Plan Europe, and my new favorite Android App

Yeah I've seen the Eiffel Tower before, no big. Wait, shit. That was
just that time I rode some roller coasters and maybe Drop Zone. 
So. Announcement one: And this is big! I'm going to backpack Europe this summer. Yeah. You put those eyebrows back where they belong. And before you go all judgmental about how that's passe and anyone who's anyone has already been to Europe and you really have to go to Southeast Asia or Sub-Saharan Africa or Antarctica or Siberia, because everyone's so real there--stop. That all's next on the list. This is a first step. Necessary too.

I'm a once and future(?) English Major and that lovely English degree (it was also a hipster degree, since it was ironically not printed in English) is really just provisional--it is literally mandatory that I make an epigrammatic  pilgrimage to England. And France. And Spain. All so I can see the fabled places that all those literary expats hung out and walk through the streets, drinking in a heady ambrosia of a primordial soup that spawned modernism. I also maybe have a weakness for super pretty buildings. 

Announcement two: I just got a tablet. A Nexus. Not gonna lie. It's pretty cool. For straight up reading I prefer my Kindle because it's easy on the eyes. Now, for wasting time, a Kindle doesn't hold a candle to Android. I'm easily obsessed with timesinks, and this Nexus brings me into whole new worlds of perfection in the art of timesinking. 

Is it useful for writing? So far not at all. That's my next plan for App-searching. For now, I'm perusing the obvious nexus of Travel planning and Nexus: Travel Apps! Yeaaaaahhhhh!

Since I'm going to Europe, I did some research and learned that there are people in the countries of Europe that speak languages other than English. Weird, right? Totally unlike the U.S. where 110% of everyone speaks English.

Now, I love language. I believe I have demonstrated this by taking five years of Spanish and promptly forgetting all of it. Nonetheless, I made a New Year's resolution to learn 20 phrases in 10 languages. Up until February, I had worked towards this goal by forgetting all about it. But now that I have a tablet to play with I can get technology to do the work for me!

Introducing: the 2nd-easiest-to-Google-for Language Instruction app:  Tourist Language Learn & Speak!

Tourist language learn & speak
I love that it doesn't tell me to be a traveler and keep it real.
It knows I just want to be a murfurking tourist.
Finally! An app that cares about my New Years resolution. It features 24 languages and very basic, consistent phrases for each of them.* It includes pretty much anything I'll encounter in Europe and excludes pretty much everything native to Africa or South America. This App makes it easy to learn a little of everything. The practical application is limitless; if anyone ever refuses to point me towards a toilet, I can ask them in twenty-three different languages until they roll their eyes and point!

Utility aside, the app is pretty sweet for instant gratification of me feeling like I am learning really small amounts of information quickly. There are words. You click on them. A clear, non-robot voice reads them to you in what I can only assume is flawless pronunciation. They have the same set of numbers, greetings, small talk phrases, and travel directions in most* languages. This week I learned French. All of it. And since I can hear the speaker's clear voice, I can rest easy with the knowledge that my accent is likely incomprehensible to anyone who actually speaks the language. But it's very like pretending to learn a language while a little bit of knowledge sneaks in. It's fun, and it lets me feel accomplished and pleased with myself whenever I get stuck on a level of Angry Birds. 

*The only thing about the program that fills me with the rage of a thousand exploding suns is that some of the languages are missing chunks. It has much more full information for European languages. Useful sections like bus, train, plane, restaurant, etc. are not to be found for Hindi, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, or Korean. If memory serves, Vietnamese and Arabic may be the only non European origin languages. Hopefully they'll update those into existence later. Because right now I'm just offended that I can't learn all language ever on a tablet. 


Hom Com vs Som Com: Hit Man Rom Coms always win

Let me pose here with a gun while I watch
you run around  and jump on cars.
I made the mistake of watching Knight and Day today, and I was crushingly disappointed.

Don't get me wrong here, I really enjoyed it. I have a deep and abiding love of stupid action movies, stupid thrillers, and romantic comedies*. This was all of those steamrolled into one, and had I just gone into the film expecting a standard thriller-rom-com (which can abrev all the way down to 'tom com') this would have been a success. And really for a Tom-com, Cruise really does know what he's doing. A little crazy never hurt anyone.

I would have fully enjoyed the fine film if no one had told me anything about it. And told me wrong. I don't remember who I have to blame, but I am vexed. There I was ranting about the superiority of romantic comedies about assassins, and how sad it is that so few movies that fit this genre actually get made--and someone recommended Knight and Day. Fiend! So I was all excited, because it's surprisingly hard to find anything in the genre of hit-man rom com (super abbrev: hom com).

Consequently, to this villain's pernicious lies, I spend the first 45 minutes of this film all kinds of pleased, assuming that Cruise is a hit man, and he's gaining Diaz's trust for a larger and more difficult hit. This made his acting really good. The fake friendliness, the flirtation, the extreme sketchiness.

But as I watched further, it became clear; this guy is just a super-secret agent. And that's fine, for some people. There is nothing wrong with a spy rom com, or spom com. Except that I am pretty sure I've never seen truth-serum used as anything but a lame plot device.

The movie flirts with not trusting the main character, but doesn't flirt hard, and we know they're all talk and no daggers. Can I judge the movie for not having a truly psychopathic lead while still criticizing the relationship models in Twilight?

Yes. Yes I can.

To review, these are all of the Hit Man Rom Coms that I have found:

Killers - woof
The Baker/Assassin in Love - had Jaime in it.
Wild Target - had Ron Weasley in it
GPB - you gotta love the 80s.
War Inc. does this count at all?
Mr & Mrs Smith - hom/som com - still haven't gotten through it sober
This Means War - (barely counts) Captain Kirk. awful plot.


Fast Writing > A Writing Fast and Appendix/spleen/kidneys

Like I said, I've been on a writing fast. A cleanse. Like one of those crash diets where you drink nothing but juice for three days and feel really lightheaded and grumpy for a couple days until you get real food in your stomach. In case you missed it, writing is the food of this analogy. Forget that. You can go without writing for way more than seven days. You don't exactly die from not writing. It's a close thing, though.

When you stop writing, you feel diminished. You feel like someone, probably you, and probably not sober, has scooped out your appendix/spleen/kidney and put it in a jar, on a shelf in your office cubicle. You insist that writerness is still a part of your identity, and make up story ideas to go nowhere. Or maybe you insist it isn't, and curse the day you ever set pen to paper, or words to Word. In any case, you can technically live without that pile of organs, because what good do they do anyway? You can see them there on your shelf, just chillin next to your motivational cat-on-a-branch picture. Even if you poke them once in a while, they starts to get kind of rotty looking and smell of vague discontent.

Half the books on writing tell you -- if you can do something else, if you can live without writing, do that thing. Have a real career path that won't make you miserable with the innumerable rejections and conniptions and contortions and exasperations, etc. But sometimes that's too hard. You may not realize it immediately, but it will drag you down, the slow certainty that something is wrong, that someone is wrong, and they're not even on the internet. Someone is wrong, and they're inside your head. So you realize, slowly, that you gotta do that writing thing anyway, because, let's face it, if you're going to be reading vitriolic spleen, you want it to be your spleen.*

You pick up the old jar and look at it dubiously. It's a dangerous surgery, stuffing that appendix/spleen/kidney back in place. Your writing organs may or may not have atrophied. Picked up unwanted influences. Infected you with the T-virus or worse, something sparkling. You aren't even sure you can remember to stitch them into the right places. But hey, you know you have to try.

Remember to take some time to recover from the surgery. It's a lifestyle you gotta train for. Go slow and establish habits. At least in the beginning, take it easy. If you run too fast and the stitches will burst open and it'll be awkward when your organs fall out and you find yourself throwing them back in the desk-jar in frustration.

Writing is hard. Not writing is harder.

Go write me a story.

*Context maybe? Ursula K. LeGuin was accused of raging with some "notorious bloodthirsty manhating feminist spleen." -A Fisherman of the Inland Sea (her book, not the accuser).


Excerpt: A Tiger in Zebra's Clothing

Due to the changing site-traffic patterns, this week's thing of the week is an excerpt from a very fine Work In Progress: 

A Tiger in Zebra's Clothing

Kira felt herself coming into awareness, and she knew she didn't want to open her eyes. Her head throbbed like three hundred pounds of katzenjammer, and her mouth tasted like vodka and something worse. She drank too much again; she could tell that much at least. It was Tanya's fault. And Ben's. They hadn't listened to her excuses that she had to study and besides it was too gross out with that drizzle. But it was Clue Week. They had to drink whatever with Tanya's Little and celebrate something. No, she hadn't wanted to go, she was sure of that. But Tanya insisted. Kira had put on her cute zebra-striped rainboots and let them drag her out to the bar anyway.

She still didn't open her eyes. That was scary. She didn't know where she was, and she really, really hoped it was in a strange man's bed. She shifted, and a brick dug into her back. Then she realized she was buck-naked and shivering. Her fingers felt tacky and half-stuck together.  

Nope. No beds. So the night had gone the other way. Fuck.

Kira didn't need to open her eyes to know she desperately wanted to keep them closed. But she cracked her eyelids anyway, and looked around the strange alley. She nearly blinded herself looking into the early morning rays. Eventually her eyes cleared enough to see the delicate way the sunlight dappled across the fresh pool of blood. She jerked herself to her feet, and almost slipped. She started backing away, but made herself look at the dismembered limbs in front of her. She stopped counting at three arms, and decided it was time to go. She found a barrel of rainwater and tried to get the blood off her hands and face. 

She spotted a long coat caught on a fence, with only half a sleeve torn off. Wrapping the coat tightly around her, she trudged out of the alleyway, pretty sure her hair was a mess. 

She was getting really tired of this walk of shame.


If you are reading this, I assume you were looking for a tiger.

I could apologize for skipping internet-town for a year, but I've been living in an area with a really terrible internet infrastructure. It's not even first world problems at this point. It's mainly just problems.

And I've been busy. My job is very top secret eyes only history brain overload. I can't say much more than it involves some founding fathers and the things they got in the mail. True Fact: Jefferson was sent more hate mail than grizzly bears. Factual no matter how you parse that garden path. Mhm. Anyway, I really can't go into more detail, because it's all very hush hush wobble wobble. 

I've been working hard and singlemindedly at this job, because that's the only way I can work on anything. With a certain OCD exclusion of all else. And that exclusion has included some very important things that I should be doing. Like writing. Well, the first step is admitting you have a problem. 

So today I'm home with a cold and hopped up on cold medication to try to combat the deep fog between my ears and fever and chills and abject misery! And in this miserable state I went to check my email. What do I find in my inbox? Alerts that I am getting spam messages on my blog! Huzzah! I instantly realize two things:
  1. Spam? Blogger, what the hell? This is why I couldn't handle Wordpress!
  2. Wait, I have a blog!?
So here I am, headache out the ears and smacked in the face with the realization that I would totally get a dishonorable discharge for cowardice and abandoning my post in blogging. 

I locked eyes with my blog and decided that this is going to change. 

First stage of reclaiming my blog space: I decided to look into what my blog had been doing without my presence, and I discovered that the blog traffic patterns had changed dramatically. How do people get here? It used to be people searching things like "Kat Zantow" or "A Face all Planes and Angles" or "Villains by Necessity." Now? Anyone who's everyone gets here searching "white tiger." You can find that one picture with a Google image search, and that's the way it happens. That's cool, but it hardly seems relevant to anything I do...unless...I think it's time for...

THE OBVIOUS CONCLUSION: Retool the site into a furry erotica blog!

Step 1. They come for the tigers.  
Step 2. They stay for the tigers. 
Step 3. They come for the tigers.
Step 4. Profit!

It's the only way to synthesize content and site traffic. Maybe I can start light with some paranormal romance fiction, but I don't know if it will be enough...


Looking at the world through disdain glass windows

Always judging like a contemptress.

Judging is easy, contempt is easy, bitching is easy. Creating things, now that's hard.

In June, look for a new story.