Jer’s Software Hut Falls Silent

The shadowy, misshapen minions have all gone home; the vast underground chamber that once rang with their chants as they turned the giant wooden capstans has fallen silent. The river of lava flows unimpeded, the precarious rope bridges spanning it falling into disrepair. Above, the streets of Sky City Research Facility, once teeming with antigravity cars, are empty, the crystalline architecture acquiring a layer of eagle guano and dust that is transformed into gritty runoff when it rains.

The crudely-crafted Web site at no longer accepts payment for Jer’s Novel Writer software licenses, and bears the following statement:

Well, it’s happened; I have a regular job. As I slave away working for the man I often wonder if things might have been different had I only worked harder at making Jer’s Software Hut a business rather than a hobby. Probably now we will never know. It was a good run but it’s time to ackowledge that development is stalled and customer service around here has been really awful.

That pretty much says it all; despite thousands of happy users, some of whom even paid for the software, when it came time to have a steady income again I took the safer path of working for someone else. (The ironic twist to this narrative I will leave for another time.)

It was a good run, and as I get my work life under control I hope soon to at least return to using Jer’s Novel Writer for its intended purpose – as a writing tool that helps me create fiction. Until I do that I can’t even consider opening the shutters on the Hut and throwing the big switch that raises the lightning rod into the violent midnight thunderstorm, while sparks fly and the turbines spin faster and faster, the needles on their gauges creeping ominously into the red. Maybe someday, though. Maybe someday.


Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

It is a common practice these days for publishers to put a series of questions at the end of their more ‘literate’ offerings. The purpose of the questions is to help drive book club discussions, and therefore book club sales. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame Smith is no exception. The last of these study questions reads thus:

Some scholars believe that the zombies were a last-minute addition to the novel, requested by the publisher in a shameless attempt to boost sales. Others argue that the hordes of living dead are integral to Jane Austen’s plot and social commentary. What do you think? Can you imagine what this novel would be like without the violent zombie mayhem?

This was a question I had asked myself many times while reading the book. If our protagonist, Elizabeth, were not a superlative zombie slayer, trained in the ways of Shaolin and other deadly Eastern arts, what would she do instead? Skimming Project Gutenberg’s archive of an earlier draft of the story, it seems Elizabeth was originally an accomplished musician. That’s not bad, but the motivation of this pursuit seems mainly to attract the best mate possible.

And what of Mr. Darcy, her foil in this early example of the I-hate-you-so-much-I-must-love-you story? Even as a highly refined killing machine he doesn’t bring that much to the table except a generous nature (it turns out – sorry for the spoiler) and a lot of money. Take away his skill with blade and musket and there’s not much left.

So bring on the zombies, I say. Let Elizabeth kill several of Lady Catherine’s ninja bodyguards. Let the final confrontation between Catherine and Elizabeth take place in a dojo, with swords and grievous wounds. Let Mr. Bennett spend an amiable morning with Mr. Bingley trapping, decapitating, and incinerating the undead. Let Mr. Wickham — oh, but there I go spoiling things again. Anyway, let’s give these people some teeth!

As an afterthought, I would be curious to know how well a student would do on a typical exam for the abridged Austen-only version, having read and Zombies instead. Would some teachers decide that reading the expanded version was better than not reading it at all? Would some teachers say quietly to unmotivated students, “If you read the zombie version you can still pull a B”?

Note: if you use the above link to buy this book (or a Kindle, or a new car), I get a kickback.

Happy Birthday to my Sweetie

It was my first chance to spend the day with my sweetie on her birthday, and it was a big birthday at that. Yesterday my honey turned forty years old, and I was there to help celebrate. We didn’t whoop it up or anything, just let someone else do the cooking, opened up a nice bottle of wine, and watched a movie. We’ll be having a slightly larger celebration when more family is in town.

In the meantime, happy birthday, sweetie! Let’s do that again lots of times!

Crazy Eyebrow Hair

I was never blessed with much in the eyebrow department; where some people have well-defined and expressive eyebrows that add character to their faces, I just have a faint hint of eyebrowage. It’s one reason that eye surgery has never really appealed to me – my glasses provide some definition on my face that most people get from their eyebrows.

It is possible that my brother took my eyebrow mojo – he certainly has more going on on his forehead than most.

Recently my sweetie and I were cuddling and she started to laugh. “Oh, my God,” she said (or something like that), “you have a crazy eyebrow hair! Go look in the mirror!” I did and she was right; I have one big kinky gray eyebrow hair.

Crazy Eyebrow Hair!

My only notable eyebrow hair.

You can see in the picture that the rest of my eyebrow hairs are nothing to write home about. Sparse, thin, and pale. But behold the majesty of the mighty gray one! Could this be a sign of things to come? As more of the hairs turn gray will they, too, become part of a crazy, kinky, shrubbery that will give me that mad scientist look that makes all the girls swoon?

Man, I sure hope so. That would be cool.


Duke City Shootout Now Accepting Submissions

Got an idea for a short film but despair of it ever being produced? Buck up, Sparky! The Duke City Shootout is here to make your film dream come true.

What you do: Write one of the best 12-page screenplays ever. Send it in.

What they do: Choose the best of the screenplays submitted, bring you out to Albuquerque, and provide you with a mostly-skilled crew and (usually) a film industry mentor to help you get the job done. Cameras, grip, and whatnot are provided.

What happens next: After casting local talent and getting everything ready, teams have three days to shoot and four to edit, before the films are judged by an industry panel and then shown in a big theater packed with enthusiastic people. It’s a good time. You can read of my experience in the Shootout Under the Pirates! category. I advise starting with the oldest episodes and working forward in time.

If you have a flair for writing cool short movies, you really can’t go wrong with this festival. It’s a lot of work getting a film to the screen, but here’s a chance to make it happen. Check out The official Duke City Shootout Web page for the lowdown.

What are you waiting for? Get to work on that script!

Career Advice for a Wayward Pop Star

I was driving up highway 17 the other day, top down despite the threatening weather, ZZ Top playing slightly louder than strictly necessary. Inexorably, inevitably, sure as night follows day and a pilot for a terrible television series follows the Super Bowl, my mind turned from Tres Hombres to Britney Spears.

To call me a fan of Ms. Spears would not be terribly accurate. Her music and schoolgirl-slut image is interchangeable in my mind with that of several other forgettable young women. Presented with a song by one of them, I expect I’d guess the correct singer at a rate only slightly higher than random chance. I’m pretty sure she did one called “Not That Innocent” or something like that.

Recently I learned that she was a Mouseketeer, along with another of the interchangeable popsters, and Justin Timberlake. I didn’t even know they still had Mouseketeers. Maybe now they’ll reconsider. If memory serves Britney and Justin were together for a while, but I might be thinking of some other guy.

I’m not a fan, but I think about Britney every once in a while. Somehow she came to define the whole pop-bimbo image, the platonic ideal of sweaty teenage jizz-bait. Then something went wrong, and I heard even less about her than I had before. A year or two ago she tried to stage a ‘comeback’ (it says something about us that someone in their twenties can come back), and I read that it was a disaster. Recently I saw her face on a perfume commercial, so I’m pretty sure she’s not dead.

The things I read about her comeback meltdown were almost giddy in their celebration of the crash of one of the most famous people of the previous decade. While I was never a fan, I also took no pleasure in her downfall. I could have told her that her comeback was ill-concieved, however, had she taken the time to ask me. Britney the schoolgirl cock-tease won’t work anymore. There’s too much history. Under my sage guidance Britney could come back, however — just not as a recapitulation of what she was before.

This is what occurred to me while listening to crunching electric guitars while driving a curvy road. Britney is now in a position to make an album I would buy, and I suspect a lot of other people would too. The title would be Mea Culpa and it would be about her real experiences, the mistakes she made, her lessons learned and her hope for the future. She would tell us of the fear and insecurity and the agents and handlers and the drugs and all the other stuff that can make anyone’s life go haywire. It would be her taking responsibility for her life, and showing the strength to rise up and move on. That would be a cool album.

It would be Britney evolving from a singer into an artist. Does she have what it takes to make an album like that? The artistic power and the courage to open her soul? I doubt we will ever know. Her people would never stand for it.

The Coolest T-Shirts Ever

Every once in a while as my sweetie and I converse, one of us will say ‘that should be on a t-shirt!’ Now she’s gone and done something about it. Now you too can share in the genuis.

quick! do science!!! mug in green

quick! do science!!! mug in green

quick! do science!!!

Sometimes you need a steely-eyed, devil-may-care scientist to get you out of a scrape.

“If you have the interrabang [!?], what would you call this?” the project manager for this endeavor asked me, pointing to the ‘!!!’. After a couple of suggestions we decided on ellipsclamation. Now you know!!!

'40 - The New 39' duffel

40 – The New 39

Know anyone staring down the big 4-0? What they need is a rugged gym bag to let the world know that they aren’t intimidated by the rolling of the decade. With Science (see above) on their side, people can expect to perform at a 39-year-old level at least until 41, maybe even 42!

FAQ: WTF? Mouse Pad

My favorite: FAQ: WTF?

It is the frequently asked question.

All the above designs come plastered on a variety of products, not just the ones pictured here. T-shirts, sweatshirts, tote bags and more await at Harlean’s cafepress store! If you want any of the above printed on something else, I’m sure Harlean (who is a fiction) will be happy to set that up for you.