Friday, December 31, 2004

I hope you're happy, heavy metal music magazines

  • BOOK UPDATE: It's definitely been a down week. I received two rejection letters in response to queries. However, the method of rejection from one of the agents sort of made me glad that the agency wasn't interested. They sent a (cheap) card with a note that began: "Dear Sir or Madam:"
    The other rejection came from an agency that the BBC's Get Writing site describes as "a serious heavyweight." Their rejection letter had my name on it and someone had taken the time to sign their name. It's not hard to write "Mr. Cope" and then scribble out a signature, but it makes all the difference.
    I suppose I'll send out a few more queries this week. Yes, I fully expected rejection, but that doesn't make it feel any better.

  • When I was in high school I used to listen to Pantera's "Vulgar Display of Power" CD at least once a day. I wanted to be all cool and violent looking like Phil Anselmo. But then, one day I heard ol' Phil speak and I realized that he is a complete moron. More than 10 years down the road, it appears some things haven't changed.

  • "A police officer jumped into the bed of the pickup when it slowed in order to try to get the driver to stop" -- It would appear that the Mechanicsburg Police Department developed its police procedure after watching several episodes of "Dukes of Hazzard." I wonder if, before jumping into the truck, they first tried firing flaming or dynamite-laden arrows.

  • Something tells me the Rev. Bryan Fink is just a little out of touch: "There's going to be a tidal wave of hope that will be flooding back into those countries."
  • Thursday, December 30, 2004

    Miles to go before I sleep

  • All I can think of is how much I want a nap. I am so tired.

  • Where else would you find a peeping Tom but on Hiscock Street.

  • Clearly, Hiscock Street needs a hotdog stand.

  • You know, New Year's just isn't New Year's without a drag queen or pirate wench.

  • Do you ever find yourself suddenly listening to the lyrics of lame pop songs that you hear every day? Today I heard this line in a Christina Aguilera song: "I see you lookin' at what you see."
    What the hell else would you be looking at?

  • Good name for a band: Smack Granny.

  • There are about 1,567,890,786 Irish jokes that can result from this story. Please leave yours in the comments field.

  • If this were the law in my neighborhood, most people would be going to jail Tuesday. Last year there were still decorations up in April.

  • "Ahhhhhhh!"
    "Whoa. Is that it? Ahhhhhhhhhh!!!"
  • Wednesday, December 29, 2004

    Matt Birk is a genius

  • Sweet baby Jesus in a disco, how can it only be Wednesday? All this waking early stuff has left me a broken man. You win Corporate Evil; just let me sleep.

  • One of the ways in which I appear to be responding to all this sleep deprivation is by randomly making noises. I'll just be sitting there and suddenly I hear myself saying: "Ehhhh."
    It will confuse me just as much as everyone around me.
    "Why did you just make that noise?"
    "I have no idea."
    Also, my body seems to really enjoy belching.

  • I was thinking today: Isn't it odd that there aren't really any superstar centers in (American) football? Considering what a vital position it is on a team, it's strange that no one walks around wearing a center's jersey. I think I'll go out and buy a No. 78 jersey.

  • I admire the obscure dedication needed to maintain this website.

  • This will inevitably drop your estimation of me, but I could stare at this all day (possibly not safe for work).

  • Before, during, and after photos from the tsunami.

  • There's a special place in hell for you when you drive into a car full of nuns.

  • "they can be released when doctors determine they are mentally competent" -- Something tells me they won't be released.

  • "OK, here's a picture of the guy I want you to stab."
    "Great. No problem."
    Later that night...
    "Oh, crap."

  • You can kind of guess why this guy didn't get any presents.

  • But he's not the only one. The holiday season just seems to bring out the best in people.

  • Obviously some people just don't know how to properly celebrate the season. Personally, for my money, there's nothing better than spending the holidays sniffin' glue in a Dumpster.
  • Tuesday, December 28, 2004

    Choose Easy Resolutions

    Happy New Year! Here's my latest column. Please forward it to all your friends, family, and sommeliers.

    It's only Tuesday

  • This week my benevolent employer has me working the early shift, which sees me rolling out of bed at 4:30 a.m. I used to work early shifts when I worked in television, but I never got used to them. Waking up at that ungodly hour has the effect of aging you at twice the normal rate. As such, I find it very difficult to believe that it is only Tuesday. Today feels more like Hadesday -- my week already feels so long that I have to add new days.

  • How was your Christmas, by the way? Perhaps you didn't celebrate Christmas, in which case: How was your weekend?/How was the first day of Kwanzaa?
    On Friday, my wife and I made the treacherous journey beyond the Mega Mall and south of the Kingdom of Southdale to pastoral Bloomington, Minn., to spend the holiday weekend at my parents' house.
    We watched the Vikings lose a winnable game and their division to the Green Bay Packers. Fie on ye, Green Bay! Fie, fie, I say! I braved the 8-degree temperatures to stand out on my parents' deck and grill salmon for dinner, and then we attended the Christmas service at Hennepin United Methodist Church (my parents' church and where my brother was married earlier this year). It was good, except for the fact that Rachel, a Mormon, kept shouting at everyone and calling them blasphemers. No, she didn't do that.
    My mother is in the choir at Hennepin United and they are quite good. For all my complaints about my mother, she can apparently sing.
    Christmas is about the only time I go to church (occasionally I will also attend an Easter service). If you're going to visit The Lord with that sort of infrequency, a Christmas service is generally the best time to drop in -- especially at my parents' church. The whole service moved along quickly and we were out of there in time to hear the midnight bells of the Basilica down the street.
    The service started out with the choir filling the aisles, each member carrying a candle. They moved up to their spot and sang another song with a four-piece string accompaniment, then the whole congregation sang and my wife was utterly confused.
    If you, like me, grew up attending a C of E derivate like the Methodist church -- especially a congregation in the city -- the first thing that strikes you about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka, the Mormon church) is that they are all a bunch of amateurs. Their bishops are simply appointed from members of the congregation and are not paid. If there is a choir, it is very small and very rarely any good. Sermons are not delivered by paid and trained clergy but instead by members of the congregation, so it feels like a 10th-grade book report. And the whole thing drags on well past the hour. Arguably, this is a good way to be -- after all, you go to church in hopes of developing a personal relationship with God, and personal relationships are not necessarily tightly structured and effectively time-managed -- but great googly-moogly will it drive you nuts if you are used to more "high church" worship. Conversely, Methodist worship totally confounds my wife. She doesn't understand how we all know when to stand or sit or what song we're singing (in the Mormon church, the hymns are listed on a board up front and are usually mentioned by the bishop). Fortunately, she has a former acolyte as a husband, so I was able to guide her through the service.
    There was a bit more singing, a bit of talking, some bread dipped in grape juice (Interesting fact: Welch's grape juice -- note the origin of that name -- was originally developed as a wine alternative for Methodists, who were spearheading the temperance movement), and then the choir filled the aisles again and all of us sang "Silent Night." As we sang, we lit candles that we had been given at the start of the service, each candle being lit off the person next to them, with the original flame coming from the Jesus candle (that's what I call it -- the center candle in the Advent ring) at the altar. The lights of the church were shut off and we were all just standing there singing in the warmth and glow of candlelight. It was very moving -- if you're not a grumpy old Mormon.
    After the service, my family went back to my parents' house, my mom made hot chocolate and we each opened one present. My brother and his wife slept in his old room and Rachel and I slept on the floor in front of the fireplace.
    Christmas morning went like most others, and after my brother and his wife left to celebrate Christmas with his wife's family my mom made fried chicken for lunch. And it all gets progressively more boring from there. Suffice to say, I had a good time.
    Other highlights: I got an e-mail from Jenny wishing me a Merry Christmas, and I got to go out with a friend from high school, Jenny Heidt.

  • Remember just after 9-11 when the U.S. government sank billions of dollars into the airline industry? That turned out well, didn't it?

  • Speaking of which, the terrorists have won. Americans are so paranoid that we have been reduced to living out plots for cartoons.

  • Another victim of snowy roof dancing.
  • Monday, December 27, 2004

    I am the victim of a series of accidents, as are we all

  • Here's a handy working tip: If you have to write up evaluations on several dozen people, you should put them all off until 3 a.m. on the day they are due. Sure, you may have been given a solid three weeks, but you'll offer a much more objective and intelligent evaluation if it's done in a sleep-deprived panic.
    It's probably for the best that I am consistently passed up for management roles.

  • Timothy Blackshear is doing his part to keep health costs low.

  • Ladies and gentlemen: Me, age 47.

  • The holiday season can be pretty lonely. Sometimes people respond to that loneliness with bad ideas.

  • Have you ever had one of those moments in life when everything sort of slows down and you take everything in and think: "Wow. How did I end up here?"
    Sometimes those moments of introspection can be a good thing, like when you're in a car on the way back from skiing with friends -- your head resting against the window and exhaustion pushing you down into the seat. And you think: "All the places I've been and all the twists and turns of my life have deposited me here in this moment; in this car with my friends with the cold ebbing away from my face and happiness all around me, and this is alright."
    At other times, these moments can be a bad thing, like when you're face down in a McDonald's parking lot with a cop's knee pressing into your back, having just shot to death a transgender prostitute. You can almost sense that somewhere, deep in that Marine's brain, mixed with the chaos surrounding him, the smell of oil in the pavement, the pain of beanbag rounds, a bullet, and gravel, he had to think: "Well, this has turned out really poorly."
  • Thursday, December 23, 2004

    Christmas Eve eve

  • BOOK UPDATE: Because I'll be spending Christmas Eve drinking, watching the Vikings-Packers game and then attending my one church service of the year, I doubt I'll be blogging until Monday. As such, I'll throw in my token weekly book update a bit early. Ready for the huge news? The agent that asked to see my manuscript...
    ...has confirmed that she received said manuscript in the mail.
    It will still be three or more weeks before I can expect to hear back from her. I have yet to hear back from any of the other agents I queried, which leads me to believe that I can expect a few rejection letters soon.

  • Ever have one of those days when all you want to do is drink vodka and listen to Queen? Just me, then? The fact that I'm not doing that is a testament to the health benefits of marriage, I suppose.

  • Ooh. Cool.

  • I was thinking today about what I would do if I were ridiculously wealthy. It's really lame, but I think I would take a cruise around the world.

  • European Christmas traditions. The concept of Zwarte Piet strikes me as particularly politically incorrect.
  • Wednesday, December 22, 2004

    'Everyone will have a cookie/I brought extra for the Wookie'

  • Sometimes I amuse the heck out of me. Today, in referring to a particular news writer, I remarked to a colleague: "Her stories are a rich vein of failure. If her errors were silver, her stories would be Virginia City, Nevada, in the mid to late 1800s."

  • Wait. When did Bombay become Mumbai? How did I miss that?

  • There's a special place in hell for you if you shoot a volunteer fireman with a pellet gun. There is an even more special place if you shoot him while he's dressed as Santa. I think the only way this kid could have damaged his karma more would be if the Santa/fireman had recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq.

  • Or, he could have been French.

  • You know, it just doesn't feel like Christmas until someone stabs to death a rabid fox.

  • Terror* runs free in West Wales. Bill Clinton is to blame.

  • There's a very simple lesson in all of this: Rattlesnakes are not good pets.

  • Nothing says classy like the Confederate flag in red, white and blue sequins. Take the rifle off the gun rack, honey, we goin' to town!

  • More than 60 million Americans will be traveling this holiday. This site is for them.

  • So, The Dears sound like The Cure, 3 Inches of Blood sound like just about every heavy metal hair band of the mid-1980s, and Good Charlotte sounds like Sublime. What the hell is going on in Canada? It's as if they are trapped in some sort of rift in the fabric of time. Perhaps I should go up there and do some sports betting.

  • Not really as innovative as Beatallica, it's The Beastles -- a mash-up of The Beatles and Beastie Boys. Considering my generally low opinion of Beastie Boys, this actually makes them sound almost good. I'm very simplistic that I don't ever seem to tire of mash-up songs.

  • Star Wars' C3PO singing a Christmas song. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

    *Assuming you are terrified by pheasants.
  • Tuesday, December 21, 2004

    Patron saint of mediocrity

  • I'm looking forward to the day when people call upon the name of Saint Cope.

  • Terror* runs free in central Ohio.

  • Mmmmm! Glassy!

  • At the sprawling palatial estate of my benevolent employer today we observed the time-honored tradition of giving white elephant gifts (hence my top-notch two-fold gift to my editor) and in a sign that the Sweet Baby Jesus likes me, I benefited from my gift-giver's lack of knowledge as to the definition of "white elephant." She is something of a music aficionado and therefore handed down seven CDs that had been sent to her to listen to.
    Because I have a personality defect that makes it sound like I'm being sarcastic when I am, in fact, being enthusiastic, I don't think I properly conveyed to her what a great gift this is. I used to be music director for a college radio station and I have more CDs at home than I have shelves to put them in. I've always dreamed of being John Peel. So giving me seven CDs from artists that I've never heard (well, actually, I've heard of Beth Gibbons) is the rockingest gift I can think of.

    *Assuming you are terrified by cows.
  • Adam Brooks is the biggest University of Texas fan in the state of Oklahoma

    Adam Brooks is the editor for my columns. He loves the University of Texas, so I am having one of these "GO HORNS" bands sent to him:

    As an added bonus, because Google keeps everything that I write for ever and ever, from now and on into perpetuum Adam's name can be searched and easily linked with his undying love for the University of Texas. Hook 'em Horns, Adam!!!

    Monday, December 20, 2004


  • A thong? A revealing negligee? No, ladies the sexy clothing item this season is a municipal permit.

  • Hey, you could be like this woman* -- get a rat for Christmas.

  • Spaniards aren't getting enough sleep. Bill Clinton is to blame.

  • I think I've mentioned before that I spend most of my day monitoring air traffic at MSP International Airport, thanks to the enormous window from which I peer at the headquarters of my benevolent employer (did that sentence even make sense?). Today, for reasons unknown by me, I watched departing traffic, rather than arriving. They do this from time to time -- I think the air traffic controllers just like a bit of variety, so they'll have the planes come at the runway from the other side.
    Apparently they also moved the airport about a mile, because once they reached my field of vision the planes seemed to be much higher in the air than is usually the case.

  • All day I've been trying to work into conversation that line from Milo's "Destroy Rock and Roll": "the judgment of the sacred fire before the throne of Almighty God."
    As in: "Give me a beer or face the judgment of the sacred fire before the throne of Almighty God."

  • Here in God's frozen chosen land of Minnesota, where we could use a bit of that sacred fire, we have had since the days of Rev 105 a serious dearth of quality music on the radio. We have an all-powerful classic rock station that is (by definition) playing the exact same music today as it was when I was in high school. We have a "rock" station that plays grunge and saccharine nu-metal that is bare minimum four years old (look for Lost Prophets to become big on 93.7 sometime in 2007). We have a pop station that defines "new music" as something released in the last two years. We have a "music jams" station that appears to play the same song 24 hours a day, broken up by really loud promos. We have a country music station that's still playing that Toby Keith song (each breath that man takes is another stroke on Nero's fiddle). We have a shocking saturation of Christian music stations. And we have two "alternative" radio stations for people whose souls died sometime in the early 90s. One of them appears to play the Violent Femmes' "Blister in the Sun" every day. So the news that we might get a station that doesn't suck is being met with extreme skepticism and desperate hope.
    Although, admittedly, that station faces an uphill battle. Most of the people in this region who have any sense of music gave up on local radio years ago -- flocking to the Internet.

    *That woman is not my wife, despite sharing the same name.
  • Friday, December 17, 2004

    Casualty Friday

  • BOOK UPDATE: An agent has asked to see my manuscript. I am questioning the wisdom of naming the aforementioned agent on my blog, so I'll exercise extreme caution, in the words of Homeland Security officials, and simply leave her it out.
    I got her e-mail on Tuesday but didn't have any money to mail out the manuscript until Thursday. One hopes that will make a quaint story one day: "I remember when my wife and I were living paycheck to paycheck, and I didn't have cash to mail my manuscript to an agent."
    Anyway, my pockets newly filled with shillings given to me by my benevolent employer, my wife and I drove out to the airport post office last night after dinner. The post office at Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport stays open all night, so it is a haven for senders of last-minute packages. With Christmas just over a week away, the parking lot was packed and we had to sit in line and wait for someone to leave in order to get a parking space. Then, inside, there were about two dozen people with all sizes of packages waiting. That all said, the people who work at the airport post office are quite possibly the nicest in America -- perhaps because they know how much trouble we had gone through to visit them.
    To ship my manuscript book rate it would have cost a little under $3 (and then the same for an SASE so the agent can return my manuscript when she decides that it's poo), but Rachel didn't like the idea that it would take at least seven days to reach the agent and insisted that I ship via Priority Mail, because well, it's better. Sometimes you get so excited about doing something and you choose a more expensive option just because it's more expensive.
    "It's your first time to send out a manuscript, you should go Priority Mail," Rachel said as we stood at the counter; suddenly an expert on the U.S. Postal Service.
    So, I forked out $6.85 and made a mental note of the moment as the postal worker tossed my package into one of the large bins. And the whole thing has set of a sort of manic depression in which I fight with myself to be realistic about the possibilities.

  • Many years ago, after Israel had apparently done some other thing to make them angry, the Palestinians held for awhile a weekly "Day of Rage." Every Friday after prayers, they would spill out into the street and do that crazy jump-up-and-down-tomahawk-chop dance that they do and fire a few Kalashnikov rounds into the air and then a handful of them would be crushed to death. My joke for this was that instead of having "Casual Friday," they had "Casualty Friday."
    No one ever got it, or they thought it was in poor taste -- either way, it always fell flat and the line was lost to the wisps of time.
    Then, today, for the second week in a row, a small plane crashed outside of Denver.
    "This is apparently becoming a regular thing," one coworker remarked.
    "Yes. It's Casualty Friday," I said.
    What? It confounds me that such a clever play on words should fail to incite laughter.

  • I hate this guy on so many levels that I can't even communicate it in coherent terms.

  • It would appear from the picture in this story that the Hart family includes homicidal children's doll Chucky.

  • Man, those Pennsylvanians sure know how to have fun.

  • Oh my God! This is worse than the flu vaccine shortage! And yet the Bush administration does nothing!
  • Do you like piña coladas?

  • What is your favorite time of day?
    I will share with you a little secret about marriage: It doesn't seem like a particularly great idea at the offset to us, either. But marriage is based love and faith -- two things completely beyond the spectrum of human understanding.
    My dad's advice to me before I proposed to Rachel was simply: "Love just is." If you love someone, there's not much you can do beyond that. You can try to pretend that you have some sort of control over it by scheduling dates around it and reading all sorts of books, but that's bollocks. It just is.
    I wasn't sure. I didn't have our lives charted out on bar graphs, but for some reason that is deeply inexplicable* to me, I asked Rachel to marry me. And when she said yes, there was a part of me that thought: "No, you weren't supposed to actually say yes. What the hell are we doing?"
    About a month before Rachel and I were married, due to a series of events that is tedious to set up, I found myself sitting at an outside table at a Chevy's in Las Vegas with Rachel and my best friends, Paul and Eric. As Paul, Eric and I gulped Negra Modelo from comedy giant chalices, Paul looked out on the sunset and the perfect of the early evening and said to Rachel: "I can see why you would live in the desert" (Rachel grew up in the southern Utah desert).
    And I looked over at her and I thought: "Hey, wow, I'm going to marry her." And that's when I realized that it was right.

  • You know who is to blame for this, don't you? Bill Clinton.

  • Knowing that I am older than Jenny's boy, yet possess more hair has made my day.

  • There's something quaintly civil about the fact that you can be kicked out of the British House of Commons for refusing to apologize after calling someone a "backstabbing coward."

    *Well, perhaps not deeply inexplicable -- she's hot and is good in bed.
  • Wednesday, December 15, 2004

    My friends are going to heaven; I'm going to hell

  • In the "About Me" section of my wish list there is a little note that says: "People who buy me things go to heaven." I think I can now put a level of guarantee on that statement.
    Tuesday night, when I returned home from a long day in the cotton fields, there was a package from Shawn Mickschl had sent me a copy of the 2005 Novel & Short Story Writer's Market. Shawn is working toward becoming a Methodist minister. If anybody's getting past the Pearly Gates, it'll be him. Thanks, Shawn.

  • I was thinking yesterday about growing up in Dallas. There was a kid named Josh whose dad had an AMC Gremlin up on blocks in the front yard. There were garter snakes in the glove box. MTV, pimp my ride!

  • Now, pimp my M&Ms.

  • Better than Subservient Chicken, it's Subservient Christmas.

  • One of my co-workers is compiling a collection of all the year-end lists he can find.

  • I'm still playing with these journal topics, but I am hung up on the next one down the list: What is the worst thing parents can do to their children?
    Set them on fire, I suppose. Or molest them. Perhaps both. And maybe throw in a bit of psychological abuse: "The flames don't hurt that bad, you pansy. My god, you're fat. Remember -- this is our little secret."
    With the number of depressingly pathetic people I read about each day, I think the dark side of my sense of humor can run beyond the limits of bloggable acceptability.
    I'm like that. My friend Eric says that one of the things he likes about me is my ability to offend people without even realizing that I'm doing it.
    The other day I was talking to someone at a party and made a reference to multi-tasking in pornography:
    "That's a lot of work for the guy, you know. He's in front of a camera crew, he's got to keep his leg in some awkward position -- and if you've ever tried some of that stuff at home it's tricky to get the balance right -- and he's got to suck in his gut and occasionally give the camera a cool-guy look and remember to spit in her ass... Uhm. I just went too far there, didn't I?"
    "I think once you've introduced porn into a conversation; I'm not sure there's a ceiling," Anthony said.
  • Tuesday, December 14, 2004

    Three Kinds Of Holiday Parties

    With apologies to my friend Eric and his wife Kristin (who doesn't read this blog, anyway), here is my latest column.

    Please forward it to all your friends, family and literary agents. Especially the literary agents.

    Oh yeah, it does get cold here

  • I neglected to properly dry my hair after showering this morning, so it was a block of ice when I got into my truck this morning. Just like in high school! Rock on.
    When I got into work I felt I should track down and annoy AC. Her locker was right next to mine in high school. She was completely out of my league, but that didn't stop four years of pathetic attempts at flirting on my part. Bless her patient and sainted heart for not maiming me.

  • In connection with today's column, I had a reader ask me this rather odd question: "Just curious did you grow up near Chicago, go to catholic school or WERE catholic, and did u read MAD magazine regularly?"
    No. No. No. Sadly, yes.

  • This is so strange.

  • But this is even more so.

  • "Too many macadamia nuts cause temporary paralysis in dogs' rear legs."
    Man, it's probably a good thing I didn't know that when I was 13 years old.
  • Monday, December 13, 2004

    I made it out of clay

  • I get a lot of e-mail at work. When I came back in after a week off today, there were 5,423 e-mail messages in my inbox.

  • I was thinking today about when I was a boy in Houston and we made dreidels at church. A bit of an odd thing to do at Methodist Sunday school, perhaps.

  • What I'll be buying my dad for Christmas.

  • Latest weapon of terror: collard greens.

  • But, more people are riding roller coasters. Take that, terrorists.
  • Saturday, December 11, 2004

    54,663 words/208 pages of comedy gold

    OK. Now I'm really finished with my book. Rachel read the whole thing Thursday in about five hours. Seven freaking months of tearing myself apart and not sleeping properly and not being able to think about anything else, and she dispenses with it in less time than it takes to watch Wrestlemania.

    But, Rachel reads an astounding number of books. Perhaps it will take you a good six hours to get through it. Knowing how long it takes to write a book now makes me feel better about how long it usually takes me to read one.

    And the good news is that Rachel saw no problems with the book. There were a few edits that needed to be made, but nothing major.

    So, this afternoon, after making all the changes and adding three more jokes to the final part of the book, I sent off three query letters to agents (I read somewhere that it's a bad idea to have more than three letters out at a time. I'm not sure why this is, but perhaps the answer will manifest itself down the road). Let the race begin to see which one of them will be the first to send me a rejection letter.

    All I can do now is wait. Once I get a rejection, I'll send out another query letter. Thursday I bought a box of 100 big envelopes to use to send synopses, sample chapters and full manuscripts to agents. Once I'm out of envelopes, perhaps I'll know I have failed. Perhaps I'll know I need to buy more envelopes.

    As soon as I have some money, I plan to buy some British postage stamps so that I can send queries, etc. to UK agents (almost all agents ask that you send them a self-addressed stamped envelope so as to save them the cost of rejecting you), because I've convinced myself that I would have an audience there.

    Despite being the love child of Hugh Grant and Johnny Bravo, I was rejected by girls many a time in me dating days, so I reckon literary rejection can't be much worse. But it still makes me feel sick to my stomach to think about it.

    And it's very weird to suddenly not have to be thinking and rethinking a story. Perhaps now I will start on my other book idea: a Mormon missionary turned Las Vegas hit man. The book is called "A Deadly Calling."

    No, I'm lying.

    But I will now have to focus my energy on something. I know -- I'll work to make this blog not suck so much. No, I'm lying about that, too.

    Friday, December 10, 2004

    Wastin' ink

    I am sitting here listening to the mechanical click-click-click of my old Epson 670 as it prints out my book for the second time today. My wife is presently reading one edition. The edition currently being printed will be sent off to the U.S. Copyright Office. It's not that I am so paranoid as to think that "They're all out to get me! They're going to steal my work!" but I doubt it hurts to have proof that I am the first one to have come up with my utterly brilliant idea for a novel.

    Friday or Saturday I will begin sending out queries to literary agents. As such, most of my day today was spent writing a query letter and synopsis of my novel. Here's what I say about my book (not the synopsis, because that would give it away):

    "Drinking Stories" is a mainstream/humor novel of about 60,000 words. It is a fast-paced and absurd novel about an American student who is forced to redefine his life while attending university in one of England's least appealing cities. Like the stories shared over a few beers, it is a story of heartache, heavy drinking, physical injury, and misadventure.

    (The novel) centers on Benjamin Stout, a 21-year-old politics student who has moved to England to be closer to his girlfriend, Allison, while she attends university in France. But when Allison admits to sleeping with another man "forty or fifty times," Ben is forced to redefine himself and the meaning of his life. Like any right-thinking American male, he goes about this process by drinking heavily and chasing a naked lunatic into the English Channel. Following a near-death experience in which his main point of concern is that he will never again see a monster truck show, Ben stumbles upon a rather simple meaning of life. That meaning is confirmed after he wakes up in another country next to a homeless Thomas Jefferson look-alike.

    What do you think? Would you be interested in reading that? If you wouldn't, why not?

    As soon as I start receiving rejections from agents I'll keep a running tally in my "About Me" section of the blog. It will say something like: "I am the author of 'Drinking Stories,' a novel that has so far been rejected by XX literary agents."

    Thursday, December 9, 2004

    Mark Twain can kiss my ass

  • Short and meaningless post today because I've spent a good 10 hours staring at a computer screen, working on my book. Dude; this book is so good. This is the best book you'll ever read. If I'm wrong, I'll let you buy me candy. I am the next Great American Novelist.

  • Kathy asked if my book is about beer. While a great deal of beer (wine/rum/whisky/vodka) drinking takes place, no, the book is not about beer.
    So what is it about? Good question. I am starting to think about the queries that I will send to agents and I'm actually having a bit of trouble figuring out how to best explain the novel. Usually when I tell people about my book, they just sort of blink at me and I am forced to end the explanation with: "But it's funnier than it sounds."
    When I am not exhausted, I will try to come up with a good explanation.
    The story behind the title, I think I mentioned before, is that the novel was originally supposed to be a collection of stories I tell when I'm at the pub.

  • What is a good neighbor?
    Kylie Minogue.
    We don't actually get Australian soap operas in the United States, so I can't really say that with a lot of authority. I'm just guessing.
    For all the crap that we export to other countries, we hardly ever see any foreign programming in the United States. Twin Cities Public Television airs two episodes of "EastEnders" a week, but they are comically old. In the episode my wife and I watched Friday, England had just beaten Germany in Euro 2000, and Phil helped Frank win back the Vic from Dan. Greetings from 4.5 years ago! The BBC EastEnders episode index doesn't even go back that far.
  • Tuesday, December 7, 2004

    If loving me is wrong, you don't wanna be right

  • I'm spending this week working on my book. I should have everything ready to send to an agent by the start of next week. Maybe. On Monday I bought the 2005 Guide to Literary Agents. The fact that there is such a book kind of deflates one's hope for being published, I think. There are so many people desperate to get published that there is a market for books telling them how to do it.
    But sending off queries should keep me busy for the next little while. I'm not really sure what to do if all that fails. I think at that point, I'll just offer it for free to anyone who's interested. Although, who would be interested in a book that was rejected by upward of 100 literary agents?

  • Crystal described me as the love child of Johnny Bravo and Hugh Grant. That's sarcasm, but it still made my day.

  • What's the problem with the monkeys at Blogger? In my user profile it says my most recent post was in November.

  • What is your favorite room in your home and why?
    The living room. It's got the Christmas tree in it.
    The beautiful and talented Mrs. Cope and I drove out to a tree farm Saturday and cut down a big, bushy-looking Christmas tree. Here's a picture of it:

    It's a little sparse, perhaps, but I like it. My friend, Eric, and his wife, Kristin (who this week spent several minutes having me explain to her what a blog is, then showed no interest in seeing mine), have a tree with dozens of ornaments. Both their parents had followed a tradition of collecting ornaments in preparation for the one day that their children would marry and begin Christmas traditions of their own. In some countries, you marry a gal and you get a goat. Marry someone from Bloomington, Minn., and you get Christmas ornaments.
    My wife came into our marriage with excessive dining ware. My parents never set aside anything for me because I'm sure they expected that in high school I would get a girl pregnant and have her move in with us.
    Our first Christmas was in Reno, Nev., I bought a tree for so much more than it should have cost that I am embarrassed to admit it -- $75 (the tree I bought this year cost $20). It was about 9 feet tall and I had to saw off bits to get it to fit in the apartment. We had no money for ornaments (in part because I was keen to make horrible financial decisions, like paying $75 for a tree. I swear, I will be beating myself up about that on my death bed), so we drove up to Lake Tahoe and collected the large Ponderosa pine cones to use as ornaments.
    We bought a handful of ornaments in after-Christmas sales and put them on our tree the next year, along with Black Santa:

    He cost $9 at the Ben Franklin and I refused to let him out of my grasp as we checked out. We've bought a few more ornaments over the years, but Black Santa is always the best part of the tree. Every year, when we are forced to put him away, I put him in an extra special sturdy box that's loaded with tissue paper. Protect Black Santa at all costs.
  • Monday, December 6, 2004

    Dear God, what is that thing?

    After mentioning my teeth in a recent post, I decided to take a picture, so you can see what I'm talking about:

    But I am so ashamed of my teeth, that I can't even legitimately show them to you to make fun of myself. This is the closest that I will allow myself -- look how I'm forcing myself to keep my lips apart as I take the picture.
    The picture does, however, give you a pretty good view of my oh-so-sexy crooked nose.

    This picture shows the oddity of my proboscis even more:

    It's crooked like that because it was broken by a baseball bat when I was a young man. I was the catcher for a pick-up game and leaned in too much to catch a pitch, causing the batter to foul tip off my face. Good times.

    Perhaps the only real plus to looking the way I do is the fact that I don't look like anyone else (pity the poor soul that would look like me). Regardless, every once in a while someone will come up with a totally off-base celebrity comparison.
    Years ago, someone told me I looked like Roger Daltrey from The Who. My best friend, Eric, insists upon comparing me to Jon Stewart. As I say, Eric is way off-base, but here I am doing my best to impersonate a stock Jon Stewart facial expression:

    Friday, December 3, 2004

    54,010 words and done (sorta)

  • BOOK UPDATE: At 12:20 a.m. on St. Andrews Day, I (sorta) finished writing my novel, thus (partially) completing the biggest project of my life thus far. Yeah, I've led a pretty uneventful life.
    Dude. I wrote a fucking book!
    I am using caveats in all this "my book is finished" stuff because there is still quite a bit of editing to do -- on this section especially. I think the excitement of knowing that it would mean the completion of the book caused me to rush through writing the fourth part. I need to go back and make it, you know, good. I've already started down that road and will have the whole of next week off from work to focus on it.
    This fourth part is basically a reworking of a short story that I attempted to get published four years ago. It was shot down by a handful of publications and I decided that it should be shelved after asking Esther's opinion on it.
    Bless her heart, she is too kind to have told me flat out that it is awful (and, trust me, it is). She simply suggested that perhaps I should read more books -- paying attention to their style -- so as to get a better hang of telling a story in written form.
    The short story was a reworking of a monologue I like to tell when drinking with friends (and therein lies the explanation for the title of my book). I had written it out as little more than a script for a story that relied heavily on my physical comedy. That's great in the bar, but doesn't work at all if you've never met me.
    From that short story (about 6,000 words) I was able to carry over only one joke to the fourth section of the book. The joke is this: "Ask him if he'll teach us how to grow corn." You must purchase the book for the set-up.
    If you know of anyone who can facilitate that whole publishing thing, let me know. Either next week or over the Christmas holiday I plan to write up proposals to send to publishers and agents.
    I don't reckon 54,010 (probably a few more by the time I get everything properly edited) words is a whole hell of a lot. I think it just barely nudges me into the novel category. Perhaps I should call it a novella and it will be cheaper when (if) it is published. See? I care about you, the consumer.

  • This morning, as I was getting ready for work, "Just One of the Guys" was on Comedy Central. Remember the good old days, when you were 14 and would sit through watching the whole film on Showtime, just to see Joyce Hyser's breasts at the end?
    Uhm. Just me on that one? OK.

  • Alabama: America's progressive state.

  • Jonathan Boksberger needs to find himself a less boneheaded fiancee.

  • Mmmm, thievery.

  • Terror reigns in the South.

  • Informing The Nation:, a site for filmmakers, offers Hollywood to come bimplode it up.

  • Informing The Nation Part II: Two home invasions on the Southside Thursday night within 30 minutes of each other resulted one of the alleged robbers being shot and the three arrests.
  • Thursday, December 2, 2004

    You're no Kelly Clarkson

  • I was listening to Nelly Furtado's "Powerless" today. Is it just me, or does she sing: "Hey this monkey is too short / Take your country to the store."

  • The people of Worthington, Ohio, have found Jesus.

  • I find this a little disturbing: There is such a thing as the Committee to Preserve Assassination Sites.

  • A Condor?

  • Here's your urban myth manufactured and promulgated for sweeps month. But it gives way to a possible euphemism: Breaking the black bracelet.

  • Informing The Nation: Dave Monska grew up on a dairy farm, so he said he knows a cow when he sees one.

  • Today's journal topic question is: What is something you do well?
    I can drink tea.
    Note that I say nothing about my tea-preparing abilities. I have the consistency of (place rude reference to diarrhea here) when it comes to making a quality cup of tea. But boy howdy, I can drink me a mess of it.
    None of your fancy tea, for me, sir. I'm fine with my simple black tea. Barry's Tea (blended in Cork since 1901) tends to be what I've been consuming as of late. Last winter, I got dragged to some sort of tea-ery (perhaps I should instead call it a teamporium, or tealapalooza) in the Mall of America because my wife likes tea pots. It's against her religion to drink tea, but she loves the pots. At this haughty purveyor of tea, there is an entire wall of bins containing dozens of fancy teas. I don't like fancy tea, so I pointed at one labeled "Prince of Wales."
    "Is that like English tea?" I asked the woman behind the counter after finally flagging her attention.
    "Which one?"
    "That Prince of Wales tea; is that like English tea?"
    "Uhm, no," she said with disdain. "They don't make it in England; it's from Sri Lanka."
    "That's not the question I asked. When did you hear me ask you if it is made in England? I asked you if it is like English tea. Does it taste like English tea, also known as English Breakfast tea or Irish Breakfast tea?"
    "Oh. I wouldn't know."
    "You work at a fucking tea store, woman! How could you not know?"
    From that point I was dragged away by my wife, who scolded me for yet again yelling at someone during a trip to the Mall of America.
    So, while I can drink a lot of tea, I can't say that I drink it with any sort of connoisseur's palate. I can't really say, then, that I do anything all that well.
    Last night I was watching "Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival" on PBS, and found myself wishing that I could do anything to the level at which the people featured on the show perform. Have you ever seen B.B. King play guitar? It messes with your head. He plays with such ease. He just sits there and just sort of wiggles his fingers and all this great music comes out -- it's amazing. It's like the guitar is simply an extension of him. I would love to be that good at something; anything.
    Instead, I am a steaming pile of mediocrity. Mediocri-tea.
  • Scry, and you scry alone

  • On Tuesday, I happened to be looking at the blogshares for Esther's blog. Her shares are valued at B$51.88, whereas mine are valued at B$1.05. Shares of my Welsh blog are going for a whopping B$0.49. I'm not surprised that Esther's blog is more highly valued than mine -- she has readers who list "Newsies" among their favorite films. In fact, I'm a little surprised that her shares aren't worth even more.
    All this made think about the fact that one day Esther will write a book -- I'll bet that just about everyone she's ever met has asked her to so. And if I have any success at all in writing, it will always pale in comparison to Esther. On the rare occasion that people show up for my book readings, the questions everyone will ask will be about Esther:
    "Yes, she is brilliant. Yes, she really is a refreshing female voice. Yes, you're right. She is more than just that -- she is, indeed, one of the greatest authors of all time; that's why they've put her caricature on Barnes & Noble bags... But about my latest novel... Oh, none of you have read it? Have any of you read any of my novels? No? Oh, OK. Well, uhm... Esther and I met in college... "
    The point is, dear reader, someday Esther will be hugely respected in all the circles you wish you were part of (if she isn't already; those circles don't talk to me) and you should get in on the ground floor now.

  • Perhaps my blog would be better if I would use the journal topics that birthday girl Jenny linked to recently. Today's question: What is something you dislike about yourself?
    My teeth.
    I will never be accepted and loved by the literati with this Kentucky grill of mine. I would, however, make a great extra in a movie about the British Navy. Oh, wait. No I wouldn't.
    Russell Crowe's "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" was filmed at Fox Studios Baja, in Rosarito, Mexico -- just a few miles of San Diego, Calif., where I used to live. I auditioned to be an extra in the film.
    "We don't want the handsome, gorgeous types," said Judy Bouley, the film's casting director, in 2002. "I'm really going to need men and boys with character faces."
    When I showed up (early) for the casting call, there were already a few hundred guys lined up outside the hotel. About 60 of us were let in at a time, given forms to fill out and told to sit in several rows of chairs that had been set up.
    Bouley announced to us via megaphone that the coffee was awful in San Diego and that she was going to have us line up in the back of the room to have our pictures taken in groups of five. We would hold up numbers in the picture and were told to be sure to write down that number on our forms. Once that had occurred, we were free to leave.
    She said that they were casting for three groups of extras: one group would consist of a few hundred guys that they would use over a weekend to film big scenes; a second group they would need for about two weeks; and a third group they would need for two to three months. The third group would be working closely with Crowe, and would be trained to fire cannons and sail the ships.
    "So, if you all want to just head back there and line up... except for you," she said, pointing at me.
    I figured she was eliminating me straightaway, which I thought was particularly cruel.
    "Your teeth, darling. I like your teeth. You ever done any acting?" she asked once everyone else had moved on.
    I ran my tongue over my skateboard-incident damaged teeth and explained that, yes, I had been in a few professional stage productions.
    "You don't have any sailing experience, do you?"
    "Yes, I do," I said, lying -- I had friends in the Navy, they could teach me.
    "Great. Would you be willing to learn how to fire a cannon?"
    I gave her a diplomatic answer that basically boiled down to "hell yeah."
    She had me stand in a corner while she issued the line-up-and-get-your-photo-taken commands to another group of guys. Then she walked over to some equally important-looking person (apparently the way to look important in Hollywood is to carry an overburdened clipboard, wear several different backstage-pass-looking things around your neck, and talk frantically), the two did a lot of hand waving at each other and the second woman came over and led me to another corner of the room.
    The second woman used a professional camera to take four pictures: a head shot, a side head shot, a full-body shot and a head shot in which I showed my teeth.
    "Judy said to make sure I got your teeth," the woman said.
    After the pictures were taken, the woman went through my form again to make sure that all the contact information was correct. Then she escorted me to the exit and shook my hand.
    And that was the last I ever heard from them.
    I have never seen the movie (my wife insists we boycott it because they didn't pick me), but I've always wondered if there is a scene in which there is a close shot of a guy's teeth. If there is, that was supposed to be me.