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My 2013 Anti Resolutions January 1, 2013

Posted by Rob Diaz in Humorous, Unedited.
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I posted my anti-resolutions over on the new site. Check them out!

My 2013 Anti Resolutions

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The Iliad (in about a Page) September 13, 2012

Posted by Rob Diaz in Fiction, Humorous, One Page Classics, Unedited.
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I have ranted about my hatred of summer reading programs many times in the past, specifically zeroing in on how they focus solely on “The Classics”, a term which is defined as “The Stuff Most People Would Never Read If They Had a Choice.” A friend of mine recently lamented needing to write a one-page summary of “The Iliad” and how hard it was to condense everything down to just one page. It has been a long, long time since I read The Iliad but I decided to take a stab at it.  The following is what I came up with — it fits on one letter-sized Microsoft Word page (.5 inch margins on all sides). My daughter enjoyed it and thought I should share it with the world.  Since I live only to make her happy, I’ve posted this, the first in what looks like will be a series of approximately one-page summaries of The Classics (and other things).  Enjoy!

This one time, at Battle Camp, there were these beautiful maidens. The maidens, Chryseis and Briseis, had been captured from the town of Chryse by the Greek army because that’s what armies are meant to do when they finish sacking their enemies. Chryseis of Chryse, cried out to her daddy. Her dad, Chryses, was all too familiar with his daughter’s many crises, but she had him wrapped around her finger so he knew he had to help. Seeing as he was a two-faced priest of Apollo (the god, not the lunar mission) he kindly offered a huge ransom for his daughter’s safe return while also viciously praying for Apollo to destroy the Greek army. Apollo, being a compassionate god, complied and sent a terrible plague into the camp. When Agamemnon, a more important Greek army dude than I am, learned that the plague decimating his people was due to the beautiful maiden, he reluctantly agreed to send Chryseis back to her daddy. (more…)

No Fun! or, The Forgotten Tale of Harvey S. Whombaker June 30, 2012

Posted by Rob Diaz in Fiction, Humorous, Unedited.
3 comments

Author’s Note: 

Since my kids were first born, I’ve been telling them that one of our family’s primary rules is:  No Fun! The reason for this rule is simple:  Fun, invariably, leads to head injuries.  They are certainly allowed to have a pleasant, good experience. They are welcome to have an enjoyable time. In fact I encourage it. But they may not, under any circumstances, have fun

This has become somewhat of a running thing with my family and friends — neices and nephews know the rule and make sure to tell me what they think of it all the time.  Most recently my nephew, who is also my Godson, gave me a homemade card for Father’s Day which was entirely made up of attempts to prove, once and for all, that fun is acceptable. Well, for his fifteenth birthday this past week, I felt I needed to give him a heartfelt reply to his thoughtful Father’s Day gift.  Fifteen minutes before it was time to leave to go to his party, I came up with the idea.  And here it is in its pure, unedited form.

Eh? What’s that you say, Sonny?  You want to have fun?  Fun? Really, now…

You think fun is okay? You think fun is nothing particularly dangerous, just another run-of-the-mill three-letter-word that implies frolicking and laughs and giggles? Really? Well, my boy, you should consider rethinking your opinion about this evil, dangerous little word. Especially now that you are fifteen and are reaching an age where, soon enough, you’ll be telling stories about the good old days whilst lecturing youngsters about how things were when you were their age…

Now, recite for me the sad, sad tale of Harvey S. Whombaker.

What’s that you say? You don’t know who Harvey S. Whombaker was? Eh? Don’t you pay attention in school?

What? You do pay attention in school and they’ve never mentioned Harvey S. Whombaker? Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle… what are our tax dollars paying for if schools don’t talk about Harvey S. Whombaker and his tragic tale anymore. When I was your age, all we did was talk about Harvey S. Whombaker! Yes, it’s a terrible tale, but it’s a lesson everybody should learn by the time they reach their teens. I’ll bet they don’t talk about Harvey S. Whombaker anymore because someone decided that it was too much trauma to kids’ “delicate, fragile, little minds” to hear such tales of reality. I’ll bet someone in charge—probably the same person who decided that everyone who plays a sport deserves a trophy for “trying hard” when, back in my day, you only got a trophy for winning!— I bet that person said in their tiny, whiney voice: “Oh, no, we can’t talk about Harvey S. Whombaker anymore! It’s not a fun story and kids today need fun stories in order to keep them engaged and enthusiastic for school and life and playing their rock and roll and other children’s music on their wax cylinders and their EyePogs and their whosits and whatnots.”

Aww, look. I’m so upset about this, I just spilled my coffee!

Kids today need fun stories? Really? I’ll tell you what kids today need! They need a swift kick in the butt, that’s what they need! They don’t need trophies for finishing last! They need to be told, in no uncertain terms: “You lost! Get over it! If you want a trophy, WIN next time!” That’s what Harvey S. Whombaker would have said and that’s why it is so tragic that his tale is not being taught in our over-priced, underperforming schools.

But I digress….

Where was I?

Oh, Harvey S. Whombaker. Right. So, since you know not of the tale, nor of the origin of the National Organization Fighting Unlawful Nonsense (NOFUN), I will briefly describe the tale to you.

Harvey S. Whombaker was a mild-mannered 15 year old boy from the town of Squaresvillingtonton. He was a boy like any other—he enjoyed vegetables, rocks, trees, pulling weeds and mowing the lawns of his neighbors. And, really, what else is there for a teenaged boy to do or think about?

Well, one day, Harvey S. Whombaker was out in the field, working to cut down some invasive bindweeds that had taken root in Sally Fally’s broccoli garden in the valley. Sally Fally was the smartest, prettiest girl in all of Squaresvillingtonton and Harvey S. Whombaker was sweet on her. He didn’t realize it–though the rest of the town did–but she was kind of sweet on him, too. The fact that he didn’t realize this should not be a surprise, even to you kids of today, because, as I said, there were few things that could invade a boy’s mind when it was full of rocks (and trees and vegetables and mowing and bindweeds).

But on this fateful day, so long ago, Harvey S. Whombaker was in the field on a blazing hot afternoon, covered in dirt and mud, his arms and hands ripped apart by the bindweeds he was pulling. Some of the other boys from the neighborhood came out and they started playing fieldball (Since you don’t know the story of Harvey S. Whombaker, you certainly don’t know that fieldball is an ancient predecessor for today’s football, played with large boulders and, of course, beets.). They convinced Harvey to leave the bindweeds for later and join them.

Harvey turned out to be a natural at fieldball. He was tossing and catching the boulders, dodging and weaving past the whizzing beets, scoring goal after goal. After his thirteenth goal, he looked up and saw her – Sally Fally, standing there with the sun right behind her, making her beautiful hair shimmer and shine with a brightness he had never seen. She offered him a jug of fresh water from the well and he started walking toward her. Suddenly, a giant boulder, tossed by one of the other fieldball players who assumed Harvey was paying attention, came down from the sky – seemingly from out of nowhere – and hit Harvey square on the head.

And that, my friend, is when Harvey S. Whombaker discovered gravity.

What’s that you say?

Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity?

Yes, yes, I have heard that tale, too.  I wasn’t born yesterday after all. But, you see, Harvey S. Whombaker discovered gravity first – a full thirteen years before Sir Isaac Newton did. But nobody remembers Harvey or acknowledges his amazing accomplishment and I’ll tell you why: Harvey S. Whombaker was busy having fun for the first time in his 15 years on the planet when he discovered gravity. Sadly, the fun he was having led, as fun always does, to a head injury.

And thanks to the head injury, Harvey S. Whombaker could not remember his discovery of gravity.

So why do we remember Sir Isaac Newton? Well, I’ll tell you – he was sitting by a tree, his mind filled with pleasant, good, experiences with things such as calculus and physics, when an apple fell, seemingly out of nowhere and hit him on the head. He could have been severely injured, of course, for that was back in the day when an apple was a good, healthy product, not some expensive, disposable music thingamajig. But that’s not the point.  The point, my boy, is that since Sir Isaac Newton was not out frolicking and having fun, he sustained no injury. Instead, he picked up the apple, looked at it and said, “Groovy, man, that apple fell on my head as if it was acted upon by an unseen force. Clearly, that unseen force needed the tiny apple to come nearer to my head, which is much larger. Though I dare say that my head wanted to be near that apple as well for I can feel that it did! This unexpected and superbly enjoyable experience has taught me that an object must attract every other object in the universe with a force proportional to the product of their masses… and, also, inversely proportional to the distance between them. I shall call this unseen force ‘gravity’.”

Sir Isaac Newton wrote all of this down and the rest, as they say, is history.

I can see that you are sad about the tragic tale of Harvey S. Whombaker but let me finish with this thought. All was not lost for Harvey. He kept on working in the fields, toiling away at ripping out bindweeds in Sally Fally’s broccoli fields in the valley. Sally Fally, for her part, bringing him water when it was hot out. They shared many seasons of glorious, wonderful broccoli together, but Sally’s father would not allow her to marry Harvey because, as he said, “Any boy who would choose to have  fun over pulling out bindweeds, even just once, is not worthy of my daughter’s love.”

Harvey went on to found NOFUN in hopes that future generations would learn from his mistake. I hope you will learn from him and heed this advice:

Fun is not funny.

Learn this, and remember Harvey. Before it is too late.

Not Amused by My Muse January 10, 2012

Posted by Rob Diaz in Biographical, Real Life, Unedited.
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I want to take my muse out back and shoot the freaking beast.

Wait, wait… Let me take a step back and explain my frustration.

I have paper and pens with me nearly all the time. Why is it that the best ideas I get come at the few times where I either don’t have the paper and pen or when it is just not feasible for me to write anything down? It doesn’t matter what the idea might be. Whether it’s a song or a poem or a story or a limerick, the ideas come when I simply cannot do anything about them.

It has always been this way. When I was younger and writing a lot of the time—in other words, before I got a real job—my muse was always around, playfully throwing things my way at the most inopportune times: while standing at attention in the middle of a football field awaiting the start of a marching band competition, on stage during commencement speeches, during final exams, while writing down a customer’s order when I worked at the restaurant, during my driving test or while being put under sedation for surgery (for example). When I stopped being so receptive (due to the aforementioned “real job”), my muse turned to giving me the silent treatment much of the time and largely that has continued even now that I’m trying to write regularly again. I sit down with a blank page and wait for the wonderful flow of words to begin, but my muse remains silent and hidden. I’ve begged, pleaded, offered to buy it fancy, expensive coffees… but the only response I get is a huff and a sigh and an angry comment:

Oh, you want me to be available on your schedule? Well, that’s just not how I work, buddy!

But recently things have changed a little. I’ve once again started to hear the voices. No, not THOSE voices. THOSE voices have always been there, haunting me, taunting me, telling me to… well, ahem… I digress.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Recently my muse has begun speaking to me again. Once again, though, it is proving to be sadistic and mean. The ideas that come arrive in the middle of the priest’s homily, during my speeches and presentations at trade shows (again, for that silly “real job”) or while driving down the highway. Today there was the idea for the Great American Novel, which appeared to me in a vision while I stood in the middle of the shower at the YMCA surrounded by other men in various states of attire or cleanliness. (Shudder.) Yes, thanks, oh malicious muse. That was convenient. Of course, the idea disappeared by the time I was dressed and near a pen and paper, perhaps chased away by the brightness of the white, shiny pages, perhaps taken away by a spiteful and bitter muse.

At times I’ve been angry about the way this has worked and at other times I’m more at ease with it. At the end of the day, do I want writing to be “easy”?  Or do I want it to be work?  I kind of want it to be both, actually—good ideas that, with solid work, become great.  Looking back, the stories that have worked the best for me were the ones where I remembered the vague whispers that came my way during trips to the DMV or dentist appointments. If the idea has “stuck”, lingering in the back of my mind and remaining memorable for however long it takes me to get to the business of writing it down, that is an idea worth exploring further.  The other ideas, trudged from my own beleaguered, sieve-like brain, usually just lay splattered across the page lurking and glaring menacingly at me, snickering and howling with glee at my terrified glances.

So now I sit here, with time to write, a desire to write and the means to write. A few ideas have come to me in the form of a few tiny little nuggets… but nothing real clear has formed. When I ask my muse how to make these little gems work, the response from the evil beast is:

Hey, I’m just the idea guy. It’s up to you to make the 600 magical, talking, radioactive zebras and the 5000 hungry, lactose-intolerant lions play together nicely as they try to save the world from within a 500 square foot cage made of piano wire and duct tape.

This is followed by a few moments of diabolical laughter and then my friendly neighborhood muse is gone, waiting for the right moment to pounce on my unsuspecting psyche, most likely the next time I’m sitting in the little room at LabCorp for a blood test or when I’m called for Jury Duty.

Yeah, that sounds like as good a time as any.

Hidden April 1, 2011

Posted by Rob Diaz in Sci-fi/Fantasy, Short Stories, Unedited.
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(A note about ‘Hidden’) 

I initially posted a draft of this story several years ago. I wasn’t a big fan of it, so I reworked it significantly and re-published it today. I hope you enjoy it.

“This is the perfect hiding spot, isn’t it?”

The teenage boy hiding behind the big oak tree along the edge of the park nearly jumped out of his skin as the man’s voice broke the silence of the wooded ravine. “Shhh!” he hissed as he peeked around the tree to try to see if any of the other kids who were playing Hide and Seek had heard the noise. “You’ll give me away!”

“I wouldn’t want to do that,” the man whispered, joining the boy in peeking around the tree.

The boy looked at the man suspiciously for a moment before setting his focus back to the open field of the park on the other side of the big tree. “I’m going to win this time. Jimmy Falloner always wins these games, but this time will be different. This time I won’t be the first one they find.”

(more…)

Mercury Marshmallow Men February 17, 2011

Posted by Rob Diaz in Short Stories, Unedited.
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by Nick Diaz and Rob Diaz

(A note about ‘Mercury Marshmallow Men’) 

My son has been struggling in school with writing.  He has been putting together extremely brief answers to essay questions and largely not enough details about anything.  The other day, he got a ‘D’ on a story he had to write. This was because he was supposed to write a complete story and he, instead, wrote three or four sentences.  His ideas were very good, he simply didn’t explain them or explain what happened before or around the ideas.  He acknowledged that he really didn’t do the work but he didn’t know how to expand the simple ideas.  So, I decided to try to help him learn how to build a larger story, essay or answer from a brief idea. We sat down and took the last email I received, which was an update on NASA’s MESSENGER probe.  I said, “So, MESSENGER gets to Mercury and finds flashing lights.”  We built up the concept of the story from there over a 10 minute conversation in which we asked “okay, why?” and “Okay, what did it smell like?” a lot.  Then, based on our brief notes, we started writing.  This story is the result of our efforts.  We both worked on this and in spots it is probably clear who was leading the effort.  But ultimately this was collaborative.  And, it was a lot of fun. We’ll probably do it again.

It had been only thirteen days since NASA’s MESSENGER spaceship first went into orbit around Mercury on March 17, 2011. Scientists on Earth were studying the data being sent back from Mercury when they noticed that the spaceship had recorded several bright flashes of light on the dark side of the planet. Over the next few weeks, the scientists directed the spaceship to spend more and more time focusing its cameras on the crater where the light was coming from. They used the spaceship’s cameras to zoom in and take close up pictures. They were surprised – shocked, actually—at what they saw. (more…)

The Supreme Ruler of the Universe: An Autobiography Written Especially for the People of Earth December 28, 2010

Posted by Rob Diaz in General Fiction, Humorous, Short Stories, Unedited.
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Some people say that I’m pretty special.

I just laugh. Me? I’m nothing! I’m just like any other guy of superior intelligence, better than average looks and awe‑inspiring charm, imagination and athletic ability.

Really.

Yet, there are still some people who insist on calling me “special.”

I hear you and I know what you are asking.

You’re asking, “What is the reason for all this hype over a seemingly average Joe?”

You’re thinking there must be something about me that causes everyone to stare at me with that glazy look in their eyes, some reason why people step aside out of respect whenever they see me enter their vicinity. “What could it possibly be?” you wonder.

(more…)

The Truth of the Matter July 10, 2010

Posted by Rob Diaz in Fiction Friday, Sci-fi/Fantasy, Short Stories, Unedited.
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 (written for the [Fiction] Friday prompt on July 9, 2010: “In her right hand a woman holds a loaded gun, in her left, a coin that just came up ‘tails’”.)

There wasn’t much more to say, so I stayed quiet.

The officer looked at me icily, contempt and scorn the only things to be seen through the angry look frozen on her face, a look that grew angrier with each passing moment of silence. Yet still I stood there, mutely ignoring her scowls as best as I could while holding the hot blowtorch in my hand. In the distance I could hear the fire engines coming nearer, their sirens echoing hauntingly off the cold stone buildings and the low cloud cover.

Eyewitnesses, reliable as they might or might not be in a case like this, had called the police to report a set of car fires and a man holding a blowtorch wandering up and down the street shouting gibberish. That blowtorch-wielding man was, of course, me, since I clearly had the torch in my hand and just as clearly had been wandering up and down the street, shouting. I knew they were calling at the time but I did nothing about it – their calls were the least of my concerns. (more…)

Of the People August 29, 2009

Posted by Rob Diaz in Fiction Friday, Sci-fi/Fantasy, Short Stories, Unedited.
4 comments

(written for the [Fiction] Friday >prompt on August 28, 2009: “A new Government research and development facility is built on a decomissioned prison site”.)

“Hey! Watch where you’re putting that picket sign, buddy. Some of us like our faces the way they are!”

James Madsen cursed under his breath as he walked down the sidewalk past the old Albercrombie Maximum Security Prison. It was no longer a prison, of course, having been closed for thirteen years now. In fact, the government had just reopened it as a brand new, state of the art research and development facility. Dubbed the CRAP Institute by the media, the Center for Realizing America’s Potential had been opened with much fanfare, including a visit from the President himself. After an interminable number of speeches which included the obligatory self-congratulatory statements of the co-sponsors of the Formation, Accumulation and Revitalization of the Country’s Ego Act (the FARCE Act), the Institute’s official purpose was announced: to find that which makes us human and enhance the bonds between the people of the country.

(more…)

Music in the Air July 18, 2009

Posted by Rob Diaz in Fiction Friday, General Fiction, Short Stories, Unedited.
6 comments

(written for the [Fiction] Friday >prompt on July  17, 2009: “Your character stops on the way home from work and buys an unusual musical instrument — why today?”.)

Jenny hummed quietly as she sat on the bus and looked out the window as it rumbled its way down the busy street. The rain had passed earlier and the dampness on the street was disappearing thanks to the bits of sunlight streaming through the rapidly waning cloud cover and the cars that were speeding on top of it.  She looked around at her fellow passengers on the bus, wondering how many of them were staying on the bus for the long ride to its eventual Atlantic City destination and how many, like her, were just making their regularly scheduled trip from work back to their homes or, in her case, back to her father’s home for her weekly dinner with him.  Another ten stops and then she would be off of the bus with a five minute walk to his house ahead of her. 

(more…)

Freefall June 19, 2009

Posted by Rob Diaz in Fiction Friday, Sci-fi/Fantasy, Short Stories, Unedited.
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(written for the [Fiction] Friday prompt on June 19, 2009, which was “(your character) closed his/her eyes, took a deep breath and jumped”.)

There was chaos.

It had started with an explosion – a loud, fiery explosion – that had violently rocked the floors and the walls, knocking items off of shelves and people from their chairs and off their feet before plunging everything into a dark, terrifying silence.  The emergency power took a few moments to recover from being jarred suddenly into life when the main power went out and in the brief time between the main lights going dark and the sparsely distributed emergency backup spotlights beginning to cast long shadows across the floors, people went through all of the emotions ranging from surprise to concern to fear to terror, before their many years of training took over. 

(more…)

The Unauthorized Biography of the Tooth Fairy April 10, 2009

Posted by Rob Diaz in Fiction Friday, Humorous, Sci-fi/Fantasy, Short Stories, Unedited.
6 comments

(written for the [Fiction] Friday prompt on April 10, 2009, which was “A dentist is stabbed while he waits in line at the movies”.)

Dr. Richard P. Hanning, III stood in line outside of his favorite MovieMax Theater on the dreary gray autumn day, watching as the crowd continued to swell in anticipation of the opening of the ticket window. Only thirteen minutes until opening, he thought, excitedly. He had been waiting for three years for this movie to come out and it was clear that he was not alone in his excitement. The crowd was growing more quickly now as the opening time approached, but the real hardcore fans had gotten to the theater’s parking lot several hours early with Richard arriving at 3:30 AM and finding that he was already the fiftieth person in line. But now, thirteen minutes ahead of the special 11:00 AM opening, the crowd had grown to nearly two thousand people waiting to see the movie on one of the twenty-four screens in the theater that were dedicated to showing it. (more…)

Soul Searching March 21, 2009

Posted by Rob Diaz in Fiction Friday, Sci-fi/Fantasy, Short Stories, Unedited.
1 comment so far

(written for the [Fiction] Friday prompt on March 20, 2009.)

It had been a dark and stormy night.  The rain had finally stopped but the wind still blew coldly against his face on the dark road as he stood there, staring at the opened hood of his car, the only light being the thin beam of his flashlight combined with the periodic flash of the car’s hazard lights.  Occasionally there would be a brief glow from the full moon as it peaked through the thinning cloud cover only to be blanketed again as the winds pushed the clouds around like a bully.  He had tried to call for help but his cell phone was out of battery and he had left the car charger at home after taking it out of the car for some reason that escaped him at this moment.  It had been an hour since the last car had gone by, speeding past him and his blinking car as if they weren’t even there. 

(more…)