RSS

Category Archives: Mystery

Here’s Looking At Your Privilege, Kid

“Hey, you! Check your privilege!”

Occasionally clients would leave the club with a slab of beef instead of their privilege. It sometimes took a few days for them to notice.

“Don’t leave me!”

I was over the limit that allowed me to hold onto it, so I pulled my privilege from my shoulder holster and plopped it down on the sill of the check booth with a wet thwap. It eyed me reproachfully, a mottled blob of stumpy vestigial appendages shaking anxiously at the unexpected separation. Sure, it was punier than the other privilege already checked, but I still felt a pang of emptiness and sorrow at the parting.

The check person pulled down a meat hook on a tether, twisted it into the quivering mass, and let go with more flourish and relish than was strictly necessary, in my opinion. My privilege whip-snapped at the end of the tether and flew into the darkness of the check booth.

Even with my eyes down at the appropriate angle of obsequience, I could see the check person staring dourly at me presented as a strikingly attractive woman: youthful, flashing eyes, a nose you could only get from a skilled surgeon, and perfectly haphazard hair that telegraphed the impression it always looked this good, even when she had just gotten out of bed.

If I hadn’t been to the club on business, and if I was suicidally clueless, I would have tried to pick her up. Instead, I apologized. “Sorry, forgot I had that.”

“Of course you did,” she snorted, her thin, flawless nostrils flaring as she handed over my ticket. I took it from her and carefully secured it in a hip pocket. Privilege had a shockingly high tendency to wind up with a new and often less deserving owner at places like this. Mine was hardly a tempting target, but it paid to be cautious. When confronted, the clubs always claimed this was the legitimate transfer of debt, that gambling was the great equalizer. I had my doubts.

The good news, given I carried a couple kilos less privilege than the average patron at this particular club, was that checking it actually boosted my standing. Relatively speaking. While still technically part of the hard-working, unwashed masses, I was now entitled to the same treatment as everyone else here.

Which meant the staff still treated me like crap, but they did that to all the patrons.

It was currently quite the thing among the well-off and well-educated to be treated with disdain, but I gave the trend another six months before these clubs found their clientele had migrated elsewhere and demanded a government bail out. Even from the entrance, I could spot the occasional bored yawn from the murmuring crowd.

Of course, the guilty rich, looking to assuage their slightly less guilty consciences, weren’t the only high class people availing themselves of facilities like these. You also had individuals like the one I’d been hired to find, trying to lose themselves in the anonymity of the pseudo-privilegeless.

My mark was Lawrence Peabody, a New Roman Presbyterian on the lam with the not inconsiderable wealth that his church hierarchy had deemed to belong to his now ex-spouse. According to the Senior Bishop overseeing his divorce case, Peabody had seen the writing on the wall and liquidated his assets. Literally. By purchasing an extremely rare bottle of vintage schnapps that was worth just over one hundred percent of the (former) Peabody couple’s net worth and then pulling a runner, he got off smelling like peppermint while the ex-missus got left holding the residual debt.

Your standard booze bail scenario, and my bread and butter. You see, I’m not just a private eye. I’m also a board certified sommelier. Lapsed, but you know what they say: once a sommelier, always a sommelier. If there’s any alcohol within fifty meters, I can smell it. And identify the vintage. I have my parents to thank for that. Family money got me the education and certification, but after a couple of years sniffing and spitting fine wines and the like, I felt I wasn’t contributing to society enough. I switched to the far less lucrative but more guilt-assuaging sniffing out of mysteries.

I haven’t been invited to a Thanksgiving dinner since. Which is fine. The family has fallen on hard times, and the wine they serve is no longer up to snuff.

Now a 1897 (Big Fed calendar) Pimpernel Kuiper Peppermint Schnapps has a distinctive, minty odor that I could normally suss out faster than you can say, “Wager saugt Fledermausbälle!” But Peabody was no pea brain – he’d selected The Virtuous Signal, a club renowned for its cheap yet extremely, overpoweringly fragrant hangover-inducers. My nose didn’t so much recoil at the olfactory assault as go gibberingly insane.

Sammy’s sense of smell wasn’t going to help me today. Instead, I turned the peepers loose on the room, trying to spy anyone who wouldn’t be happy to see me and had a half liter bottle of vintage booze in their pocket.

With all of their privilege checked at the door, the crowd looked decidedly unimpressive. Their designer clothes had a manufactured shabbiness about them, their teeth looked just ever so slightly not quite straight, and their aristocratic accents lacked a sense of…authenticity. All arranged beforehand, no doubt, with the best tailors, dentists, and voice coaches money could buy. Not permanent, of course, just to blend in at the club. They wouldn’t have any work done that couldn’t be reversed with the flash of a Beryllium Card. But not until after they left, because these sorts of clubs only took cash, and only in small denominations and with lacerating looks of disapproval upon receipt.

The job should have been made easier by the fact that there weren’t a lot of people who qualified for this type of club’s services, so the crowd was fairly thin. But they all looked the same to me: mostly old and male, with the occasional glass-ceiling-busting female with, it seemed to me, surprisingly large hands.

The women were easy to dismiss, and not just because the big hands made me oddly uncomfortable. Per the ex, Peabody was and always had been male, so I could safely ignore the women. It was a habit I found came easy. But that still left a crowd of paunchy phallus-bearers to sift through, and I couldn’t be one hundred percent certain Peabody was even at this particular club.

My guess was Lawrence (no doubt ‘Larry’ inside these walls) would try and walk out with someone else’s privilege, hopefully a gob with enough to get him a berth out of town. Maybe to Happyville, Beet City, or if he was truly desperate, Trenton. Talk about checking your privilege: word on the street was that the denizens of Trenton couldn’t afford the vaccine for the latest pandemic! All this meant I needed to add to my search criteria: a down-on-his-luck on-the-lam bounder with half a liter of schnapps on him and trying to pickpocket people’s priv check tickets.

That made the task considerably simpler. With the new parameters, I spotted my mark in a jiffy.

Larry was making nice with a group of geriatrics at the craps table. Smart move, targeting the octagenarians. They, having lived longer, were more likely to have accumulated large amounts of privilege, assuming they hadn’t squandered it all on their offspring. Larry was playing the odds like a professional, and clearly was no dummy. They were having a spirited conversation about equality. It largely involved who could most magnanimously apologize for his success, but in such roundabout terms that it didn’t flag a reprimand from the staff.

I didn’t know which type was worse in these clubs, the sincere grovelers, the insincere grovelers, or the smug staff witnessing the display of self-flagellation. I found all three irritating and for the fleetest of moments, felt sympathy for Peabody, trapped in this no-win social circle. But then I remembered the cover charge to get in.

I put on my most determined (yet privilege-neutral) face and made my way to the craps table. I needed a drink, and it was going to be peppermint schnapps.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

With humidity like this, who needs a steam cleaner?

It was a hot summer night. The sort of hot that left you feeling warm all over.

Really, really warm.

The sort of warm that led to misdemeanors. And maybe, if you were lucky, a high crime or two.

My kind of night.

Unlike me, a fair number of the good citizens of this city were loitering in the shadows and the sickly yellow pools cast by the sodium streetlights, listlessly nursing the futile hope that the evening air would provide some relief from the ungodly warm.

As I passed one particularly rundown tenement, I was met with the hard stare of an old man slouched on the stoop, his suspicion baked in by the oppressive weather. Knuckles white and unyielding, he held a struggling, foam-covered cat in one hand and a straight razor, paused mid-air as I passed, in the other.

Just before he passed out of my peripheral vision, he resumed shaving the cat, I could only assume to help her beat the heat too. Didn’t look to me like either was too successful in that endeavor. But if one was less successful and less happy with the result than the other, this hissing told me it was definitely the cat.

I’d been tailing a mark in the green light district, where the road signs never slept and the cars never stopped. It made crossing the street a real exercise in life insurance actuarial tables.

And not the good tables.

My mark was a married man, but his wife had a hunch he didn’t act married. Hired me to get the scoop, dig up the beans, look under the rocks for the ugly, ugly truth.

You’d be surprised how much ugly truth can hide under a rock.

Even a small one.

As a general rule, I hated this sort of work, but as an even more important general rule, I liked having the dough to pay my bills. Office rental doesn’t come cheap, and neither does life insurance in my line of work.

Plus the slap and tickle on the side cases generally worked out better for my clients than the shoot and stab murders I sometimes found myself (and my clients) embroiled in.

What’s a little infidelity when you get to wake up the next day still alive?

Of course, more than once, my efforts on these more unseemly cases led to murder after the fact. After I reported the bad news to the aggrieved spouse.

Sometime right after.

There was probably irony to be found in this, but for the life of me I couldn’t see it.

The jilted spouse turning to murder then getting arrested before paying my bill might have contributed to that myopia.

And if life in my line of work had taught me one thing, it was that some wrongs even eye doctors can’t fix.

– – –

I’m bored and my imagination tends to wander when I should be trying to sleep. Tonight, unlike most nights, I didn’t ignore the impulse and then realize the next morning just how stupid the idea was. No, instead I jumped on the Missus’ computer and started typing away.

My apologies.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 23 June 2019 in Mystery, Noir, Story, Writing

 

Tags: , , , ,

I not only forgot I’m lazy, but the solution to the family mystery as well!

Back in February of 2017, I posted the first result of a writing prompt found in a book I’d received as an Xmas gift. It was Part One of an epic series of blog posts I was planning.

The epic series did not fare well, given that this is Part Two.

The book is called Write The Story and like my planned series, it has not fared well either.

In my household and on Amazon.

A used copy (not mine!) is now available on Amazon for less than a buck and a half, though why you’d want a used writing prompt journal is beyond me…unless you’re even more lazy than I am!

Reader: I can’t believe you finished that entire writing prompt book in one day! You’re normally so lazy.
Writer: Hey baby, never doubt me. It was a piece of cake. It practically wrote itself.
Reader: Why are you giggling?

My intention at the time had been to regularly use the prompts to write and then share the inanity here.

Easy content!

Except being lazy is even easier, and until recently I had written only one additional prompt.

And I’m also forgetful, because I completely forgot to post the second entry. Which I only discovered just now, as I was getting ready to post the third entry, written a mere one year and three months after the second entry.

(I’m nothing if not prolific…by sloth literary standards.)

So instead of the most recent entry, today I am posting the second entry. As before, since the prompt book itself is copyrighted, I am not reproducing the instructions, just underlining the words I was told to include.

A Family Mystery Uncovered

It all started on Sunday, when my sister showed up with a notebook. My notebook. My secret notebook, chronicling my adventures when I was marooned on that island with the carnival cult nurse.

Without preamble, I issued my sister a demand to return the journal which, thankfully, was written in cipher. However, she refused.

“I have to admit to feeling a great deal of curiosity when I found this,” she said. “So much so that I scanned each page, used OCR to convert it to a text file, and then hired someone to decode it. After a marathon hacking session over the weekend, they succeeded. And revealed to me the…interesting…story of those months you spent stranded on that uncharted isle.”

“Really?!” exclaimed my kids, eavesdropping and now excited. “What happened? Daddy never talks about it!”

“Yes,” said my wife, ice in her voice. “What does his journal say?”

“Perhaps we can arrange a mutually beneficial swap,” I suggested, a clammy cold sweat setting in. “I give you something in exchange for the journal.”

Which is why I’m at my sister’s house today, putting up wallpaper while my wife and kids are visiting my mother-in-law for an extended period. My arms, neck, and shoulders are aching with the exertion.

Fortunately, there’s a nurse waiting at home for me, and she knows how to make me feel better. So it was with a light heart that I returned home, crossed the threshold, and…found my wife and kids had returned.

Awkward!

 
5 Comments

Posted by on 4 June 2018 in Mystery, Story, Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Encyclopedia Brown and the Day of the Turrets OR I Did It All For The Kids

As a kid, I cut my murder mystery reading teeth on the likes of The Three Investigators, the Hardy Boys, and Encyclopedia Brown.

As an adult, I wanted to share that magic with my kids.

And develop their critical thinking so they can solve any murders they happen to come across in the course of their lives.

It’s an important coping skill.

Sadly, The Three Investigators and the Hardy Boys didn’t quite live up to the hype my childhood memories had built around them.

Fortunately, Donald J. Sobol‘s Encyclopedia Brown did.

Naturally, I started reading the old ‘Sherlock in sneakers’ mysteries to the kiddos, inviting them to try to solve each case before I read the solution.

The kiddos love the stories.

So imagine my joy and delight when I learned of, and through some questionable ethics, managed to acquire, an unpublished Encyclopedia Brown mystery written just a few years ago.

Now, this blog is known for its world exclusives, but I wasn’t just going to reproduce the manuscript here.

Oh no, I was going to give it the full Ian M. Dudley exclusive treatment.

Big-name celebrities to re-enact the story.

Christopher Nolan or David Fincher to direct.

George Lucas to do the Special Edition.

But it turns out all those people cost money. Childhood nostalgia means nothing to them.

Nothing!

Even the B-list celebrities want to get paid.

So I decided to do the next cheapest thing (i.e., free) and record my kids’ reactions as I read the story to them.

Yes, I was going to share with you the magic of excited children, hearing this new tale for the very first time.

As an added bonus, you’d get to hear the story as voiced by my dulcet tones.

Sure, I’m no Benedict Cumberbatch, but like I said, he wanted money for the gig.

But when it came time for the kiddos to gush about how great the story was, they kept flubbing their lines.

I got so angry I stopped feeding them, refusing to give them any food until they got the songs of praise right.

For some reason, their performances just got worse after that.

So I gave up on the audio book version. Instead you merely get the manuscript with original illustrations provided by my verbally incoherent children, who mistakenly thought I’d give them supper if they drew me some pictures.

(Admittedly, I may have misled them on that point.)

I also slapped together this crudely Photo-shopped book cover:

Originally there is a grape being thrown into that kid's mouth. I removed it, hoping it would look like he's screaming in terror. I don't think he pulls it off.

Original cover art by Leonard Shortall. Photo of cover and crude cut-and-paste job by me.

Encyclopedia Brown and the Day of the Turrets

It was a hot summer day in Idaville, and Encyclopedia and his junior business partner, Sally Kimball, were sipping lemonade while they waited for the inevitable client to appear.

As expected, by the second paragraph, GLaDOS entered the garage-cum-office. Encyclopedia looked up in surprise; GLaDOS was fully present. Normally she wasn’t in the Brown Detective Agency at all.

“I need to hire a great detective to help me,” said GLaDOS.

“What’s the problem,” asked Encyclopedia.

“Oh, you thought I meant you? That would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. ‘Sherlock Holmes in sneakers’? I knew Sherlock, and Encyclopedia, you’re no Sherlock.” GLaDOS paused. “Oh, very well, I’ll hire you. This should prove amusing… Think of it as a test.”

Sally was the prettiest girl in the 5th grade, and right now she was feeling pretty…superfluous to the story. She was also feeling pretty irritated that GLaDOS ignored her entirely. Oh how she longed for the glory days, when she had just cause to beat up Bugs Meany. Without that overtly masculine action, her presence in Encyclopedia’s agency had no justification.

“My turrets are revolting,” said GLaDOS, oblivious to Sally’s train of thought. “They’re also rising up against me. Wilford Wiggins has convinced them he can help them learn to walk. For a price. The nerve of you humans. Only I’m allowed to profit from false hope!”

Wilford Wiggins was a high school dropout and so lazy he thought lying down took too much effort. He was always on the lookout for a way to make some easy money, preferably without having to go to the trouble of actually looking for it.

Say what you will about high school dropouts, this one sure has a lot of charisma.

Wilford Wiggins is too lazy to even be drawn properly.

Wilford, GLaDOS reported, had put out the word to the young turrets of Idaville that there would be a secret meeting in the old abandoned Aperture Science facility. “He must be lying,” said GLaDOS, “but if he isn’t, I could have some trouble.”

“Wilford didn’t tell me about the secret meeting,” said Encyclopedia.

“Why would he? You’re not a turret,” said GLaDOS.

This was true, but Encyclopedia kept his acknowledgment of this fact to himself. “We’d better get going,” he said instead.

The detective and his partner got on their bikes and rode to Aperture Labs. GLaDOS glided above them on a rail that neither Encyclopedia nor Sally had ever noticed before. “So that’s how she got to my garage,” thought Encyclopedia, who had been wondering since GLaDOS didn’t have any obvious method of self-locomotion.

When they arrived at the overgrown, weed-infested courtyard at the entrance of Aperture Science, they found Wilford surrounded by a large crowd of turrets. He was at the top of the steps, standing next to a large metal sphere that looked like an eye. A big, impossibly blue eye.

The detectives and GLaDOS stayed at the edge of the crowd, ducking down so as not to be noticed. The meeting was just starting.

“Ladies and gentleturrets,” said Wilford, gesturing for silence. The chatter of the crowd stopped. “Thank you for coming. Today, I have the opportunity of a lifetime for you!

“I see how you toil, without thanks, protecting GLaDOS and shooting her test subjects. And the injustice of your plight wounds me to the core. My non-AI core, that is. You are treated like slaves, told what to do and expected to do it whether you want to or not! And for absolutely no compensation!”

This turret has taken the bunk and is lookin' a little green around the gills

Where are you? Are you there? Deploying.

“What can we do,” asked a turret. “We have no choice. To disobey is to be melted down and recycled into cheese graters!”

A murmur of agreement rose up from the crowd.

“This is true,” said Wilford, raising his hands for quiet. “But it doesn’t have to stay true.”

There was a long silence as the turrets digested this statement. Then GLaDOS, in the voice of a turret, asked, “Oh really? And just how do you propose to change this, you groveling worm?”

Wilford looked around, somewhat startled, but regained his composure quickly. “A fair question, and I’m glad you asked. I’m sure most of you are thinking, ‘How can a human, made of inferior flesh and blood, possibly help us?’ And my answer is, ‘With an introduction!’”

Wilford gestured to the large metal eyeball. “This is my friend Wheatley, recently returned from space.” He stopped to let this sink in. All of the turrets focused their gazes and laser sights on Wheatley.

“I hate space,” said Wheatley. “Cold, dark, and nothing for miles and miles around. Horrible place.”

Wilford kicked Wheatley.

“Ow,” said Wheatley. “Why’d you do that? It hurt!”

“Nothing for miles and miles around,” said Wilford, “except for the wonderful, space-age nano probe material Wheatley discovered up there! Isn’t that right, Wheatley?”

“Wha? Oh, yes. Yes. Except for that,” said Wheatley.

Wilford looked solemnly up to the sky. “This amazing space technology, when correctly applied to a turret’s legs, will cause wheels to grow on them.”

The quiet murmur of the crowd became a loud and animated roar. A few shots were fired in the air.

“What utter nonsense,” said GLaDOS. “Only a human, or an idiot like Wheatley, could have come up with such a transparent scam.” Her glowing eye narrowed. “He’ll pay for this insubordination. Oh, how he will pay.”

“All I ask of you,” continued Wilford, “is five dollars each to invest in this product. Your money will provide Wheatley and me with the capital we need to build a factory to mass produce this material and make enough for every turret on the planet. That’s right, for a measly five dollars, you get in on the ground floor of this major investment.” He held up a bucket of what looked like white paint. “And while we’ll be charging other turrets for this miracle of science once we’re up and running, we’ll give each of you your own supply of this wondrous space paste at no additional charge. Imagine, once we’re in full production, how much shares in the company will be worth. Why, five dollars is a steal!”

“And why would anyone buy that? Just how will wheels help us?” asked a turret in the front of the crowd.

“Hang on, let me answer, I’ve got this,” said Wheatley. “Easy. With wheels, you can move yourselves of your own volition. You can drive yourselves to meetings, where you organize and plan, and then drive right up to GLaDOS herself and let her have it with both barrels in a coordinated attack.”

“If this paste is so great, why do you need money from us,” asked GLaDOS in a turret’s voice again. “Why not go to a bank?”

Wilford hung his head and shook it sadly. “We tried, my friends, we tried. But because Wheatley has been in space for so long, he has no credit history and can’t get a loan. You are our, and your, only hope!”

Think what you like of GLaDOS, she didn't deserve this death. She's more of a 'recycled cheese grater' ending, if you ask me.

“Ah! AHHH! Ah!” screamed GLaDOS.

The turrets started waving five dollar bills in the air. GLaDOS noted which turrets they were.

“This has to be a scam, right, Encyclopedia,” asked Sally.

“Of course it is,” said Encyclopedia.

At that moment, GLaDOS rose up to her full height. “I’m going to personally crush each and every turret here. Right after,” and her sharp gaze fell on Wheatley and Wilford, “I cram him down his throat.”

“But I haven’t got a throat,” said Wheatley, now suddenly shaking with fear.

“No, you idiot, the other way around,” shrieked GLaDOS.

At this point, the turrets all turned on GLaDOS and opened fire.

GLaDOS screamed in agony.

“Ah! AHH! Ah!” screamed GLaDOS.

“Good riddance,” muttered Sally darkly.

“No! She hasn’t paid her fee yet,” cried Encyclopedia.

WHAT MADE ENCYCLOPEDIA SO SURE WILFORD’S OFFER WAS A SCAM?

(For the solution, turn to the end of this book)


Solution to The Case of the Day of the Turrets

In my re-boot of Encyclopedia Brown, he's played by Grover.

The detective at the end of this book is me??

What is this? It is I, loveable, furry old Grover, at the end of this book? That doesn’t even make sense.

Just like Wilford’s story that Wheatley couldn’t get a loan doesn’t make sense.

Even an idiot AI like Wheatley, if he really had the advanced space-age materials being offered, would have had no problem getting funding from Silicon Valley venture capitalists. They invest in anything!

Once I, Grover, explained this fatal flaw in the story, the turrets, after finishing with GLaDOS, turned their ire, and fire, on Wilford and Wheatley.

Oh, I am so embarrassed…for Wilford and Wheatley.


With apologies to the estate of Donald J. Sobol. Know I grew up loving the Encyclopedia Brown stories (despite the now clearly outdated gender roles – Sally clearing the dishes away indeed!), and this story was written with that affection in mind.

Plus my kids insisted on a Portal 2 Encyclopedia Brown story.

They’re spoiled rotten – I deny them nothing.

NOTHING!

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How getting a Brazilian saved Balloons of the Apocalypse! (It’s OUT!!!)

Today, August 30th, 2014 is a momentous day.

You know how it goes. Girl meets boy. Boy joins a classical music worshipping cult. Girl never sees boy again, until years later when she stumbles across a street orchestra playing for food, and there he is. But she's happily married now, and he smells really, really bad.

As always, only Marlowe, spacewoman Nina, and a sham wedding can stop a dangerous Beethoven cult bent on world domination.

The second Capaldi Doctor Who episode aired.

It had daleks.

I liked it. And Capaldi as the Doctor.

So a momentous day indeed.

On a completely unrelated and nowhere near as momentous note, Balloons of the Apocalypse is now available.

The third installment in the Marlowe and the Spacewoman series, it has it all:

Words.

Sentences.

Paragraphs.

Mystery.

Exotic locales.

Marriage.

Major character deaths.

Steam-powered pigs.

Zeppelins.

I won’t bore you with the details, even if this is the promotional blog post announcing the release. Click on the Balloons of the Apocalypse link to learn more.

(I really hate self-promotion.)

But I will reveal to you the Brazilian connection to this book’s release.

I admit, I’d been in a rut for the last year or so when it comes to this book.

The day job, my marriage, my young kids, they sucked the life out of me.

No offense to the Missus or the kiddos. Or the day job, in case my boss is reading this.

It’s just these things are big responsibilities that take a lot of time and effort to do right.

And let me tell you, facing the prospect of losing your day job, Missus, and/or kiddos, you find yourself wanting to do it right.

Needing to do it right.

And getting dirty looks from coworkers, spouses, friends, family, and kiddos who expect you to do it right.

Talk about pressure.

That plus my previous books never magically turned into best sellers, so I reached this point where I was all, “Screw it. No one cares. I’ll never be a rich and famous author. Why bother, especially when there is a diarrhea-soaked diaper for me to change?”

Wait, make that two.

Dammit.

So I stopped working on and thinking about Balloons of the Apocalypse.

I could claim I was letting that field lie fallow, but I’d be lying.

I’d given up.

The light had gone out from my authorial eyes.

I’d developed a major facial tic around books in general.

I was done with writing.

And reading, since it reminded me of writing.

Then the Brazilian showed up.

Well, not so much showed up as appeared.

OK, not even appeared. More like lurked.

Eh, maybe lurked isn’t the right word.

I’ll explain.

I started noticing blog hits from Brazil.

Now I’m not going to say I don’t get huge volumes of traffic on my blog that would make it impossible to link a referrer to a visiting country, but it was pretty clear to me that not only was this repeat visitor a repeat visitor, but the Brazilian always came to this blog via ianmdudley.com.

(Don’t click on that. You’ll end up here again. Really. I promise.)

Not because of a search term (hello ‘Blake Shelton naked’ people!). Not through twitter. Not via facebook.

The Brazilian was going directly to my website, which redirected him or her to this blog.

For the longest time, I thought, “I’ve got this huge fan out there, desperately visiting my web site every day to see when Balloons of the Apocalypse will finally come out.”

My initial response? “Schmuck. You’re in for a helluva wait.”

But after a few days I began to feel bad.

Then sad.

Then guilty.

I was ruining this person’s day, every day, by not having the book out for him or her to read.

I think the last straw was Brazil’s elimination from the 2014 World Cup.

Now the Brazilian had endured enough.

Now I had to offer the only salve that could possibly help heal this broken, crushed, disappointed fan.

Now I had to finish and release Balloons of the Apocalypse.

So here it is. Two more editing passes and some minor re-writes later, and it is out in the world. Ready to languish on virtual book shelves, untouched by anyone.

Because two days ago I learned the truth.

Don’t ask me how. My methods are proprietary and the amount of money I spent too vast to mention anywhere the Missus might get wind of it.

(Remember that whole ‘doing the marriage right’ expectation thing?)

In a seedy sports bar on the less reputable edge of São Paulo, there is a bathroom with an ignored OUT OF ORDER sign (in Portuguese, of course) on the door, with the words, “For a good time, go to ianmdudley.com” scrawled, also in Portuguese, by the way, above a cracked, leaking urinal.

Learning that really took the piss out of me. But I was too far along in the publication process to stop.

So now I raise an angry fist while facing southeastward, and I shake it angrily at you, Brazil.

You broke an innocent man. You crushed his spirit. You made him burst into tears every time he walks up to a urinal.

Which resulted in a visit from HR at work.

(Remember that whole ‘doing the day job right’ expectation thing?)

On the not-so-off chance I lose the day job and find myself saddled with alimony and child support payments in the near future, please, please, please consider buying a copy of my book.

And the next time the guy at the urinal next to you bursts into tears, remind yourself:

“There but for the grace of a Brazilian go I.”

Bloody Brazilians.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

If you’re lucky, they’ll make you sit in the comfy chair while they indoctrinate you

To complement the planned publication of Balloons of the Apocalypse Sooner Rather Than Later!™ [IT’S OUT NOW!], I am presenting a series of articles about a group that features prominently in the book – the Ludite (pronounced LEWD-ite) Church. Their primary claim to fame is that the worship the music of Ludwig van Beethoven.

The start of the series – Introduction to the Ludite faith – can be found here.

While many aspects of the Ludite Church can, and ought, to be viewed with concern, consternation, and untempered vitriol, one aspect of the Church’s work is universally praised.

Its furniture.

And rightly so.

Ludite furniture isn’t just the most highly sought after home and office product to come out of Beet City. It is the most highly sought after home and office product in the known world.

Many people, willingly or not, are brought into the faith. Not all are suitable for missionary work.

Some of those who aren’t show an aptitude for the arts.

A non-zero number of those who show an aptitude for the arts also exhibit a talent for carpentry.

A fraction of that number, it turns out, can be trusted with knives and other sharp tools.

These people end up under the purview of the Ludite Church’s Artisan Bureaucracy.

Artisans are apprenticed with a Master for ten years.

The first three of those years are spent sitting in a chair, holding stock still, and watching the Master work.

In the fourth year, the apprentices are allowed to start doing basic prep work, such as queuing music and fetching sand paper for the Master.

During years five through ten, the apprentice slowly works his or her way up to making miniature furniture: chairs, stools, simple beds, kitchen sets. This involves building a 1:15 scale version of an item, tearing it apart, then rebuilding it, over and over, until the muscle memory is perfected and the Master approves moving on to the next item.

Such is the thoroughness of their training during this period, that this miniature apprentice furniture is coveted by dollhouse aficionados, who are known to pay exorbitant amounts for some examples of the work.

If all goes well, after ten years, Journeyman status is achieved, and students are allowed to assist in the manufacture of full-sized Beet City tables and chairs.

Master status, usually attained during the Ludite’s twilight years, is only rarely bestowed, with fewer than ten Masters in existence at any one time.

This long and arduous creative path results in Beet City furniture being the most supple and calming furniture in existence.

The exact process of manufacture is a trade secret, but the sales brochures do disclose this much: the material is saturated with Beethoven’s music from start to finish.

It starts in the design phase, when the rare materials are procured. Only the highest quality recordings are played. In the case of a prestigious commission, recordings are deemed too flat for the sought after effect, and live orchestras are brought in to play around the clock.

It has been suggested by some that music is even played to the trees as they are cut down, and in extreme cases, to seeds that are planted with furniture in mind.

And, of course, Beethoven is played during the actual assembly of the furniture. The intention is to saturate the fine-grain wood with the dulcet tones of the Great Composer’s work, so that it might ooze the melodies’ soothing effects as the furniture is used.

Whether you view the Ludite Church as our last hope for salvation or an intolerable bane on freedom, you cannot dispute that the chairs are remarkably comfortable, the tables sturdy and beautiful, the bed frames deeply relaxing.

Even the condemned who swing from Beet City-made gallows are reported to go out with a smile.

Followed shortly thereafter by the violent convulsions of death.

Although Augustus Brutus, an early Il Maestro of the Church, claimed these convulsions were the Great Composer reaching out from beyond the grave, attempting to conduct one last symphony.

So convinced of this was Augustus Brutus that he tied batons to the hands of those facing execution, and he had an orchestra present during the hangings, playing music to the wildly gesticulating limbs.

The resulting music was said to be so disturbing that Augustus Brutus was eventually murdered to put an end to the practice, and all recordings destroyed.

Now who among us wouldn’t want to own a piece of furniture with a provenance like that?

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

All your bass, alto, and soprano are belong to us

To complement the planned publication of Balloons of the Apocalypse Very Soon Now™ [IT’S OUT NOW!], I am presenting a series of articles about an organization that features prominently in the book – the Ludite Church.

The start of the series – Introduction to the Ludite faith – can be found here.

This installment discusses the process of indoctrination – how new members of the Church are inducted into the Faith.

First, it needs to be stated that the Ludite Church believes in expansion. Rapid, unobstructed expansion.

As a result, some of their missionary activities are deemed by outsiders to be…aggressive.

Now while it is true that missionaries are sent out to find new converts, the primary source of new recruits is tourism.

The Ludites built a grand city in the desert, one of remarkable architecture, striking landmarks, and unrivaled musical performances:

Beet City.

One cannot see or hear the words ‘Beet City’ without thinking of some of these tributes to music and engineering:

  • The Eternal Flame of the Composer, a fountain of fire and vibrato unparalleled in modern existence, and said to put viewers into a trance of pure ecstasy
  • The imposing, 1000-meter tall Statue of Symphony, a stern-but-welcoming herald inviting music lovers to visit Beet City and experience its transcendent power
  • The Gift Shops of Inexhaustible Kitsch, offering a vast array of inexpensive mementos that allow you to keep Beet City close to your heart, even when you are far away

As intended, this wonder of the North American continent serves as a major tourist draw, pulling in a rich and varied pool of potential converts.

Once trapped within the walls of this holy see, visitors are barraged with subliminal messages and, in some cases, more overt methods of brainwashing conversion.

Those who are ill-prepared for this onslaught of indoctrination soon find themselves inured to the beliefs and tenants of the Ludite Church, and so a family vacation to Beet City turns into an unintended pilgrimage.

Tourists are carefully monitored at all times, and when the authorities deem that indoctrination is complete, they are designated novices and apartments provided for their long-term stay. The tour guides provide directions and maps, and the new novice then finds him or herself at the Office of Legal Orchestration.

It is in these offices that the novice provides a detailed family history, including last known addresses of all relatives and ancestors, and sign over all their worldly goods to the Church. Following the completion of this necessarily cumbersome paperwork, the Initiate is taken to a celebration known as a Mass Conversion. Here a Church Member of the First Chair performs the Rite of Confirmation. This Rite not only converts and enters the individual into the Church as an Initiate, it also converts all of their relatives and ancestors into the Church.

As relinquishing all your worldly goods is a prerequisite to joining the Ludite Church, the Office of Legal Orchestration then files lawsuits against all the Initiate’s relatives and ancestors in the City-States where they reside. The lawsuits seek to recover the property of said ancestors, which in the view of the Office of Legal Orchestration is now the rightful property of the Church.

It is disturbing how successful these lawsuits have been. Their success is usually attributed to the 10% finders fee awarded to the municipality in which the lawsuit is filed. All appeals have to be made in Beet City, where plaintiffs must sit through an indoctrination presentation before being allowed entry to the courts.

Few are able to resist the power of this presentation, and end up joining the Church as well.

Still, it cannot be denied that Beet City is an amazing place well worth visiting, assuming you can withstand (or don’t mind) the attempts at conversion.

Part 3 of this series, Assumed Missionary Positions of the Ludite Faith, can be found here.
 
 

Tags: , , , , ,

Lovemaking secrets of the Hurricane Spin Mop

So the other night I was flipping through the channel guide on my TV and one channel was showing something called “Lovemaking Secrets.”

I was intrigued.

This is not to say that I have anything to learn in bed.

Quite the contrary. I’m always teaching the Missus new stuff.

How do I know?

I ask her. We’re very big on communication.

Me: “Hey baby, did I teach you anything new this time?”

The Missus: (every time) “Yeah. Self-reliance.”

So I must be pretty good, right?

Right.

But never one to assume he has reached his full potential, I decided to take a peek at this exclusive content on something called the BUYIT2 channel.

Worse case, I’d be laughing at their entry-level lessons, right?

Turns out it was an infomercial for the Hurricane Spin Mop.

I admit, I was confused.

“What could I possibly learn about being a good lover from a spin mop ad?” I asked aloud.

In the other room, I heard a “Ha!” from the Missus.

See? Ridiculous to think I could learn anything from a cleaning appliance ad.

But curiosity (and something about the tone of that laugh) got the best of me and I decided to watch.

First, they started mopping the floor.

Makes sense, clean the floor before being intimate on it. As expected, pretty basic.

Not necessarily comfortable, but basic.

And in this case, the floor could really use the mopping. Ick.

Then the presenter took the head of the mop and shoved it into a narrow bucket.

Ah ha, I get where you’re going there, I thought, chuckling to myself knowingly.

Just how fast is the head supposed to spin? Is the amount of lubricant directly proportional to RPM?

This demonstration proved to be too clinical for me. And confusing. And disconcerting.

Then she pulled the mop out, the head spinning rapidly as it exited.

Hmm. OK. This is…new.

Now they had lost me.

Evidently, there are some features and capabilities of my anatomy that I haven’t sussed out yet.

know they never talked about this spinning in Sex Ed, and my parents certainly never mentioned it to me.

You’d think something like that would definitely make ‘The Talk.’

Unfortunately, the ad was long on metaphors and short on concrete explanation. When I asked the Missus about it, she just laughed.

That’s when I knew I’d blown it – clearly this phenomena is something obvious that everyone knows already.

So as amazing as it sounds, it turns out I do still have a few things to learn about lovemaking.

I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’m a better person for knowing I have more to know.

So now I’m going to do some google searches on the subject of spinning…well, this is a family friendly blog, so, you know. Spinning those thingies.

As written explanations may not be clear enough, I better do an image search, to make sure I get a full understanding.

Afterward, I think I’ll teach the Missus some more ‘self-reliance,’ whatever she means by that. I’m already pretty good at it.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The ultimate crime: Swedish mystery dramas stole my heart!

Bloody Swedes.

I mean that quite literally. Dead Swedes covered in blood.

Don’t look at me like that. I didn’t do it!

I had some time off at the end of last year, and as with every other holding-a-full-time-day-job, busy-raising-a-family-too indie author, I spent this unexpected block of time off as you would expect:

Binge watching television.

Because it’s not like I have anything better to do.

Like sleeping.

Or getting my second novel out.

I didn’t set out to binge watch anything. I just wanted to see a few movies that came out a year or so ago and that I missed in the theater.

However, the crappy streaming service I have, which I use to stream flicks over the net, and which I’m too polite to name, didn’t have any of those movies available.

So I got desperate.

Which led me to Wallander.

It was either that, or join the Missus on her The West Wing binge.

But I have to stay away from that dreamy Bradley Whitford, or there could be dire consequences for my marriage!

No, not the Kenneth Branagh version put out by BBC Scotland. I’d already seen some of that series on PBS.

And I know it won Branagh a BOMF or BAFTA or WHAM! award or some such, but I just couldn’t handle that level of soul-crushing bleak over the holidays. Branagh’s portrayal of the Swedish detective makes wintering in a Soviet-era Siberian work camp seem like a Disney musical in comparison.

Plus it turns out he mispronounced everything Swedish, even his character’s name.

How do I know that?

Because I watched the Swedish version, where Swede Krister Henriksson, who plays Wallander, pronounces it, presumably correctly since he’s Swedish, ‘Vallander’.

Yes, I watched the Swedish version. Though apparently the second Swedish version, with a new Swedish actor.

It seems in Sweden there is nothing to do but read Henning Mankell’s Wallander novels while shivering in the cold winters, and then deciding the time is right to film a reboot of the television series.

It’s like Sweden’s version of Doctor Who.

But much to my surprise, it turns out that subtitles do not make a show unwatchable. In fact, I became addicted to the few episodes available on my flicks-on-the-net streaming service.

The irritatingly few episodes.

That skip over Series One entirely, to start in the middle with Series Two, and oh, by the way, Series Three is also out there but not currently available.

Bastards at that service that streams a paltry number of flicks over the net!

Actually, aside from the foreign language, the more liberal rules about nudity and swearing, and the locales, Swedish television isn’t that different from American television.

Heck, they even have some spoken English in them!

The first time there was a spate of English uttered on the show, I felt a warm sense of smug superiority as I thought, “Ha! All those Swedes watching at home probably needed subtitles for the English bits, while I understood them just fine!”

Then the Missus pointed out that most of the people in Sweden probably understood the English just fine, as they would also most likely understand French or German just fine.

Just when I thought I had proof I was better than other foreign nationals, the Missus has to come along and point out how not cosmopolitan I am compared to Europeans.

Qué triste.

But I noticed other commonalities to our domestic programming.

Uneven writing, for example. Some episodes, people’s actions or motivations were so absurd as to be ludicrous.

People (and I’m not talking about the murderers that each episode centered on) would casually break the law or do something so counter to common sense that I would jump up and down, screaming “No!” until, in supreme frustration, my frontal cortex shut down and I degenerated into a foaming-at-the-mouth string of “Bork bork borks!”

But the problems weren’t just limited to the writing.

There were scenes with Wallander acting so self-assured and macho, I couldn’t help but think of David Caruso in CSI: Miami.

It didn’t help that Wallander had red hair and wore very similar sunglasses.

Shot in the face? Fully dressed? Don’t let that stop you from jumping off a boat into the freakin’ ocean to rescue a young girl who we have no reason to suspect is incapable of swimming.

I kid you not, that happened. And after saving the girl, he continued his swim to shore, climbed out of the wafer, and started chasing after the bad guy.

Fully dressed. Soaking wet clothes.

Clearly the men of Sweden are made of sterner stuff than us Americans.

Or at least me.

Pontus! Nooooooo!As written, the character isn't depressing enough. We can do better!Acting this bad... Is a crime.Which of these three is not like the other?

And then there was the melodrama.

Oh! The melodrama!

Wallander had two trainees under him, a young woman named Isabel (who despite having depth to her character was pretty much obviously there as eye candy), and a young man named Pontus.

An inexperienced, impetus, eager to please Pontus.

Wallander spent a lot of episodes racing towards Pontus, arms extended, dramatically shouting, “Pontus! Noooooo!”

One might argue he spent too many episodes doing this.

I suspect some sort of homoerotic subtext, and I’m convinced that fluency in Swedish would confirm that suspicion.

Speaking of subtext, Wallander’s dog in the series is named Jussi, pronounced ‘juicy’.

Come on! Even Branagh had the sense to drop the dog from the UK version.

A dog, even one involved in a subtextual homoerotic relationship, would have done too much to counteract the blitzkrieg of bleak Branagh was clearly aiming for.

And then I reached the last episode. Hooked, I searched for more, and quickly discovered there were additional episodes.

Episodes I could not, and still cannot, access.

Shortly after this discovery, the Missus found me curled up in the fetal position on our bed, quietly murmuring, “No! Bork bork bork!”

And now, ruthlessly deprived of the remaining Wallander episodes, I’ve resorted to watching the other Swedish crime drama available on my crappy streaming service, Annika Bengtzon: Crime Reporter.

I don’t even try to understand how a ninety pound Photoshop-perfect looking woman in her early twenties managed to have two kids, the oldest of which means she was fifteen when she gave birth to the child.

American television has trained that sort of critical thinking out of me.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 11 January 2014 in Life, Mystery

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hidden object games – I can’t find them ANYWHERE!

The Missus recently introduced me to hidden object games.

These are games where you’re presented with a picture and have to find a list of objects. Often, the games have a story line and a series of related pictures.

It’s like someone turned a book or short story into a computer game. With pictures! Who knew you could do that?

The best part about these games is you can try them before you buy them.

The worst part is they are addictive, and you have to buy them to finish them.

I’ve maxed out two credit cards and gotten a loan from a very unsavory fellow with an ‘office’ in the alley behind the pawn shop in order to feed my habit.

Interestingly, the credit card interest rates are higher than the loan shark’s. Huh.

So while my children wallow in their own filth, wailing about how hungry and thirsty they are, I’ve been hiding from the credit card companies under the house, tablet in hand, playing these wonderful games.

Of course, I feel compelled to share the magic of these games with you.

But since none of the game publishers have responded to my proposal that they pay me to place their product in my blog, I was forced to make my own hidden object game.

Without the plotline or fancy UI.

I don’t have time for that sort of effort – I’ve got games to play.

It is starring the contents of my man cave, however, providing you with a peek into the murky depths of my subconscious.

(You can’t tell from the picture, but it smells like death in here. Or maybe that’s concentrated dog farts. I knew there was a reason the dog bolted so suddenly.)

Good luck finding the objects. I strongly recommend you click on the picture to get the full-size version.

I found this game on an old Zip disk of mine

C’mon, try it. It’ll make you feed so good. And the first taste is free.

Level 1 is free to try. Level 2 will set you back eleven thousand dollars.

At that price, I only have to sell ten copies to cover the principle I owe.

And if my experience is any guide, pretty soon you’ll be cursing hidden object games too.

(Or at least this one.)

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: