Saturday, April 13, 2019

Philosophy and Shit


I had a thought while driving back to the office today after lunch. (My wife and I share one car, so we trade on our lunches.) Philosophers were people, just like you and I. Why are they such a fucking big deal?



“20% of what Philosophers say is true, the other 80% is bullshit,” is what my friend Desmond says, and it’s not a bad maxim to live by, considering the branding that certain philosophers (or authors) exude over the course of their tenure—Grant Morrison is convinced that he was abducted by aliens from the 4th dimension in Kathmandu, an experience which has begotten the best cosmology and world building to date within the DC Universe.

And this really isn’t about philosophers specifically. It’s more of a credibility kind of thing. The words we speak, how they impact people, whether they endure beyond our close circle of friends or disseminate into the ether of pop-culture and beyond. I imagine that, throughout life, the layman and learned alike are told that philosophers and other influencers of culture are these larger than life figures. I’m often guilty of this. See below:



I admit I was angry at first. I mean take the fucking compliment, guy. But on further reflection, this appears to be the case, regardless of the critical distance that is maintained to allow some appreciation of accomplishment. Behind the storyboards, folios, and canvases are just normal, flesh-and-blood people. We know those we love (artistically) aren’t gods because Jack Kirby and Ronnie James Dio are dead. (Though their influences are legion in their respective industries.)

Many work to make a living. Very few get to make art, without feeling like they are “working.” Dante for example was one of the few authors in human history to experience the joy and legacy of his work within his own lifetime. For everyone else that enjoys, possible, posthumous fame, I think this is the case because of nostalgia.

Consider, for a moment, that in Hellenist Greece ideas were weighed with greater contemporary influence than they are in the modern era. There were forums back then specifically for debate and intellectual pursuits, because it was what their culture valued. Today (the "modern" world, which could span from the Renaissance to now) this isn’t the case, and philosophy has been relegated to a niche occupied by idealists, shutins, and professors. Philosophy is valued because of the nostalgia for the era in which those ideas were conceived. This can be the only explanation for why many philosophers never enjoyed their due in life.

After all, death amplifies of appreciation. The sense of loss and catharsis brought on by death naturally magnifies the value of someone’s life work as we, the bereaved, try to come to terms with what has happened. So the issue of critical distance makes sense in this case. We can’t, personally speaking, appreciate what we are offering because of the limit imposed by our own vantage point. When we try to do this, the only foreseeable outcome is looking like a giant piece of shit (a la Kanye West).

So, at least for now, fame shouldn’t get to our heads. Not until there are worms in them, at least.   

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Enraged, curious, stimulated by what you just read?! Comment below! Let's talk about it!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Super Shorts

I used to write these little, 100 word stories (or at least what was small enough to fit in a twitter post).

I miss doing that. 

So I decided to do it! (Again.)

One of my lifelong dreams is to write comics, someday. And while every Joe Schmo says, "Hey, I can do it!" I can't even begin to imagine the labor involved, having to come up with a story every month, and communicate full time with the art team to make it happen. And, on top of all that, continuing the story in perpetuity... These aren't quite that, but I'd like to say they are seeds for the stories that I wish were told in comics.

Here we go!


Shazam!
The lightning he had was now gone. A dark, damp road lay ahead, the switchback driveway to Fawcett University that he drove every day to school from the radio station. Running ads for supervillains and their daytime talk shows. On his television, game show sets plastered with luminous chrome confetti ran re-runs. Joker’s Last Laugh will leave you screaming for more!

In his rear-view mirror, Billy saw the Captain in the back seat, smiling confidently, immaculate white teeth reflecting the orange glow of the Sivana Model Z dashboard.

“Just say it Billy, one word. And everything will be fine again.”

Superman
Three weeks of chemo and six doctor visits later, the news broke. And the man, allegedly made of steel, buckled under the weight of the poor prognosis. It was, as he feared, the reality of life and how fragile we are. Wisps of smoke from an extinguished match.

She lay there with translucent skin, jaundiced, weakly typing a column.

I could have seen it early, he thought. But that’s not true. J’onn was clear on that.

What do you give to the man who has everything, when he has nothing left?

But a cure was possible. He could still hope.

The Flash
How does it start, Wally?”

“There’s a thought in my head, racing faster than I can control it, until it’s all I’m thinking about. I don’t like to even talk about it because I’m afraid it will trigger an episode, you know?

The Martian nodded, gaunt featured under the metallic silhouette. “A psychic connection protects you, Wally. Please continue…”

“Have you ever wondered if it was worth it? What we do?”

“Very much, Wally.”

Wally fidgeted, tapping fingers vibrating 330 times per second. A sharp musical whine.


“I can outrun anything… by dying? I’m afraid of dying, J’onn. Oh god…” 

Darkseid
A good death. That, above all things, is my greatest gift.  Yet, even after discovering the Anti-Life Equation, defeating my foes, vanquishing my own son, the throngs of Hunger Dogs cast before me leave me… unindustrious.

My faith is just and pure. And as my subjects embraced oblivion for my cause against New Genesis, I too gained faith. And all make pilgrimage.

A war with the Kryptonian’s rebels is petty in comparison to what lies beyond the Source Wall. I have made parley with this new paradigm and absolute power. And so, when my worship concludes, it will be mine. 


Sunday, March 31, 2019

Waiting for the World to Load


I purchased Watch_Dogs 2 this past week and I’ve been blown away by its attention to detail, which, I suppose, invokes a greater design concept inherent in “open-world sandbox” games. (I say this in quotes because, typically, the most exhilarating moments of playing these games comes when the player is constrained and limited, which seems antithetical to the core philosophy of in-game freedom.) In order for these environments to feel lived in, they require elements of immersion to trick the player into thinking that the non-playable characters are “real,” as if every character interaction is a form of Turing Test. The representative populace of San Francisco, in my opinion, seems to be the most true to life distillation, especially when taking into consideration the carefully kept balance between technology (ie. in-game rendering of the world) and iconography (ie. contents of the world). One little detail, to those who are listening, I will share regarding my next book is that the setting is the San Francisco Bay Area. And, having spent a good portion of my childhood visiting and experiencing the Bay Area first hand, Watch_Dogs 2 will be instrumental in my approach of gaining a better visual frame of reference. Because, up until this point, I’ve used Google Maps and the street view to encounter and better understand the environment. The former is, at the very least, three dimensional. That helps.

As much as I hate to admit it... this is too fucking real.

 
When I saw the early screening of Shazam! the weekend I was in town to attend my grandmother’s memorial service, I was a little disappointed of the lack of an appearance by Black Adam (played by Dwayne Johnson), who is by far one of the most interesting anti-heroes/villains in comics today. Villains, much like the environment that a story takes place in, are critical in building the world, specifically because villains are foils to both the physical appearance and ethical constitution of the hero. In the case of Billy Batson (ie. Captain Marvel/Shazam!), his personal desire to aide those systematically disenfranchised (foster children, the terminally ill, victims of child abuse, et al.) contrasts with Black Adam’s autocratic characterization, and how this influences his view on Justice and the role of the fate of the “oppressed” in society. Whereas Billy is forgiving and patient, Black Adam (born as a slave in Egypt) consolidates power via the brutal suppression of his opponents (up to, and including, summary public executions). Both arrived to the wizard Shazam from similar circumstances, but their responses are black and white. And this ultimately builds the world, its ethics, its ultimate purpose as a theater for thought experiments on Justice, Rehabilitation, Consequence, and Fairness under the definition of Natural Law.

Villains, in general, have such potential for story-telling. It’s strange to me that there have only been small attempts to develop villain centric properties. I would love to see a series on Solomon Grundy, who, despite being an undead abomination, has displayed lots of depth throughout his character history. Likewise, a Vertigo-esque character study—similar to Neil Gaiman’s run on The Sandman—for Darkseid could have momentous potential. Other than the Joker (via The Killing Joke), this hasn’t been attempted with critical acclaim (at least to my knowledge).

Simply put, the above is easy to conceive on a purely theoretical level. Actually writing it down is another thing altogether. Consider what has already been done. The formula to creating a villain is nothing new. So creating these characters is almost like building another piece of the world. The opposition requires a narrative that is equally as credible as the hero, as well as symbolize stasis. Being the catalyst for change, the hero interacts with the opposition, not the other way around. Bringing it all back to where we began, the setting of all narrative is like wallpaper, and the hero is pushing through it into the moldy drywall.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

On Dedicating My Book To My Daughter

The other day I said goodbye to a large swath of comics on my shelf. My personal goal of building a personal library over my lifetime was hindered by a lack of space, so I meticulously truncated my library based on the likelihood of re-reading titles. Those that didn’t make the cut are pictured below:


To be completely transparent, I recently acquired an Absolute Edition of
World's Greatest Superheroes, Kingdom Come, and All-Star Superman.

There’s so much to love about comics, yet, at the same time, there’s a lot of chaff that doesn’t deserve to be bound in the first place. After all, comics are serials, monthly installments that get churned out with incomplete stories. Though, when I was collecting monthly issues a year or two ago, I never recalled reading a story that I outright hated. Tom King’s current run on Batman, is beyond imagination and it feels interesting to watch presently something that in 15-20 years will have the same renown as Grant Morrison’s Animal Man. That said, what I was giving away were from the era of the New 52, back when DC was lured by the siren song of Zack Snyder’s grim cinematic universe into making shitty, transgressive stories—remember the 80s, am-I-right? Selling them was difficult, but ultimately I was able to consign them to a local comic book store. (Go Avalon!)

With my wife editing my second draft on the weekends, there has been more time for me to spend with my daughter, Eowyn. To my sweet surprise, she fell in love with all the Miyazaki films (the ones for children, at least) as well as Batman: The Brave and The Bold. The other day, she picked up my bluray copy of Justice League and was able to pick out all the members of the JLA without breaking a sweat! (“Bah-mah!” for Batman, “Wuh-muh!” for Wonder Woman, “Sum-mah!” for Superman, and “Fshhhhhh!” for the Flash.) The amazing thing about children, something that I never truly realized before having one, is how young children attain this environmental awareness. Like, you can talk to a dog, anthropomorphize it, but a dog could never talk back to you. That would be fucking crazy.

Talking kids. Now that’s fucking crazy.

I find myself in these positions where I’m having an existential crisis. How do I introduce her to comics? To guitar? To Jesus? Do my introductions actually matter? Do they appear forced? I try not to think about it, as much anymore. All the things that I fell in love with, were I to go back and look for the spark that ignited such passions, I doubt they would be anything obvious. Hobbies always start with a little push. I wrote my first “story” when I was in middle school. But I was also killing it when I started writing three sentence “sandwich” paragraphs in 3rd grade. Neither of those things would have lead me down the path to writing novels. Yet, here I am. Artistic talent isn't like building model rockets. And, at the end of the day, whatever she chooses to love will make me proud. 

Maybe this is my way of concluding on an announcement? Sure. I’ve decided to dedicate my third book to her, my kid. I pray that she will read it one day. 

Friday, March 15, 2019

This is Not the Gospel


A bit ecumenical for my taste, but, if you are a christian,
this is how you love others in line with the gospel. 

“This is not the Gospel.” That’s my usual response to atrocity. So, especially, when I see the news this morning (Friday) that 49 have been confirmed dead in New Zealand due to a right wing “Christian” terrorist, I just sit there shaking my head, without words to express my sadness. This would be the second time in recent memory that a white supremacist in a country of traditionally non-violent people carried out a shooting, motivated by race and hatred of immigrants. (In 2011 Anders Breivik killed 77 people, mostly children, to “protect” Norway from liberalizing and compromising the ethnic makeup of the country. These children were attending a liberal sponsored summer camp at the time for those volunteering with left leaning political organizations.)

The mark my faith makes on my books usually is Tolkien-esque—making subtle allusions in the interest of telling a story with a worldview in the background, not at the fore. In my stories, drawing from Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, I decided—rather arbitrarily—that in order for a character to live, one must die. That is true of Spirit of Orn and Tall Men and Other Tales. I bring this up because the sordid past of the Catholic Church and Protestant sects, have on display a wide array of atrocities, some more recent than others. And while someone may have a “membership” to a particular strain of Christendom, I often steer clear of specific denominations because they function more or less as arbitrary categories and not demarcations for actual “saving-faith” in the resurrection of Jesus.

It’s frustrating both personally and existentially to see these things happen. I find it difficult to believe that anyone could read the New Testament and draw from it the conclusions of the NZ and Norway shooters. The only thing I can imagine, the only thing that could possibly explain this, is the fundamental desire to augment the practices of 1st century Christianity to fit our current cultural climates. And, make no mistake, there is not truly “right answer.” Christian ethics professors would say that something like Just War Theory is far more “reasonable” than the Crusades of the Middle Ages, which were motivated by misinterpretations of the Revelation of St. John and the need to consolidate the papacy’s political dominance as a nation-state. (Far different, one could say, from the Eastern Orthodox Churches that remained subservient to the governments in power.) But Just War theory is a pragmatic attempt to justify killing others in war, who at the end of the day are just other pawns being moved forward by heads of state.

It’s further frustrating when other communities observe these actions made by lone gunmen and equate those actions with modern Christian Orthopraxy. But I could say the same thing about Christian expressions of republicans, Southern Baptists, and people that don’t let me drink beer at homegroup (our weekly Christian gatherings affiliated with my church). These previous examples demonstrate a linear curve of de-escalating prejudice, which is observable in any community, be it Muslim or comic book fans. So, at the end of the day, the things that define us are tempered by our own conscience and reason.

As I said before, there is no definitive answer, or absolute definition of orthopraxy. The only absolute in this world is the absolute—of course, to myself, this is Jesus. And when people raise up a tertiary cause to become what, in their minds, is absolute, the only resulting path is destruction. Jesus’ actions, the reality of who he was, and is, culminate in the gospel that I believe. The same gospel that prohibits prejudice, slander, and xenophobia. That is why I am not without hope, because what happened in NZ isn’t the gospel.


Thursday, February 28, 2019

Remembering "Grandy," My Grandmother


Earlier this month, my grandmother died at the age of 92 years old. And, while I wanted to say something at her upcoming memorial, I decided, rather, to say it here. Because, after all, this is where I am most comfortable. Sitting at a card table, next to my books, drinking a beer in the darkness, waiting for sleep to finally lure me to bed.

I don’t think anyone is perfect. Usually the way we memorialize the dead, there’s a concerted effort to sanitize the subject’s life, in an effort to bring comfort and closure to those left behind. Though, I can’t help but think that disingenuous, like Thomas Jefferson cutting out the contents of his personal bible that offended his sensibilities. Life is complex, dirty, and beautiful. End of story.

My grandmother was always referred to as “Grandy.” I never knew why. It was never explained to me, and I never asked. It wasn’t until I was older (ten years old) that I learned her name was Matilde, or Matil. This is rather poetic, given that she never knew what I looked like. She suffered from Macular degeneration, which stole her sight from her over the course of her life. By the time we (my brother and I) were born, she had complete vision loss. Yet this never stopped her from challenging the norms of those suffering from blindness. She took many vacations and cruises to parts of the world that I could only dream of. She participated in sightseeing tours, experiencing (I imagine) the world through its smell and touch. I remember that she once asked me why God took her sight from her, when I was proselytizing in my earlier years after becoming a Christian. (Catholic and Protestant dynamic, and all that.) I can’t remember what my response was. But the way she asked it, I was certain she harbored some anger, or at least some dismay regarding her current situation. Her coping for this was bravely defeating it's stigma. 

Her mastery over the world was always apparent. Both financially and socially, she dominated her world. For most of her life she was a shrewd investor, holding real estate and stock market assets, which allowed her to be independently wealthy for the duration of her life. One situation, if it wasn’t so traumatic, I find to this day bleakly amusing. There was this time when my parents were in the throes of getting a divorce. Argument was common in the remote farmhouse that I grew up in, the surrounding trees numbing the dissonance inside. It was when Grandy discovered that my mom and my dad were getting a divorce that she asked to have the Hoover vacuum cleaner returned to her, which she gave my mom as a wedding gift, as if recouping a financial loss. And though my dad, the always obedient first born son, went along with it, I know today that watching my parents scream at each other in the hallway was caused by the fiscal soundness of my grandmother’s design. For better or worse.

My grandma’s legacy will carry with me for the rest of my life. The stories I’ve heard, about her adventures, about the fights she had with her children, as well as my memories of going out to dinner at Coco’s Restaurant after mass and the time she insisted that all of her grandchildren order prime rib (at Coco’s) on her birthday, have shaped me. She would always insist, perhaps beg, that we remember her, for what she did for us. She made a special pact with her grandchildren (for instance) so that, if we didn’t drink/smoke/have coffee/do drugs, she would give us the kingly sum of $1,000. (A lot of money for a 9 year old kid, mind you.) I was the only grandchild that completed the Faustian bargain. (Receiving an unexpected additional $1,100. $2,100 for my 21st birthday... Get it?) I say “Faustian” because of the anguish I had to endure in order to complete that arrangement, and the consequential estrangement from my peers in the process throughout my late high school and college years.

Ultimately, I used the money to fund the construction of a custom electric guitar that I play and enjoy to this day.

The last time I saw Grandy was during Christmas this past year. We knew her heath was failing, but she still doggedly pursued social engagements. She was able to meet her first great-granddaughter, Eowyn. (The previous year, also.) Watching her hold my daughter was… bewildering. Her stern quality melted away. She was a warm mother, a side of her I never saw before until then. That seemed to be her legacy. She was a product of her time, but a transgressor, enough so to challenge the cards dealt to her. She triumphed financially and was generous in her old age to lend a helping hand to all her grandchildren, including my wife and I. I never told her that the $4000 she gave us as a wedding present, meant to pay our rent for four months, was instrumental in funding a trip to Norway, to help conclude research for my book, Spirit of Orn. And I wish I did.

Because she accepted the resurrection of Jesus Christ for our sins, I will indeed see her again, someday. But when I do, she will see me for the first time.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Gospel According to IT



I had an idea to write a short story, originally a tongue-in-cheek attempt at trying to tell the Gospel through the best practices that I’ve learned since starting in the managed services industry. Below is my attempt. Over the past few weeks, I’ve chipped away at it wanting to do something more comprehensive, actually trying to turn it into a “short-medium” short story. Clocking in at 2200+ words this is a reasonable size, what I would typically expect for a short story with a well-established world and narrative progression. Also, something to note, the story may be interpreted critically, either for better or worse, how the Gospel’s narrative has shaped our understanding of literature and the arts. (Structurally, the Gospel is a “comedy” in the classical sense, ultimately concluding with a wedding (as seen in the Revelation of Saint John) like most of the Shakespeare comedies.) I will leave you to be the judge of that, however. Anyways, enjoy!

Praise Him.

In the beginning there was the Operating System, and the Operating System was with the Engineer, and the Operating System was the Engineer. From crowded rack space and winding spools of cabling effervescent, the Environment was unmade, without purpose or clarity. The Engineer, on the first billable hour, made the host, and it was provisioned. The Engineer, on the second billable hour, allocated the datastores with virtual machines of all variety and utility: A domain controller to elect, a file server to preserve, an intrusion prevention system to protect, an exchange server to commune. And it was provisioned. On the third billable hour, the Engineer PXE booted His VMs, the Operating System giving shape and form to them, filling their disks with files to give glory to the Administrator, who sent the Engineer onsite to be with the end user, but not of the end user, as a staff augmentation. On the fourth billable hour, the Engineer deployed group policy, making the end users in His image. And the Engineer looked down on all he had made and said, "it is provisioned."
And then the Engineer rested on His lunch hour, telling the end user before leaving, saying, "All that I have made is yours—that I have created—for your productivity and purpose. You may access the network shares. You may leverage email. You may create files as I created them. But you must not have administrative access, for if you do, you will surely compromise the integrity of the Environment."
While the Engineer was away, Amy and Steven in accounting were running end of month billing. And they enjoyed the responsiveness of the workstations and the synergy felt by one another working together as one, without network latency or corrupted installations. But the Sales Manager was also in the Environment, and approached Amy as she made copies in the break room.
"Why have you not installed BitTorrent to your local workstation? Greg in HR has, like, three seasons of Game of Thrones already..."
Amy replied that she did not have administrative access, and that the Engineer said explicitly that they should not have those permissions.
"But if you are an Administrator, you will be like an Administrator. And you will know the difference between being able to install programs and uninstall programs," replied the Sales Manager.
So Amy allowed the Sales Manager to make her a local admin, and then a domain admin, all the while installing iTunes and internet games and opening emails with strange documents. When Steven saw Amy playing Candy Crush on her laptop in-between calls, he asked Amy to make him a local admin (as the Sales Manager had shown her) also. Amy then gave him administrative access so that he too could play games and view private folders with her.
But once they had downloaded the programs, each of them looked at one another realizing that their machines were burdened, slow, and filled with adware. And so they began to complain.
But when the Engineer returned early from his lunch he called out to Amy and asked her, "Where are you?"
"We saw that you had come back from your break and needed to close out of our programs. But they were too slow," Amy replied. "Slow your roll, man."
"What made you think that they were slow? Did you install non-work related programs onto your machines when I forbade you to?" said the Administrator, coming out of His office.
But Amy and Steven reproached the Administrator, first complaining that they needed to run updates to Quickbooks and then that they had needed to give each other access in order to do so. This made the Engineer frustrated, as well as the Administrator.
"It was Amy that gave me the access," said Steven defensively.
"It was the Sales Manager that told me I ought to have access," said Amy. "I need music and games, so that I don't get stressed out while I work!" 
So the Administrator stripped them of their access, not before mentioning that their workstations would be slow and toilsome for the rest of the quarter. "Behold, I will send my Engineer to terminate the Sales Manager's employment for violating the Acceptable Use Policy, though not before the Sales Manager will, in anger, delete the company share on the file server, causing the Engineer to spend many project hours to recover the files from the Nimble storage backups."
So what seemed like centuries passed, as, every day, the machines loaded non-essential startup programs, demonstrated visual artifacts, and loaded applications inefficiently.
Until, one day there came a crying from the branch office, from John the Office Manager, saying that the Engineer would be onsite again, as was promised by the Administrator long ago. For John had been in a Highfive conference with the Administrator, who had approved of the Engineer's restoration of the company shares saying, "Joshua did a bang up job with that DR restore. I'm going to send him to corporate to finally fix the other issues we've been scoping." Therefore, in an abuse of "hey, everybody," John prepared them by sending a staff email.
When the Engineer arrived, the Sales Manager was sitting outside headquarters, covered in rags and living homeless behind the row of juniper trees planted along the perimeter of the building. The Sales Manager recognized the Engineer and approached Him as he ascended the steps, skirting past a dried fountain and looking out for the bulbous security guard patrolling in his golf cart.
"No hard feelings, Josh."
Josh turned to the Sales Manager and stopped, curious and bemused.
"You know how many people are hiring for an on-premise IT guy?" the Sales Manager said lethargically, drinking from a brown paper bag. "You could get work for any of those guys and make waaay more money, kid."
"The Administrator once told me, job success and happiness is better than a pay increase. I'll stick with that, thanks."
The Engineer began to walk again, but the Sales Manager grabbed Him again and pressured, "You have no idea, do you? Those suits up there, they'll eat you alive. You need to have the Administrator come out. Only he can fix this."
The Engineer rolled his eyes, removing the grasping fingers from around his arm. "He sent me to handle this. I'm not going to bother him about it."
"Oh yeah?" complained the Sales Manager. He shouted loudly across the pavilion. "Come work for me then! I'm starting my own company, and it's going to blow! This! Shit! Up! Home loans and short term lending. I'm telling you, this is going to be the next big thing."
Josh blinked, incredulous.
By now, Hank was waddling up to them pumping his fat arms against the sides of his tremulous belly. "Hey! What did I tell ya'? Get ova' 'ere!"
The Sales Manager was startled, jumping up into the air and shuffled off like an ape. The Engineer watched, amused, and shrugged. He was ready to get back to work.
When the Engineer, sent by the Administrator, entered the bullpen, and returned to see many of his co-workers, bent and low, cursing their duties, he wept.
Going around the office the Engineer went to each machine, performing maintenance on them, miraculously restoring print spooler services and casting out malware, with the power of the Operating System's native antivirus software. But Management watched him all the while, cursing his name for all the overtime he was logging, saying to themselves, "He's not certified," and "He never got our approval for all this OT!"
Though some disagreed, saying to themselves, "Didn't an email already go out about this?" and "Who cares? Look at all the good work he's doing."
But Josh heard them grumbling, saying these things to themselves and replied, "Something is coming down the pipe that will change the way we do billing. Don't worry about it, it'll be fine."
At the end of the week, while working in the later hours of the afternoon, Josh was approached by a woman with malware on her personal workstation. She had heard of all His hard work and tugged on the hem of His faded UC Santa Cruz sweater. Feeling the weight of her need, Josh turned around and asked, "Who was that?" and looked down to see the woman, for she was kind of short. 
"My machine is slow. I know that my computer isn't work related, but could you just look at it really fast?"
Josh nodded in agreement. "Well, I'm here to fix the broken machines, not the workings ones."
Powering on the machine, looking at the startup programs, scanning for adware and potentially unwanted programs, the Engineer extracted all the bloatware and installed antivirus that was continually scanning. "This should keep scanning automatically. It'll help keep your machine running well even if there are issues going forward." Josh paused to pull out His phone and sent an email to the woman. "I just sent you the acceptable use policy. Please read it and remember what I have told you, so that this doesn't happen again. But I'm always a call away if you need anything."
As the woman thanked the Engineer, the management watched. And they said to themselves, "He's doing things out of agreement now. We have to put a stop to this!"
That afternoon, they brought Him into the large conference room at the north end of the building. 
"You've been here for a full day, helping everyone, even working on assets that we don't want you supporting. Do you expect us to pay for all these billable hours?"
"It'll be fine," Josh assured them. "You'll see. The Administrator has some big plans about how we'll be doing IT infrastructure management from now on. All the work I just did was covered under the 'New Agreement.'"
The management team were confused and angry. "You were not mentioned by our account manager. And all of this work you did is going to cost us a fortune. The Administrator made this very clear to us in the beginning."
Josh shrugged. "I don't know what to say. I mean, you're just going to have to trust me. There is a New Agreement coming. It will be cost effective and allow us to do more work for you. It will be mutually beneficial and built and sealed with trust. The way things are working right now were good before, but we've all been working up to this New Agreement. The Administrator trusts me to offer this New Agreement and has put me in charge of negotiating it."
The management team became angry when they heard this, getting up from their chairs and kindly asking the Engineer to leave, saying, "I think we would like to seek other solutions for our internal IT. We would like you to leave."
"You're firing me?" Josh asked.
"Yes. And we are also going to file a formal complaint with the Administrator if you have any intention of making us pay for the work you did while you were onsite today."
Josh called the Administrator.
"Yeah, you've reached Yale's cell, owner of Moody IT. I'm not here right now, but leave me your name and number—and the time you called—and I'll give you a call back."
As Josh left the building, looking at his phone, the Administrator never called back. 
And Josh stepped out into the rain, shoving his phone into his pocket. "Man? What the hell..."
On the following Sunday morning at the Chamber of Commerce Sausage and Egg Breakfast, some of the members were gossiping, saying to themselves, "Did you hear about what happened to Josh? Tough break. It sounded like all he was doing was trying to help those guys at Wright, Cody, and Stubb."
Another member, one that they did not immediately recognize approached and said, "Who's Josh?"
Hal Bailey, the owner of the local co-op, answered, saying, "He was the on-prem engineer for Moody IT. Super cool guy. Shame what happened to him."
"He must have been fired," the other member replied, drinking a mimosa.
Hal laughed, shaking his head.  "Guy was fucking crucified. For doing his job no less." The others agreed with Hal, nodding silently under the glare of florescent lights, highlighting the polyurethane gloss of hardwood furniture and the scuffed chrome of industrial toasters. 
Josh revealed Himself to them, laughing at their surprise.
"Woah! Hey man! Didn't recognize you in those big dumb sunglasses. Since when do you wear those?" Hal said. 
Josh folded them up and put them into his pocket. "I ran out of contacts. This was all I had lying around from when I last saw the optometrist."
"So, what's going on?" Hal asked, waving what may had been his third mimosa that morning in a wide, hyperbolic gesture. "I heard you were fired?" 
"Sort of," Josh said looking at his feet. "Yale is still trying to talk them down from the ledge right now. In the meantime we are pushing out our new strategy to new clients. It's all based off of remote management, with a call center, where I'll always be available to talk, and unlimited support for a fixed rate. We're in the process of re-branding right now."
"Congratulations," said Hal, raising his glass. "You have any new hires yet?"
"A few, but I've got a good feeling that we'll be blowing up pretty soon...."


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

I Just Read Daytripper And This is How I Feel Now


I spend so much time thinking about the past, and so much time thinking about the future. And very clearly now do I see that living in the present is the most tenable, yet realistic place to be.

I'm 30 years old. And it's taken me this long to understand that.

Jesus once said the following:

 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

The idea that the bible is carved up into chapters, passages, and verses, was a later development in Christianity. It was done to make referencing easier to do. And, I imagine, when the laymen and women could read it helped them to find their places during mass/service/sermon. But the problem with numbers and codices and cross-references is that these words, that Jesus spoke to us, are no longer words of conversation, but teachings and practices. Christianity was never meant to be a process, or even an experience, it was meant to tell us that everything was going to be okay.

This is the trouble of living in the past and the future...

In the past, we look back and wish we could have done things differently. We feel guilty of not taking chances when we had the opportunity to be young and stupid. When you're older, you feel regret for doing all those stupid things. In the future,  telescoping dreams and concerns set expectations and plans in order, all for it to fail (in the eyes of the past self).

The trouble of living in the present, is that uncertainty awaits and the moment before is now a memory. It is this reason why I sometimes believe that "sin" is not just choosing to live a life apart from God, but that sin is entropy.

Sin is time.

It is my hope that Heaven is here and that time no longer passes. Let the heat death of the universe be averted so that we can explore it completely and witness the majesty of what God has made.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

The Process (Of Writing a Book)



For the first time in a long while I have nothing to do this weekend. My wife is currently looking at my second draft, while I am on child duty until she completes. While it would be nice to catch up on my personal reading, I’m not sure if that will happen or not. I seem to have less and less time for that these days, unless I’m on vacation. I mean, there’s certainly time to do all these things, but binge watching Star Trek: Enterprise has monopolized our evenings. Everyone likes to shit on that series, but it’s great. When I imagine a speculative fiction of the first years following warp space flight, Enterprise embodies what I would expect to occur: cultural tensions between alien races that are trying to be helpful, humanity’s own immaturity, and the collective mustering of human potential for the better of tomorrow. Ideally, a Star Trek property should encourage us to be explorers, to be understanding, to be open to learning new things, and more than any other, Enterprise exceeds that vision.
                So maybe when that is over I can start reading in the evenings again, especially while my kid is still content on going to bed at 7pm every night. She’s like her dad. She sleeps like a rock and we are very grateful.
                While I’ve written about this before, most of my older posts were archived permanently post-rebranding. I wanted to revisit and share again the process by which I write books. It’s probably my personality—well, definitely—but I never have issues getting ideas on paper. Many times I’ll read something that self-referentially talks about the writing process as this creative struggle. Personally, I don’t get what the big fucking deal is. But it only recently occurred to me that maybe my “system” has a lot to do with the way I lay out everything and then fill in the gaps
                Usually I’ll get an idea, a two sentence extract, and start with that. It’s concise and purposefully focuses on conceptual details rather than specific characters or settings. That’s “part one-and-a-half” of the recipe. The second part of this is really the expansion of the extract, which I call a “concept bible.” Any ideas relating to the story are put in this document, almost as if it was a wiki entry all spread out. See below for screen shots from the Concept bible for my third book:

Usually my wife writes a few notes on the first chapter so that I know I am going in the right direction. This is followed by a plot extract, detailing the full overview of the plot from start to finish.

Usually if my book has a central philosophical point that I want to explore or rediscover I have a section dedicated to this. My next book explores  the different facets of artificial intelligence, hence the above.
I like exploring different languages so usually I will create a fictional language and explain their rules so I can remember
them later. Also, main characters get a large paragraph with a full explanation of their visual appearance and motivations.

Any characters that appear in the book, even minor characters, I write bios for. This is helpful because, it helps me keep track of details like their visual descriptions and any characters I might forget about and never feature again. 

Every book will have minor subplots that affect the main plot. Sub-plots can get lost in the writing process and become non-sequitur, off-hand references, so I write them down to keep track of them. Some notes don't fit with other categories. World building details like population size, laws, cultural values, go here. As you can see above, I wanted to invent different types of drugs at one point. 
The above are only screenshots of a large document. By the time the book is finished, this document balloons in size. But I can’t even say how many times this document has saved my ass and helped Alyssa track all of my thoughts.

                What I started doing for this book—and I think I will continue doing so—is that I created a character mythology. Every main character follows a journey (ie. Heroes’ Journey) that demonstrates how they grow and change over the course of the narrative. Immaturity to maturity. Child to adult. Unknown to known. I wanted to start keeping track of these details because I felt like my books didn’t demonstrate enough internal character development. Similarly, I create artificial rules for the narrative before I begin writing, which I just call “Book Rules.” Whereas a character mythology is written after I receive feedback for the first draft, book rules serve to, from start to finish, ensure that certain technical practices are consistent throughout the story. For instance, if I create an artificial language for my story, I write down the proper syntax in this document so that both Alyssa and I adhere to these rules throughout the entire book.
                The first draft feedback, like my first novel Spirit of Orn, was provided by my best friend Desmond White. This document I rely on is invaluable. Good feedback is critical in tone, which helps in two ways. First, good feedback is humbling. I laughed so hard when I read the feedback for Spirit of Orn, that I was crying. Desmond lays into my books and points out all the inconsistencies where my ideas are pompous or overcooked. The second thing that’s valuable about feedback is the substantive additions that come from the reviewer. Desmond, for instance, suggested that I read Brave New World and Notes From Underground to supplement and further some of the compelling ideas I was exploring in Spirit of Orn.
                The last document that I keep around is the “cut” document. Most of draft one is rewritten for draft two, and sections that are conceptually valuable, but no longer suitable for the story, I cut and paste to a separate document. Draft two of my upcoming book has the same word count of my previous draft, but my cut document is 21 pages long. I’m never sure what I’ll need or return to, so this document is a backup of old (and mostly bad) ideas.
                The process that I use works for me. I like the structure. I’ve always been very good at visualizing the grand narrative, but the minutiae is so hard for me to keep track of. I’m always encouraged by hearing from others about their way of doing things, so I hope that this is just good perspective.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

15 Years Later, Still Christian, Highs and Lows


My life everyday.


It occurred to me, while walking home from my usual writing on the weekends at Starbucks, that I have been a Christian for approximately 15 years. I was “saved” (in common evangelical parlance) when I was 16 years old, on September 21st 2005 at Emmanuel Faith Community Church, in Escondido, California. (All these dates are speculative.) I was thinking about the past today, as I find myself in a period of renewal in my life (something that I thought I’d never say again). 
                What Christianity means to me has changed markedly over this period of time, which covered the formative years in my young adult life and my college/post college years. (Somewhere in these later years I became an adult. Not sure when…) When I was younger, Christianity was an almost inexhaustible source of social validation. Before being a Christian I had no peer group, no close friends. I was not technically a “nerd,” or some other social strata of untouchable, but someone with social anxiety acting out because I wanted people to love me unconditionally. It made me unbearable to be around. It made me tease and sometimes sexually harass women that didn’t like me the way I liked them, all while enduring the same treatment and abuse from “alpha” males and burning anger in me like a furnace. The saving grace (no pun intended) of joining a Christian community—much to my future self’s amusement—was that, by being a member of this community, no one could justify turning me away. Of course—much to my, then, present amusement—most of the people that had, over the years, viciously teased me or made fun of me, were members of the High School group. I had essentially found a community that would accept me, more or less, because it was doctrinally mandated.
                Another thing that I didn’t appreciate at the time was the culture that the evangelical community had ingrained into my peers. Nor did I fully understand how pervasively uniform evangelical culture was. Everyone went to the same summer camp. Everyone went to the same church. Everyone watched the same films. Everyone read the same books. The creative and critical freedom of this culture was completely absent. If anyone went to a different church, those members of the community were considered “the other,” as if the “body” (a term that conflates multiple people groups of orthodox communities into one global entity) could be dissected into splinter cells and organizations.
                Much of my difficulty progressing in Christianity at the time was the woefully inadequate preparation I was given, in anticipation of going to college. Once I got to UCSB, I found myself at constant odds with different cultures and groups, only realizing after the fact that the only way to continue was to either forsake God and the church, or adopt a ridged and conservative worldview, one without any room for new ideas, people, or competing worldviews. As I will later illustrate, the church that I had gone to, Emmanuel Faith Community Church, had constructed a worldview that included a false dichotomy where non-established and experimental ideas constituted an attack on biblical principles. (I later discovered this idea was endemic across all of Escondido, that many churches existed in fractured and disparate associations with one another.) I had taken these ideas to college, creating a theologically black and white outlook on the world, causing me interpersonal pain and anxiety.
                The subsequent years was a rollercoaster of different ideas, even including a phase where I subscribed to Reformed Theology, which was becoming popular during the late 2000s. But what really made me want to write this today was after I found myself listing different things I took issue with in the current Church culture that trouble me, and cause me anxiety. I wanted to share this list, and therapeutically refute the points. I do this for myself, but I also encourage any of you to do the same. And if you aren’t necessarily a subscriber to the saving work of Christ’s resurrection, maybe you can appreciate the insanity of our current day along with me…

  • I was taught that the homeless deserve to be homeless. That they did something wrong, or currently do something wrong that causes them to be homeless. But if all have fallen short of the glory of God, why do we separate homeless people into this separate category, as if to say our poor decisions do not equate to those made by the homeless? And why do we have so much confidence in ourselves as to imagine that we are somehow immune to the circumstances that befell them?
  • I was taught that Jesus was/is a conservative, that established ideas are more reasonable because they are accepted by the majority of the dominant culture. But what then do we make of the Great Schism of the Orthodox Church rejecting the Principles of the Roman Catholic Church, considering that, at the time, the Roman Catholic Church was integrating itself with politics and making doctrinal decisions to consolidate personal wealth and status among heads of state? What then do we make of the “liberalizing” of the Roman Catholic church, when Martin Luthor called for a “Reformation” of church practices that harmed believers, encouraged them to be illiterate, and not exegete text for themselves? What then do we make of abolitionists, who fought for the rights of those that were forcibly removed from their homes, to work without pay, to be treated as livestock, when they too were made to bear God’s image and glorify God. What then do we make of the controversial policies made towards immigrants, where we justify the separation of children from their parents, forgetting so conveniently that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were victims of a cruel regime persecuting families for their political and religious affiliations, not unlike Slobodan Milošević’s ethnic cleansing against Serbian Muslims and France’s persecution of Jewish community during the Dreyfuss affair?
  • I was taught that extra effort should be spent towards disenfranchising the LGBTQ community, for their embrace of relationships that are condemned in biblical teachings. But what then do we make of the absence of legislation that prohibits Atheist’s, Hindus, Muslims, Agnostics, and Buddhists from getting married? Why are the LGBTQ community included in social, philosophical, and political policies that inflict harm on their constitutional right to “Life Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” when even the New Testament encourages believers to “Love your Neighbor as yourself,” which in context was a splinter group of Judaism corrupted by indigenous, pagan beliefs that the Jewish community went to great lengths to avoid and disparage?
  • I was taught that belief in Christ inherits a responsibility to politically ally with any candidate that is considered conservative. But what then do we make of Donald Trump, president of the United States and protector of our national secrets, who fails the test of leadership presented in 1 Timothy 3:2, where even the most simple pastor must be “…above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach”?
  •  I was taught that gun ownership is patriotic and the defense of property is categorically “American.” But when, as the bible teaches in Luke 6:29, “To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either,” how can we justify the death of a home invader, the taking of a life, when we believe that God is sovereign over history and time, that all things that come to pass are his will alone and cannot be overridden by our intervention?

I could go on…
                So many of my friends from over 15 years ago have forsaken Christ for some of these ideas, and while my younger self would have zealously blamed them for not being able to see past the faults of people, whose fallibility is a basic tenant of Christianity, I cannot blame them now. While I can accept that doctrinally, it is impossible to lose the favor of God, that we are constantly regenerated and made better by the Holy Spirit, I can also appreciate the absolute slog that affirming belief in Christianity can become, when so many of your peers seem to profess, outwardly and adamantly, ideas that irrefutably oppose the Gospel in theory and practice. Sometimes you feel alone and isolated. Sometimes you think the world has gone mad. But other times it is necessary to remember that humanity was never good in the first place, that there was no “golden age” of Christian orthopraxy, or otherwise. But like death and taxes, I can only conclude, with great certainty, that Christ continues to be king and that our hope in the gospel is sure, and that the actions of a person or nation cannot, will not, compromise the integrity of Christ’s death and resurrection and the implications of the aforementioned.

Here’s to another 15 years.