Yankee Book Reviews: Jeter’s Folly and Posada’s Journey Home

As a lover of many things literary and a watcher of any things baseball, I was excited to pick up two books at a local bookstore that were bestselling novels written by famous baseball players: Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada.

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It was no surprise to me that athletes as talented as those two–Jeter is an all-time great, Posada is his well-ringed teammate–would try their hand at authorship. There is much crossover skill between being able to swing a bat and being able to write a compelling story. After all, Derek Jeter already had 3.465 hits, so what’s one more? From the author’s about page:

Derek Jeter is a true legend in professional sports, and a role model for young people on and off the field, and through his work in the community with his Turn 2 Foundation.” 

Imagine my surprise, then, that Posada’s book turned out to be the real gem, while Jeter’s left me a little disappointed. We’ll take a look at the former first:

The Journey Home, by Jorge Posada is a re-telling of the classic story The Odyssey as transposed to a modern day baseball setting*. The scenario works as follows: It is 2012; a winter hurricane (Sandy?) has damaged Yankee Stadium, which is undergoing repairs indefinitely, forcing Jorge Posada and his teammates to play all their games on the road. The legendary Derek Jeter is out with a knee injury and Alex Rodriguez, that greatest of villains, is suspended for the year for performance enhancing drugs. Thus while Posada and the rest of the Yankees are separated from the city he loves, the lascivious A-Rod attempts to woo Posada’s wife at her flat in the Bronx (he sends her a picture of himself as a centaur in the opening chapter).

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Dead Yankee legends play the role of the “Gods” in this Universe: Yogi Berra, God of wit and wisdom, is Posada’s protector, Babe Ruth corresponding roughly to Bacchus as the God of chili dogs and Ballantine beer, et al. The King of the Gods, (recently deceased) George Steinbrenner devises a difficult schedule for what he considers an inferior Yankee team.

The Yankees’ episodic journey back to New York cleverly mimics Odysseus’ travails in astonishingly clever ways. Some of the highlights:

  • A four-game battle against the San Francisco Giants and demigod Buster Posey stands in for an encounter with the Cyclops.
  • “Sea monsters” attack in the form of two wild arms for the Seattle Mariners, Antonio Scylla and Bruce Charybdis, who headhunt and aim for the ankles. Luckily Posada is wearing a knee brace already and so takes the HBP without casualty.
  • A kinky affair with Charlize Theron during a road series in Anaheim. She ties Posada up and refuses to let him leave the hotel room until Yogi Berra intervenes, with the help of the Players Union.
  • During an off weekend, Posada “descends into the underworld of Tampa” and plays an old-timers game with a bunch of retired Yankees, many of whom he played with in the great battles of 1998-2001.
  • Another series in Detroit takes them to the “Lotus Eaters”, as an opposing pitcher attempts to drug the lineup. Lou Gehrig, God of the “C”, makes it rain so they don’t have to play the next day.

Although their adventures don’t necessarily escalate in magnitude, as the season drags on and their playoff chances increasingly in doubt, we appreciate Posada’s plight, especially as he gradually becomes the lone elder statesmen on the team (most of the opening day roster is traded or injured or sent to the minors) and learns to mentor the rookies and newbs on playing like a “true Yankee.” We relate to his quest to find his place among the pantheon of baseball heroes, and when he does finally return to New York (spoiler alert!) he does so having developed a more profound sense of self, confidence which carries over to his bedroom prowess and rekindling of passion of his marriage (sorry, A-Rod!).

The book ends with the Yankee Gods taunting rookies in the bullpen on the last day of the regular season. It’s really hilarious.

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I wish I could say Jeter’s book, Change UP, is equally entertaining. I can definitely give him credit for trying to make a book that, unlike Posada’s, offers a meaningful guide for self-improvement. But he fails from a tragic onset of myopia, an ability to offer advice that is Universal in application, beyond baseball.

For example, Derek Jeter discusses chronic depression and sources a bunch of famous psychological studies to demonstrate an informed grasp of the issue. But when it comes to solutions, he offers a passage like the following:

It was August 3rd, and I wanted to quit. For the first time all season, my on-base-percentage dropped below .400. I was no longer the league leader in sacrifice hits. An article came out this morning saying that statistically, I was even less valuable than my teammate Joba Chamberlain, and nobody liked him. This cloud of despair hung over me the entire game. I went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Someone in the mezzanine level booed me. And I felt like I deserved it. 

With little concern for myself or my team, I lied and told the manager I had a bone spur in my elbow. They put me on the Disabled List and told me to get back in shape in time for the stretch run. Feeling lost and helpless and desperate, I called my ex-friend Alex Rodriguez, who was out for the season for taking steroids. Although I thought the dude was a total bitchface, he knew me too well and offered to lend me his yacht and 50 percent of his harem to boot, as long as I paid for fuel. Two hours later I was off to Aruba and by golly, that was all I needed. The sex and sunshine made me feel better and offered me the clarity of thought to return and be a happy, healthy member of the lineup. Sometimes all you need is to take comfort from life’s small pleasures to be able to deliver in the clutch.”

And that’s how most of the book shakes out. Jeter loses his timing so he buys a multi-million dollar batting machine. Minka Kelly leaves him so he goes on tinder and has an orgy. He doesn’t win the MVP but he co-funds a celebrity golf outing with Donald Trump. An fashion company uses gay models to pimp out Jeter’s underwear line, which makes Jeter upset until he has them all fired and then has gay hate-sex with A-Rod, who he hates, and then gets his publicist to bury all the stories.

Basically, whatever Jeter does to “change up” his life is not applicable to anyone who does not play baseball at the highest level. And while I appreciate him for trying, the lack of realization or awareness does become disheartening. Especially since Jeter really does express progressive attitudes about the need to “change up” our diets, carbon-centric lifestyles, et al. And his ending mantra that “Everyone can become a Captain of their own soul’s, the MVP of their inner struggle” is upbeat but more becoming of a pinch-hitter than a legendary shortstop.

Overall Ratings:

Four balls and a bases loaded walk for Jorge Posada’s “The Journey Home”

and

Strike three and awarded first base on an errant throw for Derek Jeter’s “Change Up”

 

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*at least that’s how I imagine it, I didn’t actually read the book

**see: first comment

 

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Game of Thrones Ripped Off Thomas the Tank Engine (2016 Update)

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Author’s Note: Several years ago I wrote a post comparing the two classic British (accented) television shows. This is an updated version. 

I knew there was a reason why Game of Thrones felt so familiar. I experienced the same emotions, learned the same lessons, eye-rolled at the same gratuitous nudity, lived vicariously through the same characters twenty years ago. Except back then, I wasn’t following the front lines around the country of Westeros, I was rolling along the branch lines of the Isle of Sodor.

Game of Thrones is a blatant rip-off of Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, the British TV show which was filmed using narrow-gauge model trains and featured the sturdy yet subtle voice-over narration of Ringo Starr.

You won’t win this argument, but if you dare try, here are the clinching irrefutable facts:

ONE: Like Game of Thrones (abbreviated hence forth to GofT), Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends (abbreviated hence forth to TtheTEandFbitchez) takes place on a fictional island that is vaguely meant to represent Great Britain. Yes, technically Sodor is meant to be between GB and the isle of Man but really its meant as a fictional fantasy-land copycat of the real place. And Sodor’s topography, geography, demographics, history, rail map, etc etc, is all inspired by the history of the British Isles. So forgive me if I’m not impressed that you know can point out King’s Landing out on a map. You don’t know shit if you can’t tell Culdee Fell from Ffarquhar.

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At least the great Rev W Awdry was from England. George RR Martin is just some dude from New Jersey.

TWO: I watch GofT for one reason and one reason alone: amazing special effects I want to know who is going to win the game! Who is going to get their head cut off? Who is going to mount an assault on the capital? Who is going to buy a slave army? The machinations of all these crazy houses and noble families is titillating to the maximum. It’s well written, sure, but it can get a little campy. A little gratuitous.

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And that’s also why I wanted to watch Thomas.  Like GofT, Thomas and Friends offers a decentralized world of industrious and ambitious engines fighting to maintain control of their various branch lines, often at the expense of one another. They are both soap operas at heart. The title character doesn’t even appear in most of the stories; it’s usually the big engines like Gordon or Henry who are fucking up and causing trouble and dumping on each other. And when these engines fuck up, it’s an awesome shit show. The best episodes are the ones where an engine does something stupid and gets derailed into a mine pit or the ocean or something.

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Okay, so the engines never “die” in “The Railway Series”, but characters come back to life in GofT too! There’s that priest character who’s been cut seven times. And all those zombies north of the wall who’ve been reanimated.

Update-And Jon Snow, who is “dead” but he’ll be back someday soon because if he isn’t, his lame narrative will be nothing but a “deconstruction” of the epic hero quest, which is to say it’s just a badly written character who was killed off to shock fans. But they won’t let that happen. So he’ll be back. 

In both universes, it is often difficult to discern some kind of overarching plot arc. Moves are simply behind made, wheels being turned, until winter comes or diesel power replaces steam power as the main source of locomotion.

George RR Martin is a true fan of history, and that’s where many of his storylines come from. Supposedly he based the battle of the Starks and the Lannisters after the fight between the Lancasters and the Whatevers in ye olde timey England. The good Reverend Awdry liked history too. And trains. He liked train history. Almost all the trains in his original stories are based on real trains, although the real ones don’t have faces or talk.

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March 2016 Update: It is fairly clear now that not only is George RR Martin pulling his storylines from the pages of “The Railway Series”, he’s also stealing characters as well. The sad saga of Stannis Baratheon is beat-for-beat the same as that of Henry the Green Engine, a noble 4-6-0 steam locomotive done in by cruel gods and tragic hubris.

Always second fiddle to the biggest engine (Gordon), Henry’s lays claim to the turntable, which is similar to the iron throne, in that it is possibly made of iron as well. Unfortunately he is plagued by misfortune at every turn, including a dour personality which gets him stuck in a tunnel for months, a pessimistic outlook on his routine, and a bad coal box. In “Game of Thrones”, Stannis makes a terrible sacrifice to bring about favorable weather conditions, only to see his army abandon him. Henry makes a similar gambit by stealing another engine’s tenders (coal boxes), only to realize too late that they are filled with boiler sludge. And then he crashes spectacularly carrying a special freight load known as the “Flying Kipper.”

THREE: This is a man’s world. Both offer a complex and sometimes contradictory take on the role of women in their respective societies. GofT is a world full of wenches and whores and rich girls doing their hair, but it also has a dragon lady and a warrior woman and a wise cracking grandma. Some of the women get good lines and reflect on their plight in society, and yes sometimes the women have to do things to the men to get power but that’s just “the way things were back then.” And at the end of the day there are plenty of women pulling the strings in various parts of Westeros and the outlying lands. I think the character of “Margary” is my favorite since she so obviously is now pulling the strings on evil Joffrey (who is now dead).

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In “Thomas” there just aren’t many ladytrains. There is a caboose passenger coach named “Henrietta” that doesn’t have a face and doesn’t speak, but I’m assuming that might be a lady train too. New “Thomas” stories have added a “main character” named “Emily” to try to be more politically correct but that doesn’t count, since those stories were written after 1990.

The two that get story lines are both diesel engines, so by their very nature are more important and powerful than the other trains. Daisy the trolley diesel railcar is kind of like Cersei Lannister; she’s not nearly as smart as she thinks she is and both characters got this major attitude/chip on her shoulder since they don’t want to be stereotyped as a “woman” but then they don’t assert themselves or transcend gender politics.

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Mavis the tram diesel is more like Danaerys; at first Mavis starts out as a dainty waif engine but gradually comes into her own as she learns to work with the other engines and become the most important train on Thomas’ branch line.

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Also you never hear any of the women in “Thomas” talk about “boys” or complaining about their periods or taking time out of scheduled journeys to “go shopping.” When a lady train is running on all cylinders, that lady train is judged on her own merits, same as the guy trains. Come to think of it all of the trains on Sodor are too busy with business to get down to any kinky business.

So both worlds are very obviously being told from a “male gaze”, but they at least half-ass an attempt at fully realized characters of both sexes.

FOUR: A well-established hierarchy and social order. Every engine knows his make and model and place in the world. Status is everything. In GofT are you a Lannister or a Karstark or a wilding or a whore or a butcher’s boy? In “Thomas”, better to be a tender engine (and by tender I mean the thing on the back with coal that couples to the rest of the train, not a gentle loving nature) than a tank or tram engine, or even worse…a freight truck! As GofT has its troublesome eunuch army, “Thomas” has its troublesome trucks who can’t even move on their own but almost universally resent their inferior anatomy. They are always just a bunch of assholes.

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I could go on about how some characters get “direwolves”, some trains get to pull the passenger coaches, some characters get henchman or guards, some trains get personal break vans, some characters get their own personal castle, some trains get their own branch lines, some characters are twins, some trains are twins, some characters who are twins have incestuous relationships…but I don’t need to go on. I think my point was very well made.

FIVE:  The looming threat of ultimate doom. The meta-narrative of “Game of Thrones” is that all the petty squabbles among houses and spouses is a dangerous distraction from the real enemy, the White Walkers. It’s a cool thread, and props to George RR…until you realize that like everything else in his universe, its cribbed again from “The Railway Series.” In the Rev WW Awdry’s epic saga, the narrow-minded gamesmanship of the engines to curry favor with the fickle God of the Rails, The Fat Controller, is all for naught when the diesel engines reach Sodor.

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The threat of built-in obsolescence is palpable among the engines of Sodor. The steam engines are no match for diesel power, they know it, and so do the diesels. Their only hope is to continuously appeal to the Fat Controller’s misguided sense of loyalty and nostalgia, despite the fact that all readers know eventually the laws of economics and progress will force his hand, and Thomas and Friends will either be scrapped or sold to China. But nine decades and hundreds of books in, this hasn’t happened yet.

4102641915_5ec6f7a9d7_zHowever, where “Game of Thrones” makes the Nights’ King a complete cipher (for now), in the “Railway Series”, the leader of the diesels, Diesel, is a real SOB. He’s smarmy and self-righteous and secretly (or not so secretly) ‘racist’ against the other engines who he begrudgingly works with, envisioning a time when the Diesels/Aryan master race with “rule” the tracks and all the steam-powered engines are lying in a scrap heap somewhere. He also has a nasty temper that he can’t control. He’s one of the few trains with a square face instead of a round one. That’s spooky. I used to have nightmares about this train running me over, or trying to.

SIX: Dragons

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SEVEN: George RR Martin wears a cap just like Mr. Conductor. (except really Martin is like GofT’s “Fat Controller” in terms of his ability to manipulate the narrative)

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FUN FACT: GofT was originally going to be called “Peter Dinklage the Sexy Dwarf and Friends” but they were worried about copyright infringement.

Nobody knows whether or not “Thomas the Tank Engine” was originally going to be called “A Trance of Trains” or “A Feast of Freight.”

“His Dark Materials” Television Show? Bleh

http://variety.com/2015/tv/global/bbc-orders-philip-pullmans-his-dark-materials-1201632207

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The BBC is producing a television version of the “His Dark Materials” trilogy, which could be good, but its also disappointing in that it means at best the cinematic treatment this series deserves is postponed indefinitely.

I want to talk now about how much I hated the movie that came out in 2007. The filmmakers didn’t trust the audience or the material and New Line Cinemas must have really thought they could just half-ass their way to another Lord of the Rings moneymaker. They even brought in Sir Ian McKellen for a very unnecessary redubbing of the “ice bear” in the picture above.

Among the worst atrocities committed against this story:

  • The book’s ending was filmed but then screen-tested out of the final cut because (spoiler alert?) it it was too big of a downer. After lopping off the final twenty minutes of the story, the film was then recut out of sequence to end with a cliche climactic battle and a false upbeat ending. Nevertheless, because it was so slapdash, the random “mission accomplished” speech force fed into the heroine’s mouth at the end of the film creates a bigger, more frustrating cliffhanger than the original ending would have.
  • The “anti-Christian” message of the film was also excised and screen-tested out of the film. Even though the story was written as a fantasy-counterpoint to the dogma in “Paradise Lost”, the “Church” was reduced to a bogus, generic evil organization, still called the “Magisterium” but dumbing down the metaphor of the original story from “organized religious leaders often resemble fascists” to “fascists often resemble fascists.” A brave, bold statement…for turd faces.
  • They changed the setting and scenery from the vague Victorian/steampunk vibe in the books to some generic fantasy-land garbage that was inspired by…nothing. The director was afraid to do something closer to the books because it had already been done by…”Van Helsing.”
  • The movie itself was very awkwardly paced, and began with a stupid voiceoover explaining “the world” to the audience, The characters were introduced too rapidly and the story rushed to get from one set piece to the next without laying the connecting foundation to make any of it something the audience might care about. Overall, the book’s tone pitted the fiery and intrepid Lyra against some seriously dark and sinister forces, on all sides. Yet in the movie, her dark and brooding father (played by Daniel Craig) was re-envisioned as an Arctic Indiana Jones.

There is no reason to think the television show won’t be great. Although there is no cast or crew yet the BBC’s track record with fantasy/adventure material is pretty good. On the other hand, the expansive and dramatic nature of the story will be undermined by the television medium. And I worry about the awkward breakdown of a miniseries format; there are three clear stories to be told in “His Dark Materials”; the story is lengthy but tightly plotted, and I worry that a television series would disturb the flow of the narrative for excessive and confusing “world building”, which leads me to my last worry,

which is that future fantasy television dramas will take their cue from “Game of Thrones.” They should not. Even though I don’t think there’s any threat of crazy sex or violence in “His Dark Materials”, there may be the temptation for drawn out scenes and sub plots with side characters that don’t push anything forward. I’m tired of the whole “world building” concept, and I’m extremely unimpressed by any writer or storytellers ability to map out a fantasy land. Everyone and anyone can build their own “world”, and the more intricate and convoluted it becomes, the more it begs the question why more attention isn’t being paid to the actual world in which we live in. But a further critique of the idea of world building deserve its own post, someday sometime.

For now, I’ll just say that the magic and majesty of Pullman’s Universe is best served as seen through the eyes of its central protagonist, Lyra, trusting the audience to successfully immerse themselves into the world through the story, as opposed to sharing with us a copycat universe brick by tedious brick.

A Square Peg in a Glory Hole: Dakota Vs…Fan Fiction?

Last week I felt like I was defeated by the internet and this week I feel bad about it so I’m going to defend myself, to myself, right here, right now:

The internet should be a great resource for writers, not only because of the platforms it provides, but because it can open up all kinds of avenues for interacting with other writers and honing your craft.

But then sometimes, “sometimes”, the wide open spaces of the internet yield more to a boom-town mentality, with prospective writers, such as and including myself, prospectively throwing their shit at the firewall and hoping something magic happens.

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As a year-long member of such an experiment, I attempted to stick my square, nonfiction prose where it didn’t belong, “just to see what happens”, over and over again into a space meant for genre fiction, and the result was pretty unsatisfying.

For now, let’s call this site the “The Glory Hole.”

How does the Glory Hole work? You put up your writing sample, a short story or 5000 words of a longer work, and you exchange critiques of other users’ material for credit to put towards getting feedback on your own. In this, the Glory Hole has developed a rather ingenious method for objective subjective feedback; since there are no incentives to write a good critique or to rate a specific person, you’re encouraged to give an honest appraisal of the writing.

Two caveats: Last year the Glory Hole removed their best feature, the literary “quiz”, which was a great way to evaluate whether users had read the whole piece. I assume they removed it because it was time consuming, some of the quizzes were stupid, and/or not enough people bothered to read the entire piece. However, now there is no real way to avoid having someone gloss over your story in about 30 seconds just to get the review credit. 

Secondly, and we will get to this below, there is incentive to write a bad review and force a users’ ranking down, especially if you yourself are near the top. 

The top user stories every month (there are rankings) get a professional glance-over, either by an agent or publisher, and people have gotten book deals out of the process. Since the whole thing costs nothing but a bit of time, it’s a great way to get feedback AND/or notoriety for your writing, even your novels, without the pitfalls of more formal, in-person workshop environments. And I’ve been clamoring (silently) for a novel-critique outlet for years, so the Glory Hole seemed very promising.

But what the experience has taught me about writing and writers in general is not so much to the good. Instead of discovering a community of writers or a treasure trove of untapped talent, I’ve discovered a parade of deluded and vicious dreamers climbing over each other to try and squeeze their way into the Glory Hole. Everything, from the means to the motive, is uncomfortably lame.

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What characterizes a Glory Holer?

  • Glory Hole Writers Don’t Read Enough The literary foundations behind of many of these stories stops after The Hunger Games Trilogy and Game of Thrones. The ideas conveyed, the character descriptions, the conflicts, all bely a special kind of triteness. Every other story has a Harry Potter or Katniss Everdeen proxy going off on a subpar, half-baked adventure involving humans and subhumans wandering around anachronistic, vague dystopias. A serial killer taunts a girl trapped inside his manhole trap back behind the old farm. A fat and lazy interloper makes himself at home in his cousin’s flat. A Catholic woman marries a Jew and they have a secret baby. A boy discovers his parents have been replaced by aliens. These summaries belong as meta-jokes in another, better, story, but here they are the sad attempts to triangulate what may constitute the next best-seller.
  • Glory Hole Writers Aren’t Writing, They’re “World-Building” I don’t think people don’t understand plot. I don’t think plot is a difficult concept. Story is when something happens and good story is when that something that happens is a something that is compelling or gets people to keep reading. The problem is that people don’t seem very interested in telling a good story. Most of the writing within these excerpts is window dressing or portraiture, details upon details that serve to pad the writing and “flesh out” either characters or setting, but with a fundamental confusion, or lack of care, for what details are important or why they matter at all.
  • Anyone can write anything, and use words for nearly any purpose, but just throwing shit at the reader because you were too lazy to edit your work is where things start to smell…smelly. I am absolutely, one-hundred percent, against writing-as-modern-art, here’s-my-nonsense-see-what-YOU-make-of-it, claptrap, maybe because I see that a lot in my own writing. But it takes one to know one, and I know (or think I do) when someone had no motivation or “vision” behind their work other than to hope somebody ELSE would see in their writing what they couldn’t find themselves.
  • This process works, sometimes. But not all the time. Best to pity the lucky idiot who strikes gold in the Glory Hole by accident (the next M. Night Shyamalan) then to attempt to be that yourself.
  • Glory Hole Writers Are Petty and Esoteric Critics After a while, right around the time the quiz was abandoned, I made another round of edits, and my work starting showing up on the Glory Hole top 50 (or whatever), I stopped getting good reviews. And they weren’t “good” bad reviews either, ie constructive criticism meant to encourage a better submissions. I was downvoted because
  • I needed to “learn the craft.”
  • I spelled Anakin Skywalker wrong. 3947959-anakin-skywalker-force-chokeYes, this one still bugs me. In a piece of writing that both nonfiction and decidedly not about Star Wars, the critic down-voted me for spelling the name wrong of a character whose name is actually another name.The crime of “misspelling” Anakin Skywalker is somewhere between misspelling Bruce Wayne and Alonso Quixano, which is to say…okay I’m done with that.
  • They couldn’t figure out what the story was about from the first page. This is a sneaky and disingenuous criticism, that my writing started off too “confusing” or “boring” or something…but here’s the problem with that: NOBODY GOES INTO A READING COLD. That’s right, nobody. Before you pick up a book, or read a story, you know many things, up to and including:
  • The author
  • The genre
  • The description on the back of the book
  • The title
  • The pretty pictures on the cover
  • The word of mouth, or whatever caused you to notice the book or story in the first place
  • So that’s right, saying you’re bored and can’t figure out what’s going on from the opening page(s) is a bit too much like saying you can’t figure out what you’re eating from the handful of buffet glob you just shoved into your mouth without looking. Don’t blame me.
  • My story wasn’t genre fiction. Several people didn’t like my story because it wasn’t high fantasy or low sex dungeon schlockety schlock or whatever. No explosions? No crazy twist? No inter-dimensional beings from the space between the spaces? BORING. Fuck you.
  • My story wasn’t their story. The worst bit of glory hole navel gazing was when other writers would critique me for having a style different from their own. Which is, I guess, to be fair, something every writer-cum-critic has to watch out for. There is a strong tendency to take someone’s work and advise them as if you were the author. But that’s not what good criticism does. And bad criticism, the very worst, goes all the way and says “your story is bad because in my story there are sexy dwarf detectives and your story has no sexy dwarf detectives so I hated it.”
  • Glory Hole Writers Don’t Like Writing This is why I decided to give up. Because after reading story segment after segment, and receiving a slow but dependable stream of critical bile, it was clear that this really was the wrong avenue to hawk my goods. If you can’t trust the people advising you then it’s time to pull the plug, and I couldn’t trust the people in the Glory Hole, not because I didn’t think the writing was good (some of it was okay) but because I didn’t think many of them liked writing at all. And this is not a problem specific to the Glory Hole but to a lot of amateur fiction in general in the age of the internet, which is that people maybe, who like good stories, or bad stories, or watch movies, or are unaware to the extent of their own vanity, see writing as way to get rich and famous really quick. But they don’t actually enjoy or care about the process of sitting down and plugging away at something. So here is something which I feel very strongly about and I’ll end with here:
  • Everyone has a story to tell. Most people have pretty good ideas. The only thing that separates “most people” from “published writer” is the will to grind out a piece of not-shit, which could take a few days, but more often takes years. Time is the only weed out process.***

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***I’m being hypocritical because I’m not really a ‘published’ writer (I mean I “am” but I’m also not), but if I ever was that’s still what I would say, and it’s what I say to myself now to try to motivate myself to keep working on old projects.

To Mock a Mockingbird Sequel

Atticus Finch- a crazy racist?

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http://www.avclub.com/review/go-set-watchman-mixed-bag-nostalgia-and-end-childh-222469

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If you had read “To Kill a Mockingbird” Closely enough the first time for the subtext, it was obvious what direction Harper Lee was going in with the Mockingbird Saga. Where else could it go. So when her literary executors went above and beyond her wishes once she reached semi-senility, I consider this a brave choice, a far more daring turn than, for instance, JK Rowling’s half-assed assertion that Dumbledore was gay within the story confines of Harry Potter but not the text. 

In fact while looking for some more untapped literary classics inside my refrigerator I discovered six more manuscripts detailing the complete and unfathomably epic character arc of Atticus Finch, a saga whose genius plotting ranks somewhere between Jon Snow and John Connor (so perhaps equivalent to John Stamos). Right now we’re just at the tip of the iceberg. Here’s what to expect from the next “Mockingbird” Installments

(oh yeah, spoiler alert and shit)

Phase III- Atticus Finch Travels Through Time

Atticus Finch, hell bent on returning to the Antebellum South where racial reform is, discovers that by hiding in a dark patch of cotton in the old McGeary Plantation, or perhaps the root cellar, he can travel to any point in the past that he wishes. Unfortunately, by altering the space time continuum, everything has changed. Jem and Scout are no longer born and the Civil War dragged on until 1878. Abraham Lincoln is never killed and the Klu Klux Klan never develops outside of Pulaski, and that place is pretty lame.

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To his great consternation and shame, Atticus Finch tries to return to the ‘present’ only to discover himself now working as a stenographer for his one-time nanny helper, Calpurnia, who is a formidable legal attorney and real estate mogul  in the now progressive and desegregated Montgomery metro area. Faced with these troubled and changing times, his friends either no longer in existence or changed beyond recognition, Atticus is forced to embrace culture change and begins a kinky love affair with Boo Radley, who in this timeline is kind of a pervert but in a fun way.

Phase IV- Atticus Finch Becomes a Woman

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The year is 1979. Due to the crazy rules and mysterious revelations of space-time, Atticus discovers he is again due to litigate an important trial which will touch on the prejudice of the citizenry, only this time he is defending not a black man but a transgender person convicted of community organizing or perhaps flag burning, something everyone knows is dubious but only Atticus is willing to call shenanigans on the whole thing. Not content to merely represent justice or take the case through the appeals process, Atticus decides to more fully embrace his responsibility as a beacon of tolerance and becomes a woman himself. This also allows him to sign a book deal and make a music video and create a marketable brand, setting the stage for an epic dance-off in the county jail following the conviction, but don’t worry it’s a happy ending the sentence is commuted.

Also, having bore no children in this timeline, Scout is now a doll Atticus keeps in the attic and talks to when things get lonely.

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Also, Atticus is now Patricia.

Phase V- Patricia Finch Becomes a Cyborg 

Flash forward to 1993, when Patricia Finch is now an elderly and dying matriarch but wealthy beyond her wildest dreams. Boo Radley, who is a jealous and untrusting lover, angrily donates her decomposing body to a local biotech research lab where she is retrofitted with bionic parts and some digital additions with the intended purpose of serving the nefarious aims of the government or the Jews, but we all know that the human heart will throw a wrench into even the best laid plans to control technology and FinchBot 3000 has their own intentions, which includes protecting all the mockingbirds (this, FinchBot discovers, was their ultimate programmable purpose) even if it means eliminating all of the human race. After scorching rural Alabama and laying siege to…Mobile? whatever…a temporary truce is reached where a sizeable sample population of mockingbirds is given a comfortable haven in the San Diego zoo.

FinchBot, suspicious of humans and ambivalent about its own destructive nature, becomes the reclusive Mockingbird Manbot of Alcatraz.

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Phase VI- FinchBot 3000 But Also Must Confront Their Greatest Nemesis Yet…

Having now been gifted with eternal life and ultimate wisdom and eyes that shoot lasers, FinchBot consorts with the government to use advanced cloning and stem cell technology and produces Jem and Scout in vitro to raise in the future, so as to relive the joys of his/her/their past life before time travel and civil rights. Unfortunately, 6-year-old Gem rejects the cold parentage of her robot caretaker and leads a vendetta against artificial intelligence and, much to FinchBot’s dismay, has the power to call and control mockingbirds, using them to kill indiscriminately in a sick and unfortunate twist on the original premise.

“It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird,” Gem declares, “but a greater sin not to use mockingbirds to kill.”

Miss Maudie concurs, saying “mockingbird don’t do one thing but make but make music for us to enjoy…and also rip our hearts out for us with their terrible, terrible claws.”

As in “Watchmen”, Scout has a sudden heart attack on page 63 and is never mentioned again.

Phase VII- FinchBot 3000 Discovers It Was All A Dream

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Atticus wakes up. The year is 1933. It was all dream. It is the day of the trial. Confused and distraught, Atticus Finch assesses his own internal moral compass and decides that while he probably does support institutional racism more than he’s comfortable with and probably harbors irrational prejudices pressed into him by society since birth, he supports swift integration of African Americans into southern society and doesn’t anticipate his transformation into a crazy racist dixiecrat after all. He goes outside to play catch with Gem and Scout. However, under his bed lies a broken computer chip for FinchBot 3000 as well as a spinning top which does not lose momentum even on the final sentence of the last page…

50 Shades of Dakota

A contract for my next secret lover. 

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I have a confession to make. I’m tired of being alone. For months now, I’ve sat in my basement at my computer, starting at pictures of Taylor Swift’s bellybutton or Kendall Jenner’s pimple, wondering why nobody loves me the way I deserve to be loved. It hasn’t been easy living in a word this unfair and incorrect about the way things ought to be. But after browsing through the first floor bookshelf for my roommate’s hidden stash of cocaine, I found, of all things, a book to read, and three hours into “50 Shades of Grey” I discovered why I’ve been in living in DC without so much as a booty call:

I hadn’t written a proper sadomasochistic sex contract.

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Duh!

What am embarrassing error. That is, it was an embarrassing error. But good news, ladies, you may be wondering what’s in those pants pockets, and yes, I am happy to see you, but that bulge is actually ten pages of legal documents that I am hoping to offer for signatures in the near future with the goal of securing some dirty kinky fun during those times when I am bored with school, or until I leave this awful city in June.

In case any of this is too confusing, I refer you here, chapter-11.html, in which Anastasia Steele fishes through an envelope she has received and discovers an opportunity for the “Submissive to explore her sensuality and her limits safely, with due respect and regard for her needs, her limits and her wellbeing.”

Translation: PLEASURE BALLS!!!!!

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So faster than you can say the safe word, I set out to complete a binding agreement with myself, the Dominant, and “you”, the Submissive, which could be “you” the reader, I suppose, but also is most likely the pejorative “you”, since I’m open to just about anyone and anything.

A complete version of my own personal safety contract will soon be available in PDF format for $7.95 (bitcoins accepted), but for now I will agree to share with you the highlights so you get a better idea of the kinds of expectations I have with a future partner.

Are you ready? Okay: Mr. Dunlap McKee will see you now.

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1.Obedience: The Submissive will obey any instructions given by the Dominant immediately without hesitation or reservation and in an expeditious manner. The Submissive will agree without hesitation to any sexual activity deemed fit and pleasurable by the Dominant without hesitation excepting those activities which are outlined in hard limits (Appendix 2, please read without hesitation). She will do so eagerly and without hesitation.

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2. Sleep: The Submissive will ensure she achieves a minimum of eight hours sleep a night when she is not with the Dominant. When she is with the Dominant, the Submissive will ensure HE achieves a minimum of 12 hours of sleep a night, during which the Submissive can do whatever the fuck she wants.

3. Food: The Submissive shall agree to eat cake no more than once every three weeks and agree to participate in Meatless Mondays (tm?) since the Dominant feels excessive meat production in this country is harmful for the environment.

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4. Clothes: The Submissive will agree only to wear clothing provided by the Submissive since the Dominant does not shop for clothing. The Submissive will agree to shop for clothing for the Dominant. The Submissive will agree to never shop for clothing at Abercrombie and Fitch since the owner of that store is a douchebag. The Submissive shall wear adornments as required by the Dominant in the presence of the Dominant or at any other time, which may or may not include the following items:

  • Handcuffs
  • Cufflinks
  • Handcuff Earings
  • Handcuffed Cufflinks
  • Button-down Shoes
  • Leather Socks
  • Sequin Pink Knitted Winter Hats
  • Silk Scarves
  • Pajamas
  • Strapless bras
  • Comfortably fitting thongs made out of synthetic but eco-friendly materials
  • Wrist bracelets and Diamond Jewelry (accepting for a budget of less than $10,000)
  • Sexy Sunglasses
  • Dresses that are titillating but never monochromatic 
  • Kinky shit we will find when shopping at Target
  • (the list goes on in the actual contract)

The Submissive will accept and agree to acknowledge without hesitation the fact that the Dominant does not know much about acceptably demeaning except for what he read in Chapter 11 of “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

5. Exercise: The Submissive shall agree to go to the gym every day and also coerce and cajole the Dominant into going with her since the Dominant hates going to the gym.

6.Roles For the purposes of role playing the Submissive shall become familiar with all the films in the oeuvre of Lars Von Trier as well as some by Peter Jackson since he’s made good ones too. Dominant shall take responsibility for the well-being, proper training, and guidance of the Submissive through rigorous sessions divining tarot fortunes. He shall decide the nature of such training (probably flash cards), guidance (I’ll download some PDFs), and discipline and the time and place of its administration, subject to the agreed terms, limitations and safety procedures set out in this contract or agreed additionally under clause 3 above.

6A. More on Roles The Submissive shall agree to at certain times swap roles, becoming the Dominant and hurting and humiliating the Dominant who is now the Submissive with horse whips and steel tipped boots, and also agreeing on a mutual safe word in case the Dominant is no longer comfortable being the submissive or the Submissive is no longer comfortable being the Dominant.

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7. Diseases The Dominant and the Submissive each warrant that they suffer from no sexual, serious, infectious or life-threatening illnesses including but not limited to HIV, Herpes and Hepatitis and then also scabies or syphilis or HPV and genital warts neither nor Mucopurulent Cervicitis and especially nothing near lymphogranuloma venereum, admitting that this last one is pretty uncommon.

…………..

157-2. Action Verbs The Submissive shall accept whippings, creamings, floggings, spankings, wankings, thankings, bankings, baseball games, caning, canoeing, paddling, snuggling, cuddling, canoodling, fornicating, vegan baking and/or any other discipline the Dominant should decide to administer, without hesitation, enquiry or complaint. Even and especially home karaoke sessions.

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……

4,372-15A. Safeword  In such circumstances related to (section 87-R/C24), the Submissive may make use of a safeword (“The Safeword (s)”). Two Safewords will be invoked depending on the severity of the demands:

The Safeword “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” will be used to bring to the attention of the Dominant that the Submissive is close to her limit of endurance.

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The Safeword(s) “A long, long time ago I can still remember how that music used to make me smile And I knew if I had my chance That I could make those people dance And maybe they’d be happy for a while But February made me shiver With every paper I’d deliver Bad news on the doorstep I couldn’t take one more step I can’t remember if I cried When I read about his widowed bride But something touched me deep inside The day the music died So bye-bye, Miss American Pie Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry And them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey in Rye Singin’ “This’ll be the day that I die This’ll be the day that I die” Did you write the book of love And do you have faith in God above If the Bible tells you so? Now do you believe in rock and roll? Can music save your mortal soul, And can you teach me how to dance real slow?” will be used to bring to the attention of the Dominant that the Submissive cannot tolerate any further demands. When these words are said the Dominant’s action will cease completely with immediate effect. And the Submissive will be thankful the Dominant did not demand the entire song.

CONCLUSION

We the undersigned have read and understood fully the provisions of this contract. We freely accept the terms of this contract and have acknowledged this by our signatures below. Daddie’s hungry (and if that last line is too much, let me point out that it is very likely my father is hungry right now and wants to eat at least a dessert snack, and that you were reading way too much into it).

SIGNED DAKOTA DUNLAP MCKEE

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