Another Christmas

Another year ending,
Another Christmas come and gone.
We learned some sad songs,
And some glad ones, too.

And that’s why I’m sending,
To all my friends near and far,
Wishes for a joyful Christmas,
And love for the year that is new.

Another day dawning,
Another song we have learned,
A new world turning,
Its face to the sun.

And now night is yawning,
Its rhythm still young,
There’s joy even in sadness,
When we know our day is done.

Another year learning,
That Christmas always comes,
We can sing the glad songs,
And some sad ones, too.

And that’s why I’m yearning,
That all my friends near and far,
Enjoy a wishful Christmas,
And love in the year that is new.

The Benefits of Doubt

Give everyone the benefit of the doubt. If you think someone has deliberately offended you, think a second time — what if you’re wrong?

Of course you’re sure they were talking about you even though they did not mention your name, but what if you’re wrong?

Certainly, everyone knows you can read minds…but what if you’re wrong?

Always give everyone the benefit of the doubt because as sure as shit smells, you are going to need it back sooner or later.

I know this is true because I get bit by it over and over. Being ready to forgive is not just being nice, it’s a strategy of self-defense in the long run.

If you’re too upset or angry to do so immediately, walk away and think about it before you hit that angry reply–that perfect angry uppercut of a comeuppance–that rant about the unfairness of SOME people….

Walk away and think…

What if you’re wrong?

Doubt is a small coin, spend it freely.

Dustman

Sometimes I dream about doing something I would really like to do. The following was from a dream I had about working on a daily adventure strip called “Dustman”. It was set in New York City, a place I’ve never lived but like all Americans, I have a substitute familiarity with. The artist had a skritchy but cinematic style, as if Will Eisner had been inked by Jules Feiffer. My job was to work on plot and dialog.

Below is more or less the outline of the story we told in the opening arc of the strip. I really wish I were working on this project.

Dustman

Leon Martenson is a rookie detective assigned to investigate the tales of a vigilante operating in Lower Manhattan. Stories among street people are circulating about a mysterious man who lives on rooftops and patrols streets and alleys to protect the homeless, prostitutes, children and ordinary working people from thieves and extortionists.

One street patrolman tells of having confronted a guy he thought was the vigilante after having seen him break up a purse snatching by somehow creating clouds of dust to separate the victim and assailant.

“Who are you?” the cop had demanded, seeing someone watching the scene from the roof of a five-story block of storefronts and offices.

“I’m nobody, I’m nothing,” the mysterious watcher replied. “I’m just the wind, I’m smoke, I’m dust and leaves in the wind. I’m dust, man.” And then he had disappeared.

The patrolman had run up to the roof as quickly as he could after calling for backups but no one could find the “witness” the cops started calling “Dustman.”

Martenson’s partner, veteran Detective Arlyn Washburn, refuses to have anything to do with the investigation. He’s convinced that Dustman is just an urban legend and that the incidences reported by people are lies, hoaxes, hallucinations, mistaken identities and perhaps even copycats using the Dustman legend to get back at their enemies or just make headlines.

A young woman named Bonnie Lincoln who writes a news blog called “Below Manhattan,” about life in NYC, also is doubtful that Dustman really exists but she and Leon are intrigued and interested with each other.

Sightings of Dustman have ranged from the Bowery to Morningside Heights but more frequently witnesses place him south of Midtown, often in or near Soho and the West Village. In an age of cellphone and security cameras, numerous, more or less crappy, photos exist. Two of the clearest show a figure that could be Dustman looking down from the top of a building.

Bonnie and Leon use their various sources to collect evidence about Dustman’s methods and existence. Bonnie fills her blogs with anecdotes about Dustman saving this or that person from a mugging or other robbery. Leon looks for more tangible proof.

He has fragments of balloons once full of dust and used as weapons by Dustman. “How does he get them to burst when he throws them?” he asked the police lab but no one had a good answer.

From various photos, the police artist creates a composite image showing a tall man wearing a khaki raincoat, blue jeans or slacks, sneakers and either a brown wool cap or a battered looking grey Stetson. From the testimony, he could be an olive-skinned white man, or a light-skinned black man. The patrolman who spoke with him thinks he was white but isn’t too sure.

Martenson, with Lincoln’s help, leaves messages with people offering to meet with Dustman and suggesting times and places where the detective or reporter will wait for a meeting. But after two weeks, Dustman has not shown up.

While Leon and Bonnie are finally having a romantic interlude that started out as another discussion of Dustman, Washburn calls his partner to tell him, “We’ve found your guy.”

The body in the alley in the Meatpacking District did fit the description of Dustman in most particulars but no one had ever described the mystery man as having a pencil-thin mustache. Still, the police tentatively close the file. But two weeks later, the word on the street is that someone wants to meet with Martenson.

Leon goes to the meeting spot, feeling guilty that he hasn’t told Bonnie, Near a statue in one of the little pocket-size fenced parks in Soho, an hour after dusk, someone speaks from the shadows.

“I’m not dead,” says a dry-as-dust voice. “While your people think I am, I’m going to take a little vacation. I’ll be back.”

“How do I know it’s really you, really Dustman?” asks Leon.

“When I’m gone, look behind the statue.” And then the voice answers no more questions. Dustman has disappeared.

The detective looks behind the statue and finds three balloons half-full of dust and covered in a thin layer of clear ice.

Bullwinkle Saves the World… Again?

My story machine works overtime. Last night I dreamed a sequel to Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

It starred Jack Black as Eddie Valiant Jr. working for the LAPD and partnered with Bullwinkle J. Moose on the Toontown Division. It was an intense and complicated story with visits to Toontowns in Japan, Europe and South America. They were dealing with the illegal traffic in a drug called “SPIT” for “Sudden Partial Integrated Toonification”. When taken by a human, SPIT turns the intoxicated person into a Toon for several hours with Toon resilience and lack of responsibility. Very dangerous stuff but hilarious effects.

Of course, Jack Black takes the SPIT at one point and turns into Kung Fu Panda but since it is in the middle of a fight with the bad guys, this works fine.

There’s a touching little scene with Boris Badenov who, since he is completely innocent in this, was Bullwinkle’s prime suspect. Boris is all hearbroken because Natasha has left him. Mike Myers is in this part doing something.

All thru the story, Jack Black and Bullwinkle take turns being straight man for each other. Rocky shows up for a bit part, too. Rocky is worried that the bad guys will turn out to be toons like Judge Doom last time.

Bullwinkle gets very philosophically goofy about the Unbearable Toonness of Being a Toon and Jack Black sneaks another dose of SPIT to have an interlude with a sexy cartoon firefox. This ends up in another fight of course and the SPIT wear off as Kung Fu Panda is making an impossible leap from one building to the other.

Bullwinkle makes a lugubrious “my partner” speech over Jack Black’s bleeding body but Black turns out not to be dead and they go on to solve the case. Which unfortunately, I woke up before I found out who did it but I think it was Google.

Where Everybody Knows You’re Drunk

A duck, a kangaroo and a chimpanzee walk into a bar. The chimp says to the bartender, “The usual, Stan.”

The bartender takes a tall glass from the back of the bar, pours in three jiggers of dark rum, one of brandy, one of banana liqueur and one of spiced rum. He adds grapefruit juice, tangerine juice, lime juice and bitters, puts a lid on it and shakes it up. Then he pours it over crushed ice into another glass, adds half a shot of 151 and sets it on fire. He puts the Flaming Haitian Zombie in front of the chimp with a small square box alongside.

The chimp drinks half of it right down, flames and all, then sits there with a long face–what else? After a bit, the chimp opens the box, takes out a revolver, loads one cylinder and begins playing Russian Roulette, solitaire.

The kangaroo says to the bartender, “The usual, Stan.”

The bartender mixes vodka, Red Bull, Tabasco, cranberry juice and boiling beef bouillon in a thick glass stein and sets the Red Hot Bullshot and a beer in front of the kangaroo. “There’s some girls in the corner who might like to get acquainted, if you’re feeling up to it,” he tells the marsupial from Down Under.

The kangaroo drinks the concoction down all at once, shouts “Whoo!”, does a double back flip then takes his beer and hops over to meet the cute pocket mice. “Hello, ladies,” he says smoothly. “I’m your entertainment for the evening.”

The mice are not having any of this, though; they pull out knives and threaten to find out what kangaroo steak tastes like.

The duck climbs up on a barstool and watches the chimp squint then sigh as the hammer clicks down on another empty chamber. The bloody kangaroo runs past pursued by carnivorous lady mice. “What do I usually have, Stan?” the duck asks the bartender.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in here before,” the bartender admits.

Kablooie! The chimp blows his brains out on the next stool over. The mice catch the kangaroo and carve him into screaming tidbits.

The duck looks around the bar and says to the bartender, “You’re right. I’ve never been here before. And I think I know why.”

Catman Druthers

I have whole other careers in my sleep. Last night I dreamed about working on a comic strip called Catman Druthers.

The main character, a humanoid cat named Catman, worked as a software engineer for a waste management company. Exciting, huh? His wife, Kitty, ran a daycare.

They lived in the suburbs of a metropolis filled with anthropomorphic animals and just to be confusing, they kept pets. The Druthers’ dog, Flora, chased the mailman, energy-efficiently since the postal worker was also a squirrel.

They had another pet, Manbird, a parrot with a human head, who sat on a perch in the office or kitchen and made wry comments on stuff.

The particular strip I was working on in the dream showed Catman sitting in the floor watching the dog eat as Kitty walks in.

“Watcha doing, hon?” Kitty asks.

“Trying to teach the dog to be more finicky,” says Catman.

The second panel is a close up of the dog scarfing down something and wagging her tail. The word balloons of Kitty and Catman fill the top of the panel.

“How’s it going?” asks Kitty.

“Not too good,” says Catman. “She still eats anything I put down.”

Last panel is a discouraged-looking Catman saying, “That’s a bowl of gravel.”

Jackass Marketing

Everyone has heard of Gorilla Marketing, which is where you jump out of a tree, put the customer in a headlock and force them to sign a six month subscription to your print magazine. No, wait, that’s supposed to be Guerilla Marketing which is where you jump out of a tree and shoot the bastard….

No, wait.

Nevermine.

What there is way too much of on the internet is Jackass Marketing. Which is where your subscription offer is an insult to the intelligence of your average hairy equine consumer.

Q.V. Excellent bad example.

First, that they even offer something with web access that does not include available optimized mobile is not just ignorant, it’s struthioformic (that means like an ostrich) — in order to do something like that, one has to have one’s head in the sand or someplace even darker and smellier.

Second, look at the fourth offer, presumably their trial offer to entice people in: 30 days web only access for 19.95 — versus the second offer: web plus mobile for ninety days for only $1.30 more. W? T? F?

Third, try to tell them this is a stupid marketing position and you are faced with two screens worth of checkboxes and a captcha to communicate with them. And they don’t have a checkbox for “You should fire someone in marketing.”

Fourth, who would want to read a futurologistic magazine so poorly grounded in the present as to come up with this for a marketing plan?

The obvious deduction from their offers is that one month of web and mobile access to their current issue is worth sixty-five cents. The check is in the mail!