Synergy

I remember the first time The Squirrelly saw a photo of a fox. I had just picked up a book called “Foxes and Their Dens” from the library and, upon arriving home, handed it to him. He looked at the cover and said “dog!” Then he appeared unsure of himself. After a moment’s consideration he tentatively ventured “kitty?”

“No, it’s a fox,” I told him.

He looked at me confused, as if to say “Wha-?! It’s a dog and a kitty in the same animal?

 

You Say Tomato

My Pa-In-Law came to visit last weekend. At one point he was reading a small book.

Me: What’cha readin’?

Pa-In-La: The manual for the router I just bought. I’m trying to figure out how to set it up.

M: [Sighs inwardly at the cluelessness of this generation regarding the fundamentals of networking] Maybe I can help. How many PCs are you trying to connect? And is it wireless? You know, most of these routers just have a configuration page you can access through your browser, and you can set it all up through that.

P: It’s a router for the hardwood floors I’m installing.

M: You shouldn’t need to install … wait, “floors?”

P: Right. Do you know what a wood router is?

M: I, well… Um, not really.

P: [Sighs inwardly at the cluelessness of this generation regarding the fundamentals of home improvement] Okay. So, say you have a piece of wood, and you need to mold the edges …

The Bad Review Revue

School for Scoundrels: “Is to the multiplex what bagged spinach is to the produce aisle.” — Kyle Smith, NEW YORK POST

Happily N’Ever After: “The best that can be said of this charmless animated picture is that whether or not it ends happily — an outcome you’re unlikely to give a hoot about — it does, happily, end.” — Ruthe Stein, San Francisco Chronicle

The Holiday: “Like her namesake, Meyers has quite a way with B-O-L-O-G-N-A.” — Scott Foundas, VILLAGE VOICE

Unaccompanied Minors: “The situations are so contrived they make SpongeBob Squarepants seem like a nature documentary.” — John Anderson, NEWSDAY

Thr3e: “R3ally, r3ally aw4ul.” — Phil Villarreal, Arizona Daily Star

Butteryfingers

FADE IN

INT – LIVING ROOM – NIGHT

MATTHEW and THE QUEEN are sitting on a couch in their living room, 20 minutes into the Season 2.5 finale of BATTLESTAR GALACTIC. They both appear to be ON EDGE, as if ANTICIPATING something.

SOUND EFFECT: THE DISTANT RATTLE OF A TINY HAND STRUGGLING TO TURN AN ADULT-SIZED DOORKNOB

The ratting continues for a few seconds and then STOPS ABRUPTLY. A moment passes.

Enter THE SQUIRRELLY, left

SQURRELLY: Hiya!

THE QUEEN: You little —

MATTHEW: God damn it!

MATTHEW pauses the DVD for the FORTY-HUNDREDTH TIME. He stands, grabs THE SQUIRRELLY, tucks the grinning toddler under has arm, and walks out of the frame.

MATTHEW: Come on, you.

Cut to:

INT – SQUIRRELY’S BEDROOM – NIGHT

MATTHEW enters, carrying The SQUIRRELLY. He puts him in his BED for the FORTY-HUNDREDTH TIME.

MATTHEW: Now, look: it’s time to go to bed. Do you understand? I want you to stay in your bed. From now on. Do you understand?

THE SQUIRRELLY giggles MALEVOLENTLY

MATTHEW: No, I’m totally for-serious this time. Stay in your bed. It’s time for sleeping. Stay in your bed. Good night. Stay in your bed.

MATTHEW leaves the room, closing the DOOR behind him. The scene goes BLACK. Cut to:

INT – LIVING ROOM – EVENING

Enter MATTHEW, left. He walks to the SOFA.

MATTHEW: He looked pretty tired. I think he’s going to stay in his room this time.

THE QUEEN: [Ominously] He’d better …

MATTHEW picks up the REMOTE CONTROL from the TABLE and sits on the SOFA next to THE QUEEN. He presses PLAY.

Enter THE SQUIRRELLY, left

SQURRELLY: Hiya!

MATTHEW: NNNRRRRGH!

THE SQUIRRELLY ambles up to his parents, smiling. THE QUEEN stands.

THE QUEEN: That’s it.

THE QUEEN takes THE SQUIRRELLY by the hand and leads him BRISKLY out of the frame. She is gone for a few minutes. When she reenters she is carrying a can of COOKING SPRAY.

THE QUEEN: He won’t bother us again.

MATTHEW: Why was the Pam in his bedroom?

THE QUEEN: It wasn’t. I brought it with me, and sprayed it on his inside doorknob.

THE QUEEN places the COOKING SPRAY back on a shelf, while MATTHEW looks on with PRIDE and ADORATION. She joins him on the SOFA and the two watch the conclusion of BATTLESTAR GALACTIC uninterrupted.

SCENE

Books: Jhereg

One nice thing about getting older: it’s easier to pick out a book that I know in advance I’ll enjoy. I just select any novel that I read before 1997 and vaguely remember liking the first time; my lack of long-term memory (which appears to max out at about a decade) ensures that the ending will still be a surprise.

And so I recently reread Jhereg. Actually, I was doubly sure I would enjoy it, as I’d read it twice before — once shortly after its initial release in 1987, and a second time in the Peace Corps, some 10 years ago. It’s not one of my all-time favorite works of literature or anything, but it certainly lends itself to rereading: it’s short, it’s funny, it’s clever, and, despite the fact that it’s the first in a series of novels, it’s self-contained.

Though set in a fantasy world (and fond in the “Fantasy” section of your local bookstore), Jhereg is more of a mystery novel. In fact, it’s really two separate mysteries. The first revolves around a thief named Mellar, a former member of the Jhereg high council who embezzled an obscene amount of money and then promptly vanished. Another member of the council contacts the book’s protagonist, Vlad Taltos, and charges him with the task of tracking down the missing man and funds. Though this proves to be fairly easy, Vlad must still unravel the intricacies of the heist, to learn how and why Mellar committed the crime.

The second mystery is inverted and stacked atop the first. Because, you see, Vlad isn’t a private detective — he’s an assassin. He has been hired to bring Mellar to the authorities, but to very publicly kill him, to ensure that no one ever dare steal from the Jhereg again. To that end, Vlad must endeavor not to solve “the perfect murder,” but rather to plan an execute it. And Mellar does his best to make Vlad’s task difficult, setting up a Doomsday device of sorts, which prevents Vlad from striking even though he knows exactly where to find his target.

The is a rich backstore to Jhereg — about the 17 ruling houses, the difference between sorcery and witchcraft, and a complete bestiary of exotic creatures that inhabit the world — but author Steven Burst only reveals what you need to know to understand and enjoy the current chapter, never letting the narrative get bogged down in lengthy exposition. There is plenty of humor in the story (mostly witty repartee between Vlad, his assistant, Kragar, and his familiar Loiosh) but this isn’t one of those “comic fantasy novels,’ a la Terry Pratchett or Piers Anthony — though the characters joke around, their work is (literally) deathly serious. And Burst has written each of the nine books in the series such that no one book is a prerequisite for another, and each can be read, understood, and enjoyed independently.

I’m not really a huge fan of fantasy novels, so don’t let the genre deter you. Jhereg is a light, funny, inventive, and engrossing book, and one I look forward to reading again in 2017.

Holiday Post-Mortem

Hi! Sorry about that. The fam’bly and I took a bit of a holiday vacation there, and I’ve been largely off the grid since mid December. Wait, what does “off the grid” mean, exactly? Does it mean “without access to the Internet?” Or does it mean “completely without electricity?” In retrospect, the latter sounds more likely. But, whatever: we bloggers are totally rewriting the rules for media, you know (it said so in Time!), so if I say “off the grid” means “without access to the Internet” then, by Jiminey Popsicles, that’s what it means. OFF THE GRID! WEB 2.0! BUILD TO SPILL uh I mean FLIP OR WHATEVER!!!!!

Anyway, here’s a photo of my son sitting in the lap of an old man who wears a furry costume and hangs out at the mall.

Santa

Awww yeah — two years old and he’s already mastered the White Man’s Overbite. The kid’s a prodigy, I tell ya.

Fortunately, The Squirrelly is still too young to entirely “get” Christmas, so we didn’t have to decide whether to let him believe in The Big Guy yet. Personally, I’m torn. On the one hand, he is the central figure in Christmas, and I guess there’s no harm in letting him think he’s real for a few years. On the other, I just can’t help but imagine how crestfallen he’ll be when he discovers that he’s just a make-believe character. Some kids at school will spill the beans, he’ll come home crying and ask us if it’s true, and we’ll have to say, yes, we’ve been lying to you all these years: there is no Jesus.

For now, all The Squirrelly knows is that December 25 = a whole buncha swag. He made out pretty good this year, too. His Grandma bought him a tricycle. His great-uncle bought him a remote control car. His aunt went berserk and bought him a crapload of stuff, the least of which was a book called Hot Rod Harry which he inexplicably loves. (And what did Papa get? Papa got to read Hot Rod Harry a hundred and thirty times over a two week period. What fun. It’s a helluva lot easier to get through than Moby Dick, though — I’ll give it that much.)

He also got a Memory / matching game, with people’s faces as the pictures. But I didn’t realize that at first. When he ripped off the wrapping paper and exposed the box’s bottom, I thought it was, like, a Whitman’s Sampler for cannibals.

Matching Game

Another thing we had fun doing over the holidays was making up words to those Christmas songs to which we did not know the correct lyrics, i.e., pretty much all of them, insofar as we are Godless Heathens (see above: yukking it up over nonexistence of Savior). But, having never heard these songs before in his two years of life, The Squirrelly accepted whatever we coughed up as the Authoritative Version. Which is why, two weeks after the yuletide, he is still ambling around the house singing this:

(To the tune of O Christmas Tree)

O Octagon, O Octagon,
You have eight sides u-pon you

O Octagon, O Octagon,
You also have eight angles too

One and two
And three and four,
Five, six, seven,
eight -- NO MORE!

O Octagon, O Octagon,
O Octagon, we love you

Oh yeah, I almost forgot: I also bought out good-for-nothing cats a Kitty Castle for Christmas.

Kitty Castle

I mention this as a warning to others who might consider doing something so stupid. I brought into the house, put it in the corner, and prepared to watch the cats cavort with glee. Instead, Louie sauntered up to it and, as if he had scaled the thing a thousand times, nonchalantly climbed up to the top; moments later Eddie moseyed into the scene and, without so much as a sniff of curiosity, leapt onto the middle platform. Then they both settled down and watched birds out the window for half an hour. Subtext: we are too dumb to ever remember this not being here. YOU EFFING INGRATES I COULDA BOUGHT A WII FOR THAT! If anyone reading this has a kid who might like some pets for Christmas 2007, drop me a line in November and we’ll work something out.

Leia