Monthly Archives: December 2012

On the Ejaculation of Language and Sticky Peppermints

About once a decade, I reread the complete Sherlock Holmes. I love Sherlock. I love him for many reasons, and now I have another one to add to my list. You see, literature changes, and modern literature seems to have fulfilled my worst predictions for it. It has become about as puritanical as the society surrounding it, even though, at one time, it was the vanguard of avant-garde morality. Now, of course, it’s all about sentiment and sweetness, regardless of the situational ethics. It’s all right, for example, for vampires to have sex, so long as they’re married. Do you see how the situation trumps the actual ethics?

I realize I’m falling into the all too predictable error of confusing British literature with American; as far as I know, British literature is about as libertine as Restoration poetry was 300 years past, even in our enlightened age. The rakish Rochester may still encompass the overarching ethic of what is acceptable in the printed word, such as how a man could wrong his fair Corinna. If that’s the case, I apologize ahead of time for my false comparison.

Sherlock Holmes is anything but sweet. He is, in fact, about as unthinkingly obtuse in his interactions with others as I am. His sidekick, Dr. Watson, also belies a gentle demeanor–he with his military doctor ways. However, who would have thought that it used to be regular for well-respected and educated gentlemen such as these to ejaculate in the middle of conversations?

Here is just one excerpt from A Study in Scarlet:

“Wonderful!” I [Watson] ejaculated.

“Commonplace,” said Holmes, though I thought from his expression that he was pleased at my evident surprise and admiration.

Ah, yes, the evolution of language is astonishing. And while we’ve come to collectively puritanicize fictional dialogue, some annoying aspects of literature refuse to assert their way into a higher sphere of consciousness. For example, characters have essentially become too situational. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve engrossed myself with the characterization of a TV series, a movie, or a novel, only to have the psychological nuance disappear with the dropping of a back story. Oh! So that’s why the protagonist has become a regular tough dick cop! When she was a soft, tender girl playing dollies at the top of the stairs, a serial killer, who is coincidentally still-at-large, entered the foyer of her childhood home and brutally axed her mother! I get it now. If not for that one decisive event, our tough dick cop would most likely be a housewife in an apron who eats pound bags of peppermints (of the low quality variety found by the toothpicks when paying for a restaurant meal), and who coos at babies in the street. Okay, let’s hope that nobody coos at babies in the street, but removes them posthaste. Still, I’m sure you grasp my intended meaning.

But let’s pretend for a moment that all characters do, indeed, suffer through defining moments that turn them into who they are today (relative to the story era, of course). When a detective is so utterly marvellous at detection that men spontaneously ejaculate around him, he will most likely fall into heavy drug use or melancholic screeching on the violin to block the inevitable embarrassment. That does explain a lot about Sherlock. It could also explain why a would-be tough dick cop, who is a housewife due to her mother still being very much in a state of healthy aliveness, would fall into a habit of obsessively sucking peppermints and leaving babies in the street. For example, what would happen if, the last ten times the plumber skipped over with his toolbox, he was faced with a hottie in an apron who conclusively and unemotionally determined who painted with whose Crayola watercolor set on the walls, due to the angle and shape of the splatter?

“Wonderful!” Mr. Plumber might ejaculate. “I wish my wife could do that!”

“Commonplashe,” she might say, while spraying him with just a few drops of sticky peppermint.

p.s. I’ll be taking next week off from blogging, so Happy New Year to you and your kin!

p.p.s. The broken link for Wilmot’s poem has now been fixed.

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I Said I Would No longer Talk Politics (I Guess I Lied)

I don’t write political posts. I don’t write them because politics tend to make me even more cynical than I already am, and so I self-medicate by writing humor that most people don’t find funny (so much for my career as a comedian). Today, however, I’m in a post-Christmas funk, and I’m tired of reading all the gun-control hype going around the internet. No, I’m sorry, but pithy memes won’t convince me of anything, and neither will the blinding emotional states people have over murdered little kids. Emotion is justifiable, of course. Still, we all need to grieve before we jump to rash conclusions, such as banning all semi-automatic assault weapons (whatever “assault” means). I can guarantee that Sen. Feinstein will simply use our collective emotional state against us with a gun ban bill she’s been planning for some time now. And if you’re the type who’s pro handgun, but feel that military-style assault weapons are unnecessary for common people, then you might want to get a hold of the bill text. The bill also calls for banning semi-automatic handguns that, according to the .gov summary, “can accept a detachable magazine and have one or more military characteristics”. Um, yeah. That means the most popular handguns around (Glocks, Sig Sauers, Smith & Wessons, Colts, etc.) will be banned under Feinsteins’s plan for us.

Here are some facts that are simple to understand: the U.S. has the highest per capita gun ownership in the world. When I say we have the highest, I mean it’s off the charts. No other country even comes close, yet we aren’t by any stretch of the imagination the top of the list for highest gun murders per capita. We rest at twenty-eight. Some would say–and I know this because I’ve heard it repeated in a tiresome way–that we’re at number four. That number is dishonest because it’s calculated by a simple number of murders by gun rather than by a per capita tally. Per capita is actually quite simple to calculate; most people can do it with a calculator if they keep one handy. You take the number of known gun homicides, divide this number by the total population for an exact per capita or “per person” tally, and then multiply the result by 100,000 (it’s generally given as a number of homicides per 100,000 people, but you could be creative and use a per 500,000 as long as you’re consistent in using the same number for each country).

At this point, an astute person who checks up on my stats will take note that the U.S. has far more gun murders per 100,000 people than comparably wealthy, European countries. And, yes, I agree that our status in the world of violent crime, which is closer to West Bank & Gaza than it is to Sweden, is frightening. However, if you study this chart, you will not find a clear correlation between gun homicide per capita and gun ownership per capita. It would be better for all of us to take deep breaths and consider what might be causing our high gun homicide stats–you know, those pesky underlying causes. Although you may not find any exact causative factors, you’ll discover plenty of trends. For example, there’s an enormous correlation between poverty and violent crime that must not be ignored. Also, it would be wise to consider what the war on drugs has done to our violent crime rates. Dare I ask how we’ve treated the mentally ill in our society? Dare I wonder how this correlates to the rash of mass shootings?

I know. I get it. Nobody wants to consider that we might have a hell of lot of disenfranchised people in our country. Personally speaking, I hate guns and tend toward pacifism. I want to stick my head in the sand and pretend that if we all just give up our guns peaceably, divine karma will inevitably visit us. But I’m also a realist. I’ve studied far too much history and know what happens when people are disenfranchised. I know what happens when governments disarm the people. And it’s never for the benefit or protection of the people. It’s either for the purpose of maintaining control over them (treating the people like peasantry), or it’s for the purpose of exterminating defenceless population groups.

I’m not attempting to make an airtight case for the right to bear arms in this short space. Also, I’m not opposed to any and all regulations of weapons, but don’t feel like arguing “proper regulation” right now. I don’t have a large enough readership to make a difference, anyway. I don’t know what I’m doing, except dropping words in the void because I can. So here are my last words: I don’t want to see our government manipulate us because we’re in pain over the murders of innocent children. Rather, we need to use our pain to find solutions for underlying causes–poverty, mental illness, instability.

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Because I’ve Turned Delirious With Mencken…..

“Any man who afflicts the human race with ideas must be prepared to see them misunderstood.”–H. L. Mencken

My ideas, especially at Christmas time, are like misunderstood children playing with fire (affliction inherent).

My ideas, during this most wonderful season of the year, curl up outside closed doors and hope to be let inside where it’s warm (affliction slow and unassuming).

Merry Christmas!

I blatantly stole–without permission!–these images from my dad. You can link to his galleries here: A Leon Miler

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The Next Big Thing: I’ve Been Tagged

Jessica Thomas tagged me in this blog meme that’s been going around. I’m always happy to be tagged, but I’m not share and share alike when it comes to tagging others. All right, I’ll admit it; I always feel a little presumptuous pretending I’m cool enough to tag other authors. There’s something else, of course. There always is. I don’t have a big thing coming up. I’m in the middle of things. I’ve decided fiction isn’t for me, yet haven’t settled on a nonfiction project. If I go with my gut instinct, I will most likely become a technical writer because my brain is far more technical than it is creative. Currently, my next big thing is to have fun self-publishing old fiction, beginning with the book I’ve been obssessing over for the past several years. So I’ll go with that. What do I have to lose? Nada mas que mi locura.

1. What is the title of your next book/work?

Franklin’s Ladder Anna and the Dragon

2. Where did the idea come from for the book/work?

I entered the cave of the subconscious and found a weird dude sleeping there.

3. What genre does your book/work fall under?

It could fit into Gothic romance or magical realism, depending on how you define terms.

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I have no idea–some guy who is just ugly enough to be handsome, and some woman who is so plain she recedes into the background. Does Hollywood hire such people?

5. What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A computer scientist living on the Oregon coast travels through time to rescue her husband and future progeny from a familial dragon curse.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I have to laugh at this question because it implies I can hire an agent at my whim. I will be self-publishing.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

six months

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Because I’ve written several book proposals to send to different agencies, I’ve thought long and hard about this, and I ultimately came up with a few good answers. Sadly, they escape my mind (I’m not at home, so can’t pull up my proposals at this time). Athol Dickson is a possible comparison–if it were to be on the Christian market. It’s really not a Christian novel, though, so my original comparisons were with mainstream Gothic romance novels.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

my soggy Pacific Northwest brain, dragons, the ocean, caves, and a strong desire to not only travel through time, but to somehow become sane in the process (not through writing the book! Sanity comes through time travel!)

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Well, now, the male protag is an acordeonista, and the female heroine is willing to sacrifice her life so she can hear him play the accordion again. What else could you want in a book?

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Here We Go Through the Newtonian Time Telescope™!

I know–many of you will now be angry with me because my title sucked you in and subsequently failed to deliver the goods (or will fail to deliver, as we shall see). My brain is in a dither. If I could possibly explain my failure at actually producing my Time Telescope technology as I outlined in an earlier proposal, would you forgive me? Would you buy my excuses? I have one after another: illness, children, Christmas, Christmas trees, driving in the mountains where there’s snow, too many hot drinks with brandy or rum, and too much generalized merry-making to want to bend time through the spherical mirror inside my scope.

That leaves me with more confessions to make. Although I envisioned the brand name Newtonian Time Telescope™ and even found the name to ring poetically in my ears, while the ampersand and semicolon necessary for cute html insignia sent pleasure signals to the dopamine-producing regions of my brain, the truth is I can’t imagine how one could time-travel through a telescope. Presumably, one would have to move faster than the speed of light in order to travel through time. Yet, a telescope simply collects light and, in the case of the Newtonian telescope, reflects this light to the eyepiece using its secondary mirror. This leaves me with a bewildering sense of 17 C steam-punk, in which impossible technology is rendered possible using steam power to produce some kind of Galilean kinematic system. But wouldn’t the steam fog up the mirrors?

So, although I would like to pretend I’ve been hiding away in my basement hammering out this time telescope, my final confession is this: I have no basement, not even a crawl space. I have no place to hide away from the world. I’ve long considered moving to a cave I know of, but the musky smell of wild animals inside it puts me off a little. When Virginia Woolf wrote in her ridiculously long sentences about a woman needing a room of her own in order to accomplish awesome feats of intellectual stupendousness, she failed to mention the part about houses with missing basements or the fact that caves often come furnished with wild animals. Where did she think a woman was to obtain this “Room of One’s Own”? And, then after finding such a place, did Ms. Woolf perceive that a woman might do nothing more intellectually stimulating than stare at the wall in the silent room reserved for her little lone self?

Back to the Newtonian Time Telescope™ and my proposal to the Royal Society of None, I have to admit that my excitement over the idea was perhaps slightly premature. I thought that earlier today, anyway. I thought, what have you gotten yourself into now, Jill? Why did you want to force Newtonian physics into encompassing this sort of nonsense? I don’t know. I can’t make sense of the world; that’s why. And when I write about it, I realize the words are just phonemes that represent stuff like time machines. They’re not real. They’re not really real.

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