Michael Ian Black loves America.

michael ian black head.jpgI don’t blog every day. I realize that. But does that mean that I can’t love America as much as Michael Ian Black? Apparently so, because he’s already hip-deep in a feud with David Sedaris. Why should I care? I’ll tell you why. I care because now that he’s taken up a feud with Daniel Sedaris, thus proving that he loves America, there’s no way on God’s green earth for me to prove that I love America.
I know what you’re thinking. “Sean, just start your feud now. Weeping’s for losers. And you’re no loser, Sean. Not by a country mile.” To that I say, thank you. Thank you so much for thinking that. But f%&* off, and here’s why: it’s a well known fact that Donald Sedaris hates America, and he’s been chompin’ at the bit for a feud with an America-lovin’ soul with a book deal. I could have been that soul! But, I don’t have a book deal. Is it fair that Michael Ian Black (MIB3*) has a book deal I don’t? No it is not. Is it fair that he’s famous and on CNN all the time? No it is not. Is it fair that he has a harem of love slaves who live on a yacht anchored somewhere in international waters, most likely between Florida and Cuba? No. No it is not.
It’s not that I hate MIB3. I don’t. Well, that’s not true. I do. So, in retrospect, it is that I hate MIB3, but it’s also more than that. It’s that MIB3 has taken Daryl Sedaris away from me simply by having had the time/energy and chutzpa (yes, I said it, chutzpa!) to write a humorous collection of essays, find an agent, find a publisher, get it published, and prepare a book tour. Did I write a book of humorous essays. No. Would I have? Probably not. But dammit, I wanted the opportunity to remain open! The moment someone else, someone as cunning and America-loving as MIB3, does something that I maybe possibly would have done someday is the moment I can no longer be the one to do it! And that’s not right.
Having said all that, let me now say this: MIB3: it’s on. Oh yes my friend (and by friend I mean frenemy by which I mean my best friend/enemy which is someone I love and hate all at the same conflicted time), I declare a feud upon you. You think you can love America as hard as I can? Well I’m not gonna let that stand. You sir, have a new BFF (“best frenemy forever”) and his name rhymes with Fawn Serrell.
*Note: I refer to Michael Ian Black as “MIB3” for two reasons. First I couldn’t use “MIB” because people would think I wanted to feud with the film and/or comic book and/or cartoon “Men In Black” which I don’t because the film/comic/cartoon was too full of the shiznit to ever want to feud with it. I could have used MIB2 because “Men in Black 2” was a God-awful piece of crap and between eating used tissues and watching MIB2 I’d take the tissues, but if I had used MIB2 it would have created the same confusion (making people think I’m feuding with a movie, which I’m not).
Second, by using MIB3 I create the illusion that Michael Ian Black’s initials have a little set of balls dangling from them (“3”) and I think that speaks for itself.

Baby kennels.

Let me explain that title.
I have a dog. This is what he looks like:
yogi.jpg
Let me say, for clarity’s sake, that this is a picture of his face.
Yogi is an awesome dog. And by “awesome” I mean “painfully obnoxious but we love him anyway.” Part of his awesomeness is that he eats anything. He ate an apple once. My wife was in the process of eating it when he decided it was his. He cleans out diapers (used). Kitty candy is a favorite. More of his awesomeness comes from his barking, which is a loud, braying, howl, something like a mix of an angry were-wolf and a terrified howler monkey. It’s jarring. He unleashes it at jingling sounds, mopeds, roller skates, children. In short, Yogi is a loud eating machine. If an engineer were instructed to build a contraption that eats, makes vociferous noises, exhibits questionable shedding habits (who sheds in winter?), poops and hates to go outside, the best thing that engineer could do would be to study Yogi.
Yogi also hates thunderstorms. They terrify him, and rightly so, because they are, as the Hulk might say, big booms from sky, and Yogi cannot understand them. We’ve had several thunderstorms roll over our house recently, in the early evening while I’m giving our son (A.P.) his bath, and by the time the tub is draining Yogi is plastered to my side, shedding on me. It has happened so often that my son (at 2 and 1/2 years old) states with calm detachment, “Yogi’s scared of the thunder. Don’t worry Yogi. You’ll be okay.” He says this while dripping on Yogi. Yogi spasms in response.
The other night we were at the draining moment, Yogi was throwing great wads of hair at me with his shaking, and my son was trying to calm him with a stream of comments like “Yogi’s shedding. He’s shedding on daddy.” I helped A.P. step over the dog, teeth were brushed, and then into the bedroom for pajamas. Behind me I heard a scraping sound. Yogi was pulling himself under A.P.’s bed, which is a toddler bed and so it’s rather low, but under it he got. Well done, Yogi.
Some stories were told, and then a song was sung. A.P. went to sleep, and so did I. Part of the grand tradition is that I usually fall asleep while telling A.P. his stories. It’s a Pavlovian response. If I even hear the word “Goldilocks” I get weak. It’s like a Manchurian Candidate thing. Once A.P. woke me up to get me to leave. “Okay, daddy, go downstairs.” I’m not joking. This night some thunder woke me and I stumbled downstairs. Before going I whisper-called Yogi, but to no avail. I figured “If he feels safe under A.P.’s bed, fine.”
Three hours later I asked my wife if she’d seen Yogi. No. I shook some dog food. I did this not just because it’s fun but because Yogi will run from miles away at the sound of food. He can be ten feet away and ignore your pleas to “Get off the dinner table” but shake some kibble in Philly and he’s heading to the nearest Greyhound out of NYC. So, I’m in the kitchen, shaking nuggets. No Yogi. I move the stairs. Still no Yogi. I go upstairs, into A.P.’s room. That’s when I realize that the dog is stuck under A.P.’s bed. I had to lift the bed, while A.P. slept, and my wife had to encourage Yogi to get out. He was a little thirsty, confused that there was no kibble in his bowl, and had to pee.
What amazed me about this was Yogi’s lack of barking. This is a dog that will bark at a shadow under a table because he’s not sure he’s seen it before. If he’s on the wrong side of a door he lets you know. He has ruined (don’t tell my landlord) two doors in our apartment scratching at them to change his location. But when he was under A.P. he just lay there and waited. Was it the storm? I don’t think so. The storm was long gone. I think it was A.P. Yogi understood that he needed to be quiet in that spot, under a sleeping A.P. I believe I stumbled upon a “sleeping toddler” rule: When trapped under a sleeping toddler obnoxious mammals will remain silent. This got me to thinking: how else can we apply the “sleeping toddler” to make for quieter world?
The answer is obvious: Baby kennels*. Every kennel should be constructed with a layer of sleeping toddlers above the crated animals. In this way everyone will get the rest they deserve.
*This might also work with frat houses, OTBs, Hooters, or the UN. Testing would, of course, be necessary.

A Trio of Super-Earths

A set of three ‘Earth-type’ planets (as opposed to gas giants) have been discovered in orbit around a “nearby” star. You can read about it here.
What to name them? Moe, Larry and Curly? No. Those names won’t do. Their star is named “HD 40307,” and I fear HD 40307 Moe is just too much of a mouthful. And who wants to say “I’m from planet Larry,” or “Mars is in retrograde, and Curly is rising”? Not me, though I have said both before.
My biggest fear is that there might be life on these “super-Earths.” Do I fear life from another planet? No. I fear for the life on the other planet. Here’s why:

The planets, having 4.2, 6.7, and 9.4 times the mass of the Earth, orbit the star with periods of 4.3, 9.6, and 20.4 days, respectively.

Oribiting a star in 4.3 days? Do you realize how fast that is? Those poor aliens, hanging on for dear life. They must be terrified.

“Building an Elephant” goes live (via radio and podcast)

I’m very excited to announce that “Building an Elephant” will be read on the Lit103.3 radio show. It will be broadcast this Tuesday, June 10th, and then re-played June 17th. The broadcast will stream live from WXOJ FM, Northampton, Massachusetts, on http://Valleyfreeradio.org. The show will be available as a podcast on Alan Vogel’s (the host’s) Lit 103.3 website.
I’m very honored to have my story appear on the show, and I’m very excited to have it available as a podcast. Thanks to Alan and WXOJ for the opportunity.

What to do with that short story collection.

Allison Amend, whose short story collection Things That Pass for Love will be coming out from OV Books in the fall, has a very insightful and, I think, helpful essay giving tips on selling a short story collection. Although I have been locked in a to-the-death battle with my novels-in-progress (huzzah hyphenation!) I also continue to work with some shorter pieces, and have many short stories that have remained homeless despite submissions upon submissions. I suffer mostly I think from a lack of identifiable genre, something that the Adirondack Review was able to get past when they gave “Building an Elephant” the Fulton Prize (for which I will always remain amazingly grateful). Writing quasi-sci-fi, magical realistic, fabulist fiction ain’t were the money’s is at, though I do think there are a great number of readers. I hope to eventually cobble together enough stories to have a “collection”. Too many of my current under-the-bed stories are things I wrote for the wrong reasons (i.e. to please professors and my then readers) and don’t think they represent me all that well. In the meantime, I’ll keep at the longer things, and throw the occasional story at the nearest contests (or those readers that are willing to ask).