Giant killer hornets prepare to devour the planet

As a fan of monsters, and animals, and monstrous animals, I like learning about obscure or scary beasts.

However, the giant asian hornet is not a curiousity to be admired and talked about in polite company while you eat finger food and sip a nice bottle of Riesling from the Rhine Valley.

No. The giant asian hornet is making the great white shark look like a toothless poodle right now.

Sharks kill a handful of people each year. Dogs and cow (yes, cows) actually kill far, far more humans. So yes, JAWS was a great movie, but we really have more to fear from Spot the Dog and Bessie the Cow than any shark, which is apparently smarter and more concerned with eating, I don’t know, fish. Maybe because fish don’t have boats and spearguns and nuclear weapons.

These hornets, though, are armored flying spaceships. Which hate you.

Check out three headlines that I’m not making up:

That’s right. The last story should get you: they’re already in the United States.

Now, we had a scare years ago with killer bees, which some genius brought from Africa to breed with his honeybees. Killer bees are bad enough, and they’ve been marching up from South America or whatever since forever until they reached Texas and Oklahoma and other states where rodeo is still a thing. But the thing with killer bees is (a) they can’t handle cold weather, (b) they keep interbreeding with honeybees, diluting their killer street cred and (c) bees can only sting you once.

I know all about this. I was allergic to honeybees and nearly died as a pookie. Had to take shots for years.

Hear me know and believe me later in the week: Honeybees, even killer bees, are nothing compared to hornets. Except for honeybee queens, which duel each other like it’s 1779, your average honeybee know stinging somebody is a suicide mission. They have barbed stingers and nailing somebody means killing themselves, since the barb stays in along with half their abdomen in a lot of cases. So honeybees are actually pretty nice. You usually have to step on them, or threaten the hive, for them to sting you.

Hornets are different. They’re the honey badgers of the bee-wasp world. Why? Because they have smooth stingers instead of barbed one. Also, they’re just jerks. They’d shut down the honeybee government if they could, just to show how tough they are.

Stinging you once is just a hornet saying hello. They’ll happily sting you five bazillion times, because there are no consequences. Zero, aside from using up their venom. But hey, they’ll make more.

Can they be stopped? Maybe. Not sure how. A pile of AR-15s isn’t going to do you any good. Fly swatters don’t feel like they’d be real effective. Maybe we all should invest in a thick beekeeper’s suit and practice soaking a pair of oven mitts with Raid.

Either way, you know the people who made SHARNADO are reading these headlines and writing a script.

SIMPLE SONG by The Shins

Now, the usual music video features (a) some kind of singer or rock band (b) singing and rocking, and possibly trying to (c) dance, though if they can’t dance, the can (d) look tough or (e) let their backup dancers go crazy while the singers and rockers look tough. The toughest part is whether to film in an empty warehouse or on top of a roof.

For pop singers and boy bands, it’s even simpler: they have to sing WHILE dancing, and it doesn’t really matter where.

Music videos that tell a story, like some kind of moving picture, with a script and such, are rare. Because that sort of thing is work, you see, and the rock bands who try  usually shoot for “artsy” and merely slam hard into “the Wall of Pretentious.”

This isn’t quite art, and it doesn’t quite make sense, but it is interesting and different and ambitious. I salute the Shins for aiming high instead of setting up their drums and amps in the parking lot of a vacant K-mart, just to be ironic.

For you musical types, here are the lyrics for you to dissect and decipher:

Well, this is just a simple song,
To say what you done.
I told you ’bout all those fears,
And away they did run.
You sure must be strong,
And you feel like an ocean being warmed by the sun.

When I was just nine-years-old,
I swear that I dreamt,
Your face on a football field,
And a kiss that I kept,
Under my vest.
Apart from everything,
But the heart in my chest.

Chorus:
I know that things can really get rough,
When you go it alone,
Don’t go thinking you gotta be tough,
And play like a stone.
Could be there’s nothing else in our lives so critical,
As this little home.

My life in an upturned boat,
Marooned on a cliff.
You brought me a great big flood,
And you gave me a lift.
Girl, what a gift.
When you tell me with your tongue,
And your breath was in my lungs,
And we float up through the rift.

Chorus:
I know that things can really get rough,
When you go it alone.
Don’t go thinking you gotta be tough,
And play like a stone.
Could be there’s nothing else in our lives so critical,
As this little home.

Well, this would be a simple song,
To say what you done.
I told you ’bout all those fears,
And away they did run.
You sure must be strong,
When you feel like an ocean being warmed by the sun.

Remember walking a mile to your house,
Aglow in the dark?
I made a fumbling play for your heart,
And the act struck a spark.
You wore a charm on the chain that I stole,
Especial for you.
Love’s such a delicate thing that we do,
With nothing to prove,
Which I never knew.

Book publicity: The case of the hitchhiking writer who gets shot

media strategy saturday meme

So this West Virginia photographer is hitchhiking around the country, writing a book about kindness in America, when he’s randomly shot by some man in a truck.

That’s news. Ironic and interesting, with a mystery thrown in: who shot him, and why?

The police arrested a man in a maroon pickup who matched the description. Reporters wrote all kinds of stories about this writer / photographer, Ray Dolin, and his book idea.

Those stories turned out to be wrong. Turns out, he shot himself.

Protip: shooting yourself is never a good way to (a) promote a book idea, (b) win back your ex-girlfriend or (c) make a sweet YouTube video.

ENTER THE NINJA by Die Antwoord

Well, this is different. It’s not achingly good or insanely low-budget and terrible.

The music is oddly OK, and the production values are high.

But it’s just so flipping weird.

Let’s take inventory: We’ve got  (1) a skinny ex-convict or whatever who thinks he’s some kind of ninja, though (2) his albino woman who keeps singing “samurai” all the time and (3) I have no idea whether this third person, the short man wearing a hoodie, is supposed to be a ninja, a samurai or some kind of wizard.

Let’s clear up the ninja vs. samurai thing real quick. Samurai = soldiers with big katanas and armor. Ninja = what every Internet Tough Guy wants to be. Pick one, not both. They are incompatible.

Also, ninjas will NOT allow Tom Cruise into their secret club.

 

The evil truth about reality stars like Snooki and The Situation

I marvel at how people like Snooki and The Situation and the Kardashian sisters are famous, or infamous, though they wouldn’t know the difference if you flew in a Harvard linguist professor to explain it to them every morning.

Snooki has a book deal. The Kardashian sisters have clothing lines and money coming out of their ears.

The joker who calls himself The Situation in on track to earn $5 million this year.

I have witnessed episodes from the first season of Jersey Shore by using the power of the internets, and I have come to an epiphany.

These people are not making scads of money, scoring book deals and dancing badly on “Dancing With A Few Stars and A Bunch of Other Schmucks” in spite of their obvious handicaps in the areas of brains and common sense.

Just up the road from the beaches of New Jersey are thousands of people on Broadway who can sing, dance and act. Many of them are gorgeous. In every way, they are clearly superior to the reality stars picked by producers to invade our lives. So why aren’t they making $5 million a year and getting on the covers of all the tabloids?

Let it be known: These reality stars are not chosen and elevated in spite of their lack of common sense. They are famous precisely BECAUSE OF this very flaw.

Normal, well-adjusted people are boring. They don’t make for exciting television.

If a film crew followed you or me around for 24 hours, they wouldn’t get footage of four random hookups, two screaming matches and a bar fight. They’d get film of us driving to work, doing our jobs and fighting traffic on the way home to have dinner. If you’ve got pookies, maybe you take them to soccer or baseball or whatever. If you’re young and single, maybe you catch Arcade Fire if they’re in town.

You would not spend three hours showering, spray tanning and doing your hair to get ready to go clubbing, then get into a bar fight.

You would not steal your roommates latest girlfriend, as they have been a steady item for at least 48 hours, which is a record. You would not drink all of the booze in the house and call your father at 3 a.m. while you were crying and whining about your boyfriend being pissed about that fact that you slept with a roommate or three.

You would not not order pizza and tell the pizza man that your last name is Situation and your first name is The.

And therefore you do not have, and will never have, a reality show.

The Red Pen of Doom murders THE FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayn Rand

THE FOUNTAINHEAD

Cover of The Fountainhead
Cover of The Fountainhead

by Ayn Rand

Howard Roark laughed. (I approve of this. It asks a narrative question – who is this guy, and why did he laugh? – and I like short sentences anyway.)

He stood naked at the edge of a cliff. The lake lay far below him. A frozen explosion of granite burst in flight to the sky over motionless water. (Whoah, whoah, hold up. So far, it was all tight and Hemingway-esque. “The pants fit him. They felt good.” Now you suddenly switch to purple prose, with granite bursting in flight? I didn’t know that granite rocks flew, or exploded when they did decide to take wing. No.) The water seemed immovable, the stone flowing. The stone had the stillness of one brief moment in battle when thrust meets thrust and the currents are held in a pause more dynamic than motion. The stone glowed, wet with sunrays. (More purple prose. Hate it. Though I do smile at all the double-entendre action. Let’s try again.)

The lake below was only a thin steel ring that cut the rocks in half.  The rocks went on into the depth, unchanged. They began and ended in the sky. So that the world seemed suspended in space, an island floating on nothing, anchored to the feet of the man on the cliff. (What? I think Ayn Rand was smoking a bowl here.)

His body leaned back against the sky. It was a body of long straight lines and angles, each curve broken into planes. (Things are either curved, straight or angled. That pretty much covers it. Maybe the only other people in this book are Flat Stanley and the Blob.) He stood, rigid, his hands hanging at his sides, palms out. He felt his shoulder blades drawn tight together, the curve of his neck, and the weight of the blood in his hands. He felt the wind behind him, in the hollow of his spine. The wind waved his hair against the sky. His hair was neither blond nor red, but the exact color of ripe orange rind. (No man would ever describe his hair as “ripe orange rind.” He’d say, “I’m a red-head” or “I’m blond” or “I don’t know.”)

He laughed at the thing which had happened to him that morning (Oh, right. So funny!) and at the things which now lay ahead. (Yes — also hilarious. I laugh at that all the time. Maybe let’s use different ways to hint at backstory and do foreshadowing.)

He knew that the days ahead would be difficult. There were questions to be faced and a plan of action to be prepared. He knew that he should think about it. He knew also that he would not think, because everything was clear to him already, because the plan had been set long ago, and because he wanted to laugh. (Enough with the laughing about things that may or may not have happened, and difficult plans, and thinking about not thinking. We can go to this well once or twice, but not every sentence.)

He tried to consider it. But he forgot. (Or maybe we can jump into that well and stay there forever.) He was looking at the granite.

He did not laugh (Oh, we’re NOT laughing now?) as his eyes stopped in awareness of the earth around him. His face was like a law of nature— (You have got to be kidding me.)

End of Page 1

Notes from The Red Pen of Doom

I believe the readers of today – like me – don’t want (a) tons of purple prose, (b) paragraph after paragraph of character description or (c) 3.4 metric tons of purple prose that’s all character description and internal dialogue.

But there are bigger fish to fry here, both in the literary sense of Is This A Good Page One? and in the story sense.

Ayn Rand is a deity among conservatives, because her novels underpin what she calls the “philosophy” of objectivism, which says it’s quite unselfish to be selfish. This is obviously counter-intuitive and quite appealing in a juvenile kind of way, because hey, it’s now my moral duty to do whatever I want. The best way to take care of others is to only care about yourself. The surest path to aid the poor is to cut taxes for the rich. And so forth.

This philosophy intrudes upon the story. Roark, the hero of this novel, roughly has his way with Dominique, the heroine, when they first meet. She later describes it as rape. Dominique makes Sylvia Plath look mentally stable. To show her undying love for Roark, she marries … some rich man. Then she tries to destroy Roark, divorces that rich man to marry another rich dude, keeps on trying to destroy Roark, then finally divorces that other rich schmuck to marry Roark in the end, but only after Roark TRIES TO BLOW UP A BUILDING that he designed.

If you said “This is a book that makes a hero out of a selfish architect who’s a strong-willed, good-looking rapist and terrorist,” you’d kinda sorta be accurate. And yes, I read the entire book. Twice. I WROTE A PAPER ON IT.

So the first page does foreshadow a lot of things. Ayn Rand has “a frozen explosion of granite” in the second graf. She has a whole bunch of imagery and descriptions of Roark’s perfect body.

HOWEVER: If I hadn’t already read this book, I’d see this first page and think it was some kind of historical romance, with Roark’s kilt and dirk sitting over on that rock, his trusty horse waiting for him after he took a swim and rode off to rescue his favorite maiden, a red-haired beauty held captive by the twisted and disfigured Baron of Whateverthehell.

Otherwise, I don’t hate her writing per se. I merely despise it.

Usually, I can fix a line or a paragraph. Big chunks of this first page simply need to die. The best thing is to cut them out.

Does that whack about half of this first page? Yes.

Would that make it better? Yes.

There’s a weird mix of styles going on here. You get short, clipped sentences, tight and hard, with zero fatty modifiers. But then Ayn the Rand switches to long stretches of not only purple prose, but outright wackiness I expect from college sophomores writing flash fiction at three in the morning on the deadline day after hitting the bong FAR TOO HARD.

The Verdict:

There’s a reason 12 publishers rejected this novel before it found a home. Hate the first page. Hate the hero, and the heroine who tries to destroy Roark because she loves him so much. Hate the story. Hate the “philosophy.” It’s a tough call, whether THE FOUNTAINHEAD or OUTLANDER are more deserving of being thrown across the room. But I’m going with THE FOUNTAINHEAD.