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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: humor, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 1,311
26. #636 – Jesper Jinx, Book 1 by Marko Kitti

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Jesper Jinx, Book 1

by Marko Kitti
published by Marko Kitti            4/28/2014
978-1-4974-5822-2
Age 7 to 9               152 pages
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“Jesper Jinx is eleven, and probably the unluckiest person in all of Puffington Hill. Everything he touches seems to end up in sweet disaster. Hence his nickname “Jinx.” In this first book of Jesper Jinx’s wonderfully wicked adventures you’re going to meet Jesper’s family and Snowy the Cat. Also, there’s a mysterious new classmate with a moustache. And it‘s up to Jesper to launch his famous Boredom Breaker. What harm would it do to have a little fun?”

Opening

“Jesper Jinx watched as his older sister Melinda popped her soda an open and took a small sip from it.”

The Story

Jesper Jinx loves his pranks but the pranks have earned him a nickname. Even some of his best pranks are jinxed, like the time he switched his sister’s beloved energy drink, Guaraná Antarctica, with a horrible homemade concoction. She deserved it. She snooped at his diary. At dinner, dad took a swing of Melinda’s “energy drink” and about gagged, no, wait, he did gag and so did Melinda. She was well worth it, but not dad. Jesper ran out of the house before anyone could accuse him and ran into the author of this book. Sworn to secrecy, the author agreed to write a book only Jesper’s eyes would see. This is that book.

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Two short stories are included in book 1: Jesper Jinx and the Colourful Cat and Jesper Jinx and the Spanish Shenanigans. For animal lovers, the first story will amuse you, especially if you are owned by a dog. Jesper accidentally causes Snowy, the cat, to turn several shades of red moments before his mother is to show her off to a disliked neighbor. To make matters worse, the cat, named for its pure white coat of fur, disappears, like magic. One minute, she was under a towel and the next, gone. Of course, this is when the dreaded neighbor rings the doorbell.  Is it really magic? Is Snowy a magical cat? Mom believes so, if only for a short minute. Then she realizes Jesper is involved and has him bathe Snowy. Everyone knows cats do not like bathes. Jinxed! page94_Jesper_Oliver_TeachersWith claws!

 

In the Spanish Shenanigans, it is not Jesper pulling the shenanigans. There is a new kid in class, and he has a moustache on his upper lip. His name is José Maria, and he has a moustache, a real one, and a deep voice. José claims everything grows faster in the hot Spanish sun, but Jasper is not inclined to believe him, well, he is inclined enough to show José all of his best pranks. School will not be the same for Jesper and his best friend Oliver. Their teacher, Miss Parrot, who likes to repeat what she hears, has a life-changing experience and leaves school—for good. Jesper and Oliver will get a new teacher. A short-for-his-age teacher who has a deep voice (girls will swoon over), and a real moustache on his upper lip. The new teacher now knows all of Jesper and Oliver’s favorite pranks. Jinxed!

Review

I read Jesper Jinx in one sitting and enjoyed the crazy antics of both Jesper and the author. The author begins by explaining how he came to Puffington Hill, home of Jesper, and how he acquired Jesper’s stories— and the secrecy by which he swore to handle his stories. There is even a certificate of secrecy readers must sign. Running out of the house after dad takes a swing of Melinda’s tampered Guaraná Antarctica energy drink, Jesper runs into the vacationing author. Then page72_Mum_Washerthe stories begin. Oh, yes, Jesper Jinx is Finnish author, Marco Kitti’s first English language chapter book.

I like the story of the red Snowy cat and its disappearance from under the towel. The cat’s portrayal is realistic. I cannot count the number of times my cat is not where he was only moments before and then suddenly shows up where he could not possibly be at. The behavior is enough to drive a person to dogs. The humor is well timed and Jesper’s reactions are convincing. I love that mom is going to show off a cat she otherwise wants nothing to do with. Snowy belongs to Jesper when the litter box needs cleaned or the cat is in mom’s space. But bring the snooty neighbor comes around Snowy becomes mom’s treasure. I like how the author includes bits of life that are true for many readers. Like dad, engrossed in his newspaper, only coming up for air when he wants something, but don’t try to talk to him.

In the shenanigans story, it is confusing why this new kid is suddenly in class and why the teacher swooned whenever she said his name. The teacher is wacky, repeating what the student said, before answering.

“Yes, Jesper?” said Miss Parrot. “Do you have something to share with us all?”

“No,” said Jesper.

“No,” said Miss Parrot. “Is there something . . . ?”

“No, Miss Parrot,” said Jesper.

“No, Miss Parrot,” repeated Miss Parrot. “Then how about you, Oliver?”

“I can’t think of any questions, Miss Parrot,” said Oliver.

“Think of any questions, Miss Parrot!” said the teacher.

Yes, it can get tiring, but then Miss Parrot quickly disappears. She is busy driving her souped-up Mercedes. The story is about José Maria, Jesper, and Oliver’s budding friendship. It is odd that José has a moustache but then, I can remember certain boys tended to get their hairy lip early. So, I believed this. The deep voice at eleven I also believed. Maybe he is older and flunked a few grades. You must believe or the story cannot go on. Poor Jesper, he is jinxed the moment the man-boy walks into his classroom. Trying to be a nice kid, Jesper and his friend Oliver befriend José. José asks Jesper about pranks, so Jesper shows him the best pranks he an Oliver pull on teachers.

page133_MissParrot_Speeding

Jesper is a likable character, kids age 7 and up will enjoy, along with all of his the crazy stories. The stories are short, and the vocabulary basic, so a reluctant reader can enjoy Jesper’s antics. Jesper Jinx will entertain both boys and girls who like crazy plot twists you don’t expect. The antics are similar to those in the the Aldo Zelnick alphabet book series.(Reviewed here: “J” “K”) Just remember one important detail, you must keep the contents of these books a secret. Jesper believes the author is only printing one copy for himself only. If he finds out that is not true, he will stop telling the author his stories. Jesper Jinx is a welcome addition to chapter books and books for reluctant readers.

JESPER JINX.  Text and illustrations copyright © 2014 by Marko Kitti. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Marko Kitti,

Purchase Jasper Jinx at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryCreateSpaceMarko Kittiyour favorite bookstore.

Check out what a local Gargoyle had to say about Jesper Jinx right HERE.

Learn more about Jasper Jinx HERE.

Meet the author / illustrator, Marko Kitti, at his website:     http://www.markokitti.net/en.html

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jasper jinx

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copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 4stars, Chapter Book, Children's Books, Library Donated Books, Reluctant Readers, Series Tagged: Chapter book, children's book reviews, family relationships, humor, Jespar Jinx, jinxed, Marko Kitti, pranks, reluctant reaers, Spanish teacher

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27. Kindle Flare

Most of you are probably aware by now that I have a plain old e-ink Kindle and that I read on it five days a week during my public transit commute to and from work as well as during my lunch break. When I first started reading on a Kindle five years ago there was hardly anyone one else on the metro train who had an ereader. In fact, I’d frequently have people ask me questions about mine. Now there are so many people reading on ereaders, tablets, phones and iPods that the people actually carrying books are outnumbered.

As someone who loves to spy and see what people are reading, with the increase of digital devices it has become difficult. Though there was a woman yesterday next to me on the train who was obviously reading over my shoulder. It wouldn’t have been so annoying if she had been a bit more surreptitious about it. It was so bad I almost tilted my screen towards her a little and asked if that was better for her. I doubt she was able to figure out what I was reading — Willa Cather’s The Troll Garden. I have considered taping a piece of paper with the title of my book to the inside of my Kindle cover so when I am reading the curious reader will not be left wondering, but I’ve never gotten around to it.

But now The Onion reports the release of the Kindle Flare, a Kindle that will loudly and repeatedly tell everyone what you are reading. And, if you are reading something you aren’t so very proud of, it has an “explanation mode” where it will explain that yes you know the book is trash but you are also reading Infinite Jest.

My favorite feature, however, is “bookshelf mode.” In bookshelf mode you can place your Kindle on you now empty bookshelves (because, you know, you don’t need to buy print books any longer) and it will run through a list of all the books on your Kindle. So it is still possible to impress your friends at parties by the books on your virtual shelves.

I think I’ve got to get me one of those Kindle Flares!

If you haven’t figured it out by now, this is a joke produced by the satirical newspaper The Onion. Unfortunately, The Onion and WordPress would not let me embed the video, so you will need to click on the link above to have a good laugh. Enjoy!


Filed under: Books, ebooks, Humor, Kindle

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28. The New Phone Book’s Here

In the immortal words of Navin R. Johnson:

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Things are going to start happening to me now!

Yes, due to life, it took a long time to arrive, but that lovable scamp Virgil Creech is back in Virgil Creech Sings for His Supper.

 Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00063]

 

 

Even the idyllic little town of Portsong isn’t immune to the coming depression. What will our favorite family of eleven do when their chief bread-winner is left without a job? Enter the youngest son, Virgil Creech, who discovers an unlikely talent that may just keep the family afloat.

Meanwhile, half the world away, town grocer Harland Gentry discovers the truth of the ancient proverb, Pride goes before a fall. On the vacation of a lifetime, Harland decides to reinvent himself as a man of means, hoping to leave the small town behind. But he is not prepared for what he discovers on his unpredictable African adventure.

Of course, Virgil Creech Sings for His Supper contains a healthy dose of the lovable Colonel Clarence Birdwhistle, as he and Henry begin to rebuild the Lee family farm. All of these stories come together for another delightful romp through Portsong, the southern town halfway between Savannah and heaven.

 

From the back of the book, here is our new friend, Harland Gentry as drawn by Aprilily.

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It is always rewarding to have someone read one of my books. But I was particularly excited to get a Five Bookworm Review on the first book in the series because it came from a kid, which is my target audience.  He is also not a family member!

You can read his take here.

 

If you haven’t had a chance to read Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption, the ebook version is going to go free for a week sometime soon as publicity for the sequel. Of course, I’ll announce it here.

I wrote the final piece of the Portsong Series last year hope to release it fairly soon. I am now working on my first piece of adult humor and would love to put it out in 2015. We shall see if life gets in the way of that one as well.


Filed under: From the Writer

4 Comments on The New Phone Book’s Here, last added: 8/14/2014
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29. My Writing and Reading Life: Mary G. Thompson

Evil Fairies Love Hair is Mary G. Thompson's third novel. She was a practicing attorney for more than seven years, before she moved to New York to write.

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30. Fool

Fool: A Novel Christopher Moore

What Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal did for the gospels, Fool does for King Lear.

I originally picked this up because when I saw Moore had a new one out, The Serpent of Venice*, I put a hold on it, only to discover it was a sequel. So, of course I went back and read Fool.

Now, I’ve never read Lear, but that’s ok. Moore’s book might have been smarter and funnier if I were more familiar with the source material, but it’s plenty smart and plenty hilarious without it.

Basically, Fool is a hilarious retelling of King Lear form the Fool’s perspective. The Fool sees everything around him, and in Moore’s version, ends up driving most of the plot (with some help from the Weird Sisters, on loan from MacBeth.)

Much like Lamb, while the commentary and the book are very smart and well done, it’s also super-raunchy and full of swearing, sex, and anachronism. This is Moore at his best. Slightly offensive, very “earthy” and extremely smart. This reminds me that Moore is one of my favorite authors for a reason.

*If Fool = Lear, I assume Serpent of Venice = Merchant of Venice

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

0 Comments on Fool as of 8/6/2014 12:34:00 PM
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31. August ’14 Samples: “What I Learned This Summer”

I enjoyed working on this cartoony spread for Group! The spread and some take-outs, below…

summer-spread1

 

 

0 Comments on August ’14 Samples: “What I Learned This Summer” as of 8/5/2014 12:42:00 PM
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32. A Call to Tech Support

The wifi in my eldest daughter’s laptop died recently. Being the home’s Chief Technology Officer, I worked through the handy troubleshoot on the system which told me it was working perfectly. Of course, the inability to connect to the internet and the distraught look on my poor daughter’s face told me it wasn’t. No worries, I bought a USB dongle and she was up and running.

Little did I know that my trouble-shooting skills would soon be needed again. A week ago, she informed me that her dongle wasn’t working. Of course, at 11:15, my system was shut down, so I didn’t pay much attention and went to bed. When I awoke, I realized it wasn’t her computer – there was a wholesale internet outage in the house!

I think that is mentioned in Revelation, isn’t it? The Mark of the Beast and the inability to access High-Speed Wireless is in chapter 13, if I remember correctly. I looked outside and it didn’t appear the Battle of Armageddon had begun yet. A check of the beds told me the wife and kids were still here, so the rapture hadn’t left me behind (Whew!)

But I still had no internet.

This has happened before and I fixed it. What did I do? Oh yeah, I unplugged it and it rebooted itself. So I pulled the plug and let it regenerate. Unfortunately, the light blinking was still red long after power was restored. So I called my ever-helpful internet service provider and got stuck in the web of automated attendants who sound helpful, but are very patronizing. Don’t they know I am the CTO? That should give me some status, I would think.

My biggest problem wasn’t the self-righteous know-it-all computer voice on the other end of the phone, it was the fact that my cell phone service is spotty in the basement where the router resides. So I put the phone on speaker and listened as best I could. Like a rat pushing through a maze, I found the tech support cheese after seventeen minutes and the new, smarter sounding Tech Support Weenie voice tells me we are going to have to restart the system.

TSW: I will now tell you how to restart your system. This is a medium level procedure and will take approximately 3-5 minutes.

Okay

TSW: Can you see your internet router?

Yes

TSW: Please find the power cable on the back of the router and say yes when you’ve found it.

Got it

TSW: I didn’t understand you.

Er…  Yes

TSW: Trace the cable to the electric outlet. Unplug the cable and wait 10 seconds before plugging it back in.

Well, that’s what I did before, but okay

TSW: Did this solve your problem?

NO!

At that point, my spotty cell service affected my ability to clearly hear the next steps in the process. What I am pretty sure it said was for me to disconnect all cables, kick the box across the room, plug it back in and see if any lights were blinking. Repeat until no lights function.

Done!

After I hung up, I went to work early and left this note on the floor:

936051_10152553265964675_8432536674832206132_n

 

The good news, there is free wifi at the hotel, but I really wish they would call.


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

6 Comments on A Call to Tech Support, last added: 8/5/2014
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33. Wednesday Writing Workout: Charactization: Tell It Sideways, Courtesy of Sherry Shahan


Today's Wednesday Writing Workout comes to us courtesy of the talented Sherry Shahan. Sherry and I first met virtually, when she joined the New Year/New Novel (NYNN) Yahoo group I started back in 2009. I love the photo she sent for today's post--it personifies her willingness to do the tough research sometimes required for the stories she writes. As she says on her website, she has:
 "ridden on horseback into Africa’s Maasailand, hiked through a leech-infested rain forest in Australia, shivered inside a dogsled for the first part of the famed 1,049 mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska, rode-the-foam on a long-board in Hawaii, and spun around dance floors in Havana, Cuba." 

Her research has led to more than three dozen published books, fiction and nonfiction. To keep from becoming stale, Sherry likes to mix it up—writing picture books, easy readers, middle-grade novels, and YA. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and teaches a writing course for UCLA extension.

Her new young adult novel Skin and Bones (A. Whitman) is a quirky story set in an eating disorder unit of a metropolitan hospital. The main character “Bones” is a male teen with anorexia. He falls desperately in love with an aspiring ballerina who becomes his next deadly addiction.

The novel was inspired by a short story Sherry wrote years ago, “Iris and Jim.” It appeared in print eight times worldwide. Her agent kept encouraging her to expand “Iris and Jim” into a novel. Easy for her to say!

                                                               *          *           *

Wednesday Writing Workout 
Tell It Sideways
by Sherry Shahan

During the first draft of Skin and Bones I stumbled over a number of unexpected obstacles. How could I give a character an idiosyncratic tone without sounding flippant? Eating disorders are serious, and in too many instances, life-threatening. 

Sometimes I sprinkled facts into farcical narration. Other times statistics emerged through dialogue between prominent characters—either in an argument or by using humor. Either way, creating quirky characters felt more organic when their traits were slipped in sideways instead of straight on.

There are endless ways to introduce a character, such as telling the reader about personality:
"Mrs. Freeman could never be brought to admit herself wrong on any point." —      Flannery O'Connor, "Good Country People."
Or by detailing a character’s appearance:
"The baker wore a white apron that looked like a smock. Straps cut under his arms, went around in back and then to the front again, where they were secured under his heavy waist ."   —Raymond Carver "A Small, Good Thing"
The art of creating fully realized characters is often a challenge to new writers of fiction. As a longtime teacher I’ve noticed:

1.) Writers who use short cuts, such a clichés, which produce cardboard or stereotypical characters.
2.) Writers who stubbornly pattern the main character after themselves in a way that’s unrealistic.
3.) Writers who are so involved in working out a complicated plot that their characters don’t receive enough attention.

In Skin and Bones I let readers get to know my characters though humorous dialogue. This technique works best when characters have opposing viewpoints. 

Consider the following scene. (Note: Lard is a compulsive over-eater; Bones is anorexic.)

“I’ll never buy food shot up with hormones when I own a restaurant,” Lard said. “Chicken nuggets sound healthy enough, but they have more than three dozen ingredients—not a lot of chicken in a nugget.”

Bones put on rubber gloves in case he’d have to touch something with calories. “Can’t we talk about something else?”

“That’s the wrong attitude, man. Don’t you want to get over this shit?”

“Not at this particular moment, since it’s almost lunch and my jaw still hurts from breakfast.”

Lard shook his head. “I’m glad I don’t live inside your skin.”

“It’d be a little crowded.”

Exercise #1: Choose a scene from a work-in-progress where a new character is introduced. (Or choose one from an existing novel.) Write a paragraph about the character without using physical descriptions. Repeat for a secondary character.

Exercise #2: Give each character a strong opinion about a subject. Do Nice Girls Really Finish Last? Should Fried Food Come With a Warning? Make sure your characters have opposing positions. Next, write a paragraph from each person’s viewpoint.

Exercise #3: Using the differing viewpoints, compose a scene with humorous dialogue. Try not to be funny just for humor’s sake. See if you can weave in a piece 
of factual information (Lard’s stats. about Chicken Nuggets), along with a unique character trait (Bones wearing gloves to keep from absorbing calories through his skin.)

I hope these exercises help you think about characterization in a less conventional way. Thanks for letting me stop by!
Sherry
www.SherryShahan.com

Thank you, Sherry, for this terrific Wednesday Writing Workout! Readers, if you give these exercises a try, do let us know how they work for you.

Happy writing!
Carmela

0 Comments on Wednesday Writing Workout: Charactization: Tell It Sideways, Courtesy of Sherry Shahan as of 7/30/2014 8:36:00 AM
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34. Rookie Mistake

Having all daughters, I don’t get to pass on sage advice on how to be a man very often. I do have a bunch of nephews. All of their lives, I have mostly been Uncle Clown – the guy that comes in, stirs them up into a frenzy and leaves without any responsibility for the cleanup or calm down phases. I do get to thump them sometimes. Every young man needs a thumping from time to time.

My youngest local nephew is off to college soon. He’s a fine young man who is very devoted to a sweet girlfriend. If you analyze that sentence, you can find the potential problem. It isn’t in the devoted or girlfriend – it lies solely in the young man. We are a stupid breed. Recently I asked him who a young lady in a photograph was and he responded by saying, “the hot one,” with his girlfriend in range… a classic rookie mistake.

Being a visual gender, we tend to over-notice things, especially in the female realm. So I thought I would throw out a few pointers that just might help the young man keep his relationship from going south with his eyes.

1. She has eyes – two of them. In the early days of your relationship, they are mostly trained on you and she is very interested in where yours go. So if you are at the frozen yogurt store and a bikini model walks in, she sees her too. She saw you see her. You now have a choice. Do you want to satisfy that urge to look one more time and wear your desert or would you rather keep your head down and eat it?

2. A pithy comment once you’ve been caught won’t save you. Saying, “I don’t think that skirt would pass dress code at my school,” sounds really funny – but only points out that you’ve sized up what she is wearing along with the legs sticking out of it.

3. Any talk wondering about or complimenting a surgeon is as fake and plastic as what you are encountering. This is a minefield – walk in and there is no safe way out.

4. You aren’t an owl, look ahead when passing females and keep your head from rotating 180 degrees.

5. If you can’t control yourself, sunglasses are acceptable. But only outside, gentleman. Unless you are in the Secret Service, you can’t wear them inside the mall.

6. I think there is a verse in Proverbs that says, It is better to walk around wearing horse blinders than let your eyes wander when you are on a date. That might be a new, obscure translation, but the advice is sound.

I can't see nothing an I'm happy

I can’t see nothing & I’m happy

 

Most women are forgiving and understanding. If they weren’t, there would be no relationships and humanity would have died out long ago. Women understand we are stupid and can’t help ourselves. Heck, Victoria has built an empire out of our visual demands. What the young man often fails to understand is that it takes time to build up enough trust that one can say the stupidest thing ever and maintain his relationship. Twenty + years after I said it, I’m still married.

What was it?

 

To be continued…

 

Photo credit: Orso della campagna e Papera dello stagno

 

 


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

5 Comments on Rookie Mistake, last added: 7/29/2014
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35. Rookie Mistake

Having all daughters, I don’t get to pass on sage advice on how to be a man very often. I do have a bunch of nephews. All of their lives, I have mostly been Uncle Clown – the guy that comes in, stirs them up into a frenzy and leaves without any responsibility for the cleanup or calm down phases. I do get to thump them sometimes. Every young man needs a thumping from time to time.

My youngest local nephew is off to college soon. He’s a fine young man who is very devoted to a sweet girlfriend. If you analyze that sentence, you can find the potential problem. It isn’t in the devoted or girlfriend – it lies solely in the young man. We are a stupid breed. Recently I asked him who a young lady in a photograph was and he responded by saying, “the hot one,” with his girlfriend in range… a classic rookie mistake.

Being a visual gender, we tend to over-notice things, especially in the female realm. So I thought I would throw out a few pointers that just might help the young man keep his relationship from going south with his eyes.

1. She has eyes – two of them. In the early days of your relationship, they are mostly trained on you and she is very interested in where yours go. So if you are at the frozen yogurt store and a bikini model walks in, she sees her too. She saw you see her. You now have a choice. Do you want to satisfy that urge to look one more time and wear your desert or would you rather keep your head down and eat it?

2. A pithy comment once you’ve been caught won’t save you. Saying, “I don’t think that skirt would pass dress code at my school,” sounds really funny – but only points out that you’ve sized up what she is wearing along with the legs sticking out of it.

3. Any talk wondering about or complimenting a surgeon is as fake and plastic as what you are encountering. This is a minefield – walk in and there is no safe way out.

4. You aren’t an owl, look ahead when passing females and keep your head from rotating 180 degrees.

5. If you can’t control yourself, sunglasses are acceptable. But only outside, gentleman. Unless you are in the Secret Service, you can’t wear them inside the mall.

6. I think there is a verse in Proverbs that says, It is better to walk around wearing horse blinders than let your eyes wander when you are on a date. That might be a new, obscure translation, but the advice is sound.

I can't see nothing an I'm happy

I can’t see nothing & I’m happy

 

Most women are forgiving and understanding. If they weren’t, there would be no relationships and humanity would have died out long ago. Women understand we are stupid and can’t help ourselves. Heck, Victoria has built an empire out of our visual demands. What the young man often fails to understand is that it takes time to build up enough trust that one can say the stupidest thing ever and maintain his relationship. Twenty + years after I said it, I’m still married.

What was it?

 

To be continued…

 

Photo credit: Orso della campagna e Papera dello stagno

 

 


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

0 Comments on Rookie Mistake as of 7/29/2014 12:28:00 PM
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36. The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern | Book Review

Readers will instantly fall in love with Maggie. Her narrative voice is smart, funny and clever, which makes her a highly entertaining, endearing, complex, triple threat.

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37. Four People and a Playwright Looking for a Decent Play

This was a time-waster while developing characters in my play, "Gin..." As the playwright plodded along adding and deleting dialogue, the characters of the play began to show signs of rebellion - at least they thought it was rebellion since they weren't exactly sure what a rebellion was. It's a longer piece but an enjoyable light one. It's cut and pasted from Word so ignore the formatting.


By Eleanor Tylbor
 
 
AT RISE:      
 
Four women are seated on fold-up chairs around a card table, absorbed in adjusting the playing cards in their hands. Bowls of popcorn and soft drink cans litter the surface of the table. On the other side of the stage the playwright (JULIE) is sitting at a computer desk, arms bent at elbows, staring out into space. She works the keyboard as the characters recite their lines
 
BRENDA
In case anyone cares, something is about to happen…very soon now…could even be momentarily…I can feel it…
                         Lays cards down on the table and thrusts remaining card in the
                         air for all to see
 
(Cont’d.) Victory is at hand – or inmy hand, in this case! Oh I’m a winner all right!
CHARLENE
                         Shoving a hand full of popcorn in her mouth
 
Goof fo' you. Paf me de drink, Miffi
 
BRENDA
Didn't your momma teach you it's not nice to eat and talk? Then again for some people, a full mouth is part of a lifestyle. Isn't that right Mitzi, honey?
 
MITZI
Jealousy will get you nowhere, sweetie.  At least I'm not a dried up where it counts!
 
BRENDA
Touchy! I was merely commenting to Charlene that well-bred people don't speak with their mouths full! But then being that you’re a multi-tasker…I mean handling more than one person at a time…
 
MITZI
Breeding comes naturally in your family, doesn't it? Did they forget to give you your cube of sugar today? Clop your hoof once for yes and two for no
 
CHLOE
(to herself)
Bicker, bicker…bicker, … It would be nice to have a quiet game of cards for a change without throwing verbal knives at each other
 
CHARLENE
I think I'm close to calling Gin…
 
BRENDA
I would stay out of this if I were you, Chloe. Is your brother eligible for parole, yet?
 
CHLOE
I'm gonna start calling you Bossy, along with the other "b" word that rhymes with itch, and usually associated with a female dog! I try to be nice to you and what do I get in return?
 
                         CHLOE stares into space for approx. 10 seconds in silence
 
What do I get in return? Does anybody know?
 
CHARLENE
Do we guess?
CHLOE
I don’t think so. My mind is a complete blank. Is that normal?
 
           Pause of 10 seconds while they all stare out into space
 
CHARLENE
I’m waiting

BRENDA
Me too. What are we waiting for?
 
MITZI
Some words and sentences I think

 
BRENDA
(puzzled)
Don't blame me for what comes out of my mouth. I just say the words. I don't create them. By the way, Chloe, what's your brother in for this time? Armed robbery or is it murder? I didn't mean to say that…or maybe I did…I’m not sure
MITZI
I really don't know why but I feel compelled to tell you…
 
                         Stands up and leans over the table towards BRENDA
 
BRENDA
(standing up)
What? Anybody?
 
MITZI
Why am I standing? I mean, what's my motivation? Could somebody tell me, please?
 
CHLOE
So sit down if you’re not sure. My philosophy is when in doubt – don’t
 
MITZI
Don’t what?
 
CHLOE
Um - I dunno. Take my word for it and just don’t. That’s all
 
CHARLENE
(excitedly)
Gin! What’s supposed to happen, now?
 
BRENDA
I’m not sure but I think something important is gonna happen. I can feel it in my bones. Does anybody have any ideas?
 
MITZI
Well…for starters, we’re all holding these hard pieces of paper in our hands
 
CHLOE
I wonder if that’s significant. What do yours look like, Brenda?
 
BRENDA
Let’s see… White background with red and black thingies…
 
MITZI
Thingies?
 
BRENDA
I dunno what you call them but they’re pretty, though. And there are numbers in the corners
 
CHLOE
Same here! Go figure!
 
MITZI AND CHARLENE TOGETHER
Ours too!
 
BRENDA
Okay. We’re making progress here. Hey! These are playing cards
 
 CHARLENE
You think?
 
 BRENDA
I know for a fact! Those words just popped into my head!
 
CHARLENE
So you say. You could’a just make them up on the spur of the moment to impress us
 
BRENDA
Have you ever heard me use them before?
 
CHLOE
I never heard them in my entire life and that’s the truth
 
BRENDA
Then you’re all just gonna hav’ta take my word for it! These things are called playing cards
 
MITZI
Let’s say you’re right. What about them?
 
BRENDA
I dunno…What comes next?
 
CHARLENE
Y’know - I’ve been wondering if I should be eating popcorn or maybe change it for something else like, candy for example or ice cream
 
MITZI
All you think about is food, food, food! There are more important things in life
 
BRENDA
Really? Like?
 
MITZI
Well…there just are. I feel it

 
CHLOE
Sometimes, I get the feeling like I'm a puppet on a string or something, bowing to someone's wishes. Do any of you ever get that feeling?
 
CHARLENE
I said, ‘Gin’! Hello? I'll try again. Gin… Gin… Gin!
 
ALL TOGETHER
So?
 
CHARLENE
Darned if I know. We show up every day and twice on weekends holding these playing cards in our hands. Why I keep asking myself. Why am I here? Why are we all here? Sometimes I yell out,  “Gin!” out loud but nobody answers. Shouldn’t somebody answer me? I’ve been screaming that word for the last six months. Always the same words and lines and then I call out, "Gin!"
                         Stares out in space and babbles to an invisible person
 (Cont’d.) ‘…she tries to make the others understand but they just stare at her blankly…she must determine the reason for her very existence…’
 
BRENDA
Who are you talking to?
 
CHARLENE
I really can’t say. Suddenly a bunch of words came tumbling out of my mouth for no reason. It's not the first time this has happened
 
BRENDA
Ask Mitzi. She knows all about objects in mouths
 
MITZI
I'm so sick of your sexual innuendoes, Brenda
 
CHLOE
Why do you react that way whenever the word “mouth” is mentioned?
 
MITZI
It’s not that I want to but I feel I have to. It’s as if I don’t have any choice in the matter
 MITZI stands up with hands on hips, leans forward until her face  is directly in front of Brenda

BRENDA
Yes?
 
MITZI
And…um…something else…
 
                         Moves away from table, hops up and down and starts
 shadow boxing, fists waving in the air
 
(Cont’d.) I took a self-defense course! My hands are lethal weapons!
 
                         Cuts the air with side of hand
 
CHLOE
And that means…?
 
MITZI
You are so not with it.  It means…it means…
 
BRENDA
Oh pllleeze! She doesn’t know
 
BRENDA
Let's settle this once and for all! C'mon – right here and now
 
MITZI
Fine with me…what are we supposed to do next?
 
BRENDA
Just… keep hitting the air and dancing around I suppose
 
                         BRENDA and MITZI spar, fists jabbing the empty air
 
CHLOE
                         Stands up and places her purse strap over her shoulder
 
That's it! Nobody seems to care that I have yelled “Gin!”…whatever that means, but I'm sure it's important.  I don't know about you all but I'm leaving! Anybody else gonna follow me?
 
 MITZI
                         Attempts to attract the attention of the playwright
 
Hello? You up there? Could you stop staring at that screen for a minute? This isn't working for me at all. I'm sick-and-and tired of being a slut with a one-track mind. This play of yours is a bunch of words with no plot or direction and it breaks every playwriting rule in the book. Where's the protagonist and antagonist?
 
CHARLENE
What are you complaining about? My character is insecure, indecisive and naive, and those are her strong qualities. How'd you like to have those? I'm smart, you know! I am very smart… I think
 
BRENDA
Off the top of my head, I would guess that part of your problem is that you're a minor character, while mine plays a major role and more attention is required to develop Brenda, properly
 
CHARLENE
See what I mean? How come I can't be the smart one for a change?
 
CHLOE         
With all due respect Charlene, honey, I don't think you have the emotional range to assume an analytical role of deep thinker, like we do. Right ladies?
 
                         CHLOE and BRENDA together:  ‘I dunno’
 
CHARLENE
It's just not fair! Every day I hav'ta play the part of a simple minded female when in reality, I got it up here (points to her head) I think this is what makes the words come out
 
CHLOE
You see, Charlene, sweetie, my background lends itself to being a character with class…one of the rich, beautiful people, while you – well dear - let's just say that you have interesting words in your sentences
 
CHARLENE
I'm as good as anyone here! You're all forgetting that we are the sum total of the playwright's vision. Hey – I can talk smart too! Why can't we take turns being each other?
 
MITZI
Let's not forget here that our origins are a computer memory chip. The only rich and famous person we're connected to is Bill Gates. I say…we walk. Are you with me, ladies?
 
VOICE OF PLAYWRIGHT (JULIE)
Is there a problem?
 
BRENDA
 
                         Hands on hips, facing direction of playwright
 
We got your attention, huh? We've had it with these crappy lines! We're bored of being portrayed as vacuous women with blank minds. We're people too! We have feelings and we hurt and…
 
JULIE
May I remind you that you're nothing more than a bunch of words strung together to make a sentence? I make you who and what you are and I can eliminate you all with a push of my forefinger and a delete button. You're only communicating with me now because I'm exploring dialogue choices. You're all a figment of my imagination
 
CHARLENE
No need for threats, here, dear. There's only so much that characters can take and we've reached the end of the line, so to speak. Do you like that, ladies? End-of-the-line?
 
CHLOE
Trés wit-ty, my dear
 
JULIE
What should I say? I've re-written and re-written you all at least two dozen times and no matter what I do, the dialogue sounds… wooden. And don't even ask about the plot, or lack of one, thereof
 
BRENDA      
That's because you really don't really believe in us, do you? Deep down inside you're toying with the idea of deleting the text and starting a whole new play that will move in a new direction. Do you know what it's like living under that threat? I'll tell you – it's very disturbing
 
PLAYWRIGHT JULIE
Did I write that? I don't remember writing those words…
 
CHLOE
Now there's a perfect example of what I'm talking about! We never know where you're gonna take us next, right ladies? It's like…there's giant hands hanging over the stage dangling precariously, ready to strike at a moments notice.  It's the uncertainty of the delete button that gets us down!
 
MITZI
For example, why do you always make me as an over-sexed whore? Maybe it would be good to be an upright female for a change.  Not necessarily a nun or anything but an intelligent woman who has a direction and purpose in life. Not somebody who dresses in clothes three sizes too tight. Let Charlene assume that part for once. Wouldn't you like that, dear?
 
CHARLENE
I'll pass but I know where she's coming from! In spite of all your attempts at re-writes, you still make me out like an empty-headed - duh! I want to be respected like the rest of them, except Mitzi…no insult intended…
 
MITZI
None taken, dear. I'm used to it by now
 
PLAYWRIGHT JULIE
I never realized you all felt this way
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38. Floating In Pants

I don’t have a grand list of phobias. But of the things I fear, I’m pretty sure sharks top the list. As a child of the seventies, Jaws really did me in. I love going to the beach and being in the ocean, but constantly find myself scanning the horizon for a fin. I have been deep-sea fishing and enjoyed it even when I heard the eerie music in my mind and braced for the impact from the imaginary megalodon shark about to ram us from underneath.

I’ve been reading the book, In Harm’s Way, which is about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis during World War II. A few years ago a survivor of the event, Edgar Harrell, spoke at my children’s school on Veteran’s Day. His story was amazing. If you don’t know what happened, the ship was sunk by a torpedo and since they were on a covert mission, no one knew to rescue them. This led to the largest recorded shark massacre in history. While I am fascinated by the situation, it leads to all kinds of issues. Could I survive such an event? Take the sharks out of the picture, am I ready to float in the ocean for days?

Then I remembered! I have been trained to use my pants as a flotation device thanks to the Uncle Sam. That was over twenty-five years ago, though… can I still do it?

I decided to test my skill. After all, I fly over the ocean sometimes, I might need to use this someday. It pays to be prepared. The weather is perfect – why not? To my closet to fetch a pair of dungarees. In order to do this right, I have to be wearing them. If I survive the wreck, I won’t have my carry-on. Into the pool I go fully clothed.

First observation, it is hard to tread water with shoes on. You would think they would be an aid as paddles (especially my size 13’s), yet they tend to be more of an anchor.

Second, it is difficult to stay afloat and remove your shoes. Always wear slip-on shoes or flip-flops if there is a high probability of emergency flotation.

Third, taking off your pants in the water can lead to some rollovers – it is tricky to both hold your nose and disrobe.

Forth, tying off your pant legs is fairly easy. Inflating them while staying topside is not. I am not asthmatic, but I must have the lung capacity of a baby armadillo.

Fifth, you should always wear a Jethro Clampett belt. I am ditching leather for rope immediately. That will be the only way to secure the waist tight enough to hold air.

shark pants

I am happy to tell you that should I ever find myself in the ocean with pants, I will likely live to tell about it unless I see a circling fin. The trial was a complete success. Quite proud of myself, I exited the pool and would like to share just a few more observations. Unlike me, you should probably choose a friend, relative or close neighbor’s pool, not a nearby community pool. The reason for this is you will find wet pants that have been used as a flotation device are nearly impossible to untie and put back on, which makes for a disquieting two-mile walk home.

Oh, and you should probably notify the police or get a permit as if you are having a fireworks display or parade. They take a dim view to a wet, pantless man walking home late at night.


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

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39. The Art of Recommending Books

Because I’m an author as well as a writing instructor and a reader, I’m often asked for book recommendations. Sometimes I’m asked to suggest books that are like my books, while other times I might need to think of titles that are good for a certain age range or in a specific genre.

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40. Saying Goodbye

It is hard to say goodbye to an old friend. I am currently having to do just that. Sometimes, things deteriorate beyond salvage and the relationship must end. I have had this happen before, not very often – but it has happened.

In my younger days, I was a bridge-burner. I just moved on. I left high school and kept up with very few friends, mostly the ones who went to the same university. After four fun-filled years at college, I left those friends with every intent of doing better. I did not. Oh, I tried. For a year or two I kept up with some. But we all got scattered around the country and once-close ties severed. I predate social media, so we didn’t have that easy connection to tether me to my friends.

I have had to end relationships since then, though not as frequently. It was much easier to end friendships when I moved cities. I have lived in the same city for twenty-five years now and have no intention of leaving. So I can’t pack up and forget to give a forwarding address. Also, the aforementioned social media makes ending a relationship a public event. You have to be sure it is the proper thing to do before you push “unfriend,” or “block.”

What are some causes of ended friendships anyway? Here are some big ones. It isn’t an exhaustive list, you might have experienced other issues.

A trust violation – can be major or minor, equally damaging.

Priority shift – things become important to one and not the other.

Lack of support – a friend has stopped being there for you.

Selfishness – the friend who has all day to complain but has to go when it is time to listen.

Drift – Sometimes, friends just drift apart. It isn’t a willful decision on either side.

Friends can’t always be replaced. Depending on the length and emotional depth of the friendship, there can be a sizable void when the friendship ends. Pain. Regret. Panic, doubt, and second-guessing can even set in. Most of the time, there is even a grieving period when a friendship dies.

So it is with this friend. We’ve been through a lot together. There were entire days we spent together and I don’t regret them. They were good days… comfortable days. Never tight or strenuous, my friend and I got along perfectly. We fit together. I felt a certain contentment with this friend that I rarely feel. In fact, besides my wife, I’ve been closer to few others.

Why, do you ask, must this friendship end?

Is my friend moving? Did my friend betray me?

Loneliness_(4101974109)

 

No, due to old age, my friend’s elastic waistband ripped through the soft, cotton fabric and my favorite pair of boxers is caput. The friendship is no longer salvageable. I could save it for a dust rag or staining cloth, but that’d be weird… unlike writing a blog post about underwear.

 

 

Photo attribution: Bert Kaufmann from Roermond, Netherlands (Loneliness Uploaded by russavia)

 

 


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

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41. Elegant Elephant, Arrogant?

elephant450 2

..A PERFORMANCE YOU’LL NEVER FORGET

… although a  repeat performance may depend quite heavily on the tightrope’s tensile strength.

………………………………………………………………………..

The Illustration Friday theme of the week is “repeat.”

So.

You know.

This.


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42. Arks to Go II - the Flood

 A FRIENDLY RE-CALL
by Eleanor Tylbor
 
 
SCENE:   ANGIE'S APARTMENT.

AT RISE:  ANGIE IS WATCHING TV, ALONE.  PHONE RINGS
 

ANGIE
Hello?

NOAH
Guess who?

ANGIE
You have the wrong number

(She disconnects. Phone rings once more)

(cont'd. ANGIE)
Not again... Hello?

NOAH
We seem to have been disconnected...

ANGIE
Not really

NOAH
This is Angie, right?

ANGIE
Maybe it is and maybe it isn't. Depends who's asking

NOAH
I get it! You're joking with me, aren't you? Of course you are. 'hahahahahahah' See? I have a sense of humor

ANGIE
I'm not trying to be funny, I can assure you

NOAH
Oh...sorry 'bout that. I thought you were. Anywaaaay... so whad'ya think about all the rain we've been having? Think somebody is trying to tell us something?

ANGIE
I'm not in the mood for another one of your philosophical lectures, Noah. I'm gonna disconnect, now.

NOAH
I feel you're upset... Joe busy, is he?

ANGIE
I'm watching a movie. Alone. By myself.  What does that tell you?    But since you asked, Joe, as  many have before him, has moved on

NOAH
No problem-o. Would you like me to look up his new address? I have access to everyone's number on the planet...

ANGIE
I don't want to discuss this with you. Good-bye...

NOAH
Your voice tells me something is wrong

ANGIE
Something wrong? You have to ask me if something is wrong? You interrupted what could have been the perfect romantic evening by showing up at my door

NOAH
It was a friendly visit. I thought we could get to know each other before embarking on our trip

ANGIE
Excuse me? A really old guy with straggly long hair and a white beard dragging on the floor, dressed in army fatigues and smelling of animal dung, shows up at my door and starts asking my date questions about the next flood and his experience in building arks. What do you think he'd do?

NOAH
Would you like me to call him and apologize? Perhaps I could make it up to him by offering him a ride on my ark

ANGIE
What ark? You don't have an ark, Noah! Remember? Now if you don't mind and even if you do, I'm going to make some popcorn and...

NOAH
Popcorn? I LOVE popcorn. I'll be right over along with a friend or two...

ANGIE
I don't think so... Hello? Noah?

(DOORBELL RINGS. SOUND OF ELEPHANT AND MONKEY CAN BE HEARD)

(cont'd. ANGIE)  No...please no...

(Angie opens the door. Noah is standing outside)

NOAH
Hope you don't mind that brought along a few friends. They get a little crazy without supervision. So? Where's the popcorn? Tell me, Angie - have you ever thought about adopting a pet?

(TO BE CONTINUED)

 



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43. Scenes from Life: a Short Play-ette AT THE SUPERMARKET:

THE FRENCH BREAD
by Eleanor Tylbor


SCENESUPERMARKET BAKERY

AT RISE:  A FEMALE SHOPPER ARRIVES IN THE BAKERY AREA. LOOKS OVER THE ALMOST-EMPTY BREAD DISPLAY


FEMALE SHOPPER
(quietly to herself while squeezing all the breads)
This is like...so pathetic. Bread is at least two days old and this one is broken in three places. Who would buy it

(another shopper arrives)

SHOPPER 1
No bread, yet?

FEMALE SHOPPER
A couple of left over 2-day old breads.  They should remove them

SHOPPER 1
(bending over to look)
That happens as a result of shoppers squeezing the breads to see if they're fresh. Too many fingers pushing in one spot and the breads break in half Look - you can see the finger indentations.

FEMALE SHOPPER
Um...yeah...I see...but how else can you tell if the bread is fresh?

SHOPPER 1
Problem is that everyone squeezes the bread in the same place and this is the end result. Some shoppers have no respect for others. A squeeze here and a squeeze there...

FEMALE SHOPPERS
(uncomfortable)
Of course you're right... Looks like there's fresh bread baking in the oven. I love the smell of fresh baking bread. Don't you?

SHOPPER 1
...they'll end up having to throw out the bread of course. Disgusting with all the starving people in the world!

FEMALE SHOPPER
(looking even more uncomfortable)
Beautiful weather we're having. It's about time what with all that rain

SHOPPER 1
It's those same people that open up the strawberry boxes and exchange berries to make sure they have the best one's.

FEMALE SHOPPER
Disgusting! Some people...! Did you happen to notice if the strawberries on sale, perchance?

(another shopper arrives)

SHOPPER 2
Bread not ready?

FEMALE SHOPPER
Nope. Guess the bakers aren't rising to the occasion (laughs)

(the other two shoppers stare at her)

(cont'd) A little humor while we wait...obviously very little...

SHOPPER 1
We were just discussing how people over-squeeze the French bread to death causing it to break in half

FEMALE SHOPPER
Oh look! Here comes the baker. 'I'll take two white baguettes, sil vous plait'

BAKER
Attendez - c'est trop chaud

SHOPPER 1
What he say?

FEMALE SHOPPER
Haven't the slightest idea. I memorized my sentence from a French phrase book when I planned a trip to France

SHOPPER 1
Two whole wheat breads, please

FEMALE SHOPPER
Sil vous plait

SHOPPER 1
What?

FEMALE SHOPPER
That's French for 'please'

SHOPPER 2
Same for me

BAKER
Too hot. You must wait ten minutes for cool

FEMALE SHOPPER
How about you hand it over and we'll blow on it?

BAKER
Par-don? I know understand

FEMALE SHOPPER
A joke. You know...ha-ha-? Any-way, how about those over there on the trays? They look cool

BAKER
They are freeze. They must bake in oven

FEMALE SHOPPER
Look baked to me. Do they look baked to you, ladies?

SHOPPER 1
If he says they're not cooked... Why would he lie?

FEMALE SHOPPER
I dunno. Maybe he's saving them for friends. Look...sir. I'll take my chances with the hot bread. I promise you I'll be very careful. Really. I respect your French bread and won't abuse it. In fact, if you just put it in bags and hand it over, I'll put it in a safe place in my shopping cart where it can cool off, while I shop. I'm sure the other shoppers will also respect your bread. Right ladies?

SHOPPER 1
I can wait.

SHOPPER 2
Me too.

(SHOPPER 1 AND SHOPPER 2 walk away)

FEMALE SHOPPER
If you would give me my breads?

(he hands over the breads. She grabs them from the middle and they bend in half)

(cont'd) Oh no! A catastrophe has occurred!

(she replaces the broken breads in the empty bread display)

BAKER
Madam - your breads!

FEMALE SHOPPER
(pushing her shopping cart away
Neh! Changed my mind. You bakers take your breads so seriously


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44. Environmental Book Club

Today, my little lads and lasses, I have something different for you. An adult book for our club.

Home to Woefield by Susan Juby takes a cliched memoir subject, the city person getting back to the earth by moving on to a farm, and makes it funny. And she makes it funny without making any of her characters into ridiculous jokes.

Prudence Burns is seriously into sustainability but not having good luck with it in New York. She thinks a great opportunity opens up for her when she inherits a pretty much good-for-nothing farm in Canada. Prudence isn't totally ignorant of how to make a go of it in an organic kind of way, and she's a hard worker. She also earns the good will of all around her. Her problem is that she's overly optimistic.

With the farm she also inherits an elderly hired hand, who's not a great deal of help. She soon takes in a young alcoholic recluse whose main connection with the world is through the celebrity and metal blogs he runs. The three of them also end up with a preteen and her chickens.

These characters could have ended up as cliches, especially the preteen. She could have easily fallen into the wise-beyond-her-years stereotype. Instead, she is a damaged innocent. The elderly, foul-mouthed Earl and the equally foul-mouthed young Seth are also damaged. All these characters benefit from Prudence's can do sustainability.

This is the first book I can recall coming across that I think is comparable to Saving the Planet & Stuff  in that it finds humor in the struggle to live environmentally/sustainably without degrading those who are making the effort to do it. Prudence is not the butt of any jokes here. She recognizes them.

Juby is the author of a number of books for teens or that are marketed to both teens and adults. I'm reading Getting the Girl, whose main character seems like a younger Seth (my favorite from Home to Woefield), Seth before he suffered what he believed to be a humiliation he could never recover from and hit the sauce. I expect to be trying Alice, I Think soon, too.

Home to Woefield was recommended by a friend, by the way. Word of mouth.

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45. The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice

Chock-full of Holt's trademark hilarity and hijinks, The Outsorcerer's Apprentice has overlords, underlings, and an unsuspecting young hero who might just change everything, including reality itself. Books mentioned in this post The Outsorcerer's Apprentice Tom Holt New Trade Paper $14.00

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46. How Did We Get Here?

If, by the title, you are expecting to read a philosophical debate about the origin of man, you have come to the wrong place, my friend. Portsong isn’t that deep and neither am I. Being somewhat near the ocean, one cannot dig in our fair town without hitting marshy, useless saltwater. Likewise, if you dig into me, all you get is blank stares, a shrug of the shoulders, and an incoherent grunt or two.

I do like blogging, though. It’s freeform nature resonates with me. If someone stood over me and gave me specifics (AKA – school), my pen would quickly run dry. With my blog, I can do whatever I darn well please. Sometimes what I write strikes a chord with people and sometimes a piece stands on an island of loneliness – a masterpiece waiting to be read and appreciated (or not).

I don’t obsess with stats, but I have my favorite thing to check. I like seeing where people come from in the world and how they got here. Many times, the only listing is “unknown search terms”. But every once in a glorious while, I get to see what people Googled to get here… and I laugh at them.

It’s all in the title.

ob·fus·cate [ob-fuh-skeyt, ob-fuhs-keyt] verb (used with object)

  1. to confuse, bewilder, or stupefy.
  2. to make obscure or unclear: to obfuscate a problem with extraneous information.

 

Everything in red is exactly as typed (misspellings and all)3892771349_0b8c6f5cc7_z

Take for instance some poor kid doing a report on the civil war. He typed: colonel and from yhe south and got to a post about Colonel Birdwhistle from my books.

One kid wanted to know if andrew jackson electable today and found out that I think Andrew Jackson was a presidential man’s man.

Women still Google Tom Selleck:                did tom selleck have curly hair & are there a lot of women who don’t like tom selleck?   I wonder what they thought about:  Tom Selleck owes me an Apology.

Here are some other funnies:

you like a pirate                     He’s a Pirate 

thou shalt now curse          Thou Shalt Not Curse at Missionaries

what dogs get fined when they get runned over              A story of my dog, Winston

leggings via brazil            Prospector Dances & Brazilians in Leggings

stuff under sink at hospital         Hospital 101 for the Incurably Immature

what is irony ice cream     Irony & Ice Cream

I find this one alarming: touching sleeping teen. If their intent was bad, I hope Don’t Poke a Sleeping Teen pacified them.

I have no idea where this person went: meat loaf progeny

By far, my two favorite were these:

This is one search, so I don’t know why the phrases were paired together:

“job physical” “prostate exam”   Either way, I’m sure he enjoyed Shaking Hands with your Urologist

And the chef d’oeuvre! A real gem! The Magnum Opus!

Yes someone got to my blog by typing:

youfart  

Although he hasn’t found the space bar, I feel like Can You Fart at Cotillion was written just for him.

 

 

Subterfuge? Prestidigitation?

I don’t know, I just like coming up witty titles.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Michael Keen

 

 

 


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

5 Comments on How Did We Get Here?, last added: 7/15/2014
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47. Illustration Inspiration: Bob Shea

Bob Shea has written and illustrated over a dozen picture books including the popular Dinosaur vs. Bedtime and the cult favorite Big Plans illustrated by Lane Smith.

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48. How Did We Get Here?

If, by the title, you are expecting to read a philosophical debate about the origin of man, you have come to the wrong place, my friend. Portsong isn’t that deep and neither am I. Being somewhat near the ocean, one cannot dig in our fair town without hitting marshy, useless saltwater. Likewise, if you dig into me, all you get is blank stares, a shrug of the shoulders, and an incoherent grunt or two.

I do like blogging, though. It’s freeform nature resonates with me. If someone stood over me and gave me specifics (AKA – school), my pen would quickly run dry. With my blog, I can do whatever I darn well please. Sometimes what I write strikes a chord with people and sometimes a piece stands on an island of loneliness – a masterpiece waiting to be read and appreciated (or not).

I don’t obsess with stats, but I have my favorite thing to check. I like seeing where people come from in the world and how they got here. Many times, the only listing is “unknown search terms”. But every once in a glorious while, I get to see what people Googled to get here… and I laugh at them.

It’s all in the title.

ob·fus·cate [ob-fuh-skeyt, ob-fuhs-keyt] verb (used with object)

  1. to confuse, bewilder, or stupefy.
  2. to make obscure or unclear: to obfuscate a problem with extraneous information.

 

Everything in red is exactly as typed (misspellings and all)3892771349_0b8c6f5cc7_z

Take for instance some poor kid doing a report on the civil war. He typed: colonel and from yhe south and got to a post about Colonel Birdwhistle from my books.

One kid wanted to know if andrew jackson electable today and found out that I think Andrew Jackson was a presidential man’s man.

Women still Google Tom Selleck:                did tom selleck have curly hair & are there a lot of women who don’t like tom selleck?   I wonder what they thought about:  Tom Selleck owes me an Apology.

Here are some other funnies:

you like a pirate                     He’s a Pirate 

thou shalt now curse          Thou Shalt Not Curse at Missionaries

what dogs get fined when they get runned over              A story of my dog, Winston

leggings via brazil            Prospector Dances & Brazilians in Leggings

stuff under sink at hospital         Hospital 101 for the Incurably Immature

what is irony ice cream     Irony & Ice Cream

I find this one alarming: touching sleeping teen. If their intent was bad, I hope Don’t Poke a Sleeping Teen pacified them.

I have no idea where this person went: meat loaf progeny

By far, my two favorite were these:

This is one search, so I don’t know why the phrases were paired together:

“job physical” “prostate exam”   Either way, I’m sure he enjoyed Shaking Hands with your Urologist

And the chef d’oeuvre! A real gem! The Magnum Opus!

Yes someone got to my blog by typing:

youfart  

Although he hasn’t found the space bar, I feel like Can You Fart at Cotillion was written just for him.

 

 

Subterfuge? Prestidigitation?

I don’t know, I just like coming up witty titles.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Michael Keen

 

 

 


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

0 Comments on How Did We Get Here? as of 7/16/2014 6:01:00 AM
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49. Whose Word Crimes?


Yesterday, "Weird Al" Yankovic released a video for his song "Word Crimes", a parody of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines". Since a lot of people I know are language folks of one sort or another, I saw it flow and re-flow through various streams of social media. But I had qualms.

I love Weird Al, and he's been a formative influence on my life, since I started listening to him when I was a kid. (My entire sense of humor could be described by three childhood influences: Weird Al, the Marx Brothers, and Monty Python.) I also think the detestable "Blurred Lines" is ripe for ridicule and attack. And I like words.

But how are we to understand the speaker in "Word Crimes"?

Most people I saw who shared the video seemed to identify with the speaker. This is not as disturbing as people identifying with the rapey speaker of "Blurred Lines", but it reveals a certain cruelty in the feelings of people who want to be identified as linguistically superior to other people. A tinge of cruel superiority is essential to grammar pedants, and "Word Crimes" reveals that again and again in how it characterizes people who commit such "crimes". On his Facebook page, Jay Smooth listed these characterizations:
"raised in a sewer"
"Don't be a moron"
"You dumb mouthbreather"
"Smack a crowbar upside your stupid head"
"you write like a spastic"
["spastic"?]
"Go back to preschool"
"Get out of the gene pool"
"Try your best to not drool"
Hyperbole in service of comedy? Or your (not so) secret inner feelings?

It's interesting to follow the comments on that Facebook post as well as on the Grammar Girl post that Jay Smooth linked to. Various interpretations and arguments come up, including the common complaint that it's just comedy and you shouldn't take it seriously (a pernicious attitude, I think). I don't know exactly what Weird Al intended with the song, nor do I particularly care (it's a clever song, with fun animation in the video) — it's more interesting as a kind of Rorschach test: Do you identify with the speaker in the song? Do you enjoy the cruelty and want to replicate it?




Usage pedantry is not harmless fun. It is ego balm that stokes a sense of righteous superiority. Typically, it's indulged in by people who don't have a deep interest in the history of language or the complexities of linguistics; instead, they like rules, because rules allow them to set themselves apart from the people who don't follow the rules. Usage pedants enjoy living in an intellectual gated community. Some will even refer to themselves as "Grammar Nazis", thus unreflectively siding with one of the most evil systems in the history of humanity. (And these people say they care about language! By the way, if you want to vomit, do a Google Image search for "grammar nazi".)

Typically, too, usage pedants are white people, and these days often ones who in some way or another identify with nerd culture. One of the commenters on Jay Smooth's Facebook page linked to Tim Chevalier's post "Can Geekiness Be Decoupled from Whiteness", which makes a number of useful points, including:
I think people who have been bullied and abused tend to use rules in the hopes that rules will save them. ... But it’s easier to like formal systems of rules when those rules usually protect you. If you live in a country where the laws were made by people like you, and are usually enforced in ways that protect you, it’s easier to be enamored of technical adherence to the law. And, by analogy, to prescriptive sets of rules like “standard English” grammar. It’s also easier to feel affection for systems of rules when people like yourself usually get a say in constructing them.

Not all nerds are abuse survivors, so perhaps other nerds (as adults) value rule-following because they believe the key to their economic success. From there, it’s easy to jump to victim-blaming: the line of thought that goes, “If other people would just learn and follow the rules, they would be successful too.”
Pedants need to feel superior, and displaying their (often inaccurate) opinions of grammar, usage, style, and spelling is a way to access such feelings of superiority. My life might suck, but at least I'm not one of those horrible people who splits infinitives or uses numbers in words!

There are crimes of language, but they are not the crimes the pedants police — they are the crimes of obfuscation and propaganda, the crimes that lead us to dehumanize each other, to exploit each other, to oppress each other, to hurt and kill each other.

Pedants don't typically get to those crimes. Indeed, often, by proclaiming their unwavering devotion to tradition, they perpetuate such crimes.

The stuff the pedants denounce may be violations of standard English. Or stylistic preferences. Or pet peeves. Talking about such things and discussing our particular perspective on them can be clarifying and can lead to more precision in communication and more knowledge of how language works. But we need to be aware of the assumptions underneath our prescriptions, the motivations for our pedantry. In my courses, I encourage students to abide by proofreading guidelines, but I also try in those guidelines to justify why I require them, and I work hard to undermine any sense of those guidelines being either eternal or immutable. They are guidelines for the situation that is our class, and are useful information for students who are adjusting their writing to the audience that is me, the guy who grades each student at the end of the term.

If you feel the need for rules, though, here's one for you, a famous one from Kurt Vonnegut:
Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you've got a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies—

"God damn it, you've got to be kind."

0 Comments on Whose Word Crimes? as of 7/16/2014 12:03:00 PM
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50. The Hallmark Conspiracy

I hate greeting cards. Oh sure, I’ve been touched by the sentimental commercials. Maybe I shed a tear, maybe not. But they didn’t inspire to me buy a card or like them.

The only cards that resonate with me are blank cards. In this day and age, if someone takes the time to write their own thoughts out and mail it – that is a treasure.

What greeting cards really say in their flourishing font is: “I’m lazy!”

Write this in your card: “I was too lazy to set a few minutes aside to put my own thoughts into words, so here are some prepackaged, canned, inauthentic thoughts that a wanna-be romance writer who hasn’t shaved in weeks and smokes big cigars in Spokane thought were relevant just for you, my sweetest. Please say ‘Awwwww’ and kiss me.”

Frankly, greeting cards are disingenuous at best.

 

When I was a kid, they were just speed bumps to the present. Oh sure, I would pretend to read them on my way to disemboweling the wrapping paper that stood between me and the gift. I liked the ones Aunt Eunice would underline so I could skip most of the words – kind of a cliff notes version. Later in life, she began underlining every word, including the price and printing information – which made it less helpful. Of course, by then she was wrapping up ten year-old toasters and place mats for presents, so haste was less of a concern.

Just because you are paranoid does not mean they are not out to get you

-Henry Kissinger

Greeting cards and I have a turbulent history. Since I am negatively disposed against them, they do their best to shame me at every turn. Instead of bowing to their convenience and paying the price, I try to take the time to write personal notes, especially to my lovely wife. But there are instances when I run out of time and am forced to rush into the store and get one. When this happens, I treat it like a commando raid – rush in, select the victim, and get out before anyone gets hurt. I choose based on color and frill, often neglecting  to check the sentiment inside – time is what I lack, anyway. With that method, it is pretty easy to stay away from sympathy and get-well cards, but sometimes (okay, most of the time), the sentiment of my selection doesn’t match the occasion or is age inappropriate. That is where The Hallmark Conspiracy comes in.

Take this week. This week marked her birthday. I had a great present in advance, but completely forgot the stupid card until the day of. So I put on my camo, blacked my eyes and descended upon the grocery store. Although every fiber of my cheap being steered me to the 99¢ rack, I’ve been warned about those and went all out – $3.99! I found the birthday section, saw one with a cute little boy and girl on it and dashed out of the store.

Here is what I got:

image

Hastily altered in the driveway – think she noticed?

 

Mis-shelved! The card was mis-shelved! I swear I was in the birthday section!

Swine greeting cards!!!!!!

Someday society will truly be paperless and I won’t have to deal with these verbose phonies. Until then, I’ll shred a few in effigy and steer clear of the aisle altogether.


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