Willie Humanseed: Cultivating greatness one choo-choo train ride at a time.

“All aboard!”

A Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story

Monday, April 24, 2017

“Oh, I do love to see a man in a collared shirt!” I said that to The GoBot as the brood of youngsters and their grandma was still approaching me at the choo-choo train kiosk at the Arrowhead Mall.

He was five years old, short but proud. And the shirt was just a striped, knit polo – but still. “It used to be a man had to work at things, but today that collar makes you one of the ten best-dressed men at the mall.”

That’s so, alas, but so is everything else – alas. Here’s better news, instead: There are super-heroes down at the mall – sturdy oaks who might look too much like slender saplings to you, for now.

By then they had arrayed themselves neatly in front of the kiosk, stately Granny and four sweet super-heroes – all led by The GoBot, of course, who was not the biggest but who was easily the busiest.

The little dude had swagger, from his big grin to his squirm-swathed short-cropped hair. He was front and center at the kiosk, ready to make the deal for everyone – everything but the money, that is.

I nodded to him – rank has its privileges – before saying to Granny, “So, who’s riding?”

Sales monsters will note that I opened with a brutal closing question. That’s the luxury I have when the Brand Specifiers – kids like The GoBot and his mannerly siblings – come to me pre-sold. The Decision Maker – that would be Granny – is the money, which is why I put the question to her. But they would not have come so close if the money were not mine to lose.

Granny already had her cash out, anyway. To the kids she said, “You’re riding the train by yourselves. Those little cars are no good for my bones.”

I smiled at that. “I promise years of memories, but I can guarantee three days.” As I said that I leaned forward and pushed at the imagined pain in my back and Granny chuckled.

Shooting a glance to (more…)

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#MyKindOfBenedy: Notes on a reconciliation with satire.

Just when you thought nothing could be more enduringly funny than the shopping mall choo-choo train itself…

1. As always, comedy is a misleading term, since you can make fun of people either as farce or as satire.

2. That comes down to love versus hate. If you love the people you’re having fun with, you’re making a farce. If you hate them – if you are flogging them in public – your opus is a satire.

3. Every farce will be a benedy in my formulation: The story arc will move from worse to better. Every satire will be a maledy – a tragedy of just desserts.

4. Going back five years, to Man Alive, I’ve done my best to reject satire, as a secondary consequence of rejecting all maledy. I am interested only in benedy in art, both in the art I make and the art I consume.

5. Even so, I love the story-stuff of satire much more than I do that of farce, as is easy enough to see in even the latter-day, kinder-gentler Willie stories.

6. The third act of any random maledy is the first act of a potentially-splendid benedy.

7. All of which comes back to love versus hate: I want a farce that feels like satire and yet pays off in full as benedy.

8. “Here’s what’s wrong,” is an essay, not a story. The story is here: “How I got things right.”

9. Accordingly, my reconciliation with satire starts here: If I’m not willing to dig deeply enough to love the people I’m writing about, I haven’t gotten to the story yet, anyway.

I have two Willie stories I’m playing with, two Traindancing stories. Willie is abducted by wannabe Jihadis, perhaps at Easter. And Willie is put on trial for the subversion of youth. I’m thinking there’s a third gauntlet in there, but I don’t know it yet, if there is.

Here’s what’s fun: The train. The train makes it easy to show what’s lovable about anyone – what is worth loving in each one of us. I like that story, too: Loki does benedy – with an affectionate (more…)

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Discovering #MyKindOfBenedy: Who do you have to kill to find a good villain around here?

If This Picture Doesn\'t Get Into Explore, The Panda Gets It!
Everyone knows how to motivate a villain. You have him rub his hands together with an evil relish and snarl, “Nyar har har har!”Kaptain Kobold / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

I wrote this on April 11, 2012, three days after I had published Man Alive. I had no idea at the time how much more fecund that book was going to make my own intellectual life. I thought I was documenting what I had discovered. Instead, I ended up discovering so much more to document. The posts I have written about art are one example of that, but the underlying changes in my own ideas about art are more significant to me. Nota bene: The improvement in own’s own thinking over time is benedy-in-real-life. But Brother Willie and I have had a hard way to go, since I no longer want to write satire. That joke is on me, even so. Willie is an impossible satiric contradiction, an intentional Butters: He is morally-neutral not by accident of idiocy but by explicit intent. You see Willie discovering #MyKindOfBenedy over the years when he says, “But everybody’s gotta take a side.” I have notions about redeeming satiric forms with benedic endings, but those ideas are still percolating. Meanwhile, behold the Splendor of Willie. –GSS

I worked on the ideas that became Man Alive for more than thirty years, since I was nineteen years old. And the problem I started with was more practical than philosophical: I was a young wannabe novelist, and I could not for the life of me figure out how to motivate a villain.

That might sound silly to you. Everyone knows how to motivate a villain. You have him rub his hands together with an evil relish and snarl, “Nyar har har har!” You’ve seen it in the movies a million times. Does he need some back-story? His parents were rich but neglecting and the butler buggered him in the basement. What could be simpler?

Reality, as it turns out. I was living in New York City at that time, going to school full-time and running the (more…)

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Five years of Man Alive summarized in four words: Look where you’re going!

Moral philosophy in one algorithm.

Church yesterday: Man Alive, my survival manual for the human mind, is five years old – and it is every day a better map to reality:

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Cinema-of-the-mind: Sheesh! A romantic benedy in three acts.

Love conquers all? Surely there are limits…

For my friend Brian Brady, a movie that won’t be made, a flavor of satire informed by pathos:

Sheesh! A romantic benedy in three acts.

Gordon Gecko Goldblum – so named by his parents, who wanted to encourage his mercenary nature, but called ‘Geege’ by them and by everyone since childhood – adopts the name ‘Sheesh!’ when he becomes a transsexual as a mid-life career move.

Mercenary enough for you?

He chooses Sheesh! – with the exclamation point – for a number of reasons. First, if he can make his employers buy some of his crazy, he can make them buy it all. Moreover, that exclamation point simply begs for spin, each instance of which is evidence of a hostile work environment.

Sheesh! knows that if present trends hold, girls who pee standing up are the women of the future, and… heesh…? is proud to effect change from within the commercial real estate market. Heesh enjoys being a girl without a nasty open wound in his lap, and heesh struck a blow for all differently-equipped women when heesh forced the replacement of one of the stalls in the ladies room with two urinals.

Not content simply to tickle the ironies of sexual politics, Sheesh! converted to Islam. (“Like this is so hard. If you can say, ‘I surrender,’ you’re in.”) Now heesh wears elaborate headgear over the elaborate wigs heesh wears over hish balding pate – that and a tee shirt reading: ‘Hijab Hair, Don’t Care!’

Mercenary enough for you?

Maybe not. Is a lonely, angry, vengeful pretend woman so much more pathetic than the lonely, angry, frustrated man he was before? Every monster is a man, after all, and that man is ever too much your brother.

So consider his new financial adviser, young, fresh-faced and very much boner-bait to a woman with a boner.

That’s ‘Tootsie’ – with my own twists – but the story is here: What does she do, in the third act, when she has heard his Big Rationale speech?

Love conquers all? Surely there are limits…

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Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie in one lesson: Thugs all the way down…

“No,” said Morczyk. “This will fix him better. Make him stay in the game. But take away his gun.”

Photo by: Justin Baeder

A Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story

January 8, 1997

When I walked in, Murcheson from 4-B was holding a gun to the head of old Mr. Fournetelle, the landlord.

Then Murphy the ward heeler came in. He put his gun to Murcheson’s head.

Then Skiffington from the Chronicle strode in, suitably armed. He pointed his gun at Murphy.

Skiffington was followed by Morczyk, the spy. The reporter trembled visibly when Morczyk pressed the machine pistol to his temple.

But the spy was himself shaken by Morrison, the blackmailer. The gun was puny enough, by comparison to others in view. But it was enough to make Morczyk’s forehead bead with sweat.

When Bramley the mugger came in, I almost laughed out loud: Actions do have consequences…

“Hey!” said sweet old Mr. Fournetelle. “For what are we doing all this?” He broke away from Murcheson and shuffled to his roll-top desk. From a drawer he pulled his own revolver. “Let me save us all a lot of trouble.” He put the barrel in his mouth.

Skiffington looked embarrassed. He rubbed his eyebrows, then said, “Uh… Maybe you didn’t understand…”

Morrison snorted. “I told you he was too old to play this game!”

“Yeah, sure,” said Bramley. “But what do we do about him now…?”

“Shoot him!” Murcheson seethed.

“Naw,” Murphy sneered. “Just throw him out of the game. That’ll fix him!”

“No,” said Morczyk. “This will fix him better. Make him stay in the game. But take away his gun.”

Poor old Mr. Fournetelle shrugged in humility. He handed his gun to Murcheson and resumed the position…

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What’s wrong with @realDonaldTrump’s domestic agenda? It’s the #Marxism, stupid!

Donald Trump and the Seven Genocidal Evils of Marxism in 3.5 minutes flat:

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