Tag Archives: humor

Books: What Do You Hear from Walden Pond? by Jack Douglas

When I was 14 or 15, I developed an interest in Thoreau and Walden Pond, most likely due to organized attempts to save Walden from greedy builders who wanted to make it a resort or apartments or something. Around that same time I also frequented a used-book store. And it was there that I found this old hardback. That I mistakenly thought might actually have something to do with Walden Pond.

Jack Douglas was evidently a comedy writer, and it seems he put out a number of books, though this is the only one I’ve ever found at a used-book store, or any bookstore. He’s kind of like an earlier model of Dave Barry? A lot of the “jokes” here are products of the times (this book came out in 1971), meaning today’s PC crowd would not be pleased. I have somewhat tougher skin, but I still winced once or twice. And a lot of the humor requires, er, timely knowledge of persons in the Hollywood system that I’ve never heard of. I can get the gist of the jokes, but they don’t land quite as on target due to my not having been alive at the time.

Douglas writes about how he and his family had lived in a remote cabin in Canada, but he was called up by Hollywood to come out and write a movie for a comedian. Hilarity ensues. Kind of. He moves his family to California and struggles to get this movie written, and the book is really just anecdotes about story meetings and cocktail parties and trying to find a place to live. It’s not an unpleasant read (though I may be giving him more slack since I’ve also worked in “the biz”), but not what I find all that funny. And I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be? Maybe “mildly humorous” is what Douglas was going for all along? Maybe he was saving the good stuff for Jack Parr.

I did tear up when he wrote about all his beloved animals, though. Because I feel the same way about all the pets I’ve had in my life.

I read this book when I was 14 or 15 and have had it ever since. Now, while unpacking after moving and desperate for something to read, I picked it up again. It’s been good poolside fare, and I’d honestly read other of his books… if I ever found any… Guess it’s time for a visit to the used-book store.

30-Day Writing Challenge: Day 12

12. Two words/phrases that make you laugh

That make me laugh? Like, every time? I’m not sure such things exist. I feel like the humor in anything wears out with use.

I suppose the place to start would be Shakespeare. But again, much as I quote him, I wouldn’t say any of those quotes make me laugh. Even the funny ones. Hmm.

How about Brak from Space Ghost? The Cartoon Network ones, not the original show. The kids love for me to “do Brak.” Still, it’s amusing, but I don’t laugh out loud or anything.

Monty Python? I grew up watching that, lots of great quotes there, but . . . “Burma!” And, “I can’t touch him, he’s a novelist.” Poets are both clean and warm . . . Still, I’ve seen it all often enough that, much as I love it, I no longer laugh.

Yeah, I really don’t have an answer to this.

Simeon the Brilliant

I was playing around with a Random Plot Generator while thinking about the next book in the Peter Stoller series. I already know I want it to focus on Simeon; he’s such a fun character. Here’s what the Plot Generator came up with:

What would you do if you knew there were unprepared people with shocking habits near the ones you love?

The night of the party changes everything for Simeon Martin, a 26-year-old spy from London.

One moment, he is discussing radios with his daring boss, Peter Stoller; the next, watching with horror as unprepared people kill each other.

He knows these people came from Vienna but he can’t prove it – at least not without some secret books.

The brilliant, forgiving man knows that his unsettled life is over. He acquires some secret books and is reborn as the hero who will save the world from unprepared people.

However, when Peter calls, begging him to come home, Simeon is forced to decide what is more important: stopping the unprepared people that kill each other, or preserving his relationship with his boss?

It gave the book the title Simeon the Brilliant. Um . . .

If you’ve never used one, a Plot Generator works like Mad Libs. You fill in some names, nouns, adjectives and it does the rest. To hilarious results. All those unprepared people . . . Gotta stop ’em.

Happy December!

On my walk this morning, a massive red-tailed hawk swooped down right in front of me, flew along a head of me for a bit, then finally went to land on a nearby rock. (“Nearby” being relative.) Gorgeous bird, and I always take these things as a sign. A good one, I hope!

1. “Belief” by Gavin DeGraw
2. “All That You Can Stand” by Little Feat (my favorite Little Feat song; it speaks to my experience)
3. “Carefree” by The Refreshments
4. “A Matter of Trust” by Billy Joel
5. “I Don’t Need Another Thrill” by Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers
6. “It’s About You” by Train
7. “A Pirate Looks at Forty” by Jimmy Buffett
8. “Lady I Can’t Explain” by Jimmy Buffett
9. “Last Chance” by Maroon 5

But what I’ve got stuck in my head now?

(Makes more sense if you watch this one first: http://youtu.be/RKOZgQy8qrw)

I also urge you to go have a look at the cover for Christine Rains’ upcoming book.

TBT: Good Wife’s Guide

Having inundated you with parageography of late (look back a couple days for a parageographical writing prompt if you must), I’m going a little lighter this week for Throwback Thursday. This is an article from Housekeeping Monthly dated 13 May 1955. I used it with my Shakespeare students when we were studying Taming of the Shrew. The title of the article: “The good wife’s guide”

•Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal (especially his favourite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.
•Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.
•Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.
•Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives.
•Gather up schoolbooks, toys, paper etc and then run a dustcloth over the tables.
•Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.
•Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and faces (if they are small), comb their hair and, if necessary, change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part. Minimise all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet.
•Be happy to see him.
•Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.
•Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first – remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.
•Make the evening his. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner, or other places of entertainment without you. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his very real need to be at home and relax.
•Your goal: Try to make sure your home is a place of peace, order and tranquillity where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit.
•Don’t greet him with with complaints and problems.
•Don’t complain if he’s late home for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day.
•Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or have him lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.
•Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.
•Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.
•A good wife always knows her place.

You can imagine how amusing my students (ages 10–14, roughly) found all this! But it opened up good conversations about why, exactly, Taming of the Shrew is considered a comedy when it largely consists of Petruchio abusing Kate. I’ve found Shakespeare to be a good starting point for a lot of serious discussions with teens: heartbreak, suicide, forms of abuse within relationships, relationship problems in general, family problems . . . Literature makes a lot of these topics “safe” because the kids can disguise their personal concerns within the context of “the story.” You just have to lead them into the work so that they connect and identify with that story and the characters. You have to bring it in close to them. Shakespeare—and a lot of literature—seems very far away to young readers. Sometimes it’s the language that creates the gulf, and sometimes it’s just preconceived prejudice, but that’s the big obstacle. Once you bridge it, the kids often really get into it. And that’s fabulous to witness.

Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

Cross posted from spooklights.

Quick, can Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth sing?

I was watching Thor this evening (because nothing else was on) and it occurred to me—given my daughter’s infatuation with Frozen—that one could adapt the live-action film to the animated feature’s plot pretty neatly.

I mean, Loki is actually some kind of Frost Giant (really kind of a runt, though), right? And Elsa has these weird ice powers . . .

We could start with Loki and Thor doing “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” and go from there.

And can’t you totally picture Loki building an ice palace somewhere and going off to sulk? Not because he’s afraid he’ll hurt anybody, though. More that he’s feeling left out or something. And it will take the Asgardian warriors, or maybe the Avengers, to haul his ass down to save Thor with some kind of act of true brotherly love.

The big question being: Will it work?


See, this is fun.

Seriously, though, one thing about Thor: How did Loki not know he was adopted? I mean, did he look around and honestly believe he belonged with all these hulking warriors? Even his mom is more manly and courageous than he is. Didn’t that tell him something? It really shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise. If anything, Loki should have been relieved there was a reason for him being so different. But I guess he was too busy worrying that his being adopted meant he had even less of a chance at the throne.

Loki, sweetie, “Let It Go.”

This Needs to Happen

I was poking around on the rabbit hole that is Wikipedia, when I came across this illustration by Elmer Boyd Smith from 1902:

This is Thor being dressed as Frejya (no idea why, I’m sure it’s a great story and I love that Frejya’s cats are watching) . . . And notice Loki in the background on the right?

We totally need to see this moment in one of these neverending Marvel movies. That’s all I’m saying.

Star Trek via South Park

So earlier today I saw something posted about the second Star Trek movie’s title being Star Trek: Into Darkness. I don’t know if this is true, or official, or whatever. But what I thought at the time was, Isn’t space dark anyway? Mostly? In fact, that’s almost exactly what I posted on Twitter, too, and Scott answered: “Mostly . . .”

If you don’t get it, you probably don’t watch South Park, or at least not the older episodes. My rejoinder was from a different South Park episode, the [in]famous Towlie one about the Okama GameSphere. I added: “If only the Star Trek movie were going to be about THAT!” And Scott pointed out that it might at least make a good ST:TNG Season 8 synopsis. (If you haven’t read these on Twitter, you should absolutely go look up @TNG-S8; they are fucking hilarious.) “Wesley trying to retrieve his gaming console from aliens,” tweeted Scott.

But I decided to go a bit further. Here are some of my Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 8 plot loglines, as filtered through “video gaming” as the device.

Troi attempts to empathize with a group of teenagers devoted to video games; the replicators become jammed while overproducing towels.

Tempers flare when the Enterprise’s gaming network goes down for maintenance; Picard teaches Wesley to parallel park the ship.

Q thrusts the crew into a video game they must win to escape; the Orion asks to borrow some tools then refuses to return them.

Wesley & Barclay go head-to-head in a video game tourney; Geordie can’t find his towel because people keep sitting on it.

And my personal favorite:

Wesley teaches Worf to play Okama GameSphere but creates a monster; Data’s cat Spot gets stuck under the ship’s gas pedal.

Anyone want to chime in?