In Which I Attempt and Likely Fail to Get “Freshly Pressed”

I’ve accomplished a lot in my 37, almost 38 year life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. I’ve rambled, ranted and raved about many of those accomplishments–both good and bad–for years, both here, on “Random Musings of a Pseudo-Madman Version 1.0,” in my oldest pieces of “Mental Flatulence” and in my original “Dissertations.”

Most recently, I’ve written about the publication err, self-publication of my first book, ENDWORLD – A Novel (I need to keep it real for the people that think I got a book deal). A quick, parenthetical aside on that: The book is still selling modestly well, even after almost a month, and I am patiently awaiting next week when my self-proclaimed “Memorial Day Week Promotional Blitzkrieg” will begin. Note to all: Be prepared. Me and my book are going to be popping up all over the place. And by “all over the place” I mean across the blogosphere and on social media. Maybe even on one or two Google “Search Result” pages. “I don’t know. It’s a mystery.”

Don’t all “ooh” and “aah” at once. I don’t expect that you’ll see my book cover and my face on a billboard overlooking I-95 through Philadelphia. At least not until I shed a couple of pounds. You think a television adds 10 pounds? Imagine what a 30 foot wide by 20 foot high billboard adds. Crikey. I’d look like an albino extra from an old “Godzilla” movie. Just call me Mecha-Marsh.

I’m even 50+ pages into the sequel, CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD thanks largely in part to the not-so-gentle insistence of the people who have finished the first book and really want to see what happens next, and the new Daft Punk album, “Random Access Memories.” All in all? Life’s pretty good, right now. I’ve got to say that as the eras of my life go, this one ranks pretty close to the top. After all, I’m fulfilling two dreams at once: Being a dad and being a writer (not in that order nor in reverse order).

Are there things that I’d change? Sure. I’d love to drop a couple of pounds (and by a couple I mean 50-60). I’d love to spend more time with just my wife and less time with my wife and my beloved “minions,” AKA my children. I’d love for my book to already be a bestseller. I’d love a place down the shore. But I’m a realist really (try saying that five times fast), and I know that, in the immortal words of Mick Jagger, “you can’t always get what you want.”

Okay. Accepted. But there is one thing that I’m lacking. One last, little accomplishment that I’d love to… well, accomplish. That accomplishment? To be…

Drum roll please… 

Freshly Pressed. 

For those of you that don’t know what that means, here’s a definition: “Freshly Pressed” is something that WordPress does with certain blog posts. Per their tutorial (viewable HERE), they Freshly Press blog entries that “enlighten us, inspire us, entertain us and get us talking.” As for who “us” is I’m assuming “us” = The Powers that Be, otherwise known in this case as the WordPress Admins. There are other criteria but at it’s core? That’s what being Freshly Pressed entails. Almost every blog that I follow here on WordPress has, at some point, been Freshly Pressed. They’ve all got that cool, little “Freshly Pressed” badge on their sites. But “Random Musings?” Nope. Never. I could just copy and paste one to my sidebar but that would be cheating. I believe in earning my kudos, not undercutting the system/fabricating them.

Do my posts not enlighten you? Inspire you? Entertain you? Get you talking? If they don’t okay. No problem. I’ve obviously overestimated the reach of my ramblings. Perhaps I spend to much time talking about things that interest me and too little time talking about… I don’t know. Cats. Or Doritos and Smartfood. Or something else that I know a lot about. I’ll concede that at times, this blog has seemed more of an online journal and less of a… how does one define a “blog?”

A blog (a contraction of the words web log) is a discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web and consisting of discrete entries (“posts”) typically displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent post appears first) (SOURCE: Wikepedia of course).

Okay. Per that criteria, “Random Musings” does qualify as a blog and not an online journal. It is a discussion, even if it’s just a discussion with me, myself and my wife who religiously reads every one of these posts in the hopes that she will see something transcendent. Or just funny. I think she’d settle for funny. In truth? I think she just reads it to humor me. And I appreciate that in the same way that I appreciate people telling me that I’m not obese. Um… yeah. Guess what? I am. Morbidly so though I have been told that I carry it well by people that I know would not humor me. Fact? I’m 30 pounds clear of just “obese.” And that’s without consuming sugar. Stupid potato chip-esque products. I should have left you in my proverbial rear view mirror after Lent had expired.

Curse you, Doritos and Smartfood! Curse you to h-e-double hockey sticks! 

There’s more to being Freshly Pressed. A lot more. And admittedly? I want it. I want it so badly. I crave it the way I crave Tostitos,Velveeta and Salsa. There’s nothing like watching college football in the Fall while your “minions” nap with a bag of chips, a trough of cheesy but spicy goodness and a towering glass of Tea Cooler, the latter of which has enough sugar in it to fell a thoroughbred. So this blog entry will be… is an attempt to get Freshly Pressed by analyzing and, hopefully, incorporating each and every one of the selection criteria outlined in the aforementioned tutorial (again, viewable HERE). Will it work? I have no idea. But much like the whole publishing err, self-publishing a novel thing, I’ll never know unless I try. So here goes:

1. Write unique content that’s free of bad stuff. 

In layman’s terms? DOA. 90% of “Random Musings” is “dead on arrival.” Per the Freshly Pressed criteria, “hate speech, fear-mongering, adult/mature content, copyrighted images that belong to someone else, spam or content that’s primarily advertorial in nature” are not allowed (SOURCE: WordPress Tutorial, cited above). I’m good on hate speech, fear-mongering, adult/mature content, copyrighted images and spam. Those items are not in my nature as a person or a writer. I hate no one, not even my Biological though admittedly? I “strongly dislike” him. Fear-mongering? The use of fear to affect the actions and opinions of others? I’m seriously the least scary person I know, though the idea of seeing my mug on a billboard really terrifies the you-know-what out of me. As for adult/mature content, let’s face it: I’m a traditionalist. I feel that certain things need to be kept behind closed doors. The name of this blog isn’t “50 Shades of a Pseudo-Madman” (though if it was, I bet I’d get a lot more traffic) and the only sex scene I ever wrote is contained in the pages of the only novel I ever published. And even it’s not too graphic. Copyrighted images and spam? Okay, the idea that anything on the World Wide Web is “copyrighted” at this point is ludicrous. The bulk of what’s out there… out here is a part of the eminent, public domain and will remain so until such time as someone buys a controlling interest in the Internet, AKA never. And I decry spam/spammers. I’d hunt them all down and spank them if I could. But that last bit? “Content that’s primarily advertorial in nature?” Yep. D. O. A. I’ve spent the better part of the last six months hocking my book, AKA my “wares” on this blog/over on ENDWORLD and THE ENDWORLD SERIES. I’ve even done it in the content of this blog entry. Survey says? Disqualified. I am the weakest link, and I probably should say goodbye at this point. But I’ve already started so really? Why not finish. 

2. Have a point of view/Don’t be afraid of your voice. 

I’m lumping these two together because they’re invariably related. Furthermore, in the interest of time and fairness, I’m only going to rank this as one criteria, and not two. “Random Musings” comes much closer to meeting this one than the first one. I most certainly have a point of view and I express it, sometimes to the chagrin of people who come here looking for something transcendent or amusing and end up reading x-amount of paragraphs that ruminate on my own, subjective life, the universe and everything, i.e. the world… the “All” as I see it. But that’s a point of view, is it not? Everyone sees the ever-turning world around them and the ever-expanding (or shrinking depending on your perspective) universe differently. Me? I generally don’t get depressive about what’s occurring in the grand scheme because really? It’s supremely FUBAR. It has been for some time now and will likely remain so so long as one side of the proverbial aisle can’t agree with the other. Note that I said “proverbial.” I’m not simply referring to Congress though I’m sure that one or two conservatives/liberals will take it that way. I’m referring to one belief system as opposed to another, or one world view as opposed to another. We’re a long way as a species from the idealized Earth that Gene Roddenberry envisioned when he first conceived of “Star Trek” a half a century ago. In this world’s defense? As docile as Roddenberry’s Earth was, his universe was incredibly f*cked up. And we’re still 50 or so years away from Zefram Cochrane’s first warp flight/First Contact so there’s time. But I’d feel a great deal more secure raising my “minions” into adults in a world free of crime and currency that emphasizes learning and exploration, not just on a macro level, but on a micro one (i.e. not just the exploration of the vastness “out there” but of the limits of the mind). And as for not being afraid of my own, unique and sometimes exhaustive voice? Well, I think that I’ve demonstrated that on multiple occasions  In summation? I think I’ve got this one. Survey says? I’m one and one. Moving on.

3. Paint us a picture. 

Ugh. This one is just about DOA, as well. Yeah. “Random Musings” doesn’t really have much of a visual element. That’s the problem with my writing: I’ve grown accustomed to illustrating things with words and not with pictures. I was never very good at taking pictures, though I’ve got a couple at home/on my C-drive that I really treasure. Do you want to see them? Here are a few. With explanations (of course):

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This is a recent picture of me and my “minions.” I’m the ugly mug rocking the grizzly beard on the left. That’s Cara in the middle and on the right? Natalie, otherwise known as “Natalia.” Because in Soviet Russia, everything sounds cooler with an -ia (pronounced “ya”) on the end.

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This is a recent pic of me and my smoking hot wife, Nicole. It was taken at my cousin’s wedding back at the beginning of April. There was a fedora there, as well (the one that you see in my Gravitar profile pic/my author pic) but it didn’t make it into this picture. It made it into others, but showing those pics on here would further violate criteria number one (posts that are free of “bad stuff”). Finally…

Higbee Beach, Cape May, NJ

This is not a recent pic. It’s actually pretty old. It’s a picture of the path through the dune forest to Higbee Beach in Cape May, NJ. If you’ve finished reading ENDWORLD – A Novel (SPOILER ALERT) you know that it plays a pretty significant role in the final pages. It also plays an even more significant role in the opening pages of CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD. The final scene in ENDWORLD originally took place upon it. It was not until a few years ago that I decided to “move” it to another location. But I couldn’t resist bringing Higbee into William’s story. And I like it’s function now a lot more than I like it’s original function. But I’ll leave it at that. You’ll find out soon enough for yourself.

So there you go. Whether that visual element is enough to get me Freshly Pressed remains to be seen. At the least, I got to share a couple of meaningful pictures with you. Meaningful to me. Whether or not they are meaningful to you is open to debate. Survey says? Draw. Still one to one with one push.

4. Make it easy on the eyes/Aim for typo free content. 

Oh boy. Here’s another one… two, actually (ranked as one singular criteria) that “Random Musings” arguably fails miserably at. Actually, I shouldn’t just blame the blog. It’s me. Easy on the eyes? Not physically or proverbially. I’m wordy. It’s about as integral a characteristic of my genetic make up as my love of anything and everything potato chip-esque. In my defense, I’ve been trying lately here, over on the Endworld site and in CHILDREN to cut back on it. One sentence to describe what used to take me two; shorter paragraphs. Have you noticed? Likely not. And if this blog entry is any indication my paragraphs are still as morbidly obese as I am. The problem with that? If I drop the equivalent of 50-60 pounds off of one of my paragraphs I end up with something that is not Mecha-Marsh. I’m descriptive. I think it comes from my Biological, a fact which I acknowledge, but don’t exactly revel in. I do use bulleted and/or numbered text (these criteria being a good indication thereof), I rarely center justify anything and the design of my page–Misty Lake–is one of the cleanest templates available. But verbosity? Yeah. I’m a’cursed with it. As for typos? I was an English Major in college. I had a qualified Editor edit my book. Yeah, typos = Me. Though I do endeavor to cut down on them here. Survey says? A big minus one. “Random Musings” one, WordPress Powers that Be two.

5. Add relevant tags. 

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I don’t “get” tags. I mean, I understand the idea behind them. “Don’t use tags that are too obscure” and “use relevant tags.” Okay. So I guess “The Ooh Cat,” “Dead Possum” and “Ebola” aren’t exactly popular or relevant to anyone save for:

  • Someone who worships “Puss in Boots” more than my almost four year old does.
  • Someone who lives in a metro area and thinks a “possum” is a creature of lore, right up there with foxes and bunny rabbits (both of which exist in abundance in Broomall and DELCO).
  • Someone who recently traveled abroad and is now suffering from influenza-like symptoms or someone who has watched the move “Outbreak” way. Too. Many. Times (I mean, it’s not that great a movie; the book is a whole heck of a lot better).

FYI: Bulleted points, WordPress Admins. Bulleted points twice in one blog entry. Bonus points, perhaps?

Tags like those aren’t going to get “Random Musings” noticed by the WordPress Powers that Be. And until my book is an established commodity and not “selling modestly” “ENDWORLD” isn’t going to pull in too many readers, either. My tags may not be relevant. But they are creative, and a part of the overall, “Random Musings” experience. Do any of you ever read the tags I tag my posts with? You should, sometime. Therein may lie the transcendence and/or funny content that you are looking for. I mean, what other blogger uses the phrase “Herbal Refreshment” as liberally as I did a few posts ago? The answer? No one. Still, I have monumentally failed to fully grasp the potential of the tag. Survey says? Another big, minus one. The Madchronicler one, WordPress Admins three.

6. Write a headline we can’t ignore. 

Regardless of whether my headlines on “Random Musings” are catchy or not, the WordPress Powers that Be have, by my reckoning (and simple mathematics) clinched victory. The best that I can achieve at this point is a two-three loss. Meaning? Meaning that unless I break from my tried and true formula of writing non-fiction “essays,” not only this blog post, but no other blog post that I have ever written or will ever write here on “Random Musings” will be Freshly Pressed. That said, I think my headlines are pretty catchy. So I’m going to score this one for the good guys. Survey says? “Random Musings” two, WordPress three. Sound buzzer. Game over.

And there you have it. Cue the faceless victors cheering and cue me, the morbidly obese published err, self-published author/blogger with the grizzled beard weeping profusely in the corner of his subjective reality on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Congratulations: You have now shared in yet another, personal accomplishment–one of the bad ones.

The point of this rambling treatise that might get me kicked off of WordPress (but I certainly hope it doesn’t) is this: I don’t write because I seek the validation of my peers. I didn’t write ENDWORLD – A Novel because I wanted the world to see me as more than just Frank Marsh, a semi-regular Joe Schmoe that works an eight to five, Monday through Friday (and every fourth Saturday) job. I said this earlier and I’ll say it again: I’m fine with how my life is, presently. This really is one of the greatest eras of my life too date. Because I’ve got my “minions.” And I’ve got my sweetie (pics above). And Higbee Beach awaits me at the far edge of my vision IRL though in Endworld? It’s currently in the forefront. I was a living and breathing facsimile of a smiley face pre-publication. Being a published err, self-published author is just the icing on the cake. No. I write because I want to tell a story. I’ve got a whole book of ’em in my head. Some fiction, and some non. Some both. And one day, I hope to tell them all to anyone that wants to read them. Time and health–God willing–permitting.

And as far as being Freshly Pressed? If it happens it happens. Again, I don’t blog because I seek validation as a blogger. I blog because I’ve got something to say. I blog the way I talk because IRL? Most of my talking revolves around answering technical questions about hydraulic applications, the myriad of questions that Cara asks me on a given day or teaching Natalie (AKA “Natalia”) how to say “Mommy,” “Daddy,” “Cara” and “Doritos.” Whether or not people chose to hear my voice is their prerogative. Whether or not my ramblings have an iota of meaning for you is relative. I’m sure there are one or two people out there that can relate to my accomplishments–both good and bad–and can commiserate with my musings on life, the universe and everything. Maybe the others just read “Random Musings” because they’re looking for something transcendent. Or just funny. In truth? I think they’d settle for funny, too. Like my wife, who either humors me or hangs on every word that I type (and sweetie? Please don’t ever tell me which; thank you).

I’d love to be Freshly Pressed. I’d cherish that badge the way I cherish a cool, Fall Saturday (not one of the fourth ones) filled with College Football, multiple tall glasses of Tea Cooler with enough sugar in them to fell Godzilla and Tostitos with Velveeta and Salsa dip. Admittedly? It would be really cool to see my ugly mug of a Gravitar picture, fedora and all on that page along with one of my headlines. Much better than seeing albino Mecha-Marsh 30 feet high and 20 feet wide. Who needs a billboard when you can gain access to 500,000 other bloggers, some with like interests to yours and others with completely different ones. Can it happen? Will it? Or am I forever doomed to blogging obscurity?

Here is the conclusion of my pitch, WordPress Powers that Be: When I’m not working my eight to five, oft times mundane, routine existence, playing with my “minions” or squeezing a few all-to brief moments of quiet time in with my wife, I’m writing. It’s not just what I do. It’s what I am. I may not meet your Freshly Pressed criteria. “Random Musings” may be an atypical blog compared to others that you read about cats, potato chip-esque products and “Star Trek.” If that’s the case no worries: So long as you continue to host me I will continue to post here. But give your buddy the Madchronicler, AKA Frank Marsh a shot. If not for the rest of the blogosphere, then just for my poor wife, who can’t understand why I write rambling pieces of “Mental Flatulence” for free if only a select few people read them, searching in vain for something transcendent. Or funny.

I think they’d just settle for funny.

Winky emoticon. Smiley face. Have a great Memorial Day Weekend, everyone.

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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.

What Christmas Means To Me

This is probably the last thing that I should be writing, right now. As of this particular moment in time on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence  the question, “What does Christmas mean to me,” can be answered with one word and one word only: Pain. As in sinus, head and throat. As in I woke up this past, Monday Morning–Christmas Eve for those of you that have been living under a rock or do not celebrate Jesus Christ’s birthday–with virtually the same ailment that both of my girls had last week. But wait, you may argue, didn’t your girls have two, separate ailments? Yes. They did, and I got the best of both worlds, i.e. Cara’s fever and Natalie’s congestion. I am a walking, talking, barely breathing, woozy headed, medicated facsimile of a smiling face, right now, and the smiley face? I’ve only got that on for my customers. I’d much rather drink a bottle of Nyquil and crawl up in to a corner for the next day and a half. But I can’t. I won’t. ‘Cause as Freddy Mercury so aptly sang despite his foreknowledge of his own, personal condition, “The show must go on!”

To be honest with you? The only reason that I’m here and not at home, in bed right now is because I need to ensure that the dozen or so moving parts of the massive cylinder order leaving the factory for my biggest OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) this PM get off without a hitch. That’s the kind of thing that I do for my customers, guys. Most Inside Sales/Customer Service people punch in quotes, punch in orders and talk on the phone only when unnecessary. They take sick time when they’re sick (and sometimes when they’re not). But me? I throw myself bodily in to my work. I persevere despite how incredibly sh*tty I feel. I go out and visit my customers. I get to know them on a personal level and not just a professional one. I’m not sure why I do it that way, I just do. And it seems to work pretty well so really, why f*ck around with the system?

Because the older I get, the worse I feel. Yes, I know I’m only 37 years young but “getting sick” can’t be cured by 30 Jello shots and a bottle of champagne anymore. I need real medicine and I need rest. And consistent rest is something I have not been getting these last few weeks.

So why? Why chose now to write a blog post about what Christmas means to me? Won’t your answers be skewed by your condition, you may argue. They may. But I just popped a couple of Tylenol Severe Cold and Flu that I picked up at 7-11, along with a low sugar, Monster Energy Drink and I can already feel my nasal pathways, my head and my chest drying up. It’s amazing what Acetaminophen can do when combined with an antihistamine and caffeine. I’m not saying that I feel 100% better… I don’t. But I’m feeling a bit more functional than I was a few paragraphs ago and some things? Well, I’ve waited a few days to write this and I don’t want to wait any longer lest I forget them. So damn the pounding in my ears, I’m goin’ for broke.

This past Christmas–or this past Tuesday for those of you that have been living under a rock or only celebrate Hanukkah–was my 38th on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Mind you, I really don’t remember the first couple but I can remember from roughly my fifth or sixth on. I can’t recall every gift… every detail of those earliest Christmas mornings but I can remember how they felt. In short? They felt magicalBefore I knew the sad truth about Santa Claus; before I learned that reindeer generally don’t fly, not even with some of Cheech and Chong’s magic dust; before I realized that my then-father now sperm donor had eaten the cookies and drank the milk that I and my little sister had diligently left out for the other big guy, Christmas morning was a time of infinite possibility. In truth? It was the only time. Not even my birthday could match it’s awesomeness.

All that changed as I got older and realized “the truth.” Christmas morning was a time of necessity. It was a time to get up before 10:00 AM–something which I rarely did in my teens–and eat breakfast with my mother and my sister. It was a time to open my significantly smaller pile of gifts with each, passing year despite the fact that all I really wanted to do was kick back on the couch and watch “A Christmas Story” over and over again. Magical gifts like the original Millennium Falcon and the Darth Vader carrying case–both of which are worth bow-coo bucks presently in mint condition; who knew?–were replaced by clothes, more clothes and the occasional novelty gift, i.e. “junk.” All this culminated in my first Christmas away from home–1997 for those of you that are counting–when I slept too late at my apartment, missed Christmas breakfast and showed up at my Mom’s hungover and smelling of tequila and cigarettes around noon. I still don’t know if my mother ever forgave me for that trespass. If she still begrudges me it let me formally state the obvious herein: I’m sorry. And if she forgot about it some time ago? Well, I guess I can’t blame her. Only pseudo-madmen like myself can remember things as mundane and inane as this and can barely remember what they ate for lunch yesterday.

For the record, it was leftover Eggplant Parmesan, a meatball and a low sugar, Monster Energy Drink. Anyone else sensing that “caffeine dependency” is a theme for your old buddy the Madchronicler? My neurologist would have a field day with my caffeine consumption, presently. No migraines for the moment. Just a pounding in my sinuses, my head and my chest that already appears to be returning despite the fact that I just popped those Tylenol Cold and Sinuses an hour ago. All together now: Oh f*ck me. Sorry, but I abandoned oh thank God last night.

And then, three plus years ago, something amazing and unexpected happened: My wife and I had a child. Okay, so it wasn’t entirely unexpected. We had been trying for a while. But it wasn’t Cara’s birth that I was referring to as “unexpected.” It was my own renewed interest in Christmas. I remember waking up that December 25th, long before Cara and Nicole did in anticipation of Cara’s reaction to seeing all of her presents under the tree… of her happiness at realizing that Santa had eaten all of his cookies and drank all of his milk. I guess in my elation, I neglected to realize that Cara was only five months and some change old at the time and could barely sit up, much less realize that some jolly and jiggly, red suit clad, cookie and milk loving sot had slid down our non-existent chimney and left her an army of Fisher Price, Playschool and Leap Pad stuff. Still, it was fun opening her presents for her and giving her the paper to play with.

But a fundamental change had been enacted in my life, guys. With each, subsequent year I got more and more “in” to Christmas as Cara realized more and more that something different was happening. This year, my wife and I had our second child (Natalie for those of you keeping score), and Cara turned three. And I knew, even before the season started that this Christmas was going to be as fun as hell.

My anticipation reached a feverish level on Monday night–Christmas Eve for those of you that have been living under a rock or who celebrate Kwanzaa–and that wasn’t because of the temperature I was running. It wasn’t due to the myriad medicines, the two low sugar, Monster Energy drinks that I had consumed or the periodic shots of vodka I was taking when mine and my wife’s families weren’t looking to dull the itch in my throat. Okay, so maybe those factors played in to it a bit but I got very little sleep and was up before anyone else on Christmas morning. I actually had to wait a half an hour for Cara and Nicole to wake up (Natalie is still portable and hence not as much a wakeful necessity) before I could go downstairs. But when I walked down those stairs and saw all of the presents under the tree and against the wall behind and beside it… when I looked over at the end table and saw the cookie crumbs on the plate that Cara had left for Santa, the empty cup that smelled a little like sour milk and the note that Santa had left Cara and Natalie? Well sh*t. I felt the magic come flooding back in to my living room for the first time since I was an impressionable youth despite the fact that I knew “the truth” behind the staged scene laid out before me. It. Was. Christmas! And there was much rejoicing.

Yay!   

In short? I had come full circle, friends. As I turned on the tree and the iPad underneath it which had “Merry Christmas!” written in bold, flowing  purple letters across its face I realized that the reaction that I was about to witness in Cara was the same as the reaction that my own mother and, for a time, my own father turned sperm donor had witnessed in me on those early, Christmas mornings of my life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. The impression of the prototypical, Thomas Kincade Christmas morning was heightened by the rapidly melting, coat of white snow that lay upon the ground outside and the lingering scent of baked cookies that hung over my head from the previous day. Throw in a roaring fireplace which we do not have (the Yule Log is not a sufficient substitute, BTW) and you’ve got a scene to rival any cinematic vision of Christmas morning ever created including my all time favorite, the one that takes place in the Nexus for Captain Jean Luc Picard in “Star Trek: Generations.” Yes, I went there. Don’t believe me? Check it out at your leisure and tell me I’m wrong. I triple dog dare you.

In a word? No. It did not.

Um…

Wow. Talk about anti-climactic.

I’m serious, though. It played out like this: Cara came downstairs, smiled and stated very nonchalantly that “Santa was here” before she seated herself next to where my wife indicated her pile was and began to rip through her presents. She further “assisted” her little sister, myself and my wife with our piles. As the process unfolded she seemed to get more and more “in” to what she was doing but admittedly, the entire outcome was somewhat unexpected considering how sure I had been of her reaction leading up to it. After a whirlwind 45 minutes, everything was opened and she was asking me and my wife to remove toys from boxes so she could play with them.

In all honesty? I should have been prepared for it as soon as she came in to mine and my wife’s bedroom and informed us that she did not believe that Santa had come ’cause she had not heard him or his reindeer on the roof of our house. Which is a legitimate point as the ceiling of her room is directly beneath said rooftop. But I was not. Don’t get me wrong: I was not disappointed. Far from it, actually. I savored every shredded piece of wrapping paper that fell upon our living room floor and every “ooh” and “ahh” that her gifts elicited. And I did not for once doubt her belief that “Santa was here” despite her not having heard him and his reindeer because, as she stated at numerous points over the course of the following day and evening, Santa had gotten her everything that she had asked for and she was very thankful.

Perhaps I simply built the scenario up too much in my mind. Maybe she wasn’t quite as ready to embrace the magic of Christmas morning as I thought she was at three and a half. Or maybe the times have changed and the mentalities of our children have done the same. I’m inclined to lean more toward the latter though the former is also a distinct possibility. Little exists in the way of magic nowadays and what does exist is called “fantasy” by most. Our kids? They learn this from the get go. More attention is paid to the sciences and mathematics than is paid to the arts, nowadays. As for me? I’m not a true believer in magic as it exists traditionally though I am a lover of everything and anything fantasy. Wizards and witches, warlocks and leprechauns? There is no place for such things in a world where everything from a holiday to our national debt is analyzed at the microscopic or, some might say quantum level. Such things now fall in to the realm of “fiction” and not “reality.” Not even “Little Kid Reality.”

And Christmas? Both the story that we all know so well and the fundamental spirituality at the center of it (see: Jesus Christ; Saint Nicholas) have been glossed over by the big box retailers and the idea guys. Case in point: The Elf on the Shelf. While I love ours like a member of our family, albeit one that merely shows up for approximately 30 days at the end of the year, wreaks havoc and then leaves, where is Jingle in the traditional canon of Christmas? What child ever wrote in their “What Christmas Means To Me” essay, “My Elf on the Shelf, Buddy, who likes to TP our Christmas tree and have an affair with Barbie right under Ken’s nose.”

None that I know of though there’s always the possibility that there’s some sick and twisted kid out there that thinks like I do. The fact is, Christmas in 2012 (pushing 2013) is not the same as it was 30 plus years ago, or even 15 years ago in 1997. Our children are not the same. Whereas my generation and I were born in to a world of notebooks, number two pencils and Trapper Keepers, Cara and Natalie’s generation is being born in to a world of iPads and Cloud storage. All one of them needs to do is Google “is Santa Claus real” and “the truth” will be revealed. My generation, disenchanted with the magic of Christmas created the same technologies that our children are now being born with. The Catch-22? We used our imaginations to create such things, the same imaginations that once upon a time believed that Santa Claus and his reindeer flew to and landed silently upon our rooftops despite the fact that reindeer aren’t supposed to be able to fly, not even with a sprinkling of Cheech and Chong’s magic dust…

…that Santa slid down our chimneys despite the fact that 75 to 80% of us, growing up, did not have chimneys and the physics of a 400 pound man sliding through an opening with a diameter of a foot are virtually inconceivable…

…that he ate the cookies and drank the milk that we had diligently left out for him…

…that the Thomas Kincade scenes imprinted upon Christmas and post cards, and popularized in movies like “Star Trek: Generations” were, in fact, actual scenes of the perfect Christmas morning that at some point in time existed on this, or any side of the proverbial wormhole of existence.

We created the mentality that our children are now being born with: That everything once considered magical or fantastical has been relegated to the fiction shelf of your local big box, book retailer (see: Barnes and Noble), or the online store of your preferred internet, big box retailer (see: Amazon.com). Even Christmas. But still, there is that teeny, tiny part of me that was watching Cara very, very closely on Christmas morning and could see, despite her nonchalant exterior, a twinkle in her eyes that had not existed the previous evening when I had put her to bed. She saw all of those presents beneath the Christmas tree, the empty plate that had once held cookies and the cup beside it that had once held milk, the note that was printed in her Mommy’s distinctive handwriting and she knew that something had happened. Maybe not something magical but something special. Someone had come, be said someone Santa Claus or Daddy/Mommy Claus, and said someone had gotten her everything that she had put on her Christmas list…

And she was very thankful.

What does Christmas mean to me? The same thing that it meant to me when I was a child. I drowned it for a while with tequila and cigarettes, not to mention a heaping dose of skepticism, one too many viewings of “A Christmas Story” and one too few mornings simply sitting around the Yule Log, enjoying my family’s company. I forgot about it for a while but over these last few years, I’ve remembered it. Even without magic, Christmas morning has been and always will be a time of infinite possibility.

As for Cara? Well sh*t. She’s only three and a half. I can only remember as far back as my fifth or sixth Christmas.

Who knows?

Happy Holidays, everyone.