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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Hating the player, not the game.

I tried to write this post a couple months ago.  In fact, I DID write it, but as I clicked “publish”, iWeb froze and I lost the whole post.  It was the final straw that made me switch over to WordPress.  I thought I would give it another whirl.

I have a problem separating a work of literature from its writer.  Not so much if the writer has been dead for a sufficient amount of time, but for contemporary  writers, if I don’t like the writer, it effects my view of the work itself.

One excellent example is Jonathan Franzen.  I have been told by three people, whose opinions on books I trust implicitly, that The Corrections is the best thing since sushi but I happen to have seen Franzen in a couple of interviews before picking up his book and now I can’t get more than a couple of pages into the Corrections before setting it aside because I can’t get the guy’s pretentious, better-than-thou, douchey voice out of my head.  I am sure it is as good as I keep hearing, but I’ve started the thing three times now and I just can’t do it; and remember, I’m not a guy who sets books aside once I start them.  The only book, besides The Corrections, that I can remember not finishing is “Ulysses” and I don’t personally know anyone who can get through that one.

The strange thing is, I don’t have the same reaction to artists that use other mediums.  The fact that Axel Rose is an incredible ass doesn’t stop me from listening to Sweet Child of Mine.  From what I’ve read about him, Dali wasn’t really someone I’d want to buddy-up with but it doesn’t stop me from admiring and enjoying his work.  In fact, visual artists, musicians and performing artists, I somewhat expect to be on the crazy, self-absorbed asshole side of life and it won’t stop me from buying their stuff.

Recently I read Moonlight Mile, by Dennis Lehane.  I am a fan of Lehane.  I read and enjoyed all of his Kenzie/Gennaro books, along with two or three of his stand-alone novels.  I’d say he’s one of my favorite crime writers, because his books are an excellent combination of really good prose and a well-structured mystery.  A lot of times you might get one or the other, but to have both is rare.

About two years ago, I was discussing Lehane with a good friend of mine, and he pointed out an article in Entertainment Weekly entitled Done Baby Done.  You can give the article a read if you want, but basically it talks about how shitty his Kenzie/Gennaro books were at how he’d never write another.  In fact he said,  ”I was never comfortable with them anyway. I’d be writing these friggin’ whodunits,” he laughs, getting excited, ”and I could care less. I wanna tell everybody on page 2, he killed so-and-so, he done it! If you look at my books in that regard — and I’ll be 100 percent honest about my flaws — you can see how I was whipping out the kitchen sink just to obscure s—, like the identity of the serial killer or whatever, and that’s why the books got so labyrinthian in the last 100 pages.”

So…I have a bit of a problem with this because it someone belittles the opinion of all of the people that went out and bought those books.  The very people that put him where he is today and made him a very rich man.  But hey, there’s nothing to say that someone can’t go back and look at something they did in the past and judge it to be a giant steaming turd.  I can respect that.  Every artist wants to grow, and in fact he goes on to say, “My publishers, they’ve been clear if I ever wrote one, they’d back a truckful of money onto my driveway, but I don’t want to be the guy who goes back to the well just so I could buy another house.”

So, ok.  No more Kenzie / Gennaro novels.  He’s on to bigger and better things.  But then a few weeks ago I was looking for something to read and came across Moonlight Mile, which just happens to be a new Kenzie / Gennaro novel by Mr. Lehane.  I guess that truckful of money was more attractive than he first thought.  OK.  I can still get over it.  He’s a sell-out.  That’s ok.  Everyone needs a new boat every now and again.  Maybe his wife hit up Neiman Marcus a few times too many and he was in a pinch.  Maybe his kid needed an operation.  Fine.  Everyone needs to get paid.

Now comes the spoilers, so if you have any desire to read this book, then stop reading this blog.

BUT BUT BUT, then the guy turns Patrick Kenzie into spineless tool.  One of the appeals of the character is that he is smart, practical, street savy and a total badass when he needs to be.  But in the end of this book, he finds he just has no stomach for the private eye life anymore and he turns down a lucrative job at a big security firm to go back to school and become a friggin’ jr. high teacher.

Lehane completely emasculated the character of Patrick Kenzie.  It was almost like Lehane hated this character that he created and wanted his readers to feel the same way.  It’s a little like how Doyle turned Sherlock Holmes into a drug addled deviant so his readers to stop wanting to read him.

The thing is, if you don’t like a character, then stop writing him.  But to do it just for the money, when you already have loads, and then to do the character and your readers a disservice by  turning the character into a spineless idiot is a fairly shitty thing to do.  It’s flipping your nose at all the people who made you the success that you are.

I keep hearing that The Given Day is a great read, but now I can’t bring myself to buy it.

Published in: on July 31, 2011 at 9:02 am  Comments (4)  
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Writin’

Originally, when I started this blog 3 years ago it was to talk about writing (for those masses who have never read my blog: I know, I know…5 posts in 3 years???  What the hell have I been doing?  Well, I do have a hundred or more that I haven’t bothered to move over when I switched from iWeb to WordPress)

More specifically, the blog was going to be about pursing the dream of a writing career while balancing a new job and being a new father.  That kind of petered out since I have done very little writing during that time.  In my defense, I did get laid off when the economy when into the shitter, a day before my second beautiful screaming bag of need got home from the hospital.  So, for a year of the past 3 years, I was scrambling around, trying to get whatever bits of work I could, and then for the past 13 months I’ve been at this job I’m at now.

When you have a family, you start worrying about all kinds of things that you never thought on much before, most of which revolve around cash money.  How I am I going to put my kids through college in 18 years so they don’t end up hooking it down on Hollywood Blvd?  How am I going pay for their braces and cool-kid clothes so they aren’t all snaggle-toothed when they’re 13 and wishing the boys in class would notice them instead of that prissy, straight-toothed Tiffany Carpenter with her salon hair and designer jeans.

You start to think about money all the the friggin’ time … Or I should say I start to.  It’s entirely possible that other people aren’t nearly as neurotic as me.  As soon as Spawn #1 spurted out, my dreams and life goals all took a back seat to constantly thinking about how I could make more money.  And in a way, this is how it should be.  My kids are more important to me than I am.

But, the catch is that when you’re in that place, you’re never really happy with where you are at.  You’re going through the motions every day at a job you don’t like doing because you think it’s going to get you somewhere that you don’t really want to  be anyway, but you’re still going to go there because it will be better for your kids.  But the whole time you’re, not miserable really, but not as happy as you could be and that’s got to have an effect the very things the things that you’re “giving up” so much to help in the first place.  It’s a conundrum.

I was watching Louis C.K. on YouTube recently.  I just discovered him and find him fucking hiiiiiilarious.  He was talking about the difference between single people and married people and he said, basically, “You ask married people how they are doing, they just say ‘fine’.  That’s all we say.  We don’t say ‘Well, my wife assassinated my sexual identity and my kids are eating my dreams.'” and I laughed a little too hard at that.  While I don’t resent my kids or silently sulk about what I may or may not have “given up” for them, I do feel myself getting farther and farther away from where, and who, I want to be.

Giving up this job I’m not crazy about isn’t the answer.  I do like being able to feed and clothe my family.  But the more I get away from my own goals and dreams the more I want to just flop my fat ass on my couch after getting home from work and escape into whatever TV show happens to be on.

It’s not exactly the life I hope to have and  it’s time to pull out before inertia makes it too hard to move.  A life of resigned acceptance doesn’t really sound like one worth living.

So, I’ll do this job and  I’ll do it well, but what I think I’ve decided to do is stop thinking about it as a career.  Stop thinking about my future and where this job can lead me and just think of it as something that pays the bills while I try to get to a place where I really want to be and while I try to become someone that both I and my kids can be proud of.

And my kids braces and college education?  Hmm.  Hopefully they’ll have straight teeth like their daddy and are smart enough to get scholarships?  Maybe we’ll be poor but at least they’ll have a dad who doesn’t hate himself more with each passing year.

From now on, this blog is going to re-focus on its original intent.  It’s going to be about writing; both mine and other people’s, and about trying to balance the pursuit of my dreams and my commitment to my family.

In writing news:

I just finished a spec script that too far took long to complete.  It’s in the hands of a good friend of mine who also happens to have an agent.  He’s going to give it a read and then give it to said agent.  We’ll see what comes of it.

I’ve re-started editing the young adult novel I wrote a few years ago.  Been polishing at a rate of five pages a day (most days).  Although I still like the story and most of the content, the book is 378 pages of spelling and gramatical errors.  An amazing, wonderful, fantastic friend of mine marked up the entire thing for me.  I printed it out, gave it to her and she returned it as a sea of red ink.  I’ve been fiddling with it, setting it aside for other projects and avoiding it for years now and about 3 months ago I re-committed to it and I currently have 57 pages left to edit.

And the main project I have I am working on is a novel that’s been rolling around in my head for a couple years.  I started outlining it and have written the first five pages.  It’s not much, but I’ve only been working on it a week.

So, just to keep a running tally of my two most current projects

Young Adult Novel:  Pages left to edit: Novel:  Page count

57

5

Well, that looks like crap….  If anyone knows how to insert a nice looking spreadsheet into WordPress, please let me know.

And that’s about all for now.  Back to writing.  I want to get to page 10 by the end of the weekend.

Published in: on July 30, 2011 at 5:22 am  Comments (2)  

Mobile blogging

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Just downloaded WordPress for my Android and thought I would try my hand at mobile blogging.  Below is a picture of where I am which is, likely, much fancies than where you are.
I am sitting and waiting for a customer, so I can take him out to lunch.  He’s late…though I probably won’t be complaining about it to him, seeing as how he pays my salary, indirectly.

Ok…he’s here.  I’m out

Published in: on April 17, 2011 at 12:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Twins

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Yep, they look exactly the same.

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Mmmm. Green turds. Delicious.

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Brown ones too.

I am out shopping with the family… well, actually, I am waiting in line so Wife can get some crunchy things that are, by no means, worth the wait.

Take a look at the line in yonder pic, and the little things those people are waiting for.  The green ones look a little like turds.

My spawn are going nuts, running around, dancing singing and generally attracting as much attention as possible to themselves.
A middle aged woman just came up to me to tell me how cute my spawn are, which is to be expected, but then she went on to ask me, “Are they twins?”

Now, granted, both of my girls are unbelievably cute, Einstein-brilliant and undeniably perfect in every way, but that’s where the similarities between them end.

Big Spawn is 4 1/2, Small Spawn is about to turn 2.  Big Spawn has long hair, Small Spawn’s is short.  As you can see from the police line-up pick I just snapped, they are not remotely the same height.  They don’t even look the same, except maybe in the ear area.

Now, normally I wouldn’t think anything of some lady asking if my two very different looking and aged kids are twins, normally I’d just think “No,  you weirdo.”, but since moving to Ningbo, its happened a minimum of 15 times to Wife and I.  15 times each.

Both of us are utterly baffled.  I mean, really?  Twins?  In what universe would anyone possibly mistake these two for twins? One of them is still in diapers, for Christ’s sake.

The only thing we can think of is that because of the “one family one child” rule, that people just figure that if someone has two kids that they must be twins, no matter what the evidence to the contrary might be.

A: The law says you can’t have more than one kid, unless it’s some freak accident like twins.  B: These people have two children. Ergo: They must be twins.

I don’t know if that’s actually it, but if it is, it’s some pretty impressive leaps of logic.   Logical acrobatics, really.   It makes me want to go out and adopt a 12 year old Malawian boy, just to see if people here would ask if they are triplets.

Published in: on April 17, 2011 at 10:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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Talkin’ death with a 4 year old.

Yesterday my #1 spawn, out of the blue, tells me that she wants to see her “ju nai nai” (her great grandmother) who died when my #1 spawn was around one year old.

The following conversation is as verbatim as I can make it.

So I say, “Well, that’s going to be pretty hard to do.”

Spawn: “Why?”

Me: “Well, She’s dead, sweety.  You know that.”

S: “So?  I want to see her.”

M: “I’m not sure how to help you with that, sweety.”

S: “When I’m dead, can I see her then?”

M: “Ummm. Some people think so.”

S: “Think what?”

M: “Think that when you die, you go to heaven and you can see all your family who is already dead, and you can be there together forever.”

S: “What’s heaven?”

M: “Ummmmmmmm…  It’s a place that some people think you go when you die.”

S: “What do other people think?”

M: “Well…let’s see, lots of stuff… some people think you get born again, maybe into a person, or a monkey or a bird.”

S: “A cockroach?”

M: “Maybe.  If you’re not very nice in this life.  hmm…  Some people think you turn into energy, like electricity… (blank look) … the stuff that comes from the wall to the TV to make it work…(revelation and understanding).  And some people think it’s just nothing.  Like you know how sometimes you sleep, and you don’t have any dreams and you wake up and it’s like there was just nothing in between?”

S: “Yeah.”

M: “Well, some people think it’s like that.”

S: “Like nothing?”

M: “Yeah.”

S: “Daddy what do you think?”

M: “Well… really…  I think I just don’t know.”

She thinks for a few seconds, and then smiles and reaches up to pat my arm.

S: “Don’t worry Daddy, when you’re dead, you’ll know!”

Then my little spawn laughed like a bird and skipped away down the hall to go play.

I couldn’t have been prouder.

Published in: on April 3, 2011 at 7:07 am  Comments (1)  

Turning over a new leaf

So, I finally got fed-up with iWeb and decided to give this WordPress thing a try.

Honestly, I’m not too sure about the whole thing.  I’m a bit like an abused wife whose finally decided to leave may face-punching, belt-wielding, tittie-twisting husband.  I’m glad to be rid of the bastard but not really sure if where I’m heading is going to be any better.

I’ve had a couple of nice blog ideas in the past week or so and even wrote one of them, only to lose it, which is why I’m here dumping my former format in the first place.  However, having an early case of Alzheimer’s, coupled with the fact that sitting in my office on a Saturday is making my brain go bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, I don’t have much to write.

But now that I mention it to myself, I guess I do have a couple things to say about working in China.

Make up days

Tuesday is a holiday.  It’s tomb sweeping day.  It’s a day where you can go, sweep some tombs and tell your dead relatives you love and miss them, then you can burn some paper money so they can roll large in the afterlife.  It’s a pretty big holiday in Taiwan and China.  The whole region just shuts down.

Now, since the holiday is a Tuesday, we get Monday off too.  Just like, if it’s on a Thursday, we’d get Friday off.  But if the holiday is on Wednesday, then go fuck yourself, you just get that one day off.

But not this year bitches.  It’s on Tuesday.  Long weekend!  Yeahhh!

Except, it’s only half a long weekend.  Everyone has to work on Saturday to make up for missing work on Monday.  I’m told in Taiwan, they all did their makeup work day a couple weeks ago, so they’re all lounging on beaches, sipping piña coladas and squishing sand between their toes while I’m here typing at you people.

So, Monday is not a free day, as much as a trade-day. It’s like saying “You don’t have to pay me for that snickers bar, no, that’s free…but put $2.25 on the counter on the way out.”

It does make sense.  It gives everyone a longer weekend than just a single day off in the middle of the week.  During a long weekend, people can do some traveling.  They can go visit family and friends.  They can lay in bed for 72 hours, only moving far enough to scratch themselves.  Things you just couldn’t do with a single day off.

But, Entitlement Hinesy thinks they should just give me the day.  No one is doing shit in the office today anyway.  I’d be willing to bet my left pinky toenail that the same is going on in 96% of the country.  A billion folks surrounding me right now are simultaneously thinking “Why do I have to be here today? I’m just sitting here!

But then again, it’s probably just me (and other Lao Wai like me)that are feeling this way.  You know, people who are from countries that would, of course, just give their workers a free day off and never expect them to have to work on a Saturday to make up for the lost time.

The same countries, more likely than not, who are getting their economic asses whipped by a bunch of, weekend working, leftist, markist, moaist, flower-sniffing commies.

Back to the iWeb situation.  I know you guys like to go back and re-read my old posts every couple of days, so don’t worry, I’m trying to figure out how to get them onto here.

Published in: on April 2, 2011 at 7:42 am  Comments (4)  

Run for the Border

trains, planes and automobiles

I’m a fairly worldly guy.  I’ve been around a quite a bit.  I’ve dealt with immigration services of a more than a dozen countries.  I understand about visas and customs and what most countries do and don’t let you do within their borders, and what happens when you decide to go ahead and do those things anyway.  Basically, what I’m saying is, I’m not an idiot when it comes to this stuff.  I’m not an international immigration lawyer, but I know enough.

Or I thought I did.

The Taipei office of my company provided me with my Chinese Visa in November.  The office manager, a very grim woman who’s been working for the company since I was still a virgin, handed me my passport one day and informed me, “You have a 6 month, mulit-entry visa”.   I said ‘thanks’ and put my passport in my backpack without bothering to glance at it.

So, fast forward two months.  I’m in China.  I’m going between Ningbo and Shanghai pretty often.  Every time I check into a hotel, they ask me how long I’m staying and they look at my Visa, which is neatly pasted in my passport, making sure they aren’t harboring some illegal visa over-stayer.

Sunday, before last, I check out of my hotel in Ningbo around noon, hop on a bus and head to Shanghail.  I arrive at my hotel there around 4:00 pm.  I go to check in and tell them I want to stay until Dec 22nd.  The clerk looks at my visa, then the stamp with my entry date, then my visa, then my stamp.  Then he looks at me with this nervous smile on his face.

“Um.  You can’t check in”

“What do you mean I can’t check in?”

“Visa?”

“So?”

“Your visa is 30 day.”

“No00…My visa is a 6-month visa.”

“But, 30 day.  Look.”

I look, and there, clear as day, right for me to see if I’d ever bothered to even glance at the fucking thing, it says “durations of each stay:  30  days after entry”.

“Um…so, how many days to I have left.”

Counting on his fingers. “No0o.”

“What do you mean ‘no’?”

“Today 30.”

It sinks in that I have to be out of the country in 8 hrs or less.

“Oh fuck.”

The guy smiles a bit too brightly, “Yes!”

And I swear to christ, that is exactly how that conversation went.

So, I call my manager, who tells me to check my ticket to Taiwan, b/c maybe I’ll just head back that day instead of one and a half weeks later.  I’m pretty thrilled at this, but 5 min later she nixes the idea and tells me to get to the airport and get a ticket to Shenzhen, which is right across the border from Hong Kong.  By this time, It’s about 4:40pm.

I hop my ass in a cab and tell him I need to get to the airport fast.  I should have let the guy drive slow, because when I DID get to the airport, they told me I couldn’t get on a plane until 8:10pm, which would put me in Shenzhen at about 10:40.

Now, several things can happen if you over-stay your visa.  It all just depends on the mood of the border patrol.  Most common thing in most countries, for a first offense, if it’s just a day or two, is a stern talking to and signing a piece of paper saying you’ll never ever ever ever ever do it again.  But I’ve met people who were banned from the host country, straight off, or had to pay an absorbent fee, or did not pass go and went directly to jail for a few sweet days until getting kicked permanently out of the country.  Now…for a second offense, it’s almost always straight to a holding cell and deportation, never to come back again.  All of the above are bad for someone who is just starting a new job in that country they are a guest in.  It’s not something that is going to stroke the belly of my job security.

But, I’m supposed to be taking off at 8:10, in a cab at 10:50 and at the Hong Kong border by 11:40, with plenty of time to stroll across before my visa expires.  Except we sit on the runway until 8:35, and I’m thinking, “There’s just no fucking way I’m getting across the boarder before midnight.”

Maybe they’ll listen to my story and give me a break and just stamp me through.  Maybe not.

I land at 11:00.  It’s about 50 minutes to the border and my ass doesn’t settle into the backseat of a taxi until 11:15.  I tell him I need to be in Hong Kong by midnight or I’m in big BIG trouble and the guy just gives me a grunt and goes.  I mean he GOES.  Fast.

A reasonable brain would tell you that you’re definitely not going to your destination on-time if you’re lying on the side of the road in bloody clumps.  A reasonable brain would tell the driver to slow down.  But a desperate brain is full of hope.  Because sure, we might crash going 100 mph+ down the highway.  But we might not.  We might fucking make it.  So, I flipped on the passenger light, opened the book I had brought with me and tried to project myself far far away from where I was.

I walked through those customs at 11:54pm with 6 whole minutes to spare.  And I got to tell you, I felt fantastic.  I positively tingled with life.  Even though I hadn’t actually done anything but sit on my fat ass and tap my foot, I felt like giving the finger to whatever gods might be out there, as if I’d just moved a mountain or two just to fart in their faces.

It is not something I would want to do every day but it was, by-far, the most fun I’d had in a long time.

A picture of my watch seconds after passing immigration into Hong Kong.

 

Published in: on December 20, 2010 at 12:49 pm  Leave a Comment