joyce into that latter category.

And so I'm giving up on Ulysses, and, as I think of it, I'm giving up on The Odyssey, too.  I have just punched the button to remove Ulysses from my Kindle and... *pause* now I've done that with The Odyssey, too, which is not nearly as satisfying as I thought it would be, in that the little icon still remains there, staring implacably at me, so probably I should've gotten a physical copy of the book just so I could have thrown it out, like I did with Infinite Jest, the ultimate review.

There will be a new Classic, soon, that I'll begin working on.

Here's another link to that post I mentioned: The Five Best Books Schools Should Have Kids Read (And The Five Crummy So-Called Classics They Would Replace)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Your Saturday Morning Feel-Good Song

Suitable for:

-- eating that leftover cheeseburger you brought home from McDonald's last night.
-- Wondering if it will ever become spring, for real.
-- Thinking about making a giant chalk drawing on your driveway, but it's probably too cold out yet.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

It Came From Outer Space!!!!?! (Gritty Reboot)

In Gritty Reboot, I take some former thing from pop culture and remake it for our new, grimmer age.  I'm 87% certain that this is parody/fair use/something else that means I won't get sued.

It Came From OUTER SPACE!!!!?!

"You know what you have to do," the eldest said, although its words would not have translated exactly into that sentence in English, and the manner in which he spoke would have been unintelligible to anyone alive at that time who spoke English, only in part because nobody who spoke English had ever heard one of these beings speak.

Through a monitor,  the unsuspecting planet swung slowly by, their target region dipping from the glow of daylight into shadow as it swung away from the glare of the sun that helped hide the starship that had yet to be detected by the primitive devices humans used to protect themselves.

"Yes," gurgled the scout, back, a guttural and gargling sound that would not have sounded charming even without the grimace the scout made.

And then it was night below, the trip dropping swiftly and silently through the night sky while below, unsuspecting, humans prepared their dinners and had their young ones do educational tasks and broadcasts of pleasing sights and sounds were sent out over electromagnetic waves, all of these comings and goings monitored by innumerable sensors aboard the ship.

They landed in a forest, not far from an extension of the human city, and instantly set out.

They were an ancient species, and could afford to take their time, but even the longest-ranged of plans sometimes required speed, and they used haste now, as the various members of their advance group each went about their business.

Two of the elite fighting force that had been sent immediately homed in on a local stream that was fed by a spring from an underground aquifer.  Their job was easy, and within minutes they had send a tube down, down down into the darkest regions of the water, where carefully spliced viruses would lie dormant until heated by convection or sunlight or body heat, and would begin to multiply.

That was step one.

Step two was more complex, and the scout set out to begin that process, while other members of the team began the slightly-more time-consuming process of altering by 180 degrees the foliage.  The atmosphere of the planet, with its abundance of nitrogen, was suitable for short-range excursions but the life-choking oxygen, if given a chance, would, given enough time, filter into the beings' cells and begin to calcify them, turning them gray and slowly kill them.

So the team began to alter the plants physiology, working on the nearest ones, injecting substances that would in time -- 100, 200 years, enough time for the rest of the fleet to get here -- cause the plants to emit nitrogen and carbon dioxide.  This planet would be warm, and comfortingly breathable.

The scout would have to suffer for his mission.  As the ship left, to stop at other locations on the planet and alter the plants there, the water there, the scout had nothing more he could do than simply watch, and then begin his hasty descent into the settlement, where he would create the third vector -- step three.

As human authorities finally noticed the disruption in their airspace and responded too slowly, he himself made his way quickly, but without fear, down to the edge of the settlement, where he would select his targets.

His job was not as easy as the others.  The humans would not simply sit idly by and metabolize the other half of the genetic combination.  Their immune systems, so strong but now so well-understood by the scout's people after a half-century of patient study and observation, would fight the protocol.

But every system has a hack and sometimes that hack takes time, he knew.

Sometimes it takes time and time takes trust and so he worked up his plan, and when he saw the solitary boy they had chosen, he hid himself only long enough to be noticed, made himself appear harmless, and then ate the boy's foul offerings as though he were a mere pet.

* * * * * *


* * * * * *

It had been close and it had been dangerous and in the end he had suffered more than he thought he would.  He would be, he assumed, amply rewarded for the privations he had undergone, including the calcification of his body to some degree and the deprivation of company of his own kind, let alone the fact that he had almost been captured, by luck, it was true, but almost captured and almost had the tables turned on him.  IT IS US WHO STUDY AND ALTER AND ULTIMATELY IMPRISON YOU, he thought as his own near-slaves now ferried him back to the rendezvous point.

The ship was done, the seedings completed, the plan irreversible.  Temperatures would warm, carbon dioxide and nitrogen levels would rise, greater humidity and rainfall would make the swamps larger and the waters spread and his people would be more comfortable and have an easier time cultivating their own crops.

There was one more step to take.

He paused outside the doorway to the ship and looked back at these beings who felt themselves his equals, and reached out his appendage.

The second-smallest, the one who would serve to begin the downfall of humanity, cried stupidly.  It is almost, the scout mused, as though he understands what will happen.

He smiled.

He knew that was not the case.

He reached out one hand, and his finger glowed slightly as the last of the mutagens were activated within the young boy.  He was a walking diaspora of infectious agents that, combined with the water, would spread within a decade or two around the globe, a pandemic-becoming-epidemic-becoming-evolutionary, and when the remainder of the fleet got here, the idea of sentient human beings capable of doing anything other than docilely serving their masters would be but a distant legend.

"Be good," the scout told the human, and turned to get on the ship, waiting his turn to return and claim his rewards.


National Funding can help grow your business.

Small businesses can have a lot of trouble raising capital: you're a small business, after all, which means that you probably don't have a ton of customers yet, but you NEED them, and you need money to get through tight times or grow your business.

That's where a company called National Funding might be able to help.  National Funding is a reliable source for small business loans, one that won't make you go through all the formalities that bigger lenders might require.  National Funding can provide you with cash advances, equipment leases, vendor programs, and even working capital or account services.

It's kind of a one-stop shop for your small business finance needs.  And the ease with which they help you lets you stop worrying about paperwork and financing and start focusing on your business.  If you need capital, contact National Funding through that link above.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

We're supposed to be on poem 37 by now. I'm behind. Here's three more, poems 29, 30, and 31

Can you figure out what these three poems share in common?

OOoohhhh, it's a mystery! Or a pop quiz. Seems less fun that way, though. Go with mystery. Jeekies!

Oh, and today they're hot athletes because Sweetie has decided that the guy who won the Masters needs to be on here.  DOESN'T EVEN READ THIS BLOG, and she's still telling me what to do.

Marriage, amiright?

This is the guy who won the Masters. When Sweetie told me to put him in,
she said "Adam Scott, but not that Adam Scott. The guy who won the
I said: "Who is that Adam Scott?"
And she said: "Ben from Parks & Rec."
So the moral of the story is:
1. Sweetie is weirdly knowledgeable about guys named Adam Scott.
2. Winning the Masters doesn't make you "the" person with your name
3. You can have more than one moral of the story.
4. Take that, Aristotle!
To Earthward

  by Robert Frost

Love at the lips was touch
As sweet as I could bear;
And once that seemed too much;
I lived on air

That crossed me from sweet things,
The flow of--was it musk
From hidden grapevine springs
Downhill at dusk?

I had the swirl and ache
From sprays of honeysuckle
That when they're gathered shake
Dew on the knuckle.

I craved strong sweets, but those
Seemed strong when I was young;
The petal of the rose
It was that stung.

Now no joy but lacks salt,
That is not dashed with pain
And weariness and fault;
I crave the stain

Of tears, the aftermark
Of almost too much love,
The sweet of bitter bark
And burning clove.

When stiff and sore and scarred
I take away my hand
From leaning on it hard
In grass and sand,

The hurt is not enough:
I long for weight and strength
To feel the earth as rough
To all my length.
This is Sasha Cohen. Not "the" Sasha Cohen.
She's a figure skater. I found her by Googling "hot girl athletes."
Now, off to delete my search history!
Atlantis—A Lost Sonnet

  by Eavan Boland

How on earth did it happen, I used to wonder
that a whole city—arches, pillars, colonnades, 
not to mention vehicles and animals—had all 
one fine day gone under?

I mean, I said to myself, the world was small then.
Surely a great city must have been missed?
I miss our old city —

white pepper, white pudding, you and I meeting 
under fanlights and low skies to go home in it. Maybe 
what really happened is 

this: the old fable-makers searched hard for a word
to convey that what is gone is gone forever and 
never found it. And so, in the best traditions of 

where we come from, they gave their sorrow a name
and drowned it.

El Dorado

This is Ryan Lochte.
He makes it in here because I made
Sweetie pick another hot athlete
and she said "Ryan Lochte,"
mostly because Mr Bunches saw
an ad for Lochte's new show
and has been going around all week
asking "What Would Ryan Lochte do?"
The moral of the story is:
Sweetie loves abs.
Also, my son's ethical and moral compass
in this world is Ryan Lochte.
by Edgar Allan Poe

   Gaily bedight,
   A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
   Had journeyed long,
   Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.

   But he grew old,
   This knight so bold,
And o'er his heart a shadow
   Fell as he found
   No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

   And, as his strength
   Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow;
   "Shadow," said he,
   "Where can it be,
This land of Eldorado?"

   "Over the mountains
   Of the moon,
Down the valley of the shadow,
   Ride, boldly ride,"
   The shade replied,--
"If you seek for Eldorado!"

Consumer Portfolio Services: "We're doing very well."

I remember an old Seinfeld joke that goes something like "Why does McDonald's keep counting? 80 billion million, always going up.  Why not just say: McDonald's, we're doing very well?"

That's what I was thinking as I read a recent review of how the stock for Consumer Portfolio Services was doing.

Consumer Portfolio Services is a specialty lender dealing in subprime auto loans; that is to say, they're a company that helps people with poor credit get auto loans, and, like the hypothetical company in Jerry's joke, they too, are doing very well.  The article that I read (that link goes to it) points out that Consumer Portfolio Services was one of the stocks that appeared to weather the recent recession very well, and  notes that while the market as a whole has been rising, there is no "market as a whole" when it comes to investing: there are stocks and stock sectors, some of which are doing better and some of which are doing worse.

The ability to ride out a recession and continue to make profits and have your stock do well speaks volumes on behalf of a company, and this company appears worth following and knowing more about.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Your Saturday Morning Feel-Good Song

Good for:

-- Playing "Mega T-Rex vs. Buzz Lightyear,"
-- Having to go and re-conquer "Plants vs. Zombies" it's a long story but I have to do this, okay?
-- Eating a PB&J sandwich. For breakfast.  (WHY DO WE NEVER HAVE PIZZA ANYMORE WHO ATE IT?)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Remember that gross part with the eye? This is grosser, and not in the cool way. (Sundays With The Classics)

Back to The Odyssey, as I continue to alternate between Homer's epic poem and the book Ulysses which is supposed to be based on Homer's epic poem but which so far as I can tell is based on everything but Homer's epic poem.

But this post is based on Homer's epic poem, and specifically about what I believe is the first ever incidence of an #Occupy movement bringing down the 1%, and also how the 1% are pretty disgusting, which we kind of suspected, right? I mean, we kind of always suspected that, right?

Yes. Yes, we did.

When last we left Odysseus, he was trapped in the cave of Polyphemus, who had been blinded, and left to die by his (Polyphemus') gods-fearing fellow cyclopi  (I was going to go with cyclopses, but how could I miss tacking a single i onto that word?)

(Get it?)

Odysseus is trapped in Polyphemus' cave, and devises as a plan to get out that they will hang onto the sheep from below to sneak past Polyphemus, who for some reason pats each sheep on the back as it walks out of the cave.

So let's think about that.

Polyphemus is aware that Odysseus, and his remaining (i.e., "not eaten") men are in the cave and that they can only get out if he moves the rock.  But Polyphemus is blind and can't find Odysseus.

So he moves the rock.

I mean, cyclopi

(I'm really onto something there.  It's cracking me up.  Well, I mean, it's making me smile a bit, which is making Mr Bunches, who is sitting across from me, wonder why I'm smiling.  BACK TO OUR ESSAY!)

aren't supposed to be the smartest tools in the barrel, I guess, but why wouldn't Polyphemus, oh, I don't know, search everywhere in the cave as best he can or maybe just pound everything with a giant fist until he kills something, or at least try that before he opens the cave?

But then, once he does open the cave, Polyphemus is able to realize that this means Odysseus and the fellas might sneak out, so he manages to block the cave door... somehow... to only let one sheep through at a time, or so one would think but he doesn't, hang on for that.

Then Polyphemus thinks "what if they try sneaking out by riding on a sheep," so he cleverly (only not really) pats each sheep on the back as they go out, and so Odysseus and the guys sneak out by clinging to the sheeps' bellies?  And Polyphemus never figures that out, either?

ALSO: Odysseus tied the sheep in threes to let his men sneak out, presumably, I'm guessing, because one sheep isn't strong enough to carry a whole Ithacan, so that blows the whole idea because now the sheep are marching out past Polyphemus in perfect three-by-three procession that would make Colonel Scheisskopf proud.*

*Catch 22 reference.

And having snuck out, with Odysseus sneaking out by hanging on the bottom of the prize ram, you'd think they'd leave well enough alone, but Odysseus taunts Polyphemus from afar, causing Polyphemus to rip the top off of a mountain and throw it, nearly sinking the ship, and when they narrowly avoid that, Odysseus then taunts him again, over his crew's protests, and gets another mountain thrown at them which splashes them back onto the beach and makes them sit and have a barbecue for a night before leaving, so that's not all bad, I suppose, except at every beachfront barbecue I've been to, someone plays reggae music and after about 48 seconds, reggae music gets monotonous and irritating and that's even before all the frat boys in their baseball hats with straight brims begin singing No Woman No Cry offkey and spilling their Bud Lite Limes onto their Reeboks.

Things get worse, then, a bit, and by "worse" I mean both "worse for Odysseus, because he is a greedy one-percenter and/or the takers on his ship don't understand how job creation works [depending on your political viewpoint]" and also I mean "worse, as in good God, Greeks, you were disgusting."

The one percent stuff: Odysseus visits an island or something where they outfit him with more ships and because he's such a happening guy they give him a bag of wind, capturing the zephyrs in a bag so that he can use them to sail to Ithaca (I've been saying Ithaca throughout this post but it just now occurs to me that I'm not entirely sure if Odysseus if from Ithaca.  On the other hand, I'm clearly too lazy to go check it out, so let's just keep on saying Ithaca.)

(NOTE: My Kindle is literally 7" from my hand as I write this.  I was not kidding about the "too lazy.")

So Odysseus keeps the bag of wind a secret from his loyal men who are after all not his men -- they were borrowed from the land of Riverdancers, remember -- but they are loyal enough to him to literally row him all over the world, so you'd think he would say "Hey, just so you know, if things get becalmed I've got this bag of wind that we could open and blow the ship where we need to go even though that would clearly not work because for every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction, so the wind would push the sails forward with the exact same force that the man holding the bag would be pushed backward, so either the ship would remain motionless or the man holding the bag would have to be left behind on a solid piece of ground or something but Newton's laws have not yet been discovered, we're still in an era where we think "earth" is an element, so CARRY ON!"

Where was I?

And Odysseus and his men ARRIVE AT ITHACA IN THIS VERY CHAPTER, they see it and it's all aglow with the home fires but for some reason they do NOT land and welcome Odysseus home, probably because that would make for a very short epic poem, and instead they anchor overnight offshore and Odysseus goes to sleep and the Not His Men find the bag he got and mutter something about how Odysseus is a king and everyone loves him and why should he get all these riches and they decide to get some of the gold out of the bag, but the bag is the Bag O' Wind, which they open and it blows them completely back to the kingdom they'd left which gave them the Bag.

Does Odysseus explain to them what happened?

He does.

Do they graciously say "Well, that's an error that could happen to anyone, here, camp out overnight, let's roast a sheep and sing No Woman No Cry?"

They do not. They get mad at him and kick him out.

Why are these people so mean? Not just because Odysseus once strapped Polyphemus to the top of the Trojan Horse to drive on vacation, or something, but probably because they are disgusting people.

Let's show Exhibit A in how disgusting the Wind Gifting People are.  Here is how they are introduced:

We came to the Aeolian isle; there dwellsAeolus, son of Hippotas, belov'dBy the Immortals, in an isle afloat.A brazen wall impregnable on all sides Girds it, and smooth its rocky coast ascends.His children, in his own fair palace born,Are twelve; six daughters, and six blooming sons.He gave his daughters to his sons to wife;They with their father hold perpetual feast

But it's not all superincest-y:

And with their consort chaste at night they sleep
On statliest couches.

So, you know, before you get too creeped out by a dad commanding his six daughters and six sons to marry, it's okay: they sleep chaste.


This installment ended the way it began: After being chased off the Land Of Incest for having the gall to have accidentally been blown back there by his money-grubbing men, the men sail to a land where they roam into a palace only to be confronted by a queen

In size resembling an huge mountain-top,
A woman, whom they shudder'd to behold
She forth from council summon'd quick her spouse
Antiphatas, who teeming came with thoughts
Of carnage, and arriving, seized at once
A Greecian, whom, next moment, he devoured.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire, and by "fire" I mean "Yet another land where giant people eat the Greeks and throw rocks at ships."

PS: I should note that I am fully aware that the picture that leads this post does not accurately reflect the actual way the Greeks escaped Polyphemus, and in fact it makes Polyphemus look not so much like a Giant Cyclops as just "A really big guy." Why an artist would choose to make The Odyssey less interesting is beyond me.  That picture ought to be titled "Some Guys Sneaking Out of Andre The Giant's Boring Survivor Watch Party."

Scott Painter knows how to change the world.

You may not immediately recognize the name Scott Painter. But you probably recognize some of his work.  He's not an artist, not in the traditional way, but he does have an impressive oeuvre.

Scott Painter is the man behind "1-800-Dentist." And  And  And  And probably a bunch more businesses that you've interacted with or which have changed the way things work for everyone.  Scott Painter has, to date, raised $1,200,000,000 -- that's billion -- in venture capital for his businesses, and you don't raise that kind of money without understanding the meta roots of business and the way venture capital works.

What Scott Painter does that I think is so phenomenal is that he upends markets, entirely.  Take "," and his later venture, TrueCar:  both of those were designed to take something that is horribly done, but commonplace, in this case car buying, and turn it into a system that works.  And both of them took on entrenched forces ranging from dealers to state legislatures to longstanding consumer habits, and changed them partially or wholly.

If you're interested in succeeding, on any level, learning more about Scott Painter is a must, because thinking like he does is tough to learn, but once you get the idea of how to truly revolutionize something by undoing it and putting it back together in a better form, you'll be on the path to success.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

For instance: everything I read when I was 17 was just a book. (Quotent Quotables)

"Already, invidiously, however, I had an inkling that the books he read were somehow not the real books."

-- From Valentine, by Tessa Hadley


Until I read this line in that short story at lunch today, I never knew how to put into words my secret suspicion that there are books, and then there are the real books.

But there are. And you know the difference when you read them.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Four poems about days (Poems 25, 26, 27, and 28 of those 365 Rhyming Poems You Should Read)

Hot Actress: Kathryn Morris
Holy Thursday

by William Blake

Is this a holy thing to see
In a rich and fruitful land,
Babes reduced to misery
Fed with cold and usurous hand?

Is that trembling cry a song?
Can it be a song of joy?
And so many children poor?
It is a land of poverty!

And their sun does never shine.
And their fields are bleak & bare.
And their ways are fill'd with thorns.
It is eternal winter there.

For where-e’er the sun does shine,
And where-e’er the rain does fall:
Babe can never hunger there,
Nor poverty the mind appall.

Hot actor: Johnny Messner

  by Edna St. Vincent Millay

And if I loved you Wednesday,
   Well, what is that to you?
I do not love you Thursday—
   So much is true.

And why you come complaining
   Is more than I can see.
I loved you Wednesday,—yes—but what
   Is that to me?
- See more at:

Hot Actress: Kaley Cuoco

  by W. S. Merwin

My friend says I was not a good son
you understand
I say yes I understand

he says I did not go
to see my parents very often you know
and I say yes I know

even when I was living in the same city he says
maybe I would go there once
a month or maybe even less
I say oh yes

he says the last time I went to see my father
I say the last time I saw my father

he says the last time I saw my father
he was asking me about my life
how I was making out and he
went into the next room
to get something to give me

oh I say
feeling again the cold
of my father's hand the last time
he says and my father turned
in the doorway and saw me
look at my wristwatch and he
said you know I would like you to stay
and talk with me

oh yes I say

but if you are busy he said
I don't want you to feel that you
have to
just because I'm here

I say nothing

he says my father
said maybe
you have important work you are doing
or maybe you should be seeing
somebody I don't want to keep you

I look out the window
my friend is older than I am
he says and I told my father it was so
and I got up and left him then
you know

though there was nowhere I had to go
and nothing I had to do
- See more at:

Hot Actor:
Robby Benson.

  by Fanny Howe

From no nowhere not near the sea
on blue field flax
the cemetery's absolutely solitary
you and you and a third

of a pound of bread
for supper in the refectory
where I would die of hunger
if you--if soon--if on this unday--one

undoing would be undone

Danny DeMichele's book, "Complaints, Reviews, and Legal Extortion" can help you avoid the trouble it's meant to help solve.

The other day I mentioned a new book -- "Complaints, Reviews, and Legal Extortion" by Danny DeMichele, a book that can help business owners protect their online reputation.

You, as a small business owner (or large business owner!) might be thinking "yeah, well, I checked and there are no negative reviews of my business," and so you didn't go order the book,which was a mistake.

DeMichele's book doesn't just tell you what to do once a negative, often slanderous, review is posted about you.  It tells you how to avoid getting one in the first place.  As DeMichele notes on his website, oftentimes by the time a negative review is up, it's too late and way too expensive and hard to undo the damage.  The best defense is a good offense, and DeMichele's advice can help you work out a system to avoid getting negative information posted about you in the first place.

Reading about how Danny DeMichele Reviews systems can help you is well worth the cost of his book.  Go check it out and download it now.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

370 words about "Oculus," by author Michael Offutt.

In one word, I'd sum "Oculus," by Michael Offutt, as:


But I get 370 words. I'll use them all to explain.

I finished "Oculus" last night. The ending of the book being nothing so much as a headlong rush into a melee of darkness, I was getting more and more into it, feeling the excitement rise and then


the book ends, leaving you hanging until the third in the series, apparently being written right now, by which I mean it had better be being written right now, so stop reading this, Offutt. Get back to writing the third book.

"Oculus," continues the trilogy  begun in Slipstream, the plot of the series being "Boy discovers he has the ability to control the flow of time, and also he is the last heir of King Arthur, and there is more than one world, and demons are real, and also he is good at hockey."

(NAILED IT.  I should write book blurbs.)

That doesn't begin to describe how Oculus reads.  From the opening dreamlike gunfight the story unfolds deliberately, piece by intricately plotted piece, layering on myth, science and detail until the entire thing feels real, which is really saying something when one is talking about a book in which a giant stone mouth grinds up bodies to feed to a shadow devil that lives in a black hole.

The many characters have fully-fledged lives which make the people real, too -- and not always in a good way.  Even the main characters have flaws that balance their likeability, making them, too, real-er.  Those details come out in the backstory and mythology, too, legends and hard science mashed into each other: Oculus meshes fantasy elements with scifi so seamlessly it was like reading Foucault's Pendulum co-authored by Larry Niven. Those details, though, don't detract but rather feed the story, which is driven by  adrenaline-producing action setpieces ranging from hockey games to the incredible battle at the end.  Oculus is something you can keep going back to, re-reading and soaking up details, and that's good because until Offutt gets that third book out, I and his other readers are going to have to live with doing just that.

(Done, with four words left over!)


In Random Word Reviews, I get a random number of words to review something.  Now aren't you glad you asked? Find more reviews like this here.

Read 10 1/2 questions With Michael Offutt, and my review of his first book, here.


Saturday, April 06, 2013

Your Saturday Morning Feel-Good Song:

Good for:

-- Playing checkers with Mr Bunches
-- Not yet starting to clean up your office.
-- Wondering how early is too early to go for Cheeseburgers.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

"The crocodiles that live in the bathtub." (You Really Ought To Read)

Picture from Lightspeed.
I read somewhere once that if a writer is going to write about magic, the writer should have a uniform system of magic all worked out with all its rules and logics and the like so that it makes sense.

Which at first I thought "yeah, sounds good, right, makes sense," but then I read Give Her Honey When You Hear Her Scream, which presents the counter to that idea not in argument form, but in the manner of a story that still sticks under my skin, in a good and creepy and unsettling and did I say "great" already? way.

Give Her Honey When You Hear Her Scream, by Maria Dahvana Headley, is a chilling, and I'm using that word exactly correctly, short story about what happens when two people fall in love and begin an affair -- the twist being that the two people are each married to magicians they are now cheating on.

The story alternates at first between softly beautiful passages outlining the start of the affair:

They meet at someone else’s celebration, wedding upstate, Japanese paper lanterns, sparklers for each guest, gin plus tonic. They see each other across the dance floor. They each consider the marzipan flowers of the wedding cake and decide not to eat them.
Notes on an eclipse: Her blue cotton dress, transparent in the sunlight at the end of the dock, as she wonders about jumping into the water and swimming away. His button-down shirt, and the way the pocket is torn by his pen. Her shining hair, curled around her fingers. His arms and the veins in them, traceable from fifty feet.

And darker passages about their spouse's discovery -- as one would expect -- of the affair:

And so, say his wife is a witch. A cave full of moonlight and black goats and bats, housed in a linen closet in the city. Taxicabs that speak in tongues and have cracked blinking headlights and wings. An aquarium full of something bright as sunlight, hissing its way up and out into the apartment hallway, and a few chickens, which mate, on occasion, with the crocodiles that live in the bathtub.
Like that.
Say she knew about this too, from the moment she met her man, foretold the mess in a glass full of tea, the heart-shaped, crow-footed face of this woman who is nothing like the witch.
The night the two true-lovers meet, his wife is sitting in their shared apartment. Coffee grounds shift in the bottom of her cup. A yellow cat streaks up the fire escape, shrieking a song of love and lamentation. The witch’s hair tangles in her hands, and she breaks the knot, tears the strands, throws them from the window and down into the neighbor’s place, where he, wide-eyed, elderly, and stoned on criminal levels of pot, drops the witch’s hair into the flame of his gas stove and leaves it be while it shoots fireworks over the range and sets off the smoke detector.

The thing about this story is not just that it imagines such a story, and imagines what the magician and the witch, scorned and alone, plan to do, but that it places the story in a world where those kinds of things, magicians and witches, and coexist with lovers who meet at a wedding -- but then it turns that world darker and more scary.

It's that latter part that makes the story so memorable, and so worth reading.

There's really two ways you can go with magic, after all: you can go with magic being cuddly and cute, as in Narnia and Harry Potter.  Even with its Dementors and Voldemort's lack of a nose, after all, the world of Hogwarts remains rooted in a fairy-dust, Disneyfied magical world of flying trains and jumping chocolate frogs and a hero who cannot, after all, be killed and so was never in any real danger after all.

There are no talking beavers or letter-bearing owls in Give Her Honey.  There is this, on a date with a magician:

The magician shuffles a deck of cards, very pissed off. The cards have altered his fingerprints. Scars from papercuts, scars from paper birds and paper flowers, from candle-heated coins, and scars from the teeth of the girls from whose mouths he pulled the category Things They Were Not Expecting.
Turns out, no woman has ever wanted to find a surprise rabbit in her mouth.
He finds this to be one of many failings in his wife. Her crooked nose, her dominant left hand, her incipient crow’s feet. He hates crows. But she is his, and so he tries to forgive her flaws.
His wife has woken sometimes, blinking and horrified, her mouth packed with fur. No one ever finds the rabbits. His wife looks at him suspiciously as she brushes her teeth.
Sometimes it hasn’t been rabbits. When they first met, years and years ago, she found her mouth full of a dozen roses, just as she began to eat a tasting menu at a candlelit restaurant. She choked over her oyster, and then spat out an electric red hybrid tea known as Love’s Promise. By the end of evening, she was sitting before a pile of regurgitated roses, her tuxedoed magician bowing, the rest of the room applauding.
She excused herself to the bathroom—golden faucets in the shape of swans—to pick the thorns from her tongue. And then sometime later, what did she do?

That is genius. The magic in Give Her Honey is not just powerful, but it is in the hands of people who get pissed off, it is unfathomable by normal people because it is wielded by someone who thinks it is romantic to choke his date with roses.  This magic is real, more real than the magic in many other books, because it exists in the real world, and is not a trick: the roses, the rabbits, they aren't produced by sleight-of-hand but are actually in the woman's throat and you get a feel for how uncomfortable it would be to live with that kind of magic possible.

Then the story gives you a feel for what it would be like to live in a world with that kind of magic, magic that makes you uncomfortable and hurts at the best of times, now aimed at you:

“What do you have for me?” says the magician. “I love my wife.”
“We’re past that. You’re not getting her back, unless you want half a wife and I want half a husband. Look.”
She pulls an x-ray from her bag. It’s a bird’s-eye skeletal of two people entwined in a bed, her back to his front. In the image, it’s appallingly clear that their two hearts have merged, his leaning forward through his chest, her heart backbending out of her body, and into his.
“How did you get this?” the magician says, both fascinated and repulsed.
The witch shrugs.
She hands him another image, this one a dark and blurry shot of a heart. On the left ventricle, the magician reads his wife’s name, in her own cramped handwriting. “Hospital records from forty years ago,” she says. “None of this is our fault. He was born with a murmur. Now we know who was murmuring.”
She passes him another photo. He doesn’t even want to look. He does.
His wife’s bare breasts, and this photo sees through them, and into the heart of the magician’s own wife, tattooed with the name of the witch’s own husband.
“What’s the point, then? Revenge?” he asks, removing his tailcoat, unfastening his cufflinks, and rolling up his sleeves. There’s a little bit of fluffy bunny tail stuck at the corner of the witch’s mouth. He reaches out and plucks it from her lips.
“Revenge,” she repeats. “Together forever. That’s what they want.”
She pulls out a notebook. When she opens the cover, there’s a sound of wind and wings and stamping, and a low roar, growing louder. Something’s caged in there, in those pages. Something’s been feeding on forever.

I still find myself, some months after reading this story, thinking back on it, uncomfortably.  It's worth reading, and even more worth listening to on the podcast where I heard it.  Both are available here, on Lightspeed: Click to read or listen to Give Her Honey When You Hear Her Scream.

Mirena IUD device the subject of complaints, lawsuit.

Maybe you have heard of the Mirena IUD device, a birth control method often marketed to "busy moms" through parties.  Maybe you or someone you know eve has one.  If so, you should be warned that there might be mirena side effects that are quite serious.

The FDA, according to one site, has received more than 45,000 complaints related to the Mirena IUD -- but that may be the tip of the iceberg, as it's estimated that more than 2,000,000 women in the US alone (and 15,000,000 worldwide) have the device.  Side effects it has been linked to include infection, ovarian cysts, bleeding, and even miscarriage of pregnancies and perforation of the uterine wall.

This site has information on a mirena lawsuit and information about the hazards some experts say are related to Mirena, as well as informatino on who to contact if you think you have been put at risk or already been harmed.  If you've used the Mirena device or know someone who has, it's worth checking out.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Poem 24

Hot Actress: Olivia Munn

A Drinking Song

by W. B. Yeats

Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.

INTERESTING:  On my site, "lit," where I post original short stories, long stories, and poems, the poems are the highest-page-view-getter.  That wouldn't be because of the hot actresses, though, right?

Click here to read all of my Friday's Sunday's Poems.  All original! 99.9% rhyming!

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

#(#*%^# Haiku, and also Poems 20, 21, 22, and 23 and they are sexy!

Did you  hear that the New York Times is celebrating April as Poetry Month by starting a haiku Tumblr?

No, I won't link to it because #(@&# haiku and #(#&$ Tumblr, too.

Here's some sexy poems:

Hot Actress: Evangeline Lilly
Arts & Sciences

  by Philip Appleman

"Everyone carries around in the back of
his mind the wreck of a thing he calls
his education." —Stephen Leacock

SOLID GEOMETRY Here's a nice thought we can save: The luckiest thing about sex Is: you happen to be so concave In the very same place I'm convex. BOTANY Your thighs always blossomed like orchids, You had rose hips when we danced, But the question that always baffled me was: How can I get into those plants? ECONOMICS Diversification's a virtue, And as one of its multiple facets, when we're merging, it really won't hurt you To share your disposable assets. GEOGRAPHY Russian you would be deplorable, But your Lapland is simply Andorrable So my Hungary fantasy understands Why I can't keep my hands off your Netherlands. LIT. SURVEY Alexander composed like the Pope, Swift was of course never tardy, And my Longfellow's Wildest hope Is to find you right next to my Hardy. PHYSICS If E is how eager I am for you, And m is your marvelous body, And c means the caring I plan for you, Then E = Magna Cum Laude. MUSIC APPRECIATION You're my favorite tune, my symphony, So please do me this favor: Don't ever change, not even a hemi- Demi-semiquaver. ART APPRECIATION King Arthur, betrayed by Sir Lancelot, Blamed the poets who'd praised him, and spake: "That knight's nights are in the Queen's pantsalot, So from now on your art's for Art's sake." ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM I couldn’t do Goyas or Grecos, And my Rembrandts had zero panache, But after I junked all my brushes, My canvases made quite a splash. PHILOSOPHY 1. Blaise Pascal Pascal, reflecting tearfully On our wars for the Holy Pigeon, Said, "Alas, we do evil most cheerfully When we do it for religion." 2. RenĂ© Descartes The unruly dactyls and anapests Were thumping their wild dithyrambic When Descartes with a scowl very sternly stressed: "I think, therefore iambic!" 3. Thomas Hobbes Better at thinking than loving, He deserved his wife's retort: On their wedding night, she told him, "Tom, That was nasty, brutish – and short!"


That's actually how it's written! Just like that: a paragraph.  And yet it rhymes! And it's not a stupid haiku which stupid everyone stupidly thinks they can write.

5-7-5, about nature, BINGO! It's a poem.  I hate to be like the Neil DeGrasse Tyson of poetry -- Tyson regularly and systematically attempts to take people's enjoyment of science away from them in order to prove how smart (and unlikable) he is -- but haiku is worse than free verse.


I would rather get mugged by a bunch of poetry slam beatniks than read a single haiku.

Here's another sexy poem:

Hot Actor: Christopher Meloni
The Elephant is Slow to Mate

  by D. H. Lawrence
The elephant, the huge old beast,
     is slow to mate;
he finds a female, they show no haste
     they wait

for the sympathy in their vast shy hearts
     slowly, slowly to rouse
as they loiter along the river-beds
     and drink and browse

and dash in panic through the brake
     of forest with the herd,
and sleep in massive silence, and wake
     together, without a word.

So slowly the great hot elephant hearts
     grow full of desire,
and the great beasts mate in secret at last,
     hiding their fire.

Oldest they are and the wisest of beasts
     so they know at last
how to wait for the loneliest of feasts
     for the full repast.

They do not snatch, they do not tear;
     their massive blood
moves as the moon-tides, near, more near
     till they touch in flood.


And Tumblr? Everything on Tumblr is such a one-note joke that by now, simply saying "Tumblr" means that the joke has gotten old.

Try it:

"I put on Tumblr...nevermind, I'm already bored with it."

Here's a third sexy poem:

Couple Sharing a Peach

  by Molly Peacock
Hot Actress: Kelly Carlson

It's not the first time
we've bitten into a peach.
But now at the same time
it splits--half for each.
Our "then" is inside its "now,"
its halved pit unfleshed--

what was refreshed.
Two happinesses unfold
from one joy, folioed.
In a hotel room
our moment lies
with its ode inside,
a red tinge,
with a hinge.


So DO NOT celebrate April is Poetry month with some crappy haiku about jerks.  Read REAL poems.  I've already posted 23 of them.  There's more everywhere.  Read something that takes some effort and actually attempts to convey a thought -- a thought more complex than "I can string together 17 syllables that sound profound."

Here's the fourth sexy poem:

The Hug

by Thom Gunn

Hot Actor: Ryan Reynolds
It was your birthday, we had drunk and dined
    Half of the night with our old friend
        Who'd showed us in the end
    To a bed I reached in one drunk stride.
        Already I lay snug,
And drowsy with the wine dozed on one side.

I dozed, I slept. My sleep broke on a hug,
        Suddenly, from behind,
In which the full lengths of our bodies pressed:
        Your instep to my heel,
    My shoulder-blades against your chest.
    It was not sex, but I could feel
    The whole strength of your body set,
           Or braced, to mine,
        And locking me to you
    As if we were still twenty-two
    When our grand passion had not yet
        Become familial.
    My quick sleep had deleted all
    Of intervening time and place.
        I only knew
The stay of your secure firm dry embrace.