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News Archive: Max 2007

Mon 31
Dec
2007

God & Bedford

Max Bedford, England, is a place to make you believe in God, but only if He is very angry. Gazing across the panorama of desolate streets, dead, claw-like trees, and a sluggish black river that smells of sulphur, you can’t help but think, “Yep, somehow, sometime, someone here really pissed God off.”

Don’t get me wrong; most of rural England is quite picturesque. Even in mid-winter, there are charming little villages. You can even spot the odd animal frolicking in fields, but as you approach Bedford, they look increasingly frightened. Then you arrive. At first, you might think there’s nothing wrong; any town could look like this, if the garbage collectors went on strike for a while. You have an odd, clenched feeling your gut, but that could be a bad hamburger. Bad hamburgers feel like they’re slowly sucking the marrow out of your bones, right? Sure.

It’s only when you’ve been here a while that the true horror of Bedford reveals itself: it’s unrelenting. You think, “All right, so people here look like extras from Dawn of the Dead, but that’s just because they choose not to care about personal grooming for some reason.” (I developed this theory after spotting a guy who looked like Kevin Spacey, if Kevin was drunk and out of shape and didn’t own a hairbrush.) Then you pass a guy afflicted by a plague of boils, and realize: No. It’s not a choice. It’s biblical.

I wrote about Bedford last time we visited, and since then it has managed to get worse. I didn’t think that was possible. I mean, once the entire town is made up of people either begging for money or actively stealing it, what’s left? Once the wail of emergency vehicle sirens is constant, do you really notice any more of them? But then I ran alongside the river Ouse, past what at first I thought was a rubbish dump but turned out to just be someone’s back yard, and a goose tried to mug me. I think it had a switchblade.

So it’s almost 2008. I’m very much looking forward to ‘08, because, writing-wise, 2007 blew. It started off well. It’s just that it then took a sharp turn into soul-destroying, heart-breaking stultification. I think this must be what happens when you start the year with a blog that says, “Man, I’ve got this writing thing nailed.” So: okay. Lesson learned, ha ha!

Yep, I’m feeling much better about 2008. I won’t have a book published, or a movie released. But I will write.

And, with luck, I will get out of Bedford without being stabbed.

It’s good to have goals.

Thank you for following along my web site, and reading my stuff, and caring, even if only a little. It means an enormous amount to me. Sorry for the hold-up, but give me a little time and I’ll have some books that are worthy of you.

Thu 06
Dec
2007

City of Vociferous Angels

Max I knew I was in Los Angeles when I saw the crazy guy on the sidewalk corner, screaming abuse at a security guard. I mean, the 14-hour flight was a tip-off. You don’t go through that and not notice. And US Customs was as cheery and welcoming as always. (“Your daughter… we want her fingerprints.”) But nothing says LA like a 50-year-old guy with thinning hair shrieking, “I hope you feel good about yourself! I hope you feel like you’ve really achieved something here!”

See, he wasn’t actually crazy. In most other parts of the world, somebody completely losing it in public means they have a serious mental illness. But I think this guy was just annoyed. He even looked a bit like Larry David. Yes, I was in LA.

People here are very friendly. Of course, I’m comparing it to the only other American city in which I’ve spent serious time, New York, so I would probably be impressed by anything other than open hostility. And I am in Santa Monica, which is one of the nicer parts of LA. But there is a good feeling. On the road, people give me plenty of room. Maybe this is because I’m not used to driving on the right side and tend to veer over to the left when not concentrating. But I like to think it’s politeness.

I’m here with Jen and Fin because we’re going to England, and it’s on the way. When you’re traveling from Melbourne to London, anywhere is on the way. It’s one of the properties of flying halfway around the world. We’re spending most of the next two months with Jen’s family in Bedford, the mucous membranes of England, and there are some movie things happening (in a possibly-kinda-let’s-see way), so here I am.

The first thing I did upon arrival was pick up a throat infection. Actually, I might have done that on the plane. Either way, it’s been a snotty few days. Now for the big question: Disneyland or Sea World?

P.S. US Customs doesn’t actually fingerprint children upon entry. I just said that because it feels like they might. I asked the Customs guy how old you had to be before they started fingerprinting you, and he said 13. So there you go: the United States is woefully unprepared for attacks from 12-year-olds. I hope you can sleep at night.

Fri 16
Nov
2007

Facebooked

Max I caved in and signed up to Facebook. I never had a problem avoiding MySpace, because every MySpace I’ve ever seen was clearly designed by a hyperventilating color-blind monkey. And the monkey had no idea about HTML standards. But Facebook looked nice, so I went ahead and created a profile.

I wasn’t sure I should be doing this, since I already have way too much unanswered e-mail. I don’t really need any new avenues for people to get disappointed when I don’t reply to them. But then I saw a Facebook group called “Max Barry is fricken awesome.” That was a big plus for me. There’s just something about a group of people telling me I’m fricken awesome that makes me think, “These guys are all right.”

At first my goal was simple: I would jump on this bandwagon and friend up anyone who asked. Facebook: put up my face, maybe sell some book. Made sense. But then I discovered it’s pretty cool to see what your friends are up to on Facebook. I felt like I was being social, but without any effort. That was nice. Maybe, I thought, I should keep this just for friends and family.

Then I realized my friends and family are boring. Day One, sure, it was crazy: Brit was pregnant, Dan had a new job, and that girl I liked in high school was now an architect. There was a lot to catch up on. But a few days later, Brit was still pregnant, Dan still had the new job, and the girl was still an architect. Where was the progression? The twists and turns? It was like a soap opera where nothing happened, and I received email notifications of every non-event.

The other problem was I had friend requests piling up. It became hard to know where to draw the line: did someone I’d only met once on book tour qualify as a friend? What about someone I’d only emailed? What if I’d never heard of them before, but they listed me in their profile as one of their favorite authors, and they were incredibly hot? Well, obviously that one was an easy decision. But the others: tough. On top of that, I accidentally friended one guy by clicking the wrong button, and another because I thought he was someone else. The walls had been breached.

So I decided to go friend whoring. My new policy would be: I’m anyone’s. I accepted every friend request I had, and searched out new ones. I know: I felt kind of dirty. But then I realized it was pretty nice to have a page of links to people who liked my books. Some of my actual so-called friends have never even bothered to crack the spine on one, and I still turn up to their kids’ birthday parties, the selfish bastards. The parents, I mean. The kids are lovely. What’s that about?

Maybe these people I’d never met were more deserving of social recognition than people I met face-to-face. They had read something of mine that mattered enough to them to affect their lives, or at least their Facebook profile. Wasn’t that something? Wasn’t that a connection—a meeting of minds? Yes, I decided; yes it was.

Fri 14
Sep
2007

Obviously my child is some kind of frickin’ genius

Max Birthday FinIn the morning, with Fin nestled between us in the bed, Jen and I discussed plans for the day ahead. “You could go to the B-E-A-C-H,” I suggested. It’s like with dogs: you don’t want to get their hopes up.

“Beach?” Fin said.

Probably coincidence. And, I have to admit, the sequence of letters B-E-A-C-H does sound a bit like “beach.”

That night, Fin wanted to read “Farm.” This is a book with pictures of things you find on farms, labeled accordingly. It’s not much in the plot department, and forget about character development, but she likes it.

She pointed at the first letter of the title and said, “Green F.”

She’s just turned two. Sometimes I get frightened at her growing power. Today she can spell. Tomorrow she may shoot lasers from her eyes. The day after that, she may leave me.

Fri 20
Jul
2007

The revolution will be televised in low-resolution

Max One thing that’s always bothered me about sci-fi movies is how bad everybody’s communications technology is. Well, that and the costumes. Seriously, if the future is Spandex, I take back what I said about never wanting to die. But anyway, every brave new vision of the future you see, the phone system has gone to hell. Alien, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, you name it: people are flying around, firing laser guns, and talking through intercoms that make them sound like Stephen Hawking gargling. Even a simple video link spits and fuzzes as if they’re tuning it through a coathanger. Will the future really be filled with technological marvels that enhance every area of our lives but this?

Now I realize: yes. We’re already on the way. I used to listen to music on CD, watch TV on a television, take photos with a camera, and talk to people on a phone with a cord. Now I have internet radio, MP3s, YouTube, VoIP and a cellphone. Even my home landline is a wireless thing that makes people sound as if they’re calling from inside an empty beer can. I don’t yet watch TV on my cellphone, but my phone company wants me to, even though the screen is one inch wide. I do take photos and videos on it, and that’s what I’ll have to look back on: a bunch of 8x6 pixel images and footage so jerky everyone seems to be having a seizure.

You know where this started? Vinyl. Oh yes, we laughed, when the purists said CDs didn’t sound as good. Well, maybe you didn’t, you weren’t born. But ask your Dad. Those long-haired freaks were right.

Fri 29
Jun
2007

Max’s Spectacularly Unhelpful Book Review, or: My 7,000 Pages of Shame

Max Max's Tower of ShameNow what we’re going to do is ignore the whole “What the Fukk is happening to Max’s new book?” question. Because it’s going to take some time to resolve, and me posting regular updates on my blog is going to freak everybody concerned right out, and for my own mental health I should probably start thinking about something else.

But thanks to everyone who wrote in with kind words. That means a lot. I’m sure this book will be published. It’s a good book. You’ll like it. The question is not if, but when and how.

So instead of alternating between maniacal cackling and weeping into my sleeve, I will write you a book review. This review is not of books I’ve read. That would be Helpful, because I could tell you if they were any good. This is an Unhelpful review, because all I’m going to say is how these books got onto my bedside table, where they have sat, neglected, as centuries turned.

  • On top is “Maisy Likes Driving” by Lucy Cousins. Fin brought this in one morning and wanted to read it. So I have actually read this one. It’s about 6 pages long and has pictures of Maisy driving things, which she enjoys. I can recommend it if you’re into Maisy and like to know everything that happens in a book from the title and are aged two.

  • Next is “Unpolished Gem” by Alice Pung. I met Alice at a writers’ festival and everyone said her book was good. Alice herself is so polite and smart and cute that I want to take her aside and say, “Stop that. You’re making the rest of us look bad.”

  • American Hoax” by Charles Firth. This I also picked up at the Sydney Writers Festival. Charles and I did a panel together, and afterward he bought my book and asked me to sign it, so I was forced to buy his, even though he was a complete tosspot. I say that because I know that’s the type of humor he’ll appreciate. Actually Charles I liked a lot, even though he’s not as polite and cute as Alice Pung. His book is a satire on… well, America, I guess. I haven’t read it.

  • Phineas Poe” by Wil Christopher Baer. I keep seeing Baer’s name pop up in connection with mine on places like Amazon. If that was enough to get me to buy something, I’d own a copy of this, but Baer came recommended, so I bought this collection of three novels. Unfortunately I discovered that it’s so heavy I can’t read it in bed without breaking the bones in my wrist. I got about four pages in and needed a rest. I think I might relocate Phineas to the bathroom.

  • The Contortionist’s Handbook” by Craig Clevenger. Actually, I have read this one. That shouldn’t be there. I liked it a lot, although not as much as “Dermaphoria.” This puts me firmly in the minority of Clevenger fans, though, so you shouldn’t trust what I say. See? Still Unhelpful.

  • The Art of Funerary Violin” by Rohan Kriwaczek. My Aussie publisher, Scribe, gave this to me, telling me it was hilarious. I thought it was a novel, but on closer inspection it really does appear to be about funerary violins. And I’m really not sure how hilarious that can be.

  • The Life of Pi” by Yann Martel. In LAX, about to board my flight to Melbourne after my 2007 American book tour, I had some leftover cash, and bought this because it’s meant to be good. I dunno, though. It looks very literary, and the problem with literary books is that if you don’t like them, you can’t even extract minor enjoyment out of the gratuitous sex and violence. You just have to sit there and wade through mind-numbing wave after wave of symbolism, eloquence, and character development. I hate that.

  • Third Class Superhero” by Charles Yu. I think I got asked to give a quote for this. It’s a short story collection. I liked the first story, then got distracted and never finished it. They sent me a second copy, perhaps thinking the first had gotten lost, and this bumped it right up to the top of my pile, but unfortunately just before I left on tour, and returned with Life of Pi.

  • Einstein Never Used Flash Cards” by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff. This was very kindly given to me at a 2006 reading I did in Mountain View, CA, in by a guy named Peter, who thought I needed some parenting advice. Now that I think about it, that’s kind of insulting. Anyway, I read a little, but then Jen stole it. I recently got it back, which is why it’s relatively close to the top of the pile.

  • Heyday” by Kurt Anderson. The bookstore I read at in Phoenix, AZ, offered me a book for my trouble, and I chose this because I liked “Turn of the Century.” In retrospect, it was clearly the most expensive book in the store. I may not be invited back to Phoenix.

  • Persuasion & Healing” by Jerome D. Frank and Julia B. Frank. I read half of this as research for my latest novel. It’s an overview of modern psychotherapy. It’s written by a father and daughter, which must have been interesting. Imagine arguments in that house.

  • The Sleepers Almanac 2007.” A short-story collection. Apparently one of my stories will be published in this next year, so the publisher sent me this to help me figure out if that’s a good thing.

  • Prodigal” by Marc D. Giller. A sequel to his very good first novel, “Hammerjack,” which arrived just before a particularly busy time and got hammered down in the pile before I could read it.

  • The Cubicle Survival Guide” by James F. Thompson. I have no idea where this came from.

  • Alien Sex in Silicon Valley” by Dave Alber. The author gave me this at a reading in 2006. I think he was self-publishing. I read the first chapter and quite liked it and then got distracted. This book is now so far down the list I will never reach it. If only I had stayed with it, I might have loved it, given a rave quote for the cover, and helped it become a national bestseller, thus changing Dave’s life forever. Although probably not, since I raved about Paul Neilan’s Apathy and Other Small Victories, and did that become a bestseller? Shockingly, no. That’s out in paperback now, by the way. If you respect me at all, you’ll go buy it.

  • Raga Six” by Frank Laura. Frank is my media escort in San Francisco. He gave me this book in 2006 and I hadn’t gotten to it by the time I went back there a year later. I wasn’t sure which was worse: to admit this, or to say nothing and have him think I hated it. I went with saying nothing.

  • Pendulum” by Nathan Provence. Pretty sure this is another self-published book given to me by an enterprising author who came up to me at a reading, although I’m not sure which year. By now it has been crushed for so long under the weight of other books that all its pages have fused together.

  • The one I’m actually reading is “The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil” by George Saunders. I’d never heard of this book or the author before, but I saw it in a bookstore last week and liked the first page. I started reading it because my wrists were aching from attempting Phineas Poe. That’s my system, you see: last in, first out. It makes no logical sense, but has the advantage of being easy. I use the same system for my email. Anyway, I’m really loving this book so far. It’s fantastic. So if you made it this far, there you go: that’s a little helpful.

By the way, in the course of writing this review, I moved the books to see what was on the bottom, and the pile fell on me. I nearly died.

Tue 05
Jun
2007

Festive

Max On the weekend I went to the Sydney Writers’ Festival. Many years ago, before I was published, I went to one of these big festivals and hated it, because it was full of self-congratulating blowhards trying to crawl up each other’s butts. But now that I’m one of those butt-crawling blowhards, it was awesome.

I did three panels and got to meet lots of other Aussie writers, which I hadn’t done earlier because until recently I was completely unknown here. Now I’m exactly the right amount of known: enough to get invited, but not so much that I qualify as a commercial sell-out whom everybody bitches about. It was a perfection distraction for a guy waiting to find out if his publisher likes his new novel. (Not that I’m, you know, completely freaking out or anything.)

On my second night I pulled a muscle in my leg. I was asleep at the time. I dreamed that a tiny, blue, jelly-like alien invaded my kitchen and tried to kill me. I stabbed it with a fork and it squealed and staggered around, then it tried to make a run for it so I kicked it as hard as I could against the cupboards. This is where I think I injured myself. Then the alien looked up at me and said, “Mom-my.” I was so shocked I woke up. I think this must be a side-effect of having an active imagination, or doing a lot of drugs before bed.

For my last panel, “Laugh Out Loud,”, I opened with a bit where I pretended someone close to me had just died, then revealed it was just a character in a story I was working on. This probably would have been funnier if moments earlier the host hadn’t paid tribute to Anna Politkovskaya, who attended the Festival last year, and was assassinated for political reasons five months later. If I was a little more professional, I would have junked my opening right there. But I’m not, so I didn’t. Fortunately not too many people seemed to think I was making funny at Anna. And you know, I’m told she enjoyed a laugh.

I read a couple of blogs from this site, which went down very well. It was also terrific to be on stage with my old high school buddy, Wil Anderson; I felt like I was back in 1990, only with no hair.

On the plane ride home I noticed they’re still advising us to brace our heads against the seat in front of us in an emergency. This made sense ten years ago, but now that location is a small, solid screen. If I’m preparing for impact, do I really want to carefully position my face against a rectangle of glass and metal? To me, that really confirms that the whole procedure is there purely to give you something to occupy yourself with other than running around screaming and clawing at flight attendants.

I got home to discover Fin had grown up. I swear, I was away three days, and she learned a hundred new words, got attitude, and her face changed. I am not 100% certain my wife didn’t replace her with a similar-looking child.

Thu 03
May
2007

Life As You Know It

Max I turned on my computer to be greeted with this email:

Are you available for a phone call?
Best,
Claire

Claire is the assistant to my agent, Luke, so I email back in the affirmative. I wonder what’s up: phone calls out of the blue are usually good news, like maybe something exciting happening with a film.

Claire replies:

I have some good news and some bad news… I’ll call you in a min.
-CD

Now, let me skip ahead and tell you that the bad news isn’t anything serious: they just have to subtract some money from my royalty check to pay US withholding tax. But in the five minutes before I find that out, I am convinced that either:

  1. Doubleday has decided to drop me as an author; or:
  2. Company has sold much more poorly than anyone let on and Doubleday has decided to drop me as an author.

This completely out-of-the-blue, oh-by-the-way-everybody-hates-you-and-your-career-is-over thing happened to me once before, in 2002, and suddenly I’m back there, staring into the abyss. The “good news” will turn out to be: “And that means we can start looking for an even better publisher!” Everyone will try to be positive but the inescapable truth will be: I’m history. I know this for a fact.

I love being able to write for my job. I love it. But boy, I could do without the occasional heart-stopping moments where I see my entire professional world fall apart. I really could.

P.S. Oh, and later I emailed Claire to ask what the good news was again. She probably did mention it in the phone call, but I didn’t notice because I was too busy planning my new career as an ice-cream salesman. She said it was that I had some royalties.

Thu 19
Apr
2007

Danger: Linux Advocacy Ahead

Max Last week I helped my 17-year-old brother-in-law build his own computer. Moo, as I shall call him, as I have since he was four, is not particularly geeky. He is what they call emo. And he lives in England, so all I could do was give advice over the phone and hope I wasn’t about to hear, “Is this bit meant to be smoking like… OH MY GOD IT’S—beep, beep, beep.”

But he put the whole thing together with no real dramas or explosions, which I was very impressed with. Then we got to what turned out to be the hard part: setting up Windows XP.

I haven’t used Windows much in the last three years. It’s possible that my mind has become clouded by the religion that is Linux. But I don’t think so. I think Windows has gotten crappier.

I seriously can’t believe how many hoops you have to jump through now to do even simple tasks, like upgrade Internet Explorer. (Before you are permitted to plug the gaping security holes in the 2001 version that comes on the CD, you must install some other software that’s of no benefit to you, which requires much clicking, restarting, and rebooting.) The Internet Chat program, Messenger, is so crammed full of ads and promotions that it’s hard to work out where the non-commercial content is. Programs crash. Installing drivers is click-and-hope. It won’t recognize your wireless network card because it wasn’t invented in 2001, and you can’t go on the internet for updates because it won’t recognize your wireless network card. Even if you could, you don’t have any security patches installed, and by the time you download them, your system will be infected with Sasser. Everything you install tries to change your home page, start by default, and fill your desktop with icons.

But what really bothers me is the feeling that you must constantly fight for control of your own computer, because your aims are apparently in conflict with those of Microsoft and half of everyone else who writes Windows software. They want your computer to report information about you, keep ongoing watch over what you’re doing in case you turn pirate (activation, registration, and validation?), show you ads, and lock you out of protected media. If you lose this battle, then six months later you find yourself with a computer so clogged with malware that the only way to make it usable again is to reinstall the operating system and begin the fight again.

Occasionally I see articles about whether Linux is ready to compete with Windows on the desktop. But it’s become obvious to me that Linux is already a better operating system. That’s purely on the merits—features, reliability, and ease of use—and even before you throw in the fact that Linux is free and has more accessible support.

So to me the question isn’t whether Linux is good enough any more. It’s down to the applications: whether Linux programs are available to do everything you want.

Today the latest version of Ubuntu was released. Ubuntu is the best home Linux distribution going around, so if you’ve thought about switching, it’s a good time. You can download a Live CD, which lets you try Linux out without actually installing it, but even better might be to consider which applications you could switch to. If you can find Linux versions that do everything you need, you’re good to go. If you can’t—and there are certain holes here that will rule Linux out for some people—then you might want to stay put. (It is possible to run most Windows applications on Linux with emulation, but it’s clunky. And dual-booting for anything except games gets tedious fast.)

P.S. Here is the last thing I wrote about Linux, in February 2005.

P.P.S. I understand that to many people, Linux users are fanatical freaks with no appreciation for the basic fact that the majority of the world doesn’t fall in love with computers but simply uses them to get things done. But that’s because they’re running Windows. If only they switched, the scales would fall from their eyes and they too would realize that they are eating delicious cherry pie while everyone around them chews on mud, saying, “It’s not too bad, once you get used to it.”

Oh, and the mud is evil.

Thu 15
Mar
2007

My Friend’s Security Clearance

Max

Aussies in Sydney: I’m doing my first ever Sydney bookstore event tonight (Friday)! Details here.

Yesterday I received a letter from the Australian Department of Defence. It is in fact from the Defence Security Authority section of the Department of Defence. I bet they have slogans like “Defending the Defenders,” or “Watching Your Back While You’re At The Front.” Or at least they should.

Anyway, they wrote to me because I have a friend who works there, and apparently he:

… is currently undergoing a security clearance process for access to extremely sensitive information. As part of the security clearance process, it is required that we contact nominated referees to ascertain the subject’s suitability to have access to this type of information.

Then there are a bunch of questions like this:

Are you aware of any matters of potential security concern with regards to the subject? (Unexplained changes in work patterns or performance; changes in personality; changes in their personal life)

Those are some pretty suggestive examples. So naturally I’m thinking of writing something like this:

Not at all! In fact, just the other day he said he’d never been happier, not since he met “the true believers.” I think that must be a club you have there at Defence. Anyway, he’s really been broadening his horizons—learning to speak Mandarin, for example, and always dropping into the Chinese Embassy, just to soak up some foreign culture! And I know he’s really looking forward to his next vacation; he said he really deserves it. Actually, what he said was, “Then everyone will get what they deserve.” Then he rubbed his hands together and cackled. I think he must be planning to get YOU guys presents, even though he’s going away! Hope I haven’t spoiled the surprise! Ha ha!

It’s a nice feeling, knowing that I can destroy a friend’s career with a few lines. I think it brings us closer together. I might ring him up and tell him that, and suggest that this would be an appropriate time to have me over for dinner, and spare no expense on the wine.

But I do wonder about this system. If I take this form at face value, the method the Department of Defence uses to identify potential spies is to get them to name a few friends who are willing to say they’re on the level. It seems to me that if you’re going to all the trouble of infiltrating a hostile government and working your way into a position of significance over a period of several years, you can probably arrange that. I mean, I’m no expert on international espionage. But that would seem like one of the basics to me.

Maybe Defence is right, though. It would be pretty stressful, maintaining an ice-cool facade at work all day. Maybe after a a hard day’s pretending to not revile capitalism, you might want to hit a few bars with friends in your “THE REVOLUTION IS COMING” T-shirt. Everyone needs to blow off steam sometime. If it were me, I’d always be having conversations like this:

Them: “… which is why our country’s economy is so strong.”
Me: “Yes, exactly.” (mutters) “For now.”
Them: “What?”
Me: “Nothing.”
Them: “It sounded like you muttered “for now” under your breath.”
Me: “That was gas.”
Them: “Oh. Okay.”
Me: (mutters) “Fool.”
Them: “What?”

Thu 22
Feb
2007

walkthrough reqd pls thx

Max Pleased FinMy daughter has started to want things. Until now she has only needed things. Here is the difference:

Scenario A: Fin Needs Something
Fin: “Mmmrrraaaaaa.”
Me: “It must be lunch time. Let’s get you some food.”

Scenario B: Fin Wants Something
Fin: “Book? Book?”
Me: “No book, it’s time for lunch.”
Fin: “Book? Book? Book?”
Me: “No, honey.”
Fin: “Book? Book? Book? Book? Book? Book? Book? Book?”

For a while now I have thought of raising Fin like a video game. You start off with fairly simple tasks to accomplish, to help you get a hang of the basic controls. Thereafter you encounter obstacles of steadily increasing difficulty.

The only real difference is that if you fail a level, you don’t get to go back and try it again. Instead, all of that level’s monsters follow you to the next one. Oh, and you get no power-ups.

Here are the levels I think I’ve completed so far:

Level 1: Don’t Drop Me
Level 2: Keep Me Warm But Not Too Warm
Level 3: Guess Why I’m Crying
Level 4: I Did A Poo In My Pants
Level 5: Food
Level 6: Try To Make Me Sleep
Level 7: Guess What I Just Put In My Mouth
Level 8: I Have Noticed That You Do What I Want When I Cry
Level 9: Biting Is Fun
Level 10: Am I Sick?
Level 11: I Can Reach Your Valuables
Level 12: But I Don’t Want To Wear Pants
Level 13: I Can Climb On Things To Reach Your Valuables
Level 14: No
Level 15: My Education Depends On You Signing Me Up To A Good School’s Waiting List A Year Ago

Some future levels I’m expecting:

  • Why Don’t I Have A Penis?
  • But Mom Said I Could
  • I Want A Pony
  • All The Other Girls Have Pierced Belly Buttons
  • Boys Are Cute
  • I Should Look Like The Girls In The Magazines
  • My Boyfriend Has A Car

Then of course there are the optional bonus levels, such as I’ve Decided To Go Backpacking Through Thailand, and Dad This Is My Life Partner Susan.

I think I need to read some more strategy guides before then. I believe they are called “parenting books.”