Thrilling Tales

"He went out and became a circus clown, the way some of the really bitter ones do."
-- Glen David Gold, "The Tears of Squonk, and What Happened Thereafter"

The highlight of McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales, apart from a steampunk story by Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon, apart from the fact that it contains stories by Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Elmore Leonard, Michael Crichton, Michael Moorcock, Nick Hornby and Sherman Alexie, is one awesome story by Rick Moody: "The Albertine Notes." It's reality-warping like The Matrix, but twisted and self-destructive, like what Videodrome should have been.

The collection is meant as an antidote to the "contemporary, quotidian, plotless, moment-of-truth revelatory story," which editor Chabon admits his own short story collection is full of. Most of the stories in this treasury live up to the standard set by Chabon in his introduction, but there are still a few that seem to yearn for some epiphany at their climax.

Stephen King's "The Tale of Gray Dick" has plot, but he seems to be phoning it in with a story that might have been a chapter he cut from the Dark Tower/Gunslinger series. Some of the better ones are Kelly Link's "Catskin", a nasty fairy tale that puts me in mind of Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber and Margaret Atwood's Bluebeard's Egg; and Glen David Gold's "The Tears of Squonk, and What Happened Thereafter," based on the real story about a circus elephant that was hung for murder in Tennessee.


Two Great Tastes

The Circle Jerks with Debbie Gibson (youtube video).
I Am The Greatest - Muhammed Ali cartoon (youtube).
Jermaine Jackson with "Spud & Pud" Devo in a 1982 Halloween special (youtube video).
The absolute bottom of the barrel: Zorro anime. Makes the old Filmation cartoon version look masterful by comparison.


GPS phones to make shorter calls

Surely somebody has thought of this idea and started to implement it, but if not, I expect to be paid retroactively in ten to fifteen years when this catches on, if only for convincing people that they need this feature. I haven't registered a patent, but the idea is simple.

GPS in your phone that is readable by the person on the other end. Obviously you don't want your phone to become a tracking device for everyone, so you can choose to turn it off, or you can program your phone so that it will be readable by your friends or family, or whichever people you decide to turn it on for, in the same way you program unique ringtones for each of them today. It would only be visible to that caller when you answer the phone, so if you didn't answer it, no one could track you but the NSA.

Why would a person want to do this? For one thing, it will cut down on your hollering in a fucking video rental joint, "Yeah, I'm calling from the video joint. No, Blockbuster. No, I hate Hollywood Video, they kicked me out after that fight I got in with the clerk. Right the Blockbuster near our place. No, not the one on Tappan, the one on State Street!"

How many times do you want to pay for that conversation? Have you noticed that you have that conversation right now several times a day? Wouldn't you rather say, "Look at your phone. That's where I am. Now what do you want?"

Or how about this one: "Yeah, I'm at my Ma's. No, honestly, I'm at my Ma's. What the hell you want, an affadavit? I'm at my Ma's!"

"I'm in line at the grocery store. No, Kroger's. This one's fancier than the other one. I know, has the health department even let that one reopen yet? Okay, what you want to do is take the Jackson Road exit off 94, hang a right. Then you can either turn into Westwood Plaza or you can go past it to the stoplight, hang another right...."

Wouldn't it be nice to cut all that shit out? Zap. No more lousy directions from well-intended friends. No more giving lousy directions even when you don't mean to direct them off the end of a pier.

"Steph, hey. You mind if I join you? Great, stay there, I'll be there in a couple minutes."

"Hey, Joe. Where you goin with that gun in your hand? Never mind, I was thinking of the old days when no one had GPS on their cell phones, or before everyone saw the benefits of leaving their GPS position visible to friends and relatives. I see that you are headed in the direction of your old lady's place. Let's get right down to the question of why you're doing that."

It would present a problem when spouses expect to be able to track each other via GPS phone 24/7, or bitch at each other when one turns it off, or parents tracking kids. They'll work it out or work around it. For example, I heard that some schools block websites where kids can instant message or chat or use forums to pass messages back and forth to each other during class. As a workaround, they find a site like BusinessWeek or maybe a blog with articles about macroeconomics in Micronesia, and they leave notes for each other in the comment sections of the articles. Be crafty. You'll figure a way to cheat if you really want to. Pay a taxi driver a few bucks to take your bugged phone on his rounds for a few hours, then you can go get your cheat on.

It will save you so much money by stopping those "here I am" conversations, you'll wonder why no one other than Rob thought of it earlier.


Property is Theft: A Political Economy of Legos in One Classroom

Okay, that title is a bit ridiculous, but check out this article
"Why We Banned Legos" from The teachers didn't ban Legos permanently. They just took them away for a few months while getting the kids to talk about how they could share and build with Legos more fairly, instead of a few kids dominating the toys or excluding other kids. I admit, it seems ridiculous, but the way this is dealt with in most situations is not for kids to talk about power and ownership and rules. It's just a teacher or parent exercising power by demanding the kids share, and micromanaging the situation. Some kids learn to share, and other kids learn that they can boss people around when they become as powerful as a teacher or parent.

There's also a response from National Review Online by John J. Miller, making the kind of irrelevant accusations that you'd expect about these "latte-sipping" teachers. Miller either skimmed the article too quickly or he's being intentionally misleading.

[In their] new Lego regime, there would be three immutable laws:

* All structures are public structures. Everyone can use all the Lego structures. But only the builder or people who have her or his permission are allowed to change a structure.

* Lego people can be saved only by a “team” of kids, not by individuals.

* All structures will be standard sizes.

You can almost feel the liberating spirit of that last rule. All structures will be standard sizes? At Hilltop Children’s Center, all imaginations will be a standard size as well: small.

For one thing, the teachers did not impose those rules. The kids came up with those rules after discussions. For another thing, Miller seizes on this rule about "standard sizes" as if it's some horribly Stalinist policy. To me it sounds like the community of kids developed their own playtime zoning ordinances, the kind commonly accepted in communities all over the US (except maybe Houston).


Ira Glass on Storytelling

Short video clips of Ira Glass on storytelling. Can I leverage this info to make Brazen Hearts better?


Latest podcast episodes

"Chapter Nine: Nadia Bares Her Soul" on
Brazen Hearts, Fresh, On Sticks

and "Trailer of the Temptress"
read by Melinda Ann "Texas Smitty" Smith on
Dungeons and Dayjobs podcast.