Happy Belated Valentines Day

February 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

Hello again, internet. I decided to spend Valentine’s Day with my wife, saving all my love for you for this week. I hope it doesn’t reflect poorly on how much love I have for you, my darling world wide web, but I’m actually just stealing this present for you from the fine folks at Common Good Books, my local independent bookstore. Not just a great place for readers, they’re also really supportive of emerging authors—they are always the first place to get their hands on the newest episode of my serial novel, Slash, and Colin (who plays the smart-phone-dummy in the video) recently interviewed me for their blog—so maybe this post is really about how much I love my real-world book store.

In any event, it is funny and literary, so it fits with the blog—plus it provides the perfect proof that the novel is still the most sophisticated and sexiest piece of technology humanity has invented.

I CAN HAS BESTSELLER?

January 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

In case you couldn’t tell from the Chesterton quote on the blog’s masthead, I might as well admit that I’m not the most internet-savvy blogger out there. Most of what happens on this world wide web of ours is old news before I feel like I’ve had time to properly digest and form an opinion about it, so I’ve never really been on trend since I started this blog. As a result, some of my most current and popular posts are long essays about Kerouac and the Marx Brothers.

And while I’m proud to have sold more physical copies of my new book than digital copies, I would like to improve my internet skills over the course of 2014. With that in mind, I’m excited to debut my new official author photo here today:

580633_10201756195005423_270491401_nIf there is one thing, I, as a (prematurely) old person know about the internet, it is that it is ruled by cats and controlled by their cuddly henchmen, kittens. As a result, I’m attaching this pick of me and my little buddy Murray to every blog and website I have in hopes that it generates more buzz than the boring old pick of me looking contemplative with a cup of coffee that I have been using.

So, assuming this fluffy photo has stoked your desire to click links and spend imaginary money, head on over to slashserial.com for a free preview of the first chapter of my novel, then head over to Amazon or Smashwords to download your copy of the first episode for just 99 cents!

Jokealong: ICE BREAKERS

May 17, 2013 § 2 Comments

Since people are continually stumbling onto The Oldest Jokes in the World in search of actual jokes, not just abstract theories about them, every other week we have a joke-along post. I’ll search through the site’s stats for a specific joke people have been searching for, comb the internet for the best existing examples, and try come up with one of my own. And then you all can add your own in the comments, so the next time someone comes searching, they won’t leave disappointed.

Busy with other projects (gentle reminder: like the fb page and follow the website for my forthcoming novel, Slash), it has been over a month since our last jokealong, so I had a little difficulty warming up to even start this one. What better topic to pick then, I thought, than ice breakers?

Really any topic, I discovered, once I started.

People are, apparently, desperate for ice-breakers. In my series on the divide between wit and written jokes, I mentioned, briefly, that written jokes are great for breaking the ice in unfamiliar social situations, and in the months since, searches for “ice breaker jokes” have become the number one term leading people to the site. As an awkward guy myself, I sympathize with this search for an easy-to-memorize sentence that will make you look smooth in any social situation, no matter how sweaty and uncomfortable you are.

But my own personal search for a good ice-breaker has made me realize it is a quixotic (and greedy) quest. When you think about it, what phrase could appeal to all audiences everywhere? And if such a golden incantation did exist, who would be responsible enough to know such a spell without using it for evil?

As a result of their ultimate impossibility, many ice-breakers are just lame jokes. Anything that might appeal to everyone is going to be necessarily broad and soft to the point of near meaninglessness.

In the opposite direction, there are those who just assume that their own personal points of view are the only ones worth having and that anyone who is offended by them aren’t worth knowing. One example I came across are Redditers who claim that cheap cheap-hand-job jokes are their go-to ice-breakers. The goal here isn’t making a connection with a new person, but testing to see if your audience is exactly as crass as you.

(Which isn’t to say I don’t enjoy a well crafted hand-job joke, just that I know I need to earn the right and familiarity to tell one to you.)

The worst examples—and, sadly, the most desperate searchers of good examples—come from dating websites. On this dating site message board thread for ice-breaking tips, several men suggest lesbian jokes as ice-breakers. Again, the goal doesn’t seem to be to make a connection, but to test if your date is the sort of feminist killjoy who hates lesbian jokes—and is probably a secret lesbian anyways, the spiraling logic goes. I’ve got to assume these guys are so obsessed with lesbians because they think every girl they’ve ever dated is a lesbian: I mean, who else wouldn’t be attracted to such a handsome guy with such a wealth of homophobic humor, right? These aren’t the sort of ice-breakers that open the room to warmth, but that send the teller further and further down a lonely, one-way path.

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That said, there are some decent ones out there, as anyone who listens to the Dinner Party Download on MPR knows. I think the key is knowing a few and gauging the situation for one that fits. As a result, I’m submitting this year’s compilation podcast from that show as our winner. If the people you find yourself with are worth conversing with at all, there’d ought to be something here that will get them to like you.

As for my contribution:

Q: Why did the lonely hipster put ornate studs in his tires before going to the winter pub crawl?

A: They make a great ice-braker.

Ice-breakers are mostly about putting yourself out there to be vulnerable, getting the dialogue going, so I hope that lame attempt will open the floodgates to all of your awesome ice-breakers out there.

Jokealong: BIRTHDAYS

April 19, 2013 § 2 Comments

Since people are continually stumbling onto The Oldest Jokes in the World in search of actual jokes, not just abstract theories about them, every other week we have a joke-along post. I’ll search through the site’s stats for a specific joke people have been searching for, comb the internet for the best existing examples, and try come up with one of my own. And then you all can add your own in the comments, so the next time someone comes searching, they won’t leave disappointed.

Since this week marks the one-year anniversary of The Oldest Jokes in the World, we have a very special Birthday Jokealong! On April 16th, 2012, I posted this blog’s first post; this jokealong is our sixtieth since, so I haven’t quite lived up to my promise of twice-weekly updates, but I have managed to say something at least every Friday. Initially, I wasn’t sure if I’d last half a year, but the experience has been more rewarding and more challenging than I thought it would be, so I’m already looking forward to the next. I’m most grateful for all the great fellow bloggers I’ve met in the past year, as well as anyone and everyone who stopped by for a quick laugh without saying, “Hi.” So without further ado, let’s get on with the celebration.

For a present this year, it seems the internet got me my easiest jokealong yet! Maybe it is due to the fact that birthdays are a time when people come together to make each other merry, or maybe I can just thank a century’s worth of discarded greeting card slogans, but there is a wealth of birthday humor out there for anyone looking. Here are some of the more interesting ones:

Q: Why are birthday’s good for you?

A: Statistics show that the people who have the most live the longest!

And…

Q: What do George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Christopher Columbus all have in common?

A: They were all born on holidays.

Or…

Q: “Were any famous people born on your birthday?”

A: “No, only little babies.”

There’s also quite a few “You might be old if…”s out there, most of which are pretty tired. You might be old if you are a you might be old joke. The best one I found, anyways, comes to us from Bob Hope:

You know you are getting old when the candles cost more than the cake.

The most fun I had, though, was poking through our culture’s vast catalog of alternative birthday songs. You may or may not know that Warner Music Group owns the copyright to “Happy Birthday To You”, making $2,000,000.00 a year even though their claims to it are laughable at best. The whole situation is hilarious to me in that desperate all-you-can-do-is-laugh way, as well as a with a more triumphant David-and-Goliath glee, since as much as they’d like to, Warner can’t collect every time you sing to your grandma in the nursing home’s party room. They do, though, charge $10,000 to anyone who want to use it in TV or film, so there’s a humorous tradition of cheap imitations detailed in the video below:

There’s a push out there to get a new song that is free to everyone just for being born. Creative Commons and the Free Music Archive have sponsored a contest, and you can listen to the winners here. My favorite, though, is Jack Black’s attempt at writing the next birthday song on Saturday Night Live a few years ago.

As a result, for my contribution to the jokealong, I tried writing a new birthday song, too:

CHORUS:

We hope your birthday is your worst day.

We hope your birthday is your worst day.

May the next year be all up-hill from here.

We hope your birthday is your worst day!

VERSE ONE:

We are certainly not trying to say

We hope your celebration saw sorrow.

For the next 365 days

we want to set a high bar, though.

Which is to say,if you had a cake today,

we hope you have two tomorrow.

VERSE TWO:

When we next feel the urge to smother

You in our loving good cheer,

We know not to wait for another

Anniversary of your birth to come near:

You deserve a check from your grandmother

On every single day of the year!

If someone wants to set that to music, I’ll share the copyright with you and we’ll make millions. And if you’ve got any more good birthday jokes, please do share them in the comments. This post might also make a great birthday present on someone’s Facebook wall, if you want to share the good cheer that way.

Otherwise, stay tuned in the coming weeks because year two will see some exciting changes to The Oldest Jokes in the World.

“High School Creative Writing”

March 29, 2013 § 1 Comment

This week, I want to direct your attention over to Revolver, where my new short story “High School Creative Writing” went up a couple of days ago.

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High School Creative Writing

Like most of what I write, it’s got a little comedy mixed with a little tragedy, but I’ll warn you that it’s a little dirty, too.  At the Cracked Walnut reading I did last week, I warned the audience there were several instances of the “j-word.”  They whispered in confusion, unsure of what I could mean, but once I dropped the bomb about halfway through the story, everyone gasped in recognition.  If you don’t know what the j-word is, you’ll just have to click this link to find out.

In all seriousness, though, I’m very grateful to the wonderful and dedicated staff at Revolver, and everyone who’s read the story so far.  I’ve already gotten some great feedback, criticism, and encouragement, but I’m greedy for more, so please let me know what you loved and hated about the piece if you get the chance.

I’m with Stupid Stories

March 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

This week’s posts is coming at you early, because I’m actually late in directing over to a little story I wrote for Geoff Herbach’s I’m With Stupid Stories.

Im-With-Stupid-new-coverGeoff’s a great Minnesotan writer and teacher who started this blog, full of writers sharing embarrassing tales of youthful stupidity, to promote his forthcoming novel, I’m With Stupid. It’s the final installment of a trilogy featuring high school nerd-made-cool Felton, who has got to be the funniest narrator in fiction—YA or OA—I’ve come across in a long while.  I recently read the first book, Stupid Fast, and am excited to check out Nothing Special, hopefully before the conclusion comes out in May.

In any event, please do head over and check out my contribution, “Eyes Wide Shut“, and then poke around the rest of the stories; as CNF makes me nervous, mine is probably the least embarrassingly hilarious contribution.

Jokealong: AWP13

March 15, 2013 § 4 Comments

This Friday, we have a very special jokealong: the AWP 2013 edition! I was lucky enough to spend all last week in Boston attending this wonderful conference, where I met old friends and new, learned about writing and publishing, and bought more books than I could fit in my suitcase on the way home. While there, I was also on the look-out for the best literary laughs to bring back here for our jokealong.

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This was my fourth time at the conference, and it seems I’ve finally learned a few things, as I didn’t stress myself out trying to cram as much in as possible; in fact, I never even made it over to the convention center in time for the 9am panels. In previous years, I felt I had to be at each panel so I didn’t miss the “secret” to writing a masterpiece or getting published or getting 100 followers for your twitter, but this year, I tried to be more open what found me instead of what I might be looking for.

This worked in my search for humor, as well. For example, one of my biggest laughs of the week came when I sat around in a conference room for half an hour with a bunch of other awkward writers quietly wondering if the presenters would ever show up. They never did. In past years, I would have been frustrated by the time wasted and knowledge missed. But this year I just had to laugh; it makes perfect sense that none of the panelists for “Authors Who Rock Social Media to Sell Books” would bother showing up in person.

One of the most enjoyable hours of the conference for me came when my fiance dragged me along to “A Muriel Rukeyser Centenary.” Never having encountered Muriel’s poetry before, I was expecting some sort of somber remembrance, not the spirited celebration I found—but then that was the sort of surprise I was waiting for. And there was quite a bit of serendipity at play in the discussion as well: to ensure the room didn’t fall into the eulogistic tone I’d been fearing, the poet Olga Broumas started off by encouraging us all to clap for Muriel—raising her hands above her head to make sure our applause stayed up for a long span—until I’d been clapping so long, I felt a little crazy. After that, we all laughed. And then we clapped some more, a giddy wave you could feel coursing through the room. When Olga finally started to read a poem Galway Kinnell had written about how Muriel once suffered a stroke while reading but wanted to persevere with the show,she only made it a few lines in before a loud but ghostly applause could be heard from some adjacent room. Olga said, open-mouthed, “The podium is rising!”, and we all laughed some more.

My choice for best joke of the conference came from the very same panel, as Sharon Olds explained her time in a workshop led by Muriel. Apparently, Olds wasn’t yet the master of the lasciviously literary, because she’d brought in an erotic poem to workshop that was all “milky this and creamy that.” Another member of the class, maybe a little scandalized, struggled to find the words to discuss the poem: “It’s too… too…” “Too dairy,” Muriel suggested.

In any event, I know I only took in one hundredth of what the conference had to offer, so if you were there and heard or told an even better literary joke, please do share it below. And if you didn’t make it out to Boston, I hope these few anecdotes brought some of the inspiration to you.

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