Juicin’ my Colon like Craaaazyyy

This how I wish I felt about juice, but actually feel about fried mushrooms dipped in Ranch Dressing. I couldn't find a picture of someone looking this happy eating the fried mushrooms, though.

About 3 years ago I was in a weight losing competition that I, and my equally tubby competitors, dubbed “The Fat Off”.  It was a two month contest to see who could lose the most weight.  The rules were: No puking, No drugs.  Everything else is ok.  At the end, the losers ALL pay the winner NT$1,000 (US$33.80) per pound of the difference lost.  So, if I lose 10 pounds and you lose five, you owe me NT$5,000 (US$169).

I lost a ridiculous amount of weight and a fairly substantial amount of money.  Through various forms of self abuse, I averaged about .8 lbs per day for the two months and I still came in 17 pounds under the winner.  As much as this made my wallet hurt, when looking at my new sexy ass in the mirror, it seemed worth it at the time.  Of course, three years later, my ass is not so sexy anymore and now I just wish I had my six hundred bucks.

I won’t go through all the stages of my extended Fat Off bliss – it’s not the point of this post, but might be a good story for a later date – but I will talk about stage #2.  After the weight loss from cutting a few calories and exercising 2 hours a day plateaued, I decided to go on The Master Cleanse.

For those of you who don’t know, The Master Cleanse is a colon cleanse that is supposed to rid your of all of the toxins that build up in your body from all the chemicals that we ingest in this industrial world of ours.   What you do, is mix up some fresh lemon juice, grade B Maple syrup, pure distilled water and cayenne pepper.   You substitute this for food, and put nothing else in your body but more distilled water and, every morning, a liter of salt water to “cleanse” your system.  And by “cleanse”, I mean “rocket through your intestinal tract and spay out your sphincter 20 minutes after forcing it down your gagging throat”.

To be honest, I really didn’t give a shit about toxins.  I saw the winner of our little Fat Off pulling away and I needed something to help me play catch-up.  This article  decided it for me.  If skinny-ass Beyoncé can drop 20lbs in 2 weeks, I was certain to dump a giant load with all my fat ass had to offer (disgusting double-entendre intended).

Well, to my relief,  I did drop a load, but more than that, I found the whole experience and interesting one.  Let me recap it for you:  (not for the fecally sensitive).

Day One:  Special bathroom time is all normal.  At the end of the day, you’re a little hungry.

Day Two:  Special bathroom time is “normal” but markedly smaller than normal, except for peeing, which is like a racehorse.  At the end of the day, you’re very hungry and kind of angry.

Day Three:  Special bathroom time is non-existant, other than your morning cleanse, which might remind one of those times after school when had some Nestle Quick in the house, but no milk, and thought “Maybe I could use water and it’d be ok.”  By the end of the day you wish your spouse and children and coworkers and friends would all die because they obviously have no sympathy for your self-imposed tragedy (which you could stop at any time).  Your head hurts.  You’ve been having dizzy spells all day and you start reasoning with yourself that losing a thousand dollars on a ridiculous, spur-of-the-moment bet wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Day Four:  Special bathroom time is still null but your Morning cleanse might remind one of a clean mountain spring.  You feel…kinda awesome.

Day Five:  Day four all over.  You feel fine.  Energetic.  Clean.  No hunger pangs at all.

Day Six:  Special bathroom time is…different.  Your morning cleanse starts off like a clean mountain spring and then a torrent of black, industrial sludge from the factory upstream arrives.  Other than feeling fucking disgusted that the stuff you’re looking at came out of you, you feel fine.  No hunger and plenty of energy, but your tongue has turned white.  Paper white.  It looks like it’s been dusted with cocaine.  This would normally worry you, but you read on the internet that this is normal and, always trusting what strangers with no medical degrees say, you feel that things are progressing splendidly.

Day Seven: Special bathroom time isn’t the crime scene that it was on Day Six, but there is still some nasty in your nethers and you feel only a little less gross than yesterday.  Otherwise, everything is fine.  No hunger.  Lots of energy.  Tongue still white.

Day Eight: Special bathroom time is back to looking like an Ozarka commercial.  You still feel ok.  Your energy is not bouncing you off the walls, but it’s certainly at a higher level than you’d have after Thanksgiving dinner.  Your tongue is white.

Day Nine is a continuation Day eight.

Day Ten: your tongue turns to a nice, healthy pink and your body is “cleansed” of all toxins.  Dr. Internet says so, so you know it’s true.

Once I got past the third day, it was so easy that I probably would have kept going with it, had my weight-loss not plateaued again, forcing me to resort to more desperate, and less comfortable methods to keep my family out of the poor house.

However, after the whole experience, I thought I would do a cleanse once every year or two.  It was the gunk that spewed out of me on day 5 that convinced me that it might be a good idea because, whatever that shit was, it could not be healthy to have it sitting around inside of me.  Another affirmation that  I want to do this on a semi-regular basis came about a year ago when a buddy of mine told me that his father almost died because of a perforated intestine, caused from crap sitting around up in him (which is the medical term for it…sorry laymans, you’ll have to look it up to understand).

I know that there are high-fiber diets that are a lot easier and apparently just as good for scrubbing out your innards, but I do like the weight loss aspect as well.  Yes, naysayer, I know that it’ll come back quickly because my metabolism will have lowered and blah blah and my blah will blah blah.  But I tell myself it’s the beginning of a change in lifestyle and I can have a metamorphosis like Jared Leto in those pics from that link I posted above.  I know I’ve said that to myself before and it was all lies, but this time it’s different.  This time I’ve changed.  I know I’ve done some bad stuff to me, but I didn’t mean it…I just get so crazy jealous sometimes that I can’t help it.  When I think of myself with someone else and I just…..

I also just wonder if I can actually do it.  If my will was as iron-clad as I always like to imagine it to be.

So, On Monday I got together all my lemons and waters and syrups.  Actually, since China seems to hate Maple trees, this time I’m using honey as the sweetener, which some fake internet-doctors say is ok and some are staunchly against.  I’m going to take my chances with it though, since eating pollen that has been regurgitated by bees seems every bit as ‘natural’ as eating tree sap.

Anyway, Tuesday morning I filled up my liter bottle of goodness and headed to work, ready to take over the world.  By Tuesday afternoon I had come up with 57.3 reasons that this just wasn’t the right time for a lemon cleanse and I went home that evening wondering if I was going to make it through dinner.

I made it through about 2 minutes of dinner before my iron-will crumpled like a wet paper sack.  Sure, my boss had called that day and said he would be in the office the next day through Friday, and I needed to “be at my best”.  And, no, I wasn’t expecting the caffeine-withdrawal headache that I felt coming on at around 4:30, and, yes, the thought of suffering through that AND hunger pangs for 3 days seemed too much to bear.  But none of that changes the fact that I’m a giant, sniveling puss who would probably break in an interrogation before they finished strapping me down to the torture chair, whatever a ‘torture chair’ is.

Maybe if I agreed to give someone an obscene amount of money if I don’t make it to the end of the cleanse, my balls would drop and I could make it more than 14 hours.

I plan on starting again on Friday.  That way, most of my angry hunger tantrums can happen over the weekend, safely away from my workplace.  Also, if I start Friday Morning, my caffeine withdrawal headaches will be in full-swing by Saturday and starting to subside by Monday morning.

I will keep you all posted on my misery.

IN WRITING NEWS…  I received more very positive news from the agent’s office, but have yet to hear from the agent himself.  About three weeks ago, I decided to show some gumption and some range by writing another spec script and sending it in, unsolicited.  So, I picked a very different show than I wrote last time and gave it a go.  It took me about 10 days to write and revise an hour long script to one of my favorite shows.  I think it turned out awesome, but I always tend towards thinking I (and I related things) am more awesome than other people do, so who knows.  I sent it in a little more than a week ago and am already thinking about working on another spec for another show (maybe a half hour comedy) to show even more gumption and range.  I can’t decide if I would come across as a go-getter or just pushy and annoying.  After all, they already have four samples of my writing.

IN FOREIGN SERVICE NEWS:

I took the Foreign Service test last Saturday and it felt about the same as it did last time: not easy, but not hard.  I passed it last time, so maybe that’s a good sign.  Or maybe I’m just thinking I’m awesome again and I actually bombed it.  We’ll see in three to five weeks.  I’ll keep you posted on that too.

Alright.  That’s about it.  The next time you hear from me, I’ll be starving and angry.

Published in: on February 15, 2012 at 9:38 am  Comments (2)  

Progenirator X (Y)

I’ve been on a brief hiatus from the blog. “Brief” being 4 months or more. I’d like to be able to tell you that I have been polishing up the great american novel, working on a screenplay or curing cancer but since there are only 3 people who read this blog, and they all know me pretty well, you probably already know that these are all lies. Lies, I tell ya.

One thing I have been doing is making babies. It seems my sperm just can’t be stopped (especially when I don’t bother taking any precautions to stop them). Since Spawn #2 popped out, Wife and I have been loosely debating whether we were going to go for #3, and now it seems the discussion is over and for the past four months I’ve been spending most of my spare moments thinking things like “Wholly shit, our house is going to be loud!”, “I guess it’s time to schedule that vasectomy.” and “I hope they’re all good in school, because there’s no way I’ll ever afford college.”

You probably know that China has a one-child policy. This doesn’t effect me at all, since both my wife and I are dirty foreigners. We can pump out as many rugrats we can fit into our double-wide, and the Central Committee wouldn’t even think of forcing my sweet bride into a glorious state-supported back room abortion. However, one thing that being in China does effect is that the doctors can’t tell us the sex of the baby.

It’s very important to a lot of Chinese to have sons and pass on the family name.  Since China has a one-child policy, a lot of families, who find out that they have a fetus of the vaginal persuasion, were, until recently, faced with the possibility of their long family line fizzling out. So, to keep the unthinkable from happening, many women would get that potentially disastrous vaga-fetus scraped right out of them in the hopes that the future might bring a more penally robust fetus into their wombs.

The result of this sound practice that China will have around 40 million more marriage-aged men than women in the next 10 years. If you’re a woman (who happened to avoid being aborted), this is a pretty sweet situation.  You’ll have plenty of choices in your search for someone to make your own fetuses with.  But the fact that there will be more than 40 million lonely, horny dudes roaming around the countryside within the next few years makes me want to get my 2 daughters out of here before they hit puberty.

I digress.  The point I was trying to make is that because so many people here seem abortion crazy if their genetic coin flip ends up tails (pun not intended, but still appreciated), China put in a policy forbidding doctors from telling parents the sex of the baby.  This makes sense to me.  It’s a horrific practice that is causing a fairly large social problem.  Keeping doctors from telling parents the sex seems a small price to pay if it solves the problem.  But as a foreigner, of course I’d like to be exempt for any local laws that I find inconvenient.  After all, I have  two wonderful daughters who I loves very much, and are long past aborting age.  Neither my wife or I are Chinese citizens.  I thought, surely, they’d tell us.  As someone who can’t see a gift with my name on it without peeking under the wrapping, I had no intention of waiting until next Summer to find out what was under the tree, so I encouraged Wife to beg, cajole and bribe the doctor, but nope.  No special treatment for us.

Just as I was about to accept that there was no way to weasel my way into my Wife’s womb to take a sonogram-enhanced peek at my kid’s privates, I remembered that we were all spending Xmas in S. Korea with some very close friends of ours.  An appointment was set up, and  one plane ride, one car ride, 35 bucks and 30 minutes in the waiting room later, I was told we are having a boy.  The doctor even drew a circle around it, drew and arrow to said circle and wrote “penis” on the sonogram print out, so either it’s a boy or she’s got a superfluous appendage.

I’m so curious about how this is going to change the atmosphere  in our house.  Right now, with two girls, it’s all squeals, giggles and drawing on each other’s faces with crayons and saying it’s “make up”.  I wonder how much chaos a boy is going to bring into the mix.

If he’s anything like I was as a boy, probably a lot.

In writing news:

There’s nothing solid to tell, but I did get a very exciting email from an agent’s assistant at one of the largest talent agencies in Los Angeles.   A buddy of mine made the intro and I sent in a spec script a few months ago.  In early Dec. she sent an extremely flattering email back.  I won’t give details because I’m sure it will jinx it, but I’ve read the thing a couple hundred times since receiving it and it still brings a smile to my face every time.

What does it actually mean?  Maybe nothing…maybe everything.  Her boss (big shot Hollywood agent) has been told about me and my spec script and it’s on his reading list.  I’ve also been asked for, and given, other examples of my work.  So, everyone keep your fingers crossed for little Hinesy.

In other news:

I’m taking the Foreign Service test again on Feb 11th.  Wish me luck.  But wish me more luck on the script.  Diplomats are cool and all, but they can’t work in their underwear like a writer can.

Published in: on January 6, 2012 at 5:38 am  Comments (2)  

Bathrooms, Computers and Spankin’ that A**

One really awesome thing about living in China is, occasionally, you’ll get a nice big healthy case of the runs.  Actually, I shouldn’t limit this to China.  I’m not admitting I’ve actually gone doodie in mine own pants, because that would be far too embarrassing, but I will say virtually everyone I know who has traveled extensively- and everyone I’ve actually asked – has sharted in their underoos at least once.  It goes with the territory.

Today is one of those special days.  No sharting (don’t go getting all excited) but I have had a couple dozen trips to the back to spend some time with myself.  Of course, this has not gone unnoticed by my coworkers, and that brings us to another perk of living in China.  People talk openly about bodily functions.  Of course, in my mind, this makes total sense.  Everybody poops (if you haven’t read the book, you should).  Everyone vomits.  Everyone farts, burps, digs boogers out of their nose and at least half the population lets the occasional queef.  We all do it – so my mind tells me – what’s the big deal with talking about it?

Well, apparently it’ s more than my Victorian upbringing can handle because when I was coming back from my 47th trip to the bathroom this morning, and my Chinese coworker says, both loudly and with sincere concern, “Oh, Hinesy, I think you really have the serious diarrhea.” I really couldn’t do anything but laugh as I kept walking to my office.

He had no way of knowing that when I’m embarrassed, uncomfortable or scared, I tend to burst into laughter (I have no idea why) and he probably thought that he’d made some sort of strange foreigner connection with me because then, every other time strolled by him – trying very hard to seem casual, like it wasn’t unbelievably urgent for me to get to a commode as soon as humanly possible – he would say,  “Ohh.  To the bathroom again!?” and then smile and laugh in a “our friendship just reached a whole new level.” kind of way.  I would then just shake my head, laugh some more, and waddle down the hall with my butt pinched-tight.

It’s been an awesome day.

Writing update!

None, Zilch, Zip, Nada.

My sweet and shiny Macbook is at the Macbook doctor’s.  Generally it’s fine, but my AppleCare runs out in February and I want to get as much stuff fixes on it as possible while it’s free.  This time it’s a new trackpad and a new screen.  Is there anything REALLY wrong with either?  Hmmm… saying “no” might make me a fraud, but I admit it was nothing that would keep me from using it.  However, I’ve paid enough for that AppleCare and I want my moolah’s worth.

It’s been there for four days now and I’ve no idea when it will be back in my loving arms.  I’ve been using other workstations, while at work, and sneaking bits of time on my wife’s computer, but nothing with enough time to do any writing or editing.  Besides, all my stuff is on my computer…an writing on someone else’s computer feels dirty, and not in a good way.  Even doing this blog on another computer feels a little like cheating.

The last part of this blog was going to be a heartfelt defense of spanking your children, but quipping about today being one, long, never ending bowel movement has taken far too long.   You’ll have to read about me beating my children next time.

No, I don’t really beat my children, sicko.

Published in: on September 8, 2011 at 8:53 am  Comments (2)  

What the tense?

 

I’m looking out my window right now and the sun is shining, the sky is blue, there are some puffy white clouds on the horizon…and it’s pouring down rain.  It’s such a strange sight.  Kind of magical.  I like to imagine that it’s somehow intentional.  That it’s nature’s way of tricking us into running outside without an umbrella and getting soaked.

This has nothing to do with my intended post, but I thought it was worth a mention.

On to the point…  As you probably know, if you’ve read any of my previous blog entries, I’m working on a mystery novel.  I’ve written the first small chapter and have since been outlining.  All that is going fine, except for my plot keeps running perpendicular to my tense.

For whatever reason, I chose to write this book in 1st person.  It’s something I’ve never done before.  I went through some of my old writing and I’ve never written in 1st person before.  I chose the perspective because it’s a very intimate story and I thought 1st person would match the tone I’m trying to achieve.  Part of me also wonders if it subconsciously has something to do with all the blogging I’ve been doing.  Who knows.

When I’m writing, everything goes swimmingly.  It’s a very comfortable tense to work in, much like telling a bedtime story to my two spawn; except a bit more graphic.  However, 1st person just so incredibly limiting.  While outlining, I’ll come up with a great idea that I will quickly realize is impossible to show in the 1st person.  Structurally, it’s a much more challenging tense to work in.  In fact, part of me has started resenting 3rd person; looking down on it for it’s sloth.  3rd person doesn’t have to think about how to fit tidbits of information in.  All you have to do is throw it in there.  Is something happening 437 miles away from your protagonist while he happens to chained and dangling over a pool of electric eels?  No problem, you just cut-away and let that plot-building, suspense-creating tidbit be known to the world.  But in 1st person, you’re stuck inside the hero’s head as he wonders how the hell he’s going to keep from being electrocuted eel bait… which is still very interesting, but not so revealing.

I recently finished Child 44 (which I enjoyed immensely) and it was an excellent example of how beneficial 3rd person can be in the mystery genre.  I don’t want to talk too much about it, in case you haven’t read it, but the back story, the secret life of the killer, the ‘surprise’ twist at the end – it would have been impossible to get to any of those places in 1st person.  It would have just been Ex-Agent Leo Demidov running around from clue to clue like a connect-the-dots puzzle.

I’m not about to run off and change tenses or anything – I still believe that 1st person best fits the tone of my story – but man, it’s presenting much more of a challenge than I thought it would.

Published in: on August 30, 2011 at 5:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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Thanks for the Vocabulary Lesson, Mr. Miéville.

Right now I am about 20% through with Perdido Street Station by China Miéville.  I’m not done with the book, so this isn’t going to be a review, exactly.  I’m definitely not going to alert you to any spoilers, so please feel free to read on without fear.

I was looking for something to read after finishing the worst Steinbeck novel of all time, and had a hankering for some Sci-Fi.  Other than Robert Heinlein, I don’t really have any favorite Sci-Fi authors, so I did what I always do when I don’t know what to read next; I Googled “best <insert genre here> novels” and then browsed what I found.

Perdido Street Station was on one of the lists I came across.  It has won the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, The British Fantasy Society’s award, The Arthur C. Clarke Award and about 15 others, so I thought I’d give it a try.

It’s not the first time I came across China Miéville.  Ordered The Scar from Amazon about two years ago.  If I’m being honest, it was probably because I liked his name.  It conjured images of an exotic half-Asian, half-French female, both brilliant and beautiful.  The perfect candidate for a literary crush.

No, I didn’t bother to look-up a readily available image on the web.  Yes, I was secretly a bit put-off when the book arrived and the picture on the back was of a muscular, bald, gruff-looking man with a row of earrings in his left-ear and a scowl that I wouldn’t want to bump into in a dark alley.  No, I’m not going to admit that this triviality is why I didn’t read The Scar.  Let’s just say I never got around to it.

So, back to the point of this entry:  Vocabulary.

I have a pretty solid vocabulary.  My spelling is bad and my punctuation is embarrassing, but when I see a word (in English), 9.99 times out of 10 I know what it means.  But before I got to the 2% mark in Perdido Street Station I’d had to look up 15 words.  Here they are, below:

desultory, morbific, chitinous, cacophony (though, I thought I know this one and was right upon looking it up), salubrious, detumescing, outre, epigone, thaumaturge, nascent, carapace, susurrus, transmorgify, expostulate, dusultory.

To be fair, it’s entirely possible that I’m just an idiot and that everyone reading this post knows these words off the top of their heads.  But I’m going to assume I’m not alone here and move forward.

And to continue being fair, a few of these words are scientific in nature, and although I might have learned “chitinous” and “carapace” in high school biology, when we were going over arthropods, I’ve long forgotten them.

However, most of these words could be substituted for more commonly used vocabulary.  For example, “susurrus” means “whispering, murmuring or rustling”.  So, why not just use whispering, murmuring or rustling?  If I want to describe how two characters disagree about something, why not just show the disagreement without adding that they are “expostulating”?  Why say “desultory” when you can just say “erratic”?

Sure, if I want a succinct way to describe a man losing his erection, then “detumescing” is definitely the word for me, but is it really that succinct if the reader has to pause reading, get pulled from the world of the story, so they can look the word up?

So, basically, either Mr. Miéville just happens to have an outstanding vocabulary or his thesaurus is ever by his side and he wants you to think  he’s got an outstanding vocabulary .  Let’s assume the former, because the latter makes him kind of a douche.  Although it doesn’t sound it, I am enjoying the book and thus want to think well of the writer.

For the sake of argument, we’re going to assume that China Miéville won his 5th grade spelling bee and all of those definitions his overbearing dad made him memorize have stayed with him.  Should he, and writers like him, dumb down the vocabulary of a work so it is more accessible to a wider-variety of people? Surely, the folks down in the Marketing dept. would say yes.  But from an artistic viewpoint….

I’m split on the issue.  Part of me thinks that if he wants to throw out “salubrious” when he could use “healthy”, then he should do it.  It’s his book, after all.

And that same part of me is appreciative of of the lesson.  After all, I can now casually use “salubrious” in a sentence and impress my friends.  But should I use it in my writing?

The larger part of me thinks not.  For me, the point of my writing – my ultimate goal – is to draw the reader into the story so they become lost in it.  This is hard to do if the reader has to think “Wait…what does that mean?  I think I know, but I’d better look it up to make sure.”

Surely, there are always going to be obscure words you can use to make your descriptions more specific and clear and it is easy to assume that this would help crystalize the world you are trying to create…but a lot of that clarity is lost if your target audience doesn’t know what your talking about.

Recently, I was reading an old interview that Playboy did with Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut.  Playboy was asking them why they never really described the act of sex in their writing and Joseph Heller said, “…It’s like trying to describe the noise of a subway train. There are people who can do it. Young writers go in for that type of description. But when they’re finished, all they’ve done is described the noise of a subway train coming into a station or pulling out of a station. Is that the noblest objective of a work of fiction? To convince the reader that what you’re writing about is really happening? I don’t think so.”

I’m not saying that he’s right – and in fact I don’t think there is a right or wrong here – but I tend to agree.

I don’t want to take away from Mr. Miéville’s writing or make anyone think he’s a pompous ass.  Really, after I hit the 3% mark in the book, the instances where I had to look up a word subsided to almost nothing.  The guy is a talented writer and I’m quickly becoming a fan.  But, as much as I’m enjoying the book (and I really am enjoying it), for me the first bit of Perdido Street Station was a lesson in what not to do in my own writing.

On the other hand, this guy has published nine books, and that’s nine more than me, so what the hell do I know?

Published in: on August 26, 2011 at 5:27 am  Comments (6)  
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Keeping my fingers crossed

Tuesday morning, I got an email from my buddy letting me know that he’d sent my spec script into his agent.  I spent all that day filled with a nervous giddiness that I haven’t experienced…shit…I don’t want to say “since college” because that can’t really be true – that’s much too sad to be true – but I can’t think of a specific time since then.

Surely, there was the same level of expectation and wonder before the births of both of my daughters, but there was enough horror mixed in that you can’t really put the emotion in the same category.  Horror at knowing you have no idea what you’re doing as a parent.  Horror at knowing you’d be completely helpless if something went wrong.

But this feeling…  remember that feeling when you were sixteen and you had your whole life ahead of you and you could do and be anything?  Yeah…that’s the one.

Please don’t think that I’ve strapped on a pair of rose-colored glasses.   Chances are that nothing will come of this.  I’ve sent scripts, short stories and novels out to agencies before and have gotten nothing but polite refusals.  This case is only slightly different because the script is being passed on directly to an agent by one of his clients, so there is better chance that he will actually read it instead of it getting tossed in the trash by some unpaid assistant that goes through 40 scripts a day.  But even if he reads it, the guy may hate it.  He may get to page 3 and think it’s not worth wasting his time on another page.  He may not read the thing at all.

And even if he does read the thing, and wants to read more, he may not sign me. AND even if he does sign me, 48% of all writer’s guild members are unemployed, so it could be the road to life long poverty.

But still, he might love it.  I could be perfect for a TV show that is just about to start production and will go on to be the most successful show in TV history.   And this agent, could go on to read all the other screenplays and novels that I’ve written and will write in the future and doors will open to me and success will be mine at last.

All day Tuesday I found myself swimming in a fantasy world that started with getting job as a staff writer and ended with me lounging in the cabin of my own leer jet, gazing up at my portable gold plated bookshelf filled with copies of all the novels I’d written and DVDs of all of the movies and TV shows I’d created.

Hope is a pretty amazing thing.  The feeling that maybe, just fucking maybe, your life will turn out the way you’d always dreamed it would…it’s a narcotic.  It’s what keeps me spending my extra hours working on novels that might never see the filtered light of bookstore window.  It’s what makes middle-aged actors bartend and wait tables when they could be in much more stable and high-paying jobs.  That incredible feeling of maybe.

I don’t know, but I imagine that in some ways the hope is almost better than the reality.  I’m sure G.R.R. Martin moans about having to do another reading.  Neil Gaiman probably bitches about taxes and his mortgage.  J.K. Rowling nags her daughter about finishing her homework and complains to her husband about that nasty case of athlete’s foot she just can’t seem to get rid of.

When the dream becomes reality, I’m quite certain that somewhere deep in your psyche you realize that you’re still just one single human, alive for a blink of an eye, living on a spec of dust floating through the infinity of space and that, in the grand scheme of things, your new situation is really no different than your old one.

But, like I said, having not yet achieved my dreams, I don’t know…and I would desperately love to find out.

Published in: on August 25, 2011 at 3:10 am  Comments (4)  
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Rubbing off on my chillins

I know I just posted, but two things happened in the last 10 minutes that made me want to post again.

A. Anyone who knows me also knows I have a foul mouth. In an attempt to not cuss around my kids, I’ve tried to insert other sayings in the place of less socially acceptable terms. It’s not that I think these words are “bad” – I’ve always thought it’s a bit strange that we create a word and then tell ourselves not to use it, in any context – but I don’t want my daughter to get in trouble in kindergarten for saying “fuck”.

So, instead of “what the fuck?” I, upon the advice of my friend Moorhead, have started saying “What the what?”  Also, instead of exclaiming “Mother fucker!” I have tried “Mother Mother!”  I don’t always remember to clean it up, but I’m getting better.

I was just sitting with my four-year old in the living room, watching Harry Potter 7, and she goes “What the what is wrong with him, Daddy?” She couldn’t understand why I laughed for as long as I did, but I am sure she will one day.

B: I just got an email from Mr. Harwellicus pointing out that Hinesy is in the urban dictionary.

1. hinesy
the usage of sexual metaphorical content in the context of a classroom or classroom like environment with blatant disregard to socially accepted status quo

I can’t even say how much I like that.  I think blatant disregard to the socially accepted status quo is an important part of contented living:)

Also, in quick writing news:

I reworked my spec script and have sent it off.  I’ve done no editing on the young adult novel and have been outlining a lot on the mystery novel.  I think the rule of 4 pages of research and outline to every 1 page of written work is going to hold true with this thing.  (I might have just made that rule up, but I seem to remember it from somewhere).  I’m HEAVY into the outline and not even scratching the surface yet.  It’s going to be a beast to work on, but I’m having a lot of fun with it so far.

Published in: on August 14, 2011 at 7:12 am  Leave a Comment  
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Johnny Propaganda

The other day, I finished The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, finishing all that I’ll probably ever read about Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist.  I thought of giving a review of the two sequels, but I figure I can sum it up with “They aren’t as good as the first one, but still worth reading.”

I have been on a string of popular novels and have been feeling a little guilty about it.  I feel like I need to throw in a biography, a history or something literary every now and again so I can still convince myself I’m an intellectual.  Most people who I’ve ever discussed writing with knows what I think about John Steinbeck.

For those of you who don’t: He’s the perfect writer.  His writing is poignent and elegant while still being readable and accessible by anyone who happens to pick up one of his books.  He could fit pages of description into a perfectly worded sentence.  His stories are simple, yet tap deeply into the human experience.  As a writer, he makes me want to slit my wrists.

Another one of my favorite things in TV, film or literature, is a good story that involves the gratuitous killing of Nazis.  This love is a gift I inherited from my father during my formative years, as he sat in his lazy-boy with a Coors in one hand and a cigarette in the other, watching John Wayne blow those “Kraut bastards” all to hell.

So, of course, when I saw that Steinbeck had written a book about a WWII bomber team, my interest was piqued.  I was immediately slapped that bastard on my Kindle, thrilled that I was could satisfy my literary needs and my blood lust at the same time.

I wasn’t two sentences into the introduction before I realized that this wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be.  In fact, it wasn’t fiction at all.  It was just a propaganda piece that the Army and Hollywood has paid Steinbeck $250,000 to write.  Because it was Steinbeck, I went ahead and swallowed down the bile that was creeping up my throat and went ahead and read it.

Here’s the gist:  in 1942, we were just entering the war.  Pearl Harbor had just happened a few months before and we were still 2 years from the D-Day invasion.  The US didn’t have much of an airforce to speak of.  They were building planes like mad and desperately needed young men to climb into them to either get blown up or blow stuff up in return.  They wanted Steinbeck to write about how awesome being on a bomber team is to help convince people to sign up.

It’s strange that they would offer this to Steinbeck.  Surely, he was one of the most famous writers of the time, but none of his writing had indicated that he was any kind of hawk.  If anything, the tone of his previous works, during the depression, would paint him more as a commie pacifist.  But for whatever reason, they offered, he accepted and wrote Bombs Away.

If it was written by anyone else, it would likely be impossible to swallow.  In fact it’s just a couple hundred pages that talk about how great and honorable it is to be on a bomber team and how amazing you have to be to do it.  Because it’s Steinbeck, it just surpasses readable.

Hemingway, is quoted as saying he’d “rather cut off three fingers off his throwing hand,” than write a book like Bombs Away, which is also surprising, since so many of his books deal with, and borderline glorify war.  I would think he’d be the perfect candidate for this kind of assignment.

In fact both writers were very present during WW2.  Steinbeck worked as a war correspondent the entire war, going home with shrapnel wounds and some PTSD.  Hemingway was in Europe from June to December 1944 and was present at the D-Day invasion and the liberation of Paris.  He even got into trouble for “playing infantry captain to a group of Resistance people that he gathered because a correspondent is not supposed to lead troops, even if he does it well.”

Hemingway had been to WWI, the Spanish Civil War and WW2.  Steinbeck spent his pre WW2 life writing about the plight of the common man, but yet Ernest was disgusted at J.S.’s writing of this book for the US Army.  Maybe he just couldn’t abide a shill.

I too, don’t think much of shills; corporate, government or otherwise and it is not like Steinbeck needed the money.  In fact, as I read about this, Steinbeck’s credit rating was in serious danger of getting downgraded from AAA.  To think of one of my personal heros shilling for the US military was as heartbreaking as if I discovered my father was a pimp and crack dealer….although, my dad would look pretty fucking awesome in a pimp outfit and a gold tooth or two.

And then upon further readin’, I found out that Steinbeck was a ardent supporter of the Vietnam War and even went there to write about it.

A few things saved my opinion of him (so he can rest easy in his grave…).

A: it was a different time.  I know I would have been in full support of WW2.  It was the first time we’d been attacked by a foreign force on our homeland since the war of 1812 and I’m sure I would have been one of those people faking my birth certificate to join up at 15 (though I’m not sure why I’m 15 at the beginning of WW2 in this fantasy).

B: Steinbeck’s entire fee of $250,000 (the equivalent of $3,500,000 in today’s money) was donated to charity.

The guy obviously had very strong feelings about the war and was doing what he thought of as “his part” in the war effort.  In a way, it fits right in with the commie tendencies that pop up in his works…everyone pulling together for a common good.  The fact that the area of the war effort that he helped recruit for – being part of a bomber crew – was, percentage wise, the most dangerous assignment in WW2, he couldn’t have known when he wrote Bombs Away.  Although…a B17 is like a giant target crawling slowly across the sky, so you think he could have guessed….

Published in: on August 14, 2011 at 5:13 am  Comments (2)  
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Review time: The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo

SPOILER ALERT!!!!:

 I am probably going to spoil the shit out of this book, and every other book I ever review, so if you haven’t read that then don’t read this (unless your don’t plan to read that anyway and just love reading irrelevant info. ).

I have heard about The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson for years.  The thing has sold more than 15 million copies; I’d have to be dead to not have heard of it.  However, I’d always avoided it.  For some reason, anything set in Scandinavia brings to mind sparsely furnished apartments, Ingmar Bergman films, bleak month-long nights, thin blondes dressed in black, beatnik mock-turtlenecks reading the Swedish version of Sylvia Plath and eating Lutefisk.

Ok, I’ve never personally tried Lutefisk.  Who I am I to say that jellied fish is disgusting….

The ridiculous thing is that I’ve even BEEN to Scandinavia and know that it is not these things at all, but for whatever reason, when I find out a story takes place above the North Sea, there is a small hurdle that I need to get over before I’m willing to give it a chance: whether it’s Wallandar, Insomnia, or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, part of me walks in not wanting to like the story (and all of the works I mentioned, I like very much).  I know it is probably just some sort of deep seeded prejudice that’s swimming around in my psyche, and I just need to get over myself.  Who knows…maybe my mom  burned me with a hot peice of kladdkaka when I was a toddler and I’ve never gotten over it.

Anyway, I started reading the book last week.  I’m not going to get too much into the plot.  I’ll try to sum it up in a paragraph or so.

Two main characters.

Mikael Blomkvist: a 45 year old journalist who takes a leave of absence from his job as editor of a local magazine when he’s convicted of libel.  He is offered, what seems to be, a very cushy job working on a rich old man’s autobiography for a large amount of money and finds himself wrapped up in a web of murder and deceit that goes back more than 40 years.

Lisbeth Salander: 24 year old, tattoo and piercing laden, socially inept computer hacking and investigatory genius who gets hired to help with Blomkvist’s research (After a bunch of other stuff happens that I’m not going to bother going into).

They snoop.  They get chased.  They do some chasing.  She gets raped.  She does some raping.  He has affairs with his boss.  He has an affair with a potential suspect.  They have an affair with each other.  He gets shot at.  He gets captured.  She saves him.  They catch the bad people.  He likes her.  She falls in love with him.  She decides to tell him.  She sees him with his boss-lover and leaves without telling him shit.  The end.

There it is.   Now you don’t have to bother reading it if you haven’t already

The book starts slowly.  Not trudging through mud slow, but it’s a nice leisurely pace that feels like a stroll in the park.  You’re not too invested yet but it’s still nice and pleasant.   Even the crime that’s being investigated is 40 years old, and nobody in the book really cares about it but this one, lonely old rich man.

Instead of there being a big shocker (like a body in the Louvre with one hand pointing to the Mona Lisa and the other around his tool so he can jerk off all over the reader’s intelligence), the pace in this book just slowly increases.  So, slowly you hardly notice it.  At Mid-afternoon, you’re giving it a casual read and can really take it or leave it.  Around dinner time, you suggest that the kids be allowed to watch a movie while they eat dinner so you can keep reading.  By midnight, you’re beyond caring how late you will be up or how tired you will be the next day because you have to know how this thing ends.

All in all, I give it a 8.1 on the mystery novel scale.  I had guessed who dunnit long before the end, although the way they got there was unexpected.  All in all, it was one of the best structured and most enjoyable mystery novels I’ve read in awhile…and I’ve read quite a few since the book I’m working on now is a mystery of sorts.

Now, a bit about the writer.  I read up on him a bit and was saddened to learn that he dropped dead before this thing ever got published.

Steigg Larsson was an journalist and an activist; and I don’t mean the kind of activist that throws fundraisers and holds a picket sign every now and again.  I mean the kind that goes to Eritrea and helps train a bunch of guerrillas how to use grenade launchers.  He spent a career as a journalist fighting racism and intolerance in his home country and he was a woman’s rights advocate.  He apparently also had a hard time holding down a steady job and stuck mostly to freelance work.  I doubt he had too much scratch stuffed away under his mattress.

There are 3 books in the Millennium series and so far they’ve sold 27 million copies worldwide and the guy dropped dead of a heart attack at 50, after climbing 7 flights of stairs and before seeing the first book published.

I think it sucks that a even a crazy like Van Gogh didn’t get to enjoy some of the fruits of his labor.  The fact that this seemingly stand-up guy didn’t get to take daily money baths in all of dough his books have made is a travesty.  And the fact that the woman he lived with for 30 years (but never married) gets nothing while the guy’s brother and father, whom he barely spoke to, are at home giving each other kroner massages, is almost as sad.  It seems that good people always get the dick.  Thank god I’m a jerk….

In writing news:

There isn’t any.  I did nothing last night but read.  I read 62% of The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo and 16% of The Girl Who Played with Fire.  I went to bed after 2:00am.  I’m tired.

Tonight I will probably not be writing either.  I have gotten notes back on my spec script from that friend of mine.  Very good notes: Thanks Harwellicus.  So, I will be retooling my Hollywood machine tonight instead of pounding out any towering literary achievements.

P.S.  I guess that negative reference to The DaVinci Code was a bit harsh.  I read it and think it’s an ok book…except for the prose.

Published in: on August 3, 2011 at 8:52 am  Comments (3)  
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Parleying for Some Privacy

I don’t know about any of you other writers out there, but I have to be completely alone when I’m writing.  I don’t mind if there’s noise.  I’m usually listening to music anyway.  I also consider myself “alone” if I’m in a crowded coffeeshop.  As long as there’s no one there that I actually know, I’m all good.

But, as soon as someone I know is there, I can’t stop thinking about them being there.  Obviously, knocks on the door, followed by a “Hey, how’s it going?” drive me batshit crazy.  And the hand on the shoulder and quick look at the screen from behind makes me want to strangle someone.  Even if the person is in the same vicinity as me, doing their own thing and not giving one single shit about me or my writing, its still impossible for me to keep going until they leave.

I realize that this isn’t completely reasonable on my part, but I don’t see it changing any time soon.  My wife focuses so completely on her projects that the entire world shuts down around her.  The house would be on fire and she wouldn’t notice until her hair was ablaze.  This also annoys me sometimes (like when I am trying to talk to her and I know I don’t exist in whatever world she is in) but I wish I had some of that quality.

Now, the rules regarding Hinesy’s writing time were established years ago with Wife, and now she doesn’t even knock on the door if she knows I’m writing… god, that makes me sound like an asshole… but now I have two Spawn that a: don’t like closed doors (which, by the way is also annoying when your trying to either go to the bathroom or get it on) and b: don’t like my attention to be on anything other than them.

So, what can be done in this situation?  I don’t want to yell at my kids to get out.  I don’t want to be somewhere else so I can write.  You never really know when you’re absolutely needed.  Waiting until they’re both asleep isn’t really an option because I’m pretty tired by then too.  For the past two weeks, it’s been a problem because I just don’t have the strength to tell them to get the fuck out and leave me alone (but in a nicer way).   I don’t even want to have that kind of strength.

So, last Thursday I tried something that might have worked.  I sat down with Spawn #1 and we had a talk about books.  She loves books.  I love books.  Let’s take a look about how many pages there are in this book here.

“It’s a lot,” she said.

“Yeah, a lot.  How long do you think it took for someone to write that?”

“I don’t know.”

“What, like a day?”

“No, like a hundred days. A hundred hundred.”

“Probably…  So, did you know that Daddy wants to write books too?”

“No.”

“I do.  Like you want to be in the FBI.”

“I want to draw pictured now.”

“You don’t want to be in the FBI anymore?”

“I want to do both.”

“Ok, you can probably do that.  But, I want to write books.  But if I want to do that for a job, then I have to do it for free first.”

“Why?”

“That’s just the way it works.  Usually the very best jobs, you have to do them for free for a long time before people will pay you for them.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know…I wish you didn’t, but that’s just the way it is….  So, when that door is shut, do you think you could let daddy work?”

It totally didn’t work.  She couldn’t give a damn about my hopes and dreams.  All she knew is that she didn’t get to see her daddy all day long, and then I come home and tell her to leave me alone while I shut myself up in a room and ignore her?  She didn’t actually say “Fuck that,” but I could tell she thought it and I don’t really blame her.

However, one thing she hates more than me wanting to spend time at home writing is me going to work every day.  So, I thought I’d try, “Hey, sweety, you know how you don’t like me having to work?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, one great thing about writing is that you can do it from home.  In fact, you can do it from ANYWHERE.  So, if I am lucky and can become a real writer, I can be home all the time.  And we can live anywhere, like back in America, or back in Taiwan.”

“Near Grandma?”

“Yeah, near Grandma.”

And that was it.  She was out of the room ten seconds later, with the door shut behind her.  And the only sound I heard for the rest of the night was Spawn#2 knocking, followed quickly by Spawn #1 coming over and telling her that she had to stay away from the door.

So…the key to some privacy at home?  The hope of moving near Grandma….  I don’t know how I feel about that exactly, and I doubt it will last long, but I’ll take it for now.

In reading news, according to my Kindle, I’m 29% though with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  I’ll give a full review when I’m at 100%, but the preview of my review: I’m liking it.

Published in: on August 1, 2011 at 10:32 am  Comments (2)  
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