Tag Archives: writing

Mash-Up, June 11: Graduation

This week we review a few humorous posts involving graduation.

Chase McFadden, over at Some Species Eat Their Young, was chosen by the high school he teaches at to deliver the commencement address to the Class of 2011.  His speech, titled “Go Find Your Rock,” demonstrates how to combine enough meaning so that the graduates go away with something more than a diploma, with enough humor to keep the graduates’ attention while they bake in the blazing sun under dark caps and gowns, wondering when they are going to eat lunch and get money from their relatives.

It reminded me of Woody Allen’s speech to the graduates, titled “My Speech to the Graduates,” first published in the New York Times in 1979.  I would have sat under two caps and two gowns to hear the Woodman deliver this speech.  I don’t think he would have enjoyed the heat, though.

I saved the best for last.  A recent MBA graduate named Debbie posted an eHarmony video in hopes of, I imagine, finding companionship en route to everlasting love and affection.  The first 35 seconds of the clip are a little slow, but the content after that makes me wonder how anyone could resist asking this young woman for her number.

And that’s a wrap.  Enjoy the weekend.

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Of Ice and Men

A few weeks ago I came across a story about a turf battle between two ice cream truck drivers in Pennsylvania.  Evidently one of the drivers tried to run the other drivers off the road.

Image courtesy of Roadsidepictures via Flickr

In my investigation of the webpage reporting the incident, I found this comment posted by a “Miss Polly,” the wife of the victimized driver (all quoted material is sic) :

Hi Everyone, this is Miss Polly, I am the owner of the Ice Cream truck that actually called the police because the other Driver ran my husband off the road and almost hit children…The other driver has ran me off the road in another instance last year….[and] is intimidated by a female. I would never let my kids get ice cream off the trucks in our neighborhood b/c they were so scary lookingAnd so you all know…we are the ONLY ice cream truck business licensed in Uniontown, Pa…the other owner is not licensed and is operating illegally. The permit office is sending him a complaint letter. If you would like to see pics of our truck, us, our children and our fans, visit us on Facebook 🙂

Does anything arrest a child’s attention like the music of an ice cream truck coming down the street?  During summer evenings, it did not matter how deep we were into a Monopoly game, or large random hole in the backyard; we would drop our little plastic hotels or little plastic shovels, shake down the closest adult, and run out to meet the truck, screaming “ice cream man” and shoving slower kids out of the way.

As I reflect on those innocent days, when the ice cream cost under a dollar, and could be consumed with digestive impunity, I try to imagine what it would have looked like to see another ice cream truck coming down the street in the opposite direction at the same time.

The first signal would be the music.  The same tune would crackle from the trucks’ speakers – Scott Joplin’s ragtime classic, “The Entertainer” – but one measure out of phase, so that as the two trucks converged in front of my home, the dissonance would intensify, signaling that something dramatic was about to happen, and that there would be more than enough Bubble O’Bills with the red gumball nose to go around.

But instead of stopping, the two trucks would accelerate towards each other.  Out of each driver’s-side window would emerge a lance in the shape of a waffle cone.  The change in my hand would grow sweaty as I watched the ice cream men joust on my street.

Time would slow down.  My friends and I would look from one truck to the other, and instead of the loud engine and crackly ragtime, we would hear galloping horses and the drums and strings from the Battle of Stirling scene in Braveheart.  And one of the drivers – the one who came everyday, the one we knew and loved, the one who I had shortchanged on more than one occasion and who never called me out or told my mother – shouts to his enemy:

“You may take my route…but you’ll never take my Good Humor!”

Then each lance would pierce the opposite windshield, and the two trucks would collide and be annihilated instantly, like matter meeting anti-matter in a particle accelerator, leaving us kids with a puff of smoke, and a scattered and smoldering pile of Pop Rocks, over which we would fight to the death.  Or until our parents called us in, whichever came first.

And to mark the end of an era, we would keep the money meant for ice cream, and never speak a word about it.

Did an ice cream truck grace your neighborhood?  Did you run out to meet the truck like your pants were on fire?

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Is Your Dad Embarrassing?

Yesterday I read a story about a man who dressed in a different costume every morning, stood in front of his house, and waved to his teenage son going off to school.  The man did this for all 180 days of the school year.

It reminded me of the times my own father wore a costume.  He stopped trick-or-treating for Halloween in his 30s, so I only remember him wearing a costume for Purim, a Jewish festival that commemorates the triumph of the Jews over a Persian named Haman, who had tried to annihilate them with cookies filled with apricot preserves.  It is the one holiday where Jews are commanded to drink in addition to sitting through a long reading from a scroll of parchment.  And it is traditional to dress up as characters from the Purim story: the beautiful Esther, the resourceful Mordechai, the kind King Ahasuerus.  My father dressed up as Pinocchio.

My father’s Purim costume, minus the cricket

He wore a green Tyrolean hat with a feather sticking out, a white button-down short-sleeved shirt, lederhosen that buttoned up the sides, red suspenders, and a long fake nose.  He wore this when we walked in and saw my Hebrew school classmates and their parents; he wore this during the Rabbi’s reading of the Purim story, enthusiastically shaking his noisemaker each time “Haman” was mentioned (as is the tradition…among children); he wore this as he served cake and ice cream to the congregants after the service, saying to each one, “When I’m a real boy I want a Bar Mitzvah with a DJ!”

I’ve often said that males over the age of 10 should not be allowed to wear shorts that end above the knee.  My father does not sign on my theory.  He wore his Pinocchio costume proudly, frequently swinging his arms and kicking up his legs as if controlled by strings, and seemed unmolested by thoughts of the social consequences to his teenage son.

“Hey, that’s a pretty cool costume your dad has on there,” said a friend.

“What costume?  Whose dad?” I said.  My friend pointed towards my father while I dove behind a stack of prayer books.  I stayed there until I heard the sounds of people leaving and car doors slamming.  Soon I heard people calling my name, and I emerged.

“Oh, there you are,” my mother said.  “Where were you?”

“I was looking for my self-esteem,” I said. “It had rolled under a table.”

As we walked outside to our car, I hoped to see my father already behind the wheel, sunk down low in the seat like the drivers in Florida.  But he wasn’t.  He was standing in front of the synagogue, still in full costume, waving to the congregants as they got in their cars and drove away.  He looked so happy.  And as I looked to the congregants, I noticed that they looked happy, too.

Perhaps I was wrong to be embarrassed.  The following year, I picked up a top hat, umbrella, and grasshopper costume, and father and son rejoiced together.  And then waved to everyone.

Do you have any embarrassing dad stories?  Share them here so I can pretend they’re mine and turn them into blog posts!

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Mash-Up, June 4: Kristen Lamb, How to Write Funny, Paul Johnson

This week we review a blog post from Kristen Lamb, a book titled How to Write Funny, edited by John B. Kachuba, and a blog post from Paul Johnson at The Good Greatsby.

Kristen Lamb is the best-selling author of We Are Not Alone and Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer.  Read these books if you want to write.  In the 21st Century, like it or not, a blog, a Twitter account, and a Facebook fan page are the holy trinity of an author’s platform, and Kristen wrote the bible.

On her blog, Kristen gives additional lessons on social media and the craft of writing.  Every one of her posts answers a question I had in my head before I visited her site.

For example, Kristen’s recent post, “Scene Antagonists–The Making of a Hero”, discusses the scene antagonist that drives the inner change of a character.  After I looked up what antagonist meant (it means the bad guy), I wanted to know how an antagonist would work in certain humorous books, where the main character’s obstacles are of his own doing.

I asked this in a comment to the post.  Kristen’s articulate answer was (1) be careful of literary fiction, which must be read in the context of the time it was published, and (2) even those protagonists’ inner turmoil must be externalized to tell a good story.  For years I had wondered why my every attempt to create a buffoon fell flat on the page.  Now I know what was missing.  There must be an anti-buffoon.

I’ve learned other great lessons in writing humor from the aptly titled How to Write Funny, an anthology of essays and interviews from accomplished humor writers.  It’s an old cliché that humor cannot be taught.  But this book does not really teach humor.  Instead, it demonstrates how to find and release the humor from the dysfunction that lies within and around us.  Chapter 14, on the 7 Commandments of Comedy Writing, is alone worth the price of the book.  That is, unless you are completely humorless, which explains why you are reading my blog.

And last, but certainly not least, is one man who does not need to learn anything about writing humor.  His name is Paul Johnson, and his blog, The Good Greatsby, has become a daily treasure.  Writing comedy is hard.  Writing publishable comedy every day seems next to impossible.  I keep looking in the website’s source code for elves that do the writing at night, but all I saw were semicolons, backslashes, and a half-eaten oatmeal cream pie.

One of Paul’s recent gems, “Food Pyramid We Hardly Knew Ye”, discusses the United States Department of Agriculture’s decision to change the food pyramid to a food plate.  The very idea oozes with comedic value, and Paul capitalizes on it nicely.  If you want to start each day with a laugh, bookmark TheGoodGreatsby.com.

And that’s a wrap.  Enjoy the weekend.

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The Facebook Page Neurotic

Everyone wants to be liked by other people.  Even people who mow their lawns at 7 o’clock on a Saturday morning want to be liked by other people.  But measuring exactly how many people like you is difficult.  People might come to your party just for the peach cobbler.

Facebook pages, however, measure exactly how many people like you.  And being liked is completely different from being friends.  Lots of people are friends with people they don’t like.

I created a Facebook page to measure exactly how many people liked me, and because of this cryptic passage I read at location 195/542 in Are You There, Blog?  It’s Me, Writer:

 “All writers need a fan page.”

I created the page, uploaded a photo, wrote a self-serving blurb, and picked a gender.  I started inviting my friends to like me so that I could get the magic 25 needed for a username.  I wanted a username so that when I make business cards, the URL to my Facebook page is a neat “facebook.com/username” instead of the messy “facebook.com/firstname-lastname/longstringofnumbers.”

And I wanted my username to be exactly the same as my Twitter handle, MarkKaplowitz.  When you go through life with a first name that ends in the same letter and sound that begins your last name, you always fear that the two names run together in speech and that people won’t know where your first name ends and last name begins.

I think about the others who face this issue:  Julia Allison.  Michael Lewis.  Adam Morrison.  Jennifer Runyon, who played Gwendolyn Pierce on Charles in Charge.  Roald Dahl.  David Duchovny.  William McKinley.  Julius Caesar (using the Anglicized pronunciation).  These high achievers somehow got the world to know their first and last names.  When I saw that HTML was treating all names, big and small, on a lowercase basis, I worried that my concatenated k’s would be seen as one.  I needed a way to show differentiation.

And then I stumbled across Jody Hedlund’s Facebook page, with “AuthorJodyHedlund” as its username.  So it was possible!  I practiced typing my social media contact information on an imaginary business card:

http://twitter.com/MarkKaplowitz

http://facebook.com/MarkKaplowitz

Something was missing.  Then I saw it:

http://twitter.com/MarkKaplowitz

http://facebook.com/MarkKaplowitz

Killer!  The capital M, lowercase k, and capital K were dressed like the Blue Devils drum line!  Now no one would be confused.

My 25th like arrived last Friday afternoon.  With shaking hands I went to Facebook’s username portal, and was curtly informed that “MarkKaplowitz” was taken, just like that Steven Spielberg miniseries about aliens.

Who was this thief, this scoundrel, this cur, this knotty-pated fool who dared to take my username?

I scrolled down and found my answer.  It was me.  I had stolen my own name.

A few months ago, Facebook had offered me the opportunity to pick a username for my personal profile.  I had clicked on “confirm” because I like to click on things.  And Facebook’s help page said that usernames could not be transferred, period.

I searched for another way.  I found a post from August, 2010 that explained that one could release a username from a profile, and then immediately claim it for a page.  But the comments indicated that this strategy became risky in November.  I could not take risks.

One of the comments to that post proposed filing a Facebook copyright infringement claim against yourself.  I was skeptical but desperate.  I filled out Facebook’s form.  It asked for the name I was claiming and typed “markkaplowitz” and hit submit.  I wanted quick resolution, and a few seconds elapsed before I’d realized what I’d done.

I had forgotten to type “MarkKaplowitz” as I’d planned.  My business cards!  My perfectly aligned usernames!  My dispelling of confusion!

I received an email from Facebook confirming receipt of my request to transfer “markkaplowitz” from my profile to my page.  I drafted this reply:

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,

I make reference to the username “markkaplowitz” that is currently the subject of a copyright dispute.  In the event I prevail against myself, I would prefer that the username for my page be entered as “MarkKaplowitz” with the first letters of my first and last name capitalized.  Makes it a little easier to read.  Sorry for being such a pain.  I love what you’ve done here.  I did not see The Social Network.

Sincerely,

Mark Kaplowitz

As the cursor stood poised over the send button, a voice inside my head said, “Don’t push it.”  But a louder voice said, “Follow your dreams.”  So I sent the email, went in the bathroom to throw up, and stepped outside for some fresh air.

I walked to a park, took a seat on a bench, and watched people.  A mother licked her hand to wipe her child’s face.  A guy in a backwards baseball cap scratched his chin while his girlfriend sent a text message.  A silver-haired man in a seersucker suit strolled by with a house cat on a leash.  The world showed nothing but indifference.

I went back to my computer.  No emails from Facebook, no change to the username.  I tried to blog, but the words weren’t coming.  I needed that username.

As the hours passed I became convinced that I would not get the transfer.  I would have to be “MarkKaplowitz2” or “TheRealMarkKaplowitz” or “ThatGuyWhoWritesThoseRememberWhenPostsOnSchlabadooDotCom.”  My business card would look messy.  My career would stagnate.  I would grow old on that park bench, telling myself over and over that I never should have sent that email.

And then I refreshed my page for the millionth time and saw that the username had been transferred.  It was “markkaplowitz” without any capitalization.  And I thought to myself, “You know, it looks kind of chic in all lowercase.  Maybe I should change my Twitter name to all lowercase.  For the business cards.”

Thanks Facebook!

Have you created a Facebook page?  Did you have any difficulty choosing a username?  What are your thoughts on capitalization in URLs?  What are your thoughts on crazy Facebook obsessions?

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From Seditionist to Blogger

In high school I authored and distributed an underground newspaper.  I believe this was a step towards becoming a blogger.

My friend Darren and I had the idea of starting a literary magazine, but we needed funding for printing and the pizza parties that were required for every school club.  We asked the administration for help, but the entire arts budget had been spent on glitter.  So we took our operations underground.

The first thing we did was pick pseudonyms.  Darren chose “A. Hamilton” because he wanted to express his belief in liberty and the nobility of the fourth estate.  I chose “Zack Morris.”

Then we had to name our paper.  Our high school mascot was the eagle, and so we decided on The Eagle’s Nest.  Had I known that Adolf Hitler’s World War II bunker complex was also called the Eagle’s Nest, we might have chosen something else.  But these are the quirks of history.

We gave The Eagle’s Nest a serious tone to appeal to a higher class of reader.  We wrote articles about the quality of the school lunch, the demeanor of the custodians, and the girth of the cafeteria monitors.  We wrote editorials protesting the archaic practice of running during gym class.  We wrote fake interviews with teachers and students.  We crafted syllabi for classes that did not exist.  And at top of the issue, in a little box, was our journalistic creed:

If it’s not in here, we don’t give a s#!%.

We wrote the first issue on Darren’s computer one Saturday afternoon.  I had the more trusting of parents, and thus the copying job fell to me.  On Sunday night I asked my mother to drive me to Kinko’s.

“Of course, my pumpkin pie,” she said.  “What do you need?”

“Oh, uh, nothing,” I said, curling a manila folder.

I made her sit in the car while I made the copies.  It took only ten minutes.  I came back home with a box under my arm, went upstairs to my room, closed the door, and thought about the meaning of freedom.

And then we received a call from Darren’s mother.  “Do you know what they’re doing?” I could hear from the receiver that my mother held a few inches away from her head.  “They are going to be handing something out to the kids at school!  Something with bad words in it!  They are going to get expelled and won’t get into college!  We have to stop them!”

I tried to imagine how Darren’s mother found out.  I pictured a deposit of laundry, a neglected computer screen, and a long interrogation.

Although my mother did not confiscate the copies and put them on top of her armoire next to my slingshot and BB gun, she persuaded me to seek administrative approval for my subversion.  Darren and I agreed, through intermediaries, to postpone distribution, and the next day my father took me to the local law library to read and copy First Amendment cases.  It was not my idea of radicalism.  At least we went for ice cream afterwards

After a flurry of letters with the school’s lawyers, citing cases that involved Vietnam-era black armbands, Vietnam-era anti-draft t-shirts, and students who wanted to wear tissue boxes on their feet, a deal was struck with the principal.  We would show him the paper we wished to distribute, and he would make “suggestions.”  A memo went out to all teachers advising that Darren and I would be distributing an underground newspaper in between classes.  The arrangement was not what we’d had in mind.  We were not really fighting the establishment, and we were not really hiding our identities.

But when that first issue of The Eagle’s Nest was out there at last, and I saw my peers reading my “Elegy for Tater Tots” and laughing out loud, I thought to myself, “I like this.”

How about you?  Was there an earlier moment in your life that led to blogging?

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Mash-Up, May 28: David Bouchier, Clay Morgan, Leanne Shirtliffe

This week we review an essay from humorist David Bouchier, a blog post from Clay Morgan at eduClaytion.com, and a column from Leanne Shirtliffe that was published in the Calgary Herald.

David Bouchier is an award-winning essayist for National Public Radio and author.  Originally from England, he relocated to New York’s Long Island, in search of, I imagine, more traffic.  His humor column “Out of Order” appeared in the regional Sunday edition of the New York Times for ten years until 2003.  The Song of Suburbia, a collection of humorous vignettes about trying to make it in the suburbs, is ever at my side.

David Bouchier’s writing is polished, lively, and funny, and he regularly treats the public to a featured essay on his website.  His most recent such piece, The Anxious Traveler (May 27), highlights the comic irony of our oppression by the very means of travel that were designed to empower us, a topic near and dear to my heart.

Our next piece comes from Clay Morgan via his website, eduClaytion.  Clay is a writer, professor, and speaker from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  He has a particular interest in using pop culture references to reach a generation of students that are often considered unreachable, as Clay explains in this guest post that appeared on Lessons From Teachers and Twits.  His ebullience is part and parcel of his work, and every visit to eduClaytion puts me in a good mood.

This week, Clay writes a touching and funny memoir of “Macho Man” Randy Savage, a professional wrestler who brought life to the World Wrestling Federation from 1985 to 1994, and whose own life ended on May 20th when he suffered a heart attack while driving his truck and crashed into a tree.  Clay’s prose resurrects those gladiators in colorful briefs, sparring with metal folding chairs, and catapulting off the ropes onto their supine adversaries’ glistening chests and faces.

I saw the moves all over again: the body slam, the pile driver, the back body drop, the airplane spin, the gorilla press gutbuster.  Was it honest athletic competition, or staged entertainment?  Either way, I was glad it happening on the television instead of in my living room.

And last, but not least, comes a piece from Leanne Shirtliffe, who blogs at IronicMom.com about her misadventures raising twins.  Her work will bring a laugh if you have children, or even if you don’t have children but have seen examples of them on television.  Her article titled “Water, kids, and failed experiments” (Calgary Herald, May 26) is about keeping your cool when your child discovers the garden hose.

What is it with kids and hoses?  Sigmund Freud had an explanation, but this blog is geared towards a general audience.  Leanne wisely ignores the psychology, and takes her child’s fascination with aplomb and humor; a lesson in parenting, and a lesson in writing.

And that’s a wrap.  Enjoy the weekend.

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Why the iPhone is Perfect for Writers

Last year I submitted a piece by email to my local newspaper for Op-Ed consideration, and then left for a four-day bachelor party in Florida.  When I was able to see straight again at the close of the trip, and got to an Internet connection, I saw that I had received three emails from the newspaper’s Op-Ed editor.  She had wanted to run my piece in the Sunday edition but needed to talk to me about it, and all she had was my email address.  I frantically called her Monday morning, but it was too late.

Missing a publishing opportunity because of missed email was a bitter pill to swallow.  I swore it would never happen again.  You might be thinking that I could have avoided the problem by including my cell phone number with the submission.  But then I wouldn’t have this little story.

Getting an iPhone solved the problem of the missed email.  But I’ve discovered two other advantages that have improved my life as a writer.  It allows me to take notes without looking like I’m taking notes, and it allows to me read without looking like I’m reading.

For years I carried around a little notebook.  If I thought of something, I would write it down.  The problem was that people sometimes acted funny when they saw me taking notes.  “What are you writing?” they would ask, or “Are you writing about me?” or “Can I read what you wrote?” or “I’m going to take that notebook when you are sleeping and read it!”  That kind of attention affected my prose.

With the iPhone, however, they don’t know I’m taking notes.  They think I’m just texting or, better yet, playing a video game.  Sometimes I angle the device this way and that to make it look like I’m racing a car.  And as soon as I’m done recording my thoughts, with one tap I can email the notes to myself for later use, with no crumpled up receipts to clutter the coffee table and spark an argument.

Reading books in public used to be a problem, too.  Bringing War and Peace to the dinner table was generally interpreted as rude, no matter which translation.  One evening as I dined with family, I noticed that someone was holding his iPhone under the table to watch a YouTube video of washed-up celebrity chefs falling down flights of stairs.  I asked my fellow diners why he was allowed to watch a video, while I was not allowed to read.  Everyone stared into their mashed potatoes.

The message was clear.  There was a double standard for new technology and old.

The iPhone has made it possible to read at the dinner table again.  I read books on my iPhone and everyone thinks I’m on Facebook looking at wedding pictures of people I don’t really know.  Attending parties with a book, even a book that had received good reviews, always met with stares.  Now people just stare at their devices, as I stare at mine.  Just like with the notes, an unacceptable rudeness masquerades as an acceptable one.

And sometimes when the party’s over, and the potato salad scraped off the plates, and I’m back in my room, alone, I pick up a notepad and a book…and find them both a little heavy.

What’s your experience been?  How has an iPhone (or similar device) changed your life as a writer?  Or are you still carrying around a notebook and getting weird looks?

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How I Started Blogging

My first blog was created in the fall of 2008.  America was in the midst of a Presidential election, and debate was fierce.  While showering I came up with a few ideas on how to solve the financial crisis and the exploding cost of healthcare.  I published a few posts sharing my views, and dreamed of appearing on television news programs with the words “Freelance Public Policy Expert” floating under my talking head.

When I clicked on “publish” it was as if a jolt of electricity had gone through my body.  I imagined that my post would instantly show up on everyone’s screen like that persistent prompt to download the latest version of Abode Flash Player.  Now our leaders would know what to do.  But none of my posts got any comments, or any views, and every Sunday morning it was the same group of politicians, journalists, and well-established experts on the Meet the Press instead of me.

My second blog was daily vignettes and flash fiction.  I wrote about annoying cell phone conversations and chronic snifflers and people who carried large pieces of luggage onto commuter trains during rush hour.  I wrote a story about a device called the Descriptionizer Functioner, even though I did not know what it did, and another story about a man who can’t find parking in Manhattan until a UFO vaporizes a parked car right before his eyes.  I had a great sense of accomplishment with each story, but still no one was reading.  I figured it was because my characters had no depth.

At no point did it occur to me to tell anyone what I was doing.

Then it was early summer and getting hot, and I was taking another stab at the collected works of William Shakespeare.  I try this every summer.  I was supposed to have read Hamlet in the 12th grade, but I was busy slacking off at the time.  Better late than never, I decided a great way to learn the play was to write a humorous parody of it and post my work to a blog.  I wrote it up, and then I moved onto Macbeth, which I liked because it had lots of rhyming and is very short.  At last I had found my blog concept.  I would write a blog making a parody of each Shakespeare play.  But I hit the wall at King Lear.  At first I thought my problem was that I did not understand the text.  Then I saw the movie – the recent one with Sir Ian McKellen – and realized that the play is just really disturbing.

Then I was blogging journal entries about my daily life.  I wrote about coffee and cat food.  I wrote about looking for a copy of a video I made when I was running for class president.  I wrote about my office mate who seemed to do nothing but sip soda and chew gum.  And then I got bored and stopped.

The blogging thing just didn’t seem to be working.  I was glad I hadn’t told anyone about it.

Then I was home for Columbus Day and considered loitering in front of a convenience store to pass the time.  Suddenly I remembered a cartoon show called Beavis and Butthead that had aired on MTV in 1993.  I remembered how fond I had been of that show, and how the base and tasteless humor had spoken to me at a time when I was fairly base and tasteless myself.  And I saw how I could write a post about it.  The short post occurred to me all at once, and after I wrote it I thought of other things that had changed in the last few decades.

The topics seemed inexhaustible.  I blogged for a few weeks, and mustered up the courage to tell my mother about it.  I got decent feedback from my mother, and then I told my wife.  My wife gave me decent feedback, too, especially after I shoveled the driveway and took out the garbage.  Then I told my dearest, closest friends.  Then I told my Facebook friends.  And I saw that the feedback was good.  I kept blogging for them, and then one day I was Freshly Pressed and had the greatest experience I know as a writer – being read by thousands of strangers.

And now I can’t stop blogging.  I think about it when I’m supposed to be paying attention to people who are talking to me.  At least I have an inexhaustible concept for posts.  “Remember when…”  There’s no end to that!  No way would I ever break with such a concept.

So what’s your story?  How did you start blogging?

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Remember Y2K?

Remember Y2K?

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

I do.

In the late nineties, as the year 2000 approached and everyone prepared to trade in their cars for flying machines, we started hearing about something called “Y2K.” At first I thought this was a knock-off of the singing group Boyz II Men, but it was in fact a computer bug, and meant that the disk space that computer engineers had saved for pictures of people’s pets was going to be needed to express the year in four digits instead of two.

Yes, the looming end-of-millennium disaster, the moment where humanity would finally face judgment for its wickedness and fanny packs, was not an asteroid, or Godzilla, or aliens, but the inability of computers to express the year in more than two digits. How exciting. Engineering hadn’t failed us – Hollywood had. I had to picture the disaster myself: At the moment the year changed from 1999 to 2000, and people everywhere were trying to pop champagne without breaking any rare vases, computers would think it was the year 1900 and instantly turn into ticker tape machines.

It is hard to exaggerate the hysteria that surrounded the Y2K bug. I will try anyway.

Planes were going to fall out of the sky.  Bank records would be deleted.  Toilets would overflow. My biggest worry was that report cards would be lost, including the 90 I got in English junior year, mainly on the strength of my essay on Lady Macbeth’s shoe collection.

The government and corporations began spending billions of dollars on Y2K compliance, and I started spending my weekends going through all my old homework assignments and adding “19” to every date. There were some who criticized the prevention, saying we were going too far. One critic said that the Y2K bug would cause nothing more than a few blank TV screens. When people heard that they doubled their efforts. We all went around telling everyone that there was no way we were going to be flying when midnight struck. For months I did nothing but make preparations to not be in an airplane at the stroke of midnight.

As New Year’s Eve approached, I decided I would not take any chances by going to some booze fest in a major metropolitan area. So instead I went to a booze fest in the country, at the home of a friend of mine that, he assured me, was not in the way of any flight path. It was a fun party and only a few people threw up – obviously from Y2K jitters. We were all worried about our digital infrastructure as well as our coats, which had no doubt been tossed onto a bed along with many other similar-looking coats.

Soon it was time to prepare for the new year and the awkward election between kissing, shaking hands, or waving. The ball in Times Square began its descent. Dick Clark began the final countdown. The 1980s band Europe sang “The Final Countdown.” In those last seconds I braced against the inevitable, took one last look at the world as I knew it, and took the last brownie, confident that no one would say anything at such a moment.

The ball hit the ground, and…nothing. No planes fell out of the sky. No bank accounts were deleted. One toilet overflowed, but I don’t think that had anything to do with computers. The world’s digital infrastructure was fine, and I was going to have to pay back my student loans after all.  “Auld Lang Syne” was just as depressing as ever.

No major problems were recorded, and the critics said this was proof that Y2K was a hoax all along. “You see?” they said, “We were right. You spent billions on Y2K compliance, and nothing happened.”  And the people who spent those billions said, “Exactly.”

The Y2K bug is thankfully, along with paying for news and music, part of the past. Now we can live in simple peace and harmony and await the “Y10K” bug in 9999. Maybe by then I’ll have found my coat.

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