Facebook Monsters

A friend asked me why I don't post on Facebook more often than I do.  It was a weird question, or so I thought.  I told him I'd post the answer on Facebook.  I was being ironic and a smart ass, of course, but there is a reason why.

I use Facebook for a set number of things.  Promoting my writing, keeping in touch with family, friends and professional colleagues; making sarcastic posts on other people's walls; and posting fake celebrity death news.  On occasion I will do a more personal post, but I don't make a habit of it, and there is a reason why.

First, I'm private.  I just don't need people knowing what I'm doing.  It's weird, and I'm not vain enough to think that anyone would care.  I'm not that self-important, which I tend to think Facebook really promotes.  I also find posts where people tend to post such information to be odd at best.  I don't know what to say to someone who posts, "I'm sitting at my table with sushi."  What do you say to that?  It's fine if people want to post that, but with few exceptions I will abstain.

Facebook has been a great tool for marketing my writing and for making friends and family uncomfortable.  Beyond that, I could leave it behind and not worry about it one bit (and have often thought of that).  People act much the same way on it as they do in real life, too, despite the general consensus that it is otherwise.  They talk about petty things and take offense to the most innocent of comments.  I have text messaging and e-mail for the latter, and I try to avoid the former at all costs.

So, dear friend, that is why I don't post more on Facebook.  Nobody needs to have an up-to-the-minute update on my actions, and I have no desire to tell anyone, either.  I stopped reporting in when I was about 14, and I was a much better person for it, too.


Keyword Fun Time Again

Every month or so I do a listing of some of the strange keyword searches that have brought people to my blog.  I want to note that I will no longer be including Regan Reese in these unless it is crazy because she shows up every time.  Almost daily, it seems.

"'Hood over the head' asphyxiation video" is one of the searches that brought people here.  That I can understand, since I wrote about that video.  This, however, is not a site where I regularly post such things. 

"'Writing about Kool-Aid'" and "arson and drugs" were next up.  For some reason I can't help but think of Jim Jones and his merry band of poisoners.  And in keeping with the Jones theme, I did have some people directed here who were looking for "Aleister Crowley death pictures."  Who on Earth cares about that sort of thing?  Ozzy?

Perhaps the most disturbing and ominous search was for "butchers lie about cancerous breasts."  What the hell does that mean?  Who are these butchers, and why are they lying about cancerous breasts?  Freaky.  I hope this doesn't refer to chicken, though.  I know a really gross story about that.

The next two searches don't even make a bit of sense.  "Cakif fuking video" and "cancerous zeitgeist even a mature isn't safe."  I don't know what a "cakif fuking" video is, but if you can't spell properly when you're looking for porn, you deserve to end up here.  Hope I killed the erection with my endless ranting on the Tea Party.

Apparently I'm not the only one interested in the black sun, either.  I had searches for "dark matter harnessing" and "harnessing the power of the black sun or the ultimate sun."  Dude, if you found something on that, I'd love to know about it, too.  Thanks for stopping by.

People are still searching for "Eureka, CA hookers."  Second Street.  In front of the library.  How many times do I have to say that?  Oh yeah, and on the City Council, too.

"Devils nails," "nail devil" and "Larry the Cable Guy" were also searched.  I grouped them together because they should be.

"Naget women with focking" made as much sense as "qatar 'ball gag'  -- rawanda -- paraguay -- portugal."  Am I missing something here?  Where does "ball gag" fit into that last group?  I don't think anyone in any of those countries owns a ball gag.

"The cold finger film" was another one that sounded vaguely bothersome.  The same goes for "yanks woman humping pillow."  Actually, that just sounds funny.  "What's your fetish, Danny?"  "Oh, Yankee women getting all busy with a pillow."  People never cease to amaze me with what gets them off.  Whatever happened to a little hair pulling and pierced nipples?  No, these days you need regional women getting intimate with fluff-filled fabric sacks.

That's all for this time.  The general insanity of Internet searches brings some awfully strange people here.  I don't know if they stick around and have a look, or go back to searching for their bargain basement porn.  Either way, I'm happy they at least stopped by.


Mouth for War

About a year ago I did a piece on a group of National Socialists adopting a highway.  (You can read it here.)  I came across a news item about the National Socialists when researching a piece on a ritualistic slaying that I wanted to write about.  The slaying was probably the more headline grabbing of the two, but what fascinated me about the National Socialist story was that there were plenty of articles on it focusing on the outrage, but not a single one that looked at its historical context.

When I first started my current job I was reading Noam Chomsky's At War With Asia.  A friend had spotted me reading the book and asked me what it was.  When I told him, he asked, "Why are you reading a book on Vietnam."  When I explained it provided a fascinating insight into our military action in Iraq he didn't get it.

Context is everything.  No situation exists in a vacuum.  What is happening today is tied into what happened decades ago, and people seem to forget that.  It's easy to forget, actually.  If you only get your news from one source, or only from sources you agree with, you aren't getting the entire picture.  And since many of our journalists don't even have a clear concept of historical context there is no way they can present them to their audience.

The National Socialist story was fascinating if only because what the group was doing was right in line with National Socialism's core beliefs.  The Colorado group that had adopted the highway did it more as a stunt, but it had historical context.  I didn't read any articles stating that, however, so I decided to write it.  I was going to use the incident as a springboard for an examination of how environmentalism became a leftist issue with its rightist background clearly ignored, while at the same time being something the Right fought against.  I never published that version.  After doing my second rewrite I knew I was writing something that few reading the article would be interested in.  The Associated Content pieces I did had to have a wide audience, and what I was thinking was just too specialized and demanded that the reading audience would have to have at least some understanding of the history of environmentalism.  I could not trust the readership to have that.

Context and history is important to understanding the events that shape us.  What I've come to understand those rare times I seriously discuss current events and politics to with people is that when someone doesn't have an idea of context and history, it takes far too long to explain it, and even then it's a crapshoot whether or not they'll get it.  Instead, it's easier to nod politely and give a bit of a smile.  Anything else is an exercise in self-torture.


More on the Gervais Controversy

I watched Ricky Gervais on Piers Morgan's new show last night, and he was offensive in the worst possible way.  He declared himself an atheist, refused to apologize for anything he said at the Golden Globes, stated he did nothing wrong, defended himself, questioned why religion has the monopoly on being "good," stated (like I had earlier) that nobody had a right not to be offended, and did not repent.

Obviously, I'm being sarcastic when I say he was offensive.  He defended himself the absolute best way I've ever seen a celebrity do so under the same kind of fire.  I applauded him.  Here was a guy who knew who he was, knew that comedy was an art and was able to articulate why, refused to admit that the religious were the only people who could be good (and he had the best answer to that age-old question geared to atheists I've ever heard in the mass media).  He was, as Girl put it, "open and honest."  And it was damn refreshing.

He continually stated he did nothing wrong and nothing was sacred.  He was centered and self-actualized.  He knew what worked in his comedy, and stated he didn't care what people thought of him.  That wasn't his problem.  He also stated that when he did his comedy the only person he cared about making laugh was himself.  It sent chills down my broken spine.  This is exactly how the arts should be.  As soon as you start caring about what the public or even your audience thinks, and then start tailoring your work to that, you are doomed.

I know that some of you reading this are artists.  If you are worth anything at your craft, you know this to be true.  I also know some of you are pure entertainers (I'm not making a judgment call this time, Bryan), and you may not even care about the artistic side of things.  All good.  Some of you may have no idea what I'm prattling on about, and that's okay, too.  (I'm being super diplomatic this time, perhaps because I'm in pain and have already resigned today into the dustbin as I have a training to look forward to.)  You don't need to get it, but you do need the artists you admire to get it.  That is absolutely essential.

I'm glad Gervais refused to apologize.  I'm glad he made people uncomfortable.  I'm glad Morgan didn't let up on him, demanding through sane, pleasantly asked questions, that he justify himself.  Why?  Not because I wanted to see Gervais squirm (he didn't).  Because I knew Gervais could do it, and you rarely hear it done.  Too many people apologize for what they have said and done, blame it on one such thing or another, and act contrite.  Not many people buy it.  Gervais, on the other hand, stated flatly that he has nothing to apologize for and won't. 

Thank you, Ricky Gervais.  You get your art.  You get what it means.  You speak your mind and remain true to yourself, and by doing so you make it so that nobody can really hold anything over you.  If more artists spoke out with the same candor, we may have a society that actually reaches my expectations of what we can be.  Instead, we have a culture of self-entitled, self-important, hypocritical, happy-to-be-victims, offended-at-the-drop-of-a-hat, apologetic folks who wouldn't know truth if it slowly chewed open their necks.

Cheers, mate.


Eureka: Earthquakes Aren't The Only Thing That Breaks Us

If you're a fan of crappy Mexican food and live in Eureka, CA, you probably already know that the Jalisco on 101 is closed.  This comes at a time when the Bayshore Mall announced that four more stores were leaving its overpriced folds: Hallmark, Anchor Blue (thank God), 9 Months Later (I think that is what it is called) and Gold Rush Coffee.  Last but not least, Eureka also lost two KFC restaurants and long-time local hang-out Stanton's (another restaurant).

The economy, as they say, is showing signs of improvement.

Like those parents who videotaped their child, all of 23 months old, smoking pot, the people who think the economy is getting any better here in Humboldt are delusional at best, but are more likely just plain ass stupid.  Perhaps they don't deserve to be in jail like those idiotic parents (for whom jail is far too pleasant, but at least they probably get to see family and friends in there now), but they do need wake-up calls like this to remind them that the yellow brick road is really just a lot of paint and a fancy name.

Too many of Eureka's residents are really like those parents (both figuratively and literally).  They are oblivious to reality, and not only are they oblivious, they revel in their ignorance and display it for all the world to see.  When they are caught, however, it becomes one of those deer-in-the-headlight moments we've all seen on windy country back roads.  "Oh shit, I'm fucked!"

As anyone who has spent five minutes in this county knows, pot fuels our economy.  Luckily, our local growers and dealers are fast and loose with their money for the most part, so the businesses get the benefits of that (not to mention some of those businesses are involved in those operations).  That's not something you want to build an economy on, however.  With legalization being inevitable, which will surely drive prices down, Eureka and Humboldt County has to start looking at other ways to keep itself alive (and all those Humboldt shirts you see people wearing for some stupid reason is not enough to do the trick, either).  So what would turn the Northcoast's economy around?  What do we need to do in order to survive?

Small businesses are nice.  They don't employ many people, but they do create jobs.  Larger businesses create more jobs, but much of the money leaves the county.  The tourism industry is a bust when gas is creeping into the $4.00 a gallon range.  Pot will eventually be legal, and the price will drop ... and the tobacco companies will move in.  Prostitution won't be given the thumbs up any time soon.  Our lumber and fishing industry have been sucked dry.  So where does that leave all of us?  California is in the throes of a financial disaster, and as California goes, so does the country.  But to save a state, you have to start with one county at a time.  Humboldt can't do it alone, but we can watch our own backyard.  All it takes is a little elbow grease, and some great ideas.

As anyone who has read this knows, I'm not a huge fan of the current state of capitalism.  Greed on everyone's part has led to much of the disaster we are in.  I do think a survival instinct will get us out, however, and a great big part of that involves Eureka not turning its nose at anything that reeks of big business.

Blasphemy, I know.

The jobs that Eureka lost with these current closings will be felt throughout a community that is already reeling.  Many of these workers had families.  Mouths to feed.  There aren't enough new jobs or open jobs to absorb this.  And anytime anyone wants to start a new business that would have more than five employees there are so many hoops to jump through and so much knee jerk opposition that any common sense argument is lost in the din.  I don't like Wal-Mart.  I don't like Best Buy.  I don't like Home Depot, and nor do I care about Trader Joe's.  But let's get realistic.  Any one of those businesses will create more jobs than another small coffee shop that may last a year or two, and then those people who are employed there can spend their pay checks at the local small businesses if they so desire.

Big and small businesses have the same end goal as far as I'm concerned -- both want your money.  Small businesses often can't compete on the same level as the big ones can, but they don't have to.  They can offer services that the big businesses can't hope to compete against.  Instead of focusing on that, however, too many of the small businesses here just flatly state that people should support them because they are small businesses.  It's an inefficient argument that does nothing to really sell their cause.

If there's any reason to shop at a small business (besides the money staying in the community, but that means less than you'd think in a global economy), it's for the personalization of services.  The staff at your local small bookstore will know you.  The staff at Borders won't.  That is the real draw of the small business.  People will be willing to spend more for that.  I know I am, as that "your local dollars stay local" line means nothing to me when I have to comparison shop.  I want whatever goods I need at the cheapest price possible, but I'm willing to pay more when a business makes me feel special.

Example: Big Pete's versus Poppa Murphy's.  Big Pete's is better pizza.  No comparison.  It's also more expensive.  Even when I have to be super careful about what I spend, I'll spend it at Big Pete's simply because they know me there and are able to address me by name.  Hell, even if the pizza weren't as good as Poppa Murphy's, I'd go just for that.  Fortunately, the pizza at Big Pete's kicks ass, so no real problem there.  I'm willing to pay more for the personalized experience.  Hell, when I call them there are workers there (hello, Jackie!) who know my voice.  They ask how work is going.  They sit with you at the table and discuss movies.  You won't get that at the chain store where you are nothing but a dollar sign.

Our local businesses need to realize that and push that, and then they need to get on the Internet and sell themselves there, too.  Instead, they whine about how big box retailers will destroy us.  Yes, they will, but only if we let them. 

Right now, Humboldt needs jobs.  Period.  Those jobs can be from small business or big, but realistically speaking they are going to come from the big businesses.  Target employs more people than a group of small businesses combined.  Once we get our economy back on track, we can look at ways of keeping it stable without the use of big businesses.  Until that happens, though, we need their cash infusion if only in the form of jobs.  There are many of us who won't shop at them regardless of cash problems, and plenty who will regardless of the service.  They can co-exist in a community with small businesses and small businesses can actually use them to help bolster their own economy if they are smart about it.  We can be mercenary, too, just like the big box retailers.  Lure them.  Let them create jobs.  Get the economy kick started, and then abandon them where they stand, force them out, and utilize the building for something else.  Unfortunately, that will never happen here, and the reason why is exactly why our economy is struggling so bad in this area.

We have just enough people to keep those big businesses in business, which does eventually hurt the smaller businesses that don't know how to compete (more the pity on them, but regardless -- lost jobs are lost jobs).  On the flip side, we also have a smaller number of people who are even more influential and successful at keeping these big businesses out.  Thus, a large influx of jobs are rarely created, and when they are, we lack the courage of our convictions to boot the businesses out once they've done what we need them to.

If we don't do something soon, this lack of revenue is going to send more businesses under ... and a great many of them, like the past few weeks have shown, will be small businesses.  And then where will we be?  Really stuck, as now even those who refuse to engage with big business will have little reasonable choice, and those who are employed by the smaller businesses will be out of work.  It's not a future that looks good by any stretch of the imagination, but it is happening.  It is real.  And it is the wave of the future. 


Safety in Boredom

I checked my e-mail this morning and found a missive defending the outrage over Ricky Gervais' hosting of the Golden Globes.  The letter writer does not read my blog, and nor is he a Facebook "friend."  I have refused to friend him simply because I know he would read what I write and be offended by it, and then I would get e-mails like the one that showed up in my inbox this morning.  I'm not going to reprint the entire thing here, as it would bore you.  However, you should note that Mr. X was under the impression that I watched the Golden Globes and that I would think the controversy over Gervais was ridiculous.  He was right about the latter.  My comments to his observations appear in brackets.

Mr. X thought Gervais went "way over the line" with "jokes about Jews and people's sexuality."  [I think drunks who insult Jews and then don't expect to get called on it go over the line.]  It was "uncalled for, unprofessional, and unfunny."  [It was definitely not unprofessional.  Gervais is a comedian.  That is what he is paid to do.]  An awards show, according to Mr. X, is "no place for comedy."  [Then why do they hire comedians?  Are the organizers of these award shows unaware of the hosts' daytime gigs?]  If a comedian "has to be used," they should go with "someone safe like Tim Allen or Hugh Grant."  [By 'safe' you mean 'boring.']  Otherwise, he states, they need to "stick to the professionals" and "not hire 'funny men.'"  [Professional award show hosts?  Who are these people?  Who would want to watch them?]

Mr. X was pretty certain I'd be upset over the fact that people were offended by "what were offensive jokes."  He suggested I "take a chill pill and realize that when you throw a bomb into the room you have to deal with the fallout."  [I have a problem with people equating words with bombs.  There's a term I hate.  'F Bomb.'  It's what people use when they don't want to say "fuck," because it will give cause their tongue to burst into flames or something.  If you are one of these people, here's what I want you to do.  Gather your loved ones in a room.  Stay at the door and yell, "Fuck!"  Wait five minutes.  Chances are your loved ones will still be in one piece.  Now take a grenade and throw it into the same room.  Wait five minutes.  The outcome is probably a bit different.  That's the difference between bombs and words.  See, you learned today!]

Mr. X pretty much epitomizes what my prior post was talking about.  He's the blissfully ignorant person who wonders through life with a smile and an expectation that nothing should ever offend him.  He just doesn't get it.

Speaking of not getting it, CNN jut reported that Regis Philbin is leaving his show.  This was reported as "just in" news.  I imagine that when this is what passes as news, it makes sense that you have a populace that becomes offended by people who poke fun at celebrities.

If you have anymore comments on this, please either comment here or on my Facebook page.  Otherwise I may run the e-mail with your name, e-mail address and all the misspellings intact.


If Thine Eye Offend Thee ...

Lesbianism is always offensive!
The "controversy" over a comedian (the always great Ricky Gervais) cracking jokes at the Golden Globes proves a theory I've had for years: the more easily offended you are, the lower your IQ score.  The epitome of this is when commentators actually expressed sympathy for Mel Gibson because of the jokes Gervais made.  Keep in mind that Gibson is a drunk, sexist, Anti-Semite.  People are saying Gervais was too hard on him, and Charlie Sheen, and Tom Cruise, and so on and so on.

Boo-fucking-hoo.  Gervais is a comedian doing what comedians do.  Comedy is sometimes brutal.  If you want safe comedy, hire Larry the Cable Guy.

He's just like you!
Americans have grown soft.  The general public, in its infinite wisdom, gets offended by anything that makes it think and anything that smacks of being true.  Jokes offend people.  Body parts offend people.  Songs offend people.  Books offend people.  Words offend people.  About the only thing that doesn't offend people is the one thing that really offends me: utter stupidity.

He's a drunk who hates women and Jews, but you loved him in "Attack Force Z."
People seem to think that if something offends them they have to listen to it, read it or watch it.  They seem to lose the ability to switch the channel or turn off the radio, or avert their eyes.  And before you say those people at the Golden Globes couldn't leave Gervais' "verbal assault," I call bullshit.  They were perfectly capable of leaving or issuing catcalls, heckling, whatever.  Would it be uncouth?  Yes, but if they were really offended, shouldn't they address that at the time instead of crying about it afterward?

Nobody has the right not to be offended.  They do have the right to speak out against what offends them, though they often risk looking like a fool (such as with the Gervais controversy -- where those celebrities as offended by Gibson's tirades?).  They also have the right to ignore that which offends them.  To believe that you will make it through life without being offended ... well, that's like believing in the Tooth Fairy when you're 25.  You'd have to be a drooling idiot.

Pills.  Pints.  Porn stars.  Punchline.
"Gervais was mean-spirited."  "Gervais went too far."  "Gervais went over the edge."  Let's put this all in perspective, though.  Gervais is a comedian.  Gervais said things people were already thinking (he's not the first to point out that Charlie Sheen has a problem).  And Gervais said he was going to push things.  He said it weeks before hosting.  The only problem that I see is that he didn't go far enough.

Words never gave anyone cancer.  They never blew the legs off a young soldier stepping out of a Humvee.  They never caused a worldwide economic meltdown.  They never let the healthcare industry get out of control.  Do people get offended about these things, though?  Hell no!  They continue to fight against environmental regulations.  They support war.  They still invest in Wall Street.  They urge their representatives to end healthcare reform (which really wasn't much reform in the first place).  But throw a few jokes in their face and suddenly they are indignant.

This guy should offend you, but you don't know who he is or why.
If you were one of the people offended by Gervais, I urge you to really take a look around at the things that should offend you yet don't.  Is it because you don't understand them?  Is it because being offended by those blatantly offensive things calls into question your role in them?  Is it that you are just so blind to reality that you don't see them?  Jokes are easy to get upset about.  It requires very little thought.  Any joke can offend anyone.  The joke that doesn't offend you could very easily offend your neighbor.  If it's that easy to get offended, why even bother?  Save your anger for something that counts, like families being thrown out into the street because their homes were illegally foreclosed upon.

This man offended you.
If you were offended by Gervais, you don't have enough problems in your life, and you probably needed to be offended.  I do feel a bit sorry for you, however.  Real life must fill you with a lot of fear and rage.  It's got to be scary and frustrating knowing that every time you look at, read, or listen to something you run the risk of getting all sorts of bent out of shape.

I do want to thank you, too.  As someone whose writing has offended everyone from teachers to screenwriters to Keanu Reeves fans, I want to take this moment to let you know I appreciate the business.  You not only make it easy, you make it fun.  What kind of crazy shit is going to set you off next? 


Start the Day With a Bang

I'm on my way to work.  Driving.  I'm not in a good mood.  Work has been ... trying ... as of late.  So, the morning drive is not exactly a happy time.  (I'm working on it.)  My window is down.  The cold air feels good on my face.  The Dead Kennedys ("Holiday in Cambodia," which I find ironic because once again we have Governor Jerry Brown) blaring over the speakers.  I'm heading toward Broadway. 

The ginch in the banged up Mercury doesn't even look.  He just pulls part way out of the side street.  I swerve.  We don't hit, but boy does he glare at me.  The guy pulls out onto a street without looking and he glares at me.  He glares at me.  

I glare right back.  I'm hoping it will escalate.  A little justified violence will be a good way to start the morning.  I watch as he pulls out behind me.  He looks oh-so-angry.  Maybe he's ticked because he wanted to hit me and missed.  I want him to pull over, or indicate that I should ... because I will ... because I have this sudden thought.  This is how I picture it go down.  It would make for an interesting tale.

In my mind I see us pull over.  He's out of the car quick.  Shouting obscenities.  Arms wildly out of control.  I get out.  I'm calm.  I approach him.  He goes to push me.  I move in closer.  I grab his face ... and I start biting it.  Inhuman growls.  Chomping at it.  How the hell would a person react to getting eaten?

For the first time on this small hop to work, I have a smile on my face.  I make it to the parking lot of work, crisis and cannibalism averted.  King Automatic is on my stereo now.  My smile has faded somewhat.  I had spent a few hours before work editing a short story.  Small consolation.

I shut the car off.  Finish my morning texts.  Make my way into the building.  King takes Queen every time ...



The shootings in Arizona are still dominating the news.  The alleged shooter's cartoon-like visage leers from across television screens.  NPR, that guiding light of toothless liberalism, runs the requisite stories.  A church of senseless believers wanted to picket the funeral of the little girl who was shot.  (I later read that some radio time was enough to buy them off.)  Even his online gaming habits have been examined.

Tonight I heard it reported that Gabrielle (Gabby to everyone in the news now) Giffords raised her arm.  I half expected the reporter to scream, "It's a miracle!"

NBC, on its nightly "news" program, ran a piece on the alleged shooter's problems at school, with fellow students and administration describing him as "creepy" and possibly being on "drugs."  One fellow classmate was interviewed.  He seemed uncomfortable, yet you could tell this interview would be mentioned on his Facebook page ... a lot.  In the end, it seems nobody was surprised.

Democrats had been saying their own numbers would die since Sarah Palin learned how to get on the web.  Reporters knew it was bound to happen because months earlier they had been reporting about the death threats elected officials were getting (and doing their best to associate those threats with the Tea Party Parrots in our minds).  The suspect's classmates all knew it was coming, too.  So did his neighbors.  You didn't need a psychic to tell.  You could tell just by looking at him.  I mean, look at all those photos they show. The wacky faces.  The frozen grin.  It was obvious that all he needed was a gun and an opportunity.  America knew from his Internet rantings that he was a threat. 


Between all the talk about banning "violent speech" (like those jingoistic speeches every president gives before going to war in some Third World country where toilets are a luxury) and the absolute certainty of everyone in the media and Tucson that Jared Loughner, the alleged shooter, was crazy and going to kill, we seemed to lose sight of something.  Many fine folks may have known it, and a "ban" on "violent speech" may have kept such speech from getting out there, but none of that would have changed a damn thing and nor could it.  Bad people do bad things.  Banning guns and speech won't stop those things from happening.  They may make people feel safer.  They may give people a sense of security.  They won't really make the world a safer place, though.

As of this post, I haven't heard if the shooter was inspired by Palin and her website.  It doesn't really matter, though.  Palin is still a moron with a following.  It doesn't make her any more or any less "evil," as I've heard her called.  Loughner could've been inspired by anyone or anything.  A phone call from one of those credit card telemarketers could've made him mad enough to go buy some ammo.  (I know I've wanted to.)  I think that we when we start to play the blame game on such a large and influential scale (like the news), we do it as a form of healing, a way of making us feel not only better about ourselves by distancing ourselves from the criminal, but also as a way of showing sympathy.  (He's not to blame.  Words drove him to it.  Video games drove him to it.  Misdiagnosed mental illness drove him to it.)  Does that change anything, though?  No.  It actually ends up clouding the more serious points of debate.  By painting him as a lunatic, it allows some very important questions about the politics of assassination to go unanswered.

Eventually the news will drop this story, focusing on either another homeless man with a deep voice or some Lindsay Lohan mishap that is best left unexamined.  The shootings will only be mentioned when it nears the anniversary or a copycat crime takes place.  It will be forgotten, and nothing substantial will be added to the public discourse.  Like Columbine, the media will guarantee that the focus stays on a few narrow, easy-to-understand topics, and in six months we will be none the wiser.  Hell, most of us will have forgotten Gabby's name.

Maybe that is for the best, though.  Maybe we, as a society, aren't ready to deal with the serious questions a crime like this raises.  Maybe we aren't ready to examine the deeper motivations that drive people.  Maybe we won't understand, or don't want to understand.  Maybe asking the substantial questions doesn't matter because even if we know the answers we also know we can't stop this sort of thing, so why even waste time trying to get to the root of the problem?

Me?  I find an examination of the media and public's reaction far more fascinating than the made-up reasons for the crime.  I am highly interested in politically-motivated assassinations and assassination attempts, but this shooting seems more crazy than motivated, so an examination of the coverage and the reactions yields better answers to the questions that aren't being asked.

Loughner is no Alexander Berkman.  He's more like John Hinckley, Jr., which all but guarantees that any public discussion will be centered around the very things that nobody can really control.  Had it been a very serious politically-motivated crime it would be a lot harder to dismiss it.  Instead, he's just another mass murderer with a gun and crazy eyes. 

You think you can stop that?  Good luck trying.


A Thousand Distant Bullets

I had a post on the Gabrielle Giffords shooting and took it down.  I wasn't happy with it for several reasons.  After some reflection, and a lot of CNN coverage (which got to be ridiculous at a certain point -- like a witness describing the shooting scene as "disorderly"), I decided to tackle what is now being spewed out in the media: the state of political discourse in this country.

There is no real discourse.  It's a bunch of opinions, little fact (we don't need no stinkin' facts), lots of shouting, lots of stereotypes, lots of thinly disguised racism, and lots of misplaced passion.  I have mixed feelings about it.

I like that people feel strongly enough about something that they get worked up about it.  I don't like the fact that they get worked up about everything and then refuse to look at the issues too deeply, instead relying upon certain politicians to tell them how to think.  Psittacine political protesters and activists end up being dangerous, no matter what side you are on, and then bad things happen.

I don't know why the accused shooter opened fire at the Safeway.  Was it because Giffords was there and her district was on the "hit list"?  Was it because produce prices are going up?  Was it because his neighbor's dog was sending him e-mails?  Was he afraid the Saints would lose?  Was it too much pot smoking?  Does it matter?  Not really.  It happened.  But if it were a political hit ... well, I hope he had serious reasons other than mad Tea Party or conservative ramblings (which, based on what I've heard about this shooter, is starting to seem less and less likely that it is based on conservative values -- he seemed to be working under his own belief system).

I think politicians, the people who makes decisions that affect the lives of people worldwide, can expect to be targets.  After all, when you vote to bomb a country back to the Stone Age, some people are bound to be pissed.  Some people may say that since you value human life so little, it's fair game to place an equal price tag on your life, and act on it. 

I'm going to end this post with a quote.  To get the full picture that led to this quote, one must understand what led to it.  In 1960 South Africa was a hotbed of racism.  Black protesters took to Sharpeville to demonstrate against pass laws, which restricted movement.  The protesters came out strong.  The violence they were met with by the police shocked even some members of the police.  In the end, 56 African men, women and children were killed by police, with another 160 or so injured. 

Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd, known as the Architect of Apartheid, was a symbol of white supremacy in South Africa.  David Pratt, a white man, decided to assassinate him.  He got off two shots, but failed in his attempt.  An editorial appeared in Freedom, an anarchist publication which started in 1886.  It is titled "Too Bad He Missed."  Here's the quote: 

      "Millions of people throughout the world disgusted by the racial policies of the South African government will have read the news on the attempt on Verwoerd with disappointment only because the attempt failed.  For them, David Pratt did what they had neither the opportunity nor, in the event, the courage to do.  Of course assassination is a desperate act, and we know that the elimination of Verwoerd would not have removed the basic problems which divide the people of South Africa.  But who will deny that this is the only language that dictators and tyrants understand?  Verwoerd has escaped with his life, but we suggest that if he returns to lead the government what happened to him last Saturday will influence his future policy and the way he seeks to carry it out.  If he decides to retire then those who succeed him will be chastened by the thought that what might have happened to their predecessor might well happen to them."

I am not suggesting that Giffords is a racist tyrant, but she is part of a government (Left and Right) that has shown little compassion for the state of the world outside our own yard, and at times has shown just as little compassion for its own people.  I doubt the accused shooter had such high ideals as Pratt, but I think there is something the politicians should learn from this, and it's not just the need for more security.


What Happened to the Savage?

I was thinking back to my days writing for Tattoo Savage, a once proud tattooing and piercing, international glossy magazine. 

My first professional writing piece (paid $300, which was sorely needed at the time) was for the publication, but it wasn't written for it.  Instead, I had written a piece about getting my septum pierced for Sassy.  That magazine rejected, and then, going against the advice of my journalism teacher, I submitted it to a market I had written for and it was accepted.

A few weeks later the editor, I'll just call her FC, contacted me.  She knew from my query letter that I had experience in writing music reviews.  Savage was starting a music section, and they wanted me to help kick it off.  I accepted, of course.  It would be dumb not to.

Things went well for a few years.  Credit card bills were paid off.  I only had one death threat against me published.  (Oddly enough, it was from a guy in Crescent City, a place near where I lived, who was livid over a death metal review I did.  He said he was going to find me, cut off my head and shit down my throat.  I thanked the magazine for publishing it.  In fairness, I think Film Threat got far more hate mail because of me over the years.)  Then things went to Hell.

I was doing music, movie, and book reviews.  I was doing band interviews.  Artist interviews and profiles.  I was in every issue just about, and I was making some good money.  And then FC accepted a job with a bigger magazine.  Would I stay on?  Yes.  After I accepted, I found out that a new editor was found by looking for a show of hands out in the bullpen.  In other words, the guy who took the job was the guy who shouldn't have had it.

While writing under FC I never missed a deadline.  That and the fact that I was honest was why she kept me employed.  With the new editor, whom I shall call Brian, things quickly changed.

First came a call asking me if I could do an interview with some artist.  I said I could.  I asked what the deadline would be.  It was about four days, and he was in a foreign country, so there was a time difference to deal with ... along with my job ... along with possible translation problems.

I had never had a four day deadline before, and I said I could not accept the assignment because I wasn't sure I could finish it in time.  I didn't want to take on something under a new editor and then fail to deliver.  Not a good first impression.

Brian was pissed, but could understand.  He didn't contact me for a while, however, and I noticed the quality of the magazine start to go downhill.

After a few months I did receive another call from Brian.  He wanted to know where my review hadn't arrived yet.  I told him I hadn't been assigned one, and he seemed baffled.  Maybe, he thought, I gave it to someone else.  Then he asked if I could do it "really quick."

I was done.  I declined, and I never got a call back.  He was assigning pieces to his friends, and shit was coming in late.  I don't think he lasted long, either.  My writing career continued on its course (some years better than others). 

I would write for the magazine again if contacted, but it would be under my terms.  I've made it to a point where I don't have to take every assignment thrown my way (though I will often take them).  It was a great time while it lasted (with the exception of a horrible Coal Chamber review -- most boring band ever).  It paid the bills.  And as a writer, that'll do the trick.


The Knife Hits Bone

1:12.  That's when the clock read when I first woke up.  The next six times I looked at it didn't help, either.  Time did not go in reverse.  Time did not stop.  It marched on.  Like the face-changing serial killer in the dream that caused me to be awake at this time in the first place.

Every time I tried got back asleep, I saw him.  His face was always different, but his eyes, way of walking, mannerisms, and weapon (a large kitchen knife) were all the same.  He walked at a slow, steady pace.  (I like that.  It says that no matter how fast you can run, he still feels like he can get you.  He is taking his time.  There is no need to rush.  His work can wait because the outcome is inevitable.  And that outcome is that you'll be bleeding out, pleading for your life, and he won't hear a word.  He'll work in silence.  Slicing, stabbing, sawing.  He'll finish when he's good and ready, but by the time that comes, you'll be long gone.  If you could be thankful about that, you would be.  The things he'll do to you ... you treat steak with more respect.)  He pursued.  He kept looking at me, but leaving me alone.  Instead, he went after loved ones, friends, co-workers. 

I'm not so ignorant that I don't know what caused this dream.  I don't need to get into the reasons because they are highly personal, and I tend to leave that to the people on Facebook.  I know why I had it, though, and I know what must be done about it.

Some people texted me about my New Year's Resolution.  They apparently don't know me well enough to know I find those things ridiculous.  The New Year is a good starting point for many people.  For me, however, it's another day.  Nothing magically changes.  The sky isn't a different color.  People don't treat one another better.  Love is still love, and hate is a still a fuel.  To think 1/1/11 is somehow a galaxy away from 12/31/10 is magical thinking at best, and delusional at worst. 

There are things I'd like to see happen in 2011.  I've put some in motion.  Some can't be done yet.  These things have nothing to do with resolutions and everything to do with wanting a full night's sleep.  Will they all come to pass?  Of course not.  Some may take a while.  Some may never happen.  That's okay by me.  Just putting in the effort feels good.  I'm cutting away the fat, like the serial killer in my dream when he gets to your stomach. The way he pulls the entrails out and tosses them to the side is much how I'm dealing with things.  As with the real entrails, they will still remain connected, but you'll have more room to ... work.  It'll be sloppy, but you can get the job done, and you'll never have to look over your shoulder to make sure the door is locked (no unwanted guests popping in for a hello and cup o' joe).  You know it is because you are that sure of your actions.  You didn't get this far by making mistakes. 

If that's my 2011 (the destruction of 2010's inhumanity), then I can live with that.  I won't make it a resolution.  I can, if it makes those who ask such questions feel better, make it a mission.  Nietzsche was right about the abyss.  He's the philosopher I tend to agree with the most.   That abyss, though, is always worth gazing into.


A New Look

You may have noticed that this blog's "masthead" has changed.  It's all courtesy of writer/artist and overall megaman Felix Vasquez, Jr..  Vasquez's site, Cinema Crazed, is a stop for all lovers of film, though it will mainly appeal to people whose taste are less 27 Dresses and more ... anything else.  Vasquez is an awesome, talented guy, and I consider myself honored to know him.  His site will also be linked to on The Last Picture Blog at some point when I have more of that thing called "time."

Thank you, Felix.

As for my other friends, enjoy Hawaii, enjoy new marriages (three of you got married this new year -- pretty crazy), enjoy pregnancy (two of you), enjoy.  And for the people I don't know -- hope your 2011 is exactly how you want it to be.  Enjoy some good books, good movies, good music and good people.