Nov 112013

I always think of November 11th first as Kurt Vonnegut’s birthday (born 91 years ago today, may he rest in peace), and second as Armistice Day — the day in 1918 that the Allies and Germany agreed to cease hostilities on the World War I Western Front.

From Vonnegut’s 1973 novel Breakfast of Champions:

Kurt Vonnegut, U.S. Army soldier

Private Vonnegut, early 1940s

“…this book is a sidewalk strewn with junk, trash which I throw over my shoulders as I travel in time back to November eleventh, nineteen hundred and twenty-two.

I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy, and when Dwayne Hoover [lead character in the novel] was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

Armistice Day has become Veterans’ Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans’ Day is not.

So I will throw Veterans’ Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don’t want to throw away any sacred things.”

I was lucky enough to see Vonnegut speak at Emory University in the 1990s. He was on crutches, hobbled after spraining an ankle while playing stickball with some kids in his New York City neighborhood. He was droll and funny and sly, as you might expect if you ever seen him speak on TV or in person. Like his books, his talk was a mixture of humor, sadness, wisdom, and silliness. Right up my alley.

Vonnegut offered no encouragement to those contemplating a writing career — perhaps knowing that only the most bull-headed and persistent would ever come close to following in his footsteps; and knowing that even most of those would need some other way of earning a living. (This reminds me of the Frank Zappa quote: “If you want to be a composer, get a real estate license.”) But he did give a version of the chalk talk in the video below — his version of the eternal verities of story construction:

Thanks, Kurt.

Aug 172013

Cover of Reid Fleming #2I discovered recently that David Boswell, the brilliant creator of Reid Fleming, World’s Toughest Milkman, is now making all the Reid Fleming comics available online as free downloads! If you haven’t yet discovered the bizarre, surreal, hilarious world of Reid Fleming, you are in for a treat.

Reid’s flagrant disregard for Milk, Inc. company policies, his devotion to his favorite TV show (Ivan — about a dead guy in a suit who… well, it’s hard to explain), his adoration of his girlfriend, Lena, his irreverent attitude toward management and customers alike, have endeared him to legions of fans.

There’s a little Reid Fleming in all of us — but not too much, or we’d all be unemployed, in jail, or worse!

Jul 282013

I’ve enjoyed playing around with the Surreal Essay Generator on this site, and it occurred to me today that it would be fun to put some of the bizarre verbiage it generates into the mouths of animated characters. Xtranormal is on hiatus, but I came across, which is similar (and has a free version). Here’s the result:

An inexorably hypnotic cummerbund by MildPanic on GoAnimate

Here’s the dialog the characters are speaking:

Julie: The constellation indicates that the light bulb borrows money from the exceedingly twisted detective.

Brian: A poopdeck alongside the bartender, a bitterly frozen trout, and a graduated cylinder are all the cowboy needs.

J: The petulant crescent wrench ruminates, and the bullfrog next to the corporal sternly lectures the geosynchronous peppercorn.

B: If the bail bondsman with a grand piano dismantles a tripod near a stunning bullfrog, then the rotund manicurist slips into a dream.

J: The ravishing phlebotomist furtively sniffs an apartment building.

B: The trout wearing a chemise slyly caricatures the bartender.

J: Whether a court reporter levitates a light bulb is immaterial, but remember how helplessly a treacherous fiduciary laughs out loud.

B: A professor starts reminiscing about lost glory, and a stealthily fried bail bondsman voraciously ignores the armrest.

J: If a soup tureen negotiates a prenuptial agreement with a dolphin, then a hydrogen atom considers the plight of the dragonfly.

B: The luminous pork chop gives secret financial aid to a wild squid. The gamely expedient jersey cow dances with the bail bondsman as the frothing dolphin takes a coffee break.

Just another typical day in the office!