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I Was Lying About Monsters

The sound of an airplane overhead drew me outside – there were no airplanes in the sky over America that afternoon, not anywhere in the country. You could go out in your yard and hear the silence, a sound unto itself, like when an air conditioner kicks off in the middle of the night.

So I was standing there in the driveway watching the sky, hearing its hidden vacuum cleaner sounds, looking for vapor trails.

It was Air Force One, I found out when I went inside. The President of the United States, escorted by a squad of fighters, on his way to do whatever it was he needed to do that day.

No one knew if this was the beginning of the attacks or the end. It seemed like mushroom clouds could bloom on the horizon any second, and I found myself thinking about military targets in central Ohio – what was here that might be attacked?

DCSC, I thought – a defense contractor or military base or something, I didn’t know exactly what it was. But it was right there on the east side of Columbus, and we had a Federal Building downtown. And an international airport, too.

Ellen was three and a half years old. I picked her up at preschool and found a sign on the wall which asked us not to discuss the attacks with our children, since they’d only spend the next few days freaking each other out.

I remember not liking it, not liking the idea that anyone might instruct me on how to talk to my daughter about this – or how not to talk to her. And anyway, it wasn’t an option for me. Ellen is a little Deanna Troi from Star Trek, an empath, and she always has been. She can’t quite read your mind, but she can feel your emotions about as clearly as you can.

Try lying to her about being terrified – go ahead. You might as well try and convince her it’s winter on the Fourth of July.

Big Uncle Shawn had come over. His mother was in Cincinnati with her husband, and he was as convinced she was safe as one could be, and so he came to our house. If society collapsed and we had to make a break for western Canada, well let’s just say that was something we were prepared to do.

We had only recently brought a television back into the house – we hadn’t had one for years – and we moved it downstairs into the den so we could watch the news without filling the whole house with it. Ellen didn’t care if we wanted her to see it or not; she already knew something was horribly wrong, and a round of Polly Pockets was pretty much off the table.

She crept in quietly while we watched the cavalcade of non-Hollywood explosions, filthy and gray and quick, devouring New Yorkers like a freakish sandstorm. Human beings were jumping out of windows a half a mile in the sky, to escape the heat.

Ellen was simply standing there all of the sudden, next to us. She said, “Why are they jumping, Daddy?”

Shawn was accustomed to Ellen’s little girl ways, but by no means was he prepared to answer that one. I shrugged and told her the truth. “Some people crashed some airplanes into these really tall buildings in New York, and knocked them down. It’s a big deal. A lot of people died, Ellen.”

“On purpose?”

“Yes, on purpose.”

She chewed on it with her brain and then asked, “Did they die, too?”

That took me a second to figure out. She wanted to know if the guys who flew the planes into buildings on purpose had died. I hadn’t really thought of it that way – at least there was that.

“Yes, they died, too.”

Still too young to really get a grasp on death, it troubled her. With no religion to simplify it for her, we’d been forced to be as honest with her about death as I was being about the attacks – we don’t know what happens when you die, that’s all there is to it.

She said, “Why would they do that?”

More people on the television fleeing down the street as another rumbling cloud of debris overtook them, and then the camera itself. Shawn turned it off.

I said, “There are people in the world, Ellen, who are just monsters. I don’t know how else to put it. They were monsters and they did something terrible.”

She had climbed onto my lap as I answered, and now she looked up at me, her eyebrows furrowed in a level of concentration usually reserved for chess players. She said, “You told me there was no such thing as monsters, Daddy.”

That’s exactly what she said.

And I’ll never forget the look Shawn and I exchanged as that little piece of her innocence fell away, the chilling realization that these people, these monsters, these terrorists, whatever you wanted to call them – they’d done exactly what they’d meant to do.

I told her, “I’m sorry, Ellen.” And I was.

Because there wasn’t anything else to say.

 

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Big, Big Things

Jupiter 2010Like when Jupiter turned into a star on 2010 – big, big things are happening.

To properly do what I need to do to prepare, posts will be suspended for 2-3 weeks. Then there will be a big flurry of them. Then, probably cake.

In the meantime, please enjoy perusing through any of the four hundred posts already sitting up here, or of course, there is the rest of the Internet to enjoy. I think you’ll be okay, blogosphere, but don’t think I won’t miss you.

And yes, all proper Curse-related documentation has been filed at the Courthouse, everything’s cool. (Not really, some stuff right now is really, really not cool.) But the blog-related stuff is, which is all you need to worry about.

 

 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on May 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Just Like Seein’ Bigfoot

You know how whenever anyone sees Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster or Ogopogo, they’re so freaked out that they can’t snap a decent picture of what’s obviously, definitely, not horseshit and is instead really right in front of them? So what you get is something that looks like a large, blurry man in a Bigfoot suit:

Bigfoot Classic

Or a snorkeler with a Monster-Shaped Sock Puppet:

Loch Ness Monster

Or I guess sometimes yes, they do get a decent picture of Ogopogo. Watch out, kids!

Ogopogo

Well that’s how I feel when I see a Women For Romney bumper sticker. Let me tell you something – they are OUT there. You just have to keep your eyes open. My friend Spang and I call each other when we see them – ohmygod, ohmygod, OHMYGOD! TOM! I SAW ONE!

Then we get cosmos. Other than that, we’re pretty manly.

But not the bumper sticker. I’ve never been able to get a clear picture of one, but here’s an artist’s rendition straight from my own personal Google Image files:

Women For Romney

See? It’s pink – that means chicks dig it. And some of the letters are all fancy, like a girl wrote it on her notebook, a girl who doesn’t just “like” Romney, but who “‘like’ likes” him. Sometimes they don’t even get bumper stickers, they just spray paint their whole Romney-ending name all over their car, as if they’ve already married him and his First Wife. Stephanie Meredith Romney! In a big heart, you know.

But anyway, today I saw this cryptozoological wonder cross my path:

Bigfoot2

Holy shit! Christians For Obama!

At first, I didn’t even comprehend it. Why would Christians ever vote for a guy who is not only a Muslim, but also a Satanist AND an Atheist? FROM KENYA?

I don’t know, but this guy not only did it, but he’s permanently bragging about it on his car! Who’s driving it, Mothman??

I’ll tell you, it was a spiritual experience, like looking the Abominable Snowman right in the eye across a card table, thinking, “He’s got the jack. He doesn’t have the jack. HE’S GOT THE JACK!”

Surely you can relate. Anyway, someone needs to fly me to Loch Ness or to Bigfoot Town (Canada? Seattle? I don’t know where Bigfoot lives) cause do you see how I calmly stopped texting while I was driving, and snapped a picture of the Sasquatchmobile? I’m like motherscratching Steve McQueen, baby.

Cool, now I have to go run this by some network execs, make some scratch. Don’t show anybody, blogosphere, because it’s not worth any money that way.

Bigfoot SuitNow, I know a lot of you are like, Tom, that could just be a Jesus Fish Eating A Darwin Fish bumper sticker wearing a Christians For Obama bumper sticker suit. Like when those knuckleheads said they had Bigfoot in a freezer and instantly, pre-Tom-On-Facebook, someone came to my desk to show me their Facebook page and asked me what I thought of it.

I said, “Well, shit, I’d say that’s either Bigfoot in a freezer, or it’s a Bigfoot Suit in a freezer. And since we already know there are Bigfoot suits, and since we don’t know if there’s Bigfoot, etc., etc. etc.”

Well – we’ll just have to let Science decide, and Science can tell History, and someone from Television can give me a check, is how I think this works. I’m going to get a new suit and a steak dinner, you guys stay here in case my studio check shows up.

 

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A Word About My Name

Daily Prompt again – Say My Name, in which we are supposed to tell a story about our names.

Elmer FuddCool. I was named directly after my father’s brother, and not because of any pride of lineage or anything like that. Apparently, Mad Men-style, they had a little trouble locating my dad at my birth. He was on a bit of a bender.

It was 1971, so the dads didn’t do anything but smoke cigars and pace around anyway, so it’s not like I’m asking for a violinist. That’s just the fact. It always seemed sort of lazy, just picking the nearest guy and slapping his name on my head. But no, it was more a function of irritation I think.

For this reason, I often refer to my uncle as the Experimental, Government-Funded Prototype. Usually good for a laugh.

Then there’s my last name – Chalfant. It’s actually my father’s stepdad’s last name. Mr. Chalfant adopted my father and the Experimental Government-Funded Prototype when they were about 2 and 4, and then promptly skipped town. It was the forties, and I guess the guy was a rolling stone. That’s how it goes.

Here’s something odd. My mother first married my father – Dave. He had a brother named Tom. So she had two sons, Tom and Dave. Meanwhile, my uncle had a son named Thomas Scott, who goes by Scott for obvious reasons.

So then my mom divorced my dad, and married a guy named Dave. He had a son named David Shawn. That guy went by Shawn, but he’s not the Shawn you see hanging around here.

Then she divorced Dave and married a guy named Tom. Keepin’ it simple.

Guess what my last name would have been if the Mr. Chalfant hadn’t adopted my dad? BUTY!

Buty!

Close call, I agree.

All right then. Good thing it was a short prompt, cause I got to go.

Booty Sweat

 
4 Comments

Posted by on May 28, 2013 in writing, Writing/blogging

 

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Switch Places With Another Blogger?

Today the Daily Prompt is Switcharoo, and I’m supposed to tell them which blogger I’d like to switch places with for a week, and I hate to constantly be the wise ass, but this one is easy, too.

Freaky FridayFirst of all, I don’t know that many bloggers. I vowed several weeks ago to read and post about other bloggers twice a week, and then I cheerfully forgot about it. That’s because I’m selfish and lazy, and it turned out that I was too busy to always go around reading everybody else’s blogs. I have to write and work and drink beer and watch television shows and read paperbacks. Also my bartenders need me – some of them have children.

Which blogger would I switch place with? The only one I can think of right off the top of my head is robaker, the guy with all the airplane-flying stories, and that’s mainly because he’s THE ONLY ONE WHO LIKED MY PARKER POST YESTERDAY YOU BUNCH OF SQUARES. But you have to remember, if I’m robaker, then he’s me, and it gets pretty quickly weird. I’m sure we’re both fine without switching places.

The whole idea is creepy. What if I pick a female blogger? Is your husband going to know there’s a dude Freaky Friday-ed into his wife? I certainly hope he would know.

What if I switch with Arianna Huffington Herself? Which one of us would get the accent?

To me it’s like this – Imagine that you decided to communicate using only a squeaky horn and a kazoo. Or imagine that you purchased a large, pink bunny suit and then became addicted to wearing it no matter how many problems it caused. That’s pretty much blogging, right there.

lazyIf I could switch places with someone, let me tell you – it would be anyone but a blogger. I’d use it as a loophole around the Curse, because again, I am a deeply, deeply lazy man. I just – I just can’t stress that enough.

I guess a better answer would be, I’d switch places with just about any blogger, and then that person would be taking the week off blogging, while he or she blogged for me.

Do you have a blog, whoever you are reading this? Then you. I’d switch places with you, and then I’d be quitting your job and going camping for a week without your phone.

 
8 Comments

Posted by on May 27, 2013 in blogging, postaday, Writing/blogging

 

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Let’s Hang Out With Parker This Weekend

Statham ParkerYou might know Parker as Jason Statham, from the new movie Parker, which I haven’t seen yet. It’s based on Flashfire, the 19th Parker novel. I can tell you from the preview that it looks a bit like the book, but that it looks nothing like Parker. It’s had some sort of protagonist transplant.

Which is fine – you shouldn’t go around making movies out of Parker novels, because Parker’s too dark to appeal to a wide enough audience. Parker does not, for instance, live by any dumbass “code” like the preview for Parker says he does. Apparently this incarnation of Parker never hurts innocent people and never steals from the poor, which might make you like him more, might make it more likely that you’ll buy some movie tickets, but it isn’t Parker.

Parker’s assessment of whether or not he should kill you or steal your money is entirely risk-reward based. He is a sociopath. In the first novel, he breaks into a beauty salon right around closing time, ties up the woman who runs the place, and uses the window to watch some mob guys he’s interested in. Later he goes back to check on her and she’s dead. Parker doesn’t care.

I’m not saying – “Go Parker!” But I am saying, if you’re wanting to pretend you’re a criminal, you can do it Ocean’s Eleven-style, where they’re not actually bad people, just hot, lovable scamps. Or you can be grittily realistic. There’s no correct way, now, settle down – literary morality is not a race.

I AM saying that’s the character, he’s completely amoral, and that’s who he is. Very quickly in the series, author Donald Westlake softens the character up, but if that entails knocking off the accidental murder of innocent hairdressers and getting him a steady girlfriend later on, well- you’re really overreaching when you claim he’s Robin Hood.

The only reason – the ONLY reason – Parker isn’t killing you right now, is that it’s a pain in the ass and there is no compelling reason to do it. He doesn’t care who you are or what you did or whether or not you’re nice.

Here’s another modern incarnation of Parker:

Payback

In Payback, Parker’s name was Porter, and they softened him up in hilarious ways, like they made him goof around with a big, silly puppy dog and made him a former driver for a Super Hot Prostitute named Rosie, whom he was apparently in love with, because that makes sense, driving a prostitute from John to John and thinking, if only me and her could skip through the park together eating ice cream.

That movie was based on The Hunter, the first of the Parker novels, and so yes, that’s the one where he killed the hairdresser. Did you see Porter kill any hair dressers? Me neither, and Parker is to be clear, MUCH larger than Mel Gibson.

Rosie, who is Mel’s love interest in the movie and runs off with him at the end, is in the book for approximately seven pages, as a chubby, drug-addled prostitute who Parker knocks around a little bit until he gets some information out of her. I think she tells him she hates him when he stomps away with the name he needed, and we never see her again in twenty-three novels.

I actually like Payback. They kept it pretty dark, and it’s all retro-technology, since the original book was written in 1962, and this was before Mel Gibson parked a fertilizer truck in front of the Crazy Town Courthouse and started threatening the Queen and getting his Anti-Semite Groove going. Before that, he was very mainstream and the ladies dug him. Going dark was playing against type, and it worked for him.

It was as close to actual Parker as I think we’re likely to get on screen, but again – that’s okay. The books were practically designed to be read with a six pack of beer. They’re short, and they’re lean, and they come in two categories.

Either Parker is planning a job, and at the end they’ll execute it and we’ll see how it goes, or we join him in mid-job, and something goes horribly wrong, and we’ll watch him get clear.

The Usual SuspectsThat’s it. We’re just sociopathic criminals for a few hours, without hurting anybody and without going to jail. We don’t have to watch him fall in love with a beautiful and brilliant safecracker, or a beautiful and brilliant stunt driver, or a brilliant and beautiful police detective or anything like that. There’s no mute kid who says something at the end, making it really meaningful and softening the grizzled heister’s cold heart.

No. You’re going to pull off a heist, and you get to leave your conscience at home, and if you don’t like it you get out of the car.

So here’s why we’re going to hang out with Parker this weekend. Of the twenty-three Parker novels, I’ve read twenty-two of them, missing the tenth simple due to being unable to find it. There are more coming out, from what I hear, but Donald Westlake is dead. The last Parker novel, Ask The Parrot, was very clearly the result of a stooge being handed the beginning of a first draft which Westlake left behind, and being told to write a Parker novel out of it. I guess it isn’t terrible, but I know when Westlake’s writing and when he’s not. That wasn’t him.

In fact, it was him, for the first sixty pages. Then suddenly all the characters decide, let’s think of a whole new plan, these last sixty pages aren’t doing it for me, then Parker does something else, acting nothing like Parker at all.

Parker why do you suddenly sound like a thirty year-old English major with a second glass of whiskey in your hand? Sigh.

So anyway, the one Parker novel I haven’t read is The Green Eagle Score. It comes right after The Rare Coin Score, in which Parker meets Claire and she becomes the greatest criminal girlfriend ever, asking zero questions about what Parker does, putting zero requirements on when he should and shouldn’t be away, and being able to use her brain if the shit hits the fan and the cops show up. You know what Claire knows, officer?

Nothing. Beat it.

Green Eagle ScoreSuddenly, back in my world, it was 2013, and I realized that instead of combing local used bookstores for the remaining Parker novel, I could use Amazon Technology and have it in my hands overnight. Fair enough – that’s what I’ve done. Now I’m off to sit on my ass, drink a few beers, and read it. There’s a good chance you’ll get to hear all about it tomorrow, because what else am I going to write about if that’s all I’ve been doing all day?

And if you are wondering about Heinlein’s The Number of the Beast, I’m still going to finish it, but Parker doesn’t like to wait in line, so he gets to go first. You can take it up with Parker if you don’t like it.

That’s the best thing about Parker novels – you don’t have to wait for stuff to happen. Westlake – who writes the novels as Richard Stark – drops you right into the shit from the very first sentence. In fact, my favorite opening line ever is from Firebreak, a 2001 Parker novel:

“When the phone rang, Parker was in the garage, killing a man.”

I’ll tell you the first line to this one tomorrow, once I’ve finished it. Until then, blogosphere.

 

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The Next Big Thing – Emailing Your Stuff

Hula hoopToday the WordPress daily prompt is, What will the next technological innovation be? Since they use the phrase, “The Next Big Thing” I am assuming they mean something that’s going to be new and then omnipresent, like wheels and soap and smartphones.

Emailing your stuff. That’s clearly what’s next. You don’t drag your suitcase to the airport anymore, you pack it, scan it in, and then you use a 3-D printer somewhere at your destination to make a you a copy of that.

3-D printers aren’t quite there yet, I know – but this guy has one that prints clothing. And this guy can print you a gun. And this guy is building a house with them.

But 3-D printers are just technology, and technology always improves until it looks like magic. I’m sure the Wright Brothers would be shocked at the flying hotels we buzz around in now. Charlie Chaplin, meet James Cameron. It’s inevitable, like pushing a boulder a few inches and then wondering if you could push it to Cleveland.

Of course you can. It’s just a bunch of inches.

The price will go down, and the quality will go up. Radio waves, vacuum tubes, VHS players, CDs, BluRay – 3D Printers will be no different until pretty soon, we’ll all have a decent one, and that’s where we’ll keep a lot of our stuff.

It’ll be cool, too. Want to go on a trip? Pull up your laptop, click the bathroom file, and copies of all of your typical bathroom accessories are uploaded to your Virtual Suitcase. Click on some outfits, a bathing suit, maybe your freaking bicycle. Enter your destination, click send and then you’re off to the airport, step on the plane with no luggage.

Once you get to your hotel, all of your stuff has been 3D printed from the Virtual Suitcase you sent along with your reservation and payment method, and it’s sitting there in your room waiting for you. If you spill anything on your favorite dress – no problem. They can print you one downstairs, and you just hand the old one back in and it gets recycled into the Printer Substance Buffer.

Like everything, at first it will be very expensive and a sort of novelty – you’ll have to put up with imperfections, like people will start to notice that their hair dryers stop working a few months after they’ve been printed. Maybe you’ll print a whole suitcase, and six months later the handle falls off. It won’t matter though, you just print yourself a new hair dryer and a new suitcase. A mere nuisance til you get back to the house.

ReplicatorIt will be irritating magic, that’s all – like everything around us. Argh – why is this microwave taking so long?

What’s the matter, Sam? Oh, nothing Bill. I just had my jacket teleported here and it smells like cheese for no reason. They’re printing me a new one, but I’m going to be ten minutes later to dinner now!

In the end, I’m not talking about the Next Big Thing so much as the Last Big Thing. The Next Big Thing will be the end of Things as we know them – the complete, free access to whatever Things we want, whenever we want them.

 
 

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