Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Edgar Allan Van Gogh

“This was the unkindest cut of all; For, when the noble Caesar saw him stab, Ingratitude, more strong than traitors' arms, Quite vanquish'd him”
--- From Julius Caesar (III, ii, 187)


I have for you a tale today, my children. A tale of blood, revenge, and trust betrayed. Know ye: this tale be not for the faint of heart! If thou would read on, say not ye were unprepared for the wickedness contained herein. Thou hast been warned . . .

Let’s start with the fact that God is an evil prick with a terrible sense of humor. He finds it a source of immense amusement that when a man loses the hair on his head, he begins to grow it in places where hair was never meant to grow. Oh yes, the almighty gets quite the chuckle out of the fact that I’m bald as an egg, yet from the neck down I look like some mutant gorilla whose been bathing in Rogaine! (oh yea, God’s a frikkin’ laugh-riot!) So yesterday, while standing in front of the bathroom mirror, I note the presence of a particularly long hair growing from the side of my left ear. Actually, it was more like a length of fine thread than a hair; long enough to wrap three or four times around my head and still be able to wave at passing children. I noted said hair with a sigh of disgusted acceptance (I have long since tired of the Creator’s ‘little jokes’) and pulled out a pair of scissors to do away with the offending follicle. I have become quite the hand at eliminating stray growths of this nature from the most bizarre regions of my anatomy. (DON’T ask!) One quick snip of the scissors and they’re gone! This was no ordinary hair though; this was a super-stealthy, acrobatic, hair with a remarkable will to live and some kick-ass survival skills.

It was a Ninja Hair!

Yup, a Ninja Hair. Nine feet long, and easily seen by passing aircraft, this hair still managed to avoid the sharpened blade of my deadly scissors through the use of mystic Ninja Hair secrets from the deepest Orient. Its slender body merely bent beneath the closing blades of my scissor, taking no harm whatever and springing back out once released to laugh at my puny Western technology.

Bwahaha! Your puny Western technology is no match for my Ninja Hair skills! Bwahahah!” (Okay, so it didn’t really talk, but I swear it was mocking me . . . the way it just stood straight out from my ear like that . . . mockery, I say!)

After several minutes of battle, I knew I was outmatched. I summoned reinforcements to aid me in my battle against this follicle of death and mockery. I (dumb-ass that I am!) called The Wife. The plan was for her to take down the Ninja Hair while I stood perfectly still. I thought that since she had two hands to use and was not restricted to sighting him in a mirror, she would have more success at removing this denizen from the deepest depths of male-pattern-baldness hell. Oh, but he was not so easily defeated! The first cut she took went very much as my own had: he merely bent beneath her cut and laughed at her as well:

Bwahahaha!”

That’s when things turned ugly.

I should have known better. I should have seen the warning signs. I should never have given a sharp, dangerous, instrument of destruction to a woman whose comment on my last blog entry read:

“Remember, DEAR, the Revenge is a dish best served cold and I'm just the Bitch to do it . . . heheheheh” --- The Wife

You see, a smarter man would have expected what happened next.

I stood perfectly still as she reached out with the deadly scissors, took careful aim at the hair, smiled, then lunged forward and CUT MY GODDAM EAR OFF!!!!

The wound was epic: blood gushed out of my ear in a giant geyser, spraying crimson across the newly painted walls of my bathroom. My ear fell to the floor, flopping about like some spastic dolphin having bad things done to him with a salad fork and I . . . well, I screeched like a little girl who just found a spider in her panties! All the while, the sound of laughter echoed in my ears as my wife and her secret ally (My Ninja Hair! Try to keep up with the story, please.) crowed in delight at the wreck they had made of my tender head.

Bwahahah!” they both laughed, “Make a mockery of us, will you? Bwahahah!”

After crawling about on the floor in a pool of blood, fighting through the agony as I sought for my severed ear, The Wife finally realized she might have gone too far. I pointed out that the police would certainly read my blog and see her hideous threats toward my person. She relented enough to help me locate and re-attach my severed appendage via a tube of super-glue and some band-aids. She attempted to apologize and claim it was an accident but she would have been more convincing if she’d managed to get those words out without breaking into gales of laughter each time she tried. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “You cut off my friggin’ ear!”
Her: (laughing) “Oh for God’s sake, I barely nicked you!”
Me: “Nicked me? I’m gonna have to change my name to Van Gogh!”
Her: (still laughing) “It’s not even gonna bleed . . . Oh!” (shock at the gallons of blood pouring from my ear!)
Me: “See? I’m gonna bleed to death!”
Her: (laughing yet again!) “Oh, stop! I’ll put a band-aid on it.”
Me: “Band-aid? BAND-AID? How about you call a goddam surgeon to re-attach my ear! You did this on purpose!”
Her: (struggling to control laughter) “What? Why would I cut your ear?”
Me: “Cuz I made fun of you on my blog! You threatened me in writing . . . I have proof! I’m calling the police!”
Her: (tears running down her face from laughter) “Oh yea, I planned the whole thing! I made you into a hairy freak just so I could cut off your ear one day!”

See how unsympathetic she was to my plight? Alternating between wiping away tears of laughter and trying to replace my ear in something approximating its original position on my head, she convinced me not to call the police. For the sake of our son, I decided to simply let this vile act of mutilation and betrayal pass.
The kicker of course, is that after re-attaching my ear, the Ninja Hair is still there . . . mocking me with its nine-foot-long, invulnerable, body. (Sigh.) Such is my life. I live with a psychopathic, ear-cutting, murder-plotting, nut of a wife who laughs at my agony. The joke is on her though: little does she know that I’ve placed the amputated ear in her purse, so that I can listen to her plotting against me! Next time, I shall not be caught unaware! I will know when she’s coming for me because I have planted The Tell-Tale Ear inside the lining of her purse. I can still hear with it through an ancient mystical spell that was given to me by a Raven one night after he and I got drunk on a Cask of Amontillado. I give due warning to you, my readers: if I should suddenly disappear from these pages, seek for me in the Rue Morgue! I have no doubt this woman will one day be the Fall of the House of Coppinger. I should leave her . . . just take my mutilated ear and go some place safe . . . but I am torn. I feel caught between The Pit and the Pendulum. She’s bloodthirsty, sure: but she’s got a truly evil sense of humor and you GOTTA appreciate that!

Ah, what to do?

I figure I just won’t let her touch any more sharp objects and we should be fine. I will however be sleeping with one eye open, just in case she decides to go all Lorena Bobbit on me.

(Oh, and her version of the story goes like this: “I barely nicked your ear with the scissors and you whined like a baby for hours!” Hmmm . . . perhaps more accurate; but not nearly as entertaining as my version!)

Later!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Stranger Than Fiction

Sometimes, things happens that you have to be a part of to actually believe. There are days when life has just moved your name to the top of its shit-list and all you can do is shake your head and laugh.

The wife is having one of those days.

This morning, she didn't hear her alarm and she woke up late (for which she yelled at me, promptly earning the karma which was soon to come!) When she went into the bathroom to take her shower, the doorknob broke; locking her inside! (yes, that's the sound of my gleeful chuckling you hear!) Poor woman was stuck --naked-- inside a tiny room with no way out. Lucky for her, I decided to overlook her yelling at me first thing in the a.m. and came down the hall to kiss her good-bye before I left. She is soooooooo lucky I did! I noticed the broken lock and spent the next 15 minutes freeing her from the dreaded clutches of bathroom exile . . .

So, after getting her out (with much laughter on my part!) I went to work. Barely had I sat down at my desk when my phone rings: it's the wife! Her car is dead. She's already late for work because of the whole bathroom thing and the car decides to give up the ghost! Now she has to call AAA, get the car towed to the mechanic, and then call a taxi to get to work. (yup, still chucklin' here!) To top it off, she was planning on going out with some friends tonight for dinner but now she has to wait for me to pick her up, take her to get the car . . . Yup, shitty day all around for the wife.

Oh, Oh, Oh!!!!! BTW: I forgot to tell you what happened to her Wed. night!!!!!

She called me on the cell because her car wouldn't start (you'd think this had something to do with this morning's problem, wouldn't ya? But no . . .) So, she sits in a parking lot for a half-hour, waiting for me to come and do my magic "man thing" to her car. I arrive, look in through the driver's window and say:

"You might wanna put the car in PARK, before you try starting it!" (I swear, she really did this!)

Heeheeheeheeheeheeheehee!!!!!!!!!

Oh yea! Much misery for the wife, much joy for my evil ass!

Don't worry though, things will balance between us as soon as she reads this blog! Trust me, kiddies: I will suffer a long and painful weekend for mocking her in such a public venue! (but, it's sooooooooooo worth it!) Heeheeheeheehee!!

Later!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Tired and Drunk

Let's make no bones about it kiddies: my fat, old, ass is tired!

I was up late (for me) last night watching the idiot box and didn't get to bed until after midnight. Now, that's late for me (I'm like an old woman, okay?) at any time but with the whole: "Up at 5:00 a.m." thing workin', it damn near killed me to get out of bed today. I am not one of those folks who bounce up chipper and ready to face the day when the alarm goes off. In fact, I think such people should be slathered with honey and staked out on top of ant hills . . . but I digress!

Waking is never easy for me. Never has been. Doesn't seem to matter how much sleep I get either. Be it four hours, or twelve, my brain clings to Morpheus' realm like a leech to the backside of three hundred pound cajun fisherman! (and damn, that is one nasty visual!) Even when I was a kid, my mother had to literally tip the bed over some days to get me out of it. So then, you can imagine how happy I was when the alarm went off today . . . but I got up!

Took a shower, grabbed some cereal, and went straight to the writing. Had a 2,000 word day, though I have a feeling a lot of the last three days will end up cut. It feels a lot like filler but it's words and better than nothing. I'm close to a big scene now so it should kick up again over the next few days.

So, we took the Scout Troop to a Board of Education meeting last night so they could learn how local government works . . . what a thrill! (not!) The boys were, however, fascinated with the fast speech and "legalese" that the board members all used. The consensus question of the night: "Why do they talk like that? Things'd go quicker and easier if they spoke english!" Ah, children . . . wonderful purveyors of truth and logic! I did learn a thing or two about what's going down in my town last night. Seems underage binge drinking is a huge problem in my town. Last weekend the police arrested some fifty kids between 13-17 at four separate parties, several of whom had to go to the hospital for alcohol poisoning. Boy, doesn't THAT sound like a fun night out! I was talking with a few of the police and volunteer firemen/first aiders I know and they were saying that the kids are getting dangerously drunk because of things like the hard lemonades, bottled mixed drinks, etc. The sweet stuff. They drink it like it's soda and don't realize how bad it hits until too late. From what they were telling me, this is a larger problem for the girls than the guys . . . seems such drinks are not "manly" so the boys stick with beer and don't get quite as ill. Something for all you folks with daughters to think about.

And on that happy note, I'm bailin'!

Later!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Good Bad

Good and bad today in equal amounts.

The good: another Agent at the top of my list requested a partial.
The bad: the Agent who asked for one on Friday, passed on "Slayer".

Actually, even the bad isn't too bad. The Agent was very nice in her pass and I didn't take the rejection personally (Can it be that I'm --gasp-- maturing as a writer?) I wrote her a polite thank you for taking the time and didn't get upset, or down on myself. It's a business after all, and accepting that means I don't have to take it personally. Funny, but that only occured to me recently (after reading Miss Snark extensively!) In my regular job, I take nothing personally. I've been in some miserable situations, with many a pissed off person, in just about every job I've ever had. I never take anything personally. Yell, curse, insult . . . I blow that crap off because I know I have to work with these folks the next day. It never occured to me that the same attitude could be adapted for my writing. Hell, when the rejections are as polite as this one, it doesn't even take any effort to smile and say: "Thanks anyway"!

Slow morning again, only 800 words (a very bad day for me!) but the unexpected changes my characters (curse them all!) made in the story have pulled me off my outline and I needed to spend some time reviewing it to get myself tied back in, so I can hit the ending. It's still a ways off, but I think I'm back on course for that. One good thing is that the unexpected changes knocked off three chapters from the outline already; things that just felt wrong after the new stuff showed up. Hmmm . . . edits done by characters. Unique approach.

Another chapter down on "Fish" last night. I am discovering the truth about how writing improves with practice. Originally, "Fish" was a short story. I submitted it to F&SF magazine and got back a personal rejection from the editor which said: "I really liked it and almost bought it . . ." (paraphrasing). I meant to revise it some and re-submit, either to him or another mag, but that never happened. Instead, I got this wonderful idea on how to turn the entire thing into a novel. Essentially, it's a split-time novel: the same two MC's as both adults, and as children, in alternating chapters. The original short was simply the childhood stuff (I expanded it some, obviously) and I started writing the adult chapters last year. The original short story stuff is requiring a lot of editing, whereas the newer stuff is tighter, with a much stronger voice. It's kind of neat to see old work (3-4 years ago) put right up beside current stuff. It tells me I'm improving, which is nice to know!

Busy tonight - Boy Scouts, followed by the season finale of "The Shield", which I am not missing! That show is mind-blowing. It makes you cheer for the bad guys, even though you know better. That's quality writing!

Later!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Another Quickie!

Howdy, all!

Yet another late day -very quick- post. Monday has sunk its decaying and pus-ridden fangs deep into the tender flesh of my nether region and is actively tossing me to-and-fro for its own personal amusement.

Another "up at dawn" day (before, actually) and a fair 1300 words done on "First". Lunch did not happen at all today, so nothing there. Tonight: back to editing.

Weekend was tiring . . . much work done about the house.

And that brings us all up to date!

Later!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Writer on the Roof?

Interesting day today. I sent out some email queries to various Agents (told ya' I was getting serious about that!) and much to my surprise, one of the Agents at the top of my list sent back a reply asking for a partial . . . less than an hour after I sent the query! How cool is that? I know, I know: I'm not getting my hopes up (it's just a partial) but I was really impressed with the speedy answer. The Agent wanted my Synopsis & three chapters, which I promptly sent along. See? It pays to be prepared!

That put a smile on my face today!

Well, back to reality - as I typed this, another agent sent me a rejection. Such is the writing life, eh?

Only 1,000 words today. I was up at early but the words weren't flowing. I must have slept weird or something last night, I woke with a splitting headache and that made the writing today a real effort. Got another chapter edited on "Fish" last night. This one irked me a bit. The story is sound but for some reason I let myself get carried away with the sound of my own voice in this chapter. I had to take a (figurative) machete to the MS! Don't know what the hell I was thinking . . . the use of four words where one sufficed . . .OYYY! (Bad author, bad! No writer treats for you!)

Anyway, busy weekend ahead. Much stuff to do about the house and the boy is camping with the Scouts (leaving me behind . . . I am NOT pleased!) He's thrilled; this is his first trip with the Troop in months. His grades in the first marking period were low (for him) so we pulled him out of Scouts till he squared it away. Second marking period: High Honor Roll, and every subject he went up at least six points in. So, he's back in Scouts and lovin' it. I just hope he doesn't backslide. We shall see . . .

I watched "Fiddler on the Roof" on tv last night while I was editing. I love that film (yea, I'm a sucker for musicals.) the mother/father relationship makes me laugh every time. Even my wife chuckles because they sound so much like us! She finds the wife's total lack of fear for her husband's tantrums hysterical. There is a scene in there that goes something like this (paraphrasing):

Tevye: (screaming and flailing arms wildly) "Don't make me angry, Golda! When I get angry, even the flies are afraid to fly!!"

Golda: (crossing arms over chest and sighing) "Yes, I'm terrified. Remind me after I cook dinner and I'll faint from my fear. Can we go home now?"

Oh yea, that's my wife!!! :-)

The good thing is, she always gives me a kiss and hug when they sing "Do You Love Me?" and guarantees me she does. Works for me. I'm kinda fond of her too.

I realized while watching that last night, that the wife and I are coming up on 20 years together. Considering that I was 20 when we started dating, that will put us at equal amounts of time together/apart. Kinda strange to think on . . . stranger, when I realize that soon, the "together" time will have the upper hand! Where do da' time go?

Later!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Writer Brain

I'm having a really good writing week (pauses - knocks frantically on top of wooden desk) so far. Last night, I jumped into edits on "Fish" and cranked through the first three chapters. Gotta say (so far) it's better than I remembered. May actually be my best writing to date. That, kiddies, is why we put the novel away in a drawer for a month or two! I was certain it was all complete crap when I finished the rough. There was a large section in the second chapter I had to kill completely. Oh, I loved the writing . . . the imagery was great . . . it had a beautiful tone . . . but in the end I had to be honest about it. Does describing a boathouse really merit three full pages? (yea, sad to say: I really DID do that!) The answer of course was "NO!" so I cut it all down to a single paragraph. Ah, the joys of editing!

Today was another good writing day - I pulled just under 3,000 words on "First". I'm a little concerned that some of the dialog there was forced but that's why we edit, yes? I'm trying not to get down on myself here . . . I'm in the "slog through it" part of the book (about 60% through) and I'm having to push hard to get the words. It's a temporary thing though. When I get near the end, the words seem to fly as I madly try to tie up all loose ends and great climactic scenes seem to jump out of every crevasse in the twisted little landscape of my brain. With any luck, I can have the rough on "First" done by the end of April (don't quote me on that though!)

The early mornings are working pretty well so far. I'm starting each workday feeling as if I've already accomplished something so I'm feeling pretty good. (Stick around though, this may just be the uphill before the big drop on the rollercoaster that is Jim's psyche!) The body's still bitchin' at me every morning but the grumbles are growing quieter. My brain no longer calls me an ass, it simply huddles sullenly in the corner of my skull (Have I mentioned I have a square head?) and glares at me. I'm pretty sure it'll give up the complaints any day now, won't you brain? (He just flipped me off, and he's still not speaking to me. Brains are so sensitive!)

Later!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Imaginary Imaginings

A 2,000+ word day on "First". I was up with the roosters again this morning, and cranked out a goodly bit of work. I spent my time over lunch today researching Agents. I found that using a combination of Agentquery and Preditors & Editors made for a quick process. I was able to search for Agents who handle fantasy/dark fantasy work and then process them through P&E to verify their legitimacy. Then I created a table on my system that had the Agent name, address, and URL. I intend to use it as part of a mail merge (oh, alright! The wife will do it for me!) to create all my labels, etc. when I submit.

Yes, that's right: my lazy ass is finally back on the track to hunting down an Agent! Actually, I do still have a partial out there at the moment that I'm waiting to hear back on but that won't stand in my way!!! (Unless . . . you know, they -like- CALL me!) I want to get a good number of queries out in the mail for "Slayer" ASAP & I'll be editing "Fish", so I'm hoping to start sending that around sometime next month (he dreams!) After that, I will move right into editing "Clans" and by that point, the first draft of "First" (no pun intended) should be done. (If it's not, I may have to do myself bodily harm.) Then I jump right into the next book, which I'm pretty sure is going to be another dark, urban, fantasy.

How's THAT for a writing plan? (Hah! Call me a slacker, will ya?) That should take me into autumn easily. Of course, during that time I'm sure "Slayer" will sell to a major publisher for a six-figure advance and I'll have several dozen movie studios knocking at my door --and throwing wads of cash at me-- to make it into a feature film. Then I'll be a multi-gazillionare and you'll all get to say "Oh, I knew him when . . ."

See? The imagination is still workin' fine! :-)

Later!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Workin' It!

So, I'm off to the races with the writing again (yay!) I got in 2,300 words yesterday and another 1,000 today. I also printed out my novel "Fish" last night and put it in a three-ring binder so that I can start the editing process. I also have a small (100 page) notebook in the binder as well. Here's where I keep all my notes, re-writes, etc. as I revise. I find it easier to simply number major changes in the manuscript and refer back to the notebook. For example: if there's a three page section that needs to be re-written, I'll "X" out the pages in red and write the number (1) in a large red circle on the MS. Then I go to the notebook & make notes of what needs to be in that section/what the problem is, etc. I also use the same system to rewrite small sections (2-3 paragraphs) on the fly. It beats trying to cram the words between lines & in the margins. I just cross out the sentences/paragraphs to be re-worked and pen in the marker number. When I'm ready for type-in, I just refer to the appropriate section of the notebook as I see the entry in my MS. I still do grammar, punctuation, and single line edits right in the MS with a red pen.

The idea of the three-ring binder is that I can take the novel with me to edit anywhere. I can work on car rides (while the wife is driving of course!) or when watching tv with the family (see, and you thought commercials served no purpose!) Since I'm mainly reading through for consistency, grammar, and overall ideas in the mark-up phase, I don't need the same level of concentration that I do when writing. I leave the actual writing for the type-in phase. I have to type as I write . . . I don't do well handwriting the MS, not even for smaller sections. My hand is too slow & it gets tired (awww, poor widdle hand!). When I'm typing, I seem to float in the words without ever seeing the computer or the keyboard (which explains the many typos!)

I started the first part of the new schedule today -getting up at 5:00 am to write- the rest of it (exercise, diet, etc.) I'm going to bring in slowly, after my system adjusts to the other changes. I don't want to shock my system any more than I already am. My body damn near rebelled when I dragged it out of bed this morning . . . my legs refused to stand up, my arms hung at my sides like noodles, the eyes didn't want to open and the brain was quite happily remarking to me on what a complete and utter ass it thinks I am for getting it up so early. Small steps are the way to go, I think. I'm hoping I won't burn out or get sick from overdoing (as I usually do).

Besides, I'm reeeeaallllly dreading the exercise part. :-)

Later!

Friday, March 10, 2006

A New Me!

The weekend cometh!

I am soooooooooo glad it does! It took everything I had to get out of bed this morning . . . I'm tired beyond reason. Hopefully, I'll get a better handle on things over the weekend. I'm helping one of the kids from Boy Scouts work his Eagle project and good things like that always help get me back in gear. I'm planning on making some major shifts in my personal schedule over the next week or two. I need to get some type of control over my life back. Writing, weight, work, home, family, etc., etc., etc. . . . I feel like I'm just half-assing everything. I don't like that, so I'm going to try a bit of time management. I'm working out a reasonable schedule that I really hope gives me time to handle all the craziness without, well . . . going crazy! I want to structure each day/each week so that I can address all the stuff I need to without shorting anything else and (hopefully) without burning myself out.

The good thing is, I can take a lot of hours out of my: sit-in-front-of-the-tv-and-mope-about-how-crazy-my-life-is time! Sadly, that has been a big issue . . . vicious circle sort of thing, ya know? Things are off kilter, so instead of fixing it, I sit and mope about it, sending it more off kilter. That in turn leads to more moping . . . You get the idea. It stops now though. this weekend will be busy and tiring, but it will also be rewarding. Next week, I will be setting aside a locked time for writing each day, and a regular exercise schedule also. I'll go back to watching what I eat (A tragic side-effect of moping is an overwhelming need to devour large quantities of cookies. No, really! It's a well known fact!) I will have time for the family each night, plus scouts, and time to do the other stuff that I need to do on the weekends.

That's the plan, anyway. The big thing is: I'm counting on the exercise to give me a good bit more energy so I'm prepared to do more than just stagger home and doze off on the couch after dinner each night.

Hey, don't think I forgot about you guys!!!

There's benefits for all my loyal readers in this too! Right off the bat, you won't have to read any more of my pathetic, "cryin' like a littl girl with a skinned knee" posts! (something I'm sure we're ALL tired of!) The new schedule will have time for writing, editing, and submitting my work so you should see lots more on the "Wannabe Writer" stuff soon. Hopefully, you may even find something to your own career useful hereabout. So, there's my promise, folks: no more whining from the fat, bald, guy! He's remembered that he posesses testicles (you know . . . when the wife let's me borrow 'em!) and he's getting back into the swing!

Enjoy the two days off, all!

Later!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Late Day Note

No time for writing of any kind this week, and I'm (once again) depressed as hell. Work has been simply nuts and life at home not much calmer. I'm beginning to wonder if I'm having a mid-life crisis . . . Can you have one of those at 38? Damn it! No one EVER lets me read the rules on these sort of things!

I'm in sort of a strange place, I guess. I've finally gotten a handle on how to write and life seems to be conspiring to stop me from doing it. I've finally settled on what I wanna be when I grow up (Hey, so I'm a little slow, okay?) and it's almost like god is intentionally messing with me to keep me from getting there. (Have I mentioned he's an evil bastard?) It's all just piling up I guess . . . nothing seems to work out the way I want it to and I'm not completely happy with anything at the moment.

I really need a little breathing space from adult life but that's not in the cards any time soon. I just need to shift priorities somehow and MAKE the time to do all the things I know I need to do. It's just . . . hell, I don't even know what it is. I'll get there though, I have faith in that at least. If I've learned anything so far in this life, its' that: it all works out in the end.

Later!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Pissed Off

Alright folks, today I’m going political in a big way and I’m probably going to piss a lot of you off. You may have heard the story about Jay Bennish, the teacher from Colorado who was suspended because he: “Called George bush Adolf Hitler” in front of his class. One of the students taped his lecture and played it for his father, who then complained to the school board, and this teacher was suspended. Well, I am always a big proponent of free speech issues and I’ve been doing some reading on this. What follows is a transcript of the actual lecture, with my own $0.02 thrown in for fun. The content here is controversial, sure, but I think this guy’s being railroaded for doing what he’s supposed to do as a teacher. Read along and form your own opinions, and feel free to call me an asshole in the comments if you so desire. (My comments in bold)

Bennish: Why do we have troops in Colombia fighting in their civil war for over 30 years. Most Americans don't even know this. For over 30 years, America has had soldiers fighting in Colombia in a civil war. Why are we fumigating coca crops in Bolivia and Peru if we're not trying to control other parts of the world. Who buys cocaine? Not Bolivians. Not Peruvians. Americans! Ok. Why are we destroying the farmers' lives when we're the ones that consume that good. Can you imagine? What is the world's number one single cause of death by a drug? What drug is responsible for the most deaths in the world? Cigarettes! Who is the world's largest producer of cigarettes and tobacco? The United States!
What part of our country grows all our tobacco? Anyone know what states in particular? Mostly what's called North Carolina. Alright. That's where all the cigarette capitals are. That's where a lot of them are located from. Now if we have the right to fly to Bolivia or Peru and drop chemical weapons on top of farmers' fields because we're afraid they might be growing coca and that could be turned into cocaine and sold to us, well then don't the Peruvians and the Iranians and the Chinese have the right to invade America and drop chemical weapons over North Carolina to destroy the tobacco plants that are killing millions and millions of people in their countries every year and causing them billions of dollars in health care costs?


--I have no problem with the logic presented here. Set aside nationalism for a moment and look at it from the standpoint of a farmer in any of these countries. Why is it acceptable for the U.S. to regularly destroy their lands and people to prevent them from growing crops, we are opposed to, on their own farms? Why do the people of this country have no problem with the idea of our government attacking other nations in order to enforce our own moral stance, yet have zero tolerance when anyone suggests reciprocating? I’ve read through any number of sites about this statement and Bennis is being universally hailed as a “nut-job” for “encouraging” attacks against the U.S. Sorry, but he said nothing of the sort. He’s pointing out an inconsistency in policy. Maybe you don’t like his simile, but it doesn’t make the point any less valid.--

Make sure you get these definitions down.
Capitalism: If you don't understand the economic system of capitalism, you don't understand the world in which we live. Ok. Economic system in which all or most of the means of production, etc., are owned privately and operated in a somewhat competitive environment for the purpose of producing profit! Of course, you can shorten these definitions down. Make sure you get the gist of it. Do you see how when, you know, when you're looking at this definition, where does it say anything about capitalism is an economic system that will provide everyone in the world with the basic needs that they need? Is that a part of this system? Do you see how this economic system is at odds with humanity? At odds with caring and compassion? It's at odds with human rights.
Anytime you have a system that is designed to procure profit, when profit is the bottom motive -- money -- that means money is going to become more important potentially than what? Safety, human lives, etc.

--Here is another “nut-job” section where a lot of people are accusing Bennis of being “communist”, “na├»ve”, and/or “a lefist/liberal”. Again, I disagree with that offhand judgment. Is he decrying capitalism? No, I don’t believe he is. I think what he’s pointing out here is the underlying fallacy that our economic system is inherently superior to others . . . more “moral” and undeniably “right” for everyone. Bennis’ point that pure pursuit of profit is never an acceptable moral standpoint and that it raises the pursuit of money above the needs of individuals, oftentimes making individuals “victims” to corporate greed, is not an unwarranted attack on our way of life: it’s a simple statement of fact. Corporations, the natural by-product of a capitalist society, have no conscience and take no note of individuals needs or rights unless forced to by rule of law.—

Why did we invade Iraq?! How do we know that the invasion of Iraq for weapons of mass destruction-- even if weapons had been found, how would you have known, how could you prove--that that was not a real reason for us to go there.
There are dozens upon dozens of countries that have weapons of mass destruction. Iraq is one of dozens. There are plenty of countries that are controlled by dictators, where people have no freedom, where they have weapons of mass destruction and they could be potentially threatening to America. We're not invading any of those countries!


--Yet again: I agree. Damn near every nation in the Mid-East has ties to al Qaeda, including the Saudi’s and Pakistani. Why invade Iraq? Hell, Pakistan has nuclear capability but we’re not looking to disarm them, despite the fact that half the terrorists on the planet have hidden in that nation at one time or another--

I'll give you guys another minute or two to get some of these down. I agree with Joey. Try to condense these a little bit. I took these straight out of the dictionary.
Anyone in here watch any of Mr. Bush's speech last night? I'm gonna talk a little about some of things he had to say.

...One of things that I'll bring up now, since some of you are still writing, is, you know, Condoleezza Rice said this the other day and George Bush reiterated it last night. And the implication was that the solution to the violence in the Middle East is democratization. And the implication through his language was that democracies don't go to war. Democracies aren't violent. Democracies won't want weapons of mass destruction. This is called blind, naive faith in democracy!
Who is probably the single most violent nation on planet Earth?!

Unidentified Student: We are.

Bennish: The United States of America! And we're a democracy. Quote-unquote.
Who has the most weapons of mass destruction in the world? The United States.
Who's continuing to develop new weapons of mass destruction as we speak?!The United States.
So, why does Mr. Bush think that other countries that are democracies won't wanna be like us? Why does he think they'll just wanna be at peace with each other?! What makes him think that when the Palestinians get their own state that they won't wanna preemptively invade Israel to eliminate a potential threat to their security just like we supposedly did in Iraq?! Do you see the dangerous precedent that we have set by illegally invading another country and violating their sovereignty in the name of protecting us against a potential future--sorry--attack?
Why doesn't Mexico invade Guatemala? Maybe they're scared of being attacked. Ok. Why doesn't North Korea invade South Korea?! They might be afraid of being attacked. Or maybe Iran and North Korea and Saudi Arabia and what else did he add to the list last night - and Zimbabwe - maybe they're all gonna team up and try and invade us because they're afraid we might invade them. I mean, where does this cycle of violence end? You know?
This whole "do as I say, not as I do" thing. That doesn't work. What was so important about President Bush's speech last night-and it doesn't matter if it was President Clinton still it would just as important- is that it's not just a speech to America. But who? The whole world! It's very obvious that if you listen to his language, if you listen to his body language, and if you paid attention to what he was saying, he wasn't always just talking to us. He was talking to the whole planet. Addressing the whole planet!
He started off his speech talking about how America should be the country that dominates the world. That we have been blessed essentially by God to have the most civilized, most advanced, best system and that it is our duty as Americans to use the military to go out into the world and make the whole world like us.
Sounds a lot like the things that Adolf Hitler use to say.

We're the only ones who are right. Everyone else is backwards. And it's our job to conquer the world and make sure they live just like we want them to.
Now, I'm not saying that Bush and Hitler are exactly the same. Obviously, they are not. Ok. But there are some eerie similarities to the tones that they use. Very, very "ethnocentric." We're right. You're all wrong.

--Here is the kicker that lost this guy his job. Note: he does NOT say Bush is like Hitler, as the news stories claim, he simply compares their rhetoric. In truth, he directly states he does not think Bush is at all like Hitler. He’s right, the stance of “We are superior, we need to lead the world, and we will use force when and where we deem necessary without regard to how the rest of the world feel about it.” Is exactly the propaganda that propelled the Third Reich. If I recall my history, that stance by Germany was one of the reasons the U.N. was formed . . . remember them? The guys who said we DIDN’T have the right to invade Iraq?—

I just keep waiting. You know, at some point I think America and Mexico might go to war again. You know. Anytime Mexico plays the USA in a soccer match. What can be heard chanting all game long? Do all Mexicans dislike the United States? No. Do all Americans dislike Mexico? No. But there's a lot of resentment--not just in Mexico, but across the whole world--towards America right now.
We told--Condoleezza Rice said--that now that Hamas got elected to lead the Palestianians that they have to renounce their desire to eliminate Israel. And then Condoleezza Rice also went on to say that you can't be for peace and support armed struggle at the same time. You can't do that. Either you're for peace or war. But you can't be for both.
What is the problem with her saying this? That's the same thing we say. That is exactly the same thing this current administration says. We're gonna make the world safe by invading and killing and making war. So, if we can be for peace and for war, well, why can't the Palestinians be for peace and for war?

--This is simple logic. You don’t get to slam other folks for being violent when you’re violent yourself. Why is that acceptable? It’s alright when we’re the ones doing the killing . . . because it’s us? Sorry, that’s propaganda of the worst sort: “Some pigs are more equal than others!”--

Sean Allen: (Student who taped lecture) Isn't there a difference of, of, having Hamas being like, we wanna attack Israelis because they're Israelis, and having us say we want to attack people who are known terrorists? Isn't there a difference between saying we're going to attack innocents and we're going to attack people who are not innocent?

Bennish: I think that's a good point. But you have to remember who's doing the defining of a terrorist. And what is a terrorist?


Allen: Well, when people attack us on our own soil and are actually attempting to take American lives and want to take American lives, whereas, Israelies in this situation, aren't saying we want to blow up Palestine...


Bennish: How did Israel and the modern Israeli state even come into existence in the first place?


Allen: We gave it to them.


Bennish: Sort of. Why? After the Israel-Zionist movement conducted what? Terrorist acts. They assassinated the British prime minster in Palestine. They blew up buildings. They stole military equipment. Assassinated hundreds of people. Car bombings, you name it. That's how the modern state of Israel was made. Was through violence and terrorism. Eventually we did allow them to have the land. Why? Not because we really care, but because we wanted a strategic ally. We saw a way to us to get a hook into the Middle East.
If we create a modern nation of Israel, then, and we make them dependent on us for military aid and financial aid, then we can control a part of the Middle East. We will have a country in the Middle East that will be indebted to us.


Allen: But is it ok to say it's just to attack Israel? If it's ok to attack known terrorists, it's ok to attack Israel?


Bennish: If you were Palestinians, who are the real terrorists? The Israelis, who fire missiles that they purchased from the United States government into Palestinian neighborhoods and refugees and maybe kill a terrorist, but also kill innocent women and children. And when you shoot a missile into Pakistan to quote-unquote kill a known terrorist, and we just killed 75 people that have nothing to do with al Qaeda, as far as they're concerned, we're the terrorists. We've attacked them on their soil with the intention of killing their innocent people.

--Folks don’t wanna hear this but there’s truth in that. The terrorists really DO have good reasons for hating us. They’re not evil lunatics who just want to kill innocent people. From their side of the fence, WE are the crazed lunatics and THEY are the heroic freedom fighters. In a lot of ways we have been the cause of our own misery. We have consistently supported puppet dictatorships to further our own interests in the region at the expense of the people who have to live there. Does this justify their violent actions? No, it doesn’t, anymore than British despotism justified the IRA, but we need to pull our heads out of the sand and realize we are not just simple victims here. We DID play a part in starting this nightmare.—

Allen: But we did not have the intention of killing innocent people. We had the intention of killing an al Qaeda terrorist.


Bennish: Do you know that?


Allen: So, you're saying the United States has intentions to kill innocent people?


Bennish: I don't know the answer to that question.


Allen: But what gain do we get from killing innocent people in the Middle East? What gain does that pose to us?


Bennish: Let me ask you this. During the 1980s, Iran and Iraq were involved in an 8-year-long war. The United States sold missiles, tanks, guns, planes, to which side?

Unidentified student: Iraq?

Bennish: Both. The answer is both. Why would we send armaments to two sides that are fighting each other. That seems to be self-defeating. Don't we want one side to win? Not always! Sometimes you just want there to be conflict! The British -- this is one of the grand strategies of the British imperial system--was to play local animosities off each other. To prevent them is to divide and conquer. Do we really want the Middle East to unite as one cohesive political and cultural body? No! Because then they could what? Threaten our supremacy.
We want to keep the world divided. Do we really want to kill innocent people? I don't know. I don't know the answer to that. I know there are some Americans who do. People who work in the CIA. People who have to think like that. Those kind of dirty minds, dirty tricks. That's how the intelligence world works. Sometimes you do want to kill people just for the sake of killing them. Right?
Listen, between the years 1960 and 1962, the United States through the CIA conducted over 7,000 terrorist sabotage attacks against the small island nation of Cuba. Over 7,000 terrorist attacks were waged against just one little country called Cuba in a two year period, intentionally, let me rephrase that, intentionally blowing up medical supplies, intentionally burning down crops that feed their country, thereby creating starvation, right? Intentionally trying to make that system collapse. And we're willing to expend however many thousands of people died because we just want to get rid of Castro. And the sad reality is that there are some policy planners who are willing to let people die in order to achieve their objectives.


-- This sounds a bit paranoid on his part, but there’s nothing actually untrue in what he says. I do not believe we acted with any malice toward individuals, but I’m not fool enough to think that’s going to clear the issue of killing children by mistake. If it was your kid caught in a bombing and the bombers said: “Oops, we didn’t MEAN to hurt any innocents. We were aiming for military targets” would you shrug and say: “Okay, it was just a mistake.” Or would you be the first guy in line for a gun to start shooting the bastards who killed your kid? I know where I’d be! Violence breeds violence and pretty phrases like “collateral damage” don’t change that.--

Now, do I think President Bush says 'I'd like to go kill some innocent Palestianians?' I don't think he thinks like that. But I also know that he's not the only one making decisions. I also know that after September 11, President Bush got on TV and he said, 'You will feel our wrath. You will feel the full force of the United States military. There will be paybacks.' He said it again last night. He said, 'We've killed a lot of top-ranking al Qaeda members. And for those who aren't killed yet, you're day will come!' Right? That kind of language to me is very obvious.
And when you go trying to kill one particular type of person, you know that you're gonna kill other people, too. And let me ask you this...


Allen: Later in that, he stated that he's trying to kill innocents...


Bennish: I understand that, but hold on, you have to understand something, that when al Qaeda attacked America on September 11, in their view, they're not attacking innocent people. Ok. The CIA has an office at the World Trade Center. The Pentagon is a military target. The White House was a military target. Congress is a military target. The World Trade Center is the economic center of our entire economy. The FBI, who tracks down terrorists and so on and so forth around the world, has offices in the World Trade Center. Some of the companies that work in the World Trade Center are these huge multinational corporations that are directly involved in the military-industrial complex in supporting corrupt dictatorships in the Middle East.
And so in the minds of al Qaeda, they're not attacking innocent people. They're attacking legitimate targets. People who have blood on their hands as far as they're concerned!
We portray them as innocent because they're our friends and neighbors, family, loved ones. One of my best friends from high school, elementary school, and birth, lives in lower Manhattan. You know, he was right there, he was four blocks away from it. So, anytime it comes close to home, you begin to see things differently.

--Now, I know this pisses a lot of folks off. Doesn’t make me very happy either, I’m in Jersey and have my own tales of friends and family who were there on Sept. 11, 2001. Much as I hate to say it though, he’s right again. In the eyes of the terrorists, these were legitimate targets. Did a lot of “collateral damage” occur? Hell yes, but we shrug it off all the time when we do it. That’s a part of war, we say . . . but as a nation we refuse to acknowledge that these people are at war with us! They’re just criminals and murderers . . . WE are patriots and soldiers! Maybe so, but I don’t think it matters whose gun the bullet came from when it takes your head off.--

In no way am I implying, I don't know, you got to figure this stuff out for yourself, but I want you to think about these things--you know, think about this right here. Here's the real homeland security. Fighting terrorism since 1492! Ok. I mean, to many Native Americans, that flag is no different than the Nazi flag or the Confederate flag. It represents the people that came and stole their land, lied, brought disease, rape, pillage, destruction, etc. So it all depends upon varying people's perspectivesvarying. And of course, we're going to see ourselves as being in the right , at least the majority of us, because that's us.

--The statement above kills the technical stance that Bennis was propagating his “personal views” in a class environment. He was providing opposing viewpoint and asking the students to reach their own decisions on the matter. THAT is a teacher’s job! Or it is supposed to be . . .—

Allen: But we were the ones that were attacked first. On September 11, 2001, we were the ones that were attacked. We were not attacking anybody until that point. Then we said ok, we're going into Afghanistan. Then we said ok, the Iraqi government has ties with al Qaeda. We're going to go into Iraq. We were the ones that were attacked.

Bennish: In actuality, if you remember back to my first day, the Sept. 11 attacks were, according to bin Laden, a direct response to our support of the nation of Israel, which they consider to be a terrorist regime that does not have the right to control the land that the Palestinians lived on for over 1,500 years, and they also did it because of what George Clinton did--Bill Clinton, not George Clinton, they had a little documentary on him on PBS last night I was watching--Bill Clinton, when he launched the missile attacks into Afghanistan and Sudan and killed thousands of innocent Africans and Afghanistan people - Afghanis - that had nothing to do with al Qaeda or anything. In fact, in sudan, he blew up the country's largest pharmaceutical plant, which was producing medicines, alright, um, you know, that's as far as, in their eyes, that was retaliation for those attacks.
And so this whole idea of who attacked who first, how far back in time do you wanna go!? This is the whole thing with the Arab-Israeli conflict. Well, who was there first? Well, if you believe the Bible, you say, well, God gave the land of Canaan to the Israelites. But who was in that land when they got there? The Canaanites, who some archeologists would argue are the ancient descendants of the Palestinians. You know. Other archeologists say the Hebrews didn't really come from Egypt. They were actually a group of Canaanites who decided they didn't like the other Canaanites and developed this story afterward to justify how they killed all their neighborsand took over the land.
Alright, and so this becomes very, very muddled. And I'm not in any way implying that you should agree with me. I don't even know if I'm necessarily taking a position. But what I'm trying to get you to do is to think, right, about these issues more in-depth, you know, and not just take things from the surface. And I'm glad you asked all your questions, because they're very good, legitimate questions. And hopefully that allows other people to begin to think about some of those things, too.

END

And once more, he’s encouraging his students to study and think instead of accepting the opinions thrust at them, not even his own! The argument that he was suspended for not teaching “both sides” of the argument is pure bull. He was addressing the common beliefs that these students hear daily and see on every news program each night. He made a specific point –not once, but twice- of telling them his opinion was not the “true” answer but merely encouraging them to think and be skeptical. Those are GOOD things to teach our children. Bennis’ suspension was a pure fear reaction to current government pressures and kowtowing to the gods of “political correctness”.

I have always had concerns about public schools being a “training ground” to teach the children of the unwashed masses their proper place in the world, and to snuff out any thoughts of resisting the “truths” that our beneficent government chooses to impart to us. A teacher should be encouraging his students to view all “truths” with a jaundiced eye, to keep an open mind in any argument, and to view all sides of an issue before taking a stand. That is exactly what this gentleman did, and he’s being punished for it.

Look, I’m the first guy in line to say we should turn the entire Middle East into a glass parking lot. I don’t give a crap if they have a just complaint or not, I see it as pure survival: us or them. I choose US. However, before making a decision like that we, as a nation, should have all the information available and have the necessary training for rational thinking and ethical judgment. That is what Mr. Bennish was trying to provide his students; the ability to work in rational rhetoric and debate, not just regurgitating the pabulum served to them by those in power. It is an abomination that he should be suspended for attempting to teach the children under his care to think. Disagree with what he said? Fine, feel free. He didn’t claim to believe it himself, he was playing devil’s advocate. For the conservative media and politicians to make him a scapegoat and accuse him of treason and corrupting the minds of our youth?

Shit, fellas, you’re just underlining the point he was making!!!! THAT is exactly what the Nazi’s would have done!!!!


Later.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Let's Get Graphic

2,000 more words on "First" today over lunch, but I've written myself into a bit of a corner. Seems my injured MC is not going to recover from his wounds, as seen by a woman who can foretell the future with 100% accuracy, but (of course!) he won't die. Now, how that happens . . . beats the hell outta me! I'll just tag along for the ride and see what fantastic series of events puts the lie to her flawless oracular powers. That is one of the very cool things about writing: the complete surprises that jump out at you.

The weekend should be a pretty good one. We have tickets to a concert this weekend. We're taking my boy and my nephew. They're always a fun pair to hang around with. Two smart, genuinely intelligent, and all-around nice kids. It should be a very good time. My nephew is hanging for the weekend, so my son is dancing for joy. The pair of them are only a few months apart in age and have been tighter than most brothers since they were infants. I love the fact that my boy (who is an only child) has someone he's that close to. I hope they hold onto it as they move into high school, college, and beyond. I really think they will, they're both each other's best friend and the little nut jobs both think alike so I have faith . . .

Hey, looking for something completely fascinating to read? It's a web comic I found a few weeks back called "Something Positive" I read the first few pages and was completely hooked. It's taken a while, but I've read through the entire archive and it is a brilliant bit of story telling. Be warned: it is adult in nature, extremely offensive, and unbelievably insensitive to just about every group on the planet . . . but it also has outstanding characters with genuine emotions, needs, and feelings. You come to care for them very quickly and your heart will break a little bit with each of their traumas. It's really good stuff: I recommend highly. Second warning: I ain't kiddin': it can be realllllly offensive, so if you don't have a black sense of humor, steer clear.

I've always been a fan of comics. I grew up on X-Men, Spidey, and any other bit of Marvel I could lay hands on. Later, friends introduced me to some of the independent press stuff, like Elfquest and V for Vendetta (yup, it was a comic first!) and I loved them. I collected comics for a long time and I am a huge fan of the open forum the Web provides for people who might never have the opportunity to publish on any reasonable scale to get their artwork and ideas out there. It's one of the Web's best contributions to society (Well, that and lots of porn . . . but this is a family-friendly blog so we won't discuss that!) There is something about the combination of great artwork and a few well-placed words that can truly move your heart. Some of the most potent images in my memory are no more than a few frames of art that left me gasping for air. There is something about a wounded hero standing all alone in the shadows, forgotten by all, and nursing his own pain, that appeals to me. The moments when the hero should be lauded and isn't, or worse yet: is despised for what he's done . . . something in that concept appeals to me viscerally. It makes its way into a lot of my novels. I am a firm believer in the old saw: "No good deed goes unpunished" and I have a weak spot for folks who KNOW that, but do the right thing anyway.

That's just me.

Later!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Micro Wars!

Howdy, all!

I'm starting to feel almost like a real human being again. After work yesterday, I crawled home, dragged my ass down the hall to the bedroom, clawed my way up into the bed and sort of . . . squished myself under the covers. There I lay, begging God for a quick and merciful death (which of course, the mean SOB refused to give me!) Luckily, the vile microscopic beasties which had lain siege to my body's inner workings seem to have taken a severe ass-beating from my devoted hordes of antibodies (they just love me!) Charging forward upon their thundering white blood cells, my legions of biologic doom descended upon the ravenous invaders, shredding them limb from limb! Even as I type, the tattered remnant of the viral raider's army is being marched from the sacrosanct haven of Jimland via the secret passes of Nasalia . . .

Okay, I'm getting creepy now. The shorthand is: I slept it off and now I've got a ton of snot running out of me.

Busy-crazy week at work, or I'd have taken off today to get some more rest in. I'm still not at 100%. Problem is, with opening two more offices, I'm backstopping for the IT guys today & tomorrow, so I can't call out. Ain't that always the way? The nasty illness always waits until it KNOWS you have to go to work . . .

Writing - hell, it's been non-existent this week. The depression hasn't grabbed hold of me yet (I think mainly because I feel too bad physically to give a shit how I feel emotionally!) so I'm just hoping I can get back into it before the bleakness strkes. Tomorrow looks promising . . . barring any IT nightmares that come up, I may actually have time to take lunch and get some work done on "First".

Later!