Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Day 7: Just Keep Swimming

This post (minus some edits) first ran on December 31, 2009.
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David Cassidy is dead.

Denise and I were setting up the above-ground, heated swimming pool for my seven new pet swans1 when we saw Cassidy clutch at the pear tree to keep from falling. We helped him to the ground, and though he was struggling to breathe, he managed to utter two words before his heart gave out: “swan allergy.” I have no idea what he meant, but I figure it's probably the name of his sled.

Frankly, I’m surprised he lasted the week, sitting in freezing temperatures without food or water. But he clearly knew death was a possibility when he accepted the gig, since when I rifled through his pockets2 the only thing I found was the phone number for a local Undertaker. Two hours later, a hearse sporting the WWE logo pulled up in front, and — after some pyrotechnics and a bunch of unnecessary posturing — we bade a final farewell to David Cassidy.

It took us a few hours to get the heated pool up and running, and I’m not looking forward to our next electric bill, but I have to say the swans are quite impressive. Backstroke, breast stroke, butterfly, they can do it all.3 I don't know if there’s a market for this sort of thing, but I bet people would pay to see Michael Phelps race a relay team of swans.4

Oh, and last night, a couple policemen stopped by and told me the parrots couldn't stay on the porch, something about county noise ordinances. They were going to let me off with a warning, but overheard the parrot mafia don say some rather unkind things about cops, so now I'm out another $500. I made sure to rattle some cages when I pulled the parrots from their perch on the porch and banished them to the the garage. The parrot don said I'd pay for such an injustice, but he's too late. I've already maxed out both my credit cards to pay for bird food and stinky French cheeses.

Anyway, to make room for the pool, we moved the bricklaying geese to the basement, which is just as well since they were doing a piss-poor job on the patio. They're now building us some (rather shaky) new stairs for the basement hatch. Two other geese are messing with the plumbing, and I threw the last one down there as well after it had cornered Marcelle in the tub for a couple hours. It’ll probably start on an uneven tile floor with too much grout, just like it was doing in the upstairs bathroom.

I don’t have high hopes for any of the geese’s projects. I’ll probably have to rip out all their work and start fresh once Christmas is over and everybody leaves. Wait, they are going to leave after the last day of Christmas, right?


1 Yay! More birds! Just what I needed. (For reference, here's the current household tally: 2 people, 1 dog, 1 cat, 21 birds. Surprisingly, Hitchcock has yet to make a cameo.)
2 As is the custom with any dead celebrity.
3 And the black one's pretty good at water ballet.
4 Or, failing that, smoke up with a relay team of swans.


Friday, December 30, 2011

Day 6: Take a Gander. No, Really. Take One.

This post (minus some edits) first ran on December 30, 2009.
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Damn it, I thought we were done with the birds!

The latest six arrived replete with their own supplies, and had made quite a mess of the living room before I got downstairs this morning. I tried taking their tools away, but they ganged up on me and pecked at my face, so I quickly abandoned that plan. Fortunately, by the time I returned from the emergency room, Denise had directed them to other areas of the house where they could be more useful.

She led the three bricklaying geese out into the back yard, where they are currently building us a new patio. Two others are laying pipe in the basement, and the last is in the upstairs bathroom, laying down fresh tile.

Da-a-amn! Those bricks got LAID!

Their craftsmanship is extremely shoddy, seeing as how they have to do everything with their beaks, but I’m not about to disparage their work. I’ve already gotten enough stitches for one day.1

Of course, Sonya spent the day trying to catch the geese, so in order to allow them to get their work done, we had to tie her to the pear tree. In the tree above her, David Cassidy isn’t looking at all well. I could only get hold of one local doctor who does house calls, and he wasn’t willing to climb a ladder to do the physical. Hmm... maybe the local fire company has a a doctor among its members.

In other news, when I went out to the porch to check on the hens and parrots today, one of the latter had stopped talking. At first I was excited, thinking the other three might also soon tire, but then I jostled its cage. The bird fell, unmoving, to the newspaper lining the cage. Just my luck, the dead parrot was neither the Verizon spokesparrot nor the gossip girl. No, ‘twas the Norwegian Blue: the stock broker, the least annoying of the four. Someone had nailed him to his perch.

As I carted his remains off to the trash bin, the parrot mafia don said, simply, “So long, snitch.”

1 In case you’re wondering... it’s eight stitches. Eight is enough.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Day 5: Oh, Those Golden Rings

This post (minus some edits) first ran on December 29, 2009.
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Finally, a worthwhile gift! Each ring expertly crafted, a beautiful golden brown, with just the right amount of breading... easily the best onion rings I’ve had in some time. It’s a shame there were only five of them.

The parrots, on the other hand, have been driving me batty. They gave me such a headache yesterday I had to stick them out on the porch with the hens, where their constant yapping is at least muffled. I also spent a half hour looking for the phones their Bluetooths are connected to, hoping to smash them into tiny bits shut them off, but I couldn't find them. And the Bluetooths themselves are going strong; the birds must have some covert spot where they recharge them overnight.

Anyway, I thought the Verizon parrot was bad, but the one who quarreled all yesterday has been chattering non-stop today about boys and fashion and mother-sparkling Twilight. Oh, and I’m pretty sure I just heard the head of the parrot mafia calling in a hit.

David Cassidy still has yet to eat, drink, or move from the tree. I think the doves' wings are starting to atrophy, too. At least, now that I've picked up some brie, the hens have started eating (me out of house and home).1

Speaking of eating out of house and home, I think I'll do just that. Maybe, if I'm lucky, I'll even find some more of those onion rings.

1 Yet, the parrots might turn out to be an even bigger strain on my wallet; Denise hinted that all their calls were being added to my phone bill.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Day 4: Who You Callin' Pretty Boy?

This post (minus some edits) first ran on December 28, 2009.
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We’ve reached day four of the David Cassidy hunger strike. He’s beginning to look a bit gaunt, and gray in color. Denise thinks he may have snacked on some snow from a nearby branch when we weren’t looking, whereas I contend his only sustenance during his time in the pear tree has come by sneaking nips of brandy from a flask hidden inside his coat. Either way, we may have to call in a doctor soon. Or a lumberjack.

Nevertheless, I’ve found that I much prefer the silence of his company to the inescapable din inside the house. The latest additions to my avian menagerie should have come with a soundproof box, or at least a box of earplugs. I don’t see why anyone would ever want even one of these birds, let alone four. Yet, I now find myself the proud owner of a quartet of parrots, each ceaselessly yammering away on its own Bluetooth.

It was better back when birds didn't have teeth.

I have no idea who any of them are talking to, but one seems to think he’s a stock broker. All he ever says is, “Buy! Buy! Buy!” or “Sell! Sell! Sell!” Another is having what sounds like a heated argument with her mother. And if I didn’t know the third bird was a parrot, I’d swear I was overhearing an Italian mafia don discussing the storage of stolen goods.

But the last one... the last one I truly despise. There are only so many times I can hear, “Can you hear me now?” before I'm overcome with the distinct urge to strangle someone.1

Deciding to channel my anger into something more constructive, I grabbed some tools from the garage. I’d hoped to pry the turtle shells off of those poor little doves so they could fly free, but the moment I touched either one, they tried to peck my fingers off. Apparently they’ve become rather attached to their adoptive homes. It makes sense, I guess, as they do provide decent protection from the cat and dog. Then again, Sonya has forgotten all about them, more concerned now with barking in reply to everything the parrots say. And Marcelle is snugly ensconced in blankets upstairs, away from all the noise.

I'm not quite sure how, but out on the porch, one of the hens has developed a French accent.2 And unlike David Cassidy, they're finally eating. It's going to be expensive to keep them around, though; the tag I found on one hen’s foot said they'll only eat baguettes with brie and Camembert.

Damn uppity hens. They eat better than I do.3

If I get any more birds tomorrow, I'm pulling out my new Red Ryder BB gun.

1 I've tried covering their cages, but it doesn’t silence them. Once swathed in darkness, the parrots only start talking louder. Clearly, they're one of those Night & Weekend calling plans.
2 Le cluck.
3 And they may be wearing maid outfits, but they sure know how to make a mess. As snooty as they are about their food, they're not the least bit particular about where they leave their merde.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Day 3: What the Cluck?

This post (minus some edits) first ran on December 27, 2009.
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If I had to guess, I’d say they’re supposed to be French. I mean, I can’t be sure, since I’ve never been able to distinguish French clucking from any other type of clucking — despite my many years on the board of the GPC1 — but I don’t know why else the hens would be wearing those black-and-white maid outfits. They’re certainly not doing anything that resembles cleaning.

We've had to sequester the hens on the screened-in porch, since the dog is convinced we got her three new walking, clucking chew toys. In fact, Sonya has completely abandoned her post beneath David Cassidy (who has barely moved the past two days, and still hasn't eaten) to spend all her time whining and scratching at the porch door.

Marcelle finally ventured downstairs, too.2 She isn’t your typical huntress of a cat — she’s been known to be scared by string — but once we deposited the trio of hens onto the porch, her curiosity got the better of her. Only then did she spy the doves. She batted at one a couple of times, but got bored when it retracted its head into its shell, and headed back upstairs.

As for the hens, we tend not to keep chicken feed in the house,3 so I went out and bought a giant bag of the stuff. (Apparently, however, they're on the David Cassidy diet; they've yet to touch a single grain of it.) If we could get some fresh eggs out of the deal, that would be wonderful, but a little bird told me we'd need a rooster for that to happen.4 And I’m not buying a rooster.

Of course, with my luck, I’ll find four of them under the tree tomorrow morning...

1 Gonzo’s Poultry Council, est. 1978.
2 Aw, I miss Marcelle. For my newer readers, she was the cat I had before Calypso and Schrödinger. Not that it has any bearing on the story, but she was born in Uzbekistan.
3 Surprising, I know.
4 Actually, it was a rather big little bird that told me. His exact words were: “You’re doing it all wrong, son! You need a — I say, you need a rooster, boy, or you’ll never get eggs!”


Monday, December 26, 2011

Day 2: Birds of a Feather Stuffed Together

This post (minus some edits) first ran on December 26, 2009.
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Well, this is an improvement. Sort of. There are no new trees in the yard this morning, no Wally Cleaver or John-Boy Walton perched up above building a nest. Just a box with air holes sitting under the Christmas tree.

The doves sure are cute little things. Their cooing is adorable, as is the way they poke their little heads out when they’re hungry. I can’t help but feel bad for them, though, stuck in those shells.

Stuffing a peaceful bird into a shell? Not coo.

They must be cramped in there; as far as I can tell, they have no way to fully stretch out their wings. And walking's a chore: even when they manage to poke their feet out, the shells are too heavy for them to stand upright. One of them has figured out how to maneuver by pulling itself around using its beak, but mostly they stay where they are and coo quietly. I’ve been hand-feeding them birdseed and giving them water to drink from a tiny saucer.

Speaking of feeding, David Cassidy still hasn’t eaten.1 And despite the freezing temperatures and threat of snow, he has repeatedly ignored our invitations to come inside.2 In the end, we decided the least we could do was provide him with a couple of thick wool blankets to help protect him from the cold. He wouldn’t take them from us, of course. We were forced to haul out a ladder from the garage and drape the blankets over his back.

Goddammit, celebrities piss me off.

1 Nor has he spoken. I know the cat hasn't gotten his tongue; she's too scared to leave the house. His contract must have stipulated a non-speaking role.
2 Sonya wouldn’t come in, either, unwilling to leave her post beneath the nut in the tree. We offered her double her usual amount of treats, but no dice. I had to drag her inside by her collar, with her straining against me the entire way. Once locked in the house, she whined at the door for hours until I couldn’t take it any more and let her back out.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Day 1: Hazing the New Guy

This post (minus some edits) first ran on December 25, 2009.
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Okay, so I kind of get the pear tree.

Ever since we chopped down the crabapple tree back in July, the back yard has felt a little empty. The pear tree fills that void, and I’m certain its bounty next year will be much tastier than those horrid crabapples ever were.

What I don’t understand — and maybe this just shows my utter ignorance of Christmas customs — is why, sitting halfway up the tree, is that guy from the Partridge Family.

Admittedly, as a Jewish Atheist celebrating only his third Christmas, I’m relatively new to the holiday. But please, tell me: What does David Cassidy have to do with Christmas? Is it traditional to give your loved one 70s-era TV stars?

He’s been up there all morning, and has yet to move from that one limb. At first, Sonya barked at him, perhaps thinking he was some sort of giant mutant squirrel.1 She settled down after about ten minutes, but hasn't left her post beneath the tree, nor let her gaze stray from the middle-aged man oddly perched in her yard. David/Keith hasn’t said a word, nor did he seem interested in the plate of bacon and eggs we offered him. He just sits there, shivering, locked in a staring contest with the dog.2

My fiancée Denise3 made some remark this morning about Christmas being 12 days long. That's not true, is it? She’s just hazing the new guy, right? I sure hope there aren't another 11 like this one; I know for a fact that nowhere on my wishlist did I write, “a plum tree containing Greg Brady.”

I'll be keeping my fingers crossed.

1 I checked IMDb. As best I can tell he's never played a mutant rodent of any kind before. The guy's got range.
2 Update: Cassidy won the staring contest when Sonya stopped to eat his bacon.
3 See? You can tell I wrote this two years ago because back then I still called Denise my fiancée, rather than my ex-fiancée. (And she'd prefer I stop calling her that. It's the standard marriage stereotype: She nags at me to change my ways, and I don't listen.)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Not a Creature Was Stirring

This post first ran on December 24, 2010.

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

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Carols for the Zombie Apocalypse

This post first ran on December 23, 2010.

"[Nate's] voice is as smooth as that of a Norwegian yak!"
- Chris Phillips

Just in time for the holidays — and the imminent zombie threat — we bring you a brand new album 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...

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)
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

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)

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!

This Christmas, face down the undead hordes with a song. (Tip: Also keep a shotgun handy.) For only 4 installments of $9.99,* you can own A Zombie Named Carol, 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.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Your Chosen Questions About the Chosen People

I apologize for not getting this post out earlier in the day, but I was busy making Christmas cookies and wrapping Christmas gifts. For a while there I was also away in a manger. Nevertheless, you asked me some excellent questions about Jews and Judaism, and it is my Jewishly duty to answer them. So here we go.

Li starts us off with a question I'm sure many of you are curious about:
What's the correct spelling - Hanukkah or Chanukkah? (Or have I misspelled both?)
So, you want to know the true meaning spelling of Hannukakakahh, do you? Well, it's not that simple; just like the labor/labour divide between American English and English English, the spelling of Chanuka differs depending on your background. For instance, there's Chanukkah (traditional), Hannukah (nontraditional), Chanukah (transitional), Channukkah (transactional), Kamchatka (trans-siberial), Hanukhaaaaan (nerdly), Hannoushka (jeweler), and Hanukka (absolutely ridiculous), just to name a few. You say tomato, I say Hanukkah.

In the end, it comes down to preference. And unless you spell it Hanukkah, you're wrong.

My sister anonymously asks:
Why do Jews hate Christmas?
It's not that Jews hate Christmas: they hate what Christmas has become. It used to be a day when all Christians would remain home, allowing Jews to have free reign of movie theaters and gorge themselves on Peking Duck.1 But then everyone else realized movies and Chinese food were a far better plan than spending the afternoon cooped up in the house with Uncle Ralph and a half-dozen screaming kids.

Now, every year Christians descend on theaters and restaurants in hordes, disrupting our long-standing Jewish traditions. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but do you really have to take away our Christmas? Couldn't you head to the theater on Purim instead?

1 Or, for those fond of sacrilege, Pork Lo Mein.

A different Anonymous entirely asks:
What can you tell me about hats and haircuts associated with Judaism?
That they're awesome.

I'm kidding, of course. The Jewish people are a frugal sort, so traditionally, Jewish boys get what is known as a "bowl cut," although some families have been known to splurge and buy a Flowbee. Those who claim to be truly devout (i.e. the cheapest) don't cut their hair at all, and are often mistaken for the two members of ZZ Top not named Beard.

In regard to hats, Jewish men must cover their heads when in prayer, and Orthodox men must keep them covered at all times, or else zombies will eat their brains with garbanzo beans and a nice Manischewitz.2 Some men opt for baseball caps or fedoras, but most stick with the traditional kippah, which I believe is just another name for a herring.

Oh, and the women? They can do whatever they damn well please.

2 At least, that's what it says in the torah.

Tricia J. O'Brien poses this poignant question:
Why gefilte fish???
Jews may have been treated horribly by Germans in the past, but we're not above some good ol' Schadenfreude. And that's where gefilte fish comes in. We only break it out when gentiles are present, to see their reaction when it first touches their tongue.3 We don't actually eat the putrid stuff ourselves. (It may look like we do, but watch more closely next time. Jews are experts at spiriting food into folded napkins, purses, potted plants, dogs, etc.)

3 We also make bets about whether they'll finish it out of politeness. I once made 180 shekels.

I received a litany of questions from Anthony Stemke:
What's the difference between lox and nova?
Lox is just lox, nothing more. But nova can be super.

Why the dickens can't knishes be sold outside of New York City?
The Dickens Knish Law of 1857. At the time, authors were celebrities on par with today's movie stars, and during one visit to the States Charles Dickens was heard to remark that knishes were so good they should be illegal. Seeking his approval, or perhaps a part in his next novel, Congress quickly ratified the law. The NYC exception was hastily added once President Buchanan remembered that city's Jews controlled the country's banking industry. The law has remained on the books to this day.

How come there are no Jewish hunters?
Jews are excellent gatherers. Sometimes it's just best to stick with what you know.

Can Orthodox Jews listen to Bloodrock on Fridays?
Yes, they can, assuming they turn the music off before sundown. But why would they want to, when they could instead listen to the wholesome Jewish stylings of the Beastie Boys? (There is also a small sect calling themselves "Jews for Jesus Jones," but that just ain't right, here or now. We pay them no mind.)

Falen is also interested in the details of Hebrew cuisine:
Have you ever eaten Lox? If so, what does it taste like?
Ah, yes. Bagels and lox, the loaves and fishes of the Jewish people. I've tried lox on a couple of occasions. It tastes like heaven on a rainy day.4

4 Little known fact: On rainy days, heaven tastes exactly like cured salmon fillet.

My sister Naomi (non-anonymously, this time) asks:
What is the difference between Hanukkah candles and non-Chanukah candles? And why don't they have any of the former in Boise or Spokane?
There is no difference; Hanukkah candles are non-Chanukah candles. It's all in the spelling. And there are none in the Boise/Spokane area because of the Hawthorne Candle Act of 1858.

She follows that up with a rather leading question:
What makes half-Jewish babies so gosh-darn cute?

There are three schools of thought on this matter:

1. They're not actually cute; Jews in mixed-faith marriages are simply biased toward their babies' Jewishy looks. (Yeah, this theory is complete and utter rubbish. As evidence, I submit to you Exhibit Photo-On-the-Left.)
2. It's not the Jewish that makes them cute; it's the half. Babies that are half anything are cute. Half-Asian kids are adorable. Demigods are breathtaking. Half-caf lattes, I could drink those right up.
3. Um, duh. They're babies.

And Anton Lewis brings the session to a close with:
How do Jews find true love?
Before online dating, Orthodox Jews would go to a matchmaker. Dances were held on Friday nights and they aren't allowed to turn on lights after sundown, so they needed to strike matches in order to be able to see their suitors' faces. Unfortunately, this method led to numerous concussions and burned down many a dance hall.

Today, people use There they might find some love, but not true love, because online dating profiles are rife with lies.

There's only one way that has always worked: fiddlin' on rooftops. Jews are drawn to rooftop fiddlers like moths to a flame, only without the smell of burnt moth at the end.

So there you have it. Just fiddle on a rooftop, and you'll find your true love. It's tradition. Tradition!

There we are: twelve questions asked, twelve questions answered. I'm glad I could help you understand so much about the Jewish people. Go forth and share your new knowledge. Amaze your friends! Startle your enemies! And most of all, make sure you flip your latkes in the air sometimes.

« UPDATED 12/23 »
And then (then!) another Anonymous belatedly asks:
What does the conservative branch of Judaism say about sexual fetishes — whether they are allowed when consensual?
For the love of Christ, conservative Jews don't give a lick if you have a sexual fetish. But tell me, when are you going to find yourself a nice Jewish girl and settle down? Your father and I worry.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Posts of Christmas Past

Before I get to Christmas, let me speak briefly of Hanukkah. For the second straight year, I shall do you a service (and my religion a disservice) by answering any question you have about Judaism. And I mean any question. Does all that penny-pinching hurt our fingers? What's the appropriate topping for latkes? How and when shall we exact our revenge upon Mel Gibson? Just leave your question in the comments section of my previous post by this Wednesday, and it shall be answered.

But now, onto Christmas. December is always a busy time, and I expect the holidays to be even busier this year as we celebrate The Professor's First Christmas.™ Thus, starting this Friday, I will be dipping into my archives to bring you the posts of Christmas past. Like a fruitcake that rises from the ashes year after year, my yuletide posts will never die.

Which is a fitting intro, since I'll begin with...
  • Christmas Carols for the Zombie Apocalypse (Dec 23)
  • Not a Creature Stirring (Dec 24)
  • The 12 Twisted Days of Christmas (Dec 25 - Jan 5)
That's two straight weeks of Grade-A recycled humor, folks. And it'll be new to most of you; the Twisted 12 are from back when The Wheel only had a half-dozen readers.1

So why don't you cozy on up to the fire and grab yourself some nog (or some chestnuts). I'll be back soon with my own particular brand of Christmas, and you won't want to miss it.2

1 Plus, I'll be editing the posts to make them even better. No, not like George Lucas messing with Star Wars. I may make Darth Vader scream out "Nooooooooo!" but I can assure you there will be absolutely no Jar-Jar Binks.
2 Or maybe you will want to miss it. After all, there's no accounting for taste. (Although, thanks to Price Waterhouse Coopers, there is accounting for Taste, Inc.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Judaism But Were Afraid to Ask

That's right, goys and girls: It's that time again.

Two years ago I gave you Uncle Nate's Wholly Unsubstantiated Hanukkah Primer. Last year, in my first Jew & A session, one crazy guy explained eight crazy nights. So, break out your dreidels and gefilte fish, since once again...

I will answer any question you have about Judaism.

Have you ever wondered why God chose to talk to Moses from inside a flaming shrubbery? Why challah is braided while French bread isn't? Why Orthodox Jews can't listen to Black Sabbath on the Sabbath? Why the Hebrews are so obsessed with bagels and lox? Any question you might have, I have the answer.

And don't hesitate to ask a question simply because I've answered it before. As everyone knows, religions as old as Judaism don't survive by remaining constant; they constantly have to adapt and evolve. Thus, my answers to any repeat inquiries will undoubtedly be different this time around.

So, if you're curious about some aspect of Judaism, whether cultural, historical, pedagogical, or megalomaniacal, just post your question (or questions) in the comments section below. In one week, on the first day of Hanukkah (12/21), all shall be revealed.

Monday, December 12, 2011

I'll Take Blogging for 200, Alex

Wow. Two hundred posts. That's either the start of a really long fence, or a middling output for a blog. And I already have a fence.

Although most bloggers have churned out two or three times as many posts in the same span, for me this is quite the accomplishment. In fact, I'm rather surprised I've reached 200 already. Have I really written that many things worth sharing?1

I originally started The Wheel as a way to entertain friends and family without having to share my novel with them before it was ready.2 Unfortunately, with The Professor watching over me these past five months it's become harder to find much time to write at all. Not only have I been ignoring my novel and expending less effort on my blog, but I've also been visiting other blogs less. I'd feel guilty, but just look at that face. You can't say no to that face. Especially since he doesn't know what "no" means.3

Anyway, thanks in part to the motivation techniques of one Joseph Selby, I'm now back on the wagon. That is to say, I'm headed west with enough bullets to smite every buffalo between here and Oregon, and I should make good time as long as I don't get dysentery. Also, I'm writing fiction again.

In the past week, I've touched up a short story I hope to get published, and started working again on my novel. Though I have less free time than I used to, I hope to manage it more wisely, so I can continue to entertain you here, but also push my novel toward completion. You know, the one with the invisible monkeys. (Don't worry, it's better than it sounds. Even if you already think it sounds awesome.)

Anyway, I should finish up this post so I can do something more novel. Like play peek-a-boo with The Professor.

1 No, no I haven't. Two of my posts were complete rubbish.
2 It's still not ready. But hey, you can't rush genius. Nor, apparently, can you rush mediocre wit with an abundance of adverbs.
3 Usually, no means no. But sometimes, no can mean "Yes, but I'm not about to tell you that," "Maybe later," or "Holy cheese biscuits! I don't believe it!"

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Putting the Rhyme Back in NaNoRhyMo

We're in the final hours of NaNo season, but that won't stop me from celebrating National Novel Rhyming Month. However, we'll be doing things a little differently this year.

Sure, participation doubled (all the way to two!!) during NaNoRhyMo 2010, and we learned The Hunger Games fits quite nicely when set to the tune of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," but I felt it was time for a change.

After all, in each of the past two years, I was only rhyming about novels. But this time I shall rhyme the novels themselves, and trust me when I say these are literary gold. You won't find better NaNoRhyMo work anywhere in the 'verse. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

It's quite absurd, but I have heard that it is far less than one third
Of the U.S (I am assured) who clamor for the written word.
So am I really such a nerd (as many people have inferred)
For reading, till my vision's blurred, tales like To Kill a Mockingbird?
For yes, indeed, I have decreed my innate need to always read;
On Superfudge and Lamb I'll Feed (or Choke upon The Wanting Seed).

Would it make me a crook if I took Just One Look
At my wife's brand new Nook to read The Graveyard Book?
What if something I give her (perhaps Mystic River)
Sets her heart aquiver or delivers a Shiver?
(Would she take me back in if I left The Shack in
One piece whilst attackin' and killin' the Kraken?)
I bet she'll forgive me and we will be fine,
Since these questions are stupid (and this a near-rhyme).

If The Lord of the Rings meets The Lord of the Flies,
There'll be a Battle Royale where Everybody Dies.

The Road, I find, is not my taste; Da Vinci Code is but a waste.
If reviews glowed, a story laced with vengeance owed and, too, well-paced,
A tale like that I would devour, every minute, every hour,
Since I'm smitten with well-written prose whenever I am sittin'
And relaxing in my home. (I also avoid Ethan Frome.
Though it's true my resolve weakens with The Last of the Mohicans).
But just the same it's such a shame that so few people know the name
Of that great dame who is "to blame" for giving us The Westing Game.
So we'll unfurl a Brave New World (one with, of course, a moose and squirrel)
And in the gloom then find a pearl (perhaps The Other Boleyn Girl).

That's all I've got; that's all there is, so I won't be including 'Tis.
And I'll skip Tuesdays With Morrie. Both are memoirs. (Very sorry).

Yeah, so I might have oversold the quality of the rhymes just a tad, but in my defense only one of us believed me.

Related posts:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

So Much To Be Thankful For

Thank your lucky stars. Without them, you'd only have unlucky and indifferent stars, and every wish you wished upon them would go unfulfilled.1

Thank the lord. His generosity keeps a roof over your head and food in your belly, and all he asks for in exchange is hours and hours of backbreaking labor. Some people might say it's a futile system, but they're just bad spellers.

Thank goodness. After all, goodness is far better than badness.2 And good Ness did such a fine job battling Al Capone and his little friend in the 30s. Both deserve our recognition.

Thank God. Without him, watching Providence College basketball between 1995-97 wouldn't have been nearly as interesting.

Thank heavens. Without the prospect of all those heavens, just think how many more amoral people there would be. And before you try to tell me there's only one heaven, I know people who have been to the seventh one, and at least one mountain lion who has visited multiple heavens on his way to Murgatroyd.

Yup, I have much to be thankful for. But this year, I'm mostly thankful for this little guy:

I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving, even if you eat tofurkey instead of turkey, turducken instead of tofurkey, or the jell-o mold instead of turducken.3 And for all of you who live outside the U.S. and don't celebrate the holiday, I'll make sure to eat an extra helping for you. May your weekend be filled with fun, laughter, and enough food to feed the entire population of Turkey.

Thank you, come again.

1 Not to mention, you'd be more at risk of getting struck by a ricochet from a shooting star.
2 Unless we're talking Michael Jackson circa 1987.
3 Jiggly.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Rule of Seven

Even before Winter Storm Alfred tore through Connecticut like it was Winter Storm Batman and knocked our lights out for a week, I wasn't blogging too often. I apologize for my scarcity, but in my defense I've been quite busy of late. And by "busy," I mean I've spent most of my time being lazy  being very lazy  occupying various cities  camping out for Twilight: Breaking Dawn  seeking the GOP presidential nomination being a dad.

Seriously, it's like The Professor has an innate ability to sleep right up until my workday ends, and then need to be held and/or entertained the rest of the night. It's a good thing he's so darned cute.1

Anyway, last month Heather Henry over at Little Red Henry bestowed upon me the 7x7 Link Award. In the interest of laziness concisity, however, I shall henceforth call it the 49 Link Award.2

As I do every time I receive an award, I promptly redesigned it in Photoshop:

Now, as a recipient of the √2,401 Link Award, I'm supposed to point you to some of my previous blog posts, one in each of seven specific categories. I've never been one for following rules,3 but this one seems benign enough I'll play along.

Of course, I never said I'd stick with the original categories...

Most beautiful Most productive use of bacon: Horrible Puns For The Win

Most popular Greatest contribution to popular culture: That Wasn't All, Paul (The Other 45 Ways to Leave Your Lover)

Most controversial Best Justin Bieber anagram: A Ram Sang a Ragman's Anagrams

Most helpful Most creative use of paper clips: Before The Wheel

Most surprisingly successful Best use of photos to illustrate a story: The Biggest Carrot in the Kitchen

Most underrated Best appearance by Melvin the Wannabe Warlock: Say What?

Most pride-worthy Most topical mention of gefilte fish: Yo Ho Ho, and a Bottle of Manischewitz

I suspect I'm also supposed to pass this award onto seven other bloggers or something like that, but that's not my style. I'm a rebel, not a sheep. I march to the bleat of a different drummer and take the toad less graveled. Or, something like that.

Besides, I don't have time to create more links. I'm far too selfish indecisive devilishly handsome lazy.

1 Technically, he's only cute, not darned. But some of his clothes are both.
2 "Concisity" may not be a real word, but it's more concise than "conciseness," so it should be.
3 I make my own rules. And then I disregard those, too. The only ones I always follow are slide rules, since otherwise kids could fall and get really hurt.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An Open Letter to Jerry Sandusky

Dear Mr. Sandusky (and I use the title Mr. not out of respect, but because I'd feel unclean addressing you by your first name),

I wasn't planning to chime in on the whole Penn State scandal, since John Scalzi had already succinctly summed up my views on the matter. But then you professed your innocence in an interview with Bob Costas Monday night and uttered, among other things, this little nugget:

"I could say I have done some of those things. I have horsed around with kids I have showered (with) after workouts. I have hugged them, and I have touched their legs without intent of sexual contact."

Now, I know it's innocent-until-proven-guilty here in America, but I call bullshit.

You showered. Naked. With prepubescent boys. That itself is extremely disturbing, if not grounds for charges of child endangerment. Yet you also hugged them. Naked. And touched their legs. I'm sorry, but no. You can try to explain away your actions as harmless horseplay all you want, but no sane person will ever believe your intentions were anything but sexual.

Let me tell you a story. In high school, I ran track and cross country, and our coach made it mandatory to shower after practice. He'd shower, too. On days when he ran with us, I suppose it made some sense, since his argument was that wearing our sweaty clothes home was unhygienic. But he'd often join us in the shower even if all he'd done was sit around waiting for us to finish our run.

A few guys — those more inclined to run around the locker room whipping towels at each other — showed no outward discomfort with this, but the rest of us did our best to wash up quickly and get out of the showers before he entered. We didn't really talk about it much, but I know most of us came to pretty much the same conclusion: Coach got his rocks off by showering with 14-to-18 year-old boys.

No one ever reported his behavior. Perhaps it was because, if he had such urges, he didn't seem the type to act on them. Unlike you, he never made any advances or touched us in any way. All we had was speculation. Nevertheless, it surprised no one when he was arrested on child endangerment charges for watching porn with 13-year-olds at the nearby Catholic school where he taught phys ed. We were lucky they caught him when they did; unchecked, his behavior may have escalated until he began doing what you now stand accused of doing.

Of course, this one instance doesn't prove all grown men who shower with young kids are pedophiles, but I guess what I'm trying to say is this: GROWN MEN SHOULD NOT SHOWER WITH YOUNG KIDS.

And if, for some asinine reason, you do shower with children, you should certainly NEVER TOUCH THEM IN ANY WAY.

If you're attracted to young boys, so be it. You can't necessarily change who you are. But you always have control over your own actions. You lost control, and you took advantage of children. Who knows how many people you've irreparably scarred along the way.

You may claim innocence, but I don't buy it. You are a weak, weak man.

And you deserve everything you're going to get.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Alliterative Assistance

Today's the day we send my oldest blogging friend to the top of the A-List.

Jessica Bell, a.k.a. the Alliterative Allomorph, was the first fellow writer I connected with after I created this (sometimes) fiery monstrosity I call a blog. And today, with your help, we're going to get her debut novel, String Bridge, onto Amazon's bestseller list.

Why should you help? Well, not only can Jessica write a gripping, heart-wrenching tale, but she's also a stellar musician and she recorded an original soundtrack to accompany her novel. If you buy String Bridge today, you'll also receive the soundtrack, Melody Hill: On the Other Side, for free!

You like free music, don't you? I thought so.

All you have to do is purchase the book today (paperback or eBook), November 11th, and then email the receipt to: jessica.carmen.bell(at)gmail(dot)com

She'll then email you a link to download the album at no extra cost!

To purchase the paperback: Amazon USA  |  Amazon UK
To purchase the eBook: Amazon USA  |  Amazon UK
To listen to samples of the soundtrack: iTunes

Curious what String Bridge is about? Check out the book trailer and jacket description:

Greek cuisine, smog and domestic drudgery was not the life Australian musician, Melody, was expecting when she married a Greek music promoter and settled in Athens, Greece. Keen to play in her new shoes, though, Melody trades her guitar for a 'proper' career and her music for motherhood. That is, until she can bear it no longer and plots a return to the stage—and the person she used to be. However, the obstacles she faces along the way are nothing compared to the tragedy that awaits...

Rave Reviews for String Bridge:

“Jessica Bell’s String Bridge strummed the fret of my veins, thrummed my blood into a mad rush, played me taut until the final page, yet with echoes still reverberating. A rhythmic debut with metrical tones of heavied dark, fleeting prisms of light, and finally, a burst of joy—just as with any good song, my hopeful heartbeat kept tempo with Bell’s narrative.”
~ Kathryn Magendie, author of Sweetie and Publishing Editor of Rose & Thorn Journal

“Poet and musician Jessica Bell's debut novel String Bridge is a rich exploration of desire, guilt, and the difficult balancing act of the modern woman. The writing is lyrical throughout, seamlessly integrating setting, character and plot in a musical structure that allows the reader to identify with Melody's growing insecurity as her world begins to unravel ... String Bridge is a powerful debut from a promising writer, full of music, metaphor, and just a hint of magic.”
~ Magdalena Ball, author of Repulsion Thrust and Sleep Before Evening

“Jessica Bell is a brilliant writer of great skill and depth. She doesn't pull back from the difficult scenes, from conflict, pain, intensity. She puts it all out there, no holds barred, no holding back. She knows how to craft a scene, how to develop character, how to create suspense. This is an absolutely brilliant debut novel. I look forward to reading her next novel, and next and next.”
~ Karen Jones Gowen, author of Farm Girl, Uncut Diamonds and House of Diamonds

Connect with Jessica
String Bridge:

It took 10 days, but my house has both power and internet access again, so this blog will soon return to its usual footnote-filled insanity. But in the meantime, buy Jessica's book. Get the free soundtrack. And enjoy.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Home Is Where the Heat Is

Six days without electricity. Six days without heat. Frankly, I expected an even longer recovery period, but Friday afternoon we got our power back. (I guess there are advantages to having an elementary school at the end of your street.) Of course, our internet is still out, but that's okay. More time for reading. And more time in the library sponging off their wi-fi.

Here in New England, people are generally somewhat cold to strangers, but the outage seemed to warm everyone up. Instead of exchanging waves or a nod of the head, we approached each other and swapped war stories. We commiserated with complete strangers at restaurants and gas stations. Neighbors helped clear debris and trim dangerously hanging branches. Friends and acquaintances offered up hot meals, hot showers, and places to stay.

It wasn't all rosy, however. O, the idiocy! Some morons moved charcoal grills or generators into their homes. Other clods drove through unlit traffic lights with nary a glance in either direction. And then there were those whose idiocy impacted my friends and family:

  • My wife Denise works for the town. On Monday she received a voicemail saying her office was closed, and that she might receive a call from her supervisor about coming in to help out in other areas. She never got the call. On Tuesday, when the rest of her co-workers were doing shifts at the local shelter or the emergency operations center, she again heard nothing. And then, on Wednesday, she was told that because she didn't work Monday or Tuesday, she either had to use two vacation days or work both days this weekend.

    Apparently, her supervisor's supervisor took on the responsibility of calling everyone, but when she didn't reach someone on the first try — because a landline was down, or because spotty cell service meant it might take two or three attempts to get through — she just moved onto the next name on the list. No emails were sent. Therefore, even though the automatic messages implied Denise didn't have to work because the office was closed, and even though she waited to be called in, and even though she was willing to work, she was never given the option, and is now forced to work two extra days because of someone else's mistake. I'm not a lawyer (thankfully), but that doesn't sound very legal to me.

  • My friend Scott — who, with his wife, hosted us for four nights once their power came back — works for a local oil company. On Monday, his manager told him to work from home because their office was without power, and they had no cellular service in the area. With the myriad calls they received from desperate customers because of the outage, he ended up working a full day plus 2-3 hours of overtime. On Tuesday, Human Resources informed him that because he didn't come into the office, he wouldn't be paid for his Monday hours. Last I heard, no one in three levels of management above him had yet stepped up to support him. I'm not a philosopher (thankfully), but that doesn't sound very moral to me.

So, that's the aftermath in a nutshell: warm and idiot-filled. I hope those who are still without power get it back soon, those who've been abused by idiots get their vindication, and I hope you, dear reader, never have to go through what we've had to this past week. Or if you just did, that you never have to again.

I should note these pictures are not of my home and yard. This is the carnage from four houses over. House, relatively untouched. Cars, not so much. The tan SUV had its windshield and roof crushed, and I'll zoom in on the left side of this photo, so you can see how their other vehicle fared after they moved it away from the SUV...

Yep, it’s been that kind of week.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Powerless To Do Anything

In my 2+ years of blogging, I had never written fewer than five posts in a full month. Sure, I'd written exactly five posts twelve times, but long ago I'd instituted a five-post minimum, and I'd never dipped below it. Until now.

I'd planned to churn out two posts in the last few days of October (one featuring an adorable costumed Professor), but Mother Nature decided she had yet another trick up her sleeve.1 Despite already hurling countless earthquakes, snowstorms, sandstorms, hurricanes, and a whirlwind Kim Kardashian marriage at us this year, apparently it wasn't enough.

That, or she had it in for the trees. On Saturday night, 40mph winds and lead masquerading as snow snapped trees as if they were twigs, and those tree-twigs in turn snapped power lines as if they were... um... other things that snap easily. Peas? Dragons? Anyway, this left most of us in Connecticut without electricity. And by extension, heat. (Also, internet.) The heatlessness is the toughest to deal with, especially with a three-and-a-half-month-old.2

At least six homes on our block — including ours — had their power lines downed by trees, and one had both cars felled by branches the size of small Buicks. Thankfully, however, no nearby homes seem to have been damaged.

Three days later, approximately 100% of our town remains without power. We don't expect ours to be reconnected for at least another week. I'm writing this post from work (possibly violating my company's social media policy in the process),3 at an office in another town where 100% of the people are without power. The building was closed yesterday, and today their generator is powering enough of the cube farm for only about 300 of its 3000 employees. I was one of the "lucky" ones who happened to work in the one working wing.

In short, you shan't expect to see me much 'round these parts in the coming days. But give me a week or so, when once again I see the light, and I'll be back blogging like it's October 29.

Until then, stay safe, stay warm, and stay cool.4

1 Not that Mother Nature has sleeves, per se. At least, I hope not. That would mean the blanket of snow she draped over us this weekend was actually a giant white Snuggie. *shudder*
2 As of this morning, our house was down to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. But you'll be happy to know we've yet to surpass four layers of clothing on our son, so he can still flail his limbs as will. (Will thinks it's cute.)
3 Dear crack team of corporate attack lawyers, when considering whether to rescind my internet access, please take into account I wrote this during my lunch break.
4 Figuratively speaking, of course, for that last one.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rock-a-Bye Kitty

Denise and I returned home last Sunday night to find a void where before there had been black. We'd been gone little more than 24 hours, yet in that time our household feline population had somehow dropped from two to one. It was kind of like one of those locked-room mysteries, except this was an entire house, and there wasn't a dead body.1

At first, we assumed Calypso (a.k.a. Callie) was merely asleep somewhere, but as the hours passed with nary a meow, we began to worry. The friend who had stopped by to feed/walk the dog said she hadn't seen Callie at all on her second visit, but was certain she hadn't gotten out. We ramped up our search.

I looked everywhere for her. And I mean everywhere. I searched under couches, behind bookcases, in box springs, between the DVD and Blu-ray players, in the crisper drawer of the fridge, and even inside the dog.2 By the end of the first day, we'd determined there was nowhere she could be hiding or trapped in the house. We now assumed Callie had slipped out, despite our friend's assurances to the contrary, and we moved our search outdoors.

As an indoor-only cat, Callie didn't wear a collar, and we knew few would be able to distinguish her from the couple stray black cats in our area. Still, we asked the neighbors to keep an eye out for her, and circled the block calling her name. We looked under decks, in bushes, and up trees. Food left by the back door was eaten, but always at times when squirrels were running rampant in the yard.

Callie was a cautious cat who rarely sought attention from anyone other than us, so after three days passed with no sign of her, I gave up hope that we'd ever see her again. I could tell you exactly where Waldo was,3 or Carmen Sandiego,4 but not my sweet black cat who liked to leave us offerings of socks and dish towels. She had become Schrödinger's cat, both dead and alive at the same time, since we had no idea which she was.5

So imagine my surprise when our savior came to us in the form of an annoyingly yippy toy poodle with a small bladder. (Go ahead; imagine. I'll wait.) At 4:00am and in the pouring rain, he spotted Callie 20+ ft up a tree at the far end of our neighbor's yard. Luckily, the neighbors had a 24-ft ladder, so I ventured up to retrieve a scared, soaked Callie. Four attempts and two gouges in my arm later, I secured her against me and she purred and licked my shoulder as we descended. And like that, our four-day ordeal was over. Our family was whole once again.

I guess the moral of the story is: Don't trust eyewitness testimony.6

Welcome home, Callie.7

1 The body showed up three days later. And don't worry; it wasn't the cat.
2 Okay, so I didn't actually look inside the dog. But still. Everywhere.
3 In the kitchen with Dinah.
4 In the study with a candlestick.
5 Which is rather fitting, considering our younger cat is named Schrödinger, and he owns her.
6 That, or: If you own a cat, make sure you also own a 24-ft ladder.
7 Oh yeah, you're probably wondering about that body I mentioned in the first footnote, huh? Well, the day before Callie appeared in the black of night, a mouse forced open the panel around a set of electrical outlets and entered our home. Moments later, despite its alternative method of entry, it was as dead as a dormouse. (Schrödinger is claiming self defense.)

Monday, October 10, 2011

10 Top 10s for 10/10

Last year when I put together my 10 Top 10s for 10/10/10, including the popular Top 10 Common Household Items You Can Use to Repel an Attack By Ninjas, people thought me mad. Little has changed.

  1. Use a decoy. Stuffing a pillow under the covers usually works for lowly peasants, but for the princess a pea under a couple dozen comforters should do the trick.
  2. Get a dog.1
  3. Make a sign saying, "Sorry, but the princess is in another castle."
  4. A tiger riding atop a bear riding atop a Tyrannosaurus Rex, hurled at the dragon by Chuck Norris.
  5. Film the dragon's attempt. It'll return to its lair only to find it has captured the princess's stunt double.
  6. Befriend the dragon. Start by inviting it to a barbecue, so it'll warm up to you. You can have toasted S'moors.2
  7. Kill off the princess's family. That way, she'll become queen; queens aren't nearly as tasty.
  8. Admonish it. ("No! Bad dragon!")
  9. Guard the princess with a hobbit, a leprechaun, the tooth fairy, and the Easter Bunny. They're just as real as the dragon is.
  10. A moat. With sharks. Attach friggin' lasers to their heads. Why are we still talking about this!?3

1 As anyone familiar with the Chinese zodiac can tell you, dogs and dragons are incompatible.
2 Spanish Moors.
3 By the way, here's how to defend yourself against sharks with friggin' lasers attached to their heads.

  1. A flagon of dragons
  2. A scintilla of chinchillas
  3. A hodgepodge of hedgehogs
  4. A platitude of platypi
  5. A quandary of quail
  6. A circus of pythons
  7. A baudelaire of polar bears
  8. A smattering of gnus
  9. A yes of deer
  10. A mukluk of ducks

  1. Duck
  2. Duck
  3. Duck
  4. Duck
  5. Duck
  6. Duck
  7. Duck
  8. Duck
  9. Excuse me, Creepy Gas Station Attendant Guy, but how do we get back to the highway?
  10. Goose!

  1. People are so lazy they replace you with "u" even when they're working with a full keyboard.
  2. You is both singular and plural, so I can't always tell which one is meant (unless I'm in Brooklyn, where the plural is always "yous")
  3. You rhymes with lieu, mu, new, ooh, poo, queue, sue, & to, but not thou.
  4. You (yes, you!) never read my blog posts when I'm nearby, so I miss all your laughter, your groans, your thinly veiled threats...
Um... yeah... that's all I've got. I thought this would be an easy topic, and I'd quickly churn out ten fantastic--wait, I think I've got a solution! I can't believe I'm already doing #1 on this list, but:

Top 10 Things I Hates About U

  1. U has such a great rapport with Q. All Q & I have is a nice qi. (Although, if they swap places, they look pretty smart.)
  2. I always owes U, never the other way around.
  3. I wants to keep things straight and true, but U turns things around on him.
  4. I is often stuck standing alone, yet U is usually surrounded by other letters. (Prior to this lists's #1, brought on by — of course — the iTouch, iPhone, iPad, etc.)
  5. U (Uranium) is always gloating about its half-life, which makes I (Iodine) want to dye.
  6. Sometimes I just wants to wear a muumuu like U, but is forced to fit into a bikini.

At Little City Pizza (Simsbury, CT), the tables display an assortment of random comic book panels.
  5. koff a-huk
  7. PAFT
  8. SNAKT
  9. PLT
  10. WHUG!

  1. Groverfield
  2. The Bert Locker
  3. Weekend at Ernie's
  4. Gone Baby Gonzo
  5. Conan the Fozzie Bearian
  6. I Am Sam Eagle
  7. Zootlander
  8. Sesame St. Elmo's Fire
  9. Dr. Strangepork, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Link Hogthrob
  10. How to Lose Guy Smiley in 10 Days

  1. "Oh no, not ewe again!"
  2. "Hey, my mane man. You're one hep cat."
  3. "I'm not gonna eat you."
    "Yeah right. You're lion."
  4. "You're riding that thing as you flee the authorities?"
    "Yes, I'm on the lamb."
  5. "Yeah, I used to follow Mary around, but you know how things go..."
    "Restraining order?"
    "What can I say? I've been a baaaaad boy."
  6. "You can't pull the wool over my eyes. I've been sheared."
  7. "My fleece was white as snow. But then I pissed off that bastard Jason and his Argonauts."
  8. "I don't steal wool."
  9. "King of the Jungle, you say?"
    "It's good to be the King."
    "Well I didn't vote for you."
  10. "I like ewe, alot."

  1. Top Secret! - the Val Kilmer classic
  2. Big Top Pee-wee - I prefer his Playhouse
  3. The Four Tops - I couldn't help myself (sugar pie honey bunch)
  4. Top dog - that'd be the one humping the underdog
  5. Top hat - I wear mine on the Boardwalk
  6. Topol - he fiddles on roof tops
  7. Roof tops - where to get the good kind of shingles
  8. Stove Top stuffing - prepared on counter tops
  9. Counter tops - where I cut the tops off carrots
  10. Carrot Top - yes, Carrot Top tops Top Gun

  1. Past pluperfect tense.
  2. You're an idiot. You've gotten it all wrong.
  3. Oh, really? Well, then why don't you enlighten me?
  4. It's tens, not tense. You need to be more attentive.
  5. I don't have to listen to this. Back off.
  6. Are you threatening me? I'll knock you into next week.
  7. Ooh, I'm frightened.
  8. You should be. I intend to break your face.
  9. You keep your dirty tentacles off me, or I'll—
  10. Ooh, look! A kitten!

Traditionally, blue laws were created to stymie activities that were deemed offensive to religious principles. Most have since been repealed, but some remain on the books today. Blüe laws, on the other hand, are fictional, since nothing with an ümlaüt actually exists.4
  1. (Columbus, OH) In years when a dog is mayor, the town clerk must be either a cat or a badger.
  2. (Plymouth, MA) After 9 pm on Mondays, it is illegal to sing or hum any song by ABBA.
  3. (Placerville, CO) It is illegal to own more than one purple umbrella.
  4. (Alpharetta, GA) You are allowed to punch your in-laws in the face if there is a full moon.
  5. (Reno, NV) When juggling more than three chickens, at least one must be a rooster.
  6. (Gary, IN) It is illegal to cry over spilt milk unless Oreos were also spilt.
  7. (Eden, NY) Every citizen is required to name their first-born child Adam, irrespective of the gender.
  8. (Enid, OK) You may not ride an armadillo through the city's center unless you are wearing high heels, earmuffs, and a cape.
  9. (Roseau, MN) It is illegal to store a banana in a gun holster, even if the banana is loaded.
  10. (Austin, TX) Walruses are not allowed to enter any place of worship without wearing pants.
4 You are so naïve.

And that'll do it for me. Now if you don't mind, I have a princess to save, so I must be off.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Once Upon a Tuba

Long before I started spinning yarns, I was pretty handy with a pencil. Graphite was my weapon of choice for any art assignment that didn't specify a medium. That is, until one fateful day... which really wasn't all that fateful. Sorry to mislead you like that.

'Twas my freshman year of college, six years before I first started writing fiction, and three years before I was rejected from a short story writing course because I was an art major.1 The professor spread out about 100 postcards on the floor and had each of us choose three to combine into a drawing.

One caught my eye right away: a work by my favorite artist, René Magritte.2 I snatched it up and scanned the rest of the cards as my choices quickly dwindled. In the end I snagged a Picasso collage I'd never seen before and a photo of a desert landscape to round out my triumvirate of awesome.

I knew I couldn't resort to my usual grayscale pencil drawing, not with a desert sunset involved, so for the first time ever I ventured into the realm of chalk pastels. I merged Magritte's tuba, suitcase, and cloth-ed woman with a Picasso moth and set them against the desert backdrop. The result:

I'd hoped to come up with some clever way to tie this all back to story writing, but since a picture is worth 1,000 words and this one comprises three pictures, I'm already way past my quota. Instead, I'll just leave you with this:

More art should have tubas in it.

1 That's a half-truth. I wasn't rejected for being an art major. I was rejected for not being an English major. It's probably just as well, since my other courses only afforded me 17 seconds of spare time that semester. (Seventeen seconds? / I can't write a tale that fast. / Maybe a haiku...)
2 Ceci n'est pas une apostille.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ramble in the Bronx

For every blog post prior to this one, I sat down at the keyboard already knowing what I would write about. But this time I have nothing. Not even an inkling. Therefore, I'll do what I did in practically every email I sent home during my four years of college. Ladies and gentlemen, let's get ready to ramble.

Once I get going, I shouldn't lose my train of thought, though I may shift tracks so quickly others will say I've lost it. So let's leave this topic behind and shift to the topic of behinds. Brits call ours an arse, with that R thrust up in there, butt we Yanks are more apt to make a crack about having junk in the trunk, further yanking Brits' chains since they call their trunk a boot. And not a boot like Italy, which has always looked to me like it's tripping on Sicily and falling hip-first into southeast France, which is Nice. And not nice as in "oh, that's nice," but pronounced "niece," which by the way can also be a nickname for Denise, though I don't call Denise that because it's not nice. Instead I call her Denise, or Beautiful, or Mommy (if The Professor's nearby), but never Honey, since she may be sweet but she didn't get that way by being regurgitated by bees.

By the by, bees are stingy. And that's stingy, not sting-y, though of course they're sting-y, too. I mean, whenever I try to keep tidbits of pollen away from them, bees seize dese with ease, despite the fees. (Jeez, that was a bad bit, but bite me. I don't backtrack mid-ramble. That's a recipe for disaster, like if you completely leave the rum out of a Hurricane. Or if you leave the rum out in a hurricane, which isn't wise; the rum's gone and an angry Sparrow will chew your ears off.) Speaking of chewing ears, I'd rather speak of Ewing cheers, which aren't quite Bronx cheers since the Knickerbockers play their home games in Manhattan.1

Well, that'll do it. I do hope my muse has amused. Or bemused. Honestly, I'm equally happy with either outcome.2

1 Leave the rum out of a Manhattan, or it'll be too rummy when gin's supposed to be in the cards. And never leave the rum out in Manhattan, or an artful Dodger may steal it away to L.A.... and then you're back to the earlier ear-chewing scenario.
2 Oh, and the first person to make a crack about me being a ramblin' man will end up at the wrong end of a gun. After all, I'm just trying to make a living and doing the best I can.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Into International Waters

Rejoice, ye filthy bilge rats! For today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

In past years, I’ve explained how to talk like a Jewish pirate and taught you how to speak like other traditional pirates (e.g. Pittsburgh, software, of Penzance). But I now realize I’ve been neglecting a large part of the day: the part where it's International.

Sure, I’ve previously included Somali and Caribbean pirates, but that barely gets us started. So here’s a guide on how to talk like some truly international pirates (with stereotypes fully in force):

Type of PirateSample Phrase(s)
French- Le arrrrrr.
- Hand over yer—oh, you want our ship? Okay, it’s yours.
CanadianArrrrrr, eh?
SwedishFeerst you get a sceeervy sceeervy dog, then add de bork bork bork.
ItalianI’m-a gonna make-a you walk-a da plank-a.
MexicanBarges? We don’t need no stinkin’ barges!
SwissI’m gonna cut you. Then snip you. Then file you, tweeze you, saw you, and corkscrew you. (And then I’ll clock you.)
GermanNein, nein, nein! Not pirate! Ich bin ein longshoreman.
BritishPardon me, but would you mind terribly handing over your ship and jumping into the ocean? Jolly good!
Space- These are not the booty you are looking for.
- You can’t take the sky from me. Try, and none in the ‘verse will ever see your gorram face again. We shiny?
TransylvanianI vant to sink your boat.
AustralianG’day, matey. Shove off, or we’ll throw you little shrimps on the barbie.
ChineseI pirate. I fry prane.1
New YorkYo, ho! I’m walkin’ the plank over here!
MordorSmee(gle)! Kill those lost boys!
RussianWe’ll show these capitalist pigdogs. We’ll make ‘em bleed Red!
Danish- To sea, or not to sea—that is the question:
Whether ‘tis horribler in the mind to suffer
And sling arrows for outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of lubbers,
And by opposing end them?
- Neither a borrower nor a lender be. Just take stuff.

And that ends our lesson for today. May this knowledge serve you well, no matter where in the world your piracy leads you.

1 Like I said: fully in force. But before you get mad at me, remember... me love you long time.