…What is this. WHAT IS THIS?!
No. I will stay quiet no more. It’s bad enough this corpulent festering pool of a company sells a product that a good chunk of the American population thinks is Mexican food… but what the ever-loving FRAK is this?!
It was bad enough when they sold “tacos” and “gorditas” that resembled their namesakes as much as an ostrich resembles a chimp because both have eyes and legs. It’s bad enough that their processed meat-like product will clean you out like a bottle of Liquid Plumr. I understand that “authentic” ethnic food is a difficult thing to find in another country, and I’m well aware of the fact that most Chinese restaurants, for example, are not indicative of the cuisine of China.
But this isn’t even trying. This is like peeing on a stack of paper and calling art. This is like hiring Michael Bay to do Transformers all over again.
America, do you want a real Mexican breakfast? Do you?!
Here’s what you do.
First, party. I mean PARTY. Get some tequila. None of that fratboy, Spring Break, Jose Cuervo crap. I mean a bottle of 100% blue agave, the kind of liquor that God expels from his nipples when he’s aroused. You grab that bottle and you get a dozen of your best friends. You drink that bottle and play Vicente Fernandez until you all cry and remember loves lost and found. I don’t care if you understand the lyrics. You DRINK. And YOU CRY. You cry like a little bitch and you hug those friends like they’re your brothers and sisters and you stay up reminding each other that LIFE IS GOOD AND FRIENDS MATTER AND YOU TELL THOSE SONS OF BITCHES YOU LOVE THEM. And you do this outside, with the mosquitos and warm night air to keep you company. You let your body sweat tears of pain and heat!
Second, you stay up all night. You go through that bottle and maybe throw in a few beers. Not some artisan, microbrew beer, either. I mean Dos Equis. Tecate. And you drink that swill with lime and salt. Yes, lime and salt. Add some hot sauce for flavor and texture at your own peril.
Thirdly, you wait until the sun comes up. You have to move quickly, because you have work to do. Real work. Like my grandfather used to tell my mother and like he told me twenty years later, “You want to party? Fine, but you WORK IN THE MORNING.” You don’t skip out on your responsibilities. You’re an ADULT. So you drag your semi-drunk corpse out of the building and you find a Mexican restaurant, the kind of place health inspectors would cite on looks alone. No art on the walls. No big sombreros. Just waiters that understand your menu order and that’s it. If you speak Spanish, they’ll treat you like family.
Thirdly, order ANYTHING on the menu. It’s all tortillas, beans, cheese, and meat in varied ratios, but it’s your choice. You eat that meal with home-made salsa and tortillas that smell better than any lover you’ve ever had. You finish that plate and give a satisfied nod to the waiter. And you go on with the rest of your day like nothing happened.
Why? Because you’re AN ADULT HUMAN WHO GRABS LIFE BY THE SHORT AND CURLIES. You enjoy that breakfast, those enchiladas and that chorizo, like you’re about to be fraking executed by a firing squad. That meal is the greatest plate of food in your life.
And come next week, you repeat the process. THAT’S Mexican breakfast.
February 12, 2014
My class today revolved around learning how to peer edit papers. These students are not professional writers, and some of them have had to take the class before, so aside from myself and the Writing Center, I want them to feel comfortable asking each other for help. The lesson, then, revolved around teaching them how to critique and take criticism.
It was simple enough. First, find something in the paper that works. It could be the dialogue, the story itself, or even just the title, but it must be genuine praise, not just cheerleader fluff. Then, you need to point out an actual shortcoming in the paper. And be specific. Is the ending vague? Does it try to cover too much ground? Finally, end with a second positive.
While this may feel like some sort of self-help seminar, the purpose is to make the writer receptive to criticism. Hearing that there are good things in the essay and not just hings to fix is essential, especially for insecure writers. Writing is one of the most stressful activities a person can partake in, so knowing that some parts of the work work is essential. A person can get friend focusing on the things that need to be changed, the mistakes that slipped through the first and second drafts, and even just the amount of work needed to polish an essay for submission. I know.
That little bit of positive feedback can make the difference becoming bitter at the process and learning to enjoy the small victories.
And I’m not asking for too much when I ask students to find something good in each others’ essays. Rarely will anyone find a piece of writing so unbearably bad, so insulting to the senses, that at least one positive thing can be said about it.
In my life, I’ve come across two. I’ve read hundreds of essays, countless books, and I’ve only found two.
The first was actually a student essay back in college. To say that the essay offended my sense of storytelling by taking a story and purposefully twisting the reader’s brain around metafiction with all the grace and subtlety of a rocket-powered brick to the face would be an understatement. Chaos theory states than an infinite amount of monkeys writing at an infinite amount of typewriters will, given an infinite amount of time, write the complete works of William Shakespeare. This essay, however, was a twelve monkey, half hour job. It’s the only time I’ve ever thrown a piece of writing. Its aura offended me.
The second was a novel I had to edit in order to compensate for a small car accident I caused. Instead of having to get insurance involved, the other driver asked me to edit her novel. It took me a good half hour to get past the first page. It was a mess, both grammatically and structurally. The story began with two retired men who won the lottery and drove around the country getting into small adventures. It ended with said men recruiting a dog groomer, a bartender, and assorted folks into a black ops mercenary outfit running operations in Colombia. It may sound like the kind of thing that could work on paper, but it’s not. Not by a long shot. The story would have made more sense if alien ghosts had appeared midway through to explain how reality was being melted by a giant toddler with a magnifying lens.
Being a reader is more than just editing and finding mistakes. It’s about providing a little support to go along with those criticisms.
Except for the odd writing like those two mentioned above. Writing that bad needs to be burned and buried at a crossroads.
For now, let’s enjoy the sights and sounds of The Daily Show destroying the GOP on something that shouldn’t be this difficult.
February 10, 2014
I’d like to believe I’m a fair teacher, one that is willing to work with you to help you pass. I don’t believe in unfair advantages like extra credit or undeserved extensions. I do, however, believe in working with you, explaining through different methods, using office hours and email discussion to help you reach the proper level of understanding and confidence to write. That is my goal.
And mistakes will be made. This, too, is inevitable, but it’s part of the process. Writing is about making mistakes, trying out new sentences, new approaches, telling the story a different way in order to better get across to the audience. Writers who are afraid to make mistakes never grow, they never improve, and in the end they become wrecks as far as the profession is concerned.
That being said, there is one thing I will not tolerate.
Every one of us who calls him or herself “writer” most likely started out imitating others. We copied style. We copied story. We copied tone. But few of us would ever take something copied word for word and call it our own. There is a special level of hell for plagiarists. It’s right between the level where they keep Kardashian fans and people who serve Natural Light at parties.
Accidental plagiarism is also a thing. Students forget quotation marks but have a proper citation. A student thinks he paraphrased something but it was still too similar. Again, these are mistakes.
But knowingly stealing words and trying to pass them off as your own?
I’ve had students lift paragraphs from Wikipedia and sites with sample essays. If it was up to me, the forms outlining their dishonesty would have been sent to the Registrar and the Honor Council ten seconds after I caught their deceit. That is a choice to try and lie and cheat. It’s an insult to the trade.
But the department says we need to give them a chance to explain or fix the mistake, especially if they’re freshmen.
But to everyone else, or those who think they can pass off this sort of work in a final draft, please pay attention.
Are you listening?
I will come down on you like the hammer of an angry god.
I will rain holy fire on your academic record. The ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah will look the Elysian Fields compared to what I will do your grade in my class. Your lies smell like sulfur, and I will exorcise your demons from the digital database with holy water and a sword cast from the church bells of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. I’ll make that essay look like the ruins of Alderaan. You did it because you ran out of time? You forgot? Well, guess what? I’m teaching a full load and have a wife with a baby on the way. I take time out of my evenings and weekends to put together a class designed to make it easy for you to pass if you put forth actual effort and respect the craft, and if you show me something you did not write and think you can get away with it, then you’re wasting my time, time I could be happily spending with my family.
You’re too young to know the kind of pain I will inflict on your soul.
…All I’m saying is, please don’t do it. The paperwork’s a bitch.
I think we’re going to get along great.
And yes… I’m back.
June 23, 2013
Last night’s Dungeons and Dragons game had perhaps the weirdest in-game use of liquor, shapeshifting, and seduction I’ve ever seen.
The party was investigating a town recently overcome with cultists of Orcus, the Demon Prince of Undeath. Naturally, such cultists are prone to things like sadism, insanity, and, I figured, occasional necrophilia. The last one was not overtly mentioned, but makes sense.
As the party snuck around the ruined town, they happened upon a tavern being used as some sort of torture chamber for the town’s survivors. Manny, playing the drow wizard Vician, decided he had a plan. He convinced the elf bard Vittoria to go along with it. Confident, he cast a spell to make both of them appear as ghouls so they could sneak into the ruins and free the two men being tortured by a necromancer.
After some routine questions from the necromancer, Manny, still in ghoul form, decided to gift the necromancer a bottle of liquor he had “found” outside. Seeing this, the necromancer took it and threw some of its contents at the very cut and very bloody men hanging on the rack. Their screams of pain filled the room as the rest of the team looking in through a window and wondered what Manny was doing.
As the DM, I too wondered what the hell he was doing.
I then had the necromancer take a swig of the bottle.
“So… he drank it?” asked Manny.
I looked at him and said, “Yeah. Why?”
“Because I bought something… It’s called Love Philter. He’s going to fall madly in love with the first creature he sees-”
“STOP!” I said.
I rushed out of the dining room and to my computer to check the online database. From the dining room, my players counted down as I accessed the site and verified this wild claim.
“Five… four… three… two… one-”
“SON OF A WHORE!”
I stomped back and conceded that, yes, the necromancer would now fall in love with the first creature it saw, but there were six people around him, including Manny, the bard, and a smattering of ghouls and demons. I then had Manny roll to see which one would become the object of his affection… and Manny rolled the number for himself.
Fine… He wanted to play like that? He wanted to make the necromancer fall in love with him. The NECROMANCER.
As in, he “loves” the dead?
At this point, another player pulled out his phone and proceeded to play some background music.
The necromancer, being the sick bastard that he is, took what he figured was a ghoul and began leading it to the back of the bar for some… alone time.
“I… didn’t consider this,” he said as a horny necromancer guided his character.
All I could think of was this…
Manny thought quickly and managed to pantomime something to the effect of “I can’t do this with an audience.” The necromancer, eager for some cold lovin’, instructed the demons and other ghouls to wait outside. Meanwhile, the rest of the adventuring party is watching this comedy of errors through the window and wondering what to do about the monsters outside. Vittoria the bard took the hint and untied the two men, carefully leading them through the tavern while the necromancer disrobed of his armor and weapons.
Ever the sick puppy, Manny asked the necromancer, “Do you like violence?”
Also ever the sick puppy, the necromancer agreed. Manny whipped out a pair of manacles and tied the necromancer down, who at this point could hardly contain his enthusiasm.
Leaning in, many blasted the far wall and killed five ghouls before blasting the necromancer’s head into a fine red mist.
The rest of the session involved some more bloodshed and sleuth-work, but the point is that one of my players magically seduced a sadistic necrophiliac and managed to wipe out half his undead posse, thus giving the other players the chance to go after the demons.
Not sure if I should be proud or worried this plan worked.