WARNING: this post is going to be as whiny and selfish as humanly possible. If that bothers you, quit reading and go find some goth girls in trees to look at.
I was having a crisis today. I’m writing you here because frankly, I don’t think anyone ever reads this thing, and the chances of you ever bothering to do something that changes your world are as remote as Bhopal to Lacrosse,WI. But I’m adressing you because I keep having one thought, over and over again that you’ve never had.
Lots of days, I think I suck as a parent. Fuck that, there are days when I know I suck as a parent. There are days when I look at my girl, and all I can think of are all the bad things I’ve given her. TV, Video games, bad food, ignorance, neurosis, for a start. The fact that the best thing I do for my daughter is take her to the park so she has other kids to play with speaks volumes about my failure as a parent. There are other adults who can sit and play for hours with their kids, without running out of things to do with them. I’m not one of them. At times, I get too self absorbed, and resort to video games or TV as a babysitter, even when I’m home.
In short, I follow the lessons in parenting you and mom instilled in me long ago. Make sure he gets good grades, make sure he’s not dressed in rags, but when it comes to actual love and affection, don’t bother. Plop them in front of a TV set, or send him to his room, so he’ll be out of the way. I work six days a week(just like you used to) and pretty much don’t have a life outside of work(just like you), and there are days when I just want to come home, lock myself in a room, and scream into a pillow for six hours.
Here’s the big difference between me and you dad: I admit I have a problem. So yes, I may not play as much with her, but I do play with her , or try to interact with her every day. Which is something you never bothered with until Mom left. Thank the gods I married a woman who has a clue about child rearing, and a sense of fun. She also has family who understand that, and try to include Aubry in stuff, and make an effort so she has experiences that aren’t tied to a screen. You tried to, dad, but six thousand trips to the lumberyard aren’t going to replace not a single trip to a ball game, or museum, or anything that showed life outside of work and repairing the house. Evne if she didn’t have all that, there’s one thing I do that you could never be bothered to:
I love her.
I get her off to school, I read to her, I tickle her and tease her. I love to listen to her sing along to the radio, she makes up the words if she doesn’t know them. I tell her when she’s wrong, and I praise her every chance I get. I’ve had bad days where I’ve gone off on her, and the look in her eyes from those days crushes me every time I think about it. I make sure the last words she hears every night or when I leave her side are “I love you Aubry”, bcause Gods forbid I get taken out in the night or while I’m away, The last thing she’ll have heard from me is the most important thing any kid can know: That their parent(s) love them.
Pity you couldn’t be bothered, Dad. I fucking hate, hate HATE the song “Cats in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin, because frankly, I lived it for my entire childhood. I can’t recall you ever playing with me once. All the games other kids grew up with, like Chutes and Ladders, I played in school. I can’t recall a single thing we did together as a family, except go visit your folks. Well, there was the infamous family vacation in 76, but really, since we only went to the spots you wanted to, how fun was that?
I admit, to your mind, I was a spectacular failure as a child. Needy, sickly , and small. Of course, flowers stunt when you don’t water them, Dad. Aubry’s proof of that. She grows bigger every day, and we feed her love.
I wish I was a better man, Dad. That I didn’t learn all you taught me so well. That I’m so afraid of not having a job that I’ll stay at a crappy one just to survive, and not take a chance on a better one.I try not to discuss my job with Aubry, because really, what six year old needs to hear their father bitch about how much of a career failure he is.
I’m writing this, in part, as a part of a plan to myself to do better this year. Yeah, I’m already not perfect at it, but gods damn it, I’m trying, whihc is, after all, better than you.
Let’s be perfectly clear here, I used to HATE the daytime. When you’re a twenty-something misanthrope working retail, daytime blows. Bosses are about, people are about, it gets to be a little much. So you pack your bag up at the end of the day, and when you’re twenty, and .socially inept(see the last post), night time is a great time. Less people around to make you feel like the outcast you already know you are. The people at this time of night are usually more interesting, and just as much an outcast as you.
But being a misanthrope, you head home, unless there’s a RPG/concert/club you’re hanging at. But if you do those things, it’s never on a Friday or Saturday. Those days in the club world are amateur hour,money makers for the club. Too crowded, too full of desperation, and way too many people to notice you’re not the hippest thing in the world. So you sit home alone,only the radio to keep you company, because Bill Clinton killed late night TV in 1993. Don’t think so? He killed the last chance for the Fairness Doctrine to be put into law, kiddies, and oversaw the deregulation of tv that brought us the infomercial.
Also, radio sucked in the midwest by the 90’s. That was, until one night, I discovered the man who is second only to my wife in comforting me on late and lonely nights:Art Bell.
Art Bell’s Show, Coast to Coast AM, was the perfect radio show for the 90’s, and is still somewhat good under the new guy, George Noory. But for a guy reading fantasy and sci-fi or chatting in a chat room at 1 am, he was the perfect soundtrack. Yes, he was into the paranormal and dire future predictions, but he did it with a style and dry humor never matched. Who else had the nerve to have the AntiChrist call line, call in if you’re him? Or call in if you’re from the future.
Best moment ever for Art’s show was one night, during a round of Area 51 call ins. Area 51 is the legendary Nellis Air Force Base, long rumored to be a holding area for crashed UFOs. A caller called in, said he was calling from a phone booth, and couldn’t talk long. Said there were things at Area 51 that made him weep for humanity. He then stopped, and said “Oh God, they’re here”. While Art tried to keep him talking, there was a sudden blood curdling shriek, and Art’s show went off the air. It’s 2 AM and your favorite broadcaster gets cut off, you tend to freak out. Turns out a transformer blew near Art’s uplink for satellite. Never been real sure about the connection, but it was amazing to experience.
Flash forward twelve years or so. I’m a father now, which is to say I haven’t really slept in, in about six years. I figure I get to do that when she graduates high school. Until then, I’ve gone from feedings in the early hours to bad dreams to up before dawn bus driver pick ups. But I still have insomnia. I still love to write in the wee hours when I can, though the morning afters are worse now. But I don’t have Art anymore, not really. And if I’m alone in the house at night,I find I miss the presence of my wife and child. Where the radio once was, the silent presence, the odd rustle of a turning body in bed, these are the noises that give me comfort in my wolf hours. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. And daytime? it’s a good thing now, because that’s when my light of my world is awake. So good bye middle of the night, I’ll see you around, here and there, but I have those who need me elsewhere.
Haven’t posted here in ages, wonder if anyone besides the future son-in-law will give a crap. Need to figure out how to post to both this and FB, and make my own damn site. So today is 1/2/12, wonder why no one’s making a big deal out of it. Just as significant as any other date, and looks cooler. I made a personal vow to write at least 500 words a day, and since no one reads this anyway, figured I’d just write here, at least it’s proof I did something worthwhile with part of my day that didn’t involve household tasks or playing video games. I’m hoping to rewire my brain into needing to dothis. WHy do I need to do that? Real Simple:
I’m an addict. I have an addictive personality. I know this, I’ve known it for decades. Now, before you all start quoting the twelve steps to me, do me a favor. Write down the twelve steps, roll them up tight, cover them in lube, and shove them up your ass. They’re useless, absolutely useless, and one of the worst things to ever happen to Western Civilization,next to Don Hewitt,the man who destroyed news reporting.
Now my addiction has never been to drugs, though I did OD once. Can’t really call myself a drug addict though, because being dead once was enough to stop me. Nope, through my life, there has been one addiction, and one addiction alone that’s stood head and shoulders above the rest. Most people would look at me and assume its food, just because I look like a shaved bear most days. Nope it’s this:
Being alone and reading.
I’m addicted to it. I can’t help it. If in my last hours, if I have no family left alive, don’t pray over me. Just put me in an easy chair, pile the latest issues of AP and Decibel next to the chair, hand me a Nick Polotta book, then put in the needle. Chances are I’d die smiling.
I know exactly how I came to be addicted to this. That was the time there was any peace in my house growing up. Other kids can talk about family gathered around the TV at night, or playing games. If you think I know what that’s like, its only because my wife’s shown me how that can be fun the last few years.
You think an addiction like this wouldn’t be so bad, but you’d be wrong. I suffered immensely in social situations for years. It took years of friends and teachers to teach me how to talk to people. And I’m good at it, don’t get me wrong. But sometimes I’ll talk to people way too long, like I’m overcompensating. Perhaps I am. But my happiest childhood memories don’t involve people, they involve being under my bed(it had a raised chest on the side, and I could slip down behind it and make a fort). It was my inner sanctum the first decade or so of my life. There are days when I’m still that kid, alone, listening to his parents scream at each other, waiting for the silence.
Warning: some of the new planks in the Immanent Party platform may be offensive, or worse yet,funny. Here’s my third attempt at writing this thing
15)All government officials and workers will be subjected to random drug tests. If you can’t drive a car or fly a plane drunk or high,why should you be able to do so to a country?
16)Illegal immigrants from a country in North America, and over 18, will be subjected to democracy and military training and shipped back to their home country. Underage illegals will be handed over to social services. Babies born to illegals will be handed over to social services and their parents deported. Countries whose citizens commit more than 10% of the crime in a city,county or state will be considered to have done an act of war.
19)Babies born in the US to parents with visas or green card, the parents will have 6 months to pass citizenship and ESL classes, or they will be returned to their home country,regardless of political asylum. Second incident illegals will be treated as enemy combatants, and housed according to Geneva convention standards, to those countries who signed the treaty. Otherwise, they will be treated to the standard of their home country.
20) People who commit terrorist acts,such as bombings and massacres will no longer be given asylum, and can be sued and tried for such crimes here.
21) All government licensing and regulations will be in English, period, along will all road signs. Businesses over a certain size and sales volume will be required to have all English signs. My ancestors had to learn the language and assimilate,you do too. Also, radio stations will be subject to one foreign language station, per language, per 100 mile broadcast area.
22) We advocate for all churches to be allowed to act as areas of asylum, but still subject to search and seizure of weaponry and drugs. Churches who are found to hold such will be immediately disassembled and all assets seized.
23)All new house permits will be suspended until livable housing is made for all. Then new houses will be made only on currently vacant land.
24)Slumlords and companies holding vacant land without engaging in reasonable upkeep will have those land seized and turned over for public use.
25)Nuclear reactors will be safe to a 9.0 seismic action or shut down. Towns will allow transport of spent fuel to desert locations or have their power shut off, period. No more NIMBY for nuclear fuel disposal.
26) FEMA is to be disbanded and replaced with something that works, along with the FDA, EPA, and TSA. Like hardcore bands, some acronyms need to go when they start to suck.
27) The Immanent party’s solution to the Mideast problem is to cut off all military aid to Israel until there’s a Palestinian state,and all the settlements are gone,period. All Islamic states will have nuclear weapons placed in their cities, with state leaders getting triggers, that will set off one weapon at random. All disputed religious sites will be razed and turned into parks. If my kids fight over toys too much they get taken away too.
28) We will advocate for our new foreign policy, called the Chicago Way. We will no longer start wars, we will finish them. We also will utilize the tools that organizations use against us. We will also advocate assassination as a tool of spy craft against those states that use it. The gloves are off, terrorists.
29) Sports improvements: No more banning of performance enhancers, now required. Tougher requirements for prevention of head injuries, and salary and ticket price caps.
So I’ve been watching the news,and frankly, my disgust with my fellow Americans has reached a new height, So many people standing around, watching as a corporate funded plutocracy steals this country right out from under us. I have no interest in the Right Wing of this country. Your Koch Brothers rimming, Goldman Sachs sucking, jackbooted thugs in nice suits serve their corporate masters, while distracting hordes of followers with Sarah Palin,and a complete disrespect for their enemies. I’m done talking to people who have no interest in compromise, only winning. That’s fine, you’ve shown us your hand, now bend over so I can give you ours.
All you Democrats, you can stop laughing now. You’re worse. At least the Republicans told me where they were coming from, and I believed them. The Democrats sold me a very convincing dream, and did with the best drug ever: Hope. And what do I have to show for it?
Frankly, Mr. President, you disgust me. How many times does a guy have to kick you in the nuts before you stop trying to reason with him? You rode into town with our hopes and dreams, and armed with one of the dirtiest players in the game, the Democratic Dick Cheney, Rahm Emanuel. And what did you do with this?
Frankly, President Obama, you became their bitch. You were on your knees more times in the White House than Monica Lewinsky. In your pathetic attempts at reconciliation, you gave away the best shot a new President’s had since Carter.
Sadly, Mr. President, he had a spine. I’d like to know where the fuck yours went. Were you never in fights in school, Obama? If you try and shake hands with someone, and they spit on it, you don’t wipe it off and then get on your knees and ask again. Which is what you have done. Where I come from, you try and reason with someone, and they insult your family, your friends, and your kids(which the Republicans and their fascist girlfriends ,The Teabagger Party have done), you don’t try and reason with them anymore. You smile back sweetly, and kick them right in the nuts. How many more freedoms have to go before you realize they won’t be reasoned with?
But it’s not your fault, really. We’ve gone in the Democrats from Truman and Roosevelt to Kerry(who couldn’t beat BUSH in a debate, how shameful was that?) and your Uncle Tom ass. Yeah , I said it. You are nothing more than a lackey for the billionaires just like the Republicans, just different ones. They are the whores with Gonorrhea, you’re the ones with Syphliis.
So, I’ve decided that this country needs to be taken back. The 10% who own everything need to go down. So I’ve decided to make a new party, because frankly, all the other minority parties suck hard. What’s it called:
The Immanent Party
Catchy, huh? It’s a play on Immanence,the idea that spirit is everywhere. I’m using it to say politics are everywhere, and if you ignore them, they will act on you without your will. But enough of that, without further ado, here are the planks in the Immanent Party platform:
1)Corporations, especially, Insurance companies, have gotten too big, and need to be split up,NOW. The Sherman Act needs to go, replaced with our new bill, the Curtis Act,which says that if you go above 30% of market share, you break into four companies, in 60 days, or face government seizure of all assets. The Curtis act will NOT have an insurance company exemption.
2) Laws and budgets have gotten ridiculously complex, and need to be simplified. The entire tax code needs to go, replaced with 10% income tax, no exemptions for anything. Corporations worth over 10 million will have that applied retroactively for 5 years once the code is enacted. This will also mean no more tax cuts for oil companies, or for companies that send jobs overseas. Forieign investment cna no longer be more than 40% of a company. Any company that closes a plant here and moves it overseas will be charged with economic treason.
3) The Fairness in Broadcasting Act will be put back into place. Along with the Curtis Act, this will mean the end of Mass Media.Also,the fees for broadcast licenses will be dropped greatly, encouraging more media variety
4) All ulitity companies will now have to be partially government owned.
5)All stock, bank and commodity regulations will now go back to the ones in 1930. Commodities Speculation will be tightly regulated, since it causes the rises in prices we’re seeing now in gas and corn.
6)Net Neutrality will be enforced by the FCC, period.
7) Marijuana will be legalized, and treated the same as alcohol, in terms of sale and production. Other drugs will be on prescription basis, regulated.Drinking age will be federal,and knocked down to 18.
8) Creation of a larger civil service to care for the nation’s infrastructure. This will go along with the new requirement for Citizenship: two years civil, or 18 months military service. Citizenship will be required for voting, running for office, property ownership, business ownership,and marriage. Also, the current citizenship exam will be required to be passed to graduate high school.
9) All political campaigns will receive the same amount of money, press time, and staff, variable by level of government, period. Giving money to candidates will be considered treason, period, and tried as such.
10) All school budgets will be awarded on a per student basis, no more, no less.
11) There will be a Equal Employment Act.Discrimination because of color, creed, or gender will result in loss of business license.
12)Gun Dealers will now have to be federally licensed, not state by state. there will be a 3-day wait to buy a gun, and dealers found not complying with proper mental and criminal background checks will lose license permanently.
13)Establishment of a universal health care policy, paid for by all those smaller insurance fees, due to cap limits on how much those companies can charge, and how much hospitals can spend per dollar on bureaucracy.
14) we are not the party of King, we are the party of Malcolm, Debs, and Hightower.
So,anyone like what they hear so far?more tomorrow.
Weekend Assignment #360: Toy Show Do you have any old toys or dolls from your childhood, either the originals or replacements purchased as an adult? If so, tell us about them.
Extra Credit: Is there a particular toy from your childhood that you especially remember as a favorite?
I don’t have a lot left from my childhood. Having a single father vanish one day, leaving a suicide note and a pile of bills the week after you graduate college, tends to fuck up your childhood keepsakes.Years of couch surfing afterwards don’t help either.
So I only have one toy left from childhood, And it’s not really form childhood, but a reminder of that childhood. It’s a troll, up in my daughter’s closet. He’s grey, furry, has bare arms and legs, and was made by my grandmother. He’s also one of the few things left of one of the best memories of my life.
By the time I came along, my grandparents were retired. Heart attacks had stopped Grandpa, and a broken back had ended my grandmother’s nursing career. My grandmother loved to sew, so when she got bored one day, she started making stuffed animals. She started with teddy bears, but by the end, she was making two foot tall mermaids, Popeye dolls, and dinosaurs
As her only grandson, I got pretty much all of them. My personal favorite was an orange tyrannosaurus she made for me when I was seven. His name was George. The day my grandfather died, I think I came home from school and just sat on the bed, surrounded by a stuffed menagerie, knowing deeply that nothing was ever going to be the same again.Soon after, she stopped sewing. I think a lot of her left with him that day.
My grandparents were the best thing to ever happen to me. They(and my Aunt Rosie) are the only reason I’m not a complete asshat. They took me cross country, took me in for summers, and made sure I had some time where I was a kid during my childhood. My dad was too busy being an emotionally abusive workaholic, and mom was too busy being a bi-polar drug addict to pay too much attention to me as a kid. To this day,I never need to hear “Cats in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin, because I’ve fucking lived it.
Sadly, she’s no longer in this world. She died the week before we moved here to North Carolina. Between being in a nursing home and senility, there wasn’t much left of her at that point. She’d endured a broken hip, a scumbag second husband, and all my teenage nihilism . But she got to see me married and raising a family of my own. She and Archie left some big shoes to fill, and I try every day to.
So when I’m feeling lost in this world, I take that troll down. I swear I can smell their house, the scent of oil soap, her Oil of Olay, and Granddad’s talc all mingled together. I can hear the polka music, and them arguing who won this round of 500 rummy. And I listen to my daughter sleep and think, Hey, it’ll be OK.
Extra credit: Best kids toys, other than the ones I mentioned above, were Micronauts, Legos, Dark Tower, Macross model kits, and Star Wars action figures.
Weekend Assignment #359: Career Day 2 It’s often said that most people will change careers several times over the course of their working lives. If money, age and educational resources were all conducive to your trying another line of work, would you do so? If so, what new career would you choose? Extra Credit: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Would I keep doing what I’m doing? As much as I enjoy some days, it’s not what I’d prefer to be doing. I can think of dozens of jobs I’d rather be doing. Or not doing ,in the case of my safe deposit job I used to have. If’ I’d been emotionally able to write then, I’d have finished a ten novel series by now.But let’s see, dream jobs, in no particular order:
1) Book/music store owner: Remember all those Media Play stores that sold books, music and movies? I’d love to own one of those, only much cooler and without the corporate whoredom those jobs seem to entail.
2)Cable Phone Support: Free cable and doing nothing to help anyone? Sounds like fun ,and could work on my writing inbetween cals from people looking for the “any” key.
3)Radio Talk Show host: I lied, this should be number one. If I could have any job or career,It would have to be Art Bell, the guy who originated the best late night talk show on radio, Coast to Coast AM. I’d get to stay up all night, make good money, and discuss conspiracy theory, UFOs, ghosts and quantum physics. And people would put me in great commercials. (Go Youtube Art Bell Harris Teeter commercial, and then thank me later)
4) Rock star: I know you said if age wasn’t an issue, but in this case, it would be talent that would needed to be not an issue
5)Rapper: See the talent memo above.
6)Law Enforcement: I think I could do this one easily, with enough time. I love the idea of solving crimes and answering mysteries. Besides my age and physical limits, I really think solving crimes woudl be fun.
7) CIA Analyst: I love arguing politics, and trying to figure out what politicos are up to. I imagine the job is something like that. And I really wouldn’t do well in the field ,though.
8) Game programmer: Just so I could write a version of Mafia Wars that doesn’t rip off their artists.
9) Movie Producer: After seeing Skyline, I feel I’m overqualified in the brains and taste department to do this, but I’d do it just so I could stop garbage like Furry Vengeance and get some Heinlein and Moorcock, not to mention Elfquest, on the screen.
10) Pagan Televangelist: I’ve always wanted to be the first. I’ve done in a LARP , I’d love to try it in real life.
Have you ever written on a bathroom wall, or left graffiti anywhere at all? Confess! I promise we’ll go easy on you! How do you feel about the ethics of graffiti, and the level of discourse sometimes found in illicit art and messages in public places?
Extra Credit: If you were to leave a message to the world on a public wall, what would it be?
As an older male who grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, I’ve experienced graffiti in all it’s forms, both positive and negative.I think graffiti, like most things the public considers immoral or illegal, needs to be regulated ,licensed and taxed.
Growing up, I had mostly negative thoughts about graffiti. That’s because the graffiti I saw was left by drunks and gangs. Yes the suburbs had gangs in the 70’s they were just smaller and less nasty. The other was of the so-and -so loves so-and so variety. I’ve never climbed a water tower to declare my love. Most girls I know prefer a man climb the promotion tower to win their love.
It wasn’t until high school that I saw actual graffiti art. It had taken the Breakin movies to get kids interested in graffiti as art. It started popping up with more frequency during the late 80’s especially as I’d ride the train into Chicago for fun. Then it seemed to disappear until the turn of the century, when the 80’s revival brought everything from then back, except stirrup pants(thank gods).
So what should be done about graffiti? I like Jello Biafra’s idea that buildings should be coated with a peel off epoxy , so you could take the graffiti art off and hang it in galleries. This would also help with young males who feel the need to spray their name, without art, like a dog marking it’s territory.
I think if you’re putting up gang graffiti, you should be publicly tarred and feathered. You want to publicly proclaim you’re a criminal? Fine, let’s publicly treat you as one. Gang graffiti is a control tool and shouldn’t be tolerated by any self-respecting community.
Extra credit: If I had to leave one message to the world, it would read:
My wife, my daughter, and my stepdaughters are the best women in the world. Period.
Summer is well underway now. If you live in the northern hemisphere, the days are long and the sun is on its way to being about as hot as it gets in your particular climate. How do you stay cool when the weather gets hot?
Extra Credit: If you’ve ever relocated hundreds of miles to a new home, did the climate play a role in your decision to move?
How do I stay cool? Jason Lee in Dogma said it best:
"Of all humanity’s sins, I love central air the most."
Now as a nature loving Pagan, I’m sure I should be out running through the cool forests, lounging at a beach,and otherwise enjoying natures treasures.There are two problems with that. One is that I’m Swedish and fair skinned, and so is the rest of my family. If I was meant tot go out in the middle of the day in the Carolinas in July and August, the gods would not have made me white. I have noticed, since moving here, that my definition of hot has changed. I used to think 85 was hot and anything above 90 was stay in the house and hide time. Now I don’t think that until the temp is above 95 and the humidity is above 60 percent. So if you think all of this means that I’m indoors all the time, you’re also dead wrong. Summer just means adjusting the time you do thing. Mowing is now strictly an evening activity. I managed to overheat a gas mower last year by mowing at noon during a hundred degree day. I’ve since learned to mow at dusk, through clouds of mosquitoes.
But summer isn’t all bad. The weather here is one of the reasons we left Wisconsin. I do occaisionally miss real winters, until I recall one of the trips we’ve made back during the winter. I don’t mind snow too much unless I have to drive in it. We get snow here, but it’s usually gone within hours. And gods as my witness,from October to March, I ain’t coming north unless some one’s dead. So all you folks at home, nobody die until spring, OK?
I’m also taunting the gods of summer yet again by going to Warped Tour. This year it’s supposed to be 96 degrees and sunny. Last year it poured off and on, and my favorite band on the tour, Bad Religion, had to stop their set due to lightning. Some of the Xtians in the audience claimed it was god’s will. I think the Gods listen to the fury of nature and the laughter of kids for music.
So that’s what I do for beating the heat. I also drink lots of fluids, get plenty of bed rest. No wait,that’s for the flu. Oh well, you get the point.
Weekend Assignment #323: Tech Savvy When you bring home some new piece of technology, do you usually get it up and running with pleasant anticipation and calm confidence, or is there more likely to be much swearing, wailing and gnashing of teeth? What’s the most trouble you’ve had with a new computer, tv, phone or related tech gadget?
Extra Credit: Who do you call in to help, if you get stuck?
I’m not the world’s most tech savvy guy. I can program a VCR, use anti-virus programs, and keep up with most of whats happening on Slashdot. But every now and then,I get stuck, so I do something that most men are known for not doing, and even a mechanical genius like my wife scoffs at:I read instructions.Yes, I know all the males reading this are scoffing at this display of unmanliness, but let me tell you, it’s both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because some days it really gets you out of a jam(thank you, Samsung) or a curse,because it puts you knee deep in manure(Any piece of furniture purchased at Big Lots). And it isn’t just paper instructions I’ll read. No, I read them online as well. It’s amazing how much info is out there some days. In the past week I’ve needed instructions for both a ten year old mower and my work PDA. Both were available online. So are there any areas where this instruction habit doesn’t help?Yes, and it’s called the mechanical world. If it involves working on a car, or wiring the house, forget it. I become as incompetent as Magic Johnson teaching abstinence.Thank the gods I married a woman who’s very handy with a wrench,sometimes upside my head. But she can’t download a single file without wanting to throw a PC across the room sometimes, so it evens out. It does however, make me wonder what our daughter’s going to be like. She already knows her way around a PS3 at four,so maybe it’ll be the best of both worlds.Extra Credit: Thank the gods I have an electrical engineer, two programmers, and lots of cell phone minutes is all I’ll say about that.
Next Tuesday is my birthday, I am not quite 50 yet, but when I was a little girl I liked to sit and imagine what the world, more specifically, America, would be like when I reached 50! Having nearly arrived at my goal age, I am now aiming for another 50 years! So, in honor of my 48th birthday, I want you to search your imaginations, and tell what I can expect in the year… 2062!
Extra Credit: Tell me, is the world anything like you imagined it would be when you grew up? What’s different? What’s the same?
I hope in some form you can get this letter. It’s been 20 odd years since your passing. With this new wormhole thing Perry(my husband, who your future self didn’t like until he gave you a grandson) is working on, I think this will show up on your computer in time. Here’s hoping. Otherwise, I’ll leave it with your cryo-account, and you might get it when you wake up, if ever.
It’s weird to think of you actually sitting in front of a monitor. I remember playing games on that old clunker, and now my contact implant phone has more power. Yes,d ad,everyone now walks around with computers in thier eyes. You’d say we’ve become cyborgs, and I don’t think you’re far off.
How much the world has changed. Back then, we drove everywhere, and now we don’t unless we absolutely have to. Six dollars a gallon ethanol will do it to you. But the electrics are nice, but they killed the highways. Almost no one drives that far anymore, mainly because it’s too expensive. And with video wireless so cheap, I can see and talk to mom for hours most days. She misses you something awful. Says its so quiet without you running in and spouting some new random factoid. She’s up in Toronto, safe and sound.
What’s she doing in Toronto,you ask? At least she’s safe there. And since global warming, Charlotte is like Rio these days. Plus she says it’s too disheartening to be that close to the Mexico border.
I think that’s the hardest part you’d have to dela with, if you were here, dad. The fact that the US isn’t as big anymore. You and mom both cried the day that Felipe Bush Jr. declared the country bankrupt. But you and mom held on through the riots afterward. We were all so scared, until the recievership deal went through.
You laughed about giving Texas back to Mexico, and the rest of the Gulf states. Since four diffrent presidents hadn’t been able to stop the BP leak, you figured let Mexico’s corrupt narco government try their hand. We were all amazed when they managed it. They say my grandkids wil be able to swim in the gulf someday.
I’m glad you didn’t live to see the rebellion by the foreclosed states. Watching empty tankers full of child soldiers beachead in Miami, to overrun the place, was as bad as the bankruptcy, except a lot more brutal. Mom turned off the TV for three months after that.
I wish I could tell you it was all sunshine and roses after that, but I can’t lie to you, dad. I’m so glad Uncle Andy didn’t live to see LA become a smoking crater. It was bad enough he lived to see it changed to a Chinese protectorate,along with the rest of southern California. But who knew Governor Justin Bieber had joined Falun Gong? Did he really use to sing? He was always a little creepy.
But it’s not been all bad,really. We’re all in better health, mainly due to algae foods. Thank the Goddess it can taste like anything. Though mom’s algae meatloaf still doesn’t taste right. And you lived long enouhg to see the Cubs win the series, three in a row, though it’s been twenty years since then.
You’d like driving now,dad. The cost of fuel, and the collapse of the world’s population in the 2040’s due to the Hanta plague and the China/India war,have made the US population max outr at a hundred million. So there’s less of us, so it’s quieter. Though Nascar is still huge, but it’s electric now.
So we’re still here, dad. battered, bruised and poluted, but still here. It’s a smaller country now, but we have things like real elections now, and they’re hand done. We won’t have another Bush in charge ever, and more freedoms. Still no legal pot, though.
Your daughter, Aubry.
Extra credit:The world is nothing like I thought it woudl be. I figured I’d be living in a nuked wasteland,after WWIII. The reality is a lot nicer in some ways, but at least with a nuclear wasteland, I could shoot people who annoy me, like the Gosselins.
Weekend Assignment #323: Vacation TimeLook out - here comes summer! Kids are out of school, community pools and seasonal ice cream stands are open, and temperatures north of the Equator are on the rise. Summer is traditionally the time for families to go on vacation together. What are your summer vacation plans, if any? What time of year are you most likely to pack up the family and get out of town? Is there a particular place you go more often than anywhere else? Extra Credit: When and where did your family usually go on vacation when you were a kid?
This is going to be a tough one, folks. My summer is one of chaos, confusion and travel plans. All of which may go by the wayside, depending on how the funds go. We have a baby shower coming up this week for my sister-in-law, who just adopted a little boy(Hi new nephew Colton!). Then there is a trip to Richmond, VA to see some friends in July, and then my wife gets to go help my eldest step-daughter move the end of July. Between my work and hers,that’s as much free time we’re going to get this summer.Honestly, we don’t get to travel as much as we’d like to. But I have to say, I’ve traveled more in my six years of marriage than in the previous thirty-odd years of my life. Before my wife, the furthest west I’d been was Lake Tahoe,and the furthest east was Detroit. Since our wedding, we’ve been as far away as Hawaii, and as far north as Toronto. She loves to travel, and doesn’t get to do it as nearly as much as she deserves to.A large part of that is of course, due to two things:children and money. If you hear about people traveling far distances with lots of children, two things are involved: airplanes and lots of cash. My daughter is five, and I want to take her to Disneyland when she’s eight. I’m starting to save for that this year, and I might make it.What we find ourselves doing ,in terms of traveling, is what lots of folks do: let’s go see our family. My other two stepdaughters are in southern Wisconsin,close to Chicago, so we tend to go up that way. Anything that brings me within sight of the Real First City(It’s second to none, all you coasters) is a good time. So we don’t go to really out of the way places, unless my wife makes up her mind to go. Then,like a good husband, I smile sweetly, say “yes ma’am” and away we go.I’ve gotten set in my ways when it comes to traveling. My wife knows that anywhere we go, I’m going to find a bookstore and go in it. I’m always fascinated by the little differences ,even in the chain stores, in different parts of the country. My favorite ones I’ve found were the giant bookstore that’s in a converted rental storage unit on Oahu, and the movie theater Barnes and Noble in Rochester, Minnesota. Both places, you walk in the door and feel like you’re in a movie set.I like traveling, but sometimes for me, the best part is walking in the door back home. It only takes a few nights in a strange bed to make you appreciate what you’ve got at home. I swear hotels make their beds uncomfortable just so you’ll get out sometimes. Extra Credit: I never realy travelled as a kid,except to my grandparents. My folks would send me to them during the summer. It kept them from actually having to do things with me, I guess. I could write an entire book on summers in Litchfield, Minnesota during the eighties, and how magical it was to me. Maybe someday I will.
Okay, let’s shift gears to something very commonplace. Product Placement. We all have a certain product in our lives we simply couldn’t live without. Tell us about your favorite product. How long have you used it? Why is it the best? If it were no longer on the market, what would you use instead? Give us all the details!
Extra Credit: Time to get creative. Take a photo of your favorite product!
I can bet you dollars to deutschmarks my wife will be smiling by the time she gets this far into the article. Because around my house, everyone knows who my mistress is. No it isn’t some raven haired pin-up or a video game. No, my mistress is that smiling harlot in your grocery aisle, Little Debbie.
I can’t remember when I saw the little tramp first, but I am ashamed to admit it was a family affair. Yes, I know I live down south now, but sadly, my first incestual affair was between that little plastic wrapped temptress, my father and myself. She had gotten to him first, but who could blame her? He made the money, after all. But she was willing to take pity and let me have a taste.
And she was so good, a mixture of chocolate cake and a mysterious sweet cream filling. It resembled real cream, but had probably had as much contact with real milk as my kid’s vegan friends do. But she was only a tease, and soon shuffle doff to greener pastures.
Flash forward a few years, to a time when I’m living with my dad, just me and him. Due to circumstances too bizarre to go into here, the man refused to have a phone installed in our house for two years. And I’m a reasonably fun loving young man at the time, so in order to get a hold of anyone, I have to traipse down to the corner store now to call anyone. And sometimes those calls meant it was time to go back home and face four walls alone.
But then she was there, all her goodies showing. For the right price, she’d let you take her home and have her any way you liked. She didn’t care if you didn’t drive, or how much you made. She didn’t care if the entire world made you feel like a stranger in your skin, as long as you had a quarter somewhere in your pocket.
There’s a downside to loving her. She’s bad for you. She;s not faithful, she’s slept with enitre bands, who’ve written songs to her. If I ever see Southern Culture on The Skids again, it’ll be Creme Pies at ten paces.She’s raised her rates over the years. And down here, she’s lost some of her tricks, while coming up with distasteful new ones. And where it used to be just in certain places, now the girl’s everywhere, just like that Hostess chick who took on all your friends in high school.
So you say to yourself, that’s it, I’m never going back. And you try new people, and there’s a new girl here who looks like her, and she’s even cheaper. But it’s just not the same. So some nights, when you’re feeling low, you’ll pull into a gas station, just knowing she’s there, waiting. And she’ll get into your car, and that old taste gets in your head again, and you go back. Back to when you didn’t care what your cholesterol was, or even know. For a while at least, you are that kid again, and sometimes just a moment of chocolate cake and creme can take you back to normal.
Extra Credit: Sorry I ate it before I could photgraph it.
A shelf full of Buggy whips.(shh..it's weekend assignment again)
Weekend Assignment #321: Where’s Your Buggy Whip?
We sometimes hear the expression, “XXX has gone the way of the buggy whip.” In other words, technology and society have moved on, and something that was once commonplace barely exists anymore because it’s no longer needed. Do you still have something in your home that has become essentially useless? If so, why do you still have it? If not, when did you get rid of it?
Extra Credit: Have you ever worked in an industry that has gone the way of the buggy whip, or is in danger of doing so?
My family and I are great lovers of technology. We have computers, PS3’s, HD TV’s and laptops. My mother-in-law,who is in her 60’s has an iPhone. So I was hard pressed to think of what we have in the house that could be considered a “buggy whip”. Then I looked over on my bookshelf,and there they were.
My buggy whips are the entire shelf of pen and paper role-playing-games in my office.Actually,it’s more like two shelves, but there they are. In an age of massive multi-player online role playing games and video game dramas that are closer to movies, is there still a place in this world for such a twentieth century product?
HELL YES! I still love these dusty tomes, and refuse to send them to the gates of Ebay. I haven’t had a regular gaming group since I moved to the Charlotte area,and brother, do I miss that. I miss sitting around a table until wee hours of the morning, crafting adventures and tales. I was a Dungeon Master before I was a writer, and don’t think the two aren’t related. Every time a writer says he can’t believe what his characters want to do, I want to say, “You should try it with people who aren’t just in your head.
But don’t think tabletop role players have disappeared into some steam tunnel somewhere. CNN.com just posted an article a few days ago about D and D Encounters, a new version designed to be played in short two hour sessions, and not requiring the time outlay that the game usually does. Some may see this as heresy, but anything that brings a busy populace back to the gaming table, I’m all for.
So yes, they’re buggy whips, and yes, they’re geeky. But anything that encourages people to gather around an area, tell stories and laugh and play together, still rocks more than anything the cyber world can come up with. And it lets you create your own hero,and play in your own sandbox, not someone else’s. Show me a computer game that does that. And I’ll show you one that doesn’t sell. Yes, don’t come after me with your tales of great raids and killing n00bs. Most computer RPGs require the creativity of a Dalek. They’re great for finding friends sometimes, and problems solving, but thinking creatively in computer RPGs is reserved for the designers. So go get some dice, dust off your old books,or get some new ones. Ask me, I can recommend several.
Bonus: I used to do phone based market research surveys. In this day of cell phones and texting, not a whole lot of people left to survey that way.
Recently, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced that he will retire, at the end of his term, later this year, leaving the position open to be filled by President Obama. As you know, Obama has chosen Elena Kagen as his nominee. I would like to hear your thoughts about this. Good choice? Bad choice? Indifferent? Who would you like to see appointed to the high court? Are you happy with the justices currently serving, or do you believe they leave something to be desired? Tell me what you think!
Extra Credit: Write one paragraph about a supreme court decision you felt strongly about either positively or negatively.
The recent announcement of Obama’s choosing his first Supreme Court nominee sent ripples through the media,leading into a storm as if he was going to choose the next minion of Satan(Fox), or the next Messiah on Earth(The Nation). SO when he announced Elena Kagen,my reaction was the same as everyone else:
I’m not a legal insider by any means, but this lady came out of nowhere. And far be it from to ever agree with the mental sloths over at Fox,but I think they almost have a valid point. She’s not qualified,and she shouldn’t be nominated.
Before you accuse me of selling out, and going over to the enemy, hold up. It has absolutely nothing to do with her gender, ethnic background, hair color, or any of the other asinine reasons the bigots of Beck and Limbaugh’s ilk will claim. It’s her complete lack of experience as a judge. I just don’t want any decision she weighs in on smeared with the “she doesn’t know what she’s doing” tag. I’m not saying that having been a judge previously makes you infallible, just witness Scalia’s one man war against worker safety the last ten years. And yes, she is of a higher moral character than some on that high bench right now*cough* Thomas* . But her appointment would open up a whole can of worms that I really don’t want opened for the Supreme Court.
Yes, it might be fine when someone who isn’t a moral zero and corporate sellout isn’t in that chair to appoint someone, but what happens if Obama loses this next one? Do we get a president who thinks it’s OK to put say, Dick Cheney on the Court? He’s had just as much legal experience as Elena. You want that guy making choices about your rights and personal freedoms? And really, if Obama wanted to make the court more diverse, you mean to tell me there wasn’t a non-white female judge on a circuit court anywhere in this country? Or perhaps an openly gay male one? This whole thing smells of Rahm Emmanuel’s usual back room deals,and should be used as excuse to boot his slimy carcass out of the Obama administration.
On a final note, if Obama was bound and determined to put someone on the court who was an outsider,why stop with Elene? Why not get Jello Biafra? He’s been sued enough to have plenty of experience. Or how about Simon Cowell? He’s been cruel but fair as a judge, he really can’t be bought, and he’s used to getting boos. If it was up to me, I’d pick Jim Hightower. He’s a populist, he used to be an elected offical in Texas, and he ticks off people on both sides of the red/blue divide. Sounds like the perfect guy to me.
Extra Credit:The biggest Supreme Court decision of the last twenty years to affect me personally was Luther Campbell vs. Roy Orbison’s estate. Roy’s heirs were suing because Luther,aka Luke of Two Live Crew, had done a cover of Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” that they found offensive. The court ruled in favor of Campbell, setting up the terms of what is called “fair use” for others intellectual property for artistic usage. Without it, you wouldn’t have sampling, rap woudl havew faded out asa fad by now,and Creative Commons copyright wouldn’t exist,and neither would file sharing. So the next time you hear some great mash-up or remix, thank old Uncle Luke for paving a legal road to make those easier.
All the world's a stage(yet another in the weekend assignment series)
Weekend Assignment #319: The Play’s The Thing.
Nowadays we get most of our comedy and drama from television, from movies and even from Internet downloads. Perhaps we sometimes forget that all of these evolved from a much older art form, the stage play. Do you ever attend plays, musicals or operas? Why or why not?
Extra Credit: Have you ever seen anything by Shakespeare performed live?
I love plays,sometimes. I grew up with not much in the way of arts education. My father’s idea of cultural education was the Mandrell Sisters variety show on NBC. If it wasn’t for my Aunt Rosie(the lovable artsy Aunt every shy lonely kid needs),I think I’d listen only to country and metal, and think Hee Haw spoke to America. She didn’t get the chance to take me to my first play, sadly. If she had, I might have absorbed that along with all the great stuff she introduced me to. My two favorite books of all time, Hotel New Hampshire and the Godfather, were both gifts from her.But I digress
I don’t really count all the school plays I went to in high school as my first plays,because I knew everyone in them and I couldn’t really appreciate them as art in my hormone addled teenage brain. No, the first one I ever ,really truly saw was a College of Lake County production of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead”, which I loved to death. I had not ever read or seen “Hamlet” before that,but went to a version in Chicago the next year. Hamlet in that one was played by Gary Sinise, an actor who I think hasn’t done much since then.(Just kidding, folks.) But it did light a fire for live theatre for me for the next few years, which was really helped by me going to Columbia College in Chicago the next year.
For those of you who are uninformed, Columbia College is a small liberal arts college in downtown Chicago. I could go on about my Alma mater, but the pertinent point is that it has a giant theatre and arts department. And so, I had a lot of people I knew who worked on plays, and would let us students in to dress rehearsals and such to see new things. Since I could go to these and still make the train back to the suburbs,I went to a lot of plays those three years.I saw John Malkovich do Lee Harvey Oswald. I saw every Broadway touring company that came through, loving some(Cats) and hating others(Miss Saigon). But for all those big elaborate musicals, there was something missing. Where was the passion , the fury of the punk and metal I loved?
If you’re thinking it was Rent, you’re wrong. I fell asleep in that thing, and forgot I’d seen it until one of my stepdaughters made me watch the movie.Nope, it was a play who’s title said it all:
Cannibal Cheerleaders on Crack.
If you lived in Chicago in the mid-90s and were anywhere on the north side, you probasbly have heard of this play. Written by Billy Berningham, and staged by the late great Torso Theatre(who took this play to Broadway, I think). It was the only thing besides a Gwar show where I wished I’d worn a raincoat. To give you an idea of the level of this, the first act opens with the President of the US using a dildo as a dog toy. The second act opens with a man performing oral sex on a Big Mac.
We will now pause while your mind processes that sentence. To say that in an era of extreme, CCOC pushed over the top even then. It was bloody, disgusting,and always worth eveyr second of time I invested in it. If I had any money to burn, I’d put it on here in Charlotte just to see how fast we’d get shut down. I’d been in Rocky Horror, but this was Rocky on,well, crack.
I miss those days of theatre going. Unless it’s a school function, I really don’t get to see live theatre anymore. Touring musicals are a small fortune for tickets, and most don’t really appeal to me. Any national tours here sell out in minutes,and the aforementioned costs don’t lend themselves to quick financing.
But I remain hopeful. There’s a small company here in Charlotte that I hope to see soon. It’s called Citizens of the Universe.They’ve done some really interesting productions, like staging an adaptation of the movie “Fight Club” in a parking lot. So kepe up those shows, and I hope I’ll make it to something soon.
Extra Credit:I already answered this back in the article,so I’m going to take this time ,and list the five plays I’d put back into production if I had oh say, Simon Cowell’s money:
1)Cannibal Cheerleaders on Crack(see reasons above)
2)Illuminatus! The eight hour adaptation of the Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea trilogy, It was rumored to have been staged in England and Germany in the 70’s. But I haven’t even ever seen footage, or even a picture.
3)Shogun:the musical. Just to see how fats I can get a crowd to leave.
4)A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’d have the Looking Glass Company of Minneapolis do it,just because theirs was amazing.
5) Warp! It’s another legend of Chicago theatre that went to Broadway and vanished. It was pretty much a superhero comic on stage, with art direction by comic legend Neal Adams, and co-written by horror film legend Stuart Gordon. Cinefantastique magazine did a an article on it when I was eight, and there were even comics based on it in the eighties, but like the second one, it’s something I was too young to see, but would love to see someone try again.
Recently, it was discovered that George Washington had forgotten to return some books he had checked out of his local library. They were only 221 years late, mind you, but late all the same. How about you? Have you ever checked out a library book and forgot to return it? Tell us about your experiences with checking out, returning, or forgetting to return, books to the library.
Extra Credit: Tell us about the last book you checked out of the library.
If I suddenly, for some insane reason, started being hunted by a hired killer, I’d be an easy target. He’d have to cover only two places, really. The first would be my house. The second would be the local library.
Some men go to the track to get their fix. Some men go to bars. I go to the library. Because unlike some men, I am a book addict. I fully admit this. I worked in bookstores for close to fifteen years, and it was kind of like being an alcoholic and working in a pub. I tend to think that if I won the lottery, I’d have to buy an abandoned Borders or Wal-Mart to put them all in. When I was single, if you’d given me a choice between a million dollars and being able to have every book I’ve ever wanted to read, I’d have had to think long and hard about the choice.
I remember seeing the Burgess Meredith episode of the “Twilight Zone”, the one where he’s survived the apocalypse ,and can read all the books, but breaks his glasses. I remeber seeing it and thinking, “Ok, why doesn’t he havea backup pair?” I don’t know a single glasses wearer over thrity who doesn’t have one. The second was, “Why doesn’t he just hold the book closer?” The piece did give me nightmares for weeks though.
I love libraries. I love the idea of going in and having access to books I won’t see in bookstores usually, and being able to try out new authors I’ve never heard of. I also have a list of over forty authors I read on a regular basis, who come out with a book or two a year. You can imagine how bad this would be for our finances if I didn’t have library access. You can say, you can get them online, but I’m sorry , no. At least with libraries I know someone has gotten paid for their work, in some way. And I love the idea of using tax dollars for such a blatantly socialist enterprise. (Take that, Glenn Beck!)(Don’t think your town has any homeless? Visit your local library in the middle of the afternoon in the summer,or first thing in the morning in the winter. The ones who aren’t carting a child are probably them.
One of the best ways I support my local libraries are late fees. I have a four year old, and keeping track of what book has gone where is sometimes taxing. But all her fines fail at the glory of my longest checkout ever.
I was a shy eight year old in 1978, when I saw it sitting on the shelf. Star Wars, the movie novelization by George Lucas( I later learned it was actually written by Alan Dean Foster, creator of the best Star Wars novel ever, Splinter of the Mind’s eye). I took it home, and devoured it in two days. When did I return it?
Yes, it took me eighteen years to return a library book. I don’t know why, really. We moved twenty miles away in 1979, but it was in the same library system. I think me and my family were horrified at the fine we’d be paying. The library charged ten cents a day, so we were accumulating close to forty dollars a year in fines. My college years and high school years came and went, and with them ,serious poverty. The library never tried to find us, so maybe they just chalked it up as a loss. I used to show it to girls to impress them. Yeah, I’m so bad I steal library books. Considering my outrage at people who steal books from the library before I can read them, it’s kind of ironic.
So along comes 1996, and I find myself couch surfing(A situation I spent most of the 90’s in) and trying to divest myself of stuff. So I take the bus to the library and get the head guy, and nervously explain I’d like to give the book back. After I plead mercy, and asking if there’s a payment plan, he smiles and says I can keep the book.
It seems the library updated their computers in 1990, and lost a good deal of thier records in the process. They have no record of my book, or even of my having a card.I can have new one if I have ID, he says. I fish it out and get my new card, and go off into the land of happy library consumer, right?
Flash forward two years, and I am being escorted out of the Waukegan library, and told never to come back. Waukegan’s is the first library I am told I can’t check out books from, but sadly, it isn’t the last.(The other is Kenosha, but that story involves stepdaughters and Celine Dion autobiographies, so the less said about that, the better) I am led out after yelling and screaming at the same head librarian. He had just told me that even though I had returned some books very late, and had actually had returned them,I was going to still pay the full price of the books to get my library card reinstated. I told him this was the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, and then followed up with disparaging remarks about his parenthood and suggestions of biologically impossible activities. And it went downhill from there.
I love libraries, and I hate to do them wrong. If you like libraries, you should go through your funds and give them some, because libraries all across this country are really hurting. And because librarians got parts of the Patriot Act ruled as unconstitutional, and fight for your rights. And if you have to give funds by returning books late,that’s ok, unless I’m next in the hold queue. And may your gods help you if it’s the new Jim Butcher or Charlaine Harris.
Extra Credit: I just checked out “Leadership Secrets of the Rogue Warrior” by Richard Marcinko. Yes, you geeks, I know his video game sucked. But this is a great motivational and business guide.
Weekend Assignment #317: Merry Meetings People used to socialize with each other on street corners, at cocktail parties, at club meetings, and in a later era, at shopping malls. These days, however, we seem to do most of our socializing online. Where do you go most often for face time with friends and acquaintances?
Extra Credit: Do you ever hang out with co-workers after hours?
Warning:this post falls into what I usually hate most about blogs, which is self pitying mental masturbation. But when asked this question, it was the only response I could come up with. If you don’t like it,there’s the door.
Hello, my name is Trevor, and I’m invisible. Considering I’m 6 foot three ,280 pounds, and have a fondness for obnoxious t-shirts(current fave:Some people are alive only because it’s illegal to kill them),this seems ludicrous. Meet me at some small social occasion, and I usually can’t shut up. But then there ‘s the other 98% of the time.
I am a stay at home dad. This means a good portion of the time,my only person to talk to is a four year old. Yes, that has prepared me even further for a career in retail, but it has left my social skills impaired. If any of you laugh at that, you haven’t realized how insane hours of not talking to adults can drive you. There are days I pity my wife. She’s just been sleeping for six to eight hours, when I come along and wake her up. And she’s barely awake, when I’m off and ranting about who got what part in what remake. It’s got to be the aural diarrhea equivalent of Montezuma’s revenge some times.
So why don’t I go out and socialize.?Well, all you non parents should realize it isn’t that easy. I have these silly things called responsibilities, like getting people through their day. Getting out to a bar is a major act of planning.I’m over forty now. I’m officially “creepy old guy” every time I show up to something at a night club. I felt old for the first time at a Goth night last month. Plus there’s this whole thing people in this country have about making new friends once they’re past a certain age.
This is where part of the invisibility comes in. Single people ,or non parenting couples, tend not to make new friends with couples. There’s this unspoken rule that if you’re part of a couple, you have to be friends with both of them. They tend to see you as one unit. And if they aren’t interested in one half, they usually don’t bother. So they’ll talk to you if you’re at a meeting or something, but they want nothing to do with you outside of it.
Well,what about online, you say, or Facebook? I’ve met one real person from Facebook. There are others who have potential, but lets be honest: no one has real friends on Facebook or Myspace. Anyone who is a real friend is someone you’ve met in real life, or knew before Facebook. Go down your friends list on any of those. How many of them would you take a 4AM call from after their mom died? Before you go on about “these people are my real family”, ask how many of them actually helped ,and not just typed platitudes the last time you had a crisis? Go ahead, I’ll be here waiting when you think of an answer.
Chat rooms? Don’t make me laugh. Chat rooms went the way of the Dodo as soon as AOL and Yahoo decided there wasn’t any money in policing the spambots. If you want the lowest common denominator of expression, there it is. I stopped going to Yahoo Pagan Chat after I came back two years ago and saw the term Towel head four times in one hour. No one said boo. Racism is stupid, and I am a bigot against stupidity. It’s why I don’t have a job in marketing anymore.
I moved here to the Charlotte area three years ago. People are fairly nice and polite, and carry on a civil conversation. But that’s it. They don’t really care to know you. Most people don’t want to know new people. Studies have shown that most people have their core friends by the time they’re twenty five. Don’t believe me? Go look at your friends, either online or in real life. If you’re over thirty, how many of them have you met in the last five years? I’ve made two good friends in the last ten years. The rest are either casual acquaintances or people who are in industries I am involved in. Or authors I’m stalking.(Just kidding, Mr. Scalzi!)
So I swim through the water of people, invisible. Most don’t notice me, so I get some stuff out in my writing. But meetings? Forget it. I try to make local Pagan and gamer meetings,and they do remember me there. But that’s once a month if best. Outside of work, the only people who know me on sight are the staff at my local comic book store,and the library.
Now I can hear you say, but Trevor, you have a loving wife and family. Yes, and I’m driving them insane. Back when I had a gaming store to go hang out in, I was a somewhat saner man. Every guy needs something like that. Some guys have barber shops, others have gun clubs, or strip clubs.My nearest game or comic store is a thirty minute drive. So I’m going through withdrawals.
It’s mostly my own fault. I haven’t made enough effort I suppose. But it’s also hard when you go out to places and can talk to people(and I can,trust me) and then leave,and realize that if that person died tomorrow, you would not be one neuron’s space in their brain. So I’m invisible.
That’s the end, there is no grand finale to this entry. I’m off to numb my brain watching pro wrestling, and then to sleep. Bonus points if you can name the 90’s song I got the title of this piece from.(Hint:the other line repeated a lot in it is “An eraser of love”)
Extra Credit:I work as a book merchandising rep. I haven’t seen a co-worker in over a year.
Me and poetry: A love/hate affair at Cafe Kismet(aka weekend assignment 2)
Weekend Assignment #316: National Poetry Month
As April wraps up, let’s not let it get away without celebrating National Poetry Month. For this assignment, please share with us something about poetry. Tell us about your favorite poet, or quote us a few lines of your favorite poem, or if poetry doesn’t happen to be something you enjoy, tell us why!
Extra Credit: Write a Haiku!
Me and poetry have had a long, storied,and semi-tragic love affair. I took creative writing twice, and both times flunked. Lowest scores? Big heaping vats of iambic pentameter. I could do free verse, but I wasn’t a big fan of most. The first poem to rock my world, truly was called Something as it really is.
I am going to burn down the world
I am going to tear down everything
that cannot stand alone
I am going to turn ideals to shit
I am going to shove hope up your ass
I am going to reduce everything
that stands to rubble
And then I am going to burn the rubble
And then I am going to scatter the ashes
And then maybe someone will be able to see
Something as it really is
-Mel Lyman(Apocalypse Culture.ed. By Adam Parfrey)
To say that this imprinted on my nineteen year old depressive nihilistic brain like a hot iron would be an understatement. This was poetry that spoke, that rocked, meant something. I told one of my coworkers at the bookstore about this piece, and he said “If you like it so much, why not get up on stage and read it? They’ve got an open mike night at Cafe Kismet.
Cafe Kismet, for those of you reading who didn’t live in Waukegan, Illinois during the nineties, was as close to a liberal enclave as the far north suburbs of Chicago got. It served fancy coffee, pastries, and more smarter than you attitude than a bus full of Noam Chomskys. So, as a college age smartass, I was instantly hooked.
I can say that those times at Kismet over the years certainly broadened my horizons. I got introduced to Henry Rollins, zine culture, and the peculiar pleasures and pains of dating bisexual women at that place. I made new friends, new enemies,and got the nerve to write poetry again.
Nation of Rebels
We all shine on…
Just as long as we got canvas Cons
Don’t conform, Don’t conform, Don’t conform
I’m really not a yuppie
No, I’m not a wombat dancer
(Where do Doc Martin’s profits go?)
Yes, at Kismet, you are a target market
chew on that, oh artsy ones
If we’re so different,
Why do you all look the same?
-Trevor Curtis, 1992
I chose that poem because it was the last I ever read onstage at Kismet. The owner Lorenzo had decided his profit margins(yay socialism!) were not large enough, so he started cracking down on how many people were coming in, how much they were buying, yadda yadda yadda. My friend Chris had gotten banned form the place, and I wanted to follow suit. My disillusionment was crystallized by my then girlfriend cheating on me with a girl who looked like DJ Qualls from Road Trip. I’ll wait for that image to get out of your head for a minute.
But my disillusionment had been codified by a young man who came up every week, and read a long rambling poem about mine workers in Chile. It was heart rending, descriptive, and read in a monotone. It was the poetic equivalent of “dark and stormy night” every week. Finally, I’d had enough and asked the guy if he’d ever even been to Chile. I actually asked him while he was on stage. He got really upset and stalked off, so I guess I’d hit a nerve. About this time poetry slams started gaining ground, and I could never deal with those. If I want poetry as competition, I’ll listen to rap, thank you.
So I’m forty now. I have my slim volume of poetry on my bookshelf, A reminder of who I once was, and in some ways will always be. Poetry can be life affirming, it can be beautiful, and some days, like all art forms, it’s a two dollar hooker in an alley.
So there’s this blog,Weekend Assignment, which gives you a new question every week to answer in blog format, and to spur your writing. And since I’m in a crisis with that right now, I figured I’d give it a try. Here’s their question:
Weekend Assignment #315: It seems that we’re all too busy these days to get around to everything we’d like to do, even if we had the money and means to do them. Is there a particular activity that takes up far too much of your time, and thus prevents you from getting around to other things?
Extra Credit: What is the #1 activity you wish you had more time for?
Here’s my answer:
If I had to pick just one thing that is the #1 time waster for me, it’s no contest. My wife and family would say being on the computer. But they don’t seem to realize why I spend so much time on there. I could lie, and tell you it’s because I’m writing the next great American novel. No, sadly its usually checking game, movie and music sites to feed my insatiable hunger for all things media. But even then, I’m doing the one thing I waste time with the most:
For those of you not in the psychology field or a depression sufferer in treatment, Catastrophizing is the fine art of thinking things are going to be worse than they are. It’s like having your own personal Glum from the 70’s kids cartoon “Gulliver’s Travels” in your head all the time. A little voice saying “We’re doomed. We’re never going to make it.” every five seconds or so.
But I’m 40 now, and I am the Leonardo DaVinci of catastrophizing. You want to know how good my little demon(which is what I call my inner catastrophizing voice, and yes, it is a Fleetwood Mac reference) is at it? I’ve been treated to the breakup of my marriage, the death of my children,and the loss of life of every single living relative I have. My little demon’s rationale sometimes is that I need to be prepared for every eventuality. Well in those cases, I’m the Boy Scouts.
So what should I do about this? Well, therapists say I should write everything down when it happens, and write my way through it, thus forcing my brain to process it logically. This would be fine,except that when my wife gets ticked off at me, or my daughter gives me the disappointed look she should get an Oscar for, the process goes off at light speed, and slowing the little bugger down takes some serious effort. Not mention it’s hard to do when driving,or lying awake in the dark.
But there is another part of me that wonders: what would I do if I was free of catastrophizing? What heights of activity would I scale? Worse yet, would I just keep doing all the self destructive,time wasting activities that I do because of it,just because I don’t know how to do anything else?
I’d sell my soul to find out, though.
Extra Credit Answer: I’d love to find more time for laying in bed, first thing in the morning, my four year old daughter laying between my wife and I . Because I know every day those moments are getting fewer fewer.
So,I’ve been reading this book,”Dangerously Funny”, about the rise of the Smothers Brothers, and their censorship battles with the CBS network. For a couple of guys whose show started out as a simple variety show, they were very revolutionary. Watch the video for “Give Peace a Chance” sometime, the one filmed at the bed-in in Toronto. That’s Tom Smothers you see playing guitar, and hear on the recorded video. The Smothers Brothers paid the ultimate career price for their supposed sins,being fired from CBS and having to fight a protracted legal battle against the network.
It really got me to thinking , though, where are all the Smothers out there? I’m not talking about satirists alone. Let’s be honest, most of them are preaching to the converted(Jon Stewart), or relegated to late night pay cable or some other TV equivalent of West Virginia dinner theater.(Bill Maher).
No, I’m talking about those who would use it to directly confront the evils of our time(war in iraq, corporate greed, incompetent government) with humor and fun. Who would use a major network to promote human causes, and worthwhile artists, and for once,not have them on just to play their latest single.(Who wouldn’t kill to see some artists do that?)
Now, I’m sure someone’s going to point out that a)we have 1000+ channels and b) there’s this thing called the internet. But as much as a band can sell on Myspace and do well, ask how many of them would cut off their mother’s left tit for a prime time network spot, and if they could play the two songs that best represent them. Artists used the Smothers Brothers show to launch new songs, not rehash old ones. I’d love to have someone use CBS’ money or maybe good old arms dealing dough from GE on NBC for something like that.
And yes, the networks may be dying, but it may take a long time for them to do it. They still get more viewers than anything out there, period. And only every other house in this country has a computer and internet, still.
So who would I put on the Trevor Curtis variety hour?My opening spot would be a stand-up by either Neil Hamburger or Margaret Cho. Musical guests for the first season would probably be Cruxshadows, Immortal Technique, Wolves in the Throne Room, and Gwar, just to see how many censor’s heads I could get to explode. And Patton Oswalt,David Cross and Brian Posehn would help me pick out my sketch writers.Lastly, Jim Hightower, Amy Goodman, and Paul Heyman would close out each week with a rotating rant.
My favorite book, or where the name of this comes from.
If I was captured by aliens, and asked to give them a book that shows them why American Literature should not be wiped off the face of the planet, I would hand them one thing:
The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving.
Some of you are now questioning my sanity, if you’ve read the book. If you’re just judging on the basis of the gods awful movie version, do me a favor and defenestrate yourself. People who judge books on the basis of the movie without reading the book need to leave the gene pool. There’s over six billion of us, your genes ain’t that special, honey.
So yes, HNH(my acronym, used from here on out) is an acquired taste. It has incest, taxidermy, rape, bears, and wrestling. Even John Irving fans will tell you it isn’t his best. They’ll argue for Cider House Rules or Garp, but not this one. Apparently even my book tastes tend to be odd.
But if you listen to them, you’re really missing out. I could bother you with the plot synopsis, but Wikipedia it and you’ll get the gist. The hero is the second son among a family of five,and also happens to be in love with his sister. Along a 40 year span, our hero encounters more joy and tragedy than most of us will ever encounter. It also features the second-best romance ever pictured in fiction, between the hero and a lesbian in a Bear suit(yes you read that right). Want to know more? Run ,don’t walk to find a copy and read it.
And the title of this? It refers to a phrase from a story about the King of Mice that the hero gets told by his parents. If you keep passing the open windows, you keep on living. For some of us, it’s hard some days when you can feel the breeze from the windows in the dark.
I’m amazed at the output of some writers. I have one acquaintance who is a professional writer who churns out words like Disney spews out teen idols. I don’t seem to be able to do that. I want to, but I think I have to develop one thing:discipline.
There’s a word with some instant reactions. Most of us either hearken back to school or parents who tried to mold us in some way to their standards. Or to a boss who wrote us up. Or to others, Mistress Kitty’s dungeon on a Tuesday night. But to most, it leaves a bad taste in our mouths.
There are dozens of artists and writers who will tell you they can only work when the mood hits them, or when they’re inspired. Most of those writers will tell you this after they’ve given you your entree or espresso . If you think working only when inspiration hits you is a good thing, ask all of those My Bloody Valentine fans who’ve been waiting years for Kevin Shields to find some inspiration to put out a new CD.
Discipline is something I’d rather think of in Zen terms. One roshi(a zen teacher) when asked what the secret to enlightment was,replied “chop wood, carry water”.
Most Zen practioners will tell you that it alludes to finding a sense of being in the moment from doing ordinary things. I think it can also mean that through repetition and practice, inspiration finds you. That through the structure of daily practice you can find things coming out of you.
Now there might be some little coffee slurping tool who stumbles upon this, who says, “bah! only through free flowing noodling can you find creative freedom. ritual and forms only stifle creativity.”
If that’s the case, throw out a good deal of your art and music. Eddie Van Halen, truly a god of guitars, was classically trained. He had to learn how to play very formalized songs in structures before he broke free and took the guitar to the next level. Like Wynton Marsalis’s jazz playing? Check out his classical tracks.
So maybe the next time someone asks me about what I’m doing with this blog, “chop wood,carry water” will be my answer.
So here we are, at something I have come to late, as usual. While half the universe is on Twitter, I am on my first blog. Not really the first, if you count Live Journal. I don’t,mainly because I never did it enough to really get the hang of it.(That’s what she said.)
So why this blog? I’m not l sure. It took me a half hour just to come up with a name. Here are the rejected close contenders:
Christian Zombie Vampires
Who Dares, Wins
Bonus points to the first person to tell me where the actual title came from. Extra big bonus points to who gets two of the three above. The third’s personal ,so you won’t get it.
What will this be? I’m hoping it’s going to be a mutt. Not a purebred professional blog,because frankly, I’m not purely professional. Not an all personal blog, because A) I don’t know all of you and B) Purely personal blogs have almost seemed to me like public masturbation. I don’t know anyone who I need to know what they had for breakfast, except two.One I married and the other I helped create.
What willl be on here? Those of you that know me will immediately guess “rants”. I prefer the terms op-ed pieces. I’m hoping to post some fiction as well, and the occaisional link.
What do I want to do with this? Get my name out there, for one. I turned forty in July of last year, and have since embarked on a goal of getting published by the end of this year. It’s not going well, so here’s another avenue to explore.
What am I writing? Honestly, not much at the moment. I finished a novel for Nanowrimo called Heart Core. I have the plot in my head for the second in that series,Heart Cold, but nothing I can show anyone just yet. I also have the simmering project known only as Green Man that I think is finally ready to be unleashed.
What sort of subjects will be on here: Movies. Music. Books. Pro Wrestling. Paganism. Conspiracy Theory. Politics. Hockey.Talk Radio.Role Playing Games. Video Games. Lists.
So if any of this sounds remotely interesting, keep coming back. If you like what you read, link me or tell someone. If you think you’ve got something I should talk about or link to, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to comment, I don’t know If I have that yet, so if you think this sucks harder than a Dyson, write me and tell me that too.