Ask Conlan: The Toughening

The nation of Japan writes:

When the going gets tough, do the tough really get going?

Well, Japan, this is an interesting question and there are two schools of thought on the subject.

The antediluvians contend that the going is only ever really tough when everyone drowns. And, because of magic rainbows or something, nobody drowns anymore, so there’s no reason for anyone to get going, tough or not. On the other hand, the protoreptilians argue that rocks are “tough” but they’re also warm sometimes (relatively speaking), so their answer is yes (assuming that “going” refers to “going to the bathroom”).

If you want my personal opinion, I prefer the long O pronunciation of “ough”. So you would say something like “I stubbed my tough,” and nobody would mind because they’ve got better things to do.

I hope that answers your question.

Mostly Truth About Mostly Lies

Since I announced my intention to try to get people to give me money so I can write a book called Mostly Lies, people have been clamoring to know more about it. I explained a lot of it in a post last week, but I’ve gotten more questions, so I am going to answer some of them here.

Q: What are you talking about?

A: Please refer to the Kickstarter page, and then to this blog post.

Q: What is it like to be a bat?

A: I don’t know because I am not now, nor have I ever been, a bat. This is not a question about the book.

Q: Will it be funny?

A: No one can say for sure. But I will say that I will try to make some parts of it funny. But it won’t all be funny. And you may not think the things I try to make funny are funny at all.

Q: Is any of it going to be sad?

Only as sad as I am — which is to say, very.

Q: Why is it called Mostly Lies?

A: The short answer is, because I always thought Mostly Lies: A Memoir would be a funny name for a book. The long answer is, because I’m afraid of commitment? I want to tell true stories, but I don’t want the facts to get in the way of what I want to say. I don’t want to have to worry about whether I really ate 12 pickles or just seven. The point is, I ate a lot of pickles while watching a man die in Albuquerque. But it wasn’t really a man — it was a dream — and it wasn’t really Albuquerque — it was a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. But that’s the point, don’t you see? Sooner or later all dreams die, just like men. And sooner or later all ice cream gets eaten, just like Albuquerque. I just want to lie about it, OK? Do you see what I’m trying to say?

Q: Will it all be lies?

A: No. In fact, it may not even be mostly lies. But there will definitely be some lies, and I’ll never tell you which parts are which. That will be the fun of it.1

Q: Is it just gonna be like a bunch of blog posts collected together?

A: I hope not. The goal is to create something cohesive, that builds upon itself and takes advantage of the book-length format. I’ve made connections between posts and followed themes here on the blog, but a blog is nonlinear by nature. It’s designed for you to jump in at any point. With Mostly Lies, I’m hoping to create something with more structure — if not a story arc, strictly speaking, then something of a logical arc. My ambitions may be overreaching, but that’s the goal at this point.

Q: I still don’t get it. What’s the book going to be about?

A: I can’t really say, because I really don’t know yet. I know about certain parts — I have rough drafts of certain parts — but I haven’t yet found the logical arc I want to build on. I’m hoping that comes together with time. All I know at this point is that it’s going to be an autobiographical narrative about stuff from my life — and so much of my life takes place in my head that a lot of the book is going to take place there too.

Q: What other books would you compare it to?

A: If you forced me to compare it to something, I would say, “Hey! Quit forcing me, dude!” and then I would point to Mr. Funny Pants by Michael Showalter. Although that’s really a post hoc comparison. It’s a pre-book, post hoc, ergo prompter hoc fallacy, but there it is. Showalter’s book is similar in its miscellaneous scope, but I don’t think he made up most of it. (I actually had the idea before Showalter to write a book about the writing of that same book. I had never told anyone about it, so I’m not gonna say he stole it from me, but he probably did.) I liked Showalter’s book, but didn’t think it was as good or as funny as it could have been. There are a few chapters in the middle where he gets more heartfelt, and it starts to really seem like it’s going somewhere, but it ultimately falls apart.

While I’m talking about funny books I like: I like This Is a Book (no relation) by Demetri Martin. It is much funnier than Showalter’s, but much less memoir-y. Those are the only two funny books I’ve read.

Q: Will there be an audiobook version?

A: If there is enough demand, no. I doubt there’s even going to be an visualbook version of it.

Q: Is there anything else you can tell me?

A: Yes. I listed some possible chapters on the Kickstarter page (and those all really are possible chapters), but here are some even more possible chapters:

I hope that provides some more insight in this whole stupid idea of mine. Why not contribute? If it doesn’t get completely funded, you won’t have to pay anything, so you have nothing to lose except your money!

  1. Disclaimer: That may not, in fact, be the fun of it. []

Ask Conlan: A man of letters

A reader from Moscow, Russia writes:

Днем Рождения, Конлан. Вы знаете, почему все мои письма ищем, как это? Да, очень хорошо. чем ты думаешь?

Боб, из России

Thanks for your question, Bob. The truth is, most languages in the world are based on what experts call “drawings in caves”. In the early 20th Century, the explorer Henry Walton Jones “Jr.” discovered some drawings in a cave in France that we now know are actually the modern letters of an ancient alphabet. (If you look at it upside down it spells “BOOBS”.) So, to put it in layered man’s terms, it was a “spicy meatball” of archeology. Also, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.”

Ancient hieroglypicsThis may be what you are referring to when you say “очень хорошо”. But, like most situations, there are no easy answers. Unless the situation is, like, two plus two. That’s four. That’s a pretty easy answer. A lot of math is pretty easy, come to think of it. But not always. Sometimes math can be painful. Not unlike heartburn.

If you’re experiencing acid reflux (and I don’t know if you are, because I have never walked a mile in your письмаs, nor would I want to, if you know what I mean), then seek help from a medical professional. That would be my advice (if the Federal Trade Commission allowed me to give advice, which they don’t). Happy birthday to you too.

Thanks for writing, Bob. If anyone else has a question for Ask Conlan, please leave it in the comments and I will answer it just as soon as I clear up this FTC misunderstanding.

Ask Conlan: The Deal

Someone writes:

Hey, dude. You don’t blog for 3 months and then you come back talking about beer and you act like nothing happened? What’s the deal?

Thanks for your question, someone. The long answer is, nothing. The short answer is, buy one get one half off.

Someone else writes:

That was a pretty crappy answer you gave to someone.

That’s not really a question, someone else. But I’ll give it a shot: No, I won’t play into your game. This interview is over.

That’s all the time we have this week. If you have a question for Conlan, please $5 and a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: my pocket. As always, happy Hanukkah.

I did not draw this.
This picture was a gift to me, purchased by my friend Danielle.

Ask Conlan: Areas

It’s that time again.

Dear Conlan,

I’ve been having issues with my… you know, my area. I tried to tell my mom about it, but I was too embarrassed. What should I do?


Burning in Burlingame

You might be surprised, Burning, but I actually get this question fairly often. For some reason, people feel like they can talk to me about their geometry problems. And they certainly can; I never judge.

But before I answer your question, I should explain it to readers who may not have dealt with these issues.

Graph.gifWhat Burning is talking about can happen to anybody if they’re not careful. Everyone likes equations, but sometimes people like them so much that they forget that math isn’t a toy. It’s a tool. And, as with any tool, a calculator is considered cheating. So, what inevitably happens is, some kids who don’t know any better get together and start talking about logarithms and functions of x, and before you know it you’re dealing with a raging case of calculus. And of course no one wants to admit to doing calculus, but sometimes that’s the only way to figure things out if you’re not dealing with geometric shapes, you know?

In conclusion, the current state of education, alien abductions, etc.

Thanks for writing, Burning. And remember, everyone: the only “stupid” question is one that isn’t asked by a smart person.

Ask Conlan: Kitty Meow Town

A reader (ironically) writes:

Why am I never allowed to own a cat?

Thank you for your question, Doug. This is a very interesting situation requiring the requisite non sequiturs (and therefore non sequitees, for argument’s sake), but what—inasmuch as there is such thing—does this actually preclude? The answer to that is simple: Don’t buy a bucket of butter when the squids aren’t squeaking, am I right? What this means, in context, is that there’s no one specific instance by which all others must be prejudged. The “jury” is, when it comes around to it, out.

And yet, the feline aspects of the equation remain in play (as it were). For example, don’t expect much help from the U.S. Supreme Court on this one.1 It’s a matter of onion. I wonder if that’s where the onion came from. Onions are like assholes: everybody’s got one and they all make you cry when you chop them up.

But I divergess. The answer to this question, Dob, lies in the idiosyncrasy of it, itself. What we are dealing with here, then, is, of course, not a viable option. It is an enviable option. Gosh, I wish I had that option. (Do you see my point?)

All living things hate you.

  1. Not true. []