Fragment: Left Behind

It sounds exciting when the scientists say they want to copy your brain to run a robot that they’re gonna send to another planet, but then the robot is out there in space having the adventures and you’re still on this dying meat planet, so whatevs. I don’t even care that they didn’t pick me.

Book Review

Last week, after a post-work dinner with colleagues, I split from the party because I spotted a book store across the street promising from its window “a vortex of books”.

The shop owner was a super nice guy, so I figured– even though I have enough books piled up to make it through a snowed-in Russia-in-the-1900s-style winter– I’d ask him to recommend some local writers.

Sure, my usual preference is for books where at some point, at least once, a gun will be pointed at someone. Maybe a pistol, maybe a laser gun.

Instead, I got a novella published locally by a guy who ran a successful zine for years and teaches at a local community college. It’s the story of a heavyset married guy who ends up on a cross-country trip with a flaky pregnant girl. He spends a lot of time thinking about his son, who he recently found out exists, because the girl he knocked up never told him that she kept the child. The tone is “mildly amusing” and “discover the wonders of life” in equal parts.

And it was fine, it was fine. It had a rough start.

I was almost thrown out right at the end of the first chapter, which includes this bit:

Sonny felt his belly groan and worried about his own bowels. It had been almost two days since his last movement. As he waited, he looked at the sky, afire in reds and yellows, and wondered how he’d managed to find himself on the Interstate 80 west of Toledo. He knew that stories always have antecedents, that stories are the sublimations of desires and regret.

Did he? Did he know that stories always have antecedents? Fuck off. That’s page 3. Who thinks like that? MFA writers, mostly. Before their peers tell them to knock it off. Is this main character a writer?

Nope. Guidance counselor.

Then, over the course of the rest of the 100 page book, I came across 5 typos. Easy stuff, like spelling “soldier” as “solider.” As if the tiny publishing press has no editors. Maybe they don’t.

I thought about writing on Goodreads about how this book was so-so, and lost points for sloppy editing, so my final thought was “this was sure a book” but then I thought… the world doesn’t need to know this. And authors read their reviews and it’s not his fault he was let down.

Life is wonderful. Literature is illuminating. Stories are magic.

Therzas

When I visited Europe, I made the mistake of thinking the woods at night were a relaxing place to gather my thoughts. It was the mist-shrouded gloom of those woods that allowed a therza (as the locals call them) to sneak up and bite me on the leg.

Had I been more vigilant about vaccinations, at worst I would have had to have worn a bandage for awhile, but eventually I would heal up and forget about it.

But that was not the case. Because of my lack of planning, since that time, when the moon is full, I find myself transforming into a therza myself. I try to plan around it, to make sure I’m indoors and secured when it happens. I take a name-brand anti-therza medication. And, in case the worst happens, I have my legal documents on hand to guide my living relations.

You can picture me, in fact. Seated in a chair, grimacing. The moon peeking out from clouds. The only two things I need to get me through gripped in my sweating hands:

Were-therza will. Therza-Away™.

Criminal Associate

CRIMINAL ASSOCIATE: ARE YOU WEARING A FRICKIN’ WIRE?

ME: I prefer to think of it as “very targeted, unobtrusive podcasting.”

CRIMINAL ASSOCIATE: Are you live-tweeting us murdering you, you snitch?

ME: No. [drops phone in wet concrete around feet]

TRIVIA (continuity error): Character “ME” drops phone but without phone, tweet wouldn’t exist. [ Like | Report ]

Dolph

A SKETCH

Swedish action hero Dolph Lundgren walks into the human-sized entrance on the side of a large machine. There’s a rumbling sound, then a dolphin flops out the egress on the opposite side of the machine.

Camera zooms in on a label on the side of the machine that reads: De-Lundgr-Izer

The Usual Savant

a photo of an apple, a mug reading Donut Savant, and some sunglasses
Product Placement

On the way into work this morning, I picked up some donuts from Donut Savant for my colleagues in the office. I also decided to treat myself to a mug, because I liked the shape and heft of it and the brand had won me over with their consistently amazing deep-fried and sugared product line.

While preparing some coffee in the office’s kitchen, a work colleague asked if I was the one who had brought in the donuts. “That depends,” I said, “on your feelings about the donuts. If you’re happy they’re here, then yes, I take credit. If you’re going to say ‘Oh, I’m on a diet, why did you bring them’ then I don’t know anything about it.”

And then, I attempted a joke that completely failed.

I turned to my colleague, mug in hand, and said “Of course, there’s always the chance you could Keyser Soze out the situation” and gave the mug a little waggle.

A small reference to the conclusion of The Usual Suspects. You understand.

I didn’t see any comprehension of the joke. Maybe he didn’t see the mug. I waggled it again. Nothing. The conversation moves on.

Hours pass.

And I realize that my new mug has a logo only on the side that was facing me. So he’d have no idea why I was waggling my mug and indicating that a proper detective might be able to figure out who brought the donuts.

I explained this to him later, as I was interested in the joke’s failure and my eventually solving of the reason why it failed, and he told me that it wouldn’t have helped, as his brain was refusing to serve up who “Keyser Soze” was, and he was trying to recall if he knew a politician by that name, so…

Failure after failure.

I dunno. I found it interesting.

A Character: Inland Sea God

“We wership sea in my village. Tozz all enemies into sea. Wir inland, so ‘sea’ is big mudpit. God of sea loves mud. Everyone die in mud.”

I don’t always know what these characters are talking about. Sometimes I just start typing.

welcome to canada (dream journal)

Last night’s dream:

I was visiting Canada for the first time and found that its streets were peopled with roaming packs of adherents to various world faiths. Lots of roaming packs of men wearing robes, bearded, and with sect-appropriate headwear.

Stopped by the stand of a street-side baker whose sloped piles of sweet confections caught my eye. The baker was dressed like a Catholic priest and I found, to my dismay, that by purchasing a few rolls, I had also opted in to be struck several times by a flogging whip to cleanse me of my sins as well. It was some sort of combo deal, I guess.

I also got a cell phone call reminding me to watch a local cable access show called Two for Toonie, where I could see local Canadian bands perform, two per episode. The reception would be staticky, but it’s important to take in the local culture while abroad.

Day 1 in Bangalore (Dec 10, 2012)

A sticker in a tuk tuk cab's window that says TIGER and features Salman Khan pointing a gun.
A sticker in a tuk tuk cab’s window that says TIGER and features Salman Khan pointing a gun.

There are certain facts you absorb about India, even if you’re not particularly trying. Like: everyone knows that the Hindus here are fond of cows, so cows can been seen in many social situations that cows may not normally be invited to otherwise.

Or: It’s a land of extremes. You’ll see poverty right next to extravagance, new shiny buildings near broken walls and sidewalks.

Also: The art of driving is very much an art, a negotiation over space between drivers who improvise, like four-wheeled jazz musicians, determining right of way, how many lanes to allow at a given point, and how closely they feel comfortable stopping so as not to run over school children.

I can tell you that this is all true. I saw cows by the road side eating food scraps and I walked around a cow on a street full of vendors, on my way to buy some art supplies with Amanda Summers and my work colleague Freeda. I also passed a dog that was going at full trot in the direction opposite us on a sidewalk, as if it were trying to catch a bus. No collar, no owner. Just a dog on a mission.

I’ve now ridden in the back seat of an auto-rickshaw, or “auto” as they’re called familiarly. It was in one of these that we were forced to pause so as not to smear school children across the front of the windshield. And yet, the driver showed no anger and the children showed no fear. The auto stopped. All was fine. Everything was working as it should.

The key to being driven around Bangalore is to trust. There are so many people who live here, as you may not, and they know how things work. So there’s no reason to pay that much attention to your driver, letting your mind play the game of “I WOULD START BRAKING NOW” or the game of “REALLY, THAT PERSON IS JUST WALKING OUT INTO THE STREET NOW?” Those are games you can’t win. Let them go.

My coworkers in town are lovely people, many of which I’ve know for quite some time, though not managed to work in proximity for any length of time. We joined two of them, Sapna & Freeda, for an amazing lunch that consisted of a tandoori platter containing just about every type of animal you could fit in a tandoor and some mutton biriyani (a rice dish). Freeda then got the job of baby-sitting us today, taking us out of the office mid-afternoon to practice crossing streets, navigating broken sidewalks, using the local ATM and visiting a super-market where we replaced our lost shampoo and picked up some interesting snacks. She also suffered a flat tire driving us around and back to the flat, where fortunately enough, our host’s driver was able to replace the flat while we checked work emails

We then hung out a bit at the flat until night fell and we could eat again and we got to traverse the city streets at night, walking around food vendors cooking on sidewalks, having sights pointed out like the local bar where Freeda says only men would be hanging out. “Women don’t go in there.” “Smart,” I offered.

I also saw a local eating establishment that had a logo by Alicia Souza, an artist in Bangalore with a really fun style who I’ve been a fan of ever since I received a “You Know You’re An Indian…” mug that featured her illustrations as a gift from my India-office colleagues years back. You can follow her here on Facebook, actually, if you want to see why I remarked “I could recognize her style a mile away!” while snapping the photo, even though I was only 20 ft. away, my claim unchallenged.

It’s getting late now. There’s more I could tell you, but pictures are going to have to fill in for now. My typing was just interrupted by the third mosquito in this room this evening. I’m taking the interruption as a request by the mosquito to join its two other relatives who I already killed in this bedroom earlier today. Maybe they would leave me alone if I put together a mosquito-shaped stencil and started painting them on the wall for every one I take out, like a WWII fighter pilot.

If anyone knows anything about mosquito pattern recognition when it comes to the abstraction of their body shape in stencil format, with special regard to connecting that pictorial representation to a strongly implied threat, please let me know.