Friday, December 21, 2012

Apocolypse Now... er maybe later.

December 21st 2012 has come and... well almost gone.  Assuming that the world doesn't turn into a pumpkin at midnight, we're fine.  It's all fine. 

And we knew we would be.  That's the fun part.

It's great fun making light about the end of humanity... mostly because there is no downside.  If we are right (and we have been in 100% of cases so far) humanity will continue trudging on as it has since our savanna days.

And if we are wrong... well, bugger it.  At least we had a laugh.

I've always been captivated how the End of Days captures our collective imagination and always has.  I remember reading something about ancient Rome around the time of the Christian persecutions of Emperor Nero.

Christians at the time were betting on the End Times.  Jesus' return was just around the corner and the End of Times would soon be upon them.

That was 2000 years ago and every once in a while a supermarket rag will be listing off the 'Signs of the Biblical Apocolypes!'  Also Michigain Gives Birth to Alien. 
Interstellar baby daddy demands paternity test.

The point is, every generation thinks that it's going to be the last. 

Our parents thought sure a nuclear holocaust was on the horizon.

Their parents envisioned a world lead to destruction by the Nazi party or Communism

Their parents were watching a World War that would surely signal the end.

Their parents heard the loudest sound in recorded history, the Krakatoa explosion, surely the whole Earth was exploding.

Their parents may have been escaping famines across all of Europe including the Great Irish Famine which killed a quarter of the population.

Their parents were probably a tad apprehensive about Napoleon little party wagon across the face of Europe.

Of course their parents may remember the time France and the rest of Europe were facing peasant uprisings that threatened the very fabric of their societies.

And their parent's may remember expelling the entire Arcadian civilization in Nova Scotia during the French Indian war.  Part of our fascination may be the fact that, for some, the world as they know it really does end.  A lot.

See also the Hordes of Genghis Khan.

The fall of the Roman Empire.

You have to laugh.   You have to because sometime, it really will be The End.

Even if we manage to keep from nuking ourselves or polluting the planet to the point of being uninhabitable... well the sun will explode someday.  Give it a couple billion years.

If we escape that, the Milky Way Galaxy is going to hit Andromeda causing unknown havoc in about 5 billion years.

Failing that... well eventually most of the energy in the Universe will be used up and all of Creation will undergo heat death or have the very sub-atomic particles ripped apart.

You have to laugh, really.

So raise a glass to The End.  May we always greet it with a drink in one hand, and raising a defiant middle finger with the other.  May every Apocalypse be as uneventful.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sympathy For Immortals: December

I full and truly finished two of the five chapters I had set as a goal for myself last month.  Not a great start, but there are some factors involved, so I'm trying to give myself some slack.

First there's the fact that I was working... quite a lot.  Tons actually.  It's probably a bit of a miracle that I got as much done as I did.

The early chapters are needing to be more or less re-written.  Later chapters will be more streamlined so that all I really have to do is cut and paste and clean-up.  Sadly, or maybe not, that will become more prominent when I actually have time to write again, so we'll see when I get that far.

The schedual still stands for now with a slight nudge the other way:

December Ch 3-5
Jan. 5-10
Feb. 10-15
March 15-20
April 20-25
May 25 - ??

Still hoping to cut several chapters out of this piece and that will lighten the load a bit, definatly won't have a second draft done until June 1 at very earliest.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sympathy for Immortals update.

I've started the second draft of my first novel. In starting to realize that this may be my trunk novel. It's random, it's disjointed, it's trying to tell a story that I might not be good enough or smart enough to tell, not yet at least. What I am doing now, it's valuable if only to learn my craft.

My goal is to have it finished by April, the commit myself to sleepers.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Sympathy For Immortals: The Great Rewriting.

The time has come for the great rewriting project.  The attempt to make Sympathy readable... perhapes even kinda good.  I'm not holding my breath, but here is the schedual I have planned out in my head.
October 2012: All the prepwork I should have done going into this project.  Despite the fact that this story has been floating around my head for well over a decade, it was a mish-mash of thoughts, ideas and vauge notions.  It was going to be a great novel.... didn't know anything about it except that it was going to be great.
Well it's exists.  It will get better.  It might even be good.  I would settle for good.
Characters need to be rounded out.
Rules need to be established concerning angels, immortality and Death.
Might even write an outline... we will see.

November 2012: Chapters 1-5
December 2012: Chapters 6-10
January 2013: 11- 15
February 2013 15-20
March 2013: 21-25
April 2013: 25-30?  Or whatever is left.

Six months.  I think it's doable.  But we will see how reality plays out.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Infinite Loop

Even before the extinction of the human race, old highway 54 was downright dangerous at night.  The lack of recent maintenance exacerbated the problem somewhat, but no one seemed to notice, except for the one pick-up truck working it’s way through the dark.

It was being driven by a cybernetic-humanoid, a robotic entity designed to look vaguely human; it walked on two legs, had two arms and a head.  True, the CH droid had three times as many joints on the legs and arms that could extend and retract but the head was very human-like if you overlooked the metallic sheen and the rotating optical receptors.   It could still operate an old pick-up truck found in an abandoned town outside the Grid.  Most cybernetics didn’t bother much with them, but they were the only useful transportation in the Uninhabited Zone.

Analysis of the humankind-ending plague revealed that it started somewhere in this area, which made it an area of interest.  The humans living here were the first to succumb.  Towns in the area had been deserted for nearly ten years now. 

So a girl suddenly walking in front of the truck came as kind of a shock to the CH droid's CPU.    What happened can’t be well translated from digital, but within an instant the droid decided on a solution; force the vehicle into first gear, apply the handbrake, turn the wheel exactly 30.2 degrees, miss the girl, run the truck up the embankment to slow down, turn the wheel 29.57 degrees the other direction and back on the road.  As back end of the truck slid, the cyborg applied more pressure to the brakes and allowed angular momentum to slow forward inertia.  If it were at all possible to do so, the cyborg would probably have shit in it’s pants. 

When the truck stopped, the CH droid did a quick analysis of vehicular damage and, finding none, opened the door and walked out onto the road.  Servos in his head whirred as his vision switched from enhanced optical, to thermal to ultra-violet and back to optical.  There was no girl.  There wasn’t even a body, just a moonlit road weaving through the forest.

It made one last scan and returned to the pick-up.  It was able to sit down before it noticed the girl was sitting in the passenger seat.  What happened to the droid’s processors is hard to translate from digital speak, but the whirring servos was basically the digital equivalent of yelling, “What.  The.  Figgity.  Fuck!”

The woman looked at the cyborg and said, “Hello.”

“Hello.  Can I assist you in some way?” said the cyborg.  It could see that her eyes had a certain glow in them that was unknown in any species of mammal on earth.  Her skin was pale to the point of being translucent.

“I want to go home.”

The cyborg processed this and said, “Yes. I can help you.  Where is your home?”

“Drive.  I will show you the way.”

The cyborg did as it was told.   The girl did not speak she simply sat and glared at the robot. It caused occasional danger warnings to flash in the cyborg’s CPU.  It doesn’t translate well from digital speak but it’s equivalent to being highly creeeped out.  Cybernetic entities rarely understood the term uncomfortable silence, but this one was learning quickly.  Finally it said,  “I am cybernetic humanoid number 1153.  I must say that it is amazing to find a living human, in this area.  Tell me, do you know anything about the catastrophe that lead to the plague?”

“Please watch the road.  It’s dangerous” said the girl.

“I do not know if you are aware, but something happened here that decimated the human population.  Do you know anything of it?  Are there others here, others that might have survived?”

“There are no people here.  There was only Kyle.  Kyle killed me.”

The cyborg paused to process that information.  “You are dead?”

The girl nodded, “Kyle killed me.  He killed me because he thought I was a liar.  He wouldn’t watch the road.”

“I believe you might have hurt yourself.  Allow me to take you somewhere were you can get help.”

The woman shook her head, “You can’t help me.  You will die too.  Just like everyone else.”

“Everyone else?” 

“Everyone died because Kyle wouldn’t watch the road.”

“I do not understand.”

“Kyle... you should really watch the road now.”

As quickly as the girl had appeared, there was a horn blast and the pickup was bathed in light from the headlights of an oncoming semi.  The girl screamed and the cyborg calculated.  It doesn’t translate well in any language, especially digital speak, but the droid came to a conclusion.     The cyborg reached out to touch the girl and it’s arm passed right through here. just like the semi passed through the pick-up moments later.  Instantly, both the truck and the woman disappeared. 

The cyborg slammed on the brakes one more time bringing the truck to a stop.  It opened the door and started scanning the area for the girl or the semi.  Suddenly, he noticed something metallic sticking out of the embankment.  The cyborg knelt down for a closer look.  It was remains of a tanker truck, long buried and overgrown.  With some digging, words could be read, ‘Biologic Solutions.’

Ten years ago, the company reported a loss of a transport truck but failed to detail it’s cargo, a virus being engineered as a biological weapon.  Still, the CH droid ran into a problem explaining how it made the discovery.

Words like paranormal, ghosts and psychic phenomenon don’t translate well into digital speak.

 It settled for suggesting that it had inadvertently activated a lost biological data fragment caught in an infinite loop.  Upon providing a terminating condition the data revealed the location of the wreckage.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Last Stand of Sparklemane

The war for control of Smile Land between the Tinker Elves and the Unicorns had gotten way out of control.  It had been a land populated by high-pitched, perpetually happy life forms prancing around glittery landscapes.  The idea of bloodshed was an entirely foreign concept for them, but they were learning.

Sparkle Forest stood between the Unicorn Glens in the Sunshine Mountains and the Lollipop road that led to the Villages of Tinkerland.  The forests were the kind of idyllic greenery where an anthropomorphic rabbit could suddenly jump onto a rock and lead forest creatures in a song about sharing.  If that rabbit is there now, however, he’s going to want to get his happy ass out of there.  Things are about to get ugly.

In the middle of the forest, a few clicks north of Rainbow Falls,  Sparklemane lead a small battalion of Unicorns.  He walked in front with his lieutenant, Glitterhoof, beside him. The rest followed in a crescent formation.  From above it looked like a big, glittery smile emoticon moving through the forests.  Cuteness was a State of Nature in Smile Land, even in matters of war.

Suddenly, Sparklemane stopped and sniffed the air. 
“Elves!  I smell elves!” he said.  Sparklemane was a male, but not for reproductive reasons.  In Smile Land different sexes existed because little boys and little girls are.. well, cute.   It  made sense, but it meant that Sparklemane, elder of the Sugarhills Clan and General of the Smile Force Six sounded like a 6-year-old boy.

Glitterhoof giggled and turned to the rest of the battalion, “All right men!  We need to break through this line.   Do your best and remember that we all believe in you!”

The battalion whinnied the cutest battle cry ever.

Sparklemane stamped his feet, reared back and yelled, “Charge!”

The Unicorns took off through the trees jumping over rocks and over forest streams.  They leapt over a tall hedge and found themselves a few feet away from a line Elven war machines.  They looked like something a modern art welder would build if he was turned loose in a junkyard for a week with a pound of crack cocaine, a gallon of LSD and a welding torch.
It didn’t matter much to the Unicorns, because they didn’t see them for long.  As soon as they were over the hedge, a small voice on top of one of the machines yelled, “Unicorns!  Fire the Sunshine Rays!”

Weaponry was still a new concept in Smile Land.  The elves had, however, managed to convert sunshine rays and sneezing powder into the Smile Land equivalent of flash bombs and tear-gas.  Non-lethal, sure, but it did send a fair amount of Unicorns careening into rocks and embedding their horns into tree trunks.  It also sent Sparklemane, Glitterhoof and several others from their battalion retreating back behind the hedge.

Glitterhoof was pacing behind the green wall shaking her head and stomping her hooves, “Fuck!  Fuck, those pointy-eared cock-goblins,” she said.  Swearing was also new to Smile Land, but the Unicorns were taking to it with a certain amusing gusto.

Sparklemane recovered his sight enough to peer over the hedge.  The Elven war machines were getting closer.  Those in his battalion that weren’t struggling to free themselves from the trees had retreated with them.  “Form up!  Form a line.” yelled Sparklemane backing up slightly, “Ready your horns and think happy thoughts!”

Unicorn giggle magic was nothing new, it had entertained forest creatures since the beginning of Smile Land.   It had only recently been weaponized, though.  Sparklemane, for instance, had become adept enough that he could make elves liquefy their internal organs and blow the bloody mess through the back of their sparkly green pantaloons. 

The Unicorns lined up.  Sparklemane watched the Elves close in.  He looked down the line of Unicorn soldiers and when their horns started to glow bright enough he yelled, “It’s Smile Time Motherfuckers!”

A rainbow of Unicorn magic hit the encroaching masses of metal.   Soon the sound of howling laughter could be heard echoing from within the machines.  They started swerving erratically as the drivers fought bouts of laughter-induced terminal diarrhea.

The elf on top of the lead machine yelled through fits of laughter, “Forward! Hehehe!  Crush them! ”

Sparklemane directed all his magic to the Elf commander.  The Elf started laughing harder and soon doubled over and fell down the front of the vehicle.

Tinker Elves were widely regarded as the finest craftsmen in all of Smile Land.  Still, the Natural Law here dictated that all machines were almost designed to fail and suddenly belch out sparks and a sooty,  smoldering Tinker Elf.  War had multiplied that quality several times over and made the war machines more or less useless as armored assault vehicles, but made them impressively effective car bombs.  It didn’t take much. An Elf falling under the wheels in laughter could set them off.

The blast along with the smoke and shrapnel was disorienting.  Sparklemane heard the whinnies of other Unicorns caught in the explosion.  He couldn’t see anything except for Gitterhoof lying on the ground next to him.

“Glitterhoof?” he said, “Can you hear me, friend?”

He nuzzled her head.   It spun on the ground leaving a trail of glittery blood between it and the rest of her body.  She had been decapitated by shrapnel.

Sparklemane reared back and screamed.

Dave looked at the time and closed the book.  “It’s getting late, Jenny.” he said getting up and putting the newest Adventures in Smile Land book back on the shelf. “Well finish the rest of it tomorrow.”

Jenny gradually poked her head out from under the covers and squeaked, “Daddy?”

“Yes, sweetheart?”

“Um... You don’t have to read any more Smile Land.  I don’t think I like those books anymore.”

Dave smiled and turned out the light, “Okay honey.  Sleep tight.”  He closed the door and walked a few feet before pumping his arm and saying, “Yes!  Free at last!”

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Modern Art Is Weird

Found at Harper College, Chicago IL
Name: Scrap Metal Soup Ladle
Artist Statement: We dip our ladles into the soup tureen of Life. Do we get nourishing broth? No we get nothing but pain. The ladle spews water, hope that soup will be near. But is not. No soup for you.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Kook, The Thief, The Tyrant, The Skeptic and The Believer.

“Three truths I will tell you, and one lie,” said Plouton Clark taking another drink of ale.  “You may ask any four questions you like, but only four.”

It was three years ago and we were sitting on the porch outside the Free State Brewery in Lawrence, Kansas.  Clark had just started his Church of New Life, and I was working on the first national story about the new religion for World News Magazine.

“Only four questions?” I asked.

“If I give you carte-blanche,” said Clark, “you will find something to discredit me. Ask enough questions, and you can find the flaw in any argument.  Even well-established science looks flimsy under enough scrutiny and I’ve got to give myself a fighting chance.”

“Why the lie?” I asked.

Clark twisted pieces of his long beard around his finger.  He had one of those beards I had only seen in cartoons usually worn characters who had suddenly grown comically old.  “You’re a skeptic and that’s what you’ll be looking for.  A believer clings to a singular truth among lies.  Skepticism is just the opposite.”

It was the end of the first day I spent with Plouton Clark.  We spent the first half of the day touring the refurbished strip mall in downtown Lawrence that was now the Church headquarters.  The second half was spent at the bar.  Clark swilled beer and talked so fast about his strange  philosophies that I could barely get a word into the conversation, much less a whole question.  I had to admit that he looked the part of a modern prophet.  The cargo shorts and the old, stained T-shirt and flip-flops were probably the modern equivalent of a robe and sandals.

“He’s a crackpot!” my editor told me as I was leaving the office to catch my flight.  “Or a con-artist or some guy who gets his rocks off with power.  Just find out which one it is, and write the story.”

 He was one of those editors that insisted on writing your story for you, and honestly I kind of let him.  It was easier then arguing.  So the entire time I spent with Clark, my editor’s words were floating in my brain. Was Clark a kook, a thief or a tyrant? 

“Well, how about it then?” said Clark after a fresh sip of beer, “Care to give it a go?”

“Okay,” I said flipping through my notebook and forming a strategy.  I would ask him questions, force a lie out of him on the last one and do some fact checking later.  Then, I would have my story or my editor’s story at least.

“First question, why did God contact you to start this church?  Are you somehow special?”

I figured a tyrant would claim that there was nothing special about him.

“I am special,” said Clark.  “Clearly I am, or God wouldn’t have contacted me.  He did, you know.  I was sitting in my house watching TV, and He appeared on the screen and gave me instructions.  How many prophets do you know got a message from God through a 32-inch flat screen?”

He laughed and I wrote down his answer and marked it with a letter ‘T’.  “Second question, I said,  “To join the church, you say people have to give up their excess wealth.  Where does it all go?”   Surely a thief would hide the money.

“I keep it,” said Clark drinking the last of his beer, “I suspect I may be the richest man in the country in five years, give or take a couple.”

I winced as I wrote his answer and put another ‘T’ next to it.  “Third question, I have it in my notes that you were admitted to a mental hospital and were released against the wishes of the staff.  Can you talk about that?”

“Oh, I was completely bonkers,” said Clark smiling at the waitress bringing him another beer, “Still am, I should think.  You may have also noticed that this is my fifth pint.  The great thing about drinking  is it helps keep me from bottling up the crazy.  A thought hits my brain and, bam!, it’s out in the world.  Probably makes be a better preacher.”

I felt  like an idiot asking my final question, “What is your name?”

Clark smiled, “Pluton Clark.”

I met with Clark again three years later at the same brewery. I had long since resigned from the magazine and I was working on a book about the Church of New Life. In recent years, it had a growth rate faster than any religion on the planet.

“I read your article,” said Clark taking a long drink of a stout.

“What did  you think?” I asked.

“A bit disjointed.  It’s like you couldn’t decide what to write about.  It’s something I would write if anyone was stupid enough to let me.”

I nodded, but said nothing.  He was right.

“Just as well,” said Clark taking a drink from his beer, “Who knows what damage a well-written article would have done.  Could have brought down my whole operation.”

I put down my pen and looked at Clark, “Did you do something to sabotage the story?”

Clark shook his head, “Nothing that you weren’t already doing.  You are a believer, not a skeptic.  You like the truth among lies, not the other way around.”

“You didn’t tell any lies, that was the problem with my article.” I said. 

“I said my name was Plouton Clark.  I was born Andy Stevenson which you knew since you had my mental health history.”

“You were born Andy Stevenson, but that doesn’t mean your name isn’t Plouton Clark now.” I said.

Clark smiled, “The truth among lies. That’s just how your brain works.”

“Okay,” I said flipping to a clean sheet, “Let’s start over.”

“Okay then.  Three lies I will tell you, and one truth.”

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A day in Detroit.

If there is a city that stands as a symbol of our troubled times, it is Detroit, MI. In the same way that the city of San Francisco defined the baby boomers, I fear Detroit might define my own. Defined not by a place where we gathered, but a place we fled.
My traveling companion, Brandon is an impatient driver. The sight of a line of glowing tail lights will have him careening for the nearest exit in search of some mythical road that never has traffic. Normally this is just a rather cute eccentricity of his, but in this place...
"It's better than sitting in traffic," he says with a grin.
"We can't know that." I reply looking at and old grocery store. The outside looks as if the previous owners last act was to use the store as defense against a zombie apocalypse. Every window is boarded up, it is completely surrounded by a razor wire fence, even the roof of this place is lined with razor wire.
We drive along a major surface road heading for downtown. After a few feet, you begin to realize that everything you ever heard about this town is true. Nearly every building is empty and covered with a layer of graffiti. More than one building appears to be burned out. It's a situation that implies that when a building catches fire in this city, they just put out the flames and leave the rest to rot. There are enough of these buildings to imply that this is standard operating procedure.
"The photographer was telling me that the city is making an effort to tear down all of the empty buildings in town." says Brandon.
I wonder out loud if there will be any city left after that. In quick tally over the course of a couple blocks I find two buildings that appear to have a business inside. Ones a liquor store, the other is some sort of art gallery. It is a man who apparently paints murals in spray paint elevating the local color, as it were, to an art form. This is not just a bad part of town either. A previous adventure a few days ago yielded similar results. Just block after block of overgrown, dilapidated, empty structures that can be more accurately be described as ruins. This is the way the city looks.
I can't help but wonder, as more and more people flee, if Detroit won't become the worlds largest ghost town one day. Nothing but empty buildings with a few remaining residents scrambling among the wreckage like something out of an post-apocalypse movie.
My thoughts are interrupted by yelling. We are stopped at a light and two people are crossing in front. One of them looks homeless and is the one screaming something. At first I think he might be yelling at the other man, but a few seconds later I realize he is just yelling. I couldn't tell what he was yelling, it sounded like the incoherent mumbles of any lunatic one would find in an urban area with the volume cranked to 11 and mad gestures to round out the image. The poor man who happened to be walking next to him at the time didn't seem afraid. He simply wore the pained expression of a man who was saying to himself, "Damnit! Not this again. I just want to go to work."
I walk inside the convention center where I am working this week. I stop by the gift shop killing time before I actually have to go to work. As expected the products have a distinct automotive theme. Model cars, books on the history of the Big Three, belts shaped like seat belts. I find myself thinking about Native American shops on route 66 selling handmade jewelry to tourists. All relics from a lost and romanticized past.
During a lunch break I head outside. It's a little after noon downtown on a Wednesday. Most city streets are packed at this hour with office workers stepping outside for a breath of fresh air and sunshine. Here, the sidewalks are deserted. I look for a while trying to find something, anything to eat. There are almost no resturaunts within walking distance. I settle on a little burger joint about a block away from the convention center. It's run by an older couple. The woman is running the register while the man works in the kitchen. There is one other person in the resturaunt besides me. As I place my order and pay the woman looks at my badge. "You working at convention center?" she asks in a heavy Eastern European accent. I nod and she says, "Please send us more customers."
After the job I suggest we head to a nearby brewery for good eats and some beer to celebrate a job well done.
It should be noted that Brandon doesn't drink, but he is a fan of good food which is a staple of the American microbrew.  Detroit is built on a hub design so that the roads come out like the spokes of a wheel from this central point near the river.  This microbrewery is located near the hub right across the street from the opera house.  Here there is a little different feel.  There are people walking the streets, outside there are a few restruants with tables and chairs on the sidewalk.  It's like the city has retreated into itself.  No life anywhere except for this small section right in the center.
Dave King with the punk rock group Flogging Molly wrote a couple anthems to his adopted home city.  I feel like he would point to this area and state that there is still a fire burning in the heart of this city.  Or he might just point and say that it's a good place to get a beer. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Writing lessons from the Worlds Worst Novelist

I would like to start with a brain teaser.  See if you can read the following sentence:
"Have you ever visited that portion of Erin's plot that offers its sympathetic soil for the minute survey and scrutinous examination of those in political power, whose decision has wisely been the means before now of converting the stern and prejudiced, and reaching the hand of slight aid to share its strength in augmenting its agricultural richness?"
If the following statement made any sense, you may be insane.  Either that or you recently smoked something illegal.  For most of us, it’s run-on sentence that lost any meaning long before the first comma saved us from passing out on the floor.  It is a masterwork of the English language by sheer virtue of the fact that so many meaningless words were put together.   It is the first sentence to the long-forgotten novel Delina Delaney by Amanda McKittrick Ros, widely regarded as the worst novelist in English literature.

I won’t go into too much into her life or writing due to space and the fact that I would be more or less ripping off writers who actually had to wade through her work, a  Herculean task because they just don’t make shit-wading boots tall enough and it’s bound to soak through your socks.    Instead, I will offer the following link:

And, as always, there is wikipedia.

But, to give you an idea of exactly who we are dealing with,  imagine if you were to lock an infant in a room with nothing but the worst romance novels you could dig up.  The child grows up with her only knowledge of the world based on pages and pages of heaving shoulders, torn bodices and men with tortured souls who are also pirate captains.  Wait until that girl grows up and ask her to write a novel.  That was McKittrick Ros, and yes, it really is that bad. 

She embellishes strange details, for example.  Characters don’t clear their throat they clear it, “of any little mucus that perchance would serve to obstruct the tone of her resolute explanation.”

She alliterates like it’s a competitive sport:
“...frivolous, frittery fraternity of fragiles flitting round and about.”

And sometimes... well... its’ just bizarre.
"Speak! Irene! Wife! Woman! Do not sit in silence and allow the blood that now boils in my veins to ooze through cavities of unrestrained passion and trickle down to drench me with its crimson hue!"

By the way, if you feel the need to laugh, don’t fight it.  That’s your brain trying to save itself from leaking out of your ears.

So what can we learn from McKitrick except to, as the Great Lady herself put it, “disturb the bowels of millions?”  I’ve come up with three points. 

1: Be your own biggest fan: There is obviously a line between self assurance and outright delusion and McKittrick Ros cleared that line in street shoes.  Still, it takes a level of self-esteem bordering on sociopathy to pen words like she did, receive that kind of criticism and keep writing.  (Although it is not impossible that she kept going *because* of  the criticism.  She was Irish after all and stubbornness to the point of insanity is well-documented within the Irish tradition.)  It was frankly charming how she honestly believed in her heart that she was a great writer destined to “be talked about at the end of 1,000 years.” 

2: There’s no ‘right way’:  What makes a writer successful?  In my own humble opinion, it’s being able to write something that people enjoy and want to read.  Perhaps a bit simplistic, but there you go.  By that measure, she was successful. Among her fans were names like J.R Tolken, C.S. Lewis and Mark Twain.  They mostly read her novels to see how far they could get before falling off the bar stool in laughter, but still...  As we learn and grow as writers we are bombarded by people telling us how good writing should look, and sometimes they are even correct.  That doesn’t mean that there aren’t other paths. 

3.  Finally, it can always be worse:  I don’t know why, but it’s comforting to know that if I became completely insane and started writing short stories in a corn field with a bottle of whiskey and a riding lawnmower, they would still be infinitely more readable.  And yet, as I said before, she was still a success.... in her own way. That one simple fact gives me a bit of hope.  She was published and became a famous author writing in a style that’s so incredibly bad I couldn’t replicate it if I tried.

Although, it is perversely fun to try:

If mayhap you find the muscle filled with liquid fire screaming out like a woman deep in saddness’ cold embrace for want of the literary doppleganger of foul smelling disks laid out on a field populated by mankind’s dairy domestications.  You may find the foul, fetid, formations of fictional frivolity floundering forthwith:  (Translation: If you want more, you can find it here:)
Go to and search for McKittrick Ros.  Her first novel, Irene Iddesleigh is available for free and thank the gods because who would ever pay for this nonsense?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Meditations of a Drunken Writer.

 (Note: Written as part of a monthly column for my writing group's newsletter.  Recorded here for posterity and on the off chance anyone ever gives a shit about what I think writing is like.)

“I’ve always considered writing the most hateful kind of work.  I suspect it’s a bit like fucking, which is only fun for amateurs.  Old whores don’t do much giggling.”
    Hunter S. Thompson
    I wanted to start with this quote from a well-known nutcase and personal hero of mine.  This is my first of a (hopefully) monthly column in the newsletter.  It’s strange because I have almost no experience that would help with a writing column.  I took a creative writing class once in college and I passed by sheer virtue of the fact that the teacher was too busy with his Herbal Pursuits MBA  to notice my utter lack of participation.  I can, however, meander on thoughts, ideas and ask foolish questions with the best of them.   So that’s what I’ll do.   I decided to start off with the big question:
    Why do we do this?  Writing I mean.  It’s maddening work that never really seems to get any easier.  I’ve noticed that I grow as a person and as a writer the only thing it allows me to do is see more problems.  Don’t believe me?  Try this game:  Find something you wrote in high-school, college or some other previous time in your life.  Try and reading it all the way through without beating your head against the surface of your desk.  Winner gets cookie.
    It should be so easy.  I’ve been rereading ‘1984’ a lot for a short that I’m working on.  At some point, in time I realized how well  everything just works. The words flow almost effortlessly through the story and the message is so simple, concise and elegant.  I often wonder why I cannot do that.    It’s easy to forget the amount of times that Orwell had to write and re-write, yell, swear and drink until the words finally behaved themselves and started sounding right. 
    I go and look at what I have written.  Hell, I can yell, swear and drink with the best of them, but it doesn’t seem to have much effect.  That’s not to say their aren’t good moments.  Sometimes  I’ve got the right music in the background, I’m talking out loud in the voice of my characters, jumping up and enacting fight scenes and just getting down and jiggy with my muse.
    It never lasts.  In the morning we wake up feeling dirty and slightly ashamed.  I’ll go to the computer, wonder what the hell I was thinking the night before and start deleting. 
    Keep in mind that those are the nights when I don’t spend hours staring at a piece of work.  I don’t know what to do with it and it refuses to improve on it’s own.  It’s what we call an impasse.
    So why do we do it? 
    Myself, it’s kind of a natural thing for me.  I don’t think there was a time in my life where I wasn’t making up stories of one type or another.  Sometimes it was about imaginary creatures in my backyard.  Other times it was how those imaginary creatures broke Mom’s decorative plate hanging on the wall.  I’d usually get my ass beaten for the latter, but still.  I would hesitate to call it an addiction; junkies don’t get distracted from their fix by something good on TV.  There is a feeling that comes from composing something that people enjoy, something that inspires conversation and/or debate.  I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard for a little bit of approval, but it’s a nice feeling either way.
    Let’s not forget this feeling: That moment that you type in the last word, throw your hands in the air and proclaim to the world “I’m done!  Now get me the hell out of this chair.”  Sometimes that’s the best part of writing.... the part where it’s over.
    Anyway, that’s my thoughts, I’d love to hear yours.  I’ll have a discussion group in the Writers Block on the DII forum if you care to post your thoughts.  Until then,
“Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.”
    Neil Gaiman.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Baby factory

I was watching late night television. That's part of my problem. I consume media at a time when most people are happily asleep. It's a time when there are commercials for gorgeous 18 year old girls who have nothing to do on a Friday night besides talk with you.
I saw a commercial for Surrogate Abroad. This is basically a service that allows you to hook up with a 3rd world girl to have your baby.
All I could think was where are the Christians on this one?  Don't see a whole lot of right-wingers screaming about this on Fox News.  This seems like something they would concern themselves with.  It involves two of their favorite things, educating people about reproduction and trying to control other people's lives.
Is it too new?  Do not enough people know about it? Or are we kind of okay with that and if so, what does that say about this country?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Proud Highway

It's 430 in the morning here in Omaha. I couldn't sleep at all last night, I was too exited. Well that and my circadian rhythm is fucked to hell.
Today I head out with my two best friends; my clan before I become a married man.
It is traditional for the man to celebrate his coming nuptials by throwing a party that represents an end to a mans single existence. A veritable orgy of delights the young man must leave behind in order to become one with his bride... or just because she will make his remaining years a hell if he doesnt.
For some men, that's strippers, boozes and hookers. Not me.
First, I was never big on strippers, and ironically my bride to be likes them more than I do, so that's not even on the list if things I have to give up.
Booze... Listen, that would have been brought up early and often.
Finally, whores. Never had and never will have the kind of money that makes that an acceptable pass-time these days.
So me and the crew are packing some shit and heading out on the road. The road trip we all know and love from our youth. We are following the same path that me and Garrett took on the Great Northwest Brewery tour.
That is the freedom I am exchanging. The ability to get in a car with friends and drive. Seek the American Dream with no constraints or hindrances. Take off on that proud highway with a good song, a pint of whiskey and a dream.
It's not like I was using that freedom anyway. Real life and the distaste for poverty and the life of a bum largely restrained those urges in me. It was sitting gathering dust for years. I just liked the feeling that it was there. That I could do this thing. I could charge off like a bat out of hell, scream to the heavens that I was now free.... until I needed gas money.
I could have, and it would hurt no one but me. That is not the case now.
Like so many other men, I realized that life is inherently more valuable if you have someone to spend it with. It's simple economics, increased demand leads to increased price.
Plus, I have seen the face of chronic bachelorhood. I will save the details for a later post, but suffice to say it's a life few choose.
That life demands a sacrifice. My freedom sitting dusty in a garage like a cherry sports car an owner is too afraid to take on the public road. It's been taken out a few times, but not like I had dreamed. Time to trade it in... After one last ride.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Less Than Grand Design

I was watching a special on the Discovery Channel last night on the theories of Stephan Hawking. One of those, of course, had to do with the existence of a creator.
It's my own fault. After I watched the special, I headed to the Internet. I wanted to see the insanity people would inevitably leave behind. The announcement actually came several years ago, so a lot of comments built up over the years.
There were a lot of comments saying something along the lines of, " So what? I believe in God and I will continue to."
That strikes me as the right answer.
Others said with a certain smugness that he would find The Truth when he died. Yes, that is true. The majority of the comments just saddened me. I was looking for good old American bat-shittery, crazy rants that make me want to break out the tin foil hats.
What I got was the word 'cripple' more times that I've seen in the Bible.
"He's just mad because he's a cripple and he thinks God abandoned him."
"He feels science has done more for him than God. Without it he would be a drooling crippled retard."
Let's be clear. We are talking about Stephan Fucking Hawking. Probably the smartest man since Einstein.
Shut up, cripple! Yeah, well you're in a wheelchair! He's just mad because his legs don't work!
It's my own fault. I did go looking on the Internet afterall.
Remember. If someone says something you don't like, just make fun of them for being different. That's what Jesus would do after all.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Cyber bullying with the big boys.

Working on the second draft of a short story I started about a year ago or so.  Actually, it started almost two years ago exactly.  I have a friend (who by the way is the inspiration for a lot of Mac's character in this story) who found himself on the receiving end of a cyber war of a kind. 
Now just to be fair all around, I happen to think that a lot of his paranoia was in his own head, but I don't blame him for that.  He had just lost his job, and the reason that he was given was a complete lie.  To make a long story short without including a whole lot of details, he had linked it to some comments that he made on the Internet.
What I was thinking then, and what I am still pondering now is the use of cyber bullying.  Or specifically, how an entity like a government or corporation could use Internet technology to embarrass, discredit and silence.  I was kind of stuck on two ideas.
1. Put porn on their computer:  Child porn would be best, but depending on their enviroment or sensibilities, anything might work.  As I was thinking about this possibility, I couldn't help but get into a conspiratorial mood that suggested that the hype and fear over pedophilia in the past several years would be a handy way to keep 'dangerous people' down.  Somebody starts getting uppity, you throw a few naked kids on their computer and, bam!  Discredited and ruined for life.  This is something I might save for another story, I don't think I want to play this card in 1984 Redux.

2.  Terrorism:  Same thing only with bomb making materials and anarchist manifestos.  Not quite as effective as the technique above, but still useful.

But that was it.  So much for my creative mind.  So I started looking up this idea of cyberbullying.   If you type that term into Google, you get a lot of sites that have to do with kids, teens mostly.  I was kind of already aware of some of this, but I wasn't really privy to some of the really creative ways high school-age kids would go and slam each other.  
It goes to show that, when it comes to cruelty, nothing is as creative and effective as a child.

That's where I'm at though.  I'm taking some of those ideas and refining them into something a modern corporation would use.  What kind of things would a modern corporation resort to if it meant quieting a whistle-blower?  Especially if it would save them millions, or even billions of dollars.

Good old fashioned school-yard rules as applied to the modern technological landscape.  A little unsettling to think about.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

What the fuck is this?

This is diary of where it all went wrong. Another voice destined for obscurity and oblivion in the vast void of the Internets.  An archaic record of the hopes of another member of a doomed generation lost forever among the rubble of like-minded souls.
This is a record of the beginning.  The first records of a promising new voice in American literature.  One of the few lucky ones who the Fates proclaimed worthy enough to be relevant in this day and age.
Perhaps it's a little of both.  Mostly likely it's the former.

So what the fuck is this?

It just is.  A journal of thoughts and ideas dressed in pretty colors and trotted out in front of the world like circus animals.  At the same time, this is just for me.  A way to put my thoughts to words and maybe work out what is going on inside my little head.  A place tucked away for my own reference, a place that's totally visible to anyone with and Internet access and the ability and motivation to search through a lot of irrelevant Google results.

I was reading a book once titled, IRA: A History.  Basically an history of the Irish Republican Army.  At one point in time the author stated that a common problem was the organizations need to be secrative vs the Irish urge to be very, very public.  This conflict would result in a man spending hours secretly procuring gelignite and quietly coordinating the attack with a handful of conspirators and the nip down to the pub and announce his plan to the whole room... loudly... over a lot of beer.

So really, it's not stupid.  It's cultural.

 Hopefully you found this because someday I will have something published.  Sympathy for Immortals available in hardcover and paperback.  Check out the author's website!  Check out the author's blog!  Then a few of you, you go back through the archives.  The first post.  Isn't funny?  He didn't think he would ever be published.

Maybe you are just me in ten years.  Working a shit job.  Trying to keep the dream alive and returning to this time to try and remember why I even bothered in the first place.

So what the fuck is this?

It's nothing.  Go away.  You won't like it.
If you are family, stop reading.  I'm going to say shit that I don't say out-loud.  I'm going to say shit that I say out-loud too much.  You are going to want to ask me about it.  You are going to want me to explain myself.
I won't.  I don't wanna.

If you are friends or aquaintences... see above.  Except some of you know the awful truth more then most.  If you absolutly must continue, for the love of Gods keep it down.  They'll hear you.

If you are a present or future employer.  Well done.  You've caught me.  At one point in time I had indipendant thoughts and ideas.  I probably still do, it's kind of a curse.  The smart thing to have done would be to write these things down and hide them away where nobody could see them.  I didn't do that.  I wrote them down and published them.  Then I might have forgotten about them.  Now you've found them and you've got me bang-to-rights.  Now you can fire me.  Now you have a reason to never hire me.
Forgive me, but I couldn't let the richness of the world and all the experiences that are possible within pass me by just because I was afraid that it might offend my corporate masters.  Sorry.

This is a diary of how it all went wrong.
This is a tale of where a career began.
What the fuck is this?

It's nothing.
Go away.