You Waited Too Long

I haven’t been much use to anybody these last few days. I’m still trying to catch up on my sleep after staying up very late several nights in a row, trying to finish Breaking Bad. Yeah, Breaking Bad, a show that’s been over since 2012. I’d been making my way through the series slowly, successfully avoiding spoilers, but I knew I was pushing my luck. Somebody was bound to spoil something about the plot, especially with the spin-off show, Better Call Saul, now airing and already renewed.

Then I was watching Saturday Night Live last week, the one with Dakota Johnson promoting that newer, crappier version of Nine 1/2 Weeks for the 21st Century. There was one sketch featuring a character’s reaction to the mere mention of Breaking Bad – “No spoilers, I haven’t seen it yet.” At that moment, another character pops into frame and announces, “You waited too long.”

My Spidey sense was already tingling. I had my fingers in my ears, blotting out any residual sound by loudly exclaiming, “BLAH BLAH BLADDY BLAH!” because I knew the next words spoken on my television would be a HUGE spoiler. I dodged that bullet, but I took it as a sign. I had to get Breaking Bad off my plate once and for all, so I overdosed on it. Now I have Heisenberg and Pinkman on the brain and I’m walking around everywhere calling people “bitch” and telling them we need to cook. But at least I’m through it. I know what happens. You can’t spoil it for me anymore.

Which begs the question – which other TV series do I need to get through before somebody opens their big mouth? The Walking Dead is a spoiler time-bomb with every episode, as is Game of Thrones. The only solution there is to remain current. As for other shows that have already run their course, there’s a lot to choose from. Dexter already spoiled itself by ending badly, but I’ve seen that series finale and lived to regret it.

I think my next spoiler-free viewing binge should be Rome. I’ve been meaning to get back to that before it comes up in conversation and somebody in earshot says something stupid and ruins a surprise. Call me crazy, but I already suspect things don’t work out so well for Julius Caesar in the long run. Or Mark Antony either. And yet, somehow, I’m betting that Octavian kid goes on to bigger, better things. Just a hunch.

Considering that one has been off the air since 2007 and all the major plot lines were resolved over 2000 years ago, I really have waited too long.

The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir is now available for order through Amazon (.ca or .com). My story, “Choke the Chicken,” begins on page 116. Get to it before you hear any spoilers like, for example, that it really is about a chicken despite being a noir story. You wouldn’t want some asshole blurting out a thing like that anywhere near you before you’ve had a chance to read it for yourself.

Fear of a Black Cat

At last, there’s photographic evidence that The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir physically exists.

I did not take this photograph, this is not my copy of the book, that is not my cat.

Photo by (presumably) co-editor David Nickle.

Photo by (presumably) co-editor David Nickle.

But if the editors are getting theirs, my own contributor copy should be arriving in the post sometime soon. The anthology will be on bookstore shelves in March. My short story, “Choke the Chicken,” will be in each and every copy of the book. Cats are sold separately.

You Never Call, You Never Write

Sometimes I wonder why I still own a phone. You know, one of those landlines that plugs into the wall and only ever rings for wrong numbers, telemarketers and old people. I’d chuck it, but it’s the only phone I own. I don’t have a cell or a smart phone or one of those 1967 Star Trek communicator thingies – whatever the state of the art is. Never had one, never wanted one. I have enough things in my life trying to give me a brain tumour.

Sometimes, every few weeks, I’m reminded why I let this thing take up a few inches of valuable real estate on my desk. I get a call. A special call. One of THOSE calls.

A long distance ring, an unfamiliar number on the call display.

I answer. Say nothing.

Caller: Hello?

Me: Yes?

Caller (reading from a script with a heavily accented, halting call-center voice): Hello, my name is Melvin. I am calling because our records show that your computer is currently downloading an infection.

Me (instant full-volume screaming hysteria): OH MY GOD, AN INFECTION!!!!???!!!!

Pause. Silence on both ends. Momentarily shaken, “Melvin” returns to his script.

Caller: Yes, an infection. We wanted to let you know…

Me (instantly back to full-volume screaming hysteria): I’LL GET RIGHT ON IT!!!! THANKS MELVIN!!!!

I hang up.

My wife missed my performance because she was down the hall, behind a closed door, with the air conditioning and headphones on.

I’m afraid this moment was between you and me alone, Melvin. But it was good for me. Was it good for you?

These guys call at regular intervals. They’re not telemarketers, they’re criminals. Fishing for gullible tech-unsavvy rubes they can remotely manipulate into downloading a virus or malware under the guise of unsolicited technical assistance. What nefarious purpose lies in the code they so desperately want to get onto my computer, I don’t know. Maybe they’re after online banking information, identity-theft data. Or maybe they just want an algo running in the background that will get me to look at more ads for boner pills. I don’t know. I don’t want to find out.

They’re sitting in a call centre on the other side of the planet, safely out of any jurisdiction that might try to come after them, being paid a pittance for what amounts to cold-call sales of evil intent. I’d pity them if they weren’t trying to fuck up my life. But since they are trying to fuck up my life, I might as well milk them for some entertainment value.

Much as I enjoyed my interaction with “Melvin,” it was all over too quickly. I resolved to work on my stamina for the next time I got a call from one of his compatriots. The problem was, I never knew when they might come, when they might catch me. Would I be prepared, would I be on my game, would I be able to slip into character at an instant’s notice? Several weeks later, the phone rang again with another indecipherable number.

I had, I was told, downloaded a new virus that, fortunately, this anonymous stranger could attend to if only I followed his careful instructions.

Me: A virus?

Caller: Yes, I virus. You must take care of this or we will have to shut down your internet.

Me (giving a purposely stilted, absolutely flat line-reading): Please don’t shut down my internet! I sure wouldn’t want that!

Caller: I need you to press a key on your keyboard.

Me: Which key is that?

Caller: You see the key next to the control button on the left-hand side? What is it?

Me: “W.”

Caller: That’s the Windows key.

Me: No, it’s the “W” key. I have a custom keyboard.

I actually don’t, but this throws him.

Caller: Do you have Windows?

Me: I sure do! Box-frame, crank. You can see right through them.

This also throws him.

Caller: What do you see on your screen?

Me: Well, this is rather embarrassing, but it’s pornography.

Caller: What is it?

Me: Porn.

Caller: I am going to get my supervisor. Please hold.

Me: Okey-dokey!

Apparently pornography issues were reserved for a higher pay grade. The next voice that came on the line was a little more polished, a little less accented. By this time I had relocated to my wife’s office so she could listen in on my tech-support call. She’s a tech professional of the less-malignant type, so this shit amuses the hell out of her.

Unfortunately, having her listen to me do an improve workshop with an unsuspecting tele-scammer gave us both the giggles. Chortling into the ear of my long-distance confidence trickster might have spoiled the solemn mood of my serious computer problems and I nearly choked myself trying to supress a laugh. This led to a horrible coughing fit I was more content to direct into the phone’s mouthpiece.

Me (apologizing earnestly): I’m sorry, I have tuberculosis.

Despite upgrading to a “supervisor,” the quality of the crackling phone line remained poor.

Me: You know, for a telecommunications company, this is a terrible connection.

Supervisor: What?

Me (louder, so he can hear over the static): The connection is really bad!

Supervisor: We are having problems with our central communications hub.

Me: That must be very embarrassing.

Supervisor: I will call you back.

Me: Sure thing.

We were reconnected a minute later. The phone line was hardly improved.

Supervisor: Is that better?

Me: No.

Supervisor (undeterred): What do you see on your screen?

Me: As I mentioned earlier, it’s pornography.

Supervisor (unfazed – which is probably why he was the “supervisor”): Press the Windows and R key as in “Roger.”

Me (not doing it): Okay.

Supervisor: What do you see?

Me: I see…The Matrix.

Supervisor: What?

Me: It’s all ones and zeroes and they’re floating up the screen.

Supervisor (baffled): What do you see?

Me: The Matrix. It’s green.

Supervisor: Green, sir?

Me: Yup.

Supervisor: You need to restart your computer.

Me: Oh yeah?

Supervisor: Restart your computer and let me know when it comes back on. I’ll hold.

Me: Okay.

When in doubt, reboot. He sure knew his stuff. I carried the phone extension into the next room.

Me: Are you still holding?

Supervisor: Yes, sir.

Me: Okay, hold the line and I’ll let you know as soon as it comes back on.

Supervisor: Yes, sir.

I set the phone down and returned to my office to continue work. I checked back twenty minutes later.

Me: Still there?

He wasn’t. So I hung up the phone.

They haven’t called back since, and I find myself missing these interactions terribly. It’s been four months since our last exchange, and so far, nothing. Did my sarcasm break through the language/culture barrier and land me on the “Do not call this asshole” list? The possibility has troubled me. I miss Melvin and the rest of the call-centre crew, I really do. Every time an unrecognized or blocked number appears on my call display, I snatch up the phone eagerly, hoping for a repeat performance from my favourite gang of international compu-criminals. But it’s never them. It’s just some routine telemarketer, a wrong number, a robocall. Or family.

How utterly disappointing.

Even as I was in the middle of writing this, the phone rang. It was a local number, but one I didn’t know. I picked up, hoping it was somebody trying to rob me or con me or waste my time.

It was my old university, trying to solicit a donation from me. So I guess it was a little of all of the above.

It’s something. I’ll take it.

“Come Back, Shane!”

A line from a movie I’m named after keeps haunting me. Mostly because it gets parroted by people of a certain generation whenever I’m introduced – as happened again just last month. Serves me right for attending a party dominated by baby boomers.

But, yes, it’s true, I’ve been AWOL, AFK, Gone Baby Gone for the last little while. Working on finishing stuff and letting my blogging duties slide. Important and laughable stories have gone by without me offering my own take on them. I’ve had to fill my usual quota of snide, condescending remarks by directing them at friends instead, which is always so appreciated. But perhaps it’s better not to have added to the endless onslaught of jabs and disinformation over the whole Sony-Hacking-Interview-International-Incident fiasco. One or two more articles might yet tip the balance of web content away from cat videos and porn and break the entire internet. And not just for North Korea this time.

It’s too late in the year to try to make up for missed opportunities, so better to concentrate on accomplishing more in 2015. Until then, I’ll mention that my Twitter project 140 Horrible Characters has been concluded and collected. I’m now on to 140 Fantastic Characters which will carry me well into next year. What genre comes after that? Follow me and find out.

A photo from earlier this year where I was, apparently, walking point along the Ho Chi Minh trail. Or maybe it was just an overgrown path in Montreal. Yes, come to think of it, I don’t remember travelling to south-east Asia or participating in the Viet Nam war lately.

A photo from earlier this year where I was, apparently, walking point along the Ho Chi Minh trail. Or maybe it was just an overgrown path in Montreal. Yes, come to think of it, I don’t remember travelling to south-east Asia or participating in the Viet Nam war lately.

The Usual Suspects

Last week, Montreal thespian Tristan D. Lalla got pulled off a city bus by the cops, surrounded by squad cars, placed in handcuffs, searched and questioned. All this in the middle of a busy street, in front of all sorts of strangers, to his great embarrassment. His crime? He matched a vague description of somebody who had just committed a crime. Our intrepid police force, always on the vanguard of criminology, decided their armed-robbery suspect might be fleeing the scene, one stop at a time, on a bus.

You can read the account of his fun commute here. Spoiler alert: he wasn’t the armed robber they were looking for.

It got me thinking: hey, I got detained by the cops once because I matched the description of a suspect they were looking for. No backup squad cars converged. I wasn’t handcuffed or searched. My questioning consisted of a few polite inquiries as to where I was heading, followed by a computer search of my I.D. to confirm there were no warrants or arrest records. After about twenty minutes of waiting, which I’m sure was mostly a test to see if I’d make a run for it, they decided I wasn’t the guy they were looking for and sent me on my way.

It was a very different experience, worlds apart. I wonder why. Well, here’s a hint: the last time I saw Tristan, he was on stage playing Othello.

That’s right, he got hassled because he’s an actor. You, see they’re considered a much greater potential threat than writers. It’s a good thing Tristan didn’t tell them he performed in some of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed games or he would have gotten the taser.

We simply must stop this shameless profiling of actors by the police. I know they have a reputation for being coked-up sexual deviants who deliver bad dialogue in terrible movies, but they’re not all bad. I swear I’ve met some good ones from time to time, and they’re just like the rest of us. More or less. I wouldn’t want one marrying my daughter, but I’d be cool with them being friends. Maybe not best friends but, you know, friendly.

So please, Montreal cops, cops everywhere, stop this persecution of our acting underclass. The deck is already stacked against them and they have enough to contend with. If it’s not you and your petty prejudices, it’s film and theatre critics. Must they face your bullets as well as their barbs? Thank you.

ADDENDUM: This just in. Tristan was not cuffed and searched because he’s an actor. Huh. Well then why else…

Oh.

Oh dear.

Sigh.

Mike Stamm, director of Ashes to Ashes, has a Kickstarter project going for his short animated film, The Ottoman. I’ve been following this story for years and it looks like the crew just needs that final financial push to bring it home. Fans of Steampunk and mechs smashing each other to bits should take note and check out the production blog and the existing footage.

ottoman

Raw Halloween Treats

It’s the happiest time of year for morbid ghouls like me! Halloween is an autumn celebration of horror movies, chilly weather, dying leaves, and Christian fundamentalists getting their tits in a knot over the pagan roots of the holiday – which is totally different from proper holidays like Christmas and Easter that have absolutely no pagan roots whatsoever *cough cough* Soli Invictus *cough cough* rabbits and eggs *cough*.

I always like to add what I think of as proper Halloween content to the website around this time of year. Past entries include Hot Pennies, my short story based on my own totally true childhood memories, and Monster, the Frankenstein comic story I wrote for an anthology years ago.

On the Twitter front, I’m 40 characters into my series of 140 Horrible Characters, timed to coincide with this time of year. All the related tweets are collected on Eyestrain as they currently stand with more to come. For the hell of it, I also contributed a few ideas to the fad thread #ScaryStoriesIn5Words, which may be taking minimalist fiction a step too far.

As far as something new and substantial (as opposed to merely new and trite), I’ve decided to dump my novelette, Raw, here for you to look at and be disgusted by. Lengthier than what usually qualifies as a short story, this is a crime fiction yarn that takes a slow slide into horror and features material that my long-suffering proofreader (also known as my long-suffering wife) found too horrific to read. No, seriously. She has to live with me and gets the Shane-Simmons experience unfiltered, but she still had to skip some paragraphs before resuming her duties as copy editor.

So, um, yeah. Enjoy that. If you can. I guess.

If you’re in the mood for something lighter, here’s a completely arbitrary Halloween-safety film from 1977 called, creatively enough, Halloween Safety.

I didn’t get to see this as a kid (neither did many of the kids who actually appeared in it), but I was the right age to be the target demographic in 1977. I certainly remember that era of costume-and-candy paranoia designed to strip all the fun out of trick-or-treating. Of course we ignored that crap and went back to running around in the dark in black costumes, getting hit by cars, and dodging hot pennies and other kid-maiming traps.

That film was spectacularly dated the same year it was released. I guess that’s why, only eight years later, a sequel was produced called, extra-creatively enough, Halloween Safety (Second Edition). It was geared for a whole new generation of trick-or-treaters (no doubt because all the kids in the earlier film had been wiped out, Final Destination-style, by a series of tragic Halloween mishaps), and addressed pressing current issues such as produce-bashing hate crimes, Quaaludes in the candy (it was 1985 after all), and, apparently, animated vomiting ghosts.

But we’re past all that. These safety films seem like quaint reminders of a bygone era now. Today, obviously, we’re living in such a nanny state that kids are barely allowed out of the house without an armed escort, and are frequently banned from having any fun whatsoever by municipalities and school boards alike because fun is dangerous. And culturally insensitive, as evidenced by the big kids who go to McGill University and must keep their costumes politically correct and inoffensive enough to be allowed into the party. Damn! And I was planning to strip my shirt off and go in full-body blackface as a Mandingo fighter. McGill, you’re no fun anymore! I expect this uber-lefty bullshit from Concordia, but not you. You’re where the people with money go to learn how to make more. You should know better than those assholes on the hippie campus!

On that note, I’ll sign off by wishing you all a very dangerous Halloween, filled with unfortunate accidents, Emergency Room visits, tainted candy, and wildly offensive and inappropriate costumes. Please get yourself kicked out of at least one party. For me.

The Face That Launched a Thousand Quips

Did you hear Renée Zellweger just Jennifer Greyed herself out of a career?

The web has been abuzz since she debuted her new face at the ELLE Women in Hollywood Awards on Monday. Questions were posed like, “Who is that?” and “No, seriously, who is that?” and “Won’t somebody please tell me who this woman we’re taking pictures of is?”

Like the infamous nose job that “fixed” Jennifer Grey’s schnoz and abruptly ended her rising career because she no longer looked like Jennifer Grey, Zellwegger has taken the slice/dice/nip/tuck that extra step and now looks like someone who has just been processed by the witness-protection program.

Who are you and what have you done with Renée Zellweger?

Who are you and what have you done with Renée Zellweger?

Such snide comments have led to the inevitable backlash. How dare anyone criticise her choices as she attempts to remain young and vibrant in an industry that rarely has anything to do with women past the age of 40? Well, sorry folks, but the quest for eternal youth in sexist Hollywood isn’t the issue here. The issue is that Zellweger, in an effort to remain marketable, has laid waste to the single most marketable thing about her: that she LOOKED like Renée Zellweger, an established actress from many hit movies.

Famous men and women both have had lots of work done over the last century of cinema’s vain train. Some work has been subtle, some not, some successful, some disastrous. But unless they were addicted to plastic surgery like Michael Jackson, they usually came out looking like new, improved models of themselves, albeit with much tighter and frequently expressionless faces. I don’t care for it myself, but lots of stars say it’s essential. Considering it’s elective surgery that’s actually tax deductible as a business express, it would seem even the IRS agrees with its usefulness for maintaining a successful career. You know, like all the prescription meds stars take as well. But, just like prescription meds, if you do too much at once, you overdose.

How do you know when you’ve taken plastic surgery too far? Well, if you’re a celebrity and your biggest fans couldn’t pick you out of a police line-up, then yeah, you may have taken it too far. Imperfections are what make you stand out from the crowd of beautiful, perfect people. Jennifer Grey’s big nose made her charming. Renée Zellweger’s cheruby whateveryouwannacallit face made her charming. To some. I guess. I was never a fan.

Would Bette Davis have been THE Bette Davis if she had “fixed” her eyes? Probably not. Would she have had a hit song written about those eyes? Definitely not. Sometimes your worst feature is secretly your best feature.

Look at Charles Bronson. He was an ugly, ugly man with a craggy, nasty face. That’s what made him awesome. That’s what made him look like he could kick your ass. And that’s why his late-career decision to get pretty-girl eyes is all the more baffling. What the hell was he thinking?

Did this magnificent squint need to be made pretty?

Did this magnificent squint need to be made pretty?

Look, get some work done if you must. Lose a mole here or there if it bothers you. Get those plugs to stave off the inevitable if you want to pretend you still have a full head of thick, luxurious hair. Pin back those crow’s feet behind your ears where nobody will think to look for them. But don’t go nuts. Because every once in a while it turns out your money-maker isn’t your tits or your ass. It’s your ugly mug.

Having said that, I can only hope Steve Buscemi got that tooth growing out of the roof of his mouth fixed after cashing his Armageddon cheque.

Behold, the single least-flattering celebrity close-up in cinema history.

Behold, the single least-flattering celebrity close-up in cinema history.

The Last Chapter

Chapters on the corner of Ste. Catherine and Stanley in downtown Montreal isn’t just closing anymore. It’s all the way gone, shuttered and empty – soon to be replaced by the second largest Victoria’s Secret outlet in the world. Because sex sells. Oh, I’m sure Chapters moved its fair share of copies of Fifty Shades of Grey, but that’s nothing compared to the mark-up to be had on the lacy contraptions ladies wear next to their most private of parts. Thoreau can’t compete with a thong. That’s a fact.

People have been quick to point to this as a sign of the demise of the physical bookstore and the dominance of ebook sales online. The numbers don’t bear this out – not yet at least – but that’s the conclusion many will jump to. In reality, the loss of this cornerstone of Montreal book sales has more to do with mishandling, a confused business model, a hobbyist approach to management, and a foolhardy attempt at monopoly. The whole sordid tale is a matter of public record for those who wish to dig beyond the surface of a fanciful comedic blog, but if you look at the provided photo closely enough, you’ll see a key piece of evidence.chapters1

It’s there on the second level of the three storeys (plus basement) that housed Chapters. Those are café tables you can see through the windows. I knew it was the beginning of the end years ago when so much of the floor space was devoted to seating and the selling of coffee instead of books. The idea was that customers were welcome to sit down – for hours if they wished – and read books for free as they sipped coffee. Does that sound charming to you? Well, it sounds idiotic to me. It means if you shopped there, you were buying supposedly new books at new book prices that had been pawed at and sipped over by freeloading hipsters who couldn’t even be trusted with a library card. If I want dog-eared, manhandled books that have been eyeballed to death by strangers, I’ll go to a second-hand bookshop and buy a scarcer, more interesting edition for a fraction of the price.

The space wasn’t always a Chapters, but it’s been a bookstore my entire life. I’ve attended launches and readings there, bought many books, discovered many authors. I’d lament it more, but these days I can browse online, find just about anything I want in or out of print, and have it delivered to my door with free shipping within a few days, often less. I can’t say I miss swinging by in person, hunting through the various sections, trying to guess if the author I’m looking for qualifies as a wordsmith worthy of the literature section or has been dismissed as just another hack and delegated to one of the genre ghettos, and then finding they have copies of all his other books, just not the one I need.chapters2

Once the café idea was introduced, it didn’t take long for much of the rest of the store to get clogged up with all sorts of other merchandise that had little, nothing, or absolutely zero to do with books. It would never occur to me to go to a bookstore for candles, or a clock, or some goddamn gift basket. I think towards the end they were gambling on impulse purchases by making the cash counter a maze of shit you don’t need but might buy on a whim. They rolled the dice (on sale, half-off, aisle four, next to Dickens) and they lost.

At least if I’m looking for music, there’s still HMV across the street – if I can find which corner they swept the music into. The last time I was there, I almost had to stop one of the staff to ask them if they sold anything other than DVD movies, bobbleheads and novelty pint glasses.

On the subject of books I’ll be appearing in, but will never be for sale at the downtown Chapters location, there’s been some news.

The release of Locked and Loaded: Both Barrels Vol. 3, with my story “Young Turks and Old Wives,” has been pushed back to a February 17th release for technical reasons, and has been renamed Shotgun Honey Presents: Locked & Loaded for branding purposes. No cover yet, but I’m going to make a bold guess that the final imagery will include a lady with an eyepatch and a shotgun – loaded of course.

The cover for The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir has been revealed. Still subject to change, it might not be the final version that will arrive on bookshelves. But if this is what they go with, it will instantly become THE single most homoerotic cover my work has ever appeared under. Or maybe I just have a dirty mind. Given the name of my story is “Choke the Chicken” (I’ll mention that this is an old and popular euphemism for male masturbation in case you’re one of the rarified innocents) perhaps I do. Still, I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb mentioning that guns are often phallic symbols and the dude on the cover is puckering up for something.exilecanadiannoir

Oh? He’s just blowing gun smoke out of the barrel?

Of course he is.

My Twitter project, 140 Notorious Characters, is complete and collected on this site under the appropriate sub-page. 140 Horrible Characters has commenced in time for Halloween and will run through till nearly Christmastime. You can keep current with these postings by following me on Twitter.

Mighty Mighty Movie

Supposedly I wrote a TV movie. At least, that’s what the imdb tells me.

Here I was thinking it was only an hour-long animated special, but someone somewhere along the way decided it was going to be called a movie, and that’s all there was to it. I guess it’s a movie the same way various world film institutes have decided that a feature film is anything that runs longer than 40 to 45 minutes.

Shrug. Whatever. If Mighty Mighty Monsters were a regular series instead of three hour-long specials, it would just have been an hour-long episode.

My work on the project ended nearly two years ago now. Preliminary discussions with the producers began over a year before that. The upshot was that I wrote two entire hour-long episodes/movies, both of which were supposed to be the third and final special. My first screenplay was paid for and ditched because it was decided, late in the game, that they wanted to tell a different story for part three of the trilogy. The second one I wrote is what got shot.

With literally years of my life ticking away in the interim, I didn’t really pay attention to what was happening with the show. Apparently the first two special-TV-movie-episodes aired and did well. My closing part of the trio was originally slated to run on Teletoon in April and then didn’t. Post-production may have dragged on, I don’t know. But apparently it’s done now. I only know this because I’ve seen stills and a little bit of footage.

Here are all the individual frames I’ve been able to collect online that are verifiably from my episode, Pranks for the Memories. I’d say SPOILER ALERT, but it’s a cartoon for children. If you’re expecting any great Machiavellian plot twists, turn the channel and go watch HBO.

MMM1

MMM2

MMM3

MMM4

MMM5

MMM6

MMM7

What’s most intriguing to me is the poster. This is the first time I’ve had my name on an actual promotional poster for a release. I guess having a poster for the episode helps make the argument that it’s really a movie after all.

MMMSpecial3

Best guess is that Teletoon will sit on the Mighty Mighty Monsters finale until late October/Halloween, which seems appropriate. Will more TV movies or an actual series follow? Again, shrug. I dunno. I’m just the writer. Nobody tells me anything.

Let’s Ruin Reading for Everyone!

Is there anything technology can’t fuck up? If there is, wait five minutes. Someone will come up with an app for that.

There have been a couple of articles about the lost art of reading that have recently come to my attention. The common thread was that they amounted to two different technological “solutions” for the slow, tedious process of looking at the written word and absorbing it.

The first is Hemingway, a piece of software designed to streamline your prose by pinpointing things like style, complexity and individuality and recommending you cut that shit out. Although it was named for Hemingway, the author of this NPR article quickly discovered the app’s disdain for Ernest when some of his writing was plugging in for a quickie-computer rewrite. The results, concluded the reporter, were an improvement on the work of one of the most celebrated scribes of the 20th century – presumably because it turned his prose into something closer to literary Pablum. It was easier to swallow, bland and tasteless, and required little effort to digest.

HemingwaypunchI’d like to think Hemingway would respond by getting liquored up and punching this NPR flunky in the face.

Okay, now that we’ve ironed out all the bumps and surgically extracted the heart and soul of a piece of writing, how can we cram it down our gullet even faster?

I’m so glad (and dismayed) that you asked.

The Spritz app is designed to force your brain to absorb text much faster than normal reading speed. It’s like speed reading, but with a knife to your throat and your eyes pried open Clockwork-Orange style. Individual words are flashed at you, each with a single letter highlighted in red (presumably to keep you focused) at adjustable speeds that range from painful to tortuous.

Looking at the fastest setting gave me an instant headache. You couldn’t have given me a headache any faster if you’d hit me in the head with a lead pipe. It lingered all day after only about ten seconds of exposure. But it certainly worked. I could read fast. Extremely fast. And it was a horrible, unpleasant experience.

But maybe that’s the point. Hemingway tells us that the written word must be uniform and streamlined, while Spritz shows us that reading is a painful experience best rushed through and ended quickly. These technological innovations expose reading as a burden that should be glossed over and dismissed. Words are not something to sit with, absorb and think about. Language and nuance are for pansies. Books must be downloaded into our brains as quickly and efficiently as possible. It’s all about speed. Comprehension is optional – undesirable even. In the time you waste thinking about one book, you could have flown through three more.

As for short stories, articles or, heaven forfend, blog posts, you better be able to swallow that disposable crap in the blink of an eye. You have places to be, important things to do, other apps to download and install to run and ruin your life.

In fact, why the hell are you still here reading this? Shouldn’t you be done already?

If you’re one of those philistines who still clings to reading fiction and wallowing in words, you might be interested in two more of my short stories slated to appear in upcoming anthologies.

“Young Turks and Old Wives” will be part of Locked and Loaded: Both Barrels Vol. 3 from One Eye Press. It’s out in November.

“Choke the Chicken” is to be featured in The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir. That will come out sometime in 2015.

More details will appear here once we’re closer to the release dates or, more importantly, I have sexy cover art to show off. Until then, you can check out this cool fantasy mock-up for Canadian Noir that one of the writers threw together on a lark.

If you’re sold on the idea that everything must be high tech, I’m sure both collections will be available as ebooks for various tablets and devices and electronic doodads. Or you can curl up with these books the old-fashioned physical way. Order a copy or buy one at a book store – provided you can still find one of those antiquated archaeological dig-sites on a map.

Those of you interested in reading character-based crime fiction but are unwilling to invest more than five seconds at a time may want to check out 140 Notorious Characters. The genre is Twitter Noir and the project has just passed the half-way point. All the tweets are ultimately collected here, but you can also enjoy the twice-daily updates as they spill out of my brain, fresh and offensive, by following me on Twitter.