Archive for the ‘essays’ Category

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Travesty & Mockery iBooks/Pulp 716 next Saturday!

November 4, 2016

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I figured it was time to join the ebook revolution.  While studies have shown that a lot of readers are switching back to print books, I personally prefer to read digitally.  It takes up less shelf space and the books are cheaper.  In addition to designing the layout and interior for the print copy of Travesty, Bill Dyson quietly worked on the ebook editions for both Travesty and it’s predecessor, Mockery.  You can find them both for $9.99 and $6.99 (respectively) right HERE:

Travesty

Mockery

And finally, I’ll be signing books next Saturday afternoon, November 12th at Pulp 716 in Lockport along with cover artist and pal Mark McElligott.  Due to old age and other obligations, I won’t be promoting Travesty as actively as I used to, so this may be your only chance to get a signed copy of it before spring.  I hope to see you there!

Sincerely,

Tom

 

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Travesty Now Available!

August 19, 2016

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I’m pleased to announce that Travesty, my 12th book, has been released!  After five years of writing it on and off (before and after Icarus On The Mend, my limited print run memoir), proofreading, polishing and then collaborating with Mark McElligott on the wraparound cover art as well as graphic designer Bill Dyson on the interior, fonts and book design, Travesty is live and ready for purchase.  You can buy the book direct from lulu.com HERE:

Travesty

There’s also a permanent Quick Link on this site’s ‘Link Section’ for return visitors.  For reasons having mostly to do with my work schedule, I will not be actively promoting the book until late October, so you can buy BEFORE the official launch on lulu. Amazon.com, B&N.com and other fine retailers in the mean time.

This book was a direct sequel to my 2011 humor collection Mockery, so if you enjoyed it, you can get more of what you loved here.  Every book evolves in some unpredictable way while I’m working on it, and this one went from my trademark psychotic rage-based rants into more of a throwback silliness that I had when I initially started writing in my teens.  It’s also the first collection that was laid out according to theme instead of a chronological table of contents.  Three essays were cut, the proofreading process was rigorous and the final edition underwent a font size expansion for those of us who don’t like to squint.  I’m very proud of it, and McElligott and Dyson both did a terrific job with the small suggestions and concepts I bounced off of them.

In addition, this is the first Doubt It Publishing title to be launched with it’s own ISBN number.  That may not mean much to you, but that’s a serious sea change in the way I’m doing business and the way the book is distributed.  At 40 years old with 12 books behind me, I’ve started making an effort to preserve what I have while planning for the future.  Travesty is not my final book, but I’m taking a break before I chart a new course.  I hope you enjoy it.  This won’t be the last time you hear about it.  Please help spread the word by Sharing the link on your social media, ‘Like’ the book on Facebook,  List the book if you’re a Goodreads member and by all means, tell all your friends!

Sincerely,

Tom

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Travesty Inbound!

July 20, 2016

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Hey all!

After five years of working on the book on and off, rigorous rewrites, edits and scrubbing for typos, #Travesty, my eleventh book of humor, is almost ready!  It clocks in at a respectable 204 pages and it’s going to retail at $19.99.  Above, you’ll see the gorgeous wraparound cover with art by Mark McElligott and fonts William Dyson II.  I’m really excited about this book.  I’ve put a lot of myself into this book.  I can’t wait to share it with all of you, but not yet.  It’ll be ready this fall from Doubt It Publishing!

Stay Tuned,

Tom

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Wardrobe Malfunction

May 2, 2016

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Author’s Note:  The good news is that the rough manuscript for my next book Travesty is finally complete.  The downside to is that I’m completely exhausted, so I didn’t write anything new this month.  As a result of that, I’m re-running this popular rant about my lack of fashion sense.  It originally ran on BuffaloComedy.com in early 2015.  Enjoy!-Tom 

I have never been mistaken for a peacock.

My fashion sense makes no sense whatsoever. Throughout my life I’ve been clueless as to what’s hip, what’s sensible or even what’s practical where my wardrobe is concerned. I got off to a very rough start. Early childhood photos feature our hero wearing hand-me-down plaid bellbottoms (long after they were trendy and before they made a comeback), soccer jerseys (which, if memory serves, I only played soccer for a week until a girl kicked me in the shins and I discovered a lifelong disgust for orange rinds) and a candid middle school church play photo where I’m wearing loud orange dress pants with a rayon/polyester flannel. All of these pictures have been destroyed so that no boy ever makes the same mistakes that I’ve made. In 40 years, my dress style has improved at more of a slight geological pace.

Our grammar school Phys Ed coach nicknamed me ‘Tommy Shoelaces’ because I could never be bothered to tie my shoes. There’s a rare First Communion photo with a light gray dress coat and elbow patches, for godsakes. In high school, I accidentally bought a woman’s trench coat from Burlington Coat Factory and wore it for months before somebody pointed it out to me. I didn’t wear jeans until I was about 26 because I thought it was a sign of conformity and now they’re almost all I’ll wear. They’re easy, comfortable and hold up in hardworking environments.

The story goes that Einstein had five identical suits because it saved him from wasting valuable problem-solving when it came time to pick out an ensemble every day. I have also never been mistaken for Einstein. Tim Burton always wears black because it’s an easier wardrobe choice. This hasn’t helped his directing choices as of late. Most men are inherently too lazy to bother figuring out what they want to wear every day. This is a running theme.

It was brought to my attention just this year that turtlenecks are not cool, that they’ve never been cool and that no man should be caught dead wearing them. I never received this alert when it originally aired. What’s wrong with turtlenecks? They worked for Steve Jobs! An entire generation of beatnicks ran with them and they did okay. All of a sudden some fifty years later they’re not ‘hep’ anymore? That’s the problem with fashion trends: they’re so fleeting. I can’t keep up even if I tried or paid attention.

On a sunny day a month ago I notice that a lot of men were wearing soft, almost effeminate pastel plaid short sleeve shirts. I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing one of those. It seems to me like there’s an upper echelon of pretty men who are on the crest of what’s in and what’s out and then there are the great majority of middle-aged men who just grab whatever passes for the new style that happens to come off the rack at Target or J.C. Penney’s. I literally just figured out in January that a ‘Moto’ leather jacket was short for ‘Motorcycle’, which explains why the cuffs are shorter. Perhaps someone pointed that out to me, too.

The women in my life are either very tolerant, love me anyway (with the exception of my ex-wife) or they’re content to make small, subtle suggestions as to what I should or could wear. Or they just assume that I’m stubborn, resistant to change and generally cantankerous. They’re right on all counts. The bulk of my closet (which could never be remotely misconstrued as resembling a wardrobe) consists of free videogame vendor t shirts from a prior job, bizarre impulse purchases from high school that I don’t even fit into anymore but tell myself I may fit into again some day, a few eclectic sweaters that would have made great stand-ins on ‘The Cosby Show’ and comic book themed shirts riddled with cigarette burns from my part time job at a comic shop that’s been closed for at least two years. So to summarize, if you took a cursory glance at my shirts and pants you’d assume that I’ve never gotten laid, will never get laid, and have no plans to get laid even by accident.

Some people want to stamp out world hunger and others aspire to a Pulitzer, but it’s my lifelong dream to have a tailored suit sculpted to my hairless and misproportionate gorilla-like-carriage that I can wear for all of the weddings and funerals that I don’t get invited to. A year and a half ago I stumbled onto a really comfortable $8 cotton shirt. I bought four of them in four different colors. There’s a cargo shorts drawer that’s more of a graveyard for shorts that are destroyed as well as jean shorts, which no one has ever deemed to be in season for any season that occurs on this planet. It would take me three or four incarnations just to be looked down upon by a metrosexual, and I guess I’m okay with that. It’s easier to accept that you have no clue how to dress than to try really hard and fail miserably. Are feather boas coming back around? That’s okay, I don’t have any yet anyway.

I can pull off capri pants, right?
Tom Waters

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Discourse Correction

April 4, 2016

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“When I have nothing to say my lips are sealed.

Say something once, why say it again?”

-The Talking Heads, ‘Psycho Killer’

Talk doesn’t have to be cheap. One of my bugaboos is meaningless small talk. I would rather wait out a long, uncomfortable silence than fill the void with inane chatter that accomplishes nothing and fails to further conversation. In my line of work, it’s referred to as an ‘ice breaker’, but during the rest of my waking life, I’d vastly prefer a dead vacuum of words instead of offering up nonsense.

It’s been said that you should never talk about politics, religion or the weather. I don’t remember if that was in reference to sales, getting your hair cut, foreplay or simply polite discussion between strangers, but nobody abides by that rule. People who talk about the weather make me fucking nuts. In Buffalo, debate and dissent regarding the weather is a living, breathing, malleable organism, and everyone has a talent for locking and passing along the most far-fetched, fantastical forecast. Given a range of light flurries or the next ice age, your average horse’s ass will throw out ‘Fred The Weather Clown is calling for a meteor the size of Brazil made of solid black ice followed by a flurry of dippable Dots.’ Out of a hundred predictions, average temperatures and year-over-year norms, it’s never a middle-of-the-road prediction. Maybe that says more about the dolts who drudge it up to perfect strangers, maybe not: ‘Team Hurricane 3000 claims an 84% chance of Armageddon preceded by lakes of fire and spotting in women aged 55 to 60.’ It must be Biblical fact then.

Sports fans make the rather large assumption that you also like talking about sportsing. I don’t. My friend Rich plays into this and seems to think he can reach a common ground with people and find out more about their thinking process by knowing about sports and talking with his friends about it. I’m not willing to go that far. I really don’t understand the return on investment sitting on my ass on the couch for entire Sundays yelling at the television. There is enough in my life to upset me without transferring my ambitions and personal happiness onto a corporately held entity parading as a franchise. What I really don’t get is people droning on about sportsing out in public while their sport of choice is currently in progress. If it was important to you, wouldn’t you be at home having a discussion with your television while it was airing?

And religion is a non-issue. Most sane people don’t engage, foster or bring up religion with strangers. Most of us are spiritual and not religious, whatever that means. A great many of us sacrifice live bait to our Aztec snake gods naked during a blood moon while coated in Hershey syrup in a very private and personal way, so we don’t feel the need to bring it up or indoctrinate others. The people who bring up religion as an ‘ice breaker’ are typically the people I run screaming from. I have nothing against religion since it’s never done anything grievous or humiliating to me, but I have no interest in discussing it with people outside of my role-playing, Safe-Word-uttering coven. The less said the better.

If anything, politics are offered up without any solicitation, urging or insistence, and the people who normally inject it into the atmosphere are also the people with the most militant, half-cooked, far left or far right of center viewpoints anyway. I’m surprised at the political non sequiturs I hear without any forewarning or lubricant. Things like “All my taxes go to Albany, thanks very much, Mr. Governor!” from the affluent upper-class doctor or “It’d be great to own a small business if it weren’t for Ralph Nader.” from the guy with 45 bumper stickers and a man bun. I try not to engage or encourage these kinds of people because their jumbled calls to arms can only invariably be followed by rampant bigotry, generalized silliness or unfounded carpetbaggery or skullduggery.

*Confession: I’ve wanted to include both the terms ‘carpetbaggery’ and ‘skullduggery’ into an essay and felt that this was my best shot. I hope that some day you will grow to accept and embrace my decision.*

Finally, there is what passes for what’s left of the Monday morning water cooler discussion. A great majority of us don’t have the indulgence of a water cooler at our place of business, haven’t personally seen a water cooler in 2.5 years, and have never had a discussion as a result of being in the vicinity of a water cooler. Now that we live in a hip, post-‘cut the cable’ revolution era where there are 7,000 different stations, streaming services, Viewmaster Exclusive one hour puppet passion plays and other programs, we’re at a loss for a universally shared experience.

If it’s a reality show or a talent competition, my emotional investment is -7 multiplied by zero fucks, carried by I Really Don’t Give A Shit. Whatever that adds up to, that’s where I stand on either program. I don’t need to know which industry darling won the finals at the Polynesian Breakdancing Awards or who took home the gold on ‘Bosnia’s Got Marginal Saucier Skills’. The point is that there are more shows than there are people now, so whatever you watched or downloaded or uploaded into your retinas last night that was exciting isn’t necessarily a show that anyone else on your continent tunes into.

I understand that it’s difficult to find common ground with complete strangers in everyday life, but I would rather be myself or dive right into the meat of a conversation than default to small talk because it’s easier. The weather doesn’t matter to me, I’m not hardwired for sports, religion is a landmine and a lot of people have horrible taste in television. I guess you could call me a real people pleaser.

Tom Waters

 

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Bat To The Future

March 21, 2016

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Author’s Note: With BuffaloComedy.com having gone the way of the dodo (where this piece originally appeared in January of 2015) and Batman Vs. Superman just 5 agonizing days away from its theatrical release (which I’m not laying any bets on until I see it), I  thought now might be a good time to revisit my reflections on the 75th Anniversary Year of the Dark Knight Detective.  This is an essay from the upcoming book Travesty.   

By the time you read this, the year-long celebration of the 75th anniversary of the first appearance of Batman in Detective Comics (in 1939, for those of you who don’t have a calculator nearby) will have come and gone. He’s a character who has endured the test of time, and you may know Detective Comics by their abbreviation: DC. I caught hell some years ago for defending the cultural importance of the impending theatrical release of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008). It was a week-long troll battle in a lesser publication and I hate to be the guy who said I told you so, but I was right, Buffalo. That film changed the superhero film forever and demolished most (if not all) box office records. I’m getting ahead of myself, though. What follows is a personal recollection/celebration of the mythos. Dates and citations have been left out, messed up or guessed at because the author is lazy.

I’ve been a Batman fan almost all of my life. As a child, I got into the comics around the same time that I caught the syndicated reruns for the high-camp television version with Adam West, three separate Catwomen and the famed ‘Bat-usi’. This led of course to Batman:The Movie, which we have to thank for the ‘Bat Shark Repellant Spray’ incident. The utility belt can only hold so much. The Caped Crusader has gone through a lot of incarnations over the decades he’s traveled through, which may be one of the secrets behind his staying power. While it was corny and cheesy (‘camp’ is an ironic form of comedy that borders on being an endangered species), the tv series hit home for at least a few seasons.

The ’80s was a great time to get into comics since the medium was growing up in terms of maturity and readership. Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns made such a gritty impact on the pulp multiverse that college courses are still taught dissecting its importance. The story zeroes in on Batman coming out of retirement in order to stomp out the threat of a mutant gang, subvert government opposition to superheroes and to square off with Superman. Miller followed this up with Batman: Year One, a mini-series that focused on the roots of billionaire Bruce Wayne’s lifelong war on crime.

Toward the end of the decade, comic icon Alan Moore applied his craft to The Killing Joke, a one-shot story where the reader is taken through a retelling of The Joker’s origin, Commissioner Gordon’s daughter is crippled by same, the Commissioner’s sanity is tried by The Joker and Batman’s is questioned at the close of the arc with a punchline and a recurring pattern of raindrops. The Joker postulates throughout the book that the difference between sanity and insanity is just one bad day. Batman tries to prove him wrong.

In the early ’90s, mainstay Grant Morrison took a turn with Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On Serious Earth. I re-read this book almost every year and always come away with something new in this layered psychological examination of the aberrant psyche. Batman infiltrates the asylum (which the inmates have taken control of spear-headed by the Joker) and tries to keep his head while everyone else’s is long gone. This is interspersed with the story of how Arkham Asylum came to be, which is quite haunting to say the least.

Meanwhile, in the single issues, there was the groundbreaking A Death In The Family, a story arc that was revolutionary because DC set up 1-800 lines so that readers could vote on the fate of Robin at the hands of (you guessed it) The Joker. For you younger readers, people used to have phones in their house attached to the walls that we called ‘Land Lines’. A 1-800 number was a ‘toll free’ number that residents could ‘dial’ on said Land Lines. Spoiler alert (not sure if it’s a spoiler alert twenty five years later): the readers killed off Robin. Luckily, nobody ever stays dead in comics for some reason, and that particular Boy Wonder (there have been around four) came back in Under The Red Hood.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Dante’s Double

March 1, 2016

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You could fill Lake Erie with the amount of hot sauce I’ve ingested.

Nothing would live, grow or thrive there, so basically, it would be the same lake. I’ve been eating chicken wings at least once a week since I was around 17. Technically, chicken fingers were my gateway poultry. My buddy Ron and I got together every week to play video games and we commemorated the event with chicken fingers. And hot sauce. When I got my first apartment, I got my first fryer. Shortly thereafter, I gained about 40 pounds. Studies show that those two events were interconnected somehow. With no self control and the understanding that I was too lazy to deal with the mess of making wings at home, a new tradition was born: wings once a week. This is the point where I could say ‘A hero is born.’ or ‘This is the stuff of legend.’, but my artistic license expired yesterday. It’s best in this situation to borrow from the poorly named 1980’s Fred Ward star vehicle Remo Williams and go with ‘The Adventure Begins’. Cinephile Note: The adventure began and ended with that horrible movie. Let’s get back to the wings…

There are a lot of things that Buffalonians lay claim to: losing at football, losing at hockey on a technicality, losing on ‘Best Places To Live’…you get the picture. Chicken wings really did originate in Buffalo though, at the famous Anchor Bar in the city. Chicken wings happen to be the one thing about Buffalo I embrace. In the rest of the country they travel under the nom de plume of ‘Party Wings’ (makes sense), ‘Hot Wings’ (I like to use that one because it drives my boss into a fit of rage) and yes, ‘Buffalo Wings’. Hot Tip: If they’re listed as ‘Buffalo Wings’ on a menu, you’re probably at a chain restaurant that doesn’t have the faintest idea how to make chicken wings and you’ll end up with a soggy, buttery embarrassment in a plastic basket. ‘Buttery Embarrassment’ also happens to be how I refer to the loss of my virginity. Chicken wings are deceptively simple in their execution. Cook until crispy, douse in hot sauce with a fire hose and mix with butter for those with indigestion.

Around here, the base hot sauce is Frank’s Red Hot. I was not paid for that endorsement, but would like to be. Most places use Frank’s. In the rest of the country I’ve seen diners that give you a 2 oz. shooter of Tabasco for 30 chicken wings (I’m not sure how that would even work), Sriracha (which I’ve never had but would like to try) along the southern border and a lot of sad kitchen-made pastes that were more ketchup than anything else. Spoiler Alert: Ketchup does not resemble hot sauce in any way, shape and especially not form. My palate is so accustomed to Frank’s Red Hot that I’ve gone off in search of other strains of sauce. As a hot sauce enthusiast, you build up a tolerance to heat over time. Useful Factoid: A unit of heat with peppers is measured in ‘Scovilles’, whichb were named after the inventor of the system.

Unlike the rest of my family, I have the constitution of a billy goat. My older brother gets an upset stomach after oatmeal and my younger brother chews on Tums like they’re Tic Tacs. I was not paid for either of those endorsements, but would begrudgingly accept payment in the form of check, money order or chicken wings. By the time I was 25 or so, I’d worked my way up from Medium wings (half butter, half hot sauce) to hot wings (all hot sauce) to more explosive options. Sauces that incorporated jalepeno peppers (they deliver that extra mule kick to your mouth at the end of every bite) habanero peppers (which add a very distinct flavor to the sauce while incinerating your insides) and eventually, ghost peppers. Ghost peppers are no joke. On the Scoville scale, ghost peppers reside somewhere in the vicinity of Dante’s final circle of hell, if that circle included screaming, crying and praying on the toilet all at the same time.

Many argue that the hotter wings that are available aren’t enjoyable. While there is a small subsection of guys who feel the need to prove their masculinity by devouring wings they normally can’t handle, often can’t handle during their demonstration, and definitely won’t handle ever again without a medical staff on standby, some of us have worked our way up to it. Crying is a factor. It’s more of a chemical reaction than an emotional catharsis. It also takes place if you happen to wipe your eyes with the same napkin you used to wipe your sauce-spotted hands with. Or if you don’t wash your hands and scratch your eye hours later. Don’t do this with ghost peppers. Ghost pepper sauces will make you their bitch. Plain and simple.

I hate to say it, but I may have reached an age where I have to start traveling down the heat index. My endurance with the hotter sauces may have reached its apex. For every cause there is an effect. That, and I can’t imagine carrying an IV of blue cheese around with a stainless steel diaper when I’m 50. It’s time to put on the brakes a bit. Blue cheese is for punks. It’s an easy way out of the heat that serves to mask or neutralize it. Milk neutralizes the pain, too. I prefer soda. My Buffalo brethren insist it is called pop. They’re wrong. That’s neither here nor there, though. I like a nice cold glass of Diet Dr. Pepper with my wings. I was not paid or coerced by the good people at the Diet Dr. Pepper bottling plant, but would feign refusal and quickly accept large monetary gifts in the form of gold doubloons or solid ingots stacked in a triangular fashion.

Nowadays, I order a double (20) of wings every Thursday because you get a price break per wing at 20 and I can always finish them off for an additional meal time. The additional meal time may take place before I get up from the table the first time. There’s a great debate between drums (drumsticks) or flats (the actual wings) with solid arguments for both. Drums are easy to eat in public and they tend to crisp up better if you prefer yours crispy. I’m a flats man. My dad was a flats man and his father before him. We’re flats people. Honestly though, I like flats because they’re more tender, they soak up more sauce, they taste better on the reheat and they don’t have as much gristle as the drums. Believe me, I’ve done the research.

By a stroke of luck (and the one good genetic card dealt to me), my severe height has cancelled out any blood pressure issues that might accompany someone who eats a double of wings every week. It’s right on par. If I were a superhero, that would be my super power: Slightly Average Blood Pressure. Villains everywhere would tremble at the sight of my triage. I’ve been training for this all my life. Now I just need an outfit that’s stain resistant to the corrosive concoctions I crave.

Fired up,
Tom Waters

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