Friday, September 27, 2013

So, Let's Talk About the New TV Season

I’ve had a couple of posts in the works. I’ve got too much detail and too much damned seriousness going on with them, though, and I’m too wrapped up writing The Resilient to give them the attention needed to finish. I need a quick-and-dirty subject I can knock out while I’m on break.

So, how about the new TV season?

Two and Half Men officially jumped the shark in its 11th season premiere last night. It was doing well enough in the ratings without Charlie Sheen, the original actor whose off-screen life this show was built around, but apparently the writers are running out of stories they can do with a fictional billionaire who looks like Ashton Kutcher trying to find love. So a new character is introduced. 

This new character is the snarky, bisexual, illegitimate daughter of Charlie Sheen’s two-seasons-deceased-already character. The episode really busted its balls playing up the hard-drinking, hard-fucking, hard-drugging nature of this character—just like good ol’ Charlie!—all the way into the awkwardly staged next-week’s previews, which seems to be a new thing CBS is introducing at the ends of their shows.

I don’t see this working. It’s been ten years and the show’s title no longer even reflects the show. (It hasn’t for years, even before Charlie Sheen’s character got killed off.) If this isn’t the last season, it should be.

The show before that was something called The Crazy Ones. Something about an ad agency run by Robin Williams, doing his usual manic shtick, with a long-in-the-tooth Sarah Michelle Gellar as his daughter/straight man. The show opened with Gellar and someone else exhorting some kid eating a snack to spit into a bucket after eating the snack so they wouldn’t get too full during the filming of the snack ad. Nasty. I walked out and waited to be called back for Two and a Half Men. If this lasts three episodes before cancellation I’ll be surprised.

Kaley Cuoco as Penny. Her eyes are somewhere
in the top middle of the photo, in case anyone gives a shit.
I’m saving the best for last, which I watched first. The seventh season premiere of The Big Bang Theory gave us plenty of hot Penny-on-Sheldon action, which is always fun. But there’s a sense of going through the motions here. The writers are going to have to give Sheldon his sexual awakening soon or his relationship with Amy is going to look really ridiculous, and not in a good way. Of course, when that happens, the show is as good as over. I’ll give Big Bang two more seasons, tops.

And that’s it. I don’t care that NCIS is the top rated show of all time; it’s a bullshit heroic cop fantasy, so fuck it. I don’t have cable or satellite so I’ll have to catch South Park on the Web, as I’ve consistently neglected to do for the last several years because, well, who cares. I’d love to start watching Breaking Bad—my daughter raves about the show, and I respect her opinion about such things—but it’s really difficult watching television here. One damned interruption after another.

Further Reading: So I'll Watch More Television, Then.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

The German-Language Version of BLEEDING KANSAS Is Now Available!

I’m impressed with how quickly this got done. I’d love to meet the translator and ask him or her how they worked around my American idioms. If nothing else, I hope Derek Grace’s sour-snarky attitude towards Life in These United States ca. 2013 translated well for a people and a nation with their own problems.

Photo from one of my favorite foreign news sites, Der Spiegel.
Click here to see read their English language article
 on how to get the most out of your Oktoberfest experience.
Which is all to say I hope I sell a metric fuck-ton of books to Germans, who will like it enough to bring me over to the ancestral homeland just so they can have a look at me and see if I’m really for real. So I in turn can see Germany. Also, I’d really love to go to Oktoberfest. Goddamn, I’ve got to do that at least once before I die. I want to go there with my son, dress in the lederhosen, and ogle me some frauleins....

Anyway, it’s been a lovely, chill fall day. Here’s hoping your day was at least tolerable. It’s all I can ask for most days myself.

So it for the cover alone!.
Oh, and on the off-off chance anyone’s interested, the link to purchase the German edition from publisher Luzifer-Verlag is here. I recommend looking at the site if only for the stunning cover art on their books. I’m waiting to see if they offer Bleeding Kansas with the cover art on a special flash drive. I’ll have to get a shadow box for that and the paperback.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer the American version to the uninitiated. Sorry about the cover. That one is all my fault. It’s a delightfully cynical and mean-spirited little tale, though. It’s on the inside what counts! Ask any zombie chewing on a length of long pig chitlin!

UPDATE: The intrepid translator making sense of Bleeding Kansas to German readers is Torsten Scheib. Look for the link to his blog Scheib’s Shit on the “Other Voices in the Wilderness” column on the right. As of this writing he's finishing translation of my second book, Grace Among the Dead.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Loose Ends on a Tuesday Afternoon, Nine-Seventeen-Thirteen Edition

So, after a twitchy, anxious week without a blog post, I write a blog post. Page views go from single-digit to near triple-digits in 12 hours. Who knew that’s how these things work? Of course, having that four-panel photo of America’s Sweetheart probably didn’t hurt, either. God bless Miss Theresa Vail of Kansas! Even if, by the looks of her, He already has....

So here ya go: Miss Kansas and the Real Miss America, Theresa Vail,
rockin' the hardest working bikini top you ever did see. But it’s all
about the Serenity Prayer tat —  now THAT’S “empowering!”
I missed talking about the Great Colorado Floods of last week. I had nothing to say, really. I’m on higher ground, well above and away from any creeks, so I’ve had nothing to worry about. As usual, I have zero concern for all those poor, poor rich people who have been so dreadfully inconvenienced by their own lack of foresight and love of lower taxes versus taking care of basic, common-sense public business. If Colorado had had an infrastructure in place to handle these 100-year events, we wouldn’t have a news story. Indeed, we’d have millions of gallons of water captured and stored for the next dry spell.

We didn’t, we don’t, and we never will, so here we are. The Broncos won last weekend though, so happy days, and all that. Blue skies are back, and it feels nice and September-y out there. Not too hot. The Christmas decorations are up in Costco, the pre-lighted artificial trees are on display. We’re back on track!

Meanwhile, I need to figure a way to goose my book sales. I seem to have a small, but steadily increasing following in the UK. Given that my book is already too politically incorrect for the US market, I wonder if I can’t pull a Hendrix and become famous overseas first by way of “conquering” the US market. Not that I give a crap about being famous. I’d just like to celebrate Christmas this year without sweating the credit card bill. Hell, the best present ever would be to pay down the existing credit card bills!

Right now I can’t think of anything to do but finish this second book. “God, grant me the courage to not freak out about my deteriorating finances, the strength to follow through on my own overdue projects, and the wisdom to not think too much about the blonde chick with the big sloppy tits when I need to be working.” That’s my Serenity Prayer for the day. A-freakin’-men.


Friday, September 06, 2013

Fear and Self-Loathing

A person who doubts himself is like a man who would enlist in the ranks of his enemies and bear arms against himself. He makes his failure certain by himself being the first person to be convinced of it.  —Ambrose Bierce

It happens, and I have to check myself from time to time. Reading stuff on the Internet for the sole purpose of pissing myself off. So weird how we become addicted to cortisol. 

In the course of checking myself this time, deliberately swearing off some Web sites, I’ve come to a startling conclusion: so much out there is directed at making us hate ourselves. 

Who’s us? Mainly Americans, of course, though I expect some of this can apply throughout the Anglosphere. For my part, I’m guilty of it, too. Looking down at people for being such and such a way and hating myself for the same. Not that some of this isn’t entirely justified. Still, it’s curious that we are the citizen/ subjects of the most advanced civilization in history (no irony) and we are expected to hate ourselves for 

* Being privileged to enjoy the comforts of modern civilization

* Being fat

* Being lazy

* Watching too much TV

* Being a “sheeple”/“drinking the Kool-Aid”

* Being startled to learn the obvious (seriously, you’re only now just noticing?)

Again, some of this could be justified. For instance, hating myself for being fat is a powerful motivator to watch what I eat and get my fat ass exercising.

One could also say it’s a brilliant mass culture psyop. Make people doubt themselves. People who hate themselves and each other aren’t coming together to threaten anyone’s status quo.

Of course, that presumes someone is getting a memo to push this. It also discounts the sheer meanness of people in general, the way we like to build ourselves up by tearing others down. We like feeling superior to the morbidly obese fatass, to the Teabilly, to the libtard, that scrawny little thing with the stupid-looking glasses, etc.

Whatever the case, what a hoot! We’re citizen/subjects of the Biggest, Richest, Most Bad-Ass Empire of All Human Civilization—and we hate ourselves! Did ordinary Roman citizens curse themselves and their culture so? There’s something weirdly, darkly, sadly hilarious about this.

Heh. We’re so fucking lame.


Thursday, September 05, 2013

Gifts for the Taking, Belatedly Unwrapped

TRIGGER WARNING: Yet another one of those goddamned stop-and-smell-the-roses kind of posts.

So I was bitching about my death-of-summer blues and by wonderful coincidence one of my favorite bloggers posts a bit called “Don’t Kill Yourself.” 

The blogger Delicious Tacos talks about the little things we observe that can lift our spirits, no matter how hopeless it seems. It’s one of those corny, but undeniably solid truths few writers can convey without looking sappy. For instance, the Great Bukowski would be inspired by a dog walking down the street. DT notes a roadrunner drinking from a mud puddle during a trip through Joshua Tree. They make it work.

So. What do I have? Only what happened to me a few Sundays back, the one right before my Bad Week.

While taking my customary after-dinner walk. I got a whiff of something blooming on a cool breeze just before the crossing the pedestrian walk. I’d crossed over because the walking trails in the greenbelt across the street are on a tall ridge overlooking the near south, and beyond the next tall ridge was a very active electrical storm. 

This is the view due south. You have to picture this in late summer, not early fall. Then early evening,
as opposed to late afternoon. Then with blue-black storm clouds with lightning spanning the horizon
and well beyond the frame of this photo. Got that?

Although the storm was so far away you couldn’t hear the thunder (keep in mind this is Colorado, and you can see for miles from a tall enough ridge) I could feel the electricity in the air, making the hair stand up on the back of my neck. So I cut a hard right back up a really steep slope on the ridge to take me back into the residential neighborhood and a quicker way home.

“This is Colorado, and you can see for miles from a tall enough ridge.”
This is the view from near the top of that “really steep slope” mentioned above.

The thought of getting zapped on this high ridge helped immensely with any fatigue I might have suffered taking on this slope. Still, I had to stop and turn and look one more time at the light show. It was a fantastic view, bolts of hotter-than-the-sun electricity spreading for miles over east and west.

Another reason I was cutting my walk short had to do with the growing darkness. The storm clouds brought the deep twilight on early. I ascended into the cul-de-sac and walked my zig-zag route back down to the main road.

As I rounded the corner I was stopped by the sight of a hissing, sparking, popping cylinder in the middle of the street. It was some kind of fireworks device I’ve never seen before. I was uncertain of how safe it would be to walk around it, even on the sidewalk. So I stood and watched as it hissed and threw sparks ten feet into the air, some of which popped like small firecrackers.

On the opposite side of the street were what I guessed to be two families from adjacent houses sitting in folding chairs in one driveway, watching the spectacle. 

I stood on my side and watched with them. In maybe a minute or so I felt safe enough to pass on down the street. Once I got a few yards down towards the next intersection I turned in time to see the cylinder catch its second wind. It spat sparkles and popping flame for another 30 or 45 seconds. 

I thought about taking my phone out to snap a picture* but I didn’t want the families enjoying this to think I was ratting them out to the police—fireworks are very much banned in El Paso Country, Colorado, for more-or-less obvious reasons. So I enjoyed it with them, complicit in their criminality, until the cylinder fizzled out. Remarkably, the usual smells of cordite were absent. A very stealthy cylinder. I wondered how much it cost. A few minutes late or soon and I would have missed this. Lucky me. A gift from the Universe, as a former therapist of mine would have put it. 

I turned and walked on. The dying light behind the mountains as I walked westward towards home, the graceful S-curve of the four-lane street I crossed as it wound away down the hill...all of it was lost on me. Every bit. The fireworks, the lightning, that pleasant scent as I stood at the top of the ridge before crossing the road. Wasted. What followed was simply a shit week. One goddamn thing after another, the kind of week in which you question the validity of breathing.

I did remember all this, though, as I took my walk the following Sunday. It all came back to me in the huge, grassy park I go through towards the beginning of my walk. Out in the middle of the field was the guy who lives somewhere down my street with four tiny little toy poodles. He’s a blonde, athletic-looking guy of 30 or so who should have no trouble with the ladies—and he’s wielding one hell of a conversation-starter with these dogs. They’re not yappy. They’re extremely well trained. He’s running his own little circus with these things, right there in the middle of that big green field.

A free circus, with the most insufferably adorable little creatures you ever did clap your tired, grumpy eyes on. The guy running it isn’t some schlumpy-looking loser, either. Imagine that. Only where I live, in the unfashionable and crumbling south end of Briargate, in Great Recession-era Colorado Springs.

On these Sundays since, I notice the ladies all say “Hi” and “Good evening!” to me now that I no longer give them the two-second sizing-up I used to do before passing them. One fading little yuppie beauty gave me this big, chirpy “”Hey!” right in front of her husband. In this case I looked and saw her smiling right at me, showing off her preternaturally straight and white teeth. I had just enough time to smile and nod in response as I passed. And then wonder, What the fuck was that all about?

Thanks for all this, Universe. I do look for these things now and they’re all very nice, but what I really need is a spike in book sales and a massive royalty payment at the end of the quarter this month. Christmas and everything else depends upon it. Put a few C-notes in the card next time, all right?

* As a man of a Certain Age, I can’t help chuckling at the facile absurdity of “taking my phone out to snap a picture.” I laugh out loud when I picture how my long-dead (since Reagan was president) and not-very-quick-on-the-uptake mother would have reacted to such a statement.


Monday, September 02, 2013

Labor Day Weekend Wipeout 2013

Killin’, grillin’, chillin’.

I thought I’d try this thing in which, once a week, I’d review the Great Issues of the Week. It would be a way to keep this blog timely, and get some posts up.

The hell of it is, try as I might, I can’t bring myself to give a shit one way or another about Syria. So yet another dictator we used to support has outlived his usefulness and we’re aching to bomb his people because he supposedly used chemical weapons on his people. So? 

We allow rich men to poison our drinking water so they can sell natural gas overseas. SWAT teams are used by local authorities to put down illegal baby deer (yes, such things exist) and serve warrants. In this Land of the Free we suffer surveillance cameras in our cities and the NSA collects our email. Local U.S. police forces abuse their citizens as a matter of course and our “justice” and prison systems are no more than institutionalized sadism. So who’s coming over to “punish” our leaders for their abuses, even as our current figurehead president desires to “punish” Assad for what’s he’s done to his people (again, by bombing his people)?

If the elites want war, they’ll take us to war. It looks like they’re holding back to make a show that process and protocol are being observed. I’m annoyed we’re bothering with this empty ritual. Why are we even talking about this like we have a choice, let alone a stake in this? 

Syrian children will burn because that’s how some people earn their money. It’s called the Bottom Line, baby, and it’s more powerful than any prayer or protest you’ll ever make. Whether you want to blather on about U.S. military intervention being the Only Way to Stop the Bad Thing (and We’ll Carefully Select Our Targets This Time, Honest!) or to complain about how the Shining City on the Hill that never was is nothing more than a corporate-owned security state in perpetual war, it doesn’t matter. It is what it is, and you’re wasting breath. What you or I think about this doesn’t affect the decisions of people who regard us as nothing more than cattle. That’s you, too, smart guy.

In other news, American celebrities are still vacuous and unappealing, what ironic justice! And how very kind of the propaganda ministry to serve up an example every day by way of our Two Minutes Hate.

I look back over the summer. It wasn’t epic, but it was all right. My nearly grown children got to see their relations, and I realized how important it is to live closer to said relations as opposed to sweating a two-day, 12-hour-plus-each drive to see them. Everybody say, “Awww!” Seriously, though. Fuck that long-ass drive.

I laugh to think how even the new Star Trek movie couldn’t get me to the theater this year. Seriously, the bad guy was Khan? Again? Christ. Although I understand it did well in terms of box office, I’ve noticed Star Trek Into Darkness doesn’t make mention in many end-of-the-summer recaps, which seem to be nothing more than schadenfreude about All Those Expensive Failures. Am I the only one who’s caught on that this is an end-of-summer ritual, the big Boo-Hoo, Hollywood Is Creatively Bankrupt, Too Many Comic Books and Franchises and Remakes and Reboots? 

And despite all the protests the comic books and franchises and reboots and remakes keep coming. Notice a pattern? Anyway, fuck going to the movies. I figure if I stick around long enough every theatrical release I was ever remotely curious about will repeat endlessly on cable. I must have seen the first Star Trek movie a dozen times on TV over the four years since its original release. I even saw it at my friend’s house while in South Carolina this summer. I expect it will be the way with Into Darkness before long. “Oh, this is on again? It doesn’t make a lick of sense but it’s still fun to watch....”

Fuck the wildfires, too. They’ve been easy to forget with this wetter-than-most monsoon season, but it’s clear they’re going to be a regular thing come summer in Colorado Springs. What the hell. We’ve established the need to get out of here for reasons almost as pressing as the threat of getting burned alive.

I’m already a day late on this inaugural Sunday Week in Review piece. Blame it on Labor Day Weekend. Blame it on football; my son made his high school varsity debut on Saturday. Blame it on a first book I’m rewriting so extensively it might as well be my third. I’d meant to finish it by this weekend. I’ll consider it a victory of sorts if I’m done by this time next week.

So there’s some sweet to go with the sour here. At least we don’t live in Syria. Those poor people are doomed, no two ways about it. Me, I’m looking forward to some stark, cold-weather sunrises. And finishing and turning in The Resilient for publication. Here’s the kind of autumn sunset I can look forward to in a couple of months. So there’s that. Happy Labor Day Weekend, y’all.

Res ipsa loquitor.