Tag Archives: bad writing

The Special Snowflake Report, Mach 2: How to Be a Weirdo

Everybody’s weird, and nobody’s weird. This is the closest thing I have to a consistent life philosophy. And even I only believe it about 60 percent of the time.

Full disclosure: when I was in high school, I self-identified first and foremost as “weird.” When you’re a teenager, that means something very specific–waxing rhapsodic about 80’s cartoons, bursting into song at inappropriate moments, and so, so many non-sequiturs. Also sporks, for some reason. My mom had a rough time convincing me not to have “Sporky” embroidered on my letter jacket.

A fucking spork.

She succeeded in the end, thank God. She was a really, really good mother.

That was the kind of forced randomness my peers responded to. Though I had many traits that were genuinely unusual or perverse (as does everyone), there was no point in emphasizing them–not if I was keen on being recognized as a “weirdo.” Weirdo was a demographic, a tribe. It was one more stupidly tiny box for my teenage self to stuff herself in, heedless of all the parts she had to cut off in order to fit.

Happy Noodle Boy

“How many times do I have to quote Happy Noodle Boy before the other weirdos accept me? SILENCE, CLITORAL CHEESE NIP!”

Of all the things I’m glad to see the back of, my “Weirdo” phase comes in at number one. It was phony, limiting, and more than a little embarrassing. At the same time, I suspect it’s a natural part of growing up. It must be–because the next generation is doing the same god damn thing. At least, if this stupid clickbait article is to be believed.

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The Special Snowflake Report: Vampires in Their Own Words

Vampires in Their Own Words-coverHigh school is a tough time for everyone. The stakes are high, the workload is heavy, and the social strata are more complex than ever. Preps, jocks, goths, scene kids, band geeks, weeaboos–subgroups upon subgroups uncatalogued by even the most ambitious of anthropologists. Where do you fit in? How do you stand out? Why are you so good at back rubs?

Vampires in Their Own Words is an inadvertent expose on an adolescent coping strategy that can be summarized thus: when no niche is special enough, create your own. Contained in this book are pieces by nearly two dozen people who claim to be actual vampires. Under the guidance of editor Michelle Belanger of House Kheperu, these brave souls join forces to educate us poor mundanes on the intricacies of vampire life. Whether you believe their stories or not, one thing is certain: they are so much more unique than you.

Oh to be mundane!

They envy your unoriginal pre-fab life. Really they do.

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Retro Moral Panic: HALLOWEEN AND SATANISM

There is more to Halloween...much more!Great news, everyone: my box of stupid books arrived yesterday! That means the next few weeks will be an orgy of bad writing, insane screes, and my attempts to summarize it all in a comprehensible manner. I thought we’d kick things off with this book, which hails from the late 1980’s and really looks it.

HALLOWEEN AND SATANISM Cover

Don’t worry, I didn’t actually pay ten dollars for this.

HALLOWEEN AND SATANISM–a fitting title for a jaunty romp through the annals of late-twentieth-century evangelical fear mongering! If you were alive during the late 80’s and early 90’s, you may remember the media waxing horrified about Ouija boards, D&D, and Satanic sex cults that upholstered their altars with flayed baby flesh. If you’re too young to have experienced those days, or have spent too much time drinking to forget them, this post ought to refresh your memory.

The co-authors of HALLOWEEN AND SATANISM are Joan Hake Robie, president of the publishing company that released the book, and Phil Phillips, a guy who once had a bad time at a haunted house and now wants to ruin Halloween for everybody. If you think I’m misrepresenting his motivations, that’s only because you haven’t read the first chapter of HALLOWEEN AND SATANISM.

If this is Halloween, who needs it?

“Wow,” you might be thinking. “Phil Phillips is a baby.”

And you’re absolutely right. He is a baby. A giant baby. If he were any more of a baby, a Satanic cult would baptize him, cut his head off, stick it on a black wafer, and ask it spiritual questions. (More on that later!) Phil Phillips is such a sucky infant that he felt the need to pathologize fear itself. Hence the central message of the book:

Fear Is Not of God

You read that right. Fear isn’t godly. Despite its seeming naturalness and obvious evolutionary utility, fear is a manifestation of Satan himself. If you ever feel fear, you’re giving in to Satan. If you purposely seek fear out–say, by visiting a haunted house–then congratulations! You’ve basically just thrown yourself on the devil’s sweaty loins. Let’s hope he’s a gentle lover.

Halloween is all about being scared, which makes it the ultimate Satanic holiday. How did we wind up enthralled to such a dark-sided tradition? Phillips and Hake Robie are here to give you the low-down.

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Weird Finds: Angelic Messages as Given to Tina Michelle

I’ve had this book for over a year, but I’ve hesitated to post about it.  I was bullied as a kid, so I have a hard time picking on specific people–especially people this crazy.  The turning point for me was realizing that “Tina Michelle” is almost certainly not the author’s real name.  Also, if she gets really upset about this post and tries to end it all, we can take solace in the fact that an African American angel will save her.  Read on to learn more!

Tina Michelle-cover

I bought this book for three dollars at one of those shops that has to be a drug front.  It has no customers, yet it’s been thriving for the better part of a decade.  Kind of like the store in my old hometown that was selling Buzz Lightyear novelty telephones in 2008.

Anyway, this is a book about angels.  More specifically, about angels as they’ve appeared to an Appalachian woman with the improbable moniker Tina Michelle.  I’m not referencing the Appalachian thing to drum up any latent prejudices against “hillbillies,” by the way.  Tina Michelle herself mentions it on the back cover.  Apparently “her Appalachian humor embraces her audiences, as her teaching technique unfolds their inner knowledge.”  That’s right, this woman is a motivational speaker.

Something else she mentions on the back cover (and countless times throughout the book): Tina Michelle has almost died four times.

Four near-death experiences

Tina Michelle has been snatched from the jaws of death by her guardian angel on four separate occasions.  That sounds nice until you really think about it–her guardian angel has almost let her die four times.  Wouldn’t that be a sign that her guardian angel kind of, well, sucks at his job?

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“Oh, hi Mark”: Tommy Wiseau’s THE ROOM as Primer on How Not to Write a Story

I can’t remember the last time I was as enthused about a non-fiction book as I am about Greg Sestero and Tom Bissel’s The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made.  It’s really something special.

The Disaster ArtistFor those of you unfamiliar with cult classic The Room, I urge you to watch these videos before proceeding.  No isolated clips can really do the film justice, but hopefully those will whet your appetite for its unique brand of lunacy.  (The entire movie is available on YouTube as well.)

Filmed in a parking lot in 2003 at a budget of $6 million dollars, The Room is director-producer-star Tommy Wiseau’s singular vision, a vanity project that transcends mere vanity, a so-bad-it’s-glorious omnibus of every wrong impulse, artistic misapprehension, and petty hubristic idiocy known to man.  It is often pegged, along with Plan 9 From Outer Space and Troll 2, as the worst movie ever made.  But while Plan 9 and Troll 2 are aggressive outlandish in their particulars, The Room is a different animal.  It’s not science fiction.  It’s not fantasy.  It’s a domestic drama that somehow manages to be stranger than any fever vision of speculative fiction.  It’s like an alien visited Earth and later tried to recreate for his countrymen what he saw there.  In his grasp of how human beings feel, speak, and act, Tommy Wiseau is on par with the Martians.

The Room movie posterIn the introduction to The Disaster Artist, actor Greg Sestero (who played the character of Mark in the film) calls The Room “the most casually surreal film ever made.”  Ostensibly, it’s about a man named Johnny (played by Wiseau) whose fiancee, Lisa, cheats on him with his best friend, Mark.  Crushed by the betrayal of his loved ones, Johnny ends his life by shooting himself in the head.  It’s a grand, Shakespearean climax.  Unfortunately, its force is undermined by the all the weird side-stops the film makes along the way.  First there’s Johnny’s neighbor/young ward, Denny, who seems to hint that he wants a threesome with Johnny and Lisa.  Then there’s Chris-R, a drug-dealing gangster who threatens to shoot Denny in the head if he doesn’t get his money.  There’s also Claudette, Lisa’s mother, who casually announces that she has breast cancer and then never mentions it again.  Throw in Tommy’s undefinable accent, a handful of super-gratuitous sex scenes, and several men playing football in tuxes for no readily apparent reason, and you have an experience so weird as to be almost indescribable.

Sestero uses The Disaster Artist both to chronicle the making of the room and to recount his friendship with Wiseau, who is by turns charismatic, childish, grandiose, suicidal, and borderline insane.  It’s a seductive portrait, and a strangely sympathetic one.  Tommy Wiseau sounds like a pain in the ass, but one that you’d gladly suffer for the stories you’d later be able to tell.

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Oh, the Shame!: Revisiting Our Earlier Work

A popular aphorism holds that, to master any creative endeavor, you have to practice for 10,000 hours.

Think about the implication: you have to work for 10,000 hours before you produce anything worthwhile.  That’s 10,000 hours of sub-par product.  10,000 hours of goofy writing that will never see the light of day.  10,000 hours of performing so badly in your chosen field that your own mother gazes upon your efforts and declares: “I have no child.”  What a stark concept!

I don’t know about the cut-and-dried 10,000-hour requirement, but I agree with the general sentiment.  Anyone who has ever gotten good at something spent a lot of time being very, very bad at it.  Perhaps writers should bear that in mind before indulging in their characteristic fits of depression–not only is sucking not shameful, it’s actually necessary.  By extension, that feeling you get when you look back at your earlier work and want to jump into a wood chipper–that’s also necessary. (The feeling, not the jumping into a wood chipper.  That’s almost never necessary.  Though far be it from me to pass judgment on your lifestyle choices.)  It means you’ve gotten better.

I have a proposal for everyone: let’s stop being ashamed of our crappy writing.  Hell, let’s revel in it.  Let’s dig out our ancient manuscripts, hold them high and declare: “I wrote this piece of crap!  Look on it, ye mighty, and despair!”  Because you came by that piece of crap honestly.  You sat down, opened your computer, and spent hours making the best piece of crap you could possibly make.  There are plenty of people out there who are too scared to make their own piece of crap, but you made yours.  And you know something?  That’s awesome.

My Piece of Crap
In the interest of putting my money where my mouth is, I present the single crappiest manuscript I was able to find buried among my old school books.

When I was 13 years old, I wanted to write “edgy” “grown-up” stories about “exciting” car “chases.”  There’s nothing I can say that will make the following passage okay.  Just know that, in a story that also included six juvenile delinquents hiding in a porta-John, off-color references to Britney Spears, and an underage mother giving birth in the woods, this is basically the least stupid thing that happens.

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