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…

Phrase o’ the Day: Ectoplasmic Tommy Gun!

Hrm…  Okay, so I’m still playing catch-up on posts, which means I think it might be time for the writerly equivalent of the puzzled shrug…that old slacker favorite, the list:

  1. I read a few news bits over the last couple of days about the State of the Union.  More specifically, about postponing or cancelling the thing because of the government “shutdown.”  To these pieces — and to the concept of delaying/cancelling — I say, “Well, duh.”  Is there a more pointless or pathetic example of kabuki theater than the freaking State of the Union?  For a long, long time the damned thing was just a letter sent to Congress, not the spectacle of imperial excess and extravagance that we have now.  Shit, all the Constitution requires is “notification” to Congress of the state of the union (note the lack of capitals!).  coronation_of_nicholas_ii_by_l.tuxen_(1898,_hermitage)What it does not require are speeches carefully scripted and crafted with *wait for applause* moments.  What it does not require is the expenditure of millions of dollars on something we already know will be cheered by one team and booed by the other, regardless of content or message.  What it does not require is empty pomp and circumstance and ceremony from 500+ people who can’t even do their fucking jobs.
  2. Ahem.  Rant over.  Thanks for your patience.
  3. Britain and the EU.  Oh, Britain and the EU…  As a history-nerd, I absolutely love the political maneuvering and shenanigans on display.  As an English history-nerd, I am completely appalled by the sheer incompetence on display.  I mean…shit…how in God’s name can you make the US Congress look like freaking workaholic geniuses?!?!  winston-churchill-with-tommy-gun_a-g-7613085-0Churchill isn’t turning over in his grave, he’s off getting pass-out drunk.  Every single person at Westminster — both government and opposition — should be happy his ghost is just doing that, by the way…otherwise he’d be stalking the halls with an ectoplasmic tommy gun, taking them all out.*  Look, I love both England and Europe as a whole…but the EU is an idiocy.  As a trade union, it’s great.  As a common market, it’s perfect.  As the “ever closer union” trying to force 27 very, very different nations/peoples/societies/cultures to turn into some bastard-mutant-child of the worst parts of France and Germany, it’s nothing more than the rankest insanity.  Unfortunately, like every single example in history of “technocrats” and “elites” who “know better,” who know “what’s good for you,” they won’t — they can’t — let even one single person slip from their control…
  4. *Churchill 2: He’s Back, And He’s Pissed! — hey, I’d pay to watch it!
  5. It’s gonna snow again in a couple of days…and I can’t freaking wait.  After the last dumping, I took off for a moderate off-trail hike.  Now, it can be hard in Colorado to find “untrammeled wilderness” without having to go deep into the mountains, but a nice knee-deep coating of snow with no footprints from anything or anyone but the wildlife is a nice freaking start. I’m getting the itch again, by the way, for one of those 6-month jaunts off to…err…well…nowhere in particular.  Go back to Krakow or Tallinn or Prague as an illegal alien, working tour gigs and bartending…or hike the Pacific Crest Trail…
  6. Yep, there’s a song for #5 too!:

How Much For Just The Kidney?

6BA433B2-B88E-431E-8FF6-D167B7A87E8FOkay…so, most of the time, writing a “list” post happens because a blog writer — not me *cough, cough* no, never me *cough* — can’t come up with anything better.  A list is a “Get Out of Posting Free” card…

Other times, however, the lists come up because…well…there’s too much shit to talk about for any one post. Today is one of those…because, of course, I would never ever do a list for the first reason!

Shit, not even my mother bought that one.


Never mind.

So, anyway…a random list of squirrel-moments:

1) Why the hell do we get so worked up about Supreme Court appointments? I mean, honestly, no one gave a shit until the late 80’s(ish), so why get so freaking insane (for or against) now? Because Congress willingly gave up all but a tiny vestige of its power, influence and credibility decades ago, that’s why. They shifted the intended three-way separation of powers into a two-way one when they got on their knees and refused to take a stand on anything. When the Founders put together the Constitution, they envisaged the tension between the branches — and the loyalty elected officials had to their respective branches — outweighing factional or party interests. What, after all, did a popularly elected House member have in common with the “landed gentry” of the Senate? Sorry Jefferson and Adams, but y’all missed on that one. As much as those guys wanted to avoid the bullshit of Britain’s Parliamentary system, and the concomitant supremacy of party over everything else, we still ended up at a point where loyalty to team trumps loyalty to nation and people. And, in spite of how much we complain, we voters keep voting for the idiots (on both sides) who contribute to the general level of incompetence and bullshit. *sigh* Sometimes I wish I hadn’t studied the fall of the Roman Republic quite so closely…

62AF9E94-D55D-4A73-A611-3EEE37F19CAA2) Last Friday’s post got me to thinking that I should probably explain what I mean by “flash fiction”. Umm, well, I actually meant to add such an explanation to that post…but I forgot. Sorry ‘bout that. So, a bit of explanation: when I use the “flash fiction” tag on a story, it means I gave myself an hour to get it done. That’s it. An hour to come up with an idea, write the story, edit it, then import it into WordPress and post it to the blog. To use that particular post as an example: I sat down to start working at roughly 9:15 AM, with no idea at all as to what I wanted to write. At 10:00 AM, I hit the “Publish” button for The Dark. An extra hour or two — let alone an extra day! — would have made that little story much better…but then it wouldn’t have fit under my personal definition of Flash Fiction.

3) Why the hell are we as humans — and especially me, as a writer — so self-limiting? “Oh, I’ll do X when I have money…” is an excuse we all too often use. It is also one that all too easily becomes “Yeah, I can afford it, but I’ll wait and do X when I have the time…” as soon as circumstances change. Bah! Harrumph!! Just how much shit can I/we put off, anyway? I think I’m going for a World Record on that particular topic… Remember — all the way back to Wednesday! — when I talked about putting yourself into your writing? Hobbies and interests and the like? Yeah, maybe I should take my own stinkin’ advice from time to time: I’ve had this concept for a nonfiction book half-researched and outlined for…oh…three years or so, now. It’s an area that is a passion of mine, and one in which I actually am an expert (rather than my usual fake-it-‘til-you-make-it BS), but still the thing sits in Scrivener unattended and unwritten… *yet-another-sigh*

64AEF2C6-4026-4B25-8284-5FA441864A9A4) Another of those things I’m putting off is travel, and that itch is starting to strike…bad. Since I made the (semi-poor) decision to come back from Yellowstone, I haven’t really gone anywhere. Freaking Denver is the most exotic place I’ve been recently…and that ain’t particularly impressive for someone who lives all of an hour away from Denver. New countries are calling to me, places I’ve never seen: Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Turkey, Georgia… Old countries are calling, too, favorite places: Italy, Croatia, Czech, the Baltics… I feel almost like I did when I posted a rant a few weeks back: “…cannot get out…”

0F30B67B-CACC-4A28-AF2F-D6890D0AE4715) To go with #4 above — I had my photo gear stolen a while back.  $15,000 worth of camera and lenses, gone in a poof because I’m an idiot who can’t lock his truck.  The insurance payout was…err…not good, so I despaired of even trying to get back into pro-level gear.  I finally started shopping for cameras the other day, however.  I started shopping and stopped almost as quickly as I started.  Just to get to a decent starting baseline will run a minimum of $3,000.  THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS.  Anyone need a kidney?  I got one for sale: one owner, lots of miles…