Wednesday, May 21, 2008

About anthropomorphism

Humans are all about it. We ascribe human traits and personalities to the world around us, whether it's trees or the skies or the animals. In this day and age, it's quite frequently our pets. If we didn't think of them as being furry little humans, maybe it wouldn't hurt so much when it's time for them to go -- "over the rainbow bridge," or "down the crimson path," or as I've been referring to pet death as, "going to college" (think of it: they go in their late teens, and then they never call, they never write).

Sometimes it's their time earlier than we think it should be. Bowser, who died last year, was only about ten, but he had lymphoma and cancer of the small intestine, and he slipped away (ie, went off to college) even before we could discuss treatment options. Then there was Spot, who was the queen of the original three we adopted from an ad in the local newspaper nearly two decades ago, who wasn't one to suffer anything she didn't want to. She only tolerated The Hub because he wasn't scared of her. She tolerated Fido, but never ever Rover.

And why should she? Rover was scared of most everything. But Rover was a survivor, and perfectly willing to explain to us what we were doing wrong (so many one-sided conversations with her meowing at us, until she finally gave up and realized we were dunces!). Then, two years ago, when she had a couple of strokes and we were told that she had a brain tumor, that sense of fear went away for her ... and she became the Green Lantern of cats (or the Daredevil of cats, if you lean more toward Marvel than DC), the cat without fear. She demanded food! She stole food from everyone else! She demanded attention ... and pretty much got everything she wanted. Talk about pampered.

It was two more years than she might have gotten otherwise. A few days ago, she had her last stroke, and went away to college. She was 19.

If we weren't prone to anthropomorphizing our pets, it wouldn't hurt so much. But we do.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Snappy comebacks for writers

For the longest time, you don't have any problem with the jokes. You
tell someone you haven't met before that you write, and you tell them
what you write. For the people I know, it's mainly romance, and it's
mainly fantasy (and it's often comic books, but that's another
topic). "That must be easy," they tell you, and often they'll wink
and add, "I'd be glad to help out with the research." Or they'll say,
"I hear you can just write in different body parts and there you go,
you have another book already!"

Most of the time you're patient. They speak out of ignorance, you
tell yourself, and they think they're being funny. After all, people
make jokes about lawyers all the time, and about dentists, and about
politicians. And quite often lawyers and dentists and politicians
will be good-natured about it, laugh it off, maybe add a joke or two
of their own.

But once in a while it gets to you. Once in a while you grit your
teeth and if you must be polite, you'll smile and turn away. Once in
a while, you find yourself opening your mouth and saying ...

What? What's your snappy comeback?

This is the question I asked of writers around me, and I got a range
of answers. I got some answers that were thoughtful, some that forced
the "kidder" to rethink the wisecracks, some that gave as good as
they got. And the variation I got made me believe that there was more
to explore. So tell me...

What's YOUR snappy comeback? Is it a quip, is it quirky, is it funny,
is it punny? Did you leave them speechless? Let me know!