Thursday, February 27, 2014

Humor, at the Expense of Others, Isn't Funny

A man tried to sell a couch he didn't want after a divorce he was glad to get. He decided to try to be funny in his Craigslist ad.

Instead, he was cruel and misogynistic — and more than a little self-loathing.

And if that wasn't bad enough, I read as young women across the country laughed at how "funny" they thought it was. Milennials females shared it on each other's pages.

I was horrified. These women didn't get that this cruel man was writing about a woman he presumably once pledged to love and honor, and now was holding up to ridicule by revealing their private moments, a "safe" place in which she revealed her relaxed self. I have long maintained that the quality of a person is revealed by how they treat their ex-lovers. This man failed the test on a public forum most likely frequented by mutual friends and acquaintances who would recognize both him and her.

Don't get me wrong: he used the elements of humor that, when properly applied, can be hysterical: commonly shared experiences of an intimate nature peppered with specific detail, exaggeration, attention to minutiae, personal reveals to draw in the audience — just to name a few. And yet... I cringed. This woman was roundly, publicly called out after a break-up. No one "deserves" this. 

I hope this man finds someone who teaches him how to be a good person and a real man. I hope he leaves womankind alone. Or, conversely, I hope he meets someone not unlike himself and learns his lesson. Most importantly, I hope I don't know him, that I don't meet him and that he stays far, far away from me and mine. He is not a nice man and shouldn't be rewarded for this behavior.

Couch must go!!! - $400

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© craigslist - Map data © OpenStreetMap
Ikea Karlstad Couch (Contains Black Magic) -$400 OBO
This is my soon to be ex-wife's couch, and I want it gone!! Before getting married I had a great bachelor couch with leather, had massaging powers and cup holders for drinking beer. After making bad choices, I decided hey, I am going to get married!! - Its like eating a Slurpee, and you keep eating, even though you know all you get is a headache, and an unsatisfied feeling.
So I gave up my couch in the name of "Compromise." She took me to this voodoo shop run by Pagan Swedish Practitioners, named Ikea. I was then hypnotized into purchasing this Ikea Karlstad Sleep Sofa. I am not sure about the name of the couch. I think it comes from Norse Mythology which translates to "Throne of the Unholy."
Don't believe me? When she would sit on the couch, this unholy sound would bellow from her mouth, scaring young children, and beckoning me to do all sorts of things for her (sort of a honey-do list for the damned) When I sat on it, yelling, screaming and mashing of teeth would ensue. Sports lost their luster, if I got to watch sports. Beer tasted flat, and unfortunately I would end up watching some sort of chick flick. I now realize that "How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days" was not a movie, but a training video for this Succubus.
The Throne also contains a sleeper sofa if you have guest over. We never had any overnight guests. . .at least none that we ever saw the next morning. This couch is so unholy that my dog doesn't even want to sit on it, or even near it.
So in closing, please, please, please buy this couch!!! I need beer money, and I need this couch removed from my house so I can get something less demonic, and much more manly. $400 OBO (I paid $800 two years ago)!! I also recommend bringing a couple people with you to help haul it, and at least one priest to perform an exorcism before bringing this piece into your happy home!!
I have other items for sale that belonged to the Queen of the Damned, I will post them in the near future.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Books in a Series: Keep Up or Keep Away?

A series of books is a delight and a weighty responsibility.

I have four collections going right now, and I've almost surrendered. Each book in every series is heavy with plot, character development. Tiny frayed threads beg to be woven into the larger tapestry of the rich brocade of, say, A Discovery of Witches or A Map of Time. And yet —

How can I resist such luscious stories?

I began the All Souls Trilogy in 2011. When the second book, Shadow of Night, hit the shelves in 2012, I nearly jumped at the opportunity to read the first book again so I was properly acquainted with the nuances of the story.

Until I read the author's website.

Seems there was no release date for the third book. Honestly, I can't remember what I had for breakfast most mornings, so I am wont to begin a series without a strong enough commitment to re-read as necessary — particularly such a rich novel.

I waited until I knew the release date for The Book of Life. It's in five months' time. Now the decisions must be made: When do I start the first novel again? When do I start the second tome? And how do I prevent author repeat-itis?

It may seem silly to worry about such a thing. I've read every Stephanie Plum book without a problem. I know what Grandma Mazur is up to, and I'll find out whether Stephanie is on-again with Joe, or off-again. Karen Marie Moning's Fever series also is easy to pick up after a hiatus: Mac tells us what we need to know to get back up to speed.

However, therein lies the difference between a series and a trilogy. A series will remind you that Stephanie drives Big Blue when her car is blown up (or stolen or crashed or...). Mac will remind you that she fed un-Seelie to the police officer, who now hungers for more.

A trilogy, in contrast, is finite, hopefully tight and spare. One doesn't expect to have too many prompts and reminders in such a "short" collection. I re-read Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children in January in anticipation of the second novel's release. Now that it feels like a series, I am almost sorry I did: I could have been reminded of all of the important stuff as the book went along. Don't get me wrong: the novel was a great read, but I have plenty on my nightstand to finish in this lifetime without unnecessary re-reading.

I discovered Margaret Atwood's apocalyptic trilogy after The Year of the Flood, the second book, was released, so I'm biding my time now that all three are available. I'll weave all three into my regular list so I can enjoy each one in its own time.

However, the Witches series felt denser, more complex. I enjoyed it too much to miss out on any subtlety in the books that followed. (Plus, time travel!) I want to read the third as soon as I can, but I can't figure out how to squeeze in the first two in the short time I have. I may have to pace myself more slowly, much to my dismay.

And The Map series? I have teased myself with it long enough. It will be mine this spring or summer. Yes, it will be mine...

UPDATE: In related news, Powell's Books asked an important question: where do you begin in a "new to you" series?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Map of Time: Unexpected, Magical, Right Up My Alley

When I read a short description of Félix J. Palma's The Map of Time, I thought it was right up my alley: time travel, H.G. Wells, Jack the Ripper and things going wrong.  Alrighty, then, where do I sign up?

It was nothing like I expected — and it was utterly delicious.

It begins with a young man who wishes to die because his love already is dead.  However, this man is given hope: time travel.  It is Victorian England, near the end of the 19th century, and technology is slowly becoming the new God in this Industrial Age.  In the shadow of the Crystal Palace, where technology showed the way to the future, one can guess how easily duped are the public who want to believe.

But what happens if it's the truth after all?

The novel manages to drop names and draw in the most unexpected characters, both actual and fictional.  The story jumps between love gone wrong to love gone wrong, to — well, it's not all "love gone wrong," but if Miracle Max will work to benefit true love, shouldn't H.G. Wells?  There is villainy and heroism, there are choices of which to be (and one never expects either the choices made or the consequences thereof) — there's plenty of murder, an introduction to the abject poverty of the 19th century, a look at the future, a person's conversation with himself, bicycles, plenty of thugs and a few unexpected friends, literary hooliganism and more.

There also is some fair discussion of time travel and related issues, thoughtful and thought-provoking.  In the end, of course, a reader hopes for as many questions as answers — because the more intriguing and stirring the story, the more a reader ponders and speculates.

If, during your reading, you hit a hairpin turn and wonder how you got there, and how in the world this has anything to do with the rest of the story, don't despair.  Follow Palma wherever he leads, and you will not be sorry.  When you read the final page, expect to be tempted to flip to the beginning of the novel just to start again.

If you begin with a library copy, be prepared to either renew often or to find your own, soon-to-be-worn copy of The Map of Time.  This will become a perennial favorite, picked up and devoured every once in a while because something else fantastic will be apparent on every re-read.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Month of Letters: Up to Speed

So far, so good: after two weeks, I've mailed one letter for nearly every day of the month. Hopefully some of you have received your missives. Remember, if you want to make sure you're on the Mail From Chris list, write me an e-mail or message me your address on Facebook.

I have had the opportunity to use my interesting note cards, including the bee cards I received for Christmas (in honor of Da Bee).

I have not written a letter a day as much as I have written a few letters every few days. That seems to work for me, but you may prefer to pace yourself differently.

I haven't written a "letter" a day, either. I have sent a couple of picture postcards. Remember: it's not just the posed pictures that deserve to be shared. Those photos you love? Those are the ones others will love, too.

I also have written one or two longer, thoughtful epistles. Not everyone will have to endure those, but if you are among those who have listened me in the past, you very well may receive one.

Keep up the good work, letter-writers, and think: is it worth continuing after the month is over?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Poetry Wednesday: Looking Back in My Eighty-First Year

Looking Back in My Eighty-First Year

How did we get to be old ladies—
my grandmother's job—when we 
were the long-leggèd girls? 
— Hilma Wolitzer 

Instead of marrying the day after graduation,
in spite of freezing on my father's arm as 
here comes the bride struck up, 
saying, I'm not sure I want to do this, 
I should have taken that fellowship 
to the University of Grenoble to examine 
the original manuscript 
of Stendhal's unfinished Lucien Leuwen
I, who had never been west of the Mississippi, 
should have crossed the ocean 
in third class on the Cunard White Star,
the war just over, the Second World War 
when Kilroy was here, that innocent graffito, 
two eyes and a nose draped over 
a fence line. How could I go? 
Passion had locked us together. 
Sixty years my lover, 
he says he would have waited. 
He says he would have sat 
where the steamship docked 
till the last of the pursers 
decamped, and I rushed back
littering the runway with carbon paper...
Why didn't I go? It was fated. 
Marriage dizzied us. Hand over hand, 
flesh against flesh for the final haul,
we tugged our lifeline through limestone and sand, 
lover and long-leggèd girl. 

From Still to Mow by Maxine Kumin. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Month of Letters Idea: Send a Photo Postcard

We're nearly halfway through A Month of Letters. Have you kept up with your letter writing? Is it easier than you thought? Maybe even — dare I write it — more fun than you realized?

Keep the momentum going and change it up a little, maybe: send a photo as a postcard.

It's as easy as peel and stick (then address).

There are special heavy-paper cards that will fit a 4x6 photo. One side has the address and message blanks and the other has an adhesive. Look below: that's the photo postcard kit I purchased from Amazon. (Elephant not included.) Visit your local stationery store to see what they have in stock.

Choose your photo and have it printed at the local drug store, grocery store or photo store. If you're tech savvy, you can send the image to the store's website and have it ready for pickup in no time. Otherwise, bring the camera or phone to the photo developer and let them show you how to use the machines on-site. For as little as 30¢, you can send that cute, clever, funny or slightly embarrassing photo to a friend.

Once the image is printed, you can affix it to your photo card. Peel off the paper covering the adhesive and press on the image. Stick on a stamp and you're ready to go!

Remember, postcards require different (and less expensive) postage than letters, so make sure you have the proper stamps for the job.

By the way, you don't have to choose a recent photo. Find a snapshot from the past and take your friend or family member down Memory Lane.

Consider using a photo postcard instead of a traditional birthday or holiday card to make the day even more special.

Are you inspired and even more enthused than you were before? Good. Remember: it's a good day to send a letter.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Month of Letters: It's Begun!

It's begun. We're days into A Month of Letters. To whom have you written so far?

And if you haven't... start!

A Month of Letters is a fun way to keep in touch with friends and family, people who know and people you'd like to know — and maybe some you don't.

All you do is write and mail one letter each day there is postal delivery during the month of February. It can be a postcard, a letter, a note, a communiqué, a dispatch. You will be amazed how pleased people are to receive your missive.

What, you don't have a person's address? It's not too hard to find: ask for it. Ask the recipient, a mutual friend, their moms. (Moms always have addresses.) If you're tech savvy, look 'em up on The White Pages, where you get an address (and a phone number, if you're interested) with a few keystrokes. (I don't recommend using a search engine, which sends you to information collection companies that will spill it all for a fee.)

Can you use a computer? Sure. However, make it interesting: stop by the stationery store, drug store, department store or even thrift shop and pick up some fun, interesting note cards. (While you're there, be sure to grab some note cards for "thank you" notes. You know you need 'em.)
Do birthday cards count? Absolutely! Be sure to write something in the card, though. Hallmark can't do all of the work.

If you miss a day, don't panic — just double up the next day. If you know some days are more hectic than others, plan to spend a few minutes on the better days to write a letter or two. Try to not put too much on your plate at once; writing lots of letters in a single day can feel unrewarding. Remember, this is supposed to be fun.

By the way, expect more than one phone call in return — though, let's hope your recipients pick up their pens and return the favor of a letter.