Palpatine Always Wins

Remember when I talked — just a post or so ago, to remind you — about having an adult conversation about this virus and all of its fallout?  When I talked about those in positions of power and influence offering *gasp!* honest information and assessments?

Ahh, the naivety of youth…

The folks who worked with and for me asked, when all of this shit started to fall apart, if the furloughs really were temporary, or if “furlough” was Latin for “fired”.

At the time, I laughed and reassured them.

At the time, I even believed that reassurance.


Now,…not so much.

Just how many of the “temporarily furloughed” will be rehired when all the COVID fun and games are finished?  Hope and optimism tell me that number is in the 90%+ range…but hope and optimism are abusive lovers who have beat the shit out of me in the past, so why believe them now?

Companies get a bad reputation from mass firings — err, “course corrections” — so many avoid them like the plague…


Well, there goes that argument.

When you’re IN the freaking plague, what is there to avoid?

It’s a “Get Out of Jail Free” card for the executive set, that’s what it is.  They get to fire…  Sorry, they get to furlough until their hearts are content, but then they can Palp_trustmepoint to viruses and conspiracies and democrats and republicans to pass on every iota of blame…

Ahh, it’s good to be a heartless asshole when the world is falling apart.

A few weeks ago, I thought jobs were safe.  Today, I thinks it’s a flip of the coin.  And tomorrow?  Tomorrow, I think you’re gonna have to roll the hard seven to have a job.

F76F7DCC-4694-4719-9406-9FE8BDC33FE1But, hey, at least we have the election to look forward to…

Shit, where did I put that bottle of scotch?

Sweeping Out The Corners

I spent the last day and half of my newfound freedom — err, “furlough” — doing what it is freelance writers do: I worked up a finished article to send to a few pubs I’ve worked with in the past, and a couple of proposals to send to…well…anyone who might bite.

At least I wasn’t doing lists!

1237636_f520Lists are the freelance writer’s version of, well, selling your blood plasma — all you have, in the end, is a few new scars, a few loose coins left over, and a nasty hangover…

So, with all that in mind, what to throw into a blog post?

Well, crap.

Given that I’m sitting outside (after a day and a half in front of the computer), enjoying the sun with a gin & tonic in one hand and my iPad in the other, I’m struggling to put my thoughts, as scattered and pointless as they are, together into anything resembling a cohesive whole.  So…well…maybe I’ll do a list!


Do as I say, not as I do…right?  Okay, so it’s not really a “list” so much as my writer-version of sweeping out all the crap and dust and cobwebs cluttering up the corners of my mind…

  1. Lets have an adult conversation, for once, for the love of all that’s holy: too often, those in positions of influence and power simply refuse to believe that anyone else — anyone beneath them, in their view — are capable of abstract thought, rational decision-making, reasoned consideration, or any of the other adult behaviors we expect from each other every single freaking day.  The government won’t give straight information (both sides, mind you) because they don’t trust you and me to be all grown up and mature.  Similarly, neither will businesses treat their staff or customers as thinking, functioning adults.  No, instead, much like the government, everything is platitudes and generalizations and enough happy-talk to make a bitter, battered cynic like me throw up a little in my mouth every time I hear the same bullshit repeated over and over, ad infinitum (or ad nauseam, take your pick).
  2. Easter is when it all changed, by the way: everyone likes to say the eruption of coronavirus and COVID-19 were the “big change”, but that’s not quite true.  Oh, sure, that was a black swan event that set chaos into motion, but folks were mostly — aside from the conspiracy-theory, “it’s-just-a-flu”, “let’s-build-some-herd-immunity” jack-asses — willing to listen to advice and rules to isolate and and shut down in order to defeat the invisible enemy.  Then, seemingly suddenly, things changed.  But what changed, really?  Yeah, people were sick of self-quarantining, and of seeing the same walls and same family members every minute of every day.  Yeah, people were also starting to run out of cash and run-up ludicrous credit card bills — a problem that is gonna go off like a freakin’ H-bomb, mind you, in a month or two — but that wasn’t what really drove the change and “opening” we’re starting to see.  No, as far as I can tell — with a writer’s eye, as well as a historian’s — it comes/came down to one single, searing image: police breaking up Easter Sunday services.  You can say what you will about the United States, but it doesn’t matter what political or social “side” you’re on for the thought and concept of the government “cracking down” on folks gathering to worship to become strong enough to start a revolution.  It doesn’t matter if it is priest or pastor or rabbi or imam, or whatever teacher you choose to follow, we as a people have an atavistic hatred and fear of the government criminalizing worship.  I’m not sure if most folks can even step back far enough to think and consider and see that, but I very much believe that is true: one video, even one simple photo, of a religious leader led away in handcuffs for holding a worship service is about the most powerfully devastating thing you can imagine to someone in the US.
  3. Wait, coronavirus voted Democrat?!?: rather than have me type them all out, please insert here 15 or 20 of the worst curses, phrases and swear-words you know.  Okay, thanks for that, I feel better(ish) now.  As I’ve said before, I tagged-out of the political match a few years ago.  I’m not on one team or the other, I think they both do far more harm than good.  How hard is it, then, for me to watch the current politicization of this virus?  Err, please insert more curses here, and make them worse this time.  There are legit arguments to be made for both the “shut it all down” case, and for the “cure can’t be worse than the disease” one.  That’s fine, that’s part of — going back to point number one, up above — being an adult.  But when did politics ever involve adults, for fuck’s sake?!  The rest of the world has, for the most part, their shit in order…but here at home…  Oh, here at home…  Jesus H Fuc…err, insert some more curse words, please, and don’t repeat yourself this time!  The fact that the US has reached the point where quarantine/isolation equals “democrat”, while re-opening equals “republican” is the most criminally, pointlessly useless bit of political tribalism that I can fucking well imagine.  Get over it, people.  Microscopic life forms do not give one single shit about what useless sack of nothingness you voted for in the last election.  Just as much, a Depression and poverty also do not give a single shit about who you voted for.  How about, oh I don’t know, we think about the entire country for a fucking change?!?!
  4. Ahem.  Nothing to see here, I’m just using this space to drink some more…and to try and stop cussing.  Move along.
  5. 729318B1-DF21-420C-898E-4CF312DBE7E5“Show me what’s inside your head”: okay, so not really a topic, it’s actually a line from a song.  But, holy crap, is there a line more powerful or pointed for a writer?  Think about it for a minute.  Don’t worry about the song, or the artist.  Don’t worry about what you do for a living.  Don’t worry about the medium or the aesthetic or any of the other bullshit words and phrases we artists like to attach to things.  Just think about the words…and the concept.  To me, that line is not advice or observation or suggestion, that line is commandment.  Every single word I write, in one way or another, is a way to show others what’s inside my head — and, no, it ain’t always pretty.  It is, in fact, quite often fucked up, bitter, and confused.  It has also been known to be drunk, frivolous, silly, and no-holds-barred, squirrel-fucking nuts…welcome to my head!

There is one thing I want to add, and it is not really a part of the list above is.  It’s an explanation about a specific point in my last post.  To (try to) make a point in that post, I conflated Alabama and Saudi Arabia.  Now, I’m a writer…that means words and images and concepts have meanings.  More, it means I am responsible and accountable for the words and images and meanings I write.

I want to be very, very clear: I was in no way condemning the vast, vast majority of Christians or Muslims.  Quite frankly, humanity and our world/society are much better for the thoughts and influence that both have had on our world.  What I condemn, unequivocally and virulently, are the fundamentalist sects of both religions — of all religions — who move beyond personal morality and spirituality to try and impose their own beliefs on others.

I place, to be honest, the Wahabbists of Saudi Arabia in the same basket as the fundamentalist evangelicals of the US.  Both are equally intolerant, and both are equally evil.

As I’ve said more than once on this blog, your morality is your business…and mine is mine.  I respect folks for their faith — especially when it drives them to give and to help others — but as soon as your chosen faith becomes my unchosen commandment, a very dangerous line has been crossed…

Video Games As Art

Sooo…I’m trying to convince this raven that, even though I’m not at the top of the food chain up here, I’m higher than he is.

It ain’t working.

Damn this bird. He’s reminding me just how little control I have over the critters around here…

At any rate, as you can guess from the late posting today, I have once again failed to go with my “Yellowstone Practical” theme.

Nope, not gonna do it today, either. Ah well, so goeth most of my plans…

I was watching podcasts last night with a friend of mine, and I got to thinking. As a general rule, “getting to thinking” is dangerous for me.  I should probably add, these were video game podcasts…and, yes, my friend (Billy) and I are very much nerds-of-a-feather.

Two things I miss up here, more than just about anything else: cooking and games. I love to cook…I live for cooking…and yet I have to eat three meals a day prepared by other people. I already have about three weeks worth of meals planned for when I get back…

Just below cooking, however, comes video games. I miss playing games…especially good games.

So, at any rate, Billy and I got to talking about games…and especially about games that mattered, games that had something to say. And, to those of you that scoff, I’ll reissue a challenge I gave a year or so ago: go play This War of Mine. Better yet, go play That Dragon Cancer. Only after that can you try and tell me that games don’t have anything to say. The first of those made me well-and-truly uncomfortable (in the best literary sense of that word), while the second made me cry like a broken-hearted six-year-old.

Now, look…I know that most games are mindless trash. I know that most games have no message beyond, “Me mash button…me kill…rawr!”  But – and this is the important bit – not ALL games are that way. In fact, as a writer, I have to admit that there are things a game can do that a written story cannot.

There is an immersion to games that no book, no matter how good, can match. With a book, you (the reader) are simply too far removed from the circumstances. In a game – err, in a well-made game – it is very much a personal, intimate thing. Think about it: as writers, we use dialogue and action to carry and move the story. Hell, most of the time, we use them for exposition and set-up just as much as we do for action.

In a game, however, you can use many, many other things to carry that message. Lighting, “set” design, color scheme, character design…

“But, but, movies!” I hear you scream. Nope, not the same. Think about it: in a movie, we need movement and action and dialogue in order to create tension.

Try this exercise: imagine a scene with one single, lone character walking down a dark hall. Pretty simple, when you get right down to it. In a book, I would need to have certain things happening in order to create tension. Whether those things were internal, like flashbacks or internal thoughts/monologue, or external like noises or movement, it would be something that was NOT integral to the scene itself, something “beyond” the dark hall.

In a movie, that problem gets nothing but worse. I would have to have a great deal of “external” stimuli in order to maintain the audience’s interest. Whether those stimuli were music, or dialogue with an off-screen companion, or sound effects, it would have to be (like the book) something external to the dark hall.

But in a game…but in a game…but in a game, I could put you walking down a dark hall and, if the perspective and set-up were right, do nothing else. With the intimacy and immediacy of the player experience, the simple tension of walking down a dark, unknown hall can make the experience terrifying.

I have, I should add, written for video games in the past, so I am not completely objective in this discussion. I love long-form writing. I love, especially, novels. Shit, you all know enough about me, by now, to know that I’m a wordy bastard, so novels are about the only way I can really sink my teeth into writing a story. But, and this is a big but, the options and imagination that game-writing opened for me were some of the best training I have ever had.

Apologies to all of my professors from college (err, both colleges), but I learned more about writing from those times I wrote for games than I did over all the years it took me to earn two liberal arts degrees.

Got paid better, too.

And, yep…if you haven’t guessed…we’re well into real-time, drunk-bloggin’ at this point. Just deal with it. I haven’t done one of these in a loooong time, and I needed the outlet. Returning to the the real world is right around the corner, and I’m pretty fucking sure I’m not ready.

Seriousness and business and work? Paying attention to shit over which I have no control?

I would much rather be heading off for one of my solo, off-trail hikes. When I’m off-trail, I own everything. Which, in the end, really just comes to the most simple of facts: if I survive, I did it right. If I die, I fucked up.

When you get right down to it, that’s what life is all about…isn’t it?