Category Archives: goofy

sharcano

Sharcano!!!1!

There’s this dismissive, tautological quote that goes something like, “People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.” I can’t find a reputable source for this line — it’s been attributed to Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln, or a tumblr image of some cats — but it has the kind of epigrammatic pithiness that makes for great ad copy. I think you can fairly easily tell by the title whether you are in the audience of this book. Sharcano = shark + volcano!!!1! You know if this math is for you.

I guess I expected Sharcano to be a nod to pulp horror like anything by Guy N Smith, a journeyman writer who churned out well over a hundred novels, and, given that he isn’t dead yet, likely is churning them out still. (His wiki page notes that he is an “active pro-smoking campaigner”, which I find inordinately charming. I even smoke, and I know that shit ain’t good for anyone, mostly because I smoke.) I was expecting shoddy continuity, uproarious misogyny, and lurid bloodbath, the kind of thing banged out in two non-consecutive weekends with a lot of uppers in the mix.

But no, Sharcano is more a nod to big budget action disaster films, movies like Armageddon and The Day After Tomorrow. This is not a criticism; more an observation. There’s an estranged couple — one of whom is a massive television personality slash dillhole — so you’ve got your remarriage plot; a couple of moppets of various ethnicity; a priest at the focus of a shady Vatican conspiracy; some bubbas; sasquatch &c. There’s a lot of destruction that would work well better on the screen with Michael Bay-ish craptacular jump cuts, but then there’s a wry comedy aspect that would never be evident in a Michael Bay film.

What Sharcano reminds me most of is The Core, which is a silly disaster film complete with unobtainium and Stanley Tucci. The scene where Tucci is in a train car thing, about to die, bloviating into a tape recorder in his showboat way, and then starts laughing at the ridiculousness of such an act is one of my legit favorites. Almost as good as Samuel L in Deep Blue Sea starting into a monologue about how we’re not going to fight anymore! right before the supershark fucking drops the knowledge. Drop the knowledge, sharks made out of lava. We’ll catch up.

Here’s the thing: I’m not sure this book needs to be 400+ pages, and I’m seriously unsure that it should be the first in a trilogy. Sharcano is well better than it should be, a quality which gives with one hand and takes with another. Pulp’s got a certain energy to it, a rough, unedited pulse. Sharcano has a more arms-reach approach to the material, a half-ironic tone that tries to split the difference between straight up satire and gleeful homage. That’s a hard line to walk, very hard, and that Sharcano manages it at all should be seen as a win. If you like this sort of thing, as the cats of tumblr tell me, then this is the sort of thing you’ll like.

 

I received my copy from Netgalley. Thanks, dudes.

asshole_familycircus

Calvin & Muad’Dib

Best tumblr of the day goes to Calvin & Dune, which remaps Dune quotes over Calvin & Hobbes panels. So kinda like Nietzsche Family Circus, only not randomly generated. I’m just going to linkstorm to some of my favorite Internet comics in this vein.

Nietzsche Family Circus - previously mentioned – pairs a Nietzsche quote with a random Family Circus panel. It’s old in Internet terms, originating in (gap!) 2006, but there’s something hypnotic about clicking through a bunch of twee suburbia narrated by a German crank.

Hobbes & Bacon - onetwothreefour - Web comic Pants are Overrated did four strips featuring Calvin and Susie’s daughter Bacon – presumably named after the philosopher, not the condiment – which were then continued byTerra Snover for a while. They make my heart strangle a little. There’s other ones out there; plz to google yourself.

 

Garfield Minus Garfield - to quote the project: “[Garfield Minus Garfield] is a journey deep into the mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness and depression in a quiet American suburb.” Seeing the reactions of Jon to the always thought-bubbled statements by his now illusory orange cat kinda blow my mind. Jim Davis ended up cashing in on this ennui, and there are several print versions of the original web comic available for sale. I’m not sure how I feel about this, but whatever.

“Christ, what an asshole” - the person who originated this idea’s page is down at the moment (or maybe permanently), but someone back before google caching noted that all of the single panel New Yorker cartoons could be captioned with “Christ, what an asshole” with minimal damage to the funniness, and often, improvement. To whit:

New Yorker cartoons captioned with "Christ, what an asshole"

Quickly, it was noted that this punchline worked for your more traditional three panel weekday comic as well, especially fucking Peanuts. (Maybe it’s just being a Minnesotan, which Schulz was too, but his brand of Lutheran miserablism just sets my teeth. I find it astonishing that Peanuts has the devotion it does, given how cruel and depressing his comedy is.) So this pleases me:

Lucy pulling the football from Charlie Brown, which ends with him saying "Christ, what an asshole"

Fuck you, Lucy.

Screenshot 2013-11-13 23.09.19

Palimpsests and Turing Tests: Cool Things on the Internet Today

I found two things that made me freak out today, and for entirely different reasons. First, I saw this post from Themis-Athena with a link to a post about a medieval palimpsest that had been analysed using some kind of scientific devilry, and the palimpsest gave up classical commentary about Aristotle and some fragments of Euripides. My post to her was ZOMG. When I posted somewhere else, the reaction was ZOMG. It’s pretty ZOMG all around.

A million years ago, when I was a teen going to the Minneapolis public schools, I ended up getting a bunch of free tickets to the Guthrie theater for their season of classics. They ran all of the Oresteia, I think, though maybe it was just the trajectory of Oedipus Rex —> Oedipus at Colonus —> Antigone. For sure Medea was in there too – I can still see the bloody tableau of Medea rising with her murdered children off the thrust stage and into the rafters. It was a great season to watch at 17, all these crazy powerful classics from a million years ago staged with a minimum of fuss. I cried a lot at people so dead they were dead beyond the telling of it, or so non-existent they didn’t rightly make sense in the world anymore. In our crappy, ugly school building, we talked about what I had seen, the fact that so much is lost. Whenever someone unearths just a bit of those old, crusty words, my 17 year old self rejoices. Plus, scientific deviltry is hot.

But then the other thing I found today was what would I say, which is one of those Turing Test things that burns through facebook every now and then. Basically, this app takes all of your facebook posts and chops them up and spits them out in something resembling grammar. Generally my posts on facebook only resemble grammar, so it’s kind of perfect. For example:

Watching the “Divergent” casting by claiming that the credits rolled in it.

Just out their bs, the dinosaurs wouldn’t let you, and every one of the backhanded compliment.

And they sting you! No, more potential for Grandma Dory. Perfect.

30 Day Book Challenge Day 24 hours to accomplish for the Constitution forbids the endless descriptions of bookstores gauzy and dreamy, yet I want some of the execution of spoilers.

At least not until much harder core than I.

Certainly, this is all stuff I would say if I were high as fuck and posting on facebook. Which has happened a couple of times, but totally legally and due to illness/medication, FBI, fyi. Gosh, is this app fun to play with though, this post-modern mirror on all the stupid stuff I say all the time, and in public.

So, thanks Internet. Today was a blast.

 

lolfreud

A Blog Post from 1898: 100 Best Novels

I saw this blog post on my feed this evening, thanks to a friend on a social networking site. The blog post describes a blog post from 1898, when the latter was posted in something called a “newspaper” – sound it out, kids – and it details the 100 novels the blogger (or “literary critic”) felt were the best 100 novels published to date. The critic was mad about Tristram Shandy – a book he felt was too odd – being lauded as a groundbreaking novel (which it is), and this list was his rejoinder. I’ll let you go take a look at the list. I’ll be here when you get back.

I’ve lost my taste for arguing which are the best novels because it feels like so much posturing and bullshit. Which, maybe that’s a lie (and more posturing) because I certainly get sucked into arguing them every time they come to my attention. I once saw a round up on Kirkus (which I can’t find at the moment) of the best science fiction slash fantasy, and I laughed until I fired off an angry letter. Not only did it read as something put together by someone who only read literary science fiction (which is a thing, I assure you), including just a ton of stuff by people like Atwood and Chabon who sit decidedly uneasy in the genre. (I’ll give you Yiddish Detective’s Union as spec fic or alt-history, but Kavalier & Clay? Please. That isn’t science fiction, unless all histories who have characters inserted into them that didn’t exist are speculative fiction. I think even the most hardened sff nerd would object to that.) But it wasn’t even that I disagreed with the definition of best – the list was pretty good – but that I disagreed with their concept of genre.

Anyway, my grudges against Kirkus aside, top 100 lists are funny things, generally more link-bait than anything, so it was a trip to see one from so long ago. (I think they’d call it “circulation-bait” back in the day.) The 2013 blog post about the 1898 critic rightly notes that the 1898 blogger is weirdly squeamish about including living writers, adding in an addendum of 8 works by those still breathing that he felt might make the cut of history. (And by and large, they do, or did.)  I think we do now rush to add living writers to the canon. Some of this is the fact that there are so many novelists now, and, as the form reaches its end-stage, there really is a lot of weird, form-breaking and remaking stuff out there. Maybe it won’t make the cut of history, but it certainly makes the cut of now.

And here I’ll just gesture to my pet theory that art forms, like the novel, or poetry, or whatever, have their rises to popularity and then falls, and I think right now we’re in the Decline of the Novel. Which is not to say that novels are getting worse, or that I think that that means it’s the End of Western Civilization or something, just as a form, the novel is being replaced by newer, sexier art forms as they work out their trajectories. Things like television. After the stale episodic nature of tv at the beginning, television is turning into something surprising and weird. Deadwood, The Wire, Community – these shows are all building on the tropes of the medium in ways that I find exhilarating. Sure, there’s a lot of crap out there, but 95% of anything is crap. Many of the works cited as the first examples of the novel in English are included in the  1898 list - Clarissa, Gulliver’s Travels, Robinson Crusoe – and as a well-established genre now, I think people tend to leave these off.  These works are formative and influential, but maybe not best. They belong on another list entirely.

I did find it interesting how many books by women make the list. That surprised me until I thought back to my 19th Century lit class, and about all the screaming and hand-wringing in the 19th C about how the novel was an example of the End of Western Civilization, its dangerous domesticity and lurid tropes read (and written) often enough by women to be suspect. Northanger Abbey – not on the list, but by Austen, who is on the list for another work – takes aim at Mysteries of Udolpho – on the list – for its hysterical Gothic trappings, and what they might do to impressionable minds. Anyone who was Serious and Important was writing poetry in the 19th C, and the novel was for icky and suspect things like social commentary – Trollope, Dickens, Morris – or girls – Brontes, Austen, Eliot – or horror/Gothic – Radcliffe, Le Fanu – or sentimentalists – Cummins, Stowe.

Though formative doesn’t always mean the works will stand up – I think the weird titles I’ve never ever heard of attest to that – sometimes 1898 nails it, like Pride and Prejudice or Jane Eyre. Sometimes it’s like, why Salammbô and not Madame Bovary? We can agree that Flaubert was awesome, but not which work was the awesomest. I don’t think anyone reads Uncle Tom’s Cabin except as an artifact of history; it’s not “good” so much as “historically important”. My dad and I recently had a conversation about James Fenimore Cooper, who is included on the list. His English teacher in high school looooooved Cooper, and assigned him copiously, but I don’t think, short of the movie with hunky sex-pot Daniel Day Lewis, anyone knows who he is anymore. Same goes for Trollope, and Le Fanu, and Burney and, and… Many of these novelists have become the fodder for footnotes, and the boutique interests of novel nerds. They may be good, or influential, or occasionally both, but they’re also forgotten.

The elisions are also important. Whither Moby Dick? I think we can all with rancor and fighting agree that Moby Dick might be the first Great American Novel. But, it is my understanding that Melville died in obscurity, and it was only later critics/bloggers who dug Melville out of the ash pit of history to straddle American literature with his great, white, swinging whale. (That’s a dick joke, friends.) Which kind of makes me want to live for another 100 years, so I can see what novels I’m totally missing, the secret ground-breakers, the oddballs, the things that make literary critics/bloggers so mad they have to make a list of the 100 best novels to counter them. That’s the stuff I want to be reading: the things that piss the Brahmans of literature off. The things the list-makers miss because they’re too odd. The things the list-makers avoid.

The thing I notice about lists is that the books that tend to get listed year after year, century after century, are controversial in some way. A novel that is revered by everyone as “good” when it is written often just sinks into obscurity, because good is often boring and too culturally specific. To write a lasting work, you have to piss people off, break rules, and generally fuck with expectations. That’s what I want in a novel. When I don’t want comfort food, of course. Being the problem with the concept of “best.”

 

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars

I have a fractious relationship with Quirk Books. No, fractious isn’t the right word, is it? Because they don’t know I exist nor do they (or should they) care about my opinion? I was excited for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies because the idea rules, but then it turned out soggy and under-heated. But then came the clones - Jane Slayre: The Literary Classic with a Blood-Sucking TwistThe Meowmorphosis - which mimeographed this idea into a purple-blue stew of end-cap bait, finally culminating, for me anyway, in the dire shit-show that was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls. That book made my blood boil. 

Because, look, I don’t really mind end-cap bait, and I don’t mind the toilet reads that publishers put out to give my non-reading friends and family something to give me when my birthday rolls around. (“I know you like Jane Austen! I think you’ll love this!”) I’m not even being an asshole when I say I appreciate the thought. So when the illustrious and inimitable karen sent me William Shakespeare’s Star Wars out of the blue, I thought, uh oh, I’m going to have to make the choice between my desire to shittalk this book, and being a grateful and worthy human. Again! Why am I such a terrible person? etc.

But as it turns out, hey Mickey! She likes it! So, phew. There’s a dry conversation one can have about translations: which is better, a translator writing from the original language, or one writing to the target language. Is the translator’s mother tongue the original or the translated language? My own take is that it’s almost always better to write to the target language. I once read this biography of Rasputin that was obviously translated by a native Russian speaker, and while it was often hilarious, and I enjoyed the wobbly prose as a desultory Russian language student, you just can’t mix verb tenses like that in English, товарищ. 

I think there’s something of the translation problem in the mash-up, for the reader at least. P&P&Z was probably more aimed at the Austen nerds, because the zombie parts were really more about ninjas, and big swaths of the text were from Austen herself. So you rate it as an Austen nerd, not a zombie nerd – if you happen to be both, like me. (A straight up zombie nerd should probably just stay away.) As an Austen nerd, it was mostly just perplexing, like, what exactly are you saying about Charlotte? Also, you get that messing with the chronology messes with…oh Jesus, nevermind. I really liked the cover and study guide, so I guess thanks for that, Quirk Books. 

By the time Dawn of the Dreadfuls rolled around, that book managed to drop trou and dump on both Austen nerds and zombie nerds – remember, I’m both, so double dump for me – which turned the translation problem into a Zen koan of Not Giving a Fuck. If the translator in question doesn’t care about either language, that’s what you get. (And I’m going to throw in the disclaimer that if you’re neither kind of nerd – Austen nor zombie – then you’ll probably think whatever about all my shouting.) Point being, it is clear to me that Doescher is a Star Wars nerd – that’s the language he is translating to - which I think is a pretty good choice. I’m going to wince when he drops a Naboo reference because I spend a fair amount of energy pretending the prequels never happened, but then I’m also going to hand-clap about a sly reference to nerf herding, which, you know, wasn’t a thing until The Empire Strikes Back. Ahem. Shut up. 

So this isn’t really for Shakespeare nerds. (Do you people exist? I mean, I’m sure you exist, but are you reading slovenly populist Internet reviews?) I wrote this whole thing aping Shakespeare to start my review, but it turns out when I try to write that way, I end up sounding like a pirate. Avast, me hearties! God’s teeth! and all that. So, we’ll give Ian Doescher some props for pretty solid metered dialogue, plus he manages to pull off an occasional heroic couplet that made me smile. I did spend some time discovering this handy nit-picker I got as a booby prize for being an English major had somehow gotten into my hand, and then having to put it away. I’m like an unconscious nit-picker fast-draw, matey. All the short’ning o’ words wit’ apostr’phes to make fit the met’r makes me freak out. Just, ugh. Also, I kept thinking things like, “Other than maybe the chorus in Henry V, who is present at the beginning of every act, Shakespeare didn’t really use a chorus throughout the action like that. That’s really more a feature of Classic Greek playwrights.” But then I gave myself a wedgie. Language from, babies, even if it’s kinda dumb. It’s dumb with jokes about R2D2 monologuing about stuff as an aside, which is pretty freaking fantastic.

So thanks, karen. This rules. 

Stephen Fry, Lynne Truss & Grammar

I just ran across this video done by Stephen Fry and Matthew Rogers about grammar. I started it expecting one of those “ho ho, look at the philistines” tidbits, but it ended up being a sweeter, more compassionate entreaty to be mindful of how strict adherence can destroy a joy in language. I interact with people in a text-based medium all the time – probably more than when I actually talk out loud to humans, sadly – and I know I cringe and want to drop a *you’re when I see the possessive substituted for the contraction. But, unless I’m dealing with a troll, that is an uncharitable thing to do. Let’s just have a good time, slash be inventive.

(More videos can be found at RogersCreations)
(And if the embed is jacked, which it always is, link here.)

Fry’s sexy little ramble hits the ambivalence I felt when reviewing Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots & Leaves – he name-checks her as well at some point – which is about punctuation, an even more abstruse subset of grammatical rules than your usual split infinitive nonsense. Typographical rules tend to be scattershot and local, and many of them are in place because of physical limitations of typesetting machines that no longer factor. Sure, the grocer’s comma makes me laugh a lot of the time, like a sign hanging in the hospital coffee room when my son was hospitalized that managed to put an apostrophe in every word that didn’t need one, and removed them from the ones that did. Which, thank the signifier for that badly needed laugh. The original review of Truss’s book is below.

Recently, the boy made a sign for the door of his bedroom that reads “Keep Out. Not for baby’s.” His spelling is largely self-taught, as he is not yet in kindergarten and I am a somewhat lazy parent-educator. This made me have a Noam Chomsky-ish melt-down about the concept of generative punctuation. Lord, is the grocer’s comma innate? Is it mapped on our brains like the double negative? Am I really his mother?

This book has been sitting on my bedside table for no less than two years. I read it only when I can’t be bothered to go in search of my real book or the book with which I’m cheating on my real book. For some reason, I don’t think of this book that fondly when I’m not reading it, and then I’m pleasantly surprised whenever I pick it up again. But I have this jarring sensation when I read it, akin to the feeling I get when I read articles about neuroscience: holy buckets, I’m using my brain to think about my brain! She’s using punctuation in a book about punctuation. Hey, don’t bogart that. 

This book makes me feel weird because I don’t think of myself as a stickler. I am both lazy and exuberant when it comes to punctuation. I have an unfortunate love affair with the semi-colon; it cannot be helped. I also overuse parentheses because I think they are funny. (I tried, and failed, to not type a parenthetical comment here; oh crap, and there’s the semi-colon.) My comma use borders on the Henry Jamesish. Why make simple declarative statements when things can be jammed together into one enormous run-on sentence, comma splices everywhere, and…my word, what has she done with the verb? This is the kind of writing this book provokes from me, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing. 

When I was living in a dorm my first year of school, the housekeeper would put up missives with the most tortured punctuation all over the building. She was a kindly women, older, and cleaned up our crap for probably not much more year than was required for tuition. (Unsurprisingly, I only spent a year at this institution.) Regularly, jerk students would correct her signs and laugh about how bad the punctuation was – and it truly was bad. This has always bothered me. Of course good punctuation provides a clarity of expression when attempting to convey a clarity of ideas. Of course. But sometimes you should just pick up your fucking towel’s, jackholes, regardless of whether they possess anything. 

It was a relatively painless way to brush up on the punctuation rules I’ve now largely forgotten, and will no doubt forget again in roughly fifteen seconds. I usually have the attention span of a very distracted raccoon when it comes to non-fiction, so it is saying something that I finished this book at all, even if it took two years. Oh, look! something shiny! And that does it for my three exclamation points for the year, alas. 

3 Things I’m Glad Didn’t Exist 20 Years Ago

I just turned 39, which I wasn’t all that pleased about for a number of reasons, some of which are none of your beeswax. But one reason is that it’s a joke age, a place where the oldometer stops for a lot of people, a numerical cultural signifier for “actually, a lot older than 39″. So it’s like turning 40, but worse, because I don’t actually get to own that I’m 40, instead looking like some kind of liar. I admit I’ve overthought this, but it’s my party.

So my husband was watching dross on Netflix, the way he does, and hit upon Tiny Furniture - if you like this you’ll like that, etc. I didn’t even get an individual assessment out of him so much as him reading out the wiki page about mumblecore film-making in absolute horror. Unscripted digital video with a focus on naturalistic dialogue! He shouted. Bah. I haven’t seen any of the mumblecore titles listed, but ignorance hasn’t stopped me from making fun of something before, and I’m not going to stop now. Whenever I see Ed Burns talk about his “low-budg” aesthetic - even the term makes my gonads shrink – I want to die a little. Oh, another lazy, hideously filmed family drama about a lovable asshole being half-redeemed by the love of a someone or something whatever monologue about how it totally sucks when you burn your fingers getting Hot Pockets out the microwave!

It’s not the digital video: I’ve made my peace with that. Digital video can be used brilliantly, like in 28 Days Later, where the shaky, hand held quality and the sub-cinema quality worked with the subject like nobody’s business. The end of the world is seriously fucking nigh indeed. It’s not even low budget film, because I love all kinds of low budget movies, from Evil Dead to Primer. Maybe it’s just that digital video, with it’s lower barrier to entry – you don’t have to know anything about film, in a technical sense, which might mean you don’t know anything about film, in the more metaphorical sense. It’s like the old joke about the film student wondering about why no one goes to the bathroom in movies, and then makes a film comprised of exclusively that. No one goes to the bathroom in movies because that’s stupid and no way to tell a story.

Which brings me back to my shaky point (which isn’t that I’m mad that I’m getting old, completely): I’ve said for a while now, maybe two full years, that I’m so happy that I didn’t have fucking facebook when I was a kid. Good god. Adolescence was bad enough without an indelible record of my idiocy and assholery out there in the world, and that’s not even getting into the idiocy and assholery of my peers. (And I even cringe about stuff I wrote on the Internet 5 years ago, when I was supposedly an adult.) It doesn’t surprise me at all that many of my younger friends and family have deleted their facebook accounts, or inactivate them for long periods of time.

I’m also happy that there wasn’t self-publishing, because, speaking of indelible, I could see my younger self self-publishing the crap out of some seriously painful sophomoric poetry, and that my seriously painful sophomoric poetry is only available in unavailable high school and college journals makes me a happy cat indeed. It was sweet that my shit juvenile writing was set to the page and all, but that it’s ephemeral is part of its charm. We should be able to bury our pasts, which certainly happens in the constant crushing content-production of the Internet; the good news is, people are rarely listening anyway. But someone can still do the hard google though, and that is ouch.

So the third thing I’m glad didn’t exist when I was young enough to take liberties is mumblecore filmmaking. Not that I ever had any interest in film, except as an audience, but I could totally see younger me thinking, hey, why not? when a friend decided to stage some self-indulgent mumble drama, and there I’d be, for all time, doing some walk-on as a barista or girl at the party fudging my lines and generally sucking. (I wouldn’t mind dying in a horror film, though, whatever that says about me.) I recently stumbled over some clueless young man’s personal manifesto, which he wrote in Socratic dialogue as something approximating a novel. The last pages, which I read, have an author-proxy totally burning a television reporter after she asks a bunch of softballs. Cold dis, imaginary reporter! I laughed myself sick and then praised the baby Jesus that self-publishing didn’t exist when I was 20.

So I guess what I’m saying is that on some level I’m glad I’m old, because I can’t imagine younger me navigating this brave new world with any kind of aplomb, given that older me doesn’t have a ton of restraint. I’m getting better at backing away from the keyboard. Even then, I can imagine a 59 year old Ceridwen reading these words and shaking her head. You poor, dumb slob.

Building and Cussing for the New Year!

Musical accompaniment for this review.

I got a call from my dad about a week before Christmas. He’d ordered my son, who is nine, a nerf flack jacket because that’s what the boy super wanted, but in the time it took for the paramilitary kiddie gear to get to the house, some fucking lunatic had shot up a school, killing kids my son’s age. While I don’t really think the nerf stuff correlates to violence or whatever, I can entirely respect Dad sending that stuff back and casting about for other options. What about the buildy craft stuff they tend to stock in the vestibule of the book store? Perfect; go for it.

So this is that! And, I can tell you, friends, that Build 3-D Wonders of the World is not aimed at 9-years olds at all. The writing is super bossy, telling you to read everything so you know what’s going to happen and can plan ahead. Shhhhriiiiiight. I realized there must be a whole nerd sub-stratum of people who cut and build paper buildings, like the train nerds or the people who paint D&D figurines all anal-like. In fact, Mr. Sock Puppet went off about how he once built this whole castle out of paper, with a little 3-D crest and everything, and that even though it wasn’t to scale with his little nerd D&D dolls, but he staged them around it anyway. Aww. 

Imma let Mr Puppet take over here:

And lemme tell you, those nerd skills came in handy, because there were two parts I had to cut out with my pocket knife (we’re not at home, you see, or I’d pull out my nerdxacto knife) because the die had just scored the pieces rather than punching them for us. There was swearing. This book should use a scale to tell you how difficult the model will be: one swear through ten swears. The Arc de Triomphe was easily a six-swear model, as at one point I recall saying that we should just spread glue over the whole model and let Satan sort it out. 

The book does tell you if a model is for beginners, intermediate (what? Punchers and folders?), and expert. What the book does not say is that these levels don’t reference any version of those words except in relative difficulty to each other. Beginner puncher/folders will have at least three or four swears on the Egypt scene, which is mostly already built for you once you punch it out anyway. I mean, how hard is it to make a triangle? But the Sphinx is not a toy.

What’s up, Mrs. Puppet?

paper Sphinx

This was just a few swears, really none at all. The trouble started when I decided to build the Great Wall of China. At one point, Mr. Puppet asked me how many towers were on the Great Wall, and I was like, fuck if I know. I’m not a godamn historian. He was like, no, in the model. Oh. There are three. 

me flipping off the paper Great Wall

All I can say about the Great Wall at this point is that crenelations can fuck themselves. 

Then we considered building the Colosseum, but hell naw. 

Obama meme saying Aw Hell Naw

So we ended up with the “intermediate” L’Arc de Triomphe. This is a multi-swear prospect, even though it’s as boxy as a Saab, because of the so-called cock rings that slip around the columns. So called by Mr. Puppet, of course. Observe: 

flipping the Le'Arc Le'bird

Mr. Puppet again: It did turn out pretty well, easily the best-looking of the models so far, cock rings and all. You can almost see the French pigeon shit on the roof. All it needs is a snarky French tour guide in a beret and a mime (not included). I learned that Napoleon put that thing up during his world tour. Two birds up!

Great Wall, Sphinx, and L'Arc all hanging together all papery.

So, this was super fun in a way, but it way that makes you swear. 

Happy New Year! 

me and Mr. Puppet

Christmas Stars: What to Get Your Younger Brother

When they finally prove the existence of the chronoton – that’s the time particle for you folks who haven’t been wallowing in science fiction lo these many years – no doubt the Christmas season will be involved. Some mad scientist will put together one of those rad boxes with der blinken lights and point it at some American trying harriedly to pack up a bunch of boxes and sign cards and survive the company Christmas party without vomiting up gross milk-based hard alcohol concoctions & anger about the recent massive layoffs on management, and the scientist will actually see the chronotons pouring off this frazzled American. Christmas sucks up all your time. All of it. It’s a black hole; a gravity well; an event horizon of weight gain and family squabbles. 


Given my tendency to misuse science concepts in the service of my Christmas melt-down, it probably shouldn’t be surprising that some enterprising editor put together a truly awesome Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of fictional delights: You got my Christmas in your science fiction! Yum. There are two things that I’m astonished by when think of Christmas Stars: Fantastic Tales of Yuletide Wonder. First, that there are enough science fiction stories about Christmas to warrant a pretty hefty anthology. Second, that some of my favorite SFF Christmas stories – which includes “Santa was” by Neil Gaiman collected in Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders and something by Charles de Lint that was about a talking dog – aren’t even included in this anthology. And third, that I can even think of other stories that could be included, but weren’t. I guess that’s three and not two. I’ll come in again. 

So, science fiction nerds, get your ass in gear and get down to whatever random thrift store has this lurking on its shelves. I’m not one for evil gift guides, but if you haven’t been able to think of anything for your younger brother, and you don’t want to get involved in the specifics of his Warhammer obsessions – honestly, whatever you get him will be wrong – this is the book for you. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and he’s got on a little space suit, and so do the reindeer, and the sleigh is a spaceship. Oh, yes.