Monday, March 30, 2015

Life Would Be Easier If I Were A Thundercat.

In the first place, I'd have a kick-ass theme song.

     I mean, I'm not saying it'd be a cakewalk. How easy can your life be, when you're the last surviving members of your entire race, you're stranded on a strange planet, and some jacked-up evil undead lord called Mumm-Ra is constantly trying to fuck you up? I am thinking about this realistically. *cough*

     I'm just thinking of all the things I wouldn't have to worry about if I was a Thundercat. You know what Thundercats never have to do? Taxes. Because it's not even their goddam planet. (Insert joke about "alien" status here.) And evidently the Thundercats never need to worry about employment - unless you count fighting Mumm-Ra and his band of mutants, which they do, all the time, but I've never seen them collect a dime for it. Hell, they never even invoiced anybody for all that ass-kicking. 

     Thundercats don't have to worry about where to live. They have this fortress, that I guess they built themselves, which apparently means that being a Thundercat also makes you badass at DIY projects. (How come I've never seen that show on cable? HGTV presents Thundercabins and Thundercottages. I'd have watched the shit out of that show.)  And Thundercats never seem to worry about nutrition. Whenever they want food, it's just lying around. And it all seems to be whole and organic; not processed. Which means that, in addition to never having to pay taxes or work a 9 to 5 job, and being able to build a fortress by hand, Thundercats can also grow their own food. Christ, they're like communal hippies, but with super-powers.

     You know what else you don't have to worry about when you're a Thundercat? Heartache. Thundercats have no romantic relationships. Probably because there's only one girl in the group, Cheetara, and she seems to take no interest in the guys that she's around every day, all the time. (Technically there are two girls, but the other one - WilyKit - is the Thundercat equivalent of a tween.) And I suppose that's for the best. I mean, what if Mumm-Ra and his minions (the mutant kind, not the cute yellow kind) were attacking the fortress, and the Thundercats have to swing into action, but Panthro is all morose and weepy because Cheetara broke up with him? He drives the Thundertank, for God's sake. 

This is what Panthro looked like before he had his heart broke.

But now he looks like this. And there's nobody to drive the goddam tank.

     But being a Thundercat means never having to say that you're just not up for another battle with Mumm-Ra, on account of having the person you deeply love tell you that she just doesn't see a future with you. Thundercats don't ever have to dwell on that shit; wondering why they weren't enough, or what about them didn't measure up. 

     I don't know. Maybe it'd be worth the tradeoff. I'd definitely want to talk about new costumes, though. That spandex shit ain't making' it.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

"Because I Said So," and Other Stupid Sh*t.

Because childhood.

     Recently I wrote an article for an online mag called The Mid, in which I chronicled some of the stupid shit parents have historically said to their children. I'm reprinting that article here, because not everybody who reads this space follows me on Twitter or Facebook, and it's Thursday, and I've been writing all day, and I have one-quarter of a brain cell left, which I am about to drown in Scotch. So: if you've already read this, read it again. It's still pretty fuckin' funny. If this is your first time, that's awesome sauce. Share it with your friends: other parents will understand, and people without kids will think twice about it. Win-win.

Non- Sequitur Nation:
A Universal Translation Guide to Understanding the Stupid Shit Parents Say to Their Children

Hello, and welcome to The Guide. Since the dawn of the Paleolithic Era, when man first began to use rudimentary tools, and there were only three – count them, three – channels on television, a great communicative disconnect has existed between parents and their offspring. This disconnect has puzzled sociologists, historians, and linguistic experts for centuries. It’s also annoyed the fuck out of the kids.

Why do parents say things to their children that seem so wildly out of touch with reality, logic, and common sense? Especially in light of the fact that parents were once children themselves, and have undoubtedly heard (and puzzled over) some of the very phrases they are now saying to their own children? The answer is enlightening, and surprising: the stupid shit parents say to their children is actually code, for words and sentiments they cannot actually say, because “society” and “the media” and “child protective services” frown on those kinds of things. It’s true. All of the ludicrous sayings you ever heard from Mom and Dad (some of which you are now using, if you’re a parent), actually mean something completely different.

The Guide is an honest attempt at revealing the true intent of those old, clich├ęd phrases handed down by generations of parents; it is intended to be a liberation of linguistic constraints for Mom and Dad. It’s also intended to be something of a revelation to the kids: you think we’re stupid and uncool. We’re actually “evil-genius” smart, and we’re getting away with saying what we really think of you sometimes, without having to go to jail for it. You might consider that the next time you think about lipping off. Here, then, are some of the most universally used parental sayings – and what they actually mean:

“Because I said so.” I have exactly one nerve left today, you little shit. And you’re getting on it. I outclass you in age, intelligence, and life experience, and so I understand the difference between you asking “Why?” when you are genuinely seeking information, and you asking “Why?” because you’re stalling on a task I set for you, that you clearly don’t want to do. I can train a monkey to unload the fucking dishwasher, and they’re cheaper to own. Would you like me to replace you with a monkey?

“I’ll give you something to cry about.” Oh, I know. You don’t need something else to cry about, because you’re already crying. Well, what you’re crying about is stupid. It’s called perspective, and I’d love to explain it to you, if you’d shut your caterwauling for two minutes. It’s not my fault they moved SpongeBob to a new date and time; if you’d take ten seconds to learn how to push the one goddam button on the remote that you need to, I wouldn’t be having this conversation in my head. Baby.

“If you keep making that face, it’s going to stick like that forever.” I honestly, truly, with every fiber of my being hope and pray that your face will stick like that forever. Let’s see what kind of a classy girl you can land with an upturned nose, your tongue lolling out of your head like a jackass, and your eyelids inside out. Please, God, do this one thing for me, and I promise I’ll see you every Christmas and Easter from now until I die.

“This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you.” This is going to hurt you. It’s not going to hurt me at all. I may even take some small amount of satisfaction from it, which I might feel conflicted about later. But probably not.

“Wait until your Dad/Mom gets home.” You have absolutely no idea the amount of sheer willpower I am exercising right now. The kind of willpower that will keep you above ground and breathing until your other parent gets home, at which point I will telepathically communicate to him/her where I am with you, emotionally, right now. And I will punt responsibility for your continued existence squarely to them, and not give two shits what they do to you. I’m not too old to start over.

We at The Guide hope these translations will help you to gain a clearer understanding of the time-honored language of parenthood, especially now that you know what your parents were really saying. And why speaking in code is better than prison.

©2015 by Larry Brantley, as originally published in The Mid

Monday, March 23, 2015

Xanax, Jameson, and Interesting.

Just like high school. Minus the pretty girls.

     I got my first rejection letter today. Nothing spectacular, just a three-sentence email that read as follows:

     Dear Larry Brantley,

Thank you for your email regarding your manuscript. I have considered your query, and unfortunately I do not believe I am the right agent for the work you describe.

I wish you much success in your publishing endeavors.

     Short, sweet, to the point: your book ain't the book for us. Now, I've been a working actor for 23 years; I'm used to rejection. Or, at least I thought I was. Because when I opened up that email first thing this morning and read it, it was a little like a boot to the nuts. I probably shouldn't have started my day reading emails. (If I get a few more rejection letters, I'll probably start my days with Xanax and Jameson. Which sounds like a terrific idea, even on days when I'm not getting rejection letters.)

     Rejection is such a weird word. I'd have almost preferred if this literary agent had found my work so offensive and immature that he crafted a letter in which he practically spit at me, while telling me that my words in print were as disgusting to him as baby killing-Nazis. With herpes. Instead, he just very politely told me that my ideas were not his cup of tea. Or coffee. Or vodka. Whatever the hell literary agents drink (pretty sure vodka). He didn't hate it; he just wasn't interested. 

     Maybe that's worse for me. I'm self-aware enough about my personality to recognize that few, if any, people are middle-of-the-road about me. They either really like me - or they really don't. You can find someone interesting and still dislike them. Everybody has their own custom-made vanity. Mine is that I really don't give a fuck whether you like me or not - but I do want you to find me interesting. My joke about that word used to be: "Interesting" is what you say about a guy you're not going on a second date with. And, in this case, I suppose that's true. I hiked up my skirt ever so slightly for this agent, and he decided that my goodies weren't worth pursuing. And because I spent the last two years pouring my guts out in a manuscript he wasn't even interested in (he didn't read the manuscript, he only read my query letter, which tells me that I should probably remove the word"fuck" from future query letters), yeah, it stung a bit.

     But only a bit. It just took one person to believe in me enough to give me my first shot at being a for-real, professional actor. And I know for a fact that the chance she took on me (my first tv agent) paid her some decent dividends over the course of the years we were together. This is no different. I lack confidence about a great many things, but creative skill and storytelling are not among them. I'll land a literary agent, and I'll land a publishing deal, and then I'll write to every single one of the agents that rejected me, deeming my story not interesting enough. I'll remind them of the words of indie-film mogul Harvey Weinstein, as related by indie director Kevin Smith. Weinstein made movies in the day when big-budget studios were looking only to make sure things. Weinstein's response?

     "There is NO such thing as a sure thing. So make the interesting thing instead."

     I raise my glass (at two 'o clock in the afternoon) to all of you interesting people. You may be adored; you may be despised. But - if you're truly interesting - you'll never be fucking forgotten. Cheers to that.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Hello, I'm Irony. And I'm Here To Punch You In The Ding-Dong.

     So, I'm having one of those days that's, you know... okay. No big highs, no valley-esque lows; just rolling through the shit I need to do, and trying to keep from getting distracted by shiny things, and Pandora, and thoughts about possibly being a Jason Bourne-like spy but not knowing it, because my training hasn't kicked in. Yet.

     Then I notice an email from my daughter's English and Language Arts teacher. Boo is in 6th grade, and her ELAR teacher just went on maternity leave. So the email wasn't from her, but her temporary replacement, a guy named Mr. Notusinghisrealname. It's an introductory correspondence; he's letting us know who he is, and how excited he is to be teaching our wonderful children. And then, just three sentences into his email, he writes the following:

     "This is my fourteen years of experience as a Middle School teacher."

     Look at it again. That is the kind of sentence that grinds your brain to a screeching halt. My head literally loaded up with so many questions, it shut down completely; I had to take a nap. What? What exactly is your fourteen years of experience as a Middle School teacher? You didn't talk about any of your experience before you wrote that sentence, so it's not tied to any idea. If you had placed a colon after the word "teacher," and then proceeded to document your fourteen years of experience, that would have made sense. But you didn't do that, either. So what the fuck are you talking about?

     And then it hit me: did he actually mean to write, "This is my fourteenth year of experience as a Middle School teacher." ? Because if that's what he actually meant to write, then I am now in fear for my daughter's Language Arts education for the rest of this year. Dude, seriously. How could you ass-jack one sentence so awfully? Presuming you actually intended to write, "This is my fourteenth year of experience as a Middle School teacher," that sentence would STILL be fucked up.  Why in the hell did you include the phrase "of experience?" Did you think we would believe that you were still a STUDENT in middle school, after fourteen years? And why did you capitalize "Middle School?" It's not a country, or a city. It's goddam middle school. Look, this is all you needed to say:

     "This is my fourteenth year as a middle school teacher." Do you see how easy that is? Know where I learned that? Elementary school. My guess is, you could have let any one of your students proof that email before you sent it out to all of their parents, and they could have saved you some embarrassment. Were you in a hurry? Were you typing on your phone while taking a dump? Please stop rushing; you're there to educate, not race through class like you're Keanu Reeves on a city bus that Dennis Hopper wired to explode if Sandra Bullock takes her foot off the gas. And why the fuck are you taking a dump during class? Pinch it off for 50 minutes, focus, and teach my daughter!

     Probably he wasn't typing that email while taking a dump. But that sentence is out there, now. And I can't stop thinking about it. I am so very pro-educator. You know Will Ferrell's character on SNL, Craig, the Spartan Cheerleader? I'm that guy for teachers. So, Mr. Notusinghisrealname, I'm all about giving you the benefit of the doubt, okay? Everybody makes mistakes. I make em all the time, mostly in the form of garbled lyrics, or poor food choices that make me a hostage to the water closet. I know I'm going to get another email from you soon, and the next one is the pudding in which I will be looking for the proof. Will I read the next one (I really hope) and go, See? That first one was just a gaffe!

     Or will I read the next one and go:

Please don't make me go D'OH.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Motherfu*kers.

Damn straight.

     Today, everybody is a little bit Irish. Unless you're like me - a lot of Irish, every day. Today we celebrate Saint Patrick of Ireland, the motherland's most revered religious figure. We honor our saint by dressing in green, and getting shit-faced drunk. This might seem a strange way to celebrate such an esteemed figure in the Catholic church - until you look at the origins of the day itself.

      St. Patrick's Day has been a feast day in Christianity since the 17th century. The problem was, St. Patrick had the poor timing to die on March 17 - smack dab in the middle of Lent, when a whole lot of people had given up booze for forty days. So what did Mother Church do? They declared a Free Day! St. Patrick's Day is the one day it is officially okay to jump all over that thing you gave up for Lent. And since a lot of Irish folk gave up "the drink" - and since it's still more than two weeks until Easter - you now understand why, today outside of any given bar, you will likely see a group of people dressed in ridiculous over-sized leprechaun hats, sporting shamrocks, and loudly singing "Danny Boy" while puking violently into the gutter. 

     Because it's a religious tradition. We have to.

     So put on some green. Have a beer, or a whiskey. (Unless you're a recovering alcoholic. In that case, just drink some Mountain Dew.) Put on your favorite U2 album, watch that old VHS recording of Riverdance, and marvel at the sheer size and volume of Liam Neeson's cock. It's all about the Irish today, so get after it.

     And Happy St. Patrick's Day, motherfuckers!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Finally. Fu*king. Finished.

What say, old boy? Job done. Let's get fucking hammered.

     Okay. I know. I've been absent to the point of non-existence on this space. You're upset. I get it. But I do have a really, really good reason for not hanging out here lately:

     I finished the fucking book.
     No shit. It's done. I'm mean, done done. In case you're new to this site (meaning the three of you who read this thing told somebody, and they finally clicked over), I first mentioned that I was writing a book way back here. And I've even put up some excerpts from the book, here, and here. I'm not going to put up any more excerpts of the book, because it's a book and I want to get it published, and I want you to buy the fucking thing. That would be super-awesome, and I'd so appreciate it.

     IF the thing ever gets a publisher, there will be many people to thank. But there's one person who gets a truckload of thanks right now, because if it wasn't for her I'd still be thinking about how great it would be to finish writing a book, instead of actually finishing writing a book. Paulina Simons has been my friend, my literary mentor, and the boot planted firmly up my ass for the last two months, as I finished something I first said I was going to do (write a book) at midnight on January 1, 1998, in her home, in front of her and her husband, after a vodka-fueled evening of laughter and resolutions. Even after I got divorced, even after I collapsed in a depressive pile on the ruins of my former life, Plink wouldn't quit on me. Thanks, Plink. Once this shit makes it to print, first round's on me. (Which will be a very inexpensive celebration, as Paullina is singly the least alcohol-tolerant Russian I have ever met. If she were Irish, we'd have kicked her out of the club a long time ago.)

     Anyway: it's done. I wrote a motherfucking book, and at least one international best-selling author thinks it's funny, and tragic, and outrageous, and sad, and wrong in all the right ways. But I'm not about to sit on my ass and relax. (Technically, I DO sit on my ass when I write. It's a metaphor. And now I've spent too much time talking about my ass.) No, I'm going to be hitting the blog much more regularly. I'm going to be as regular as a dietary fiber drink. In fact, you should think of me as your weekly dose of literary fiber.

     No. Wait. Never mind. That's just fuckin' gross.

Ridden a llama: check
Cowboy underpants: check
Ate cake as a baby: check
Motocross fashion disaster: check
Bobble head in my image: check
Voice of famous TV dog: check
Wrote a motherfuckin' book: hell yes.