Monthly Archives: March 2008

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Antiquated version of YouTube

YouTube 1.0 = Blogging about tonight’s episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos in real time.

Haha – That kid stuffed toy trucks down his pajama pants before he went to bed.

Haha – That dumbass fell off the roof.

Haha – That trick-or-treater dressed like Gumby tripped on his green legs and couldn’t get up.

The last ones to leave the party

I was just getting comfortable at last night’s Authors’ Reception when the caterers corked the wine and disappeared the casseroles and the party volunteers began nudging us toward the exits. Disappointed that the hobnobbing had come to an end, I gathered my things and stuck some silver into my purse (just kidding, Casteen), prepared to take my leave in as much unpublished, un-agented glory as I had arrived. Just then, from the heated tent on Carr’s Hill, came twin 12-year-old girls dressed in matching outfits of pristine white. They accessorized with pearl tiaras, silver slippers, and hair that hadn’t been cut since they were babies. “What have we here?” I thought, moving to block their path to the exit.

The J.B.B. Winner twins Brittany and Brianna

“Are you elves or fairies?” asked the man beside me.

“We’re humans,” said one of the twins, smiling like her life depended on it. She was evidently used to answering patronizing questions from grown-ups.

“Please tell me you’ve written a book,” I said.

“We’ve written three,” said the girl.

The identical twins make up two-thirds of the author J.B.B. Winner, a fictional composite of the sisters and their father. Together they have written the Strand Prophecy sci-fi series. To promote the books and to inspire their fellow middle-schoolers, the girls tour the nation dancing, lip-syncing, and speaking about literacy. Brittany/Brianna told me the edifying story of how they became authors, a story I later heard her recite word for word on the internet.

“Wow,” I said. “Let me tell you what I was doing in sixth grade. Worrying about tongue-kissing. Wondering if I could avoid it my whole life.”

Because Brittany/Brianna nodded her head with such maturity and understanding, I kept going. “That’s right. I was afraid of tongue-kissing. And then I started getting suspended from school.” B/B’s father hovered just out of earshot, but he was starting to look at me suspiciously. I knew I had precious little time to corrupt these girls and to break down their preternaturally sweet and sophisticated personas.

“So,” B/B said, “Tell me what you do. Are you an author? What is your novel about?” I looked into the kind, interested face that B/B had probably practiced in the mirror before the party, and I forgot my cruel agenda. Someone asking about my novel! I no longer cared that she was 12, or that she dressed like the princess in A Neverending Story, or that her parents had probably read her Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People every night before bed, or had made her watch Hannah Montana interviews and concert videos on loop until she got her act down. I no longer cared because she had asked me about my novel, and we were going to be new best friends, and I was going to tell her about myself until her parents dragged her away from the party to the secret empire-building, underground training lair she shares with her sister and a thousand white stage costumes.

Coffee – have you guys heard of this stuff?

I guess it’s a testament to my recent clean-livin’ lifestyle that I’ve been tripping for 12 hours from a single cup of Starbucks coffee. Coffee – this stuff makes you want to stay up all night and blog about your grandmother. Coffee – why didn’t I think of joining the NBA before? Coffee – is that a neighbor’s pet barking at 5 in the morning or is an angry dog waking up in my head? Coffee – is that a bird hurling itself into my window pane at 7 in the morning or is a flock of seagulls colliding with my skull? Also, I should install a pull-up bar in my office doorway and do somersaults around it forever.

Book Festival book reading controversy about books!

Today The Biological Imperative devotes an entire blog post to a stupid question asked by a bald man at a book reading. And I am glad. It was a silly question and it deserves to be ridiculed on the blogs.

The set-up:

Last night the blind professor, Selvi, and I threw back a few drinks and then attended a Virginia Festival of the Book reading at UVA’s Culbreth Theater. The program – Wayward Sons – featured Colm Toibin and Nathan Englander, both terrific writers. [Englander is not Israeli, as Selvi states on her blog. He’s from New York. But strangely enough, he used to work out in the same Jerusalem gym as Benjamin Netanyahu.] In person, Toibin is eloquent and charming. Englander is spasmodic (a nicer word than “spastic”) and equally charming. After reading from their respective books, they reclined in the velvety green armchairs onstage and fielded questions from the audience.

The stupid question:

Selvi paraphrases the question in question like this: “We Americans come from nothing, we inherit nothing. What influence do your cultures have on your writing?” I would paraphrase it more like this: “Toibin, you’re Irish. Englander, you’re Jewish. Hence you automatically have more culture in your little fingers than all Americans put together. How does that make you feel?”

Read More →

A Mashup of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz

A Mashup of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz

The apocalypse comes to a small Kansas farm. Marauding witches terrorize survivors. Because women usually give up when faced with adversity, Auntie Em kills herself, leaving behind her young niece Dorothy and her little dog Toto. They are scared and starving and “each the other’s world entire.” Dorothy harbors hope that other survivors exist to the south. She and Toto begin following a yellow brick road through unknown lands. The Wicked Witch roasts a Munchkin on a spit for dinner. A flying monkey cuts off the Scarecrow’s arm and eats it. When Dorothy reaches the fragrant ocean, she succumbs to tuberculosis and dies on the beach. But at last Toto nears the end of the road. There he catches up to the Wizard of Oz, who pushes a shopping cart full of canned meats toward paradise.

New website idea

I think there should be a website devoted to online content that moms find funny. Then they can stop forwarding said content to their children.

I cannot believe nobody told me this stuff until today!

Bats are dying off?! Since when? Why didn’t anyone tell me?! This is unbelievable. I love bats! I could’ve been doing something to save them this whole time!

An early species of hominid had giant brains?! And they were smarter than us and better looking than us and even their babies could probably remember the Pi mathematical constant to the thousandth digit?! And it didn’t occur to ANYONE to tell me this until TODAY?! WTF!

There are ignorant conservative assholes out there hating on Obama and they’re being PUBLISHED?! On the internet?! And I’m only finding out NOW when I could have been making futile online comments this whole time?! FUCK!

This flu lasts over a week?! And no one thought to tell me before I went and got sick?! Screw you guys. Thanks a bunch for keeping me in the dark. Here are some dead bats to represent my indignation:

Bat die-off

Ponderous essays, paraphrased

Because I’ve been sick, I’ve only had the energy to bookmark what I would normally blog about. I am feeling stronger today, but the thought of posting anything lengthy makes my Streptococcus flare up. So here are some links – insert writerly charisma where appropriate:

1) Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris pummeled You Don’t Love Me Yet by Jonathan Lethem in Round Two, Match Two of the 2008 Morning News Tournament of Books. Maud Newton, much like the C.L.A.W. Under the Table Umpire (whose eyes sometimes stray up girls’ skirts), judged this round fairly and squarely. I’m glad that Maud has her blog back after it was hacked by Russian pharmaceutical companies. And I’m glad that today’s bracket winner is a book that I’ve actually read. Although it makes me feel like I should have wagered some money.

2) This wild guy, author of Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War, is attending next weekend’s Virginia Festival of the Book. I can’t wrap my head around Joe Bageant. I know he’s some kind of mad genius. I think we share a few social and political ideals. I stand in awe of the subtitles to his rant-like essays, i.e. “Freedom vs. Authority under the 40-foot pulsating rainbow vagina.” He might be the answer to all of America’s problems. He might also be too fundamentally liberal for me. Did I just say that? Blame the sickness. In any case, it will be fun to watch him drink martinis and start fights with some of the more right-leaning members of the book festival.

3) In an essay called “What Makes Mathematics Hard to Learn?,” Marvin Minsky states that one of the reasons for the difficulty is math’s “linguistic desert.” In other school subjects, students learn thousands of new words each year. In math, the vocabulary is limited when it doesn’t have to be. I think it’s interesting that Minsky cites language as something that can help inspire kids to learn numbers. The math and English geekdoms are not so incompatible after all.

4) Finally the editors of the brand new Scoff Magazine: For the Discerning Philistine updated their site. It’s about time the 1,000-foot-tall Palomino who spell-checks the thing introduced herself.

5) My amazing grandmother Bunny is going to talk in Williamsburg, Virginia next week about her time in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services) during World War II. This morning I found a WAVES website devoted to telling the stories of veterans. Now I understand why my grandmother feels the need to assert that she did not “bat her eyelashes or bat her tail around” to get ahead in the military. Those WAVES were hot. And they went through boot camp. And they looked even better in uniform than the men. Take that, Hitler.*

I am sleepy now. War is exhausting.

*Why do I always want to say “Take that, Hitler” as if I had anything to do with his downfall? Being born in 1980 makes me feel so ineffectual sometimes. But not as ineffectual as being born a monkey.

Your suspicions about my absence were correct

I’m sick. Sick, sick, sick. And I didn’t want to blog about it, but now I have no choice. Three days of sick.

Day 1 – Hey, I think I’m sick. What a novelty for a girl with a superior immune system. Am I sure I’m not faking it? Yes, I think so. I claim this couch for lounging.

Day 2 – I feel worse. I’m not going to blog about it. Sick-blogging is ranked down there with cat-blogging. I claim this bed for coughing on.

Day 3 – The sickness seizes my throat and the space behind my eyeballs. I drink orange seltzer water. I play with my sister’s new puppy. I finally cave and take medication. Nothing seems to help. I suddenly feel compelled to reach out to everyone on the internet and tell them how sick I am. I claim this blog for your sympathetic reactions.

But no sick-blog can beat Waldo’s epic sick-blog from 2006:

My throat is clogged. It’s as if I’ve swallowed a drain plug. Every gulp is conscious, difficult, near-desperate, the flailing of a decked fish. . .

When I cough, the plug reveals itself to be an oversize rusty bolt, tearing at a shredded windpipe. I fear I might blow it out. I half expect that when next I clutch at my burning throat I’ll come away with a handful of neck-flesh.

I realize now that sickness separates the true bloggers from the internet so-and-so’s, the wheat from the chaff. If you have not yet blogged about your runny nose and your aching internals, you are obviously a dilettante – you probably don’t even own your own domain name. It took me eight months and almost 300 posts to get here, but now you finally get to see me blow snot rockets.

I’ve been going about this book deal thing all wrong

Ashley Alexandra Dupre has her finger on the pulse. Hooker books sell.