Annual Tradition: A Very Tom Waits Christmas

[Originally posted on Northcoast Exile, December 24, 2006]

I pulled on Santa’s sleigh
Christmas Eve was dark, and the snow fell like cocaine off some politician’s coffee table
Rudolph looked to the sky. He had a shiny nose, but it was from too much vodka
He said, “Boys, it’s gonna be a rough one this year.”

I pulled on Santa’s sleigh
The elves scrambled to pack up the last of the lumps of coal for deserving suburban brats
And a bottle of Jamie for some forgotten soul whose wife just left him
Santa’s like that. He’s been there.
Oh, he still loves Mrs. Claus, a spent piece of used sleigh trash who
Makes good vodka martnis, knows when to keep her mouth shut
But it’s the loneliness, the loneliness only Santa knows

I pulled on Santa’s sleigh
And the workshop reeks of too much peppermint
The candy canes all have the names of prostitutes
And Santa stands there, breathing in the loneliness
The loneliness that creeps out of the main house
And out through the stables
Sometimes it follows the big guy down the chimneys
Wraps itself around your tannenbaum and sleeps in your hat

I pulled on Santa’s sleigh
We all line up for the annual ride
I’m behind Vixen, who’s showin’ her age these days
She has a certain tiredness that comes with being the only girl on the team
Ah, there’s nothing wrong with her a hundred dollars wouldn’t fix
She’s got a tear drop tattooed under her eye now, one for every year Dancer’s away

I pulled on Santa’s sleigh and
I asked myself, “That elf. What’s he building in there?”
He has no elf friends, no elf children
What’s he building in there?
He doesn’t make toys like the other elves
I heard he used to work for Halliburton,
And he’s got an ex-wife in someplace called Santa Claus, Pennsylvania
But what’s he building in there?
We got a right to know.

I pulled on Santa’s sleigh
And we’re off Off into the night
Watching the world burn below
All chimney red and Halloween orange

I’ve seen it all
I’ve seen it all
Every Christmas Eve, I’ve seen it all

There’s nothing sadder than landing on a roof in a town with no cheer.

The Best Of The Old Blog: Adventures In Tech Support

[I’m not saying this happened where I work, because I NEVER blog about my day job.  However, I’m saying this did happen.  Probably today.  And not far from Cincinnati’s Fountain Square, which I can see from my office window.]

(L)user:  Jim, it’s Ben.  About that nonstandard app you don’t support that you installed for me.

Me:  What about it, Mr. Dover?

(L)user:  Well, it doesn’t have all the features I wanted.  Could you come up and fix it for me?

Me:  Well, Mr. Dover…

(L)user:  Call me Ben.

Me:  Middle name “Gay”?

(L)user:  What?

Me:  Sorry.  Benji, when we installed this, we did so because you had a business case that warranted it.  However, we also told you we can’t support it because it’s a non-standard application that really should not be on our network.

(L)user:  But what about those features I wanted?

Me:  Ben, I have a customer with a blown hard drive who needs to be back up and running or her department will lose a $100 thousand dollar contract.  I have another user who’s been waiting for me to deliver a new laptop since last week, and he really can’t wait anymore now that I have the part he needs.  And we have an Internet worm that’s wreaking havoc with most of our business units.  So really, your non-standard app that you’re not supposed to be running on company machines is going to have to wait.

(L)user:  So you’ll be right up, right?

Me:  [Mutes phone]  Why the f*** do I keep getting these motherf******s?  Were his f***ing parents brother and sister or what!?!

Coworker:  Calm down, Jim.  Send him to The Master.

Me:  [Smiling]  The Master. [Said reverentlyUnmutes phone.]  Ben, I’m going to put our top guy on it.  Okay?

(L)user:  Thanks, Jim.  Thanks a lot.  I really appreciate this.

Me:  [Transfers call.]

The Master:  ‘Allo?  [He’s from Ray Banks old stomping grounds, so he talks funny.  I mean for a guy from Manchester.]

(L)user:  Hi, this is Ben.  Ben Dover.

The Master:  Yeah, what the f*** do you want?

(L)user:  You know that app you told me never to install?

The Master:  Yeah?

(L)user:  It doesn’t work.

The Master:  Well, of course it doesn’t bloody work, you stupid git!  You’re not supposed to be running it!

(L)user:  [In full on nasally whine] But I can’t get all my features!!!!!!!

The Master:  Okay, calm down there, Benny.  Go to Start, then Run.

(L)user:  [Typing noises]  Okay.  Now what?

The Master:  Type “cmd”.

(L)user:  Okay.  Got it.

The Master:  Hit enter.  You should get a big black box with a blinking cursor.  Got it?

(L)user:  Yes.  Will this get me my features?

The Master:  Not yet.  Type “Format C:”

(L)user:  Okay.

The Master:  Hit enter.

(L)user:  Okay.  Says it’s formatting IDE Device 0.

The Master:  Good.  Now go show your manager when it’s done and tell him it was your idea.

(L)user:  Great!  Thanks.  I really appreciate this.

Later

Another coworker:  Hey, why was Ben Dover cleaning out his desk?

[True story from June 9, 2005, somewhat embellishedThe Master no longer works for BigHugeCo.  He is missed.  – Jim]

Best Of The Old Blog: So Bad, Jack Taylor Used Her To Replace Booze

[Originally posted to Northcoast Exile June 9, 2007 after blowing through the entire Jack Taylor series.]

As you know, I’ve been tearing through Ken Bruen‘s Jack Taylor series at a pretty good clip.  Recently, Ken shared with me this snatch of dialogue he wrote for the next Jack Taylor book, Paris, wherein our favorite non-drinking pub dweller and Father Malachy discover they share a common, and rather unhealthy, obsession.  With Ken’s permission, I’ve been allowed to post an early draft of the opening confessional scene.

[Jack has come to Galway Cathedral because something happened the previous night that has shaken him to his very soul and sworn him off Sky News and CNN, at least for the time being.  Poor guy had to order and stare at a six of Guiness to right himself.  He goes to an unlikely ally for help.]

JACK:  Bless me, Fr. Malachy, ya stupid git…

MALACHY:  Hey!

JACK:  Sorry.  ‘Tis an English term of affection, and me mother did think highly of you.

MALACHY:  Very well.  Go ahead.

JACK:  I’ve lost track of when my last confession was…

MALACHY:  You were probably drunk at the time.

JACK:  Watch it.

MALACHY:  Sorry.  Please continue.

JACK:  I have touched myself in…

MALACHY:  Hey, hey, HEY!  There are just some images I really don’t need to deal with.

JACK:  It was while thinking about Paris Hilton in prison.

MALACHY:  Well, that’s different.  We must examine this sin closely.  Please tell me more.  In detail.  What was this fantasy that caused you to sin much less than usual?  [A metallic noise emerges from Father Malachy’s side of the confessional.]

JACK:  Was that a zipper?

MALACHY:  We have rats.  Go ahead.  I’m listening.

[Jack proceeds to tell Fr. Malachy the rudest Paris-in-prison story ever imagined.  He ignores the grunts from Fr. Malachy during the steamier parts.  He finishes.]

MALACHY:  Well, my son, we all…  um…  Could I trouble you to get me a paper towel on your way out?

JACK:  Get it yer feckin self.  My pants got too tight just telling you that story.  Would it count if I confessed ahead of time?  I’m going to need to do that again now, then stare at a double of Jameson tonight.

MALACHY:  Yes, yes.  Say one Lord Bless the Pygmies and you may go.

JACK:  “Bless the Pygmies?”

MALACHY:  Pope Benedict is a huge Larry the Cable Guy fan.

JACK:  Very well.  Lord, I apologize for that.  Please be with the little pygmies in Africa.  Amen.

MALACHY:  Great.  You’re absolved.  Now get out of here.

JACK:  Brit!  [Slams door to confessional on way out.]

MALACHY:  Paris and Lindsey Lohan?  Oh, mama, I gotta do a homily on the evils of that.

[Note:  Ken really did ask me to blog this after I sent him an earlier version by email.  Yes, Paris confuses everyone in the Western world. ]

Best Of The Old Blog: Gaze Upon My Manuscript, Mortals, And Despair!

[Kind of appropriate for this month, dontcha think?  Alas, no race with another writer this time. – Jim]

[Originally posted to Northcoast Exile June 6, 2005. Unfortunately, I wound up scrapping this book, and Graham Powell never had a chance to get out of the gate. Oh, well. At least Graham got Crimespot live.]

Yea, verily, I did thus utter the sacred incantation on this very blog – the Seven Sacred Words – to call upon the Muse.

And lo did she come unto me in the middle of the night and whisper in mine ear. And thus, her whisperings begat Chapter 10.

Yet I despaired, for as I sat in Starbucks after working, admiring the beauty and the grace of that creature known as “MILF,” lo, did I despair, for I knew not how to follow the first scene in Chapter 10.

And yea, verily, the saints, they did appear: Hammett with a venti Yukon blend and MacDonald with a carmel frap, flanking the man himself, Chandler, who thus opted for a skim no-whip mocha, with triple expresso.

And yea, verily, did St. Raymond say unto me, “James, James, why doest thou despair so? Doth thy wallet cry out in agony from this overpriced java?”

An verily, I said, “No, St. Raymond. I have set up my protagonist in a bar and have no way of turning the situation.”

“Truly, truly, I say unto you,” St. Raymond said unto me, “first, you really did pay too much for a venti decaf. You could have gotten it at the IHOP up the road for $1.20 and all the refills you wanted. Second, James, remember my words and heed them well. When thou knowest not what to do, throw in someone with a gun.”

And thus, the Three Wisemen hopped in Hammett’s SUV and drove to Deja Vu because yea, verily, couch dances are half off on Monday nights. MacDonald was heard to exclaim, “Don’t tell Margaret where we’re going.” To which Hammett replied, “Isn’t it bad enough she knows we’re in Cincinnati?”

And lo, I took the advice of the Three Wisemen and threw in some guns. Two characters ate lead, then dirt sandwiches. And I looked and I saw it was good.

26,000 words.

Verily, I say unto thee, Graham Powell, who art thy daddy?

Best Of The Old Blog: Stones Vs. Beatles? No Way!

[Originally posted to Northcoast Exile on April 13, 2005. This was the most popular post on the old blog that didn’t feature a naked soccer mom. – Jim]

John Scalzi, in his Reader Request Week post for today, tackles his weightiest subject to date:

“Beatles or Rolling Stones?

Superman or Batman?

‘He or she’ or singular ‘they’?”

Let’s get the first two out of the way. Batman, because when Superman has to be Clark Kent, he’s a wimp. When Batman has to be Bruce Wayne, he’s still a bad ass and not to be screwed with.

They. Linguists and grammarians need to just get over it. English lacks a proper gender nonspecific pronoun. Sorry, but “it” doesn’t cut it. So if we can have a royal “we” and an all-purpose “you,” English can survive a generic “they” for gender non-specific third person.

Now to the heart of the matter: Beatles vs. Stones. Beatles. Hands down. They were all working class stiffs. Quite frankly, they reinvented rock. Poppy? Hell, yes, and so what? Without The White Album, Sgt. Pepper’s, and the criminally underrated Abbey Road, rock simply would not be rock. That’s not to say the Stones didn’t do their part. “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Satisfaction,” and “Gimme Shelter” anyone? But… Well, let Scalzi tell you:

“The Beatles had the stones (so to speak) to break up and stay broken up, meaning that their canon is undiluted from years of post-creative suckage.”

Scalzi cuts off the Stones productive years at Tattoo You. I say Steel Wheels had merit, but, like Pink Floyd’s Momentary Lapse of Reason, it was designed to be an album you’d expect from the band. The only difference is that David Gilmour used that phrase as a title. Mick and Keith really did have a momentary lapse of reason. It’s the double whammy of musical crap called Dirty Work and Undercover, both the worst Stones albums I’ve ever heard. (And yes, I include the two post-Wyman yawn fests. “Anybody See My Baby” my ass!)

A lot of bands should have packed it in or at least shed deadweight. Much sooner. Led Zep probably needed to call it a career anyway when John Bonham died. Page just wanted to play guitar, and Plant had already developed his own sound. Pink Floyd did a Wall too far with the bloated Final Cut in 1983. One wonders if the follow up would have been stronger if Roger Waters had either quit sooner or let David Gilmour and Richard Wright have their way. Genesis… Invisible Touch? I’m still pissed off about the title track off that song. What was that? Phil Collins and Mike & the Mechanics rejects? (To be fair, We Can’t Dance was decent, but the post-Phil Calling All Stations was a huge mistake.)

Prog bands generally outlive their usefulness. Somebody tell me why Emerson, Lake, & Percussionist and Yes are still around? Have you heard their post-eighties work? Tragic. Have you heard their eighties work? The Asia albums that never were.

I’d call for Metallica’s demise, but I want to see them live. I’d also call for Guns & Roses demise, but then I like them again since they became Velvet Revolver.

The band that should be around, but can never be again, is Alice in Chains. Remember Alice? This is a rant about Alice. I miss the hell out of those guys.

UPDATE: I wrote this before A Bigger Bang came out. While not earth-shattering or by any means a classic, it is a decent album. If the Stones had gone from Tattoo You to Steel Wheels to A Bigger Bang, skipping everything in between, this post would have been very, very different.

A Very Tom Waits Christmas

[Originally posted on Northcoast Exile, December 24, 2006]

I pulled on Santa’s sleigh
Christmas Eve was dark, and the snow fell like cocaine off some politician’s coffee table
Rudolph looked to the sky. He had a shiny nose, but it was from too much vodka
He said, “Boys, it’s gonna be a rough one this year.”

I pulled on Santa’s sleigh
The elves scrambled to pack up the last of the lumps of coal for deserving suburban brats
And a bottle of Jamie for some forgotten soul whose wife just left him
Santa’s like that. He’s been there.
Oh, he still loves Mrs. Claus, a spent piece of used sleigh trash who
Makes good vodka martnis, knows when to keep her mouth shut
But it’s the lonlieness, the lonliness only Santa knows

I pulled on Santa’s sleigh
And the workshop reeks of too much peppermint
The candy canes all have the names of prostitutes
And Santa stands there, breathing in the lonliness
The lonliness that creeps out of the main house
And out through the stables
Sometimes it follows the big guy down the chimneys
Wraps itself around your tannenbaum and sleeps in your hat
I pulled on Santa’s sleigh

We all line up for the annual ride
I’m behind Vixen, who’s showin’ her age these days
She has a certain tiredness that comes with being the only girl on the team
Ah, there’s nothing wrong with her a hundred dollars wouldn’t fix
She’s got a tear drop tattooed under her eye now, one for every year Dancer’s away

I pulled on Santa’s sleigh and
I asked myself, “That elf. What’s he building in there?”
He has no elf friends, no elf children
What’s he building in there?
He doesn’t make toys like the other elves
I heard he used to work for Halliburton,
And he’s got an ex-wife in someplace called Santa Claus, Pennsylvania
But what’s he building in there?
We got a right to know.

I pulled on Santa’s sleigh
And we’re off Off into the night
Watching the world burn below
All chimney red and Halloween orange

I’ve seen it all
I’ve seen it all
Every Christmas Eve, I’ve seen it all

There’s nothing sadder than landing on a roof in a town with no cheer.

Evil Corporations

[Originally posted to Northcoast Exile April 21, 2006]

Actually, I don’t buy into the knee-jerk corporate bashing trend going on.  It is to liberalism what trashing gays, Muslims, and the media is to conservatives.  Basically, it’s an excuse not think.

Case in point:  Starbucks.  Every single person I’ve heard bash Starbucks and list its myriad of evils, without fail, starts off with “They sell burned coffee!”  I’m sorry.  That’s roughly the equivalent of the conservative chestnut of stupidity, “lies of the liberal media.”  Congratulations.  By digging out either of those mindless slogans, you automatically cease to have any credibility.  Now shut up and go hug a tree or burn a book somewhere.  You bother me.

That’s not to say there aren’t corporations that are on my bad side.  Oh, buddy, there are plenty after the jump.

Continue reading

Gaze Upon My Manuscript, Ye Mortals, And Despair!

[Originally posted to Northcoast Exile June 6, 2005. Unfortunately, I wound up scrapping this book, and Graham Powell never had a chance to get out of the gate. Oh, well. At least Graham got Crimespot live.]

Yea, verily, I did thus utter the sacred incantation on this very blog – the Seven Sacred Words – to call upon the Muse.

And lo did she come unto me in the middle of the night and whisper in mine ear. And thus, her whisperings begat Chapter 10.

Yet I despaired, for as I sat in Starbucks after working, admiring the beauty and the grace of that creature known as “MILF,” lo, did I despair, for I knew not how to follow the first scene in Chapter 10.

And yea, verily, the saints, they did appear: Hammett with a venti Yukon blend and MacDonald with a carmel frap, flanking the man himself, Chandler, who thus opted for a skim no-whip mocha, with triple expresso.

And yea, verily, did St. Raymond say unto me, “James, James, why doest thou despair so? Doth thy wallet cry out in agony from this overpriced java?”

An verily, I said, “No, St. Raymond. I have set up my protagonist in a bar and have no way of turning the situation.”

“Truly, truly, I say unto you,” St. Raymond said unto me, “first, you really did pay too much for a venti decaf. You could have gotten it at the IHOP up the road for $1.20 and all the refills you wanted. Second, James, remember my words and heed them well. When thou knowest not what to do, throw in someone with a gun.”

And thus, the Three Wisemen hopped in Hammett’s SUV and drove to Deja Vu because yea, verily, couch dances are half off on Monday nights. MacDonald was heard to exclaim, “Don’t tell Margaret where we’re going.” To which Hammett replied, “Isn’t it bad enough she knows we’re in Cincinnati?”

And lo, I took the advice of the Three Wisemen and threw in some guns. Two characters ate lead, then dirt sandwiches. And I looked and I saw it was good.

26,000 words.

Verily, I say unto thee, Graham Powell, who art thy daddy?

Six Golden Rules For Writers

[Originally posted to Northcoast Exile May 8, 2005.]

I’ve had a rough couple of weeks as a writer.  Makes the day job go easier, but my goal is to eventually quit the day job.

Anyway, it’s been frustrating, but I’ve mapped out my writing plans for the summer.  I also posted these 6 simple rules above my desk to remind me writing ain’t easy.

1.)     Failure is effortless; success is a pain in the ass

2.)    There’s a reason first drafts are called “rough”

3.)    You can’t please everyone

4.)    No one ever made money planning except consultants

5.)    Your worst enemy is the guy who says your work is perfect

6.)    Never listen to a Monday morning quarterback

Stones Over Beatles? No Way!

[Originally posted to Northcoast Exile on April 13, 2005.  This was the most popular post on the old blog that didn’t feature a naked soccer mom.  I wish I’d saved the comments, but something tells me this subject will generate reams of new ones. – Jim]

John Scalzi, in his Reader Request Week post for today, tackles his weightiest subject to date:

“Beatles or Rolling Stones?

Superman or Batman?

‘He or she’ or singular ‘they’?”

Let’s get the first two out of the way. Batman, because when Superman has to be Clark Kent, he’s a wimp. When Batman has to be Bruce Wayne, he’s still a bad ass and not to be screwed with.

They. Linguists and grammarians need to just get over it. English lacks a proper gender nonspecific pronoun. Sorry, but “it” doesn’t cut it. So if we can have a royal “we” and an all-purpose “you,” English can survive a generic “they” for gender non-specific third person.

Now to the heart of the matter: Beatles vs. Stones. Beatles. Hands down. They were all working class stiffs. Quite frankly, they reinvented rock. Poppy? Hell, yes, and so what? Without The White Album, Sgt. Pepper’s, and the criminally underrated Abbey Road, rock simply would not be rock. That’s not to say the Stones didn’t do their part. “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Satisfaction,” and “Gimme Shelter” anyone? But… Well, let Scalzi tell you:

“The Beatles had the stones (so to speak) to break up and stay broken up, meaning that their canon is undiluted from years of post-creative suckage.”

Scalzi cuts off the Stones productive years at Tattoo You. I say Steel Wheels had merit, but, like Pink Floyd’s Momentary Lapse of Reason, it was designed to be an album you’d expect from the band. The only difference is that David Gilmour used that phrase as a title. Mick and Keith really did have a momentary lapse of reason. It’s the double whammy of musical crap called Dirty Work and Undercover, both the worst Stones albums I’ve ever heard. (And yes, I include the two post-Wyman yawn fests. “Anybody See My Baby” my ass!)

A lot of bands should have packed it in or at least shed deadweight. Much sooner. Led Zep probably needed to call it a career anyway when John Bonham died. Page just wanted to play guitar, and Plant had already developed his own sound. Pink Floyd did a Wall too far with the bloated Final Cut in 1983. One wonders if the follow up would have been stronger if Roger Waters had either quit sooner or let David Gilmour and Richard Wright have their way. Genesis… Invisible Touch? I’m still pissed off about the title track off that song. What was that? Phil Collins and Mike & the Mechanics rejects? (To be fair, We Can’t Dance was decent, but the post-Phil Calling All Stations was a huge mistake.)

Prog bands generally outlive their usefulness. Somebody tell me why Emerson, Lake, & Percussionist and Yes are still around? Have you heard their post-eighties work? Tragic. Have you heard their eighties work? The Asia albums that never were.

I’d call for Metallica’s demise, but I want to see them live. I’d also call for Guns & Roses demise, but then I like them again since they became Velvet Revolver.

The band that should be around, but can never be again, is Alice in Chains. Remember Alice? This is a rant about Alice. I miss the hell out of those guys.

UPDATE: I wrote this before A Bigger Bang came out. While not earth-shattering or by any means a classic, it is a decent album. If the Stones had gone from Tattoo You to Steel Wheels to A Bigger Bang, skipping everything in between, this post would have been very, very different.