Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Stirring Post

'Twas the night before Christmas,
And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring,
Not even a—HEY!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Carols for the Zombie Apocalypse

Just in time for the holidays — and the imminent zombie threat — we have a brand new album for you, from Flaming Wheel Records.

Complete with 48 of the world's most popular apocalyptic seasonal hits, this 4-CD box set has updated versions of all your old favorites, including...

Oh, the devils outside are frightful,
But on fire, they're so delightful.
And since we've no place to go,
Let 'em groan! Let 'em groan! Let 'em groan!
(listen to mp3 preview)
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Chester roasting on an open fire,
Jack Frost nipping off your nose.
You'll find Carol being sucked by Claire,
And folks in pies of Eskimo.
(listen to mp3 preview)
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Silent night, holy Christ!
Here they come! This ain't right!
Round yon corner, mother and child
Shamble toward us bloody and wild.
Death would be a relief.
Death would be a relief.
(listen to mp3 preview)

Of course no doomsday collection would be complete without these beloved numbers:

Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Blast the head off that damn thing!"
Please unearth us some more food.
God! us sinners are all screwed.
(listen to mp3 preview)
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

I'm dreaming of a red Christmas,
Unlike the ones we used to know.
Where bodies glisten,
And we all listen,
For sounds of movement down below.
(listen to mp3 preview)
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Have yourself a very brittle Christmas
As your limbs decay.
From now on,
Your arms will both be miles away.
(listen to mp3 preview)

And who can forget these timeless classics?

Come and hold me, pa rum pa pum pum.
An awful thing to see, pa rum pa pum pum.
Our finest are dying, pa rum pa pum pum.
Then re-animating, pa rum pa pum pum,
Rum pa pum pum, rum pa pum pum.
(listen to mp3 preview)
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

On the fifth day of Christmas,
My true love gave to me:
Five cold dead things!
Four mauling hordes,
Three strange men,
Two useless guns,
And a car for which I have no key.
(listen to mp3 preview)

And many more!

Face down the zombie hordes with a song! For only 24 monthly installments of $9.99,* you can own A Zombie Christmas, the greatest compilation of zombie carols ever made.

Place your order in the next fifteen minutes, and we'll throw in the album Purim of the Vampires, a $42 value, absolutely free!

Order yours today! Operators are standing by.

* Plus $19.95 for shivving and man-handling.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Too Much Water, Too Little Time

Important Information for All Cat Owners:
If your cat starts drinking much more water than usual, this is not standard quirky cat behavior. Take your cat to the vet. Increased thirst could portend such maladies as kidney failure, diabetes, and hyperthyroidism. Trust me on this.

Today, with seemingly little warning, my cat Marcelle passed away, a victim of kidney failure.

I got Marcelle when she was two years old. Born in Uzbekistan and raised in France, she was shy yet talkative, the complete opposite of Marcel Marceau. She was easily frightened and uninterested in toys — and sometimes, easily frightened by toys — and she looked like a miniature Maine coon, with a tiny bend at the end of her tail where it must've been caught in a door when she was a kitten.

She'd greet me when I got home. She'd have conversations with us by meowing in response to whatever we said. Like most cats, she had a knack for interposing herself between reader and book, or writer and computer. When I first got her, she hid under the floorboards and meowed me awake every morning at 4:30. She'd then rub her face against my chin.

She was the sweetest cat I've ever known.

About two months ago, Marcelle started begging for water every morning. We'd fill the upstairs sink for her, or a small bowl, and she'd lap away at it as if she hadn't had a drink in weeks. It was odd behavior, but she was a cat of many quirks, and everything else seemed normal so we thought nothing of it. We figured our dog, Sonya, had been drinking her water downstairs (she did that sometimes), or chasing her back upstairs (she did that often). Besides, the air in the house did get dry in late autumn.

A few weeks ago, Marcelle began hiding in one of our box springs, and vomited up bile a few times in a matter of days. She'd done both things before (there was a hole in the box spring, and cats vomit), so again we weren't worried. Character quirks, that's all. Just a phase. She visited with us less often, but when she did come out, she was as affectionate (or as likely to run from the Sonya) as she'd always been.

We only realized something was wrong in the past few days. As a small cat, she'd always had slightly bony hips, but now we could feel her ribs and spine. And though Sonya sometimes ate her food, we now realized Marcelle was barely eating, barely drinking. She'd lost two pounds, or more than ¼ of her total weight. Yet, apart from this, she was still acting like herself.

The vet did all he could, but it turned out she was already in Stage IV of chronic renal failure, and the end came much quicker than any of us expected. By this afternoon, at the tender age of nine, our dear Marcelle was gone. We never even got the chance to say goodbye.

And it was all my fault.

You may think I'm being too hard on myself, but I should have sensed something was wrong when Marcelle kept begging for water. She had many quirks, but she always repeated them. Never had she consumed water at such a pace before. Never had she kept herself hidden from me for so much of the day.

Kidney failure can be managed if it's caught early enough. All I had to do was Google "cat drinking a lot of water," and I'd have understood. I could have saved her. I could have given her many more happy years of meowed conversations and frightening toys.

I'm so sorry, Marcelle. So so sorry. I didn't know.

But at least now, others will.


Goodbye, Marcelle. We miss you dearly.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Two New Overdue Reviews

In one book, a twelve-year-old genius is suspicious of the new kid in town. In the other, an amnesiac who can't feel pain wrestles with, first, a lion, and then his new-found fame. One is for a middle grade audience. The other is most certainly not.

So, what do these two novels have in common? I won them both on the internets.

by Barry Lyga

In late September, I won a signed copy of Archvillain on author Barry Lyga's blog by announcing I wanted the power to hurl a yak into space using only my mind. True story.

Speaking of stories...

Everyone else in town loves "Mighty" Mike, but sixth grader Kyle Camden doesn't trust him. In a twist on the old Superman origin story, Mike appears in town after a meteor shower1 and starts doing superheroey things. Kyle, with new superpowers of his own (and a pet rabbit), concocts increasingly complicated plans to unmask Mike as an alien and a fake.

Archvillain is an entertaining story on its own, but what I enjoyed most was how Lyga took various modern conventions and turned them on their head. The protagonists in most middle grade fiction start out as shy, bullied losers with no real talent, yet Kyle is the smartest and most popular kid in his school. And, though Kyle is constantly rebuffed in his efforts to convince the town the truth about Mighty Mike — after all, no one ever believes kids in kids' books — the further you read, the more you begin to realize this may not be the kind of tale where the plucky protagonist saves the day.

But then again, as the back cover states, "Sometimes it's good to be bad."


1 Which Kyle explains was neither meteors nor a shower. Discuss.

by Sean Ferrell

In late October, I won a copy of Numb from David Hebblethwaite over at Follow the Thread by being completely random.2

Numb, at its core, is about a man who is numb at his core. Not only is he immune to pain, but he's sometimes frozen in his decision-making and insensitive to how his actions might harm others. It's almost as if he's in a daze for most of the book, letting others manipulate and use him rather than finding his own way. Yet, for someone who sounds so dull, he's quite the complex character.

And he's surrounded by a cast that is equally as complex, often acting or reacting in ways that only make sense later on. I tend to prefer fiction driven by plot rather than character, but the depth Ferrell gives his characters, especially Mal (the friend), Hiko (the girlfriend), and Emilia (the lover), kept me riveted.3

By the way, there's one thing I noticed which others may have missed. On page 3, the main character explains how he first stumbled into a Texas circus, bloody and with no memory of who he is. He concludes with:
When some of the carnies came up to me, I said, "I'm numb."
This became my name.
Yet, as best I can remember, not one person in the entire novel refers to him by name. That Sean Ferrell sure is a clever one.

Numb is the story of a man searching for an identity, while also doing his best to traverse the ins and outs of friendships, relationships, and the kind of celebrity you get by driving nails through your skin.

Plus, carnies.


2 Of course, you probably thought the space yak bit that won me the other book was completely random, but this is a completely different "completely random." In this case I mean I was selected to win randomly.
3 This is a special service Ferrell offers. For $100 (plus travel costs and a signed liability waiver), he will come to your home, pump you full of painkillers, and rivet you to a copy of his book. How better to connect with the main character and his plight?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Time for a Little Jew & A

Hello, goys and girls. In my last post, I offered to answer any question you might have about Judaism, and you responded with some great ones. I received a total of 11 questions, which is fitting, since it's the same number of Commandments Moses brought down from the mountain top. (What? Like we're going to let you Gentiles know the last one? Please.)

To the questions!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

My first question comes courtesy of Chris Phillips:
What is the general teaching/belief on the Messiah and what he will look like or when he will come?

Tradition says the Messiah, the future Jewish king descended from David, will usher in a period of peace and freedom for all mankind. Since the word messiah literally means "the anointed one," he will undoubtedly be smeared in holy oil. So be on the lookout for anyone with a greasy complexion whose dad's name is Dave. He could be here any day now.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Todd says:
Hi Nate, What's Nu?

Oh, not much.

I mean that literally. Nu is a sort of general purpose word, the Yiddish equivalent of anything from "well?" or "so?" to "wassup?" So yeah, it's not much.1
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

My Aunt-in-Law Sharon asks:
I know very little so how can I ask if I don't know?

Third base.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Sharon also asks:
But we can start with what Chris Phillips asked???

Um, we already did that three questions ago. But just in case you missed it, I'll answer it again. Your personal messiah will be 6'1" with blue eyes, long brown hair and beard, olive skin, and circular scars on both hands and feet. He is the son of a carpenter and believes above all else that people are innately good. His name is Steve.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Jeffrey Beesler asks:
What makes you think you've got a big nose?

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Chris Phillips counters with:
What makes Jeffrey think you don't have a big nose?

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

My sister Naomi (mother of a brand-spankin' new baby (whom I suspect was spanked by a hand and not a brand)) asks:
If a Jew cheats on their Kosher diet, do they lose their Jewish superpowers immediately, or is there some kind of grace period allowing for atonement?

How greatly a Jew's superpowers are affected depends on the magnitude of the transgression. For instance, binging on a store-brand snack food could drop your haggling abilities to about 75%. Mixing meat and dairy might leave you only able to inflict guilt at 1/3 your original level. And eating the meat of any non-kosher animal (or any kosher animal not prepared in a kosher manner) will likely sap you of all your telekinetic power. For reference, it usually takes about a month of prayer and contrition to recharge to full strength.

A special dispensation is made for bacon. All your superpowers will remain intact as long as you repent directly afterward. You don't even have to mean it.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Chris Phillips comes back for even more Jew-learnin':
A huge part of reconciling yourself to God was in offering. Now that there is no temple or high priests to do all of that neatness how do you reconcile yourselves?

As you know, Jews are great with money. So what we do is this: At the end of every month, we sit down with God and compare our spiritual checkbooks. If we've fallen behind, we offer up penance. If God is in arrears, He adds another day to the end of Hanukkah. (It's happened seven times already.)
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

One more from Chris, and perhaps the most important of the bunch:
Let's say you are an Eskimo convert to Judaism who herds seals. When you give your offering is it technically kosher in that instance to club a baby seal?

It is only considered kosher if the act is witnessed by a Rabbi who confirms the seal died without pain, and that at no point did you let the offering touch your tongue.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Alex J. Cavanaugh asks the question on everyone's mind:
What's with the little hats?

Those little hats are called fezzes, and are only worn by Jews who also happen to be Shriners. Traditionally, fezzes were worn to keep balding Jews' souls from escaping through the top of their heads in cold weather. However, in these soulless times, they have a far more important function: ammunition for the weekly no-holds-barred post-temple fez fights.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

I'll take The Final Question for $200, Alex:
And have you played spin the bottle? Not really Jewish related, but now I'm curious.

Sorry, Alex, I don't kiss and tell. Of course, you may think my saying this gives away my answer, since now you know I have kissed. But you can't be sure about what I spun to get kissed. It could have been the bottle, yes, or I may have spun the dreidel, a menorah, my fez, a good yarn, the globe, the Wheel, doctors, or right round like a record baby.

And you'll never know which one.2
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Well, that wraps up my first ever Jew & A session. Thanks again to everyone who submitted questions, and I do hope I was able to teach you shiksas and shoksim3 out there a thing or two about Jews.

And now, I shall go light the candles in my menorah for the last night of Hanukkah... with my MIND!

Happy Hanukkah, everyone!

1 But that's only if you're Yiddish. Otherwise it could be a letter, a kana, an ethnic group, a river, a physics ratio, the male form of an Egyptian goddess, a programming language, a university, an electric company, a type of fusion music, a prime minister, a Canadian territory, or even a fictional species from a Super Nintendo game released in 1995.
2 Bwahahahaha!
3 Goy girls and boy goys.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

One Crazy Guy Explains Eight Crazy Nights

I have a brittle ladle. I made it out of clay.
And if it's dry and ready, I'll serve you soup today.
Oh ladle, ladle, ladle, it's so much fun to say.
And whether borscht or lentil, I'll serve you soup today.

Happy Chanukah Hanukkah, everybody!

Of course, I suspect many of you goyim know very little about Chanukka Hannukah Hanukkah.1 Lucky for you, I have just the thing:

Don't worry whether I'm actually your uncle. Just click the link. You'll learn the origins of many of Hanuka Khanika Chechnya Hanukkah's long-standing traditions, such as:
  • What's the real reason the menorah holds eight candles?
  • What were latkes called before they were called latkes?
  • Is spinning the dreidel anything like spinning the bottle?
It's all in there. Check it out.

But wait: There's more!

Since I'm feeling extra generous this holiday season, along with Uncle Nate's Absurdly Awesome Hanukkah Primer, I'll also provide you with an even more valuable service.

I will answer any question you have about Judaism.

Any question at all. Maybe there's something else you want to know about Hannukkah Kamchatka Hakuna Matata Hanukkah. Maybe you're curious about Jewish culture, history, or faith. Or maybe you just want to talk about cheap misers with big noses. Whatever it is, ask away. Just leave your questions in the comment section, and I'll answer them all. I might even dedicate an entire post to it if I get enough questions.

So, what do you want to know?

1 Or what the gehenna a goyim is.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Then We Came to the End

No, this is not a review of Joshua Ferris's first novel.1 I'm referring to the end of November. The end of my many NaNos. Here's how I fared:

  1. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)
    My final tally was a scant 1,724 words. I may not have reached the accepted goal of 50,000 put forth by "the man," but I call it a success. 'Tis a sad truth, I admit, but it's still 1,724 more words than I'd written since April.
  2. NanoRhino Awareness Month
    I may have only raised $2,020.07 for the NanoRhinos, and $2,000 of that was my own money,2 but I call it a success. With my meager donation, Dr. Heinrich von Heinrichsen was able to construct a high-tech habitat for these poor, endangered creatures. To me it resembled little more than a dollar store ant farm, but what do I know about science?
  3. NaNoRhyMo (National Novel Rhyming Month)
    I halved my output from last year, but my half-dozen rhymes garnered some epic praise, and for the first time ever we had two participants! Two! Most successful NaNoRhyMo ever!
  4. NaNoRyMo (National No Rye Month)
    Both Denise and I made it the entire month without consuming an ounce of rye! Neither the whiskey nor the bread passed these lips these past weeks. No Salinger, either. Never has success tasted so sweet!

Four noble NaNos, four success stories. I can only wonder what surprises December may hold.3

1 This is. Although Then We Came to the End was an intriguing and sometimes humorous look at the inner workings of a failing advertising company, it fell short in my not-so-humble opinion. I found its first person plural narration distracting, and at odds with itself when presenting the thoughts of a character who was decidedly not part of the "we." It has its moments, but the book isn't nearly as funny as it tries to be.
2.5 fiery wheels out of 5.
2 Denise chipped in another $20, either out of pity or to stop my constant begging, and the rest came from the always generous people at the local Take-A-Penny/Leave-A-Penny.
3 Hint: It involves velociraptors.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Be Grateful This Title Contains No Puns

Today I'm participating in the Early Bird Thanksgiving Blogfest (hosted by Jeffrey Beesler over at World of the Scribe), which I'd hoped would allow me to celebrate Thanksgiving a day early, since it is my favorite holiday. Alas, no. All it means is I'll be gushing on about the things I'm most grateful for. Not that I gush; it's not really my style.

So, behold! Me not gushing:
  • I have a fantastic group of friends (and internet friends) who find me more entertaining than annoying. For this I am grateful.
  • As movies and television increasingly shy away from anything original and untested, books remain an outlet for creativity. For this I am grateful.
  • It's been almost two days since my cat last used the tub as her litter box. For this I am grateful.
  • I could have been raised by racists or bigots. Yet, thanks in part to a family with both straight white Republican Jews and gay black Christian Democrats in it (not to mention atheists and agnostics, capitalists and communists, lawyers and librarians, vegetarians and veal-lovers), I have no prejudice except against the Yankees. For this I am grateful.
  • On September 5, 2010, I was not killed by ninjas. For this I am grateful.
  • Last summer I fell 30 feet to my death but didn't die. For this I am grateful. (So so so very grateful.)
  • I have over a dozen ideas for novels and short stories, and not one of them involves a vampyre, færie, or wêrewölff. For this I am eternally grateful.
  • And lastly, Denise could have laughed or told me to piss off. Instead, she said yes. For this I am more grateful than I can put into words.1
I wish each and every one of you the happiest Thanksgiving ever, in the entire history of the world. Even if you're Canadian and already celebrated it last month. Or if you're not celebrating it at all. Or if you're a Yankees fan.2

There's so much to be grateful for, so be grateful. And have a wonderful holiday!

1 Yet, by saying I couldn't put my sentiment into words, I put it into words. Sometimes my talent amazes even me.
2 Especially if you're a Yankees fan. Of course, your turkey was cooked back in mid-October.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Stopping for Another Nanosecond

Now that we're past the mid-point of NaNoWriMo, it's time once again to take a short break and celebrate its lesser-known brethren, NaNoRhyMo (National Novel Rhyming Month).

In last year's NaNoRhyMo, I shamelessly mutilated 10 nursery rhymes, one limerick, and a TV theme song. The gem of the 2009 collection (as decided by me, just now), was a mash-up of the theme to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Stephen King's It:
In South Central Maine I was born and raised
At the Barrens where I spent most of my days,
Running, and hiding, being bullied by fools,
Sometimes constructing a dam when not at school,
When this one creepy clown who was up to no good
Started killing children in my neighborhood.
There was but one little death and we all got scared;
Instead of Pennywise we should’ve made a date with Linda Blair.
This year I'm submitting half as many entries, which is perfectly acceptable, because unlike the other NaNoWriMo, this one is about quality, not quantity.

(Of course, if you keep reading, you'll notice it's not about quality, either.)

Take me out of my dis-trict,
Take me out of my home.
Make me some dresses and tasty snacks,
All I care is that I make it back
'Cause it's root, root, root through my backpack.
If there's no knife, it's a shame.
For it's twen-ty-three deaths each year
In the Hun-ger Games!

Now I lay him down to sleep,
I pray the orcs won't take Helm's Deep;
Should Frodo die or never wake,
Sam holds the Ring, and thus, our fate.

Every sperm whale's sacred,
Every blue whale's great,
But if the white's not wasted,
Ahab's still irate.1

1 That's right: I used a song about sperm to reference the big Dick. Admit it, you wish you'd thought of it first.

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet
Flashing a smile his way,
But along came Spider, to trick her (and ride her);
It just wasn't Fat Charlie's day.2

2 For those of you who assumed I'd use the whole "along came a spider" nonsense to tout a certain James Patterson novel by that name, there's something you need to know: When it comes to literature, Gaiman always trumps Patterson.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
But was it a fall? Or was it a push?
Jack thinks it's murder. (Don't ruin it! Shush!)3

3 They can't all be masterpieces

"Hey, Aeneas, what is this?"
"This, this... is Scylla and Charybdis."
"Do you think they mean us harm?"
"Undoubtedly. Sound the alarm."
"Which one, the glockenspiel or chime?"
"Never mind, we don't have time."
"Why are we sailing straight ahead?"
"Go left or right, we'll all be dead."
"We're gonna die! I know, I've seen it!"
"Anybody want a peanut?"4

4 Yes, I know The Aeneid is actually an epic poem, not a novel, and that it already rhymes. So what? Anything that leads to a Princess Bride reference is a win in my book.5
5 Not an actual book.

Well, that's all I've got: 2 nursery rhymes, 2 songs, 1 children's prayer, and a scene from a movie. But just because I was the only NaNoRhymer last year doesn't mean I have to go it alone this year, too.

So, dear readers, can you think of any other novels that need to be immortalized in verse? Share your own rhymes in the comments.6

6 If you're hesitating because you believe your rhyme is too silly or too stupid, take another gander at mine. Obviously, I don't have high standards. Have at it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

How to Make a List

  1. Decide you're going to make a list.
  2. Determine the purpose of your list. Do you wish to entertain? To educate? To rank like objects? To have your husband return home with the correct groceries?
  3. Jot down all the things you might want to put on the list. Don't worry if you can't think of them all at once, or if you come up with too many options; you have an assistant for that you can make changes and additions as you go.
  4. Figure out how long you want your list to be. Ten is often considered the ideal number for lists, but any total between 5-10 will work. You may even be able to get away with 12 or 20 (although any other number between 10-20 will seem too arbitrary). More than 20 and your reader will begin to lose interest.1 Less than five and you don't really have much of a list, now do you?
  5. Organize your list.
    1. For ranked lists, order items according to your chosen criteria. Or even better, my chosen criteria.
    2. For educational lists, ensure your steps are in order, and try to highlight your most salient points by using short, concise statements like this one.
    3. For grocery lists, maximize efficiency by grouping similar items together, such as pasta fagioli and spaghetti squash.
    4. For entertaining lists, maximize your humor quotient2 by using lesser items to help build to the largest laughs, and always end with a kicker. Try to spread the funniest ideas out across the entire list.
  6. Start putting down your list, in order.
  7. Realize you don't have enough solid ideas to fill out your entire list.
  8. Come up with a new addition on the spot, and hope no one notices.
  9. Radishes.
  10. Double-check your list for spelling arrears and to ensure you've listed the items in the possible sequence best. And there, you've done it! Congratulations! You've made a list!
  11. Don't tack another item on at the end just because you didn't think of it until after the list was complete. You'll look like an amateur.

1 Even if it's a grocery list, and your only reader is you. Trust me on this. I can't tell you how many times I forgot to buy Brussels sprouts or asparagus just because they fell at around #23 on the list.
2 LOLs ÷ WTFs.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Attack of the Zombie Aliens!

Last night, for my brother's birthday, we went to see the movie Skyline. From both the previews and the reviews, I was well aware of what to expect: a film with some quality special effects, but little else of value. Knowing this, I decided I'd watch the film with a critical eye, to see what I'd have done differently had I written the script.

First off, I'd have written a script.

Not only is the dialogue poor and the action predictable, but the film feels like it was written by a couple of visual effects guys.1 Some of its other problems:
  • It begins with a little teaser scene, then jumps back 15 hours to introduce the characters (three of whom are visual effects guys!). Attention, movie people: If you want to start with the action, then stick with it and develop the characters as you go. If you want to build up to the action by setting the scene and developing the characters, do that instead. You can't start with the action, then build up to the same action. Lose the frakkin' preface.
  • It's a horror film, so as you'd expect, characters don't act like normal people. "Ooh, let's wait half an hour after the first attack to turn on the news and get more details!" "Ooh, let's all take the elevator when we try to escape from the building!"2
  • Even if you ignore the illogical logistics of the alien invasion (How'd they sneak up on Earth? How'd they know before they arrived they wanted our braaaaains?), when you find out their sole motivation (they want us for our braaaaains), it still makes absolutely no sense. The aliens looked good, though.
  • Along with the usual tension created by characters having conflicting plans for survival, the writers also introduced extra tension between characters (based on relationship issues) for seemingly no other reason than it's what they'd been told they should do in their screenwriting class.
  • You're given practically no reason to care about any of the characters, unless it's because you've enjoyed watching them in shows such as Scrubs (Donald Faison), Dexter (David Zayas), 24 (Eric Balfour), NCIS (Scottie Thompson), or Sweet Valley High (Brittany Daniel).
  • And lastly, the reason we get to watch the invasion unfold from the perspective of these characters is not readily apparent until the very end of the film. I'll give you a hint: It's not because they happen to be filming it (a la Cloverfield) or because they're the ones who figure out how to kill off the aliens (a la Independence Day, Mars Attacks!). I could say more, but I don't want to ruin the ending for you.3
So, yeah, what would I have done differently? Well, I'd have rewritten the thing from scratch to fix all those points I just mentioned.

And then maybe — just maybe — I'd have added a plot.

1 It was.
2 Spoiler alert: Nothing happens in the elevator.
3 I'll let the ending do that.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sometimes, Hello is Unnecessary

This past weekend, Denise and I attended our friend's Halloween/housewarming party in his new 4,000 sq ft home. For those who aren't good with numbers, I'll make it easy for you: into his house I could fit two of my house, one large RV, three backhoes, and an industrial strength gazebo. Plus, an inflatable bounce-house in the basement.

Oh yeah, and they had an inflatable bounce-house in the basement.

This is the same friend who hosted the comic & cartoon-themed party last Halloween, where I lost the award for most obscure costume to a member of the Justice League. This time, however, there was no theme.

With no theme to inspire me, doubt about how weighted the party was toward housewarming, and not wanting to repeat my failure from Halloween night, I decided to go simpler. As in: one accessory.

I entered wearing this:
This led to a fine array of Princess Bride quotes, and culminated in the following exchange with a fairy nymph:
Nymph: You can't be Inigo Montoya without a rapier.
Inigo: A what?
Nymph: A rapier.
Inigo: You keep using that whord. I do not think it means what you think it means.
Half an hour later, I stepped away and changed into this getup:

People barely recognized me. I then proceeded to switch guises about every twenty minutes.

(2007 movie)


(Not what you're thinking; 2010 movie)


(Percy Bysshe Shelly sonnet)


(1st song on Weezer's 1st album)

(Saturday Night Live skit)

(Personalized birthday song in the '70s)

Okay, I'll admit I didn't stick with only one accessory the entire night.
At one point, I used three:

There you have it. In one night, I portrayed Mandy Patinkin, Jason Lee, Rivers Cuomo, Mike Myers, and Eminem.

But no, I never did use the bounce-house. Even Bruce Campbell has his pride.

So, tell me Dear Readers, what's the simplest costume you ever tried to pull off?
Did it work?

And just so Maureen doesn't complain...1

1 Foot.

Friday, November 5, 2010


I want to apologize. Last year, in my Guy Fawkes Day post,1 I misquoted the traditional rhyme for this day (which you may also recognize as the opening lines to V for Vendetta). Here's what I wrote:
Remember, remember the fifth of November,
The gunpowder treason and plot.
Something something something something
Should ever be forgot.
So it turns out my memory of the lyrics was a little off. Nor was my explanation entirely accurate, seeing how it was culled from Wikipedia. Anyway, thanks to new information from a reputable source,3 I can now present to you the original rhyme:
Remember, remember the fifth of November,
The gunpowder trees, onion plot.
I see no Rhys in the gunpowder trees, and
Should Everard be for Gott?
I'll break this down line by line, so it's easier to understand.
Remember, remember the fifth of November
This one's obvious: Remember the fifth letter of November. Remember M. There is some conjecture as to whether M was the nickname for Sir Francis Tresham (the man some say wrote the anonymous letter that averted Parliament's destruction), or if it simply stands for Monteagle (a.k.a. William Parker, the 4th Baron of Monteagle, who received the letter). Either way, thanks to this line, both men shall always be remembered.
The gunpowder trees, onion plot.
This rumor has never been proven, but it is said that prior to their failed attack, the conspirators stored their gunpowder in a group of hollowed-out trees next to a plot of land where one of the men grew onions. This onion patch acted as an excellent landmark for them.
I see no Rhys in the gunpowder trees, and
Rhys is Rhys ap Gruffydd, a leader in uprisings in 12th century Wales. Historians believe this line was inserted into the rhyme by the Welsh to tout that no Welshmen were among the conspirators, in the hope Wales would be held in higher regard by the rest of Britain. It didn't work.

And finally...
Should Everard be for Gott?
Sir Everard Digby, one of the conspirators, won some supporters with his eloquent defense in court, and they believed he should not be given over to Gott (or God, in German). Of course, that didn't stop him from being hanged, drawn and quartered.

So, there you have it. You can finally recite the Guy Fawkes Day rhyme as it was always meant to be said. I'm glad I could help.

1 In which I managed to link Fawkes and The Goonies together. No joke. It's in the second footnote.
2 Not this second footnote. The footnote in last year's post.
3 As opposed to Cooks Source, which we should definitely oppose, since it is about as far from reputable as you can get. (By the way, the "reputable source" I mentioned is my brain.)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

And She's Down for the Count

I rarely talk about politics on The Wheel, but I wanted to share this bit of news with you. Earlier this evening, Linda McMahon, U.S. Senate hopeful and former CEO of World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, was crushed by the steel chair of defeat.

This makes me happy.

I'm registered as an independent here in Connecticut, and over the past week I dutifully reviewed the stances for every candidate in every race in my area. That is, except for U.S. Senator. That one I'd decided on months ago. And it had nothing to do with McMahon's political stances. Here's why:
  • Linda McMahon raised over $46 million for her campaign... in a state that has approximately 2 million registered voters. According to, this was twice the amount of the 2nd highest total raised by any other U.S. Senate and House candidates this year.
  • Almost all of that was self-funded.
  • She sent out, on average, three mailings a week to every household. This started for us well before the primary, although neither Denise nor I are Republican and we couldn't vote in it. I suspect if we'd kept the flyers instead of recycling them, the pile may have reached up to my waste waist.
  • We received multiple calls from supposed pollsters, asking questions heavily skewed against her opponent (Democrat Dick Blumenthal).1
  • Despite this monstrous waste of funds, McMahon spent much of her campaign calling out Blumenthal for how much of the state's money he had spent during his time as Attorney General, and touting how she — as a financially savvy businesswoman — would be able to save the state money.2
  • And, regarding her financial savvitry: Her wrestlers in the WWF WWE had to buy their own health care, and the WWF WWE owns the rights to the names and images of every character they created. (See Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson)
Though my decision was already made, it was reinforced yesterday. At a rally on the University of Connecticut campus, a protester allegedly shoved one of McMahon's supporters. Her spokesman explained it thusly:

"A disappointing incident occurred this morning on the UCONN campus when a male protester at a pre-election rally shoved a young woman supporting Linda. She is fine and has declined to file charges against him, but it is disappointing that Dick Blumenthal's campaign has resorted to intimidation."

That's right: Blumenthal was behind it. Oh, and here's the kicker: The protester in question? He's with the Green Party.

Linda McMahon tried to buy the election with $46 million of her own money, and with more than half of the precincts reporting, that's the percentage she's got: 46%, compared with Blumenthal's 52%. The race was called in Blumenthal's favor within minutes after the polls closed.

So long, Linda. Don't let the ladder hit you on the way out.

1 Although, I have to admit this is a creative tactic. As an entertainer, she does know how to spin things to her advantage.
2 And as a federal employee, no less.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Scourge of Microbiologists Everywhere

Far too many writerly blogs have been talking about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this past week, so I'll relegate my thoughts on that topic to a footnote,1 and move onto something far more important:

The NanoRhino.

Of course, "NanoRhino" is somewhat of a misnomer. As you can see from the picture at right, the rhino isn't that small. Although it's typically 1/20 the size of most Rhinoceros beetles, it can still be seen with the naked eye.2

So, why should you care? Well, the NanoRhino (Rhinoceros teenitinius) is nearly extinct. In fact, only six known NanoRhinos still exist. In an ironic twist Alanis Morissette would be proud of (if she knew the meaning of the word), the species has been nearly killed off by the very people who should be trying to study them: microbiologists.3

The problem is rather simple: NanoRhinos are wee little bastards. Unless isolated, they run rampant through all nearby nanobeings and either trample them, gore them, or eat them.4 Yet, if isolated, they lose their will to live, and begin to waste away. Maintaining this delicate balance is a conundrum that microbiologists have long decided to ignore, choosing instead to separate the NanoRhinos and let them perish. This way, the scientists can examine the microscopic creatures they're actually trying to observe without nature's diminutive bullies ruining everything.

Only one man, the exceptionally gifted Dr. Heinrich von Heinrichsen, is doing what needs to be done to keep these poor NanoRhino alive. He has four in his Brussels lab, but needs major funding to continue his research (and to get them to mate — NanoRhinos are notoriously selective).5 And that is why, during the month of November, I will be trying to raise $50,000 for the Heinrichsen institute in Brussels as part of InSaNaRhiMo (International Save NanoRhinos Month). Who will join me?

1 I'll be participating for the fourth time, but I don't play NaNoWriMo by NaNoWriMo's rules. Instead of attempting to write a new novel of 50,000 words during November, I'll just write as much as possible on my current novel without sacrificing quality. Then, I'll do the same for December. And January. And February. (I might skip March.)
2 The naked eye? How scandalous! (That is, according to microbiologists. They don't get out much. Also, most of their kind wear glasses. (By the way, if you are a microbiologist, please know I meant no offense with my preceding remarks. No offense at all. And can I say? You look very sexy in those glasses.))
3 Very sexy.
4 Possibly all three, depending on how insulting the other nanocreature was to the rhino's mother.
5 No, they don't judge based on the size of their partner's horn. Shame on you for thinking so. It's the ears.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

My Sanity Doesn't Need Restoring


I'm pissed I couldn't find my racquetball goggles, though. Without them, I just look stupid.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Miscellaneous Monday

Sometimes, I'll come up with an idea that's too long to share on The Twitter, but too short to dedicate an entire post to it. That's where this post comes in.

Behold! Random samplings from my brain:
  • When I'm in a really long meeting, I start to suffer from Stockholm Syndrome. You know, where after a while your captors all start to sound like the Swedish Chef? Invariably, I get called out by my boss for not caring enoof aboot Proojek Bork-Bork-Bork.

  • tax•i•der•mist (noun) - an individual from whom the Internal Revenue Service can only collect money when they pry it from his cold, dead paw.

  • They really need to make a video game that allows you to choose miniature animal avatars. Mostly, because that's the only way one might have a legitimate reason to say, "Oui, we wee Wii weevils wee! wee! wee! all the way home."1

  • Beware any classified ad that says anything along the lines of:
    1958 Ford Edsel, only 50,000 mi, excellent condition. $500 OBO.
    You shouldn't have to pay that much for an oboe that can't play an E.

  • Mark Twain once proclaimed, "Golf is a good walk spoiled." He was wrong. I think you'll find anything can be improved by hitting things with sticks. (e.g. walks, horse rides, chemistry class, Fox News)

  • By the end of the first second, third place was well out of reach. I'd only just downed my fourth fifth of scotch, but was already feeling kind of sixth.

  • The old man smoked like a chimney2 and drank like a fish,3 but was too stubborn to die of natural causes. So, unnatural it would have to be.

  • And finally, although I can't claim credit for this one, I do love the example sentence for defenestrate on "The rebels stormed the palace and defenestrated the President." Yes, seriously.

1 You might claim my claim of legitimacy has no legitimacy. But that's where we differ.
2 Only on cold, wintry nights.
3 With his mouth formed into an O.

Friday, October 22, 2010

I Wish I Knew How to Quit You

Denise says I spend too much time on the blogs.

Not writing them, clearly — this is only my third post this month — but reading them. And she isn't entirely wrong; by my estimate, I'm currently following 8,157 blogs.1 Her argument is that all my time spent keeping up with those other blogs is keeping me from working on my novel. She isn't entirely wrong about that, either.

But I am not, as she asserts, addicted.

I'm not. I can quit whenever I want to. Not that I ever would, because everyone knows quitters never win, and winners never quit. Except for that one winner who did quit since he'd already won. Or maybe he just quit while he was ahead. Either way, quitting worked out fine for him, so obviously, I could also—no, that's not right. Let me start over.

I can quit whenever I want to. Not that I would, because quitters never win... unless they're competing in a quitting competition, in which case it would depend on how fast or how impressively they quit, and—crap. That's not it, either.

I can quit whenever I want. Not that I would, because quitting is for losers, and I'm not a loser, despite what that one commenter said on my blog. In fact, I highly doubt his credentials as a "Loser Expert," and if he ever comments again I will totally have a better comeback for him than "Nuh uh, YOU'RE the loser." And I certainly won't avoid the internet for a month and cry myself to sleep each night, like I—

Sorry, I got a little off track there. One last try.

I can quit whenever I want. But I won't quit, because quitting is stupid and because I am a WINNER. Are you a winner? I don't think so. You're a—wait, you are a winner? Can there be two winners? Are you sure? Huh. Guess I'm not a winner after all. No, wait. I AM a winner. I'm at least a second-place winner. And I will stand up tall and show the whole world that... that... um...

Aw, screw it. I give up.

1 Actually, it's probably closer to 8,152. Yeah, I never learned how to estimate.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

No Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

Some of you may remember this picture:

That's me with my two new Neville novels, which I won back in July by writing about bacon. I've been meaning to share my thoughts on them for a while now, but this past month I was just so wrapped up in my procrastination. That happens sometimes. Then again, some might argue I'm procrastinating even now, by continuing to write meaningless drivel when I could have already begun the reviews and instead be writing meaningful drivel. These people are all kinds of wrong. My drivel is never meaningful.

(By the way, for the two of you who saw the title of this post and thought I'd be discussing Chan-Wook Park and South Korean cinema, my apologies. Maybe next time.)

The Ghosts of Belfast
by Stuart Neville

Neville's debut novel, The Ghosts of Belfast, has an intriguing premise: Gerry Fegan, a former killer for the IRA, has served his time, but is haunted endlessly by the ghosts of twelve of his innocent victims. For years, he has sought solace at the bottom of a bottle,1 but now the ghosts have a new proposal for Gerry. If he kills the other people who share responsibility for his victims' deaths, the ghosts will leave him alone.

Unfortunately, there's not much more to the story. It's well written, and I enjoyed getting a taste of all the warring factions in modern-day Belfast, but the plot is wafer-thin. Which would have been fine, except for one thing: Gerry isn't a likeable character. He moves from target to target, killing only to silence his ghosts. He spares others who don't deserve to be spared, simply because the ghosts haven't singled them out for destruction. And sometimes, the targets the ghosts have selected aren't the most plausible choice.

The Ghosts of Belfast is a standard tale of vengeance, yet one with few twists or roadblocks, and a main character with little redeeming value. I mean, he pledged to protect one attractive woman and her daughter. How valiant.

Though Neville's style won me over, the story and characters weren't enough to keep me hooked.


1 Not literally. He just drinks like a fish.2
2 Not literally. Fish don't drink alcohol. Also, they have gills. Fegan doesn't. This isn't Waterworld, people.

by Stuart Neville

Here we've got another tale with revenge at its core, but this time Neville does it right. Where its predecessor boasted little in the way of plot, Collusion introduces a beleaguered detective trying to find his ex-lover and young daughter, whom he believes are in trouble. Detective Jack Lennon is hindered every step of the way, and as he delves deeper he begins to unravel a conspiracy between all those warring factions I mentioned from the first book. Indeed, his family is caught directly in the cross-hairs. And weaving through it all, a cold-blooded3 assassin known only as the Traveller exacts another man's revenge through the streets of Belfast.

Lennon is the compelling, sympathetic character The Ghosts of Belfast lacked. And unlike Fegan's trail of vengeance in the first book, the Traveller's doesn't go nearly as smoothly. Speaking of Fegan, he's back, but since he's no longer taking orders from ghosts and comes in smaller doses, he's much easier to take.

With a compelling protagonist, actual character arcs, and traitors and conspiracies to uncover, Collusion easily surpasses its predecessor. Though I found the Traveller's motivations unrealistic at times, the bad guys' noses a little too easily broken, and the ending not as powerful as I'd hoped, all in all it was a very entertaining read.

Looking for a quality thriller filled with unseemly Irish characters? Leave the Ghosts behind and check this one out.


3 Not literally. He is neither lizard nor vampire. A better descriptor might have been cold-hearted.4
4 Not literally. I have it on good authority the Traveller's heart sits at a balmy 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

10 Top 10s for 10/10/10 (at 10:10)

A year ago, I posted my first round of 10 Top 10s for 10/10, and it was met with spectacular and overwhelming indifference. This past May I offered up 5 Top 5s for 5/5; it received a similar reception. Knowing this, you might assume that I'd have learned my lesson and would stop posting lists of lists.

Clearly, you don't know me very well.

I wrote this list with two stipulations: 1) I must have seen the film in question, and 2) I don't remember what the other stipulation was.1
  1. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  2. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  3. The Third Man
  4. Four Weddings and a Funeral
  5. The Fifth Element
  6. The Sixth Sense
  7. Se7en2
  8. Eight Legged Freaks
  9. Nine Queens
  10. 10 Things I Hate About You
Bonus trivia: Two movies qualified in three categories: the original Taking of Pelham One Two Three and 4 Years, 3 Months, and 2 Days.

1 It may have had something to do with π.
2 Why did I pick this over Seven Samurai? It's a simple matter of weight ratios. (i.e. 2x7 > 7) And if that explanation isn't enough for you... um... Brad Pitt is dreamy?

You can see what I'm currently reading (Wicked, Bonk) in my sidebar, but here's what I hope to read once those are done. (Most likely, I won't get to any of these until 2012.)
  1. Paranormalcy, Kiersten White
    Sure, the target audience is teenage girls, but these vampires don't sparkle. Instead, they get slaughtered by some unknown creature and hunted by a teenager with a pink taser named Tasey. Plus, I already read the first 70 pages online.
  2. The Sot-Weed Factor, John Barth
    I found this on the same couple of "funniest books" lists as the gems A Confederacy of Dunces and Letters from the Earth. After all, they say laughter is the second-best medicine. You know, after medicine.
  3. A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking
    I never cared much for science class, but I like science. All I know so far is that time is on my side.3 I figure Hawking can fill me in on the rest.
  4. Numb, Sean Ferrell
    Ferrell's a funny guy. I hope his debut measures up. Since it's about a guy with amnesia who joins up with a bunch of circus freaks, the odds are in my favor.
  5. The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
    Film noir without the film. I enjoyed the movie, and heard the book was even better. Hope they're right.
  6. House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski
    Opening up this book is a visual treat for a designer like myself. Besides, I felt I needed a 700 page behemoth on this list.
  7. Anathem, Neal Stephenson
    I loved the three books before his Baroque Cycle, so I'm looking forward to getting back into his stuff. Besides, I felt I needed a book on this list longer than House of Leaves.
  8. Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
    The classic. Besides, I felt I needed a book on this list longer than Anathem.
  9. Caught, Harlan Coben
    The latest from one of my favorite mystery writers (though I do prefer his Myron Bolitar series to his one-offs). Plus, I already read the first 20 pages.
  10. The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness
    A couple friends recommended this series (Chaos Walking) as my next YA trilogy once I finished The Hunger Games. Sometimes I listen to my friends. This is one of those times.
3 Yes it is.

  1. Other Ninjas
    What, you don't have other ninjas in your house? You really should keep your Spare Ninja Storage stocked at all times.
  2. The Ninja Repulsar 5000
    You don't have one of these either? What sort of household are you running there?! Jeez.
  3. Snuggies
    If you're wearing a Snuggie (or its crazy cousin, the Slanket), ninjas won't waste their time with you, since they know you're already dead inside.
  4. Glitter
    Sprinkle glitter on every available surface of your home. Not only will it give you an easy way to detect movement, but some ninjas will leave, convinced you have angst-filled vampires to protect you.
  5. Karabiners
    Oh, sorry. For a second there, I thought it said rappel, not repel. Rappelling would make ninjas even more dangerous. My bad.
  6. Background Music
    When the music turns creepy or eerily quiet, that's your cue to slash wildly into the shadows. (Use your karabiners.)
  7. Cats
    They're like the ninjas of the animal kingdom. Or maybe it's that ninjas are the cats of the people kingdom. Either way, they have a pact, and you'll be safe. Though I don't envy you the offering you'll find on your doorstep in the morning.
  8. Chopsticks
    No, not the eating utensils. Ninjas just really hate that song.
  9. Your Car
    It's much harder for a ninja to attack you when you're not home... and travelling upwards of 60 mph.
  10. Love
    Yeah, I'm totally kidding. That'll get you killed for sure. Besides, love's not even a common household item. I say go with knives instead. Yeah, knives will work.4
(For further lessons in self defense, check out last year's Top 10 Ways to Defend Yourself Against Sharks with Friggin' Lasers Attached to Their Heads.)

4 No they won't.

For those of you who are newer to The Wheel, those of you who want to reread my greatest hits, and those of you who just like looking at lists:
  1. The Twelve (Twisted) Days of Christmas
    Like the popular Christmas carol, except not. In my mind, this series of 12 posts is the most entertaining (and taxing) thing I've ever done on The Wheel. (Start on Day One.)
  2. The Day I Almost Died
    A bit long, but it's a sentimental favorite. Not only because it was my very first post, but also because holy hell in a handbasket I'm alive!
  3. Say What?
    The first of two dialogue-only stories I wrote for a workshop. Sci-fi/fantasy geek edition.
  4. Stopping for a Nanosecond
    I celebrate NaNoRhyMo with mashups of nursery rhymes (and the theme from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air).
  5. Say Again?
    The second of two dialogue-only stories I wrote for a workshop. Crime/police drama edition.
  6. Yo Ho Ho, and a Bottle of Manischewitz
    When holidays collide: celebrating International Talk Like a (Jewish) Pirate Day.
  7. Something's Afoot
    Ten! Ten! Ten footnotes in one (sentence)!
  8. 'Tis the Season
    My primer on Hannukah, for all you goyim out there.
  9. Ninja Haiku Contest!
    My first contest. I love the contest rules almost as much as the entries...
  10. A Little Help?
    An appeal for help (that went completely ignored, I might add).

  1. Statler & Waldorf (tie) — The Muppet Show
  2. The Swedish Chef — The Muppet Show
  3. The Bad Idea Bears — Avenue Q
  4. Count Blah — Greg the Bunny
  5. Beaker — The Muppet Show
  6. Animal — The Muppet Show
  7. Angel — Angel (episode: Smile Time)
  8. John Malkovich — Being John Malkovich
  9. Walter — Jeff Dunham's stand-up comedy
  10. Vichy France, 1940-1944

  1. Major Major Major Major — Catch-22
  2. Humbert Humbert — Lolita
  3. Jack-Jack — The Incredibles
  4. Jean val Jean — Les Miserables
  5. Jerome K. Jerome — author of Three Men in a Boat5
  6. James (Jimmy) James — NewsRadio
  7. Grant Grant — Slither
  8. Charles Charles — Pushing Daisies
  9. Dr. Montgomery Montgomery — The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events #2)
  10. (tie) Mary Mary (Quite Contrary)
    (tie) Peter Peter (Pumkin Eater)
5 Notice how I've said absolutely nothing of the dog.

My second list today touting my own writing. Yes, I am stoking my own ego. My id and superego are pissed. That's why their votes counted double as I put together this list.

Also, for those of you unfamiliar with the Facebook status update, the user's name always comes first, and for a while the site inserted "is" as the default beginning for every status. This caused Nate Wilson to write in the third person far more than is healthy.
  1. Not only do I verb nouns, but I also adverb pronouns, preposition adjectives, and conjunct interjections.
  2. Nate Wilson is slyly testing acronyms, thus updating status.
  3. Nate Wilson is letting the cat out of the bag. Also, he's engaged.
  4. Nate Wilson is nonplussed about the word "nonplussed". It never means what he thinks it means.
  5. Nate Wilson is tearing down the wall to let Germans roam free. Of course, by doing this today instead of 20 years ago, and in Berlin, CT instead of Berlin, Germany, the Werner family is not at all amused.
  6. Nate Wilson has determined that one Ponzi scheme isn't quite enough. He wants to have enough that he can stack them into a pyramid.
  7. Nate Wilson totally just [past tense verb] the [adjective] [noun]. [Exclamation]!
  8. Nate Wilson is disappointed Apple has not yet come out with the iPatch, the iClaudius, or the iCarumba.
  9. Nate Wilson, no matter how hard you try to convince him, will not be suede.
  10. On this day in 44 BC, Marcus Junius Brutus, with 60 of his closest friends, created the first ever Caesar salad. (This message has been brought to you by the Coalition of Really Awful Puns.)

Pluto has been deplaneted. The triceratops has been wiped off the face of the planet. Again. Since things come in threes, what might be the next thing scientists take away from us?
  1. Optimus Prime (Transformer)
    What's that? He was a Go-Bot all along? Prime, say it ain't so!
  2. Tomato (fruit)
    This saucy bit has already shifted from veggie to fruit. Introducing: Tomato the animal. If you squish one, does it not bleed? If you cut one, does it not cry out in agony?
  3. Lion (king of the jungle)
    Little known fact: The lion is an elected official. Sorry for the confusion, Prime Minister Simba.
  4. Sliced bread (the previous greatest thing)
    There've been a kajillion better inventions since the whole sliced bread thing. Seriously. I'm typing on one right now.
  5. Indigo (color of the rainbow)
    We've always known there's no color between Blue and Violet. Roy G. Biv is a lie.
  6. Thou shalt honor thy father and mother (commandment)
    It's more what you'd call "guideline" than an actual rule.
  7. Paramecium (one-celled organism)
    It's been hiding a second cell behind it under the microscope all these years. Crafty little bugger.
  8. Grumpy (dwarf)
    He's actually a leprechaun. (Don't tell the Witness Relocation Program I mentioned this.)
  9. Sir Galahad (Knight of the Round Table)
    Squire Galahad, at best. But wow, did he know the power of a good story. The first one to realize the pen is mightier than the sword.6
  10. Silicon (chemical element)
    Not truly its own element. Turns out it's actually a complex compound of Sulfur, Iodine, Lithium, Carbon, Oxygen, and Nitrogen.
6 Except when dueling. Maybe if I had a bigger pen...

Crap. I'm starting to rethink this whole "10 lists" thing. Do I really still have two more to go? I don't have any more ideas. Aw hell, I guess I'll just do what I did with the movies, except use songs off my iTunes instead.
  1. One, U2
  2. Two (Shoes), The Cat Empire
  3. Three (Marlenas), The Wallflowers
  4. Four, Lit
  5. Five (on the) Five, The Raconteurs
  6. Six (Pacs), The Getaway People
  7. Seven (Seas of Rhye), Queen
  8. Eight (Days a Week), The Beatles
  9. Nine (in the Afternoon), Panic! at the Disco
  10. Ten, Jimmy Eat World

  1. Playing a game of Dominion with my wife
  2. Re-reading The Westing Game
  3. Hunting wild game (in a session of cross-species laser tag)7
  4. Eating a pint of Ben & Jerry's, then counteracting that with three hours of volleyball. Then, counteracting that with another pint of Ben & Jerry's.
  5. Playing three hours of volleyball, then counteracting that with a pint of Ben & Jerry's, then complementing that with a bottle of scotch, then contemplating that while passed out on the bathroom floor.
  6. Sleeping. With one eye open. (And, gripping the pillow tight.)
  7. Rappelling ninjas.
  8. Continuing my quest to become the Patron Saint of Little Yippy Dogs, even though I'm not Catholic, or dead, and don't particularly like little yippy dogs.
  9. Wrestling a grizzly bear in a huge vat of tapioca pudding while friends and relatives throw lawn darts at me and an all-kazoo marching band made up entirely of albino pygmies performs the theme from Mortal Kombat.
  10. Coming up with an 11th top 10 list. Notice how I'm not doing that. You're welcome.
7 I assumed only creatures with opposable thumbs would be any good at laser tag, but I tell you, the herd mentality really works when the deer and the antelope play. (Also, watch out for the coyotes; they're wily ones.)

Do you have suggestions for any of these lists? (No, not where they should be shoved.) Perhaps a household object you feel I overlooked, or a book I should add at the top of my list. Lay it on me. Or, just leave it in the comments. Either way works.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The X-Man: Origins

This (and when I say "this," I mean this right here (you know, these words I'm writing right now (or, more accurately, these words I've already written but which you're reading right now (yeah, that's better)))) is my 100th post.

Since I ran a contest for The Wheel's one-year anniversary, this time I thought I'd offer up something more valuable than Amazon gift cards: information.1

So today, on this auspicious occasion, I will tell you why this blog is named Sometimes, the Wheel is on Fire. I'll give you a hint: It has absolutely nothing to do with Bob Dylan.

Let me start you off with this (anonymous) entry from my most recent contest:
A Conn College student late one night
Of Ixion did inquire
Turns to the footnote and there finds
Sometimes the wheel is on fire
Confused yet? Well, let me 'splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

You see that guy up at the top of my blog, the X-Man? That's Ixion. I know some of you are too lazy to look, so here he is again:

Anyway, a while back, two friends were reading about Ixion for a course on Greek mythology. A king of the Lapiths, Ixion murdered his father-in-law and later lusted after Hera, causing Zeus to expel him from Mount Olympus.

Now, this was one of those text books rife with footnotes. And not the kindly, sometimes humorous footnotes you find here. These were academic footnotes, meaning references to source material or long, boring passages providing further background.

As a result, neither of my friends had read a single footnote so far that chapter. Yet both friends — independent of each other, I might add — felt compelled to flip to the back of the book to see what more there was to say about Ixion's punishment.2 You see, as retribution for his actions, Ixion is bound to a spinning wheel for all eternity.

The footnote adds these six little words:   82 Sometimes the wheel is on fire.

So there you have it. Two friends stumble upon a bizarre and amusing phrase, and a decade later I commandeer it for my blog. Actually, they were happy to let me have it, especially after they saw the fiery Ixion logo I'd designed. And even more especially once they learned he isn't always engulfed in flames.3

Plus, I love that my blog — which practically runs on footnotes — gets its name from a footnote. I'd write a footnote about it, but I don't want to be too cliché.4

One hundred blog posts. Wow.

1 I never said it would be more valuable to you. It's more valuable to me, though, since I value my money.
2 Yes, since the notes are at the back of the book, they're technically endnotes, not footnotes, but no one cares. So shut your face and pay attention.
3 Refresh the page if you don't believe me. One out of five times, the Ixion in the top banner will be mercifully extinguished. The rest of the time, I'm not nearly as merciful.
4 Thus, I will instead write about yetis. Although this is the first I've mentioned yetis here, theirs is a cause near and dear to my heart. Much like Muslims, yetis are characterized as violent and hateful, when the vast majority are compassionate, peace-loving individuals. Don't persecute all yetis because of the actions of an abominable few. Please, in this time of need, pledge your support to I SAY, the International Society for the Advancement of Yetis. Tell 'em Nate sent you.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Where Memes Go to Die

A couple days ago, the wonderful Angela over at Jaded Love Junkie bestowed upon me The Versatile Blogger award. Thanks, Angela!

It's the first award I've received for my work at The Wheel, and to show my appreciation, I decided the first thing I'd do was demonstrate my versatility. Behold:

That's right, I gave it a Photoshop upgrade. TVB, you're welcome.

Anyway, the award also came with a set of rules to which I'm supposed to adhere. And that's where I stop playing along.

Rules. They're all well and good in some situations, but I pretty much ignore any rule contrived just to spread a meme. A few examples:

Meme Rule Reaction
Forwarded surveys Answer 21 questions about myself, then send to 21 friends I don't answer any question seriously, then only send it to those who sent it to me
Chain letters Send to 10 friends, or never find true love I send it out, but only after converting it into a Mad-Lib
Certain dances Do the exact same moves as everyone else at the exact same time, because we said so I avoid them like the plague avoids them1

The first couple rules were fine. Thank the person who gave you the award. Post the award. You know, that sort of thing. But then I got to rule #3:
Nominate 15 other bloggers to pass the luv.
First of all, if I'm going to pass along a misspelled word, it's going to be a misspelled word of my choosing, such as "sammich" or "Canadia." And secondly, it's too hard to pick which 15 bloggers to give this award. Instead, I'll fall back on my versatility once again:
Nominate 15 other bloggers to pass the luv Louvre.
Who am I nominating? You. That's right! If you're among the first 15 to read this, I've just nominated you for an all-expense paid trip to Paris!2 Just think about it: la Tour Eiffel (the Eiffel tower), la Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris (the Cathedral of Notre Dame), and l'Arc de Triomphe (the Lark of Triumph) are all now within your grasp.

I know what you're thinking, and: You're welcome.

Au revoir!

1 Okay, so I may have inadvertently been pulled into a conga line once or twice. And I've done the Hokey Pokey. But, in my defense, so has the plague.
2 All expenses paid by you, the aforementioned blogger.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Give me an Arrrrr

Yo ho, me hearties! 'Tis a wondrous day! Yet, I am overcome with sadness.

On the one hand, it is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, which is always a blast. But on the other hook, a year ago it coincided with Rosh Hashanah, which meant I got to explain how to talk like a Jewish pirate. In comparison, today kind of feels like a letdown.

It doesn't have to be, though. We can liven things up a bit by adding some variety to the proceedings. After all, there are many types of pirates out there.

Let me show you what I mean:

Type of Pirate Quote
Traditional: "Avast, ye scurvy dogs! Shape up, or I'll cast ye into the briny depths!"
Music: "If you don't burn me a copy of the new Skurvy Doggs album, I'll shove you back in Davy Jones' locker!"
Pittsburgh: "You dogs stunk it up out there tonight! Hit the showers, get outta my sight!"
Software: "Jeez, the quality's so bad you can barely tell the dog has scurvy! The picture's so washed out!"
Somali (translated): "Quit trying to kill us like dogs! Either pay the ransom, or we'll send more hostages to a watery grave!"
Radio: "This'll stop those scurvy dogs in their tracks! More music the establishment doesn't want you to hear. First up: Under the Sea."
Of the Caribbean: "That scurvy dog's in no shape to sail. I 'spect he's drownin' his sorrows in a bottle o' rum."
Of Penzance: "So what if you're the model of a modern Major-General?
Stop singing or I'll throw you from this very boat quite literal.
We'll tie you to an anchor and then boot you off the plank, we will.
And to the ocean floor you'll sink, where you'll be food for mackerel."

That's but a few examples, but I think you've got the idea. Just because everyone will be talking like a pirate today, it doesn't mean you all have to talk like the same one.

So, go. Set a course for awesomeness. And let's break away from the stereotype.

Although, feel free to imagine everyone with an eye patch, and a parrot on their shoulder.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I'm an Uncle!

Shortly after 4pm on Sunday, September 5, 2010, I became an uncle for the first time. Or, to put it another way, I got married.1

Thank you all for your congratulations and well wishes! The whole wedding weekend was wonderful. Both the game night and reception went off without a hitch, and the ceremony had just the one.

(And, now that I've gotten the obligatory bad pun out of the way...)

How We Met

I first met my ex-fiancée2 at a place called The Blue Turtle, where my friend Scott was celebrating his birthday. Of twenty or so invitees, only three showed that night, and the third was already married. (Plus, he wasn't my type.)

Denise let me beat her at air hockey, and the rest, as they say, is history.3

The Bride

The bouquet: red & yellow gerber daisies
The gown: from David's Bridal
The old: grandmother's pearls / grandfather's ring
The new: gown / shoes / floral hairpiece
The borrowed: aunt's handkerchief
The blue: toe nails
The penny: in her shoe (the right one)

The Groom

Wardrobe provided by Men's Wearhouse, JCPenney, and Macy's, adorned with — and I quote — a "Golden Imperial Hankie." Hair by MPA.4

Suave. Sophisticated.
And in an abandoned streetcar.

The Ceremony

We were married in North Collins, NY, under a willow tree on a small island in a small pond usually frequented by ducks and geese. In one direction you can see old train cars and tractors and a rocket. In another you can see totem poles, and anchors and bizarre sculptures. Across the pond sits the top of a silo, painted as a giant pumpkin head.

Denise is Catholic, and I'm Jewish-ish, so we had a non-religious ceremony. I did, however, keep the Jewish tradition of "the breaking of the glass," because I enjoy smashing things. Afterward, our closest family and friends pelted us with birdseed. One rogue kernel still resides within the lining of my jacket. I have no idea how it got in there.

The Music

We hand-picked all the songs played at the reception, with help from Scott, our Designated iPod Manager (or DiPM). The songs were grouped into playlists and then randomized, which meant we spent half the reception saying, "Hey, I love this song!"

We did, however, play a few songs at specific times:

Processional: In My Life, by The Beatles (played on violin)
Wedding song: Nathaniel & Denise's Wedding Song, written by my sister5
First dance: The Luckiest, by Ben Folds
Played in the background during our intro: from the Muppet Show... Mahna Mahna6

The Reception

Ilio DiPaolo's, in Blasdell, NY, provided magnificent service and their food was phenomenal. Many raved about their veal marsala, and I loved (loved!) both the Italian wedding soup and the rosemary red potatoes.

Oh yeah, and Table 5 won the sugar packet tower-building competition.

If you enjoy Italian food and ever find yourself south of Buffalo for some reason, stop in at Ilio's for a meal. You won't be disappointed.

The Photos

Kaz of Kaz Photography was an absolute pleasure to work with. Not only does he have a spectacular eye for composition and color, but in some of the shots, he even made me look handsome. You can see all 24 of the "teaser" photos here.

If you ever find yourself in Buffalo and in need of a photographer, Kaz is your man.

In Summary...

I was overwhelmed by how well everything went, and of course, Denise looked amazing. In fact, I don't believe the weekend could have turned out any better. And, if the first few hours and days of our marriage are any indication, my ex-fiancée and I are going to have a long, happy life together.

1 I inherited twin two-and-a-half year-old nephews. Although, I did have fun telling people last year I'd be an uncle this September. They'd start to congratulate me for my sister, then falter as they worked through the math and realized it was more than nine months away. (Earlier last year I also announced my upcoming nuptials by saying my girlfriend got engaged over the weekend. Eventually, people will start to figure out they shouldn't take anything I say at face value.)
2 She prefers "wife."
3 Then again, pretty much everything is history, no matter how mundane it is. So I wouldn't get too excited.
4 Male Pattern Awesomeness
5 The song contained the names of 39 vegetables, 37 Halloween costumes, and 36 types of cheese. And no, I'm not exaggerating. (Also, there was a kazoo solo.)
6 Do doo de-do-do.