Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Me, The Jury

Well, I just got a Jury Summons. All of you had better turn and spit, not to mention knock on wood, that you’re not next.

My objections aren’t what you think. I believe that we all have an obligation to our community. I try to do my lazy bit as far as that goes. However, jury duty and I have a past.

My first case was a guy with a documented blood alcohol limit just over what’s allowed. He had an expensively-dressed attorney and a batch of pseudo-scientists who ran rigamaroles around the poor first time prosecutor. Justice, apparently, involves sitting in the jury room listening to an attractive 20-something explain that she can have a few drinks before dinner, a bottle of wine with dinner, a few drinks after dinner and still be fine to drive so of course the guy had to be innocent. I naively thought that the law against driving under the influence applied to people who drove with too much alcohol in their blood. Apparently not. She was much prettier than I, so the other jurors believed her. He was not convicted.

The second case was even simpler, if you can imagine. A kid got hit in the face with a baseball bat during P.E. class. The substitute teacher was in another part of the yard. No one contested a single detail. Everyone agreed that the kid was injured in class while the teacher wasn’t looking. The family was suing for medical expenses. Half of the jury were teachers, one or two others worked for the school system. They all voted not to give the kid’s family a penny, not even to cover the emergency room, let alone the subsequent operations and treatment. Apparently any financial award would imply that it was the sub’s fault, or the school’s fault. Three of us voted for the family, at least I wasn’t alone.

So I’ll go. If I am chosen, I’ll serve my week to the best of my ability. But I’m not getting my hopes up for justice. As the saying goes, I’ll just be one of twelve people (plus alternates) who couldn’t get out of it.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Breaking The Law

It’s time to review my Laws Of Narrative™. Mostly this is because I’ve been reading murder mysteries, so they’re fresh in my mind. Besides, this is a parlor trick I can teach all of you. Amaze your friends! Pick out the murderer by the third scene! It’s easy when you know how. First, foremost and most importantly, the inviolate rule is:

1. You never, ever, diss Angela Lansbury.

Or Raymond Burr, or any Poirot but especially David Suchet. If you do, then you are either the murderer or one of the later victims. The way you tell which it will be is by whether the character is generally unpleasant or if this was an isolated incident. Assholes will get killed.

Now a twofer for symmetry:

2. If someone went missing, then they’re dead. If they’re presumed to have died years ago, then they’re still alive.

That’s kind of a gimme. It goes along with:

3. If there’s no body, s/he’s still alive.

Obvious, sure, but not all of you grew up reading comic books. Well, maybe you did, but this is one of the many lessons they teach.

4. Anyone who survives a murder attempt is either the murderer or is in on the conspiracy.

The next one only applies to gritty noir or soldier of fortune derivatives:

5. The detective will be betrayed by someone close to him (it’s always a him in these cases) who has no apparent reason for doing so.

That came from a recent try at reading a new author. I saw it coming and was sorely pissed.

That’s enough to start with. If you’re only reading current stuff then this ought to cover you. There’s been a moral streak growing for about a decade, wherein the more vile the character, the more dastardly his/her end. You don’t need sophisticated variables for that. Nor is there any point in having a drinking game based on the moment when the detective says, “I know who did it, I just need evidence.”

All of which explains why I’m going to rifle my shelves for old Rex Stouts and Ngaio Marshes. Better to know and be entertained, than to be able to guess so easily.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


This is by way of an experiment. I’m due to post something, but with everything going on in the world (Libya, the Baltimore quake) it’s hard to find banal little topics about which to prattle. For example, the current work-in-progress involves men in Capri pants. Not something I can think about right now. So I’m going experiential instead. It’s just about 5:00 as I write this, and at 8:00, I’ll be sitting by myself in a tiny theater (not even the clich├ęd 99 seats, I’m told) watching Improv. Now, Improv is definitely not my thing. I’m a big fan of both editing and rehearsal. But Robert’s passion is Improv, as is that of an actor friend. The actor friend will be performing at the abovementioned theater. Robert, however, will be off with his own Improv group. So I’m flying solo on this one. When I get back, I’ll let you know how it went. I’m improvising this post, as it were. Ha ha.

9:09. I’m ba-a-ack. I arrived 5 minutes before show time and got the primo parking space right in front of the theater. After dropping my donation into the plastic bucket, I took one of the forty-two seats. There were three people in each of the first two groups that performed. Our buddy was in the first group. He was appropriately earnest, hapless, stern or charming as the moment demanded. They made me laugh. Here’s the problem: the second group was annoying. Enough so that I don’t remember the bits I was going to tell you about my friend’s group. Annoying enough (a running gag was about Mel Gibson. Need I say more?) that I left before the third group. I had time to come home, take the dog out, come back, and start writing this at 9:09.

The image I’ll retain from the evening isn’t my friend looking cool onstage, nor the guy doing an unfunny anti-Semitic faux rant, but the car lining up to get my parking space when I left. It had a bumper sticker from the Upright Citizens Brigade, the Improv institution where Robert’s been taking classes. Rah rah rah!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fang You Very Much

Vampires never see daylight. There are two ways you can jump at that. The first, most logical, reaction is to point out that vampires don’t exist. I expect most of you to fall in that camp. The rest of you are thinking about the immortality, mesmerizing charm and nifty wardrobe. Those of you who know me in real life may be adding snarky thoughts about my taste in fiction.

The vampire thing is a point of reference, someone who lives their whole life (or undead existence, never mind, you get the point) without ever experiencing something that’s basic to the rest of the community. It's also a metaphor, because we all do that.

The similarity just occurred to me. My life moves in the same circle, gym and keyboard and whatnot. Most of you could say the same kind of thing about your own lives. Limitation is a byproduct of adulthood. We get caught up in what we do and forget about the rest of the world. Cyclic repetition isn't bad or wrong in itself. Happiness is being content, whether it’s with what you have or with what you’re doing. I’ve often said that if I want a change, I’ll plod counterclockwise around the post. So far clockwise suits me just fine. Knock on wood.

The trick is to remember that the world is always much bigger than our own little piece of it. Which brings us back to the vampire metaphor. Even they know what SPF is, or they would if they existed.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Postponing Procrastination

For the most part, at least as far as tasks are concerned, priorities come in two types. Call them what you will; good and bad, carrot and stick, cake and whatever kind of veggies you don’t like. You get the idea. Both are priorities. We need to resolve our obligations and responsibilities, and we need to have fun and be happy. The duality is a given. How we handle it says a lot about who we are.

Do you do the nasty stuff first and then the cool stuff? For the most part, that’s what I do. It sounds so hardworking and puritanically proletarian, but I think it just guarantees that the work gets done at all. Eat dessert first and you won’t have room for the nutrition. I linger longer over the fun stuff, and time can be an issue.

For all that, I stopped the jokes at #12 (okay, I didn’t stop them, they just stopped) and once I hit the “publish post” button on this, my nose goes right back to the grindstone. Today’s word is “Ventriloquist”. You’re very lucky this post isn’t twenty pages long. I don’t want to go back there. Some people find clowns creepy. I find ventriloquism creepy, hence the uncharacteristic procrastination. But I’ve come to the end of the carrot, and it’s time again for the stick. Or at least, time to face my antipathy and throw a metaphoric cream pie at it.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ho Hum Ha

Writing 20 jokes a day is a bit of a bitch, in case you were wondering. I thought I'd give you a view from the trenches. We'll ignore the first two days’ topics, “side show” and “fire truck”, and you've already seen one from "cipher", so let's skip “ratio” and go straight to “bamboozled”:

16. “Dude, your wife totally bamboozled you. Vacuuming isn’t an ancient Mayan relaxation technique.”

Give “co-habitant" a miss, and we’re on to “birthday suit”:

12. Two little old ladies were having afternoon tea in the Home. One said to the other, “That loud party at the frat house next door sure ended suddenly last night. It was quite a relief.” “I know, I ended it,” said the other. “How on earth did you do that?” asked the first one. “I went over there in my birthday suit and shouted LIMBO!”

The next one was more fun than it should have been. The word was “scar”:

13. Elsie the cow and Bossie the cow watched the barbecue. “Poor Connie. That’s gonna leave a scar.”
17. The young mortician stared at the strange scars on the corpse’s back. “What on earth caused that?” The older mortician took one glance and chuckled. “Oh, you’ll see a lot of those in your career. The guy was pussy-whipped to death.”

Then there was “history exam”. The first one was the best:

1. Satan grabbed Willy Wonka by the scraggly blond hair and yanked his head back hard. “Look at it,” Satan hissed. Satan shoved a photo of bleeding gums oozing vitreous pus in Willy Wonka’s face. “Who is it?” demanded Satan. “Belinda Farquhar?” offered Wonka. There was a zap and Willy Wonka screamed. “No,” said Satan. “David Fendleberg?” “No.” Zap. Scream. “Caitlin O’Herlihy?” “No.” Zap. Scream. One imp was showing another imp through that part of Hell, and the new imp asked what was going on. The first imp explained, “Dental history exam.”

Today was “pen pal”. I’ll spare you. Remember, I’ve done 20 jokes on each topic. These aren’t necessarily the best, but they’re my favorites. Thanks for your patience.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Why Chromosome

The other morning I decided to prune the shrubbery in front of our house. It should’ve been done ages ago; the walk was almost completely overgrown. Out came my little pruning shears and I set to work. I was about three-quarters done when I noticed that I’d worn some skin off of my hands in a couple of spots. What the hell, I was pruning rosemary, which is a natural antiseptic. I kept going til I was done.

Compulsive or macho? Robert said it was macho. That’s what started me thinking. The ability to withstand discomfort or even pain for a goal isn’t particularly manly. Ask any mother. (I’m not one, but the point holds.) A high pain threshold isn’t any more gender specific than my loathing of peachy-beige band-aids. I go to great effort to have interesting band-aids when I need them, but that’s not particularly feminine. The current one is black with white pirate skulls. Adorable, yes, but girly? Not when I was a lass.

Marketing people will tell you that there is such a thing as gender-oriented behavior. Cultural anthropologists might agree. I’m not so sure anymore. Maybe that’s because I spend so much time in the gym with non-stereotypical women and know quite a few non-stereotypical men. Hell, I married one.

Oh never mind. I’m tired of the pirate band-aid. It’s time to change it to something pretty.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Summer Reruns

I’m doing it again. I know better, but I’m doing the jokes-a-day anyhow.

Is there anyone here who hasn’t been through this with me before? I’ll recap as quickly as I can: pick a random topic and write twenty jokes about it. Repeat daily until your brain explodes or your friends stop speaking to you.

I may have found a way around that second hazard. Unlike the last two times (velociraptors, anyone?), I won’t be groveling for suggestions. Robert has a random word generator app on his phone. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the word it generated this morning was “cyphers”. My word processor just tried to correct that spelling. Cipher is better than the topic he gave me yesterday, which was “fire truck”. I got to fifteen on that. The day before was “side show”.

Let me tell you this. Just as there are stages of grief and stages of drunkenness, there are stages of joke writing. I know I’m in trouble when I see these words on my monitor: “A priest, a rabbi and a (word of the day) go into a bar”…

10. A priest, a rabbi and a cipher walked into a bar. The bartender said, “What’ll it be, boys?” The priest asked for a beer. The rabbi had wine. The cipher said, “You figure it out.”

These are the jokes, folks. I’ve still got eight more to do.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Let's Get Physics-al

We call them the Laws of Physics. By definition, laws can be broken. What does that say about physics? Levitation might count as a misdemeanor, but rolling uphill would just be a cardiovascular workout. Try it and let me know.

Speaking of gravity, I was having a perfectly ordinary evening until a rapid series of conversational topics reminded me of past failures and epic personal inadequacies. Down, down, down I fell. Forget the apple landing on Newton’s head. A psyche is like a Ming vase filled with sand. It falls fast, shatters easily and makes a hell of a mess.

Holy tangled metaphors, Batman! Weren’t we talking about the immutability of physical law?

To pretend I’m still in control here, I’ll grasp and say that the laws of physics apply not only to physical objects but also nonphysical ones. A bad mood has inertia. A good one has momentum. (Science geeks, feel free to comment on my choice of verbs. Hell, grammar geeks can too. Let’s have a party.) Activities have momentum. Haven’t you ever started tidying up and found yourself sterilizing the furniture? Extreme example, but you get my point.

The next time you’re in a class or a meeting, listening to someone drone on and on, watch their mouth open and close and think about violating the law that says an object in motion stays in motion. Remember that old saying, “Rules are made to be broken.”