Of Silly Stories, Facepalms, “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Finding Nemo,” the Disney Princesses, Fairy Tales and Swiss Farms Tea Cooler

I should probably be working on CHILDREN, right now. I’ve been on a roll these last few days (82+ pages now). I run the risk of losing momentum if I “break” to write a blog entry. But when something that needs to be written “strikes my fancy,” I’ve learned that it’s best not to ignore it. That is the situation I find myself faced with today. So CHILDREN will have to wait for a little bit while I “do what I’ve got to do.”

Every night that I put my oldest minion, AKA Cara to bed, the routine is the same. We watch the last “Caillou” at 8:47 PM. When it ends 10 minutes later at 8:57 PM we usually go and brush our teeth (if we haven’t already), take our vitamins and thereafter, head upstairs to bed. Nine out of 10 times, her room is already prepped for her arrival: Her fish tank is lit up and her bottle of water is sitting next to the lamp upon her dresser which, for some reason, she has to leave on every night. It’s not fear of the dark. But it comforts her. Hey, if it keeps her from waking me up in the middle of the night no worries. It’s worth a couple of extra bucks on our energy bill, every month.

It’s when she’s watered and under her covers that the majority of my… of our issues begin (I don’t want to exclude Nicole from this; she deals with it as much as I do). Some nights, she decides she needs to use the bathroom. Others, she laments that she’s “going to be all alone.” Generally in response to the latter, I tell her that she’s not alone: She’s got her fish, Lucy, her ghost shrimp Tiana and “all her babies” (i.e. her stuffed animals and dolls) to keep her company. Does that work? Occasionally. Most nights she asks either myself or my wife to read her a story and we do. But then… then, after the story is read and she’s been hugged and kissed goodnight (“sweet dreams, Bear; I’ll see you in the morning”), she hits us with it. The kicker: 

“Daddy/Mommy, can you tell me a silly story?”

Insert Facepalm HERE. Or, if you’re looking for something a bit more visual:

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That’s my reaction every night when those words emanate from Cara’s mouth, a reaction made extra poignant by the fact that my chosen .GIF is one of Jean Luc Picard Facepalming. Nicole handles it swimmingly. She’s always got a silly story at the ready, be it the one about the time that she popped her head into check on Cara after she got home and Cara woke up and thought it was morning or another, similar one. Apparently, Nicole and Cara share many silly stories. But me and Cara? Um…

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If I had a “Number One,” and not just an alternate personality that I call the Madchronicler, he or she’d be Facepalming, as well. Because despite the fact that I’m a writer… despite the fact that I am now a published, albeit self-published author (who’s debut book, ENDWORLD – A Novel is currently available to purchase; links to buy HERE; end shameless self promotion), I don’t know many silly, “G” rated stories. I’ve got a million and one rated “PG” and up, but “G?” Nada. Zilcho. Zip-a-dee-doo-da, zip-a-dee-aye, my oh my what a precarious situation to find yourself in: A storyteller without a story to tell.

Generally, I find a way to extricate myself, i.e. I find a way to wiggle out like a coward. “Not tonight, Bear. Daddy’s tired,” or “Daddy’s got a lot of work to do,” or “Daddy just wants to get the f*ck out of this room before you break into tears because while I’m good at formulating grown up stories on the fly, I completely reek when it comes to telling kid stories.” Consider that the one kid’s story that I’ve ever written–“Princess Cara and the Yellow Dragon”–was primarily dictated to me by Cara one night when she couldn’t sleep, i.e. she told me what the story was about, and I remembered it/later wrote it down.

But lately, escape hasn’t been so easy.  I’ve had to resort to more drastic tactics, i.e. paraphrasing pre-existing, silly stories to satiate her. My best was “Finding Nemo.” “Once upon a time, there lived a fish named Marlin. He had a son named, Nemo. One day, Nemo got tired of Marlin’s overprotective attitude toward him and he swam out, into open water to touch a ‘butt,’ which was, in all actuality, a boat. Nemo was captured by a diver named P Sherman who took him back to a dentist’s office on Wallaby Lane in Sydney, Australia, where he was to become a birthday present for the dentist’s sadistic niece, Darla (good thing Cara doesn’t know what “sadistic” means, huh?). But Marlin had other plans. He set out on a grand adventure, side-by-side with his short-term memory impaired friend, Dory, to rescue or, ‘find’ Nemo, hence the title, ‘Finding Nemo.’ Along the way, they met a shark named Bruce, a school of Bluefish that sounded distinctly like the piggy bank from ‘Toy Story’ and the Abominable Snowman from ‘Monster’s Inc.’ They tangled with jelly fish and rode the East Australian Current on the back of a 175 year old sea turtle named Crush. After an epic adventure, they felled Darla with the help of a pelican named Nigel, saved or ‘found’ Nemo, and returned home to the coral reef upon which they existed. Thereafter, they lived happily, ever after. The End.”

Not bad, huh? You can probably tell that I’ve seen that movie once or twice (try two dozen times, at least; I’ve about perfected Bruce’s voice). Silly, right? I was quite proud of myself. But Cara’s reaction as I tried to escape quickly brought me crashing back down to earth.

“Thanks, Daddy. I know that story, already. Crush was 150, not 175.”

You can probably guess what happened next:

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You know that when Lieutenant Worf… hell, when any Klingon Facepalms it’s bad. Real bad. I think my face turned as red as Lucy the Fish’s skin (in truth, she’s more of a deep pink but she’s close enough to red for the reference). That night, I exited her room a defeated man. I resolved myself to futility. I sought solace at the bottom of a glass of Swiss Farms Tea Cooler… and I didn’t take a Metformin before I drank it. I know: I’m a f*cking rebel. What can I say? I was out of Scotch. Ah, who am I kidding? I can barely stomach Scotch straight at this juncture. Three sips and my head’s spinning faster than Marlin and Dory did upon being ejected from the EAC.

It was hopeless, I understood. I’ll never be able to tell Cara a silly story, I thought as I savored the damp, tea and lemon flavored goodness that remained in my flavor saver, i.e. my mustache. It was then–as the luscious drops of sugary goodness siphoned down from my upper lip to my tongue and a few landed on my t-shirt–that I decided to act. I will not be defeated, I determined, not by the whims of an almost four year old and CERTAINLY not by something that is supposed to be a strength of mine, i.e. storytelling. I WILL come up with a silly story to tell her. I WILL SUCCEED…! 

By my best reckoning, that was about a month ago. In the intervening time since, I’ve written 82+ pages of CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD and multiple blog entries both here on “Random Musings” and over on the ENDWORLD site. I’ve read and written two book reviews. I’ve composed a thousand emails to my customers and my vendors about everything from pumps to motors to pump to motor adapters. But to this day? I still have not come up with a silly story to tell Cara pre-bedtime. That ends now. The reason for this blog entry is to hash out a decent, silly story to tell her before she goes to bed, tonight. I don’t have a lot of time, so I don’t expect that it’ll be a very long silly story, but then again, the longer the story the more time I have to spend trying to coax her to sleep and not popping Metformin/drinking Swiss Farms Tea Cooler while I ruminate on just what the hell Free Caymen looks like (Free Caymen = A location referenced in ENDWORLD – A Novel and seen in CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD). I’ll stop there lest I give away something crucial, i.e. “spoilers.”

So here goes. It needs to be about a topic that Cara likes. Right now, Cara loves the Disney Princesses, so I’ll start there:

Once upon a time, there lived, in the kingdom of Enchantia (stolen from “Sofia the First”), every Disney Princess: Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Rapunzel, Tiana and Merida, not to mention Princess Leia (forthcoming, I hope) and Nita from ‘Brother Bear 2’ (what can I say? Cara loves Nita. Creative license. Please, Disney, don’t sue me). Their lives were wonderful, and the kingdom was big enough for all of them and their husbands (or, in Merida’s case, her bow and arrow).

One day, they were all sitting down over a Cajun feast, prepared for them by Prince Naveen when Merida–always the troublemaker–brought up the idea of doing something different for once.  Initially, the princesses deigned to entertain her idea. Their respective existences were fine. They liked only having to show up for work every time someone at Disney got it in his or her head to either A.) Make a direct to DVD sequel or B.) Have Princess Sofia the First call for help, leading to a guest spot on her television show. And their husbands enjoyed their respective, simple existences after their complicated, pre-Enchantia lives (see: The Beast and Aladdin/Prince Ali).

But Merida was undaunted. “I want to have an adventure!” she exclaimed, and tossed her gumbo across the table. Sadly, it hit smallish bear Koda in the face but the little cub didn’t care: He loved gumbo and lopped it all up.

Despite the fact that the other princesses were happy with their respective, partial retirements in Enchantia, they knew that the only way they’d ever get Merida to calm down and not have her personal witch/wood cutter hex them all and turn them into bears was to appease her. So they agreed to go along with Merida’s request. At least until they were summoned to fulfill one of their two, post-partial retirement duties.

“Hey,” Kenai and Nita said suddenly, “being a bear isn’t that bad.”

The other princesses and princes told biggish bear and his lady-friend to keep their yaps closed. Other than Koda, they were the only bears in Enchantia, and the movie that had brought them together–“Brother Bear 2”–wasn’t even the original one. It was a direct to DVD sequel, albeit a superior sequel to the sub-par, original “Brother Bear.” This caused Kenai and Nita, as well as Koda to quiet down as had been requested of them, for they knew, deep down in their hearts that they were not really a part of the accepted, Disney canon. They silently slinked away from the dinner table and went off on their own. No one knew where or what they were up to. Nor did anyone pay their departure a second thought.

“Okay then, Merida,” Snow White said, “what did you have in mind?”

Pause. Not a bad start, and I hammered it out pretty quickly, which gives me hope that I might actually have this done by nine PM tonight. Now for their adventure. What does Cara like doing? Other than dressing up and playing Disney Princess, she enjoys playing with Natalie, going to the park, ballet, gymnastics, watching/playing “Puss in Boots…”

Bam! “Playing ‘Puss in Boots.'” Puss in Boots is a well known fairy tale. Cara loves fairy tales. Time to continue:

Merida folded her arms across her chest and blew the strand of red, curly hair that had fallen over her forehead out of her face, “I think we should break into teams of two couples each, one old princess and one new one, randomly select a traditional fairy tale and go experience what happens in it,” she said, “we’ll put them all in Aladdin/Prince Ali’s turban, and each pick one. Then, we’ll petition the Disney writers to create a scenario for us in it. Then we’ll do it, come back here, and compare notes.”

All the other princesses and princes agreed that it was an equitable, albeit somewhat far-fetched solution. Why not just go on a road trip, they thought, or maybe ask for a spot in the next “Epic Mickey” video game? But no one questioned Merida, for no one wanted to be turned into a bear. They placed a handful of fairy tales in Aladdin/Prince Ali’s turban, and one by one, the princesses selected.

Snow White and Prince Charming teamed with Tiana and Naveen and selected “The Three Little Pigs.” Cinderella and her Prince teamed with Rapunzel and Eugene and selected “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” Aurora and Phillip teamed with Mulan and Li Shang and selected “Peter and the Wolf.” Ariel and Eric teamed with Pocahontas and John Smith and selected “The Gingerbread Man.” Belle and the Beast teamed with Jasmine and Aladdin/Prince Ali and selected “The Ugly Duckling” and lastly, Merida teamed with Princess Leia and selected “Little Red Riding Hood.”

“What about Kenai, Nita and Koda?” Princess Leia asked, “shouldn’t they be included?”

The other princesses shook their heads, “Nita’s not really a Disney Princess. Besides, they’re bears, not people.” Princess Leia thought about crying out that bears are people too which, if you’ve ever seen “Brother Bear” and/or “Brother Bear 2” you know is true. But she didn’t. She kept her yap shut. She was still only a trial princess, after all. And she wanted so badly to be accepted as a part of the Disney canon, especially since her husband, Han Solo, had opted to go and try to break his own, personal record of making the Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs with his fuzzball of a side kick, Chewbacca and his scoundrel of a friend, Lando, rather than stay with her in Enchantia. I’ll show him, she thought as Lumiere measured her for her red lamay, Little Red Riding Hood outfit. 

One by one, the teams went and solicited the Disney writers for their approval. Sadly, they were not given it because A.) Dreamworks held the copyrights for all the fairy tales that didn’t involve them and B.) They had all been written into the upcoming “Sofia the First,” feature length movie. Dejected, they all returned to the table around which they had been sitting, plopped down into their chairs in front of their now-cold bowls of gumbo, and lamented their loss. Actually, only Merida lamented the loss. Leia lamented the loss of her red lamay, Little Red Riding Hood outfit, but the other princesses were actually quite happy that Merida’s latest, crazy idea had fizzled out. They began to eat the last of their gumbo when…

The door to the dining hall swung open. The princesses and princes all turned and saw Kenai, Nita and Koda come purposefully marching into the room. They were all about to say something when Merida’s personal witch/wood cutter stepped out from behind them, and started laughing. Apparently, while they had been away petitioning the Disney writers to participate in Merida’s latest, hair-brained scheme, she had, at the urging of the bears, snuck in and spiked their remaining gumbo with the same magic she had once used on Merida’s mother. Within seconds, each of the princesses and their princely counterparts morphed into bears. All but Merida, who had thrown her gumbo at Koda earlier. Merida watched as her counterparts surrounded her. Afraid, she fled from the dining hall with her bow and arrow and was never seen in Enchantia again which, under normal circumstances, would have been quite a crippling loss to the Disney canon. But it wasn’t. For her selfless support of the biggish bear, his smallish brother and Nita, Princess Leia was promoted from trial princess to full-fledged, Disney Princess, and was given the color white to wear as her signature color.

In time, the bears all transformed back into princesses and princes, but they had all learned a valuable lesson. From that moment forth, they each accepted Kenai, Nita and Koda into their ranks as equals. All starred in the “Sofia the First” feature length movie, which became the highest grossing film of all time, and won not only the Best Animated Feature Oscar, but the Best Picture Oscar, as well. Eventually, Han, Chewie and Lando returned after making the Kessel Run in under 10 parsecs. They are all still living together in Enchantia to this day, happily ever after. The End.

Or is it? I’m not really sure. Something tells me that Merida’s part in the story isn’t quite finished yet. To be shunned like that by your fellow princesses? I can only imagine the pain that she’s had to endure since it happened. In my mind’s eye, I see her once again living in the Highlands of Scotland in the ruined castle of her father, her mother and her three baby brothers (who had long since relocated to eastern Australia, and were living out their lives, happily guiding “walkabouts” through the Outback). I see her sitting alone in an abandoned dining hall when suddenly, her once-personal witch/wood cutter shows up and offers her a way to repay her once-sisters and their spouses. “By doing what?” Merida asks, and the witch/wood cutter’s response? “By becoming Mordoon,” she says as she removes a familiar looking cake from behind her back and hands it to Merida. What happens next?

Well? I guess you’ll just have to get it when it goes direct to DVD.

And there you have it. What do you think? Is it a silly enough story to appease Cara’s pre-sleep desire for comedy? What’s nice about it is that it doesn’t have to end there. Maybe the princesses go back to the Disney writers and petition them again, and this time they get their wish. Part of me would really like to see Princess Leia in that red lamay, Little Red Riding Hood outfit, though instead of Merida, her partners would now be her husband, Han, his fuzzball sidekick Chewbacca and his scoundrel friend, Lando. That’s the nice thing about stories, silly or otherwise, adult or kid: They can be whatever we as writers want them to be. Whether they’re called ENDWORLD – A NovelCHILDREN OF ENDWORLD or whatever-the-hell-I-just-wrote-should-be-called, at their core, they’re all the same. They’re a product of our experiences and our imagination. Whether you’re me, Nicole, Cara or one of the Disney writers. Whether you’re a published, self-published or not-at-all published writer, they’re all the same. Just make sure you tell ’em well. And if you’re paraphrasing a pre-existing one? Make sure you get the details right. As Cara deftly pointed out to me a few weeks ago, there’s a big difference between being 175 and 150 years old.

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Stay thirsty, my friends. Swiss Farms Tea Cooler is two for $4.00 this week only. Get yours today.

A Pseudo-Madman’s Double Life (Guest Starring Clark Kent/Superman, the Fisher Price Little People, Susan Lucci, the Genie from “Aladdin,” Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Professor River Song and Some Guy Named Frank Marsh)

I lead a double life. Kind of like Clark Kent/Superman but without… well, super powers. I’m not faster than a speeding bullet. Nor am I more powerful than a locomotive. I am unable to leap tall buildings in a single bound unless said buildings are my youngest minion’s Fisher Price Little People play sets. If you look up in the sky, you will see birds and planes, but you will never see me. I dwell here upon the humid, oft times soggy surface of Terra Firma on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence, somewhere between a little town in eastern Pennsylvania called Broomall and a little town west of Broomall called Royersford, Pennsylvania, with the occasional foray even further west to York, Pennsylvania or south to Baltimore, Maryland.

Despite all this, I do lead a double life. Sadly, mine is not nearly as interesting as the son of Jor El’s so really, why even claim it? Simple: Because it’s true. If you want to know why, I invite you to read on. If not? Thanks for playing. You win nothing! I’m not cruel. I just don’t have anything to give away. But if you’d like a copy of my debut novel, ENDWORLD drop me a line either here, or on any of the myriad other sites that I whore myself out to and I’ll hook you up in exchange for an honest review of my “big, meaty book for summer reading.”

No sexual innuendo intended, guys. I’m a happily married man. That’s what one reviewer called it, though. “Five stars in my log,” she said with an exclamation point. Apparently, a few people agree with her though I wouldn’t know because I’ve only got five total, published reviews between Amazon (four) and Barnes and Noble (one)Which is an incredibly uncouth way of saying “please read and review my book because unless I get 10 positive reviews on Amazon it will never be featured as anything other than an afterthought on any site and will be doomed to obscurity.” I may be biased… ah, who am I kidding? I am biased. ENDWORLD is better than “doomed to obscurity.” I know it.

Seriously, guys. I know I’m not supposed to self-promote on here if I ever want to get Freshly Pressed but I need you on this one. One free copy of ENDWORLD in exchange for an honest review. That’s all I’m asking for. You choose the e-platform: EPUB or MOBI. I can do PDF, as well. Up to you. Get in contact with me and you’ve got it. I’m at 424K on the Kindle Best Seller list currently, which isn’t bad when you consider Amazon’s got over two million titles on their site, but my ranking has been steadily dropping since the end of May after plateauing at 11K. I’m starting to get depressed. I don’t know if I can go on… 

Okay. I admit it: I’m over exaggerating. A lot. It’s all I can do to keep up with my oldest minion who, I have officially concluded, is four going on 14. There are established drama queens less dramatic then her. Don’t get me wrong: I love her and think she’s hysterical, but if nothing else, she’s got quite a career ahead of her on “General Hospital.” Susan Lucci? Eat your heart out. And watch out.

But I digress. This blog entry isn’t about ENDWORLD. Well, not directly. And there’s no better means of turning people away from your product than by whining about it. So I’m not going to whine anymore. I’m going to “stick with the plan.” And that is?

I lead a double life. Really, I do. The truth of this fact really hit home for me earlier today. I was “tweaking” the ENDWORLD site with some new info, and I got an email from a prospective vendor asking me for my name and my title. In the past, I’ve simply written “Office Manager/Inside Sales” without a second thought, but as I wrote it today, I realized that I wasn’t being entirely truthful. And I pride myself on bring truthful. I was being pseudo-truthful–that’s what I am from eight in the AM to five or 5:30 in the PM every Monday through Friday, plus every fourth Saturday–but it ended there. Pseudo. The truth?

The truth is that I am an Office Manager/Inside Sales representative during the time frame specified above.   But from the moment I leave work to the moment I return? I’m something far different. I’m a father/husband/homeowner/”indie” author/eternal optimist and hopeful dreamer. I’m also an avid sports fan though right now, I’m not exactly enchanted by what’s going on in Philly sports. Seriously, Phillies? You win six games in a row, get over 0.500 for the first time all season, get your fan base fired up and then you lose three games to the frackin’ Brewers? They’re the Brewers for God’s sake! They haven’t been better than “slightly above average” since the mid-1980’s. That’s not a knock on Milwaukee, nor is it one on Wisconsin. I love both. Really, I do. But the Brewers? Really? 

Okay. Enough about that. Rooting for the Phillies… h-e-double hockey sticks, rooting for any of the major Philadelphia sports franchises has been a tiring task these last few years. Almost as tiring as self-publication though without the sublime joy of knowing that something you wrote is now available for purchase via Amazon, Barnes and Noble and multiple other sites (links to buy at www.theendworldseries.com under “Where to Buy ENDWORLD – A Novel“)! Pick up your copy TODAY and PLEASE post a review when you’re finished! End the shameless self-promotional portion of our program. I now return you to your regular blog entry, already in progress.

The specter of 2008 still looms largely in my mind. I remember watching my Phightens hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy and thinking that the drought was over… that we were ensured multiple championships not just in baseball, but in football and hockey, as well (basketball? Not so much). How many have we won since? Survey says?

Zero. New York, Pittsburgh and Baltimore have all won at least one. Even Boston’s won one. But Philadelphia? Nada. Zilcho. Zip-a-dee-doo-da, zip-a-dee-aye, my oh my what a crap-tastic time to be a Philadelphia sports fan. And it’s not getting better anytime soon. The Eagles are rebuilding, the Flyers are chronic underachievers and the Sixers? Yeah. Not so much. Dare I pin my hopes on the Soul, again? They started what I thought was going to be a championship renaissance in my hometown back in 2008 by winning the Arena Bowl. Might they be able to do it again? Maybe, but even they’re pretty bad, right now. Which is really just a drawn out way of welcoming you, my readers back to the drought. See you in another 20 or so years on Broad Street. End parenthetical, sports related aside.

I lead a double life. I’m not Clark Kent/Superman. My secret identity is not a costume that I wear beneath the t-shirt and jeans that I sport to work every day, or the dress shirt and slacks that I wear when I visit my York office or travel to Baltimore. It’s the extra Google Chrome screen that I keep hidden on my second monitor. It’s the Word Document that I oft times edit during “down times” like today. You can never see it: It’s hidden beneath a proverbial bank of windows that contain pertinent information to my daily existence. And I rarely do anything but edit or “tweak” while working because despite what you might be thinking, I actually like my job, alias my mundane, routine existence. I’m proud of all that I’ve learned and how good I’ve gotten at what I do in the last almost eight years and I’d rather not risk losing it. So I refrain.

But admittedly? On occasion, one or more of the developing characters in my head–my own, mental Peanut Gallery–cry out for help or attention, much like my youngest minion is fond of doing when she’s playing with her Fisher Price Little People play sets and I’m rehearsing Shakespeare with my older, diva-licious minion, tears and all. Those times? I minimize everything from Outlook to my company Intranet and I answer the call. I may not be faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive or able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. I may not be a bird or a plane but in the subjective universe that exists inside my oft times ridiculed, “big” head? I’m a god. Not the God. There’s only one of them and you’ll know I’m referring to him or her when I capitalize the “G.” But god. A lesser deity with immense, cosmic power… 

And an itty bitty living space, otherwise known as my cubicle. Thank you, Genie from “Aladdin.” Those times? Not even the son of Jor El can stand toe-to-toe with Frank Marsh, though in the grand and not subjective scheme of things, my “power” is nothing compared to his. Assuming, of course, that Superman is a real man. Which he is. Or isn’t. I’m not really sure, but I like to think that somewhere out in the vast multi-verse that is… well, this he exists. Maybe through one of the many other wormholes that pseudo-madmen like me can cross through. Maybe not me, per say, but another one? Most definitely.

I’ll let you in on a little secret, guys. The wormhole that I’m always referring to? The wormholes? It’s… they’re not real. Not tangible. They’re a metaphor for imagination, something that people like me and the guys who created Clark Kent/Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster know about. This side of my proverbial wormhole of existence = IRL. The other side is where ENDWORLD and all my other ideas come from. If you didn’t know that before now there you go. I’ve just revealed a little known secret about me, myself and I. There are others, but I’ll leave them for another time. I can’t give away everything now. As Professor River Song is so fond of saying, “spoilers.”

When I leave my Monday through Friday, and every fourth Saturday mundane, routine existence, there’s no need to wear my disguise, though. I’m like the son of Jor El returning to his Fortress of Solitude. The place where I can just. Be. Me. Not the guy that’s had to learn how to be an engineer in the last almost eight years, but the guy that existed before that. The husband. The father. The homeowner. The eternal optimist and the hopeful dreamer. And the avid, albeit long suffering Philadelphia sports fan. I like that guy too. He’s the guy that’s writing this blog entry, presently. His words? They’re not appearing on a secret Google Chrome screen on his second monitor. They’re appearing on the 13 inch screen of his Samsung, I5 laptop, the same one that he… that I wrote 75 to 80 percent of ENDWORLD on and the same one that I’m currently writing CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD on. Which, by the way, is 70+ pages “to the good.” Part One = Done. I’m taking a day or two off before I begin Part Two. Unless my mental Peanut Gallery cries out in distress before then. Then, like every other super hero that leads a double life, I’ll be obligated to answer the call.

So long as it doesn’t conflict with my youngest minion’s desire to play with her Fisher Price Little People play sets or my oldest minion’s desire to reenact “MacBeth.”

Susan Lucci? Eat your heart out. Watch out. And if you’re reading this? Drop me a line. I’ve got a book I’d love for you to read and review.

😉

ENDWORLD – A Novel has a Cover!

That’s not a misprint, guys. Nor is the new picture in my header one. ENDWORLD – A Novel now has a cover. I just got permission from my phenomenal designer Damon (whose website you can link HERE) to show it publicly. My header only shows you a portion. The complete cover looks like this:

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How am I feeling? Hmm. Good question. I’d say that I’m super psyched but that’s pretty much a given. I’d say that I’m cautiously optimistic after objectively rereading it but that’s obvious. I’ve been happy with my creation since I first started it so many, many moons before tonight’s. There was never a question of whether or not I’d like it. The only question was whether or not others would, and based on the mainly positive response the Prologue has gotten (linkable HERE, BTW) it appears that a handful of people do. Granted, that’s just the Prologue but still, it’s a promising sign.

I’d say that I’m a bit drained from not just reviewing and “tweaking” the cover and the proof, but from the whole process that I’ve been involved in for an eternity but that, too, is academic at this juncture. I’d say all these things… did, in fact, say all these things but none of them matter now. How am I feeling? In short, guys? Ready. I’m ready to put this beast of a novel out there… out here and see what happens. End rant.

I wrote in my last blog post that there are a hundred and one people to thank: A hundred and one people who in some way, shape or form influenced the creation of ENDWORLD – A Novel. People that were there at the beginning, were there in the middle and are here now. I further said that I’m not including an acknowledgement page in the book because A.) There are just too many people to thank and B.) I don’t want to leave anyone out. However, I feel obligated to express my gratitude to a few individuals. Doing so may seem premature, and doing so here on “Random Musings” may seem odd, but what the f*ck? I need to. So here goes.

I’ve already mentioned Damon and his brother Benjamin, the latter of whom is formatting the book for both e-publication and print publication. They’ve been terrific, and have put up with my anal retentiveness since moment one. They really “got” me and what I wanted to do, which if you know me you know is not the easiest thing in the world to do. The above cover may not appeal to everyone, but here’s a little factoid for you: Before I even signed them on I did a sketch of what I wanted the cover to look like. I never showed them the sketch, I simply gave them a few, minor details about it and asked them to roll with them. They nailed my idea almost perfectly. And the interior? Well, I haven’t seen the finished product yet but if draft one was any indication? It’s going to be sharp. Minimalist, yes, but that’s the way I wanted it. No flourishes or design elements. I’m not writing a Nicholas Sparks book, after all. That’s no knock on Nicholas Sparks (I loved THE TIME TRAVELLER’S WIFE), but it’s not me. It’s not ENDWORLD – A Novel.

Moving on, I cannot thank my editor, Amy, enough for the amount of work she put into cleaning up the book for publication. She did so with little fanfare. She put up with an incessant amount of text messaging and Facebook messaging from me about this, that and the other thing throughout, and offered insight, not just about how the book was written, but about different things that happened in it, i.e. plot points, “flow,” et cetera et cetera when she didn’t really have to. She did so while remaining true to my voice and my style of writing throughout and if it takes off? If it, as my wonderful wife said, becomes the next Twilight or Hunger Games? Well, I honestly don’t think it will (that’s a lot of lightning in a bottle to catch, guys) but if it does even modestly well? I will have her to thank. So I’m thanking her now. She has my eternal gratitude.

I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my family and my friends for their support, throughout, as well. My real life brethren? My mom and my sister, Katie? My Uncles, Aunts, Cousins and In-Laws? Some have been needling me for almost 20 years–ever since I first gave many of them an autographed copy of ENDWORLD, version one for Christmas back in the mid-1990’s–to do what I’m doing right now and I guess I finally listened to them. Vato, Jeebus, Hungerford and Carole? Carey, AP, Ed-san, the Mol-ster, Petey-Max, Kimberly and Jackson? Even the ones that I don’t really speak with anymore. You all know who you are. And those of you that don’t? You may once you read the book. My little joke a few weeks ago about “any resemblance to people and places not being intentional?” There’s a reason for that. But I won’t go any deeper into it than that. You’ll find out soon enough. Hopefully by the end of the month if everything goes according to plan.

In particular, though, I need to single out one friend who was an invaluable help to me over the last year, ever since I completed draft one and sent it out to my first dozen Beta readers. That friend read that draft, sat me down over a beer and told me what he thought of the book. And then? After I completed draft two? He did so again. And again. And again. He has been a sounding board throughout the revision process and has told it “like it is” every time. He never once tried to stroke my ego or make me feel like my book was better than it actually was. He never told me it sucked, either, but that’s beside the point. He never told me what to write, but he took my overabundance of ideas and helped me give them structure. Matt? Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, soul and mind. I wouldn’t be here right now without your assistance.

I could go on. I feel like I should go on. But its getting late and hey: I just got my latest proof back from Benjamin (guess what I’m doing tomorrow night?). I feel like I’m missing someone. Someone important. Someone who is arguably the most important influence in my life presently, and has been for the last decade plus. Back when I first met the then-Nicole Gentile in 2001, ENDWORLD was a virtual non-entity. It was a book that I’d written back in the early and mid-1990’s that profiled my late teen, and early adult angst. Nicole knew I was a writer when she first met me, despite the fact that I was managing her CVS/Pharmacy. She knew that I’d written a couple of books. She knew how important it was to me to revise them and one day publish them. She encouraged me then and continued to encourage me for years. Once or twice, she even said to me (when I told her of a new idea that I’d come up with), “why don’t you just rewrite the ENDWORLD books. You know it’s what you want to do.”

Admittedly? Nicole never thought my fiction was my best writing. She’s always been and remains partial to stuff like this blog entry and I promise, Nicole: One day I will publish something non-fiction that includes “The Doctor McDreamy Unappreciation Thread.” But despite that, she understood how important those books were to me… are to me. And when I restarted this process back in 2011, I told her one warm, late April night that rewriting ENDWORLD was going to eat up a lot of my time and brain power. I warned her in advance of the nights when she would come home from work and find me sitting on the couch with my laptop open on my lap and the “Tron: Legacy” soundtrack playing over its speakers. I told her that I might not even be able to acknowledge her with more than a mumbled “hi” or a grunt. “That’s how I write, sweetie,” I told her.

Her response? “I know. And I understand.” And she did. She never “got in my grill” about it and she never got pissy. She let me go and go and go and now? Look at where I am. That, guys? That’s not just understanding. That’s love. True love. That’s acknowledging the importance of something to your significant other and letting it happen no matter how quiet the living room gets. I know I talk a lot about her and some of you may be sick of it. But understand something: No one has ever “gotten” me the way she does. Regardless of the success or failure of this endeavor, I am the luckiest man in the whole f*cking universe on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Because of her. Because of what she’s given me. And that, friends? That’s where I’m going to leave this little “quick hit.” 

G’Night, all. Winky emoticon. Smiley face.

ADDENDUM: Not only does it have a cover, but this PM, I signed off on the final proof for the print edition of it. I have posted samples to my Facebook Author Page as well as to Twitter if anyone is interested in checking them out. I’m not going to post them here because, for lack of sounding too fabulous, white against a white background doesn’t make a lot of sense. Please, take a look and let me know your thoughts, critiques, compliments et al. Thank you, everyone! 

In Which I Shelve “Sh*theads” so as to not Further Anger My Potential Reader Base

Good Morning, Afternoon, Evening or Night fellow Sh… err, fellow denizens of my subjective reality on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Note that I stalled before writing “Sh*thead.” There’s a reason for that. A friend of mine informed me the other day that regardless of my ongoing contention about the term “Sh*thead” not being derogatory, it could still be construed as such by one or two people. He suggested a new strategy moving forward: That rather than potentially insult anyone, I should not use the term “Sh*thead” in the immediate future, especially in light of what is presently transpiring. I am, of course, referring to the imminent publication of my first book, ENDWORLD – A Novel.

A quick update on that for those of you reading this that are new to my mind and my world: ENDWORLD – A Novel remains in the capable hands of my chosen designer and formatter (is “formatter” even a word?). I am awaiting the first proofs of both the e-book version and the print version. Once I have them, the potentially laborious process of “tweaking” the design will begin. As much as I’d love to settle on a cover and an interior right away, I know that it’s not feasible. After all, I’ve waited almost 20 years for this moment. I want to do it right. Right?

When I do go “live” with the book I promise that next to me, my wife and my kids y’all will be the first people to know. So sit tight. It’s coming. Hopefully before Memorial Day, just in time for the summer reading season, thus completing the vicious circle that began many, many moons ago one summer in the basement/Periodical Room of a library in Wyncote, Pennsylvania. Back then, all ENDWORLD – A Novel was was an idea and a dream. It evolved into a scene and from there, it evolved into a Prologue, typed on my old 286 computer in Courier Font. If you’ve been following my random musings for a while, you know the rest. Fast forward to this unseasonably warm day in April of 2013 and my dream is close to becoming a reality. There have been a hundred and one people that have inspired me along the way (and that’s no exaggeration, guys), and it would take me a while to list them all. Instead, I’ll let the book’s dedication speak for itself:

This novel is dedicated to my companions. My brethren. My friends. The once and future inspiration behind its conception.

Je t’aime. 

For those of you that have never taken French, “Je t’aime” means “I love you.” Don’t worry: I never took French either. Nor did I take Latin. I was a Spanish guy from high school through college. That didn’t stop me from using both languages and no Spanish in the novel (I never was very good at Spanish, anyway). Someone once taught me how to both say and spell “Je t’aime” and the lesson? It has stuck with me since. I am eternally grateful for that. And to everyone else that has been there along the way. The finished product may be my words, but every one of you had a part in its development. That doesn’t mean I’m going to be dishing out royalties to you. Sh*t, the darn thing has to make money first. As I promised someone on Facebook the other day, if this book launches a writing career, I’ll buy the beer for a while. That said…

Back to Sh*theads. My aforementioned friend and I bantered back and forth a bit about me posting a retraction on my blog, i.e. instead of an Appreciation, an Anti-Appreciation of Sh*theads or something similar. Sadly? I’m not going to do that. The term “Sh*thead” is as much a part of my vernacular at this point as the word “aforementioned.” But I concede that  he has a point, and from the end of this blog forward, I will no longer refer to people, myself included as “Sh*thead.” Note that I wrote “from the end of this blog forward.” Before  I abandon the term indefinitely, I’d like to take a few moments and reflect back over its sordid history, not just on “Random Musings” versions one and two, but pre-“Random Musings,” back when I and my brethren all lived in and around Jenkintown, Pennsylvania and no one lived anyplace else.

It’s difficult to pinpoint when, exactly, I first wrote or said “the world is full of Sh*theads.” My V-D Day ponderance? My Y2K one? Back then, I didn’t consider myself a Sh*thead. I mentioned this before but it bears repeating for the newbies: I used to believe that a Sh*thead was, in essence, a Nine to Fiver. Someone that wakes up at the same time every Monday through Friday, goes to work, takes the same lunch break, goes home and goes to bed. Rinse and repeat.

But then something intriguing happened. I became one. A Nine to Fiver. A Sh*thead. All of those people that I was referring too back in my early 20’s? If I haven’t already I implore your forgiveness, now. It was a weird time for me. A time filled with copious amounts of alcohol, herbal refreshment, feminine banes, dungeons, poems, sleep deprivation and Animal Planet. Not to mention mountains of debt and a black, Dodge Neon Sport commissioned “The Wraith (est. 1998).” I knew not whereof I spoke.

Being a Sh*thead is not a bad thing when you view it in that context. It’s a good thing. It’s normalcy. The fact that I’ve attained any degree of normalcy in my almost 38 year life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence is still shocking to me. Considering where I was less than 15 years ago and where I am now? Yeah. If you knew me then and you know me now you likely “smell what I’m cookin’.”

I wonder if there are people out there now that look at people like me the same way I used to look at people like me. Me with my graying, fraying hair and the two spots of white in my once-three toned, now four-toned beard. Me, the guy who sits at a desk every Monday through Friday (and every fourth Saturday) from eight to five or five thirty running an office and helping people with their hydraulic and pneumatic needs. I can hear them snickering at me from within a cloying cloud of blue-gray pot smoke. “Look at him,” I can hear them saying in alcohol choked voices, “look at that Sh*thead. Man, I’m never going to be ‘that guy.'”

Guess what, pal? You say that now when you’re sharing an apartment that smells like feces with two of your friends and living off of Ramen Noodles and powdered iced tea. But 10 years… 15 years from now when you’re married with a job, kids, a mortgage, a spare tire around your once-chunky, but now drooping waist and white spots in your beard/gray streaks in your hair? You’ll understand better. Me? Yeah, I’m a Sh*thead. But for the most part, I’m happy with my normal life. I’m happy with my wife, my job, my kids and my house (my spare tire? Not so much though I do think the white spots in my beard make my look distinguished). I haven’t smoked weed in a long, long time and the last time I did? Let’s just say the experience was highly un-enjoyable. I do still drink on occasion, but rarely to excess and I haven’t had a package of Ramen Noodles since roughly 2010. Powdered iced tea, though? Yeah. It and my spare tire go hand-in-hand.

I like normal. Normal is less stressful than Abby-normal. Normal allows me the time to write (or rewrite) a novel and the money to self-publish it. Admittedly, Uncle Sam had a little to do with that last, as well. It was a good 2013 for the Marsh clan. You can call me a Sh*thead if you want but buddy? Once upon a time (’cause all good stories begin as such), I was where you are, thinking the same way that you did. I’d wager many of us were. But now? We’re the end products of sociological evolution on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. See if you feel the same way when you’re where we are, now. Until then, as Dave Matthews sang, “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Okay, maybe not “die” but age? Become Nine to Fivers, AKA Sh*theads? Definitely. That is the way of things. The way of the Force. End needless “Star Wars” shout-out.

I’m not going to lie: There are days when I miss the carefree lifestyle of my early 20’s. Back when I could rage until three in the AM and still get up two hours later to unload a truck at CVS, 45 minutes away from my little, two bedroom hovel in Jenkintown and thereafter, Northeast Philadelphia. Back when I had the tolerance of an elephant and not that of a dying field mouse. Back when I would take spur of the moment road trips with a friend or two (or four) in my spiffy black, Dodge Neon Sport, “The Wraith.”” Back when ENDWORLD – A Novel was still just ENDWORLD, the main character’s name was not William but Roland and the book itself? It was little more than a Fictional Autobiography that drew heavily upon movies like “The Terminator” and shows like “The Wonder Years” for inspiration. I’ve said this before, too: There are elements of both still in it, even now in it’s completed version, but those elements are no where near as prevalent as they once were. Nothing more than occasional homages to the aspects that originally inspired it. I can see them, and I’m sure a few of the people that read the original draft of the book back then will see them, as well. But for the most part? It’s new. A product of my mid-30 something, now late-30 something mind. Is it improved? Well, guys? That’ll be for you to decide. I’ve still got the original at home in a black binder under lock and key. I could always publish it if the new version tanks.

Will I? Probably not. Doing so would be the equivalent of publishing the first ever short story that I wrote. It would be the equivalent of dusting off, finishing and publishing THE OAKS. Yes, THE OAKS. There’s only one or two people I know now that know about that one. Believe it or not? ENDWORLD was not my first attempt at writing a novel. THE OAKS was. I was 17 or 18 when I began it. It was a story about a guy that dies and wakes up in an old, abandoned retirement community that is populated by ghosts, one of whom–Jerry–resembles Jerry Garcia. I made it about 50 pages in before I realized that all it was was a “Beetlejuice” retread and shelved it.

Shortly thereafter I found myself reorganizing the Periodical Room of a library in Wyncote, Pennsylvania. it was summertime, and I was thinking about my upcoming, yearly vacation in Cape May, New Jersey. I was suddenly struck with a notion: How cool would it be to see someone sunning him or herself on the beach while reading a book with my name on it? As I continued organizing and alphabetizing, a scene began to take shape in my mind and I immediately ran for the old, manual typewriter that I’d been using to type on blue, check out cards. I grabbed an empty one and started. By the time that I was done, the opening words of the final chapter of the original version of ENDWORLD were written. That blue card? It, like my 286 is now lost to history (but not THE OAKS; I still have that one). While it was the beginning of something, it was just that: A beginning.

Writing a book? It’s a lot like life, guys. Both have a beginning: A birth. The older both get the more refined both become. What was once a product of naivete–like trying to describe making love when you’ve never made love before–matures. Grows. Eventually? Something amazing happens. You finish writing your book, and you begin the process of either having it published or self-publishing it. And as you get down to that long awaited moment where you go “live” with your creation? You realize that unlike life which has one beginning and one ending, your book? Contextually it has one of each: One “once upon a time” and one “and they lived happily ever after.” But metaphorically? That moment when you make it available to the world is a second birth. That’s where the two ideas finally diverge from each other. What happens after that should be of no consequence to you. You’re not in this for the money, right? Well, maybe some of you are but for me? It’s never been about that. For me, it’s always been about that second birth. Regardless of ENDWORLD A Novel‘s success or failure, I did it. I got my second birth. At almost 38…

Me. A self-proclaimed Sh*thead. I used to think that Sh*theads never got that chance. Apparently, they do.

And with that? I am officially shelving the term “Sh*thead” until such time as I, my friend and any of my potential reader base offended by it deem it fit to return. Let my close by thanking… who else? All of my fellow once-Sh*theads, a few of whom I hope will buy my book when it becomes available, sometime pre-Memorial Day, 2013, and read it while sunning on a beach somewhere. For me? That would be full circle. A dream come true.

Je t’aime, friends.  

Douglas Adams – An Appreciation

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I need to be.”

(Douglas Adams, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish)

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There is a little known fact about me that you may or may not know. When most people think of me as a writer, they think of someone who was and still is inspired by authors like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, Asimov, Tolkien and Robert Jordan (not Brandon Sanderson). Why? Because for years, I have been claiming that they were the authors who most directly inspired me to write.

And they did. They still do, even now. But I’d be lying if I said that they were the only authors who have inspired me. Among the others, in no particular order are Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Michael Crichton, Anne Rice, Sam Shepard, Tony Kushner, Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, T. S. Eliot et al. I could continue but in truth? I have no desire to fill this entire blog entry with a list of influences that I may or may not ever measure up to. Note that I said “may.” Anything is possible, right? What can I say? I dream big.

But one author is conspicuously absent from the above list. That author? The late, great Douglas Adams who’s Hitchhiker’s Guide, five book trilogy (yes, I said “five book trilogy”) remains one of my all time favorites. While I find it hard to believe that anyone is unaware of what the f*ck I’m talking about, here’s a quick primer for those of you that don’t: Arthur Dent, the main character,  is an Englishman who is one of two human beings to survive the destruction of the Earth (the second and only other survivor, Tricia McMillian–“Trillian” in the books–travels around the universe with Slartibartfast, a once designer of luxury planets). He escapes with the assistance of Ford Prefect, an alien from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse who is a researcher for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The Guide is just that: An instruction manual for how to get around the universe on a budget (hint: Make sure you have a good towel). Arthur and Ford go on a myriad of adventures across the universe and through time which I will not itemize herein. If you’d like to know more about them, Marvin the Paranoid Android, Zaphod Beelbebrox, Deep Thought, 42, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe and the time hopping, Chesterfield couch et al, check out the books or ask me for mine. I’d be happy to lend them to you.

I first read the books in college at the urging of my friend Pat (booyakasha, Vato. Respect), and have since read them multiple times, most recently to my firstborn, Cara. It was a part of our nightly routine when she was still a toddler: “Ba Ba,” book(s) and bed. Sadly, Adams passed away in 2001, way before his time and yesterday, 3/11/13 would have been his 61st birthday (shout out to Google for their terrific, Google Doodle honoring him). Last evening, in honor of it, I picked up my dog-eared copy of  Life, the Universe and Everything (Book Three) and started reading. I was immediately re-immersed in the universe that I loved and continue to love so much now, almost two decades after I first read about it.

Too this day, I’ve been unable to determine whether the Hitchhiker’s Guide is a product of Adams’ insanity or genius. If you’ve read any portion of it you understand why. So many of his ideas are so “out there” that it’s hard for me to believe that a sane, or non-substance induced mind could have come up with them. I mean really, I’ve always considered myself pseudo-mad and I can’t come up with anything like what he did. The Impossibility Drive? The SEP (“Someone Else’s Problem”)? Not even when I used to drink heavily and smoke ‘da Chiba. The phrase “often imitated, never duplicated” applies perfectly to him… was, in fact, used by fellow author Neil Gaiman to describe him in the Forward to The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The answer to what it really is is irrelevant. Regardless of what Adams’ original motive for writing the Hitchhiker’s Guide was… whether he actually conceived of the idea one night, drunk in a field while hitchhiking across Europe or he came up with it on the spur of the moment to meet a contractual obligation to the BBC, it has affected and continues to affect others too this day. Everyone has their own reasons.

As for mine? His style of writing–cloaking the problems of the world, nay the universe in absurdity–is something that I’ve tried to do, to an obviously lesser affect in everything from these blog entries to their precursors (“Mental Flatulence”) to their precursors (“Dissertations”). I adapt it to my own, personal issues on my side of the proverbial wormhole of existence, as well. “The world is full of Sh*theads?” “The Feminine Bane of my Early Existence?” I never would have come up with those ideas were it not for The Hitchhiker’s Guide. Adams taught me to not necessarily laugh at the same things that once upon a time (’cause all good stories begin as such) vexed me, but to look at them with a degree of jaded humor. The time I did BLANK to BLANK? I used to obsess over it. After I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, though? Well sh*t, guys. I guess if Adams could make light of the destruction of the Earth to make way for a hyperspace bypass–an obvious allegory of how infrastructure has replaced and continues to replace all things pure and traditional in our world–then I could make light of my one or two, misguided attempts to forge a relationship with a woman that really had no interest in me, or a “Biological” that had moved on with his life at mine, my sister’s and my mother’s expense. In short? Douglas Adams not only affected my writing, he affected my mentality. And for that–the ability to laugh at the things that used to bother me–I am eternally grateful.

I’m not entirely sure why I felt the need to write this blog entry, today, save for an inherent desire to express my thoughts on, in my opinion, one of the greatest authors of the 20th Century in lieu of what would have been his 61st Birthday. I guess I figure that over the next few months–if everything goes according to plan–I’m going to be writing a lot about an idea that is very un-Hitchhiker’s Guide-like in both its tone and its scope. I originally conceived of ENDWORLD – A Novel before I’d ever read a word of Book One, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Even now, after its most recent rewrite, ENDWORLD is more King meets Asimov meets Jordan in its tone and scope than Adams. If I ever get to the point that I’m ready to put it out there… out here for you guys to read it, I intend to market it as such to my “Targeted Audience.” But the last thing that I want if I ever do achieve my big, big dream of being not just a published, but a successful author is to be pigeonholed as purely a genre writer. I’d love to write something Hitchhiker’s Guide-like one day. And while I would never aspire to the same heights as Douglas Adams achieved… while I never could achieve the same balance of comedy, satire and narrative flow that he did, I’d very much like to try.

That said, I’m done, albeit somewhat more prematurely than normal. What can I say? Not every blog entry is going to be a rambling rumination on my own personal life, the universe and everything. In closing, I’d like to thank not only Douglas Adams, but Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Slartibartfast, Trillian, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Marvin the Paranoid Android and all of the other personalities that inhabit the universe portrayed in the Hitchhiker’s Guide. Reading about them again last night was like reacquainting myself with my old friends. I’d also like to thank my Vato, Pat for lending me his copy of The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy so many, many years ago. My mind hasn’t been the same since. In closing, I’m not going to take the easy way out and say “DON’T PANIC.” Nor am I going to finish with “so long, and thanks for all the fish” though admittedly? Both would work. No. Instead, I’m going to close as I opened: With one of my favorite quotes. This one is actually from the Adams penned Preface to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It may be one of, if not the best observances of humanity and the human condition ever. Enjoy!

“Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans. And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, one girl sitting on her own in a small cafe in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything. Sadly, however, before she could get to a phone to tell anyone about it, a terribly stupid catastrophe occurred, and the idea was lost forever. This is not her story. But it is the story of that terrible stupid catastrophe and some of its consequences.”

(Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

A Quick Hit

Good evening, fellow Sh*theads. Happy Friday night. I told myself that I’d never do this… Told myself that I wouldn’t be “that blogger.” You know, the one who updates you daily on everything from what he’s eating to what he’s watching on television. I told myself when I started this that I wouldn’t turn “Random Musings” into an online journal. But…

Well, guys? Times change, and I figure that I have enough of a “fan base” at this point to justify it. That said, I had pizza for dinner tonight (cheese, only; it’s a Friday in Lent and I’m a fairly good Christian) and I’m currently watching “Sofia the First” with my three year old. A quick parenthetical aside: “Sofia the First” is a new, Disney princess show on Disney Junior about a young commoner, turned royal by marriage (her mother married the king, Roland). It’s terrific, and very age appropriate for a three year old. I highly recommend it. End aside.

Lest those of you that have been reading “Random Musings” worry that I’ve given up blogging, rest assured: I have not. Quite the contrary, actually. I’ve got a handful of new writing ideas involving everything from a “Friends” movie (I call it “Friends: Ten Years Later”) to a new rumination on parenthood, double ear infections, pink eye and Bronchitis. But I’m knee deep in novel revision mode, currently. I’m putting the finishing touches on what I hope will be my final, pre-publication rewrite of ENDWORLD. It and my daily routine are eating up a good portion of my time, currently. As much as I’d love to maintain this site, there are people that have been waiting almost 20 years for me to finally finish this book and I don’t want to let them down. That said…

I know a few of you reading this are dying to see the extent of this novel… This labor of love that I’ve been writing about for… Well, forever. Rest assured: You will. While I’m not confident in putting the whole book out here for anyone to see just yet (a combination of low self-esteem and my fear that someone will steal my idea), I feel reasonably confident about giving you a taste.

So, for those of you that have been faithfully following “Random Musings” since I started it four years ago, I present to you a little treat. The Prologue of my novel. please read, and hopefully enjoy at your leisure. As for me? I’ma get back to the grind. About 100 pages left to go until I’m finished. I’ll catch you on the flip side, friends. Have a great weekend.

ENDWORLD – A Novel

PROLOGUE – Alone (“Fear in a handful of dust”)

It is difficult to remember when my life had meaning. When you’re 18 and on the run, the only meaning that your life has is surviving from day-to-day. Any other meaning that my life had vanished that gray and hazy morning, afternoon or evening on the beach.

I look out the window of the old, abandoned office and adjoining warehouse within which I have resided indefinitely. The nameless town below rolls silently away down a steep hill. Houses and proprietorships, long since abandoned dot the landscape. About a quarter of a kilometer away, the black-asphalt spine of the Highway stretches endlessly in either direction like a huge, dreaming python, and while I cannot see it directly I know that it is there. I can always sense its presence no matter where I am. I’ve got to admit that it is a pretty sight. Perhaps one of the last in this cursed place. Still, a python can be deadly if you provoke it.

How long have I been here? I honestly don’t know. The interior of what has been my surrogate home is unchanged. Old, abandoned desks sit in the four corners of the main room. Atop them, what appear to be old, non-touch screen computer monitors grown dusty and dim with age, abandoned keyboards, speakers, computer mice, the occasional cup of dried-out pens and broken pencils and on one desk, a calendar grown so ancient with age that I can no longer make out the month, days or even the year written upon it.

But such concepts no longer matter in 15:CI.

Three of the four walls surrounding me are covered with accouterments. On one, two framed pictures, one which preaches “Teamwork” and the other, “Excellence.” Another has a yellowing and faded poster of what appears to be a rocket. “Taurus II” it advertises, “Brought to you by Orbital Technologies.” On yet another, a single framed picture that advertises “Leadership.” And on the final wall? A vicious mockery of the world as it once-was: A mural of a forest at dusk, upon it painted trees whose tops extend well beyond the water-stained and cracked drop ceiling over  my head.

I have learned from my experiences, both good and bad, not to rely on time here in Endworld. Every time (no pun intended) that I begin to do so— every time that I try to make sense of such an abstract and outdated concept I realize that the passage of what passes for time here is frighteningly different than one might expect. Everything fades. Everything dies and eventually leaves nothing but the equivalent of a yellowing and faded mural of a forest at dusk if you’re lucky. But in most cases? It leaves nothing but a pile of dust. Here in Endworld? The process once referred to as “time” is elongated. A day lasts ten days. A month lasts 100 months. And a year?

A single year lasts a millennium.

You’re probably wondering who I am. I assure you that that question, and any others that you have will be answered eventually and to the best of my ability. For now, all that I can tell you is that I am alone—the last member of a group of companions who were dedicated to liberating themselves from the totalitarian tyranny of The Administration. I say “the last” not because I am the lone survivor of our group. On the contrary, as far as I know the other surviving members of my group have escaped to a safer place: A place away from the influence of the metal and micro-chip enhanced bastards that sit in judgment over the species that created them and over all of Endworld. No. I say that I am “the last” because I am the one who stayed behind…

However reluctantly.

My gaze drifts back to the lone window, inset within the front door of the place I have come to call my “home.” The sun has almost set and the world is bathed in an eerie, golden-red iridescence. I am reminded of a night seemingly an eternity ago when I embarked on a journey just beyond that same sunset. Then, I was younger physically, figuratively and spiritually. Then, I was unscarred by the sorrow that now hangs like a putrid cloud of hour-old cigarette smoke over my head as I write this. Then, I was as optimistic and naive as any child of 17 whose entire life had been spent within the confines of a small town. Mine was called Jefferson, a tiny borough in the Mid-Western Territory, or MWT for short. Now, though? I sit silently pondering the proverbial road that carried me here, to an old, abandoned office and warehouse in the middle of a crumbling ghost-town sandwiched between a nameless river and the Highway. A place that my companions might have called “The Center of Bumblefuck.”

Darkness is slowly infiltrating the world outside my door and consequently the corners of the office that I nightly bunk down in. I reach into my battered backpack and remove a candle, unfortunately the last of my once-extensive supply. I light it with my trusty Zippo lighter and marvel, as I always do, that after all that has transpired and all that it has endured it continues to light without the benefit of replenishment. My Zippo is as metaphorical of me as the Highway is of Endworld, but more on that later. I place the candle near enough to me so that I can see what I am writing but not near enough to risk the destruction of these last, precious pieces of yellowing paper that I managed to liberate from what must have been the old office supply cabinet in the warehouse.

I glance inside my backpack again and take inventory of my supplies. They are almost depleted. Soon it will be time for me to move on but before I can I must tell you my story, regardless of the likely pain that doing so will cause me. Perhaps when I am gone—and trust me when I tell you that one day soon I will be gone—perhaps when I am gone you can read it, study it… hell, maybe you can even learn something from it. What you do with it is up to you. For the time being, however? I write the following account not to heal the ills of a sick and twisted world: A world of lush forests at dusk grown cold by the emergence of chrome and steel. A world in which a concept like hope is extinct, drowned as all things once youthful and optimistic by the rivers of blood that flow down the distant, eight-lane, asphalt super Highway.

Ever onward, William, a familiar female voice coos in my mind, ever, ever after. I close my eyes against the tightening that embraces my chest and my midsection and I sigh.

No, friends. I write the following account to heal myself.

I won’t begin my tale in the traditional way because as someone wise once told me, the phrase “once upon a time” generally signifies a happy ending. I think that it would be better to begin with…

🙂

Dora the Explorer – A J. J. Abrams Film

So the word on the street today is that J. J. Abrams–he of the TV shows “Alias,” “Lost” and “Fringe” and the movies “Cloverfield,” “Mission Impossible 3” and “Super 8” among others–is planning to direct the new Star Wars movie–Episode VII–coming out in a few years. For many of the people like myself who endearingly refer to him as “J. J.” and have embraced seemingly everything he has done since popping on to the entertainment scene a little over a decade ago, this news is great news. After all, look at what he did for the Star Trek franchise a few years ago and what he’s hopefully planning on doing with it this year (the sequel, “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” is due out in May). He’s taken once-dry material and made it fresh and new again. Who wouldn’t want him to do that with arguably the most beloved, movie franchise in cinematic history? Something to help us at last wash the dual tastes of Jar Jar Binks and springtime on Naboo out of our collective mouths. Not to mention Anakin/Darth Vader’s primal scream at the end of Episode III. Brrr. I get shivers just thinking about it and they’re not from the bone-chilling cold outside.

In truth? As a lifetime aficionado of everything and anything Star Wars, the only director I’d personally want to handle this daunting task more is Joss Whedon, endearingly referred to by many, including myself, as just “Joss.” But he is otherwise preoccupied with making the Marvel multi-verse completely bad ass right now, so J. J. is, for me, a more-than suitable replacement. He’s arguably one of the two best, young directors in Hollywood presently (the other, Ben Affleck, was apparently vetted for the job but not chosen; s’cool for him, though. Word is he’s been tapped to direct the Justice League movie in a few years which could, conceivably  be equally as bad ass as “The Avengers” if the right superheros are chosen).

But not everyone is as ciked as I am. Por ejemplo: I’ve seen a lot of people who hated J. J.’s reboot of Star Trek online today, trolling the entertainment sites and lamenting the fact that this is happening. The term “Lens Flare”–a filming technique that he has been criticized for overusing–was even trending on Twitter last night after the news was officially announced. Still, most people appear to be cautiously optimistic about it. I guess we’ll all know all in a few years but for now, let the speculation about a story line and a cast begin. Josh Holloway (Sawyer from “Lost”) for Han Solo, anyone? Lord knows if J. J.’s involved, you’re not going to know anything about Episode VII’s plot until it is released.

But this announcement has gotten me to thinking. J. J. has already taken on one beloved franchise. Now, he’s taking on another. Whether or not the Trekkies and the Star Warsies go to war over this remains to be seen (I classify myself as “both” and “neither” at the same time and as for what that means, I have no frackin’ idea). One reviewer classified it as the equivalent of owning Coke and Pepsi with Dr. Pepper (the Mission Impossible franchise) thrown in for good measure and you can imagine what that would do to the fans of both, can’t you? Coke and Pepsi can not be made by the same company! We need to retain some measure of capitalistic competition in this country, people! 

Okay, maybe not. But it got me to thinking anyway: What if J. J. were to take on another, beloved franchise but not a franchise beloved by Geekdom. Rather, a franchise beloved by, say, children? ‘Know which one I’m talking about? The title of this blog entry says it all. Without further adieu, I give you one madman’s speculation on the possibilities inherent in:

Dora the Explorer: A J. J. Abrams Film

The opening shot of the movie is a close up of a blinking, brown eye. The camera pans out and we see our heroine, Dora’s face. It is streaked with dirt and she is laying in a corn field. She is wearing her customary purple, nondescript belly shirt and her equally nondescript orange capri pants, but her sneakers have disappeared (she is still wearing her yellow socks). She sits up and looks around her but the area in which she finds herself is unfamiliar. She honestly can not remember how she ended up there. She stands and calls out to her best friend, Boots, but receives only silence in response.

She again surveys her surroundings. Instinctively, she reaches behind her in an attempt to remove Map from Backpack and get her bearings. With a gasp she realizes that Backpack and, by association, Map are gone. She considers what she should do. In doing so, she realizes that there is a small structure of some sort at the edge of her vision. She squints: It looks like a shack. Why had she not seen it before? She considers it as she starts off in a trot toward it.

Ten feet or so away from the onset of the shack’s ramshackle porch there is a line of what looks like gray ash piled in her path. She pauses before it, looks left and then right and realizes that the ash frames the entire property. Tentatively, she steps over the line but nothing happens. She runs the last of the distance to the porch of the shack, gains it, and raps on the old door that hangs loosely from its hinges outside. A raspy, male voice tells her to “come in” and she does.

She opens the door, and immersed in the shadows that fill the structure’s interior she sees someone or something sitting across from her in a rocking chair. She can not tell much about the figure’s appearance at first: It seems to be made of shadow itself. But slowly it takes shape. She then recognizes the figure that leans forward in to a single beam of light as her friend Benny the Bull.

She asks him what has happened; asks him where her friend Boots is and what has happened to Backpack. Benny informs her that apparently, Swiper’s experiments with Red Matter–a hobby of his when he’s not swiping–backfired and created a singularity which he fell in to. It carried him back in time to the exact day that Dora’s Abuela first gave her Backpack. Seeing an opportunity to improve upon his future self’s situation, Swiper swiped Backpack before the exchange could be made and ran away. He disguised himself, traveled to his childhood foxhole and gave Backpack to his past self. Thereafter, he vanished, never to be heard from again.

Said alteration of the original timeline of Dora’s life set in motion a series of events that caused the new timeline within which she finds herself, a timeline in which Boots and her never became friends and she never received Backpack. Dora the Explorer is, in fact, plain ole’ Dora Vasquez. As for why he is imprisoned within the timeline, as well, Benny is unable–or unwilling, Dora thinks–to provide Dora with a reasonable explanation in the time allotted them. But he assures her multiple times that they are not in Purgatory. 

Dora asks Benny what she needs to do and Benny tells her that she must travel to Swiper’s foxhole and confront him. She must then use the Red Matter–which Swiper still dabbles in–to create her own singularity and travel back in time. Once there, she must either prevent Swiper from swiping Backpack before it can be gifted to her, or she must swipe it back from him after and give it to her younger self. As for which one, the choice is hers, Benny tells her. The end result in both cases, he reasons, is the same. She asks how she’s going to get to Swiper’s foxhole without Map Quarterbacking her through it and Benny gives her a GPS device. He also tells her that she may have to get bloody. Dora tells him that she’s not afraid, and that she’ll do whatever she has to do to restore the original timeline. After all, she tells him, Explorer, not Vasquez IS my middle name. 

Benny advises her that actually, Vasquez always has been her last name and Explorer is more of a title than a last name. Dora thanks Benny for his help and turns to leave. Before she can do so, however, Benny calls to her. She turns back at the door to look at her friend, who warns her that the path to Swiper’s foxhole, even with the assistance of a GPS device is fraught with peril. Dora suspiciously–because she has been wondering about him since she first saw him–asks Benny how he knows this and watches, helplessly, as Benny de-materializes in to a black smoke cloud, wisps around her once, and blows out the door in a flurry of grinding, mechanical clatter.

Dora switches on her GPS device as she exits Benny’s shack but quickly realizes that she has been duped. Benny the Bull’s GPS runs Apple Maps which, she knows, will get her no where near her intended destination. How on Earth will I find my way to Swiper’s foxhole now? She asks herself. At that precise moment, a single engine plane lands on the ground before her and she sees that her friend Isa is flying it. But Isa, Dora quickly realizes, is not her friend in this alternate reality. In fact, Isa’s pilot’s uniform–little more than a set of gray overalls–has what Dora understands is Swiper’s insignia–a mask with two beady eyes peering from within it–upon its lapel. Isa takes Dora in to custody. She binds her hands and feet and puts her in the back of the plane. She then takes off. Well, Dora reasons, I guess this is easier than trying to find my way there without Map or a functional GPS device. 

Some time later, Isa lands her plane next to what looks at first like a towering pile of junk in the shape of a foot. However, Dora quickly realizes (as she is forcibly removed from the plane) that the “junk” is actually the sum total of everything that Swiper has swiped and not used since he first swiped her Backpack years before. Toys and appliances; clothes and Tupperware. Everything and anything that she can think of is represented in the makeshift structure that Swiper has framed his foxhole with. Swiper emerges from within his “castle” to greet Isa and Dora sees it hanging from his shoulders: Backpack.

Backpack! She shouts and tries to rush Swiper but is quickly restrained by a collection of overall-clad, automatic rifle carrying guards with red shirts beneath, wearing masks similar to Swiper’s. Swiper orders them to place her under arrest pending termination. No sooner has he done so then a wormhole opens up directly to Dora’s left and the “over there” version of her steps through, flanked on either side by her friends Tico and the Big, Red Chicken (who are played, respectively, by Michelle Rodriguez and Jorge Garcia). Each is armed with a phaser and they immediately open fire on the guards trying to restrain Dora. They fall quickly, but not before one of them gets a shot off and mortally wounds the Big, Red Chicken (‘like what I did there with the color red, Trekkies?). Swiper flees in to his foot-shaped foxhole, followed closely by Isa. Dora, Dora and Tico pause for a moment to tend to the Big, Red Chicken but it is too late. He has expired.

Come on, Dora says to Dora and Tico, let’s go get Backpack AND some retribution. Dora and Tico agree. Dora takes the Big, Red Chicken’s phaser and follows Dora and Tico in to the foxhole. After a few moments, they corner Swiper and Isa in one of the interior chambers of the foxhole next to the large, sphere of Red Matter that Swiper dabbles in while he’s not swiping. Swiper holds out Backpack in one hand and a turkey baster with a single drop of Red Matter in the other. You want this? He threatens, then come and GET IT! Before Dora, Dora and Tico can react Swiper drops the drop of Red Matter on to the floor before him and a singularity opens up which he and Isa subsequently fall through.

Dora moves to follow him but Dora and Tico pause. Come ON, Dora shouts, we need to get Backpack back so we can restore the original timeline. But Dora and Tico look at each other and shake their heads. To do so, they tell Dora, would be too much of a risk and could potentially cause the collapse of not just the alternate reality in which they currently are in but “over there,” and all realities. We will wait here for you to return, Dora says to Dora. Tico nods his head and says dios velocidad which translates to God speed. Dora leaps in to the singularity, phaser in hand, and lands a few seconds later…

In the same room. No, Dora realizes, it is not the same. It is brighter and the decor is outdated. I’m in the past! She understands. But which past? She considers, and how far back? She runs out of the room and follows the tunnel which she had come down in the other reality with “over there” Dora and Tico up to the surface. She emerges in to the sunlight. The items that had comprised the foot that had framed Swiper’s foxhole are gone and she can see Swiper and Isa fleeing down the road about 100 feet away from her. She runs after them as fast as she can and finally catches up to them. She orders them to stop and they do so. Swiper turns, Backpack still in hand, and holsd the turkey baster–also still in hand–up to it.

There’s still a little left, Dora, Swiper cautions, one squeeze on Backpack and it’ll cease to exist, which is another way of saying that once again, YOU’RE TOO LATE! Simultaneously, Dora hears something mechanical clanking in the trees to her right. She turns, just in time to see the big, black Benny smoke cloud come roaring out of the woods. It targets Swiper and Isa, swirls around them, picks them up and throws them screaming in to the distance before it stops swirling, and re-materializes in to Benny the Bull on the road before her. Benny holds up his hand and Dora sees Backpack hanging there.

Backpack! She cries and moves to take it, but Benny steps back and holds it away from her. Not so fast, Dora, he says gruffly, I will give this back to you so you can complete your adventure and restore the original timeline but in exchange, I need something. Dora skeptically asks him what he needs and Benny replies, quite simply with your body.

THIS vessel has outlived its usefulness, he tells her. I need a new vessel before it expires and I would like that vessel to be you. So, Dora asks,  you’re not really Benny the Bull? Benny the Bull? The Benny-thing says, no. What I really am is far older and more difficult to explain. Dora tasks him to try her and he replies that he cannot explain it thoroughly in the time allotted them. He assures her once again that they are not in Purgatory, which makes absolutely no sense to Dora since they weren’t even discussing Purgatory, but she dismisses it. She looks longingly at Backpack and thinks of her good friend Boots. After a moment’s consideration, she reluctantly agrees. But only after I give it to past-Dora, return through the singularity and make sure that things have been restored to normal. Benny agrees and gives her Backpack. Benny tells her that he will see her shortly, morphs in to a polar bear and runs off toward Swiper’s foxhole. 

Dora travels the last of the distance to her Abuela’s house and arrives simultaneously with Swiper. Instead of chanting “Swiper no swiping” like she always does she opts, instead, to shoot him with the Big, Red Chicken’s phaser before he can enter and swipe Backpack. It works. She watches, hidden in the bushes with an incapacitated Swiper beside her as her Abuela gives her younger self Backpack. Once satisfied that the exchange has been made, she binds Swiper’s hands and feet with the rope stashed in her version of Backpack, throws him over her shoulder, and runs quickly back to his foxhole.

She arrives to find the singularity promptly closing. She leaps in to it with Swiper in tow, and arrives back where she started. The sphere of Red Matter is gone and “over there” Dora and Tico have vanished. They probably took it with them to protect it, Dora thinks. The singularity closes behind her with a “pop” and she lays Swiper down on the floor  just as he is waking up. She loosens his bonds and informs him that she is going to cut him loose. The alternate version of you and your cronie alt-Isa are trapped forever in the past, and the Red Matter is gone, she informs him, if I so much as SNIFF you doing anything but swiping in the future I’m going to come back here and finish what I COULD HAVE finished before. She holds the phaser up so he can see it, points to the switch–labeled “Stun” and “Kill” which is currently set to “Stun”–and asks him if she is clear. Swiper stands up rubbing his wrists, snaps his fingers together and says, “aww, man,” but he agrees. Dora swings Backpack on to her shoulders and leaves him that way, cowering in his foxhole.

She emerges on to a hillside. There is no foot shaped pile of swiped items around her. Standing a few feet down the hillside are her friends Isa, Tico, the Big Red Chicken and Boots! She shouts his name as she rushes toward and embraces him. Boots embraces her back and asks her what has happened. Dora states that she will explain it to him over a banana and a cup of Abuela’s non-alcoholic Sangria. She reaches behind her and touches Backpack. Backpack says “yum, yum, yum, delicioso!” Map? She asks and hears the familiar refrain of “who’s the guy you need to know when you’ve got someplace to go,” and smiles. She releases Boots, and is about to exclaim that “we did it!” when she hears a mechanical clanking behind her. She turns and watches as the black Smoke Benny cloud re-materializes in to Benny the Bull.

I was wondering when you’d show up, the Benny-thing says, I have fulfilled my promise to you and you DID IT. Lo hicimos! You have completed your adventure. The timeline has been purified. Now, are you ready to fulfill your promise to me? Reluctantly, Dora agrees that she is. Boots inquires about what is going on and Dora turns to him and explains the accord that she reached with Benny while in the past. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, Boots, she states. Boots is saddened, but he understands that any contract, even one between a black smoke thing and his best friend is binding and he reluctantly agrees to let her go. Or the one, he replies and Dora nods. They embrace again, and a few tears are shed. Dora hands Backpack to him and tells him to give it to Diego. It’s time for him to become more than just plain Diego, she says and Boots agrees. Dora says goodbye to Backpack and Map and also embraces Isa, Tico and the Big Red Chicken before she turns back to the Benny-thing and informs it that she is ready. Benny thanks Dora and tells her to close her eyes. The camera zooms in on Dora’s brown eye: The same one it had zoomed in on at the beginning of the movie. And as she closes it, the screen fades to black and the credits role.

The End. 

I’ll concede that it’s more “Lost” than anything else but there are echoes of J. J.’s other shows and movies in it, as well. At least I think there are. Anywhos, that’s my take on how J. J. would treat the Dora the Explorer franchise were he to get his hands on it. There’s the potential for so much more. Whatever the case, please do not mistake this as a portrayal that mocks J. J. Abram’s style. It isn’t. If anything, it is an appreciation of that style. I can’t wait to see what he does with Star Wars. And if he happens to get his hands on this treatment and decides that it resonates with him, this next part is for him. Dear Mister Abrams: I admire your body of work greatly. I think the Lens Flare is an awesome filming technique and do not feel as though you have used it to excess. If you are interested in collaborating on a reinterpretation of “Dora the Explorer” please drop me a line either here or via email (madchronicler@verizon.net). And if you’re not? Well, sir, I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. Sincerely, Frank Marsh, alias (‘like how I did that?) A Big Fan.