Quick hits via Twitter

Friday, December 15, 2006

The cranky post

A friend of mine chastised me for not keeping up the blog. I haven't been sure what to post--I didn't want to phone something in, but haven't had the full time, energy, and enthusiasm for something elaborate.

So anyway, I thought I'd try to at least get something out there with a few quick hits, touching on a few pet peeves. Because, you know, I don't think anyone has ever used his blog to vent about pet peeves before, so I'm breaking really fresh ground here.

1. Dear radio ad makers: I'll fully admit that loud sound effects, although annoying, can be attention-getting. However, before you plan your next ad with honking horns, screeching tires, and the sounds of one car smashing into another one, please let me draw your attention to a little-known statistic that your demographic studies might have overlooked: Apparently, many people actually listen to the radio while driving. Who knew? So a side effect of this hidden population of car-driving radio listeners is that sound effects that make these drivers think that they're in imminent danger of being smashed to bits are probably a bad idea. Sorry to spoil your fun.

2. Dear retail sales force: I understand that this is the holiday season and that you're overworked and underpaid and all that jazz. I sympathize. But please understand that when we're searching your labyrinthine stores for a particular item to no avail, and when we finally manage to track down someone to ask for help, the last thing in the world we want to hear is "If we had it, it would be..." (usually accompanied by a vague arm gesture that encompasses half the store and outer Mongolia). I want precision. I want to know whether you have it or not, where the heck it is, and, if you don't have it, where I can find it and how you can help to get one for me. The next time I hear "If we had it, it would be..." my head is going to spin around.

3. I love Santa Claus. I love the whole idea of Santa Claus. I love talking about Santa Claus with my boys. You know what I don't love? Santa Claus "outers": people who seem to go out of their way to make it difficult for me to help my kids believe in Santa Claus a little longer. Seeing a cheap, poorly outfitted Santa Claus every place I turn around hacks me off. How am I supposed to explain the contrast between the Santa whose lap they sit on in our planned trip to the mall to visit Santa and the scrawny Santa with the beard recklessly slipping off slouched at the front of Half-Price Books with no damn warning? Or the Santa waving from the photo store at the mall? Or the Santa making a special surprise appearance at the neighborhood gathering? There shouldn't be a Santa Claus at every single damn retail establishment in America. If you feel you must have a Santa Claus, follow these rules:

    • Have a good one.
    • Have a prominent sign letting parents know what to expect when they walk into your store or attend your event.
    • Put Santa off somewhere away from the center of things or else surrounded by Christmas decorations so that the only people who actually see him are the people who want to see him.
Don't foist your bad Santas on me!

4. Oh, and while you're at it, suggesting to my wife, in front of our five-year-old, that something would make a good stocking stuffer? Probably a bad idea. Santa stuffs stockings, not Mom and Dad. Moron.

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

DM of the Rings

This whole series of strips is absolutely hilarious, particularly to anyone who has played in role-playing games in general and D&D in particular. The irreverant take on The Lord of the Rings series had my laughing out loud. Very funny stuff.

Check it out.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Alas, poor Pluto

So poor Pluto has been demoted (or, as Dina put it, "riffed").

I've heard a rumor (okay, I'm starting a rumor) about a new cottage industry of professionals who are going around to little kids' houses and elementary schools and yanking Pluto off of their toy solar systems. And another industry recycling those Plutos into balls for the Hungry Hungry Hippos game.

Anyone else think that this demotion is a Machiavellian move by the Solar System Toy Mafia to get people to buy all new eight-planet solar system sets? And then, a few years down the road, the SSTM will get the ruling turned over and promote Charon and Xena to planet status for a whole new slew of solar system sets? Poor Pluto is just caught in a temporary crossfire.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Indy IV news scares Rob

My commentary below...

From Sci-Fi Wire:

Lucas: Indy IV Starts In 2007

George Lucas told Empire magazine that he, director Steven Spielberg and star Harrison Ford are aiming to shoot a proposed fourth Indiana Jones movie by mid-2007, with an eye to a 2008 release. But, he added, getting everyone back together may not be easy.

"Before, I was just working with Steven and Harrison," Lucas told the magazine. "Now everybody's a superstar, so it's a little bit more difficult than it was then."

As for the story? "We're basically going to do The Phantom Menace," Lucas said cryptically, referring to Star Wars: Episode I. "People's expectations are way higher than you can deliver. You could just get killed for the whole thing. ... We would do it for fun and just take the hit with the critics and the fans. ... But nobody wants to get into it unless they are really happy with it."

Lucas added: "The 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' situation has freed up an idea for a plot that was originally deemed too incendiary. I discovered a McGuffin. ... I told the guys about it, and they were a little dubious about it, but it's the best one we've ever found. ... Unfortunately, it was a little too 'connected' for the others. They were afraid of what the critics would think. They said, 'Can't we do it with a different McGuffin? Can't we do this?' and I said no. So we pottered around with that for a couple of years. And then Harrison really wanted to do it, and Steve said 'OK.' I said, 'We'll have to go back to that original McGuffin and take out the offending parts of it, and we'll still use that area of the supernatural to deal with it.'"
Okay. Is there any way that this doesn't sound like a horrible beginning to this movie?

First, we've got Lucas apparently calling a lot of the shots storywise. Lucas used to be an amazing talent, but I've seen precious little evidence that his talent remains these days, especially after the terrible Star Wars prequel trilogy, which showed that he'd lost touch with the human connection that any great story has to have.

Then we have his own lukewarm discussion of the McGuffin (MacGuffin is the preferred spelling, by the way). I understand that he's trying to talk about the movie without giving away actual details of what he's talking about, but he sounds completely unenthusiastic about it. If this movie is to be made, it needs to be a labor of love for the primary storytellers involved. They need to be engaged in it and excited about it, or it's going to be a terrible disappointment.

Finally, when he said "We're basically going to do The Phantom Menace"? My blood froze. I'd have felt better if he'd said "We're basically going to do Plan 9 from Outer Space" or "We're basically going to do Glitter" or even "We're basically going to do Gigli." What the hell is he talking about?

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Monday, July 31, 2006

The slop thickens

Have you been wondering just what the heck is in the slop that the food challenge losers on Big Brother All Stars have been forced to eat? I sure have. And it turns out, you can read more about it here. While it might be a decent, nourishing weight loss plan, I'm sure glad I get to eat real food while watching the poor BB gerbils suffer their fate.

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Monster name decoder

And more fun...

Ravenous, Orphan-Beheading, Redhead-Obliterating Ghoul from the Enchanted Ruined Sanctuary

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Cyborg name decoder


Robotic Operational Being Responsible for Observation, Galactic Exploration and Rational Sabotage

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Freaky spam

Very little spam makes it through my spam filters at work. A particularly odd, almost poetic one made it through today (part of what's apparently a very strong campaign for me to increase the size of my private parts), from someone named Lakeisha. Just for giggles, I'll reproduce it below, without the link back to the spam site. I like the random capitalization, the lack of sentence-ending punctuation, the strange phrases like "From the sweetest wine the tartest vinegar."

Recently added Have more success with women and impress them with your power and stamina in bed

Bedroom and locker rooms are places where you can be proud of yourself Nature is here to enhance your manhood with safe and working products Imagine your tool grow and your prowess increase several times Forget what embarrassment in bed feels like, you're no longer small and weak What you need is all here, the most popular male products from worldwide

................From the sweetest wine the tartest vinegar Promises are like babies Easy to make, hard to deliver Every bush a man night time. Love conquers all

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Inventory: 13 memorably unpopular characters from popular TV

Scrappy Doo
Check out the fun article on AV Club. I always disliked Scrappy Doo as a kid, but never quite realized why. Of course, this list includes a few I'm not very familiar with, and omits a few that I would definitely include:

  1. "Lil" the crazy lady in the Boy Scout uniform on Survivor: Pearl Islands
  2. Uni the unicorn on the classic Dungeons & Dragons cartoon (soon to be released on DVD, by the way!).
  3. Dr. Gaius Baltar on the modern Battlestar Galactica, a character horribly out of sync with the rest of the show.
  4. Ana-Lucia Cortez on Lost, for reasons that should be obvious to most who watched the show. Partially for a poorly written, poorly realized character and partially for Michelle Rodriguez's two-expression performances.
  5. Dr. Pulaski from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  6. Rosalind Shays on L.A. Law (man, that actress had kind of specialized talent!).
I imagine I'll think of more later and regret not having included them. What are yours?

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Create that acronym

This site seems like a useful tool for just about any comic book writer or gamer. Fun stuff. Check it out.
My acronym of the day?

CLAW: Comprehensive Logistics and Analysis Worldwide, also known as Criminal Logistics and Agents Worldwide.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Um, guys...

I just noticed a story on Excite News (originating from the AP). It's about a comedy routine that Brad Garrett (best know as Raymond's brother Robert on Everyone Loves Raymond) performed during a gathering of advertisers for Fox, where Fox was highlighting his new sitcom. He made some jokes about Paula Abdul (hey, who wouldn't?), and the story, called "New Sitcom Start Goes After Paula Abdul," deals with that.

The odd thing is the image that accompanied the story. It's not of Brad Garrett. It's of Leif Garrett, fallen 70s icon, appearing bruised, battered, and in a bright orange "they're making me wear this" shirt at a court hearing in Los Angeles.

You'd think someone would have caught that. Other than me.

Here's the link, although I suspect it will be fixed pretty soon: http://apnews.excite.com/article/20060519/D8HN1SIO0.html

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Friday, May 05, 2006

Don't forget: Tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day!

Free Comic Book Day
Make sure you drop by your friendly neighborhood comic book store and check it out. And hey--buy a comic or three while you're there, okay? Don't know where the closest stores are? Take a look right here.

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Friday, April 28, 2006

I can't help myself

According to an article on MSNBC.com, President Bush said today that, "I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English...."

Sigh. Seems like it should be a requirement for presidents, too.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Pneumonia, you know?

Sorry for the slow posting of late. I was on a roll, then got sick and it turned into pneumonia. I'm doing fine; I'm back at work, walking around, not coughing so much anymore, etc. But I'm tired a lot, so this is one thing that's fallen a bit behind. I'll be back to posting soon.

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Monday, April 10, 2006

West Wing election ends with moving episode

Particularly after reading Alan Sepinwall's review of the episode, I expected to be disappointed by last night's episode of The West Wing. I often find Sepinwall to be right on target with his analysis and he often captures my moods, too. But I found the episode surprisingly strong and moving, reinforcing my regret that the series has been canceled. I'd very much love to see what a new season with Santos in office would be like.

On the face of it, tying Leo's death in with election night ran a risk of cheapening the death of the character and the actor. But I found myself being impressed with the result. Yes, we missed out on a few reaction shots. I would have liked to see Toby's reaction, in particular. But Leo seemed to be present in every scene, every moment. We didn't see Margaret finding out, but we saw her face, her thoughts, in a brief glimpse, and that seemed enough. Yes, the staffers danced and were excited about developments, but I could practically feel Leo in the room with them, celebrating the victory, while I could also feel the sense of incredible loss from those who knew him best.

The president's phone call with the first lady. Josh's reflection in Leo's room. Vinnick's reaction to hearing about the death of a man he respected. All of these bits resonated with me. If we didn't have an episode coming up devoted to memorializing Leo, I might feel differently, but I thought that the juxtaposition of his death and the election fever was handled pretty gracefully.

Of course, there's lots of speculation as to who might be selected as the next VP. The safe money is on the Gary Cole character. But I have a feeling that the writers are going to go another way. My money right now is on Sam, despite his lack of experience in public office, but I see that as a bit of a wild card.

Dina and I were even wondering, after CJ's conversation with the president about whether he would have run again, continued to serve, if he'd been able, if perhaps they were suggesting that he might be the vice president. I'm not sure if that would even be legal, and I think it would really be a silly, implausible stretch. But I wouldn't be absolutely shocked if they went that route. Vinnick, too, would make a fun and interesting choice, even if the idea of Santos and Vinnick joining together is improbably idealistic. Of course, CJ has stepped in for Leo before, and might make a good choice. And Josh, though I'd expect him to be chief of staff, might be a good call.

In sum:
Safe money: Bob Russell
My bet: Sam Seaborn
Decent chance: CJ
Decent chance: Josh
Longshot: Vinnick
Longshot: Bartlet
Longshot: Hoynes

Interested in West Wing on DVD? Check out the links below.
Season One
Season Two
Season Three
Season Four
Season Five
Season Six

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

In science news...

This just in. Scientists have discovered new red and blue rings around Uranus. Any guesses on how many late night talk show hosts will make cracks about this in their monologues tonight?

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Old Chicago

Memory's a funny thing. I have vague memories from my childhood of going to an amusement park called Old Chicago. I remembered that the entire theme park was indoors, something that seemed off-kilter to me whenever I thought about it afterward. Would someone really build an amusement park indoors? Would it be functional? Wouldn't it be expensive to power the whole thing and keep it warm or cool, as appropriate?

Whenever I thought about it, I figured that I was remembering wrong somehow, that either it was a very small park that seemed bigger in my memory, or it wasn't really all indoors.

My impressions of the park were positive ones, if not very concrete: fun, with a classic theme reminiscent of old World Fairs. I remember wrenching my neck on a roller coaster. I remember my mom and dad there, and I think Dad might have carried me on his shoulders.

I'm not sure why I've never just asked my parents about it when it's come to mind, but I guess I've just never thought about it when they were directly at hand.

So today, it popped into my head for the thousandth time and I decided to look it up. I found a site that goes into a good amount of detail and brought back some memories. You can also read more about it in the Wikipedia.

As it turns out, I should have trusted my memory more. It was indeed an outdoor amusement park, although, unfortunately, it didn't last for very long. Kind of makes me wish I could step into a time machine and visit it sometime.

Oh, and on a slightly related note, I recently read a really good thriller about an enclosed amusement park. The book is called Utopia, and I'd recommend checking it out.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The "mailman" joke is aging badly

I have brown hair. Dina has brown hair. Our younger son, Zack, has brown hair. Our older son, Alex, has blond hair. Ever since Alex was born, we have occasionally had people make comments along the lines of "where did he get his blond hair?"

Some of these are perfectly innocent--they generally segue immediately into questions about our parents' hair, etc. They're genuinely curious.

But others, most often complete strangers, seem to find this an opportunity for comedy. "Where did he get his blond hair?" they ask in teasing tones. Wink wink. Nudge nudge. Often, they suggest that the mailman is responsible. This evening, we attended an orientation function for kids signing up for kindergarten in the fall at our local elementary school. A lady (who had seemed perfectly nice earlier) asked us, rather loudly, about Alex's hair, then followed it up with an amused glance at me. "I bet you'd like to know," she said. Ha ha. Mind you, this was in front of Alex.

How many possible ways could this joke go wrong for someone? I mean, in our case, there's no question that Alex is my child, and Dina's. But what if that weren't the case?

Let's take fictional family A. They've adopted a child with blond hair. Or fictional family B. The dad has died and the mother has remarried. Or fictional family C. The mom had a wild fling at one point and the child isn't her husband's, but they've reconciled and he treats the child as his own. I'm sure you could come up with more possibilities on your own. Is it a good idea, in any of these situations, to make a potentially awkward situation (for the parents) even worse? Is it ever a good idea to suggest to a child that his parents might not really be his parents?

For the record, our parents also have dark hair, but Dina's brother's hair was blond when he was young. My grandfather had blond hair, and my aunt is blonde. So Alex's hair is a little unusual, maybe, but nothing far from the family tree. I have absolutely no doubt that Alex is mine, nor should anyone who really pays attention for more than a few seconds--we've got too many traits in common (including, of course, dashing good looks, keen intellect, and charming personalities). But you know, if he hears a half dozen strangers asking how he can have blond hair when his parents don't, he might eventually start to wonder, every once in a while. He might start to doubt us. And making a child doubt his parents isn't worth the price of a joke. Particularly a stupid one.

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1,003 and counting...

I'm moderately gratified to see that I've passed 1,000 hits on this blog since I started tracking traffic shortly after launching the site. I hope that's not just Mom hitting refresh a lot to make me feel better. Hi, Mom!

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Friday, March 31, 2006

Portello Numero 6: Blog Del Rob

Ever wanted to read my blog in Italian? Well, me, either. But it's kind of cool to see the translated version. Someone recently ran my site through a translator to read it in French. Oui, French! And that got me kind of curious as to how the site looked in other languages. As I'm not fluent in anything but English, I can't tell how good of a job the translators are doing, but it's kind of neat.

FYI: I tried to get Google to translate the French version back into English for me, but it told me "non!" I played around further and had Alta Vista's Babel Fish translate the French version back, and it kind of worked, but everything was pretty garbled. Not sure whether to blame Google or Alta Vista or myself for that one.

FYI, part two: Translating my site into redneck (the site's term, not mine) was kind of interesting, too.

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The gunsel pumped metal with his gat at a bird on the gooseberry lay

I love mysteries and often enjoy reading hard-boiled books from the 20s, 30s, and 40s, with their particular brand of slang. Somewhere along the way, I found a web site that includes a very interesting glossary of some of those terms. It's a fun read, and makes me think that we might need to add a "talk like a gangster" day to the world's repertoir, a kind of companion to talk like a pirate day.

The same site with the glossary has a fun article about Dashiell Hammett's use of the term gooseberry lay and how he turned the term "gunsel," which originally meant something along the lines of "catamite," on its ear.

I particularly love that fact that the article involves two pillars of the mystery community: Hammett (who, of course, wrote The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man, and other classics) and the article's writer, Erle Stanley Gardner, best known as the writer of the Perry Mason mysteries.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

What's on my wall

I know nothing about the cartoon Brewster Rockit, but it's run by the Dallas Morning News in its free Quick paper (and quite probably in the regular paper itself). One of the strips caught my eye and made me laugh, and I finally got around to clipping it out and sticking it on my wall. So I'll share it with you and point you over to the site where you can read more like it.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A great fish story

I don't generally keep up with the fishing circuit in detail, but I was very excited to hear that Chris McCall, my cousin-in-law, won a recent competition, the Stren Series Central event on Sam Rayburn. Way to go, Chris. And it sounds like you pulled in a great catch, too.

You can read the whole story here.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Donut burger?

My goodness. I'm kind of speechless on this one. Read about it on Spork Boy's blog.

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Too... many... spaces...

In school, I was always taught to leave two spaces after the end of every sentence. The reason for this was that the original typewriters had only monospaced fonts; people needed the extra space for a visual cue that a sentence had ended.

Well, hardly anyone uses typewriters anymore. Computers use proportionally spaced fonts and, as a result, writers now only need to use a single space after a mark of punctuation.

A fellow copyeditor retrained me in this, explaining the reasoning to me and convincing me to stop hitting the spacebar that extra time. It was a bit jarring at first; it wasn't what I'd been taught. But after about a day, I got used to it.

For some reason, though, many people have never been taught to stop adding those extra spaces. Almost always, when I'm asked to edit a document, one of my first steps is run a search and replace, converting all double spaces into single ones. It's not a huge deal, but it's a pain. Someone needs to get out there and communicate to people that that extra space has gone the way of the dodo, disco, and "Dingoes Ate My Baby."

So there.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Watch your cows!

I have no idea what this site is all about, but it is pretty clever and amusing. Probably some of that there viral marketing I done read about, yup.

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Monday, March 06, 2006

My favorite grossly inappropriate headline of the week

This one cracked me up, although it's clearly in poor taste and I'm wondering how it managed to get past the editors at Reuters:

Prosthetic legs returned; police stumped

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Drak Pack

Thanks to Spork Boy (I can't type that with a straight face, Michael) for using his IMDb fu to track down the show I was looking for, which it turns out was called The Drak Pack! You can also read more about those crazy guys here. I only vaguely remember this show, but the vague memories are fond ones. Thanks, man!

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Recommended reading

Tape: Bush, Chertoff Warned Before Katrina
"In dramatic and sometimes agonizing terms, federal disaster officials warned President Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees, put lives at risk in New Orleans' Superdome and overwhelm rescuers, according to confidential video footage."

Read the whole article.

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Does anyone remember...

A cartoon (probably from the 70s) that featured a teenage wolf man, Frankenstein's monster, and Dracula? I think that maybe they fought crime.

So far my Google fu is not working its usual magic.

This is bugging me.

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Yes, I want fries with that. But not those fries. I want the fries of yesteryear.

I wish they'd have two types of fries on the menu at McDonald's.

The first could be whatever the hell they want or need to make to appease the whining masses who complain about the health values of the fries, as though fast food french fries will ever be anything but bad for you.

And the second--my fries--would go back to the old recipe, before they started using vegetable oil and started worrying about health reports over flavor. Ah, for the McDonald's fries of my youth. Today's version are just a poor imitation.

You know, some people say that the reason Americans eat so much junk is that our food tends to be so bland. You eat more, hoping with each bite to get more of that full flavor that whatever you're chewing on just hints at. Who knows? The fries of my youth might actually prove to be healthier because you'd eat fewer of them, sated earlier with all the goodness that McDonald's fries used to be.

The fact that I've fantasized about having a time machine to go back in time and eat real McDonald's fries is a little sad.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Happy National Gorilla Suit Day!

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Monday, January 23, 2006

A quip

The other night:

Dina: "How are you, honey?"
Me: "I've been worn down, yelled at, bit, and bonked on the forehead with a yo-yo. How are you?"

Of course, if I'd been writing it as a line of dialogue and had a little more time to think about it, I might have added some specific detail:

Me: "I've been worn down by Wal-Mart, yelled at, bit, and bonked on the forehead with a Finding Nemo yo-yo. How are you?"

I'm not sure that either of these is great art, in fact I'm sure that neither is, but I've found that a little bit of specific detail can add color to writing, as long as you don't overdo it.

Anyway, I've been dismal about posting here, and thought I'd at least jot down a few random thoughts to get the wheels greased again.

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