Video

Is video really the wave of the future? Is the written word dying?

Haven’t people been worrying about this for half a century?

I’ve heard this a lot regarding the Internet. You know the story: to compete with attention-lacking young people, the move from digital print to digital video must take place!

I understand the logic because I can read the tea leaves as well as anyone, especially when they’re so obvious. And I also know imputing my own personal preferences onto others is a fool’s game.

“I like something, ergo it is the best and everyone else should like it, and if they don’t, then they’re idiots.”

–The Internet Credo

But still…video? Really? Video is a pain in the ass. Isn’t it much easier to just read something? You don’t need to be in a place where you can hear without bothering those around you, and it’s not that hard to stick with an article until the end. Continue reading “Video”

Reset: Chapter 24: Thursday, September 6, 2001 (5)

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Students in varying states of chemical enhancement poured in and out of downtown Hollister’s various establishments, scarfing down pizza, drinking from bottles hidden in brown paper bags, and generally causing commotion. Every once in a while the scent of cloves or cigarette smoke wafted by, and even marijuana. In short, it was the perfect place to get lost in.

“What’s this girl’s name, anyway?” Joe asked as they knifed towards Hollister House of Pizza, shoulder to bouncing shoulder with their peers.

“Stephanie or something,” said Jonesy.

“Huh,” said Joe. “Steve and Stephanie.”

“Yeah, Steve and Stephanie, sitting in a tree,” said Nick. “You can serenade us later, Cyrano. Where are we going?”

“Who’s Cyrano?” asked Jonesy.

“Cyrano! You know! The guy with the nose?!” said Nick “Don’t they teach you kids anything anymore?”

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“What are you even talking about?” said Carlos, his surliness on full display.

“What does it matter, anyway? The point is that this is a bad idea.”

Joe sighed. “Since you couldn’t come up with anything better, I don’t want to hear it.”

“What do you mean, I couldn’t come up with anything better! My plan made a hell of a lot more sense than this, I can tell you that.”

In no mood to fight, Joe hung his head, hoping beyond hope that they would all just make it through the night alive. “Let’s just get a seat.”

Inside the pizza shop, Carlos scanned their environs, a sour twist to his mouth. “What seat?”

“We’ll stand somewhere,” said Joe. He pointed towards an empty spot near the pool table where some students were involved in a serious game, twenty dollar bills laid across the table’s edge. “Over by the wall.”

“There’s no room,” said Jonesy, standing on his tiptoes in a bid to look around the players.

“Is that Journey on the jukebox?” said Nick. “We’ve got to get out of here. I told you this was a terrible idea!”

“Again,” said Joe, “if you have a better suggestion, I’d love to know.”

“There was no Journey involved in my suggestion,” said Nick.

“What I want to know,” said Carlos, “is where those guys got all that money.”

“Your mom,” said Nick, before quickly raising his hands. “I’m sorry. That was a terrible joke. ‘Your mom’ jokes are not, nor have they ever been, funny.”

Jonesy laughed all the same.

“Whatever,” said Carlos, his crankiness ratcheting up a few levels. “Let’s go somewhere else. Nick’s right: this is a dumb idea.”

“Yeah, it’s much smarter to let yourself get cornered,” said Joe. He stepped into one of the three lines before the counter. “Tactical brilliance.”

“What are you standing there for?!” said Nick. “Don’t tell me you’re hungry.”

“It’s kind of rude to come to a restaurant and just stand here without ordering anything, isn’t it? You’re the one with a pizza place. You should know pizza etiquette.”

Jonesy turned to Nick, his face scrunched up with puzzlement. “There’s pizza etiquette?”

“Yeah,” said Nick, “Pay for your food and get the hell out. That’s the strategy.”

Tactically speaking, if you have no food to pay for, then what are you doing there in the first place?”

“He has a point,” said Carlos.

“Nobody asked you,” said Nick.

“I’m pretty hungry,” said Jonesy.

“Of course you are,” said Joe. “Look, I’ll pay. You guys just go sit down.” He waved a hand at the tables, all full.

“Again: where?” said Carlos.

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“You’re a pretty godawful general,” said Nick. “Patton my ass.”

Anger surged like vomit. Joe could understand Jonesy and Carlos acting like kids, because they were kids. But Nick? No matter how he looked or felt, his mind was still that of a grown man. He should know better.

Unless he was going native.

The thought was terrifying. Hadn’t he himself felt a little like a kid, his mind and body awash in a sea of late-teen hormones? Especially when he was around Gwendolyn. She had a way of making him feel once again like a hapless kid. But it was intoxicating; he had forgotten how good it felt to be young, how vital.

“Then we’ll sit outside,” said Joe. “Or stand. I don’t care. Just stick together, alright?”

“Sure,” said Carlos, blessedly taking the initiative and leading the others to the door. “Let’s go.”

Joe stood for just a few minutes, the line moving with agonizing slowness, when he heard Nick’s bellow soaring above the din. “Back off, alright! Just back off!”

The sound of the crowd changed in that way crowds did when they smelled the prospect of violence. The buzz grew sharper, quieter, a dagger in the hands of an assassin. His guts turned cold, Joe abandoned his place in line and, fighting the crowd, made his way outside. Continue reading Reset: Chapter 24: Thursday, September 6, 2001 (5)”

Ask A Christian, Part IV: God in the Hands of Angry Sinners

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Do you want to know what’s even more offensive than outright blasphemy?

People putting their own words, thoughts, and beliefs into the mouth of Jesus Christ–the son of God Himself–usually to score some some stupid political point .

This tends to occur when the discussion turns to taxation or government spending on things like welfare, or tax cuts, or other policies like open borders and immigration.

And since you asked, here’s why this boils my blood: Most of the people making these claims hate God, religion, and Christians in particular.

To all of these people, I give a hearty and sincere one-fingerd salute.

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And I don’t mean this finger.

As Christians, we are warned about false prophets.

Don’t misunderstand me: There are Christians on all side who like to pretend that Jesus is on their side, especially when it comes to their own politics and personal predilections. And they all drive me up a tree, thank you for asking.

But Jesus minced no words when it came to this:

15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

Matthew 7:15-17

The book of Revelations also describes the two-headed beast that is the Antichrist and the False Prophet:

11 And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.

12 And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.

13 And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,

14 And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.

15 And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.

Revelation 13:11-15

There is more in the Bible, of course, but as you can see, misattributing things to Jesus Christ is a seriously bad thing.

Hey, for all you know, I’m a false prophet. Don’t listen to me. I’m just some yahoo with a blog. But I’m also not trying to claim I speak for the Lord! Like billions of us now and before, I’m just trying to understand and live His word as best I can.

As discussed in a previous installment of Ask A Christian, many of these examples involve one trying to wield God as a weapon yet clearly not understanding the context of the verse they are trying to weaponize. Yes, unlike a certain other so-called Abrahamic religion that is in the news a lot lately, the context in the Bible tends to make the Bible look better. Imagine that!

So here are some of the worst arguments that cause my blood pressure to spike every time I see some joker in the media parrot them. For the faithful among you, you have been warned: the annoyance-dial is about to get cranked to 11. Continue reading “Ask A Christian, Part IV: God in the Hands of Angry Sinners”

NaNoWriMo 2017 Wrap-Up: A Victory in My Mind

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I’m declaring a W this year for National Novel Writing Month. No, I didn’t actually log my 50,000 words in on the NaNoWriMo servers, but I did write 50,000 words. More, in fact. I just so happened to be in a place with no Internet access when I hit that mark.

So yeah, technically I lost, but in a way I technically won, because I did write 50,000 words. Anyway, I’m being a lawyer here. The important things are that I had funI learnedsomething, and I wrote another novel.

That’s right: Though it took me a few days after the formal close of NaNoWriMo, I have put the finishing touches on my seventh unpublished novel. 

You read that right, I said seventh. Of these seven, (1) one, The RustMan, is currently being edited by a professional, (2) another, The EnlightenmentMachine, I finished a week before NaNoWriMo began is being (slowly) revised by me, (3) another, Reset, is being serialized on this here blog, (4) another, Symphony for a Lost World: PartI, is in drastic need of an edit (but it’s over 800 pages, so cut me some slack), (5) another, Uncollectable, was written in 2011, shelved for being too far-fetched, but now in 2017 seems disturbingly prophetic and is something I should edit one more time and publish, maybe here on the blog, and the last (6) Sahara, New Hampshire, is the first novel I ever completed, written from 2008 to 2010, and is a pile of hot garbage which will never see the light of day unless it gets some heavy rewrites.

So what does this tell me other than I really need to take my writing to the next level, i.e., publish this stuff? That’s what this post, and National Novel Writing Month in general, is about. It’s not the destination, man, it’s the journey and stuff. Man.

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Man.

Here are the biggest things I learned about writing, and about myself, during this year’s National Novel Writing Month: Continue reading “NaNoWriMo 2017 Wrap-Up: A Victory in My Mind”

Death to Convenience!

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Human history is a funny thing: we spent millennia fighting off predators and toiling in the fields, painstakingly developing labor-saving methods and machines in search of convenience, only to now feel deep dissatisfaction with the industrialized world.

At least, some of us feel dissatisfied.

It’s a thing Jack Donovan touches on in much of his writing. And it’s also the kind of scorching hot take the chattering class likes to bring up when they trot out the whole “It’s a woman’s world now/Are men obsolete?” canard.

You see, apparently things like strengthdecisiveness, and physical courage are outdated and outmoded. As though only men display these things . . .

But this dissatisfaction is not just a man-thing. It’s a human thing.

All this labor-saving, all this technology, and all this existential angst. Is it any wonder that people feel useless? Anxious? Unhappy?

Maybe all of this convenience is the enemy.

This is a great time to be alive in many ways, especially in the West. Fantastic. An anomaly in human history:

  • Hunting and farming? Just press a button, and food is brought to you.
  • Courtship? Romance? Nah! We have devices. Soon, sex robots will be a thing. And if you really crave “the human element,” there are apps for that.
  • Disease? Most of the ones that used to ravage humanity are gone, or held at bay so as to be nearly eradicated.
  • Travel? Never been easier. You don’t even need to own your own vehicle to get from point A to point B, let alone a horse.

And so on.

But we’re all stressed. We suffer from ennui and listlessness and isolation. Pure enervation. Achievement is just not worth the effort since the rewards are ever-dwindling…right?

I mean, look around you, especially if you’re in a city. Things seem designed to keep us apart from each other. Where are the smiles? Hell, it’s weird to even see an athletic physique, isn’t it?

Convenience is killing us. This is not a great revelation when it comes to our personal lives. But what about when it comes to everything else?

How about convenience making us not even want to vote, or learn about important issues? Nothing really ever changes, right?

Our convenience even stops us from asking deep questions, introspective questionsabout ourselves, our legacies, the meaning of life, God, the eternal, the unknowable.

Convenience is a trap. It’s the cage of safety writ large. And this convenience was designed, so the official story goes, to make our lives better.

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And it has.

But as with most everything, there is a price. Continue reading “Death to Convenience!”

Reset: Chapter 23: Thursday, September 6, 2001 (4)

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There was a message on the whiteboard: “COME TO JONESYS!” And on his desk, a hastily scribbled missive on a sticky note: “at jonesys come find us!!! urgent!!!!!!” It was so urgent that Nick had time to write all of those exclamation points.

Joe picked up his phone, deciding to call Carlos and Jonesy first to see if there really was a problem, or if Nick was being typically hyperbolic.

Nobody answered, nor did Joe have any messages of his own. He hung up, tapping his fingers on his desk. He really wasn’t in the mood for adventures tonight. All he wanted was to grab a bite and go to sleep. But a tugging at his conscience kept him from turning in for the night. Nick, for all his faults, cared about his friends: if he said that someone was in trouble, they probably were.

What did we used to do before texting? he thought, running through the mental checklist: Whiteboard, sticky note, voice message . . .

Email.

Joe darted out his hand, tapping his mouse to unfreeze the screen, and logged in to his email account as fast as his then-cutting-edge desktop would allow. He had a message from Nick, timestamped about ten minutes ago: “We’re leaving Rodger and we’re coming there!”

Joe calculated the distances and times in his head. If they had indeed left ten minutes ago, it would take them less than ten to get here, especially at the pace Nick walked. He could just wait, but he was curious to see what was wrong.

Curious, and a little nervous. That sense of dread that had crept up on him like a frost while walking into Gwendolyn’s room hadn’t left, and while Joe normally didn’t put much faith in hunches, the week’s events had challenged many of his long-held certainties. With a huff, he put his coat back on and went outside.

He knew the path his friends would take to Paxton, and hurrying in the cool night, met them at the halfway point across the street from the student union building where a hill led down to an outdoor basketball court. He waved his hands and shouted for them.

Nick pointed and said something, and he, Jonesy, and Carlos started running towards Joe.

“There you are!” said Nick, grabbing Joe by the shoulders. Joe felt a momentary twinge of guilt when he saw the swelling in Nick’s upper lip. “What the hell, man?!” said Nick.

Joe’s heart quickened. “What the hell what?” He looked each of them in turn, scanning for any sign of injury, of panic, of grief. Instead, he just saw confusion.

“Where’ve you been?” said Nick.

“Where’ve I been?”

“Yes.”

Joe rolled his eyes. Turning to Carlos, the most sensible of them all, he asked, “What’s going on?”

“Jonesy’s been accused of rape.”

“Rape?”

“The girl, remember?” said Nick. “At KPD?”

Joe turned to Jonesy. “But you didn’t touch her.”

“I know!” said Jonesy. “I think.”

“There was no sign of anything,” said Carlos, “but these dudes don’t care, man.”

Dudes?”

“Her boyfriend and his crew,” said Carlos. “They’re out for blood, man. Sending threatening emails, making calls . . .”

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“And I didn’t even do anything!” said Jonesy, spreading his small hands.

Joe patted him on the shoulder. “I know. We were there–we saw the two of you. She had her underwear on, you had your pants on, and that’s that. But why now?”

“Who knows?” said Nick, throwing his hands up. “Women are crazy. You of all people should know that.”

“You’ve raped somebody?!” said Jonesy.

“No I haven’t raped anybody!” Joe snapped. He glared at Nick. “I’ve never even had a girlfriend. Remember?”

“That is true, actually,” said Nick. “Joe’s a total virgin. Like, never even kissed a girl before. It’s pretty sad, when you stop and think about it.”

“I think they get it,” said Joe.

“Wow,” said Jonesy. “You mean I’m actually cooler than you?”

“Joe’s not cool,” said Nick. He actually sounded offended. Continue reading Reset: Chapter 23: Thursday, September 6, 2001 (4)”

Interesting Times

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It’s easy to feel yourself swept away by things, insignificant and out of control. Watching the world unfold, one question–maybe the first question–should be:

Why do you care?

The second question, then, might be:

How could you not?

Simple questions with no good answers. Simple questions that, I’m sure, human beings have been asking our ancestors first formed questions in their minds.

I imagine a caveman watching the blizzard from the relative comfort of his cave and pondering his existence. Is this all there is? Am I destined for nothing but fleeing the saber-toothed, hunting the mammoth, and finding shelter? Luckily for us, his answer, and those of thousands like him, was no.

So what’s our excuse?

Are we destined only to scrape enough to pay the taxman and the other bill collectors, to undue the sub-par education of our children, and to try and end life without running afoul of the endless laws that surround us?

It’s a reactive pose, which is why I suspect it creates such deep feelings of powerlessness.

The caveman sure thought so. It was this discomfort that eventually led to the skyscraper and insulation and central heating, the firearm, architectural principles, and the automobile.

So what’s our excuse? Continue reading “Interesting Times”