A Writer's Life
The latest book of lists from Ed Strnad (no relation) is now available! Order I Wish I Didn't... from Barnes and Noble for only $5.59! Or to order from Amazon.com, click HERE.
Hey...some other guy named Strnad gets a credit for submitting a few of his own regrets! (No, they do not involve a fence.)
January 31, 2000
Hell and the Republicans
I was visiting some friends last Saturday night and the subject of devils and pitchforks came up, I can't remember how. But I mentioned that I'd been thinking about this very subject the day before and wondering why devils had pitchforks. Does this mean there's hay in Hell? Why? Are there horses? Were they bad horses?
One of my friends looked at me and said, "Did you really think about that? I mean, did that thought actually cross your mind?" I had to admit that it did. Why not? What should I have been thinking about? "It's my job," I said.
I guess I should have been thinking about Superbowl XXXIV. I wasn't. And I'm still not thinking about it.
Maybe I should have been thinking about World Peace or the Upcoming Presidential Election. I wasn't, still am not.
I don't know why I think about the things I think about. I am only somewhat in command of the things I do, let alone the thoughts that pop into my atom brain.
I suppose the whole "pitchfork" thing is an anchronism made up back when everybody had a pitchfork and assumed that devils had them too, assuming that Hell is basically a farm. Modern thought trends the other direction. Hell is now thought of as a major metropolis where government is supremely unresponsive to the citizens' needs, like here in L.A. (L.A. was just named as the #5 Worst Managed City in America. The only worse ones were Cleveland, New Orleans, Buffalo, and Springfield on The Simpsons.)
I'm a city boy. My first exposure to pitchforks was in the cartoons. They were the things that devils had. Anvils were something that dropped out of the sky and squashed you flat. I didn't suppose that they had any other purpose, or needed one. When was the last time you actually saw a ten-ton weight? Does such a thing even exist? Does it matter? Does any of this matter?
It doesn't matter if it matters, it's still what I'm thinking about. Okay, maybe that's a waste of brain power. On the other hand, these thoughts could be keeping me from thinking worse things, like the possibility of voting Republican.
Oops, I just thought about the Upcoming Presidential Election. I'm stuck between voting for a man whose positions I generally like but who I would like to spend zero time with (Gore) or one I'd like to have as a neighbor but whose positions are diametrically opposed to mine (McCain).
No wonder my brain keeps turning away from that subject and onto devils and pitchforks and the horses of Hell.
January 24, 2000
A Gate Closes, A Door Opens
An era ended this weekend as Julie and I finished the fence.
It was touch and go for awhile. My heart stopped as Julie suggested adding a brass insert to the hole the pull-string that opens the gate goes through, but we found something that would work at Home Depot. The street numbers we nailed to the gate didn't want to stay in place, but we weathered that crisis. And by Sunday I couldn't think of anything else to do fencewise.
It felt a little odd, not having a board to paint or a nail to hammer. I can imagine Sisyphus rolling his rock up to the top of the hill one day and, instead of it rolling down on top of him as it has for the past millennium, it miraculously stays put. Once the initial shock wears off, he has to scratch his head and say, "Well, shucks...now what'll I do?"
I think maybe he looks around for another rock, which is what I did. Or rather, what Julie did for me.
Because we are now hip-deep in the "landscaping" portion of the program.
Odd how things can become unsatisfactory overnight. Suddenly the grass is where the garden should be, the garden is directly in the path of where the new walkway should go, and the existing walkway covers ground that should be grass.
Which brings me to my new theory about continental drift.
As you know, the continents are not glued down. They move. Continents that used to be hooked together are now separated by miles of ocean. Some, like Atlantis, have disappeared completely. Scientists don't know exactly why the continents move or, if they do, they haven't told me. Which leaves me to form my own startlingly simple explanation.
God completed the world, and then he showed it to Mrs. God. Mrs. God clucked her tongue and said, "What if we moved that land mass up a little? And separated that other one with a nice stretch of ocean? And while you're at it...."
And so the continents move. They will always move. Oh, they may rest in one configuration for a few million years, but they'll move around again sooner or later. Mrs. God will see to that.
Saw and hammer have thus given way to shovel and rake. The garage, which was for some days fragrant with the scent of freshly-cut cedar, is now redolent with the aroma of fertilizer. (In line at Home Depot a kid behind me yelled out, "I smell poop!") And Sisyphus has found a new occupation, digging dirt out of the boss's hole.
Ah, heck. I'm more to blame than Julie is.
I'm the one who can't look out the window without wondering "What if...?" It seems so simple at that moment. Throw up a fence ("So that's where it came from!" suggest the neighborhood wags)...the work of a weekend (or twelve). Plant a tree in the corner. Gee, if only that walkway was a little wider, had a bit of a curve to it....
I do these things to myself and try to foist the blame onto Julie who only encourages me and adds her own suggestions.
Sisyphus wasn't damned.
He applied for the job.
January 15, 2000
Work on the fence consumed most of this week.
I've thought previously that Returns (aka Risen) was going to be my life's work as it transmogrified from screenplay to novel to screenplay again, but now it's the fence. I'm like the frog you heard about in geometry class, if you didn't gyp that day, that jumps halfway out of a circle with each leap. When does he reach the end? Never. Whenever I take a step forward on the fence, something happens to put the goal of completion a little bit further away. Something doesn't fit right, I need to cut and paint a new board, some piece of hardware needs to be moved down an inch, whatever. Sometimes I've just bled all over something.
My hands are torn and scarred from this project. When not slicing off a fingertip with a power saw, I'm digging wounds into my hands by trying to manipulate a drill from inside a thorn bush. Julie doesn't want to move the bushes...yet...so half of the time that I'm installing fence boards I'm doing so under cover of shrubbery, like a hunter in his blind. ("Blind," in fact, is the word that comes to most people's minds when they view my carpentry.)
Still, I persevere. There is no greater heroism than that of a man who persists in a enterprise for which he is singularly unqualified. Or maybe that's "stupidity," I forget which.
Julie and I have plunged into the stockmarket, which is pretty much what our stocks have done also...plunged. Okay, it's not that bad, but so far after one week...after which we were supposed to be gazillionaires...we're down a few bucks.
I know you're dying to know what stocks we really bought (as opposed to those made-up ones below), but I hesitate to mention them for fear of provoking uncontrolled laughter. Laughter may be the best medicine but I'm not your damn doctor, so forget about it.
It occurred to me this week, my mind being generally "available for lease or rent," that you could tell pretty much how old people are by looking at their bathrooms. Of course you could just look at the people, but that's a little too easy, don't you think?
Young people have nothing to read in their bathrooms. Their metabolic systems are working at such fever pitch that there isn't time for reading. They zip into the bathroom, do their business with alacrity, and then they're gone, hopefully slowing down enough to wash their hands. If there's nothing to read in a bathroom, it probably belongs to a young person. (The smell is another clue, but that's a topic for another day and another writer.)
As bathroom owners get older, books begin to appear. Books of jokes, or movie quotes, or lists. Quick anecdotal stuff to pass the few minutes it takes to, well, pass.
If young people do their business with alacrity, old people do it with a laxative. They have War and Peace sitting by the toilet, or a shelf holding the Great Books series. They become so accustomed to sitting on a toilet seat that they carry around little doughnut-shaped pillows to sit on.
What do I read in the bathroom? Let's just say that I haven't read any good jokes lately but, dang, that James Joyce is one helluva wordsmith.
January 8, 2000
Trader Jan's Picks For The New Year
This is the year I'm plunging into the stock market. With no deadlines impending, I have plenty of time to sit in front of the computer and trade stocks. So, armed with the money I made from selling my fillings, here's how my trading has gone so far.
MoreauTech (NASDAQ: MUTNT) According to the prospectus: "MoreauTech is a forward-looking developer and supplier of evolutionary accelerants and custom hybridization genomes. Located on a distant island whose exact whereabouts are unknown, MoreauTech's genetic engineers are free to meddle in God's domain unfettered by government regulation, common sense or the slightest shred of moral conscience." Bought at 15, peaked at 31, then dropped to 2 when the island was overrun by angry "humanimals."
Cayman Islands First Bank, Trust and Laundromat (NYSE: SUDS) "The Cayman Islands have served the needs of grifters, embezzlers and drug runners for more than fifty years. CIFBT&L's forward-looking confidentiality policy sets the standard for quasi-legitimate, fly-by-night financial institutions. Its laboratory-tested money laundering process is guaranteed to rinse clean or your next wash is free." Bought at 78 by mailing them a plain brown parcel of cash.
TechComp International (NASDAQ: GEEK) This stock was an IPO ("Initial Public Offering," or possibly "In Post Office," meaning that the company operates from a post office box). From the prospectus: "TechComp International is a forward-looking computer software company specializing in...oops. Wait. We were just bought by Microsoft. Never mind." Dang...I really wanted in on that one.
Vapor.Com (NASDAQ: HUH?) From the prospectus: "Vapor.Com is a B2B internet company with a whole lot of assets, maybe millions of dollars, to tell the truth we haven't bothered to count. Our forward-looking business plan calls for an initial investment in infrastruture in the first eight quarters followed by saturation advertising for an unspecified number of quarters in which we rack up losses in the billions while we 'stake out our territory in cyberspace.' We sell something, maybe a lot of different things, we haven't quite decided yet." Bought at 125, stock split at 852, I'm hanging onto this baby!
Forward-Looking Lawyers With Patents Digital Wireless Interplanetary Inc. (NASDAQ: $$$$) From the prospectus: "Well, what we did was, we got together and pooled the money we made from our personal liability cases and hired a bunch of eggheads to invent stuff with cryptic names like MDMA and PDQ and PDA and like that. Then we patented it all and figured, what the hell, somebody's going to need some of these patents to do some-damn-thing. Then we stuck the name 'Wireless' in our name and 'Digital' and Gary threw in 'Interplanetary' just for fun. Then we sat back for a couple of years and now we're suing everybody under the sun for patent infringement. We think we'll make a killing off the settlements." Bought at 12, peaked at 80, then had to sell when the company sued me for patent infringement.
That's it so far but there are a lot of stocks out there I haven't analyzed yet. New ones every day, it seems. In fact, don't be surprised if you see an IPO for AtomBrain Inc. in the coming year. All I need is a product. Well, maybe not.
January 1, 2000
This Is Only A Test
Not much to chronicle yet. I've spent the day revamping the AtomBrain.com site and honestly, I'm just loading this entry to get the ball rolling.
You'll notice, I hope, that I've divided the Journal into months. Whoop-de-doo. The large files that resulted from not breaking the Journal into smaller, computer-digestible chunks were causing problems, so I'm making an effort to be more user-friendly in the new millennium.
Regular readers: The "Journal 2000 Entry Page" is the one to bookmark. Click on the "Journal 2000 Entry Page" picture of the writer (a damn close likeness, by the way) to go back to the Journal 2000 Entry Page, and then add that page to your favorites.
To read the old stuff, click on the "Journal Archives" picture.
The Dalgoda comic book is gone, unfortunately, as are the rants, etc. However, I've added a new on-going feature from Marty Bauman. The Crater Kid appears on my index page with a new episode every weekday. Marty designs and edits one of the very finest sites on the Web, The Astounding B-Monster. I plug it for free because it's like cool, man.
Also, more Strnad-scripted stuff is now available. I've retitled Many Happy Returns as Risen and added the screenplay to AtomBrain.com. I've also posted the teleplay for Welcome to Atom City (aka Nuclear Family) and the screenplay for Maladjusted, the movie Steve Vance and I were going to make before we sold out.
And so we enter the new millennium! Cheers to all!