Moved to a Very Fitting Spot

May 15, 2014 at 3:34 pm (Uncategorized)

Greetings.

I will no longer be updating this blog, but (and this is important, so pay attention!), I will be making guest appearances over at the Classically Educated Blog, which is just as pretentious, and, better still, actually gets updated a couple of times a week.

Cheers!

H

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Guest blogging – Spreading the Undead Word!

December 16, 2013 at 7:30 pm (Uncategorized)

Guest blogging – Spreading the Undead Word!

I’ve been invited to guest blog at Daverana.com, just to prove there’s no need to spend the holidays cowering under a bed somewhere!

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Grilling an Editor: Elaine Daniels

November 4, 2013 at 2:35 pm (Uncategorized)

Greetings, undead readers!

As most of the undead know, once we get on a roll, we are difficult to stop.  In this case, I’ve gotten into the groove of doing interviews, and it’s possible that I may be getting carried away (in this way, it’s similar to the taste for human flesh: while one dreads the old pitchfork-and-torches routine, it’s just so tasty!).  Anyhow, I managed to line up an excellent interview with Elaine Daniels, Editor-in-chief of Daverana Enterprises.  I think all aspiring undead authors need to read this in order to lear the dos-and-don’ts of the industry.

Enjoy!

 

USS:  My grapevine (which, to be honest, consists of a single self-absorbed zombie fox) tells me you are the Editor-in-chief at Daverana Enterprises, an imprint dedicated to everything fantasy-related – from humorous to erotic.  My undead readers would like to know what kind of serious mental disorder allows you to judge such a wide range effectively (my readers enjoy mental disorders – it reminds them of when they were alive)?

ED: It’s not so much a serious mental disorder, than the voices guiding me. Although I refuse to step into the light, I believe they have my best interests at heart so I take all their opinions on board. Plus, it’s always a good sign when we all agree that we love to read literature that is refreshing, unique and leaves us wanting more.

 

USS: How would you, as an editor, react to a manuscript which arrives with a detached finger in it?  Many of my zombie readers are aspiring authors, and seem to feel that this is actually an essential element of style as defined by Strunk and Greyish-Green (he didn’t stay White after he died).

ED: If the finger is marinated then it is gratefully appreciated because the sender has taken some thought and care in its preparation. If it isn’t, then it goes in the pile for the minions to munch later in the day if I forget to feed them. Fresh is best, so the quicker I get it, the more chance a manuscript will be devoured. However I am partial to a bit of rigor mortis, but only on special occasions.

 

USS: As an editor, you have to match books and audiences.  Which book or books from Daverana’s current or future catalogue would you recommend to the undead, and why?

ED: Ooooh that’s a good question – but there are so many to choose from! Undoubtedly any of Janrae Frank’s books that feature Hoon, like the Journey of the Sacred King quadrilogy, because he truly epitomizes undead evil. Then there’s Three Little Snowmen by Tim Willard because it depicts how to scare the heejeebies out of humans and the pitfalls if you’re not smart or quick enough, from a non-human point of view. For the newly undead, I’d recommend taking a gander at Dark Corners by Theresa Ann Curnow because it shows how easily humans can degenerate into madness, thus making them easy prey. Another one, or two, I’d strongly recommend is Sojourners in Shadow by Steven Beeho, part one is out now and part two is soon to be released, because it shows how weak humans are in an ever-changing post-apocalyptic landscape, against machines and mutants as well as science and magic – ideal for the recently deceased looking to get one-up on their living counter-parts.

 

USS: Have you, personally, ever discriminated against ghouls, wights or other members of the differently alive?

ED: No, because the ones I talk to are making my descent into madness seem less daunting. Besides, I value their friendships.

 

USS: Do you believe in equal opportunity wages for mummies?  Some people believe that they shouldn’t be allowed to work in places with sparks, which is clearly fragrant nonflammable-ism.  What is your take?

ED: Most definitely! If they do the time, then they should be paid and have adequate insurance to cover damaged body parts. In this day and age, they should also have a protective uniform. If they don’t, I’d urge them to find a reputable employer. Remember: mummies are for life, not just until they unravel or combust.

 

USS: If you were announced as the main course at a werewolf soiree, what kind of sauce would you prefer to be served in?

ED: Ideally, green chillis, coriander, garlic and ginger – all fresh, of course. But I’d be grateful for anything that makes my hide tender as it is incredibly rough – I may need a pounding to become tenderized otherwise. 

 

Tasty indeed – just the thing for a nice, old-style garden party appetizer!

Unitl we meet again!

H

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Janrae Frank Interview and Pre-Cooking Assessment

October 8, 2013 at 2:48 pm (Literature)

Greetings and salutations,

In continuance of my recent proclivity towards trying to establish myself as a legitimate member of the press (in the evergreen hopes that someone will eventually accede to holding the interview at my Park Avenue apartment instead of insisting on email communiqués), this week’s entry brings us well-known fantasy author Janrae Frank, who sold her first published story to an antho that won the World Fantasy Award, and who has been going strong ever since.  As she has a strong proclivity towards the darker side of the genre, she seemed like someone my undead readers would enjoy getting to know better.

USS: We have heard that you are a prolific fantasy author.  Tell us a little about your latest book, especially focusing on why they are undead-friendly.  Is there any reason that, say, a werewolf on a beach should pick up your book?

JF: Vampires are among my greatest fans. They love reading about Lord Hoon and the Princess Silkanna de Waejonan. Werewolves, however, have been organizing protests to get my books banned on the grounds that wolfweres have no right to be called Lycans.

USS: Do you think you would function better as an appetizer, a main course, or a desert?  And what kind of undead would most appreciate your flavor?

JF: With the current mood among werewolves, they would definitely love to have me as a main course.

USS: Have you ever knowingly participated in an exorcism or any other crime against the differently alive?

JF: I cannot tell a lie. I used an entire box of wooden matches to give unsupecting werewolves a hot foot.

USS: What is your position on the current controversy between ghouls and vampires about whether humans taste better alive or dead?

(NOTE:  I find it deeply significant that the interviewee has declined to answer this question)

USS: There was a recent article in National Geographic telling how hay is the motor of the Transylvanian economy.  The piece studiously avoided any mention whatsoever to vampires.  It cost me quite a lot to get that published: do you think anyone bought it?

JF:  John Q Public has become very suspicious of late and it was a hard sell.

(NOTE: Drat!)

USS: We understand that you have your own publishing house.  Is it an equal opportunity employer?  Do the mummies who format your ebooks get sufficient time off to terrorize passers-by?

JF:  I am very good to my mummies. I always give them time off to squeeze the customers at our author book signings.

That sounds like the type of press that the undead should be supporting.  We encourage our visitors to drop by at daverana.com, and browse Janrae’s books!

Until we meet again (preferably in a dark alley somewhere), yours sincerely,

H

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Skewering Mr. Beeho

July 23, 2013 at 3:06 pm (Uncategorized)

Greetings and salutations dear readers,

 

Following up on our recent interest in speculative writing (and sadly still unable to convince the writers to some to my apartment in person, unaccompanied and daubed in BBQ sauce), we have an interview with Steven Beeho, the critically acclaimed author of Sojourners in Shadow, who has agreed to answer a few questions about the book and his life.  

 I have used my stock questions, in order to see how his responses compare to other writers, and how his attitude to the differently alive look when seen in context.

Anyhow, I will pass into the background for now, and leave you with the author:

 

USS: The Undead community is having real trouble getting zombies and ghouls to read.  Why would your book get them to read – and more importantly, keep them reading?

My book tells of a world where things have gone very wrong and humanity is struggling to survive. Just the sort of thing the Undead would enjoy. They might find it a bit too comical in parts due to the high mortality rate, yet I’m sure they could find heroes in the monsters I have created.

USS:  Would you, personally, be opposed to the return of feudalism and serfdom?  What kind of lord do you think would be better: a vampire in a forbidding castle or some huge bearded guy who turns into an animal of some sort when wolfsbane blooms?

I would welcome feudalism as long as I was a lord and not a serf. The life of a serf has never had great appeal to me. All that hard work for nothing, seems so pointless in a way. As for the choice of lord, I would have to go with vampire. Beards are so unseemly on nobility. Makes them appear lazy and unkempt.

USS: If you found yourself stranded on a mountaintop with the other survivors of a plane crash with six Americans, four people from France, a girl from Vanautu and a small choir, who would you eat first?  What kind of sauce would you try to make to go with the meat?

I think I might have to start with one American simply so I can spread them out. The idea alone of eating six in one sitting makes me feel bloated. My arteries could never handle so much fast food so quickly. The sauce for them would have to be strong too. Mint sauce has always been a favourite of mine.

USS:  When was the last time you attended a party in which human flesh was consumed?  More importantly, who else was there?

I could never reveal such information, but I will say the host was delicious.

USS:  Please give an example of the last time you did something which would get you immediately excommunicated – please remember that many of my readers are Vampires, so please give details.

I don’t think I have ever gone that far. I mean, yes, I did once knock the Pope’s hat off his head with a pink pebble, but he seemed to take it in good spirits. He’s pretty easy going after a few drinks.

USS:  It’s been suggested that Robert Ludlum is ghost writing his own books now that he’s dead.  What advice would you give to recently undead writers?

Don’t use it as a crutch. Yes, you have died, but others have done so and gone on to great things. Quite frankly, we’re all a bit bored of the ‘look at me, I died but I’m still writing’ schtick. Give us something new. Show us what else you have done and, more importantly, write better than when you were alive. I do think it might help to pretend to be fully dead for a while to raise sales on the books that were published while you were alive, then show up. But I understand the temptation to attend your own funeral.

USS: Please give us an example of how you have improved mortal-undead relations personally.

This interview is my one and only attempt at such a thing. I haven’t had much to do with the undead before, especially vampires. They have proven a tough market to crack so my agent pushed me to take this chance. I hope I can entice them to become fans of mine. I will draw the line at pandering to an audience, however. Vampires most of all.  I respect them too much. That and the last writer who pandered to them ended up in a stew, or so I heard.

USS: Have you ever written a story that portrays a Mummy in a negative light?  Do you, personally, have an anti-mummy bias in your work?

The accusation that I hate Mummies has followed me for a while. I would like to make it very clear that I have never said or done anything to cast them in a negative light. Admittedly, I find them ludicrous and slow and ineffective, but I feel that is simply stating the facts. If they can’t handle that, maybe they are the ones with the attitude problem. Personally, I suspect they’re all like that. Pyramids aren’t impressive either. A child could build one given enough slave labour.

USS: If you were captured by one of the undead with a taste for human flesh, how would you recommend it cook you? 

Quickly.

 

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Interview with Tim Willard

July 4, 2013 at 12:18 pm (Uncategorized)

Greetings and salutations dear readers,

We have something new for you today!  Tim Willard, the critically acclaimed author of Three Little Snowmen has agreed to answer a few questions about the book and his life.

Unfortunately, it seems that someone tipped him off about the nature of an “interview” at my Park Avenue apartment, because he asked to do the interview by email.  When pressed for other alternatives, his agent began muttering about garlic and crucifixes, so I had to settle for eating the agent – possibly a good choice, as authors are notoriously underfed and over-inebriated.

Anyhow, I present this interview as a cultural service to undead readers out there.

 

– USS: The Undead community is having real trouble getting zombies and ghouls to read.  Why would your book get them to read – and more importantly, keep them reading?

Flesh and blood, baby, twisted steel and sex appeal. Nowadays the living have the edge with cell-phones and all of that crap, but this story is set in the bad old days of the 1980s and has people who can’t just run away or call 911 to get the cops to come in. They’re the perfect meal, stored in sub-zero temperatures with their blood spiced with a healthy dose of pain and fear. Plus they’re smart and intelligent, so you know their brains are thick and juicy, they’re all Army soldiers, so you know they’ve got plenty of delicious muscle to eat, and aren’t aggressive ones the best tasting?

 

– USS:  Would you, personally, be opposed to the return of feudalism and serfdom?  Yeah, I’ve got the feeling I’d end up being a serf rather than a lord, and I hate farming.

What kind of lord do you think would be better: a vampire in a forbidding castle or some a huge bearded guy who turns into an animal of some sort when wolfsbane blooms?

The big bearded guy, more in line with my ancestry.  And why would I hold it against someone for the beast within, we all carry it within us.

 

– USS: If you found yourself stranded on a mountaintop with the other survivors of a plane crash with six Americans, four people from France, a girl from Vanautu and a small choir, who would you eat first?

The Americans. Kill and butcher them while they’re still nice and fat. That was the choir can sing to me and the Vanautu girl while we dine on fat marbled delicious long-pork. Oh, and castrate the choir, so they can get that nice softness that eunuchs get, so when we run out of ‘Murica Meat, we can slit the throats of the soft and juicy eunuchs and then eat them. What kind of sauce would you try to make to go with the meat? A nice thick blood sauce.

 

– USS:  When was the last time you attended a party in which human flesh was consumed?  Well, maybe not consumed, but definitely eaten in a manner of speaking. More importantly, who else was there? I can’t really remember who was there, it all became kind of a blur once the Wickerman was lit. Word to the wise, that spiced and blood mixed milk has a kick to it. Oh, and always be ready to wake up in a wheat field naked with body paint and blood on you.

 

– USS:  Please give an example of the last time you did something which would get you immediately excommunicated – please remember that many of my readers are Vampires, so please give details.

Heh, well, there’s been plenty of things. I’ve got a bad rep for some reason. I mean, you get drunk at one convention and get caught by security with a handful of gloom-cookies throwing CS grenades into pool ONE time, and all of a sudden you’re a ‘troublemaker’ and all that. But excommunicated? Um… Can I take an Article-31 on that?

 

– USS:  It’s been suggested that Robert Ludlum is ghost writing his own books now that he’s dead.

Not even death can stop Robert Ludlum, because Death is a fan of his work. Now that he’s dead, Death can force him to write Death’s fan-fiction.

What advice would you give to recently undead writers?

Alcohol thins the blood nicely and will help keep it from pooling and clotting, so imbibe regularly. Get a Netflix account and figure out where the local Redbox is so you have good movies at your touch, since you don’t want those sweaty oozing living weirdos sitting next to you in a movie theater with all that freaky breathing and scratching themselves.

 

– USS: Please give us an example of how you have improved mortal-undead relations personally.

Well, I have practiced the necromantic arts on forum threads, but other then that I have a live and not-live policy in effect.

 

– USS: Have you ever written a story that portrays a Mummy in a negative light?  Only the conservative ones that want to keep the Nile pure, insist on the old laws being followed, and want lower taxes on the priest class. But then political-socio commentary about mummies can be difficult, since they routinely get angry when you mention the fact that bandage wraps aren’t covered by Mum-Aid. Do you, personally have an anti-mummy bias in your work? Not particularly. Mummies wouldn’t be the weirdest thing I’ve ever dealt with. I used to work in the RPG field.

 

– USS: If you were captured by one of the undead with a taste for human flesh, how would you recommend it cook you?

Open flame, baby. I’ve been marinated in alcohol for awhile. I’d probably taste pretty strongly of spite and rage, so they’d definitely want vegetables that go with that.

 

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Back from the Dead (well, figuratively)

June 5, 2013 at 7:51 pm (Uncategorized)

Greetings and Salutations,

I have recently been made forcefully aware that three years of silence on a blog can look, to some mortals, as though the blog is no longer relevant.  While I understand that a short, pain-filled existence can sometimes make short periods seem more relevant than they actually are, I can’t agree with the sentiment.

You see, class, style and elegance – the three main concerns of this small space – are timeless, and nothing that I have said in the past is any less relevant because a few centuries might pass.  Progress is not defined by the preferred length of a news article or the technology used to spread it, and class is completely unrelated to what new colors Milan is telling us to use this season.

Of course, plastic sheeting is important to the undead, but other than that, progress is only important if it makes your life easier – or makes it easier to abduct and consume your next meal (Twitter is brilliant for this – just follow a Random user until he tweets something like: “dark alleys are so cool”.  That’s the correct moment to break out that new lime sauce recipe you’ve been dying to try).

Anyhow, I am officially declaring this blog alive again, and will return to my stated goal of teaching the undead to live a little above their actual social class.

And remember – social climbing is easy if you have all eternity to do it in!

Cheers,

H

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Not Sparkly. Never Sparkly.

August 11, 2010 at 11:55 pm (Uncategorized)

I could blame Stephanie Meyer for the recent misunderstandings I’ve been seeing regarding the undead.  After all, you can only see so many movies which portray the undead as effortlessly glamorous before you start believing the PR.  And I’m told she’s sold a number of books as well.

But I don’t actually blame Meyer, since Stoker, and then early Hollywood were truly more instrumental in giving us this image.  I guess it’s too late to try to get the unwashed to understand this (contrary to popular belief, people have not been getting dumber in the past few years.  Almost every mortal on the planet has been an imbecile since I can remember, and that’s more than a few centuries), but I can at least make an appeal to the intelligent readers out there.  Both of you should probably be able to catch the gist.

Vampires are not glamorous by nature.  We are just, to take a horrid neologism and apply it, regular guys.  In order not to let the side down, it is imperative that we understand and follow the rules of etiquette.  We might not have any of the olfactory disadvantages of zombies, or the aural handicaps of banshees, but we do need to work – imagine if we let ourselves go.  We’d all look like Nosferatu!

Still, this aside was not the main thrust of this particular post (although I remind you that etiquette is always the most important thing – be you mortal or Aikanaka).  I wanted to talk about documentary channels.  

It used to be that the people who watched The History Channel, or Nat Geo, were a bit snobbish.  Intellectuals who were too good to share the same mind-numbing programming that everyone else seemed to enjoy.

Now it seems that the executives at these places have either realized that that market was too small or have succumbed to the temptation of going after the brain-dead hordes.  So you get reality TV, Celebrity Biographies and, worst of all, a whoole slew of programs with names like Ancient Aliens and Paranormal Encounters.

This last one is worrying.

Now, as a member of the undead community, I am all for a bit of information and greater understanding.  But, when you put every kook and whacko who can shake off the effects of the drugs long enough to do an interview on the screen and let him ramble, you are creating a dangerous precedent, which gets even worse when you treat it as credible evidence.

This isn’t documentary filmmaking.  This is shameless pandering to the lowest common denominator disguised as documentary.  Documentaries shouldn’t be stealing their ratings from the audience for Big Brother.  And I certainly can’t condone the way these fictionistas portray ghosts!

But the true reason I gnash my teeth whenever these subhuman programs come up is that I am one of those who were among the original target.  I will gladly watch a documentary about napoleon for six hours, but give me an episode of Ancestral Aliens, and…  well, let’s just be thankful that vampires can’t throw up.

But one of the keys to good etiquette is that one must not fight emerging trends, but find a way to incorporate them.  So I’m thinking of starting a program to portray undead as they really are.  I can sell it to one of these channels.

And I can eat any executive who declines.

And with no sparkliness whatsoever.

Salutations,

Baron H

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About Humor

June 30, 2010 at 5:31 pm (Uncategorized)

Greetings,

Every time I talk about humor, I’m asked whether an ancient vampire really ought to be broaching the subject.  After all, there are few things less funny than a monster who eats people unapologetically.

This is simply untrue.  Being alive (or undead if you prefer) for so long means that the centuries can seriously drag if you don’tmanage to find something to laugh about.  In addition to this, vampires tend to be brilliant (evil, of course, but brilliant), and a lack of humor has always been the hallmark of the weak-minded and insecure.  One might almost say that it is an exclusively human trait.

There are some groups – particularly militant groups in extremist causes (or, even worse, causes that are “just”) – who seem to be unable to spot the fact that they have, through the spewing of rhetoric, become caricatues of themselves.  We all know who they are in today’s world, and I’m not going to turn this into a fight about specific issues, but I was extremely well-placed to watch them in earlier ages.

So, without further ado, I give you the five people (or grups) with the least sense of humor in recent history:

5)  The Temperance Movement in the United States.  I was already ensconced within my Park-view apartment in the years before Prohibition was enacted, so I was able to observe first hand the behavior of the members of the Temperance Movement.  There is a strong temptation to say that this movement was made up of dry, dusty old bats, but – being a vampire – I have too much respect for bats.

Let’s just say that these are the old maids and parish preachers who created the template for activism in the US, and are probably responsible for keeping alive the tradition that people can only be completely right or completely wrong, and those in the wrong are to be vilified.

Despite being completely ridiculous (a free country under Islamic prohibition of alcohol?), they were completely unable to see the humor in their actions.  All in all, I’d say that they were people who badly needed a drink.

4) Catherine the Great.  Most of my time in Russia was spent in the years just before and during her rule.  Russia is a bit of a humorless place at the best of times, but things got a bit extreme when Catherine was on the throne.

The main issue is that the one thing we all wanted to do is to publish an anthology of jokes about the fact that she’d deposed her own husband to gain the throne.  Some of the jokes were classics, all of them were off-color, and poor Peter III did not come out of them looking good (of course, he’d been killed in the deposing, but that just made it better).  If Catherine had had any sense at all, she could have secured her legacy by allowing these volumes to be printed.

Or perhaps, if Peter was really that bad in bed, she should have agreed to marriage counseling.

3) Benito Mussolini.  After the passing of the eighteenth amendment, I moved back to Europe, just in time to watch the ascension of fascism across the continent.  While that kind of thing was natural enough among the orderly Germanic tribes, or plodding agrarian Spaniards, it simply did not work for Italians.

Italians, you see, are not fascists.  They are not communists.  They really don’t care about politics one way or the other.  They care about wine and seafood and sun and love. 

So picture poor Mussolini.  Here he was with a shiny new dictatorship, trying to convince people to wear khaki shorts and march in lockstep, and here was everyone else, worrying about cars and olive oil.  Not a situation designed to make him feel secure on his throne, and one that completely robbed him of any sense of humor.  I don’t think he wanted to get involved in the war, but was unable to stand it when the Germans laughed at him because he didn’t have a Poland to play with.

2) Joseph Stalin.  Same war, opposite band, and yet another Russian who had a complete inability to laugh at himself.  Find an old photo of the man and look at that mustache. 

Did you laugh?  Of course you did.  So did I.  It’s impossible not to laugh at that mustache.

He sent me to Siberia for it.  In winter.  There were three entire Gulags filled only with men and women who’d been unable to control their mirth at the lip foliage.

Which brings us, finally, to…

1) Torquemada.  This one is personal. 

Torquemada is my big disappointment of the list.  He had so much potential, so much to live for.  Some of his methods were new to the world, of a cruelty I had never seen in all my centuries.  He was my one true friend among the people on this list, and one of the few mortals I (or any vampire) could truly learn from and admire.

But just when I thought he was a force to be reckoned with, he showed an apalling lack of a sense of humor.  It so happened that, after a long night of gambling for alcoholic forfeits with his undertorturers, a sinister group of hooded men who would have been excellent poker players (the hoods made it impossible to read their tells), we decided to set fire to Torquemada’s carriage, drive it around the complex and then sink it in the moat.

Oooh, boy. 

Anyone with an ounce of humor would, eventually have realized that it was hilarious, wouldn’t he?

Oh, well.  As far as I know, I’m still considered a fugitive from the inquisition.  The humor of it is that, in this case, everything they’re accusing me of – and much more – is completely true.

So, I’ll see you soon,

H

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I only eat mutton

April 15, 2010 at 3:08 pm (Uncategorized)

Greetings and salutations,

I’m often asked by my mortal friends (and yes, I do have friends that are mortal, and we’ll get to that in a moment) whether I ever feel guilty about eating intelligent beings.  While this is a question I’d recommend that you never ask of one of the undead, especially one that you’ve learned enjoys the taste of your particular species, it does have an answer in my case.

You see, I don’t actually eat humans.  I eat only sheep, albeit sheep that are genetically identical to homo sapiens sapiens.  Yes, when I tell the people who ask the questions this, they also give me a blank stare and think about padded rooms, so I’ll explain further.

You see, most of the people on the street, and in the cars, and in the living rooms wiith the TV turned on (especially this last group), aren’t really intelligent in any true sense of the word.  An intelligent creature – whether mortal or undead – is characterized by its ability and willingness to observe the world around it, analyze it critically and come to independent conclusions.  That is the only real test of intelligence.

Now I ask you to do the first of these things: observe the world around you.  Would you really say that the bulk of humanity is behaving this way?  Let’s have a look at the way they act.

Most people (as measured by independent observers), watch TV at night when they get home.  What do they watch?  Well, if there’s a reality show of some kind on, they’ll watch that.  A one-hour drama might be their next choice, while comedy comes in third (although they seem to prefer watered down sitcoms that don’t satirize things overmuch.  Satire and irony require brain cells).  Even the channels that used to air documentaries are now focusing on reality shows. 

Why do they act this way?  Well, perhaps part of it is to avoid using their brain, but I actually think it’s mainly due to the fact that everyone else does it.

Marketers are well aware of the nonthinking nature of the general public, of course.  They know that, given a little information and told that something will make them more attractive, consumers will flock to their product in droves.  This is why there are still large numbers of commercials on TV, despite the fact that no one wants to watch a commercial.  The truth is that marketers, who on the on the whole are not stupid, have data that shows that advertising works.  People will pay huge sums of money for something they don’t need, just to belong to a group that didn’t even exist before the commercial.  A decent ad campaign can convince folks of anything.

But it goes deeper than consumption patterns.  The way society is constructed seems to be pushing people into less and less critical thinking.  In my day, when you wanted to make a living, you put together a band of peasants and invaded the village in the next valley.  Now, you work for years at a job you hate, because that’s the responsible thing to do.  Of course, even calling peopel ‘peasants’ can get you in trouble nowadays, as I found out at a restaurant last week.  I had to ambush the entire staff afterwards and eat them just to feel better about myself.  Social pressure has made individuality seem like a bad thing – while commercials celebrate it every day!  The irony is delightful, but I’d hate to be alive right now.

It used to be that the world of publishing was immune, in a certain measure, to this kind of thing.  Books cater to consumers who read by choice, and so, in general terms, are about a hundred times more intelligent than the average TV audience.  However, lately, I’ve been seeing some disturbing trends here, as well.  Even the small houses, the ones that have to take risks to compete against the bland uniformity of the big houses.  I’ve been hearing things like: “oh, yes, that story or novel…  It was funny as hell, but a bit insensitive.”  Humor is always insensitive and cruel, if you want PC, join Time Warner or something.  The fact that Daverana is willing to go out on a limb is one of the main reasons I have acceeded to being their lifestyle columnist (well, that and the fact that one can’t let the Old Monster dictate what people think – the world would go to hell in a handbasket).

As we see, most people are motivated in their actions by the need to fit in, the need to use their brain as little as possible and an instinctual knowledge of what is right and what is wrong in society.  Some of you might be shaking your heads at this point, saying that this kind of activity is reprehensible, but I beg you not to.  It is perfectly all right to act this way.  There are plenty of creatures, part of an absolutely respectable flock, that act this way all the time. They are a delight to have around, and make this world a better place.

They are called sheep.

And my answer to the above question is invariably: “I only eat mutton.”

Those of you who aren’t fit for my table wiill be easily able to read between the lines and know what the advice is for today’s column.  I advise the rest of you to bathe in barbecue sauce and smack yourselves with meat tenderizers.  It’ll save time in the long run.

Until we meet again,

H.

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