To My Aspiring Young Jedi Friend: Google Not-- Do

I have a new friend. He doesn't know me, and well, I don't really know him, either.

But the vision that has evolved of him over the past few days has warmed my heart.

He is a Google searcher, who has gone to my post, The "Force This!: Jedi Simulation Correspondence Course" four times now. And for three of those times, he has used the following set of keywords:

"how to get the force in you like a real jedi"

I love him. And I don't know what I love more, the "how to get the force in you" or the heavy, optimistic implications of "like a REAL jedi."

I picture this eight-year-old boy who's devoted himself to Jedi research, hoping to best his besties over the summer by coming back to school in Fall sporting a serious Jedi mind trick.

Will Moose Martin be giving him swirlies again in the boys' room come September?

Will Reed and Harrison, Jr. and Big Andre be cornering him in the lunchroom and stealing his SunnyD again?

And will Mr. Renfrew be lecturing him on sitting still in class even though he has a note from his mom about the ADD and the peanut allergies and everything?

No. Because he will have uncovered the secrets to getting the Force in him like a real Jedi.

And he knows, if the information were out there to show him how to unlock ancient, mystical intergalactic powers, there could be only one place you would find it:

Through Google.

So you can imagine my delight when after witnessing his two days of relentless searching, I saw my wonderful new friend had amended his search to try to get more specific results:

"what does the force look like on your hand like a jedi"

Because, as any kid knows, having the wrong hand gesture is the only thing that stands between us and proper superpowers.

I mean, I recall knowing deep in my soul that the reason I could not explode in a flaming ball of special effects and come out wearing my superheroic Wonder Woman outfit was because I was not spinning around properly.

It was either not fast enough, not slow enough, my balance was off... something. I just wasn't doing it right. Otherwise, right now I would be typing this from my Invisible Jet.

(The Jet has wireless these days. C'mon, you know it.)

This is kid logic, and it fills my soul with joy. It is the essence of summer. The days of long hikes, and good friends, and magic, and playing pretend. It is a glimpse into a world I didn't quite think existed any more.

Perhaps it does, only now it's supported by online research.

So to my new friend, I say, have fun but don't forget to embrace the inner-Jedi you already have inside... Through your quest, you have proven to be resourceful and determined, qualities that will help you well in life on this planet.

And if, instead, you happen to be a 30-year-old man living in your mother's basement, please-- don't tell me. I never did perfect that Wonder Woman spin; I don't think I could take another big disappointment.

Finding Bigfoot: Teen Sasquatch and Other Big, Hairy Excuses

Proving how not-awake I am in the mornings-- over coffee I found myself unable to resist watching this Animal Planet show about Bigfoot hunting.

And the scientific knowledge I imparted from it-- and which I will share with you good folks today-- is as follows:
  • If the mysterious figure in the Bigfoot sighting is described as "large, hairy, brown and walking on all fours," it is not a bear. It is a Bigfoot trying to LOOK like a bear. To confuse us, y'know. A well-known defense mechanism, backed by years of Sasquatchian Behavioral Research. I mean this is COMMON KNOWLEDGE these days, guys-- just like we know the sky is blue and Lady Gaga will wear weird crap. So, to reiterate: large, shaggy brown four-legged creature in the woods = crouching SQUATCH, NOT BEAR.
  • When scientifically replicating possible Bigfoot footage, take a six-foot-tall man named Bobo who LOOKS Squatchly, and position him in the same spot as the supposed Squatch. If Bobo appears to be the same size as the figure on the screen, that means what was filmed was a JUVENILE Sasquatch, and not a full-grown adult Bigfoot. It is not a six-foot tall man like Bobo. It is not a six-foot tall tree in bad light. It is not a bear on its hind legs stop talking about the friggin bear fer pete's sake what is your bear obsession already get over it man. It is a Teen Squatch. Undoubtedly, a Teen Squatch trying to look like a six-foot-tall human named Bobo. They do stuff like that. It's common knowledge. Defense mechanism. Years of research. Shut up.
  • When analyzing recordings of potential Sasquatch calls, it is important to completely ignore the possibility that the call was faked by electronic, synthesized sound technologies. We can logically eliminate the potential for synthesized sound fakery because Sasquatches not only DON'T HAVE keyboards and sound equipment to work with, but they DON'T HAVE electricity out in the woods. They would go through a LOT of batteries to create synthesized calls like the ones we are hearing. So it can therefore not be done by a synthesizer.
  • When analyzing recordings of potential Sasquatch calls, it is also important to discount that rural areas might have liquored up hunters in them who would be inclined to make howling sounds for fun, to scare the other liquored up hunters. Liquored up hunters cannot be IN these woods, because they know the Bigfoot live there and are therefore are too afraid to be IN the woods at night. That means the sounds we are hearing cannot be people, but real Bigfoots.
  • Sasquatches do not typically hang out in trees, particularly trees with flimsy limbs which cannot support their massive weight. However, if a witness does claim to have SEEN a Bigfoot in a tree, that does not mean we can rule the Squatch out and assume the witness saw, oh, A BEAR. What it shows is that, like we humans, some Squatches are naturally less intelligent than others. So clearly, what that witness saw in that tree was simply a "dumb Sasquatch." Rumor has it half the cast of Jackass was actually made up of dumb Sasquatches.
  • The plural of Bigfoot is "Bigfoots." Not "Bigfeet." Not-- WHAT did you just say: "Bears"?! BEARS??!!
Go away kid, ya bother me.

Question for today: what television program have you gotten sucked into watching against your better judgement?

(And have you ever seen Bigfoot? Or a bear? Or a man named Bobo? Or are you a man named Bobo? Readers want to know.) is

Swimming with the Fishes, Fer Reals

So this week I made my plans to go down to Florida and, per my dad's request, scatter his cremains in Florida Bay.

Not terribly funny right? Not material fit for a humor blog? Oh, just you wait for it, my friends.

So in doing some research, I learned that in order to accomplish these last wishes, I wouldn't be able to spread the ashes off a peaceful dock somewhere with a nice view. I would need to rent a boat, since Florida law says you can't spread cremains in the water unless it's three miles off-shore.

Given this is about the same distance I see smokers these days having to walk away from a public building in order to have a cigarette, this wasn't entirely surprising to me.

So the question for me became: what the heck kinda boat does one rent for such an occasion? I mean, this is Dad. This isn't the former Little Big Jimmy Left-Feet of the Parmagiana Crime Family who you speedboat out to the Everglades while playing the Miami Vice theme song, dump him in, and hope for curious crocs before the police get wind.

One has a certain expectation for decorum here.

Worse, I was getting visions of fishing charters where I'd be scattering ashes on one side of the boat while Stan, George and Mindy Sue there on the other side of the boat were tapping a keg and pulling in the Catch of the Day. "Hey, watch it, lady-- it's drifting. You got a little of your father on our flounder!"

(I know, I can't believe I wrote that, either. But this is the way my mind works under stress.)

So I called the main funeral home down in the Keys and explained the situation. They were very understanding and kindly gave me a referral to a reliable place their clients often use in sad times just like this:

It happened to be a dive shop.

Yes, in between snorkeling trips and dolphin wrangling and whatnot, this dive shop takes the bereaved out in boats so their loved ones can swim with the fishes for all eternity.

So very Florida Keys.

But here's the kicker, the thing that nearly made me burst into wholly inappropriate fits of giggles...

I booked the boat, was glad to have this one increasingly complex task finally pinned down, my mind relieved, and the nice Dive Dude says to me, "So, will you be wanting to go in the water after?"

"Um... WHAT?!"

"Well, sometimes people want to do snorkeling trips on the way back."

"From the funeral?"

"Yeah. They stop to go diving. Will anyone be swimming?" he asked, his voice filled with total sincerity.

"Um, no."

To my knowledge, Jimmy Buffet has never mentioned this in his songs.

The Lightness of Being Not Sued

So the reason for my recent e-silence is I decided to take the bull by the horns-- in a metaphorical way, since I generally prefer to keep a safe distance from muscular, pointy livestock-- and independently publish my novel.

It's been a lot of work but a lot of fun so far, though my brain has not quite been able to balance it with blogging. For that, I apologize. I expect soon I'll be back on a normal posting schedule.

Anyway, the joys associated with self-publishing have been things like getting to choose a book size and seeing my content flowed in there looking all Real, and Grown-Up and Legitimate.

And also finally being freed from carrying around a double-spaced manuscript binder roughly the size of the entire Library of Congress.

The surprises are in going through the text and realizing those questions I'd had, which I'd imagined would be answered by a savvy publisher are now going to have to be answered by YOURS TRULY.

Today, I'm specifically referring to a scary incident with song lyrics.

I had a section-- and I won't give details so I don't ruin the surprise for any future readers-- which really depended on using four lines from a particular song. The section was one that, after editing it a bazillion times over the years, I still actually liked. (Which, any other writers out there will understand, that is huge. I mean, if you don't loathe your own work for a few hours every few days or so, you probably aren't working on it hard enough.)

So I thought I'd do a spot of research and just see how much of any song could be used under Fair Use.

And the answer is.... None. Do not do it. Do not even think about doing it. In fact, do not even think about thinking about doing it because the mighty hammer of the Music Industry will come crashing down on you like a telephone pole-sized drumstick to a tiny toy snare drum.

This left me in a hot, sweaty panic for a good five minutes or so. I mean, where do you go from there? Do you 1.) remove a scene which is actually important to the plot? Do you 2.) paraphrase, taking all the edge off the funny? Do you 3.) weep a little and dream of what could have been, if only?

Well, for the last day or two (after a shameful minute of option 3 up there), I sat down and started making up my own song lyrics. Song lyrics for a singer who, up until now, did not exist.

With my past experience as part of an equally fake heavy metal band (you may get some laughs from that tale here, if you haven't already read it) thankfully, this has not been as difficult as I had expected.

Plus, there's a certain heady elation in knowing one has dodged the Giant Drumstick of Doom. And I figure if I have prevented one other writer from finding it crash down upon his or her personal drumhead, I will have done my job.