Tuesday, August 31, 2010

McSweeney's! And, the real best pickup line ever

"Did it hurt?  When'st thou fell from Heaven?"
Today, I have a piece at McSweeney's, which I am very proud of.  It's about my second-favorite Shakespeare play ever, Richard III.

On a related note, Richard was the uncontested greatest player in literature until Hannibal Lecter got himself into Clarice Starling's pants by feeding her some dude's brain.  And Shakespeare gives us the greatest pick-up ever written, when Richard makes a pass at a woman immediately after murdering her father and husband.

This would be tough even for the smoothest of pimps.  And this guy doesn't have the advantage of being super-handsome like me.  Poor dude is a hunchback.

Gloucester is, of course, Richard.  He does not become Richard III until later on, when he ascends the throne.

It is said that the high-five was invented for the express purpose of celebrating the unadulterated pimpitude of this specific moment.

My helpful annotations are in parentheses.  And all caps.  And bolded.  And italicized.

What, do you tremble? are you all afraid?
Alas, I blame you not; for you are mortal,
And mortal eyes cannot endure the devil.
Avaunt, thou dreadful minister of hell!
Thou hadst but power over his mortal body,
>His soul thou canst not have; therefore be gone.

Sweet saint, for charity, be not so curst.
Foul devil, for God's sake, hence, and trouble us not;
For thou hast made the happy earth thy hell,
Fill'd it with cursing cries and deep exclaims.
If thou delight to view thy heinous deeds,
Behold this pattern of thy butcheries.
O, gentlemen, see, see! dead Henry's wounds
Open their congeal'd mouths and bleed afresh!
Blush, Blush, thou lump of foul deformity;
For 'tis thy presence that exhales this blood
From cold and empty veins, where no blood dwells;
Thy deed, inhuman and unnatural,
Provokes this deluge most unnatural.
O God, which this blood madest, revenge his death!O earth, which this blood drink'st revenge his death!
Either heaven with lightning strike the
murderer dead,
Or earth, gape open wide and eat him quick,
As thou dost swallow up this good king's blood
Which his hell-govern'd arm hath butchered!

Lady, you know no rules of charity,
Which renders good for bad, blessings for curses.

Villain, thou know'st no law of God nor man:
No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity.
But I know none, and therefore am no beast.

O wonderful, when devils tell the truth!
More wonderful, when angels are so angry.
Vouchsafe, divine perfection of a woman,
Of these supposed-evils, to give me leave,
By circumstance, but to acquit myself.
Vouchsafe, defused infection of a man,
For these known evils, but to give me leave,
By circumstance, to curse thy cursed self.
Fairer than tongue can name thee, let me have
Some patient leisure to excuse myself.
Fouler than heart can think thee, thou canst make
No excuse current, but to hang thyself.

By such despair, I should accuse myself.
And, by despairing, shouldst thou stand excused;
For doing worthy vengeance on thyself,
Which didst unworthy slaughter upon others.
Say that I slew them not?
Why, then they are not dead:
But dead they are, and devilish slave, by thee.
I did not kill your husband.
Why, then he is alive.
Nay, he is dead; and slain by Edward's hand.

In thy foul throat thou liest: Queen Margaret saw
Thy murderous falchion smoking in his blood;
The which thou once didst bend against her breast,
But that thy brothers beat aside the point.

I was provoked by her slanderous tongue,
which laid their guilt upon my guiltless shoulders.
Thou wast provoked by thy bloody mind.
Which never dreamt on aught but butcheries:
Didst thou not kill this king?
I grant ye.
Dost grant me, hedgehog? then, God grant me too
Thou mayst be damned for that wicked deed!
O, he was gentle, mild, and virtuous!
The fitter for the King of heaven, that hath him.

He is in heaven, where thou shalt never come.
Let him thank me, that holp to send him thither;
For he was fitter for that place than earth.
And thou unfit for any place but hell.
Yes, one place else, if you will hear me name it.
Some dungeon.
Your bed-chamber.

I'll rest betide the chamber where thou liest!
So will it, madam till I lie with you.

I hope so.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Homemade Salsa

I'm too lazy to offer writing advice today, so I am going to talk about what I am eating instead.

You can buy beautiful juicy field-grown tomatoes at any grocery store or farmers' market in the city right now; August is their peak season and they're plentiful and cheap this year.  So I bought a bunch and made salsa.

This is actually a pretty simple recipe, but it's just fantastic (and cheaper by volume than the store-bought stuff).

You core about four or five tomatoes, depending on how big they are.  You throw the inside part of about a tomato and a half into the food processor to make your liquid base for the salsa, and you throw the rest of the cores away (or if you're like me, you just eat them).  You dice up the tomatoes, and you mix those with the liquid part.

You squeeze the juice from half a lime and a quarter of an orange over this.  Add a spoonful of olive oil and a little salt.

Then you add peppers, green onions and a handful of cilantro, either finely chopped or diced in the food processor.

Depending on how hot you want it, you can vary the kind of peppers you use, as well as the quantity.  The hottest part of a jalapeno pepper is the core with the seeds.  You can throw that part away if you want a mild salsa, or mix it in for medium. I use two whole jalapenos for salsa made from four large tomatoes.

If you're adventurous, you can get some habanero peppers, which are extremely hot.  I tried them once and thought they were unpleasant.

This is what you end up with:

It beats the shit out of any store-bought salsa.  It's best if you let it sit for an hour or so after you make it, to let the tomatoes soak up the other flavors.  But you should eat it within a few days and keep it refrigerated.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Band Names That Reference Stuff

The band in "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" is called Sex Bob-omb, which is hilarious.

Here are some more awesome names for bands that are also references to stuff.  

Band names that reference David Cronenberg: Brundle-Fly; Flesh Gun; Viggo Mortensen's Junk

Band names that reference Woody Allen: Vicky Cristina Bossa-Nova; Paul Simon Stole My Girlfriend; Anything Else

Band names that reference Hitchcock: High-Angle Shot; Woman With Glasses; Alfred and the Cool Blondes; Cary Grant and the Crop-Dusters

Band names that reference JRR Tolkien: Council at Rivendell;The Ringwraiths; Smaug's Horde; Viggo Mortensen's Junk

Band names that reference Orson Welles: Deep Focus; F for Funk; The Rosebuds; The Third Men; Frozen Peas

Band names that reference video games: Starman; Falcon Punch; Warp Whistle; Tuesday is Raid Night; Kael'thas and the Setbacks; Spawn More Overlords; Mega-Buster and the Situational Upgrades; Deku Nuts; Day of Lavos; Call of Booty; Splinter Cello

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thoughts On Literature

Agree or disagree:  Existential crises, relationship trauma and childhood wounds are all more interesting if the character has to deal with them in the middle of a murder investigation, jewel heist or starship battle.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Old people are the new sexy vampires

My agent's pitch letter didn't include much biographical information about me, so when my editor first read the manuscript for "Don't Ever Get Old," she thought it had been written by an author who resembled the protagonist, an 87 year-old WW2 veteran.

I just turned 29 last week; the voice is based loosely on my grandfather, and also on old Dashiell Hammett novels.  A lot of people who read the manuscript seem to be surprised that I would write a book like this, and want to know why I picked this character and this story.

One reason: old people are awesome.  Last year, Wall Street analysts failed to recognize the awesomeness of old people and they predicted Pixar's "Up" would be a box office turkey.  That was embarrassing for them.

You can't really blame people for being late to the party on this one, though.  If someone had told me three years ago that teenage girls wanted to hook up with werewolves, I would not have believed it.

Anyway, here is the latest proof of that old people are trending; a viral video in which comedian Rachel Bloom begs for sex from 90 year-old author Ray Bradbury.

This could lead to another exciting new trend in which women pretend that they want to have sex with dudes who write books, which sounds like it might be fun for me, but would ultimately wind up being confusing and frustrating..

Maybe she should follow this "Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury" with: "Stab me, Norman Mailer,"  "Shoot me in the face, William S. Burroughs," and "Drink yourself to death while I die in a fire, F. Scott Fitzgerald."

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Birthday Present

Only one person really loves me; the person who bought me the flat-panel and the PS3 and the awesome watch.  Thanks, Dan, for another awesome gift.  You're welcome, Dan.

I needed a carry-on size bag that I made me look cool while I lugged it through the airport

Behold, gentle readers, is the Temple U-Zip Duffle Bag, a case study in concentrated awesomeness.  A minor genius named Steve Opperman came up with the idea to sell hand-sewn bags made from army surplus fabrics from World War II.

Basically, this is the manliest bag since God invented scrotums.  It's got a very distinctive look, and it's cool; it's the thing that someone cooler than me in a cool movie would fill with cooler stuff than the stuff I've got.

The Money Shot:

Brass hardware:

Inside is lined with raw canvas:

The stenciled letters are apparently original:

Here are videos showing how this thing gets made:

Cool, right?  They also make iPad cases.

Monday, August 16, 2010

You won't see DRM free e-books for a while

The Kindle and other e-book formats are very locked-down.  They can be accessed through special apps, but they can't be read by other programs.  You can't back up your kindle books on your PC hard drive.  The things you can do to manipulate a commercial e-book file are very limited.

Some people think that e-books will eventually go DRM free, because Apple used to use DRM on iTunes, and then stopped.  I think this is unlikely.

Music publishers went DRM free because they really didn't have a choice. CD-audio is an unprotected digital format that can be ripped DRM free to a sharable file by anyone. And publishers can't put DRM on CDs, because the media must be compatible with existing CD players.

If commercial music downloads are encumbered by DRM, they're inferior to freely-available pirated versions. E-vendors had to go DRM free because they were essentially competing with illegal downloads.  People who might have bought the album would pirate to avoid the limitations on the commercial files. 

A book is different because it can't be ripped like a CD. Somebody has to scan every page of a book to PDF or type every word into a text document in order to turn it into a file that can be shared on the internet. This doesn't happen very often, and the result is noticeably inferior to the original.  Book piracy exists, but it's happening on a much smaller scale than music piracy.  

I don't know anyone who has ever read a pirate e-book.  Almost everyone seems to have downloaded music illegally.  If publishers start releasing books as freely-sharable files, they'll create mass book piracy where none exists now. 

A full book in Word format is less than 1MB. If publishers put their books out as DRM-free files, a reader could attach an author's entire life's work to an e-mail and forward it to everyone on his contact list with a push of a button, and there's nothing anyone could do about it.  Sales would collapse almost overnight.

Nobody who is in the business of selling content would willfully create that kind of situation.  

DRM free e-books will never happen; it would be the end of commercial publishing.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Rejected Taglines For My Publishers Marketplace Announcement

Daniel Friedman's DON'T EVER GET OLD:

"The book Michael Chabon might have written if he wasn't busy working on something much better."

"Pitched as late Philip Roth meets 'The Maltese Falcon,' but with worse writing."

"Kind of like 'Are you there, God? It's Me, Margaret,' only it's about death instead of puberty."

"Taking advantage of the obvious counter-trend to the market glut of young-adult fiction."

"Dares to imagine what it might be like if 'Dirty Harry' were Jewish."

"In which a grandfather and a grandson take a road trip together and discover that they dislike each other."

"In which 87 year-old Buck Schatz races against time to catch a fugitive Nazi before one of them dies of old age."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Teenagers are stupid and should get off my lawn.

"I shall soon be six-and-twenty. Is there anything in the future that can possibly console us for not being always twenty-five?"

-Lord Byron

Clint reacts to the Justin Bieber book deal.
On Friday, I will be 29 years old, and I feel aged and depressed, especially since I can't figure out how Twitter works.  Reading one of those goddamn feeds is like listening to one side of a phone call.  

In the meantime, I feel entirely alienated from contemporary youth culture, which insists upon being very stupid.  In retrospect, I know that high school relationships are meaningless, that high school friendships don't last forever and that the big game doesn't mean shit to anyone except the one guy who might get a football scholarship.  So I join the masses of alienated old people who can't care about the drama that animates the people who apparently matter.
"Team Jacob!"

And the people who matter love Justin Bieber and some kid from YouTube called Fred.  I don't understand what the hell he is doing, but I hate it.  Apparently, he's the new YouTube comedy sensation for kids, even though he's not funny and his videos are transparent promotions for something called a ZipIt, which appears to be the BlackBerry's developmentally-disabled second-cousin.

Meanwhile, serious adults are seriously reading young adult literature, even though young adult literature is about kids and their stupid problems.  Young adult literature teaches us that teenagers in post-apocalyptic dystopias are just as obnoxious and self-absorbed as regular teenagers, and that turning sexy teenagers into sexy teenage vampires makes them perpetually obnoxious and self-absorbed.

Fortunately, there is relief available: here is American hero Aziz Ansari, explaining how to mess with kids on Facebook. 

And he's not the only one pulling this stuff.  The very social networks from which they derive strength will sow the seeds of their destruction!

Also: here is ex-teen idol Joshua Jackson of Dawson's Creek (who is even older than me), making fun of his Pacey character:

Monday, August 9, 2010

The best pick-up line I have ever heard

This is a pick-up line another dude used, on me  (unsuccessfully, because I only like women).

This happened a few years ago at a bar in the West Village:  dude rolls up and offers to buy me a drink.  Thanks, but no thanks; very flattering, Bro, but I am straight and not interested.

"I know you're straight," he says.  "I only fuck straight guys."

"No," I say.  "I'm really straight."

Dude says:  "Everybody's got a little queer in him, and with a few shots of tequila and a little K-Y, you can usually get some more in there."

And it may be true, but I was drinking beer and not at all interested in testing the hypothesis.  Still, it is the unquestioned awesomest pick-up line I have ever heard.  That guy probably gets laid every night.

In case you are wondering, my line, lately, has been: "So, let me tell you about this book I wrote."  Guess what? It turns out that writing dark mysteries about elderly people is not catnip for the ladies.  It's better than "Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?" though.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Overheard in New York: The Worst Pick-Up Line Ever

"You. Me.  Right now."
When I was trying to get a bartender in Murray Hill to get me another $14 vodka tonic, I heard a guy in a very-expensive suit say this to a woman:

"I'm pretty sure I can raise enough cash to take you private."

Really, financial industry?  Ew.

I pointed at him and yelled as loud as I could:  "Can somebody give me a credit default swap on this douche right here?"

Then I got thrown out of the place because private-equity guy knew the owner of the bar.

Monday:  The best pick-up line ever.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

More Starcraft: A Reading From The Sacred Book of Zerg

"My faith is my shield."
A zergling once said to the Overmind: "I want to believe in you, but how can I keep my faith, when the life of a zergling is so very brief and full of suffering?"

And the Overmind said unto the zergling: "Look back at the path thou hast trod all of thine life. You will see there are two sets of footprints, for where you have walked through torment and trial, I have walked beside you."

And the zergling looked back and saw that, for much of the way, there were, indeed, two sets of footprints, but sometimes, where he had endured the harshest difficulties, he saw only one set.

"But Overmind," the zergling said. "What about the places where my journey was the most painful? When I look at those spots, I see only one set of footprints. You abandoned me."

"I did not abandon you, my child," said the Overmind. "Those places where you see only one set of footprints are the places where I sent in Mutalisk air support."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

In honor of Starcraft 2: Advice from Kerrigan, Queen of Blades

"You need a plan for self-actualization, Girlfriend."

Love is Patient 

Dear Kerrigan,

My boyfriend and I have been together for three years. He can be very sweet, but he doesn't have a job and he spends every night playing video games. Whenever I ask him to spend time with me, he says he can't because it's raid night and he is the tank. I don't want to begrudge him the time he spends with his friends, but it seems like every night is raid night.

My mom says, if I love him and I am patient, he'll see what I'm worth and he'll change. But my friends say a man will never change, so I should either get used to it, or get out. What should I do?

Konfused on Korhal

Kerrigan Sez:

Dear Konfused,

Your story reminds me of the time I fell in love with the acid-spewing canopy-crawlers of Forest-world VI. Whenever I tried to get close to them, they fired jets of hot bile at me and then went scampering off through the treetops. But I knew how to make them come around; I ordered my cerebrates to build a hive cluster, and then we systematically consumed all the organic life, until the entire planet was barren and covered with creep. We've since incorporated the genetic material of the canopy crawlers into our new banelings, and I just couldn't be happier.

The moral of the story is this: if you wait for a man to change, you'll be waiting forever, no matter how much you love him. You must force him to assimilate. Once you do, he will be compliant, although he will have a slightly increased tendency to explode.

But, whatever happens with your boyfriend, keep in mind that it won't matter in the long run. The Zerg are going to kill all of you anyway.

Keep the faith, Sister.

Career Change 

Dear Kerrigan,

Since I was a young Protoss, I always wanted to be a Dragoon. As soon as I was of age, I applied to Dragoon school, and after seven years of rigorous training, I achieved my goal. I got everything I thought I wanted, and I've never been so unhappy.

Being a dragoon seems glamorous from a distance, but much of the day-to-day work is unpleasant and distasteful. And the recession has really pinched dragooning opportunities; there have been numerous rounds of layoffs in my company, and if they can cut the templars, nobody is safe. I've been having panic attacks.

I really want to leave my job and do something different, but I'm so heavily invested in my career. I have a lot of student debt, and I am also physically fused into the dragoon exoskeleton.

Is there a way to be happy doing what I'm doing? Is it crazy for me to consider a career change?

My Life For Aiur

Kerrigan Sez:

Dear Aiur,

The solution to your problem is the same as the solution to most other problems: the Swarm. We have experienced professional zerglings on call 24/7 to dismantle your exoskeleton. We also offer the fastest retraining program in the galaxy, available to you at no charge. You won't believe how quickly you'll be put to use serving the Swarm!

And you'll have my guarantee that once you make the decision to walk into a hive of Zerg, you'll never have to worry about your student loans or your career prospects again.

Remember: The Zerg are just here to help.


Monday, August 2, 2010

I am now allowed to tell you...

"Don't Ever Get Old" will be out in hardcover for you to buy and love and cherish in Winter 2012, from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press.  It is a mystery featuring 87 year-old Buck Schatz, who responds to the existential inevitability of his death in the only reasonable way: by going on a hunt for Nazi gold.  My editor is Marcia Markland.

Set about $15 aside for it right now.  

Thanks to Victoria Skurnick for being awesome and making this happen.

In unrelated news, some women flagged me down in the street over the weekend to tell me I am cute.

"It's ten in the morning.  Why the hell are we still sober?"