Category Archives: For Fun

The Coming of NaNoWriMo 2019

I just posted a video about NaNoWriMo 2019 and how we can prep for it with Scrivener. This comes with the idea that I may actually record my writing progress this month, for those of you who want to see a story written in real-time.

Will this likely end in disaster?

Probably! So, now you gotta watch, right?

In the video, I reveal two new templates I’ve developed this year: one for planning a story (and is still a work-in-progress), and the other a basic template for NaNoWriMo that includes options for journaling, tracking progress, and writing a postmortem when all is finished.

If you’d like to use either template for your own prep or writing adventure, you can find them both here.

If you plan to participate in NaNoWriMo, then comment below and talk about it.

Good luck!

Of Pirates and Whales: A Tale of Corporate Glut and Consumer Punishment

Today, Google’s “Recommended by Pocket” blog roll (shown whenever a new tab is open in Firefox, as well as in maybe other browsers that I never use) showed an image of a younger Nicolas Cage holding a baby up to the camera, taken from the classic film Raising Arizona, a movie that I used to catch in syndication on my local FOX station back in the early ‘90s. The headline, “Disney Is Quietly Placing Classic Fox Movies Into Its Vault, and That’s Worrying,” worried me, so I checked it out. The article by Matt Zoller Seitz, published in Vulture, goes on to tell the tale of big corporate Disney sucking out the lifeblood from theaters who rely on classic FOX films to cover 12% or more of their annual income and eating their bacon.

The thesis is that Disney is applying its scarcity model to old FOX films that were previously available to any theater that requested them for special screenings, and it’s costing the theaters big time. For instance, before Disney acquired FOX last spring, if a theater wanted to screen, let’s say Die Hard, at Christmas time to provide some nostalgia to, let’s say, men in their mid-forties who may have seen it in theaters back when they were teenagers and were like, “Boom! Pow! Yippee-ki-yay, moth—” and, well, you know the rest, then FOX typically let them. The theaters, in return, could give these fortysomethings and their teenage sons an opportunity to relive the experience of seeing John McClane throw Hans Gruber off of the 30th floor of the Nakatomi Plaza—on the big screen!—while the rest of their family go Christmas shopping. It’s a model that boosted theater income whenever the current run of films outlived their welcome.

According to the article, Disney’s model prevents theaters from doing that anymore.

It reminds me in part of what Amazon has done to the book industry, but in a reverse kind of way. While Amazon has gobbled up the New York publishing market and spat it onto the shores of the River Styx, those stores that subscribe to the New York model, like Barnes and Noble, have taken to a standardization model that may actually perpetuate their demise.

I think the real worry here, as far as movies are concerned, is that Disney may fall somewhere in between these two models: Kill the competition, as Amazon does, but through a standardization practice like what New York and Barnes and Noble does. My question is, what happens if the whale gets super huge, and then somebody comes along and kills it? What if that somebody is consumer apathy?

In the end, I hope Disney knows what it’s doing.

Though, I guess I’m okay with the outcome either way because I don’t love movies today like I used to. I still have a few franchises that I look forward to, like Mission: Impossible, The Fast and the Furious, James Bond, and Batman. But even those aren’t enough to get me interested in movies like the ones that came out in the ‘90s did. Disney has its hand in too many of them, and it’s beginning to show, so I’m getting a bit bored. This isn’t to say that I don’t appreciate a good Marvel movie. I’ll stick with that series for as long as it doesn’t suck (which, hopefully, won’t be anytime soon). This isn’t even to say that I’m not interested in the Disney+ service because I sort of am. But I’m also skeptical. I don’t think I watch enough content to justify spending a monthly fee. And even if I did, I don’t own the content. If they decide I can’t watch something I want to watch, then I can’t watch it without help from a pirate, and I don’t deal with pirates. So, rather than get upset, I simply put the movie out of mind. By the time they decide I can watch it, I don’t want to. I choose when I want to watch something. Not Disney.

Anyway, here is the article about Disney.

And here is the article about Amazon.

And for kicks, here is an article about Barnes and Noble to really hit the point home.

All three are worth reading and comparing and using to draw your own conclusions about where the world of entertainment and commerce is heading. Do you care?

Comment below. Don’t forget to subscribe if you want to be notified of my next article.

Cover Image: Pixabay

Fun with Cover Design Using PaintShop Pro 2020, Corel Painter 2019, and GRFX Studio Corel Edition on My Ebook “Lightstorm”

This weekend, as the title implies, I ran my concept cover for Lightstorm through another round of edits, this time by employing the services of a few new programs that I picked up in the Painter: Create with Confidence Bundle over at Humble Bundle (available until Wednesday at 1pm EST).

The bundle, which includes a number of designer products, including PaintShop Pro 2020 Ultimate, Corel Painter 2019, and Pinnacle Studio 23 Ultimate, cost me just $25. Individually, I would’ve spent over $250 for them, maybe much more, and finding the bundle was perfect timing, as my copy of Paintshop Pro 2019 (normal edition) kept bugging me to upgrade to 2020 for just $47.99 (a 70% discount!), which I was planning to do anyway until I found the bundle, but now I don’t have to, though doing so would’ve meant I would also get a video editor program, VideoStudio Pro 2019 (noticeably absent from the bundle, but hopefully Pinnacle Studio will work just fine), which probably would’ve been nice. But I ended up getting a lot more for a lot less, and I’m typically fine with that.

So, just to give a little backstory, I released Lightstorm in September 2015 with this cover (created with my old copy of PaintShop Pro 9, which is probably 14 iterations of PaintShop Pro ago):

lightstorm cover (title 4)
Lightstorm Cover Image

As you can see, it isn’t very good. I needed to upgrade it, but I didn’t have any software that would be particularly useful for the job.

Then last year I found another photography bundle at Humble Bundle that included PaintShop Pro 2019, and I thought, Yeah, I’ll buy that for a dollar! I think I actually paid $25 for that bundle, (a dollar would’ve gotten me just the cheap stuff) and I got a load of decent software for designers that I haven’t really used yet outside of PaintShop Pro 2019. I plan to use them eventually. Maybe.

A few months after getting that bundle and practicing my cover design on other covers, particularly Eleven Miles from Home, by locating free stock photos and manipulating and combining them for effect, I decided it was time to upgrade Lightstorm. This is what I made:

lightstorm new background 8

And when I wasn’t fully satisfied with that version, I kept toying with it until I got this:

lightstorm new background 10a

So, that’s the version I have online at the moment. I thought it was pretty good. But I still had my doubts. Compared to the original, it’s a masterpiece. But compared to other book covers, it’s meh. I figured I could do better, but I didn’t know how if all I had at my disposal was PaintShop Pro 2019 and other painting programs I hadn’t actually used yet but probably should’ve looked into. Oops.

So, then came along the Painter Bundle, and now I’ve got programs that can do more than simply adjust the visuals of an already assembled composite photo (I used four different images and a lot of blurring to make the above image). With Corel Painter, I was able to add particles, including glow brushes, make my title font (Vallen) much better detailed, and I ended up with this:

lightstorm new background 12.png

Now it’s looking more thematic, but I admit I wasn’t fully satisfied. As much as I liked the new particle effects, I worried they were cluttering the image too much.

So, I doubled-down and opened up GRFX Studio Corel Edition (included with PaintShop Pro 2020 Ultimate) and added a bunch of light flares:

lightstorm new background 13a.png

So, that’s the state of Lightstorm‘s cover and what I did this weekend with my new design programs. Just to recap, I went from this:

lightstorm cover (title 4)
Lightstorm Cover Image

to this:

lightstorm new background 13a

I’m sure PhotoShop and a proper graphics designer would’ve made this cover even better, but as I say on this blog from time to time, I’m not rich, and while that remains true, I won’t throw money at high-priced subscription software or someone I can’t afford.

For the resources and skills that I have, I think I did pretty well. What do you think? Can you do better? Hopefully the answer is yes. Comment below if you have an opinion!

The Audiovisual Book Experience, an Experiment

Today on YouTube, I launched the beginning of what could become my next big feature: “The Audiovisual Book Experience.” The premise behind it is that people don’t read anymore, but they do listen. At least, that’s what I’ve heard from people who listen exclusively to audiobooks and podcasts and can’t be bothered with an actual book or blog post. I think these same people watch YouTube videos on occasion.

I confess that I don’t get it. And, I do think the information is a little suspect. Of course people still read. I’m a person, and I read! I read books and blogs. I also write both. If you’re reading this blog, then you’re a reader, too. Already, you’re proving them wrong.

But, I also see the point they make. The people who prefer audio text to visual text are the people who are too busy to sit down with a good book; they probably spend more time looking through their windshields, making sure they don’t hit something or someone than they do staring at the pages of a paperback or the screen of an e-reader. Of course, they still stare at their phones for some reason, on the road and off. But it makes you wonder: Has no one told them they can read a book on their phone? What else are they going to do at a red light?

Okay, they shouldn’t read a book while driving. Point made. Audiobooks are much better for that. And they’re also much better for running. I’ve tried reading a book while running a few times. It’s definitely too shaky to concentrate. An audiobook would’ve been nicer for that scenario. If these people are so active that they can’t even spend a few minutes in bed with a good book, then perhaps the audio version is necessary.

But what of the people who want both, the reading and the listening experience? Haven’t we all started our reading lives by reading with an adult, where the adult reads out loud while we follow along and try to understand each word? Would it be so odd if we were to read along with someone else again, but as adults?

Maybe. Probably. But we’re going to try it anyway!

And that’s the point of the Audiovisual Book Experience, to allow YouTube users to read a book while someone else narrates it to them. That way, if they need to, they can do other things while the book is “playing.” Or, if they’d rather follow along, they can see each word in its book form. This gives each reader the option of reading the book however he or she wants. For free!

Is it a good idea? I don’t know. That’s why it’s an experiment. But, if it does generate interest, I’ll likely do another. If not, then I’ll commit my time and energy to something else.

I do wonder, though, how other authors with better voices than mine could make use of an audiovisual book experience. It might be worth it for them to give it a try for their own books.

That said, I’m launching my own experience with Amusement, a short story about a businessman who must confront the corporate entity responsible for the faulty product that ruined his life.

The overview video has already launched. The introduction and legal information video will launch at 1 p.m. tomorrow (Monday, September 23, 2019), and “Part 1: Professionalism” will launch immediately after, at 1:15 p.m., both Eastern Standard Time. Each additional episode will launch on consecutive days at 1 p.m. until next Sunday when the final episode, “Part 7: Crash,” airs.

The entire audiovisual book will be curated into a playlist that you can run at your leisure.

If you decide to check it out, please let me know what you think, either here or on YouTube. Hope you’ll enjoy it.

Voice Print

LG Lotus Working

Almost two weeks ago, my old, trusty flip phone, an LG Lotus Elite, decided to flip me off when its primary screen went ultra-fuzzy, making it impossible to read. I was a little discouraged by that because it was a staple in my life, a constant companion that could do fancy things like tell me the time, and, other stuff I guess. Not that it was a good staple because friends often made fun of me for having it—due to it being a flip phone. But I’d used it for as long as I had because it still worked, I could still make phone calls, and I could text whomever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Granted, I could not send or receive emojis anymore, much to the consternation of many emoji fanatics who happen to live on my contacts list, and that’s been true for several years, and that disability had been a source of trouble every time someone would attempt to smile at me and my phone’s response was to report the message as “No Content.” But I’m normally okay with that because I don’t really care about emojis. Unfortunately, the people who text me are fans of emojis, and they would often send me emojis even though I tell them not to. Needless to say when my phone finally flipped me off two weeks ago, I had to get a new phone that could handle emojis. Now I don’t know how I feel about having a phone that can handle emojis because now I know people are going to send them to me every time they text. But I suppose the price I have to pay to have a phone that can also take high resolution pictures means that getting occasional emojis is probably for the best.

LG Lotus Fuzz

Why does this really matter? you may ask. Well it matters because I just discovered that my new phone, an LG V40 ThinQ, aka my phone number’s Generation 3, has a dictation device attached to it, which means I can now record blogs and journals with my voice.

Let’s pause for effect.

I realize that some people already have this feature, and to them they may think, Oh yeah, that’s a big deal. And, of course, they’re being sarcastic thinking that because they haven’t spent the last nine years talking on a flip phone. But for me, a guy who does not normally migrate to 21st century technology, I think this is darn cool because I can crack my blogs out in a hurry, as well as anything I write, because, you know, when I record my voice, I just have to say it and it will happen and then I can go back and review for content later [which I’m doing now in the rewrite]. Does this mean I’m likely to create a mess for the first draft? Why, of course it does. Truth is I’m probably going to have a really messy first draft because I have to remember every punctuation as a word. For example, in order to craft the sentence I’ve just said, I have to actually sound out the punctuation like the word period. But that’s okay because I still think it’s cool that I can write anything I want just by saying it into my phone. It definitely saves a lot of time to get my ideas in print when I don’t have to chop away at a keyboard and make all of this noise, as much as I like the sound of a key clacking against keyboard. But the challenge, of course, is that now I can’t quite see what I’m typing as I speak because I speak better when I’m not looking at words racing across the page. Doing so otherwise means that I’m going to be self-conscious about what I’m saying and think that now I have to fix everything before I stop speaking. That’s not particularly practical. It’s worse when the microphone turns itself off and I don’t catch it until a paragraph or two later.

Yeah, that would totally happen to me…if I don’t look at what I’m doing every couple of lines.

In short, I’ve just typed over 550 words in about five minutes using this dictation device, and I think that is really cool. If you have a project you want to get done in a hurry, and you don’t want to take forever to write it, then you may want to use a dictation device as well because it goes like lightning and it is awesome and I think everyone should use it if they want to be productive and cool.

Just make sure to spend a good amount of time reviewing and editing it before you post it anywhere. The voice-printed draft is probably terrible, especially since it records broken thinking as much as it records lucid thinking, and the grammar is likely garbage. That’s true of this post. [Editing it is taking about three times longer than it did to “write” it.]

Also, for those of you who are wondering where I’ve been lately, just read my last post, and you’ll see that I’m busy doing other projects and that I am going to be catching up on my blog some point soon, and this dictation device might be an incentive for me to do that. I guess it’s easy to say that maybe I will be more active here in the coming days or weeks, so if you are interested in more of what I have to say then please come back soon and see what I’ve written with my voice.

The Number 42

Hi Kids,

Today’s blog is brought to you by caramel coffee, Domino’s pizza, and the indubitable number 42. Please consume each responsibly.

On this day, we should read notable fiction by Douglas Adams, perhaps from the legendary Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and focus maybe on the third book in the five-part trilogy, Life, the Universe, and Everything, where the answer to life, the universe, and everything is 42 (even though we don’t yet know the question).

Or, if that’s not of our interest, we can read the new future bestselling thriller The President is Missing, about a president who goes missing, from acclaimed writers James Patterson and Bill Clinton (aka 42).

Or, we can go the sporting route and watch the biography of Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn Dodger, baseball hall-of-famer, and MLB-wide retiree of the number 42, in the titular film 42.

Or, we can watch Kiefer Sutherland as CTU field super agent Jack Bauer in the real-time political thriller series 24, where he stops terrorists in a single day, but watch it in reverse.

Or, we can…

Well, I don’t need to tell you what to do. Just remember that today’s number is 42. Celebrate accordingly. I may do so with candles and a chocolate cake.

Until next time.

Cover by Pixabay

Newton vs. the Machine

“To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction.” –Isaac Newton

Deus Ex Machina: “A person or thing (as in fiction or drama) that appears or is introduced suddenly and unexpectedly and provides a contrived solution to an apparently insoluble difficulty.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

At Drinking Café Latte at 1pm, I discuss a range of topics that are interesting to me, but I spend most of my energy writing about writing, or stories, or the tools that make either one easier on me. Today, I want to discuss a matter that addresses a little of everything.

As a periodic novelist, meaning I binge write between periods of general inactivity thanks to the juggling of large projects that require extensive amounts of my time, thought process, and dedicated memory (the lattermost of which I’m usually on short supply these days), I care about telling good stories, and that means I care about understanding what it takes to make a story good—no, great!

One of my consistent challenges with every story I write is figuring out its inciting incident, the moment of opportunity that kicks off the drama, why it should play as the opening gong to a crazy tale of intrigue, revenge, or ridiculousness (for example), and what to do once that action is in motion.

The concept of inciting story through an event should be straightforward. If you think about the movie The Terminator, for example, you may say that the inciting event is the moment when the hero, Kyle Reese, transports to 1984 Los Angeles from a bleak 2029 future, where the robots have already taken over (which given Boston Dynamics’s running and jumping robots, and Google’s new AI hair appointment scheduler, and, well, robots that run for public office, we may still be on track for this bleak robot-ruled future—yay!), to locate and protect the mother of the future resistance, Sarah Connor.

What follows is a series of dramatic events that leads Kyle to Sarah, leads the Terminator to Sarah, leads the characters to all sorts of conflicts and romance (the romantic part involving Kyle and Sarah, not either one and the Terminator—that would be a different kind of story), all toward a blistering conclusion where Sarah must protect Kyle from the Terminator and ultimately defeat it. Did I mention she’s just a waitress when the movie begins? By the end, she’s serving robot destruction on a platter and then rides off into the stormy sunset with the future leader of the resistance in her belly. If you haven’t seen it, you should, even though I just spoiled the whole thing. Spoiler Alert! Never mind. You’ve had nearly 35 years to catch up.

For a more recent example, I’ve finally started watching Game of Thrones late last year, after everyone I know has basically told me the whole plot in one form or another (and I will probably read the books at some point), and I’m currently reaching the end of Season 2, the final episode being the one episode I’ve already seen, back when it was still new, and clearly didn’t understand because I hadn’t seen any of the ones before it, so I’m essentially already caught up through that season. Even though I wasn’t much of a fan in the beginning (and I’m still kind of above meh about it if I’m being honest), the dramatic turns it takes is beginning to grow on me, enough for me to start thinking about how all of the chaos in Westeros begins. Now, we know that the story actually begins in the ages prior to the start of what we see (or read), as any story would, but the really crazy stuff begins with the invitation Ned Stark receives from his best friend, King Robert Baratheon, to serve as his Hand, or more specifically, when Ned accepts the invitation.

Ah, there it is: the inciting incident. Even though a lot is happening in this first part of the story, the real drama throughout the series kicks off with Ned’s decision to move down to King’s Landing to serve as the king’s Hand (an important position if you’re not keeping score), a decision that, while noble, through many actions and reactions becomes the undoing of him and his family.

And, it’s these actions and reactions that keep the momentum of the story moving. Eddard Stark (Ned) makes a series of righteous decisions, but in the depraved world of Westeros, and specifically in the depraved House Lannister, the righteous are punished, and so, too, is Ned. By the end of the second season (and the book, I believe), House Stark is fractured so horribly that the kids are long separated from safety, and their home turf, Winterfell, is vulnerable to sieges, the latter of which would never happen under Ned Stark’s watch, had he refused the invitation. His righteous loyalty to his best friend, the king, is a noble choice that, through action and reaction, also proves a deadly one.

That’s interesting, right?

What makes the story more interesting is the fact that the family is scattered because Ned Stark is foolish enough to remain loyal to his best friend, Robert Baratheon, the king, even after Robert dies, leaving his son, Joffrey (the brattiest and most disturbed kid on television), king. By doing the right thing (which is the wrong thing in the Lannisters’ eyes), Ned is given the ultimate punishment, and his family, by proxy, is upended.

Now, Ned is the hero of the opening act (the whole first season of the show, and I believe the whole first book, called A Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1), and any author who wants to keep his hero ahead of the villains will construct the story in such a way that Ned gets out of his predicament with the new king, Joffrey, in some clever or fantastical way. But George R.R. Martin doesn’t do that. Rather than pull a genie out of a hat, the deus ex machina way, producing an earthquake or a meteor or something to disrupt the public execution that Ned finds himself faced with, giving him a chance to escape with his family to “safety”—in the world of Game of Thrones, there no such place as safety—Martin lets his protagonist die. Yep. Axe, chop, dead. Action and reaction. The hero finds himself in an unwinnable situation, thanks to the polar shifts of positive and negative in each scene, and succumbs to his failure in the climactic event. The story’s not over, of course, far from it, but Ned’s part in the story ends via the chain reaction he ignites by accepting his role as Hand of the King.

According to Robert McKee, author of Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting, a story works according to how well its scenes shift in polarity. In other words, a story moves according to whether the scene ends in a different place from where it begins: a positive becomes a negative or a double-positive; a negative becomes a positive or a double-negative (not to be confused with a double negative in grammar, which I can’t not recommend you use in writing). It also depends on the narrative arc of each scene—inciting incident, rising action, etc.—but I’ll save that discussion for another time. What matters here is that every action in story has an equal and opposite reaction.

Deus ex machina ignores that structure, and that’s why readers hate it. It breaks the story.

You may be a writer; or not. I think this discussion is important, however, because it helps to know why stories work, even if you have no interest in writing one. Sometimes we see a movie or read a book and we know we don’t enjoy it, even though we can’t figure out why. We often say, “It’s okay,” or “It’s lame,” or “I’d rather go fishing in a sewer pipe than watch that garbage again,” but we don’t know what about the story drives us to think that way.

Often we can figure it out based on how well people act and react to the narrative arcs they’re given. In The Terminator, when Sarah Connor sees the rifle in Kyle Reese’s hand as he enters the night club, she could immediately scream, kick him in the balls, and run out of there, right into the arms of the Terminator itself. Just as easily, Kyle could refuse to utter the film’s other famous line, “Come with me if you want to live,” giving Sarah no cause to trust him with her life. Sure, these things could happen (or fail to happen as the case may be), and Sarah may still somehow survive the night. But, chances are, to survive, she would need a little deus ex machina on her side, like the Terminator accidentally triggering a button that causes it to self-destruct, for example, and James Cameron, the film’s writer and director, is smarter than that. No, he writes his characters in such a way that they must do specific things in action and reaction to other specific things, in order to reach a point in the story where a specific thing can either lead the characters to victory or doom them to failure.

Fortunately, James Cameron decided to make his hero, Kyle Reese, a noble guy who does the right thing. Unfortunately, Kyle’s noble act also gets him killed.

A bit of a sidebar, but what is it with righteousness and death? That’s another discussion for another day, but certainly worth thinking about.

Anyway, next time you read or watch anything, see if each event naturally progresses from the last, and if it gets there through sensible action and reaction of its characters, or if an act of divine intervention moves it forward. For that matter, see if it happens in real life. If you ask your girlfriend to marry you, see what happens next.

Please subscribe to my blog if you want to keep hearing stories like these. You might even learn something.

P.S. It seems all of the main places and characters in Game of Thrones are so well-known that my Microsoft Word spellchecker automatically accepts them as proper spellings. Hilarious.

Interesting Article about the New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestseller Lists

First off, Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who are moms. Thanks for all you do and put up with. We’d be worse off without you.

Secondly, I just read an interesting article about how books are selected for The New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestseller Lists and thought I’d share. Whether you’re an author or a reader, I think you’ll find the article interesting, especially if you’ve ever bought a book based on the list and thought, “Why are people buying this garbage?”

Obviously, some books deserve to be on these lists, and sometimes we find our new favorite authors as a result of reading them. So, there’s no lesson here. Just an interesting read for your Sunday afternoon.

Note: This article was written a couple of years ago, but I’m sure it’s still relevant today.

Article: “The Truth about the New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestseller Lists” by Tim Grahl

Enjoy your afternoon. Hope you’re reading this with coffee in hand. It’s raining where I am right now, so you know I’ve got mine (actually, my cup is empty, but I’m about to go for my second round).

I hope to have new and interesting content for you in the coming days.

My First Mullet: Along Came a Man Bun

(A Tale Told in Three Acts)

Narrator:

From the dawn of time,
To the dusk of the present,
Man has warred internal
Over matters of many,
From the depths of his wallet,
To the tip-tops of his very head,
Raging against new horrors,
Nitpicking at the mundane,
Yet feeling lost at all points
Here and in between.

This personal strife
Has not abated quietly,
For the man must fight daily
With those demented elements
That come hotly against him,
Designed to inconvenience,
Or simply to put him out
Into the cold, dark world
Of vanity.

This war internal
Has not been a lone battle,
But a war of singularity’s parts,
A test of will against the pieces,
The pieces that define him,
And the bits that form him,
Internal and external,
Of blood and mullet alike.

This war has raged
Since the beginning of time.
But today, perhaps,
Man shall, at last, see its end.
Today, perhaps,
He may put his strife to rest.
Given that nothing happens
To compromise the peace he seeks
With those pieces of himself
That have remained at war.
Perhaps, today, if all bodes well,
Man will be at peace with his mullet.

Man:

Will our madness ever cease,
This perversion of taste,
Such antithesis to peace?

Or, are we destined to skirmish,
All day, into night
Like some confused dervish?

Uncomfortable with our sight,
Steadfast in identity,
Clashing over who’s right?

We fight with the mirror,
You and me, against sanity;
O’ the results couldn’t be clearer.

Our war is attrition,
Where neither is a winner;
We both deserve admonition.

Yea, a mullet you may be,
But my hair you still are,
And baldness escapes we.

In a world where image reigns,
And respect is found in covering,
We must take our salt in grains.

Peace between us must be found.
Shall we truce then, dear mullet?
Shall we reach our common ground?

Mullet:

Oh, you wacky simpleton,
I never wanted to fight.
My job was to protect you,
From birds, bugs, and light.
It was you who hated me,
Not I who hated you.
I just wanted a chance to live,
To claim my right as hairdo.

Dear confused man, you,
So short of your seeing,
Your scalp is my dwelling place,
A canvas for my being.
Why shall I battle
Against my very home?
What purpose is it for me
To strip myself off the dome?

Man of vanity, sir of strife,
Our war is doth misplaced.
Much else demands your attention,
My aggression is but chaste.
Riots, speech, and bloodshed,
True problems in need of release.
Shouldn’t those be your sadness?
Can’t you grant me peace?

Man Bun:

Ooh, a quarrel among soulmates,
How juicy, how saucy!

I must scrutinize this drama
As one swirls a fine wine.

Analyzing the players of this story,
Shall grant me a great pleasure.

Oh, yes, the play-by-play, sublime!
How may I capture this event forever?

Behold! One of you is a vessel,
Designed to carry the other.

The other of you, a passenger,
Designed to ride like a leech.

You fight! You make up!
A narcissistic fever dream.

The spitting image of my own battle,
A battle you’ve also fought with me!

Man:

Oh, no! What interloper is this?
Has horror visited me twofold?
Has decency gone amiss?

I lie speechless at this entrance,
At this, intrusion, at this mess—

Narrator:

The mullet interjects!

Mullet:

You! Cross-pollinated monster!
Who invited you to our party?
This battle has kept sacred
Our intimate anger quarte!
The man duels. I duel.
A gentleman’s war with image.
But you, oh foul beast!
You have no place within our scrimmage!

Be gone! Be gone,
Horrid golem of insanity!
You are perversion of style,
Man’s folly for vanity!
How dare you infect it,
The sacred image of man?
How dare you supplant me,
Hair most foul in all the land?

Man Bun:

My, my, somebody’s testy today!
You say to me I’m unwelcome?

Have you the right to tell me off,
Infamous “Do” of the eighties?

I think that I think not, dear un-sir!
Cast a stone at me at your peril.

I am no pushover to hairbound justice!
I can tangle with the best of you!

The night is young and so am I.
With a twist and a pop, I exist!

Listen to me, yesterday’s news,
My physique needs no shears to shine!

All I need is a rubber band and a will,
And maybe arched shoulders and pride.

The best of men wear me, you hear me?
The best of men wear me for truth!

Man:

Oh, no! This interloper is man bun!
It has its grips set upon me.
Save me, mullet, for I am done!

Mullet:

They say the enemy of my enemy
Is my friend, ice cream scoop head!
But man is no longer my enemy,
And you, top knot, are not my friend.
I know your game and what you seek,
And this peace you shall not invade.
Reconciliation is my order of business,
Not a threat from a twisted man braid!

Man Bun:

Dear Mullet, you misinterpret me;
I do not seek to invade your space.

You see, I am the new kid on the block,
Observing a world in which to fit in.

The places around me abound in wonder,
And the joys I bring are geometrically sound.

I come to satisfy the hunger of man,
To shape into anything he shall imagine.

But that is not all that I am, Mullet, I hope you see.
No, there is more to me than meets the eye.

So, please listen, intently, to what I wish to share,
As early judgment against me will fulfill no victory.

This message, I insist, benefits us both,
And you shall know why our peace must exist.

Now, look me in the bulb, dear Mullet.
Take hold of my ponytail and see!

Do you not understand where I come from,
Or the ignorance of your lambast against me?

I have not come here to start a war with you.
No, friend, that is not the goal I keep.

The imperativeness of my clarity, I hope you know,
Is paramount to our mutual trust.

So, please understand my message, friend Mullet.
Please listen, as I do not wish to enrage you again.

Yes, I choose not to pull you into aggression, my pal;
No, no, no! An engagement of battle I do not seek.

We shall have no beef on this or any other day,
For you and I were born of the same place.

Yes, dear Mullet, we are brothers,
Like fraternal twins, but better.

Do not fight against me, or the future.
Instead, join me, and let us make this world of men stronger together.

Narrator:

Oh dear, what do we see,
But the internal war
That hair has among itself?
Is it true then, dear humanity,
That vanity is a vicious circle,
Set to fight all who oppose it,
Even when the source of vanity
Is just another victim of vanity?

Shake your heads, men.
Shake your heads in shame!
For the man bun is upon you,
The man bun has come to stay!

(To be continued…)

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TV Personality, Cool Words, in Print, at a Bargain, with a Surprise Twist

So, a couple of hours ago, I was walking around Barnes & Noble, as I often do, browsing for books I’d like to buy LATER. Then, before I leave, I check out the “Last Chance” bin, where books that are on the way out are given one last chance for sale at a bargain price. I skim the books, see nothing I want, then, as I’m about to leave for real, I catch a second glance glimmer of a hardcover with a silver spine, and realize that I’m looking at a book I’ve been wanting for a couple of years from a television personality I like watching on a news network that shall not be named (okay, FOX). I think, “Oh, cool,” not to be ironic to the book’s title, and pick up the book to see if I still want it. First thing I notice is that it smells a little funny, a bit like marker. Then, as I’m about to close the book, I flit to the title page where I see something I was not expecting: The author had signed the book.

This wasn’t a stamp, dear readers. The book wasn’t marked on the outside like all of Barnes & Noble’s signed books are. I don’t think they actually knew they had an autographed copy sitting on their clearance shelf, and given how fresh the marker smelled, I’d imagine it was signed in secret, and not too long ago.

Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

But I left the book there. I’d forgotten my 20% off coupon at home. I’m not gonna pay full price for a book, even if it’s only $5.98!

Just kidding. I bought it. (Even though I really did leave my coupon at home, dang it.) It’s a good day so far.

Of course, now I have to read it.

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