Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Trip to the Book Store

I once sold my book through a book store.   I used to visit the store and stare at them, sighing like a father staring at his daughter's first bowling shoes.  Then the store's owners told me to take the rest home.

They made excuses, of course.  Something about it not selling.  Something about it being the worst piece of modern literature they'd seen.  Something about protesters and boycotts of their store.

Nice try, pal.  You entered the lion's den.  You tickled the sleeping dragon.  You killed John Wick's dog.  You spat in the wind.  You stole the Lucky Charms.  You ate the Taco Bell burrito.

Where was I?  Oh, right.

It's payback time.  And this time it's even more personal than payback usually is.  I devote one weekend every month to bringing that bookstore down.  One weekend every month, I begin my subtle campaign of terror.

Below are excerpts from my war journal.

Saturday the 14th:
I went into the kids section.  They have a series of books on who each US President was and what their importance was.

Did you know Kennedy was the first president to cheat on his wife?
I leaned over to a mother looking at Who Was Millard Fillmore?  "You realize there'll be a Who Was Donald Trump book some day?"

She grabbed her kid and rushed out of the bookstore.  Score one for the revolution.

Sunday the 15th:
I headed to the science fiction section where I saw someone looking at signed copy of The Martian.  

OMG!  It was signed right here!
I leaned over to him.  "So, Andy Weir just signs his books to nobody in particular then leaves them on the shelves? Are you supposed fill in your own name so it can look like he signed it to you?"

The man laughed.  Disgruntled, I tried again.  "Is that his signature?"
"Who is Lry Zni?"
"What is that?  It looks like a drawing of two dinosaurs.  Or maybe a pair of baboons kissing.  Whatever it is, it certainly does not look like the words Andy and Weir.  You could probably save time by buying blank copies and drawing squiggles on the title pages yourself."

The man put the book down and, careful not to make eye contact, left the store.  Got suspicious look from man behind the counter.

Monday the 20th (President's Day - Part of my "Long Campaign of '17"):
I wandered over to the New Releases section, grabbed a book, and flipped to the last page.
Fournier is one of my top eight serif typefaces named after obscure engravers!
I held the book up to a teenager.  "What's with the 'About the type' sections?  Are there font buffs out there who buy books just for the explanations of the letters?  Is there someone out there who rips out all these sections and tapes them together to form whole books about type?  Is that like Silence of the Lambs for fonts?"

The teenager told the owner.  The owner told the police.  Am now in lockup and using my time for a "private call to a lawyer of my choice" to pen this account.

The war continues...

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Two Inches

Still the top stars.
When I was young, my family got Dynamite Magazine.  Dynamite was full of all the posters, fold outs, and tween pandering you'd expect from a kids magazine.  Nowadays teens have their internet, they can Tweet and Tumbl all they want, but nothing compares to the joy you got from seeing Shields and Yarnell on the cover.

Squeeeee!
Dynamite Magazine also had puzzles and toys to punch out and a page or two with drawing lessons.  Now, my artistic skills are weak, but they would have been stronger if I hadn't given up practicing when I was a kid.

Me, trying to draw my own hand.
I just never saw my work as good as my peers'.  For example, when asked to draw a picture of a monster, my classmates drew weird creatures with bone-shaped heads and extra legs.  I drew something I saw on Johnny Quest.

Remarkably, this looks an awful lot like my ex wife.
Shortly after I abandoned art, I saw a drawing page in Dynamite.  It described a world where the air was only two inches off the ground and instructed the reader to draw what the aliens on that world might look like.

I scoffed.  What would the aliens look like?  They'd look like any aliens who didn't need to breathe.   Or maybe wendigo-like monsters who could withstand the cold of being without an atmosphere.  Or very small creatures who lived within the atmosphere.

I enjoyed thinking about what I'd draw, but never had the confidence to draw it.  Every few years, I'd think back on that drawing task. This week, I tried to do it.


A large furry creature that has a trunk to get the air.
Tiny, bug-like creatures who live within the atmosphere.
I kind of like what I did.  Makes me think I should go back to an assignment I wish I'd done differently in grad school.

What do you think; should I make a catalog of cybernetic body enhancements?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Winchester Mystery Rumor


The Winchester Mystery House is the spookiest old mansion in the country. 

If you're not familiar with the Winchester Mystery House, it has a spooky history.  It's a 161-room mansion built by Sarah Winchester, who inherited much of the Winchester Repeating Arms fortune.  She was a strong believer in spiritualism and was convinced by a medium that the ghosts of everyonekilled by Winchester rifles were out to get her.

The medium, who was married to a contractor, convinced Mrs. Winchester that the only way to evade their revenge was to build a house and keep adding on to it, and so she built like mad.  She didn't care what the house looked like and had her team of contractors build stairways that went nowhere, rooms without floors, windows blocked by other walls, and doors that opened up to open air. So she continued to build rooms on to the house until the day she died. 

Her story is a warning to people to not trust psychics.  It's a reminder that hucksters will take advantage of the credulous.  It's a sad tale about the treatment of the mentally ill.

It's also complete bullshit.

I recently went on the Winchester Mystery House tour and they took us to something called The Seance Room.  It was a room with secret doors she used to sneak away from pursuing ghosts.  While our guide showed us how she could sneak out through a hidden window, I asked how we knew the story about the medium was true.  Was there any documentation?

How do you know she was crazy? Count the coat hooks!
No, seriously, that's their evidence.
"It's not written anywhere," he said.  "It's a rumor."

I was floored.  The great, compelling story I'd been fascinated by, with all its curses and ghosts, was a fable created by newspapermen to generate sales.

The truth is, she just liked making rooms.
Yeah, but fun.
At first, she had an architect, but he quit after working with her on just one room (probably because she insisted on adding another candle to a chandelier so it had 13 candles, her favorite number).  After he left, she became her own architect, sketching what she wanted on a piece of paper and handing it to the workers.

The workers, meanwhile, were paid and treated very well.  She even installed extravagances (such as indoor plumbing, heating, and toilets) to make their lives easier.

In the end, it seems she used her wealth not in a terrified quest to avoid evil but in the eccentric fulfillment of what gave her joy.  She built for fun.


From the looks of it, she had more fun than anyone else.

Friday, February 3, 2017

My Addiction and Recovery

Leader: Who's next?

[I step onto the stage.]

Leader: And what's your name?

Me: Hi everybody.  My name is Matthew, and I'm an addict.

Leader: Really?  Well, now, what are-

Me: What are they?  I just got over a coke addiction.  Really a My Coke Rewards addiction.  I desperately saved rewards points hoping to get the big prizes.

Only it was a scam.  I'd save up almost enough, only to find they'd made them cost more.  I'd beg friends and family members for their codes.  I'd dig them out of the trash.  Sometimes I went so far as actually drinking Coke!

[The audience gasps in horror.]

Well, I finally kicked the habit.  Or, really, they cancelled my account because I hadn't logged in often enough.
I just threw all of these away.  It hurt.
Leader: How awful! Well, if that's all-

This circle should be all blue.
Me: I'm still addicted to arguing with strangers on Facebook.  It usually ends when someone insults me.  Then I respond with:
Insulting a stranger through the safety of the internet is the lowest form of cowardice.  I'm not sure if you got this way because of the sexual abuse you suffered at the hands of your parents or the men who pay you for sex, but it reflects badly on your character.  Whatever the cause, you are no longer worth my time.
Audience: That's hysterical, and I bet it shuts them up, too!

Me: I'm addicted to not finishing my novel.

Leader: That's not an addiction.

Me: Well, I've been working on my current novel for a couple of decades.  I keep rewriting it because it's awful.

My last novel
Leader: Well, maybe you should try working on it right now.

Me: If you think so.

[I leave the kindergarten auditorium.]

Leader: Okay, back to the school talent show.  Next up Mitzi and Craig singing I'm a Little Teapot!  Give them a big hand...