Monday, December 26, 2011

Chess and Writing: They are Very Similar

I relate everything to chess; I always have. Those of you as obsessed with the game as I am understand such an oddity. Bobby Fischer once said, “Chess is life,” and while that may sound insane to someone who isn’t addicted to the game, it sounds perfectly clear to me; in fact, it sounds reasonable. I suppose that’s a tad scary, but we’ll leave that dog lie for another blog post.

Lately, I have noticed a strong correlation between chess and writing, especially when it comes to fiction. I do write articles and other web content, but fiction is my passion as well as, of course, chess. The two seem to walk hand-in-hand like lovers on a moonlit beach. I’ll try to explain what I mean.

In a chess game, we can make quick and ‘obvious’ moves that may or may not be blunders, may or may not better our position, and may or may not be winning or losing. They are just moves that bounce out of the board to us immediately. Many times, we act on our first-sight moves in blitz, or rapid, chess. That is why it isn’t good to play blitz exclusively; we’ll ever learn much or improve if we always make the first move that jumps out at us. That’s a fact.

It’s much the same with writing. The first draft of our stories can be related to blitz chess: there are glaring errors, it isn’t organized well, people in the story do things that are way out of character, etcetera. Ernest Hemmingway literally said, “The first draft of anything is shit.” I have always liked and respected that sentence. It’s so simple, and yet says so much – like a good chess move.

As a general rule, we get better at something the more we learn about and practice it; chess and writing are no different. However, in order to learn about them, to really learn about them, we have to put in the work. Chess requires many hours of hard study and play if you wish to be competitive, and writing requires hard-core, honest editing and rewriting if you want the story to be excellent, and not just good. A good story is easy to tell, but an excellent one takes work. That’s just the way it is.

What if, in a chess game that we lost, we were able to slowly review each move we made and change any and all moves that we wished? Well, we would win a lot of games, wouldn’t we? So, why not completely review and then rewrite a story that you’ve written? It can only be beneficial, both to you and the reader. Chess and writing are not things that should be cheapened. They are arts in their own right, and should be treated as such.

In the past, I had only heavily edited stories, not rewritten them completely. However, my most recent piece felt disjointed and scattered, like trying to find Waldo in a crowd. Characters were acting in ways they would not, some of the settings weren’t at all what I wanted, and I didn’t shape the personalities and relationships of the people well enough. Oh, sure, it was still a good story, I think, but it wasn’t great. If I’m going to put the time and effort forth to write a tale, I want it to be great, not good.

So, I embarked in a total rewrite. I first made a chronological timeline of events as they should happen, I made character sketches, and I wrote down small reminders of things that I wanted to strengthen or that I had missed completely, and then I opened a blank document. The second time around is a ton more fun than the first, I’m finding. Not only do I get to visit all my characters again, but in a much more personal, real way. I’m doing them justice. The writing is stronger. The flow is nicer. The story itself is much more believable and the ending will be far more intense.

Blitz chess is shit, and first drafts are shit. If you are a chess player or a writer, do yourself a favor and put a little time into your passion; you won’t believe the rewards.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

An Iowa Winter

One year – it was probably 1983 or so – we went back to Iowa for the holidays, to spend time with my grandparents. They lived in a lake community, and I spent all my childhood summers there. I learned to swim there, I learned to drive a boat there, I learned to water ski there; one experience, though, had eluded me: driving on an icy lake.

We had a great big Olds Delta 88 diesel at the time, and my mom drove right onto the lake and yanked the wheel hard. The car spun and spun and she gave it more gas and more wheel turns. I couldn’t believe that Mom was doing that! She was a very reserved woman until she got a big car onto a frozen lake.

Anyhow, we drove from the boat launch all the way across the lake to my grandma’s dock. It was so weird driving over the exact spot that I was diving into just that summer. It was definitely an awesome experience for eight-year-old me.

So, I felt the car slowing and I told my mom she had better punch it because we were going to get stuck. Fifteen seconds later, the big car just sat there, spinning the tires. Of course, my mother believed until the day she died that I was the cause of it, and not the fact that she was going slow.

Anyhow, we had to go get my uncle, who knew a few good ole boys with four-wheel drives, and they came and gave us a yank. The whole experience was so cool and surreal to me; it’s definitely something that will stay with me all my days.

Every season, a few trucks to through the ice. You can watch the big water crane extract them in the summertime.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Mama Kitty

At about six P.M. Wednesday, we put our eldest cat to sleep. She had some weird growth in her belly that had gotten progressively worse, and she was in pain. We’d had her for a decade, and wouldn’t stand to see her suffer, so we took her in.

We are not your average pet owners. We do not have kids, and so our animals are literally our family. Eliza and I have been together for ten years, and that means that every time we’ve come home, Mama has been there, waiting for us.

Not only had we had her the longest of all our cats, but she also had a very quirky and unique personality. We were able to clearly see, with just a glance, if she was grumpy, happy, mischievous, etcetera. The other cats are pretty predictable as far as how they’ll react to attention, but one never knew how Mama was going to receive you. It was hilarious.

Her name was literally Mama. I know, I know, not very original, but she was the mama of a few litters of cats and, throughout the years, we’ve kept some of her kids, who also have very quirky, but less defined, personalities. She was also a very good mama. In fact, she and one of her daughters, Fat-Fat, were very close right up until the end. They were always hanging out together.

Mama had a bunch of specific games she’d play with us that the other cats do not. For instance, if I put a hat on she wasn’t happy unless she got to rub her cheeks along the bill. She used to visit me almost every day at my desk, making it impossible to type or move the mouse. She was the type of cat that figured the world should stop if she entered a room.

She was quite the scrapper back in the day. We lived in a small apartment for quite a while, and she got fussy from time to time, so we’d let her out. The other cats knew it. I’m not sure she ever lost a fight. We would always hear the horrible screams and moans as Mama and another cat fought, but Mama would always come back to the apartment without a mark. She was a tough old girl.

That is why I’ve always thought this was weird: When she was hungry or thirsty and there was another cat by the food and water dishes, she would gingerly sit down and wait her turn. What a strange thing to do for such a wise, tough animal. I will definitely miss watching her do that. The other cats will just shove their way in so they can eat, too, but not her; she far preferred a table for one.

Heck, as you pet owners out there already know, I could literally go on and on for pages about the little things I’ll miss. For as long as Eliza and I have had a home, she’s been a part of it, and now she’s gone. We can definitely feel the empty spot that used to be her. I just hope she was happy and that we gave her the best life we possibly could.

We’ll miss you, Mama Kitty. :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Handel's Messiah

Yesterday, the honey and I ventured into Orange County to see George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah”, live and in person, complete with solo singers and a full choir. It was really something else. Words cannot convey how happy I am that we were able to see that.

With concert tickets soaring into the stratosphere, it’s nice to know that we still have options. We paid $25 a ticket to see a wonderful performance and hear music that has been loved by people for almost three centuries. If I want to see a new rock group, the tickets start somewhere around $65 and go way, way up from there. Thanks, pop-culture, but I’ll stick with symphonies and plays from now on.

The performance was given without having used a single microphone. I’m sure when many of us think “concert”, we think of stacks and stacks of speakers, amplifiers, and more speakers. It was a refreshing change to hear natural music in its natural form. There were no explosions, no light shows, no gimmicks; the music spoke for itself.

Also, unlike many of today’s artists who somehow get away with performing a hack tune with a half-assed voice, the performers in Messiah were very, very talented. The notes those singers can hit are staggering, and the dynamics were nothing short of awe-inspiring. Sorry, Avenged Sevenfold, you can’t touch that one.

I was also surprised and pleased to randomly recognize many, many popular Christmas songs in Handel’s mix. I have an odd ear for that kind of thing, and I could find them immediately, even though the lyrics and music in general were different. It was definitely a cool history lesson.

I liked last night’s performance so much, in fact, that we are going back to the venue to hear classical piano for my birthday in January. Do you think Tchaikovsky’s Fifth will feature a mosh pit and security guards who make you throw out lighters, pens, and pocket knives before they let you in?

Me either.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Bullies Beware: The Internet is Here

So, we have heard a lot about cyber-bullying these past few years. We have also seen how Facebook and other social sites can put us in touch with old friends, family, loved ones, teachers, and anyone else; including bullies of years gone by.

Yes, the tides may be turning, and dangerously, in favor of the picked-on kids. In generations past, if a kid bullied us in school, we eventually grew up, moved away, our appearances and lives changed, and that was that. The bully was nothing more than a memory which leaves a bad taste in our mouths. Today, however, just about everyone is a mere Google search away. And that is very, very bad for schoolyard bullies.

Here’s the scenario: You are sitting home alone one night, bored out of your mind. Suddenly, and for no particular reason, the kid who used to beat you up on a bi-weekly basis in Junior High comes to mind. After some thought, you remember the asshole’s name.

A quick Facebook search tells you that he’s still in the same town where the two of you went to school. Just a little more digging, and you have his home and work addresses, and you aren’t thirteen anymore. Revenge plans swirl through your mind like a dust-devil in a summertime breeze.

Does this happen? You bet it does. Fake temporary accounts are easily made, and can net great results in something like the above situation. Bullies are not nearly as safe today as they were just ten years ago. Be careful how you treat others because, as with a serious crime, wronging the nerdy kid in school can come back to bite you many, many years later.

Please, just be nice to each other. It’s all fun and games when you shove around the 90-pound kid with glasses but twenty years later, after that kid has received his black belt in Tae Kwon Do and holds a hell of a grudge, things could get a little dicey. Just saying.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Occupy Morons

Yeah, this one is going to ruffle some feathers. Hey, what do I care? This blog is an arena for me to voice my opinion, especially if it differs from those of total idiots. So, here we go.

I tried to talk to one of these people the other day on Facebook, and got un-friended for my efforts. All I asked was for them to explain why they were part of this movement. Not a single one of them in the thread could provide any answer. I’ve known this guy for something like seventeen years, too.

I asked what their education levels were and they all skirted the question, so I asked again. Finally, they said their education levels did not matter. Oh? I saw a recent statistic that only 4-5% of college graduates are unemployed. Maybe these guys should occupy a classroom. By the way, “it doesn’t matter” means that their education level is zero. I have a decoder ring.

I think some of them are angry at corporations. They can’t mean the same corporations that provide their vehicles, their computers, their game systems, their groceries, and their lifestyles, right? That wouldn’t make any sense. If they are against corporations making oodles of money, they should stop shopping at Wal-Mart and pay double for stuff at the Mom and Pop franchises. My bet is that they don’t. Oh, and no more fast food for them, either. Damn corporations. Time to get an old Marlin rifle and hunt for dinner, you ass clowns.

Some of them think that it’s unfair that poor people exist. What? I mean, yeah, it sucks, but setting up a tent downtown with a protest sign isn’t changing a thing. Trust me on that one. Donate to charity, buy a poor family a really nice Christmas gift, help a homeless guy at a gas station; do anything but join a bunch of pot smokers who wish their generation had its own hippie movement. Anything at all.

I could go on and on about these Occupy morons, but I won’t. I have money to make. At my job. Once this stupid-ass bandwagon trend passes, there will still be greedy corporations, poor people, and crooked politicians. If you want to incite change, go through the proper channels.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Ana Kefr at the Whiskey

Last night, Eliza and I went into Hollywood to see Ana Kefr play at the Whiskey a Go Go ( for their final show on a nation-wide tour. As always, they killed it, in a good way. We saw the bands that played before and after them, and there simply isn’t any reason to compare: Ana Kefr gets the crown with ease.

I am a musician myself, and have played many venues in Hollywood throughout the years. Still, every time I see Ana Kefr I’m so damned impressed with them; trust me on this, they are ready for the big time. In order to see a band as professional and well-put-together as Ana Kefr, be prepared to pay large dollars through TicketMaster for a big-label band. These guys have that much talent.

As I’ve mentioned before, the “screamo” bands normally aren’t exactly my forte, but Ana Kefr comes correct. Singer Rhiis puts so much emotion into his performance that it doesn’t matter what he’s saying or how he’s saying it – you feel it, too. The band is amazingly tight, and that’s coming from a fellow musician; we look for things like that. I have seen these guys play a handful of times, and I have never seen one single musical error. Last night, Brendan tapped the mic with his forehead after switching from sax to guitar, but his performance was flawless.

If you’d like to see the best screamer/progressive metal band there is, you’d better do it quick, because in the near future you’ll be shelling out quite a few hard-earned greenbacks at TicketMaster in order to attend a show. Go watch them perform while they are still local, folks!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

One MEEELION Reasons

Okay, I borrowed the misspelled million from Austin Powers. That just means that my perception is exceptional and that I’m awesome, or something. Anyhow, this blog entry is not about Mr. Powers, but about what we do, and what it means to us.

This can go for any occupation or hobby but mostly, I’m speaking to the writers. Admit it, you’d do ten times more of what you do now for a million dollars. That figure doesn’t mess around; it speaks to us very loudly. One million dollars. Man, oh man, that flows off the tongue well.

There aren’t many things I wouldn’t do for a million bucks, and I’m speaking literally. If it didn’t cripple me for life or cause serious mental disorders, I’d probably do it for a mil. No kidding. I think most people would, too. While it’s true that a million dollars isn’t as big as it once was, most people could just bank it and live off the interest. Even at 3% interest, that’s still $30,000 a year, totally for free. Add in a part-time job you enjoy, and you’re bringing in $50k; I don’t think there are many of us who would argue with something like that.

So, why don’t more of us make a million dollars at what we do? Any writer I know who was propositioned with that kind of money would be able to put together any kind of story or article collection without question. Wouldn’t you? And that leaves me with only one logical conclusion: We don’t believe in ourselves as much as we should.

You’ll never, ever make a million dollars from the story you didn’t finish, or didn’t start writing in the first place. You’ll never make a mil watching TV or playing Facebook games instead of writing, or whatever it is you love. You’ll never make a red cent on stories that aren’t submitted to a publisher. If you have ever once thought about how nice it’d be to become well-off doing what you love, then I bet you have the talent; all you are missing is the drive.

Unfortunately, in most lines of work, the task has to be completed first, and *then* someone pays for it. You simply have to write if you want to make it your living. Of course, a million dollars is neither here nor there, and if you can pull in enough to live on, that’s still successful. But the mil is out there, waiting, and if you don’t snag it, some other author will. Go get what’s yours. Write the damned story and wow the world!

There are a million reasons to do so.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011

I’ve done this challenge twice now. The first year, I attempted a novel. The story was great (in fact, I still like it!) but the writing wasn’t very strong. At all. Okay, it sucked pretty badly. In order for me to go forward with that story, I’m not even sure I’d edit; it just needs a total rewrite.

The second time I did this, which was last year, I decided I’d write 50,000 words worth of short stories: you know, something I could actually use. It worked like a charm, and I got quite a few written. Some have even been polished up and sent off for contests.

So, why not this year?

Well, I’m not going for the novel, or for fifty-grand in shorts, but I am challenging myself. In fact, I’d like to make this a monthly thing. Here’s how it works: My wife gives me some vague writing theme, and I have to make a story out of it. The game is quite fun, and I love the challenge. However, writing 1,667 words a day, every day, by force, gets old to me. I’d rather do 500 quality words a day than triple it but have to go back and edit like a demon.

In my opinion, NaNoWriMo is mainly geared toward would-be novelists who aren’t writing regularly. I do write regularly. I’ve also “won” the challenge twice, so I know I can do it. Maybe, sometime in the future when I can haul ass and still write pretty strongly, I’ll attempt another novel in four weeks. Ain’t for me right now, though.

So, my November goal is four polished, ready-to-send-out short stories. That’s only one a week, which Ray Bradbury says we should be doing anyhow. Of course, there isn’t anything catchy or cool about my personal contest, so it’ll just be for me. It’s a goal I can reach, and I’ll have stories I can send out at the end of each week. Can’t beat that for cool!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dealing With Forum Morons

As many of you know, I’m highly active on forums and Internet boards. These are generally thematic (welding, Jeeps, writing, chess, woodworking, BMX, hot rods, etcetera) places we can go on the Web in order to share and gather information with others who have like interests.

The problem is, everyone is allowed on the Internet. There are going to be a few asshats on every board. It’s completely unavoidable. The questions is what to do with these idiots. Well, I can tell you that the thing *not* to do is go to war with them. You simply cannot reason with a chump who already knows it all.

On the writing forum, there are folks who have never completed a single story, and yet they are the ones who’ll tell you how to get published. It’s maddening. On the chess forums, there are total newbies who will be the first to explain exactly how to become a grandmaster. Equally maddening. On the Jeep forums, there are slow-bos who have never driven a trail, and yet they are the utmost authority on everything off-road. It gets real, real old.

Even the strongest of people have their bad days. On mine, I lose all patience with the people who are wasting bandwidth and talking nonsense, and I go after them with reason, logic, and experience. Big mistake. They simply will not listen, and will make up arguments out of thin air, most of which have nothing at all to do with the subject at hand. Why I bother with them at all is beyond me. I usually don’t, in fact, but like I said, a bad day can happen to any of us.

I actually, literally, have a list of folks written on a piece of paper and taped to my office wall whom I have vowed never to respond to again. I must be strong. I have no time for anyone who is brand new to a subject and happens to know all about said subject. I really don’t. Neither does anyone else, for that matter.

I have been in an administrative position on a chess site for years, and so I know all about helping people who are new. In fact, I love to do so. But when you get the unreasonable mook who argues for the sake of arguing, my hands are tied. If you are going to ask questions or advice on a forum, at least take the time to learn and process what the experts are telling you before disagreeing with them.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Adult Language on TV and Radio

This post was inspired by my Facebook friend, Angie Rayfield. She posted the other day that she had heard the line, “...pussy bitch” on a TV program. Nothing new there, right? Gangsters and thugs say that stuff all the time on TV. But then, in the same show, “...suck my [bleep]” was heard. The interesting point that “pussy” was allowed, but “dick” wasn’t, was brought up by Angie.

And, let’s face it, it *is* interesting. In the above example, it’s the meaning behind the words, I feel, that kept one out but allowed the other in. “Pussy” was said in lieu of “sissy”. “Dick” however, would have meant the man’s penis, and that’s just not accepted in our society – yet.

I have heard phrases like, “That car is tits!” on several shows, but you won’t hear a man saying, “Look at those tits!” on the same shows. The connotation makes a big difference, but why? It’s the same word! It seems quite silly to me, really.

When I was young, if you wanted to hear the really bad curses, you had to have a movie channel, and then stay up late enough to catch Eddie Murphy, or George Carlin, or someone of their ilk. “Damn” was still real iffy on basic cable, and it caught your attention when it was said. Today, obviously, those lines have moved, or have been eradicated altogether.

The same thing can be said about radio play. The things they choose to let air vs. the things they choose to bleep out are amazing to me, sometimes. There are certain songs out today that aren’t even enjoyable to listen to on the radio, because it sounds like a heart monitor with a beat thrown in. Just constant bleeps with the occasional instrumental break. What good is that?

I wonder where this is all heading. How long before there are *no* lines to cross? How long before Disney characters are swearing at each other, or fornicating? How long before the average sitcom is allowed to contain any and all words? Or, maybe, we’ll go backward and try to clean things up. What do you think? Should progress necessarily mean total freedom of language on the airwaves?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

My Morning Routine

I was wondering what to write about on this fine Saturday, when I figured I’d share how my mornings work with you all. They probably aren’t unlike your own mornings, but the specifics are bound to be vastly different.

First, I get up and brew coffee. I’m Hypoglycemic and so I shouldn’t do that, but I really enjoy the extra kick in the morning. I almost always limit myself to two cups although some mornings, three is necessary. Once that’s brewing I head to the old laptop and get started.

First, I check my stats out on I won’t go into how I learned about this stuff, or why I believe it, but suffice it to say that the information is *always* eerily correct. It’s a very good indicator of how my day is going to go, and knowledge is power and all that. Some have horoscopes, I have science.

Then, I check my Gmail account, which is never empty when I get up. I make 100% of my income online and I’m very active on social sites, so my inbox gets dominated quite a bit. I kinda like it. I never know what’s going to be in there. It’s like winning a grab-bag at a party: Sometimes, it’s full of boring things that you cannot possibly use but other times, you get some really cool stuff.

After that, I head over to Craigslist to check what’s for sale. Right now, I’m looking at old Dodge trucks, bands seeking drummers, camp trailers, and BMX stuff. Always BMX stuff. I also keep my eyes open for local yard sales, because I’m a sucker for a good deal.

From there, I cruise over to the Jeep Cherokee club at and see what’s new there. Our chapter has been rather slow lately, but it usually picks up a bit in winter. Muddy trails and cool weather does something to off-road enthusiasts. At least it does to me.

From there I hit the chess. I first get my news at and before moving over to the social chess sites at and Anyone who knows me knows how addicted to chess I am. I love it. On almost every forum I’m on, chess or not, my handle is Skwerly. Keep an eye out for me!

Once I’m done there, I hit the BMX forum at, and then I head over to for my daily dose of scary. It’s a cool little horror forum, but I wish it were more active. If it were instead, there would be hundreds of posts every hour. Sigh...

After that, I do my catching up on Facebook and Zombie Lane. The Facebook takes a little while because I network there as well as keep up with local friends and family. I really like it, but the site does take its toll on my morning.

Finally, I visit to see what all my writer friends are up to, and to make a daily writing prompt. While I am a member of a few other writing forums, I very rarely even check in; I get tired of posts like “What are you listening to?” going hundreds of pages long, but actual writing inquiries remain largely ignored. That doesn’t happen at Accentuate, so I stay there. It’s my writing home-base.

I’m a member of *several* other forums, including more BMX ones, a few welding ones, a few writing contest ones, a drummer one, a few gun ones, MOPAR-related ones, etcetera. I usually stop into at least one of those each week to catch up on the happenings, but the ones listed are my main, daily sites.

Once I’m done with all that, I hit the writing, usually, either doing articles for AC, a blog entry, or penning some fiction. I love my life and wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m totally free to do what I want, and yet I still make enough to pay my bills and have a little fun. Who could ask for more?

Friday, October 21, 2011

So, I'm Tweeting Now

hate to think of myself as one of those “resistance to change” folks, but I suppose I am, at least to some extent. It took me years to get on Facebook, and a couple more to finally create a twitter account. Better late than never?

So far, I’ve found some really cool and interesting accounts to follow. I must admit, I like the idea of following famous people who actually Tweet their own updates. That’s pretty cool. Almost like sitting in their living room, drinking their tea and laughing with them. Almost.

Just like Facebook, I’m sure that eventually I’ll think of a zillion things to follow, and my feed will be so cluttered with traffic that I’ll just give up. But I’m going to give it a try. Why not, right? Not much to lose but a few more moments of my life that I’d likely be wasting on something else, anyway.

At any rate, I’m at!/DCOdom if you would like to follow me, for whatever reason. I can’t guarantee that every post will be witty and wonderful. Okay, I can, but some more than others. Let’s Twitter.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Almost done with Facebook

At one time, I *loved* Facebook. I loved networking, I loved meeting interesting new people, and I loved sharing my statuses.

Lately, however, there has been an influx of stupid on the site, and I just can’t take it. Yes, I’m a writer, and so misspellings, bad grammar, and horrible structure may bug me more than some people, but come *on*.

These new “image messages” people insist on putting up once every two minutes are really bugging me. One of my favorites starts out, “When a women says...” No, no, see, women is PLURAL. Woman is singular. Of course, there are a hundred other examples, but you see what I mean.

I’m getting tired of cutesie, misspelled messages and the morons who post them. Does the fact that the stupid sign is misspelled in the first place tick me off? Nope. I couldn't care less. It’s that not one, or five, or twenty, but hundreds of people just don’t give a shit, and share them anyway. I’m positive that SOME of you see the misspelling; it just doesn’t matter to you. That’s what ticks me off.

It’s gotten to where I scroll through my Facebook feed at Mach 1, stopping only at actual pictures or posts from people I know personally, or that have an I.Q. greater than 77. Other than the occasional “share” and keeping in touch with long lost friends, I’m not seeing a point to hanging around much longer. It's either I largely ignore it, or get real, real happy with the "hide posts from..." option.

The place is a minefield of stupidity. It used to be that learning what folks were having for dinner, and how their kids were doing in school bugged me; now, those are a treat. At least they are the thoughts of the poster, and not some circulated message launched by a total moron.

Sigh, I dunno. Maybe it’s just one of those days. :D

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

English Skills on Facebook

C’mon, folks. I make a ton of errors and inaccuracies when I’m conversing on social sites, and there are probably even a few in this very post. But I know how to spell, and I know the most basic of the basic English rules. It seems that many do not. As a writer, it bugs me pretty badly.

I can’t do math very well. I never have been able to. However, when I do attempt it, I don’t mistake a division sign for a multiplication sign, and I don’t write a 2 as a 5. I at least try to get it right so that everything makes sense. Mistakes are made, and even with best efforts, stuff gets screwed up. It happens, and I get it. I do. But, can we at least *try*?

English perfection isn’t for everyone, and some folks can’t even conquer spelling very well. That’s fine! I can tell when a post was created by someone who simply isn’t good with English, and there’s not much grieving I can do over it. What really irks me is when people who claim to be writers butcher posts. Oh, man, that’s a peeve-and-a-half.

Questions don’t end with periods. Triple exclamation marks or question marks are not only incorrect, but they do not make the sentence any more exciting, or any more of a question. One works, all the time. “There” house isn’t on the next block; “theirs” might be, though. Oh, it goes on and on.

As I have mentioned in previous blog entries, the re-posts are some of the worst. Horrible punctuation, absolutely no grammar, misspellings, and sometimes they are ALL IN CAPS. That’s annoying, not attention-getting. Should you choose to re-post a copied and pasted ad, take a few seconds and edit the damned thing. Just because you didn’t make it up is no reason you have to look like an idiot. I’m just sayin’.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

"Who touched that last?" and other odd questions.

So, sometimes, I let my mind wander. I have always done that. Okay, not sometimes; I let the thing wander wherever it wants, whenever it wants. Last night, I was at a rock show in Pomona at the Fox Theater. While the first band was setting up, I was eyeballing around the place.

The ceilings were really high, and there was some rather ornately designed blocks toward the top of the walls. As I stared at the blocks, which were probably seventy feet off the floor, I had a weird thought: Who was the last person to actually be up there and touch that specific one? Or the one next to it. Or that other one, about ten feet down. Maybe, they hadn’t been touched since the place went up, which is a long, long time ago.

I often wonder about things that simply cannot be answered. Maybe I’ll see an old, rusty car in a field, and wonder who took the keys out of the ignition for the last time. When was the last time the engine was shut down? What position are the pistons in? Would it start, right now, if someone gave it a little TLC? How many miles on the thing? Was it discarded prematurely? Was there still life left in it when it was abandoned? Small things like that plague my mind at times.

Sometimes I wonder things like this: What if someone gathered up every pee I had ever taken, and measured it? How many gallons have I peed in my thirty-six years? While that number can surely be estimated, no one will ever know the true value. That somewhat bothers me, and I don’t know why. Another pondering: What would it feel like if I were forced to endure all the pain I had felt in one year, in a single instant? Would I survive that if it was a relatively decent year? Would it kill me instantly? What if all the pain were localized to one place, like say, my big toe, or my elbow? Just for an instant. Fractions of a second. What the hell would happen?

Death is intriguing to me, too, as it is for many of us. So many questions! How long does it take the average embalmed body to completely turn to dust? I honestly have no clue, and I really wonder. Does the last heartbeat feel differently than the billions of others? I guess if it’s a heart-attack it would. After death, I mean directly after, how long are we still feeling stuff? These are things I want to know.

Does your mind go to these places sometimes? It doesn’t bother me that mine does, but I’m not sure what good it does to constantly wonder about unanswerable things. I guess it keeps the ole gray matter chooglin’, though. I guess it does at that.

Friday, September 9, 2011

I thought I wanted to be white trash

Okay, not really, but I did want to own my own trailer or mobile home, ever since I was very young. Silly things like impressing the neighbors and having new cars have never interested me a bit. From my earliest memories, I have always wanted to live in a very simple place and do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Well, that comes with a price.

In 2007, I finally got the opportunity to purchase my very own mobile home. It was a 1961 beauty, and it was the first one actually in the park, which was created in ’61. I loved it, and I was happy to finally own something, and be a part of a community. I made friends with the neighbors, I did side-jobs for the manager, and I took pride in my home.

We landscaped the whole thing, we painted it in cool colors, and we made sure the inside was always clean. This was my home. I never considered myself white trash, but I didn’t mind the label, if it made someone feel better to think that of me. I drove an old Jeep Cherokee and a used Taurus, and I worked part-time for a parking company in downtown Riverside, CA. Life, as they say, was good.

After about six months, maybe a year, I began to actually look around: I was white trash. Drugs were rampant in the park, as were boozers. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good night of slamming back the cold ones with the boys. But these were boozers. They woke up with a tall boy, and they drank until they fell down at night. That may be acceptable, and even somewhat cool, when you are twenty-one, but some of these folks were much, much older than that.

One day, our meth-addicted neighbor died, right in his trailer. It was pretty surreal, because folks were coming and getting high with him on the couch. This was a far cry from anything that I was brought up to accept. In fact, it was pretty far out there. Hours and hours after his death, some bloke in a mini-van came and picked him up in the dead of night.

Anyhow, the folks who moved in after him were complete scum. Loud parties, always a beer in their hand, a gajillion watts of bass coming from their piece of shit Honda, etcetera. Then, the neighbors behind us decided it was time to breed Chihuahuas. When your walls are really thin and there are eight yapping puppies at six A.M., the world seems pretty grim.

After that, our nice neighbor to the south moved, and what replaced him was a young couple with a toddler. Erase the picture that just entered your mind; these are not those people. Each of these winners weighed at least four-hundred pounds, and walked around either almost, or totally, naked most of the time. Seriously. We even had nicknames for them, but I’ll spare you my dark sense of humor for the time being.

By that time, we were house-looking. All day, every day. Really, it was that bad. We’d get up at 8 A.M. and be out of the house a half-hour later, and we’d house-hunt for a full eight hours. If we ran out of houses to see, we’d go to the movies, go out to eat, go visit friends. It was becoming expensive, but we simply could not take another second in the park. The new move-ins were wrecking our lives.

We finally did find a house, and I’m typing to you from the office of said house. It’s older, it’s cute and quaint, it has a nice bit of land, and a locking gate. Which we lock. The nights are quiet and my days are filled with writing and working in the garage, which are things I simply couldn’t do in the trailer. I have no landlord, I have no HOA to tell me I can’t paint the fence a certain color, and no yapping mutts or unbelievable amounts of house-shaking bass. There is just peace and comfort.

Now that I’m getting older and wiser, I see that my goal to be white trash was a bit off the intended mark. I don’t want to be white trash, and I’m not white trash. Now I understand completely why my parents drove around for weeks, scoping out the neighborhoods before deciding on a place to live. If you pick the wrong one, things can get topsy-turvy real quick.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Politics: Why worry about them?

There are two things I simply won’t discuss with anyone except my closest friends, and those are religion and politics. Especially politics. I don’t care about them, they bore me, and if I’m going to worry about anything, I’m going to worry about things that affect me or my loved ones directly. Things I can change.

Look, I don’t like soldiers going to war in Iraq or Afghanistan any better than the next guy. I don’t. But if I never turned on a TV or hopped on the Internet, I wouldn’t even know they were there. I’d still get up, have my coffee, and go about my day. Overseas conflicts about arms trading, oil, religion, or any other matter just simply do not affect my life one bit. I worry more about local drunk drivers than I do wars.

Another reason I hate politics is because it’s such a fake-ass world. I realize I’m only thirty-six, but in those thirty-six years I have never, or so extremely rarely as to be never, heard anyone say they love the president, or even a senator. Politicians spout a bunch of horse shit promises so they can get elected, and then once in office, almost none of it happens. So, why vote? They all just seem to be talking heads run by other people, anyhow. Does it *really* matter which talking head is in office? Maybe, slightly. Maybe.

Some of my least favorite people are the conspiracy theorists. According to them, there’s always something fishy going on, some secret, under-toe current of nastiness coming from the government. Well, so what? Look, *experts* in the field have dedicated their entire lives to analyzing government conspiracies, and have basically gotten nowhere. What makes you think average joes such as ourselves know any better? We don’t, and can’t. Stop wasting your time. Find a hobby, like model airplanes or sewing, and worry about improving your own life. Getting angry at politics is needlessly raising your blood pressure.

I tend to worry more about local laws and ordinances as opposed to global stuff. I think there’s enough going on right in our own communities to keep us busy for years. You may like to bad mouth Obama all over Facebook, but when’s the last time you donated a little money to your local police department, or gone to a city council meeting? Let’s get our hearts and heads in the right places, folks. Just sayin’.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Restoring isn’t the only way, folks

As many of you already know, I have a lot of hobbies. Too many, probably, but they keep me occupied. Two of them are classic cars and BMX bikes. I have joined forums that showcase each of those activities, and some of the people on them just get ridiculous. Allow me to explain what I mean.

Although it’s technically not the correct word, I call these particular people purists. They are the folks who do not, for whatever reason, believe in modification of any kind. They believe that both cars and bikes should be brought back to their factory glory if you are going to mess with them at all.

Case in point, someone on the BMX forum I’m a part of redid his Robinson race bike in colors he wanted instead of factory stuff. Very bright colors. The bike looked super cool, and I was extremely impressed with the build. However, the purist gang teamed up on him and berated his bike because it was custom. What? That attitude, to me, is nothing more than fourth-grade immaturity.

I have built both bikes and cars for quite some time, and I have never once done a full restoration on either. Not that I don’t think it’s sorta cool to source parts and make an old, jacked up bike or car factory correct again, but it takes a ton of money and time to do that. Unfortunately, money and time are the two things most of us don’t have a lot of.

When I build a bike, I strip the paint off the frame, forks, bars, sprocket, stem (what I used to call a Gooseneck), seat clamp, and whatever else may be painted. Then I prime and re-paint it in whatever color I want using spray-bomb cans from Ace Hardware. I get grips and seats and brake pads from wherever has them for cheap, and replace the tires if necessary. The bikes come out looking great and they work well because I know what I’m doing. The purists don’t like that a Mongoose which was only offered in red, black, or chrome left my garage bright blue with Huffy rims and a GT crank? Tough. My bike, my build. Neener-neener.

The same goes with cars. Most of my gear-head friends think stock is boring. That’s because it is. I like cars from the ‘60s and ‘70s, but I wasn’t around to see most of them new. For that reason, their stock forms mean very little to me. For instance, if I get an old Plymouth and the paint is brown, I’m going to redo that. Brown sucks. That leaves me with a plethora more options than the stickler purists have.

Also, nobody wants to drive a small-block with a two-barrel carburetor and tiny, restrictive exhaust manifolds. So, my classics run headers, custom mufflers and four-barrel carbs. It’s just that simple. Why go through all the trouble to make the danged engine stock when it put out 195 horse power in that form? I like my V8s to run strong. I’m no racer, but I don’t mind a little punch off the line, either.

The point is that the people who bitch and complain about custom builds should really be grateful that someone built the things at all. Too many nice old bikes and cars end up in the scrap yard, never to see the road again. Not for me. I don’t care if you lower your ’59 Edsel, put twenty-inch rims on it and paint the thing zebra-striped; at least it’ll be on the road instead of crushed or recycled. Build it how you want it, gang. Life’s too short to whine about factory correct.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Driving: Even Morons Do It

I had the unfortunate experience of driving on the freeway for a few hours in the last couple of days. There’s nothing in the world like a sixty-mile drive on a CA freeway to remind us that the average I.Q. is 99. In light of this, I am proposing some new rules for moron drivers. Not that they’ll read this blog post, but it’ll sure feel good to type it.

Rule 1: Use your head in the left lane. While sixty-five or seventy may in fact be the speed limit in a certain area, take your ass out of the fast lane if you are going to drive that slow. If by VW Beetles and mini vans are passing you on the right, you are doing it wrong.

Rule 2: Turn off your damn brights. If you are going to lift your pickup obscenely high and not re-aim the headlights, at least please leave your brights off. It’s bad enough that your thirty-eight inch tires sound like a freight train approaching and that your exhaust is annoyingly loud. Adding the bright lights in my mirror seals my hatred for you.

Rule 3: Pick a speed and stay there. Few things boil my blood like a missing-link that goes from eighty to sixty-five in the span of four seconds, and then back up to eighty. Then back down. Then up. Your car, like almost every car offered after 1978 probably came with cruise control. Use that shit. That way, you can maintain your speed while you text someone and change the station on your crappy radio.

Rule 4: Sit up. Just because you’ve seen a few Snoop-Dogg videos doesn’t make you a gangster. Leaning to the side in your primer-gray Honda Accord with a buckled hood isn’t cool. At all. The chick you managed to take with you thinks you look like an idiot, and she’s correct. Maybe if you spent less on cologne and hair-gel you could get the stupid thing painted. Just sayin’.

Rule 5: Merge smoothly. I don’t see houses or school crossing signs or speed bumps on the freeway. I see cars moving along at eighty miles an hour. The people in those cars want to get somewhere. Entering the freeway at forty miles an hour is not only unbelievably annoying, it’s also dangerous. I realize that many cars these days have no power, but when the on-ramp is the downhill kind and it’s a quarter-mile long, you can get to sixty. Trust me, jerk-off, you can.

Rule 6: “Powered By...” stickers are stupid. Like, really dumb. If I see a 1998 Honda Civic, I do not assume it has a Chrysler mill under the hood. That a Honda Civic would be powered by Honda is very logical, and unnecessary to advertise. It makes you look as dumb as the wing on the back and the coffee-can-sized muffler you have installed for “performance”. No matter what you do to that car, it will never be a hot rod. You have failed.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Baseball Game

The other day, I attended an Angels game with an old friend. I have never been a sports fan, for various reasons, but if I had to choose one it would definitely be baseball. I have always liked it, but never taken the time to really get into it. Mostly, not making it another hobby saves money and time. The game was a fantastically awesome time and I’m really, really glad I went. But I still do not believe I could become a rabid fan.

The tickets to the actual games are rarely very expensive unless you want really kick-ass seats. Normally they are between $8 and $14 bucks somewhere. However, that’s where the savings stop. Just about everything else baseball or sports related is unreasonably expensive.

A good nine of ten people were wearing red Angels clothing at the game. You can pick up a ball cap at the stadium for less than $10, but the clothing is much more expensive. Oh, and we musn’t forget the $10 parking fee and the fuel costs to get to the game. So, let’s say you want to join in on the festivities and enjoy yourself, yet as cheaply as possible. So far, with an $8 ticket, $10 in gas to get there and back (pretty conservative number these days), $10 to park, $8 for a team ball cap, $4.50 for an “Angel Dog”, $3 for a small soda and $8 for a single beer, you are already up to $51.50. So, a “cheap” baseball game can become a nice ding on the pocketbook real quick. And that is just for one person; if you bring the family, that number climbs exponentially.

Then you have the trading cards, the time to invest in watching a three-hour game on TV and following all the team stats, the extra strain of seeing your favorite players perform poorly or get traded, and subscribing to the whole “My team is better than your team” attitude. I really cannot stand that. All pro ball players are pretty good, and all teams win and lose. That’s why I just enjoy the game in general and only follow it loosely.

Football is way worse to me, though; I do not go for the brutal sports. Running toward a huge man with the intent to knock him over so that your team can get control of a small, oblong ball makes absolutely zero sense to me. I believe I’ll continue playing chess and sacrificing rooks to get my kicks. The worst injury I have ever sustained in a chess game is damaged ego after losing a game. That, friends and neighbors, I can subscribe to.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ana Kefr Show

Last night I went to the Music Room in San Bernardino to see my buddy’s band, Slanderus, play a set. They were billed with two other bands, one of which was Ana Kefr. All the bands were “screamer” bands, meaning it’s aggressive metal music with, well, screaming vocalists.

It usually isn’t quite my cup of tea (I’m a child of the ‘80s; I like anything from Metallica to Lionel Richie to alternative to classical , but the screamers are a bit new for my taste) but Ana Kefr is quite simply an amazing band. I mean it. They were amazing.

The music was more “musical” to me than many of the new bands. Like, really musical. I could clearly hear the classical influence, even though it was metal music. They played for one hour, and never once stopped. That alone is impressive considering the intensity of their music. They incorporated different genres in their act, too, such as ska, a horn solo, keyboards and of course, brutal metal.

Just when I thought I had heard it all, Ana Kefr comes along. Never before have I seen or listened to anything remotely similar. Mark my words, folks, Ana Kefr is going all the way. You may not know their name now, but you will. It was hands down the most impressive five-dollar show I have ever attended.

You can find 'em here:!/anakefr

If you like new metal or progressive rock at all, you’ll wanna give these guys a try. Trust me.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

My new Canon camera

Well, since my last blog entry was so horribly... horrible, I wanted to create a more positive one today. Besides, I’m in a much better mood. It’s amazing what a little distance will do.

So, late last week I decided that I needed a better camera. The one I have is a little point-and-shoot Kodak and while it does the job, it does it barely. Oh, sure, if you are out in the bright sunshine and wish to take a picture the thing turns out swell. But images taken in the night time or indoors left quite a bit to be desired. In its defense, it was only a run-of-the-mill $100 job from Best Buy. It still works great, I just desired a little more.

I did quite a bit of research and read a staggering amount of reviews on various cameras. I eventually decided pretty firmly on the Canon SX130 IS Power Shot. Yea, it’s still a point-and-shoot but it cannot be thrown into the same category as my little Kodak. Not by a long shot.

This bad boy has 12x zoom and is capable of 12.1 Megapixel images. When using the zoom function the pictures are really clear and vivid. The average image was about 2.5 Mb on the disk but I really don’t need to take every shot in 12.1 Megapixel mode and so will likely turn down the volume a bit on that.

It has series shooting, fisheye function, a timer, fifty-eleven different modes for both indoor and outdoor shots, etcetera. One of the things I really like about the camera is that it uses two AA batteries, and we have a good number of rechargeable ones. I just added my own SD card and started shooting.

I’m very happy with the thing and would recommend one to anybody who wants a little more out of their pictures. It was only $200, which is double the price for quadruple the features. It’s a tad bulkier than some other digitals but not cumbersome at all. The camera will still easily fit into a coat pocket.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

I have not been very active this week on the Internet. I have not kept up on forums or Facebook as I usually do, I have not created or participated in writing prompts for a few days, and I have not played any chess. Why? Well, that’s simply complicated.

On Monday, a good friend and Jeep club acquaintance of mine was found naked in his apartment with a four-year-old girl that wasn’t his. She was naked, as well, and yelling out of his window for help. Her dad finally broke the door down and saved her, sparing my friend’s life in an unimaginable show of self-restraint. I didn’t then, and do not now, know how to process this information.

This man had been to my house on several occasions, and I to his. Hell, I even helped the guy move. We have put countless miles behind us on four-wheel drive trails together, and shared a campfire more than a few times. Now my wife and I get to be the people we sometimes see interviewed on TV who say, “I never saw this coming!” We didn’t.

This guy was outwardly a good guy. He laughed a lot, he was always ready to drink a beer with ya’ and he had a family. His views in general were very similar to mine and we always hit it off and had a great time whenever we hung out.

And then he hurt a four-year-old. This news could not have been more left-field and unexpected. It’s on the same level as if someone had told me the moon was overcome by Earth’s gravity and would collide with us in two weeks. I can’t even comprehend it, much less process it.

He has affected a lot of people with his actions. That little girl will never be the same, her family will never be the same, and his Jeep club has turned on him like a rabid dog. My wife and I are just completely stunned and depressed over it. She has been crying, I cannot seem to concentrate or feel driven to do much of anything. This man was our friend, and welcome in our home any time.

And now his life is over, too. Never again will he have an enjoyable shower, or celebrate a birthday with a few Budweisers and good friends. He’ll never drive an off-road trail again, he’ll never walk into a store again, he’ll never sleep comfortably again. All that may not matter in the long run; people accused of these type crimes tend not to last long behind bars.

And for what? For one decision that will haunt droves of people for the rest of their lives, myself included. One decision that changed everyone even remotely involved. One decision that hurt more people than he ever would have imagined.

I have been following the case as closely as possible. He is charged with five counts, ranging from kidnapping to, well, worse things. The little girl was hurt. If convicted of everything, he’s looking at three life sentences. Even if he somehow manages to plea out and reduce some of the charges, he’ll die in prison sooner or later.

What’s the point of this entry? I guess there isn’t one, really. It has been on my mind constantly and so I thought I would share here. But I implore all you parents out there to please, please watch your kids closely. They cannot defend themselves and they are so trusting. Be very careful with them. This is really scary shit.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Patriotism: Dead or Alive?

This has always been an interesting subject for me. Mostly, it’s interesting because everyone’s view on it is a little (or a lot) different. Patriotism today definitely differs from patriotism in the ‘50s or ‘60s, or any other generation, for that matter. But how, and why?

Today, it seems that folks are either nationalists or anarchists; there is no in-between. You are either a blind patriot or totally against everything government/country related. The media has tricked us into thinking every single soldier is a hero, no matter what, and has steered us away from police and fire men and women being heroes. Last time I checked, you don’t call the Navy if someone is breaking into your house.

There are enough copy and pasted “thank a soldier” posts on Facebook to make a guy retch. Yes, I’m glad we have men and women who are brave and fight for us, I guess, but heroes? Some are, to be sure, but other soldiers are just mediocre or even terrible people. That’s blind faith there, folks, and it isn’t healthy.

The other side of the coin are the people who’ll hate whomever is running the country, regardless of what that person says or does. Mostly, I think it’s all just a waste of time, anyhow. Sitting around bashing the president with other people who have temper problems isn’t going to do a thing to change his mind on any issue; in fact, it’s probably best if you just get involved with your family, your local community, or something else you can actually change. Or, go buy an island and enforce your own laws and codes; I’m sure it’ll work well for you.

The military draft is dead and gone. Soldiers, like police, sign up and are trained for their positions. If they had no choice and were just picked out randomly and then sent into war, my opinion would be totally different. Cops also work hard to keep us safe, and from real threats like gang members or pedophiles, not oil money or religious views. I hope the trend one day turns to thanking local police and fire again, because they put their lives on the line for us, as well.

This blog entry is not a soldier bash, but rather an honest inquiry as to where patriotism stands today. People are hugely influenced by the media, which scares the hell out of me. They are getting their educations from their couches, watching a picture box or reading opinionated media web sites. Not good.

What does patriotism mean to you? What enters your mind when you think of “our country”? Is it the land we live on? Is it the laws and history? Is it our freedom to be and do what we want? What exactly is it you’d like to defend? Is it actually under attack?

Real life isn’t like watching your favorite team on television; you cannot just keep cheering the country on, no matter what. While you may still be a fan of your favorite team whether they win or lose or what they do, serious questions must be asked of your country before you decided to blindly get on board and back it. That isn’t a patriot, that’s someone who needs their head checked.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Amy Winehouse Dead at 27: Sad, not Tragic

Okay folks, I’m probably going to catch some web flack for this but since I run a blog in which I speak my mind, I intend to do so. I have heard people say that Winehouse’s death was a tragedy, that she was too young, and that it’s too soon to make rehab jokes. I say those same people should look up the word tragedy, that “too young” is relative, and that it’s never too soon to poke fun at public figures. Never.

The attacks on the U.S. in September of 2001 (9/11) were tragedies. A little girl ending up face down in a pool because Mom turned her head for a minute when she answered the phone is a tragedy. A police officer losing his life in a gun battle with bank robbers is a tragedy. A drugged-out musician dying because of an overdose is completely foreseeable and so therefore it’s just a waste of talent and life. Maybe a tragic waste, but that doesn’t make it a tragedy.

Don’t get me wrong, here, it’s super sad that *anyone* should die so young, no matter what the circumstances. But I feel that “tragedy” is too steep a word for the incident we are talking about here. I’m not a fan of death any more than the next guy but it is, after all, a fact of life.

Rock stars have, throughout the ages, been known to wreck their bodies with heavy drug and alcohol abuse. Just because we happen to “love” their work or appreciate that it contributed to a major change in the music industry does not make their deaths any more tragic than anyone else’s. In fact, maybe if they had gone on to live long lives they would sell out and folks would begin to loathe them and their styles. Ask a headbanger from the 1980s what he or she feels about Metallica after 1992. I can almost guarantee their answer will begin with an eye roll and a sigh.

Some things, in my opinion, are meant to get in, hit hard, and then fade out. Take Janis Joplin, for instance: what if she had lived on into her sixties and still produced music? Do you think it would even remotely resemble her hard-hitting, soulful tunes of the Woodstock era? My bet is no, and I would probably be right. People change. However, if their flame dies out shortly after they alter the world, then they live on forever in our hearts and minds as that world changer, not as an aged sell-out whose drug abuse has fried their brains to the point of Gary Buseyism. Wait, did I say that? Sorry, Gary.

My point is, that although it *is* indeed tragic in a sense for any life to be snuffed out so young, calling it a tragedy just doesn’t jive well with me. Not when it is so predictable. “The Day the Music Died” took place on February 3rd, 1959, when a plane crash took the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper. That was more of a tragedy than the demise of Kurt Cobain (Nirvana), Bradley Nowell (Sublime), Lane Staley (Alice in Chains) or Jim Morrison (The Doors) because although planes do crash, the accident was unexpected and sudden. The demise of someone, rock star or not, with major dope or booze problems isn’t very difficult to predict.

All I’m asking you, the general public, to do is reevaluate your definition of tragic for a minute. See it from my point of view, or at least try. Why is the death of a high school kid who gets into drugs and overdoses any less “tragic” than when a rock or pop star does the same? The two differences I can see is that the star obviously has some talent, and we know their name. If that is what separates a back-page news blurb from a major tragedy, I want no part of either. If you ask me, a life being snuffed out before it has realized its potential is far more tragic than one which has been allowed to shine. Just sayin’.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Casey Anthony: Acquittal Does Not Mean Innocence

Okay, folks, I know everyone is upset that Casey Anthony avoided conviction, but if you understand how the decision was made by the jury, maybe you won’t get so many gray hairs over the deal. Here’s how it works:

For capital crimes, there has to be *zero* doubt in any juror’s mind that the accused is guilty. That means none. No doubt whatsoever. You simply cannot send someone to their death because your gut tells you they are guilty, no matter what the evidence suggests. That is vigilantism and this isn’t the Wild West. We have rules now days.

I was in law school for a while, and I decided to get out and not pursue that career because of the way the system is. I’m not saying it’s wrong, or corrupt, or doesn’t work, I’m saying that it isn’t perfect and that a lot of injustices go on every single day, rules or no rules. I wanted no part of that game, because that is exactly what it is: a game. Only when you are playing with other peoples’ lives and futures, it isn’t so fun. I’ll stick to chess, thanks.

Think of the Casey Anthony trial as kind of watching a magician; the audience knows, without a doubt, that the guy on stage is pulling a trick off. I mean, they know it. However, if nobody can prove exactly how the trick is pulled off, then it’s still magic. Likewise, although most of the free world is convinced that Casey Anthony is guilty of the crime she was accused of, nobody effectively proved it beyond any doubt. Heck, even if most or all of the jurors thought she did it, the law is very clear that if there is the slightest doubt in your mind, you cannot convict. Hence, Casey Anthony walks free. At least, until she gets lynched by one of the aforementioned vigilantes.

So before you get upset at the jurors and wonder just what the hell they were thinking, please realize that the rules they were playing by do not give a lot of wiggle room and that without a one-hundred-percent, not-a-doubt-in-my-mind mentality, acquittal is the only viable option.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

You just never know...

On Tuesday I went up to the mountains (Crestline, CA area) to attend my friend’s birthday party. He told me that there may be a writer showing up. Okay, I’m interested, but I quickly forgot about it and grabbed a few more cold ones while mingling with the party-goers. Said writer eventually texted my friend and said he wouldn’t be able to make it due to a busted vehicle that was still in the shop. Bummer. More cold ones.

About an hour after he received that message, said writer was making his way up the steps. My friend turned to me, excited, and said, “That’s him. He got a ride!” Okay, intrigued again. Quickly I had another cold one in my hands, ready to meet the guy.

Well, we shortly got to talking. The initial conversation, which he kicked off, went:

Him: Dirty rumor floating around that you’re a writer.
Me: Even dirtier one says you make a few bucks at it.

Yea, that’s how we roll here in CA. I must admit that the conversation that followed didn’t go nearly as smoothly as I would have wanted, because another party-goer was speaking to him about Bigfoot, UFOs and politics every time I wanted to get a word in. But hey, that is okay. I got to meet a really good author and yak it up with him a bit. Oh, who was the author? Good question. The man’s name is Matthew Scott Hansen, and he wrote the book that Jim Carrey’s movie “Man on the Moon” was based on, among other things. Here’s his site:

I got the opportunity to ask him about his life, and even if he’d throw a little advice to a budding author, which he kindly did. He’s a super cool cat who has written everything from comedy to thrillers to screenplays. As I mentioned, I wish I could have had more time with him that night, but I’m never one to look a gift horse in the mouth. He told me that as far as he’s concerned, I have what it takes to be a writer. “Get something published, dude,” he said. You can bet I reached for another cold one after that, friends and neighbors. You can just bet it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Avoiding the Complete Psycho

Yea, we’ve all encountered at least one or two in our lives, but how do we avoid them? Sure, you know a few of the things to watch out for and try really hard not to mingle with them, but it happens anyhow. I thought I’d be a pal and compile a short list of things complete psychos do, so you can keep your eyes peeled.

Watch for hypocritical things on a regular basis. A complete psycho will say they believe in something to appease the people they are with, and then turn around and say the exact opposite to another group of friends. Since you can never really trust where that person stands in life, they are best avoided. Maybe down the road when the psycho is more comfortable and assertive with their real beliefs, you can give them another shot. Until then, peace out.

Be on the lookout for grandiose stories that absolutely, positively cannot be true. Well, they *could* be true, if the complete psycho would pick just one. But no, they will have done it all, and then some. No, you didn’t hang out with Cypress Hill back in the day and get high with them all the time. No, you never had a Chevelle that ran the quarter mile in nine seconds flat. You also were never in commercials as a child. You will never own the construction company your uncle works for. There is no hundred-thousand dollar check waiting for you somewhere. Just stop it. We totally know you are psycho.

Avoid the well-spoken, well-read person whose personal hygiene is a mess. While these people may be good conversationalists and technically smarter than you, it is unsafe to engage them in any way, shape, or form. Sooner or later they will begin talking about religion or politics and you will have been utterly sucked into their stinky, yet impressive-sounding, web of weird. These people never know when to quit and – well, let me put it this way: Have you ever seen “The Cable Guy?” ‘Nuff said.

Steer clear of overly emotional people. These folks are not right in the head, and may even be severely imbalanced. Folks that are way to happy, are angered easily, or cry at the drop of a hat are to be completely scratched off your possible Facebook friends list. These are the folks who will either take you to jail with them or call you at three in the morning, asking advice about significant others that do not exist or whether it’s a good time in life for them to get pregnant. Crinkle paper near the receiver, tell them your connection is bad and go back to sleep. It’s just best that way for all parties involved.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A good fiction writer reads – believe that.

I have been in the writing community, both fiction and non, for years now. I have loved to write both stories and poetry since I can remember – literally as far back as I can recall. I have always had a knack for the English language, and it has always come naturally and easily to me. Now, that does not mean that I’m an expert or any better than anyone else; it simply means that I love how our words work and am fascinated and awed by their power.

Of course, life sometimes just *happens*, and I stopped writing for many years. By the time I picked it up again in 2008, I was rusty and my mechanics really needed work. The ideas were there, and my passion was there, but the skills were definitely a tad dull. Luckily, I had joined a wonderful writing forum, Accentuate Writers (, and I have been honing my skills and improving there ever since. I have also been reading. Quite a bit.

I am of the belief that you can buy all the grammar and style books that you can afford, work through them religiously and still not improve much in your story writing. Why? Because stories aren’t about mechanics – not really. They are about the characters, the plot, and the emotion, and you won’t find that stuff in any grammar book ever written.

Also, just because you pack your brain with a bunch of rules does not mean your writing will flow any better than it did before. It simply means that you know a lot of rules that you may or may not know how to apply to your writing. Reading through a book entitled, “How To Weld” does not make you a welder. Experience, which includes a truck load of mistakes and small victories, is the only way we will ever become what we want. In this case, fiction writers. We must read a lot and we must write a lot.

And while I encourage reading the classics, I do not encourage studying them for tips and tricks. Shakespeare and Dostoevsky are awesome, but if you try handing a publisher a story that reads as if it were written in the 1500s, things aren’t going to get very far for you. Read current stories as well. There are some really, really well-written novels and short stories out there today that can be very beneficial reads. Stephen King himself says to read anything you can get your hands on. What good would a movie producer who doesn’t go to the movies be? Not much, that’s what.

Set aside a little time each day to read fiction. Read outside your favorite genres. Read unknown authors and read best-sellers. Learning the rules of any game only teaches you how to play, not how to play well. Read the works of those who have mastered the game already so that you can see the kind of stuff that gets published. Or, keep churning out mistake-ridden crap stories that Mom and close friends say are great but an editor will chuck in the trash. It’s totally up to you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Making restroom friends at the bar

Yea, it sounds weird, but hear me out. You may just be surprised at what goes on in these places, especially bar restrooms. Nothing like a few cold beers to really bust up the tension that naturally comes along with peeing next to one or more dudes who are trying their best not to make eye contact or accidentally look at your junk.

It has long been my habit to yak it up inside the restroom at bars. Very, very rarely are the recipients to my jabbering actually offended. In fact, most seem welcoming of it. Here are a few of my favorite tension-breaking lines that I use frequently while standing at the urinal:

“Damn, brother, nothing like beer, eh? In and out so fast!” This one elicits immediate smiles, chuckles and agreement, which starts the urinary conversation off on the right foot – so to speak. It is well known that successful interactions are created when folks have something in common. In this case, we are both probably buzzed, have been guzzling beer and have to go really bad. Why not discuss it?

“Freakin’ bar maid is unbelievably hot, yea?” For this one, you are banking on the probability that your pee partner is not actually dating the hot bar maid. Still, even if he is, he wouldn’t be dating her if he didn’t already know she was hot, so I can’t see it being a problem, other than you talking about his girl with your wanker in your hand, right in front of him. I guess that would be awkward, but it hasn’t happened yet. If at a strip club, just pick one of the girls and bring her up; all the same rules apply.

“I’m about to invest in a catheter! This sucks!” You are leveling with your fellow beer pee victim, and assuming that they have visited the toilet on more than one occasion that night, and also that there will likely be future returns. This one is almost guaranteed to strike up friendly banter. Use it wisely, use it often.

“Dude, nice package! Bet your girl is happy!” I’m just kidding. Don’t ever, ever say this to someone peeing next to you. I just wanted to make sure you were paying attention.

“You know, if they could only invent a beer pill, I wouldn’t spend a tenth of my night taking a piss!” Anecdotal observations such as this release any tension in the air and gets things flowing smoother – again, so to speak. Remember, folks naturally like smiles and jokes, whether they are emptying their bladders or standing around a campfire or standing in line. It’s what life’s about. There is no reason to act as a statue while we are in the restroom. Doing your business doesn’t have to be all business. Bar restrooms provide a perfect male bonding opportunity. Again, so to speak. Please, don’t mention bonding or bondage while ten inches away from another man with his pecker out. It won’t go over well, I can guarantee you.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Write for YOU

Writing. Heh, it’s a weird thing, it is. No different than anything else though, I guess. Just as with other endeavors, once someone gets involved in it they want to be “good” and want to know what it takes to be “good” and why some people are “good” but they are not. Well, let me tell you something: In the long run, it isn’t about being good or bad, it’s about you, and small improvements along the way.

I’m a chess player, as many of you know, and once you get the basic rules and strategies down, you have to lose a lot of games to better players. I mean a *lot* of them. Eventually you ask yourself why you are being beat all the time, and analyze your games to find out your own personal bad habits. Why should writing be any different? If you read someone’s work and they blow you away, analyze it a little to see what really grabs you about it, and then try and apply that to your own musings. Step by step is the key, here. Nobody becomes Stephen King overnight simply because they’ve decided they want to write. It doesn’t work like that.

Rather, through a series of small improvements (and practice, ladies and gentleman – lots and lots of practice!) we get better overall. Write for you, and write things you enjoy. If you write with other people in mind you are going to fall short of the mark, almost every time. Write prose and poetry that *you* enjoy, and always put emotion into it. You can’t get a drink from a dry lakebed, know what I mean? Wet it up at tad.

Just remember, nobody wrote a masterpiece best-seller as their first novel. And if they did, they didn’t write that novel a month after they decided they wanted to put pen to paper. It takes time, so be willing to pack a suitcase and stay in a few motels along the way, so to speak.

If you don’t like your own work, it’s likely nobody else will, either. Read a lot, write a lot, then read some more. I believe those to be very important elements to keeping our muse alive and kicking, and ever improving. Write and write until your own stuff puts a smile on your face. Only then are you ready to be competitive and branch out into the world of publishing.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Are you having fun yet?

Do you have enough fun? Do you have very little fun? Do you even remember what fun is? I make sure that I enjoy myself, and I do that a lot. I have a plethora of hobbies and activities that I engage in, and I believe they help to keep my sanity intact. Even if it helps a little bit, a good time is well worth the cash and effort now and again.

If I’m not playing chess or reading or writing, you can find me deep in the woods camping with my Jeep. I play drums in a rock band, I rebuild BMX bikes, I weld, I shoot a pretty decent pool game, I listen to music, and I love to drink beer and BS with the guys around a great campfire. These are just some of the things I do to break up the monotony at times, and many of them are cheaper than you would think.

The girlfriend and I can put together and entire three-day camping trip for about a hundred dollars, and it’s a great getaway. Even though gas is pretty expensive at the moment, it doesn’t usually break the bank to head down to the beach or into Los Angeles for the day so that we can see the sites. We have even been audience members on the Dr. Phil show some three times, totally for free. Of course, we usually stay down there the night before, but there is a cool old hotel that charges $50 a night and provides Wi-Fi. Can’t beat that with a bat!

If you enjoy reading, head to the local Book Exchange or thrift store and pick up a few novels for a couple dollars. I love books, and the older the better. The smell of the pages is half the fun of reading for me. Or maybe head to the local Redbox and get a few movies for one dollar apiece. That isn’t very much. Then you can pick up some Twizzlers and Milk Duds and have a regular movie night. That is hours of entertainment for less than ten bucks.

You would be surprised at how many local things that you haven’t seen which are completely free. When’s the last time you visited a museum? Been a while for me too, and there are several around. It’s one of those things we keep meaning to do but don’t get around to. We will. I know we will because we are all about cheap and free fun.

Shooting a pool game and bowling aren’t what they used to be, and you can really spend a few bucks in an evening, but they are *fun*. Theme and amusement parks can definitely hurt the ole wallet, but they are also fun. Heck, even a trip to the local coffee shop can put you back some duckets, but a lot of the time it really is better than sitting at home, moping.

Get out there and have some fun soon. You deserve it.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Traffic Observations: Going Slow in the Fast Lane

I got rid of my worker bee job a couple of years ago and now earn my income from home – something that you’d have to pry from my cold, dead hands. I love it. I can set my own hours, I can work as little or as much as I want and essentially, the sky’s the limit. Also, I don’t have to drive with the worker bees on the freeway anymore. Let’s delve deeper into this, so we can understand just what I mean.

Yesterday, we had to drive into Newport Beach for a medical appointment. It made me real thankful that I don’t have to drive daily. We got there okay but we weren’t about to make the 1.5-hour trek home in rush-hour traffic, and so we caught dinner and a flick down there. Worked like a charm, for the most part.

While it was never really “stop and go” on the way home, I constantly encountered geniuses in the far left lane, also known as the fast lane, going well below the posted speed limit. Technically, there *is* no “fast lane,” and so they are probably doing nothing legally wrong. If you have ever driven on a CA freeway, however, you know that driving 60 mph in the far left lane is a no-no. It’s highly irritating for other drivers at best, and lethal at worst.

There is nothing more aggravating than to be gliding along at a reasonable 75 mph, only to hit the brakes and slow down to 60 mph because some idiot in the fast lane thinks they are driving a pace car. Oh man, gets me fired up every single time. And I’m not a fast driver – no accidents and never a speeding ticket. Not one. I get on the freeway to go places, though, not dilly dally.

There is something called the “flow of traffic,” which local police recognize readily. If everyone on the damn freeway is averaging 80 mph, it is not advisable to get into the far left lane and go 55 mph because you think that’s what should be done. You’ll cause more accidents than you prevent that way, trust me. I can’t tell you how many marked, black-and-white police cars I’ve past at well over the posted speed limit. They aren’t looking for a guy going 80 in a 75 zone in the fast lane; they are looking for the guy going 95 in a 75 and weaving in and out of traffic. That guy is going to kill people, plain and simple.

So anyway, I’m sliding along at 75 mph and I see a box, usually a mini van, ambling along in the same lane at a turtle’s pace. I literally cannot see anyone in front of that driver for two miles. So, I have to get out of the fast lane and pass the missing link on the right, something I really hate to do. But what else? On a ten-minute trip down the freeway into town, I can cope with going 60 mph. However, when I’m two hours from home, dropping from 75 mph to 60 mph can cause me to be on the road for another half-hour or more, and that just isn’t acceptable. Not when it’s completely preventable.

My question is this: Why in the world would *anyone* consider creeping along in the far left lane? Don’t they see that there is NO-body in front of them, and consider moving over to the middle lane, where 60 mph is just dandy? These people baffle me, and I suppose they always will. Even more baffling is that no matter who I talk to, they complain about moron drivers on the freeway, as well. What are the chances that *all* of my friends, family, and colleagues are the ones who drive really well? Not high.

I’m sure that those drivers who choose to go well below the posted speed limit in a socially accepted fast lane aren’t going to read this blog, because they probably can’t read. But it’s a rant blog, after all, and I figured I may as well tell you fine readers about it. That’s all for now but remember, don’t be the idiot who holds up traffic and makes people’s blood pressure rise unnecessarily. If you want to drive at a slower speed that’s more comfortable to you, please pick another lane. The far left one is for those of us who want to move.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Do you like guns?

Ah, yes, the venerable gun. What I have found in life is that most people either love them or hate them, and very, very few feel completely and totally indifferent about them. Personal experience, opinion, education (or the lack thereof), experience, and a whole lot of other factors come into play when deciding if you like guns or not.

Those of you who know me on any level probably know that I’m a gun enthusiast, and have quite a few in my collection at home. I believe that as long as it’s our right to own one, we should all have them. I’m not a zealot, by any means, but I feel strongly that guns in the hands of capable citizens is not a bad thing. Guns in the hands of *criminals* and idiots, however, is, but why should they get the upper hand? If someone breaks into my house one night, I’m ready, and that’s the end of it.

Many of the folks I talk to about guns who have decided they do not like them have never actually fired one. That’s understandable. I don’t like skydiving, and the whole entire idea of it seems nothing short of insane to me. However, I have never done it, and so I really have no basis for that opinion other than sheer logic and the occasional tragedy that happens and makes the headlines. Guns are pretty much the same way.

Some people feel that outlawing weapons completely is the way to go, but I strongly disagree with that idea. Heroin is also outlawed and completely illegal, and look how well that works. No, as long as someone wants a gun, he or she will find one. So, if people are walking around on our streets, armed and potentially dangerous, I see no reason why I shouldn’t have the right to respond in kind.

I won’t bore you with a lot of statistics and other garble, but instead, I’ll try to highlight some of the positives of owning guns. As long as they are stored in a safe, responsible manner, they are no more scary than having a paper weight in the house.

1. If you have a gun in your home, you at least have options. Admittedly, the chances might be pretty low that an intruder will show up in your bedroom at three in the morning but if one does, you’ll end up a victim for sure if you don’t have a gun ready. The beautiful thing is that you probably won’t even have to use it, either. Simply announcing that you have a gun is sometimes enough. If it isn’t, the clack-clack of the shotgun or the unmistakable sound of the slide on a pistol may just do the trick. Those are scary.
2. Educating yourself and others around you on the proper ways to handle and fire a weapon greatly reduces the risk of “something going wrong.” Yes, guns can be horrible in the wrong hands, but as long as you and yours know what you are doing, there isn’t much risk involved. Surely no more than say, driving 5,000 pounds of steel at sixty miles per hour.
3. Squeezing the trigger at the range every now and again is a great way to get rid of stress. There is just something about the entire process of shooting, from loading the gun to aiming the gun to hearing the *boom* when it goes off and feeling the recoil before taking aim again that really does something for the soul. It really is cool.

So, what is your take on guns? Are you someone who wishes that not another single one was ever manufactured, and that all the current ones would be melted down and made into something nice like Hondas? Are you someone who has always had a fascination with them but have never actually gone shooting? Or, are you more like me and feel that guns serve very noteworthy functions in our lives in that they are great for both recreation and protection? One of the cool things about guns is that no matter who you talk to, someone always has an opinion on them or a story about them. What’s yours?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Writer's Block

Have you ever experienced this phenomenon? If you pen much, and especially if you do it for a living, the answer is most likely yes. But, what *is* it? I think most of our preconceived notions of writer’s block are just wrong. Normally, it isn’t the lack of *any* ideas that plagues us, it’s the lack of *good* ideas. We think that if we cannot come up with something epic, and immediately, that we cannot write anything, and that simply isn’t true.

I have experienced times when I was stumped on something to write about, both in fiction and non-fiction. Sometimes, depending on what’s going on in your life, or even just that day, it may be best to simply walk away, as we so often do. If we are feeling ill, or hungry, or really tired or really stressed-out, our creative juices may not be at full capacity anyhow. But many times, our muse can be revived from its slumber simply by writing. I know it sounds funny, but it actually works.

Open a blank document, and just start typing. Tell a story, any story. Get something in your head, and run with it. The inspiration could be a number, it could be a letter, it could be a movie you’ve seen recently, it could be a pet, it could be a clock. Literally anything works. And don’t worry about jotting down publish-worthy material, because you probably won’t, and that isn’t the idea anyhow. The idea is to keep our thinkers limber. Any athlete knows that he can’t ignore training and expect to be competitive at the big event. Writers, too, need to work out very regularly.

If you blog, write one every day when you have a spare fifteen minutes. I know time is valuable and hard to come by, but days where a spare fifteen minutes actually isn’t available are rare. It’s okay to skip a day here and there, but don’t let that become habit. You know what they say about idle hands...

If you write fiction or poetry, set a word count for each day and try really hard to meet it. Mine is 500 words per day, and often times I go way over that, which makes me feel good. What I end up with is likely a folder full of garbage tales, but they are *my* garbage, and I feel that with every story I pen I improve. Small improvements are much more important that large leaps, trust me. Keep writing, keep learning – those are the only cures for writer’s block. Of *course* you have writer’s block if you don’t write. People who run every day are far less likely to pull a muscle, ya know? We have to stay on the ball, or our muse becomes cloudy and tired.

So, instead of staring at the intimidating blank white page in front of you, get your hands on the keys and type words. See where they go. I’ll bet you will be surprised at what you can accomplish, simply by making yourself do it. In the end, you’ll find it’s actually far easier to trod through the mire and force words onto the page than to tell yourself it isn’t a good day for writing and play Facebook games instead. Try it. You’ll like it.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z is for Zeal

People are odd. I find that no matter how long I live or how many folks I meet, I’m always surprised at the sheer differences in attitudes from one to another of them. With just four people in a room, I can experience four completely different views on life, personalities, outlooks and so on. Add ninety-six and I’d have a hundred different outlooks. It really is amazing.

I tend to be drawn toward those with a zeal for life. An eagerness to live, and to find out what’s around the next corner. I have known more than my share of Eeyore type personalities, and I can do without them. If more people understood that your outlook on life can really, really change things, I think maybe there wouldn’t be so many sour apples out there. We make our lives, not the other way around.

People with a zeal for life tend to smile more, they tend to have happier interpersonal relations with other upbeat people, and they tend to feel healthier, both physically and mentally. I’m not just talking out my ass here, either. It has been proven time and again that smiling and positive feelings actually help us as human beings in this life. Good things just happen to people who have zeal. Trust me on that one.

Negative people project negative energy, and they tend to find other negative people in that way. If I had a nickel for every time I have seen a group of people in the corner complaining to each other at a social function, I could probably retire by now. The doom and gloom attitudes of some people are baffling to me. I just wasn’t made that way. I naturally have a lot of zeal for this life, and a lot of energy, and migrate toward positive energy like a mosquito to a porch light. And I find it, every time. Our attitudes are like built-in GPS units, guiding us along. If we are negative and grumpy all the time, guess which paths we are going to take?

I don’t know if it’s possible for these Negative Nellie types to change their outlooks and find a zealous personality, but I imagine it isn’t. Although people have the ability to change certain things, our personalities are pretty much here to stay. I can change my outlook on a whole lot of different things, but life in general really isn’t one of them. A bunch of major, positive changes can really help these people, but it’s up to them to find and implement those changes, so they rarely occur. By the same token, I would need a few horrible events to happen, all in a row, in order to chase my zeal for life away. Sure, it could happen, but I don’t think it will. I love this place. Life is fun, people are fun, experiences are fun. Appreciate the little things, and big things find you.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y is for Yes Ma’am

What ever happened to youth who respected their elders? Nobody says “Yes, ma’am,” or “Yes, sir,” anymore. No, it’s always dude, bro, yea, okay, aiit, cool, fersher and the like. I can’t remember the last time I heard someone say “Yes, sir,” in real life. Where do I hear the sirs and ma’ams come out? On the TV show C.O.P.S., that’s where. When folks get into trouble, a lot of them start to remember their manners. Too late to keep them from jail, but a fun attempt anyhow.

Oh, you can hear respect at the supermarket and similar places, as well, but they are working and know they have to be polite to their customers. So it’s selfish respect. They don’t want to get fired. Approach them when they are with their friends and suddenly, the sirs and ma’ams are replaced with Homie, Lady, Brohemian, Girl and, of course, Dude. I wasn’t alive in the ‘60s or earlier, but something tells me that if a twelve year-old kid called a grown male “dude”, problems would likely have arisen. By that logic, the people back then were in fact teaching their children to respect their elders. Things like that are supposed to be passed on. So, where did it stop?

I know what you are thinking, and I hate generalizing, too. I do realize that there are a large number of young kids today who do show respect to those older than them, and maybe even to one another. However, there is also a large portion who do not, and I wonder if that’s relatively new or if we are losing our humanity, one child at a time. For every nice young boy or girl who remembers to say please and thank-you, there are ten who don’t even bother, it seems. That’s scary. I guess it isn’t “cool” to be a good person these days. Apparently, if you aren’t flying down the road in a muddy truck with 10,000 watts of bass and an offensive sticker in the back window, you just aren’t acceptable.

I would honestly be surprised if I heard a young boy or girl call an adult sir or ma’am. That is why I believe I used to hear it more. Of course, I grew up in Colorado, not California, and for those of you who have experienced both states, you realize they are more than a world or two apart. CA should be its own country, and that’s a fact. At least the southern portion. I hear Northern CA is nice, and maybe the youth know how to respect people up there. I wonder how it is in the Midwest.

Do you fine blog readers feel the same way? Is it just the immediate area I live in, or is everyone in the country just a dude or a chick? Leveling the playing field is fine in some areas of life and society, but respect for your elders is not one that I feel is negotiable. You just do it. No matter what type of clown you think the person is, you show them respect. After all, it isn’t for them, it’s for the speaker. It makes us look like better people when we bother to be polite. The impression left on the listener is profound, and then they hold us in a better light from the get go. Best yet, it’s free. Skateboard: $60. Metal Mullisha ball cap: $35. Adding some sick color to your tribal tattoo: $40. Putting a tiny bit of effort to show other people you realize they are human: Priceless.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X is for Xenophobia

From an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange.

Yea, I think we can all relate to that, at least a little bit. Maybe not so much the foreigners part, but the foreign or strange portion most definitely. Resistance to change has been a societal problem since society started. It’s like moving from vinyl to 8-track to cassette tape to CD and now, finally, digital music. Each one has caused trepidation and, “Yeaaaa, I dunno...” thoughts from a lot of people. But it doesn’t just end with technology. We are generally unreasonably afraid to change our own lives.

Take the couple who has been married, albeit miserably, for quite some time. Each of them stays in the situation because it’s just easier, and because it’s difficult to predict what will happen if they jump into the deep end without their arm-floaties on. So, they remain together, miserably, because they are unreasonably afraid of the changes that will happen in their lives should they split up. Couples like that keep Dr. Phil in business.

Or maybe you’ve been doing something the same way for years and years and, although you know it isn’t best, you refuse to change your methods. Maybe people even tell you that the way you do a certain thing is ridiculous, and point you to an easier street. You don’t change, though. Not you. After all, you have been doing it that way forever. I suppose there’s some fear of looking like an idiot mixed in there, too, because nobody really likes to be proved wrong. But mostly, it’s fear of changing things you are comfortable with. Xenophobia.

How many times have you heard someone say that they have no talent when asked to do something cool like paint a picture or play an instrument? “No, that’s for other people. I can barely walk straight, haha,” they say. So you ask them how many times they’ve tried to paint a picture or play an instrument, and they almost always reply that they never have. Here, they are scared of failing and creating something that looks or sounds really stupid, but also irrationally afraid of doing something new and different, like painting or playing the tuba.

I find that the older a person gets, the more likely they are to suffer from xenophobia. They are set in their ways, their ma and pa taught them a certain way to live and they are going to abide by it, to the bitter end. That is fine, as long as Ma and Pa taught you to always have an open mind and try all kinds of things. At least things that don’t regularly risk your life. Being scared of skydiving, for instance, wouldn’t be xenophobia even if you’ve never done it. That’s being scared of jumping out of an airplane and landing really hard. Nothing wrong with that.