Men Living as Dogs: May I Sniff Your Butt?

I came across this bizarre story in The Guardian today about a documentary on men who like to dress up as dogs and behave like pups.1700

Secret Life of the Human Pups is a sympathetic look at the world of pup play, a movement that grew out of the BDSM community and has exploded in the last 15 years as the internet made it easier to reach out to likeminded people. While the pup community is a broad church, human pups tend to be male, gay, have an interest in dressing in leather, wear dog-like hoods, enjoy tactile interactions like stomach rubbing or ear tickling, play with toys, eat out of bowls and are often in a relationship with their human “handlers”.

I wonder if they like sniffing butts and peeing on hydrants, too. It’s only a matter of time before these dog men end up in a novel or TV show. Heck, if I was still writing MONK novels I’d find a way to use it in my next book. Can you image how Adrian Monk would react to one of these guys? I guarantee you it will show up in TV series next fall (the new shows don’t go into production for a few more weeks).

Here’s the cringe-inducing trailer for the documentary.

The Age of Instant Video Is Here

I don’t usually rave about products on this blog, but I can’t contain my enthusiasm for this nifty new gadget that we bought our daughter for her birthday. It’s the Pure Digital Point-and-Shoot Video Camcorder. It’s the size of an iPod and every bit as simple and ingenious. You just point and shoot. It’s that easy. There’s nothing to learn. (It’s also cheap…$125 at your local Target store or on Amazon). There’s a record button, a play button, and a delete button.  And a little rocker button that doubles as a zoom and volume control. You can watch videos instantly on the tiny color screen. The Point-and-Shoot runs on two AA batteries, holds 30 minutes of video, and plugs into your computer with it’s built-in USB cable (and, if you like, automatically loads easy-to-use video playback, management, and emailing software on your hard-drive). Within seconds, and I mean seconds, you can email your videos all over the planet.  It’s amazing. One minute after she unwrapped the present, my daughter became the next Sofia Coppola, directing epics all over the house.  I don’t understand why this wonderful product hasn’t become the Next Big Thing…or am I so out-of-touch that it already has and I missed it?

Book Vending Machines

Captpar10108191435 The French have developed a new twist on bookselling:  Book Vending Machines.  They are installed in busy metro stations and on some street corners.

"We have customers who know exactly what they want and come at all hours to get it," said Xavier Chambon, president of Maxi-Livres, a low-cost publisher and book store chain that debuted the vending machines in June. "It’s as if our stores were open 24 hours a day."

Stocked with 25 of Maxi-Livres best-selling titles, the machines cover the gamut of literary genres and tastes. Classics like "The Odyssey" by Homer and Carroll’s "Alice in Wonderland" share the limited shelf space with such practical must-haves as "100 Delicious Couscous" and "Verb Conjugations."

"Our biggest vending machine sellers are ‘The Wok Cookbook’ and a French-English dictionary," said Chambon, who added that poet Charles Baudelaire’s "Les Fleurs du Mal" — "The Flowers of Evil" — also is "very popular."

Regardless of whether they fall into the category of high culture or low, all books cost a modest $2.45.

(Thanks to Bill Rabkin for the tip)

Scientific Breakthroughs Nobody Can Live Without

Now you can take what’s on your home TV anywhere you go and not get bitten by a single mosquito while you do it.

"Slingbox, which costs about $250, is from Sling Media Inc. of San Mateo, Calif.
Using a box connected to your home TV setup, it sends the signal out onto the
Internet, allowing you to watch a video stream of your home channels from any
Windows computer with broadband access and the Sling software installed…In addition to the signal, Slingbox sends along the TiVo controls I have at
home. "

"This summer, I tried something new: killer threads — clothing that supposedly
zaps bugs before they can zap you. It’s called Buzz Off Insect Repellent
. You wear it instead of insecticide, although it may be more accurate to
say you become a walking tower of insecticide.

Outsourcing Signings

Author Margaret Atwood has stirred up quite a controversy by creating a "remote booksigning device" that would allow her to "attend" booksignings without actually being there.  She wrote about her invention, and the controversy, in today’s Los Angeles Times.

In an effort to simplify the most grueling part of the book-publication process
— the dreaded Author Tour — I dreamed up the concept of a remote book-signing
device. (I’ve spent far too many evenings crawling around on hotel room floors,
eating Pringles because I was too exhausted to call room service, so I needed
this!) The author would be able to relax at his or her home base and could see
and speak with a book buyer in a bookstore thousands of miles away. That much
can happen already.

But in addition, the author would be able to
actually sign — in real time, and with real ink — the book buyer’s book (or the
singer’s album, or the actor’s photograph). You would no longer have to be in
the bookstore to write "Happy Birthday, Aunt Sylvia." You would simply write on
a little pad (somewhat like the one the UPS messenger brings to your door) and
on the other end, your message and signature would be duplicated in the book.

Think of the plane trips avoided, the beer nuts left uneaten in the
hotel mini-bar, and — from the publisher’s point of view — the money saved! For
it costs a lot to whiz a bunch of disoriented and grumpy authors around the

That’s exactly what she’s doing…thinking of the author or,more accurately, herself. What she’s proposing is the customer support approach towards her readers.  What’s wrong with an automated menu and no live operator? What’s wrong if that live operator is someone you can barely understand in Singapore or India? It’s still customer service, right? RIGHT?

She’s forgetting the personal touch, the human interaction. The respect. It’s not just the signature that’s important to most readers, it’s the chance to meet someone who has had a dramatic and often emotional impact on their lives and imaginations. It’s a way to meet someone who has inspired and entertained you. It’s also a way for authors to see the face of the people they are writing for, the people who have supported them in their art. It’s a way to say "Thank you," for both author and reader.  It’s not just a signature. And looking into a computer screen and shaking hands with a robot arm isn’t quite the same thing. What’s astonishing is that she doesn’t get that… or maybe she does.

The only difference between the author-at-a-distance and the author-in-the-flesh
would be that no author’s DNA would get onto the book, and no readers’ germs
would get onto the author.

I think this is where she betrays her real attitudes towards signings and her readers.  But there’s something else I find personally offensive about her booksigning-at-a-distance machine: it’s her broad, caricatured characterization of authors as cranky assholes who think it’s a burden to meet readers.

This may come as shock to Margaret Atwood and everyone else on the planet Vulcan, but lots of authors enjoy meeting their readers, enjoy the personal contact, and derive enormous pleasure from being able to sign their books in person.

She may have unintentionally succeeded in her goal of avoiding book tours. Given her attitude towards signing and readers, who would ever want this woman to sign their books again? Who would ever want her in their store? Not me.

Bigger. Stronger. Less Titanium

Tod here reporting on the new and improved version of Lee. My understanding, from sources close to the surgery, is that Lee was awake for the entire surgery and watched with eager pleasure as his crack staff of doctors removed all the precious metals from his arm. While watching this occur, Lee was horrified to learn that aliens had implanted a tracking device into his arm at some point in the past and that all his thoughts, emotions, true feelings about the likelyhood that Richard Hatch and the Dagget once copulated, and a pilot idea for a show about crime fighting crossover TV/ fan fiction writers ("This week, the cast of the Love Boat solves the mystery of who shot JR…") had been turned into a database that will later be used to enslave all of mankind deep in the center of the earth.

All that being said, he’s in good shape and eagerly awaiting word from the Mothership.