Inhuman Swill : Page 29
Why is my blog called Inhuman Swill? Because you can unscramble the pieces to make William Shunn.

New short fiction: "Stand Up"

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A brand-new short story of mine, "Stand Up," is available now at the group blog This May Get Awkward:

"Stand Up"

The good folks at TMGA (in the person of the estimable JD Adamski, an MVP of the Tuesday Funk reading series I co-produce) asked me a while back to contribute a story, and I'm glad I finally had a chance to oblige them. I hope you like it. It's short.

"Yeah—mothers," said the comedian, running a hand through his sparse hair. "Don't you just hate 'em?"

Uncertain charges of laughter detonated here and there around the club. It was all in the delivery, and in the modest credit he'd accrued up to now with the audience.  [read more]
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Rabbit transit

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Rabbits, I would like to sit you down and have a very serious discussion with you. I understand that the way you zigzag as you flee is an effective way to evade most predators, and has served you well for millions of years. But when your zigzag pattern is no wider than the car following you, it only causes problems in both sides.

So in the future, rabbits, when confronted by a car, please consider bending your course in a direction perpendicular to your original course of travel. Either that or next time I may just do my best to hasten the evolution of your species. And I'll feel badly about it.

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I've been on LiveJournal a long time. I joined in October of 2000, more than eleven years ago. I've posted more than 2,000 entries. If you go to my profile page, you'll see that my user ID (17832) is in the low five digits. If you were to create a new account today, you'd get an eight-digit user ID. I obviously haven't been here since the very beginning, but I've been here long enough. I have a lot invested here. But I'm thinking hard about abandoning LiveJournal as my primary blogging platform.

I'm not going to rehash all the changes in management and ownership that have plagued us here over the years, the privacy concerns, the outages and denial-of-service attacks. That all contributes, but the biggest problem I've come to have with LiveJournal is simply the lack of some basic features that most other major blogging platforms feature. And two of the biggest of those are the inability to save more than one in-progress blog entry at once, and the inability to schedule completed entries for future posting.

Over at my personal site, I'm running a Movable Type blog. I know it's not the best choice out there, but it's the one my hosting service offers, and I've customized the hell out of it and even built some of my own widgets. I've written a script, also, to scrape my entries from here at LJ and repost them over there. But now I'm thinking seriously about reversing that polarity.

So here's my question. I know that a lot of you blog elsewhere and have your entries reposted to LJ. What process or service do you use to do it? How do like the results? I seek your wisdom.

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I was complaining about The Walking Dead a couple of weeks ago. I finally saw the mid-season finale (an oxymoron, for sure), after having somehow managed to avoid any spoilers. I have to say, it was great, it was visceral, it was shocking, it recast the entire season so far. What it did not do, though, was atone for how boring the season was up to that point. Here's hoping the remainder of the season can maintain that level of intensity, even if the characters are still more types than people.

In other follow-up news, I've been waiting for the Mormon missionaries to call me after their visit back in October, but they still haven't. I feel rejected. I feel jilted. I feel not worth saving. I feel upset that I haven't been able to invite them in and then tell them that praying out loud is not permitted under my roof.

Dammit. Maybe they found out more about me and are afraid. Maybe they just didn't like me. Oh, well, life is short.

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Rose bladder

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[Spoiler warning: Mildly squicky medical details within. The squeamish may not wish their appetites spoiled.]

I know you've all been waiting breathlessly to hear what's come of my possible kidney stone situation. I just saw my very booked-up urologist, and what he has to say boils down to: "We need to do more tests before we know what's going on."

He cautions me that there could be a myriad of reasons for hematuria (blood in the urine) and stinging urination. The blood (which, incidentally, I've only seen twice) could be coming from the kidneys, the bladder, the urethra, what have you. I need to start out by having an abdominal CT scan and a cystoscopy.

I've never had a CT scan, but I've had a cystoscopy one time before. It Is Not Fun. It involves having a camera shoved up your urethra and into your bladder. Yes, it's done with local anaesthesia, but you still feel it. The only good thing about it is, it couldn't be scheduled until January 18th.

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Yesterday I mentioned a pub in Brooklyn called Mooney's, which sadly no longer exists. It was on Flatbush Avenue near Park Place, right around the corner from the apartment where I lived from 1995 to 2001. My 30th birthday party there was a very memorable occasion, but thinking about Mooney's reminded me of another funny memory from that place.

It was June of either 1997 or 1998, I can't be sure which. I don't usually watch much sports, but I was still a relatively recent transplant from Utah and the Jazz were playing the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals. I made a habit of slipping out to Mooney's to have a few beers and watch the games.

Mooney's was a great bar and always drew an eclectic clientele. I got to know a few of the other patrons over the course of the series, simply because they were curious about why I was cheering so loudly for Utah. I had been noticing one other patron in particular, who seemed to know a lot of other folks in the bar. He looked like an Orthodox Jew, with a white dress shirt, black pants, prayer fringe, skullcap, thick beard, and side curls. He always had a lit cigarette in one hand and a pint of beer in the other, and as he watched the games he was more vociferous and profane in his cheering than just about anyone else in the place. He looked to be about my age, and was the biggest bundle of contradictions I think I'd ever seen.

One night late in the series, I was sitting by myself at a high table opposite the bar when this fellow came weaving my way. "Hey," he said to me over the din, jabbing his cigarette at me. "I just heard from some people that you're a Mormon. From Utah."

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So there's this meme going around on Facebook where you give someone an age and they write about their life that year. I was given 29.

29 ... 1996-1997. Probably one of my most transformative yet miserable years. It was my second year living in NYC, my second year out of the Mormon church, and everything about life in the city was exciting. I landed the job that year, at N2K Entertainment, that introduced me to some of the best friends of my life and set me on the path to success as a web developer. My desperate financial situation began to turn around. I was plowing like mad through books on Mormon history, gaining the foundation I needed to eventually write my memoir, and gaining as reputation as one of the angriest and most outspoken ex-Mormons on the web. But I was also living in Brooklyn with a sociopathic girlfriend who gave me none of the support I needed to get any writing done. That should have been the year I threw her out, but I was still insecure enough to think I wasn't going to be able to make it in New York on my own. The end of that year, my 30th birthday party at Mooney's Pub on Flatbush, was one of the best nights of my life that far, mostly because it showed me how many friends I'd made that year. You were there, and you, and you, and you. And you too!

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Laura: [waving across street] Hi, Russ!

Russ: [waving] Hi! How's Ella?

Laura: Great! Where's Marty?

Russ: With his other dad. Gay joint custody! Yay!

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My town, kinda, Chicago is

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Laura and I were in San Diego a coupla three weeks ago for the World Fantasy Convention. (Yes, it was awesome to see you there too!) When we arrived, she was immediately captivated by the natural beauty of the area, and by the weather. "Ooooh, do you think they have a good business community here?" she asked. "Maybe we can move here."

You have to understand that neither of us is entirely sold on Chicago, still, though it's hard to pin down a precise source of dissatisfaction. We moved here four years ago from New York City. Laura got a great job right off the bat, and recently she started an even better one. We have a great apartment. And, I host a monthly reading series at a nearby bar, which means I meet a lot of local writers.

True, we've been slow to make close friends here, and our close-friend roster is still weighted heavily with New Yorkers, but that's starting to come along. For a while it was the case that we would make a very close friend here and then they would move out of Chicago, very far away, but that trend seems to be reversing. Now people we know are moving to Chicago, which is an encouraging development. And Worldcon is here next year!

Nevertheless, there's some undefinable thing that still nags at us, so I said to Laura, "You should talk to [info]gregvaneekhout this weekend and see what he thinks of living in San Diego."

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Dead on wheels

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For a while there, AMC was a network that could do no wrong when it came to original scripted series. First there was Mad Men. (I don't watch it, but people I respect love it.) Then came Breaking Bad (which just closed out a stellar fourth season and is still my favorite show on television). And then there was Rubicon, a slow-building but hypnotic show about the lives of intelligence analysts that crescendoed into one of the most gripping shows of 2010. I was devastated when it wasn't renewed for a second season.

But AMC is losing me with its new crop of programs. The Walking Dead started out okay, but this second season is testing my patience. For a show that has the word "Walking" in its title, there sure doesn't seem to be any sense of forward momentum. I don't think it's much of a spoiler to say that I'm sick to death of everybody being stuck at the damn farmhouse. It's more like The Walking-in-Circles Dead. Yes, I'm sure we're building to something, but is it too much to ask that the characters exhibit some personality in the meantime, or that the pacing doesn't flag like a sailing ship in the doldrums? The show only comes alive anymore when there are dead people on the screen, and that doesn't happen nearly enough. Frank Darabont's episodes last year had their problems, but he is nonetheless sorely missed. The zombie apocalypse should be more exciting than this.

And AMC's newest show, Hell on Wheels, isn't exactly bowling me over yet. The characters on this please-call-us-gritty western at least have the advantage of being far more colorful than any on The Walking Dead, but I haven't yet gotten the sense of much humanity beneath the surface of any of them. There's something a bit remote about the acting. I feel a great distance between myself and most of the characters. Colm Meaney is the exception, but his railroad baron is so over-the-top that I really can't buy him, especially in the way that he cheerfully explains his evil plans to anyone who will listen. If you're going to have such a loquacious villain, it helps to fill his mouth with great dialog, like Ian McShane's on Deadwood. But no one on Hell on Wheels, cast or crew, is operating at that level. Not that that would matter if they didn't seem to be cribbing everything down to the seams and themes from David Milch. This show literally looks like a low-rent traveling production of Deadwood. But maybe they'll find their way. (I really hope they give Common something more interesting to do than just look angry.)

Anyway, AMC used to get the automatic benefit of the doubt from me, but those are days gone bye.

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William Shunn