Archive for Bullshit

The Inner Swine Guide to Ignorance

By | April 7, 2014 | 0 Comments

BQ49(This originally appeared in Brutarian Quarterly #49; for a while I wrote a column there about ignorance in general and my ignorance in specific. It was a lot of fun and I figure I’ll post them here now and again.)

Episode Three: META-IGNORANCE

The other day I was sitting in Hudson Bar and Books in New York City drinking single malt Scotch and reading, when I had an attack of Meta-Ignorance.

Hudson Bar and Books is one of the world’s greatest bars for whisky. It isn’t a boisterous place where you can order pints of beer and watch baseball games—I have plenty of other places for that—but rather a jazzy, quiet place with a chatty bartender, the most fantastic cheese plate I’ve ever had, and an seemingly endless supply of good booze. It’s the only place so far I’ve ordered Glenmorangie Madeira Wood and not been laughed at, beaten up, or derisively offered a Dewars. Of course, my visits to Hudson Bar and Books are not without angst-inspiring moments; there is a sign posted in the front window that reads, ominously, PROPER ATTIRE REQUIRED, and there has not been one time yet that I haven’t paused with one hand on the doorknob, staring blankly at this sign, wondering if I was properly attired. So far I have established that proper attire requires pants of some sort, but beyond that it all remains mysterious.

At any rate, I was sitting there recently pretending to read a big, thick book and scheming to hit the bartender over the head, exchange clothes with him, and do his job for the rest of the afternoon—meaning I would lean rakishly behind the bar, drinking directly from a bottle of Scotch, and implore anyone who wandered in to tell me their troubles, in-between humming tunelessly and checking my facial expression for appropriate levels of rakish charm in the mirror—and waiting for my lovely wife, The Duchess[1]. When she arrived, she asked me what I was drinking.

ME: Scotch.
TD: Is that whisky?
ME: Yes.
TD: Is bourbon whisky?
ME: Yes.
TD: What’s the difference?
ME: . . .look! An elephant!

META-IGNORANCE

The problem is not so much that I am ignorant, but that I am ignorant even of what I am ignorant of. I simply don’t even know what I don’t know. The above exchange is a classic example: While I know what whisky is, and even have a vague idea of how to produce it, I can’t tell you much about why some is bourbon and some is not. Well, I mean, I can now, because I did some research. You’d think that over the years I’ve ingested enough of both kinds of booze that my underbrain could genetically analyze each and I’d sort of instinctively know the answer, but as with most situations where you’d think my underbrain would provide some sort of guidance, all I get is static and the occasional urge to take a nice long, hot bath. This leaves me defenseless against attacks of Meta-Ignorance.

Sometimes Meta-Ignorance rears its terrible horned head in situations where I really have no excuse—situations where I suddenly realize I am ignorant about things you might consider knowledge essential to my very survival. I’m not talking about the time The Duchess and I ended up hiking in the White Mountains of Vermont and were almost eaten by bears because I realized I was ignorant of things like which way is north and when lost in the woods what the hell do you do?

No thanks to you—or The Duchess—I now know the answer to the latter question is do not let your wife abandon you to be eaten by bears no matter how hard she tries[2].

But I digress—I was discussing moments of Meta-Ignorance involving basic knowledge you’d think everyone who manages to not be killed during their everyday lives must know, like what in hell a ground wire is. The Duchess and I recently bought our first house, and being a) concerned for my masculine image and b) one of the cheapest bastards you’ll ever meet, I naturally insist on doing all sorts of work around the house by myself, including wiring up light fixtures. Now, wiring up a light fixture does not require an advanced degree or even above-average intelligence, but I still managed to put my life and property at risk because when I opened the box and started the installation process, I had no idea what the extra exposed wire was for. Meta-Ignorance had reared its head: I didn’t even know what I didn’t know about electrical systems. How I didn’t electrocute myself and burn down the house remains a mystery, because I did some creative things with that wire before discovering the truth[3].

On a less immediately-threatening note, there is my Meta-Ignorance about my sad physical decline. Sure, I know that every year after you’re approximately 25 is just a steady boogie-board ride down the mountain to my eventual death, but the specifics of my bodily functions remain elusive and the only time I learn anything about them is when they go haywire. This kind of Meta-Ignorance can easily kill you, of course:

ME: Hmmmn, I have a painful welt on my ankle.
TD: Want to go to the emergency room?[4]
ME: Nah, it doesn’t look too bad.

[TIME PASSES]

THE CONSEQUENCES OF META-IGNORANCE

The real problem with Meta-Ignorance is that it’s impossible to combat, because you don’t know what you’re ignorant of. Ignorance can be cured—all it takes is some research and perhaps a bit of experimentation, possibly a willingness to take risks[5], which I can usually attain by drinking a few alcoholic beverages in a short amount of time. But if you don’t even know what you don’t know, you’re screwed. Think about it: You might be doing something right now that is going to speed you on to your death, and you don’t even know it. Like reading this article. Decades from now stern actors may be appearing in PSAs warning against reading anything written by Jeff Somers, as his words are now proved to cause insanity and blindness and eventual death.

There’s also the hovering specter of humiliation due to unsupposed ignorance. Above and beyond physical harm and death, all men fear public humiliation, which is why we are all so willing to feign knowledge and fake our way through things rather than admit we don’t know something. Sometimes I am convinced that all men are as ignorant as I am, and we’re all just nodding wisely and repeating phrases we don’t understand in order to appear wise. Take, for example, escrow. What in hell is escrow? No one knows. But if you bring it up in the company of men, all of them will nod wisely and say something like “Ah, yes, escrow: Can’t do without the ole’ escrow account.” Much in the same way I once looked my mechanic in the eye and said, “Ah, yes, the solenoid. Can’t get far without one of those!”[6]. But I know I’m ignorant about cars and engines and, well, physics. So whenever the conversation drifts to that subject, I start being cagey with my words—a lot of thoughtful nodding, as if I’m considering my options, replaces most verbal communications in these sorts of situations—and start building mental ditchworks to retreat behind if I get caught out. But what about subjects I think I’m fluent in? For example, my own family: I’ve started to realize I know next to nothing about my family, and anything I think I know that dates from before, oh, about when I was twelve years old is almost certainly bullshit I made up once long ago and have repeated to myself so often it seems true. Only to be revealed as bullshit the moment I relate it, authoritatively, to someone[7].

####

Of course, one of the things I may very well be Meta-Ignorant of is how obvious it is to everyone but me that I am ignorant. I like to imagine that with my eyeglasses, my hipster-gone-to-alcoholic-seed fashion sense, and constant clutching of tomes to my concave chest I appear somewhat erudite to people who don’t know me very well, but the truth is strangers on the street are probably moved to pity at the sight of me, and experience the sudden urge to take me by the arm and guide me across the street. If you see me wandering the street pretending to be non-ignorant, however, I’d advise you to resist that urge; if it’s before noon I am hungover and prone to bouts of sudden-onset retching, and if it’s after noon I am inebriated and prone to violence.

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[1] My wife long ago ordered me to never use her name in my writing, so she is now known only as The Duchess. If you know what’s good for you, you will refer to only as The Duchess as well, even if you meet her in person.
[2] See The Inner Swine, Volume 10 Issue 1, “Don’t Be Eaten by Bears: Your Humble Editor has an Adventure”
[3] In fact, for all I know, I did electrocute myself and everything since then, including this essay, has been a delusion like An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. Although that would mean you exist only in the dying twitches of my brain activity, your poor soul.
[4] This is an imagined conversation, of course. in reality my wife’s response would be: Suck it up, silky-boy, and go fetch me some cookies. And my response to her would be: Yes’m. And then my futile stab at rebellion would be drinking half a bottle of whisky in the kitchen while fetching her cookies and passing out with my head in the dishwasher. Don’t ask how my head gets in the dishwasher. You don’t want to know.
[5] For example, tasting a sample of what’s in the mysterious Tupperware discovered in the rear of your fridge, that may or may not have been left there by the previous tenants.
[6] His look of frank pity remains clear in my nightmares.
[7] Like the fact that I thought my Mother was Lutheran, and told my wife so many times, only to have my outraged Mother correct me at a birthday gathering. The Duchess will not let me forget it.

The Inner Swine Guide to Ignorance

By | March 31, 2014 | 0 Comments

Brutarian Quarterly #47(This originally appeared in Brutarian Quarterly #47; for a while I wrote a column there about ignorance in general and my ignorance in specific. It was a lot of fun and I figure I’ll post them here now and again.)

Episode Two: PERSISTENCE OF IGNORANCE

YOU may think that ignorance is a natural state that requires no upkeep, but you are so very, very wrong. Ignorance—at least at the professional level that I maintain—is difficult to keep pure and unsullied by information. The cosmos is always conspiring to educate and inform you; to remain uncorrupted you have to work pretty hard. And drink. If you drink often enough and in sufficient volume, remaining ignorant becomes fairly easy, since everything people say to you starts to sound like the adults from a Charlie Brown television special.

STAYING TRULY IGNORANT AIN’T EASY

This is necessary because there is information everywhere. Facts, figures, analyses—they’re all pouring from the airwaves all the time. Just walking down the street your eye will catch sight of headlines on newspapers attempting to inform you, stray audio from radio and television programs that try to educate you on current events and their implications, and even overheard conversations that reveal aspects of existence or modern life that you did not heretofore suspect. Staying truly ignorant ain’t easy. I make it look easy, but that’s because of the drinking and the temporary bouts of paralysis I suffer from because of it. It’s difficult to overhear knowledge when you’ve got to concentrate carefully just to avoid falling into the comfortable-looking gutter that calls your name. If I weren’t so hungover in the morning that any motion aside from my ragged breathing caused me considerable pain, forcing me to use all my mental energies to anticipate the momentum of the train and compensate on a second-by-second basis, I’d learn five or six things every day just by peering rudely over the shoulders of my fellow commuters.

And this doesn’t even include all the information I gain from my failed attempts at doing things—nothing teaches like a trip to the emergency room. Like the time I thought I might try to install a radio into my old 1978 Nova all by myself, professionals be damned, and learned all sorts of things about the electrical system, the idle, and the way the human body conducts electricity.[1] Without even seeking to, I reduced my ignorance that day through simple experience. You begin to see how hard it is for most people to remain as pristinely ignorant as the day they were born.[2]

THINGS TO NEVER EVER DO

This effort may explain why ignorance is so highly prized in the world. People are generally proud of their ignorance, and react to any sustained effort to combat ignorance with puzzlement and hostility. The easiest way to make some random stranger your enemy is to make them think you are trying to actively combat your own ignorance; somehow this makes you fancy.

I know this to be true because I am well aware of my own shocking ignorance—see my previous column for a succinct rundown of my mental frailty[3]—and make doomed, frustrating attempts to combat it—this is easy enough to attempt, since I can literally choose anything at random and chances are I am almost totally ignorant of it—and thus encounter the world’s cold reaction to my attempts. For example, the other day I ran across a mention of World War I, and sure enough a quick survey of my store of knowledge of the subject revealed nothing but cobwebs, dancing bears, and humorous doodles of Teutonic men in spiked helmets. So, dedicated as I am to facing my ignorance like a man, I went to the bookstore and bought a book about World War I, which I carried around with me for a while, reading in my spare moments.

I had a dentist appointment one night after work, and was reading this book in the chair while waiting for the good doctor to come back and start scraping months of sin from my choppers. When she arrived, she glanced at my book and raised an eyebrow.

“You’re reading that for fun?”

I hesitated for a moment, because pissing off or irritating dentists is on my list of Things to Never Ever Do, because that same person was about to have a sharp metal stick in my mouth, and even when the dentist in question is perfectly calm, sane, and sober I am often horrified at the amount of pressure they put on that sharp pick lodged in my mouth while trying to unglue a particularly loathsome hunk of plaque or whatever they call it. The last thing you need is your Dentist muttering under their breath while they scrape away at your defenseless gums. Finally, though, I decided that my only alternative to the truth was to bolt from the room, and running just makes me sleepy. So I nodded as cheerfully as I could admitted that yes, I was not in any way required to read this book.

To her credit, my dentist tried to be polite. “Well,” she said with an expression of confused goodwill on her face, “well, that’s just super.”

This said with the same tone usually reserved for mental invalids and small, frightened children.[4] There followed some awkward talk of self-improvement and how super it all was, though you could tell she thought anyone who would read a book on World War I for fun was about one inch removed from crazy, and when she started jabbing into my mouth I had a few pants-wetting moments of terror whenever she glanced at the offending book while working on my teeth. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d made an excuse and slipped away to call the Department of Homeland Security[5] on me, which would probably take it pretty seriously, since historically the only people who read for pleasure are communists, terrorists, and child molesters of all stripes—like in the movie Se7en, where the cops utilize the deserted, forgotten library in order to track down the serial killer, who is apparently the only person in the world who still reads.

GREASING THE RIDE THROUGH LIFE

Maintaining ignorance greases the ride through life, there’s no doubt about that. Decrease your ignorance at your own risk, bubba. People will look at you strangely, give you nicknames like Shakespeare or Professor[6], and generally question your patriotism and trustworthiness. In order to maintain a high level of ignorance, I suggest the following battle plan:

1. Tune Out. Use an iPod or other music player all the time, wherever you go, set at sufficiently high volume to block any stray information that might otherwise squeeze into your ears

2. Be Vigilant. Remember, you can inadvertently learn anywhere—stay alert, and flee any radios or intelligent-sounding conversations you encounter. Watch out for people reading newspapers or books, although people reading Harry Potter books are probably safe. Don’t be afraid to stick your fingers in your ears and sing if you can’t make a quick getaway.[7]

3. Drink Heavily. Booze kills brain cells, so any stray information that accidentally educates you will be. . .what’s the word. . .I dunno. Zapped. Zapped is good.

The struggle to maintain ignorance continues silently every day, with unsung heroes everywhere doing their part. Pull your weight in this epic struggle, my friends, and win the love and affection of your fellow man. Remember: Nobody likes a smartass.

———————————-

[1] Hint: Extremely well.

[2] Some, I admit, have a special talent for forgetting life lessons immediately after learning them. Me, I relive these lessons over and over again, dreaming them, waking up in the middle of the night screaming “NO! NOT THE PANTS!”

[3] As a matter of fact, I think I’ve forgotten one or two of the dubious “skills” I listed on my mental resume in that column since its publication. HOORAY FOR BOOZE!

[4] I am disturbingly familiar with this tone of voice.

[5] Recently, someone sitting next to former Black Flag lead singer Henry Rollins on an international flight noticed Rollins was reading a book about terrorism and contacted the Australian government reporting him as a possible security risk. I don’t blame them for waiting to write a letter later; Henry Rollins looks pretty badass and even if he was
wearing sticks of dynamite and muttering under his breath while working on some sort of detonator, I’d probably wait until he was out of sight before reporting him, too.

[6] The Somers Consolidated & Immutable Rule of the World states that it will always be one of these two nick names. You will never be called, for example, Archimedes or Newton. A sub-rule does allow for the usage of Einstein if your perceived attempt at learning has a math or science flavor.

[7] This is a surprisingly enjoyable activity even if you’re not fleeing anything at the time.

The Poet Laureate of Hoboken

By | March 19, 2014 | 0 Comments

Here’s something I stumbled across, written probably more than ten years ago. AND STILL HILARIOUS.

Dear People of Hoboken,

jeffsezAs one of Hoboken’s literati, I have been scanning the pages of the local papers for my name on what can only be described as an obsessive basis ever since an interview with me appeared in the local newspaper, the “Current” last March. Unfortunately, there have been no other mentions of me since then. This distresses me. Although I am sure the local Hoboken papers are not causing me this distress on purpose, it remains a fact that the Hoboken free press teased me with a week of interest in my existence and then, just when I thought they were serious, dropped me like a hot potato for the next “flavor of the week“. I think you people owe me something, especially when you consider how much money I spend in the local bars, which is a lot, unless I can convince someone else to buy me drinks. Which isn’t easy when your face isn’t on the front page of the local newspapers, dig? So we come back to the central point: how can the Good People of Hoboken help a guy out and get him some free cocktails?

I have also noted, in a not-totally-unrelated-although-it-might-seem-so-at-first matter, that Hoboken does not seem to have a Poet Laureate. This really stuns me, as most class-act municipalities and nations have one. I had to go look up who the Poet Laureate of the United States is, and it’s Billy Collins, which is startling because, when you think about it, everyone’s first reaction to that is probably “Who in the world is Billy Collins?” No relation to Phil Collins, Billy, according to the Library of Congress’ web site, “…is Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman College, City University of New York, where he has taught for the past 30 years. He is also a writer-in-residence at Sarah Lawrence College and served as a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library.” Which basically translates to: A man who has not left a college campus in almost his entire life, and probably has forgotten what other human beings look like. Likely Mr. Collins peers out from his darkened lair with his fishbelly pale eyes stinging from the direct sunlight, and then he composes haunting poetry about how he hates all the Normals who mock his Phantom of the College existence, which he then mails off to the President. Who doesn’t read them, because our President can’t read.

Which brings me back to my point: I would like to be named Poet Laureate of Hoboken. There are many reasons for this. One, I would be a lot more charismatic and interesting to talk to (especially over a few gratis rounds of Killian’s Irish Red at, say, Stinky Sullivans, on you) than a freakish shadow-monster like Billy Collins. Two, I live in Hoboken and am the first person, apparently, to think of the idea. Three, I have crippling bar debts that threaten to force me into sobriety, and I could really use some sort of stipend from the government. Four, I think it would be very cool if I could introduce myself at parties by whipping out a striking business card that read, simply, JEFF SOMERS, POET LAUREATE OF HOBOKEN. Finally, I have actually written poetry, and while none of it specifically mentions Hoboken, quite a few deal with the horrors of hangovers, and that could arguably be symbolic of Hoboken. Here’s a sample Haiku:

“A DTs morning,

rats in red smoking jackets!

why do you mock me?”

I would appreciate the Good People of Hoboken‘s help in bringing the “Somers for Poet Laureate” movement to the attention of our mayor, whoever that is, and the other illuminati who run this city. It’s the least you can do after I helped you sell all those papers back in March 2001 without so much as a thank you.

Categories: Bullshit

Saturday is Guitar Day

By | March 1, 2014 | 0 Comments

Epiphone Les Paul CustomThere are things in this life which make no sense: The Designated Hitter. The Bachelor. How I am not a millionaire many times over. And, of course, the greatest mystery of them all: Why I insist on not only recording my ‘songs’ but on posting them here. Let me know when you figure it out.

Here, songs:

Song619
Song620
Song621
Song622
Song623
Song627
Song629
Song630
Song632

There: Congratulations on another job … done.

The usual disclaimer: 1. I admit these are not great music; 2. I claim copyright anyway, so there; 3. No, I cannot do anything about the general quality of the mix, as I am incompetent.

Categories: Bullshit, gee-tar

Why the Incompetent Should Not Own Homes

By | February 5, 2014 | 6 Comments
It's a Metaphor. For Me. DO YOU GET IT?

It’s a Metaphor. For Me. DO YOU GET IT?

SO, here was my morning:

At ~6AM I was in bed, having an unusual dream involving a cousin I didn’t recognize who refused to leave my house. He kept slinking around and grinning and every time I told him it was time for him to leave he would smirk and saunter away. It was probably Sean Ferrell invading my dreams. Again.

At some point I realized that in my dream my doorbell was ringing. You know where this is going. My doorbell was actually ringing in real life. I woke up to find myself smothered by cats, none of whom seemed to like this new idea of me getting out of bed. Getting them to release me was like conducting negotiations with warlords in a language you don’t understand.

In my skivvies, I answered the door. It was a neighbor who’d gone out for a run and locked himself out of the house on the coldest, wettest, snowiest morning ever. Serves him right for exercising. My neighborly duty done, I went back for another hour of sleep.

HELLO I MUST BE A MORON

Upon waking, I discovered a leak in the living room, in a spot that’s been leaking no matter what we do to fix the problem, for centuries now. It is some sort of Eternal Leak, placed there by god as a fixed point in time or something that can’t be changed. It’s frustrating.

Knowing that sometimes our gutters on the roof above get frozen and this contributes to the problem, I grabbed a broom and hauled myself out the window onto our second-floor roof to do battle with the gutters. I carefully stepped around the skylight, cleaned the gutters as best I could, then turned and saw a cat about to leap through the window I’d left open.

Our cats are not wild animals. They are fat, lazy, aristocratic animals who think they can wander on the roofs in the snow for a while and somehow not get lost and freeze to death. So I panicked, and began running for the window to prevent disaster. And my feet went out from under me, and I fell backwards, right onto our skylight, which promptly cracked open like an egg. How I didn’t wind up dead on the dining room floor below remains a mystery. It might have something to do with that fixed point in time I mentioned.

SO now our skylight is wrapped in a blue tarp and I am preparing to write checks to contractors. Probably for the best. That money was just going to get me into trouble anyway.

Categories: Bullshit

Jeff is Almost Famous and Also: Manly and Competent

By | January 28, 2014 | 8 Comments
Jeff Takes a Meeting

My Next Meeting with My Agent (Artist’s Conception)

So, I had an adventure. Not much of an adventure, just something slightly more exciting than my usual evenings which are filled with liquor and muttering and bomb-making and throwing things around for the cats to chase while The Duchess demands that I watch whatever awards show is on that night. (There are now 1,356 awards shows on television. True fact.)

It’s been really cold up here for the past week. Not, you know, Kill-Me-I-Live-in-Minnesota-for-Some-Reason cold, but cold. I’d recently been featured in the local alt weekly paper (hey, read the interview here!) so my neighbors on our little cobblestone street have been offering me awkward compliments of the “Jebus we all suspected home arrest or perhaps mild brain damage and yet you have written books for money” variety, which is nice.

The Duchess and I had gone out to dinner with some friends from the block and we were sitting on the couch afterwards watching someone – Taylor Swift, Idi Amin, who knows – accept an award of some kind when I got a call from a neighbor asking if I knew anything about boilers.

“Boiler Makers? Absolutely!”

No, boilers, as in, those thingies that heat the house. The neighbor in-between us lived with her elderly mother and their boiler was stopped working and it was about seven degrees outside. I knew what this was: This was a Call to Manliness.

The Call

There is, as there is in every neighborhood, that one older man who everyone calls for help with things. I am not that man, but that man was out of town and so they called me on the slim hope that I would know what to do. So I strapped on my trousers (after locating a pair) and headed on over to my neighbor’s house, where I was greeted like a conquering hero.

Did I manage to get that boiler lit again? I sure did. It’s not rocket science. You turn the switch to PILOT, you light a match, you start thrusting the flame around until you figure out where the pilot is and pray you don’t set yourself on fire (because of course you’d been drinking a bit and so such things are entirely possible if not entirely probable and now that you think about it several of your ancestors died from setting themselves on fire when drunk), then you hold the button for thirty seconds, let go, and if the pilot stays lit then the thermocoupler is working and you turn the switch to ON at which point the flames should leap up to start, you know, boiling.

So, I was an hero. As I left, my neighbor kept saying how amazing it was that a “famous author” had just fixed her boiler, and I kept looking around to see one and then realizing she meant me. Now, when people say “alcoholic author” or “asshole author” or even “failed author” I generally know they’re referring to me. But the famous part? Not so much.

Although at least now I know that if this writing thing really doesn’t work out, I can always get into boiler repair. And finally set myself on fire while drunk just like the Ancient Somers’ that came before me.

Categories: Bullshit

Don’t Be Eaten by Bears: Your Humble Editor Has an Adventure

By | January 13, 2014 | 1 Comments

Note: The events described here happened exactly ten years ago, when I was a much younger man with a healthier liver and better dance moves. It previously appeared in the March, 2004 issue of The Inner Swine.

This is how I remember it.

This is how I remember it.

PIGS, personally I believe that exercise is probably stunting our race’s evolution. Only a few decades ago it was easy to imagine that in a few thousand years the human race would transform into ugly, huge-brained beings with scrawny, useless bodies and huge, pulsing craniums trembling on narrow chicken-necks. The combination of increased automation and developing psionic powers looked likely to make any kind of physical effort unnecessary, and the slow, rubbing fingers of evolution would take over and mold us into the Superbeings we were destined to be. We’d use our immense brains to move mountains with a thought, to communicate instantly via thoughtwave, and repel invasions by the hideous Apes from Planet of the Apes by joining hands and concentrating our immense mental powers.

And then, this glorious future got ruined. By exercise.

Suddenly, people somehow didn’t want their muscles to atrophy, their limbs to wither, their heads to swell up horribly. Suddenly, people wanted to live longer, and in better health, than ever before. A wave of terrible fitness swept over the world, a sort of global inanity wherein people did crazy things like running when there was no need to run (like, say, because a hungry bear was chasing you) and lifting heavy things over and over again despite the fact that there were no jealous Greek gods forcing them to do so. It was madness, and I was born right at its beginning, so by the time I reached maturity many of the people I knew had been swept up in the chaos. My own wife, The Duchess, quite cruelly partakes in this healthful exercise on a constant basis, tormenting me with her marathon running and ability to cross the room without getting out of breath. Do you see? I’ve been betrayed by my own wife.

All this physical exercise has undoubtedly ruined any chances we had of evolving into hideous brain creatures. Our DNA’s been keeping track, and as our collective muscles get used more and more, more and more evolutionary grease is sent their way, trust me. Now, instead of being able to float things through the air with brain power, our descendants will merely be able to run longer and faster. This depresses me, and causes me to drink, which in turn causes me to wander out into the rain, shouting things, pass out, and wake up in a gutter without my pants. Blame evolution, dammit.

So, when The Duchess suggested that what was missing from our relationship was a good old fashioned hiking trip, I was dubious. Personally, I’m all for staying home and trying to make my own psychic powers manifest all on their own, through a demanding regimen of trying to float beers from the kitchen into the living room. So far, no success, but I am fully confident.

(more…)

Categories: Bullshit, The Inner Swine

Writing Under the Red Gaze of the Single Unblinking Eye of Facebook

By | January 4, 2014 | 2 Comments

declineBack when I still put a print version of my zine The Inner Swine out, I once wrote an essay about someone I knew that wasn’t particularly complimentary. I didn’t know this person very well, but in my essay I portrayed them (accurately!) as an insane person more than likely to kill me, dry my meat, and make me into sausage or something like that.

And then, much to my chagrin, this insane person requested a copy of the zine. That particular issue, in fact. I realized that if I gave them the issue as it was, I would soon wake up in a pit with the Crazy One telling me it puts the lotion on its skin as it lowered a basket down to me. So, I did what any coward does: I created a single special issue of the zine with the offending article replaced by something else and handed it to Crazy One with a straight face. As the Somers Family Motto goes, Congratulations on a Job: Done.

Of course, I was only able to save my skin in this way because of the primitive time this took place in, a glorious time before social media, before Facebook, before Twitter. Because if I write something viciously meanspirited, completely unfair and yet totally fucking hilarious today, the Crazy Ones out there will see it no matter what I do, become enraged, and arrive on cue to kidnap me in their Rape Vans and imprison me in their Karmic Penalty Boxes. Or just punch me in the nose.

(more…)

2013: The Year in Review

By | December 23, 2013 | 6 Comments
Almost Done.

Almost Done.

So it’s the end of the year again, that totally made up and random moment in the incomprehensible existential flood we call life where we decide that this day is an ending and this day is a beginning. Or, as I like to think about it, The Week When I Can Day Drink Every Single Day and No One Organizes an Intervention.

As a writer I must naturally write everything using words because I am told constantly that because I’m an author I must have some sort of sacred holy love for words that I’ve had since before I was fully formed. Because writers can’t just be smart assholes with a penchant for dialogue and daydreaming, we have to be Holy Fools who are constantly covered in ink and muttering story ideas to ourselves. So! I will write out a Year in Review for 2013 to put everything into context. What happened? Why? What did it all mean? You lucky ducks. Let’s take it month by month:

January: Started off with a really great dinner and some drinks, then quickly trailed off into disappointment and chores. My life was changed forever when I discovered via a re-watching of The Sting that you can’t smell Vodka on your breath and thus my Year of Drinking Dangerously Began.

February: Publish my 7th Novel, Trickster. No one bought it and the Year of Drinking Dangerously became disturbingly literal. I ate falafels. I may have battled sentient garden gnomes and saved the universe, but the evidence is sketchy and boils down to a blurry photograph that’s either me wielding energy beams against giant arachnids or me falling down a flight of stairs while holding a flashlight. Also: I made several dozen Harlem Shake videos and forgot to post any of them. Also, my amazing agent sold my 8th novel, Chum. I got the news as I was preparing to perform Daffy Duck’s trick you can only perform once, complete with Devil Costume. Which I am still wearing.

March: Annoying yellow skin tone dating back to Week of Day Drinking 2012 finally faded to a healthier pink hue. I celebrate with several rounds of Tequila Fanny Bangers and wind up back in hospital where I am kept for six weeks for experimentation due to the fact that all evidence points to me having died in 1989. Had a chip implanted that plays Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke whenever I enter a room. Am just starting to regret this.

April: Celebrating the decision to finally remove Jay Leno from our televisions, I overdo it and find myself in May.

May: Somehow the highlight of May 2013 was an Eddie Money concert in New York City that, against all odds of sanity, I attended.

June: I decide that this writing thing isn’t working out and that I need a new goal, which turns out to be to get Amanda Bynes to call me ugly. Efforts are ongoing. At some point I went to Ikea to buy some shelves and lost about six weeks of subjective time.

July: <in Ikea screaming; shoppers think I am a ghost. Google “Ikea Ghost Jersey”>

August: What began with a triumphant escape from the Ikea time warp using a DIY sonic screwdriver curdled into existential horror as I had Yet Another Birthday (YAB). Next year: No birthdays. My wife, The Duchess, begins singing songs from The Sound of Music in preparation for the Christmas season. I go slightly more mad.

September: A sweet, fat cat dies, and we fill his spot here with a demonic creature we name Homer Spit. Homer proceeds to ruin everything. He is ruining this post right now. I also find myself in Montana, of all places. It is cold and my gout acts up. GOUT. I can feel death’s icy fingers closing about me. Chum publishes and gets good reviews, but so far no dumptruck filled with gold coins (as stipulated in my contract) has arrived at the house. I hold a contest to give away copies of Chum and almost no one enters, which is … not good for my self image.

October: I went to NY Comic Con and was swallowed by the gaping, apathetic maw of pop culture. Signed a gazillion books at the Pocket booth and saw things I cannot unsee.

November: The Duchess and I celebrate one year without a hurricane turning our house into a swamp by getting pants-shittingly drunk and singing sea shanties. At some point I have a meal with author Sean Ferrell that doesn’t end with sea shanties for the first time in our shared history. It ends, however, in shame, right as scheduled.

December: I write a Year in Review post. No one reads it.

Categories: Bullshit

Everything Old is New Again: Doctor Who

By | December 10, 2013 | 1 Comments

12dwAs River Song would say: SPOILERS.

SO, Doctor Who. I remember it, vaguely, form my childhood. My older brother, always a sucker for old-school monster stories, liked it for a while during the gory, gothic-tinged Tom Baker era and being a younger brother I naturally avoided it in public and then watched it secretly a few times and was scared witless by Tom Baker’s Insanity Grin. Then I forgot about it for a long time, and when it was reborn in 2005 I barely paid attention. Over the years I’ve occasionally heard a few things about it, seen come clips on YouTube etc., but generally ignored it, as any good American should.

Recently, for no reason whatsoever beyond being intrigued by the hype surrounding the 50th Anniversary of the show, I started watching. I sprinkled in some of the classics and a few of the older new episodes, but mainly I started watching the Matt Smith era for no other reason than there seemed like there were some interesting details in there. And for those who are already wondering: Yes, I watched Blink. It was actually the first episode I tried out, and based on it’s success I forged on. So stop asking me if I’ve seen Blink. I have.

Anyways, Dcotor Who has always been problematic for me, and remains problematic. In the old series I was always bothered by the slow pace, rough editing, terrible special effects, and the silly costumes. In the modern series they’ve solved many of those problems but some of the plot problems remain. All in all I think I’m in a Love/Hate relationship with this show at the moment. It’s sort of like an old friend from elementary school who comes back to stay with you for a while. You have fond memories, and you find him good company sometimes, but it’s just kind of strange.

Or maybe I’m more haunted by Tom Baker’s Insanity Smile than I’m letting on. LOOK AT IT (you can’t look away):

HOLY SHIT

HOLY SHIT

The World is Ending! Again! And Again! And Again and Again!

So, let’s keep in mind that I am mainly familiar with the Steven Moffat/Matt Smith era. I know a lot of the general backstory and some specifics from previous incarnations, but let’s stipulate that I’m playing with half a deck. Still, I have observations about this most modern version of the show.

The first is simple: It is a lot of fun.

People often say that Doctor Who is a children’s program, and it is, to an extent. The science is all wobbly and the history is too, but there is an awful lot of fun  in the stories, the sense that danger is fleeting, death impossible, and that we’d all prefer to be flying around the universe rather than, say, going to work. Yes! That. There are dramatic moments and even deaths from time to time (not counting the 12 times the Doctor himself has ‘regenerated,’ stated as canon as a type of death, since what makes him him dies and his memories are reborn as someone new) but generally speaking this is a show where the universe is a playground and even the most dire of threats are resolved by the end of the episode – or the story arc, at the very least.

The characterizations are fun, too. The Doctor himself is played with an affecting mix of boyish charm, wonder, curiosity, heavy sadness, and insane temper, but always with a human heart somewhere under all the alien physiology. The companions I’m most familiar with, The Ponds, make for fun people as well, and have supported some very effective dramatic beats in the story.

Overall, I’m saying: Don’t take any of my criticisms to mean I’m not a fan. I am! I really enjoy it.

But.

The problem with the modern Doctor Who is simple: The world is always ending. The world is always ending and Amelia Pond is always near death or being tortured or abandoned for 36 years or having her baby torn from her loving arms. Always. Always. This is an effective strategy for telling interesting, compelling stories … until it isn’t, because my dramatic/end of the world chip is burned out.

Moments

The modern Doctor Who always wants moments – which is to say, Steven Moffat, the showrunner, wants moments. As in, Moments. The show craves those big, dramatic, emotional moments like a writer craves booze. That is, constantly. Few episodes go by without a big emotional beat between characters, or the end of the world, whichever is happening sooner. After so many partings of the way and heartfelt declarations of affection and epic this and epic that, my Epic Emotion Chip gets a little burnt out. These sorts of moments are meant to happen rarely in any story. Not every single episode. Not to mention the fact that Amy Pond has, let’s see, been abandoned several times, suffered childhood psychological trauma, been assaulted and near death, been kidnapped and had her baby taken away from her to be raised as an assassin, been split into two versions one of which was left to rot and fight robots for thirty-six years, robbed of her ability to have more children, and eventually banished to the past to live out her years decades before her own parents and everyone she knows is born. And yet at no point is there any serious suggestion that Amy has suffered, you know? Because she got to go on adventures in between these horrific moments.

After a while you get tired of The Girl Who Waited and want her to get some peace and stop being Moffat’s little Emotional Beat monkey.

Of course, part of this is a product of binge-watching – fair enough. I’m not waiting weeks or months for the next episode – I’m just porning my way through them, and why not. The thing is, once you release a work, you can’t force people to watch in some very slow way so your emotional beats feel measured. That sort of thing has to be baked in.

The Bandage

Part of this is, I think, a reaction to the fact that Doctor Who has never had the greatest plots. Now, 800 or episodes is a lot of storytelling, so I will grant that not only have some of them been very good, but Doctor Who has a certain structure and feel to it that remains even in the new version. It’s a Monster of the Week serial and always has been: Most episodes can be boiled down to a few basic plot points:

1. Doctor and Companion arrive somewhere, usually unexpectedly

2. There is mystery. Doctor surmises alien of some sort is behind it.

3. Doctor investigates/opposes, seems out of moves and about to lose

4. Twist = Victory!

Now, certainly not every single episode follows this pattern – but most do, and it works well enough, even when the Monster of the Week is the Daleks Yet Again or the Cybermen Yet Again. But the point is it works precisely because Moffat et al have created characters we really do care about. The Doctor is kind of charming, especially with the spice of his darker side emphasized. The Ponds were charming and hilarious, and their back story in regards to each other and the Doctor was affecting. That stuff worked, and it distracts from the fact that most of the mysteries are explained, somehow, via timey-wimey and a sonic screwdriver. In other words, Moffat basically writes himself into a corner and then shouts TIME LORD!, throws a smoke bomb, and escapes yet again. You can do that when your character has 50 years and 800 episodes of history, but goddamn it, Moffat is abusing the TIME LORD/SMOKE BOMB button. If you ask me.

Which no one has. Am I thinking too hard about this? Likely. I tend to get all obsessive with things like this – I ignore them for years while others are telling me to check them out, and then suddenly, as if it was my idea all along, I dive in, burrow deep, and live and breathe it for a while.

I do enjoy the show and will keep watching it. But that doesn’t mean the Smoke Bomb’s gonna keep working on me.

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