Monthly Archives: December 2011

Child’s Play

Whether it’s the special treats, presents, traditions, videos of cats climbing Christmas trees, or the shiny tinselly delight of it all, the collective winter holiday season can bring out the child in us. Which made me think of a bunch of childlike and childish words for being in a state of newness, where we are wet behind the ears and smell faintly of talcum powder and New Car.

  1. Childlike: An adult who has not lost his or her innocent sense of wonder at the world. Think Dr. Seuss, Mr. Rogers, or Robin Williams off his meds.
  2. Childish: A more negative connotation, drawing up references to “childish behavior” discouraged by parents, such as pouting and selfishness, or how some adults act. Especially on reality television programs or on Black Friday.
  3. Juvenile: From Latin. On the surface, this word refers to “one who is youthful.” It has also taken on the negative connotation of juvenile or immature behavior. Especially on reality television programs or Black Friday.
  4. Neophyte: From the Greek words meaning “newly planted”, first recorded use 1590. Has a bit more sophisticated ring than “newbie.” Does not refer to any of Keanu Reeves’ battle scenes from The Matrix. Sorry. I know how badly you want it to.
  5. Noob or N00b: From the world of online gaming and internet forum slang, short for “newbie” but used in a more derisive fashion. Say, a newbie who refuses to learn the rules of a group, blusters around obnoxiously pretending they know what they’re doing but ends up wiping out your landing party with an enchanted hand grenade.
  6. Green: From Old English, meaning young or raw, also gullible. Greenhorn (a young buck, elk, ram or other horned beast just sprouting his horns) is another variant, a slang term applied to a newly arrived member of a group who hasn’t yet learned the secret handshake. As in, “That greenhorn thought Dr. Seuss made house calls.”
  7. Novice: One Latin form of this word, novicius, was used in reference to newly acquired slaves. Odd that it’s also used to describe someone in a religious order. Coincidence? Discuss.
  8. Apprentice: from Old French, “one who is learning.” Perhaps Donald Trump could apprentice to someone who has some humility, and maybe hair styling experience.
  9. Amateur: “One who has a taste for (something)” from French and Latin. Amateurish is an entirely different matter. Even if you are an amateur, you want to avoid looking amateurish. Context is also important here. While amateur athletes are revered, amateur brain surgeons are shunned.
  10. Tyro: From Middle Latin, meaning “young soldier or recruit.” Not to be confused with “Tyra,” which according to the Urban Dictionary, means to throw a tantrum if things don’t go your way. You know, like a child. But not “childlike.”

Fear Factor Is Back. Will PETA Be Watching?

Well, pass the remote and deep-fry me a Madagascar hissing cockroach. To honor the return of the “new” Fear Factor to NBC (which looks just like the “old” Fear Factor), I’ve updated one of my favorite posts. Enjoy. And kids, don’t try this at home.

What makes an animal?

Consider the Madagascar hissing cockroach. Or…maybe not. Gromphadorhina portentosa is not exactly the Brad Pitt of the insect world. If I lived in Madagascar I’d be laying in a good supply of Raid.

But somehow PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has overlooked the fact that scores of obviously live and kicking Madagascar hissing cockroaches are allowed to be crunched to their doom by obviously insane Fear Factor contestants every year, who seem to be willing to eat or do anything for the prospect of being on TV and going home with $50,000 (and probably some form of exotic parasitic disease).

Yet during Fear Factor’s original run, PETA nailed a Virginia Beach nightclub that allowed contestants to swallow live goldfish.

I don’t know. Is it the “cute” factor? Must a creature pass some sort of beauty-pageant litmus test in order to be taken under PETA’s wing? Spotted owl? Cute. Baby harp seal? Awww. Madagascar hissing cockroach? Pass. Get some plastic surgery, dude, then send in that head shot again, okay?

Possibly the omission is because PETA has too much on their plates. What with getting all huffy demanding that a town near me change its name from “Fishkill” to something less violent toward our finny friends (Someone didn’t do their research: “kill” is Old Dutch for “brook,” folks. Every other town around here is named Something-kill) to killing dozens of trees with mailings warning me of the evils of animal product testing, they’ve got quite a lot to do.

But hissing cockroaches aside, they’ve missed something really, really huge.

Windows kill an estimated 1 billion birds each year.

That’s right. Windows. (That’s why I use a Mac)

But seriously, according to ornithologist Daniel Klem, who was interviewed by NPR’s John Nielsen on Morning Edition, “It’s a very common phenomenon. Birds are deceived. They just don’t see glass as a barrier and this is a problem for them.”

I’d say dying a horrible death by ramming your tiny little body head first into a solid pane of glass could be a bit of a problem.

But just to prove his hypothesis, Klem went into a forest and hung some windows off the branches of trees. Then he watched as an “appalling” number of collisions occurred. From an eight-foot perch, many of the birds smacked splat into the windows and died.

Cripes, he could have saved his research money (and many unnecessary avian deaths) and come over to my house to watch the dingbat birds doing the same thing here.

We had a feeder over our front stairs for four months. The same birds kept coming around. They’d become smart enough to get the seed out of the feeder, and to know where to find the spillage when it’s empty. Then, when it’s obvious we’re not going to refill for a few days (we’re afraid of them getting too plump to escape from the neighborhood cats) they stop coming. When we refill the feeder, somehow they figure out that it’s safe to come back. You’d think they’d have a good bead on the landscape by now, but no, there’s that THUNK again.

Window, dipstick.

Tiny pinfeathers are sticking to the panes.

And there’s your research.

PETA seems to be ignoring this. A quick search of their web site revealed that their only beef against birds and windows is the recommendation that when you cage a large bird (and remember, there are no such things as “caged” birds, all birds are wild animals and deserve to be free), don’t use a cage with glass sides or mirrors for the very same reason that birds can’t see it and will fly headfirst into it and knock themselves silly.

However, another site (birdsandbuildings.org) suggests putting a flexible screen outside your window (they claim decals don’t work) or using “fritted or patterned” glass. The problem is that humans have found these alternatives objectionable in their homes, as it interferes with the clarity of their views.

I mean, which would you rather have, a semi-obstructed view or billions of kamikaze birds going splat against your panes?

If a creature is that stupid, I’d rather spend my resources trying to save the Madagascar hissing cockroach. I could go on Fear Factor, eat a bunch of them, and put the $50,000 toward modifying their DNA to make them look like bunnies.

(Note: no animals were harmed in the making of this post.)

Stealth Book Promotion

A sobering fact of promoting your small press or independently published book is that it can seem like bookstore owners would rather endure a simultaneous tax audit, bikini wax, and colonoscopy than pepper their folding-chair-stuffed “conversation” areas with your latest work and, well, you. Nothing personal; as an unknown, they often consider you too great a financial risk. The bookstore doesn’t want to commit personnel or promotional funds on an author that might not draw a crowd or get stuck with a bunch of books they can’t return. It sucks, but that’s the way the world works at the moment.

Therefore writers have to get crafty about annoying everyone you know promoting your book sans retail establishments. Here are a few “outside the brick-and-mortar” ideas that just might work, or at least would be amusing to try.

Bookstore Ninja. This is fun and requires only a copy of your book, a camera, and an accomplice or two. Have an accomplice distract the salesperson by requesting an obscure book about the mating habits of the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach while you place your book on the shelf of your dreams and snap away. Post photos, like the one above I took at a certain large bookseller that shall remain nameless, on your social media. Feeling totally reckless? Leave it there.

Tricks With Tablets. This is another amusing attention-getting device which probably cheeses off the guys and gals at the Genius Bar and Geek Squad. If you’re in a store that sells tablet computers and e-readers and foolishly puts samples out for you to play with, casually pull up your book page and leave. Yeah, I know it reverts back, but if the traffic is heavy, some folks who might not normally see your book will get a glimpse.

Trainspotters. It’s so awesome to see people reading your book in public. When I do, I want to run up and hug them, if not for that nasty business with the restraining order. Know any regular commuters? Give them a copy of your book to read on public transportation. If you’re traveling with companions, sneak them a copy and take their picture as they read. Voila! Instant promo.

The Waiting Room Game. I’ll take “Two Hours of My Life I’ll Never Get Back” for $200, Alex. The doctor’s office. The dentist. The chiropractor. The DMV. A hospital library or waiting room. Slip a copy or two in with the magazines. Think of these copies as seed money. Even if someone walks off with your book, that’s still a reader, and a reader who might pass on your name to their friends. Bonus points if you tailor the drop-off location to your audience. Does Lassie save the day? Drop a copy off at a local pet groomer or vet’s office. Teenage mutant zombie/vampire apocalypse? Try the pediatrician’s waiting room. Comedy? Anywhere people are awaiting a stressful procedure. Try your local IRS or waxing salon.