28 February 2014

An Open Letter In Context Free* Anigif Form, Because Subtweeting All This Would Be a Pain In the Ass

At first I was all

and then you were like

and then I was all

But then you got all

and then you were like

so I basically said

and now I'm all


So, now I'm all

Peace out, mothafuckas.

*Unless you really, really want it.
*But you might want ALL of it.

*Especially this part of it.

Note to new reaaders

First of all, welcome. Thanks for stopping by.

Second, if you go through the archives here (and I can see from my page hits that some of you have been doing so from time to time), you may note certain differences in tone from a few years ago as opposed to today. I chalk this difference up to a) me not really having a handle on what I was doing back then, b) a misplaced desire to turn the blog into Pajiba's bratty little brother, and c) a certain lack of maturity that I have tried to distance myself from by, well, maturing a little

I said things on this blog then that I would not say today--in a joking manner to be sure, but many of the jokes were clothed in cruelty. I would hope (though I know that this hope is not always accurate) that things have been a bit different around here in the last year or two; I've done a bit of learning, a bit of self-examination (you there, stop that giggling), and I've sort of realized that Pajiba is, well, kind of a crap website that I maybe shouldn't emulate so much. 

So in that wise, while I do not specifically disown the things I have written here in the past, I do want to note that I am no longer the same person I was when I wrote them. The mellowing of age and parenthood have gentled me, somewhat. And I have had a fairly forcible reminder in the last few years that, if we are true to ourselves, we should never stop growing, learning, and understanding. And the more we do of any one of those, the more we do of all three. 

So this is about being true to myself--specifically to my younger self, for whose actions I am still responsible, and for whose occasionally intemperate words I apologize. 

Those of you who are longtime readers, thanks for sticking with me. Those of you who are new here, thanks for giving me a chance. I appreciate it. 

24 February 2014

Goodbye, Porkpie Hat (and Others): A Personal Journey Away From the Flip Chapeau Insolence of Youth

I look good in a hat. I always have. Photos of me extending back to my teenage years provide ample evidence that I can rock a fuckin’ hat, yo. (and no, I will not post those photos here, as I am not into embarrassing myself with photos from my childhood, whether that childhood was my first, second, or third.

I’ve owned a number of hats: toppers, tams, caps, woollens, up to and including in the last ten years a leather porkpie, a coarse-woven trilby, and a fedora. A picture of me in the trilby used to occupy the space in the “Your Host” photo; this weekend I chose a more stylized image to replace it. And, with the exception of a baseball cap for hot days, a fur-lined newsboy hat for more temperate days, and a winter hat that covers my ears for cold days, I am no longer a hat wearing man. Especially--and it pains me to say it as I love it so--my black fedora, which I bought for two bucks at a resale store about a year and a half ago, and which looks quite frankly awesome on me.

Why have I stopped with the noggin huggers, you ask?

Well, there’s this. Also this. And this, and this, and this, and this.

Let’s get something straight: As Stephen King so eloquently wrote in The Stand, I ain’t no Nice Guy. Nor am I forever alone. I am happily married to a woman I love and respect, and I have two awesome kids I would lay my life on the line to protect. I am not nice to them; I am good to them, as they are good to (and for me). I do not behave like this towards them because I expect something in return, as my right for mastering something even a dog can learn. I do it because it is the ethical, moral, and correct thing to do.

So I hope I’m a good person.

But I ain’t no nice guy.

I am, to put it honestly, a bit of an asshole. One look through the archives of this very blog or my Twitter feed should be proof enough of that. Some of it is put on, some of it is deliberate. But I am not one of those sniveling little arrested-adolescence boy-men who whinge about friend zoning and expect--nay, demand--that a woman put out because they managed to achieve the most basic level of social abilities. I have no use for such creatures and neither, dear reader, should you. As far as I am concerned they should all be cast into the Pit Of Ultimate AAAAARRRRGGHHH where their skins will be flayed off by demons who look like the Swedish Bikini Team with Wallace Shawn's head, then dipped in Cheetos dust and forced to run marathons past a phalanx of hungry Hounds of Tindalos. And then, the torture.

(See, I told you I’m an asshole.)

You may gather I find these creatures annoying. More, I am especially pissed off at them because I consider it their fault I am no longer able to rock my favorite fedora. Not because they have made it a symbol of their (ahem) culture, but because they are fucking worthless jokes, and I have no desire to taint my own personal appearance with something that has, in the decades since I started wearing them, become the symbol of a joke.

A year or two ago I did not think this way. I even got into an argument with someone about it because she said, without a trace of irony, that I deserved to be judged for wearing a fedora because it was “their costume.” I found that troubling--part of me still does. However, it was subsequently pointed out to me that this is nowhere near as troubling as judging a survivor of rape on how high the hem of her skirt is, or how drunk she (or he) was. So that’s not an argument worth pursuing, in my opinion, because I’d still be making it from a position of privilege and it's just not worth going there. I have better things to do with my time. And one of those things is to hang up the childish business of life, and get on with the more important matters of adulthood. So long as I can keep my teddy bear.

So goodbye, porkpie hat. Toodle-oo, trilby. Farewell, fedora. May you rest well on your hooks in the closet where you hang. I hope you come back into fashion one day, untainted by the flop-sweat-tainted fingers from the lands of arrested development and ensemened underwear.

(See? I told you I was an asshole.)

So long, beloved hats. I will now join the ranks of men without them. And sing the Safety Dance!

(Yes, I’m a silly asshole too. Thpfffffft.)

21 February 2014

Reeling In the Years

This time around, I got one thousand words and the title of a song, chosen at random by my music player. Beats Audio gave me a Steely Dan song; my brain gave me the following surreal thumbnail sketch:


“Reeling in the Years”

“Do you believe in life after death?” he asked Paul.

“How do you know you aren’t dead already?” Paul replied.

He chuckled, and cast his line. The red ribbon he had tied to the hook reminded him of an autumn leaf. The sinker plopped into the river, and dragged the ribbon under. It became a smear of blood, then vanished into the brown water.

“I remember when Audra died,” he said. He reached down between his legs, picked up the beer can between his feet. The bottom of the boat had an inch of water in it. A minnow swam there and nibbled once in a while at the toe of his boot. He brought the can to his mouth and sipped. The beer was warm, going flat; the can gave it a metallic, bloody taste. He drank more.

“She was always so beautiful,” Paul said.  

“Not at the end,” he replied. “At the end she was thin, sick, scared. Alone. Even with me in the room, sitting at her bedside, holding her hand, she was alone. She called for me. Didn’t see me there. Didn’t feel my fingers squeezing hers. There was nothing beautiful about it, Paul. She was terrified.”

A loon’s hollow, choking voice bubbled across to the boat. Above, a willow tree reached bare branches down, trailed their skeleton fingers in the water.

“When you first met her, though,” Paul said. “What a day that was.”

He smiled. “True. She asked me to dance, did you know that? Don’t think I ever told you that. You know, I was too embarrassed to admit to her that I couldnt dance my way out of a cardboard box. A right fool I looked out there, trying to keep up with her.”

“I remember. Still wish I’d had a camera on me.”

They shared a dry laugh. The loon called again. He reeled in the line; Paul reached into the cooler for a beer and a sandwich. There was a brief tug on the hook, then nothing. He reeled some more. Paul’s sandwich dripped ketchup from one side, into the water at their feet. The minnow swam over to him. It began to nibble at his toes.

The hook emerged; the ribbon was gone. He took it into the boat, found another bow in the tackle box, wrinkled pale organdy. Once it had been ivory white, now it was yellow.

“I still feel bad for stealing her away from you,” he said. He kept his eyes on Paul as he affixed the ribbon to the hook. “I know you had your eye on her too.”

“Please,” Paul said, He waved the sandwich at him, dripping more ketchup. “Audra was a person, not a thing to be kept or stolen or locked away in some dungeon tower. And anyway, I couldn’t dance any better than you could.”

Another laugh passed between them. A mallard and its mate swam near the boat; Paul broke off a crust from his sandwich and scattered it on the water.

They hurried away, feet churning the surface.

“You’ll scare the fish off,” he said to Paul.

“Like we ever caught anything out here.”

He grunted, and cast his line again. The brackish water stole the color from the ribbon and returned it to ivory before devouring it.

“We caught fish all the time with Dad,” he said. A dog barked in the distance. “At least until that time you fell in. Remember, Dad said you scared all the fish away?”

“That’s not what he said.”

“I know.”

A dog barked in the distance. He wound the line on the reel, each click of handle, gear and spool like the tick of a watch wrapped in cotton. The minnow swam from Paul’s toe back to his boot. The dog barked again, then howled; a rough, guttural sound.

The line jerked, then was still.

“She’s gone,” he said to Paul. “I don’t know what I’m going to do, Paul. I’ve been with her for so long, I don’t know how to live without her. I look in the mirror and I see the empty part of me that used to be her in my eyes.

“I never . . . I never felt old until now.”

There was a faint smile in Paul’s voice. “You’ll get used to it.”

“I don’t want to, dammit,” he said. The air whistled out of him like he’d taken a punch to the gut. “Audra? My friends? Mom? Dad? And y--and all you can say is I’ll get used to it? That it’s okay?”

“I never said that,” Paul replied.

He looked down at his feet. “I know.”

He reeled the line in. The organdy bow was half eaten, full of holes. He took it off the hook and threw it to the water. The tackle box was empty, save for one last scrap of fabric: a stained white linen with a blue stripe on it. The stripe was faded almost to grey, like his own hair. He studied it for a long time.

“What’s the point of it all?” he asked Paul. “Why do we spend our lives making all these connections, falling into all this god damned love, pledging our hearts, only to lose that love and break those hearts, over and over again? What does it mean? Does it ever come right in the end? All that love we pour out of ourselves . . . does it come back to us? Or do we just empty ourselves until we’re hollow? Until we’re used up and withered and our hearts have been broken too much to heal again? How do we face it? How do we endure?

“For Christ’s sake, what’s the

He looked up, but Paul was gone. A widening spiral of ripples marked the water.

18 February 2014

Sergeant Rhinoceros Beetle reee-porting for duty, SAH!

“The problem is that the ‘vocal minority’ of insects who make up the new generation of writers don’t scramble for the shadows when outside lights shines on them—they bare their pincers and go for the jugular. Maybe it is a good thing that SFWA keeps them locked up. The newer members who Scalzi et al. brought in are an embarrassment to the genre.” — (name withheld) on SFF.net, during the recent unpleasantness.



On a more serious note: you know what happens when you die? The insects devour you. And the same goes for careers that have deteriorated into irrelevancy and posting ugly screeds such as the above in forums you only think are private.

The insects are waiting to devour you. And they are legion. 

More, they are legions.

11 February 2014

Further context-free life lesson

If you're going to tilt at a windmill, make sure it actually exists.

10 February 2014

Eleven life lessons, offered without context

1. It is better to remain silent and be considered infrequently if at all than it is to open one's mouth and show everyone what an asshole you are.

2. When you hear/see the phrases "politically correct" and "censorship" multiple times within the same document/conversation, it is invariably a sign that the person using them is essentially saying they want to be an asshole without any social/economic repercussions whatsoever. Avoid such people and their work as you would a bubonic rat.

3. There may come a time in one's career, when one's best work is long in the past, when it becomes better to let younger heads prevail. Old does not necessarily mean wise, especially when one has done nothing but speak and act unwisely in recent years.

4. Read everything in detail before you sign anything. And never assume the person shoving a pen in your hand has your best interests at heart.

5. White people should never, under any circumstances, invoke slavery to evoke any state of affairs pertaining to them or to their lives. Ever. Not even once. No, seriously. You may think it's a pertinent point but I guarantee you all you have on your hands is a gigantic pile of horseshit.

6. Corollary to #4: saying you requested a document be changed because certain language and turns of phrase troubled you means nothing if you went ahead and signed the original document anyway. Dumbass.

7. There comes a time when writing, saying and doing things only to shock, with no apparent forethought behind those actions, is no longer shocking. Instead it comes across as the tired, pathetic result of a childish need for attention and approval. As witness when the approval stops coming and the tantrums begin.

8. If you are an asshole and someone tells you to stop being an asshole, and you keep behaving like an asshole, and a group of people then get together and decide that maybe some sort of anti-assholery measures should be put into place, it is not censorship. It's just that a lot of people don't really like a bunch of assholes hanging around. Go figure.

9. Whingeing about it only makes you--wait for it--more of an asshole! Again, who'd'a thunk it?

10. If you are a professional, fucking act like it.

11. Finally: If you don't like the room, then the door is over there. Don't let it hit you in the ass on the way out. Or go ahead and let it. I guarantee you nobody cares.