Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October Failure and November Goals

My goal for October was to write 50 hours of fiction.  I was ahead of my pace--sitting at 33 hours and 32 minutes of writing as of the 20th--until food poisoning hit.  That took me out for 3-4 days, which by itself would've made it difficult to achieve the goal.  Another problem was that I fell behind at work and have been playing catch up all month.  So I haven't written another word all month.  Oh well.

But it's a good failure.  I feel good about writing my first two chapters--13,050 words total.  I'm pretty happy with the beginning.

If it is true that a typical first novel should be in the area of 100,000 and 140,000 words, I can pump out a pretty good first draft in nine months . . . if I can keep up my current pace--an optimistic assumption by any measure.

So now with Halloween on the way, it is time for November goals.  Just one goal, really.  For November, I plan to have a completely dry month.  No beer, no wine.  I honestly have no clue whether it will be a difficult or easy goal.  I guess I'll find out when I have my first bad day at work.

Despite only having one November goal, I still plan to continue full steam ahead with chapters 3 and 4.

I think I'd like to do a celebration thread for one of my favorite bands sometime soon too.  Not sure which one.  Maybe Yo La Tengo, a criminally underappreciated band.

Also, I finished Dances with Dragons yesterday.  It took more than 40 days to get through its 1,051 pages.  But now I'm all caught up with the Game of Thrones world.  Now it's just a matter of hoping that George R. R. Martin stays alive long enough to finish the last two books.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Band Wars 2--First Round Continues

This post will be briefer than earlier music-review posts.  I don't really have a reason for it, except that I am feeling more flippant to the music this time around.  And my attitude isn't a reflection on the quality of the albums--unless I'm unaware of it.  So without further ado, here goes.

Sun Kil Moon, Among the Leaves

Pitchfork review, Allmusic review


How to Dress Well, Total Loss

Pitchfork review, Allmusic review

Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon has been around for a long time.  He was part of Red House Painters before Sun Kil Moon, and he's got lots of good albums under his belt.  Tom Krell of How to Dress Well hasn't been around nearly as long.  Sun Kil Moon's Among the Leaves is standard, mellow, confessional indie rock, somewhat in the mold--at times--of Nick Drake.  Here is "Elaine":

Tom Krell's music comes closer to R&B than anything else.  "Cold Nites."

Neither album is fantastic.  They're both just pretty good.  When I finished them both, I asked myself the question that I usually ask: Which one do I want to hear again in the next round?  The answer was the Sun Kil Moon album.  Both of the music-review websites disagree with me, so keep that in mind if you're curious about How to Dress Well's new album.

Next matchup--

Animal Collective, Centipede Hz

Pitchfork review, Allmusic review

against Tame Impala, Lonerism

Pitchfork review, Allmusic review

If you aren't aware of Animal Collective, then I recommend them highly.  However, I don't recommend this album, which is not one of their best.  It seems a bit like a step backward.  You should give Sung Tongs or Merriweather Post Pavilion a try.  Both albums are absolutely excellent.  In a nutshell, Animal Collective makes experimental indie pop music by using lots of found sounds and by creating lots of unusual sounds of their own and planting them in their songs.  Definitely unusual music.  There's nothing else like it out there.  One of the better tracks from this album is "Today's Supernatural."

Tame Impala's Lonerism is a fantastic new album by an Australian dude who makes space rock and sounds like John Lennon. Those two qualifications are enough to get Tame Impala to the next round. This track is called "Elephant."

While Animal Collective is by far the better music group, their new album sort of sucks.

Here are the updated brackets:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Superman's Advice to the Lovelorn

Dear Superman,

                   Speak, human.

I am 14 years old and I just got asked out to a movie!  He is the shy boy who sits behind me.  He rarely talks, but whenever I need a pencil he is always the first person to offer me one.  He seems nice and a bit cute.  I am sort of nervous.  Do you have any advice for me on how I should handle my first date?

--Sophie from Denver

Dear Sophie,

I have a few suggestions for you.  Follow them all or consider your life to be forfeit.

Are you trained in the use of firearms?  If so, bring a .22-caliber handgun in a lightly packed purse.  If he tries to pin you down in the backseat of his father's car, for example, as the "shy ones" tend to do, you would not want to reach for your purse and accidentally mistake a perfume bottle for your life saver.  Its only effect will be to transform a teenage rapist into a perfume-doused murderer.  Then when the Denver Post headline reads "Teen Spirit Murderer on the Loose" the blame for the moniker will rest on your corpse.

If you are not trained in handguns, shame on your parents.  Instead, bring mace.  In all cases, and this is very important--use the mace.  In every case mace acts as a deterrent, even if the boy only wants to give you roses.  That bouquet could be harboring an airborne knockout drug.

Finally, do not let the boy take you above the ground floor of any building.  Problem is, the boy will want to take you to an upper story of the nearest skyscraper.  Skyscrapers are irresistible to criminal masterminds.  His reason will be to show you the view.  Whenever a man says those words, replace the word "view" with "penis."  Inevitably you will resist, he will become angry, and you will be flung head-first from the building.  Now, if we were stuck in the 1970s, when Superman was popular and loved by the masses, the son of Kal-El would simply swoop in at the last second to catch you and deposit you gently on the city streets below--in some cases next to a hot dog vendor who would say something witty and enduring like, "Whoa!  I didn't know cocaine could do that."  However, we're in a cynical world these days.  The last few Superman movies have bombed.  The world has no place for Superman.  For this reason, Superman will be playing video blackjack in Atlantic City as your body becomes instant fruit salad on the sidewalk.

If you ignore all of my other advice, bring a parachute.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Week in Which I Discover Shit-Myself Sundays

I fell victim to food poisoning on Saturday night.  At the time, my stomach felt as if it had tightened into a fist-sized stone.  That was all that happened that night.  I figured I would be fine by morning.

Ever had food poisoning?  No?  Well, let me introduce you.  Because it realizes that it is being attacked from within by a host (my mouth) that chose to eat poisoned food (crab hors d'oeuvres), my body shut down almost all unimportant operations, like being awake, and aimed at killing the baddies crawling with determination into my intestines.

I felt pain, occasionally great pain.  I felt like I was doing crunches all the time in anticipation of another burst of pain.  And I groaned a lot, involuntarily.  And then there were the chills.  All in a country that perpetually hovers around 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Anyhoo, that's how I felt when I awoke on Sunday morning.  Chills, abdominal pain.  It is Monday afternoon now, and I am feeling much better, thanks for asking.  I have graduated to "sick."  On Sunday, my status was "agony."

Yes, Sunday was the tough day.  I was awake for about 4 or 5 hours on Sunday.  I just kept wanting to go to sleep.  Still, right now, I can go to sleep if I want--even though I have slept perhaps 24 hours in the last day and a half.

Now for the embarrassing part.  One consequence of my body shutting down its "ancillary" operations is that . . . well, my body started to ignore some things.  Like the shit coming out of my ass.  When I was awake, I could notice what was going on down there and remedy the situation fairly quickly.  But it was a different story when I was asleep.

And so on Sunday night I frequently awoke to realize that I had shit the bed.  I shit four pairs of underwear, two sweatpants, one pajama bottom, two bedsheets, the mattress itself, and some other things that I can't remember at the moment.  I found that I was not thinking very much about anything.  I was only shitting myself and cleaning myself up.

The only good news, I suppose, is that I don't have to teach this week!  I'm way too weak.

I hope your weekend went better than mine.  I'm sure it did.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Band Wars 2: Two More Opening Matchups

In this weekly installment, we have some pretty interesting matchups.  First, we have

Frank Ocean, Channel Orange

Pitchfork review and Allmusic review

up against The Sea and Cake's Runner

Pitchfork review and Allmusic review

Frank Ocean's album is one of the few R&B albums that I considered for this round of band wars because, frankly, a lot of R&B albums are shit these days.  But Channel Orange is absolutely fantastic.  The lyrics of so many of these songs tell a series of stories, and almost all of them are interesting.  From drug addiction ("Crack Rock") to the lives of rich kids ("Rich Kids," "Sweet Life") to his story of first love ("Thinkin Bout You"), you feel like a listener as if you are diving into something that is both person and important at the same time.  And as I said, I'm not much of a fan of R&B.  So you know that this has to be good.  Pitchfork agrees with a 9.5/10 rating, perhaps the highest the website has given in a year for a new issue.  Allmusic gives the album 4 1/2 stars (out of 5).

Here's "Sweet Life"

The Sea and Cake have long been one of my favorite bands.  Top 20 at least.  Lead singer Sam Prekop has a relaxed, lazy delivery that fits well with such a mellow band.  At its best, it's just really good chill music.  At its worst, the album finishes and you can't even remember what you just heard.  If you want to get into this band, Runner is not the place to start.  Instead, try any of their first four albums: The Sea and Cake, Nassau, The Biz, and The Faun.  They're a solid indie band, but Frank Ocean by almost any review has released one of the best albums of the year.

Anyhoo, here is "Harps."

In the next matchup, we pit

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Mature Themes

Pitchfork review and Allmusic review

against Mount Eerie, Clear Moon

Pitchfork review and Allmusic review

As with the first matchup, we have two very different types of albums competing against one another.  We start with Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti's Mature Themes, a title which as tongue-in-cheek as the songs themselves.  The album has the zaniness of Captain Beefheart or Frank Zappa, in that it experiments with a half-dozen musical genres.  And the lyrics are wacky and jokey, such as the following from "Is This the Best Spot":

Is this the best spot, is this the spot?
Is this the best spot, is this the spot?
Go! The best spot, is this the spot?
Is this the best spot, is this the spot?
G-spot, (is this the best spot?), H-bomb
G-spot, H-bomb, let's go!

In another song, the dude takes a break from his singing to order fast food.  So mature?  Not exactly.  But wacky and imaginative enough to be fun.  For some.  In all honesty, this album comes down to your tolerance for weirdness.  If you can handle it, then you'll enjoy playing this album every once in a while.  But you'll probably want to play it with no one around, because inevitably someone is going to want to turn that silliness off.  Here is "Only in My Dreams"

Then you have Ariel Pink's opponent, the band Mount Eerie.  Which is quiet, soothing music, so humbly played that the lead singer rarely rises above a whisper.  Clear Moon is great late-night mood music, and the album is good.  My only issue with it is that, as with The Sea and Cake's Runner, it seems kind of boring.  I guess the challenge with such mellow music is that it's hard to pull off without the boredom problem.  Yo La Tengo can do it with their mellowest songs, and they do it album after album.  Maybe Clear Moon just takes some getting used to.  Here's the best track on Clear Moon, "Lone Bell."

Pitchfork and Allmusic would have the contest appear closer than it seemed to me.  Pitchfork prefers Ariel Pink (8.5/10) over Mount Eerie (8.3/10) by a nose.  Allmusic gives both albums four stars out of five.  For me, Ariel Pink's Mature Themes is takes the greater risks, has more fun, and seems more interesting.  Especially because the last song on the album is a straight-up R&B remake named "Baby," which is sung with such earnest emotion that the listener realizes that Ariel Pink may be joking around, but he knows he's joking around.  In other words, the dude ain't crazy.

So, here are the updated brackets:

A few first-round matchups that I am especially looking forward to: Hot Chip vs. Matthew Dear (one of my new favorite artists), Four Tet vs. Grizzly Bear (two powerhouse bands), Animal Collective vs. Tame Impala, and TNGHT vs. the Walkmen (who have been one of my favorite bands since they released their first album).

Anyhoo, that's that.  Have a good week.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Romney's Best Jokes from the Al Smith Dinner

Obama and Romney were both at the Al Smith dinner recently, organized by New York Catholics, which essentially boils down to a jokefest.  I just watched it, and both Obama and Romney did well.  Here are Romney's best jokes.  (Obama's jokes don't really separate well from speech, so I am not including them here.)


Wearing a tux, Romney said that it was nice that he was able to "relax and wear what Ann and I wear around the house."

About being invited to the dinner party: "Usually when I get invited to gatherings like this it's just to be the designated driver."

He said he was thankful to have "someone who's a comforting presence without whom we wouldn't be able to go another day.  I have my beautiful wife Ann and [Obama] has Bill Clinton."

About how the media headlines that would follow the dinner: "Obama embraced by Catholics.  Romney dines with rich people."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What. Okay. What.

Been sort of a busy week, during which I fell behind in my pace to complete 50 hours of fiction writing for the month.  I wasn't too worried with the three-day (Thurs-Sat) weekend coming up, and I felt justified about that feeling today after writing for four hours this afternoon, my new all-time high!!!  Anyhoo, all excitement aside, I just finished chapter two and am sitting on 12,000 words of something that looks like it is going to turn into a real monster.  I don't feel in my bones that I can finish it in a single novel.  So that would necessitate a drastic life change that would require me playing fewer games--games that don't involve fiction writing, which more and more seems like an elaborate game--and generally fucking around less.

Problem is, I really like playing games and fucking around.  So I'll see how long I can keep the fiction thing going.

At my job at the university, I have--had--two roles: teaching econ to kids who don't want to learn it (i.e., required course) and showing kids how to start a business who don't want to start one (i.e., they just want a certificate that says that they finished the program).

This is a bit of a tangent, but Emirati students absolutely love certificates.  Certificates are like a roomful of babies to a zombie.  You can tell the student to do their homework, but they won't do it.  Learning is not a motivator.  But if suddenly you say, If you finish your homework, you will be awarded with a certificate that reads

Mahmoud Mohammed Ahbabi


on your 

Great Achievement


Completing Your Homework

(which was mandatory anyway)

they would do it.  100% completion rate.

So my attitude is, give these lazy kids a shit-ton of certificates and call it a day.

Tangent aside, I had two jobs at the university.  Truth to tell, the teaching is more fun.  I am not monitored by anyone, which essentially means that when I roll into class, if I feel like calling Story Time, then it's Story Time.  Sometimes for the entire period.  And that's pretty fun.

But the job that I had, which I recently lost, was the entrepreneurship position.  It paid maybe $1,500 a month, not an insignificant addition to my regular salary.  I was doing some work to prepare for an upcoming workshop when I noticed that I hadn't been getting paid for the entrepreneurship work.  So I sent a letter to my boss that basically reads, "Hey Dude, How are you?  Where's my money?  Holla.  Yours Truly, Me."

At a meeting on Tuesday, I heard that the university brass--the big dudes, the Emirati guys--had decided that we didn't deserve the money.  So even though we were doing the work, they decided not to pay us.  And they didn't think it was important to pass that tidbit of information along.

An important point to note here.  Before I rolled into the job, the budget was upwards of $24,000 per month--a budget that I and my friend--we were co-directors--in standard American fashion sliced down to $3,000 per month.

They looked past the savings and basically said, "Screw you, yankees."  Who happen to be down 3-0 in the Detroit series, by the way.  Sigh.

Still getting my regular salary, so it isn't life-ending.  But still--it's annoying, isn't it?

So our boss basically says, "You can keep doing the job or not.  But the higher-ups won't let me pay you."

And my natural instantaneous reply: "No thanks."

So there things stood until yesterday, the day after my meeting with my boss.  An Emirati underling of my boss comes to me and says with a confused look on his face, "Are you sure you don't want to work for free?"

Sounds like a joke, right?  I feel silly for not laughing at it.  Lucky I didn't laugh, I guess.  Because the guy had been dead serious.

I leave this place in June 2013.  It'll be a very happy flight out of Dubai.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

An Asshole Explains Beer to a Child

Getting the Child to Listen

Hey, kid.  Kid.  Hey.  C'mere.  Closer.  Don't run away.  Don't do that.  That's disgusting.  Get your finger away from that.  Christ, kid.  Get over here.  Closer.  Closer.  Good.  Now sit down.  Sit down.  Siddown.  That's one.  Good.  You did good.  You did number one.  You're a success.  Now here comes number two.  You ready?  Number two is stop picking your nose.  Kid.  Kid.  Y'know, rubbing the back of your hand against your nose is the same thing.  What's that on the back of your hand?  No, not there.  There.  See?  It's snot.  You backhanded nosepicker.  Stop that.  Sit on your hands.  It's a new game.  It's called "Sit on your hands."  If you can do it, I'll give you a dollar . . . Good.  That's wonderful.  You're a model citizen.

Beer vs. Candy

Okay, kid, you listening?  Are you listening?  Okay, what did I just say?  . . . Good.  All right, you've eaten candy, right?  You like candy?  Candy's good, right?  What kind of candy do you like?  . . . What the hell are poprocks?  Never heard of it.  You ever try Necco wafers?  They're good, right?  . . . What do you mean they're crap?  You ever eat the brown ones?  The brown ones are fantastic.  Kid, you're missing out.  When I give you this dollar, run off to Walgreens and buy yourself a pack.  Eat it right there in the store.  Those wafers are delicious.

Anyway, close your eyes.  Imagine you're in the candy store.  You have 15 minutes to eat all you want.  And you know what?  That's exactly what you do.  You're stuffing your face with chocolate and gummy bears and all kinds of crap.  Now, you're done.  Feels good, right?  You feel electric, don't you?  You wanna run around and break something, right?  You have all kinds of energy.  You're full of life.  You're happy as--who?  Happy as Barney the Dinosaur . . .  What?  Barney's purple.  He dances and he's purple.  You love Barney . . .  You never heard of Barney?  What kind of parents you got?  Sorry, kid.  That's your parents' fault, not yours.  Your problem is the nosepicking, not Barney.  Stay with me.  You stuff your face with candy, and suddenly you want to climb a tree and cut it down at the same time. Remember that feeling?  Well, beer's nothing like that.  That's cocaine.  You'll find out about cocaine in college.

Forget that part, kid.  Kid.  Kid, over here.  What are you looking at?  Those are just pigeons.

Explaining Stress 

So anyway, I'm losing track.  I want to talk about beer, and suddenly I'm talking about--never mind.  Anyway, listen here.  Here.  I'm trying to explain something to you.  We're talking about beer.  But first--one, I need to explain stress.  You feel stress?  You feel nervous all the time?  Of course you don't.  You're a kid.  Kids don't feel stress.  But lemme explain stress.  Uhhh . . . okay, listen.  You got testicles, right?  They hang down from your--ah . . . try this.  Grab yourself like this.  You could grab yourself hard enough to cause pain, right?  Don't do that.  I'm just saying you could.  Instead, grab yourself just hard enough where if you do it a little bit more then it's gonna hurt.  Okay, go ahead . . .  You there yet?  You're not feeling pain, right?  Good.  That's good.  But you feel nervous, right?  You want it to end, don't you?  Doesn't feel good, does it?  Well that's how adults feel all the time.  Except the hand squeezing us down there is invisible.  Okay, you can let yourself go.  That's right, take your hand away from there.  You feel okay?  You sure?  Good.  Anyway, that's how I'm feeling right now.  I've got an invisible hand squeezing my sack.  And one way to make it go away is beer.

So that's why adults drink beer.  To make the invisible hand go away that is squeezing our sacks.  That's adulthood.  That's what you're headed for.  Okay, kid.  Here's your dollar.  Go play.

Biggest Writing Day

Sat down today to write trying to be strict with myself.  Whenever I stood for any reason or did anything other than writing, I refused to count the time toward my 50-hour goal.  After I finished, I had 3 1/2 hours under my belt for the day, my best day this month.

As I see it now, I failed to notice that I was actually making two goals.  The obvious one was to write 50 hours of fiction.  So far, I am almost at the halfway point with 23 hours and 45 minutes completed.

To be on pace to hit 50, I should be at 21 hours and 40 minutes.  So I'm doing all right on that front.

The other goal was the match beer consumption with my writing.  The so-called "beer-hour."  That goal was going jusssst fiiiiiine . . . until I went to the pool party at the Hilton on Thursday night.

So now I really have to focus on finishing 50 hours this morning or the whole thing will be a big bucket of failure.

On the bright side, while writing chapter 2 I started working on a character that I really like.  The best part is I'm not sure whether this guy is good or evil or neutral.  I like not knowing.

Oh, and I saw a movie called "Arbitrage" starring Richard Gere.  Quite a good flick!  Without a doubt, it was the best movie that has been in the UAE since early September.  Then again, that's not saying much.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Band Wars 2: Two Opening Matchups

Now is a better time than any to start a new round of band wars.  In this post, I'll cover two matchups, one from each division of 16.  Before I begin though, I made a couple of changes.  First, I dropped out one of the two Mount Eerie albums, because I don't have it.  Thought I did, but didn't.  Second, I replaced the band The Motion Sickness of Time Travel, a decent band, with a new release by Tame Impala, which has been getting glowing reviews.  I think that these changes will lead to a new and improved competition.

So without further ado, here is the first of two matchups.

John Maus, A Collection of Rarities and Previously Unreleased Material


Beach House, Bloom

John Maus plays retro experimental electronic music with a dark sense of humor, as you might guess from songs titled "I Don't Eat Human Beings" and "My Hatred Is Magnificent."  In this collection of songs from 1999 until 2010, the earlier tracks seem better than the later ones.  Whenever I see an album with "Previously Uncollected" in the title or anything like that, I'm expecting trash songs with a few gems.  That holds true to an extent, but there are many more gems that I had expected.  Also, the trash songs aren't so trashy--or if they are, they've got some redeeming quality, like funny lyrics.  He also sounds like Ian Curtis of Joy Division.  Here's "Bennington," probably the best track on the album.

Beach House's Bloom was released to universally sparkling reviews.  Pitchfork went so far as to give it 9.1/10, which basically means that the reviewer jizzed his shorts.  The thing about Beach House is that their sound does not evolve much from album to album.  As they've said in recent interviews, they like where they've ended up and basically don't want to mess with a bad thing.  They've got a soaring, neo-psychedelic sound that reminds me in some ways of shoegaze.  Here's "Myth."

I surprised myself here.  I expected Beach House to win.  It was close, by the album by John Maus is just more creative, original, and interesting.  So Beach House is an unexpected first-round faceplant.

I imagine that Beach House fans will think this loss is a piece of shit, but let's not forget that band wars is a dictatorship, not a democracy.  I pit the bands against one another.  Then I toss the loser into the woodchipper.

Anyhoo, our other matchup pits Dan Deacon's America

against Japandroids, Celebration Rock

I should begin by saying that there is disagreement amongst the music review websites about which album is best.  Pitchfork votes for Japandroids over Dan Deacon by a score of 8.8 to 7.1, which Allmusic opts for Dan Deacon with 4 1/2 stars to 3 1/2 stars for Japandroids.

Celebration Rock is aptly named.  Despite starting and ending with fireworks, they give you rocking party music full of lots of uplifting lyrics.  Normally, this is not my cake at all.  If you're a fan of Superchunk, then these guys are right up your alley.  Here's "The House that Heaven Built."

Dan Deacon's America is a wildly experimental electronic album that, even though it sounds like nothing I've ever heard before, is the type of music that I should really be enjoying.  My problem is that it is so freaking active.  Allmusic calls the album "impossibly enthusiastic electro-pop."  I would emphasize the word impossibly.  It's incredible in many ways, but it can get so fucking annoying.  I don't want to hear this album again for a long while.  I type these lines knowing that I thought the same thing on my first listen of My Bloody Valentine's Loveless, which is now one of my all-time favorite albums.  Here is "True Thrush."

Anyhoo, Dan Deacon is DOA.  Japandroids advance with a solid, upbeat rocker.

Here are the updated brackets:

More results in the next couple days.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Social Skills

I've talked before, I think, about social skills in the Emirates, in particular the social skills of Emiratis.  In a nutshell, they have none.  I can understand why.  The girls speak with almost no one outside their family, and when they do they are typically texting, which necessarily ignores nonverbal communication, such as--oh, I don't know--facial expressions and hand gestures, the interpretation of which are an essential part of being a human being.  The boys talk a bit more with outsiders, but not much.

Some examples:

A student asks me before class one day, "How old are you?  45?" 

I am 42, and I tell him so.  He does not seem embarrassed to have highguessed me.

The social skill that has not been learned in this case: When you guess a person's age, guess low.

On other days, students have also said to me, "You look tired!" when I slept eight hours, or "You look angry!" when I am concentrating on a task.

I can understand why they would misinterpret concentration as anger, since they rarely concentrate.  Analytical thinking is like learning Latin to them.  I mean honestly, why think analytically when a government job is guaranteed to them?  The frown of analytical thinking resembles anger, I suppose.  Why develop wrinkles when you can be eating cupcakes?

In any case, the social skill they haven't learned here is keep it to yourself, asshole.

The "keep it to yourself, asshole" skill is one that most Americans have learned.

Most Americans tend to avoid saying to an overweight woman, "You are pregnant!" as I overheard an Emirati say to an obese woman who was not expecting child.  Even worse, the Emirati continued by saying, "You look too old to be pregnant!"  Devastating uppercut.  Instant knockout.  She'll carry that line with her until the end of her days.

Another example was a friend of mine who lost 30 pounds.  How can an Emirati turn weight loss into an insult?  Easy.  The student said, "You used to be so fat!"

All of these things led up to today's class, when I was trying to teach the students the word dilemma.  "It is a problem with no good solution," I told them.  "For example, a man walks up to me and says, 'I can either punch you in the face or throw you down the stairs.  Which will it be?'  Neither answer is good for me.  I have a dilemma."

A student in the second row blurted, "He should do both to you!"  Then the student laughed unnaturally, like you would read on paper: "Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha."  With a serious face.

I walked up to her calmly and punched her directly in the nose, spraying blood all over my white dress shirt.  Then I put her in the camel clutch, as made famous by the Iron Sheik, until she passed out, while the other ladies fled the room in horror.*

Then I went home and had a nice lunch.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Polishing Off Chapter One

As you might already know, I have the goal of writing fiction for 50 beer-hours this month.  Just to give a brief update, I have finished chapter one for the most part and am just polishing a bit here and there.

Here's where I stand for the month:

10/1: 2 hours of writing (2 beers consumed)
10/2: 1 hour (0 beers)
10/3: 2 hours (0 beers)
10/4: 3 hours (3 beers)
10/5: 3 hours (4 beers)
10/6: 2 hours (2 beers)

Total: 13 hours (11 beers)

I ended up writing 10 hours over the four-day weekend, which puts me ahead of schedule.  If I average a few minutes over an hour and a half per day for the last 25 days, I'll hit my goal.  At that time, I'll probably be in the neighborhood of 15,000 words into the story, which would probably be three chapters.

It is a fantasy novel, even though I've read less than a dozen of them in my life.  And lots of people die in it.  Lots and lots.  I might set the record for fictional deaths in a fantasy novel.  Sometimes I start a sentence intending to talk about what a character is eating for breakfast; by the end of the sentence, he has been gutted.  Okay, none of this stuff about characters dying is true.  Fiction is teaching me to lie more.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Portrait of Me

Good evening, Gentle Reader.  Without getting too touchie feelie, I thought that I would make a post as a sort of introduction of myself to the three people who actually read this blog.  The best way that I could do so, I figured, was to show you a typical day in my life.

Then you could get a proper sense of me as a human being--just like you, a human being . . . if indeed you are a human being.

I awaken at 4:15 every morning and feed my demonspawn.

After my demonspawn have received their individual instructions as to whom to torment for the coming day, I retire to my dojo and do a thousand one-armed pushups.

Then of course comes prayer time, which is always a bit difficult for an atheist like myself.  In an effort to be as fair as possible, I put the names of all of the gods and deities known to man into a hat.  Then I select three gods from the hat and attempt to tailor an individual prayer to each god.

For example, today I selected the Chthonic god Mother Earth, the Siberian Raven God, and Satan.

A sample prayer might go as follows:

Dear Satan,

I really enjoyed your acting in Paradise Lost, although it has been a long time since undergrad days.  You really stole the show.  I wish you the best of luck in your attempts to overthrow the Lord of Light.  I hope hell is nice.  Amen.

Me Praying to Satan

Then I like to head off to the board room in order to convince people of innovative ideas.  I do not have a board room of my own, and so what I like to do is circulate myself between the various board rooms in my town, until my entrance is barred by security.  Today you might have been lucky enough to find me in the board room of Union National Bank in Dubai, UAE, convincing the bank tellers about a self-explanatory new invention that I came up with called vitamin beer.

Before the Arrival of Security

The afternoons and evenings are generally reserved for contemplation, a fifteen-minute period called Plans for Tomorrow, gymnastics, and beer.  The gymnastics, which typically involves me falling down a flight of stairs, tends to follow four hours of beer.

If beer is not available--as it wasn't today--I engage in performance art of one variety or another.  Usually, my performances involve some degree of nudity.

I Am the Pale Wizard of 47th Street

My day ends on a park bench.  I am a talented sleepwalker and can always find my way back to my bed.

Also, I write.  That is something that happens when I am conscious.  Here is my update so far for the month using my beer-hour restriction:

Writing completed: 11 hours
Writing to go: 39 hours

10/1: 2 hours of writing (2 beers consumed)
10/2: 1 hour (0 beers)
10/3: 2 hours (0 beers)
10/4: 3 hours (3 beers consumed)
10/5: 3 hours (0 4 beers consumed)

Beers in the bank: 6 2

Today I finished chapter one.  Now it is time for beer.

Thank you for your time.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


My friend and I are drinking beer.  Right now, whenever you happen to be reading this, we are drinking beer somewhere.  My friend proposed a theory that I like a lot.  It is a theory in three parts:

1.  People are stupid

2.  People don't read

3.  People are stupid

Please pass it on.

Brief Update

Good start to the month in terms of fiction writing.  Today was the best day of the bunch.  

Writing completed: 8 hours
Writing to go: 42 hours

10/1: 2 hours of writing (2 beers consumed)
10/2: 1 hour (0 beers)
10/3: 2 hours (0 beers)
10/4: 3 hours (3 beers consumed)

With eight hours of writing done and only four beers down the hatch, that gives me a beer surplus of plus four three.  

Typing that last sentence felt good.

What does eight hours of writing translate into?  3,683 words, or 13 1/2 double-spaced pages.  I am still working on chapter one.  Every day I feel like I am approaching the end of chapter one.  Every day I finish writing, I realize that I am further from the end of chapter one than I thought at the start of the day.

It's like digging a hole.  The hole just gets bigger.

Or trying to push an elephant on a skateboard up a ramp.  You just get lost in ass.

(And no, I don't use metaphors like this in the story.  Yet.)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Four Day Weekend? Yes, Please

My four-day weekend started on Wednesday.  In the UAE, Friday is a holy day and this coming Sunday starts the work week, so I ended up with the odd Wednesday-Saturday four-day weekend.  I set up a barometer for my fiction writing for these four days to help me achieve my monthly goal of writing for 50 hours.  I'm keeping in mind that if I can't get ahead of schedule with such a long break, then my chances for completing my October goal will be slim.

Writing baromete over four-day weekend:

0-4 hours: Goal will not be achieved
5-7 hours: Behind schedule
8-10: On or slightly ahead of schedule
11-13: Well ahead of schedule
14-16: Beer --> me
17-50: I am fucking Stephen King

Naturally, I am keeping with my plan of allowing myself one beer for every hour of writing I complete.

10/1: 2 hours of writing (2 beers consumed)
10/2: 1 hour (0 beers)
10/3: 2 hours (0 beers)

Five hours down, 45 to go.  I am almost exactly on schedule at the moment to hit 50 by Halloween--actually, I'll hit it a day early if I keep up this pace.  Anyhoo, I have a surplus of three beers leading into a Thursday, when it would be really nice to get at least three hours written.  If so, I might just finished a six-pack tonight for the hell of it.

Even though I have just started, I have been pleasantly surprised by my characters.  I am trying to let them "be themselves" enough to control the action.  I am just passively sitting back and daydreaming about what they will do next, and I write down on the page whatever option seems the most believable.  Still, I have some vague, distant goals in mind.  I don't know if the characters will agree with me enough to let the story get there.  They have already disagreed with me once, and they won that argument.

In any case, I have three beers in the bank, and that's always nice.

Also, I plan this weekend to get started on Band Wars II.  I have already listened to two albums in the first matchup.  It took a while to make a decision, but I'll be completing that post before this time tomorrow.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Two Hours, Two Beers

In my last post, I mentioned that I had a single goal for October--writing fiction for 50 hours.  Each hour I finish earns me one beer.  Here's my update for Day 1:

Progress: 2 / 50 hours

I like how I've started.  I feel sluggish trying to use my imagination as much as the story requires.  I hope it's just the result of using a mental muscle that I rarely use.  I'm hoping things will get easier as time goes on.  Still, my mind feels fried.

Combined with my single, solitary hour of fiction writing from September, I am now a hair over 1,000 words into my story, with an average of about 330 words an hour, give or take.  It's going to be a long, long, long story, I think.  I'm not sure if I want to post any of it.  What do you think?  Is it a good idea to put a work in progress on a blog?

In any case, I like it so far.  And time goes pretty fast while I'm doing it.  So that's good, I guess.  Seems like the big issue with me is getting my ass into a chair, clicking Microsoft Word, and typing--instead of playing games, looking for new music, answering emails, checking facebutt, etc.  My battle against laziness will be a life-long one.

Hey, but here's a bonus.  My mind is so warped right now that the beer I am drinking--numero uno for the month--is already having an effect.  Value added plus one.