Monday, May 31, 2010

This is the business we have chosen...

I'm a writer. Not professionally; not really, anyway. I've made probably a couple hundred bucks in the last ten years based directly on something I've written and a good portion of that was made writing freshman comp. term papers for the math majors in college. (Cheating is wrong, kids, but dammit, daddy's crippling addiction to fruit-by-the-foot is not going to pay for itself. By-the-foot has no meaning when you're blowing through 2 or 3 furlongs of strawberry kiwi in a weekend, your IKEA coffee table looking like an accountant's wet dream --the paper stuff it came on looks like adding machine tape, keep up, here-- Remember, kids, Bubble Tape is a gateway drug!) Wow, I sure do love the parenthetical asides...anyway, I'm a writer. Crafting words into something interesting, thought-provoking, funny, or downright unsettling is what I'm good at. It's what I want to do for a living when I grow up.

That last sentence is something that has given me pause lately. I've been unemployed for a few weeks now, and I wouldn't recommend it. I'm bored as hell most of the time, and I've got no money spend, which is what I usually do when I'm bored.  I've had a lot of time to think these days, though, which can be a good thing. I'm looking down the barrel of 30, and though the trigger hasn't been pulled quite yet, the hammer is sure  as hell cocked. (Heh. Cocked. Dick joke quota met; moving on...) And it occurs to me that I've already grown up. I pay bills, I shower semi-regularly without someone having to force it on me, I'm married and looking forward to having kids soon, and I LIKE eating vegetables. I became what society would term a functioning adult sometime in the last few years without realizing it. And that's cool.

Paying bills aside, being a grown up is working out well for me. I dig married life; it's really cool knowing you've got someone to love that loves you back and that, to throw in an obligatory nerd metaphor, you've added a Sexy Elf Mage to your party that has a lot of attributes your Dark Paladin Thief or whatever doesn't have. It's also nice to know that if they want to leave your party, it's going to cost them a shitload of mana...or whatever. Listen, I'm not good at RPGs but I couldn't make a Ghostbusters reference here and make it work. I tried saying that it's like when the Ghostbusters added Winston Zeddemore to the team, but then I realized that I'd be comparing my wife to Ernie Hudson, and that brought up a lot of feelings I don't know how to deal with. Point: being married is cool and my wife is awesome and way hotter than Ernie Hudson.

And I can't wait to read Alice in Wonderland to my kids, to teach them to read it themselves and fill them with the things they'll need to take on the world, and a lot of other things just for funsies; Like a working knowledge of Batman's utility belt, or why a land shark is man's greatest enemy. (if you have to ask why, you're already dead. I'm sorry. Candygram.)

But realizing my adulthood is also a very sobering thing. I'm a grown up, but I'm not writing for a living. To be honest, I'm not writing much at all these days. And that's something I intend to change right now. I may have to be a salesman (something I'm very good at, to my surprise) to pay the bills, but I'm going to be a writer by trade from here on out. A trade, as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary (I love the internet. Makes citations so damn easy.) is "a personal occupation, esp a craft requiring skill." Well goddamn it, writing is my trade, and I intend to show it. I'm going to pimp this damn blog for all it's worth (or you know, I'm actually going to show it to people other than my wife. Hi, sweetie.), I'm going to actually work on the projects I've been tossing around in my brain the past couple of years, and I'm going to continue to hone my craft until my prose is so razor sharp, it'll cut you up so bad. I may not get paid for it again for a long while, but if my time as an exhibitionist at the bus station has taught me anything it's this: Exposure is the first step to pepper spray success. Sure, sometimes you're Moe Greene and you get a bullet in the eye, but that dude built Las Vegas.

You can look forward to some interesting bits and pieces here in the coming days and weeks. I'll continue to post my mad ravings as always, but I'll also be posting some of the stuff I'm working on. I've got the wheels spinning now, so jump on, kids, we're taking this fucker all the way to Fresno!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Meat is murder; Tasty, Tasty Murder

For those of you who have missed my angry, rambling insanity style of writing lately, I intend to be back on top form with this one. As you may know, the titles of my posts usually relate in some backwards, barely coherent and yet slyly clever way, to the content of said posts. This one is no different. It is not, as may seem at first glance, about my status as a raging carnivore. I love meat, everyone knows that. It's not news. It's delicious, full of protein, and it reminds me that, despite my status as a relatively unknown shouter of obscenities on the internet, I am actually on top of the food chain. This post is not about delicious cows. It is instead about sacred ones.

I realize I'm a little late to the party on this one, but the whole South Park/Mohammad controversy really had me steaming. You all know what it was about by now, so I'm not going to rehash the details. Suffice to say, it had me sincerely cheesed off.

I'm not going to direct anger at Comedy Central. They pussied out, for sure, but not arbitrarily. There are a lot of talented people that work for them, and they all have families and friends and other people they don't want beheaded or blown up. I'm sure if I were in that position, I'd back off, too. Live to fight another day, I dig. Instead, I'm going to direct my sweet, rich hatred where it belongs: at the groups who think that their sacred cows give them the right to deprive anyone else of the feeling of safety.

Coleman, the butler in the Dan Aykroyd/Eddie Murphy film Trading Places (well worth watching, simply for the genius scene of Dan Aykroyd in a filthy Santa suit, eating a salmon whole while picking nylon fake beard threads out of it. The best moments in life really are the little moments.) says toward the end of the film, while disguised as a Catholic priest, "I always say religion's a fine thing, taken in moderation." I tend to agree with this opinion. I have nothing against religion in and of itself.  I may be, as I've said many times before, an agnostic at best who finds the whole practice a little silly on a personal level, but I respect the right of an individual to believe whatever they please. In many cases, religion allows an individual to connect with a certain side of himself (or herself, let's be equal here), giving him or her the opportunity to explore the deeper philosophical bits and pieces of the human existence, a practice which I am most definitely for. It helps fill a void, I get that, and sometimes I even envy it.

Me? I tend to get my philosophy from other sources. I believe that when I die, I'm going to go to the Island from Lost and kick it with some polar bears and crack a few cold ones with the Smoke Monster. "But K-Dawg," you may say, "Lost is fictional. It's a story made up by some guys in a room some place. It's not even real!" To which I will reply, knowingly, "Exactly."

Point:  Just because you believe it's sacred doesn't mean I have to. We can still be friends.

You can believe in Jesus, or Buddha, or Mohammad, or Brahma or whatever you please, and I can believe in The Island. If it helps us ponder the mysteries of humanity and the inner workings of the cosmos, excellent. Hell, even if it just gives us something to do once a week, there's nothing wrong with that either.

And you have every right to think that I'm silly for believing a TV show is real, and for wanting to go there when I die, and I have every right to believe that you're silly for believing the stories that you believe. We're all still here together; we just don't have to hang out on Sundays.

These extremist groups continue to threaten and provoke because we back down every time. The best defense against jack holes like this isn’t more retaliatory threats, which is something I've seen a lot of in the little research I did for this piece--violence does indeed beget violence, after all-- it’s not letting them silence us. Everyone has a right to their belief system, or to the lack of one. Believe in your sacred cows, shine on you crazy diamond. I don’t have to believe in them, too, and I DON'T have to treat them with kid gloves. And you can take offense at that; it's a perfectly normal human response. But the moment you threaten violence against me and others who don’t believe what you do, you lose the right to be treated fairly and with respect. And the fact that these threats in particular were made by a group in America makes it doubly so; it's a place where we pride ourselves so much on our citizens' right to free speech, we put it right at the top of the damn Bill that lays the big ones out.

Freedom of speech means just that: You can say what you want, and I can say what I want, even if we're both full of crap. You can disagree, you can debate, you can argue, but you can not threaten. Period. And the moment we give in to a threat of that nature, we give up a little bit of that freedom. It's kind of like erosion: One day, you got a nice piece of beachfront property, a nice little bungalow with a nice wooden deck off the back. It's great to sit out there and feel the summer breeze and drink some lemonade or a little rum punch and just generally enjoy the hell out of being alive. You lose an inch or two a year, big deal, man, it's just an inch or two. Then, before you know it, you're on the news with a sad, confused look, your kick-ass Ray-Bans having left a tan line around your face that makes you look like a doofus, and damn it, no one looks good in a Hawaiian shirt and flip flops,what the hell were you thinking? And the video of your house falling into the ocean is on youtube with a jillion hits, right behind that one where they try to blow up the whale and Moby Dick rains fiery death from above with chunks of his fat whale ass.

Damn, that shit was funny. In both instances, and in the one above--you know, free speech. Pay attention. No, stop looking up the whale video. You've seen it nine times already. Did you not even come close to getting the point of know what, screw it.--Point:  hindsight is 20/20.

And to my Hindu friends: I'm not picking on you more than anyone else, I promise. I admire your people, your rich history, and your Mahatmas (means "great souls", apparently. Thanks, Wikipedia!)... and I love your curry. Sacred cow is just a great term. And if any of you guys wants to go for a hamburger with me, I totally won't narc on you. We're cool, bro.

Queequeg out, bitches.

(Seriously, no one got that reference? I know no one even read the book in high school, but shit, man, even the Cliffs Notes has the list of characters in it. Read a book, goddamn it!)

The Internet Killed the Video Store...

In my mind and in my car, we can't rewind we've gone too far. Oh-ah-oh-oh-a-oh...and so on.

So, I'm in my 2nd full day of unemployment, which sucks. For those of you who don't know, which, since no one reads this blog o' mine anyway, is no one, since I know, so...So, this is for the parts of me that don't know, like my spleen, who very likely does not know, since he's a bit of a layabout and doesn't really contribute anything worthwhile to the conversation. Yeah, you heard me, Frank. (My spleen's name is Frank. My gallbladder is named Jeff, by the way, and my liver is John Wayne, because he's a fuckin' hoss, that's why.) Anyway, up 'til this past Monday, I ran a video store for a national chain that, while it shall remain nameless, is probably easy enough to guess, since it's the one going out of business; Though the other guys are probably not far behind...

The video store is a thing of the past, as many have said, and we have the internet to blame. Web-based rental programs, digital delivery, on-demand programming, etc. I oughta be pissed, but I'm not. Looking for a new job sucks, and it's something I haven't had to do in years. And the current unemployment rate makes the market unkind to everyone and especially unkind to the disabled (even the ones who can kick your ass. Bring it on, man, I'll cut you! I swear to god, I'll cut you!), but the writing was on the wall long before the wall got knocked down. And the writing said "Boobs," but that's because I was the one who wrote it there.

It's evolution of the marketplace, pure and simple. Can't get mad about progress, man, otherwise you're grandpa bitching about kids on his lawn and their damned music. And if Back to the Future has taught us anything, it's that you can't be your own grandpa. And that we don't need roads. And that the Cubs will one day win the World Series. And that Marty, you gotta come back with me! Man, that was an educational piece of cinema right there.

My point, insofar as I have a point, is that this sort of thing has always happened. New technology, new methods of delivery, new means of production, or whatever, have always come along and put their predecessors out to pasture. The automobile put the horse and carriage people out of business. The gun relegated the sword people to traditionalists and hobbyists. The wheel put the Drag Heavy Shit Really Far people down. And the fire guys moved the Eat Our Food Raw and Freeze to Death Consortium out of the way. It happens. 

Convenience is a big motivating factor in what products and services succeed these days. Netflix and On-Demand have that in spades: Push a button on the TV remote, and bam, you got your Avatar or Sherlock Holmes in no time. Stop watching porn for a minute and move that arrow to the other open tab in your web browser and click a button and bam, the entire third season of Full House is on its way to your door. Why you were watching porn and then immediately decided you needed the entire third season of Full House is between you and God, but yes, you should be ashamed.

Redbox is a little less convenient, but they were smart about it: Eliminate the overhead (they just have a minimal stock and repair staff for any given area), and stick these damn things where people are going anyway. They're mainly outside grocery stores, convenience stores, and McDonald's. And if I know the American populace, on any given day, they're either going to need to buy gas, groceries, or a Quarter fucking Pounder with goddamn Cheese. (sorry, I felt that my usual obscenity requirements were lacking with this post. Had to level it out before I started punching pictures of unicorns.) Smart. I'm not a big fan of Redbox personally, since I'm an indie movie nerd, but they did it smart, and good for them. And good for the VOD folks and the gang over at Netflix, who I will be signing up with very soon. You can't beat their selection, I have to admit. Any place you can rent Casablanca, Lucio Fulci's Zombi, and episodes of Fawlty Towers in one place is pretty damned impressive.

I've been hearing a lot about digital delivery replacing physical discs entirely lately, too. It may be the way of the future, but I don't see packaged media disappearing any time soon, honestly. It's for the same reason that book stores are still around in an increasingly paperless world. There are too many old school geeks out there, like me, who love to brag about the size of their dicks collections. There's something satisfying about having a big ol' floor to ceiling bookcase full of the literary classics. So, too, is there something satisfying about having one full of DVDs or shiny new blu-rays (Those little blue cases are so goddamn cute, I could stab the pope!) 

Maybe the reason is some form of penis envy, but I'm not that Freudian. I like to be able to see and touch and feel and taste what I spend my money on; be it a book, movie, barely legal Asian prostitute, or 2 and a half keys of the finest Bolivian marching powder on God's green earth. (I can't feel my teeth, but I can see through time. It does not end well for any of you, by the way.) I'm not old-fashioned in many things, but with a physical manifestation of the financial transaction in front of me, I feel like I maybe got a little closer to my money's worth. And if not, at least I can make a kick ass bunch of tiny frisbees.

Plus, no one pays for downloads, dude. What is this, 1995? (If you laughed along with that, then you are also the reason I am unemployed, and should immediately send me 10 dollars).