Log in

No account? Create an account

Tales From an Irish Gypsy

With miles to go before I sleep

I have no memory of this place
Kitty issues
Oh hey, I have a Live Journal...

(no subject)
Kitty issues
January. What did I do with you January? I vowed in the closing moments of 2010, at least when there wasn't some right proper snogging going on, to make 2011 the year when I really got back on the horse. Back to old form, like I was from 2000-2006, where it was all progress, all the time. I used to wake up every morning ready to kick ass and chew bubblegum, and a lot of the time, I was out of bubblegum. I got burnt out, as was inevitable, and took about an, oh, *checks his watch* four year hiatus.

But before you or I judge, let's think about that, really. I busted my hump all through school, K through 12, to get good grades, good test scores, and the resultant good scholarships. My family made it very clear to me that college was not in the budget, no matter how hard they tried, so it was loans and debt or full-ride academics for me. I continued to run myself ragged in college(1) to keep those scholarships and to graduate on time after a freshman/sophomore major change that transferred almost NO credits between the two. I got an internship in New York which started a month after I graduated college, got hired straight into my associate editor position from the internship, nearly killed myself holding down that job and doing stand-up comedy, then wandered around the country just being a bohemian bastard for awhile.

When I finally stopped moving in 2006, it was the first time I had ever actually done that. I did nothing, and it was everything I thought it could be. When people ask me how I ended up working at Wal-Mart, or Kroger, that's the long form answer I'd like to be able to give them, if it were a question they were genuinely interested in knowing the full story behind. I wanted to do nothing for awhile. I wanted to do something I could train a monkey to do, so that I could wander into the quiet library stacks of my brain that had been gathering dust in all the commotion. Was I lazy? Yes, for the first time I indulged that side of me fully. I've always been what I call a "Proactive Slacker" and a "Professional Crastinator," but this was the first era in my life when I said, "You know what? I want to be a bum. A lousy stinking bum." Which isn't, of course, to say I didn't do anything at all. Just nowhere near what I had been doing.

It was a welcome reprieve from a publishing industry I was sick of, a writing career I was tired of beating my head against, a comedy career that had damn near killed me, and a corporate desk job that made fifth floor windows look very appealing(2). But sometime last year it started to wear thin. The novelty was gone, and I was starting to feel like a slug. I was putting on weight, feeling the roots start to set in, and that was never the intention. Lazy wasn't a lifestyle choice. It was just a break after 25 years of "ZOMG WORK!!1!one!"

So...January. What did I do with you?

- I lost 20 pounds. That's my 16 pound bowling ball and my big orange cat of me that isn't there anymore. My clothes fit better, my energy level is up, I've disavowed HFCS almost entirely (it's almost too prolific to completely avoid), and all in all I'm just brighter and glowier. These things have been noted by people who know nothing of my plans and progress. I call that a victory.

- I am getting back into the habit of writing. I have produced more words this month than I have outside of NaNo purposes since 2004. The blog, while still not regular by my old standards, is practically erupting by comparison to recent years. We're making this happen. And while I have not dedicated this renewed drive to write to any one singular project for the purpose of submission, I feel more and more comfortable sitting down at a keyboard again, and less and less critical of what comes out. So while I didn't technically meet my resolution of three submissions per month, I did increase my production a hundred fold. We'll call that a draw.

- I landed three job interviews, two of which went very well and will (hopefully) leave me back in a steady nine to five weekday job. Structure can only do good things for me at this point. I have to think that was part of why I was so productive in New York. There was a definitive time for everything. Except sleep. Another victory!

- I indulged my long-standing desire to teach or tutor, based on my previous experiences and the steadfast belief that I could actually do some good with someone if they were willing to give me their attention. I took on the daughter of one of my mother's friends as a student, and after one week of work she brought home her first 100 on a biology test. Ever. Her mother actually started crying when she checked the grade online and saw that. And it made me really proud for her, too, because her main problem is confidence, not intelligence, and I can see that needle starting to tick its way up as I work with her from a place of exceeding familiarity on the subject. Victory!

- I acquired a guitar and began working on building my skills and callouses back up. I remember more than I thought I would, and I'm making a dedicated effort to actually study the theory this time, not just memorize tab. I downloaded some recording software, and if the job thing comes through I'm getting a bass. Already have a drum kit. Home studio, anyone? Aww yeah. Maybe not victory yet, but definitely win.

So far, I'm on pace for an outstanding 2011. It's just a matter of carrying this momentum forward against the naysayers and the dream crushers and the people who just don't understand what it means to be genuinely driven to do things other than sleep, work, and die. I think I'm going to need more bubble gum.


1 - With the notable exception of my freshman year, when a deteriorating relationship and driving 1000 miles (not an exaggeration) almost every weekend drained my will to do anything but order pizza and sleep. Sometimes simultaneously. Sorry pizza guys I stood up at the door.

2 - Just an aside, defenestration is my favorite word in the English language.

In Agreement with Will Smith
Kitty issues
What the hell is it with some families? Or, from my experience, most families. At least families so unlucky as to have ambitious, creative children with big dreams and a ton of potential.

"Unlucky, Richard?"

Yeah, apparently! Because it's been my own experience, and the experience of countless kindred spirits that I have run across in my travels, that the child who wants to work at Wal-Mart and let a time clock slowly siphon away their soul is infinitely more praised than the child who boldly, openly, and proudly proclaims that they want to be a writer, or a painter, or a musician, or any of the other kinds of creative and expressive endeavors that our race collectively once gave a damn about.

And I don't want to hear a single one of you, not one of you, NOT ONE, tell me it's because the chances of succeeding are so small and parents are just concerned about their children's future prospects and blah de fucking blah. You know why I don't want to hear it? One word.


The chances of your kid becoming a professional athlete and making millions upon millions of dollars for him to conveniently spend on his defense team when he shoots/murders/rapes/mauls/mutilates/desecrates a corpse/jaywalks are on par if not worse than my chances of getting a book deal, music contract, or major gallery showing that breaks me into the big time. On par or worse. And yet the absolute idolatry that hangs like a urine-gold nimbus around prospective athletes, especially down here in SEC country, is indisputable. The chances are no better, the consequences of failure are far more severe, and the toll it takes on the child can be unspeakable. But it's perfectly alright. Why? I think it's all about what a family can relate to.

So often the creative types I have known sprang from parents that made you convinced that whatever creativity their offspring had manifested, it was either a recessive gene or a spontaneous mutation. When Creative Bob Jr. is locked in his room learning how to shred on a guitar because it makes his brain snap out of its introspective feedback loop of ever-deepening angst for five minutes, and those are the most glorious five minutes of his day, Teamster Bob Sr. is scowling outside the door wondering why his lazy asshole son won't get a job at the factory and play football like a normal boy. There is no commonality, and so often we as adults want to believe that our own experiences make us the be all and end all on life choice advice. Because, you know, none of us never made a fucking mistake.

Even some of the kids I've known who HAD creative, artsy parent types have been steered away from that very same life path, which I think may even be worse, because hypocrisy trumps ignorance in my mind. Almost without fail, these are parents who never got as far as they wanted, who feel that their own choices led them to failure and misery until they were eventually forced to take that soul-crushing job, become part of the machine, and never even once entertained the notion that they could try to do both. Or they did, and they discovered they just weren't strong enough, just weren't determined enough. They indulge themselves in the classic fallacy of human arrogance that if they couldn't do it, no one could. Least of all their own child. I find their lack of faith...disturbing.

If a child tells his family he wants to be a professional football player when he is five, more often than not he's in pads the next day with an alpha male coach and an alpha male father screaming alpha male things at them in the only kind of support that alpha males understand, which looks a lot like child abuse, but you know, whatever. Because sports is American, sports is manly, sports is a cash cow, there's some obsolete alpha male warrior mentality attached to it that lends a false sense of honor to the pursuit. We are now a society of the NFL Network and NBA Season Pass. The Renaissance, this isn't.

I told my family I wanted to be a writer when I was five. My dad was cool with it and got me a typewriter. The rest of my family launched into a 24-years-and-counting campaign of convincing me I was eventually going to starve to death and die alone in a gutter if I kept up that crazy talk. Fuck, why not, it worked for Poe, right?

I also don't want to hear anyone tell me that I'm just bitter about the treatments jocks got and am belatedly venting about their "opportunities" or whatnot. I was a student athlete once upon a time, okay? I got to look behind that curtain. I got offered the Kool-aid. And I was just as disgusted then, too. But this isn't an entry to rip on athletes. It's a way out for a lot kids that don't have any other societally available or acceptable avenue, all those arguments, fine, whatever. This is about the families. This is about the people who perpetuate this notion that dreams are for idiots and you should conform, who praise the ones that do, and badger or belittle the ones that don't. This is about people who honestly and truly believe that you should just know your role and stay there, because if you don't try you can never fail.

What did treatment like this cause me to do? It caused me to wall off my family from a significant portion of my life. I could fill a book with stuff about me that my family doesn't know. Oh wait, I DID! I stopped telling them about so much of what I was involved with that when my bio ran in a playbill recently, my mom was confused about when some of this crap actually happened. Because I never told them. Why? I didn't feel like listening to it. I could have called home and said I just landed a lead role on Broadway, and the response both expected and dutifully delivered would be a, "That's nice dear. You're not going to quit your job at Scholastic though, are you?"

My joy has never been theirs. It's always been their concern. The comedy, the writing, the acting, all things I would only ever get the most perfunctory of "yay..." for before the lectures began. And the things that always monumentally depressed me have been the things that have made them the happiest. The corporate life and being "proudly" shackled to my desk job. I wouldn't be using this blog as a therapist on the subject if I hadn't seen it happen to so many other people. If I weren't actually watching it happen to a couple people right now. All accomplishments met with criticism and all triumph met with concern about what new avenues to failure they have opened. As though each step they took down the path to the one thing they have always wanted more than anything else were breaking another biblical seal. "I'm glad you got that book deal and that advance, but you know you're just going to get eaten by insect-faced monkeys with lion bodies now, right?"

All I'm saying is, if you plan on having a kid, or you have a kid who is still in those young, formative, impressionable years? Let them be themselves. Let them dream. Please. There is no harm in letting them aim high, unless they're actually holding a gun, in which case you may have other problems. If your child comes up to you at five and says he wants to be a dinosaur cowboy when he grows up, help him learn about dinosaurs and pick out which one he thinks he'd like to ride the most. If your daughter comes up to you and says she wants to be a musician, encourage that. Countless studies have shown a tremendous link between musical education and improved mental development. Use the interwebs, help her learn the best way to go about pursuing her career, make her aware of the realities of the situation, do what you can to protect her, but never tell her the dream is stupid. Life will be harsh enough, and the road long enough, without you piling on. You can be concerned without being condescending. You can care without crushing their hopes.

And if your kid comes up to you at five and says he wants to be a writer, buying him a typewriter isn't a bad way to go.

Every Episode of Everything Ever, Part 1
Kitty issues
***flops down on his bed, grabs the remote, turns on the TV***

Two and a Half Men:

Charlie: Alan, I have a young and possibly underage girl upstairs whose name I don't even know but I'd really like to have vulgar sex with, so I'd appreciate it if you and your mongoloid child would stay out of my way and not ruin my life.

Alan: I have feelings too, Charlie, and it's not my fault my ex-wife emasculated me to the point that I am now the most effeminate character on a show that features a steady parade of women!

Jake: What's a monguhlode? *drools into his cereal a bit, tries to eat his Nintendo DS*

Girl (coming down from upstairs): Charlie, I've had a really good time today, but as an unexpectedly strong and progressive woman who still comes off as a cookie-cutter blanket statement feminist I'd really like to talk about my place in your life.

Charlie: Your places in my life are either in my bed or out my door. I'm getting a beer.

Rose (rappelling down from the rafters with a beer): Here you go Charlie, I brewed and bottled it myself just for you because obsessive stalker personalities are amusing.

Alan and Charlie's Mom (arriving through front door): Hello children, I'm here to lord your horrible childhood experiences over you for awhile. By the way, I slept with five random men on the sidewalk up to your house just so you'd have to picture me naked.

***loses last shred of faith in humanity, quickly changes the channel***

CSI: (insert any city here)

Lead Detective: The victim was bludgeoned to death with his own keyboard while hacking into something using Linux. The killer repeatedly struck him in the head until massive trauma and skull fractures caused him to bleed to death.

Horatio (out of nowhere): I guess this is one hacker whose skull... *puts on sunglasses* ...got cracked.


(everyone waits for The Who to stop playing)

Partner: There aren't any fingerprints on the keyboard though, how are we going to find the murderer?

Department Tech Person: Wait, you said he was hacking at the time of his murder. Maybe I can build a GUI interface using Visual Basic to see if any of his blood got into the computer while the connection was still open, and track the IP address the blood was transmitted to.

*taps on keyboard for a moment*

Department Tech Person: There, he was hacking into this person's bank account, his blood is all over the router.

Lead Detective: So now we have a motive. Check his hard drive for screen shots, let's see if we can get a look at our murderer.

Partner: You're wasting our time.

Lead Detective: No, I'm just smarter than you.

Department Tech Person: Okay, I found some screenshots from the time of the murder.

Lead Detective (leaning over the Tech's shoulder dramatically): Now what do you see there, in the reflection of the monitor from the time of the screen shot.

Department Tech Person: I can't quite make it out.

Lead Detective: Enhance the image. *image clears up a little for no apparent reason* Enhance. *image clears up further* Enhance! *image clears up further* ENHANCE!!! *image becomes perfectly clear, reveals photo quality picture of the killer in the reflection of the monitor from the time of the screen shot*

Partner: Now put that picture into the crime photo database and see if we can get a match! Good work everyone.

***nose begins bleeding, changes channel***


(intro scene begins, five people stand around talking, one of them rubs his chest and looks uncomfortable, everyone else begins asking if he's okay, audience becomes convinced this is the patient for the episode, suddenly one of the other four's eyeballs randomly pop out of his head and cotton candy spills from the eye sockets while he bleeds marmalade)

(theme song)

Cuddy: House, your department spends more money than the rest of the hospital combined and you're not even working on a case right now!

House: Yes I am.

Cuddy: No you're not!

House: Yes, I am!

Cuddy: No, you're really not!

House: You're right, I'm not, but your breasts are fantastic.

Cuddy: Here's a file for you, either do this or I'll take your toys away.

House: This guy isn't even sick, this could all have been easily explained if every other doctor in the world weren't an incompetent jackass.

Cuddy: House, his internal organs are being replaced by food products!

House: It's an auto-immune disease. But I do see he as a hot daughter, so I'll take the case so I can leer at her while I'm not personally attending to him.

(turns to subordinates)

House: Here, this man's really sick, differential diagnosis on bleeding marmalade and exuding cotton candy.

Foreman: Well, it could be--

House: Whatever, I already know the answer, I'm just going to make you all go run every test known to man and play games with his life while I go torment Wilson about why he had a whole grain bagel with breakfast this morning instead of a plain one. Call me in 57 minutes so I can dramatically save him.

***changes channel***

Big Bang Theory:

(Watches as four people sit in an apartment discussing something stereotypically geeky, leading into discussion about how one of them is incredibly socially awkward, with all conversations being held using dialogue that is intentionally overstated and avoids any colloquial shortcut or contraction in an effort to make it sound forced and stilted)

Sheldon: Bazinga!

(female character walks in, everyone becomes uncomfortably aware that there are breasts in the room, silence)

***sits...waits...nothing happens, changes channel***


*something explodes*

Jamie: Science!

*something bigger explodes*

Grant, Tory, and Kari: SCIENCE!

*an entire military depot full of C4 explodes, registering on nearby seismographs*


***shrugs, watches the rest of the episode***

(no subject)
Kitty issues
On December 25th, before any meals were eaten, before any excuses could be made, I found my way to a scale and boldly stepped forward into discovery. And creaking metal. And a little bit of "You've got to be kidding me..."

Let's take it back a day or two, to begin at the beginning. Which is usually a good place to begin, as I understand. But I'm stalling, because this is kind of a personal entry.

I've never been scrawny, but I've never really been obese, either. I have a lot of lower body muscle mass from my track runner/marching band/drill team/football/soccer/field hockey legs of old, and my chest and shoulders have always been broad enough that I have to buy extra large shirts just to let the fabric reach my waist. I'm built like an Irish dude, I guess. I don't really know how else to describe it. I am equally easy to imagine wearing a kilt and swinging a claymore over my head whilst running toward you, screaming, or slumped over a bar stool with a spiral pattern of slain Guinness around me, enabling you to count how many hours I had been there by how many rings there were. The world's most inebriated tree.

Body image has never been a terrible problem with me, which is probably how I let it get away from me a little. In New York I was walking constantly. I had a five to ten mile a day route mapped out to relieve stress after I got out of work. During the itinerant gypsy phases I bartended, bounced, did odd jobs, stayed active, you know? Even once I settled down for Georgia, Take 1, I ended up as a stocker at a grocery store, which is more physical than you'd realize. Lately though...I mean, the writing is great for stretching the creative muscles, but it tends to involve a lot of consuming vast amounts of soda and sitting still for hours on end, staring at your prey until your eyes bleed and your bladder threatens to explode. Really, if you replaced the soda with beer, you could be a deer hunter. Or Ernest Hemingway.

As a result, the pounds slowly, steadily, quietly snuck up on me. I am reminded of the old story about the frog in a pot of water. You drop a frog straight in after it's already boiling, he's going to hop right back out. You slowly heat the water up once he's already there, he'll think he's found the world's first froggy day spa right up until he croaks. *drum fill* Sorry, sorry, I wouldn't blame you if you stopped reading after that, really I wouldn't.

Anyway, my shirts and pants had been getting a little tight lately. I tried to rationalize it away, starting with vaguely plausible things (this is the first time I've worn it since it was washed, I just need to stretch it back out a bit) and slowly sliding down the spectrum to the sorts of things the Mythbusters wouldn't touch (it's cold outside, fabric isn't as flexible in the cold!). I knew it was crap, but it's easier to explain away than it is to actually do anything about. Then I saw my family's Christmas Eve pictures and was a little...well, terrified. I was starting to get downright fluffy! This shouldn't have been a surprise, and it really wasn't to my subconscious mind, but having my conscious mind drug into the harsh light of reality was a little traumatic. Then, Christmas morning, getting ready to trek over for Christmas 2.0 with my girl's family, my pants, which are the same size I have been wearing essentially since high school, barely buttoned. I mean, I had to do the "suck in and lift and lay down a bit and stretch and hope something doesn't explode out of a seam" maneuver. I knew there'd been less and less real estate inside the waistband for awhile now, but this was absolutely unacceptable. Not having a scale in my own house, I waited until we arrived at her grandmother's place and...well, Da Capo al coda(1).

I weighed 230 pounds. In high school, I capped out around 190, but there was muscle on that frame. And I'm 6'1", with no aspirations to boxing in a featherweight division. I am never going to be a light dude. With a large frame and decent muscle mass, I'm SUPPOSED to weigh about 189. But that was the heaviest I had ever seen myself, and I knew, with my current habits and lifestyle, I was moving nowhere but in the wrong direction. Now there's a chance, because this happened even within my own family, that some of you are going to look at that 230 number and think I'm overreacting. I realize that's not exactly out of hand yet, but the point is that I wanted to hit it now, and KEEP it from GETTING out of hand. I come from a family with a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, adult onset diabetes...weight is not something I need to be messing around with. Plus, lately, my energy levels have been in the crapper and even simple activities had begun seeming taxing. I was, quite simply, carrying too much of me around to be happy.

On December 26th, I woke up with a plan. I quit sodas, cold turkey. I didn't realize that Coke I had the previous evening was going to be the last one for a good long while, but maybe it's better that way. Rip it off fast, like a band-aid. I had been drinking about four a day for...um...ever. That's about 800 empty calories a day, plus ungodly amounts of acids and, of course, the great Satan of high fructose corn syrup. I may as well have kept smoking, right? Seriously, look into HFCS sometime(2). Your body doesn't know what to do with it, it screws with insulin, contributes directly to diabetes in almost every credible study on the subject, and the only defense, the only defense that the corn industry can come up with in their commercials is, "It's fine in moderation!"

It's fine in moderation?! Christ, opium is technically fine in moderation! Absinthe is fine in moderation! You don't see me dumping either into my nephew's breakfast cereals(3)! You're really going to have to do better than, "Well, it probably won't kill you right away!" I hate that we live in one of the only developed countries in the world where the corn industry ended up being more powerful and more subsidized than the sugar industry. I mean, I'm sure the latter comes with certain evils, too, like the all-powerful dentist lobby or...something. But seriously, the studies are there, the knowledge is there, the corn people just have enough money and lobbyists to keep throwing at lawmakers to prevent anything from being done about it. And since the last vote we truly have left is with our wallets, and these are still multi-billion dollar industries, nothing is going to change anytime soon. So it's down to personal choice. I chose to replace soda with water and real fruit juices, and use Crystal Light to offset my "I really can't take how bland water is oh god please kill me now" reflex.

I also woke up that morning determined to use the power of one of my Christmas presents for awesome. My family gave me a new XBox 360 with a Kinect, the new super-creepy yet really quite fun motion sensor attachment dealie. The first two games I acquired for it? The Biggest Loser: Ultimate Workout and Dance Central. Goodbye sedentary lifestyle, hello clinging to the side of my computer chair trying to remember how to breathe! Seriously, I was skeptical of the former at first, seeing as I hate all forms of reality TV and have never watched an episode of the actual show in my life. But the reviews were positive, with several sign-offs from nutritionists and fitness specialists. I gave it a try, and it proceeded to beat the everloving piss out of me.

Not only was I getting fluffy, my body had forgotten what this whole "movement" thing was like. Curse you, occupation that rewards sitting in a chair all day! Even on the moderate workout setting, after 20 minutes, I was doing my best Fred Sanford impression and fogging my glasses up from sweat and exuded body heat alone. I was literally steaming in my own juices. The next morning, I honestly wondered if I had somehow transferred my brain into the body of James Caan in the movie Misery, right after Kathy Bates did her best Gallagher impression on his ankles. My legs were sore to the point that I had to completely waive off my second day's exercise routine, along with anything that involved moving with any more urgency than a recently unearthed mummy. I was losing foot races with glaciers. It was horrible. And they were still sore the third day, but I decided at that point the best thing to do was to push onward and work through it.

Amazingly, that helped. My muscles, realizing I wasn't listening to reason, ended their 48 hour hostage standoff with my calves and relaxed a bit. Then a little more. After the first five routines, my breathing was becoming more regular. Exercises that had been death sentences early on were becoming a little more natural. And between the lack of soda and the return to physical activity, I dropped 11 pounds in seven days. In the next seven, I threw another 5 pounds on the pile. From December 26th to January 9th, I've gone from 230 and heading in all the wrong directions to 214 and really enjoying myself. I set the game up as an 8 week program(4) with a target weight of 198 pounds. Getting back below 200 would be a major psychological victory, and I can build on it from there. I can't even really begin to describe how much better I feel, too. Energy levels are up, fitness levels are higher than they've probably been since I was actively participating in sports, it's just...yeah. I'm feeling good about this.

Dietary changes have got to be contributing somewhat to that as well. I used to eat one meal a day, carb load at that meal, then snack right before bed, and wonder why my metabolism was shot all to hell. That's not entirely true, I KNEW why my metabolism was shot all to hell, I just didn't care. Self-preservation has never been my strong suit. Now I'm eating three meals a day, healthy stuff, there's lots of Newman's Own brand finding its way into the house, and I'm trying to be conscious of calories. That's difficult, because nutritional value labels use more spin than your average Fox News broadcast. I really wish we would regulate serving sizes to a more realistic standard. One can of soda is not two servings. I have no way, on the fly, of knowing how many chips weigh 23 grams. And one oven-bake pizza is not six servings. I can put that away, by myself, in one sitting. Again, built like an Irishman, eat like an Irishman.

So...why? I mean, other than the clichéd need to lose weight as a New Year's Resolution, why would I suddenly make this many changes to a lifestyle plan that has been in place for nigh on a decade and a half? It's really quite simple. I have a future I can really see now. A plan in place, things I definitively want to accomplish, and someone I want to spend as much time with as I can. I see all the problems other members of my family have had to wade through because they didn't get on this while there was still time, saw how many quality years it really robbed a few people of, and decided I didn't want that to be me. I can be a burden on myself now, or a burden on everyone else later. I choose the former. Although I promise to try really, really hard to never become one of those super smug and pretentious people in the really tight jogging shorts that act like they are god's gift to fitness and everyone else just isn't trying hard enough. I'm never going to tell anyone else how to live their lives, period.

If hearing about me doing this or seeing me do this helps you convince yourself that you can make some changes, too, that's great, I'm here if you need anything. If hearing about me doing this or seeing me do this convinces you I'm a ponce who needs to fall into a pit of broken glass and die, then...well, maybe you have some anger issues, but you're entitled to it. I just knew that I wanted my own life to go in a different direction, a healthier direction, because the road traveled longer that way, and gave me more time to see the sights.

I'd say this must be me growing up, except I'm about to make a peanut butter sandwich then spend a few hours playing video games in my boxer shorts. You pick your battles.


1 - Which is pretentious music speak for "read that thing at the beginning, then carry it forward but keep going past this point next time," but that was may more letters, and I'm tired(P1).

P1 - And yes, I'm aware that I spent even more time and letters explaining that fact than I would have just typing that in the first place. I don't feel the need to explain my art to you, Warren.

2 - Oh, excuse me corn growers' associations, "corn sugar."

3 - Although I have to be honest, that would be endlessly entertaining.

4 - The game really makes regular exercise palatable, especially if you have a hyper-competitive streak like I do. It basically drops you INTO the show. You have to do regular exercise routines, along with seven other NPCs (it's probably higher if you opt for the 12 week program), and at the end of each week there is an exercise challenge that you get points for winning, and a weigh in, at which you get points for percentage of total body mass lost. Once the scores are tallied, the two contestants who had the least successful week are put up for elimination, and you and the other safe contestants vote on who deserves to go home. I just finished week 2, have won both physical challenges, and have been the biggest loser both weeks. Take that, imaginary peers!

(no subject)
Kitty issues
"Has this ever happened to you? You go to type on your computer keyboard and then realize too late, UH-OH, that's actually the surface of a ridiculously hot hibachi grill! Then you need HeadLight, the world's first halogen light insulated well enough to be affixed directly to your forehead! Experience visibility like never before!"

Ridiculous, right? I mean, absurd past the point where it can even really be funny, because the cognitive dissonance between these two images is, in any sane person, probably too much to reconcile into the world of "reasonable but amusing misunderstanding." Yet I'm betting, with the right connections, I could turn that into a legitimate infomercial.

I know I've railed against infomercials here in the past, but I can't help it. I'm nocturnal. They are my constant companions, even if their omnipresence was diminished somewhat by the invention and proliferation of DVR technology. Now, instead of watching Ron Popeil violate a turkey with a syringe big enough to give Keith Richards wet dreams, I watch Craig Ferguson discuss sexual euphemisms with a robot. But I think they sense that their habitat is disappearing, and like any life form, they are evolving. They've begun flinging spores into other time slots in the guise of regular length commercials that contain the same absurd premises and the same level of production values and acting, for the same kind of products that alien archaeologists will one day unearth and wonder how we, as a species, even flirted with space travel(1).

These spores have really begun to take root in the intellectually barren wasteland of daytime talk shows, because as we all know, rational thought is the herbicide of impulse TV buying. After the ladies of The View, or The Talk, or The Conversation, or The Discussion, or The Semi-Rational Debate About Largely Irrelevant Topics Taking Place Between Four Completely Irrelevant Personalities From Comically Far Reaches of the Political and Philosophical Spectrum are done numbing your brain while trying to figure out if the Earth is round or flat(2), they strike.

"Has this ever happened to you?"

That's their mating call. The siren song that brings the shopaholic to their treacherous rocks. The formula is quite simple. You create a problem, you convince people they have that problem, then you offer a solution to that problem ABSOLUTELY FREE(3)! And it's a pretty tried and true formula, the pharmaceutical companies(4) have been using it for years. What bothers me so much about it is their apparent target audience, based on the "problems" they create, and the terrifying implications involved if these people actually exist. Let's take a look at a couple of examples, only mildly exaggerated.

The Product: The Ove Glove

What It Is: A glorified pot holder

How the Commercial Begins: "Has this ever happened to you?" Woman attempts to get a hot pan out of her oven (where the heating elements aren't even glowing, but that's just me being a picky bastard), stands still for a moment, and proceeds to slam her lasagna down on the floor as though it had pulled a gun on her, or Garfield had just slit her throat from behind. The implication is basically that standard pot holders will immediately burst into flames on contact with hot surfaces(5). It goes on to show people wearing Ove Gloves changing light bulbs while they're still on, proving that the product is also good for people with no understanding of the properties of electricity.

I cook a lot, and yeah, after years of service you'll occasionally get a pot holder that's all, "You know what, screw this noise," and you'll get about two inches from the oven before pain receptors start having a rave. But this product isn't accomplishing anything that you couldn't ask a regular pot holder or a good dish towel to do. If you're looking for something that's good for both retrieving your meatloaf and extracting plutonium rods from a nuclear reactor, your priorities may not be in order. But at least the lady in this commercial was operating somewhat inside the parameters of competence, unlike...

The Product: The Chef Basket

What It Is: A mutant deep fat fryer cage

How the Commercial Begins: "Has this ever happened to you?" A woman has just finished boiling some pasta(6), which is ready to be moved to the sink to be drained. Undaunted by the laws of thermodynamics, the woman grasps the handles of the pot -- which has been living over high heat for 20 some odd minutes now -- with her bare hands. Carnage ensues. As the metal begins melding with her flesh, she screams, flinging the pot directly into the air, where it dumps onto her head. Now blinded by scalding water and covered in noodles and blistered flesh, she staggers, screaming, into the living room, where her children are watching Sesame Street. At the sound of her voice they turn, only to see this wet, bubbling, noodly monster shrieking, arms outstretched in their direction. Decades later, while in a court mandated therapy program, this is the moment her eldest son will describe as the turning point on his path to becoming "The Boiler," a serial killer that terrorized the tri-state area by boiling his victims alive in an industrial cauldron.

...okay, I may have made most of that up. But the woman really does grab the pot with her bare hands, and then has the nerve to act surprised when it burns. Then she tries again, from a different angle in a different shot, doing everything but trying to pick the pot up with her teeth. Then the basket appears in the pot, and suddenly the world is made only of marshmallow peeps and rainbows because its handles, which have no direct line of conduction to the heat source, are somehow cool enough to touch! So this is a product which is, by all appearances, marketed toward people who don't realize that hot things burn. Maybe they should all buy Ove Gloves instead! I hear you can paddle through magma with those things! I'm not saying it isn't a good idea, draining pasta and such is a pain in the ass and a basket like that would probably be handy. Just maybe sell it on the clever parts, and not like your target audience was Frankenstein's monster. "Heat baaaad! FIRE BAAAAAD!" Because colanders already exist, so you might wanna market against that. Just sayin'.

But the incompetence doesn't stop in the kitchen, oh no, because there's always...

The Product: Micro Touch Max Personal Trimmer

What It Is: A small piece of plastic that buzzes and occasionally removes hair

How the Commercial Begins: "Has this ever happened to you?" A man stands before a bathroom mirror, pondering the futility of his existence while attempting to remove hair from his already inexplicably clean-shaven face. Clearly suffering from some form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, he reaches for a pair of full-sized scissors. Eyes darkening with the thoughts of his impending messy divorce, the scissors raise, slowly, every so slowly, until the gleaming tip of the razor-sharp rear blade rests gently against the base of one nostril. With one thrust, it could all be over. He knows this. He's thought about this moment ever since the papers were filed...but he decides to try and trim his nose hair instead. Even that goes awry, as one snip too close results in a flash of pain, and a mild abrasion that will surely be a minor inconvenience for days to come. A look of supreme anguish flashes across the man's face, frozen in monochromatic still frame, as he realizes that even in this, a basic hygienic function, he has failed...

Alright, fine, I'm embellishing again. But dude really does come at his own nostril with gigantic scissors and gets this horrible look on his face, which has some kind of weird Jim Carrey-esque elasticity to it, when things don't go as planned. This shot is followed by him attacking the back of his neck with a straight razor, more grimacing, him shoving some kind of sharp implement into his ear, more grimacing...you get the idea. A man with the motor skills of a doped up chimpanzee has been given a tray of grooming implements and proceeded to injure himself in ways that I'm certain Amnesty International would be interested in hearing about.

Another flash add, this time of the trimmer, and suddenly he's completely hairless! An alopecia areata patient on the rampage with a tray of sharp objects he somehow acquired! Not really, but I can't stand this commercial so I'm trying to spice it up a bit! He uses the trimmer to fix his (nonexistent) unibrow, shave his (nonexistent) sideburns, and even shave his (nonexistent) beard before flashing a smug, shit-eating grin at the camera while a random woman paid to stroke his face earns her keep. It goes on to show him shaving his arms, his legs, and (I kid you not) his glory trail right on down past his waistband. The basic idea is unconditional "LOL hair removal." Provided, of course, that like the man in the commercial you didn't have any hair in these areas to begin with. Oh, also, it has a light! For...you know...night shaving. Except the light points straight out, on a product designed to hover above the surface that it's working on, so...good luck with that.

Look, fine, it seems to show SOME hair that looks to have been previously affixed falling away after a pass with the trimmer, albeit one square centimeter at a time. But every review you find online says that it binds up every few seconds on even the finest of hair textures. I take this personally, because I grow steel wool. You can get the tarnish off the bumpers of classic cars just by having me rub my face against them. I can get the grease out of a casserole dish by rubbing Dawn into my beard and motor-boating the sink. I can't even get more than two shaves out of the Gillette razors that are lined with the same industrial-grade diamonds they use to edge band saws with. My beard would yank this trimmer out of my hands and break it apart while I looked on in horror, just to send me a message.

I guess this commercial offends me more than the other two because the Ove Glove is ostensibly an improvement over a product that was shown being used properly, and the Chef Basket was a decent idea even if it was meant to replace the behavior of someone who apparently should never have been allowed in the kitchen, much less near a heat source. This thing is a downgrade from the options that already exist, with its artificial need being produced by a man all but ramming his face into an upturned lawn mower as a point of comparison. It's hard to argue with that logic, right? "Micro Touch Max, it's better than brutal decapitation!" Really this all comes down to my hatred of out of touch marketing, much less piss poor out of touch marketing. As previously mentioned, that's why these offshoots of old school infomercials seem to be much more prevalent during the day. Soap operas and shrieking harpies disable your defenses enough that this might, MIGHT just seem like a good idea.

What was the point of this post? Well, I'd be glad to tell you. Just send $14.95 to the address on your screen now, the first 500 customers will receive an extra moral lesson at absolutely no extra cost, you only pay e-shipping, act now and we'll throw in a tote bag, all this could be yours, your life is devoid of purpose without it, all your neighbors have one! Consume! CONSUME!


1 - DVD box sets of the Jersey Shore and the decaying but still relatively intact husk of an As Seen on TV store will be all they need to justify having annihilated us to their media.

2 - Not making that part up...

3 - Just pay shipping and handling and processing on each separate unit, purchase implies user has agreed to continue to receive products on a 10 day billing cycle which their credit card will be charged for on an automatically renewing basis unless all products, UPC codes, packaging, materials, receipts, shipping invoices, and a lollipop are returned to Telebrands Plaza 48 hours prior to their arriving at your home, offer not good in any state containing an S, allow 6-24 months for delivery, do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.

4 - I try not to stack footnotes too often, but those assholes get a blog of their own soon enough. Which may cause fainting, nausea, diarrhea, anti-social behavior, thoughts of suicide, thoughts of homicide, thoughts of regicide, thoughts of pesticide, grazing, narcoleptic fits, and uncontrollable flatulence.

5 - And provide little protection against homicidal pasta-addicted cats that are struggling to get by after ceasing to be funny about 20 years ago.

6 - Do we really still live in an age where every cooking product commercial must include only women, usually operating in an "Aww shucks, I'm barely competent enough to do that!" manner? Are we really still deluded enough to think it's only housewives in floral print dresses who are home in the middle of the day? Why can't a man cut his finger on a raggedy old knife, or look on despondently as the stains in his favorite shirt just won't come out? Huh?! Equality! Equality! Yeah, I'm not sure which side of the fence this footnote was supposed to be on, either.

Motivational Evolution
Kitty issues
The wheel is moving again. I suppose it's only a matter of time now until we find out if I'm pushing it, or tied to the front of it.

Writing progress. Storyboarding, plotboarding, outlining, rummaging through Duotropes, setting up an Amazon Author Central page, showering multiple times a day because it seems to be the only place I can think sometimes, abusing the crap out of an unsuspecting Keurig one cup coffee maker(1), the signs are all there.

I even finally broke down and joined this century by asking for a laptop for Christmas. I try not to ask for seriously expensive things from my family, I'm one of the lowest maintenance holiday types you could hope for(2). But with the goals I've set for myself this year, if I don't get an occasional change of scenery, my brain is going to begin oozing out of my ears like toothpaste.

The main problem is motivation. As I've stated many times before, often to a completely empty room, I hate writing. I love the process of creating, I love seeing worlds and stories and characters come to life in my mind, and the moment they develop a firewire cable that runs from your brain stem to a USB port on your computer and allows you to mentally dictate, I am going to put Stephen King's prolific nature to shame. But until that day comes, there is a major bottleneck somewhere between my brain and my hands. I have no greater nemesis than an empty, white Word document screen(3).

I believe we learn from history, so I began analyzing my past. My most creative period, volume wise, was during my stint in New York. As far as I can tell, this could be attributed to any combination of three factors. First, I was stuck in a cubicle all day. Without exaggeration, I wrote a book on company time. Underworld University, the first volume at least, was crafted entirely from my desk. A monthly magazine's production schedule, after all, is two weeks of run-up, one week of unadulterated terror during the publishing window, and then a week of everyone eating free lunches on the company card and pretending they're working. It would have been harder for me to NOT write something, hence my LJ daily post average that was pushing 4 or 5 during some months.

The second and third factors were anger and spite, kind of intertwined and capable of being boiled down a la Carlin and the Ten Commandments to "Angst." I hit New York in a very dark place and decided to see how far down that particular rabbit hole I could go, throwing in a healthy dose of sleep deprivation to act as an emotional random number generator. I felt like I had something to prove, I felt like there were people that needed to feel sorry for discarding me, I felt like if I didn't get certain concepts out of my head via the written word, they were likely to chew their way through my sinus cavities and burst out of my eye sockets a la Aliens in the middle of a Scholastic staff meeting. Writing was survival, a necessary regulator, the safety valve on my pressure cooker.

But age and wisdom and perspective have diminished that to nothingness. Now I don't understand people who hold on to anger, wielding it with the expectation of hurting anyone but themselves in the long run. My emotional empathy has become attuned to the point that I can't even be near those people anymore for the intense discomfort the roiling in their minds provides me. And I've stuck around long enough now to realize that all the people who tried to make me cynical have done nothing but wallow in their own ineffectualness as human beings in all the intervening years. I have progressed and grown and achieved and failed and loved and lost and explored and found home. They have...um...been angry and...and yelled at people...and animals. Or themselves. Or coffee tables. Or abused themselves to the point of breaking down, then blamed their infirmity for not accomplishing anything more than they have. The ultimate retro-active self-fulfilling prophecy(4).

So it was an effective writing fuel, but it was a finite one, and one that tainted everything that came from that era with a fine, dusty layer of hateful fallout. Recently someone else read New York Minutes for the first time, someone who didn't even know I existed back when the experiences that formed that book were taking place. Their appraisal was that it was very honest, fairly brutal, definitely angry, and a portrait of someone that was really only marginally recognizable as me. Which is kind of the point here, I guess. My formative writing years were kind of the fossil fuel age for my creativity. Cheap, readily available fuels that polluted the crap out of everything, but during which all the basic principles for transportation as we know it were laid down. Just like our cars now transition to hybrids, complex fuels refining the concept to make it better for everyone involved, so too must my motivation. But how?

I wish I could tell you. I'm still figuring that part out. But what I do know is that the laptop and a good cup of coffee seem to be helping already.


1 - Thanks to the name Keurig gave to their one-serving cartridges, you can now Google "K Cup" and get almost safe for work results. Almost.

2 - My father used to joke that if I didn't tell them what I wanted for Christmas, I'd end up with nothing but a box of coal, which I told him was fine, because mom kept the house unreasonably cold anyway, which got both of us in trouble. Threats have been kept to non-flammable objects since.

3 - Before any writing elitists jump on me, yes, I do most of my writing in Word, not any of the fancy designer programs floating around out there, although I do have something of a fondness for Liquid Story Binder for light work. Why am I like this, when Word is such a dubious program at best? Scan through Duotropes or the Writer's Market, pick any 10 markets at random that accept electronic submissions, and tell me what extension they're looking for. There's almost always going to be a .doc floating there. Have you ever tried converting from Word to another program, or from another program to Word, or heaven help you tried to take something in both directions? The formatting ends up looking like something you ran through Babelfish. And don't even get me started on OpenOffice. If you've ever submitted something to a market using OpenOffice's interpretation of a .doc file, my condolences.

4 - I invite you to perform this same thought exercise. Think of the five most toxic people you have known in your past, be it directly to you, or just a general area of effect malaise and cynicism that followed them around. Now find out what they're doing with themselves. I'm willing to bet at least 4 of them are exactly where you left them, no better off than if only a day had passed. People like that try to break the world down because it's easier than building themselves up, and they don't have the will or the ability to put forth the effort to do that. Or, generally, the stones.

(no subject)
Kitty issues
I think Facebook may be killing my brain. And not because of the relentless Farmville spam, either, although I seem to have finally locked that down Cuban trade embargo style. People can feed their own damn chickens, it doesn't seem like the sort of activity that would require neighbors.

I started comparing the timelines earlier and it really seems like the rise of my Facebook existed in inverse relation to the fall of my blogging. It's so much easier to just shoot off a status update and look for some instant gratification from other people trolling through their news feeds (incidentally also much easier than going through a blogging f-list) than it is to put together something well-constructed enough that you feel alright putting your name on it. Because contrary to all available evidence, some of us do still believe in sentence structure and punctuation.

Life just kept getting busier and busier. Facebook's design kept getting more and more streamlined...then less...then more again...then less again...then Martian for a brief moment...then finally more again. LiveJournal, or any blog really, began to feel out of the way. Like your favorite mom and pop store three miles off after a SuperMegaLoMart has opened next door. On the surface, I felt I was really accomplishing more or less the same thing through FB that I was through the blogosphere, and the entries died off to a trickle.

This is not the case though. Facebook, to me, the more I analyze it here during my annual year-end blowout clearance sale on introspection, is the worst kind of faux interpersonal relationship. I'm not saying it doesn't serve its purpose. When it comes to the most basic acts of keeping in touch with far away people and disseminating news to distant relatives and whatnot, it's all well and good. When things are crazy and you are consumed by other projects, it's a very convenient way to let people know you're still alive, or thinking about them, or plotting their deaths, everyone's mileage may vary. And lord knows I barely remember my own birthday each year, much less anyone else's, so those reminders are nice.

But over the long term, Facebook is to friendship what Twitter is to journalism. Bullet points, a press release, sound bytes, still frame photos of what was much more impactful as a moving picture. It's easy, but that's not how it was supposed to be. The effort is what made it a friendship, isn't it?

And the effort, the thought, the conversations that were sparked as a result are what I miss the most about the blog. Reading back through some of the comment threads that occurred when I was...ahem...working at Scholastic, there were moments of hilarity and sheer genius rising like the pillars of Hercules from the sea of our banter. The most I think I've ever managed on Facebook was a sandbar in a tidal shelf. Not because the people there are any less clever, but because there isn't as much material to work with. The water can never get as deep in 450 characters.

So part of my 2011 plans is to get back to the blogging. Yeah, I know, I say that a lot, but there's a new found resoluteness to these 2011 plans, collectively referred to as Operation Pummel 2011 Mercilessly. I want to come home. To get back to my LiveJournal's friend page, although I can't promise to try and catch up, because I literally wouldn't know where to begin. Mostly, I want to stretch that writing muscle again. To have it become habit and not chore. To return to where I felt antsy if I didn't get a good hour at a keyboard on any given day. Because that feeds into other parts of this operation. Good times ahead.

The moral of the story: Don't rely on Facebook to keep track of your friends, if they're nearby hug them, and don't let a social networking website train you to think with a character limit.

(no subject)
Kitty issues
I need to force myself to write in this thing more often. Even if it's just inane babbling. I mean, christ, I've re-read what I wrote from my cubicle in New York. Did the world really need to know the only reason I wear pants is so I can have pockets? Probably not. But there it was anyway. I need to find that liberated way of thinking about this blog again. I've become too inhibited with what I share, based solely on the self-biased point of view that nobody wants to hear it. Even if that's true, the focus of my writing has shifted away from what it should be (writing for myself). Attempts to remedy this continue.

(no subject)
Kitty issues
I am a gaming whore. I readily admit that. I will go just about anywhere and put up with just about anyone for a good night of gaming. But don't let that give you the impression that I'm cheap. No sir, I'm not one of those gussied up UNO players or, heaven forbid, one of the Go Fish types. I require some sophistication to my games. The more complicated it is, the more I enjoy it. The problem for my gaming libido becomes that the rest of the general populace seems to work in the opposite direction.

First off, the majority of people seem to only be into casual gaming. They'll get together with someone, maybe even a group of people if they're feeling adventurous, have a few drinks, then experiment with some simple little games. Like Scattergories, Pictionary, maybe some Boggle. Occasionally someone will get brave and break out a Scrabble board, but generally things have got to stay pretty tame, or people start to get a little self-conscious of their gaming aptitude, and that just brings down the whole evening. You never want anyone just sitting around worried that their word isn't long enough.

Out past that is the fringe element. People who are into role-playing, messing around with Munchkins, maybe even Fluxxing a time or two. Closer to my kind of people, but rarer, and hard to get together in one room very often. A lot of them are concerned about the social stigma that comes with being into hardcore gaming. They're afraid people will look at them differently, that their friends and family will shun them and their level 18 half-elf bard girlfriend. It's understandable, I suppose. There are a lot of negative stereotypes out there, most of them untrue, established and believed by people who are just too prudish to get out there and try these games themselves. The uninformed are always afraid of what they don't understand. You try and explain to them that no one ever got hurt by playing a wish ring card to make themselves strong enough to fight the Angry Lawyers card that their friend just played on them, and they look at you like you just punched a nun. But that's neither here nor there right now, because to get to me, we have to go a little bit further. Out past the fringe, on the ragged edge of sanity.

I guess you could call us fetishists, and you may be one of us if you know what a Meeple is. Or the fastest train route from Seattle to Los Angeles. Or how much ore it takes to upgrade a settlement on the island of Catan. We want rulebooks to hurt if you hit us with them, because they're the size of small novels. We want our gaming sessions to last at least an hour, maybe two, maybe longer. We're inexhaustible, insatiable, and we want our money's worth. We also tend to import a lot of our toys from Europe, where they are much less inhibited with their gaming habits. Ticket to Ride, Power Grid, Settlers of Catan, Pandemic, Carcassonne, these are just a few of the games you'll find us drooling over. But once again, exponentially more so than with the previous fringe dwellers, there is a problem of population. Finding like-minded people to play with is difficult in the most culturally diverse of locales, and downright impossible if you're off the beaten path. Which brings me to my problem.

I am currently a very frustrated gamer. And so few of my gaming friends live within a three state radius of me. So I have turned to the glory of the interwebs.

I have already found places to play the following online (though I have not necessarily tested them yet):

Ticket to Ride - www.boardgamegeek.com/onlinegames
Settlers of Catan (basic game free, Cities & Knights and Seafarers with subscription) - www.playcatan.com
Carcassonne (called Toulouse) and Catan (basic and Cities & Knights) - games.asobrain.com

I am looking for more sites, and for people to play them with me. So if you're experienced and looking for a partner, or just a little curious, let me know, and maybe we can get an online gaming group together. I promise we won't bite. Unless you play the bandit on us. Then all bets are off.