Author Archives: Diane Bushemi

The Human Dementopede

One of my first posts to this blog was a review of The Human Centipede back in 2010. https://thepurplepedant.wordpress.com/2010/05/27/the-human-centipuke/ 

I had a legitimate reason why I inflicted such a horrific display of cinematic depravity on myself. The concept really spooked me and it kept me up into the wee hours. Watching the movie allowed me to take control and put the ridiculousness of it in perspective. Regrettably, I have no reasonable explanation why I did the same for its sequel—The Human Centipede 2—when it became available on IFC On Demand this month. I didn’t think it could get more sickening than the first one, but, oh, I was terribly wrong. Tom Six, the, er, creative genius behind it, like a Criminal Minds unsub, escalated his twisted creation to new and repulsive depths. He out-icked himself. I think for the rest of this review, I will refer to him as the more aptly named Mr. Sick. His mother must be proud.

To add insult to injury, I spent $6.99 (plus tax) to suffer through what is no doubt one of the most disgusting movies in existence. And I saw Faces of Death! It leaves about as much to the imagination as your average snuff film. Does that drive my point home? This film was horrifyingly horrible. Thankfully, the movie was only 90 minutes long, which amounted to 7.766¢ per minute. While it seems nominal when put that way, the possible damage it did to my psyche cannot be recompensed.

I suspect Mr. Sick was aiming for a noir-esque feel by filming completely in black and white. What he got was more reminiscent of Eraser Head, complete with that perturbing ambient white noise. What was that hissing radiator sound about, anyway? Really, an homage to that chin-scratcher of a flick is unnecessary. Still, viewing such a grisly display in monochrome does take a bit of the edge off. Thanks for that bone, Tom.

While the first film’s tagline was “100% Medically Accurate,” this one is “100% Medically Inaccurate.” How tongue-in-cheek. That would be because the psycho in the first one was supposed to be an actual surgeon with credentials, but the one in the second was just plain psychotic with no surgical knowledge whatsoever. Bwahaha! That is . . . hilarious. 

The central character, Martin Lomax, was a mentally challenged and disturbed night watch security guard of an English parking garage. His visage was repulsive with a pair of googly eyes that made Marty Feldman and Peter Lorre look merely surprised in comparison, man boobs, an atrociously large gut, all on what appeared to be a sub-5-foot tall frame. Plus, he had no shoulders. Odd for me to notice, I know. One can imagine him hacking his halitosis into the air during his many asthmatic attacks. He was disgusting from top to bottom. There was no positive quality in this dude to be seen. Of course, such a pivotal role required an actor that looked the part.

God was in a bad mood when he created the recipe for that gene pool. He looks like Dr. Evil’s deformed clone—MutantMe. I guess the audience is supposed to feel a bit sorry for the guy, as he was sexually abused as a child and as an adult, still lives with his crazy mother who blames him for her husband being jailed for life. “Keep crying, you’re just making Daddy’s willy harder.” Wow, that is creepy. We can only sympathize so much when the psychological damage manifests itself in the desire to inflict some of the worst tortures man—Tom Sick in this case—can imagine. Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself in this review.

Speaking of, I would say that Mr. Sick should quit while he is ahead, but he never was ahead. He just needs to quit.

You know, I suspect the actor who was suckered into playing Martin Lomax, Laurence R. Harvey, initially welcomed the acting challenge of portraying such a deviant character who had no speaking lines. It must have been a fascinating exercise to emote mostly through facial and body language. To his credit, he was successful. As for the other actors, I believe they displayed the appropriate level of horror. I wonder if any of them asked Mr. Sick, “What’s my motivation?”

By the way, Roger Ebert reviewed the original and its sequel. He gave the first movie one and a half stars (in a world where stars don’t shine, as he hilariously put it), and this one zero stars. I believe that might be overly generous. I am trying to picture how he must have looked before and during this movie.

Roger Ebert before The Human Centipede 2

 

Roger Ebert during The Human Centipede 2

There is not much difference, eh? At least I have the ability to express my horror in what I am watching—verbally and physically; he doesn’t. Poor guy is all bottled up with his disgust. Whatever he was paid to review these movies, I trust it wasn’t enough. But I digress, again.

Focus! Something I wish Mr. Sick had not done quite so sharply; it would have made it easier to watch if it were filmed a bit blurrier!

Okay, back to the movie. I hope to sum it up as expeditiously as possible. To spend more time than necessary is to risk venturing again down that path of revulsion from which I may not be able to return. Yes, I am going to spoil the whole plot for you so that you won’t have to experience what I did. You’re welcome.

The first 55 minutes was spent implying the sources of Martin’s pathologies, as well as setting the stage for his modus operandi. He watched The Human Centipede during his shift every night, while paging through a lovingly crafted scrapbook containing highlights from the film. Thus, it was obvious he was obsessed with the movie. As he shot and clubbed random victims he spied on the security cameras in the garage, and stowed them in a warehouse, his plans were laid bare: He wanted to create a 12-segment human centipede. His ideal goal was to incorporate the three actors from the original centipede into his freaky, little magnum opus. He was successful in acquiring Ashlynn Yennie—the actress who played the surviving middle segment—by claiming to be a casting agent for a new Tarantino film. The other two were busy with other projects. Do you have an idea where this is going? Let me just say that one moral of this story could be that actors should be choosier with their roles.

It appears the filmmaker is a practical jokester, as well. The agent left a callback number for Martin: 713-499-0913. Since it wasn’t the usual fake “555” movie number, of course viewers will dial it. Guess what? The subscriber doesn’t accept calls. Screw you, Mr. Sick!

Oh yeah, Martin also had a real centipede as a pet, and it had a role outside of a heavy-handed symbolic device. Keep reading. It’s epic.

He eventually acquired all twelve necessary victims. In between that, he bludgeoned his mother to death and used her corpse to lure his skinhead bully of a neighbor as another victim (I really don’t feel like explaining that one). I would say the murder of his mother was his trigger, but that chamber was emptied long before that. Oh, he also shot his psychiatrist in the head because he kept rubbing his knee. That’s right, Martin’s doctor was sexually attracted to him. I know, hard to swallow, but so is this whole movie. While we are on that subject, if you must see it, don’t eat during it.

Onto the last 35 minutes. He laid out all his tools that he acquired from his mother’s kitchen. He even grabbed a fork. Better to have it than . . . whatever. He had a fork. Anyway, Martin took a break from preparing and assembling his victims to pick up the unsuspecting Ashlynn Yennie and drive her to the warehouse. As is typical of horror films, just as she realized what she was walking into, he whacked her on the head with a crowbar. Oh yeah, that was his weapon of choice outside of the gun. He’d cripple them with the gun, then knock them unconscious with the crowbar. Since head wounds tend to bleed profusely, all the victims had duct tape wrapped around them like headbands. Actually, wherever there was a wound there was duct tape. His monster was going to look like trailer trash, to boot.

After positioning Miss Yennie as the front segment, he was ready to create his centipede. At least, Herr Doktor from the first film used anesthetic and proper surgical techniques. That was pretty humane, relatively speaking. Martin, however, just started hammering, cutting, and slicing away. Tap, tap, crack! Out goes his neighbor’s teeth with a hammer. Slice! Off goes Ashlynn’s kneecap tendons with a vegetable knife. One lucky guy died from blood loss as Martin tried to create the butt flaps that would be attached to another’s face. I am very grateful he had to abandon that approach, in retrospect. Anyway, off to the side segment #1 went.

MutantMe was getting quite frustrated as his vision was not unfolding as planned. He lost segment #2—a pregnant woman (awesome!)—who seemed to die just from laying there. He listened to her belly, and there was still a fetal heartbeat. I could feel my toes tighten and curl in revulsion as I feared the reason he was checking to see if the fetus was still alive. Thankfully, he just moved Mom off to the side to join the other guy. He was left with making only a 10-segment bug. Alas.

Only 11 minutes passed since I had checked the DVR clock last at that point. Cripes, I was really hoping that the ending credits would take up at least 10 minutes, so that I’d only have to endure this for no more than 14 more minutes. Since the butt flaps didn’t work, he went straight to the staple gun. That’s right. Ass to mouth, carpenter-style. It became horrifyingly obvious that Martin had an anal fixation that mind-bogglingly surpassed Freud’s vision, as he did everything possible to get everyone to shit and eat. One of the kitchen gadgets he brought was what looked like a beer bong. Since Ashlynn was being recalcitrant, he pushed the tube down her throat to force-feed her. Since digestion isn’t immediate, he started rubbing everyone’s belly. That must have been soothing. It started to have an effect. He pulled out a syringe that he filled with a laxative. I don’t remember seeing that before, not even as a gun on the wall. Regardless, it served its purpose. Everyone got an injection in the ass. He didn’t even change the needle. Hello? Did he not know about HIV?

The results were bloody disgusting. Even a coprophile would have lost his erection. Diarrhea shit splattered everywhere, even on the camera lens. Remember the scene from Jaws when water splashed on the lens during a shark attack? It made you feel like you were in the water, watching it unfold. Not the same effect here. I didn’t want a front-row seat to that nasty Gallagher concert.

Let me try to wrap this up. Ms. Yennie screamed too much for Martin’s liking, so he pulled out her tongue. Technically, she could have kept yelping, but it shut her up. One of the braver chaps ripped his mouth off to separate from the rest of the team, causing the centipede to branch off into two segments. Oddly enough, that looked even more horrifying. That disrupted MutantMe’s paradigm, so he started executing them all, segment by segment. I trust he didn’t appreciate what a favor he was doing them at that point. Ashlynn, being the spunky actress that she was, eventually retaliated as he got to her. After valiantly striving to turn off the lights to gain the element of surprise, when Martin turned them back on she hurled his beloved pet centipede at him, causing the aquarium to shatter and free the bug. Okay, so here comes the epic part.

As the last living segment, the soon to be out-of-work actress exacted her revenge to the best of her abilities. She somehow knocked him in the groin and de-pantsed him. Conveniently, the beer bong and centipede were within her reach. Do I need to describe what happened next?

He really should have wound up in the hospital, and possibly died from internal injuries. But, like a trooper, he was back to work. Although, in truth, I don’t know how much time passed. Nor do I know how he got rid of the dead insect. I just realized the double entendre there. I could be talking about the dead people, or the centipede slithering through his colon. I believe Mr. Sick wanted the ending to be nebulous: Did he survive and go back to business as usual, or did he fantasize the whole thing? I don’t know if it matters; we probably will not see these actors in anything credible. 

Oh wait, there’s one more thing. The pregnant woman wasn’t actually dead, and thus was able to escape. She got into a car that still had the keys in the ignition. Inconveniently, she started giving birth as Martin tried unsuccessfully to break into the car. It only took a few minutes for her to spit out the baby. I guess trauma is a great labor-inducer. The newborn spurted onto the floor of the car, and in the mother’s desperation, she slammed the pedal to the metal. Yes, indeed, the baby’s head was between the floor and the gas pedal. Mr. Sick, you officially went too fucking far with that. Why did that need to happen? I would not want to get inside his brain to mine for that answer.

I weep at the prospect of a third movie. Shudder. One can only hope that cannibalistic, venomous centipedes everywhere will rise up and put a stop to Tom Six sullying their good names. 

 
 

Flight risk

Back in July of 2005, I spent a month in Florence, Italy to attend art school and live the Bohemian dream. My average day started with a Renaissance drawing class, complete with a break at the local bakery for a café Americano and pastry. After class, either I stopped at an eatery to spend a mere two Euro on a panini (how I miss the ignorance of the exchange rate) or at the grocer for food to prepare a meal in my apartment by the Duomo. After lunch, yawn, it was naptime. A couple hours later, stretch, I’d wake up and head outside to wander around, take in the sights, sketch, and shop. Sometimes I would go back to the art studio to work. When evening rolled around, I connected with my mates for dinner, conversation, and possibly a concert, museum visit, or whatever else struck our fancy. Those were the days. How I yearn for the carefree lifestyle of the unfettered yet dedicated artist.

Being on a tight budget, I was quite frugal with my money. I couldn’t resist, though, the opportunity to purchase made-to-order plaster casts from the school’s sculpting instructor. I selected a skull, as well as a wall-mount head of St. Jerome. I thought 90 Euro was a great deal for the two, considering I didn’t have to pay for shipping or sales tax. Never mind that the U.S. equivalent was about $150. Every bona fide artist has a plaster cast to use for academic study.

 I couldn’t risk my acquisitions getting damaged, so I wrapped them in towels in my carry-on luggage when the time came to return to the States and, alas, to the responsibilities awaiting me there. Unfortunately, that required me to check an extra piece of luggage, costing me 75 euro for exceeding my baggage limit. Okay, the casts weren’t quite so economical anymore, but there was no turning back.

 After a peculiar request from security to see the contents of my bag, I sat down to await boarding. Our flight ended up being delayed several hours due to an impromptu air traffic controller strike. I noticed that the work ethic was a bit more lax than in other countries. That was in stark comparison to Germany, most definitely; we missed our connecting flight when we arrived in Dusseldorf. They didn’t give a scheiße that it wasn’t our fault we were late. Germans are on time no matter what, verdammt! I was stuck there for the night, because the next flight to New York wasn’t until the following morning. Frick

Looking every bit the peace-loving artist in my hand-made, ankle-length flowing, purple skirt, I arrived at the airport after my complimentary stay and meal at the airport hotel. That was nice of them, although it wouldn’t surprise me if they hit Italy up for the tab. I lugged my bag onto the conveyor belt, and moments later an irascible security guard picked up my carry-on. With a guttural demand he indicated for me to follow him off to the side wall, away from the screening area. He dropped the bag onto a table and tersely ordered me to open it. “They are plaster ca . . . “. I couldn’t even finish my explanation as he barked like a German Shepard, “Pull them out!”

 Okay! Jeepers. I even had to remove the casts from their terry-cloth cocoons to prove to him that I wasn’t smuggling something, or whatever he suspected from this yoga-loving hippy. What up? I even listen to Dylan, damn it! And what gives with the harsh treatment of one of his sisters-in-Deutch? (I’m only half German, but it’s a matter of principle.) At least he yelled at me in my native language. How magnanimous of him. The thought did cross my mind that I got a teensy taste right then for what the Jews had to endure. On top of everything else, dealing with those Nazis must have been one serious slice of Hell. I know, that is sick and wrong of me to contemplate. However, those German guards are scary mean, even the ones who don’t pack heat. American cops lose street cred when they use Segways to troll their beat. Put a legion of Germans on them and they’d be fit to blitzkrieg Poland. I’m just saying. Anyway, he was mollified (relatively speaking) after he confirmed what I tried to tell him in the first place. Really, how many terrorists dress like gypsies? I was a bit insulted. Did I get an apology? Nein!

 I all but forgot the shoddy treatment when I boarded the plane, as I was treated to the luxury amenities of a business flight. I got to stretch my legs, nosh on warm nuts, and wash them down with red wine in an actual glass. I stretched my legs and ate a hot lunch while I watched a movie on a personal television. I reclined to my heart’s content when I wanted to sleep.

 My stopover in New York meant that I was required to abandon that sweet ride. I had to go through airport security again in order to change planes. As I went through the same rigmarole, I was emotionally prepared this time and gave the attendants an unsolicited description of what I was carrying. They started laughing as my luggage made its way through the x-ray. I walked through the sensor as I offered to show them the contents, “I can open my bag and remoooo-holy SHIT!” The screen showed what could easily be mistaken for two severed heads suspended in some morbid aqueous humor. No wonder. Although, I doubt traveling executioners are all the rage. If they exist, they wouldn’t be carrying their spoils, and they certainly wouldn’t go through a German airport with them. Still, Occam’s Razor should have been poking Herr Wachmann in the back when he was treating me as if I were channeling Izzy Borden. Ugh, whatever. I shared the laugh as I offered again to prove that I wasn’t an axe murderer. They assured me that it was okay and I could go through to my gate.

 Is there a moral to this story? Well, there is a possible inference that serial killing is a more accepted practice in the good ole US of A. More importantly, when traveling abroad, there are other costs to consider than actual hard dollars expended:

One panini: $3.60 U.S.
Two artistic plaster casts: $150 U.S.
Penalty for exceeding baggage limit: $135 U.S.
The experience of being mistaken for a jet-setting psychopath: Priceless

Celebrating the mundane

For the most part, I don’t attach more importance to what “celebrities” say than I do to anyone else’s words. I put that word in quotes, because it is a label that has always perturbed me. Any entertainer on television or the big screen earns that dubious honor. It invariable puts that person on a pedestal to be celebrated for being known by the masses. This would be regardless of their actual level of talent—anyone can become a celebrity these days. With the accessibility of the Internet to waste bandwidth in the endless pursuit of the proverbial fifteen minutes, as well as the plethora of reality shows that seem to glorify and even encourage stupidity, the whole concept is becoming over-saturated and possibly obsolete. Pity. 

That all said, there is someone recently who went beyond the usual sound bite that passes for wisdom, at least in the context of my own situation. It wasn’t particularly profound, but it certainly struck a resonant chord for me. Brad Pitt realized that he was spending so much time sitting on the couch, waiting for an interesting movie to do as opposed to living an interesting life. Basically, he admitted that his life was dull, and he laid blame on his marriage for a lot of that. He took some flak for implying that Jennifer Anniston was boring, but that is beside the point.

I struggle to suspend disbelief and accept this as an honest admission. Really, isn’t one of the prevailing reasons for celebrity worship due to the assumption that their lives are more interesting than those outside of that world? They have more money, exposure, and freedom to indulge in just about anything, or even engage in bad behavior. How could life be boring? Well, it depends on what one considers interesting.

This year, my father died, along with two of my animals. In addition, I spent a holiday at the emergency vet after my dog was attacked by a pit bull. She has recovered, thankfully. The credit card is almost maxed out from medical bills, and incurring interest fees as I write this. We are battling a large organization that is looking for every loophole imaginable to avoid reimbursing us for those costs. I could go on, but wouldn’t want to bore you with my problems.

Puh, what am I talking about? This is fascinating stuff. My professional life is vying for the limits of my tolerance, as well. Our annual raises have all but ceased, our pension and retirement plans have been chopped to bits, and the business is going through a re-structuring—my department being the latest victim. Re-structuring is a tidy euphemism for a re-organization that could result in the termination of employees. This has already occurred in three departments with seven jobs eliminated, so my colleagues are a touch on edge. It is happening while we are going through two audits. Since the powers-that-be deemed us high risk and misrepresenting the financial position of the company, one of those audits is so extensive that it smacks of a forensic witch-hunt. Exciting!

And that’s not all. There is a snake-tongued, reptilian outside consultant in my division who has a nasty habit of covering his ass at the peril of others, all while looking innocent and even magnanimous in the process. He tried to throw me under the bus twice, as well as get my staff in trouble. I had the choice of either modifying his behavior, or allowing him to toy with my livelihood. I opted for the former. My responses to him were equally calculating and manipulative. I am confident that I made it painful for him to try that crap with me again. Perhaps it is the wide berth he now gives me as he passes me in the office corridors. Riveting!

I believe I hit the thesaurus up enough with different words to emphasize how interesting my life is. In addition to my writing, artistic, and musical pursuits that I must squeeze in, quite often unsuccessfully I must add, life is never dull. Then, why do I feel like Brad Pitt allegedly did?

There are different degrees of interest, you see. Many thrive on controversy and negative stress. I am not one of those people. Therefore, while I do have enough to keep me on my toes, the energy it leeches from me leaves me having to tap into my reserves for any positive feelings. When your existence becomes a series of reactions to situations that make it more difficult to drive on the path of your own choosing, it can fall short of expectations. Mr. Pitt has the resources, i.e., oodles of money, to pull himself off the couch and find ways to liven things up in a good way. Due to my aforementioned financial problems, as well as being stuck in a stifling career, it appears I have additional barriers of contention.

George Carlin said that he wasn’t a glass half-empty person; sometimes the glass just isn’t big enough. I like that rationalization, and there are times that it is the case. I can’t use that as an excuse, though. I look back on the times when life was less vexing, albeit more mundane. Retrospectives can be a bit hazy, especially when viewed with a jaundiced eye. I strongly suspect that I was filled with ennui from lack of stimuli. Perhaps I am one who craves drama after all. However, as I mentioned above, that drags me down, as well. I am left with expending those energy reserves by griping about my situation, yet not putting forth the effort to actually change it. I can easily blame my lack of funds, and if I didn’t have debt, was independently wealthy, etc., I would be much happier. Yet, I must be realistic and admit that paying down one set of problems can leave me open to new and possibly more complex ones.

Cripes, will I ever be satisfied?

Aha! Maybe that is it. Satisfaction, contentment. I’ve got neither. Most definitely, the issues I laid out have a lot to do with that, and they should be managed appropriately. I am not experiencing a unique predicament; sadly, a large majority of the population is dissatisfied with their lot in life. I can’t speak for anyone else, nor can I often change what happens around me, at least when it doesn’t affect me directly. What I do have the power to do is alter my view of the world and how I respond to it. I am bored and discontent in large part because I let myself feel that way. I don’t need a large balance in my checkbook to transform how I feel. Perception is a free and unlimited resource. 

Besides, it doesn’t cost any money to get off the couch. Isn’t that half the battle?

What happens in Vegas, can stay there.

Bloody Hell, do I hate Vegas. I was recently there for the second time—both for business purposes. I believe I hate it even more the second time around. I would never vacation there. If not out of necessity, the only way you’d find me there again is if my corpse was dropped on the strip as some bizarre act of revenge against my principles. I just hope I never piss anyone off enough to insult my carcass in such an ignominious fashion. While there, I proclaimed my disdain for that den of iniquity to anyone who would listen. Despite my daily verbal declaration of my feelings, I don’t feel that I’ve expressed myself to my satisfaction. My contempt, I’ve decided, is best laid out in list format. 

Forty-One Things I hate about Vegas 

1. That place has rightfully earned the name Sin City. I am not religious, but even my theoretical soul feels unclean after being there. 

2. The fashion is hideous. Metallic purses and leopard skin? Really? 

3. The casinos still allow smoking. I had to walk through a miasma of tobacco to get anywhere. 

4. I guess since smokers are willing to gamble with their health, so goes the same with the slots. Ergo, they make better customers. 

5. How many 12-step programs rely on Vegas for their business? 

6. If I had that proverbial nickel for every obscenely short dress I saw, I certainly wouldn’t need to feed the slots with my earnings. 

7. In case you were wondering, yes indeed, there was a dress that was so short the bottom of her ass cheeks was exposed. I felt like I contracted an STD on my eyes, and regretfully, the memory didn’t stay in Vegas. 

8. Incidentally, I found out from a cab driver that the award-winning slogan was censored. “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, but the rash goes with you.” Yeah, that sounds about right. 

9. Smoking, drinking, gambling, and aforementioned Vegas attire, are ever-present. Even at 6:00 a.m. Time is relative and apparently always after 5:00 p.m., at least in the casinos. Also, there are no clocks. There is something inherently wrong when Einstein is vindicated in such a hedonistic fashion. 

10. The hotels could save some money by occasionally turning off the non-stop commercials in their elevators. Really, I can sacrifice being reminded repeatedly that you have a glorified Slurpee bar accompanied by what appears to be the soundtrack for a bad porn film. 

11. Celine Dion. Do I need to explain that one? 

12. Where are all the crows? It is the desert, and it is shiny. I just find it a bit suspicious. 

13. If leopards knew their lovely coats were cheapened and disgraced, there would be a feline uprising. You think what happened with Sigfried and Roy was bad? Hah! 

14. My point is that leopard patterns do not look good on humans under any circumstances. 

15. Click-click-SNAP! Here’s a card to an X-rated girlie show. Anyone who has walked up and down the strip knows what I am talking about. 

16. Why are you trying to hand me that card? Do I look like I would go to a tit fest? 

17. The sidewalks are littered with discarded cards. Even I have to side with Greenpeace on this one. 

18. I think I’ve seen enough Botox and sequins to convince me that I will never get Botox, nor wear sequins. Ever. 

19. I had to abandon my outdoor runs because I would start sucking wind after a mile due to the higher altitude—more than 1,300 feet higher than my hometown. That does not make Vegas a bad place, per se, but it was just another thing to upset my paradigm. 

20. I spent $15 on this drink. Where’s my buzz? 

21. I did the math on potential costs to gamble. It took me approximately 27 seconds to lose $2 in the slots. That is 7.4¢ per second, translating to $266.40 for one hour of entertainment. Wait, couldn’t you come on Elisabeth Shue’s face in Leaving Las Vegas for that much? I don’t even have a penis and that seems like a better deal to me. 

22. The presence of a spastically waving Mickey Mouse does not make the place family friendly. Mickey might as well hand out candy cigarettes to the kiddies while he’s at it. 

23. Speaking of that, I thought cigarette girls were obsolete. Sadly, they still exist. I hope they at least charge more for their product than my $15 drink. 

24. I question the decision of parents to bring their kids to Vegas. If they are willing to spend the money on the overpriced food, accommodations, and gambling, then they can spring for a babysitter. It would be cheaper than the child therapy they would no doubt eventually need. 

25. What is up with all the neon? There is already a SETI program. Let NASA handle communicating with space. 

26. I wonder how many people developed coulrophobia after seeing the creepy Circus Circus Hotel-Casino sign. Google it, then you’ll know why I ask. It is disturbing. 

27. I had an anxiety dream while I was there that I bet $500,000 on black, justifying it by pointing out that I had a 50/50 chance of winning. I lost it all. My unconscious forgot the green that lowers the odds, as well as the probability that the machines are calibrated to fuck me over. Vegas owes me a Xanax.

28. In all seriousness, I wonder how casino workers sleep at night after witnessing one house of cards after the other tumble to the ground as people gamble their lives away, every day. 

29. People! I’m drowning in people! 

30. Sidewalks should not have stairway detours every other block. Whoever designed that place needs to be chained to a revolving step-mill until his feet blister as much as mine did. And, yes, he; only a man would pull that crap.

31. Okay, so I choose not to fit in and relish the debauchery. Damn it, some of us have to work around here, and there is a code of decency to follow. There are just some conversations I’d rather not have with my colleagues. That’s what office parties in the ‘90s were for. 

32. That said, Vegas isn’t even on my list of vacation spots. 

33. Hello, Vegas? This is the recession calling. Trickle-down economics doesn’t work. Unless you’re paying $266.40 to a hooker. 

34. I have only so much willpower to resist the compulsion to lift those over-priced mini-bar items off the sensors. The cost of one of those things is higher than the co-pay for OCD meds. 

35. If we must waste our hard-earned money in the middle of a desert, at least put humidifiers in the joint. The scaly-skinned, reptilian look, shockingly, isn’t as hot as you’d think. 

36. If I want a painfully dry mouth and throat, I’ll just go on a hallucinogenic bender. It would be much more entertaining. 

37. I’ll admit, there is a superficial appeal to the place. It is why plastic surgery is so popular. 

38. Vegas is the Joan Rivers of cities. Her, or that freaky socialite who looks like a lion. Both of them make me laugh for the wrong reasons. 

39. Since we are on that topic, why does the MGM, or any hotel for that matter, need a lions’ den? Fake ones would suffice. 

40. Synthetic cities have no heart. They just have defibrillators that send electric shocks to agonizingly prolong its existence. 

41. If it is true that what happens in Vegas stays there, why can’t that include the weight gain?

A Sprinklage of Dinklage Makes Cinema *Sparkle*!

Props must be given to the spouse for that title. If it isn’t obvious whom this is about, I am referring to the recent (and richly deserved) Emmy winner, Peter Dinklage. I had a rant mentally scripted if he didn’t win that award. It involved a fantasy of him storming the stage à la Kanye West, grabbing the statue from the undeserving winner, and whacking him in the knees à la Tanya Harding with it. What am I talking about? Bah! He wouldn’t à la anything, he’s above aping those cretins. A feral, baritone roar would make the arena quake as he came out swinging a mace in a circle of death above his head, barreling towards the idiot judges who deemed him unworthy of such accolades. If you diss the Dink, you enter a world of pain. 

I have seen him in only a half-dozen performances, but every one has been terrific and completely engaging. His intense gaze, strong features, and mellifluous voice, command attention. Unless it is a prominent feature of the character, it is easy to forget that he is actually a dwarf. Just as I don’t focus on the fact that John Lithgow (another favorite), as an example, is a very tall man; I am riveted solely by his acting. Warwick Davis is a fine actor, but I always am aware of his stature. As for the Dinkster, it is no Napoleon Complex; this man is a strong actor with a powerful presence. Without further ado, allow me to bestow upon you a sprinklage of Dinklage:

Look at those penetrating blue eyes. Hmm.

He, um . . . wow. He works out.

Excuse me for a moment. . . . 

*   *   *

 All right! I’m back! Sorry about that momentary interruption. Those hypothetical deserted islands don’t populate themselves. Ahem. Onward.

 Back to my main point: Every show or movie I have seen him in is exponentially more entertaining because of his presence. Ergo, Peter Dinklage makes cinema better. Allow me to present examples to support my claim. 

The Station Agent 

This was the first time I experienced Dinktstacy. It was a subtle movie in ways, and in a lesser actor, the spirit and comedy of it would have been lost on the audience. He didn’t play an immediately likable character; he wanted to be left alone with his thoughts and his trains. Eventually, he became a person with whom the audience could identify. Perhaps it was when he leapt into a ditch to avoid an oncoming vehicle. That scene garnered the biggest laugh, yet, it showed a more fragile side to his stoicism in a very humorous way, and that exterior slowly dissolved as he allowed outsiders into his world. It was completely believable that women were attracted to him. Not only is he handsome, he is also a person we can understand. It took Peter Dinklage to make this movie work as well as it did. Sorry, Warwick. You must stay on your side of the pond. 

Elf  

I had absolutely no idea that the disembodied, menacing voice on the phone was Peter Dinklage. This character was all about his dwarfism and over-compensation, i.e., Napoleon Complex, by being a royal dick. The main character mistaking him for an elf was the ultimate insult that had to be punished with physical violence. This was a very funny movie, but the image of him running with bloodlust vengeance across the conference room table to attack Will Ferrell makes me giggle every time I think about it. That scene pushed the movie to a higher plane for me. 

Game of Thrones 

Really, what needs to be said about this? The series is excellent, but for me, I found myself hoping a Tyrion-less scene would end so that one with him could begin. What better way to introduce such a complex character than showing a close-up of him slovenly swilling wine as he is getting a blowjob from a prostitute? That was a rhetorical question. He upset expectations by revealing the man as the most complex and ethical of the Lannisters. Oh yeah, and his British accent was pitch-perfect. Sorry again, Warwick. You just wouldn’t have been able to pull this one off. 

The Last Rites of Ransom Pride 

I saw this movie on my DVR queue, and was ready to ask the hubby why he recorded that. Then, I saw that Peter Dinklage was in it. No further explanation was needed. It had an interesting supporting cast, but as I got close to halfway into it, I started to wonder why I was watching it. There was nary a Dinker to be found. This movie was a real chin-scratcher, and I felt myself reaching the same level of frustration that I did while I watched Eraserhead. Not even the presence of the two biggest living bad-asses of country music in Dwight Yoakam and Kris Kristofferson could raise me to an acceptable level of enjoyment. I really was ready to hit stop and delete the recording. Then, this appeared:

Okay, we were getting somewhere. He was only in a few scenes, but again, he was my main focus. What a bizarre character he created. I still wasn’t crazy about the movie, but Peter Dinklage did make it worth watching for me. 

Death at a Funeral (American version) 

I haven’t seen the original, British version. I hear it is far better than this one. There really was some funny stuff in it, especially some of the punch lines Chris Rock delivered. However, I see this as a skillful throwaway for Fair Dinkums. His homosexual was not over-the-top. He was very calm as he delivered his blackmail ultimatum. As ridiculous as the premise was, I found myself believing that he would follow through on his threat, albeit in the most genteel fashion. I actually was disappointed when I thought his character croaked. His response as he resurrected while in the coffin made me double over in hysterics. I have to see the original to find out if he played the character the same way. I doubt it; British humor has a different flavor to it. 

I just looked at his IMDB; he has been in a lot of stuff. I want to see everything to further my assertion, thus proving my theory that: A Sprinklage of Dinklage Makes Cinema *Sparkle*. I long for the days of Blockbuster and Hollywood Video. I could walk to the nearest location, whip out my membership and credit cards, and go on a Dinklagian film fest. Sadly, Redbox does not fully appreciate his sublime Dinktacity. I can’t bring myself to order Netflix. Despite his extensive resume, I won’t commit to ordering at least three items every month. Eventually, I will run out of Dinktation. That would be a Dinktastrophe of epic proportions. 

There is a movie currently in production called Knights of Badassdom. Mr. Dinklage’s character is named Hung. Can you think of three more compelling reasons to see that movie? Great title, great character name, and of course, the Dink-o-matic is starring in it. I am so there when it comes to the theaters.

Twitlight

No, there was not a typo in the title. I meant to do that. This series is atrociously ridiculous and hackneyed. Usually, derivative works tend to lose some quality in the translation. In the case of the Twilight series, I give the movies just a nudge—a mere vampire weekend, if you will—above the books. Yes, in this humble writer’s opinion, Stephenie Meyer is just that bad at what she is getting paid gazillions to spit out. She is suckling, like her monsters of inspiration, on the lowest common denominator’s teet. 

While I have yet to conceive the next great American novel, much less write and [attempt to] publish it, I am fully confident that when I do, it will be a much higher quality work. I believe my blog writings and short fiction attest to that claim. What will it matter, anyway? It never ceases to amaze me what the seemingly literate public desires to consume. While Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Meyer’s Twilight are both novels under the strictly technical definition, one is clearly more objectively palatable than the other. Obviously, fortification for the brain is not the same as banal entertainment. It is the same reason that McDonald’s is a more popular venue for sustenance than your average health food store. It is quick and easy to digest. It also leaves you full of hot, putrid gas to compensate for lack of actual nourishment. 

Let me do a quick comparison of some of the variances between Ms. Meyer’s vampires and the ones of lore: 

Lore: Vampires can only come out at night.
Twitlight: Vampires go wherever they damn-well please. Inexplicably, it is high school. 

Lore: Vampires burst into flames when exposed to the sun.
Twitlight: Vampires sparkle in the sun. I guess they don’t have to dive into the nearest plot-hole for cover.  

Lore: Vampires have fangs.
Twitlight: Vampires must have an awesome dental plan. 

Lore: Vampires fear religious relics, as well as garlic.
Twitlight: Vampires have some seriously powerful magic underwear. That’s the only explanation. 

With fictional characters, there is a little poetic license allowed. I grant writers that, and have done it myself just recently with my own vampire tale, as well. So, parking the plot wagon for a moment, let’s focus on the quality of the writing. The premise is rather simple and unoriginal. Girl moves to new town, girl falls in love, girl almost dies, boy saves her. Ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom, that could be fully realized in less than 250 pages. At almost 500, it is too long for so little to happen. Egads did my mind drift as I waited for something remotely interesting to happen. It’s like the vampires glamoured me into a stupor. 

There are two reasons I give the movies a notch above the books. First, the quality of the acting is good. Actually, it is sad to see such talent wasted on terrible material. Seeing the two stars—Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart—in better projects, just leaves me shaking my head. Second, I confess to having a grand old time as hubby, friends, and I conduct running commentary à la MST3000. Good times, good times. 

There is a tendency for women to breathe life into their fantasies through their writings, and some of them are paid for it. Unfortunately. A common one is to make the female protagonist the objet d’lust for many characters. I’ll get to the point; apparently, it is thrilling to imagine powerful and sexy beasts willing to fight to the death in order to be with you. I don’t know why, but it is a rampant theme. See my previous post about it: Creatures of the Trite

Despite my aforementioned kudos to the acting, I am not any closer to suspending disbelief with Ms. Stewart’s Bella Swan (is there a more contrived name, by the way?). While pretty, her character is so bland. The undead have more zest for life than she does, and the most mundane circumstance can make her so tense. She is stuffed to the gills with angst. She does play that convincingly, I will say that. But, I don’t get why vampires and werewolves (of course!) are so willing to lay their difficult-to-kill, if not immortal, asses on the line for her. I just don’t see it. Sorry. 

Here is a lesson in writing: The plot must be consistent within its own internal logic, thus allowing suspension of disbelief. As an example, while on the surface, their lightning-fast baseball game seems clever and cute, albeit a lame attempt at achieving the same level of awe as Harry Potter’s Quidditch. Fail! Unfortunately, a ball traveling that fast and hit that hard would be structurally unable to withstand the extreme forces thus applied to it. Since these are fictional creatures in the real world, laws of physics still apply. It is difficult enough to swallow such a bastardization of vampire legend, but defying scientific logic where it should exist is inexcusable. 

I noticed a lot of writers fall into what I call “murmuritus.” There are at least thirty synonyms for that word, but many default to that one. I don’t know what the hang-up is with that particular verb. Ms. Meyer is definitely no exception. Just to drive the point home, I downloaded all the books for the sole purpose of doing a search on murmur, et al. The “find” function is a wondrous tool for empirical research. Here are my results: 

Book 1:  46
Book 2:  30
Book 3:  95
Book 4: 111 

As you see, it gets worse as the saga thickens. I know emopires are so bothered that they are reduced to a mere whisper, but really, perhaps they should just learn to enunciate through their non-fangs. If that weren’t enough, Stephenie felt it important to demonstrate her characters’ blasé annoyance by having them roll their eyes. Inordinately. While I had the PDFs, I figured I might as well confirm that. If you don’t believe me, read it and weep blood: 

Book 1:  12
Book 2:  18
Book 3:  21
Book 4:  25

 I just decided to start rolling my eyes to see how many creatures, great and small, cock-fight to the death for my affection. Apathy is hot!  

Now admittedly, I only read the first novel. I strongly suspect that it is a representative sample, albeit possibly misleadingly in favor of Ms. Meyer. From what I’ve heard, they get worse. Perhaps it is due to a few ridiculous key plot points in subsequent books, such as being turned [into a vampire] used as a metaphor for (eep!) going all the way—which must not happen until marriage, dagnabbit. I’ve also been informed that Edward is forced to turn his beloved Bella as she is giving birth to their vampire hatchling, because that bugger is being a recalcitrant monster imp. Edward must then commit an unspeakable act: Use his teeth to tear his offspring out of mommy’s stomach to save them both! Now that’s just nasty. I suspect Meyer took Vonnegut’s rule to be cruel to her characters just a wee bit too far. Be that as it may, there’s no Father’s Day Hallmark card for that creepy level of devotion. 

To say nothing of the fact that the werewolf Jacob imprints romantically on the baby who miraculously matures fully by age seven. He is, in fact, lusting after a seven-year-old, ergo, making him a Native American Mormon werewolf pedophile. Ms. Meyers just squicked me.

In the second or third book (does it matter?) Edward spurned Bella’s advances because he is old-fashioned and wants to wait until they are married, blah blah blah. So, does this mean that he has gone over one hundred years without sex? Really, come on! Let’s put him in a taxicab for some dashboard confession here. He may rip out the cabbie’s carotid before allowing his chaste image to be sullied. All right all right, let’s assume he is a virgin for a moment. It must also be pointed out that he doesn’t feed off humans—just wild animals. Hmm. Not that I know personally, but every vampire tale speaks of the thrill of the kill and savoring the sanguine life force flowing from its human victim into his gullet. Assuming he is completely genuine (and all Mormons are, of course), what the HELL is the point of existing? So little pleasure and all this wasted energy expended on resisting tempta . . . oh wait, that sounds eerily accurate. Pfft! 

Gotta love proselytizing pulp.

This book stinks!

Quite literally, unfortunately.

Even though I have thousands of books and have a “library” in my apartment that contains them, I am a frequent user of the public facility. There is something about acquiring books and/or reading ones I do not own already that makes them more fun. In this economy, I must steer clear of bookstores, lest I spend all my disposable income on whatever strikes my fancy. Therefore, off I traipse to the library during my lunch hour every three weeks to check out at least four books at a pop.

Reading is my usual pre-sleep activity, so over the weekend, whilst laying in bed, I cracked open one of my loaners—Bluebeard. I was struck by how warped and discolored all the pages were. Then, I caught a whiff. I put my face up to it, and immediately pulled it away. Just to make sure it wasn’t an olfactory hallucination, I repeated that action. I got up and brought it to my husband, and asked him, “Does this smell like urine?” One quick sniff test confirmed it.

Yes, someone took a piss on Vonnegut.

Into the nearest plastic bag that foul pulp went, and I couldn’t move fast enough to the bathroom, nor could the water get hot enough, to cleanse my hands à la Lady MacBeth. Out, damned stench! Being a bit germaphobic, I was apprehensive crawling back under the covers as I tried to recall if the defiled book touched any part of the bed. Since it was too late to strip and wash, I decided that ignorance is occasionally a blissfully acceptable approach to the situation. I just hoped that it was either cat or dog urine. Hell, I’d even be okay if a horse emptied its bladder in a torrential downpour onto the poor, unsuspecting novel. I just couldn’t countenance it being human. It seemed . . . grosser. Besides, who could hate Vonnegut that much?

What I didn’t realize in my effort to keep the diseases at bay until Labor Day weekend came to an end, is that enclosing the urine smell makes it stronger. My nostrils were assaulted with that reality once I pulled it out of my bag when I got to work. The funk was pervasive, and even after putting it into an envelope AND inside a paper bag, I still smelled it. I called the circulation desk to alert them of my dilemma. To say the clerk sounded dubious is an understatement, but he did not verbally call me on it. He did tell me to return it as soon as possible. I couldn’t wait for lunchtime to roll around so I could be rid of that egregious object so that I could move onto prose that would be less offensive to my senses. Perhaps something from de Sade?

Thankfully, I did not have to wait in line for assistance. Sadly, the guy I spoke to on the phone was the next available attendant. He was not happy to see me, and made a show of annoyance as he removed the envelope from the paper bag, the plastic bag from the envelope, and opened the plastic bag to confirm the horror. It was like an iniquitous nesting doll. He pulled back his head in disgust, and this was the conversation that ensued:

Me: “It wasn’t that bad before when my husband and I smelled it, but the bag encapsula . . .”

Clerk 1: “Remove this book from the system right away!”

Clerk 2: “Eww, what’s the number?”

Clerk 1: (Do you think I remembered the number during my moment of ignominy? Make up one.)

Me: “I can’t believe someone would return a book after peeing on it.”

Clerk 2: “Okay, it’s gone. Now just put it away!”

Me: “Thanks.” Exit in embarrassment stage left.

Clerk 1: “Have a nice day.”

Now, do you think he really meant that? It was pretty obvious from their responses (yes, in a fit of paranoia, I honed in on their micro-expressions) that they didn’t believe I was the innocent victim here. Perhaps it was that askance look he gave me as I explained the physics of entrapped odors and their affect on the strength of them. I was very tempted to officiously ask, “Do I look like someone who would take a piss on a book, much less public property?” But, one way to detect that someone is lying is if she gets a bit too wordy. I thought that would be throwing me into the gray zone. I left fully confident that I introduced a little slice of Hell into their day.

I suspect when the remaining books are due, I will just deposit them in the overnight book drop, lest they flagged my account as a problem user. Oy. I think I’ll take a short vacation from checking out books, just long enough for them to forget my face.

Mondegreen mania

I get such a kick out of misheard song lyrics, otherwise known as mondegreens. I remember years ago when I picked up Gavin Edwards Excuse Me While I Kiss This Guy when I was out of town on business. I went back to my hotel room and laughed until tears streamed down my face while the misinterpretations became more ridiculous, but still plausible, as I turned the pages. The accompanying illustrations only added to my mirth. It is the hardest I have ever laughed without someone else present in the room. I couldn’t wait for the next book to come out, which there were three others. Occasionally, I check the humor section of bookstores, hoping to find a fifth installment in the series. Sadly, Mr. Edwards either tired of the concept, or ran out of material. Nonsense, I say! 

In lieu of that, I will reminisce on a few of my own, as well as ones Mr. Pedant accumulated over the years. I displayed them in the same format as in the books: misheard lyric; performer; song title; correct lyric. 

The wreck of Ella Fitzgerald
Gordon Lightfoot “The Wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald”
The wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald 

What can I say? The queen of scat was the only E. Fitzgerald I knew of when I was a teen. I even had the piano sheet music of the classic folk tune, but for whatever reason, my mind chose to interpret and remember it within the context of its existing knowledge, and stay that way well into adulthood. Good excuse, eh? Years later, I saw part of a documentary about the famous freighter, and the twenty-nine lives that were taken down with it. Hmm, I guess that makes more sense. At least, more than a wrecking ball swinging toward Ella as she breaks glass when she hits her high note. Ah, the warped logic of youth. 

Hey old lady you’re gonna die!
Patty LaBelle “Creole Lady Marmalade”
Creole lady marmalade! 

Really, what is a more logical exclamation, I ask ye? 

I scream my balls off
No Doubt “Spider Webs”
I screen my phone calls 

I actually developed a dislike of this song because I thought it was stupid that a woman would say that she screams her balls off. Women don’t have balls! Anyway, I still can’t shake my disdain. 

I’m a speed travelin’ hombre
Lynyrd Skynyrd “Freebird”
I must be travelin’ on now 

This was my brother-in-law’s creation, and it makes me giggle every time. Oddly, it could fit. 

I wanna be, your clamdigger
Peter Gabriel “Sledgehammer”
I wanna be, your sledgehammer 

“What the hell is a clamdigger?” At the time, I didn’t know it was a real profession. I guess my friend thought clams were an appropriate token of love. I suppose it is just as useful as a gaggle of swans a’simmin, or a bunch of maids a’milking. 

Hail to the flutter kick, same old chicken washed my brain. So I ate a pigeon steak, try to sneeze your blood my way.
Alice in Chains “Would”
Into the flood again, same old trip it was back then. So I made a big mistake, try to see it once my way. 

This was heard in the back of a Bradley armored personnel carrier, in the middle of combat during Desert Storm. The gunner started singing this at the top of his lungs, with a Brooklyn accent, no less. Mr. Pedant, I’ve got nothing to add.   

Turn your feet around
Vickie Sue Robinson “Turn the Beat Around”
Turn the beat around

 A sensible, albeit pointless, request.

 Why do we, cutsie-pie ourselves?
Tori Amos “Crucify”
Why do we, crucify ourselves?

 This was just too funny to omit. Oddly, the misinterpretation is the polar opposite of what Tori asked. The real lyric is more poignant, but the other really gets my imagination brewing. I picture a bunch of furry kittens tied with lilac ribbons to pink crosses, as they mew in harmony to this song. Oh yeah, and bunnies are hopping around them. Why? Because cute spectacles must contain at least one bunny. All together, now. AWWWWW!!! 

A-chin bubbly-bubbly Top Dog
Kula Shaker “Tattva”
Acintya bheda bheda Tattva 

What else is there to say about carbonated dogs with chins that hasn’t already been said? 

You don’t have to sell your potty to the night
The Police “Roxanne”
You don’t have to sell your body to the night 

When you think about it, both lyrics are essentially saying the same thing, one less eloquently than the other. 

Do you need a Wal-Mart to look after you?
Tori Amos “God”
Do you need a woman to look after you? 

Sorry, Tori. I’ll stop picking on you. 

Jesus is just a rat-wheeled freak
Doobie Brothers “Jesus is Just Alright”
Jesus is just alright with me 

It is amazing the things that run through the brain during the descent into the fiery pits of Hell. 

I don’t know, but I’ve been told, a peg leg woman ain’t got to sew
Led Zepplin “Black Dog”
I don’t know, but I’ve been told, a big legged woman ain’t got no soul 

Personally, I’d be too busy trying to move around with a peg-leg to make time for sewing. 

Now I pooh hard eggs
The Police “Every Breath You Take”
How my poor heart aches 

This lyric was misheard and published as “I’m a pool hall ace.” But really, who wouldn’t wail like Sting if he crapped stony eggs, if you let yourself contemplate such an unfortunate ignominy?  

Barefoot ghouls, dancin’ in the moonlight
Credence Clearwater Revival “Green River”
Barefoot girls, dancin’ in the moonlight
 

One is sexy, the other frightening. I’m good with it. 

The beagle flies with the duck
Crosby, Stills, and Nash “Love the One You’re With”
The eagle flies with the dove 

Mr. Stills, I love you, but you’re a mumble-ass. 

Oh, there’s more. But, in an effort to keep this post from getting too long, I must split this up. Tune in later for the second installment.

Being Kurt Vonnegut

Of all the writers this bibliophile has read and continues to discover, I rank Kurt Vonnegut in the upper echelon of literary geniuses. No one wrote caustic satire quite like him. While I don’t emulate him in my own work, or any author for that matter, a favorable comparison would be much welcomed, to say the least. Alas, if Dmitry Chestnykh is the arbiter of writing analysis, the probability of that happening is slim to none. 

Mr. Chestnykh is a Russian computer programmer who created the site I Write Like. I don’t know if it is viable for academic study, or was created for just giggles. Perhaps when some established authors were tested and came up with others than themselves, the latter seemed to be the likely purpose. As an example, Moby Dick was more reminiscent of Stephen King than of, well, Herman Melville. I wonder if Mr. Melville looked more like King’s brother than . . . regardless, the algorithm could use some tweaking. 

Here is the link, in case you want to participate in the same frustrating exercise I did—twenty-one times, to be precise. I just couldn’t resist the compulsion.

http://iwl.me/ 

I took excerpts of my blog postings, short stories, and even a couple of e-mails. I was on a quest to identify my wordsmith doppelgänger and hoped for some affirmation of my writing skills, to boot. Yes, I was shooting for at least one Kurt Vonnegut comparison. Did Dmitry throw me that bone? Of course not. Hell, I would have been happy with Kilgore Trout, even. Here is a list of what I did get and how many times, ranked from extremely flattering to suicide-inducing: 

  •  Vladimir Nabokov—1
  •  Stephen King—2
  •  David Foster Wallace—5
  •  H.P. Lovecraft—3
  •  Isaac Asimov—1
  •  Arthur Clark—1
  •  Ian Fleming—1
  •  Chuck Palahniuk—1
  •  Cory Doctorow—2
  •  Dan Brown—4 

Take a guess when I considered going the route of one of those authors. What, too soon? Seriously though, how can I write like one of the most successful hacks in recent memory, but have yet to crack the “Code” of making even one red cent from my writings? ‘Tain’t fair! By the way, who the Hell is Cory Doctorow? (Admittedly, as a sci-fi fan, I should have known who he was.) I felt like I stumbled into the Malkovichian portal to my own mind, to find all the authors above at a Halloween party where I was the only costume left on the rack for them to buy. It was not a pretty visual, let me tell you. In the words of one of my alleged brothers-in-words, “oh, the unspeakable horror!” 

At least I don’t write like Stephenie Meyer, with her damned eye-rolling, mumbling emo-pires (that’s another post entirely!). There’s that small blessing. To ensure that she was in the database or whatever the blazes is in that program, I put in an excerpt of her first book, Twilight, and there she was. Whew, I won’t fold up my laptop just yet. 

As I mentioned earlier, I got no Vonnegut hits, even though I have read more works from him than any other author. You’d think he would rub off, even a little. Just to make sure he was on the site’s radar, I put in a sample text from his famous Slaughterhouse-Five

“The Americans across the way told the guards again about the dead man on their car. The guards got a stretcher out of their own cozy car, opened the dead man’s car and went inside. The dead man’s car wasn’t crowded at all. There were just six live colonels in there—one dead one.  

The Germans carried the corpse out. The corpse was Wild Bob. So it goes.” 

There he was. I made it easy for myself and substituted key words and phrases in it to change the spirit while preserving the grammatical structure: 

“The Canadians across the way told the penguins again about the dead seal on their igloo. The penguins got a glacier out of their own comfortable igloo, opened the dead seal’s igloo and went inside. The dead seal’s igloo wasn’t crowded at all. There were just six live bears in there—one dead one. 

The Americans carried the corpse out. The corpse was Wild Bob. So it snows.” 

David Foster Wallace! What the. . . ? This should have been a slam-dunk. If I can’t write like Kurt Vonnegut, at least he should be able to write like himself! Before I went all Dwayne Hoover from Breakfast of Champions on my computer, I had to apply a healthy dose of perspective along with the grain of salt. Really, how intuitive are these programs, or anything that claims to sum up one’s personality based on a few bytes of information? According to one of the plethora of Facebook surveys I was suckered into taking, my aura was orange. Orange? Puh! Mine is clearly purple. I dismiss that on principle. In this case, I separate the wheat from the chaff and paraphrase Bruce Lee: I extract what strokes my ego and discard what bitch-slaps it. 

In conclusion, I am as masterful a writer as Vladimir Nabokov was. Woot woot! 

Did I mention I haven’t read anything from Wallace, yet? He is on my list, but blast it, he is a laborious read. Apparently, I’m actually so brilliant, even I find it hard to understand myself.

I’m peevish!

I consider myself a pretty amicable person. That said, I’ll be the first to admit that there is a longer-than-average dirty laundry list of things that can make me irritable. There are the standards that many find perturbing, such as the ever-prevalent cell yell, then there are some that are a bit . . . unusual. Meaning, I’ve asked for opinions to see if I am being unreasonable. While some people, when pressed, will concede my pet peeves could be annoying under certain circumstances, those non-committal responses tend to be delivered askance. It doesn’t change my stance (rhyme unintended); peculiarity is subjective, I say. So here they are. 

Keep your saliva to yourself 

I’ll venture lightly into this diatribe with the pet peeve that is easiest to understand, if not embraced by all. Spit is gross. I think that is a universal constant. If we discover intelligent life on other planets and spat on the ground in front of them, they would probably be pretty insulted and repulsed.  However, I extend my revulsion to saliva in any quantity. Unless it is shared under appropriate circumstances, and you know what those are, I don’t want any near me—nary a speck. I just don’t like casual spit. There, I said it.   

I can’t help but focus on the tiny spittle that sometimes flies out of a mouth accidentally. When it happens to me, I pray those who might witness it don’t have the eagle eye to spot it. Why? Because when it happens to other people, I notice. I notice hard. My eyes roll to follow the arching trajectory of the droplet to its eventual destination. If it lands on something of mine or my person, I have to channel my energy to not react lest the shooter be just as embarrassed as if I were in the same position. I also time the casual wipe—not with my bare skin, mind you—of the spittle if it has landed near me. It is probably close to evaporating at the point it is safe to do that without garnering notice, but it calms my mind so that I can move on. 

Oh, I’m not quite finished with this one.

I don’t know which is worse, licking your finger to handle paper, or doing it to remove a spot from someone else’s body. Both set my teeth on edge. Why, why would anyone force their own fluids onto an unwilling participant?  It’s rape, dare I say, of the sputum variety. Also, I trust the culprit’s mouth is not minty fresh, so that spit is skunking up whatever it is drying on. 

I made the mistake of writing this in the middle of my lunch hour. I don’t feel so good, now. 

Sticking point

I love shopping and bringing home my spoils. But Christ on a stick, I hate the price and other identifying tags that are adhered to them. When they come off cleanly with one peel, I’m okay. But when goop and torn paper remain, I shudder at the filth that is left. I feel my jaw jut out and clench as the gooey paper accumulates under my fingernail while I attempt to remove the residual muck. When that fails, out comes the rubbing alchohol. More times than not, it mars the surface of the once pristine product. That is bad enough, but I can’t even fathom why anyone would just adopt a devil-may-care attitude and not even try to remove the sticker in the first place.  Have you ever drunk out of a mug that still had the UPC sticker on the bottom? The coffee tasted more bitter to me, I confess. 

In conclusion, this world would be a cleaner and more peaceful place if sticky labels were eradicated completely.   

Don’t over-ick the pudding 

If I had to choose between Heaven and Hell, it would be the place with chocolate pudding. It is my absolute favorite dessert of all times. While I don’t expect everyone to carry the same level of obsession with the food of the gods, I am within reason to ask that the majority acknowledge that it is the superior flavor of pudding. When people think of pudding, they should automatically think of chocolate. Is that so wrong? 

Then why do most restaurants, if they serve pudding, default to rice or tapioca? Who informed them that it was the most popular choice of puddings? Is there some elaborate, sick joke to which I am not privvy? I’ve tasted both and it is a pointless, and even painful, exercise of consuming something just because it is there. I’d rather savor the calories that I must burn off at the gym later. When I set to enjoying a bowl of pudding, I do not want to chew it. For all I know, those lumps could be curdled, spoiled chunks of milk. I trust it wouldn’t taste any different. If I want maggots in my food, I’ll put maggots in my food. Otherwise, give me the pristine, creamy goodness of cocoa. Thank you.  

Don’t get me started on bread pudding. It isn’t pudding, it’s a glorified, mashed-up danish.     

Paper shredder 

While I have referred to myself as a Luddite, of sorts, I embrace the evolution of the paperless environment. Why? It means less paper, of course. Full sheets that are kept neat and flat are fine. I must brush many aside to confirm the color wood of my desk. But when they curl up on the ends, become frayed, discolored, or the gods forbid—tear off into messy little pieces, my mood changes quicker than Enron can shred an incriminating document. 

Do I really need to explain myself on this one? It just makes the world look like shit. 

Sticky notes are a necessary evil. But make no mistake, they are evil. I strike a deal with the Devil every time I feel compelled to use one. I breach that contract if the adhesive gets hair and dirt on it or otherwise gunkified. That’s right, I made that word up. SUCK IT, Satan! 

Another thing that drives me to the parking lot of the nearest insane asylum is when someone turns a piece of paper into a bookmark. There is a reason that book and stationary stores have a display dedicated to bookmarks to suit any and every interest, personality, etc. It makes it inviting to show books the proper respect with a pretty, tidy companion. I am shocked, shocked I say, at the amount of lazy slobs who use a register receipt, a straw wrapper, and even a [shudder] ripped piece of paper.  Not to mention, dog ears look cute only on dogs and children. Despite my desire otherwise, I fear the aforementioned paperless environment is extending to books. There is nothing like holding one in my hands and turning the (immaculate) pages. However, I consider the sacrifice of that to be a noble one if it would remove the madness that is atrociously makeshift bookmarks. 

DAMMIT! 

Platitudes give me an attitude 

This is a multi-faceted one. Where to start? 

Let’s be straight with each other. When you ask me how I am doing and I respond with other than an “Oh pretty good, and you?” chances are high that you will not want to hear it. If I were to go off on a rant about my recurring herpes flare-up (hypothetical, of course) you will instantly regret pissing me off with this platitudinal inquiry. You don’t care how I am doing, you just want to make yourself known to as many people before tumbling off your dumb-ass mortal coil. Admit it. 

While we are on the subject, don’t ask me how my weekend was, nor lead my response by asking if I had a nice one. Chances are high, again, that if it wasn’t horrible, it fell short of expectations, and you won’t want to know that. Once it is over with, I generally want to forget it happened lest it remind me how I am not spending my free time, i.e., away from the den of revulsion that is the typical 9-5 office, the way I should, much less to my enjoyment. While no one’s fault but my own, it is also no one’s business but my own. Still, it is Monday and my life is like a dehydrated vampire bleeding me dry, thanks.  

I extend platitudes to small talk, if for no other reason than it is just an oxygen-wasting endeavor. Yes, it is quite hot outside. I think most would agree with that observation. Why must it be reiterated, again and again? Let’s discuss something of more import, like the nuances of expelling my dog’s anal glands. How’s that?  

Please oh please think up a better response than “I’m sorry” or “My thoughts and prayers are with you blah blah blah.” Be creative. Tell me that the world can blow me, or something like that. That would make me smile.  

Just because I am reading a book while in an elevator, doesn’t necessarily mean it is such an engaging story. I just don’t like twiddling my thumbs, and am interested in reading as many books as possible until I go blind or lose my ability to comprehend the written word. Why must you interrupt me by stating that it must be a good book? If it is or isn’t really doesn’t change the fact that this claustrophobic individual doesn’t want to talk to anyone when confined in a 6′ x 6′ box. 

GAK! 

Hair scare 

I don’t want to touch it, nor do I want it touching me, especially if I don’t know the person. Hair, that is. I can’t explain it, but it creeps me the fuck out. Keep it away. Inhabiting many a crowded public transportation vehicle has made me painfully aware of this . . . I’d call it an issue, but I feel fully justified in my . . . okay, it’s an issue. Really, though, hair can get seriously funky and carry contagions. Why do you think there are places—such as Hair Fairies—dedicated to removing bugs and other foreign matter from human hair? If the Bible said that animals were put on this earth to serve man, then we should be putting monkeys to work picking out all the nasties and other debris from our disease-ridden heads. Don’t put me in the position of contemplating what leapt from your scalp onto my nubile flesh.

No matter how clean the person, dreads smell funky. I’m not talking about the neatly kept braided variety—I’m referring to natty blobs, or shit-dreads, as they are so eloquently named. At minimum, a stale dishrag odor wafts from them. At worst, they smell like something crawled on the person’s head and expelled its gaseous death rattle into the air around it. Not to mention, it looks like a big glob of prehistoric feces. Did someone step in a pile of dinosaur dung and wipe his shoe on the closest unsuspecting victim’s head?  And why are these considered hip? 

I toss my luxurious, perfumed locks in indignation. Harumph!

What? All right, maybe I over-stated that a touch. But I wouldn’t expect you to touch my hair to debunk that claim, now would I?