Monday, February 20, 2012

2/20: Dreams, Quarters, Feet, and Firings

English: The face of a black windup alarm clock
Image via Wikipedia
This morning I hit the snooze button on my alarm clock and promptly went back to sleep. Then, not only did I dream that I actually woke up and got out of bed (dragged a comb across my head...), I also dreamed that it was actually Saturday and I didn't need to get up anyway, then ran around feeling all good about getting up early on the weekend before actually waking up and realizing I was forty-five minutes behind schedule.

I seriously think my subconscious has it in for me.


Last week, I appeared on  Joyce Estey's monthly radio program Educationally Speaking (accompanied by professor and poet BJ Ward, author Jessica Cooper, and poets Nick Heacock and Angela Chiu), during which I read a slightly truncated version of my creative nonfiction short story A Quarter at a Time, which can currently be read in its entirety at Eric's Hysterics. It was a fun experience, and it reminded me that I need to get myself back on Father Scardo's show as soon as possible. Perhaps a post-Oscar movie chat with Scardo and guests in between speed metal and classic punk tracks?



Also sent in the signed contracts for another published short story. The Other Foot, which I just recently read along with a gathering of other authors at Warren County Community College this past year, has been selected to appear in the latest anthology from Portable PressUncle John’s Flush Fiction. Should be out in bookstores in April, but I would much prefer it if you bought in on Amazon via the link above. That way, I get a taste - and I do love to taste.



I was laid off twice from the same job.

I know I'm not alone in this, but it still embarrasses me to utter this phrase. Maybe it's because the hidden context is that I was naive enough to think that somebody I worked with for over a decade would actually show consideration... and that I was so naive twice.

Both times I was laid off for circumstances beyond my control. Much of the reasons given for my first pink slip stemmed from my employer's habit of my workforce being almost exclusively comprised of the teenage sons of friends of his and college interns, and that at the time of my dismissal I was running a warehouse full of lighting equipment and a fleet of six vehicles with a workforce comprised of one employee who couldn't drive stick.

I bowed out gracefully, kept a positive relationship with the company, occasionally did the odd freelance job, and roughly a year later I received a call from my old boss apologizing for letting me go, admitting that I was understaffed and unsupported, and asked me to come back. I probably should have said no, but the money was good, and the familiarity factor was there as well. Might as well get paid for a job I already know forward and back.

Roughly three years later the economy blew up, and I got the second layoff literally two months after being told that I was the company's most valuable employee that would be the last to go if things ever got bad. It turned out that I was the second to go: his quick solution to budget problems was to fire the top paid senior employees and keeping the low-wage underlings, including an obnoxious NYU film student who no one wanted to work on set with, and a punk who was obsessed with knives and thought he was a Ninja.

I'm sure it all worked out for the best. I politely burned that bridge last year in case I was ever tempted to go for a third round, and every now and then I hear from old contacts that the condition of the packages and equipment going out now is noticeably substandard to what it was like under me. I'd be lying if I said that didn't make me somewhat happy. I guess you get what you pay for.

Not that I'm bitter. Unemployment actually gave me a chance to go back to school, and I traded the completely shitty job I took after it for the amazingly awesome job I have now. But it's always good to ponder past decisions and their consequences.

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Monday, February 13, 2012

2/13: Duck Sauce, Paper Routes, Doppelgangers and Google

duck sauce SQ
duck sauce SQ (Photo credit: wintersoul1)
While trading instant messages back and forth with my fellow employees the other day, I made a startling discovery upon sending the message "I'll take car of it, I'm all over it like Duck Sauce." Apparently, the 'U' and 'I' keys are far closer together than I previously suspected.


I received a reminder last week of just how desperate I had been to find an alternative to my previous job. A call came in on my cell while at my new job: it was from the Morning Call (a local newspaper), asking if I was still interested in a paper delivery route.

Have I mentioned that I love my new job?


I've decided to run for Mayor. I am going to run as two separate candidates, one Democrat, the other Republican. For one I will appear clean shaven and use my proper name; for the other, I will wear a large fake mustache and goatee, and reverse the order of my first and last names. Print advertising will be plentiful, and I will call impromptu press conferences frequently, during which I will always make slanderous accusations of my rival and openly challenge him to a public debate.

When canvasing towns for votes, I will go through a neighborhood ringing doorbells and answering questions as one candidate, then immediately circle through the same streets as the other and demand to know what attacks my opponent has been leveling at me. Whenever anybody points out that we look alike, I will take great offense and go on a lengthy diatribe about my opponents unsavory facial features and personal grooming habits.

On the night of the election, I will immediately call for a recount, claim rampant voter fraud, and immediately concede in disgust, vowing to never run again. Unless my opponent throws his hat into the ring again, of course.


I refuse to click the Google logo anymore. I don't need this kind of entertaining distraction when I'm running a search for the latest nude celebrity photos at three in the morning.
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Friday, February 3, 2012

Intellectual Elitism, or Just Plain Smarter Than You?

Cover of "Smart People"
Cover of Smart People
This country took a strange path over the past couple of decades, a road leading towards an inherent distrust in what many like to refer to as "Intellectual Elitism." Slowly, gradually, an ever-increasing number of Americans have become more and more wary of those who claim advance knowledge in specific fields of study. In short, more and more people are afraid of smart people.

Why could this possibly be? We could blame the politicians who sell this fear, or the news media that helps support it, or even the entertainment industry for turning ignorance into a noble character trait. But what it really comes down to is that many Americans fear smart people simply because they are, themselves, rather stupid.

Of course, this isn't the kind of thing you're supposed to say. It upsets people because they instantly assume that you are referring to them specifically, and lends support to the claims of Intellectual Elitism by the arrogant and snobbish nature of the statement. "You can't really mean that, can you? I guess you think you're smarter than most people." Actually, I do. Considering that the Average IQ of the American citizen rests between 90 and 100 (depending on who you ask), I feel very comfortable with the assumption that I am smarter than most of the people I come in contact with on a daily basis. It isn't smug elitism, just simple math. As a wise man once suggested, if you imagine how stupid the average person is, then realize that statistically half of the population is even dumber than that, you can get a real sense of how smart the majority truly is.

Does this mean I think I'm better than most people? Of course not. That's the same arrogance that allows some people to estimate their worth as an individual based on how much money they earn, or how big their house is, or how strong they are. At 6'4" I am also taller than most people, but that statement doesn't enrage people as much. Except really short people, of course.

The problem with this anti-intellectual attitude is that it has slowly made its way into the public discourse, and has taken over topics that in the past have been reserved for more intelligent consideration. With the growing amount of available media streaming into our eyes and ears, debates and discussions on serious issues of grave importance are being pondered and discussed by people with no real credentials. Some of the biggest names in talk radio, for example, spend hours discussing advanced political, economic and legal issues while having never obtained a college degree of any kind. Now, does not having a college degree make someone stupid? No, people are more than capable than obtaining knowledge on their own. However, most people prefer to get medical advice from a certified doctor with framed degrees on the wall, and not just a nice guy with a well-worn library card.

This acceptance of the untrained and unqualified as experts worth listening to has had a negative effect on the way matters of importance are considered. Take, for example, the state of political discourse in America today. Spend enough time reading the posts and messages of your average politically active individual (or, God forbid, get stuck in a conversation with one), and you will be utterly amazed at how ridiculous the most outspoken of them sound. if this is truly a nation of intelligent people, then why do most people with anything even remotely resembling a political agenda seem unable to engage in a cogent and logical argument? Follow any news site message board, and you'll be convinced that you are eavesdropping on schoolyard during recess. People spend more time defending individuals and organizations than they do ideas or philosophies, and most of the debate degenerates into labeling and name-calling.

Actually, the real reason I'm dragging politics into this is that this year's Republican Primaries stand as a perfect example of this strange reluctance to accept wisdom from the wise. The Republican Party has spent the last decade or two espousing financial success as the indicator of personal greatness, while simultaneously discrediting intelligent people scientists and college professors (who also just happen to regularly speak out against Republican policies) as "out of touch" and "too smart for their own good." The end result turns out to be a Presidential Primary composed entirely of extremely rich candidates who appear to be collectively dumber than a box of hammers.

Yeah, I know, it was hilarious when we got to poke fun at Sarah Palin for being stupid. But you could always blame her participation in the election process on John McCain's self-destructive flight of fancy, and at least she had enough common sense (barely, it seems) to drop out of public office altogether and rake in that sweet, sweet political pundit cash. But now there's nobody to blame. We're stuck with debate after debate featuring a stage full of disgustingly rich successful businessmen who repeatedly prove themselves to be less intellectually adept than a teenage Denny's waitress. The object of these debates has ceased to be deciding which candidate is best equipped to lead a nation, and is now nothing more than a sad game of seeing who can say the least amount of stupid shit in a specific time frame. What's even worse, the audiences keep upstaging the idiots in the spotlight by periodically applauding government-sanctioned murder, cheering the death of an uninsured man, booing an American soldier for

Maybe I'm being harsh, but I'm slowly resigning myself to living in a country in which a candidate for the role of Supreme Leader (more or less) declares a to have created a list of three important items that need to be addressed, fails to remember what the third item was, and doesn't immediately drop out of the race in shame. Rick Perry hasn't been the only one taking pride in ignorance, either. The historical mistakes, policy blunders and poorly phrased sentences exposing an increasing insular existence have been a daily occurrence, with each painful error brushed of or explained away by the candidates as the results of strenuous campaigning or "gotchya questions" served up by a hostile press. If these are the results of gotchya questions, the least the telejournalists could do is point and laugh when they finally trip somebody up with difficult brain teasers such as "What do you read?"

Where am I going with all of this? I'm not sure, really. If I had any kind of solution or overall explanation is to why Mike Judge's Idiocracy keeps looking more and more like a grim eventuality, this is where I'd lay it all out. I guess I don't have all of the answers after all. Hey, I said I was smart. I didn't say I was THAT smart.
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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

2/1/12: New Post, New Job, New Sale, New Chair, Same Old Mitt

Been light on the blogging lately, but with very good excuses, the main one among them being a new job which came out of the blue about a month ago.

There I was, slumped over the desk at my depressing, soul-sucking nightmare of a job, wondering exactly what I could do to extricate myself from my hopefully temporary vocation, when a random call from an old friend dropped the solution to all my problems right in my lap. There's nothing more boring than listening to someone describe their good fortune in great detail, so all I'll say is that I am now working from home and earning more doing so, and seem to be back in the employment of a business owner that actually looks at his employees as something more than an unfortunate expense. So far, the year is off to a great start!


Sold another short story. I'll post more details once I receive confirmation that the contracts have been accepted. Another good start to the year.


Since I'm going to be working from home, which will mean sitting at my personal desk for eight to ten hours a day, I decided that I needed to drop a bit of cash on a real chair. Don't get me wrong, I love the creaky wooden desk chair I picked up at a yard sale last year for $20, but the odds were clearly in favor of me picking the splintered remnants of  a rapidly deteriorating piece of furniture within the first thousand hours of usage. So, I ordered the biggest god-damned desk chair I could find. It's not a luxurious leather sink-into-it-and-sleep ego-stroker, but it is a massive chair: 350lb weight limit, 24" wide seat, and a back rest that actually reaches the back of the head of my 6'4" frame. I feel like Lily Tomlin's Edith Ann every time I swing my legs over to take a call, and I have to reach over to touch the arm rest. I could have company over in this damn thing. I'm telling you, this is one big chair.

Now I need a bigger desk.


Mitt Romney actually trying to appeal to the 99% Occupy Wall Street crowd? He's got a funny way of doing it:
"I'm in this race because I care about Americans. I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it. I'm not concerned about the very rich, they're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the very heart of the America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling."
You know he's trying to gain support from the growing 99% movement, but apparently the Rich Elitist in Mitt couldn't allow him to do so without adding that he's "...not concerned about the very poor." When asked to comment on his lack of concern for those living in abject poverty by CNN's Soledad O'Brien, Mitt explained that he wasn't worried because "We have a very ample safety net..." He explained that "...we have food stamps, we have Medicaid, we have housing vouchers, we have programs to help the poor."

Of course, Soledad didn't follow up by pointing out that all of those "ample" programs have become increasing underfunded with the increase in usage by America's growing percentage of impoverished citizens, or asking how he feels about the constant push by his fellow GOP members to cut funding for these programs. Mitt's talking about "fixing the holes" in the safety net while his fellow Republicans are voicing their concern about the "Safety Net" turning into a "Safety Hammock," as Paul Ryan so dickishly put in his state of the Union response last year.

Let's be fair, Mitt sounds like he's trying to appeal to the 99%, but all he's doing is pandering to the usual middle class conservatives that the GOP constantly scares with threats that the poor are coming to steal their money via socialist government programs, while attempting to dress it up with the current anti-plutocracy catchphrases making the rounds in the ever-increasing rebellion against our government being run by people like Romney.

So, you can give Mitt some credit for trying to sound sensitive to the plight of whatever he thinks the middle class is, but you still have to add "I'm not concerned about the very poor" to the list of Things Rich-Guy Romney Just Doesn't Get, right along with "Let [the foreclosure process] run its course and hit the bottom," and "I like being able to fire people."


New favorite commercial ever. My vote is for the Pizza Curtains.


It's been such a busy month, I never got the chance to design custom labels for the new Wilson Compound Winery release, a nice Coffee Port. Just as well, as the person who modeled for the Christmas Port backed out at the last minute. And I was so close to have an official spokesperson! Luckily, this batch came with pre-printed labels that aren't too shabby. Too make up for the transgression, however, I am already working on the label design for the Occupy Orange Sangria currently fermenting. Should be nice.
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Jonathan Franzen Hates eBooks and Oprah, Yet Sells Out to Both

Deutsch: Ortsende von Franzen in Niederösterreich
Image via Wikipedia

I was originally going to include this in my regular posts, but decided to give it an entry all its own.

Speaking of saying stupid shit in public, it seems that Jonathan Franzen recently jumped on the anti-eBook bandwagon during a recent speaking engagement:
"The technology I like is the American paperback edition of Freedom. I can spill water on it and it would still work! So it's pretty good technology. And what’s more, it will work great 10 years from now… I think, for serious readers, a sense of permanence has always been part of the experience. Everything else in your life is fluid, but here is this text that doesn’t change…"
I guess I should be used to Jonathan Franzen making an arrogant, pompous, elitist ass out of himself on a regular basis. After all, this is the guy who caused a major controversy by rejecting an Oprah Book Club edition of his book The Corrections, only to later embrace the marketing label and willingly became Oprah's bitch when pushing his latest book, Freedom. If only Franzen had the same editorial guidance he receives from his publishers when taking illogical stances on unsurprisingly complex issues.

The most stunning thing is Franzen's claim that books are waterproof. Anybody who has ever dropped their spy novel in the tub or tried to sell a rain-soaked paperback at a yard sale knows that waterlogged books, while retaining their overall shape and form, rapidly decrease in value. Then again, Franzen is probably speaking from experience, as I'm sure that whenever he accidentally spills a freshly opened bottle of Lauquen Artesian all over a book, he simply chuckles to himself as he wipes away the excess Mineral Water and calmly slips it back on the shelf.

But what's even funnier is his claims about the permenance of the written word. During his little Luddite speech, Franzen smugly states that "The Great Gatsby was last updated in 1924. You don’t need it to be refreshed, do you?" Maybe not, but I'll bet his publishers could have refreshed his book, since the first UK printing of Freedom had to be recalled after numerous printing errors were discovered in the initial print run. And I can bet you that the numerous reprinting of his earlier works all had corrections made in between bargain bin releases. How's that for permanence?

On top of all of this, it is worth noting that Jonathan Franzen's Freedom is also available on Kindle. As an Oprah Book Club Selection.

What a dick.

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