Friday, May 29, 2009

Support the cause

Becca is a struggling comic strip and pin-up artist, bookstore employee and fellow blogger --no, she's not in West Virginia, but I do read her blog and like her work. Over the last three years or so since I started going to her blog, I've really dug her work --and the occasionally pervy girlie pics she puts up. She also writes some decent geek culture stuff dealing with horror movies, comic books-- stuff like that.

Anyway, Becca is trying to get to a comic book convention to set up her wares, make connections and you know... basically, make her dreams come true. Naturally, I support this. Her problem, like mine, is she's broke. So, I'm going to buy one of her robot prints. Hell, I might buy two. Meanwhile, I'm going to encourage the (shake magic 8-ball) 9 readers I have to go take a look at her website. I do not recommend you look at the site at work. Becca occasionally posts naked pictures she's drawn and pictures of women she admires. You get used to it, but your supervisor might not really get that it's not a sex site.

If the spirit moves you, contribute or buy something. If not, no loss.

Here is the blog.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Annual birthday bitchfest

It's one of my favorite things to talk about --actually, for blogs in general-- shedding pounds and getting healthy. I've probably written a dozen posts on the subject of me making healthy choices, getting exercise and not smoking. I start off hopeful, but invariably fuck it up.

I could blame my wife. She's an enabler. I buy healthy crap at the grocery store, lots of leafy greens, fruit and beans. She buys the stuff that tastes good, that's easier to sling together when you've got ten minutes to get the kid to daycare then to work. It's also a lot tastier at 2 in the morning, when I'm up and want something salty, something sweet, something to make the couple hours I've just spent hammering on my keyboard feel like it was worth something.

I could blame the job. I spent mucho hours on my butt staring at computer screens and talking on the phone.

It's all me. I could eat better, exercise a bit... but let me tell you. Last year, I joined up at the YWCA to do a bit of swimming: 30 bucks a month, thanks to a company plan, to go swimming whenever I God damned wanted to. 30 bucks a month that was locked in for 12 months. I went maybe six times. The math: 360 dollars to swim six times equals 60 dollars a visit. Given that I maybe did twenty laps per visit, that was $3 a lap.

That's strip club prices without any of the show.

Smoking? Well, yeah... so much for me staying off them, but I was real secret about it.

So, I'm starting over again --again, but something has changed. Over the last month, I've spoken to a wide variety of strangers and all of them seem to know a 39 year-old who kicked over because of a heart attack or a stroke. It has haunted me for weeks. I know I'm unhealthy. I'm in lousy shape, overweight and there isn't a lot of genuine peace back at the ranch. This is not a complaint. It's an assessment.

So, I thought about it. Being dead at 39 would kind of suck. It's not so much for me. I don't sweat dying. Maybe it's one of the things I've really embraced with being a Buddhist. Death, as a personal experience, isn't all that scary once you get past the idea that it's probably going to hurt. However, death as impact to the people around me is very frightening.

As I talked to these people about their friends and loved ones, what really got me was the grieving wives and children. I started to consider what it would be like if I was totally out of the picture, how this would effect the way my kids were raised, their futures, and even the hopes and aspirations of my wife.

It was sobering. With me out of the picture, things go to shit pretty fast.

So, I bought some decent walking shoes, joined a gym (though one that cost 75 bucks a year) and I'm not eating starch or sugar. I have not had a cigarette in a week. I also went ahead and got a video card to upgrade my computer so I could play a video game I got on ebay at Christmas, but couldn't play and couldn't make time to play. It seemed to me, I need to make time for real diversion, for actual leisure. I put in a garden in my backyard --same reason --and it gets me out of the house.

So, I turn 39 in three weeks. My goal is to not be dead by 40. At the very least, I've got to hold out for another 10 or 15 years. What a freakin' hassle.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Again... a limited sort of week due to scheduling issues, but three more books to add to the pile. At this point, already, I find myself longing for the end of the reading list. Direct download to my cerebral cortex sounds lovely.

Cruddy: Lynda Barry -A nice, fucked up story about Roberta, also Clyde, a likable, but ugly high school girl whose bug shit crazy father drags her along on a drive to collect some money he believes is owed to him. Violent, surreal, occasionally sickening, almost always harrowing, but funny, this is an amazing read that hits it out of the park with capturing the awkward emotions of the character's age, the complete weirdness of the story without ever giving in to an easy, clean resolution of anything.

I devoured it. Hope they never make a movie out of it unless they get Kevin Smith and Lars Von Trier to collaborate on a comedy made with Mel Gibson's money.

The Wordy Shipmates: Sarah Vowell -Ok, I like Sarah Vowell. I thought Assassination Vacation was annoying a lot of the time, worthwhile, but sort of lacking. I liked the Wordy Shipmates and her revisiting the puritan invasion of America. While the killjoy Puritans don't necessarily sound like a bunch of fun (and they aren't, seriously), their story gives an interesting background and context to why America does some of the stupid shit we do.

Foxfire 2: Elliot Wigginton -In my attempt to learn more about Appalachian culture, I slogged through another Foxfire book, which gave me great tips on how to make wagon wheels, my own clothes and what sort of greedy, sick fucks lived a hundred years ago to create the bounty of ghosts that haunt every other hoot, holler and old house.

As with the previous book, there's a lot of interesting information, but not always useful. Learning to spin sheep's wool into yarn from a book would be like learning to rewire your car's electrical system from some helpful pamphlets provided by the DMV. It's possible, just unlikely. It's more of a primer.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Due to some extra work, blogging is going to be a little sketchy than usual.
Three books this week.

Lost On Planet China: J Maarten Troost -a fun and occasionally disturbing stumble through the largest nation on earth. At points, terrifying in implication of what might be waiting as the rest of the world begins to realize that the sleeping giant is groggily getting out of bed. Based on this book, there's a pretty good chance we'll all be part of the empire eventually. Learn Mandarin.

Assassination Vacation: Sarah Vowell -Eh... liked most of this book, but realized eventually Vowell's romp through the history of presidential assassinations in America is a little bit shallow, occasionally lazy and a little annoying some of the time with the hipster view. Oh sure, it's fun. She is predictably quirky and informative, but she seems to have left out Kennedy only because it was too much of a bother to fly to Dallas. I liked it enough, however, to pick up another of her books.

Why We Suck: Dr. Denis Leary -Starts off fun. This book is mostly about Leary grappling with his own middle age and the inevitable comparison/contrast of these trying times and the good ol' days when he was a kid. A good comedian is a fair philosopher and thinker. Leary has bright moments -no doubt about it- but the book reads a little flabby, like he's repackaging material and needless repeating points he's already illuminated well enough. A joke told the second time around, a slightly different way, but with the same punchline eventually becomes a little tedious. Still, pretty fun.

Monday, May 11, 2009

60, 59

Two books that ate up all of my free time and reminded me to balance the reading list every week.

Tropic Of Cancer: Henry Miller -Miller was brilliant and reading Tropic Of Cancer, I can see where so many of the writers I admire at least took some lead from. Hunter Thompson, Kerouac, Bukowski and some of the other beat writers owe a bit to Miller. He was fearlessly descriptive, unashamed of either his baser urges or his flickering compassion. The plot is sort of vague, but there is plenty of character study and some interesting observational stuff that spins outward like a jazz solo.

Tropic Of Cancer is a dense read meant to be consumed leisurely. Basically, it's the wrong sort of book on a hundred book race unless you balance it with a comic book. I loved it. Somehow, I'm going to fit in at least one more of his books.

The Watchers Out Of Time: H.P. Lovecraft/August Derleth -August Derleth was a friend and student of Lovecraft's. As the story goes, after Lovecraft died, Derleth took some of his friend's notes and turned them into stories. Nobody wanted to buy them, so he ended up founding Arkham House, which eventually published Lovecraft's work as well as related material. The Watchers Out Of Time is a collection of Derleth's Lovecraft influenced and founded stories.

Derleth's stories aren't bad, but they lack the intensity of atmosphere that Lovecraft was so good at creating. The collection also tends to get repetitive: too many of the scenarios are repeated -a stiff and stodgy academic inherits the substantial property of a distant, evil uncle. Usually a monster shows up. Sometimes the academic is saved at the very last moment. Other times, not.

Also, not a good book to read when you're trying to hammer out 100 by the end of December. Still, it was instructional and while not as dark or brooding as Lovecraft, Derleth is a lot more readable. Lovecraft liked to dig up archaic, uncommonly used words which he then wailed on until you felt like you were going to be sick. Partially, this is forgivable since Lovecraft's characters were often ivory tower numb skulls who more or less deserved to be driven mad, skinned alive and turned into a handbag for the Elder Gods.

Not great, but not bad.


Luck changing from bad to something else is like a fever breaking. It's suddenly realizing the headache is gone and while you still may be sweating, might be exhausted, you know when you go to sleep you're probably going to wake up.

The end of winter was pretty hard. My blood pressure was through the roof. I was tired, stressed out and really coming apart, but then it was over. Oh sure, things are still a mess. My phone has been turned off for two weeks. A few bills are a little on the late-ish side. Meals at home got very creative for a little while, but the kids hate my cooking so it's not like they noticed.

Over the weekend, I bought a new pair of shoes --the first new shoes I've owned in two years and they fit. Man, you don't know how good it feels to just wear something that didn't cost two dollars at a yard sale, something that isn't falling apart, something that doesn't have some obvious flaw you're ignoring for the sake of economy. The shoes weren't a lavish expenditure. They were just a pair of $30 athletic shoes: a bargain, actually. They make me want to walk, go places, explore... to do everything except fall down.

It's all little steps toward things getting better.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Live Long And Prosper

The new Star Trek film is just fine. The thing I like the most about it is it takes some of the sacred cows of science fiction --time travel, for example-- and tosses it on its head. It doesn't just reinvent characters, it allows them to continue to evolve past how the audience knows them.

So, go give Abrams and company your money if you have any inclination to do so. They should be encouraged to make more of these. This thing should make enough money that the asshole powers-that-be will grant writer Bryan Fuller his wish: bring back Star Trek to the small screen.

Part of the problem with Star Trek, in all of its iterations, is a tendency to preach. It's understandable. Roddenberry was a preachy, hippie kind of guy, but there was a tendency to turn episodes, many episodes, into little sermons about the evils of drug addiction, racism, a woman's right to choose, why you shouldn't park in handicap spaces at the mall... Sometimes in all the preaching about how things could be better if we all accepted some future ideal, the storytellers skimped on the fun. They left out the awe.

Oh sure, the new Star Trek film has some morals to deliver. Science fiction can't help but offer them up, but the story is fast-paced, interesting, but not exactly predictable. Would Kirk and Spock save the day? Sure, but how they get there goes against the grain and leaves plenty for the top tier nerds to argue over. This new Trek opens up a twelve pack of worms for them to wrestle over --not the least of which is, "what happened to everything that came after?"

The new Star Trek is a brand new universe and it's swell.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Lazer Tag

Does anyone else think it's a particularly evil idea to spend government money to retrain older workers to help rich women rehab their old, busted up vaginas?

I'm a fan of vaginas, really... and believe in their care and upkeep, but I just don't see this as being a growth industry among elder workers looking for a career change or a little money to make up for their pension being obliterated. I mean, I could use extra income, but that particular line of work has never occurred to me --let alone going through some sort of technical training to become a vaginal laser specialist.

Anyway, here's the website, in case you were looking for a last minute Mother's Day gift.


Ah well, there's no getting around it. I failed to complete my two books last week. I divided my time between too many separate projects and got entranced by a book by Henry Miller --which is an amazing read for me, but not a quick read.

So, as expected. I knew I'd tank a couple of weeks. I tanked this week. With a little luck, I'll be back on track next week.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


The worst thing about the hazy, dull feeling that comes with insomnia is that sense of the everyday magical is so muted. I count on those little insights to move me along. Bone weary and weird, I struggle, muddled by my own thoughts. I marvel at the mundane works of others with sad admiration. The least of what they do is still that much greater than what I'm capable of.

I could use some real inspiration, but nothing much is going right these days. I think I've been trying to get by on the passions of others. Going along to get along. The best I can come up with lately seems to be discontent, which is base and eventually dull. You can only rage against the machine for so long before it just becomes masochism as performance art.

I'm tired of television, books and the radio. I'm out of jokes and tired of bad, bad news. I need a breath of new perfume and something other than nostalgia or stability to dream about. Give me dinner, dancing and a new pair of shoes. I just want to see something new again.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Cardboard boxes

Jesus, you'd think after all this time of working two jobs there would come a point when the first of the month wasn't pure agony. I can't remember the last time the cash was there when it needed to be.

Today, I found out there was an issue with my second job. Apparently, I didn't turn in a time sheet almost a month ago, which nobody (particularly me) caught. It was just something else that slipped through another crack. I ought to get a bonus for helping to find these cracks. I'm good at it.

I like the radio gig. It's quiet and nice to have a couple of hours to myself every week. The work isn't difficult and really, I look forward to it by the end of the week. The downside is the money isn't much and you're expected to tolerate a certain amount of institutional weirdness from the apparatus. I like a lot of the people I work with over there and vaguely believe in what they do, but it's days like today I wish I could just go back to slinging coffee. It had its own set of headaches, but money was never one of them.

So, the rent gets paid late again. The phones stay off for another week or two, but I bought groceries. Nobody goes hungry. The kids never go without milk, bread or toilet paper. The cats have something to shit on. I read, write and wait, then go through it all over again in the middle of the month.