The Rip Post                                Riposte Archive


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Aug. 30, 2007

          I didn’t want to go to the trouble of getting a truck to run over my legs, or an editor to ruin my life, so I wrote a book.
          You know the book. You see the ad for it on the right---“Less Than Satisfying Encounters With Humanity” (LTSEWH), based on my long-standing column of the same (deliberately) stupid name.
          But this is not a cheap plug. I am writing with sheer stupefaction, incredulity. You know when Yosemite Sam gets brained with a big hammer, and his head turns into about eight vibrating Yosemite Sams for a minute? That’s me.
          LTSEWH the illustrated book, the "best" LTSEWH's dating back to the L.A. Times 15 years ago(!),  turned out to be a mutant, pustule-ridden, halitosis-blasting LTSEWH unto itself.
          I mean, drop some damn bricks on me. Force me to watch “Oprah” 48 hours straight. Make me ride with a woman driver on a cell phone. Pay Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan to give me tongue kisses. (Aieeee!) Set me in the stall next to Sen. Craig.
          All are preferable to what I went through to get this book done.
          You think I embellish?
          Consider this alone: at one point, the manuscript for LTSEWH---finished one year ago---was kidnapped and held for ransom. Really.
          There I was. . .
          Asking a friend for a recommendation for someone who was graphics-savvy. In other words, somebody who could lay the book out, because the idea of me learning a new software program is not much different from Stephen Hawking entering the decathalon.
          “I know a good guy,” said my friend, and before I knew it, I was meeting with Good Guy at a café.
          He seemed all right, affable enough, and wore a nice hat, which impressed me. I decided to overlook the tattoos on his arms that looked like he came out second in a nasty fight with a chicken, and the too-restrained speaking style. I also overlooked the design work he brought along to dazzle me. It dazzled, all right. Looked like something doodled and pasted up by a high school kid with guns in his locker. Naturally, I hired him.
          There was this whole rigamarole for a few weeks about how the cover, inside layout, and 500 copies would cost me five-thousand U.S. (cough, hack) dolares, and how I might be able to afford that if I spent the next ten years asking for spare change. . .and how, well, he might be able to do it for $3000. . .and how I couldn’t afford $3000 if my cat’s life depended on it. . .and how, well, he might be able to do it for less. . .and. . . . .
how he was going to make some calls and see what he could do, and. . .
          In the end, he suggested I do a docutech book on my own, and he would lay out the manuscript for $150. Translation: his $5000 chump turned out to be a freelance writer. For those unfamiliar with the definition of a freelance writer, I believe Webster’s includes the word, “desititute” in the description. Translation of docutech: fancier than handwriting.
          Six weeks later---no eight weeks later---no, twelve weeks later? Enough time for humans-to-evolve-out-of-toes later, after many e-mail inquiries, and many excuses about computers that sang, danced, did strip-teases, but seldom processed information, Good Guy agreed to meet with me to show me the work he had done “so far.”
          So far? We’re talking 230 pages here, not The Bible. Pick the type face, set the page numbers, size the art, plug it in, and zip-zam, you’re done. Right?
          Man, I should have known there was something wrong when this guy repeatedly used the phrase, “You stated that. . .” Stated? What was this, implied legalese? Who says "stated?" Stated? Never trust anyone who says “stated.”
          There I was. . .
          Meeting again with Good Guy. He showed me the work, which at least it looked kind of like a book, and was two-thirds finished. I suggested rearranging the illustrations a little, gave him a couple new ones, and hoped maybe he would complete the thing by, oh, Christmas. That night I went to a graveyard and swung a dead cat around my head three times, and spat over my left shoulder.
          Didn’t help.
          Several more weeks and pathetic, obsequious “how’s it goin’?” e-mails from me elicited. . .not much. At this point I found someone to do the cover, who shall here be named Joan of Arc, in honor of her heroic aid and sacrifice on my behalf. Well, for reasons that are now as fuzzy as George W. Bush’s palms, Joan and Good Guy had some e-mail back-and-forth about the software programs being used in order to coordinate blah blah blah, and. . .
          Joan made it pretty clear to me that Good Guy had little idea what he was doing, or at least little interest in what he was doing. Then Good Guy made it clear to me that he didn’t have time to work on LTSEWH anymore, but somehow---you guessed it---he wanted more money!
          That’s right: I agreed to do a job for $150, didn’t finish the job, but now you’ll have to give me another $150 in order to receive the unfinished job!
          Somehow, that sounds about right in The United States of Halliburton.
          I fired off a rather blunt e-mail to him. I did not quite use the word, “crook.”
          It was at that point that I finally made a few calls and learned that Good Guy had oh, a wee bit of a problem with the bottle, with the grape, with the libation of Bacchus, and that if you um, irked him, he made a point of not letting you forget it. For quite a while.
          Yowzah! Around my house, we call this sort of thing, "Rense Luck."
          Here I had hired someone to work on a book, and had gotten a potential item for the police blotter. I promptly apologized to Good Guy---who I must say maintained his “likeable” persona---and stated that he would meet with me again. Funny thing---he refused to do anything by mail. Maybe he was afraid of Anthrax.
          In the end, I paid him and his chicken the ransom and got my manuscript back---he was into me for a few hundred bucks---then turned the whole thing over to Joan of Arc. Phew? Not quite. Joan spent weeks redoing Good Guy’s work, then added the extra illustrations and made proofreading corrections. Fixing Good Guy’s “work” cost me another four of five hundred bucks, and polishing the whole thing brought the total investment to about a grand.
          Break even? Moi?
          Then there’s the cover.
          Joan created what I thought was a magnificent cover, based on my vague suggestions, utilizing two of the illustrations of my friend James Ferrigno (who does the marvelous Dr. Wazoo comic on this site.) But my brother, Jeff, the famous and remarkable founder and host of, thought the book needed a funnier look. So he commissioned his resident artist, David Dees, to come up with something that turned out to be so utterly arrestingly schizophrenically knee-slapping that I would have been a fool to refuse it. Well, okay, more of a fool. Net result:
          One book, two covers!
          Reminds me of the immortal line of the late great televangelist, Dr. Howard C. Estep: “Hell is a bottomless pit---two tops, no bottom.”
          Yes, I could have just junked the first cover, but that would be the same as taking five C-notes and using them for Kleenex. Besides, I like the first cover! Instead, I decided to offer the book with the original front in a limited edition of 50 signed by Ferrigno and me, and the fabulous Dees cover as the official version.
          If you think resolving this---among the several computers involved, and then uploading everything to easy, then you probably think Jesus is coming to Atlanta. (Oh, wait---the Mormons believe that, don’t they. . .) No, there were all sorts of medieval devices, catapults, chants, spells, tantrums, and not a little voodoo required to get the covers in shape for publication---you know, converting them to pdfs and bfds and hpbs and tcbs, and fixing their spines and chakras, and---
          Okay, folks, I’ll cut you some slack here. Getting into the nuts and bolts of the rest of this LTSEWH would be taking unfair advantage. You'll have to settle for the gist, which is plenty thrilling enough:
          I decided to (gasp) rewrite the manuscript to better fit the wonderfully insane tone of the Dees cover, which meant I had to edit a pdf file, but because I cannot edit a pdf file on my computer, I had to ask Joan of Arc to input the changes, but Joan would have had to charge me another $60 an hour, which would probably have doubled the cost of the book, so instead I prevailed upon my neighbor, Syb, who has the proper software and many cats, but who for some reason couldn't edit a pdf, so I had to get Joan to get me the original file, and ask Syb to convert it to a pdf---but then the new pdf turned up with the front pages out of order, and about seven blank pages in the back, so. . .I had to unpublish the existing LTSEWH at, then to go back to Syb and watch her figure all this pdf BS out (pant pant), which she did, but then the new new new latest model 2007 pdf showed up, for some reason, with the front pages still screwed up, and I’ll probably have to send it back to Joan of Arc tonight, and. . .
          I could get behind book-burning right about now.
          Count your blessings. I left out the “War and Peace”-length saga of adding the two versions of the book to the Rip Post Bookstore, which took about two days. And then there were my repeated attempts to figure out the importance of an ISBN number, and whether adding one would mean that would start selling the book at (it could), which I don’t want to happen because that means all my profits go the way of. . .
          The remains of my brain.
          For more LTSEWH’s, watch this space---and read the book! Satisfaction guaranteed.

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