Saturday, May 30, 2009

Barack and Michelle’s Night On The Town

I read with delight about Barack and Michelle Obama going out for a night in New York. Crowds gathered on sidewalks to wave and cabbies stood on the frames of their cabs to catch a glimpse of the President and First Lady.

The date itself: they went to some no-doubt expensive restaurant where the chef and owner grows his own food (which foods those are were not mentioned in the article I read), then to a Broadway play. Generally the idea of a Broadway play repels me, as something that is all too often a crappy Vegas spectacle with a New York snob-critic pedigree. The Obamas attended “Joe Turner’s Come And Gone,” August Wilson’s play about black American boardinghouse residents in the early 1900s, migrants from sharecropping farms. Hey Barack, where’s the totally irrelevant crappy Disneyesque song and dance numbers in that? Where’s the serious adults dressed like zoo animals? On skates?

So, even when they go out and have a good time, the Obamas do something serious and in good taste. And look like they love each other while they’re doing it.

Plus, they were criticized by the Republican National Committee for wasting taxpayer money. Which is, of course, the RNC’s job. Now, this would be a better point if the president were overpaid for his work, or took vacations half the time. (Which would have been a bigger issue during the Bush Junior administration except that his vacations were no less productive than the time he spent in the White House.)

Personally, I feel a ton of stress on the job, and I need to let go on a regular basis after work. And yeah, my family is dependent on me and although I’m good at my job this is a vicious economy that ensures no job security, but at least I’m not responsible for world peace and every national problem that became worse over the last eight years. Hell, the RNC should be forced to watch some August Wilson, to maybe feel some sentiment for the people they’ve been fucking over and feeding to the sharks the last eight years. A lot of the DNC could use that as well.

The head of the RNC recently officially stated that the Republican Party was done attempting to fix its own problems and was now going to go after the Democrats. Somehow he wasn’t summarily thrown out on his ass after that idiotic statement. Shit, even if you’re doing it, you don’t admit it.

Oddly, it’s not the morons of the Republican right that our president is fighting, just the problems they’ve built for him. And if anyone can solve these problems, I think Barack Obama is the man. And if there’s anyone who deserves a night on the town more than this man and his wife, please show us your resume, I’m sure you can find a job in this administration.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Of Course, He Wants To Give Them Happy Endings

Nathan, our 17 year old, just asked me if I knew where The House of the Scorpion (an excellent young adult novel) was. I was busy, said no, looked for it a few minutes later without success. I asked Nate if he'd found it. He was lying on his bed, reading, didn't hear me at first. Then he looked up quickly and said, "No, I'm reading A Clockwork Orange."

This is the same kid who's read Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian and The Road more times than I have.

We do get some things write.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hey! Hungry Ego Here! Feed, Please!

Sanity seems to be hanging around lately. Not sure why; plenty of stress/fatigue, so it must be all the support from family and friends. Now if I could just convince myself I deserve it.

Ha, never said the neuroses were gone.

So much to be glad about, so much to be tired about. So if I get hyperbolic in any direction it’s almost certainly personal, but maybe only unilaterally. I yam what I yam, and so is Lola (oops, mixing Popeye and Kinks references – I’m not sure this sobriety thing really helps, my mind itself is fucking drunk.)

I wish I had an appreciative audience for everything that passes for wit in my mind. I may have blown it by not going into the bumper sticker industry. That and not going for it with my idea for mistletoe belt buckles, which I saw advertised years later in the back of Easy Rider. That one doesn’t bug me too much, I had someone willing to back me on it if I did the labor, but it was a moneymaking scheme, nothing to feed the ego – essentially just another bumper sticker.

For today I need nothing but a general feeling that I want everyone who’s been there to keep being there, and I know I’ve got people who aren’t going away. Shit, I’ve always been a hippy-dippy motherfucker in some regards: commit to people, stay with them, give everything and get everything. And like everyone else, I don’t always follow up.

But… I believe that absolute commitment to those you care about is the best way to live.

And when I talk like this I don’t trust myself. I’m sending a message to who – to myself, as affirmation of my ideals; to people I love and care about, who don’t really need this but if they read it will probably like it; to people who don’t know me as well or at all and who I’m trying to impress.

Anyone could be reading this. Taking my word for who I am (not something I’d do, but I’d actually recommend it to others – if you don’t actually know me, you’re unlikely to analyze me more closely than I analyze what I write. Hell, I can’t even help noticing every fucking time that the word analyze starts with the word anal.)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Express Disapproval If You Don't Want Your Child To Smoke

Just sent an email and saw a big ad on the side of the page for Child Smoking Prevention. Sponsored, of course, by Philip Morris USA, a civic spirited organization that has probably killed more Americans than any terrorist group or war opponent we've ever had. Fortunately, they're good for the economy.

Anyway, there's a link at the bottom of the ad (which shows a very skinny mom talking to a daughter whose jeans were probably purchased within the last 20 years - the pants aren't old but the style is) that will take you to a page telling you how to converse with your child to prevent them from smoking. As explained by a company that makes a fortune selling cigarettes.

Apparently, any opportunity you get, whether through direct conversation or pointing out an anti-smoking billboard or commercial, what you are supposed to do as a parent is point out that you disapprove of smoking then ask your child what he or she thinks. Um, yeah, that's gonna fucking work. Just in case your kid is already smoking, point out that you disapprove before you ask what the kid thinks. Pretty much guaranteed to make the child resent you, talk about you to his or her friends, and smoke smoke smoke.

Well done, Philip Morris. Killing America's youth for how many years?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Today's Report Card

Can't get no forgiveness round here, everyone I moaned and bitched at the other day said there was nothing to forgive. See, I knew I had good friends, which is one of those things where you earn each other. I don't know how much I'd get done if I was as non-judgmental toward myself as I am toward others, but there's a time to stop driving myself and treat me like I'd treat a friend. Fortunately I have friends who do that for me.

People tell me they're fucked up too, but it usually takes awhile before I see it. Until I witness a neurosis that's at least as bad as one of my own I have difficulty empathizing. I'm a cynic who likes strangers, but I try to find flaws in them so I can relate. I can idolize or be attracted prior to that, but in order to really like someone I have to see similarities to myself. (Ego doesn't mean you think a lot of yourself, it means you think of yourself a lot.) And sure those similarities can be good qualities, but we're much closer if I catch you with a flaw that matches one of mine.

This itself might seem like neurotic ground, but other people do it too. People who marry (with or without paperwork) tend to have physical similarities, such as finger length or nose size or eye shape. Because on some level we're attracted to people who look like the people we grew up with. Whether that's evolutionary or genetic I don't know; I read this in some study and I don't remember what they gave as the reason behind it, but the reason was just an educated guess anyway. Basically, somewhere along the way I should be attracted to people who look like me. Which is probably why my wife and I are both half-breeds (she's half-Korean, half-American soldier, my parents are from Illinois and Ohio).

Okay, so I don't get the visual aspects of the argument. But I'm pretty sure there was a scientific study that firmly established that heterosexual males, regardless of their intelligence level, are attracted to hot babes. And while the term 'hot babes' remains open to interpretation, 'heterosexual males' is for the most part clearly defined (except in the Bay Area, where I happen to live.)

Anyway, the argument re. marrying the familiar didn't take on a Freudian tone. It wasn't that you marry someone who reminds you of your mother because of some underlying sex-with-mom thing; it was more along the lines of finding attractive that which you've grown up with. So presumably if you weren't in a close family unit that was related to you by blood, or if you were exposed enough to the community around you, your attraction might be toward another group.

Maybe it's a finger and nose length thing, but I grew up in pretty much exclusively white areas and have never been particularly attracted to white females. That is, when they were the only females around I was attracted to them, and I've never consciously sought out women of a particular racial type, I just seem least attracted to the group I grew up around. I don't know if that study I read about just gave percentages (I never looked at it closely) and maybe I'm a rebel compared to what the conformist is in the group they studied, or I'm rebelling (shit, I don't need it now, but when I was single I'd have conformed, rebelled, whatever road got me laid) and taking the 'exotic,' but for all I know the exotic I've chosen fits their definitions of sameness.

Susan and I have done a lot of stuff over the years, but we've yet to break out the ruler and measure the noses.

Friday, May 15, 2009

For those who wonder what I'm up to

Fuck if I know. Which is actually a vast improvement over the certainties of a few days back. I've survived what's presumably the most physically and emotionally draining aspects of this week, still need a break but no longer feel broken. And I subjected a couple of different friends to short self-centered monologues last night, for which I forgive myself (that's one of the things friends are for and I'm self-centered anyway, nothing to brag about but last night was not the time to deal with it.)

So I rambled a bit, kind of like this, couldn't always come up with the word I wanted but by and large was just a tired version of me. And friends don't seem to mind this sort of thing. Maybe I should get some of that self-esteem stuff and stop being surprised when people like me.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Oh goody, almost Monday

I need to do nothing and that isn't an option.

Totally burnt out, physically in a way I don't understand. Shitload of stuff going on, but that's usual, only the details vary. I think it's a buildup; the standard denial is work stress doesn't bother me because I have to deal with it, and I'm good at dealing with it, same with family stress.

Of course, family stress this week includes our godson(who lives with us) getting hospitalized after a bad reaction to benadryl on Wednesday and not getting released until today (Sunday) while they monitored his condition, including a couple of days where they had him under suicide watch.

As usual, yeah, I'm fine. I had a fairly long talk with him today during which he said virtually nothing. Yeah, he's fine too. We have absolutely no blood relation but sometimes the emotional similarities are eerie.

My body has been aching. I know I hold the steering wheel too tight, I slouch too much, I'm on the computer a lot at work and at home and I drink too much beer and coffee. I've never understood non-chemical relaxing.

I cannot take it easy. I have a job to do, a family to take care of, and I'm writing a novel and editing a magazine.

If my body breaks down and we can still make the house payments I'm okay. I have to work to afford to write. Things worth doing have to be worth it of themselves. If at some point I'm paid for it that would be right, but what is right is rare.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Far Better To Have Health Concerns Than To Be Past That Stage

I just said that to my dog before feeding her a can of beef-flavored whatever. Having a Boonville IPA myself. Here's to yr health, love yr liver, all that.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Reordering History

Popped open Yahoo at work this morning and was greeted with the news headline, "National Guard Kill 4 At Kent State." Jesus, I thought, again? Then I saw that this was a "news archive." Of course, it was listed at the top of today's news headlines, just a reminder that Cinco de Mayo is the anniversary not only of the invention of the margarita but of the Kent State killings (and if I got any of that history wrong, I am a product of the California public school system.)

It was also a reminder that our news media seems to feel its primary obligation is to keep us scared shitless. If a state of hysteria can be induced, maybe people will stop playing World of Warcraft and watching Youtube long enough to pay attention to the news. Fat chance, hysteria mongers. The news media, by going for ratings and competing with the entertainment industry, has lost the esteem in which it was once regarded and become just another channel to be flipped through. Yes, if I see a fire on the screen I will probably stop long enough to see where it is (unless basketball's on another channel, in which case I'll wait until local emergency banners are running across the bottom of the court,) but I won't believe the hyperbole that has been recently used regarding swine flu (let's use the worst case scenario as probability - that will get their attention) or had someone I knew convinced, from the television footage in London during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, that all of San Francisco was on fire.

Those who exaggerate peril both damage their own credibility and denigrate those to whom tragedy has occurred. People are selfish enough, we don't need to worry about ourselves when it's time to be concerned about others. And we need some form of news media that tells the truth and is delivered to a wide audience. The mainstream sources for news have done little over the years to prove themselves anything but gullible government lackeys, and it is only occasionally in a government's interests to reveal the truth. Guerilla news coverage historically has been done through independent newspapers with small circulations, could conceivably deliver their messages to the masses via the Internet but who will the mass Internet users trust?

Trust no one and carry an Uzi doesn't work against a government; they have more distrust and Uzis than you can imagine. And I'm a U.S. citizen. I'm not talking pogroms and layered graves. I just want information I can believe, and I don't know where to get it.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Swill Website Updated, New Issue Coming Soon

Finally updated the Swill website ( today. Nothing major in terms of content, just an animated gif that rotates a batch of quotes I like in twenty second intervals. Which if I had a more recent version of Photoshop I could have put together very quickly, but since I have Photoshop 5.5 it's a multi-step process just to get muddy text. The text I wound up with is still somewhat muddy, and I may get around to cleaning it up somehow at some point, but for now I'm fairly happy/relieved with the result.

The main changes on the site were made a couple months back, when the selections for issue 4 were finalized and I posted the authors' names. Then the real changes occur when we finish line edits and start running samples from the new issue, which is going to kick the shit out of our previous issues. And I like our previous issues, but we haven't had anything with the consistent strength of the stories appearing in issue 4.

One of the best parts about the layout process is that we get an actual page count, and then I get to tell Sean how many illustrations we need. At which point he comes up with as many pages as we need very quickly and all the words come together with pictures I've not seen before and I hit that moment where everything is what it's supposed to be. I am a cynic with ideals; these moments of satisfaction are rare and don't last, but damn I'm glad when I'm in them.

The magazine should be one literary or visual orgasm followed by another. Otherwise the reader is better off jerking off. Which is my reaction to most literature, but I suppose that also gives a clue to how much I love certain writing. And I'm not referring to erotic literature; I get off on Swill. And Swill exists because of a whole lot of other stuff I get off on.