Wednesday, November 30, 2005

'Tis the Season to Be... AWOL XX

I am overly inspired -- and somewhat overwhelmed -- with non-Media Diet projects right now.

I'm working for a startup poised to launch in the next month-plus, I'm working on a super-secret blog project that's captured my blogging attention and interest, and I'm "writing a novel." So I need to take a blogging breather right here, right now.

That means that Media Diet may be quiet until the first of the upcoming year. Say, 2006. That doesn't mean that Media Diet is dead (long live Media Diet!). It just means that it's resting.

I'll be back.

Update: I will continue to update my Delicious links during the hiatus, so you can keep up with that RSS feed if you suffer withdrawal.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Comics and Collaboration

DIY writer Jim Munroe and Montreal illustrator Michel Lacombe have come up with a comic book called the Bold Explorers that ties into Munroe's novel An Opening Act of Unspeakable Evil. And they're offering the comic online for free, as well via POD. The full-page images load a little slowly on this rainy Thanksgiving in Brooklyn, so I've yet to read much of the work, but it's a laudable project -- kudos!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Complimentary Comic!

Sorry to post this so late in the day, but today's edition of the New York Post comes with a free comic book insert. Designed to promote the What's New Scooby-Doo cartoon on Kids' WB, as well as DC's Scooby-Doo comic book, the 36-page "special collector's edition" also heralds the launch of Mad Kids with three pages of ads and an insert card.

Every day, I read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal on the train. Today, I also read the New York Post. This might be the first circulation ploy I've fallen prey to. Insert a comic every day, and I'll become a daily reader!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Products I Love XVII

Slingshot's 2006 Organizer: Get it. Mail order or at Clovis Press in Williamsburg, you need a planner. Need.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Free-Range Comic Book Project XLVIII

This is an installment of Media Diet's Free-Range Comic Book Project:

Sandman Presents: Petrefax #3 (DC, May 2000). Writer: Mke Carey. Artist: Steve Leialoha. Location: On a table at McSorley's Old Ale House. (Thanks, Megan!)

Star Trek: Voyager #3 (Marvel, January 1997). Writer: Laurie S. Sutton. Artist: Jesus Redondo. Location: On the Metro-North train between Irvington and Grand Central Terminal.

For more information on this project, please refer to this Media Diet entry.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Comics and Conversation

At the Big Apple Con this Saturday, S. Clay Wilson, Spain Rodriguez, Kim Deitch, Dan Fogel, and Charles Plymell will talk about the history and current state of underground comics during a panel discussion. Might be reason enough to go to the show!

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Free-Range Comic Book Project XLVII

This is an installment of Media Diet's Free-Range Comic Book Project:

X-Force #69 (Marvel, September 1997). Writer: John Moore. Artist: Adam Pollina. Location: On a Metro-North train between Grand Central and Croton-Harmon.

Wildcats Adventures #9 (Image, May 1995). Writer: Jeff Mariotte. Artist: Ben Herrera. Location: On a Metro-North train between Irvington and Grand Central.

For more information on this project, please refer to this Media Diet entry.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Event-O-Dex XXI

Wednesday, Nov. 16: Slim Cessna's Auto Club shows up at the Rodeo Bar. Like chocolate and peanut butter, these two. I will so be there.

Thursday, Nov. 17: Choo Choo la Rouge plays at the Cake Shop with Jennifer O'Connor (Matador Records) and the Dreadful Yawns (Bomp! Records). 9 p.m., $7.

Comics and Collections

If you live in the Seattle area, Sessions Gallery's forthcoming exhibit Real Art appears promising. Inspired by a Peter Bagge comic strip criticizing a fine art exhibition at the Henry Museum, the show features fine art about comics and comics about fine art. Co-curated by Don Hudgins and David Lasky, the show includes the work of Peter Bagge, Jeremy Eaton, Megan Kelso, David Lasky, Robert Rini, and Greg Stump. Opens Nov. 12.

[Thanks, Don!]

Publishing and Comics

My friend Greg Cook now does a comic strip for Publishers Weekly. The first installment ran Oct. 24, and they've delayed the second... sillies. Check it out.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Nanowrimo: Day Eight

22. Wring out the Vote

You might think that it was Peach's surreptitious nighttime B&E adventures and subsequent leavings behind of the frogs. It wasn't. It was another thing entirely. With the coming of autumn, also came election season. And Peach, being a dyed-in-the-wool particicrat, brought out the vote.

Leaving his apartment, he walked down the street to the corner, took a left, walked along the edge of the park, took another left, walked the length of the grade school and fallout shelter, and walked down the stairs to his local polling place. He was hellbent on voting.

Earlier in the fall, he'd been unable to vote because, even though he was a particicrat, he wasn’t affiliated with a specific party. It being the primaries at the time—when party-specific candidates were selected for the later general selection—he wasn't allowed to vote because he was unaffiliated.

He didn't know that would happen until he had left his apartment, walked down the street to the corner, taken a left, walked along the edge of the park, taken another left, walked the length of the grade school and fallout shelter, and walked down the stairs to his local polling place.

Once down the stairs and in the close confines of his local selection place, he learned from the elderly, disorganized, and chatty volunteers, that he wasn't listed in any of the party's rolls. So he had to leave. He did so, took a left, walked along the length of the school, took a right, walked along the edge of the park, took another right, and returned home, slightly disillusioned by his country's themocracy.

But this selection, being a general selection, was different. As an unaffiliated particicrat, Peach could vote. And so he did. Early and often. Once logged in and safely in the cozy confines of the polling space, he paused. He concentrated. And he became aware of the other polling machines. He could sense fingers poised on flip switches, switches about to flip, and switches in mid-flip.

And he pulsed. While the machines reflected the votes cast to the voters casting said votes, the machines recorded other votes. Peach's vote. His votes. Peach voted for one, tens, and hundreds of voters while he paused, concentrated, and pulsed. And when he felt as though he'd voted enough, he stopped pulsing and concentrating. Then he voted, one last time. His time.

Stepping out of the polling space, he made eye contact with the elderly, disorganized, and chatty volunteer collecting polling cards from the gathered particicrats. She didn't appear pleased. He walked past the line of people waiting to enter the polling space once he was done, casting his eyes to the concrete floor.

He walked up the stairs and followed the route, a route with which you should now be familiar, and went home. Particicrats, decide.

23. A Brief Announcement from the Management

There is no chapter 23.

24. Meeting in Secret

A lot of strikeouts have yet to be implemented. Imagine that all of the identifying details have been stricken out.

Minutes of meeting between Peachpit Sebastian and unnamed representatives of the United Places of America at the Starvation Army Recruiting Station on Main Street in Libertyville at 3 p.m., Nov. 11.

People present:

  • Peachpit Sebastian
  • Good Unnamed Representative
  • Bad Unnamed Representative

Minutes taken by Abe Foreu, notorious publicistnotary public. Dicated, not read.

Good Unnamed Representative: I'm glad you could join us, Peach.

Bad Unnamed Representative: Boo! Hiss! Pfft!

Peachpit: Well, I must say that I was intrigued by your letter. What skill could I possibly have that the Government is interested in? I am but an out-of-work astrophysicist.

BUR: I wonder why you're out of work!

Peach: What?

BUR: I said, "I'm surprised you can't find work."

Peach: Huh.

GUR: Don't mind my colleague. He got up on the wrong side of the wrong bed this morning. We're very interested in learning what you're able to do. And how. Because we think that you may be able to help us with a problem.

Peach: As a registered particicrat, I'm always happy to help the Government. What would you like to know?

GUR: Did you vote in the most recent selection?

Peach: I did.

BUR: How many times, I wonder?

Peach: Huh?

GUR: Never mind him. When and where did you vote?

Peach: It was late in the day, and at my polling space. On the other side of the park by my apartment.

GUR: Were you an informed voter?

Peach: What do you mean?

GUR: Were you aware of the issues at stake?

Peach: Yes. I make a point of knowing as much about the plandidates as possible. Where they stand on the issues that matter to me and the community in which I live. And whether their stances would affect my—and my family's—life positively or negatively.

BUR: Self-interested sperm.

Peach: What?

GUR: "Responsible one," I think he said. How long did you take to vote?

Peach: Hmm… I was probably in the polling space for 15 minutes.

GUR: Do you usually take that long to vote?

Peach: Well, this was a particularly important selection. There were a lot of options to weigh.

BUR: Pansy ass.

Peach: What did you say?

GUR: "Such as?"

Peach: Well, in addition to the general selections, there was the Traffic Island initiative.

GUR: The Traffic Island initiative?

Peach: Surely you're aware of it. Did you vote?

BUR: Dipshit. Hell no.

Peach: Huh?

GUR: "I did. As soon as I could go."

Peach: I see. Well, it was to determine whether we would to start to populate and defenestrate Traffic Island, which is protected land. And whether we would tap into its natural resources to meet the needs of Libertyville.

GUR: Do you know why Traffic Island is protected land?

Peach: It's worth protecting.

BUR: "It's worth protecting."

GUR: Worth protecting… why?

Peach: Because it's not currently populated?

GUR: Why would that be?

Peach: Because it's… worth protecting?

BUR: "Because it's worth protecting?"

GUR: Let's move on. What if I were to say that I have a video tape, or two, or three that made the time you spent in the polling space seem somewhat suspicious?

Peach: I would say, "Let's go to the tape."

BUR: I'm not sure that's such a good idea.

GUR: What?

BUR: Seriously, how much are we going to tell this guy?

Peach: What are you talking about?

BUR: We're talking about the future of Libertyville. And the destruction of Freeburg.


BUR: Come on, you ponce. Let's wrap this up. This Peach-SHIT isn't going to help us.


BUR: Do I have to do everything?

GUR: Right, right. OK, Peach, you have a choice. Let's say, a vote.

Peach: I'm confused. But I'm a confused particicrat. So, what's the choice.

GUR: You can come with us.

BUR: Or you can go to jail.


Peach: Are you two going to jail?

GUR: No.

BUR: Um, no.

Peach: Then I'll go with you.

BUR: You mean, like, go out with me?

Peach: No. We're not going out. But I'd rather go wherever you're going—then, well, go to jail.

BUR: Dammit.

GUR: Huh. OK, Peach. You've made your choice. You're a better particicrat than I anticipated. We have no choice but to…

Peach: To…?

BUR: Make you pass out with this blast of unawareness gas. Pfft!

Peach: ...

Monday, November 07, 2005

Corollary: Technofetishism XLV

I haven't used my iSight camera for two years thanks to my former employer's restrictive firewall policies, but I am now able to once again use what was once the neatest new technology I'd encountered. If you use an iSight, look for me -- and I'll try to figure out how to work real-time images into the blog.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Bring the Unfunny

I recently started using a DVR, and it's changed the way I watch television. One, at least this weekend, I'm watching a whole lot more of it -- much like I did when my parents first got cable back when I was a kid. And two, my viewing is much more directed.

I like being able to watch shows like "Veronica Mars," "Gigantor," "Mony Python's Flying Circus," and "Stargate SG-1" any time I want to. But I've also been experimenting with programs I wouldn't have watched otherwise because of what they are -- or what time they're on.

This weekend, that included George Carlin's new special and Saturday Night Live Goes Commercial, a highlight reel punctuated with a half-hearted Will Ferrell sequence.

While Carlin may have once been intellectually interesting and relevant, I found his current schtick misanthropic, padded, and boring. I don't even remember a single segment I'd recommend. And the SNL best-of? While the show did include some of my favorite adverts -- Happy Fun Ball and Buh-Weet Sings -- I was again disappointed.

So I'm looking forward to the upcoming Comedians of Comedy series. Hopefully it'll redeem my faith in TV comedy.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Nanowrimo: Day Five

I took yesterday off. Back in the saddle today.

16. An Unrequited Love Letter Never Sent

Dearest Margaret,

I know you've asked me not to call. Or write. Or come by your apartment. Or hire singing telegrams so underemployed actors, dancers, and singers perform renditions of "The Candy Man" for you. Or engage party clowns and magicians to do their thing just for you and you alone. I'd employ a stripper to entertain you, but that seems to be going just a little too far. And hiring a male stripper seems like it's not going far enough. I'd hate for you to get another restraining order. I'm still living down the first one.

But I need to reach out to you. To see you. To hear you. To feel you. Even if only in my mind's eye. In my heart. In my soul. And on this page.

Our month together was the best month of my life. The best. I've never met anyone who makes me feel like you do. Your hair. Your eyes. Your scent. The way you stumble when walking up short flights of stairs. The way you twist and fold uncomfortably when sitting in one place for too long. The way you glare untrustingly at anyone offering you a candy bar still in its wrapper. I love the way you say, "Peel here? Like I'd fall for that!" The way you read every page of text twice before turning, mouthing each word silently to yourself, but only one time or the other, never both.

Those are just some of your wonders. Some of your charming and disarming quirks. Some of your magic. I hope that I contributed in some small way to your life. Your world. Your evolution. I hope that our time together was important and influential for you, as well. I also hope that sometimes, just sometimes, you think of me fondly, recalling me with affection, and wondering how I am, where I am, what I'm doing, and with whom. Because I think of you all the time. All the time.

Just the other day, for example, I was walking down the street, thinking of you, thinking only of you, when I walked straight into a street sign. Not the round, solid kind, but the green crimped kind with holes in it. I got a gash just above my left eye, and it bled. My, how it bled. At first I didn’t realize what had happened, and I just kept walking home. But eventually, my vision became obscured with blood, and I had to use my handkerchief to tamp the flow of blood. When I got home and looked into the mirror, I was truly a horror show. No wonder everyone was wending such a wide berth around me as I walked up the steep hill home.

And no wonder you can't stand me, either. No wonder you avoid me. I'm a man who can't even walk down the street without walking into street signs. Not the kind of man you want, need, and deserve. You need a man with gaydar, radar, and sonar. A man with supersensory powers.

Wait a minute, I have supersensory powers. Clearly, even those are not enough.

Regardless, I am yours. Forever and ever yours.


17. How Men and Women Handle Rejection

Peach wasn't one to take to being newly alone again too well, even after just a single month of coupledom. He had only been with Margaret for a month, but it had been the best month of his life. It had also been the longest month. Not long in the sense that he couldn't wait for it to end, and, my, how time does plod on. But long in the sense that Peach hoped the month would never end, and wouldn't it be cool if every second were as long as a minute and every minute were as long as an hour? You can see where this is going. The month was good. It was as good as a year. A good, long year. And that year, a lifetime.

Now that the month of heaven had ended, Peach was not in a good way. He was in a bad way. Day after day, he stayed inside his apartment, sitting on his soiled futon in day-old boxers, watching reruns of stilted British comedies, and subsisting on pot pies and rice. He began to read books. He stopped reading books. He didn't finish any books. He read months-old magazines, tearing out pages and pictures to mail to friends, family, and former lovers. He made a point to not address any to Margaret. She had no idea what she was missing. That'd show her.

Margaret knew what she was missing. Whom she was missing. She was missing Peach. When her copious tears had dried and she had dabbed her peepers clean of sleepy seed, she looked into the mirror. And what she saw worried her. Her pink and silver hair was stringier than is usually was. Her skin paler. Her eyes more haunted. And her mouth a thinner line of disapproval and disappointment than usual.

"Turn that frown upside down," she muttered to herself. She struggled and shrugged out of her dumpy, athletic gray sweatshirt, brushed her teeth, ran a quick comb through her air. Inhaling to steel herself, she stood in front of the telephone and prepared to call Peach. She picked up the handset. She began to dial.

And as Peach, across town, began to howl and sob in anguish and loss, every single phone in Libertyville rang. And rang. And rang. It was a chorus of calamity, communication, and crisis.

18. Peach Gets a Letter in the Mail

One day, Peach walked down the four stairs to his mail slot. He'd moved out of his parents apartment, gone to university, and graduated with honors, earning a degree in astrophysics. And other then rejection slips from the leading journals in astrophysics, he received very little mail of note. Outside of the occasional advertising circular and the occasional bill, which Peach paid very little attention to -- he'd yet to learn that he had to pay bills addressed to him. Or that people, teams, entire organizations, and even governments kept track of such matters. He thought his credit rating was on par with his Permanent Record. Like such a record existed! Ha. Some people were such suckers.

When he opened his mail slot and peeked inside, he saw an envelope. Business size. We're talking No. 10. Serious stuff. The kind of envelope that means business. And on the outside of the envelope, on the face on which a postage stamp was affixed, his address was typewritten, not handwritten. It wasn't even printed in the typeface designed to look like someone's handwriting. He wasn't quite sure what to do.

That's not entirely true. He knew exactly what to do. He opened the envelope, picking open one end and then slicing it open along its entire length with a fingertip. He pulled out the single sheet of paper, which was folded in three, and unfolded it. He looked at it. Then he turned it over and looked at the side with writing on it. And he read it.

19. What the Letter Said

Dear Mr. Sebastian:

It has come to our attention -- the attention of the United States Government -- that you have a very special skill. A skill that has gone unnoticed by many, if not most of the people in your life. A skill that is of special interest to the Government. And a skill that is of possible use by the Government.

To that end, the Government requests your participation in and presence at a secret meeting on Nov. 11. Please come to the Army Recruiting Station on Main Street at 3 p.m.

Don't tell anyone where you're going. When. Or why. (Let's not mention how or to see whom; you should get the point by now. No? Sigh.)

This isn't a big deal. You're not in trouble. Don't worry about it.

The Government

20. A Zero's Welcome

Peach's return to Earth was a banner day. A banner day indeed. Among the festivities planned were ticker tape parades, multiple weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, pop quizzes, local elections, retirements, premier TV episodes, restaurant openings, book launch parties, and college reunions. So Peach wasn't surprised when his placeship landed, the landing gear settled gently on its pneumatic valves, and the portal opened to reveal an empty landing field. He'd seen it coming, from 60,000 feet up.

Peach walked down the ship's stairs, strode with purpose across the landing field, stepped hesitantly beyond Cape Caramel's chain-link and razor-wire gate, and waited on the curb for at least 30 minutes trying to hail a cab. Anticlimactic? Some would say so. Others would say that the parade, mitzvah, opening, party, or reunion they'd attended was the best fete they'd ever gone to. Someone had spiked the punch. Coworkers hooked up inappropriately in the office-supply closet. "Malcolm in the Middle" still brought the funny. And young men and women became adults. Gave one faith, it did.

People were also glad they watched the 10 o'clock news. Turns out that a placeflight had been successful, and that the pilot was once again on terra firma. Gods bless America.

21. Mapping the World of Peach

  • His kitchen counter
  • His futon
  • His bathroom
  • His bed
  • His mailbox
  • His front stoop, where he finds his newspapers
  • The post box on the corner
  • The laundromat
  • The corner bar
  • The liquor store
  • The other liquor store
  • The other, other liquor store
  • The grocery store
  • The other grocery store
  • The four-lane thoroughfare at which he has to wait for the walk light
  • The subway station
  • The other subway station
  • The elevated station
  • The train station
  • Where he buys his croissants
  • Where he buys his orange juice
  • The other train station
  • His office
  • The deli
  • The other deli
  • The pizza place
  • The sushi restaurant
  • His post office box
  • The taco stand
  • The other pizza place
  • Margaret's place
  • Margaret's arms
  • The Interweb
  • The recruiting station
  • Outerplace

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Nanowrimo: Day Three

I'm about 1,000 words shy tonight, but for good reason. The Big Moo launch party was this evening. Regardless:

14. A Handmaiden's Tail

"Dr. Smuckers, I'm sure you understand how awkward this is."

"I'm sure I do not. Please, don't be embarrassed. Continue describing your daughter's, shall we say, malady. The more I know the better I might be able to make a diagnosis."

"Well, you see, Doctor, our daughter—you'll remember Margaret, I'm sure—has a, how shall I put it, has a tail."

"A tail?"

"A tail."

"A tail."

"A tail."

"A tail!"

"Doctor, no one is more surprised than her mother and I, but rest assured, it is most definitely a tail."

"How long is it?"

"Seven inches."

"Seven inches!"

"Doctor, doctor. Please contain yourself. There are other patients in the waiting room. They might overhear, and as I said in the beginning, I'd like to handle this with some degree of, how to say, sensitivity. Margaret, though just about to begin kindergarten, is already very sensitive about people's impressions of her. Were she to begin school with a tail, the results could be disastrous on her self-esteem and socialization."

"A tail."

"Yes, doctor. Can it be removed?"

"A tail."

"Seven inches long. What's your professional opinion?"

"A tail."

"Doctor. If you'd rather refer me to another practitioner, I'm more than happy to seek a second opinion, as it's increasingly apparent that you might not even have one. Shall we do that?"

"No, no. Of course not; no. You must understand that I need to approach your daughter's, shall we say, malady, with some sensitivity. As you said, kid gloves and all that. Hmmph, what to do? Harrumm, who to confer? Pfft! What to consult?"

"Shall I schedule an appointment for my daughter to come in, then? So you can meet her and witness the… protrusion yourself?"

"Hmm. Parrumph. Of course. Please see Miss Smathers at the front desk on your way out. And one more thing before you go."

"Yes, doctor?"

"$30 copay, please."

15. Little Antoine vs. Big Antoine

In the annals of Libertyville history, many riots and near-riots have been recorded. The Block Association Battle of 1923. The Oddfellows Hall Spillover Fight of 1947. The Holy Shit That Girl's Got a Tail Disturbance of 1969. And perhaps—perhaps—the biggest riot of them all, truly even though it only involved two people, brothers, Little Antoine vs. Big Antoine, c. 1983.

When I say Little Antoine, I do not mean Little Little Antoine. He was not involved. He was, in fact, visiting his grandmother in Freeburg when the riot occurred. But even though Little Little Antoine was not involved, Little Antoine was. Even more importantly, Big Antoine was. And the fight was a fight that will be remembered forever.

It started like this. Little Antoine and Big Antoine, brothers, were inseparable. What Little Antoine did, Big Antoine did. What Big Antoine did, Little Antoine did. They were always doing something with each other. If one took a nap, the other napped. If one went to the store, the other went shopping. And if one ate half a sandwich for lunch, you could bet easy money that the other would eat the other half before long. The bottom half.

Then one day, what was once thought impossible happened. The details are lost to the mists of time, but it happened like this. Either Little Antoine didn't want to do what Big Antoine was doing. Whatever it was. Or Big Antoine didn't want to participate in Little Antoine's choice of pastime. Whatever that might have been.

All hell brook loose. At first, the citizens of Libertyville didn’t know what was happening. And then, they did. Water boiled. Wax melted. Paper shredded. Sculptures crumbled. The very ground cracked, mountains trembled, and the skies shattered. That's right: shattered.

Things came undone, and the battle was obscured by dust and dark. Libertyville residents could hear someone doing something in the broiling mist, violent noises booming occasionally as the crowd backed off. A moment later, almost as quickly as it had begun, it ended. The dust settled. Clouds parted. The sun shone. Birds sang.

And there, at the bottom of a crater the size of two city blocks, you could see them—Little Antoine and Big Antoine, shoulders heaving, breaths gasping, and chests heaving. Both leaned forward, hands on thighs, gathering themselves. When they had caught their breath, they looked up from the ground at each other, questioningly.

"What were we fighting about?"

"What are you talking about?"

"I think we were just fighting."



"That's silly. Why would we fight?"

"I have no idea."

"Well, let's stop."


"I'm glad that's over."

"Me, too. Say, want to go play pool down at Ronald's?"

"Sure. Lead on, little brother."

They scrambled up the slippery sandy slope of the crater wall, looked at the gathered mob as though wondering what all the people were doing there, shrugged, and walked off down the street together, arms around each other's shoulders.

Their conversation and laughter faded into the distance.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Nanowrimo: Day Two

9. The Self-Education of a Young Man

It took all Peach's parents had to teach him to control his caterwaul, but teach they tried. They spared no expense—in time or in money. But in the end, it wasn't the expensive Montessori day care workers or the eminently understanding and almost always nodding psychiatrists who helped Peach reign in his warble. It was Peach himself.

You see, there's nothing more important to a young child than the love of his mother, and it dawned on Peach that if he wanted some of those hugs and mother loving that he craved so strongly, he needed to not spend so much time around broken glass, ceramics, and figurines. Then it dawned on him that he might have something to do with that broken glass, ceramics, and figurines—as well as his parents' adhesive-bandaged feet and constant wearing of silicone earplugs around the house. And then, as Peach was a quick self-study even as an infant, it dawned on him that he was the one creating the broken glass, ceramics, and figurines. It was his voice that did so. He decided then and there that he could make his voice not do so if he so in fact wished. Bring on the hugs!

One day, Peach's mother and father walked around the nursery as though on egg shells—it was, in fact, broken glass—and the next day, silence descended on their four-story walkup and a bag of broken glass rested gently on the curb below, waiting for the trash collectors.

It was the happiest garbage day ever.

10. Regretting the Biological Clock

Peach sat across the small table from a friend. The light strains of a Stan Getz recording played over the café's sound system, and the two young adults both had books placed in front of them. He was reading a collection of poetry by a dead New Englander, and she was midway through a dog-eared science-fiction paperback. Their knees almost touched, and his eyes lingered on her face as she glanced absent-mindedly out the window.

"What were you saying?" She turned back toward him, grinning sweetly, and reached for her cup of coffee. She took a sip, eyes intent on him over the steaming rim.

"My alarm clock. It's worthless," he said, shaking his head as though to clear it. "I don't use the buzzer any more. I wake up to a CD—the same CD every morning. Too lazy to change it, but the thing really is, I don't actually wake up to the CD. So it doesn't matter what CD it is."

"What do you mean?"

"I wake up to its spinning. Or its starting to spin." Peach took a sip of his coffee. "One minute before the alarm is set to go off, I wake up to the CD about to play and the alarm about to go off. And I either hit snooze or turn it off before the alarm even goes off."

"Have you tried it with the buzzer instead of the CD? I mean, if it's somehow important for you to actually hear your alarm."

"Yeah. And I do the same thing. I wake up just before the alarm goes off. It's like I can sense it about to turn on."

"What I don't get, though, is why this bothers you. I mean, you still wake up at the right time, right?"

"Yeah. But the thing is, I worry about the alarm clock."

"You worry about the alarm clock?"

"Yeah. What if it doesn't get any fulfillment from its role in the world because it's never actually able to do what it was made to do?"

Peach's friend laughs with abandon, slapping her thighs sharply with surprise and glee as she rocks back in her chair. Peach looks at her, crestfallen as she tosses her hair and shakes her head.

"What? What's so funny?"

"You're concerned that your alarm clock will take an ego hit because you don't let it do its job?"

"Well, yeah."

"You're weird, sir. How about you go get me a refill?"

11. Meeting Miss Margaret

OK. You got me. I shouldn't have glazed over her like that. You're right. That's her. Margaret. I didn't know I loved her then, but I did know one thing: She sure loved to drink coffee. Later, when my heart had melted toward her entirely, I sometimes wondered whether I was nervous with anticipation just to be in her presence, or if I was merely over-caffeinated. I like to think it was the coffee, but I'm not that strong. Get it? Strong coffee? Oh, never mind.

Later, when we were together, everything was perfect. She didn't mind my, shall we say, talent. And she said it even made her feel safer. I protected her. That was nice. What I'd considered a handicap and something to hide for so much of my life, she considered a gift—something to be proud of. She was proud of me! What I wouldn't give just to hold her hand again.

12. The Lost Years of Peachpit Sebastian

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. It's irresponsible to give short shrift to more than 20 years of the life of Peach. Once he learned to control his outbursts, life with the Sebastians improved immensely. For the most part, he lived the normal life of an infant, a toddler, and a boy, in that order. But as he moved from his tweens to his teens, he began to pick up on things.

One, he realized that he couldn't just control his outbursts in terms of restraining himself, he could control them in terms of targeted assertions. And it wasn't just a way to make things shatter. Peach found that he could merely make a drinking glass wobble or an open window close. He could move matter—specific kinds of matter—by stopping just shy of breakage. This he tried his best to keep to himself. Although there was an incident in early high school when one bully in particular kept finding that his Ray-Bans were always breaking. That bully spent so much money on Ray-Bans one semester that he had to cut back on cigarettes and condoms.

Two, Peach learned that he could receive as well as transmit. What do I mean by that? Take the alarm clock as an example. Peach could sense when an alarm was going to go off, be it an alarm clock, a fire alarm, the telephone, or a crossing light. In school, Peach would have his textbooks neatly stacked just moments before the bell rang and classes changed over. A couple of times, Peach led his family out of a crowded movie theater or other public place just before a fire alarm began to clang. And he was always able to nose his car into an intersection just as the traffic lights changed.

And for a short while, he dabbled in crime, using his skill to identify retail establishments and building entrances that were unprotected and unlocked. The furthest Peach went in this direction could be considered a crime only in the sense of breaking and entering or trespassing. He'd find a door he could open or force without triggering a siren, make his way into the building and walk around for awhile, absorbing the eerie stillness that comes when in someone else's space—or a public place when no one else is around. And then he'd leave the way he came.

When his interest in just going into places waned, Peach made his passive crime a game of sorts. Peach acquired a gross of small plastic frogs for less than $10—a deal, but the kind of deal you question after the fact. What am I going to do with 144 plastic frogs? On his B&E runs, as he liked to think of them, he'd always leave a plastic frog behind in a conspicuous, noticeable place. If he'd worked his way into a locked-up liquor store, he'd leave a frog on the counter. A laundromat? Inside the soap dispenser machine. An accountant's office? In the very center of the desk blotter.

Every evening, Peach would read the police blotter in the daily newspaper, but his escapades were never reported. Part of him felt insulted. He realized that his crime was small beer but feared that his gifts—the frogs—would go unnoticed. He considered leaving behind larger objects, say, a whole turkey. But then he decided against it. He'd be sure to be noticed lugging around a whole turkey. That's just foolish talk.

13. Peach Gets Noticed

He'd been right, of course. With a whole turkey, he'd be as conspicuous as a floor trader at a mime convention. Nevertheless, when Peach was in high school and still experimenting with his B&E runs—he'd long run out of frogs—Peach caught the eye of a man. The man didn't mean to find Peach. He wasn't even looking. But one dark night, as Peach was inching his way out of the back entrance to a greeting card store, peering cautiously up and down the grimy, dripping alleyway, a man caught sight of him. His jaw dropped in surprise. And stayed there. Peach had the full attention of Mr. Grimace.

As Peach exited the alleyway into the misty light of streetlamps and moonlight, Mr. Grimace gathered his trench coat around him, pulled on the brim of his hat, and scuffled over toward the door Peach had exited. Mr. Grimace looked at the door, put one palm flat against the surface of the door, and reached with the other to grasp the doorknob. Sure enough, the door was locked. Tight. Mr. Grimace tugged again just to test.

Cocking his head to one side quizzically, he stepped back to consider what he had just seen. It was 4 a.m. Was Peach an employee of the card shop? He'd had no key. What kind of business could he have had there so early anyway? Was Peach a burglar? He hadn't left with anything. And what kind of thief secures the door he'd broken in through moments ago behind him as he leaves?

Mr. Grimace closed his mouth and walked the length of the alley, following the footsteps Peach himself had trod brief moments ago.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Nanowrimo: Day One

The Alarmist
By Heath Row

1. Introductions

Mr. Grimace, meet Mr. Gape. Gape, Grimace.

I’m rather surprised that you two haven’t already made each other’s acquaintance. Really, I am. You live in the same stolid section of town. You frequent many of the same safe bodegas, cafes, diners, and bookstores. And your tastes run much the same. From choice of footwear—both of you prefer thick-soled, almost therapeutic, geriatric black leather shoes—to headwear—if either of you leave your aging bachelor abodes without a pinch-brimmed hat or dusty ear-flapped cap, it’s a rare day indeed. Head, shoulders, knees, and toes.

But that is not the extent of your similarities. And therein lies my confusion—and the root of my disbelief—that you do not already know each other. Because both of you know the woman the Reader will eventually meet, and both of you love her madly. Madly! Yet she will never know, will she, Mr. Grimace? Mr. Gape?

For all you can do in her presence, Mr. Grimace, is sit slack-jawed and silent as she regales you with slightly spritely stories of her delightfully dainty day-to-day existence, hands flitting about like butterflies in the air about her pristine and porcelain face. And, you, Mr. Gape! All you can do is frown sourly, brows knit like a stocking cap and dark eyes brooding with concern. It’s a wonder she can stand spending time with either of you. I wonder what she’d do with both of you.

Truth be told, I love her, too. It’s a rare man who can’t. Or doesn’t. But this story isn’t about them, or her, or you two, really. This story is about me.

It’s a story worth the telling.

And I am the one to tell it.

So let’s begin.

2. A Real Peach of a Newborn

Zechariah Hephzibah Peachpit Sebastian—later in life, Peach to his friends, Zac to his acquaintances—was born in the earliest of mornings. The sun was just peeking sneakily past the surface of the Earth, and the birds were rousing to spout their drowsy song. Garbage trucks already filled to the gills rattled down Apollo, and the short-order cook at the Luncheonette Diner on the corner slathered the grill with grease just this side of rancid, preparing for the daybreak’s pending onslaught of orders for eggs, bacon, potatoes, and toast.

At the same time, Peach’s mother sweated and strained achingly in the master bedroom on the top floor of a four-story walkup, her legs awkwardly aloft, clamped in hastily and amateurishly yet adequately constructed stirrups made of wire hangers, yard sticks, and twine. Her husband, nervous, stood by her side. He’d called the doctor 20 minutes ago, when the breaking of his wife’s water surprised the two of them to wakefulness and wonder. At first, he’d been concerned that one of them had wet the bed. One of them, in fact, had. But that was OK. There was a birthing going on.

The man, Peach’s father, no doubt about it, wondered when the doctor would arrive. He also wondered how long his wife’s labor would last. He wondered whether his favorite baseball team would make it to the playoffs. And he wondered whether his child, the fruit of his loins and a chip off his block, would grow up to be anyone important. Would he make a name for himself? Would the name they planned to inscribe on his birth certificate—a name weighty with aspirational circumstance, history, import, and pomp—weather his son’s sure-to-come accomplishments, actions, and deeds? The man had to wait until the end of summer, scant weeks away, to learn the fate of his league favorite. But he didn’t need to wait very long to learn how important their child was going to be. Or to how many people.

The doctor arrived with a squealing of steaming tires streaking stripes in the street four flights below. The newly formed and now formal father walked to the door of the flat to await the physician’s arrival. Opening the door in antsy anticipation, the man could hear the belabored ascension of the man of medicine. While the doctor was a veritable master mechanic of the human body, he did tend to neglect his own, largely in the name of heavy sauces and port wine. But that’s neither here nor there, and soon enough, stairway be damned, the doctor arrived from there to here, much to the man—and his wife’s—relief.

So it was that Peach was born. Before bacon. Before eggs. Without toast. And in the presence of two loving parents and a wheezing MD with grimy spectacles and meat-thick fingers. As soon as Peach breached his mother’s cervix, traveled the length of mom’s vagina, and crested beyond the vulva, he took note of his new surroundings in his newborn baby way.

He deemed them unfit.

And he began to scream and screech and shriek in alarm.

3. Glass and the Effects of High-Pitched Sounds

Good morning, class. Please find your seats and get out your notebooks. Today I’m going to talk about glass and the effects of high-pitched sounds. Ready? Let’s begin.

It’s a stereotypical image: A bovine and perhaps hirsute opera singer wearing a strong, sturdy, metal helmet, adorned with horns for the sake of argument, sings a high note. You know she’s got braids. Her throat quivers. Her jowls quake. And a crystal goblet shatters. Or, a supersonic jet flies directly overhead. Faster, ever faster, until the very speed of sound itself—roughly the square root of the universal gas constant multiplied by the adiabatic index multiplied in turn by the absolute temperature of air, measured in kelvins—is broken. Windows shatter. Curio cabinets concatenate.

Is it real? Or is it Memorex? Every kind of glass has what we physicists call a resonant frequency. That is the natural frequency of vibration possessed by a particular object. Now, if a given object encounters sound waves with the same frequency as its resonant frequency, that object could indeed break. Explode. Splinter into bits. To quote the Rolling Stones—and to repeat myself—“shatter.”

How can we find the resonant frequency of glass, or any specific item, for that matter? Were we working with, say, a stereo speaker, we could use a resistor, a sine wave generator, and a true RMS meter. By finding the frequency at which the voltage across the resistor is lowest, we could identify the resonant frequency. And maybe even blow the mother out.

Hold on.

OK, class. That sounds like the fire alarm. You know the drill. Pack up your things, and exit the auditorium in single file. We’ll gather by the old oak tree for a headcount, and once we hear from the physical plant staff, you’ll be dismissed. For Thursday’s class, please read Steinberg’s paper, “Avoiding Vibration in Odd-Shaped Printed-Circuit Boards.”

Single file, now!

4. If at First You Don’t Succeed

Peach didn’t get it right the first time. He didn’t get it right the second time. But by subtly varying the pitch and length of his newborn baby cries, he eventually arrived at the proper frequency—and within seconds. That shows some amount of skill.

Every window, every glass, every bathtub, and every toilet within a radius of three miles was no more. And the world woke up.

5. The Givers of Care

Peach, then, woke up in a bed. Not the wet bed he was born in. And not the bed—the crib—his parents had intended for him to sleep in. That bed, the crib, was located in a room painted blue like the sky.

No, the bed Peach woke up in was in a lab. The walls were white. The floor tile. And the ceiling harshly lit with fluorescents. It was an operating room. A veritable theater of medical examination and exploration.

The doctors didn’t know what to do. They poked him. They prodded him. They provoked him. They placated him. They even perforated him, flying in a Japanese expert in the fine art of acupuncture from Hokkaido for that very reason. But to no avail.

No number of needles, scalpels, saline bags, or cotton swabs could reveal the mystery of this alien from the planet of sound. One moment, Peach was a baby: A pink, wrinkled, understandably angry baby. And in another moment, a moment already passed, Peach was a banshee, an Irish demon whose scream signals someone’s—or something’s—death.

6. Putting the Ire in Ireland

It is thought that the banshee’s cry can only signal the death of a member of either the O'Neill, O'Brien, O'Connor, O'Grady or Kavanagh families. Those who have held onto that thought have another think coming. Intermarriage has since extended that select list, and by some genetic twist of fate, the Sebastian family might very well be on it.

7. Roddy Doyle Ha Ha Ha

He was walking down the hall. Dr. Smuckers paused at the door and swiped at it with his cane. He missed. He swiped again. Missed again. Smuckers reached into his pocket for a soiled handkerchief and wiped his brow. Then his mouth. Then he wiped the hankie on his herringbone pants leg and swiped again with the cane.

Finally: A hit!

It was a patient’s door. Smuckers had walked two miles in sheets of slicing icy rain to reach the house. When he arrived, he learned it was a walkup. Serves him right. Buzzed in, he breached the foyer, passing piles of Chinese takeout menus; mouldering books wrapped in newspaper; and newspapers themselves, themselves sheathed in shear blue plastic bags. People were always having babies. But they were never doing anything to help him.

—Sebastian, Sebastian, Sebastian!

Mr. Sebastian opened the apartment door, eyes wide as pies.

—You called and said you had a baby.
—We’re having a baby. She’s having a baby. She’s… had the baby.
—I see. $30 copay, please.

8. On the Softness of Sheets

Clean sheets mean a lot. And the sheets on which—in which—Peach slept were awfully clean. They were cool. They were clear. They were crisp. And the crackled. An inattentive nurse’s aide had swaddled dear, dear Peach, in his frowsy, drowsy sleep, in freshly opened sheets. They weren’t starched. They hadn’t been pressed. But they also hadn’t been depressed, knee-pressed, or repressed so they had that nappy, nap-time, sleep-tight feeling. To whit: They were harsh.

Peach, being a baby, did what babies do. He cried. He clacked. He caterwauled. And, having been relocated to another position in the city, he caused another catastrophe: Every window, every glass, every bathtub, and every toilet within a radius of three miles was no more.

Imaginary Stand up Comedy Monologue II

This entry was actually written in June 2004, well predating the previously posted monologue. It's an idea long coming, and an idea I'll explain in awhile.

Hi! My name is Heath, and I'll be your comedian this evening. We've got a couple of specials tonight that you might like to know about. One is jokes that are funny. OK. We seem to be all out of that.

I want to thank you for coming to the show tonight. One, because it makes me feel like this is my show. And that you came to see me. Chances are good that you came to see someone else -- which would make me sad. Or maybe you came to see nobody in particular -- just because.

Maybe your friends signed you up when they were here, and you won some free tickets. If that's the case, we all win. The club owner's happy; hey, the place looks popular! You're happy; hey, free ticket! Score! Your friend's happy; finally, it's payback time. And I'm happy; home-field advantage. This ain't no piano recital.

If this were a piano recital, it'd be a cakewalk. You'd have to be here! You'd be my parents. You'd be my teacher. You'd be the saintly, anonymous donor who paid for my piano lessons -- yeah, thank you very much, Mrs. Johnson. But the point is this: Even if you had something better to do right here right now, you'd have to be here. Ha ha!

Regardless of whether I struggle and stumble through some complicated -- yet charmingly playful -- Scott Joplin BS or insist on playing "Barnacle Bill the Sailor" for the next 10 minutes, you're stuck. This stage is my piano bench. Saddle up!

I also want to thank you because I'm a relatively new comedian. You see, I decided to become a comic, well, OK, yesterday. Seriously! Listen! There I was, at home, on the futon, watching the TV, and checking out "Last Comic Standing."

Have you seen that show? No? Jay Mohr? No? Ouch. Anyway, the title says it all. And yesterday, I decided, you know what? That's what I want to be. No. No, it's not. Because if it's anything like that Sidney Poitier movie about the last man on Earth, I don't know. Yeah. Yeah, I do. That would suck!

Who would laugh at you? To have an audience, you'd have to be at least the second to last person standing. And unless you were really, really funny, you'd want even more people there. I don't know, the 23rd person standing? It kind of increases the odds of being funnier than the other people, you know?

Anyway, other people. My time's almost up. Before I go, I want to comment on a current event that's got me all riled up. The war in Iraq? No. The circle jerk over Ronald Reagan's coffin? No. Two words: Mr. Softee. You see, in New York, they want to outlaw ice cream trucks because of the noise. Because of the noise!

I want to outlaw ice cream trucks not because of the noise but because of the negative impact they have on today's youth. I'm not talking about fat kids. We have enough of those. I'm talking about the lyrical content of the Mr. Softee song: Barnacle Bill the Sailor. Let's go to the tape:

"Who's that knocking at my door, cried the fair young lady. It's only me from over the sea; I'm Barnacle Bill the Sailor. I'm old and rough and dirty and tough; I'm Barnacle Bill the Sailor. Hurry before I bust the door; I'm Barnacle Bill the Sailor. I got me a wife in every port, said Barnacle Bill the Sailor."

Are there any fathers in the house? I scream, you scream, we all scream.

I think that's it. No. One more thing:

I love you.

Low-Class Action Suit

I got an email from Netflix today about a class action suit they're involved in.

The lawsuit alleges that Netflix failed to provide "unlimited" DVD rentals and "one day delivery" as promised in its marketing materials.

I've got no beef with Netflix. In fact, I think their customer service is pretty spiffy. As in, I hardly ever need any, and when they send me the wrong disc, they send the correct one right away.