Showing posts with label personal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label personal. Show all posts

Monday, December 20, 2021

An Object of Scorn


Affixed to the altar before the apse was the cross. It’s edges were frayed, roughly hewn from quarter sawn timber long ago. The reclaimed piece was swollen and pocked with burls. Striations of discoloration, wrapping around the trunk, intimated the shape of a hobbled man, or a rot in the wood. Well-lit by the clerestory above the chancel, the cross was positioned prominently, as if basking. The carpenter had placed the cross there, shunting it into a notch in the ground, embroidered with mosaic tile. He cursed the splinters collected by his hands. 

Over time, the basilica changed many hands, each flock with their own vice and preference. For a century or so, the cross absorbed bitterness and contention. In-fighting broke out across the aisles, until a meeting was convened to determine the spirit of their creed and what they said about their Lord. Most were satisfied by the outcome. At the end of it, the rich young ruler who ordered the meeting stepped forward and placed a thoughtful hand upon the hardened exterior, sensing great things ahead. 

Not soon after, it was stained with blood. Buckets of coagulated sanguine absorbed into the sword-gouged trunk, bright red, before fading to purple and blue. Suffering abounded in the lands choked with smoke and ash, until a pragmatic flock emerged, resourceful enough to stifle the sickness of violence that seemed to infect the sullen, stagnant air. The cross was crowned with temporal power by the rich young ruler, but the gilded crown bore the likeness of a bad forgery.  

New edicts were established regarding what the cross could and could not be. It took the aspect of many things. The cross was showered with wealth and abundance. Even the soft gold coins withered the cross’ face, bruising and softening the wood. Two attendants fought over the cross, for a time, until they conceded, finally, to a stalemate. Each mutually regarded one another with hate, their flocks diverging. They sat apart from one another, on either end of the cross. It stood between the camps, buffeted by anger and distain. After a time, the flocks relented, weary of the conflict, abandoning the refuse of entrails and sinew they had draped over the arms of the cross. The dawning light, emerging through the open portal in the narthex, exposed the rot. And members of both flocks returned to clean it as best they could.  

The cross still stands there now, black as charcoal and steeped with dried blood. Some still approach, as if recognizing an old friend. Those that stay, marvel for a time and consider the carpenter that left it so many years ago. Those that depart, do so quickly, though not before dressing it in fashionable clothing, berating it, and covering it with semen and feces. The weight of shackles, handcuffs, bandoliers, braids of Ethernet cable, fascist flags dipped in gasoline, drape around its neck like a noose. There, on the altar, it stands: objectified by filth, defeated. 

Yet, despite all this, the flock heaps their burdens upon it willingly.  And they depart, each one, with a spring in their step.  


Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Adulting in Peace

 My life is slowly becoming that Dr. Manhattan meme, where the omnipresent, and nigh omniscient, super hero sits on the surface of Mars, contemplating his life with jagged simplicity. 

Behold, pretension!

We've been in the throes of our first escrow, an entirely new process that I'm only beginning to understand. The byzantine disclaimers and addendums, compounded with legal aphorisms, wash over me like a salty wave that someone died in. Of course, I should be thankful. Owning property is a gift. And every gift is an opportunity for understanding and growth.

In all seriousness though, I had this strange moment of clarity, maybe 5 minutes ago. I was in the kitchen, hovering over a dissected crown of broccoli, realizing that my mind was characteristically "adult" in the moment. (Obviously, I've been an adult since I was 18, though even that status is symbolic in our highly specialized society.) I was watching myself move, as if in 3rd person, a weight resting on my shoulders that was altering the way I moved and behaved in that space. A similar moment happened in my 20s, when I signed my first lease to rent a town house (for the low, LOW price of $1000 per month). I was so scared and immobilized by the weight of rejection and the potential for failure. What if I couldn't handle it? What if I lost my job and, therefore, couldn't make the payments? I felt, in a way, hobbled by the immensity of the commitment, despite the fact that it was so mundane in hindsight.

Now I was standing over the cutting board, feeling secure and in control of my life. I was doing an "adult" thing and feeling characteristically "adult" about it. 

I've said it before: the progression from a childlike mind to an adult one is less about the traversal of legal status and more of an epiphany that, you—yes, you—are in complete control of your decisions. (That is, as far as "mortal" control goes in the infinite and all powerful presence of God). When I was buying 3 six-packs of beer a week to self medicate my stress, I was a child, abdicating my right of control over my body and mind. Now, I'm making the conscious decision to be an adult and take the helm of my life, inasmuch as I can in light of God's will. 

The apostle Paul kind of addresses this in 1 Corinthians: 11-12. And, in the context of the larger dialogue at work in the passage, as God renews our hearts through the work of the Holy Spirit, this peace that I feel will only grow, ultimately to resolve in my death and resurrection. And that, that is dope, my friends. 

"When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known."

Friday, July 23, 2021

Another Year Around the Sun

 I am ready to leave work, go to the local brewery, and celebrate my Birthday. 

(Yes, today is the day.)

The past few years, other than my 30th, were not very fun. Or they were riddled with depression. Or the looming threat of being old, yet unaccomplished, weighed on me. Not so this year, I am happy to report. 

I'm not sure why things have changed. I'm as old as Jesus was when he went to the cross for the world, which would make light of any of our accomplishments, big or small. That alone could be the reason for my paradoxical contentment, but I don't feel like it is. I released a book in hardcover this year: also a big accomplishment. Still, it's not as big a brag as it sounds. (In fact, it's deceptively easy.) 

This year is different in ways I never expected, and it's because I feel like I'm no longer a kid. 

I am becoming less aware of "age." I'll find out that a co-worker is actually in his mid 40s, when I thought they were my age. We act how old we want to be, which is a lauded trait among our aging boomers. This charming deception gives me social mobility, where I previously didn't. Instead of the need to "impress" my elders, I am collaborating with my peers. 

Hopefully I can avoid the pitfalls of other unequal alignments though. Like, it's sad to see a child acting like an adult. Youth and joy has it's purpose. A child that works in a coal mine, or emancipates themselves when they are 14, loses the freedom to explore hobbies and ideas ahead of their adulthood. Likewise, it's sad to see a 50 year old acting like they are 20. Age carries with it a quiet, established dignity that inspires others. It's a responsibility that we all should feel inclined to take part in.  (I.e. help your kids plan for the future. Be their roadmap. Don't fuck off to Coachella, forget to pay your rent, and then get angry when your "van-life" kids make a mess of you're apartment while you're away.) 

Concerning the above, I would wager confidently the reason I am so happy is because I where I'm supposed to be. That's enough, right? 

I sure hope so. I've already printed t-shirts for merch!

(No, I haven't.)


 



Tuesday, September 1, 2020

I'm Quitting the Sauce (Seriously)

I've had various drafts of this blog come and go. What is here now seems the best possible iteration of the past couple months. I think what impressed me to write was the fact that I thought being in a scenario like this wouldn't happen. That I didn't "have a problem." That only washed up detectives and coked up movie stars struggled with the temptations. And while I am planning to have a beer at Christmas, it seems that I may never drink again, if my current disenchantment endures. 

I made the decision to stop drinking about a month ago, which seems appropriate given the current, insufferable socio-political climate. It's very strange, to think that my 20s was a marathon of unrelenting alcohol consumption. (Never all at once, just a slow burn.) Even stranger, that the majority of my life was spent NOT drinking beer and wine and Moscow Mules and whiskey and scotch, and whatever else can be fermented into ethanol. I remember, fondly, going to the local independent supermarket where I grew up, gift certificate in hand, when I would buy a 2 liter of A&W Cream Soda and an oversized jar of kosher dill pickles. Back then, that was enough. Why isn't it anymore? 

After I turned 21, it was a fashionable thing to go to local gastropubs and sample the available stock. I never racked up any credit card debt doing so, but I went enough to realize that the super markets had a much better going rate. When I worked for Stone Brewing Company, beer became free over night, which was fortunate given that large quantities were necessary to cope with working 9 hour shifts, 6 days a week in wretched conditions without worker representation. But even outside of work—at church, at home—drinking was a cultural exercise. And, I was very... cultured. 

The turning point was when I realized the rate at which I was drinking. I was having about three six packs per week, usually 2-3 beers per night. Pouring the beer was like measuring out NyQuil into a thimble. I would tell myself that I was just making sure that the beer wasn't over-agitated, but to the person outside of my window I was like a mad scientist. I could see what I was doing and it didn't sit well with me. Then, I had the realization that our fridge was never without at least one beer—I couldn't place a time when it wasn't. Most important, the stress wasn't going away and the beer was no longer relieving it, even when knocking down a 6 pack of Enjoy-By IPA. At this point, I don't even think my medication was working anymore.

Of course, it's now September (ish). I'm addicted to sugar free soda as a replacement, but, you know, pick your battles. At least I lost about 15 pounds in two weeks after making the transition! 

Anyways... enough about me. I have a couple updates!

I can say with modest certainty that my newest book should be ready for printing around Christmas time. My wife is making good progress on draft 3, which is encouraging. Usually that indicates positive things: plot is cohesive, fewer grammatical and structural errors, and good pacing. Additionally, the cover art I received back from the artist my designer picked will look incredible. God, it will look so dope! 

Also, if any of you are interested in pre-ordering the book, please let me know. I'm planning on ordering about a 100 copies. Cost will most likely be $30, plus $4 shipping. Of course, each will be signed by yours truly!

Thanks for hanging in there for a substantial update on my part! Love you guys!   






Friday, August 7, 2020

Tacky Hawaiian Shorts: West - By Stuart Warren

 West

Two women with calloused hands haggle in a prop-up tent. Vendors eye each other suspiciously, unboxing imported merchandise. Trinkets and baubles. Captured essence of island life made by the hands of children thousands of miles away. The coffee is “Kona”. One pound for twenty-four dollars. “I’ll give it to you for twenty,” says a Filipino woman.

The Martian desert lies above the tourist alcoves, parched by the exhausted wind; a dry heat. Golf carts roam in herds on distant greens. Lonely highways, arrested by total darkness in the quiet hours, lit only by sickly torches of fluorescent light. Beaches, purified by time, covered in plastic awnings, are serviced by the true wards in the shadow of Pu’ukohola.


Saturday, January 25, 2020

New Decade New Me

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays I found myself without time or the focus to write or work on anything other than my book. This year I spent a Christmas apart from my family out of necessity to save my marriage, though, in truth, the reality was a little less hyperbolic. This holiday season, I made some interesting discoveries, changed some vital behaviors, learned that I was suffering under some kind of banal alcoholism, all—it would seem—in preparation for the decade ahead of 2020.
               
Much to my chagrin, my unprofessional dispositions at work have led to the reality of being held back (yet again) in life from joining my contemporaries in the sun. My arrogance, like some Aesop fable, has prompted me to very painfully come to terms with where my career is going and how I should continue. It fucking sucks and it makes me so depressed.
    
Silver linings... At least I have a new desk.
Where to go from here then? That’s the question, isn’t it? I have vacillated on the possibility of either quitting my job or reducing my hours to part time to pursue—more aggressively at least—my writing career once Eowyn starts kindergarten. Joining local writing groups. Being more active in my peer community. Submitting stories to journals. Crowdsourcing for insight and strategies that I could not otherwise formulate on my own… I could go on. But I struggle with whether or not this is a selfish thing. Being a Youtube star, or a writer that couch surfs from apartment to apartment, takes no particular brand of courage when there’s nothing to lose. (And I don’t mean to intimate this as something particularly disparaging to those in my circle of friends that have done this/continue to do this successfully.) But when there’s a family involved, when your child is depending on you for a good life, the picture becomes hopelessly muddy. Can one be virtuous these days, while still being “dangerous”? Something to pray on, then.

Busy at work...
               
I’ve wanted to produce another “Little Bits” post, but I keep forgetting to record my momentary sparks of “genius” when they are prompted by some cursory observation or thought. Similarly, an opportunity arises every so often to write a short story, but these moments always come when I am pressed up against an unmovable deadline (ie. I have to go to work/church/bible study/the store/in laws’ house). Perhaps the imminent danger of being late to something get’s the juices flowing? Possibly. But this goes back to previous posts, lost somewhere in the ether, where I’ve mentioned the ease of writing a short story versus a novel. Short stories are accessible and “punchy.” (The structure of a short story is “Look here!”, then “Oh snap!” whereas a novel adds an additional piece: “So what?”) They are formulated with relative ease, and any subsequent work is less focused on the verbosity of the content but on its composition and flow. Lawd! A novel requires investment and an endurance that I somehow possess in the literary realm, but not in the social and occupational strata of my life. Anyways… this little rabbit trail is brought to you by my lack of focus and my lack of communication these past few weeks.

(…)

One thing that I’ve noticed now that I’ve been 31 for a while and have suffered a major setback in my professional career is the transition from a somewhat youthful awareness and motivation to a laid-back, adult complacency. It’s very strange. Everything now seems deliberate, as opposed to spontaneous. Life choices are weighted by the amount of chaos that would be injected into the ongoing domestic equation. It kind of sucks, but I’m hard pressed to establish an alternative life hack to change this pattern. How does one pursue a “van life” with a family? Probably not very easily, definitely not once the kid reaches the age of public schooling. (That is unless you are a huge piece of shit.) The shadow of domesticity isn’t that bad though, now that I’ve settled into it with Alyssa. There is a flow, a routine. I can expect certain things and rule out others. As 2020 rolls out, I have many ambitions that I hope to see happen. I want to print my next book, run a Kickstarter, and better establish myself as a writer. Hopefully that’s possible with that additional stability on hand? After doing taxes this year, I can say with some certainty that we are “doing okay,” but there’s always something else, isn’t there? I have a feeling that this year, somehow, will be a “shit or get off the pot” kind of year.

Monday, September 30, 2019

iWantToBelieve™

One of the things I find exceptionally funny about theology is how divisive it is. This should not be construed as a pillory of theology or the merit of it being studied. What I mean to say is that theology, both good or bad, predominantly becomes a pain point for believers in a larger community setting. So-and-so is "A," which so-and-so is "B" and, next thing you know, shit is going down.

I slaved over a new "Personal" blog image.
Behold my 18 year old self on the last day of HS!
I made a personal revelation a few weeks back. I tried writing about it, but to no avail. I was far too tired and frustrated. (This has NOT been my year.) The above has merit in that, for the first few years of going to church, I did not put my faith in Jesus, but the traditions surrounding Him and His church.

I keep going back to the night I was saved. I remember that there was a "cool" looking guy with frosted tips and a mild flirtation with obesity performing what I can only describe now as some kind of morality play. He held an apple in his hand, speaking to us about the original sin of eating from the fruit of knowledge. On the stage was a cheap mirror and he proceeded to throw the apple at the mirror. He said that our lives, without God, become like the mirror: shattered and irreparable. And while he was technically right, only today can I point out a myriad of reasons why the execution was, at it's core, a manipulative exercise. Still, it stirred in me a response to follow Christ. And I guess you could say that I've been confused ever since. (In a sublimely good way, of course.)

Something apparent from the several months of counseling that I have invested in so far is my never ending need for validation. It is a pathological fixation, from what I've been told, and the repercussions have sent ripples throughout my life. It has affected my personal life, my professional career in IT administration, and (I've just realized) my relationship with God.

Thinking back on my life, always wanting to be in the right standing with society, becoming a Christian was likely, in my 15 year old mind, the best possible decision. Existentially speaking, I could now be in the "right" with almost 2000 years of tradition and structure to cement in the certainty that I was "doing the right thing" by accepting God's promises. The irony here is that I was violating the entire paradigm of Christianity by doing something, to get something. I accepted Christ as my authority so that I could be "in the right."

Now, it certainly didn't help that I was attending a church that produced, with factory-like proficiency, people that walked, talked, acted like Christians, but whom may not have even been Christians in the first place. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that it was a "Non-Denominational" church, which without qualm produce the least common denominator of "Christian," many of whom I imagine practice because their belief was passed from mother to daughter, father to son. They, in essence, operating from the same position I was. "I'm doing this because this is the right thing to do."

So imagine my sudden shock of arriving at the conclusion that I had not really accepted Christ because I wanted him, but because I wanted something out of it: the certainty that what I was doing was the "right thing to do."

There are so many ways to proceed from here and I am content to stay on the page, but with all of life's changes in elevation I suspect I will be thinking about this more as time goes on. Ideally we should believe in Jesus like we believe in superheroes. We love what he does and how he saved us, and aspire to be more like him everyday.



Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Mysterious Flame of Highland Valley Road

As I slowly work through the novels of Umberto Eco, I find myself on the cusp of finishing The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, still enthralled with the adventures of Yambo rediscovering his past after succumbing to retrograde amnesia.

Most of the book takes place at the summer house of his youth in a small town named Solara (in Northern Italy, though there are two towns named Solara, both very close to one another). There in the attic, the scenery, the books on his shelf, he encounters his personal history, attempting to piece together everything after losing his identity.  It occurred to me, about halfway into the book, that Yambo's experience was much like my own, and I've thought about it sometime, meaning to get thoughts to paper.

After my parents split up, I spent my weekends at my father's ranch house in North County San Diego. It was rather isolated, literally atop a mountain named after an incident during the Mexican-American War, when Mexican Forces attempted to starve a portion of the US Army. I spent most of my weekends learning every inch of the 12 acres my father owned, which was not particularly awful. There was plenty of fruit available for casual consumption, which was convenient, because my father (at the time, he's a lot better now) was a stingy bastard and wouldn't buy us food (or clothing, or toys, or bedding, or anything else). Given that my father was a farmer and local seller at a farmers market, I'm sure he considered it a tax write off.

My father in his 20's (I think)

My father, even to this day, remains an enigma to me. Most, if not all, information I've learned about him has been via secondhand resources (friends, family, and various documents). And much like Yambo, I spent the days at the ranch house either combing the countryside for interesting things to discover, or searching through his personal effects, hoping to glean any information I could on this mysterious person that was my father.

The garage was most interesting, full of bric-a-brac. Newspapers, chemicals, car parts, bike parts, dusty old books and magazines, furniture, and amazing booze (of which I did not partake) could be found in the heap. And even though I have hazy memories of my childhood when my parents were together, the many portions of that house I grew up in were ever changing. My father was attempting to remodel the house for most of my life, replacing the porch with a master bedroom and leaving the upstairs carpet-less for at least 10 years. But despite the slow changes, I was able to glean a few things...


  • My dad had almost 20 years worth of National Geographic collected and meticulously organized. I would spend most of my time looking at the pictures inside, discovering that some had natives in the nude would fuel an early addiction to pornography. 
  • My dad was (and is) a cinephile, and had a wide array of films (both good and bad). When the first DVD players were available, my dad purchased one, along with a $6,000 widescreen TV (rated at 480p). At around the same time, my mom was asking for help for the cost of my braces. My dad said they were too expensive. 
  • My dad had a plethora of maps. Detailed, topographical maps of San Diego County, Hawaii, and others that came with his National Geographic subscription. 
  • My dad was a collector of antiques. He once used a 100 year old apple press to make apple juice on the sly to sell at the farmers market. (Probably breaking numerous health violations in the process.) What's more amusing was the intoxicating stench of alcohol produced, as the rinds fermented on the hill beside our house. 
  • My dad had a large safe. It was ancient, not unlike those seen being broken into by bandits in westerns. I knew he used it for collecting coins. Every once and a while I would see him depositing new valuables, recently purchased from California Numismatic Funding off of East Vista Way. 
  • My dad had a storage unit, which was once a large camping trailer beside his watering meter up the hill. Inside was all kinds of things, including a vintage pool table. When he sold it to my aunt, she once told me in passing that the rubber cushions were the original ones from when the pool table was manufactured in the late 1800s. 
  • My dad preferred to keep his wares in mint condition. His VHS tapes often still had the plastic wrap covering the paper containers, preserved by cutting slits around the bottoms of the tapes. 
Today, unlike Yambo's eventual recovery of his faculties (via a stroke), I still know very little about my dad. I wish I did. The house was sold in 2005 or 2006, I can't remember when exactly...

I hated that place. I hated every minute I spent there, so much so that when my cousins from Germany moved stateside I would spend most of my high school years there, leaving my poor brother to fend for himself alone. Incidentally, the house was burned down during the Witch Creek Fire in 2007, when I was away at UCSB for my Freshman year. It wasn't until a year or two later that I revisited the orchard to find my father's orchard in ruins. The subsequent tenant let the property go to waste, and what was left was destroyed. 

Life is funny like that, isn't it?

Saturday, June 15, 2019

How to Make a Sandwich

Making sandwiches at a deli, catering event, or at home for a friend, is a sacred obligation. Don't fuck it up.

Some might say, "But why does it matter? A sandwich is up to interpretation. There are many kinds of sandwich. After all, some would argue a hotdog is a sandwich."

To them I would reply, "You could believe that if you were a moron and didn't subscribe to Sandwich Fundamentalism."

After working a natural juice bar and deli for about 6 months, let me tell you, there is only one way to make a sandwich.

Otherwise cheese and tomato placement is flawless... Good Job!

Step 1: Take two pieces of bread. Lay them flat on your prep counter. Is there a whole in one slice? Is one slice noticeably more thin than the other? If either is true, get new bread. Don't be a bastard. (If cutting a slice from a roll, like ciabatta, cut the roll with the side facing up directly downward. None of this flat-on-the-counter-awkward-side-cut bullshit. 

Step 2: Apply condiments. How many will be used? Two? Then apply them separately on each side. (Ie. mustard on one side, mayo on the other.) Lightly apply them! Do you have any idea how quickly condiments soak through bread? You can't even get to the picnic benches outside the supermarket before its falling apart, into a soggy mess, and all you can think about is how (and why) a sandwich suddenly became a metaphor for your poor life choices.

Step 3: Apply meat and cheese. The foundation of all sandwiches is built on the bedrock of meat and cheese. They constitute the barrier between the wetness of tomato and lettuce. The rigidity of cheese, it's shape and preparation should make where it goes absolutely intuitive. If you put it in the center, then fuck you, you should be fired for crimes against humanity. 

I will add that there is no international consensus, as of yet, for the proper placement of meat. This is due to the varied states of meat. (Pulled pork may be naturally "wet" when applied, while roast beef and turkey could be dry.) If meat is dry, apply directly against the opposite slice of bread as the cheese. If the meat is wet, take each slice of cheese (There are always two. But you only have one? Jesus Christ...) 

*sandwich anger intensifies*


Step 4: Apply vegetables in even layers on top of the meat (which serves as the floor of the sandwich). Don't stack the sandwich! If it's one of those fuckers that asks for every vegetable to inflate the mass of the sandwich, make every layer evenly distributed. This is high art. You are Leonardo da Vinci. Don't let this fucking pleb' tell you how its done!

Step 5: Fold top half on top (with only cheese and condiment applied) on to lower half. You may be tempted to mash the top downward onto the meat and vegetable medley, but you don't have to. If you did "Step 4" properly, then you don't have to. Bread is supposed to be fluffy and airy. 

Step 6: If the customer asks you to toast it, counter with, "but why ruin a good thing?"

Step 7: Don't cut the sandwich in half. Why people do this is beyond me. Who saves a fucking sandwich for later? Just eat it now. Commit!

Hey, the world needs janitors.


With the above, the sandwich will be complete. It will be immaculate, a work of modern art, a testament to your making the best of working for minimum wage, right out of college. Work well. Work fast. Work with all the pride of a person grotesquely in debt. Didn't go to college? Well... then just you do you. You don't need soft skills to make sandwiches.



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.


Monday, January 14, 2019

Speculative Living


How I feel irl
One of my co-conspirators, Melissa Milazzo, at Sequart Organization released her book (which was really cool) this past week. Please buy it if you can! I remember her first few articles exploring the series and they were absolutely incredible.

Concerning the above, I don’t get to see this often enough, that is, the completion of a long term project. I know myself that the second draft of my second novel should be done next week. This has been a long time coming and I am ready for a break. Specifically one long enough to read my back log of books. These last few months have been stressful. Holidays, certifications, stress management training, et al. All I really want to do is curl up on my couch and finally finish Umberto Eco’s Inventing the Enemy. (Holy shit-balls! Buy it you plebians!)

This past month, I received as payment for passing my first major IT certification from my boss the Absolute Transmetropolitan Volumes 1-3. The pitch of Transmetropolitan alone is enticing, but the execution is really cool: in the distant future a gonzo journalist cover the sprawling subcultures in a pan-continental future city, known simply as “The City.” The series emphasizes the strength of the speculative fiction genre, which revolves around the dissection of current issues, juxtaposed to multiple hypothetical settings. Even though Transmetropolitan ran from 1997 to 2002, the series covers a multitude of issues affecting us, the American people, as we speak. Its execution is almost prescient! Though the ending was anticlimactic, the sum of its parts highlights the beauty of society and its vastness. That there could be such a thing surprises us, but it’s always nice to be reminded.

That is why we (Desmond and I) started Rune Bear. The truth lies in the weird and the strange, truly. Everything is so bedazzled in consumerism and commercialism, that "reality" has become fake. Globalism, for all its goal of unifying people, only means (practically) that our goods are made by slaves that we cannot see and wars are localized, compartmentalized, and spectated. Speculative fiction uncovers the disparities at work in society. The City of God is so far away, while the City of Man is on fire and gilded with rancid Trump Steaks.

Desmond and I have fun though. Weird is fun.

I think the joy we make of it comes from the implicative nature of the stories we receive. Seeing the world as it could be forces us to reflect on the present and ask the poignant question, “is this how it has to be?”

Recently, I should announce, I was able to go an entire week without taking my clonazepam. It's a huge milestone for me and it feels good to not have to rely on my "get-out-of-jail" pill to weather the anxiety storms. Someday I hope to stop taking Zoloft also, but I'll cross the bridge when I get there.

New Year. New Life. Exciting things are afoot and I can't wait to share them with you!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Truth About Writing Books

#TheStruggleIsReal


Work on my second full-length novel continues, slowly. With the holidays and my wife being sick, it’s been hard getting out to Starbucks and remaining there for my typical 6 hour writing sprints (6am-12noon). Yet, even if I did, I’m finding my chapter-per-weekend progress is slowing down as I begin to sort out the final plot details, make sure my climax doesn’t fall flat, and consolidate the denouement. Creating an enemy to hate, redeeming a flawed hero, and giving weight to a fictional world is a monumental task, and it’s always at the end that the gravity begins to pull you down like a rollercoaster bottoming out. That said, the second draft is always the hardest—I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before—but for some reasons you might not expect. For me, I call this stage I’m in the “Longhaul Blues.” That is, the period of disillusionment and creative depression. After looking at sprawling sections of old passages that are, at this point, almost 2-3 years, you want to give up sometimes. Note: the benefit of long term writing projects is personal growth. Then, you start looking at Chapter 1 and the writing is beyond shit and the reality settles that every moment forward will be a slog. To reform and refine what’s there, from coal to diamonds. In a way, it’s both a victory and defeat, seeing how much progress has been made.
The acts of reverse engineering that occur when implementing the notes from draft 1 constitute the bulk of the time; which, when handled by my friend Desmond, often play out like a friar’s club roast. Incidentally, the first notes I received from him for Spirit of Orn made me laugh so hard that I was crying. (That was back when I was washing dishes at Stone Brewing Company, and every lunch break was a release from the unrelenting torment of that place.) This is the best kind of feedback. Something that forces you to realize that you “ain’t shit” and that you ARE NOT the greatest writer of all time. Humility that knocks you on your ass, that grounding, helps embed you with your own characters even, drawing your perspective down to theirs. (Life isn’t fair, there is no rudder (narrator), the struggle is omnipresent, etc.)
There is a layer of fog between the work and yourself after a while. When becoming over-familiar with something, the side effect that comes is that suddenly everything looks overdone. Certain writing conventions and stylistic choices become wrote and it begins to drive you mad. In reality, readers will not catch these devices, most of the time. They key is variety. And you also underestimate the degree by which a reader will “fill in the blanks,” hold a picture in their head of how details transpire unique to themselves. The writer doesn’t see that step in the author-fan dichotomy.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Post-draft 1 research typically begins after reviewing the notes from draft 1. (Desmond initially asked me to read Notes on the Underground and Brave New World for more insight into my main character in Spirit of Orn. Another friend, Bern, told me that I should tune the narrative to fit with a specific audience, which at the time was split between a Christian and a Science Fiction/Fantasy crowd. I chose the latter.) The books that were recommended to you, the essays that corroborate the narrative, films with conceptual inspiration, all of this prepares me for the moment leading up to starting the second draft. It’s like clinging to a life raft in a storm. Oscillating unto cresting waves before crashing down into the foam. Over and over. Then you reach a point in a chapter only to find that about 45% of it will have to be rewritten? The struggle is real friends!
My process is very regimented. That’s intentional, to a degree. I think structure helps keep the momentum, to know what comes next. The Pre-Life crisis (as opposed to mid-life crisis) comes after college, not during freshman year of high school. Its easy proceeding forward knowing what comes next. Once you are done, then what? That where shit really gets tough.
But that’s a blog for another day.



  

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Fake News in the Wild


With all the hyperbolic whining about “Fake News” from both conservative and liberal alike, I had the opportunity to witness a real-world example of Fake News and see just how pervasive it’s effect had on witless people.
               There was a post going around on twitter advocating pedophilia and the inclusion of pedophilia as a part of the protected status of the LGBTQ community that had gained the attention of a "Christian" personality on facebook. The later shared this post, therefore making it viral. Though it was not the post that I have below, it was something similar to it, or at least in the same spirit.

 
               When you do some digging on the original twitter poster however, the user had less than 5 followers, and only two or three posts. It was the solitary post that was picked up by this Christian blogger to be “exposed.” Subsequently the Christian poster garners the attention of the most dank memes on the internet, gaining thousands of shares and likes for this call to action.
               Now I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the initial twitter post and the poster’s account were fabricated. For one it seems odd that there would be an advocate for pedophilia on twitter with little notoriety or following suddenly being discovered. (Search engines use algorithms to find content based on relevancy, which includes the amount of times someone’s page has been accessed. This is why my twitter account of 150+ follower fame will be passed up when someone google searches “Author” when there are hundreds more with 10,000+ followers.). Also, the fact that the post was engineered to spark moral outrage was made so transparently clear, seems fitting for Christian advocacy groups everywhere, which constantly are mining information for the link between being gay and committing acts of sexual deviancy. And, lastly, Facebook can only share links and pictures. Facebook, as of yet, does not allow the embedding of twitter posts that you can interact with. So anyone can produce a screen shot of something like Twitter and have people take it as the genuine article, despite going through all the effort in my case to make the poster seem legitimate.
               The use of moral outrage to polarize and divide has become so commonplace that seeing this in action was almost banal. The fact of the matter is, however, that this “Christian Advocate” (who could be a fake account as well) successfully polarized both Christians and non-Christians, did not advance the gospel of Jesus Christ, and advanced a precedent that is not true of any LGBTQ community. While there is a historical period of Hellenism (a zeitgeist of Greek thought advanced by Alexander the Great prior to the rule of the Roman Empire) that practiced and advocated pedophilia and homosexuality as a virtue, advances in common sense across all cultures and countries have uniformly decried it and outlawed it, despite Roy Moore’s most recent attempts to make “Underage Sex Great Again.”
               What I think made my nose curl at this stench so intensely I can reiterate here. While I am a Christian, and while I think that Homosexuality is a sin (just like watching porn and being straight is a sin), I also believe that members of the LGBTQ community are human beings deserving of respect and dignity. And while I do not accept what they preach, their narratives should not be persecuted, if not singled out, simply because they conform to values different than ours. (I don’t ever recall a time when Hindus couldn’t be married because their values and ideals strayed from the Judeo-Christian norms.)
               Lastly, I think that it’s silly that we (especially Christians) are not more equipped to discern what is useful for building up and what is not. Given to how much we read, cite, and source, yet cannot do this outside of the bible with accuracy or conviction is confounding. Fake News is a real threat, and there is so much opportunity to be kind and loving to everyone affected by it. 

Happy Saturday Everyone!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Inventing Enemies

I realize that a writer’s blog should be memes and personable stuff, which I suck at. I really am a nice person. Promise! I’m just difficult to wrangle and coax out in person, let alone through the impersonal channels of the internet.
                But hey, I’m good at “being interesting.” This is what I’ve been told. So I’ve come up with a regurgitation of one of my recent reads that has really gotten be immersed in thinking.
                There’s an essay called “Inventing the Enemy” by Umberto Eco, a recent author in my collection that is occupying more and more of my time. Even now, in light of what is going on around the world, I thought the essay shows how anyone can create an “enemy.” An enemy doesn’t have to be someone were are at odds with in this scenario, just someone that we consider alien to us, or not of our kind, nationality, race, social standing, or otherwise. I wanted to give a birds eye view of Eco’s argument below. The essay is still  available in print and I highly recommend reading it, even if the language is stilted and archaic. (It was originally written in Italian and translated pieces can seem stale on the outside.)
  •         Eco states that enemies are first geographically different than us. They come from the outside. He cites the barbarians invading Rome at the peak and decline of the Roman Empire as chief examples. In today’s terms someone can be an “enemy” of ours if they reside in another country. We may never have met these people, or have had any long distance contact (i.e. wireless communication, internet chatting, etc), but they are someone removed from us. And their distance makes them the easiest target for creating an enemy for us to fight/oppose.
  •          Likewise, another degree of separation occurs with language. Eco cites the same example of the “barbarian” languages that invaded Rome, weakening the national identity of Rome. The word barbarian suggests a corruption of language (bar-bar-ian, like a stutter in speech). Those that we can’t understand, which requires us to have contact with them either personally or via audio message, we would reject as people we are against.
  •        After language comes those that live inside the city walls. Those that are strange to us are most likely to be immigrants. The United States has a long history of targeting immigrants, either 1st or 2nd generation, that have come from foreign lands to be with us and are at the beginning, or in process, of assimilation into the parent culture. These are people that are ESL (English as a Second Language) or they work less desirable jobs or they are having trouble finding a footing in a strange and new environment. They are easy to pick out in a crowd, maybe because their clothing is different, or because they live in ghettos where other fellow immigrants reside. We often make enemies of these people because they are easy to blame for things that are seemingly outside of our control. Crime, population density, government spending, and education burdens can all be easily blamed on the “immigrant” by the interior culture.
  •      Eco suggests, after his studying of Medieval history and philosophy, that those suffering from deformities would be the deepest layer where we could make our enemies. Assuming that the person on the outside has come in, learned our language, adopted our culture, and has demonstrably become essential to the community, those that are missing limbs, blind, mentally impaired, or suffering from congenital defects are seen as enemies because they lack on a fundamental level core abilities of other humans. This may not be as much an issue today as it was a thousand years ago, but an equivalent can be found in the homeless, who are dehumanized for their inability to care for themselves. They are seen as feral, unstable, and incomplete, therefore becoming an adequate enemy. Eco seems to have the most sympathy on this level of inhumanity simply because individuals of this strata are the easiest to blame and have few advocates.
I find the above really fascinating, and my synthesis of the arguments is limited by the amount of detail Eco lends to his argument. What is more sobering is his subsequent treatment, and potential explanation for the origins of antisemitism, not only because it is still fresh in our minds from the Holocaust but because of Arabs taking their place in the 21st century due to the events of 9/11. Despite dominating fields of medicine, law, finance, science, physics, mathematics, and humanities, Arabs encounter daily opposition for their skin color and religion simply because they are externally different or foreign within the parent culture of the United States.
                All these ideas are potent for discussion, but I’ve discovered personally that even with lengthy discourse there is still a degree of separation between theory and practice. We can talk about something in depth, but we can never see that we too make our own enemies on a daily basis, even subconsciously, and not even care about it.
                They key point Eco makes, the final conclusion he makes in his essay that is chilling to say the least, is that having an enemy, or maintaining a diet of enemies to consume and present, creates positive growth. I will leave you with these. I hope they make you think about the weightiness of his conclusions.




Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Enemy is Us


Here’s a thought:

Any view is defined from the opposing end of that view’s spectrum. The idea came to me, while I was entertaining guests at a birthday party for my daughter. I was able to “geek out” with a couple of guests, and in the pursuit of doing so I heard someone tell me that “most comics are left of center.” The context for the statement was that there was a particular group that was advocating “right-of-center” comics, but that they were met with fierce opposition from within the community. (I wasn’t aware of this, but I assume that all hell broke loose because of it.) I found the idea odd, that we need comics written “right-of-center.” No comic book writer/film critic/author writes content that establishes a worldview based on their enemy’s characterization of them—that is, I wouldn’t specifically write a book that was “liberal” because a critic of mine suggested that I was “liberal.” I would assume that they would write a story that reflected their own beliefs. I write stories that discuss things that interest me. I am not out to incite arguments. But I write what I write because I find that content interesting to me.
I find, that when someone (person B) characterizes your views (person A) as their opposite, what is happening behind the scenes is an instilling of existential competition, to validate beliefs of the original critic (person B) as valid, or more valid. I see this a lot in religion because I am a Christian and people are often insecure about their faith (myself included). I see instances where a layman witnesses same-sex marriage become validated by popular culture or reads about a scientific finding that sheds doubt on aspects of Christian orthodoxy, and their initial reaction is to characterize the supporters of those positions as being in opposition to his/her own. It’s therapeutic, ultimately, to be validated by creating an enemy. The stakes are higher now. And because enemies ultimately “lose,” we are invigorated when we read or hear something that sheds doubt on our opponent’s position.
The unintended effect is that we create our enemies as a toxic pursuit to escape our fears, rather than confront them and try to make sense of them.
What should we do, then, to avoid this?
Sorry, I have no idea. But I have thoughts.
See, going back to my opening point. If I write something that inadvertently challenges the worldview of another person, the onus is on that offended party to confront me and ask me in an understanding way why I have that position. Because I am not intentionally trying to offend someone. I’m, in most cases, just writing a story, or creating art, that resonates with me. The specter that we create of our enemies is a strawman that we sling mud upon rather than making an attempt to bridge the gap and attempt to understand any view different from our own.
Another interesting example: there was a time when I thought I was going to be a pastor of a Christian church. The unfortunate thing about this, was that I was very involved with the viewpoint of a certain pastor and I had purchased all his books and followed all his sermons. When I would confront a viewpoint that was different or, worst, in opposition to this pastor, I would write it off as poor scholarship on the opponent’s part. Then I was told an interesting anecdote as I was venting my frustrations our on my sponsoring mentor. If you read one author (his works in total), then you are a clone. If you read two authors, you’re confused. If you read three authors, you begin to develop an ecumenical understanding of knowledge pertinent to that topic.
This applies to everything: cooking, knitting, philosophy, politics, video games, religion, film, etc. What I don’t want you (reader) to take away from this is that your viewpoint is invalidated, or diminished, once you’ve reached this point of ecumenical understanding of your topic. What I desire you to take away is that people believe certain things because it’s personal to them, and there is a story behind that belief. When enough people are like-minded, they coalesce into a larger entity that takes core values (but not all of them) and synthesizes a new position that lacks the multifaceted explanations of certain beliefs.
In light of social media, I am convinced more and more that Facebook and other platforms are a cancer to our ecumenical understandings because they have condensed conversations and familiarity into statements and surface level understanding.
Chew on that for a bit.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Turning 30 This Year

I find that this year will be a highly thoughtful one as I approach 30 years old in July. While the 20s were an innocuous threshold wherein my youth was seemingly supplemented, the 30 year boundary is more foreboding and unknown. Considering that the largest event to befall me in my 20s was marriage, turning 30 is a different kind of strange, upon the cusp of which I experienced the death of my grandmother and the birth of my first child. This quality of “oldness” is amusing, if not revelatory, as I’m beginning to understand the apathy that comes with age. Apathy, I should clarify, not existential in nature, but a profound world-weariness. I spent much of 2017 embroiled in intense discussions of politics and culture, only to be rewarded with estrangement and utter fatigue. The stereotype that “old people” are out of touch with contemporary trends and movements is not rooted in their indifference, but the sheer exhaustion in keeping up, which to me is conceding defeat, though I empathize.

The boomers that were once so idyllic and now are complacent enablers confirm my theories. All this begrudged talk of millennials and their fickle sentimentality is just a cover for an aging generation embittered over their lack of contribution to American “greatness.” Their fathers and mothers advocated for the rights of African Americans and women, while they stood idle and fucked, smoked, drank, and embraced nuclear fatalism.

Though I admit I am being unfair, as the greatest generation was duplicitous and rank with hypocrisy, espousing a Judeo-Christian aspect while cavorting in the shadows. When it comes to progress I’m a utilitarian. At least they did something, anything.

I’m finding this all out now, of course. As an author I’m expected to be present and social, create tribes and foster communal growth. But, truth be told, I’m fucking tired. I work 40 hours a week. So my efforts, while lackluster, are genuine enough, just limited by diminished fortitude.

I should come back to my first point on age, for sympathy’s sake. Social and cultural fatigue does afflict me whether I admit it or not. I especially notice this in the kind of music I listen to at the gym. In high school, regular trips to the local record store would yield a bevy of new artists every week. Even though the albums were old, produced in the 80s and 90s, I felt connected to a movement, emboldened by the genres I listened to. Today, I can count on one hand the artists from which I still actively anticipate albums. My workout routine revolves around a heavy dose of thrash metal and Viking metal, and I don’t see it changing for the foreseeable future. With comics, it’s similar. I’ve purchased whatever I can find that is pleasant to read. All my heroes have stopped writing, and new up-and-comers to replace them are limited in supply.


The cynicism however, of old age, of change, or progress, is illusory and seductive. It requires effort to supplant complacency and look for new things. Becoming irrelevant is the thing we all fear most, and we unwittingly accept it because the alternative of keeping in contact with the rallying zeitgeist can often be tiresome and difficult. It is my strong belief that knowledge and scholarship (even if popular) can stem the tide of inefficacy. And so I must hold strong to the mast and resist the siren call of whatever-the-fuck being “old” is.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Shouting Into the Void

When publishing, it's easy to underestimate the extensive legwork required to get people to notice you. It's infuriating, because with 6 billion people on this planet everyone has an audience even if they're a piece of shit.

The last time I marketed my stuff I was at Comic Con back in 2014. I had a thousand cardstock mailers with a download link to my book via a Box.com link that I set up on my own. Everything was so touch and go, like having sex for the first time. Of the thousand, I was able to pass out almost 500. (Not bad for a first effort.) There were SDCC volunteers catching on to my schemes toward the end. I had to evade them like a cold war spy in Russia.

One thing they don't tell you is how to deal with rejection. I still remember to this day the feeling of passing out that first card, and someone declining, as if they wanted extra shit to cart around in an ever expanding grab-bag of toys, fliers, comic books, and so on. But still you take it personally. Today I kind of laugh about it, but back then I wanted to shrivel up and die. But to anyone passing out fliers just remember quantity is key. I estimated a 2-3% response rate (looking at the download metrics on Box). Of the 500 or so I passed out I got about 40 unique downloads. (A whopping eight percent!)

Marketing techniques have evolved over time, with Google AdSense and Facebook data mining to the infinitesimal, making advertisement the easiest in decades. The caveat to this is the saturation of ads. Just like Journalism, its easy for good content to get drowned out by every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a blog. (And, yes, the irony is not lost on me.) So you may have noticed two pages appear on my blog: two personal thank you notes to prospective buyers of my two books (one available, the other's sale date TBA).

It feels apropos to do this. Sony never thanked me for buying their bluray players or Apple, their phones. If you click on to these pages, my sentiment is sincere. I know that I can be an anti-social, cynical asshole sometimes. But I care about the people who care about good art. They are the human beings that need to keep breeding. These two projects, and all my future ones are my best effort at contributing to the great body of Western Literature. (Though I'm not above writing pulp drabbles time to time.)

So, like all authors, I begin my journey, my trek into deep space, shouting into the void for alien life. To bridge cultures and opinions with tales on the human condition. I'll need help. I am many things: Husband, Father, Christian, Author, IT Consultant, Avid Reader, Player of Beep-Boops, and Anxiety Medicated Agoraphobic. But I'm not good at being all at once.

It takes a village to publish a book. And I'm thankful to everyone who fights along side me.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

No Love For Wizardry

I hate Harry Potter because it’s a sham.

Like most children back in the late nineties, I was introduced to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. It was immensely popular, and my grandmother was adamant about identifying a book that would get her grandchildren to read, pushing it on to us desperate and concerted. Truth be told, I was not an avid reader until I was out of college. Before all that, reading was a chore and something you did in school, not when you got home. I spent most of my time outside, turning rocks into spaceships and sticks into swords. Books never pulled me in like they do now. I was much more visual then. Converting and abstracting text into visual stimulus was only a recent development.

My vehement distaste for Harry Potter is inexplicable. Or was, until very recently.

I’ve never liked people pushing me into things, including hobbies. I’ve never liked musicals. (They want you to sing along, see?) I’ve never liked sports. (Competitive teamwork.) I’ve never liked fads. (Vapid, short-lived, things.) I’ve always been an insular, and supremely unlovable person. The idea that my cousin “Bucky,” the poster child of self-absorbed intellect, read it faster than my brother and I didn’t bother me either. What bothered me most was that I was expected to like it.

No. I don’t like Harry Potter because it’s too real to me. And I am not satisfied with the narrative that it pushes. (It’s about a young boy that discovers his parents were wizards, that he is a wizard, that they left him a fortune to allow him to board in an exclusive boarding school. His subsequent adventures are formulaic, and I wonder why his professors didn’t have a yearly meeting about the shit he was going to get into next.)

The origins of Harry Potter being raised by abusive relatives mirrors my experiences in subtle and substantive ways. While I have never been forced to live in a confined space underneath the stairs, I have a potently vivid memory of breaking my Dad’s VCR when I was maybe between 6-8 years old. I was so afraid that he would hit me that I told him from afar and hid in his orchard. And while he shouted vainly into the winds for me to come out, I stayed and waited. It eventually got dark but I was still hiding. I got into my Dad’s red Toyota pickup and slept in the cab overnight, and snuck into the house in the morning.

Another experience: We were at a local, independent grocer, one that I have scores of fond memories at their amazing deli and all the strange, foreign things they would buy and display at the front of their isles—food from Germany, Britain, Italy, etc. My brother had a quart of pasta salad that he was entrusted with, only to drop it on accident. My father flew into a rage and pushed him to the ground calling him “stupid” while he cried. There were people around us, aghast. Someone scolded my father, to which he replied, “mind your own business,” and we hurried out of there like cockroaches exposed to a bright, shining light.

And while, only by the Grace of God, I have forgiven my father of these things over the years of dealing with this—and there are many other incidents—I have no love for a series that depicts acts of abuse and mulls them over with discretionary wealth and elitism. I think my disproportionate response stems from my deep seated belief that the fairy-tale narrative archetype is a load of bullshit. Abuse never leaves you, it clings to you and stays with you. A moment of 1-5 minutes imprints upon your life a brand of shame and anger that never leaves, though over time the scar fades. I reject the Harry Potter narrative because in real life people that suffer that kind of emotional trauma, in many cases, never escape. And even if they do, they limp away and heal lame.

I recognize that now as much as I did back then. I stopped reading after the first book, not because I refused to continue reading the entirety of the series, but because I couldn’t accept its fantasy that seemed to ridicule my own suffering.