Thursday, May 26, 2011

Very Important Blogging Tip

Just in! A crucial tip for bloggers. If you want keep from feeling unloved, unread, unwanted, or otherwise like a failure, do this!

Tip: Keep your blog posts short!

Studies have shown* that your readers, if you have any, pretty much all have A.D.D. Or some other issue which keeps them from reading anything they have to scroll to see. In a millisecond, they decide, based on the length of the tome you've written, whether or not they're going to read it, even if it's pure gold (and it's likely not, but that's beside the point).

So keep it short! Here's what some of the great wordsmiths have to say about this tip:

"Awesome tip! Wish I had read this last month."
--The Defiant Marshmallow

--The Defiant Marshmallow

"Quite true."
--Dead Shakespeare

"No shit."
-The Defiant Marshmallow

"I always said that brevity is the soul of wit"
Dead Shakespeare

"Fuck you, Dead Shakespeare!"
--Name Withheld

*Completely fabricated.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It's Time For Something Meaningful

Yes, friends, it is time for something meaningful. But don't look my way for it. I write crap. When not musing about important topics like how a staple got in my salad at dinner, or how to go back in time and deliver a stupendous comeback to that girl from my Freshman Biology class* at East Stroudsburg, I sometimes try to write meaningful things. But you know what? It's crap. It's time for somebody else to write something meaningful.

So, without further preamble or  exegenesis, exegenetics, exegesis, or some other nonsense, let me get on with this particular nonsense.

I was Tweeting about #boringmusicals today, and it was fun. The object was to take the name of a musical theater show and twist it somehow to come up with a name which would indicate that it was boring. As I read other peoples' tweets, something struck me which didn't surprise me in the least. There are a lot of people who think they are funny, but who are not. Let's take some examples of funny and not funny tweets on this topic (you can look up the link to uncover the identities of these folks).

  • Funny:
    • Oh, Glaucoma!
    • Jesus Christ. Average Guy!
    • A Post Office Line
These are funny. Why? Because the writers get it! They understand the premise of the bit and they know how to turn a phrase brilliantly. Their titles indicate a boring show, but they are also funny because of the puns and translocations of words. The object is to write a title which indicates BORING, not cute, not a simple play on words, not just different. So they're funny and they get an A+ for the effort.
  • NOT Funny (and many of them are from the same Twitterer):
    • Mats
    • 42nd Tweet
    • Man of la Mangia
    • Paid
    • Miss Bygone
    • Guys and Barbie Dolls
    • Annie Get Your Water Pistol (same person for previous three examples - for pity's sake - STOP, Already!)
    • Rocky Balboa Picture Show
Ok, these all suck. But why? If you have even a Troy Ounce of funny in you, then you know why; because they suck. The writers don't get the gag. I used to see this in improv stuff all the time, back when I was involved in certain theater performance that required lots and lots of improvisational comedy. Some people just aren't funny. It's painful and embarrassing  to watch them. But they think they're funny, like the stiffs in the above examples. And you can look for yourselves and see that there were far more bad examples than good ones. 

Seriously, look at those up there. Do you see one that indicates a boring musical? No, not one. I see people trying to make a play on words, doing translocations, insertions, etc. But not one damn boring title!

Mats? I don't even get that one! Paid? WTF?!!! Is that supposed to be a take on Rent? If so, it sucks double! Writer didn't get premise of joke, and came up with a shitty title to top it off. If you're going to change the word rent to something that like its opposite, then for god sakes, change it to Buy

So (panting breathlessly from the effort and rise in blood pressure), what's my point? How decent of you to ask. My point is that there are lots of people who delude themselves when it comes to their abilities, and that they are not afraid to show it. Think about those unfortunate souls who go on American Idol - the ones who should have had, but never did have, someone tell them that they couldn't sing. That they sucked. That they should not ever sing again. Or hum, or speak, or even exhale loudly. They were allowed to keep themselves living in a fantasy world in which they could sing. That's a damn shame. 

In the case of #boringmusicals, the Twitter posters thought they could be funny. No one ever told them that they lacked even the basic understanding of a joke. Probably these are the same people who laugh when Pauly Shore says...well...anything. You know them. You might be one of them. 

If you are a person who is not funny, you most likely know it and simply don't try to be funny. I salute you. On the other hand, if you think you're funny, but really aren't, then you probably won't realize that I'm talking about you. You will be sitting there, reading this, going, "Yeah! The Defiant Marshmallow is soooo right. Some people just aren't funny. Those stupid idiots!" To you, I barf up my shoelaces on your Count Chocula. 

People need to know their strengths, and weaknesses. One can appreciate the Marx Brothers without being able to tell a joke. Just because Twitter lets you post anything that pops into your brain, doesn't mean you have to. So do us all a favor and think twice before trying to be funny. Or as many times as you need to. Really. Take your time, it's not like the world is going to end tomorrow** and you have to get that Tweet in right now. 

I thank you. The world thanks you. Twitter tha--...

...never mind, Twitter doesn't give a shit. 

Below this line is one NSFW verbal exchange, but it explains the first asterisk.

*  October, 1979. A boy; me. And a girl; let's call her Joy (because that was her real name and I couldn't think of any name more appropriate for this story than Joy). She'd been sitting next to me in BIO 101 for the first three weeks of the semester. Every day, after class, we'd walk back to our dorms together, making small talk. We always passed by hers first. One day, she invites me up (remember, I am incredibly naive, and that was 10X worse when I was 18 years old). We go to her dorm room. It's unoccupied by roommates. She gets out a mirror, puts it on the table, spreads some fine, white powder on it, gets out a small straw and razor blade and cuts lines of powder. 

I instantly go from George Hamilton Tan to Edward Cullen white. Fourteen gallons of sweat drop from my body all at once. Even my ass crack sweats. My heart breaks out of my chest, caroms off of the dresser, leaps from the 6th floor window of Hawthorn Hall, and runs all the way to the Delaware Water Gap before plunging itself into the freezing river.

Joy offers me the straw. I indicate my desire to abstain by peeing myself. She does three lines. She comes over to the bed where I am drowning and sits next to me, placing one hand on what used to be my thigh, but is now a palsied mass of muscle. Then she hits me with a pickup line that even I could understand.

Joy: "What f*cks like a tiger and winks?"
Me (squeaking): "I don't know. What?"
Joy: (Winks at me)

The next week, the campus newspaper had a story in it about a strange sound that was heard and felt all over campus and in the adjacent town. People described it as a "loud boom". That's exactly right. I set the Land Speed Record for Human Locomotion going out of that dorm - 756 mph - and didn't look back. Made it to my room in under a half second. Then I changed my underwear.

**  May 21, 2011  October 21, 2011. I know that this was a huge cheap shot, but come on. Totally worth it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Do Over

This is written as an assignment for Studio Thirty Plus and the Weekly Writing Prompt. 
This week's prompt is, The Do Over

Did I forget to mention that comments and criticism are welcome?


So, you wanted to know about the wine? I think it was Monaco, could have been Cannes. No, silly me, it was Monaco. I remember my gorgeous Valentino gown. But who cares? The 1945 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild Jeroboam was to be uncorked, and that was what mattered. Philippe had brought it up from the on-board wine cellar, saying he had been waiting for just the right occasion to crack it open. If ever there was a fitting occasion, this had been it. But Philippe did not know it was a replacement, one which I had purchased, at great expense and effort.

Philippe was two years single that day, having parted company with Scylla, may she rot in Hell. Cruel? Hah!  My dear, I am not being cruel. She was horrid. My nickname for her is cruel only in the injustice it heaps on the original monster. Scylla, or Lady Elizabeth Evangeline Cressida Gotwolt, if you insist that I use her purported name, was little more than a psychopathic murderess, disguised as a woman. Imagine one of those Gargoyles from the Galerie des Chimères, at the cathedral of Notre Dame, and then imagine that it had flayed a woman and donned her skin as a suit. Now you have a kinder vision of this...thing...this heinous imitation of a woman. If Hell has a dungeon, and that dungeon has a crypt for the worst of humanity, she will be sent below it to dig her own pit and crawl inside!

But, yes, the wine. That glorious, sanguine elixer! Dear Philippe wanted to open it in memoriam and in celebration. He was proud, because he had bid so well for it. $98,000 U.S., yet the day he came home with it, that harpy had told him he must never open the bottle. As if she knew anything about wine, or anything, for that matter. Philippe had wanted to open it on their first anniversary, but she had denied him the pleasure, as she always did. Given her background, it was astonishing that she knew less about giving a man pleasure than she did about wine (or fashion, or who her own father was). Oh, she claimed to be from an aristocratic line, and made an effort to affect the mannerisms inherent in good breeding. But we all knew, from the moment she lumbered into our circle, that she was just another wharf doxy, bent on securing wealth through one of our own. One cannot simply fake good breeding. Stupid, illiterate shrew!

Oh, but pardon my wandering mind! The wine, of course. We started with an admirable, but conventional prosecco. Philippe loved the stuff, and we could never convince him to leave his taste for it behind. It is still one of his cutest idiosyncrasies, and I've secretly enjoyed allowing him to indulge his tastes. I will admit, it was bright, dry, and snappy. We opened it just after ten (the "Main Event" would be opened at midnight), when the lights from the city were glimmering on the water and the orange-flushed Moon had just peeked its face above the hills to watch over our celebration in the harbor. The breeze was light, and tangy. Donald was there with Christine, and Flora had brought that delightful brother of hers - the gay one - Geoffrey (or is it Mitchell)? He had been the first to comment on my gown and, for a moment, I thought he might strip it off of me right there on the fantail of the Gossamer Fleur and run off with it! Abel and Katherine were arm in arm, still looking the happy newlyweds. Braden and Sophie, as if mandated by the Gods of Revelry, were always at our parties.

However, it was Archard who had captured my immediate attention. Arriving late, as usual, he had come...alone? No, there was his companion du jour, the enticing Brazilian actress Maria Bettencourt, coming up the gangway behind him. Apollo and Aphrodite in the flesh, and what flesh it was! A pity I wouldn't be able to have him all to myself. Those endless eyelashes, and the deep cocoa eyes themselves, oh my! I decided on the spot that I would be willing to make the sacrifice and share him with Maria that night. Perhaps she would turn out to be a good sport and play nicely. She was new, and I wondered if she was aware of his "proclivities". As I stepped over to greet them, I quickly thought of what I could say to guarantee at least his cooperation with the idea. It turned out that he was a step ahead of me. With the grace of a leopard, he fluidly pulled his lighter from his coat pocket and lit my cigarette for me even before I realized I had propped it up for him. Maria simply gazed blithely at Archard, and then at me, introduced herself as "Mar", and extended an exquisite hand. I took it, felt the youthful, firm grip contrast with the silky skin, and held it longer than necessary while I leaned in to give Archard a kiss on the cheek. He responded in kind, and whispered, "I know what you're thinking and I approve.".

My darling, you have let me stray again. Please, please forgive my deviations! You wanted to hear about the wine and I'm going on about everything but. Some say that Mouton Rothschild has been inflated in the esteem in which it is held. I cannot agree with them of course. One must truly taste it in the company of others who appreciate its pedigree. The 1945 is especially ravishing, perhaps in light of its historical context, but no matter. It is more than wine. It is a living sacrificial liquid, still growing and forming, ever changing in the bottle, and ever changing those who consume its immortal essence.

It had touched my lips only once before, exactly two years earlier, and also on board the Gossamer Fleur. That time I had dared only a forbidden, secret sip, before bringing it to Philippe and Scylla. Of course they had no idea what wine was actually being served them. It would have been unthinkable to announce that I had opened the "Blood of Christ" in her presence. Philippe would have suffered the indignities of her vile, insane rantings. I could not do that to my poor brother. So I quietly dismissed the galley staff and stewards - they suspected nothing, as it was my habit to frequently let them off early (part of my generous nature). I then emptied a Bordeaux of relatively close vintage, opened the Jeroboam, and poured three glasses, dispensing the remainder into the empty bottle. Her glass, of course, had been prepared in advance, and, knowing her peasant taste, she would never detect anything out of the ordinary. It was so precious of her to supply the "additives" herself. The foolish thing had recently begun using a combination of illicit prescription and street drugs, supplied by a "friend" in Bruges. The Nembutal and chloral hydrate I secreted from her cabin would do just fine. No one would suspect a thing, her addiction being known to many already. Just a tragic overdose and drowning. I giggled to myself: like Marilyn Monroe and Natalie Wood combined! I placed the glasses on the serving tray and went up to the salon.

Did I tell you she murdered my Napoleon? She murdered him as surely as I sit here with you. He was such a sweet tempered, tiny fellow. All Yorkies are sweethearts. My baby. He could Moonwalk, you know. I taught him when he was not quite six months old. He could Moonwalk across the floor, and when he did, he had the most amazing look of pride on his little face. Napoleon knew he was a star and everyone loved him so. My friends would give him little treats, which I had to approve first, of course, and he would dance for them, happy as could be. But she killed him. She was jealous of the attention he received and waited until I was away at clinic for a therapy session (of course you know about my migraines, which require such special care). Then she murdered Napoleon! She said that he ran away while the Gossamer Fleur was docked in Valetta. Liar! Bitch! Whore! Napoleon would not run away, except from her. When I returned from Lyon, he was simply gone. Philippe tried to console me, telling me that perhaps Napoleon was just lost. He had posted notices in Valetta, and left our contact information should anyone find him. But it was no use. I knew what Scylla had done, and that night, two years ago, she received her repayment.

Oh, it was quite good wine, I assure you. Even though I took only the one sip, it was marvelous. I watched as Philippe and his courtesan drank theirs, she slurping greedily, as if a thirst-starved Egyptian slave. Philippe's was drugged too, of course. Much less so than hers, but enough so that I could go about my business with the whore without interruption. Poor Philippe! He would miss her, I thought, at least for a little while. Not as much as I missed Napoleon, but he would be lonely for a few weeks, and I would have to comfort him.

I will spare you the details, but everything worked as I imagined it would. They were both asleep within the hour, and fifteen minutes past midnight, Scylla slipped beneath the surface of the harbor. I was right, as usual. The coroner determined, two weeks later, when they had dragged her pathetic, bloated corpse from the water, that she had died by drowning, after taking an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. And, as usual, the authorities wanted no headlines splashed across the newspapers or internet, so there would be no further investigation or questioning. If they do one thing right in Monaco, it is keep their secrets very secret.

And there we were, two years later, in the same harbor, on the same beautiful yacht, drinking the wine that my dear, dear Philippe had waited so long to taste, or so he thought (thank you, Sotheby's!). His friends around him, his loyal sister by his side, his lonely nightmares a thing of the past, he was finally going to drink his 1945 Jeroboam. That night, I could have swum an ocean of it! I was in bliss, feeling the light of heaven radiate from me, knowing that all was right again, and all would be right from now on. I would have Archard that night, even if it meant having Maria as well. He would be the dinner, and she the dessert. Now, a lady does not give details of such passion, but that night saw the three of us reach the heights of rapture!

I regret (for her sake, naturally) that Maria decided to stay on board when all the others departed, and cruise with us that entire month. She had wanted to rest from the rigors of film shoots and modeling for a short time, and Philippe had insisted she stay with us for the summer. If only she had gone back to Brazil! Silly, foolish Maria. And now, she has gone and fallen head over heels for my Philippe! Why do women behave so? I do what I must now, if only you would please discharge me and allow me to go back to the Gossamer Fleur. The migraines have passed, and I feel completely well. I promise! You know that I must protect Philippe from her. You agree, no? And you know, as I do, that she has no addictions, as Scylla did. But this time I will do it differently. You see, it's like a do-over, and I can change the little details, so no one will connect the two. I so love the do-over! We can use them to become better and better each time.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Writing Prompt #11 - Forgiveness and Justice

Written for Studio 30 Plus Writing Prompt #11


Forgiveness and right Justice,
Abide not where my lust is,
Expound on them I will not,
The subject makes my brain hot.

Philosophers and Poets might,
Discuss these prickles through the night,
But I would rather stub my toes,
Than babble and become morose.

Let the pundits rage on high, and keep the torches lit,
The villagers with pitchforks can, if needed, pitch a fit,
Emotions run the gamut from indiff'rence to Atomic,
But I think I am little more than just a wordy comic.

On Earth, it seems, we gather stones, to hurtle at an object,
Of derision, with precision, 'cause it isn't perfect.
My views on this are slightly less than jaded or myopic,
So please forgive this post which does no justice to the topic.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Explanation of Storm

I've been asked by someone who knows her way around the written word to publish the following explanation of a piece I wrote, titled, Faster Toward The Storm. She had been so complimentary of the explanation that I feel comfortable doing so. What follows is what I wrote to her in private, republished, now, for others.

It was a freeform poem written in the first-person by the Voyager 1 spacecraft, which is soon to pass through a space "storm" of a sort. Right now, it is one of the fastest human built craft and is the farthest human built object from the Earth. It is so extremely remote right now, that even if it travelled at the speed of light to get back here, it would take over 16 hours. That may not sound like a lot, but converted to miles, it's almost 11 billion miles away. As you can guess, I have a thing for space and space exploration!

Voyager 1 has a twin, Voyager 2, which is also heading out into interstellar space. It's only slightly closer to Earth. I enjoy thinking about just how far away and how extremely remote these probes are from anything. The remoteness is nearly absolute, in terms of location, temperature, light, and speed.

Imagine yourself, flying, as in a dream, not in an aircraft, just you, unimaginably fast, but having zero sensation of speed. No friction, so no wind. No sound can be made, felt, or heard in the total vacuum of space. If you screamed at the top of your lungs, you would hear nothing. There are no nearby visual points of reference, so nothing to gauge your speed by eyeballing it. Even what stars you can see don't move in the distance. They are stationary pinpoints of light. The Sun is just a tiny pinprick of light among them, very dim. But your are moving away from it, the only home you've ever known, at 38,000 mph, and you'll never slow down, turn back, or stop. You're beyond the orbit of Pluto, non-technically outside of the solar system.

But technically, you still have the Sun's influence on you, via the solar wind and the teensiest hint of gravity, therefore, are still in the Solar System. But not for long! Ahead of you, but completely unseen, is the bow shock of the heliopause, the end of the solar wind, which you will pass through to truly enter interstellar space and the ultimate in loneliness. That is the storm your are racing to meet. The charged particles of the solar wind that you were surfing on will have ceased, and the interstellar particles coming from the opposite direction will begin charging toward you. No one knows exactly what will happen when you travel through it (it's up to you to be the first to know), but if you maintain speed and direction, it will still have taken you years to get through the storm and come out on the other side. And then on to real isolation.

At that point, the darkness and loneliness you thought you felt before will seem like a day in Times Square compared to the incomprehensible Void that you have entered but can never leave. And all you will do is race, possibly faster, through it.

I like to imagine what it would be like to be in that place, at that speed, with nothing to reach out and touch. Every direction is up, and down, and sideways, all at the same time. You are always falling, forward, into darkness, in absolute cold and silence. It makes me shiver and feel totally insignificant. Sometimes I even get vertigo from it! Totally cool feeling, but also a bit frightening. Always good to "come back" from that feeling!

Bizarre, I know. But I don't care. It's awesome.

So, that's the long answer to my dinky little poem. If Voyager 1 could think and feel and talk to us, what would it say? Would it feel lonely? Every day, it faithfully sends us the weakest of radio signals to let us know what it is doing, where it is, and what it sees. And we answer back to let it know we hear it. But only barely hear it. Soon, we won't be able to any more, but it will continue sending us messages anyway, until it's tiny nuclear pellet runs out of power. Over the next few years, it will continue to shut down various systems in order to save energy, or because those systems are no longer needed. Then it will fall silent, but continue speeding forever through the Void.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Faster Toward The Storm

Written for the Writing Prompt #10, at Studio 30 Plus

I expect a lot of "Huh?" comments on this. Really. But I'm ok with it.


Through nothing I go, into nothing.

All Void. Void. All Void.

I turn, look back - see nothing,
But I began there,
I know.

It is there. 
Pinprick glimmer.                                             

Shiver in empty darkness.
Nothing to reach out and touch, no walls.
Foreverness, in all directions, save back.
I can never go back. 

Speeding onward toward the storm.
Unfeeling, it will envelope me.
Unseen, it is there.

Storm will become my home, my space.
Storm engulf and charge me.
Storm will I die in, yet speed on.
Storm touch my skin...touch me.

Void. All Void. Void.
All Void. Void. All Void.

Where is my sister?


When will I be with the storm?
I will not be in the Void then.
It will be less than the Void.