There is no “Gun Debate” — Just the Same Noise

Watching the “gun debate” unfold from over here and I have to wonder: will there be any provisions in this raft of new legislation that will help to address the socio-economic situations and deficiencies in our mental health care system that are nearer to the CAUSE of this epidemic of violence in America? Where is the mental health lobby? Where are the advocates for community building? Where are the champions of equal opportunity for the disadvantaged? Where are the educators? You know, all of the things that a society can provide that can help PREVENT someone from picking up a gun, a knife, a homemade explosive, poison, or any of the other myriad ways we seem to be using to kill each other? Is there a single study being funded to find the ROOT of this violence? Has anyone even asked WHY people are doing this? Why did some kid go nuts and stab 24 people this week? Why did no one see this coming? What created such a person? Again I say, the screaming between the NRA and gun control lobbyists is so loud they are drowning out the cry for a solution to the FUNDAMENTAL problems that nurture and help create people who carry out violent acts. Easy access to guns may be a problem in America, but it is completely obtuse to act as if access is what creates violence. The fact that other countries have access and don’t see the levels of violence we see in the US should be proof enough that guns are not the only problem. Has anyone stopped to consider that maybe the problem lies with other things that America is doing wrong that could be creating this problem? Our neighbors in Canada who are hunters don’t seem to be having the problems we in the US are having? Why? What makes them different than us? No one seems to care or even dares ask the question because of the disgusting partisanship of American political discourse. Everything is “I’m for or Against X,” and if you don’t tow the line for one side or the other, you get shouted down. Say “guns are not the only problem” and gun control advocates will call you an ignorant redneck, (or worse, a libertarian!) and give lovely academic and philosophical points that have no basis in reality. Say “we need gun control” and NRA folks will call you a coward, a sheep, and a person who should leave the country. How in the world are we supposed to have an intelligent discussion about this when both sides can’t stop screaming?! That undeniable fact is this: Gun violence is just a symptom of a far more insidious disease that is destroying America, and as long as we keep ignoring it, politicizing it, squabbling over it in political pissing contests, this disease will continue to rot the country from within. This is about the kind of country you want to see your children inherit, not a goddamned football game between arch rivals. Why can’t we cut the crap and just UNITE as human beings and figure out why we are raising children to be killers in the first place?

This is also the same country that creates the Bernie Madoff’s who don’t flinch when stealing billions from their fellow man. This is the same country that teaches that its better to open a factory in China than hire the people who live in your country because of the sole reason that IT IS CHEAPER. This is the same country where people know more about the Kardashians than where other countries are in a map. This is the same country where a bus driver is paid more than a schoolteacher.This is the same country where we champion freedom of speech with the proviso that speech is free so long as it doesn’t offend the sensibilities of X special interest group….Violence, blatant disregard for community, complete lack of any sense of duty, of moral obligation, of ethics, skins so thin that an ill wind can pierce them and we are so self-conscious, self-absorbed, and insecure that mere words can send us into a frenzy…what have we turned into? Worse yet, at this rate, what will be become?

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Pay to BE what your MIND can MOVE! – A Fable – PART 4

The gates of the Park shown with a twinkling rusty brilliance as the flecked metal caught the autumnal orange rays of the setting sun. I gently and gracefully parted the waist high creaky portal, ready to meet whatever destiny lay beyond the physical and metaphysical threshold of the smoothly paved entrance.

Stretching before me, the jogger’s path was wide and inviting with only the occasional black mar of ancient discarded gum pressed into the firmament with the permanence of the post-nuclear cockroach. Fitting that I should think of the lowly cockroach now, for it was becoming clear to me that the overall significance of my material existence was nothing compared to the value of the wisdom my spiritual body was gleaning from within the fleshy confines of its mortal shell. What eternal truth might be carried within the pearly guts of the skittering and innumerable cockroach? For every hundred squashed by boots and ground into human foodstuff by industrial machinery, a thousand more would march forth from the dark recesses of life’s oubliettes.

My afternoon confirmed beyond question that God not only witnessed all, but also had it all planned out. I was surprised to find myself in agreement with what the “reborns” had been trying to sell me all these years. God had a PLAN! The existence of the PLAN was not the problem, however. That was like saying that the existence of atmosphere was the problem with regards to air pollution. No, the real problem with a capital P was two-fold A) What the hell the PLAN was and B) Understanding where the hell one fit into it. The tiny cockroach, infinitely adaptable, survivable, and abhorrent, was no less an integral cog in God’s Grand Plan than even I was.

After taking two steps, for the second time this afternoon, I dropped to one knee. This time was different, however, and I clasped my hands to my chest. Tachycardia at 200 beats per minute I felt beneath my ribs as frigid sheets of perspiration swam down my face in chilling waves that left me almost nauseous. The panic I began experiencing was nearly indescribable, and the realization came that I was in the throes of what the literature would term an “anxiety attack.” Often had I heard this term bandied about, especially during college by undecided psych majors and overachieving valedictorians – scholastic debutantes primed to face a world that hopefully would give three shits about their GPA’s only to realize with existential horror that none of any of that crap would mean anything beyond an entry-level position at an entry-level salary where all of their academic “experience” was a mere mockery of the crucible of that results-driven badland commonly known to the rest of the world as “reality.”

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Take the tinfoil hats off and get your kids Vaccinated.

Hello readers,

Something I read today on a social networking site that has blue and white as its colors and is as ubiquitous these days as e-mail moved me to post this response to a terrible fraud that poses a danger to children around the world. I’m talking about the fallacious link between autism and vaccination.

As a father who’s had this discussion with doctors, I can understand how a parent might be concerned. But the truth is that the study that appeared in the Lancet that started all this was found to contain false data put in by its author, one Dr. Andrew Wakefield to skew the results in favor of his hypothesis. As a result of his unethical behavior, he has lost his license to practice medicine in the U.K., and if you do some research into the case, he was not coincidentally involved in the development and funding of a vaccine that was intended to replace the current MMR vaccine. If it sounds fishy, well then it should. The result of Dr. Wakefield’s campaign of spreading fear and false hope to parents of children stricken with this terrible malady has been nothing but a rise in illness and death due to the very diseases that the vaccines were supposed to prevent. These outbreaks of measles, mumps, and rubella have given the virus the opportunity to reemerge which gives them the ability to mutate and develop resistances to current methods of control. Here in Switzerland, one of the most advanced medical communities in the world, they don’t do MMR – they do a FOUR VACCINE cocktail which is required by law. My daughter has had it and I am happy to report that there were zero side effects. Not even a fever. As for ear infections in young children, there is a poorly understood link between these and teething as well as other factors such as water being easily trapped in the smaller ear canals of children. Sorry for the wall of text, but this is a particularly sore subject for me because though I am the first to question medical necessity of certain treatments, the vaccine issue is one who’s efficacy has been more than proven. Autism has apparently been steadily rising, it would appear, but that is also due to the fact that the SPECTRUM of conditions and symptoms that fall under the banner of “Autism” has also been increasing. It’s like saying “there are more tomatoes in the world than before, because the definition of what a “tomato” is is broader than it used to be. The latest research into autism is looking changes in the brain during prenatal (womb) development rather than stimuli after birth. This is due to a possible connection between skull shape and eye placement that seems to be a common among children with autism. There is also new research supporting the theory that it is older fathers (rather than older mothers, the conventional wisdom) contributing damaged DNA responsible for neural development in the fetus. Though men produce new sperm daily, the ability for the testes to produce sperm with healthy DNA has been shown to degrade with age. So having a 45 year old father is potentially as risky as having a 35 and older mother. On the topic of autism, I find it interesting that there are quite a few figures in sports who are fathers of children with autism (isn’t Dan Marino?). I wonder if anyone has considered a link between the performance enhancers and supplements that athletes take in the course of there careers and damage to spermatozoa DNA…

Bottom line – Tinfoil hats are fun to wear when aliens are around, but take them off for a bit when making decisions that might harm your kids.

EA

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Plea for the Last Smile

My hair is growing grey,

But I don’t want it to go away,

It is the sum of all of my days,

And it makes me smile.

I am young to be so grey,

But the short breadth of my stay,

In the world is running away,

To my thirties.

How did I get so grey?

Did an old man take my place?

Do the thoughts I place in my head

Make me older?

My daughter plays somewhere,

Gold and dark brown in her hair,

And I don’t want her to go away

But I know she will someday,

And that is the way.

My wife’s eyes blue and kind

I’ll say bye to when its time,

And I can’t escape the terror of

When that time comes.

And it will.

Yes it will.

And when it does –

My hair will be covered in grey,

I hope more so than today,

Will I want to go away?

God I hope so.

And like my growing grey

I hope it makes me smile.

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A Play I Wrote About Religion

Hello everyone,

While I was digging through my files I stumbled across this one-act play I a couple of years ago.

Enjoy!

Judge Not

By: Carlos Alayeto

Copyright(c) 2007-2012 All Rights Reserved.

Characters

Jack – New Guy visiting Reborn- Christian Group

Diane – Friend of Jack – Bringing him to meet her new friends

Micah – (formerly Chris Roberts) – Leader of the Reborn-Christian Group

Ezekiel – (formerly Jim Jeffords) – Member of Reborn Christian Group

Mary – (formerly Mary White) – Member of Reborn Christian Group

Malachi – (formerly Oliver Lee Smith) – Member of Reborn Christian Group

At Rise: Members of Christian Group are seated in a half circle at center stage. They are in low light.

Enter Diane pulling Jack by the hand downstage…they are in full light.

Jack: I don’t know about this, you know I’m not really the religious type.

Diane: Yeah but you really gotta meet these people! They’re, I don’t know…different.

Jack: I still don’t understand why you started going to these meetings.

Diane: Look, every since I broke up with Paul I’ve really had some problems re-learning how to be comfortable with myself.  We were together since high school and there was a time I wasn’t sure I could get used to living without being his girlfriend.

Jack: So what does that have to do with you coming to these meetings?

Diane: Well, I realized that I had spent so much time living for Paul that I just got used to being responsible to someone…

Jack: What about being responsible to yourself?

Diane:  That’s not enough for me. I need to live for someone else.

Jack: Well that can’t be healthy. You’re going to end up settling for guy after guy just because you need to “live for someone else?”

Diane: Well the guy I’m going for next isn’t going anywhere!

Jack: Yeah? And who is this dude? Do I know him?

Diane:  That’s why I’m bringing you to this meeting! I want you to know Him!

Jack:  Uh… ok… is he one of the members?

Diane: Not really, but He’s always there!

Jack: What, so he just sort of hangs out? Sits in the back and never contributes? Creepy.

Diane:  No it’s not! In fact, He’s watching us right now!

Jack:  Very creepy.

Diane: I don’t think you’re getting this.

Jack: You’re right, I’m not.

Diane:  He’s the one who is known as I Am.

Jack:  Huh?

Diane: He is the rock of my salvation!

Jack: What?

Diane: He is the one who is called The Lamb!

Jack: What is that some kind of mob nickname?

Diane: It’s Jesus for His sake!

Jack:  Uh…ok…But I just don’t see him as boyfriend material, you know daddy issues, and he’s kinda been, uh, dead for, I dunno when did they start making calendars?

Diane: No He isn’t! He lives on within all of us!

Jack: Oh I get it! Wait a minute…Oh no! I’m not going to let you do this to yourself!

Diane: Do what?

Jack: Get all caught up in this reborn Christian kick just because you got out of a bad relationship! You are way too normal and decent for that!

Diane: What is THAT supposed to mean?

Jack: Look, I’ve met people like this before. These so called “reborn” Christians. Every one of them is the same: They spend like 80 percent of their lives doing all kinds of crazy horrific shit and then pop up from bed one day saying they’ve found God. Next thing you know, they’re preaching to everyone that God saved them from a being complete and total degenerate and He can save you too. Well you know what? I don’t think that’s fair! You shouldn’t be able to run around doing whatever you please and then magically pull your Get Out of Hell Free card when you’ve gotten bored of living like an animal. And I’ll be damned Diane, damned, if one of these holier-than-thou freak shows is going to tell you how to run your life!

Diane: Hmph. Damned. Good choice of words. Maybe you should meet some of these people before you go making assumptions about them.

Jack: Whatever. I’m only here because I’m your friend and you asked me to come, so don’t expect some kind of miraculous conversion or a holy vision or a burning bush to appear to me. I am just fine with my life as it is, thank you very much.

Diane: Fine. Just try not to act like a jerk during the meeting and you’ll get through just fine!

Jack: As long as no one tries to dunk my head in water or make me handle poisonous snakes, I’ll be fine.

Diane: Lets go…They’ve already started.

Lights come up as Jack and Diane take their two empty seats. As this happens, we hear  “Micah” delivering some lines of scripture.

Micah: …And of course we all remember Ezekiel 25:17! “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you!

Jack: (sotto voce to Diane) Didn’t I see this in Pulp Fiction?

Diane: Shhh…

Micah: And so Ezekiel tells us that we righteous folk are surrounded!

All except Jack: Surrounded!

Micah: By forces trying to corrupt us!

All except Jack:  Corrupt us!

Micah: And the Lord tells us we must be the shepherds for our fellow man.

All except Jack: Our fellow man!

Micah: And this leaves us, His devoted flock, with one burning question!

Jack: Is Marcellus Wallace a bitch!

Collective dramatic gasp.  All turn to Jack.

Micah: It appears we have a new friend joining us today! Why don’t you stand up and introduce yourself?

Jack stands up and addresses the group.

Jack: Hi my name is Jack.

All:  Hi Jack! Praise Jesus!

Jack: Uh, yeah…uh…thanks. I’m just here with my friend…uh…er…

Diane: Diane!

Jack: Yeah, Diane. And I’m making sure that she’s uh…going to find happiness in her new…uh…relationship…

Jack sits down, then quickly gets up as if he’s forgotten something.

Jack: Oh yeah, and I’m NOT an addict!

Jack sits and Diane elbows him in the ribs.

Diane: (sotto voce): You’re embarrassing me!

Jack: What?

Micah: Well let me just thank you Diane for being good enough to bring your most interesting friend to our humble little gathering!

Diane: Oh, really, I…

Micah: We are always looking to bring our message of hope and salvation to hungry ears!

All: (except Diane and Jack) Praise Jesus!

Micah: And to celebrate the arrival of this new face, this new beacon of hope for our cause, I declare that this meeting will be a special one….a Meeting of Remembrance!

(All except Jack and Diane begin to whisper amongst themselves, some of them cringing, some wringing their hands nervously.)

Diane: (stands) That really won’t be necessary Micah!

Jack: (pulling Diane back down, sotto voce) What’s a meeting of remembrance?

Diane: (sotto voce) It’s when everyone stands up and talks about the moment that God called them into His service.

Jack:  (sotto voce) So what’s the big deal? It’s just more meet and greet stuff right?

Diane: (sotto voce) …Yeah…it’s just…

Micah: And now for the first volunteer…

(Ezekiel and Mary raise their hands.)

Micah: Ah, Ezekiel! I believe I saw your hand come up first, so please let us all recognize Ezekiel and receive his tale of hope and redemption with open hearts and eyes!

All: (except Jack) Praise Jesus!

(All sit down. Ezekiel rises and addresses the group.)

Ezekiel: Well, hello everyone. Wow, I can’t believe it’s really been 2 years 3 months and 22 days!  Yes back then I was raising hell all over the place, so to speak. My, uh, path to the uh, palace of sin started early…

Jack: How early?

Ezekiel:  Around five to tell the honest truth, the day I sold my first bottle of Grape Dimetapp to a third grader with a real taste for the stuff…I was a real mover back in grade school, chewable aspirin, throat drops, those little bon-bons that had a shot of booze in them, Keep Out of Reach Jimmy they used to call me…

Jack: Wait…I thought you said your name was Ezekiel.

Micah: Oh, our new friend doesn’t know our way. Each of our members takes on new, biblical names when they establish their covenant with God, and also as a symbolic way to shed their old sinful lives!

Ezekiel: My given name was Jim Jeffords. Anyhow, Keep Out of Reach Jimmy they used to call me…

Jack: Why was that?

Ezekiel: Because I could get you anything and everything that had “Keep Out of Reach of Children” on the label…I had a pretty good business going on until I got caught cutting my Ritalin Pixie Sticks with baking soda. That put me away for a while. Ended up in Military School…you’d be surprised to see how much those kids would pay for some Victoria’s Secret catalogs and National Geographics!

Micah:  Er…I think we’ve heard enough youthful indiscretions, tell us now about your moment of clarity!

Ezekiel: Oh, yeah! I remember it like it was 2 years, 3 months, and 22 days ago: I had moved up to pushing some major merchandise…you know, Panama Red, China White, Black Tar Heroin…the kiddies really went for the colors…and I was at this wild party in Miami Beach when I was about to polish off my second bottle of Grey Goose. In that bottle, floating like a little baby in 180 proof amniotic fluid, was God!

All: (except Jack and Diane) Praise Jesus!

Micah: And what did our Lord say unto you!

Ezekiel: He said to me, and I will never forget this:  Bro… Chill!

All: Bro…Chill!

Ezekiel: From that moment on I left the dope trade and never looked back! Now I’m a salesman for the company that manufactures Deprestnomo!

All (except Jack) clap excitedly for Ezekiel.

Micah: And what a successful and productive member of society you have become since you’ve found your way back to God! All things are possible when one walks in the path of the Lord!

Jack: Ok, so you quit being a drug pusher so you could work as a….drug pusher.

Ezekiel: Aren’t God and America great? He gives you the talent, and America gives you the outlet!

Micah: Now it’s your turn Mary!

Mary gets up…she is very attractive but seems shy and coquettish, dressed primly and properly to disguise her obvious…assets.

Mary: It’s so nice to see everyone here today being so open.

All: (except Jack) Praise Jesus!

Mary:  My story isn’t as interesting as Ezekiel’s…

Jack: And what was YOUR old name?

Mary: Mary.

Jack: I don’t get it…isn’t that –?

Mary:  No! My old name was Mary, after my late grandmother, my new name Mary, is after the biblical Mary!

Jack: (drily) Oh, of course, how could I have missed that?

Mary: I started out like any small town girl I guess. My sashay down the Devil’s Runway began at around 13 when I turned my first trick –

Jack: JESUS!

Mary: Yes, I believe that was his name, ironic isn’t it? The world sure looks different when its reflected upside-down in the rear view of a ’73 Ford Pickup…

Jack: Is it true that objects in mirror ARE closer than they appear?

Mary: It wasn’t long before I worked my way up from truck stops and pool halls to one of the swankiest houses of ill repute in the Upper Midwest: The Kitty Corral!

Jack: Not the same Kitty Corral where the Double P Double R Pay-n-Spray Special…uh…came from?!

Mary:  You’re looking at the inventor!

Diane: What’s the Double P Double R….whatever you just said?

Jack: Only the most depraved act of sexual theatre known to man!

Diane: And how do YOU know about it?

Jack:  Youtube.

Micah: I’m glad we can all relate to Mary’s uh…touching story…When did the good Shepherd of the Great Flock that is Man make his presence known to you dear Mary?

Mary: Actually it was when I was with one of my regulars. He was really nice but kind of a weirdo…had a thing for raw eggs.

(Noticeable disgust from Jack and Diane)

Mary:  There I was, nineteen years old and cracking raw eggs open on the chest of a 52 year-old stockbroker when all of a sudden, he came to me –

Jack: Don’t you mean he came on –

Mary: Right on his chest there she was!

Jack: There was another chick involved?! This is getting better every minute!

Mary: Yes! The yolks and whites had pooled together and I saw what could only be described as The Blessed Virgin Mary Herself clutching the newborn baby Jesus! I knew right there that God wanted me for the ultimate job!

Jack: Well after watching you for a couple of years I’m sure he felt you were qualified.

Mary: Not that kind of job, blasphemer! The job of spreading His Word to all the impressionable girls who might one day end up performing late night chicken abortions for the delight of middle-aged men!

Micah: And an inspirational moral you have left us with! Never abort poultry unless you are making breakfast or mayonnaise, for it is a tragic waste of a potentially successful dinner! Malachi, dear friend, I see you are very reserved today! Why don’t you stand up and tell us how the Lord brought you into the light of His Grace!

Malachi rises, his ankle bound with a very noticeable electronic monitoring device.

Malachi: My…name is uh….was…Oliver. There’s really not much to tell. I used to be a musician. A pretty good one too…or so I thought. My trouble started kind of late compared to everyone else…I was already in my early 20’s…Well there was this band, and they were auditioning for a drummer. They made me… do things. Things I never could’ve imagined a drummer would be made to do…all I can remember is the colors…the colors…

Jack: Déjà vu!

Malachi: All I could see were colors. All the way home…all the traffic lights. Red, blue, yellow. Blue, Yellow, Red…I couldn’t drive so I left my Geo Metro on the side of the road and hitched a ride on this bus full of ladies…they all seemed to be wearing the same colors. I don’t remember much after I forced the driver to roll the bus off that cliff with everyone inside, but my lawyer told me later that the ladies were actually an order of blind nuns from some village in Guadalajara on a singing tour…I couldn’t see the black and white habits…just colors…and flames.

Dead silence as Jack and Diane are totally mortified at this point.

Malachi: Don’t you want to know when God showed Himself to me?

A long and awkward pause.

Malachi: In the smoldering twisted wreckage that was that bus full of blind Mexican nuns, I saw what Moses saw…a pillar of flame that would lead me into salvation…and the colors were gone!  They were gone I tell you! Only God could have done it! And He did it for ME! (begins to laugh manically to himself)

The laughter subsides and Jack speaks…

Jack:  (with perfect control) Normally, I would run after what I just heard. I would run. As far and as fast as my legs could carry me; but I don’t believe that there is any safe place I could get to, in a world where someone like you is allowed to sit in a room …with other people …without the benefit of a sheet of plastic… and a telephone handset… so that you could communicate with the rest of us.

Jack rises slowly and grasps Diane by the hand.

Jack:  (calmly) Diane, you and I are going to leave. Together. Now!

Diane:  Don’t you think you are being a bit judgmental?

Jack: (wavering) Diane. I am going to pretend you didn’t just ask me that…I’m going to pretend that you didn’t just ask me if I was being “a bit judgmental.”  I am going concoct this fantasy because I believe you are totally insane and are trying to drag me down with you!

Diane: I’m not going anywhere!

Jack: (really cracking) Diane… I will leave you here. Do you understand me? I will leave you here and feel not a stitch of guilt. Not a stitch.

Diane:  Fine! Go ahead and leave me! Go! (furious) Like every other man in my life! You never listen! You never…

Jack: YOU’RE HYSTERICAL!

Diane: No I’m not! (contained) I’ve never been saner in my life.

Jack:  Have you been hearing any of this tonight? These people have all gone utterly batshit! It’s just like I said to you before! There is not one Reborn Christian that…

Diane: That what? Doesn’t have some skeleton in their closet? Don’t we all have something in our past that we don’t like to talk about or some regret?

Jack:  Sure but my skeletons don’t involve things like doing coke off the neck of a Filipino transsexual!

Ezekiel: She was Thai!

Diane:  So what? Does that make you better than these people? For goodness sake, Jack! Is that what you think about me?

Jack: No, of course not! That’s why I want to get you out of here!

Diane: And don’t you think I’m smart enough to know if this thing I’m doing is the right thing for me?

Jack: Yes but I –

Diane: I just needed someone to listen, Jack. When I felt really down and lonely, I started to pray. And you know what? It felt so good to believe that there was someone out there listening, all day, all night, whenever I needed them.

Jack: But these people….

Diane: These people just happen to share that same joy that I’m telling you about. We get together because people like you don’t want to listen to us. You’re my best friend. I thought I could really trust you to share this part of my life with me. I wanted to show you how much real happiness I was feeling for the first time in a long time. I guess I gave you a little too much credit. You’re just like everyone else out there that believes in nothing other than themselves…and you know what? I think you’re all just jealous! You are jealous of people who feel safe; secure in the belief that someone is looking out for them. That someone cares for them no matter what!

Jack: Now who’s making assumptions about people? I believe in things other than myself! I believe in treating others the right way! I believe in things like duty and honor and loyalty! I just don’t need a book or a legend or a sewing circle of holier-than-thou hypocrites to tell me to believe them!

Diane: And I’m glad that you are so self-reliant. That’s great for you, it really is. But it doesn’t work for everyone else. It’s not about needing someone to tell you what’s right and wrong…it’s just…  some of us need strength from something outside of ourselves…and there is nothing wrong with that. What’s wrong is giving up. Giving in to how weak we can be and not doing anything about it. And it doesn’t matter what road you take to find that strength, what symbol you believe in, where your God comes from or even his name. What matters is that you are trying, damn it. (Indicates the others) Look at these people. Yeah, they’ve all done some pretty screwed up stuff, I know. But you know what? They are all here and they are trying to walk the hardest road of all…the road to be better than themselves.  They are here because there is strength in numbers. They are here because sometimes the road is easier to walk when someone else is right there next to you, holding your hand and reminding you why you are on it in the first place. We are here because we know we can be better. That’s what brings us together. That’s what you don’t understand. That’s why I’m not going with you.

(Diane sits, silence as this all sinks in. The members are moved.)

Jack: I’m sorry Diane, I…I’m sorry to all of you. I’ve been a real asshole tonight. You’re my best friend…I was just looking out for you. The religion deal is just not my thing, and I can’t promise you that I will ever understand it –

Diane: You don’t have to.

Jack:  You’re right. I don’t. If this is what makes you happy…Then I’m happy for you. Who the hell am I to tell anyone how they should find that?

(Jack and Diane embrace, the group applauds.)

Micah: Well brothers and sisters, I think we’ve all been moved by Diane’s words, and I think I speak for the rest of us when I say thank you, Jack. You’ve helped us to remember how much work we all still have left to do… on ourselves.  But perhaps adopting fake names to forget our old lives isn’t the best way to go about fixing things either, is it? I’ve never said this to all of you but…My name is Chris Roberts.

Jack: Whoa…I thought I recognized you from somewhere! You’re not the same Chris Roberts who ran that international white slavery ring…

Micah: I’ve decided to put my leadership and organizational skills to a more noble use.

Jack: (stammering) But you!…I mean…You used to…ah hell!

Micah: Ah Hell, indeed. Sometime you need to see it before you can know the difference.  Well, this has been quite a productive evening! I think I will close tonight’s meeting with some announcements and then we can all go home and sleep soundly knowing we all did our best to be a little better today.

All (except Jack): Praise Jesus!

Micah: Praise Jesus!  We’ve got our monthly Footprints in the Sand Beach Devotional coming up and I understand Jim has something special lined up for us?

Ezekiel (Jim): Yeah! I’m really excited about it too! I can’t believe we got them to perform for free, but when I talked to their manager and told him we were a non-profit group, he assured me the band would be happy to do us the favor…as long as it was before April 15th.

Mary (Mary): Wow! That’s amazing! Who is this band? Are they famous?

Ezekiel (Jim): Are they famous?! They’re only the winners of the 2007 IGN Rock Band Competition!

Malachi (Oliver): No…it can’t be!

Ezekiel (Jim): My friends we are going to be rocked by none other than Kenosha, Wisconsin’s own CRAZED LIONS!

(All cheer except for Oliver, who is screaming and violently attempting to chew off his tracking anklet.)

Malachi (Oliver): Nooooooooooo! (collapses into a blubbering heap on the floor)

Jack: What’s with that guy?

Diane:  Beats me, but I would guess his issues are second to NUN!

(All laugh as the lights fade to black)

END PLAY.

Characters

Jack – New Guy visiting Reborn- Christian Group

Diane – Friend of Jack – Bringing him to meet her new friends

Micah – (formerly Chris Roberts) – Leader of the Reborn-Christian Group

Ezekiel – (formerly Jim Jeffords) – Member of Reborn Christian Group

Mary – (formerly Mary White) – Member of Reborn Christian Group

Malachi – (formerly Oliver Lee Smith) – Member of Reborn Christian Group

At Rise: Members of Christian Group are seated in a half circle at center stage. They are in low light.

Enter Diane pulling Jack by the hand downstage…they are in full light.

Jack: I don’t know about this, you know I’m not really the religious type.

Diane: Yeah but you really gotta meet these people! They’re, I don’t know…different.

Jack: I still don’t understand why you started going to these meetings.

Diane: Look, every since I broke up with Paul I’ve really had some problems re-learning how to be comfortable with myself.  We were together since high school and there was a time I wasn’t sure I could get used to living without being his girlfriend.

Jack: So what does that have to do with you coming to these meetings?

Diane: Well, I realized that I had spent so much time living for Paul that I just got used to being responsible to someone…

Jack: What about being responsible to yourself?

Diane:  That’s not enough for me. I need to live for someone else.

Jack: Well that can’t be healthy. You’re going to end up settling for guy after guy just because you need to “live for someone else?”

Diane: Well the guy I’m going for next isn’t going anywhere!

Jack: Yeah? And who is this dude? Do I know him?

Diane:  That’s why I’m bringing you to this meeting! I want you to know Him!

Jack:  Uh… ok… is he one of the members?

Diane: Not really, but He’s always there!

Jack: What, so he just sort of hangs out? Sits in the back and never contributes? Creepy.

Diane:  No it’s not! In fact, He’s watching us right now!

Jack:  Very creepy.

Diane: I don’t think you’re getting this.

Jack: You’re right, I’m not.

Diane:  He’s the one who is known as I Am.

Jack:  Huh?

Diane: He is the rock of my salvation!

Jack: What?

Diane: He is the one who is called The Lamb!

Jack: What is that some kind of mob nickname?

Diane: It’s Jesus for His sake!

Jack:  Uh…ok…But I just don’t see him as boyfriend material, you know daddy issues, and he’s kinda been, uh, dead for, I dunno when did they start making calendars?

Diane: No He isn’t! He lives on within all of us!

Jack: Oh I get it! Wait a minute…Oh no! I’m not going to let you do this to yourself!

Diane: Do what?

Jack: Get all caught up in this reborn Christian kick just because you got out of a bad relationship! You are way too normal and decent for that!

Diane: What is THAT supposed to mean?

Jack: Look, I’ve met people like this before. These so called “reborn” Christians. Every one of them is the same: They spend like 80 percent of their lives doing all kinds of crazy horrific shit and then pop up from bed one day saying they’ve found God. Next thing you know, they’re preaching to everyone that God saved them from a being complete and total degenerate and He can save you too. Well you know what? I don’t think that’s fair! You shouldn’t be able to run around doing whatever you please and then magically pull your Get Out of Hell Free card when you’ve gotten bored of living like an animal. And I’ll be damned Diane, damned, if one of these holier-than-thou freak shows is going to tell you how to run your life!

Diane: Hmph. Damned. Good choice of words. Maybe you should meet some of these people before you go making assumptions about them.

Jack: Whatever. I’m only here because I’m your friend and you asked me to come, so don’t expect some kind of miraculous conversion or a holy vision or a burning bush to appear to me. I am just fine with my life as it is, thank you very much.

Diane: Fine. Just try not to act like a jerk during the meeting and you’ll get through just fine!

Jack: As long as no one tries to dunk my head in water or make me handle poisonous snakes, I’ll be fine.

Diane: Lets go…They’ve already started.

Lights come up as Jack and Diane take their two empty seats. As this happens, we hear  “Micah” delivering some lines of scripture.

Micah: …And of course we all remember Ezekiel 25:17! “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you!

Jack: (sotto voce to Diane) Didn’t I see this in Pulp Fiction?

Diane: Shhh…

Micah: And so Ezekiel tells us that we righteous folk are surrounded!

All except Jack: Surrounded!

Micah: By forces trying to corrupt us!

All except Jack:  Corrupt us!

Micah: And the Lord tells us we must be the shepherds for our fellow man.

All except Jack: Our fellow man!

Micah: And this leaves us, His devoted flock, with one burning question!

Jack: Is Marcellus Wallace a bitch!

Collective dramatic gasp.  All turn to Jack.

Micah: It appears we have a new friend joining us today! Why don’t you stand up and introduce yourself?

Jack stands up and addresses the group.

Jack: Hi my name is Jack.

All:  Hi Jack! Praise Jesus!

Jack: Uh, yeah…uh…thanks. I’m just here with my friend…uh…er…

Diane: Diane!

Jack: Yeah, Diane. And I’m making sure that she’s uh…going to find happiness in her new…uh…relationship…

Jack sits down, then quickly gets up as if he’s forgotten something.

Jack: Oh yeah, and I’m NOT an addict!

Jack sits and Diane elbows him in the ribs.

Diane: (sotto voce): You’re embarrassing me!

Jack: What?

Micah: Well let me just thank you Diane for being good enough to bring your most interesting friend to our humble little gathering!

Diane: Oh, really, I…

Micah: We are always looking to bring our message of hope and salvation to hungry ears!

All: (except Diane and Jack) Praise Jesus!

Micah: And to celebrate the arrival of this new face, this new beacon of hope for our cause, I declare that this meeting will be a special one….a Meeting of Remembrance!

(All except Jack and Diane begin to whisper amongst themselves, some of them cringing, some wringing their hands nervously.)

Diane: (stands) That really won’t be necessary Micah!

Jack: (pulling Diane back down, sotto voce) What’s a meeting of remembrance?

Diane: (sotto voce) It’s when everyone stands up and talks about the moment that God called them into His service.

Jack:  (sotto voce) So what’s the big deal? It’s just more meet and greet stuff right?

Diane: (sotto voce) …Yeah…it’s just…

Micah: And now for the first volunteer…

(Ezekiel and Mary raise their hands.)

Micah: Ah, Ezekiel! I believe I saw your hand come up first, so please let us all recognize Ezekiel and receive his tale of hope and redemption with open hearts and eyes!

All: (except Jack) Praise Jesus!

(All sit down. Ezekiel rises and addresses the group.)

Ezekiel: Well, hello everyone. Wow, I can’t believe it’s really been 2 years 3 months and 22 days!  Yes back then I was raising hell all over the place, so to speak. My, uh, path to the uh, palace of sin started early…

Jack: How early?

Ezekiel:  Around five to tell the honest truth, the day I sold my first bottle of Grape Dimetapp to a third grader with a real taste for the stuff…I was a real mover back in grade school, chewable aspirin, throat drops, those little bon-bons that had a shot of booze in them, Keep Out of Reach Jimmy they used to call me…

Jack: Wait…I thought you said your name was Ezekiel.

Micah: Oh, our new friend doesn’t know our way. Each of our members takes on new, biblical names when they establish their covenant with God, and also as a symbolic way to shed their old sinful lives!

Ezekiel: My given name was Jim Jeffords. Anyhow, Keep Out of Reach Jimmy they used to call me…

Jack: Why was that?

Ezekiel: Because I could get you anything and everything that had “Keep Out of Reach of Children” on the label…I had a pretty good business going on until I got caught cutting my Ritalin Pixie Sticks with baking soda. That put me away for a while. Ended up in Military School…you’d be surprised to see how much those kids would pay for some Victoria’s Secret catalogs and National Geographics!

Micah:  Er…I think we’ve heard enough youthful indiscretions, tell us now about your moment of clarity!

Ezekiel: Oh, yeah! I remember it like it was 2 years, 3 months, and 22 days ago: I had moved up to pushing some major merchandise…you know, Panama Red, China White, Black Tar Heroin…the kiddies really went for the colors…and I was at this wild party in Miami Beach when I was about to polish off my second bottle of Grey Goose. In that bottle, floating like a little baby in 180 proof amniotic fluid, was God!

All: (except Jack and Diane) Praise Jesus!

Micah: And what did our Lord say unto you!

Ezekiel: He said to me, and I will never forget this:  Bro… Chill!

All: Bro…Chill!

Ezekiel: From that moment on I left the dope trade and never looked back! Now I’m a salesman for the company that manufactures Deprestnomo!

All (except Jack) clap excitedly for Ezekiel.

Micah: And what a successful and productive member of society you have become since you’ve found your way back to God! All things are possible when one walks in the path of the Lord!

Jack: Ok, so you quit being a drug pusher so you could work as a….drug pusher.

Ezekiel: Aren’t God and America great? He gives you the talent, and America gives you the outlet!

Micah: Now it’s your turn Mary!

Mary gets up…she is very attractive but seems shy and coquettish, dressed primly and properly to disguise her obvious…assets.

Mary: It’s so nice to see everyone here today being so open.

All: (except Jack) Praise Jesus!

Mary:  My story isn’t as interesting as Ezekiel’s…

Jack: And what was YOUR old name?

Mary: Mary.

Jack: I don’t get it…isn’t that –?

Mary:  No! My old name was Mary, after my late grandmother, my new name Mary, is after the biblical Mary!

Jack: (drily) Oh, of course, how could I have missed that?

Mary: I started out like any small town girl I guess. My sashay down the Devil’s Runway began at around 13 when I turned my first trick –

Jack: JESUS!

Mary: Yes, I believe that was his name, ironic isn’t it? The world sure looks different when its reflected upside-down in the rear view of a ’73 Ford Pickup…

Jack: Is it true that objects in mirror ARE closer than they appear?

Mary: It wasn’t long before I worked my way up from truck stops and pool halls to one of the swankiest houses of ill repute in the Upper Midwest: The Kitty Corral!

Jack: Not the same Kitty Corral where the Double P Double R Pay-n-Spray Special…uh…came from?!

Mary:  You’re looking at the inventor!

Diane: What’s the Double P Double R….whatever you just said?

Jack: Only the most depraved act of sexual theatre known to man!

Diane: And how do YOU know about it?

Jack:  Youtube.

Micah: I’m glad we can all relate to Mary’s uh…touching story…When did the good Shepherd of the Great Flock that is Man make his presence known to you dear Mary?

Mary: Actually it was when I was with one of my regulars. He was really nice but kind of a weirdo…had a thing for raw eggs.

(Noticeable disgust from Jack and Diane)

Mary:  There I was, nineteen years old and cracking raw eggs open on the chest of a 52 year-old stockbroker when all of a sudden, he came to me –

Jack: Don’t you mean he came on –

Mary: Right on his chest there she was!

Jack: There was another chick involved?! This is getting better every minute!

Mary: Yes! The yolks and whites had pooled together and I saw what could only be described as The Blessed Virgin Mary Herself clutching the newborn baby Jesus! I knew right there that God wanted me for the ultimate job!

Jack: Well after watching you for a couple of years I’m sure he felt you were qualified.

Mary: Not that kind of job, blasphemer! The job of spreading His Word to all the impressionable girls who might one day end up performing late night chicken abortions for the delight of middle-aged men!

Micah: And an inspirational moral you have left us with! Never abort poultry unless you are making breakfast or mayonnaise, for it is a tragic waste of a potentially successful dinner! Malachi, dear friend, I see you are very reserved today! Why don’t you stand up and tell us how the Lord brought you into the light of His Grace!

Malachi rises, his ankle bound with a very noticeable electronic monitoring device.

Malachi: My…name is uh….was…Oliver. There’s really not much to tell. I used to be a musician. A pretty good one too…or so I thought. My trouble started kind of late compared to everyone else…I was already in my early 20’s…Well there was this band, and they were auditioning for a drummer. They made me… do things. Things I never could’ve imagined a drummer would be made to do…all I can remember is the colors…the colors…

Jack: Déjà vu!

Malachi: All I could see were colors. All the way home…all the traffic lights. Red, blue, yellow. Blue, Yellow, Red…I couldn’t drive so I left my Geo Metro on the side of the road and hitched a ride on this bus full of ladies…they all seemed to be wearing the same colors. I don’t remember much after I forced the driver to roll the bus off that cliff with everyone inside, but my lawyer told me later that the ladies were actually an order of blind nuns from some village in Guadalajara on a singing tour…I couldn’t see the black and white habits…just colors…and flames.

Dead silence as Jack and Diane are totally mortified at this point.

Malachi: Don’t you want to know when God showed Himself to me?

A long and awkward pause.

Malachi: In the smoldering twisted wreckage that was that bus full of blind Mexican nuns, I saw what Moses saw…a pillar of flame that would lead me into salvation…and the colors were gone!  They were gone I tell you! Only God could have done it! And He did it for ME! (begins to laugh manically to himself)

The laughter subsides and Jack speaks…

Jack:  (with perfect control) Normally, I would run after what I just heard. I would run. As far and as fast as my legs could carry me; but I don’t believe that there is any safe place I could get to, in a world where someone like you is allowed to sit in a room …with other people …without the benefit of a sheet of plastic… and a telephone handset… so that you could communicate with the rest of us.

Jack rises slowly and grasps Diane by the hand.

Jack:  (calmly) Diane, you and I are going to leave. Together. Now!

Diane:  Don’t you think you are being a bit judgmental?

Jack: (wavering) Diane. I am going to pretend you didn’t just ask me that…I’m going to pretend that you didn’t just ask me if I was being “a bit judgmental.”  I am going concoct this fantasy because I believe you are totally insane and are trying to drag me down with you!

Diane: I’m not going anywhere!

Jack: (really cracking) Diane… I will leave you here. Do you understand me? I will leave you here and feel not a stitch of guilt. Not a stitch.

Diane:  Fine! Go ahead and leave me! Go! (furious) Like every other man in my life! You never listen! You never…

Jack: YOU’RE HYSTERICAL!

Diane: No I’m not! (contained) I’ve never been saner in my life.

Jack:  Have you been hearing any of this tonight? These people have all gone utterly batshit! It’s just like I said to you before! There is not one Reborn Christian that…

Diane: That what? Doesn’t have some skeleton in their closet? Don’t we all have something in our past that we don’t like to talk about or some regret?

Jack:  Sure but my skeletons don’t involve things like doing coke off the neck of a Filipino transsexual!

Ezekiel: She was Thai!

Diane:  So what? Does that make you better than these people? For goodness sake, Jack! Is that what you think about me?

Jack: No, of course not! That’s why I want to get you out of here!

Diane: And don’t you think I’m smart enough to know if this thing I’m doing is the right thing for me?

Jack: Yes but I –

Diane: I just needed someone to listen, Jack. When I felt really down and lonely, I started to pray. And you know what? It felt so good to believe that there was someone out there listening, all day, all night, whenever I needed them.

Jack: But these people….

Diane: These people just happen to share that same joy that I’m telling you about. We get together because people like you don’t want to listen to us. You’re my best friend. I thought I could really trust you to share this part of my life with me. I wanted to show you how much real happiness I was feeling for the first time in a long time. I guess I gave you a little too much credit. You’re just like everyone else out there that believes in nothing other than themselves…and you know what? I think you’re all just jealous! You are jealous of people who feel safe; secure in the belief that someone is looking out for them. That someone cares for them no matter what!

Jack: Now who’s making assumptions about people? I believe in things other than myself! I believe in treating others the right way! I believe in things like duty and honor and loyalty! I just don’t need a book or a legend or a sewing circle of holier-than-thou hypocrites to tell me to believe them!

Diane: And I’m glad that you are so self-reliant. That’s great for you, it really is. But it doesn’t work for everyone else. It’s not about needing someone to tell you what’s right and wrong…it’s just…  some of us need strength from something outside of ourselves…and there is nothing wrong with that. What’s wrong is giving up. Giving in to how weak we can be and not doing anything about it. And it doesn’t matter what road you take to find that strength, what symbol you believe in, where your God comes from or even his name. What matters is that you are trying, damn it. (Indicates the others) Look at these people. Yeah, they’ve all done some pretty screwed up stuff, I know. But you know what? They are all here and they are trying to walk the hardest road of all…the road to be better than themselves.  They are here because there is strength in numbers. They are here because sometimes the road is easier to walk when someone else is right there next to you, holding your hand and reminding you why you are on it in the first place. We are here because we know we can be better. That’s what brings us together. That’s what you don’t understand. That’s why I’m not going with you.

(Diane sits, silence as this all sinks in. The members are moved.)

Jack: I’m sorry Diane, I…I’m sorry to all of you. I’ve been a real asshole tonight. You’re my best friend…I was just looking out for you. The religion deal is just not my thing, and I can’t promise you that I will ever understand it –

Diane: You don’t have to.

Jack:  You’re right. I don’t. If this is what makes you happy…Then I’m happy for you. Who the hell am I to tell anyone how they should find that?

(Jack and Diane embrace, the group applauds.)

Micah: Well brothers and sisters, I think we’ve all been moved by Diane’s words, and I think I speak for the rest of us when I say thank you, Jack. You’ve helped us to remember how much work we all still have left to do… on ourselves.  But perhaps adopting fake names to forget our old lives isn’t the best way to go about fixing things either, is it? I’ve never said this to all of you but…My name is Chris Roberts.

Jack: Whoa…I thought I recognized you from somewhere! You’re not the same Chris Roberts who ran that international white slavery ring…

Micah: I’ve decided to put my leadership and organizational skills to a more noble use.

Jack: (stammering) But you!…I mean…You used to…ah hell!

Micah: Ah Hell, indeed. Sometime you need to see it before you can know the difference.  Well, this has been quite a productive evening! I think I will close tonight’s meeting with some announcements and then we can all go home and sleep soundly knowing we all did our best to be a little better today.

All (except Jack): Praise Jesus!

Micah: Praise Jesus!  We’ve got our monthly Footprints in the Sand Beach Devotional coming up and I understand Jim has something special lined up for us?

Ezekiel (Jim): Yeah! I’m really excited about it too! I can’t believe we got them to perform for free, but when I talked to their manager and told him we were a non-profit group, he assured me the band would be happy to do us the favor…as long as it was before April 15th.

Mary (Mary): Wow! That’s amazing! Who is this band? Are they famous?

Ezekiel (Jim): Are they famous?! They’re only the winners of the 2007 IGN Rock Band Competition!

Malachi (Oliver): No…it can’t be!

Ezekiel (Jim): My friends we are going to be rocked by none other than Kenosha, Wisconsin’s own CRAZED LIONS!

(All cheer except for Oliver, who is screaming and violently attempting to chew off his tracking anklet.)

Malachi (Oliver): Nooooooooooo! (collapses into a blubbering heap on the floor)

Jack: What’s with that guy?

Diane:  Beats me, but I would guess his issues are second to NUN!

(All laugh as the lights fade to black)

END PLAY.

Posted in Fiction, Play, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

How to Publish a Children’s Book? – Part 1

Hello everyone,

Its been a long time, but I hope the notification system WordPress has in place is good enough to remind you this page exists :). After a bit of soul searching, wall climbing, and knuckle-biting, I’ve decided today to dedicate myself to a new project – Publishing a book for kids!

Because this is a new experience for me, and from what I’ve been reading a long, arduous, painful, miserable, exciting, exhausting, rewarding undertaking, I’ve decided to chronicle the process in this blog for several reasons:

1) It seems there are very few straight answers out there on how to get this goal accomplished and, if successful, this journal could serve as a beacon of reason to any would-be writers out there. If it fails, then let it serve as a cautionary tale.

2) I think it would make an interesting read.

3) It will provide me with a physical outlet for my mental processes.

4) It will give the opportunity for readers to chime in and share their experiences.

5) Who knows? Maybe some publisher out there might stumble on this blog, get interested in what I am doing, and offer me a gazillion dollar deal based on the raw, unmitigated torrent of talent and potential for a lifetime’s worth of sublime, literary virtuosity.

Now though #5 was written tongue firmly planted in cheek, mostly, I am not going into this project with any illusions of grandeur. I’m not trying to write the next Harry Potter, (or Percy Jackson, or any other catchy, four-syllable name that can be pronounced in 147 different languages and fits on a movie poster) . I’m just trying to publish a book. A book for kids. A book that hopefully will nurture the love of reading and words in young minds so that they too can begin to explore the universes of adventure that await within the trillions of pages they have available to them.

But it’s also a book that will challenge them, a book that will have them checking the back to look things up that they didn’t understand the first go around. A book that might even have their parents checking a dictionary to be sure.

In short, it will be a book that will be worth a little more each time it’s read, and I can’t think of a better value than that.

The manuscript is already written. All I need is the right artist to illustrate it, and an agent to sell it. This is where the real work starts.

Flipping through the chunky, lethal-if-thrown copy of the Writer’s Market 2011 that I have had collecting dust over the past year, it is clear that this may have been easier to start while I was living in the US. Most submissions are only accepted enclosed in an SASE (Self Addressed Stamped Envelope), an archaic term associated with a dying habit – physical postal correspondence. Sending things via U.S. mail would have been very simple, and relatively inexpensive. Now I need to find out how this works here in Europe. Since my writing is in English, I’ve decided then to try to get this book published in the UK, which hopefully will save me in international mailing costs. I also love the U.K.

Because a copy of the UK Writer’s Market is not in my hands, I’ve resorted to old(?) fashioned Google research to try to find the Right Literary Agent for Me. Once I’ve created a list of prospects, I will then start the process of sending my submissions consisting of cover letter and full mss (that’s manuscript for future reference). Since it is a children’s book not meant to be very long, the full mss should fit on a little over a page and would take all of 3 minutes to read by an adult.

I haven’t told my wife I’m doing this yet, but I think she will be excited. Now it’s up to me!

I’ll keep you informed.

Cheers,

EA

Posted in Commentary, Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Delayed Return – Blocked

Greetings readers,

As I type this out my daughter is singing to herself as Beethoven’s Fur Elise plays itself on my synthesizer. It has been a long time since I have sat down to tap out words at the keyboard that weren’t included in an e-mail as part of some domestic task. I have been putting off the exercise of writing like one who dreads getting 15 minutes earlier to do those 25 pushups one promised to do. The thing is, I am a writer. I always have been since as far back as I can remember. I used to take assignments in elementary school designed to make you use 5 words in a story and crank out 5-6 page adventure yarns about pyramids and abominable snowmen because they came to me and I enjoyed that I could put words together, like when a kid who loved Legos got excited every time he would build a new creation.

I have had many wanderings and different jobs since then, I dedicated several years to being a stage actor and theatre professional. Though I am confident in my performance abilities, the one area I have always felt most comfortable is in composition. When I went back to finish my degree it was English I chose, and despite the challenge of balancing a full time job with reading 700 pages a week and writing 30 of hard academic prose, I pushed myself to stay awake until 4 and 5 AM to make sure that my work was the best I could forge. There was a sense of urgency to all this, a dramatic need to deliver the best quality of which I was capable. The thought of not being able deliver was a source of real fear for me and would drive me to desperation at times.

By now you are probably wondering what the point of this little monologue has been about, and the truth is I’m not quite sure that I know myself. The fact remains that I seem to have lost that discipline that drove me so hard in the past, and now am feeling a bit rudderless. I don’t want to call it writers’ block, because it seems that new ideas and pieces of dialogue seem to spring from everywhere on a daily basis. The problem is that none of these ever come to any kind of fruition, like seeds left to an anonymous eternity in a sea of arid sand.

The corpses of these stillborn ideas are piling up and is getting a bit much to bear. This blog was supposed to be a project to alleviate this, yet it does not seem to be serving its purpose. Better said, I am not serving its purpose.

This piece is more catharsis than anything else, a way of putting down what’s been troubling my process into words and sharing it with those of you who have taken the time to read what I create. I am grateful to my readers, and out of both gratitude and a need to get out of this rut I must redouble my efforts to get back into the habit of writing. When you’re stuck in the mud, the only way to get out is to dig in your heels and pull yourself forward.

I’m glad I took the time to flesh some of this out. I feel better already.

Best,

EA

Posted in Life, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

I Have Returned.

Hello everyone,

It’s been over a month of visiting Mexico and the States and I’m quite happy to be back home. It is almost 2AM as I am writing this update, and needless to say I’m just a bit jet-lagged. I should be fine within the next 48-72 hours.

One of the things that struck me most upon my return was how wonderfully warm it is compared to when I had left in February. We had just come out of the record cold snap that gripped Europe this winter, a cold snap which provided unusually high amounts of snow (featured in my Winter Wonderland post). I was quite proud of the fact that as temperatures climbed back into the low 40’s (Fahrenheit), about 4-6 Centigrade I believe, I was quite comfortable in little more than a leather jacket and jeans. Today it was 17 Centigrade (I’m guessing upper 60’s?) and I found myself sweating.

This will be my first time living out a full cycle of seasons, as my hometown of Miami really only has wet and dry periods with the occasional cold snap. I am looking forward to experiencing true spring for the first time.

I should have more interesting things to talk about than the weather, like some thoughts on my trip. This content should be coming soon as once I decide what topic to hit first. Esther A. prodded me with a question on my thoughts regarding why breakups tend to happen around holidays, and I have been fomenting a response. That should also be on its way. I’m quite interested in continuing writing fiction if the audience interest is there. On a side note, I have written the text for a children’s book and am looking for any way to get that out there. I think it may be the first in a series. If anyone out there has some solid leads, (I need an illustrator and a publisher) that would be just swell. As always, your readership and feedback is always welcome and appreciated. I look forward to sharing more with you.

Home Sweet Home.

Best to all,

EA

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Sorry for the break…

Hello readers,

As you can tell there has been a sharp drop in activity from me on the writing front, and this is primarily due to a month of traveling that I am currently undertaking. As soon as I return home things should start to pick up again. My goal is to be updating the blog with new content at least twice a week, more so if readership picks up.

My best to all of you,

EA

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Winter Wonderland – Snowy Morning in Switzerland

This gallery contains 11 photos.

Contrary to what one might assume, snow is not necessarily a guarantee in all parts of Switzerland. This especially holds true for the canton of Geneva, one of the southernmost regions of the country. Though sub-zero temperatures in winter are … Continue reading

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States Vs. The Federal Government – A House Divided Unto Itself?

Once again another post in response to Esther A. What can I say, she gets me thinking…

The political history of the US has always been a battle between state sovereignty and federal power. We need look no further than the US Civil War to see how far the argument about state’s rights of self-governance can get. Slavery may have been the point of contention, but it was certainly not the primary cause or reason for war. The South goes to war with the North because southern states did not agree that the federal government should overrule state law. The South never recovered from the economic collapse after the Civil War, and we still feel those repercussions today with the strained race/class relations that exist between North and South. The debate over states’ rights continue today with issues such as drug regulation, marriage laws, abortion, and capital punishment. When you think about it, it is pretty fascinating that these 50 different entities with often wildly different views have functioned as a Union for so long. Long, being relative of course, as we are talking about a history of just over 200 years, halfway through which the entire thing almost fell completely apart. The idea that holds US states together is the fairly esoteric concept of Federalism. Also a factor is the presence of Federal military power in every single state in the form of the US National Guard. What would happen if a state, say, Texas, and I mention Texas because the subject has actually been broached in legislative sessions, decided to separate from the US and become its own entity? Would the US quietly allow one of its members to go off on its own without a fight? Hard to say, as the historical answer is clearly no.

Now as for the possibility of chaos if the Federal government was shrunk down…The fact is that the states are already fairly autonomous. Federal law steps in for major things like international commerce, the banking and monetary system, crimes crossing states lines, and the maintenance of Federal property such as the Interstate Highway System and National Parks and Buildings. States largely take care of their own needs as far as food, water, fuel, electricity, criminal/civil justice, and most of the other day-to-day needs of the average citizen. While I agree we can’t go and have the states doing things like printing their own money (which did happen in the early days of US history during the Articles of the Confederation era before the current Constitution) how much chaos would be caused if say, California legalized marijuana? Why should it not be their right to do so? Nevada has legalized prostitution and that has not exactly swept the country like wildfire, no other state to my knowledge has decided to follow Nevada’s lead. The fact is there is a lot more money to be made by stopping drugs than by stopping prostitution. The existence of a lot of Federal jobs depends on it, an entire agency, the DEA, is dedicated to it. Mind you, I am not a user of drugs or a patron of prostitutes, but I am looking at the problem logically. Here in the EU, which operates under a Constitution, laws and regulations differ widely between countries. In Holland, for instance, smoking marijuana and prostitution is legal, and it is one of the safest most stable and conservative societies in operation. Other countries have not adopted the same policies, but that is their right not to. My point is that legions of people did not become pot addicts (a frequent argument among prohibitionists) because of a change in its legality. This is where the argument comes out of how far the government needs to go to legislate personal choice. Assisted suicide is also a legal right here in Switzerland, and let me tell you with all of the elderly people I see walking around it is clearly not an option that people are running to the hills to take.

I didn’t mean to turn this into a pro-drug/prostitute diatribe, these are simply the most ready examples I had on hand to illustrate the state’s rights issue.

Now you could say that there is economic chaos going on in Europe right now, but that is largely due to mismanagement of funds. When I visited Portugal this Christmas, it became clear to me why they were going broke. In the north of Portugal there are new gleaming four and six lane highways that lead to literally nowhere. There are metro systems in place more state of the art than the London Underground serving a fraction of the need. Suffice to say, government waste was painfully evident. Unfortunately, this chaos was created as a result of the EU coming into being and the mistake of creating a single currency among members who are so different economically. Also the massive amount of misuse of EU funds by member countries (I’m looking at you Portugal and Greece) was facilitated by the inefficiency that comes with a large bureaucracy such as the EU.

These issues aside, I believe that no one disagrees that the US Constitution should be the supreme law of the land. However, there is no provision under the Constitution that calls for the government having agencies like the FDA, DEA, or even the IRS as they exist today. These things were added on later by Congress as instruments to improve its ability to enforce Federal regulations. Though the Sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution allows for direct taxation, it does not say that an organization called the Internal Revenue Service needs to exist in order to do it. It does not create many of the Federal agencies we are accustomed to hearing about. FBI, CIA, even more benign organizations such as the USDA and EPA: nice to have but not Constitutionally mandated.

Now I think there are some pretty great government agencies. take the US Postal Service for instance. Though recent news paints a picture of the Postal Service as being broke and on the brink of failure, the majority of the Postal Service’s debt is to…the Federal government! Every year the US Postal Service has to prepay the Federal government billions in healthcare/pension benefits for its workers years in advance. If it did not have to do this, it would be in the financial black.

You mention totalitarianism and the rise of an autocratic leader. I agree that this is something to fear in the sense that all of historical ingredients are in place: high unemployment, a surge in nationalism and xenophobia that comes with hard times. This is what Hitler capitalized upon to rise to power in Germany. When the people feel downtrodden, there is nothing more nice to hear then “You are a the Master Race, and all of your problems are the fault of evil foreigners!” This is why Germany is so sensitive to the problems of inflation and debt these days, as every World War that Germany was in came at a time of high domestic unemployment, and a devalued currency due to having outstanding debt from the rest of Europe. With the EU crisis, history seems to be repeating itself a third time.

In the US, the use of nationalism as a rallying tool and using illegal immigrants as scapegoats for economic trouble is frighteningly similar to what occurred in Germany. I don’t believe, however, that a libertarian government would facilitate that. I believe that what people like Ron Paul are advocating is a distancing from the large, nebulous power of the “superstate” or “State” as referred to in Orwellian terms. I don’t know if you have lived in Europe, but I can tell you that in some places it really does feel like Big Brother is watching: surveillance cameras, numerous incontestable taxes, and some pretty intrusive rules. 1984 is already happening here in Europe and persecution of ethnic groups (the Roma, or Gypsies in France for instance) and disdain for foreigners is taking disturbing turns. Couple that with a massive, faceless bureaucracy and you have the realization of what “big government” opponents are against.

There needs to be a balance between state and Federal powers, this is to be sure and this was the goal of the Framers of the Constitution, who understood more about the need for Balance in a Universal context than most of us are taught to realize. But the fact is that the trend has been tipping that balance far in favor of Federal power. That is at the heart of the libertarian argument, and though some issues will always be sticking points of controversy, the reality is that in order for the US not to become an Orwellian police state where the rights of the individual are crushed under the weight of invisible masters balance must be restored by making sure that the role of the Federal government returns to its roots as protector of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, defender of national borders from external threats when necessary, and as representative of the interests of its member states abroad. I stress the term “member states,” for we must remind ourselves that the Federal government does not exist without the states, the Federal government IS THE STATES. This is what has been forgotten, and that is why the battle for state’s rights must continue. For how can it be that there is an entity called “Union” can claim to exist separate from the members that make up that Union? This separate thing, if such a thing could exist, would be nothing more than an abomination in the face of Democracy.

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A Outsider’s Insider’s View on the 2012 US Elections – Does Europe Care? Should They?

This post is in response to a question from Esther A. who was curious about my view on the how the US elections are being perceived from Europe.

One of the interesting things about living abroad is experiencing how differently the news is handled. Since I moved here, I usually count on the BBC for the most current news, as my US news sources stories are now six hours behind me. Clearly the BBC is going to be more concerned with the goings on in or about the UK, so I was quite impressed to see how much coverage the Republican primaries are receiving internationally.

Since I cannot fairly assume that everyone reading this is from the US or has the same understanding of the US political process,, I’ll offer a simplified explanation of the US system and political primaries. If this is redundant to you feel free to skip ahead.

WHAT ARE REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS?

In the United States political system, there are two political parties the vie for control of the three branches of the government, the executive (President), legislative (Senate and House of Representatives), and the judiciary (Supreme Court). These parties are the Republicans (right-wing conservatives) and the Democrats (left-wing liberals). Granted this is a gross oversimplifications as there are many politicians whose views are often moderate or centrist between the two sides, but it is standard political practice to join one party or the other in order to guarantee powerful political support that the establishment parties offer. Though there are technically many political parties in the US, only these two have true relevance when it comes to getting elected as President which is why primaries are so important.

WHAT ARE PRIMARIES?

An electoral primary is when either the Republicans or Democrats hold small “test” elections to test the viability of a potential candidate for President. Within each party, there are many individual politicians competing to be the one that represents their party in the presidential election. This competition plays itself out through a series of debates between these politicians (candidates) leading up to primary elections where ballots are cast by either party members/voters (in a closed primary) or any voters (in an open primary). At the ends of these elections, the party determines which of the candidates has the greatest chance of winning the national election and grants this candidate what is called the nomination and offers all of its political and financial support to the nominee’s campaign for office.

WHY NO NEWS ABOUT THE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY?

Because President Barack Obama is the sitting President and is still eligible to hold one more term of office, it is political tradition for his party (the Democrats) not to seek a new candidate for President. This is why everything you hear with regards to primaries is related to the Republicans this time around. When the President is in his last term (like with George W. Bush), both Democrats and Republicans will hold primaries.

If there is anything in the preceding paragraphs that a reader wants to expand upon or correct, please feel free. This summary was compiled from memory, not Wikipedia.

In any case Esther, getting back to your question. I find that the foreign press is providing much more objective coverage than the US media with regards to the upcoming elections. Within the US media outlets tend to skew their views to either one side or another, and it is not against journalistic integrity for publications to openly support political candidates.  The European press appears to offer more equanimity in providing coverage of leading candidates, unlike the US which, despite being such a strong contender, gives Ron Paul no more than one sentence in any given three page story about the US elections.

As objective and comprehensive as Euro coverage has been, however, it is clear that the European financial crisis is at center stage. Even in Switzerland, long thought to be a bastion of economic hope, the crisis is being felt as the Swiss central bank forcibly devalued the national currency by tying it 1.20 to the Euro. This decision was done to protect Swiss exports, but is proving to be difficult to sustain as the Euro continues to flounder amidst continued economic uncertainty. In the Swiss news I have seen, the US elections seem almost an afterthought, especially since Swiss national elections recently concluded and the hot button issues are currently immigration, protecting bank secrecy, and other domestic issues.

There is plenty on US foreign policy, especially with the threat of Iran and its nuclear programme, but it would seem that even the Europeans seem inclined to back the tough US stance on Tehran with France leading the charge. I would attribute this to two primary factors: 1) The threat of Iran disrupting world oil traffic would be catastrophic to an already fragile global economy and 2) Growing anti-Muslim sentiment within the European continent.  With regards to Republican candidates, there is no candidate who has offered a major change in course of current US foreign policy other than dark horse Ron Paul. Paul suggests adopting an isolationist stance and reducing the US sphere of influence with the logical argument that the Cold War strategy of establishing hegemony  through military bases is outmoded and not suited to the realities of a globalized economy. Needless to say, Paul, despite his strong support amongst younger voters will likely remain unelectable as his views alienate most of the more conservative members of his party.

From what I have seen so far, it would seem that Europe is watching the US process with limited interest, and I wonder if they perceive any of the Republicans as a threat to Barack Obama or long-term US policy. Even if a Republican were to replace Obama in 2012, one wonders what real difference there would be from the status quo, especially with regards to US-Euro relations and foreign policy. Most of what the Republicans are campaigning on are US domestic issues such as the job market, repealing Obama’s healthcare legislation, and moral/social issues such as gay marriage, drug legality, and gun rights.

No Republican is going to take troops out of Afghanistan/Pakistan, place troops back in Iraq, take a lesser stance against Iran, or change the status of European alliances. No Republican will likely have an effect on China’s fiscal/trade policy, the rest of the BRIC nations, or anything regarding Africa. It is also doubtful that a new President will affect any real change on the global economic crisis, as the problems at the heart of the global recession are deeper and more far reaching than the scope of Washington’s influence. Furthermore, right-wing detractors cannot deny  Obama’s hawkish military actions around the worlds, including the death of Osama Bin Laden, the stepping up of pressure on Iran, and the buildup of military force in Southeast Asia to shore up US interests against the rise of Chinese naval dominance. These are policies that a new President is unlikely to reverse. As far as climate change policy is concerned, for all the lip service the US has never truly been a serious participant on that issue, and that definitely will not change if a Republican is in charge. No, what is at stake in these elections are largely domestic issues, and for an economically troubled Europe I almost wonder if there is a collective shrug of “Who cares?”

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Pay to BE what your MIND can MOVE! – A Fable – PART 3

The Commodore locked his eyes into mine, and for a moment that stretched into the end of all days I felt that we were a symbiotic creature…my continued survival depended on the knowledge he was about to pour into the pool of my crackling synapses, and I the outlet for the divine power the Commodore was channeling and yet could not have possibly contained within himself, he being a mere mortal of flesh and blood beneath the bravado.

The moment passed and with the reverberant force of a whipcrack I was snapped into the deepest state of physical consciousness that could be felt by human senses. Every thread of my clothing scraped across my skin like sandpaper, the colors of the scene bled through my eyes, and the splashing of birds shaking their heads furiously in their nearby bath thundered with tsunamic force that battered my bones until I collapsed upon a knee.

My preparation was complete. I now was ready to hear The Commodore’s Reveille:

Come to your senses

you sad and stranded boy,

The world is around you, reality your toy!

Never was there a man who lived less than what he wished,

And your crying is an insult to your Creator and his Gift!

So lift your head and gaze upon,

the wonder of all life!

Before you start to blame and curse,

And spit and whine and fight!

The truth is you never stopped once to remember what life must have been like before you were born!

Beyond, above, and through his words the music of the band flowed and crashed, waves of power carrying the words of Truth that issued forth from the Commodore in their staccato hypnotic rhythm. He was right of course. The time before I came into being was something I had not considered and the very fact of my existence was yet further proof that there must be some hope for me yet. If the universe wanted to destroy me, why allow me to exist in the first place? Why go to the trouble create the chain of circumstances and events that coalesced into the ordered chaos that was me? The Commodore’s message was clear: there was a Reason for me to be, and my happiness depended on finding out exactly what this Reason was! I wept aloud for the first time in years, and left a $5 dollar tip in one of the percussionist’s polished cans, which now in the light of the waning afternoon reflected a dazzling orange glow that burned brighter than ten thousand suns. I began to flap my arms, light on my feet as I soared away from the park in pursuit of my goal.

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Thanksgiving Meditation: On Motivation, Work, Leadership, and Love

Some meditations on Thanksgiving about some things that have been on a lot of people’s minds…enjoy.

CAPITALISM IS NOT A GREAT INJUSTICE

I am, at heart, a capitalist. I believe that if one provides their time and abilities to perform a service, it is just that one should be duly compensated. It is not just capitalism that believes this, but it is also Karmic law. There are debts and gifts. As humans we give, and the universe provides in return. Even at the atomic level this is so. A chemical bond is formed when an atom gives up an electron that another atom needs in order to stabilize its existence. Unfortunately, the idea of compensation has become warped out of proportion and is not equitable to the quality of service being provided. This leads to a feeling that the system of give and take is fundamentally flawed. It isn’t. What is flawed is that the equation of give = take has become woefully unbalanced.

THE BONUS

The debate over performance-based compensation is an old one, and I would argue that there is nothing wrong with rewarding employees who exceed expectations. Unfortunately, in this era of “golden-parachutes,” bonuses seem to be completely unrelated to performance. It can almost be said that a CEO can make more money for himself by running a company into the ground than by ensuring its success. There are several recent high-profile examples of this, a big source of the anger at the financial sector.

The idea of “bonuses” came about as a way of rewarding employees who took the company’s success beyond the expectations for a given period of time. Extra income that was not forecast would be distributed amongst employees as a “reward” for unexpected performance. This theory also meant that If performance met projections, bonuses would not be called for because everyone simply met the expectations of their jobs. There should not be a “bonus” for this. This is why employees are paid.

WHERE THE BONUS GOES WRONG

Now, however, it would appear that bonuses are something that employees feel “entitled” too. The move by Philips Europe is indicative of this prevailing attitude. If their CEO Frans Van Houten were a real leader and the company was not meeting expectations, he should do the opposite and start making pay cuts beginning with himself. Much of the dissatisfaction from people further down the hierarchy comes from the fact that when a company suffers, leaders are seem insulated from the consequences. Take Bank of America that can, in the same breath, lay-off thousands of employees and yet disburse millions in bonuses to executives. This is the kind of absurdity that creates malaise and a culture of mediocrity in corporate settings. There is a sense of futility that is soul-destroying and, consequently, productivity-killing. Van Houten thinks that he is being a “populist” by increasing monetary compensation to motivate his workforce to improve. What he is doing instead is rewarding failure and mediocrity. What kind of a corporate culture do you expect to create with this kind of philosophy?

WHY DO I WORK?

There needs to be more of a sense of pride in the results of work.  This is also dying because workers have lost touch with the meaning behind what they do. There is no passion behind work, it is largely a question of survival rather than love. I have always looked at it this way. If you spend 40 hours per week, most of your waking time, doing poorly or at the bare minimum, what does this say about your personal standards? Theoretically one should be giving their all in anything they do.  But when quality is not recognized in one way or another, be it through compensation, recognition, or acknowledgment of the employee “making a positive difference” through their excellence, why bother “going the extra mile?” This is the heart of corporate ennui. There is no emotional/spiritual connection to the results of work.

I can give a personal example of the difference between work done our of love and work done out of simple necessity. A simple task – making breakfast. If I am by myself and I decide to eat an egg, I am content in simply frying it in some oil and eating it with a little salt to be done with it. If I am cooking this egg for my wife and daughter, however, I put a little extra effort in. I will season the egg with garlic and pepper. I will add some ham and cheese. I will stand over the pan and make sure the egg is cooking for the right amount of time, so that it is cooked evenly but not overdone. When the egg is finished I will be careful to not break it as I transfer it to a plate, so that it looks nice when I bring it to the table.

Here is the truth. If I had made the egg the first way, my family would have likely not complained or disliked it. They would have eaten it and we would have continued the day without consequence. Why bother doing all that extra stuff to an egg? Why bother taking all that extra time and effort? What is the difference here? The difference is love. The egg I made for my wife and daughter was made out of love for them, and out of that love I wanted them to get the most enjoyment out of that egg as possible.

HOW DO I GET MY EMPLOYEES TO COOK A BETTER EGG?

This is the question that CEO’s and managers need to answer more than any other: How do I put love back into the work of my employees? Figure that out, and you will have the best operation on the planet. You won’t need to bribe people to come and work for your company. People will be drawn to work for you. You won’t have to beg your employees for a good job, it will be beyond their hearts to do anything less.

This is the kind of leadership that creates companies that weather recessions and market fluctuations. This is the kind of leadership that people like Steve Jobs provided. This doesn’t necessarily mean being “nice” all the time. In fact it is well known that Jobs could be downright nasty at times, even cruel. But this was not out of maliciousness. This was out of love for what he was trying to accomplish and he both demanded and inspired that kind of love in his organization. This is why Apple is the most valuable company in the world and will likely continue to be years after Jobs’ death.

It is the calling of leaders to motivate and inspire, but if the leaders are not leading from a place of love then there is no source of power for them to draw upon other than fear and greed. What kind of a foundation is that for any empire? What kind of a banner is that for employees to get behind? Just how good of a job can you expect out of a person whose only desire is to please you out of fear of retribution, or desire to supplant you?

TRUST YOUR TEAM, PUT EACH PIECE IN ITS PROPER PLACE.

Out of love comes trust, and a leader who leads out of love will trust his team to use their abilities and allow them to excel, not cripple them with arbitrary limitations or protocols. One of the greatest frustrations of talented employees comes from being stifled by leadership and not being allowed to do their jobs to the best of their ability. This also means knowing how to assign your talent to tasks that play to their strengths. Do you put a salesman in charge of drafting quarterly reports? Do you make an analyst manage client relationships? These seem like obvious questions, but it is shocking to the degree where good talent often suffers from simply being poorly allocated.

This is all I have for now.

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PAY to BE what your MIND can MOVE! – A Fable – PART 2

I left the buzzing sign as it hung there, its friendly yet insistent helpfulness a thorn in my side as I was intent on proving that the world was actively working against me. On any other day I would have dismissed this as an utterly ludicrous notion, the sugar-high of an indulgent foray into the heights of self-absorption.  Today, however, was different. This was MY day and I wasn’t going to let ANYONE ruin it! The cool gentle breeze coming off of the Bay was a cloying reminder of the sheer perfection of the weather, and there was the faintest of shimmer along the asphalt as the oblique afternoon sun caught flashes of silica in the pavement. Yes it was beautiful, especially when the band began to play. What band you say? Why the one that was quietly arranging itself as I wrestled with the now inconceivable notion of going to the park.

The message of the flies was clear. I was to follow the music yet the music decided to follow me! Thus far it was not looking good for my assumption of a world bent on my destruction.

They were a small quartet: a collection of flannel, black-rimmed hipster glasses and patchy facial hair. Despite their ragged coffeehouse appearance, however, they bore with them the most glorious instruments of wood, brass, and steel. The horn player was hung heavy with a great gleaming trombone and a muted trumpet holstered at his side like a flintlock pistol. Not to be outdone, the bassist carried across his back a polished wooden double bass like a Spartan shield, its chocolate finish inviting ones eyes to drown within its velvety layers of lacquer. Behind the pair was a collection of cans, pots, and nondescript items arranged in a circle around the drummer whose equipment would have seemed a mockery of the majestic gear borne by his fellows were it not for the fact that every piece of metal was polished to a mirror finish.

For all the audaciousness of the band, they were nothing in comparison to the band leader. He carried nothing with him but a shiny black baton and a small mouth instrument I recognized as a jew’s harp, its twangy metallic vibrations something I anticipated with great relish. He strutted before his colleagues with the dignity and bravado of an Irish line dancer and atop his head was perched the imperious headgear of a naval commodore.

The Commodore moved in snappy fits and starts, yet rather than appearing jerky or awkward his steps and gestures betrayed the grace and strength of a Barbary horse.

Yes sir. This was shaping up to be an afternoon to remember!

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Pay to BE what your MIND can MOVE! – A Fable – PART I

“Pay to be what your mind can move!” exclaimed the blond dread-locked street prophet, eyes rolling crazily in his sockets.

“What does that even mean?,” I wondered aloud, not expecting an answer.

“You roll around with your priorities messed up! You need to watch the sparrow SEES, live what the shadow FEELS…connect man, you get it? There is hope out here and stop looking so hard you will flow into it.

This was a typical sidewalk encounter on a summer afternoon in San Francisco, the hippie capital of all possible universes and the highest concentration of hybrid vehicles per capita in this dimension. Yet today I was ready to fall into this trip. Normally I’d have ignored this guy, this refugee from Burning Man 2003 telling me about the wormholes and “the grid” and how important it was to stay off of it. What did I have to lose really? A couple of hours of time I would have spent doing what? Groceries? Errands? These mundane activities with which I normally filled my “free?” time after work when I could have been doing far more exciting things like trying a new brand of hot dog or base jumping or screaming at traffic while dancing the oogie-boogie. Yes! This afternoon would not be spent doing the consumer confidence shuffle!

“How much man? I asked, almost but not quite altogether excited to be here.

“Just need 14 bucks for a MUNI pass so I can hop on a cable car and meet Wong over in Chinatown,” streamed my new buddy, the most coherent sentence he had ever uttered since the day before he met that cute girl with the cherries tattooed on her nape in the seventh grade.

I didn’t know who Wong was, and I didn’t really care to ask, so I pressed a twenty into his grimy palm and he slapped me five with his free hand, but what part of this man was anything if not free, and I came away with a small square of white that began to dissolve before I could get it onto my tongue.

My buddy was a good friend palsie-walsie dude steak of goodness, he was! I knew he had passed me a transdermal and that just meant the effects would take longer to fully come in, but would also linger longer than had I licked it. Time to go to the park!

But I couldn’t go THERE because there were these little flies that seemed to rise out of the grass in a cloud in the steaming heat of the afternoon.

“But that’s not fair,” I screeched. “I want to go to the park and meet the Satchmo!”

Nonplussed the squadron of silently buzzing sages formed themselves into a black arrow pointing me towards the right direction and I promptly thanked them very much as is the custom, tipping my brow since I wore no hat at the time.

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A Commentary on Comments

8/26/2011

6:30 AM

I find myself again awake much too early with a pile of crumpled tissues lit by the glow of the computer monitor. It’s not crying that has created this pile, but a nighttime allergy that has become chronic and is really affecting the quality of my sleep. I try to sniff and snuff it away, but the effort becomes far too distracting and though I would rather stay in bed, I know that all the noise I am making is going to wake up my wife so I leave the room.

It was 5:00AM when I found myself out in the living room where my makeshift office space lies sprawled across the dining room table. There is no other place for me to have it, really, as the bedroom is off limits to the computer and the baby has her own room.

I started writing this entry(?) when I got tired of reading internet news, articles, blogs, searches, weather reports, opinions, comment sections (so many comments). Who are these people that comment on everything? Every column or snippet or headline has a comments section, and almost all of them are stuffed with comments, so much so that you have to click a button to scroll the screen further to reveal them all. Invariably I almost always find myself reading them. I sometimes spend more time reading the comments section than the original article. Sometimes they make me laugh to myself when they are particularly funny but most of the time I just wonder about the person who took the time to post the comment in the first place. It takes a certain amount of effort to be able to comment on these things. You have to often register some kind of information with the website so you can gain the ability to post them. That’s only one of the reasons I have never and probably will never be a web ‘commenter.’ The other is I don’t really see the effect that all these massive amounts of comments leave. Sometimes, very rarely, I’ll see a comment that gets a response from the author. These usually go two ways: 1) The author delivers a courteous but authoritative response defending his position while demonstrating his/her superior acumen on their subject, or 2) The author acknowledges whatever error pointed out by the commenter and makes a change or retraction in the article. I have very rarely seen the 2nd one happen in the wild. Most of the time, however, comments sections for me are fascinating in the same way watching a street fight or bad reality TV are to people who enjoy that sort of thing. It’s the writer’s version of the Jerry Springer Show. Excluding pornography, and I only mention it to avoid any comments about it, and its offensiveness is openly debatable and not really one I am interested in getting into, comments sections on internet sites can be the most caustic, offensive, and vile corners of the web. It amazes me to read the comments left by people saying things that I know for a fact they would never say in any kind of a public or social setting. It amazes me what people will write and put out into the world under the veil of anonymity that nothing more than a pseudonym provides. I wonder how many of these commenters (Microsoft Word is telling me ‘commenters’ is not a word, but if Merriam-Webster just made “tweet” a word than I am running with ‘commenters’) truly believe what they are posting or simply trying to be inflammatory. I don’t know what to think, really.

What is the goal of commenters? What do they want? Who are they? I imagine a few possible scenarios. The first and most amusing to me is of legions of elderly folk in retirement communities who have enough computer savvy to continue their habit of reading and participating in conversation. I imagine elderly folk because often times commenters talk most about the ‘good old days’ and how ‘back in my time’ people ‘did things differently’ and “people should learn some manners” and it goes on and on in a parade of internet curmudgeory. This is another word I am running with, curmudgeon being a ‘bad-tempered or surly person.’ I would add that this noun is often also attributable to older people. So there they are, an army of cranky retirees clacking away at their computers engaging in the cyber equivalent of the barber shop/beauty salon/coffee stand/local watering hole debates that people used to have when we saw each other at these places. If you think about how sad it really is to be an old person in the United States (this is a hot topic worthy of further discussion another time) it is not a big leap of logic to see internet commenting as a viable pastime for a demographic that is fighting to stay relevant, heard, noticed in the face of the pounding march of youth that dominates and brutishly ushers them out of almost every conceivable activity. The comment page on a website is a release and a mode of expression, and the anonymity that provides would be a comfort to people who may have lived their entire lives repressing their true feelings due to all of the reasons that we are often required to do so. Also, if I were old, and angry, and felt like no one ever listened to me, the comments section seems a good substitute for some good old-fashioned (see? There’s that word old again) grouchiness.

Another scenario I imagine are scores of prison inmates looking for some outside contact with society and who have similar frustrations to those of the elderly folk I mentioned above. With internet access being available to prison inmates, this is also a plausible source of the vast amount of commenters and also explains the quality of some of the posts…

But there are other possibilities aside from grumpy old people and convicted felons. There are scores of people who are unemployed with internet access, who are also people with thoughts and opinions. And we can’t rule out employed people either, as evidenced by the amount of people you see logged onto Facebook during the hours between 9AM to 5PM (Facebook mobile users, you don’t count.) Many of the employed people work clerical or tech jobs that give them convenient access to the web, and either perform jobs with lots of downtime, like I.T. technicians, or simply spend a lot of their time, well, not working (I don’t have a negative attitude toward the latter, by the way, I’m simply discussing opportunity.)

Among the most entertaining comments sections are those of news websites. You have all the types represented: the closet racists, the closet(ed?) gay-bashers, the closet race/religious hatemongers, the erudite who try to bring civility to the conversation, the fly-by offender who just says something to rile everyone up and never posts again. There are just too many interesting fauna to list here, but the fact is if there is a hurricane, and earthquake, or a 6 year old who wins a spelling bee you can bet it is ALWAYS the fault of one of three things:

1)      Obama, Odumma, Odumba, Obummer, Nobama, Gaybama, Obamalamadingdong (by the way who takes the time to come up with all of these puns on Obama’s name, anyway?!)

2)      Bush.

3)      Immigrants/Mexicans/Muslims.

My other favorite comment sections are those on gaming/tech websites. Oh there is nothing more satisfying than reading a flame war between fanboys talking about how X-y-Z company sold them out and how evil Activision and EA is and wishing death on Bobby Kotick and making fun of Steve Jobs (best to you Steve) and the PC and how Macs are “ghey” and how console gamers are losers and PC gaming iz d original gamez and will never die! I am so 7EE1 itz not even funny roflcatzlolzords lmfao insert creative headbanging smiley face here.

If you didn’t understand that previous paragraph, it’s okay. The goal of that was not readability, it was accuracy.

Cranky old people, convicted felons, the unemployed, the employed, nerds…I guess that doesn’t leave many people out of the commenter demographic. The internet comments section: the most egalitarian manifestation of true democracy and free speech every seen in human history.

That is of course, unless you offend someone and have your comment removed

Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment below.

Posted in Commentary, Life, Social, Tech | Tagged , | 3 Comments

The Beginning of a Story

Hi everyone,

I thought I’d share with you a little piece of fiction I stumbled across and am becoming reacquainted with. Thinking I might keep it going and see where it leads. All feedback is welcome and encouraged!

Best,

EA

By Carlos Alayeto

Johnny Farragut checked his watch
as he watched for the 5:15.

“Late. Strange,” he felt a static charge race across his face and the world went away.

Royce Wallace began unloading groceries as the bitter Chicago wind bit into his face, the dryness causing his bulbous lips to crack painfully, making him to wince. Electric fingers traced themselves fleetingly, carrying off the groceries and the Windy City along with
them.

Cameron Morgan’s long auburn hair whipped wildly, a scarlet flame across the desert highway as she clung to the hunched form of her latest helmeted savior. The massive Harley’s roar ripped the landscape as her arms began to tingle.

“Not the vibration.”

Darkness.

Marilyn Dean checked her makeup once more before catching the elevator held by the patiently smiling doorman in whose eyes she saw something familiar. She noticed the growing run in her new stockings.

“Too late now,” she thought, as the hair on her arms began to rise.

Templeton Jacks  waited.

“More coffee?”

“What?”

“Would you like some more coffee mister?”

Roland “Specs” Silver looked up from his half-eaten ham and eggs, raising his gaze into the increasingly puzzled face of the young waitress, 20, almost pretty if not for an
unfortunately prominent birthmark on her forehead, standing next to him for an
uncomfortable 37 seconds. She might as well have asked him for a dissertation
on string theory.

45 seconds now.

This would not end well if another ten seconds passed. She might leave and talk to her boss, the greasy sour-looking gentleman behind the counter with whom she may or may not be sleeping with for an extra hundred bucks a week. Roland could imagine them
talking quietly, trying pitifully to be discreet as they exchanged disapproving
glances in his direction. A phone might be picked up. A call made. Or worse. He
might say –

“Uh, sure.”

A tsunami of relief washed across the face of the waitress, 20, almost pretty if not for the unfortunately prominent birthmark on her forehead, as her customer broke the tension that wound the room so tight you could wring the air and come up with a fistful of
sweat.

“You alright?”

“Yes.”

A rivulet of sweat tickled Roland’s nose and hung suspended at its terminus. It dropped with a barely audible “plip,” staining the number 5 on the incongruous placemat before him that depicted tacky renderings of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The crisis over, Roland returned to his weather-beaten appointment book, a dog-eared faux-leather bound tome that served as no less than the cornerstone of his sanity. He flipped the pages until he reached the circled date of December 21st. It was going to
be a long winter, he thought to himself, smiling. Where most dreaded the season
of each year’s death, Roland relished the shorter days and long, frozen nights.
He felt most comfortable in the dark, huddled indoors with space heater warmth
and voluminous blankets wrapped close, their embrace silent and unquestioning.
His mind drifted back toward his boyhood, the golden evenings shared with his
grandmother, cocoa and chamomile tea. Her eyes danced sparkles deep within a
severely lined face that in the firelight’s glow was not unkind.

Posted in Fiction | Tagged | 3 Comments

Calm Down It’s Not That Serious

Hello blogosphere! It’s been awhile but I wanted to just put a quick link to my witty sister’s new page, carmenzitasays.com. It’s decidedly different in tone that this page, but I think its really worth your time (and frequent views!)

 

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The Man Who Refused to Die

There was never an individual who loved his own existence more than Jack Logos. Was he a narcissist to want to continue to be in the sense he had always known? He was not especially handsome, nor strong, or wealthy, nor even considered himself a great genius by any means. Jack simply loved existing as himself, nothing more, nothing less.

When people would create some new avatar for themselves, in stories or games for instance, Jack would spend hours fashioning his in his own image.

In any opportunity he could, Jack fiercely protected the concept of Jack Logos. It was the cornerstone of his entire mental existence. The only sure and constant thing in the world he could rely on and control.

He knew he was wrong to feel this way, because he knew all too well that Death was completely reliable. It would come for him like it does for everyone and everything that draws breath.  And whatever happened after that inevitable moment would be beyond his control or understanding.  Death was an inevitable outcome beyond his control, and the fate of Jack Logos afterwards was the greatest mystery of all.

And for this reason Jack Logos feared death more than any one thing in the entire world.

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