Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Tue Jan 30 18:23:03 PST 2007

Randomness and spomtaneity can be potent tools for the comedic 
writer.  If Edward de Bono is correct is his assertion that laughter 
occurs when patterns are broken, then surreal, random humour is closer 
to "pure" funny than more predictable fare.  I think this is why I 
often have trouble making meaningful comments about Arthur Spitzer's 
latest stories-- they're so beyond paltry concerns of plot and 
character and exist so wholly in the realm of Funny that to explain 
them would take something away from them.

Young Mitchell Crouch, who is exceedingly talented (especially for 
someone just starting out!), has written a fair number of stories in 
this vein.  The first Sea Monkeys story, I think, worked rather well.  
It had a lot of charm to spare and was very amusing.  I'm not sure if 
this second one works so well-- as a whole.

Because there's two kinds of randomness, of spontaneity.  To 
illustrate the difference between the two, imagine that you are 
present at a children's birthday party.  The clown is late, and may 
not make it all.  The mother of the child asks you to try and 
entertain the children.

And so, you try your best, telling jokes as they occur to you, working 
your way through the crowd, and pulling coins out from behind people's 
ears.  The children are delighted.  They're not sure what you're going 
to do next and, true, neither do you, but you're adapting fairly 
well.  The afternoon is full of suprises and joy.  That's good random, 
good spontaneity.

Then the clown shows up.

He's very, very drunk.  The things he says are nonsensical and a 
little frightening.  He punches children in the face and gropes their 
parents.  Then he falls asleep on the table.

And then he farts.

That's not good random.  One, because it is unpleasant, and two, 
because the clown has no idea what he's doing.

And that's the difference.  Good random is, the writer's making this 
up as he goes along, isn't he clever?, I wasn't expecting that!

And then bad random is, the writer has no idea what he's doing.

And, I'm not saying that Mitchell doesn't know what he's doing-- only 
that randomness for its own sake is not necessarily charming or 

I feel that much of the second Sea Monkeys is less about Mitchell 
writing by the seat of his pants and taking us a voyage of discovery, 
to see what's next, and more about Mitchell not quite knowing where 
he's going with it.  And then he kills off his characters, a sure sign 
that the story has overstayed its welcome in its author's eyes.

There were a couple moments that were pretty terrific; the origin of 
Marvin the Kid Macaw is absolutely _wonderful_, very cleverly 
executed, and completely good random and LNHy.  And the sprouting of 
wings by the two apes is equally amusing.  But by the time they start 
falling, I got the feeling that Mitchell was growing tired of it.  I 
think on a whole the ending was unsatisfactory.

And perhaps that's another secret of Good Randomness: it usually 
doesn't result in death (at least for the main characters; children 
murdered by Girls on Beach Blankets are a-okay).  Good Randomness is 
about discovery, and adventure, and all sorts of positive, "up" 

And, for me, the end of this story, and much of the story as a whole, 
wasn't very "up" or as funny.

Sorry, Mitchell.  That's just my opinion, and take it for what it's 


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