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Archive for the ‘nsfk’ Category

Who can truly ever explain how the brain works.

You’re standing in the kitchen making yourself a snack and there’s something in the movement, the rhythm to your actions, that suggest a certain cadence. You hum it, and then the words come, words to a song you haven’t heard or really sung in over 30 years, maybe closer to 40. The song is solid in the memory, firmly planted, and when you get to the end you remember something else about it, something that has attached itself like a footnote all these years.

“I don’t like that song. That’s not the way you’re supposed to speak.”

That would be my mother, complaining about the technically bad grammar tagged onto the end of a counting song from Sesame Street. That the song and my mother’s comment could be so firmly rooted and interconnected after all these years, that’s the mystery of the mind. But did I remember it correctly, was my mother right to have been alarmed?

Thankfully we have the modern Internet to help us remember what we remember.

Yup, it’s still there, just as I remembered it: “You can’t do like Roosevelt do!” And while I can see what bothered my mother about it, I also recall that it sounded right to me. It sounded right because I heard people talk like that. It might have been grammatically incorrect, but kids and adults talk wrong all the time. I also remember thinking that to say it any other way wouldn’t fit the beat of the song (I have always had an inner ear for lyrical beat) and that sometimes you have bend the words or drop words to make them fit. This is no less true of poetry, and in fact it’s all over Shakespeare’s (and other lyrical poet’s) artificial contractions to force-fit them into their meter. O’er ramparts we watch, when it’s Over we’re meaning. That sort of thing.

What my mother may have actually been offended by was the mimicry of urban slang, a borderline wariness that I might not know or understand the difference between proper speech and the patois of the ghetto. What she should have been concerned about was a two-year old puppet boy with a voice so deep that he might have easily replaced the bass position in a doo wop band. Or maybe it was that voice, deep and rich with authority, that she was afraid would sway me into thinking it was okay to talk the way Roosevelt talk.

In the end, those fears were unwarranted. I grew up speaking and writing just fine.  Eventually.

Because I’m Roosevelt Franklin. Yeah, yeah. yeah.

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It’s a totally different city, two totally different dudes, and yet it appears that these conversations keep popping up everywhere as if part of the collective unconsciousness.  I was downtown in Vermont’s capitol city getting some quarters and Nutella (can’t properly do laundry in a dorm without both) and as I was passing I caught just this snippet from a couple of local Joe’s.

Joe Rock: Am I an ass to who?

Joe Paper: That’s not what I said.  I said Are you an ass-man, not Are you an ass, man.

Joe Rock: Oh!

Isn’t it a wonderful thing what punctuation and intonation can do with the English language?

Once again, twice in less than a week, twenty-something guys engaged publicly in conversation over the most sublime of topics.  And, again, without any sense of shame or embarrassment that others can hear them, or that perhaps they might find themselves judged accordingly.

Okay, listen, I’m a guy.  I’m not saying I didn’t participate in my share of conversations like this.  In fact, I recall having this very same tits-or-ass conversation with some friends of mine… when we were 12 years old and hanging out at Boy Scout camp safely several hundred miles away from anyone who could hear us.  Twelve would be an appropriate age for hormonally-challenged males to be considering the deeper issues of life.  Twelve would make sense of mermaids and the first blush of body fascination.  But to still be having these conversations in your twenties strikes me a type of social retardation, or perhaps a prolonged state of immaturity. And pathetic.

Can I blame this on vapid entertainment, on television shows that sexualize the world and make it okay at the same time to remain in a state of suspended maturity?

Joe Rock, Joe Paper: you’re both asses. And hardly men.

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The travel day starts on the T, where some college Joe’s are talking on the way into downtown.  For the sake of not wanting to embarrass the institution they belonged to I will not identify it here.  Suffice to say, they are students from a school in Boston.

Joe Paper: So, listen.  Like, which would you… which would you rather ‘do:’ Classic mermaid or, like, you know, the other way around?

Joe Rock: Which would I rather… what?

Joe Scissors: You know that mermaid?  Ariel?  She’s totally hot.

Joe Paper: Do, like who would you do?

Joe Scissors: The other kind?

Joe Paper: Classic mermaid is, you know, girl on top fish on the bottom.  And the other way is–

Joe Rock: Classic.

Joe Scissors:  The other way?  Like fish on top and girl on bottom?  Is that a mermaid?

Joe Paper: Yeah.

Joe Rock: Classic.  No hassles there.

Joe Paper: But, like, how would you do her?  She’s fish!

Joe Scissors: Fish on top?  Like, face and all?

Joe Rock: Dude, classic.  She can just, whatever.  Lay her eggs and whatnot.  She’s still got a mouth.

Joe Paper: Yeah, but the other way…

Joe Rock: You’d hump a fish?  That’s all it is.  A fish with legs–

Joe Paper: And an ass.

Joe Rock: Classic.  All the way.  That Ariel, you know?

Joe Scissors: Totally hot.  What was she, like fifteen?

Joe Rock: Classic.

Joe Paper: This our stop?

High school guys, I could understand.  These guys were talking about their classes and the new semester and were clearly older college students.  What the hell is wrong with these three dudes that (a) they think this is a valid conversation to have (b) in public and (c) without a shred of embarrassment?

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I never do well at these things because (a) writing on command for contests really freezes me up and (b) I just don’t think I get the right vibe on the humor around this ol’ Vermont College.

The deal is, with every graduating class comes a party, and with each party a writing contest.  Last year… I forgot what it was.  I entered and lost.  Whatever.  This time around I thought I might have a chance: a good news/bad news film treatment contest.  The good news is that a famous/classic children’s book has been chosen to be turned into a big Hollywood film.  The bad news is, well, it’s being made into a crappy big Hollywood film.  100 to 200 words.

This should so totally be mine.  I know films, I know classic kid’s books, I even know how to write a freakin’ treatment.  But humor is the name of the game and maybe I’m not as funny as I think I am when under the gun.

There were co-winners, a treatment for Kathi Appelt’s The Underneath pitched as as musical — “It’s Cape Fear meets Oklahoma!”  The other winner was Anne of Green Gables starring Li’l Kim.  Me?  I went with It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World crossed with Pulp Fiction for a retelling of the P.D. Eastman classic Go, Dog, Go! It goes a little something like this…

Yo, Dawg, Go!

An Old Dog careens off the highway and with his dying breath reveals to a group of strangers of a secret stash hidden in a suitcase in a coastal California city.  Among the strangers are Big Dawg and Little Dawg, a pair of hitmen who have been assigned to retrieve the suitcase for their boss, Top Dawg.  They immediately wipe out the other witnesses to the accident and head off to claim the loot themselves.

Along the way Little Dawg is asked by Top Dawg to look after his wife who insists on a series of exchanges over whether or not they like each other’s hats.

Eventually Big Dawg and Little Dawg continue their drive across country and discover the suitcase with the loot on top of a large tree full of other Dawgs.  While Little Dawg sends the tree full of Dawgs to bed for the Big Sleep, Big Dawg foams at the snout barking biblical verse from Ezekiel before returning the suitcase to Top Dawg.

Driving away, Big Dawg and Little Dawg discuss the misuse of the article “der” in the name of the fast food chain Der Wienerschnitzel.

Quentin Tarantino directs.

Eh, I at least gave it a shot.  Maybe I was too esoteric in my references.

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This is supposed to be my down time, my catch-up time. I’m supposed to finish with my semester busypaper work and get back to the middle grade novel. I need to get that sucker in line so that I can seriously start thinking about–

Scratch that. Gang way! New idea comin’ through!

Yup, the brain seriously hijacked me this afternoon and got to thinking about a whole new YA novel concerning a couple of doofuses who decide to… well, I never was too comfortable talking about things before they were written. I think it’s a really strong idea but I seriously need to finish one thing before pressing on with another. Seriously. Like I think my wife will go out and purchase a new Prius simply so she can use it to run me down if I don’t finish at least the middle grade novel I started this semester.

One thing I will talk about is titles. No matter how good an idea is, it’s never set to go until I have an appropriate title. If the title doesn’t work then I’ll never be able to focus on the the writing. Why? Because titles matter. They matter the same way a character’s name matters, the way smaller animals on the food chain need to know who the predators are matters.

Yes, it may be psychological, but titles serve as talismans to me. And so for this new YA novel I have it in my head that the title needs to be so absurd that it only has meaning within the context of the book, and yet echoes everything within. I’m thinking it needs to be a one-word title (just intuition, nothing more), either a piece of slang or the nickname of one of the characters. It’s about a couple of teen boys and I’m seriously thinking of having them swear like sailors, only to replace all their swear words with unexplained absurdities.

“Hey! Tinklewaxer!”
“Bite the lava, mon friar!”

And naturally, being boys, they would insult each other by making fun of each other’s names. Kids like to do that. In second grade we used to howl that there was a professional football player named Dick Butkus (we pronounced he last syllable as ‘kiss’). And our teacher’s name was Miss Bilkis. And if they got married she could be Mrs. Dick Bilkis-Butkis.

In a flash (not necessarily a brilliant one) I thought that one of these teen doofuses needed to have a last name that could be plundered, something like Fortinbras which would allow for many different bendings. But then there’s all the connotation with Hamlet, and I didn’t want to go there (see how my brain hijacks my ability to focus?), so then I thought Furtenbach.

Literally, from the German, fords the brook. Now maybe we’re getting somewhere.

So this doofus has a buddy and what does he call him? Fartinduck. Yeah, boy humor. Could that be the title of the book? Maybe if I made it less obvious, like Fartenduq? That’ll fool a lot of people.

So then later I’m describing all this to my eldest daughter and talking about how funny it would be for people to go into the store to ask for the book without realizing what the title means until the ask for it and say it out loud for the first time. “You got a copy of that book Fartin… oh.” Reminds me of when here was this indie movie out called Spanking the Monkey and just saying the title made people uncomfortable. Best of all, I think I must have called Moviefone a couple times a week to hear that guy say

Your selection… Spanking the Monkey… is now playing at…

because he really put some gusto into the way he said it. The memory of it cracks me up to this very day. What is that, 14 years now? Sheesh!

So, what got me started here? Oh, right, the meandering of my accursed brain. well, plenty of time to work on some more nicknames and insults while I’m finishing up that middle grader over there. Just, right over there.

Any day now.

Seriously.

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Is it me, or does anyone else look at this picture book creation and think someone got creative with genetic engineering and crossed Speedy Gozalez with the Frito Bandito?

Skippyjon, for those out of the loop, is a Siamese kitten who likes to imagine he’s a mask-wearing adventure-loving chihuahua. There’s nothing to suggest that Skippyjon is Hispanic from the get-go, so all his Spanish is an affectation. A stereotypical affectation.

Several times now I’ve heard parents — white parents — reading various Skippyjon books to their young ones and every time they get to dialog there’s always a very distinct tone they take that would, in any other circumstance, sound absolutely racist in delivery. The one time I heard a Hispanic woman reading this book to her child she breezed right through the first half of the book, her Spanish lifting the text just a small step above the mediocre, but as she continued she began pausing more and more at the dialog as if growing uncomfortable with the limited characterizations.

Any character that has multiple books and can become franchise enough to merit being made in to plush toys of various sizes is clearly popular. And we all know that popular automatically means “good,” right? Ronald Reagan was the most popular of modern presidents. I think Reagan and Skippyjon would make a great buddy book team.

“We need to do something about those Contra rebels, Skippyjon.”

“My name is Skippito Friskito. I fear not a single bandito”

“Well, there you go again…”

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I had this flash come at me while working out at the gym.  There’s Britney Spears gyrating her way through her latest video and she did this little pelvic shake — just a tiny one before moving into the ol’ bump and grind against a stripper pole — and I saw it as clearly as a vision from on high.

I’m sure I’m not the only one.

The evidence:

  • Has a last name but instantly recognizable by first name alone
  • Southern roots
  • Culturally forward, socially retarded
  • Has problems with weight gain
  • Early raw talent degenerating into some mutant self-parody
  • Problems maintaining manufactured image
  • Substance abuse
  • Wears polyester jumpsuits

At this point I’m not predicting an early death but the girl does seem to be spiraling out of control.  And at this modern world’s accelerated pace she might not live to see Elvis’s 92 birthday.

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