It's like you can't even unhinge your jaw and let the dark pour out unheeded into the world at large anymore, without the all-consuming void gushing from your black center devouring the stars and the birds and the sun and the elements that combine to make love possible!
#1071; Old Dog, Oldest Trick




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MISSIVES. (see all)

“Sea Lion” Has Been Verbed

My comic from last month about The Terrible Sea Lion has really struck a chord!

The Independent's i100

It’s been mentioned by the Independent (above), Slate, VentureBeat, Feministe, and cited in a ton of blog posts.

That’s really neat to see! I’m happy that it’s resonated with so many people.

So I thought this would be fun: for just a week (through October 31 only) I’m making sea lion shirts!

go away sea lions

Different colors (and even hoodies) are available too! And a tie-dye shirt because WHY NOT.

EVEN THE TIE DYE

Now of course I should note: reasonable people can disagree.

But c’mon I don’t even know how that last one RELATES



True Stuff: The Art of Letter Writing

sit up straight

Every now and then you see someone talking about “the lost art of letter writing.” There was a TED talk, and a book last year, and there always seem to be articles and thinkpieces aplenty:

Thomas G. Knoles, the Marcus A. McCorison Librarian at the American Antiquarian Society, has an intimate knowledge of the more than 100,000 handwritten letters, as well as 1,500 manuscript collections, spanning from 1630 to present day, that are housed in the society’s archives.

“Life was so different in the 19th century. People didn’t have television, computers or radios, any of the distractions that they have now,” Knoles said. “Between the fact that it was the only way of communicating with people who were local and the fact there was actually disposable time to write the letters, letter writing was something that was a common practice.”

…While he feels the transition to the computer is a natural one, Knoles said there will be a whole texture of what everyday life was like that is going to be much harder to recapture because people don’t keep letters like they do emails and texts.

“We can grieve for anything that changes, but my own feeling is that you have to accept the fact that things are going to change,” Knoles said. “People grieved when the typewriter came. People grieved in the mid-19th century when the envelope was introduced and before that they used sealing wax.”

“Mass. Scholars Mourn Lost Art Of Letter Writing”, CBS Boston, March 22, 2014

To be clear, I am a fan of letter writing!

• As the quote above says, letter writing, its other charms aside, preserves history. On this site I’ve discussed correspondence by the Wright Brothers and shown off letters my mother received from Isaac Asimov. My mother, a prolific correspondent, has saved bushels of letters we’ve come across decades later, but in the future, we are likely to find few from the era since she began sending emails.

• A couple years ago, I sent letters — 521 of them — to every head of state in the world, every governor in the U.S., 200 of the world’s top CEOs, and the pope. I got 52 letters back!

• People send me letters! I love it when they do. Here’s one I got recently (click for bigger):

another currency by mail scheme

…Of late, however, we faced a quandary regarding your fine publication. Sharp-eyed old Grisby noticed there is a price cited on your mast-head. Imagine our shame at discovering we have been leeches, sucking the bounty of your blood for close to eleven years, without so much as lying about paying…

Enclosed please find the requisite payment of six pence… Notices of subscription renewals should not be sent and will go unanswered. We consider the matter closed.

none the richer, alas

• Hundreds of people sent us letters about Machine of Deathwe asked them to, in exchange for us sending them a death prediction card in the mail. We said “send us anything,” and the results were amazing.

So, I’m firmly on the side of writing letters. But it’s true that it’s somewhat of an affectation these days. I correspond with people all the time, but the last letter I wrote was an angry one to the IRS.

One of my favorite historical books, though, is all about writing letters…
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55 Classic Improv Initiations With Alligators

I’m on an improv comedy team! One of the house teams at Westside Comedy Theater in Santa Monica, CA. We perform (free) shows on alternate Mondays — we perform tonight, actually!

I like improvising because it’s a very different discipline from writing, but it can, as a mental exercise, help inform the craft of writing. A while ago I wrote a post about how thinking like an improviser can be helpful in writing short stories:

Improvisers are taught that whatever the scene starts being about, is what it’s about. If one person says “I’m hungry,” then the second person could say “Well, of course! You haven’t eaten for days!” And the scene would be about that person being hungry.

Why are they hungry? What has prevented them from eating? A diet? A stomach trauma? Torture? Are they too poor to buy food? Are they on a hunger strike? Are they always hungry, no matter how much they eat? Do they have a tapeworm? How do the other characters feel about the hunger? How does it make them react? [...]

If you don’t know what to write, start with anything. If you dig into it, if you ask “why,” if you ask “what does this mean,” if you ask “who does this affect” — I promise you that any small thing at all will be enough.

As a rule, improvisers try not to pre-plan anything, and build a scene collaboratively with their fellow players, and create characters rather than trying to tell jokes.

But a lot of time, in doing so, we forget to talk about alligators, one of the most well-worn improv tools. So I’ve compiled this handy (and exhaustively-researched) reference to the 55 classic scene initiations featuring alligators.

Feel free to use any or all of them, in any situation you encounter, as needed.

55 Classic Improv Scene Initiations Featuring Alligators

  1. “Jeremy, there’s an alligator in the kitchen, and I think you know why.”
  2. “Thanks for coming on such short notice, I know you’ve been dealing with an alligator problem.”
  3. “Well, I managed to pick up most of what was left of your alligator.”
  4. “Madam Windocker, are all these paintings of alligators?”
  5. “To be honest, no, this was my first time eating alligator.”
  6. “Gentlemen, I think you all know the esteemed Dr. Alligator.”
  7. “Alligator, alligator, alligator, crocodile, alligator…Hold on just a second!”
  8. “The crone waved her wrinkled fingers and then an alligator tail just started to…grow.”
  9. “I go to work, and clock in, and clock out, and every day I wonder if I was supposed to be an alligator instead.”
  10. “You’ve clamped down on my heart, Riley, like an alligator without a sense of personal boundaries.”
  11. “I’m afraid the alligator will have to wait outside.”
  12. “If we try to swim for it, the alligators will gorge themselves on two of us, but the rest are likely to make it.”
  13. “That alligator-skin clutch — why, that was Mom’s!”
  14. “Relax, Dennis. Be an alligator, floating in the reeds.”
  15. “You know I won’t rest until the partners of this firm make me Senior Alligator.”
  16. “Rutherford and I were just admiring your very old alligator.”
  17. “I’ve never seen a sexy alligator costume before, but you really pull it off!”
  18. “You and I are both crusty alligators in the big old swamp of humanity.”
  19. “Before we start…my safe word will be ‘alligator.’”
  20. “You can’t hide behind that alligator forever, Julius!”
  21. “My friends, you misunderstand! The most dangerous game is, in fact, alligator.”
  22. “Four score and seven years ago, our alligators brought forth on this alligator a new alligator.”
  23. “Is that an alligator on your shirt or are you just happy to see me?”
  24. “Actually I can say that, because my grandfather was one-eighth alligator.”
  25. “Let’s go, Alligators! Eat the other team!”
  26. “I made you a birthday cake, and of course, I shaped it like an alligator.”
  27. “Alligator, honey, baby, sweetie, they’re just bullies. You’re still my precious muffin.”
  28. “Sometimes I feel like you only love me for my alligator impression.”
  29. “And for my third wish, I wish everyone else on Earth was an alligator!”
  30. “I can’t believe that alligators made it to Mars before humans. Maybe it’s time to just give up.”
  31. “The new car? It’s OK, but it’s clear that the last owner was an alligator.”
  32. “Mr. President, the alligator will see you now.”
  33. “Get inside! The plague of alligators will start any minute!”
  34. “Wow, you really did have all your teeth replaced with alligator teeth.”
  35. “If you wade through a swamp, what do you expect? The alligators just let you pass?”
  36. “How many alligators does one person need, Barbara?”
  37. “Oh, I’m terribly sorry, I didn’t realize you were still in here with your alligator.”
  38. “Captain, the sonar blip appears to be an alligator.”
  39. “Becky, your father and I are concerned that you don’t realize you’re dating an alligator.”
  40. “Santa brought me a magic whistle that forces any hidden alligators to reveal themselves.”
  41. “Kensington, why aren’t you dressed yet? Put on your alligator suit!”
  42. “This neighborhood was great until the alligators started moving in.”
  43. “Everything in this meal was made from various disgusting parts of a single alligator, and let me tell you, it was a chore!”
  44. “Gerard, this is the third time this week you’ve shown up handcuffed to an alligator.”
  45. “That was me! I was the voice of the cartoon alligator!”
  46. “I want some alone time with you. Without the alligator.”
  47. “Please forgive my granddad. My family has always had a superstition about alligators.”
  48. “Wowza! I’ve seen alligators with better skin.”
  49. “Oh, no, I hope that alligator outside wasn’t yours.”
  50. “No, honey, those pants don’t make you look like an alligator at all!”
  51. “I’m worried that those fools are going to make that — that alligator the next Pope.”
  52. “Everything I have to say in this arbitration will be delivered via my alligator.”
  53. “Here’s your problem. You’ve got most of an alligator crammed in there!”
  54. “We don’t use polygraphs in this precinct. Bring in the alligator.”
  55. “Alligator Kaszmierski, private eye. I’ve been watching you from a half-submerged position.”

As a bonus exercise, you can also apply these lines to any randomly selected New Yorker cartoon.