I left had this up on my laptop and left it open on the dining room table. A few hours later I found my wife giggling over it. A bit of background is in order: you couldn’t pay my wife to read anything I or anyone else posts on what she so beneficently refers to as “your gay website”. But here she was laughing at my story of how I nearly started a street fight with our then two-month old boy strapped to my chest. Aha! I thought to myself. I need to print these out for her as some sort of “thanks-for-giving-birth-to-our-second-baby” gift. And so I have, and so she loves them. Last night, after reading the first ten or so she said, “These make me happy.” Sorry fellow Everythingians, but all your chings! And upvotes can’t hold the world’s tiniest candle to that.

So on I filibuster, for reasons of love, hubris, anxiety and stubbornness, roughly in that order of importance.


Hours later. Heather’s been to the doctor for another so-called “non-stress test” for the baby. The baby’s fine.

Well, duh! Of course the baby isn’t stressed! It’s living la vida bonita in there. I’d hang on for dear life too if I could.

Anyway, the inducing discussion was had, and we’re tentatively scheduled to go in next Tuesday morning. Now if the labor and delivery triage is overfull for some reason-- i.e. there are too many women in natural labor or with problemsu—- then we’ll get bumped to Friday. On Friday Heather will be officially 42 weeks, or two weeks overdue. Then she’ll bump up to a higher priority, and it’s pretty certain the baby will be born on that day at the very latest.

So what does that mean for you, gentle reader? It means you have to endure this interminable daylog filibuster for probably only four more days, a week at the longest. I know, I know! After so long you, like me, never expected hard numbers, did you?


Thanks to Swap who recommended The Death Clock, I found out my personal death date is Thursday, June 21, 2040. A Solstice death. Can’t beat that!

Now, I’ve made no secret of the fact that I hope the kid is a girl, though a boy would obviously be just as welcome. So . . . for the sake of experiment, let’s just plug her as a female being born on Tuesday, and see what we get, shall we? . . .

My daughter will die on Saturday, August 19, 2084 .

My heart literally lifted when I saw how far off this is.


Reminds me of Zen story.

The Emperor called in a famous Zen master to give his newborn son a blessing. The monk held the child in his arms and said to the great man: “You die. Your son dies. His son dies.

The emperor was furious. He had the guards seize the monk and seriously considered executing him on the spot, but before he had him killed the Emperor asked the master to explain himself. (And both men were lucky the monk did, since Zen Masters aren’t always so cooperative.)

“It’s simple”, said the monk. “It’s what we all hope for. To die before our children and for them to die before theirs. It is the natural order of things. A blessing, like you asked for. Anything different would be the worst curse imaginable.”


Ah, my fishy! Live! Live on past the date the stupid death clock predicts. Live on into that newer century. I’ll be long gone and right there with you.

Michael,

I don't have your skill for words and abstractions, so bear with me. I don't know, you are right about life being a sort of death march. But, there are the things that make it worth it, like love and beauty. Things that are so simple and natural can stir such passionate emotions in us, and it would be a shame to waste it. A mind like yours is what gives humanity a chance at success. You can appreciate both the beauty and the tragedy, and such things aren't wasted on me either, though I wouldn't ascend to say that I am somehow the universe' gift to humanity. I can't tell you anything that will help you cope with what's going on, suffice to say that the tragedy would be to wander forever without applying your energy and making life good for you. You deserve the things you were never given, but you have to take them. I only hope that this makes sense, but perhaps you already knew these things.

Adam

Chuck Palahniuk
c/o Doubleday Book Company
New York, New York


Dear Chuck,

I'm a huge fan. I've read every word you've published in book form. Lots of your magazine articles, too. Your website. Your fan site. Chuck, your writing gave me hope my own fantasy of being a well-paid author could be made a reality.

You may have noticed I've never written before. That's because, generally, I don't write to authors. You live your life. I live mine. I've had no need to disturb you just because I thought "Fight Club" was a work of inspired genius. You have a cadre of mindless idolizing bozos to do that and I have no desire to join that club.

Though, I think "Diary" and "Choke" were both fabulous except you kind of forced the endings. And your travel diary of the city of Portland, absolutely the stuff of the gods. I hope to be visiting your fair city in the next month or two, and I will bring the book along as a guide. I plan to take your walking tour.

You've probably figured out that I'm not writing just to massage your ego, but as a fan, and someone I hope you'll consider to be emotionally invested in your work, we need to talk about your latest book, "Haunted". And I have the feeling you already know why.

Chuck, it sucks. I mean, like, a whole lot. I mean, it's not as good as my stuff.

Now I realize your knee-jerk reaction will be to say, "asshole," and toss this correspondence, but if you'll hear me out -- as someone who has spent many hours reading your work -- please give me five minutes of your time. It's good karma, Chuck. And you must need some now.

I think you must have tried to show off your versatility. I can tell from the poetry. The attempt to write sixteen short stories, each in a different voice. Well, unfortunately, they're all you. And I know you may intend with a twist, that they really are all bits of your alter ego, but they're just not different enough. They all sound like you. They sound like you varying your sentence lengths. They sound like you altering your vocabulary. They all have as subjects the same kind of unique brutality your characters usually show to each other only this time, the unredeemable characters have no heart. And it makes me sad, Chuck, because all your characters, at the end of the day, with everything they inflict and endure, are people with heart. These people have no worthwhile qualities. They're not worth reading about.

You had in mind to write an "edgy" story, probably at the behest of your book company. I can say this with complete confidence: it's all edge, and no content.

The poetry, isn't. I'm no poet, Chuck, but really, you need to stop before someone gets hurt.

I could not finish reading "Haunted" before I got distracted by other things. The newspaper, for instance. And my dog needed to be walked. And my daughter wanted to have me watch Donnie Darko, which is really a great movie if you haven't already seen it. I recommend it.

Anyway, I want to say I understand how you feel. You put a lot of effort into the book. You tried to do something different. But you know, your editor should have told you to give it up. Or maybe you were under contract to spit out another brilliant novel really fast, and this is all you could come up with.

My advice is to take a break. Go experience something different. Hell, if you're interested in Antarctica, I'll be happy to introduce you to the folks at the National Science Foundation who can get you into the Artist and Writer's Program and you can be on the ice next season. Frankly, I think a Chuck Palaniuk novel set on the ice would be the stuff of legends and I'd be honored to pave the way if you so desire.

But first you have to shake off whatever it is that made you write "Haunted". Really. And don't worry. Hemingway had his "True at First Light". Lots of great authors have their downturns. You'll snap out of it like the champion I know you are.



Sincerely,
your great fan,

iceowl




The book Big Dead Place has come out and I want to tell you about it after having read seven pages.

If you've been amused by my ramblings about the ice, you may find this volume to your liking. The writers are employees of Raytheon Polar Services Company, and they tell their stories from the perspective of employees who are treated to the enigmatic, oxymoronic, catch-22ish world of government work in an ecology similar in many respects to the Soviet Gulag system. The sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll, of Antarctic life is fully exposed in all of its morally impoverished brilliance.

It's much tougher on the ice for those guys than it is for me. As a "grantee" or "beaker", I'm under many fewer restrictions than they are. My movements are not monitored as closely. My work is far more interesting, and I get to go all over the continent, while they are generally sequestered like prisoners in a place where their job and their every day life are completely inseparable. Imagine if your boss suddenly told you that you could be fired for not expressing a positive outlook on things and having a cheery personality (bad attitudes are bad for morale, and bad morale leads to death and illness on the ice) and that edict extended to every one of your waking hours, including time you spend on the toilet before breakfast.

Imagine you had a fight with your girlfriend/boyfriend in a club on Saturday night, and you wound up getting fired as a result. Imagine you can get docked for having a messy bed, or getting fingernail clippings on the floor. Then you understand a bit about what makes these folks the way they are.

"Big Dead Place" is also a website (www.bigdeadplace.com), and much of the book is taken from there. Though the stuff on the website is very amateurish in spots, and the book has been professionally edited, so is much more palatable. Don't expect brilliance. Do expect some reasonably amusing tales written by people who think it's cool to be busing tables in a cafeteria on the graveyard shift in a place where a broken leg can be fatal.

"Big Dead Place" is published by "Feral House" books.

I urge you to support poor Antarcticans and take a look at the book. Even if you don't like it, rest assured the folks who wrote it can use the cash. And I'll personally guarantee at least one laugh.

Cheers

A Fatted Calf for the Prodigal Daughter

Since moving out of my horrible adoptive parents' home, a typical weekend has gone like this:

Mom wakes me at 9 am. We're going to a diner for breakfast. I order two scrambled eggs, bacon, and a bagel with cream cheese. Afterwards, me and my father go to Manhattan. It's a long ride on the bus and I'm feeling a little hungry again. My father is very sensitive to this and immediately rushes me to the nearest greasy spoon. I have a cheeseburger and french fries, plus a soda. Dad asks if I want dessert, but I'm pretty full by now.

We run our errand, but on the way home he claims he's feeling hungry and we stop again. I'm still full, but I feel obligated to eat something. The menu looks appetizing. This time I have a plate of barbecued ribs, more fries, and a soda. It's really good, but I can't possibly finish it all. Dad asks if I want some dessert, but I'm stuffed.

We go home. Mom announces that a friend has invited us out to eat tonight. They want to meet me, not having seen me since I was a toddler. We have some hours to kill, so I go online, then get dressed. It's another long ride to the restuarant. I end up having some mozzarella sticks and chicken scampi with penne. Mom offers me a taste of something off her plate, and I also have some of bread with butter. Everything is delicious, so I almost manage to clean my plate, but I'm really stuffed by this point. I don't order dessert, and someone comments on my lack of appetite.

On the way home, we pass an ice cream parlor. Mom asks if I want any. I love ice cream, so we go in and I have a scoop. Another long ride home follows. When we get home, I finish up what's left of my doggy bag (it's too good to leave alone). I go online, then call my sister in Ohio.

Having started out as underweight (you wouldn't be able to eat either if you lived with them) I've since quite happily grown to a normal size. Unfortunately, if I keep gaining at this rate, I should be nigh overweight by the end of this year.

Can't say I'm not enjoying it.

A few weeks or so back I first heard about those Stattland guided tours. Basically, they're themed tours through Bern. There's a tour guide doing the talking and the leading the visitors/tourists through Bern - and then there's an actor or an actress acting out little scenes and different characters at certain sites.

A few weeks ago I'd had my job interview with Stattland as an actor - the same evening they called me and told me I was hired. Since then, next to the other stuff like uni, work, other acting stuff, singing, etc... I've been preparing my four roles for an Einstein-themed guided tour called "Bern relativ"

The four roles are:


Mileva Einstein, née Maric, Einstein's first wife

Her spot is in front of Einstein's first room in Bern. She talks about how they met, what sacrifices she brought (she gave up her scientific work), their children, and about how their relationship degraded to the point where he made written demands to her as to how she had to deal with his laundry and his daily meals; how he wouldn't spend time with her at home, nor go out with her; how she didn't have to expect any affection from him and how she wasn't to reproach him; and how she was to be silent should he ask her to...

Gives you a rather different image of Einstein than the well-known "sticks out his tongue in photographs and looks like a cuddly fun man".


A physics student friend of the tour guide

She's one cheeky fella... Chews her apple and at the same time "explains" Einstein's special theory of relativity with the help of said apple and a hypothetical worm in the apple...


Maya Einstein, Albert Einstein's sister

At first she's just really pissed at the tour guide's insistence that Einstein was not exactly the best of students in grammar school. So she tirades at the guide and at the tourists, explaining how Albert only had a bit of a problem with accepting authorities ;) And what a great autodidact he was. When asked to tell more about her brother, she softens visibly and talks about how similar they were, how they often played music together, etc. Then she demonstrates how he lectured (badly) and complains about his, er, (lack of) sense of dress (barefooted in green flowered slippers). Still, she's visibly proud of her brother.


Maurice Solovine, a friend of Einstein's

Has a lovely French accent, a black moustache, a penchant for beer (and for comparing and contrasting beer to light). He tells the audience about the "Akademie Olympia" - a reading and discussion group of Einstein's in which he and his friends discussed scientific texts and went on excursions. Allegedly Einstein insisted that before the talking started some eating had to be done.


So, today was my first day performing those four roles in front of an audience. I was dead nervous, but once I got started the nervousness didn't show. I actually had a great time. And it seems, so did the audience. They clapped after every little performance, which apparently is not exactly that usual.

R., "my" tour guide, told me afterwards that I'd done a great job - which came as a huge relief for me. I intend to further work on my roles, but it's great to know that I have a good basis to expand from. This tour was in German, but soon I'll also do them in English. (So, should you ever be in Bern, call Stattland and book a "Bern relativ" tour with them ;))

It's different to act on the street than to act on stage. For one, you never have dress rehearsals or a director to give you feedback or whatever. You practice your parts, maybe enact them in front of friends, but, the first time you'll actually do it in the streets, is in front of a real audience. There is no safety net in the form of a prompter, and while the audience may be captive and attentive, you have to deal with environment noise like cars driving past or heavy machinery ripping up the streets. --- And, yet, I absolutely love it.

After it was over I was exhausted and sweated through and through (running through Bern, changing costumes in quiet corners of the city does that to you ;)). R. and I went for a drink and chat, then I went home and first of all crashed and slept.

P.S. Best compliment I got was one of the audience members asking me if I went to acting school in Bern... (I'm an English and math student ;))

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