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Category: Writing (page 2 of 22)

Hello, The Black Laser? Are you there?

How’s it going, old friend? It’s been a while.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this site recently. The Black Laser has been sitting here, untouched, for more than a year and that seems like a real shame to me. Over the years I’ve put a lot of thought and effort into this site. It’s been a repository for my rambling thoughts, a place to promote whatever random projects I’ve been working on, a place where I shared crap from the internet that I was really enjoying.

But life and work conspired to distract me from keeping the pace up here. As I moved forward in my career, the amount of headspace at the end of the day to write and be creative diminished. Then I got married and the extra hours I used to spend staring at the new post page on the WordPress backend shifted to being spent with my super rad wife. These are non-problem problems, obviously. The root of the matter is that the hours I used to spend digging around and writing here are different now. I am different now. That’s what happens. I opened The Black Laser in November 2008 and here we are in March 2015 thinking about an old friend we haven’t spoken to in a while. It doesn’t need to be that way. The Black Laser isn’t dead. It has just been sleeping for a while.

Ultimately, it feels like a true tragedy to let The Black Laser drift off into some sort of pathetic oblivion, yet another untended to blog clogging up the tubes. I don’t want to do that. I like to think you don’t want to do that. So let’s not let that happen.

Here are the things I think need to change to breathe some new life into this place.

It needs a new design.

We’ve been using TBL2.0 since 2011. That is basically forever in internet time. Forever!! The theme is old and no longer standards-compliant. In 2011 when redesigning this place I was not at all worried about whether or not the site read well on a smart phone. Who read things on smart phones? Steve fucking Jobs? Not me. Well, that has changed completely. Everybody reads everything on their smart phones and tablets and thingies and thingers. Time to get with the now.

Also this white type on black background shit has got to go. What was I thinking?

The type and quality of posts need to change.

As fun as it was to post random music videos and whatever back in the day, there are better ways to get and share that sort of content now. Those posts were easy, cheap ways to keep the post count moving upward, and it was always nice to have a backlog of cool crap I could unleash at folks. But I don’t need that. In retrospect, those posts really watered down the effectiveness of this site as a device for sharing brain pieces. They are a nice little break from things you actually have to read, but only once in a while. They were too frequent. A crutch for not thinking of real content.

Additionally I no longer take very many photos. They were a big part of this site once, but there is little reason to stay set-up to share them easily since I no longer need to share things I am not creating. I might start taking photos again one day in the future, but not soon. I’ve got a lot of feelings about the photo thing which I am happy to explore in a later post in more depth. Not here.

A refocus on the purpose for The Black Laser.

As alluded above, The Black Laser serves a few real purposes.

  1. To keep me writing.
  2. As a sort of public journal.
  3. To share the things I am working on.

These have always been the backbone of the site, even when I didn’t have much to share in any of the categories. This is the content I want to focus on. While thinking about the future of this site, I’ve been calling TBL3.0 the TL;DR version of the site: lots of text, way fewer videos and filler posts, fewer posts in general, but (hopefully) higher quality in the stuff I do post. More words! Better posts! Surprises! It is going to be super great.

The Black Laser makes me feel good. Time spent making things here never feels poorly spent. Most of the quiet times of the past 6 and a half years were spent thinking of things to share. That is a lot of time over a lot of years. And I finally feel ready to come back to it and fill your eyeballs with my words. No, that’s not quite right. “Fill” is too passive of a verb.

I am going to force my words into your brain and you are going to love it.

A Letter to the Hare Krishnas at Union Square

Dear Hare Krishnas hanging out on the southern end of Union Square,

SHUT THE FUCK UP!

You assholes have been making a scene there for months and you’re driving god damned crazy. I’ve been counting down the days until the holiday market set up and pushed you and your cymbals and your chanting and your “good vibes” out. But, just two days ago, as my patience waned perilously thin, those characteristic red and white tents started popping up.

Relief! Finally, no more hippie throngs filling up the park, creating a giant, noisy roadblock by the entrance to the subway! I would have respite until the weather wasn’t so cold!

And then I stepped down into the station, and there you were making noise and blocking traffic like a bunch of self-centered assholes. No one cares about your message. No one likes you. Go away forever.

Warmest regards,

The Black Laser.

On secondhand embarrassment.

Last week, Sarah wrote a funny, accurate article about the show Girls (and if you’ve ever wondered what talking to the girl in the dance videos is like, you now have a very good idea). She’s right too: people love to bitch about Girls. It’s the hip thing to bitch about. When the show first came out, I was actually a firm supporter the program. There was a ton of press about how the show was racist because, in the very first episode, there were no black people. Seriously? It’s a show about entitled white girls. Why does there need to be a black person in it? I’m not complaining when some Chinese kung-fu show lacks white people. Get over yourselves. It was only the pilot. Why not let the series develop a little bit before you start smearing it all over the press? Or perhaps the show was shattering a little too much of your own entitled white girl self-delusion, making you uncomfortable by revealing to you just how vapid your life is? Or maybe you are just insanely jealous of how successful Lena Dunham’s been?

Whatever the reason people had, all the negativity toward the show left a really bad taste in my mouth. I was prepared to be a big fan of the show, even though by all rights I am literally terrible at watching TV shows. Perhaps this one would be different! And then I saw an episode.

At about the 15-minute mark in the first episode, I found myself yelling at the TV. Why?

It all comes down to what I call secondhand embarrassment.

secondhand embarrassment (ˈse-kən(d)-ˈhand im-ˈber-ə-smənt)
noun

The unpleasant sensation of feeling shame, self-consciousness, or awkwardness for someone else who is too naïve, stupid, or just plain unaware to recognize that they should be feeling shame, self-consciousness, awkwardness, or some combination of the three.

I am not sure when I started calling this sensation I’d been feeling my whole life “secondhand embarrassment”. I seem to remember my brother Charlie saying it once, but it came up in conversation years later and he didn’t remember hearing it before. Maybe I got it from my older brother Mike. He’s usually pretty sharp with the neologisms. We have friends who call the feeling “the twingles”, which is a cute name, but betrays the true depth of anguish it causes me.

Regardless of its source, secondhand embarrassment is one of my most unpleasant feelings and will quickly ruin any film or television show I am watching. It is not funny when writers rely on putting characters into mortifying situations to generate laughs; it’s mean-spirited and lazy. Instead of making a joke or some clever turn of phrase, they put some hapless character into a situation for the audience to laugh at. I don’t want to laugh at someone too stupid to recognize they should be embarrassed, I want to laugh with someone because they have excellent timing and do something unexpected. It is the comedy equivalent of using an overheard conversation to create dramatic tension. Lazy lazy lazy.

The other night we were watching I Love You, Man and I spent the half of the film we made it through hiding. That movie is the perfect example of the sort of thing that fills me with secondhand embarrassment. Oh, Paul Rudd is a socially inept boob who fucks up every single conversation he has with another man! Hilarious! So clever! Give him the Oscar! Sure, I had a few chuckles, but the film was so unbearable overall that we turned it off. Right in the middle. And I didn’t care. I didn’t once find myself thinking, I wonder what is going to happen to Paul Rudd’s character? Will he make friends? I didn’t care in the slightest. I was so embarrassed for everyone in that film that I would rather die than watch the rest to find out.

Ok, I’m being hyperbolic. I’d rather cut three fingers off my right hand than watch the end to find out.

Another prime example of the sort of schlock that makes me cringe can be found in reality TV. Pretty much all of it. The first episode of this season’s Bachelor was so painful, I spent half the episode pacing around the apartment, busying myself, doing the dishes, tidying up the fridge, because I could not stand to watch the idiot women make fools of themselves in front of the blonde, white bread lead of the show. The woman who came out in a wedding dress?! Or the one who tried to do backflips—BUT COULDN’T?! Oh Christ, deliver me from that sort of hell.

A good non-tv/film example is during any poetry slam. Any poetry slam. Oh my god. Even the phrase “poetry slam” makes me embarrassed for people who take them seriously. Do people still do those fucking things or did we leave them to die in the 90s?

I can sit through just about anything else. Horror movies? No problem. Documentaries about people on death row? Easy! Ken Burns films with soft narration and banjo music? Bring ’em on. But put me in front of something where I feel embarrassed for someone who should be feeling embarrassed but does not and I’ll do anything I can not to sit through it.

Bringing it back to Girls, I spent so much of that one episode being mortified for all the characters that it actually made me angry like a parent getting angry at their child for being a fucking asshole. I shouted at them to correct their behavior. To grow up! Get real! Get a job, you lazy sack of shit! As a reaction, it’s different but ultimately similar enough to secondhand embarrassment that it’s worth lumping together. Indeed, they are close enough that Sarah’s post and a few other recent cinematic experiences got my brain churning on the topic.

Look, I know I’m not the target demographic for The Bachelor or most other reality TV. Maybe I am for I Love You, Man, but that is probably debatable. Those shows and that film are just a couple of example of this offense. I am sure that you, kind reader, have had many moments when you have experienced the shame that someone else should be feeling. The point is putting characters into situations that only serve to allow the audience laugh at them like a bully who has just pushed a smaller kid down on the playground is piss poor comedy and lazy writing. From the moment I was empathetic enough to feel embarrassed for people on the screen, I’ve been unable to sit through this crap and I don’t see it changing any time soon.

The Theme for 2013: The Year of No Pressure

Before I discuss my theme for next year, let’s talk about this year a little bit. Though I built up a little steam toward my 100,000 word goal, I only made it about a quarter of the way through before life got in the way and threw my ability to think about my writing to the wolves. Indeed, The Black Laser wasn’t free from that either. Loyal readers saw the quantity and quality of posts here gradually decline as life got in the way of things. But, you know what? So it goes.

I don’t feel bad about it.

Because the truth is I also did all sorts of interesting things personally and professionally this year; they just didn’t have a lot to do with writing. I made a bunch of dance videos with my now-fiancée. I edited all sorts of commercials for the old boob tube. I edited a death metal concert video and an experiment art narrative short film. I was made officially official at my company. I got freakin’ engaged! Holy crap!

So what if I didn’t write as much as I set out to? Who really cares? I accomplished a lot of things that made me really proud and I fed my brain with a lot of new experiences that can ultimately be writing-fodder. It’s not as if I sat around all year playing video games (though I did do some of that), wasting my time and feeling bad about it. I made things and friends and learned. I am very happy with 2012. I think a lot of that has to do with letting myself be free from my theme about halfway through the year. I remember consciously thinking, “Ok, I can grind out the next 75,000 words and be all stressed about not being on schedule, or I can just go with the flow and see what comes out of the year.” And that is exactly what I did.

In the past I’ve put a lot of emphasis on structure and deadlines, hoping that being beholden to something would keep me motivated. Go Head. Read about it. I’ll be right here.

Ok. All finished? Great.

To a certain extent being beholden to someone does keep me motivated, but I’ve learned that I have to be beholden to someone who is not myself. I just can’t do it. I make too many excuses for myself, and I find that I am always really willing to cut myself slack for those excuses. I am my own worst enemy and my own best advocate. A complicated relationship to be in with yourself.

This year I want to try a different sort of experiment. Though I have a whole lot of things I want to do this year, I am not going to put any pressure on myself to get things done by a deadline. Instead I am going to do things as they come and let my own productivity flow organically. I am under constant deadlines at work, so perhaps being more laissez-faire with my creative goals will allow me the wiggle room at the end of the day to do things as I can, not as I feel I need to. With that, I present the theme for 2013…

The Year of No Pressure

That’s right. No pressure. No pressure to hit a certain word count. No pressure to produce a certain number of stories. No pressure to do anything to a certain amount by a certain date. Just let things happen as they happen. That is not to say I don’t have goals for this year. Quite the contrary; I have a bunch of things, broad and specific, I want to accomplish in 2013. I just don’t intend to put any undue pressure on myself to get them done before they happen naturally.

What are they?

  • Get married – Giant duh on this. I asked her to marry me and now we need to figure out exactly how that is going to work. Apparently, people expect you to know the date you’re going to get married as soon as you are engaged. That’s news to me. Besides, I’ve neither been engaged before nor have I planned a wedding. There is a lot to learn.

    As a bonus for you all, my good friend Matt Toder of Vox Critica fame has asked Sarah and me to write a series of articles about our experience getting married. I’ve already started one on getting engaged, so keep an eye out for that, friends. I promise it will be good reading.

  • Rebuild my finances – 2012 was a very expensive year. During 2013 I would like very much to reign in my spending and rebuild the next egg I worked through this year. Don’t get me wrong; the money was spent for a very good (personal) reason and I would spend it all again in a heartbeat. Nevertheless, it is a priority of mine to keep to a budget and try to dig myself out of a bit of a hole.
  • Pick up the pace of The Black Laser – I feel bad when I don’t update for the 10s of you who read this site. I like to put my thoughts out and share cool things I find and I hope that you like it too. For 2013, I’d like to get this place back on track. This post is the first step toward that goal.
  • Pick up the fiction train – This ties into the previous goal a little as my fiction posts have always been a good source of original content for this site. And I like sharing that stuff with you guys because it scares the hell out of me to put myself out there and that is fun. It is fun to be scared. I have a load of fiction ideas built up, little snippets of ideas, barely formed thoughts, bad ideas, good ideas, stale ideas, fresh ideas. Whatever they are, I have a ton of stuff stewing in my brain that needs to be released. I’m going to release it at you all. Be ready.

I think that’s it right now, but I am not going to stress about adding or removing things from that list as I see fit. That’s just how 2013 is going to be. Stay tuned and get excited for it, friends. It should be a totally smooth, comfortable ride.

The literary bane that is fan fiction.

In my internet travels recently (reddit? blogs? somewhere else?) I stumbled across FanFiction.net. I’ve never had a high opinion of fan fiction, but that was a purely conceptual bias. The idea of fan fiction seems pretty absurd to me, even before considering the realities of fan fiction. Why would you waste your time creating fiction in worlds not of your own making? Why write stories about Marty McFly’s journeys through time and space with Dr Who? Why write stories about Data and Picard hooking up? Why write stories set in alternate Twilight world where there is a family of Frankenstein’s Monsters who own a chain of discotechs?

I have no idea either. It has never made sense to me. But that’s just me. And then today my curiosity got the better of me and I started reading some.

Wow. Just wow.

As a little experiment, let’s pick a section at random. How about “Games”? Ok. Games gives us quite a few topics to choose from. Let’s see…I liked Mass Effect. Let us see what we can find in Mass Effect.

On the first page there is a story called, “The Rise and Fall of Maria Shepard”. It gives us this gem.

Shepard collapsed to her knees, tears now washing away the velvet blood that was painted on her face, but soon Kaidan interrupted her thoughts with a sudden hand on her shoulder.

Clumsy. Awkward. I don’t know what a “sudden hand” is exactly, but overall not the worst sentence I’ve ever read.

Further down the page is a story called, “Rebuilding Our Realm”. I liked this bit.

“How are you feeling commander?” asked Fallon’s nurse – for what seemed like the 3rd time that day! Fallon herself had a cast on her left leg, her shoulder was still a little sore and her ribs still hurt whenever she yawned, laughed or coughed – not like she had been laughing much anyway! Since Wrex had found her, with the rest of the rescue squad, (in a part of the citadel that had crashed down through Earth’s atmosphere), and had taken her to one of the only remaining hospitals in London. Later that week the hospital had ran out of power, forcing the staff to move the critically injured and most important personnel to a different hospital situated in the city of Oxford. Oxford had mostly been untouched throughout the war, maybe one of two reapers bodies still lying round where they have not been picked up yet. The hospital itself was called the John Radcliffe – JR for short – the staff here were pleasant and she had had access to the best health care they offered; yet she still could not rest. Her crew had been announced missing the day after the war had finished, the same day that Wrex had found her. The press were constantly trying to get into the hospital to see their ‘hero of the war,’ one had managed to get in a couple of days ago and had asked her questions about how she had stopped the reapers, to which she could only answer that she could not remember. According to the doctors she had gone into survival mode when crashing down to Earth, and the horror of the whole ordeal had overridden her memory with information, meaning that the memory leading up to it was blacked out, and this had created a few hours of just blank information. So altogether she was not feeling great, she had lost her crew, her ship, her memory, but also the man she was falling in love with. Well when you say man…?

Whoa. Needless exposition much? Passive voice, run ons, and unnecessary information. I wondered what the hospital was called; I am glad the author deigned to tell us.

But let’s not skip my favorite entry on the first page of the Mass Effect section, “Mass Eject Chapter 1”.

I need some air i went outside and tried to cool off but my sadness from last night turned into rage at the hanar. (How dare it drag me here against my will.) I walk up to a lone tree and punched it pain shot up through my hand. Why me I had parents a family to care about i then kicked the before mentioned tree until my anger slipped away and turned into a dull pulsing pain in my chest. This feeling would not go away any time soon

What is not perfectly sublime about this passage? It displays an essential inability to communicate with the written word, yet here this young fellow is crafting the most awkward fiction I have ever had the pleasure to laugh through. I genuinely feel sympathy for the before mentioned tree and his vicious fight with the protagonist.

I feel like Fan Fiction.net is a lot like Elfwood, but where Elfwood serves as a repository for the worst and less worst of amateur art, Fan Fiction.net serves for writing. Sure, buried in the noise there are a few decently competent creators of stirring fan fiction, but overall the level of quality is so low that it is laughable. And a satisfying laugh it is. Where else could you find Great Expectations/Lord of the Rings crossover fiction?

I almost want to write some.

1000 Words – Empty Basement

A day will come when you can give of yourself freely. You will give of yourself generously and selflessly for no other reason than that it is the right thing to do. For no other reason than that you want to. You will have a chance to pay forward all the kindnesses given to you when you were having a rough time, when you were bottoming out, when you really needed a helping hand. But today is not that day. Today is a day to take.

And take we shall.

Today is a day we shall take and we shall take dearly. The world will feel. What will the world feel, you ask? I don’t know. I am just the instrument. These decisions, they’re not mine. I am told to act and I obey. And today, they told me, today the world will feel what it is like to lose. The world will feel what it is like to suffer and anguish and lose.

Do not judge me. I do not make these decisions. I am told what to do and I act. Is that so difficult to reconcile with your notions of free will, of life, of morality? Is it such a difficult thing to believe that I act without considering the ramifications of the orders I am given? To kill a child? To bomb a church? To poison a well? Figuratively speaking on that last one of course. These days, you’d want to go for a large municipal water source. A reservoir, for example. That is the most efficient way to take out an entire population, beyond something like a thermonuclear strike. But those are so crude. So noisy. They lack subtlety.

We like subtlety. I think.

A few days ago an associate of mine—let us call him Bertrand, not his real name but it will suffice—thought that he would have a change of heart. He was given orders in the manner we are given orders, that is, hidden in the newspapers so that no one can trace their source, just like a hundred times before. Just like a hundred jobs before. But this time, Bertrand decided to think about the orders issued to him. He had a change of heart. He took issue with the task at hand.

Poor Bertrand. He was always so conflicted. There had been many times over the years I could see minuscule flickers of doubt dance across his eyes, but he never let them affect his performance. His commitment to our duty had been admirable even by the gold standard set by yours truly. He was a loyal, dedicated soldier who carried out his orders to the fullest extent every time. Except this time.

This is no hiding from the ones making our decisions for us. If an impure thought creeps into your head, they know. Every doubt, every hesitation, every slight misgiving and they know. To survive and thrive, one must become a pawn. Willfulness is your enemy. Let go. Be free. Act without thinking about why.

Bertrand asked why. Why killed Bertrand. Or more accurately, you might say I killed Bertrand, but the truth is that why is the reason he is dead. I was just the instrument. An appropriate word choice too. I made sweet music with Bertrand. I will never forget the great sweeping crescendo we achieved before crashing into silence. I loved Bertrand, but in the end he did not love me. It is the nature of my work, not to be loved, and this time was no different.

They know that we exist to serve and that to serve means not to be loved. It is essential to the human experience to seek love. We are social creatures, by nature, and love is the greatest natural expression of that. We give of ourselves when we love freely and unconditionally. To deny that instinct is to make yourself something more and less than human. A superdemihuman, if you will. That’s kind of funny, right? I just made that up. Feel free to use it later when people ask what happened.

Just a little while now.

Sometimes I remember my family. I remember my family and people I called friends. Do you remember your family? One of the first things they take from you is your memories. They are convinced that remembering will dull your effectiveness. In a lot of ways, they are right. I only assume this. No one has ever told me. I only guess based on what I have lost. My memories. My feelings. My loves. I understand what it is to give and why people do it, but I don’t know what it feels like. I don’t know what anything feels like. Do you remember your mother?

I am excited about what’s coming up. You’re curious, aren’t you? I know you are. I can tell. That is ok. You’ll find out what we have in store for you soon enough, but for now think about when you were a child. Think about the first time you rode a bike. About the first time you fell off that bike. Think about how scared you were. About how badly your knee hurt. About the way your fear intensified when you saw the slick shiny patch of blood seeping down your shin. How was that for you? Did you call out for your mother? Did she come to you?

You would never guess by looking at it, but this earthen floor holds a secret. A very big secret. I received my orders to give this gift to the world in the Sunday Times. Sunday papers always contained the biggest jobs and this was an Easter Sunday paper. Very big indeed.

We’re almost there. Soon you will find out what secret I have kept from you. I think you’ll like it. But first, think about your mother. Think about being a child and wanting your mother near you. Do you feel that right now? If you don’t, you’re about to. I do. I am very excited to give you this gift. Very excited. Because I love you.

1000 Words – Lady Boxers

“Why, Mr. Hardy, I do believe that my lady boxer shall best yours in this contest.”

“Nonsense, Percival! I would wager my pith helmet that my Gertrude will knock the fancy hat off your pugilista this very day.”

“You have my Myrtle confused with some common barroom brawler, sir. I have no doubt she shall be the victor in this contest of fisticuffs.”

“Would you like to make this a little more interesting, Percival?”

“Quite, Mr. Hardy.”

“Let us say that whoever the trainer of the lady boxer who loses this fine match is will be obliged to shear his whiskers and look like some wretched Chinaman unable to grow a fine mustache like my own. Or, in your care, Percival, a beard.”

“I accept your terms, Mr. Hardy.”

“Thank you, Percival.”

“No, thank you, Mr. Hardy.”

“I hope you are prepared, Percival. I’ve brought along this white bucket and towel for when Gertrude defeats your unkempt Myrtle.”

“Unkempt, sir! You have crossed the line!”

“Unkempt, Percival. Look at the crudeness with which she applied the detail to her skirt. No man with functioning eyes would claim that to be the work of a fine seamstress.”

“The gall, Mr. Hardy! I might also comment on the utter lack of decoration on your Gertrude’s dress! Or do you consider her black sash the finest of French fashion?”

“Simplicity is in the vogue, Percival. We are entering an age when needless decoration will be a thing of the past. You look on Myrtle’s poor embroidery and see elegance, where as I, a man of the times, see the old fashion. She resides in the past, my loyal servant.”

“Your father never would have stood for such words, Mr. Hardy. No, he was a man of great tact and kindness. You do his memory a disservice.”

“Percival, this era of Victoria as Queen, long may she reign, is nearly at an end. Why, soon it shall be the twentieth century and the British Empire has never been stronger. We must look to the future, not only in the way we clothe our lady boxers, but also in our attitudes toward change. We have great steam engines now! Miraculous balloons that float delicately upon the air! Coal for every family that can afford it and jobs for the children of the families that cannot! Percival, do you not see we are living in a gilded age? That we are living on the very precipice of the future?”

“Mr. Hardy, I must confess that you have lost me here.”

“What I am telling you, Percival, is that you and your Myrtle are woefully out of touch with the times. You are much like those giant lizards being dug from the earth by intrepid British explorers.”

“If I did not know better, Mr. Hardy, I would venture that you were trying to insult me.”

“Never, Percival. I only seek to express that you shall never win this wager of our, for your fighter has no chance of defeating mine. Surely you’ve heard of the Chinese Wu Shu?”

“No, sir, I have not.”

“Heavens, Percival!”

“My apologies for my grave misstep, Mr. Hardy.”

“Do see that you take measures to correct this, Percival. Anyhow, Wu Shu is a barbarous oriental fighting technique much too base for a good British gentleman like myself. However the study of this technique is not unlike dancing and I’ve found a great many women are quite adept at it. And when this ‘dance-fight’ is incorporated into a lady boxer’s repertoire of moves, I do find she becomes significantly more formidable. Would you like a demonstration?”

“No, sir, I consider the use of heathen knowledge to be a blight on our fair contest and tantamount to cheating. Indeed, if I did not know you to be a good Christian man, I would suspect you of indulging in the Devil’s handiwork.”

“Oh, Percival, you are so very superstitious. These are the Chinese we are discussing, not some heathen darkies from Africa. Have some sense, man. The Chinese may be no better than vermin, but heathens they are not. All right, granted, I will allow that some of them may be heathens, yet I know a good many Christian Chinese in Hong Kong who can prove to be quite white in their disposition. And those people do know their way around a duck.”

“If I believe you allow your Gertrude to execute some of your…what did you call it? ‘Woo shoe’ arts, I will consider you a scoundrel and scab, sir, and accuse you of foul play.”

“But, my man, that is the beauty of Wu Shu. You will never know. I defy you to call out Gertrude’s Wu Shu moves when she employs them on the manly countenance of your Myrtle, for she does resemble a man of poor breeding even when she is dressed in her finest.”

“Sir!”

“Where did you find her, Percival? On the docks lifting crates onto a ship bound for India?”

“Well, I never! I will have you know, Mr. Hardy, that Myrtle is the daughter of my late brother Albert. I have raised since she was a child. She was a childhood playmate of your cousin Gertrude there.”

“I do say, Percival, I never knew that such a homely little girl would grow up into such a homely man.”

“You wound me, Mr. Hardy.”

“I vow not to cut your face as I shear your beard off later, Percival. I shall treat you like the most delicate of spring lambs as I remove your whiskers. Your wife will not recognize you when I have finished.”

“My wife has been in the grave these three years past, Mr. Hardy.”

“Oh, yes, quite. I do now recall. Be that as it may, were she alive today, Percival, she would not be able to recognize you.”

“Yes, sir.”

“You would do well to continue to agree with me, Percival.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Let us get this little match on, shall we?

“Yes, sir.”

In a lady boxing match for the ages, Myrtle defeated Gertrude in 10 rounds by technical knockout. However, instead of honoring his end of the wager and allowing Percival to shave his whiskers, Mr. Hardy accused Percival and Myrtle of incest and they were both hanged by the local constabulary.

Introducing “1000 Words”

Recently I have been toying with the idea of starting a new feature here on The Black Laser called “1000 Words” wherein I take a photo I find on the internet and write at least 1000 words inspired by it. It’s that simple. The photo can be of anything at all and the writing can be anything at all, but it must be inspired by the photo. And with Tumblr and reddit and Facebook and all those things, there is no short supply in random weird photographs to inspire me to write.

If you have been keeping up (you have, haven’t you?!?!), you are aware that I am slipping behind on my 100,000 word quota for this year. Bad news. But, writing in 1000 word chunks is a great way to start making good progress on the overall quota. And who knows what will come out of these little exercises? I might be inspired to write something great well beyond the scope of that particular piece. I might just write a funny 1100 word story. I might write a steaming pile of crap. Who knows?! Only time will tell what “1000 Words” will yield.

The idea is a riff on the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words (duh). You’ve heard it, I’ve heard it, we’ve all heard it. I shopped the idea around a few of friends to see what they thought about it and the response was universally and overwhelmingly positive. Always a good sign, eh?

With that, I announce the beginning of “1000 Words” here on The Black Laser. I’ve already got one written which I will post after this and two more photos lined up.

Enjoy! And if you find a particularly choice photo you think I should write about, send it to me!