Going Political

Image of airport protests over the weekend from Reuters
Image of airport protests over the weekend from Reuters

Yep, going political on the blog today. So if you think that might bug you, move along…

An open letter to my pro-Trump friends (and yes, I do have several) who have said, “This isn’t a ban on all Muslims. It’s only a ban on the seven countries that pose the greatest threat.”

You are partially correct. It’s not a ban on all Muslims.

However, it also does not ban immigrants from those countries which history shows us pose the greatest threat to the United States with regard to domestic terror attacks. The nations included in the ban are as follows:

Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Iran.

Where is Saudia Arabia, home of most of the 9-11 hijackers? What about Pakistan, birthplace of at least one of the San Bernardino shooters? How about Kyrgyzstan & Russia. birthplace and previous home of the Boston Marathon bombers?

Nope. None of them are on the list.

So you are indeed correct, it is NOT a ban on all Muslims.

However, this ill-thought-out, sloppily executed order has banned many already thoroughly vetted refugees from coming into this country. Many of them are coming from places like Syria, countries we have frankly helped to destabilize with our many years of half-hearted war in that region, our short-sighted diplomatic policies there, and our apparent complete lack of understanding regarding the various sects of Islam in that part of the world and how they do (or more often, don’t) fit together. 

Basically, we helped break a number of these countries. Surely the least we can do is to help clean up the mess by allowing those desperate to escape to come here and live with us.

You may say, “Well, my president isn’t the one that created their mess.” But yes, he was. The previous president was your president, whether you like it or not. Just as, although the majority of voters in this country did not actually vote for Donald Trump, Mr. Trump is in fact their president now. Either every U.S. President is the president for all of us, the spokesman for all of us, the man we employ to implement our will; or he has no authority at all and this great experiment in democracy is at its end.

If, as I believe, each president is the president for all of us, then each president carries the burden of all his predecessors. That’s essentially the definition of the job: volunteering to come in and clean up the mess you think the previous guy made in the office.

Banning refugees who have already spent years having their credentials checked will not clean up that mess. Handcuffing Iraqi interpreters who worked with our soldiers won’t help clean up the mess. Separating a five-year-old child from his parents while checking his paperwork won’t clean up that mess. Sending a Cleveland Clinic doctor back to her homeland, where she had the nerve to go and visit family for a vacation – that will not clean up our mess in the Middle East. Detaining those who have Green Cards and other thorough documentation of their right to be here – that does nothing to clean up our mess in the Middle East.

In fact, nothing about this policy will clean up the mess made by the Obama, Bush or any other previous administration in the Middle East. It will merely add to the series of mistakes we’ve made in that region, mistakes which scream how little we understand the groups active there, the issues at play, and why the hell we are there in the first place. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world and gives a new recruiting tool to groups like ISIS.

Worst of all, this ban will do nothing to make any of us here in the United States safer.

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The White Man’s Burden Just Never Stops

white-mans-problems.w250Funniest quote about books this week  (or possibly ever) has to go to Michael Wolff of USA Today. . .

In a recent article, Wolff bemoans the fate of middle-aged white guy Kevin Morris who, despite being a successful entertainment lawyer, couldn’t get a book contract with a mainstream publisher. The article goes on at length to talk about what a hard thing it is to be a white guy in the entertainment industry these days (?!) and how little entertainment is geared toward such folk.

Because you know, Jack Reacher, Tom Clancy, Liam Neeson, Duck Dynasty, football  — apparently none of that counts. Although if those things are not for middle-aged men, I can’t imagine who they’re actually for.

And if you’re grousing about wanting a more literary level to your middle-aged white guy entertainment, what about Updike, Cheever, Jonathan Franzen, and almost any freaking short story published in The New Yorker? What about the hundreds of years of accumulated writing and work that has already been written by and aimed at middle-aged white guys? I guess Mr. Wolff has already read all of that.

Now I have no idea of the quality of Kevin Morris’ writing. I haven’t read his book yet. And I have to confess that as a non-middle-aged-white-man, it’s not at the top of my list. My quibble is not with the quality of his writing, the state of entertainment for middle-aged men, or his feeling of being marginalized.

In fact, I applaud Morris for doing what so many other successful writers of all ages and colors (myself included) are now doing — self-publishing his collection of stories, White Man’s Problems. My quibble is not with Morris at all, but rather with this truly priceless line, found near the end of Michael Wolff’s bafflingly outraged column about this book:

“Amazon’s legion of self-published authors is perhaps just more evidence of our infinitely fractured culture. Too many stories is just another sign of a broken world.”

That’s right, the same columnist complaining about the lack of representation for middle-aged white men in literature and praising the brilliance of Kevin Morris’ self-published book is the same columnist suggesting it’s a BAD THING that absolutely anyone can now self-publish a collection of short stories whenever they so desire.

Wait, what?

Telling more stories is bad? The fact that human beings have stories to tell and new ways to share them is a BAD THING?! A sign of a broken world?

If a burning desire to tell your story and the ability to share it with anyone is a sign of disaster and brokenness, I guess it’s clearly been one long downhill slide since the first caveman picked up his brush. And frankly, if more people wanting to tell stories is a sign of a broken world, then I’d be happy to live in one that’s crumbling to pieces.

Rant done. Thanks for the laugh, USA Today.

Breaking Up With My Boyfriend

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In the beginning, he was a bad boy — but strangely irresistible. The sort of man you felt almost compelled to obey.

 

 

Then he reformed. He became dashing and daring, trim and handsome beyond belief. He rescued damsels in distress, followed his own quirky code of honor and wore some amazingly tight pants. fillionfirefly1

 

 

 

And sometimes no pants at all!

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Then he hit the big time, and for a while, it was grand. The book signings, the card games, the feisty, sexy sidekick who spoke Russian and knew how to handle a gun. I didn’t even mind that she was a girl, or that she wasn’t a very good actress.

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She was almost as cool as he was, and they seemed to be having such fun together. And she could kick some butt. It was a fun ride.

But now, six years on, the thrill is gone. The worst thing possible has happened to Nathan and to Castle — success. An excess of success, in fact. The old reruns are on constantly, and the network just keeps on renewing this ratings powerhouse. The writers keep producing scripts and the actors keep acting, but I have a feeling the incredible greed of everyone involved is the only real reason Castle continues to occupy airwaves. Does anyone really still care at all whether these two crazy kids finally tie the knot?

Around Season Four, I stopped caring. And frankly, it looked to me like Stana Katic and Nathan Fillion didn’t much care anymore either. But I kept watching, because they were like old friends. Boring old friends, but friends nonetheless. After all, they still sometimes made me laugh and Nathan was still Nathan.

This season, they really had me going for a few episodes. This was going to be the BIG SEASON. Finally, those two crazy kids really WOULD tie the knot! The entire season was built around it. And the finale was almost note-perfect. A return to the quirky humor and wacky shenanigans of early seasons. And a surprise visit from every sci-fi geek girl’s favorite lovable goof, Eddie McClintock. After discovering she’d drunk-married Eddie some fifteen years earlier and going on a quest to dissolve the marriage, Beckett at last stood in a palatial vacation home in the Hamptons, donning her mom’s wedding dress for the big day. The setting was perfect and the outdoor wedding in the garden could have been a lovely finish to the episode, the season, and even the series.

— SPOILER ALERT —

But no. The Powers That Be decided to repay six years of fan loyalty and an entire season of romantic build-up with a flaming car wreck and a missing Rick Castle. Because apparently, there is no fate more boring and wretched than finding your soulmate, recognizing that person as such, and — well, you know — settling down. Ewwwww! Better to make everyone think the hero is dead in a flaming car wreck than to do something as icky as have him get married.

I would like to think that Nathan did his part. I would like to think that he at least questioned it a bit, that he glared at the writers when they gave him the last page of the Season Finale script. Maybe he arched his eyebrow in that manly way and lowered his head (so that he could get down to their eye level). Maybe he even said: “Seriously? Are we seriously doing this?” And then probably he talked to his agent and cooler heads prevailed. And good for Nathan, because once this show ends, he’s probably going to be set for life financially. So I don’t blame him at all.

But I just can’t stay with him anymore. I’m breaking up with my boyfriend. Next season, I won’t be tuning in to find out what really happened to Rick Castle. Because as far as I’m concerned, he made it to the Hamptons on time and in one piece, married his sweetie and then Castle faded to black for good. THE END.

Cue spin-off series featuring Ryan and Esposito.

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Cheating on Captain Tightpants

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Yes, it’s true. I’ve been cheating on Captain Tightpants. If you read this blog, then by now you must know of my great love for Nathan “Captain Tightpants” Fillion. No, he doesn’t really do the tightpants look  in his current role as Richard Castle. The ugly truth is, I think he’s put on a few too many pounds these last couple of years. Also, there’s an age where the tightpants look just starts to seem a little desperate. I’m not pointing any fingers in accusation, mind you, since I too am now at the age and the weight which preclude looking sexy in tight pants. But surely you know I’m not so shallow as to be cheating on my man because of his age or his weight.

No, it’s more because he’s not there for me anymore. That’s usually what causes a relationship to end, isn’t it? I have to say that Castle has been looking tired for a couple of years now. For one thing, Castle himself has gone from charming bon vivant uber author to angsty, irritable househusband. Writing itself is rarely mentioned anymore and his regular poker games with real life novelists like James Patterson disappeared several seasons ago. This could work as a story turn too: maybe Castle could whinge about having severe writer’s block, meet with an angry agent or two, endure a sneering article in The New Yorker about what a has been he’s become. But no, we just never talk about it at all. He follows his woman around like a loyal puppy dog and seems to have no other goal in life. Frankly, it’s getting dull. And not just dull for me. Stana Katic and Nathan Fillion both look like they would rather be phoning this stuff in from their trailers. And who can blame them? Once you resort to the “Oh no! What will we do with this crying baby?!” plot device, it’s really time to turn out the lights and go home.

Nathan and Tom Lenk as the bumbling cops in "Much Ado."
Nathan and Tom Lenk as the bumbling cops in “Much Ado.”

I loved Nathan’s turn as a bumbling cop in Joss Whedon‘s brilliant Much Ado About Nothing, so don’t get me wrong. I firmly believe Captain Tightpants and his roguish wit are still hiding somewhere inside Nathan Fillion. But we probably won’t see that side of him again until he moves on to a new project. I’d like to tell you I’m cheating on Nathan with Dylan McDermott or James Spader, long time loves of mine who are starring in shows in the same time slot as Castle. But alas, both shows leave me cold. Instead, I’ve been DVR’ing someone else and watching him when I should be watching Nathan.

misonI’m sorry, Nathan, so sorry. But you just can’t compete with the surreal terror and wacky humor of Sleepy Hollow. This show is such a weird hot mess of wonderfulness, I cannot look away. The cast is brilliant — who knew Orlando Jones could play it serious? And as a police captain no less? Nicole Beharie  and Lyndie Greenwood bring so much barely repressed rage to their relationship as estranged sisters, it’s better than The Young and the Restless. And then there’s Tom Mison, a man so charismatic and sexy, he can actually carry a prime time TV show while speaking Middle English. Castle just can’t hold a candle to scenes like that.

Although I could totally envision a revitalized, post-Castle Nathan Fillion popping up in Sleepy Hollow. Perhaps as a mysterious priest whose real loyalties are somewhat ambiguous. Oh hey, we could call the character Caleb

Slow Writing – Or, When Did Writing Stop Being About Writing?

just-printed-1408010-mI couldn’t help but notice Terri Ponce’s blog today. Terri is burnt out and has decided to take an extended break from writing. I say good for her. As many of you know, I’ve been struggling with the latest “chick noir” novel. I definitely have a big problem with “been there, done that” thinking and this would be my third contemporary women’s fiction with romantic elements, so no wonder it’s seeming unexciting to me. But there’s more going on with the slow progress on The Monaco Mission.

Like Terri, I’m burnt out too. But not so much on writing. I thought I was burnt out on writing up until a couple of weeks ago, when I was reading an extended discussion on one of my online critique groups about pricing strategies for selling the most books at the iBookstore. That’s when I realized what’s really got me burnt out.

I’m not burnt out on writing, I’m burnt out on all the peripheral pressures – the well-meaning writing friends who post daily word counts and page counts on FB & Twitter; the constant discussion of sales figures; all the posts about pricing, advertising, and marketing strategies on various writing loops. I remember when most of the discussion on those loops was about plotting, dialogue, and comparisons of favorite writers and their styles. These days, it seems like hardly anyone in the writing world talks about actual writing anymore. Writing is just “content” to be generated as rapidly as possible, posted for quick consumption, and then instantly forgotten.

Add to that the new paradigm that says we have to churn out two or three or more books per year in order to get any significant income at all from all these $1.99 books we’re producing. Hence the increasing pressure to produce so many words or pages a day, and the suggestion that you’re a slacker if you don’t.  All this can really kill your enthusiasm for writing.

But I think it’s the brave new world of publishing that’s the real issue, not the actual writing. After about a year of feeling too burnt out to write, I’m just now learning to separate what I now call “Publishing Burn Out” from my feelings about actual writing. And what I’ve remembered is that before I was published, I wasn’t thinking at all about daily word or page counts – I was just thinking about a story I wanted to tell. Sometimes I didn’t write A WORD all day, sometimes I would spend the day cutting pictures out of a magazine to represent characters or story settings. But that was part of telling the story too. Unfortunately, creative exercises like that tend to go by the wayside if all you’re thinking about is speed. And along with them goes all the fun, too.

I applaud Terri’s decision to take an extended break and slow down. I think creative writing should be just that — creative. And if that means slowing down in order to actually think about what you’re writing, so be it.

Getting Real

You know, taking a part-time receptionist job in a real estate office seemed like it would be easy, but that’s because I was assuming that people still have manners and that our instantaneous, multi-tasking mad society hadn’t rendered them all into blithering idiots in the space of just twenty years (the last time I was a receptionist).

Why the hell would you – a real estate agent from another office – call this office and say, “I got a call from your office, but I don’t know who called me.”

Duh. Neither do I, sister. There are 75 agents in this office, three loan agents, a branch vice-president, three receptionists, two office administrators and a nocturnal computer geek who shows up for five minutes once a week, crashes all the computers, and then goes home to play World of Warcraft.

If you don’t friggin’ know who you’re doing business with in this office, I sure as hell don’t.

Why would you dial a number and then say, “I got a voicemail message from this number, but I don’t know what it was about because I didn’t bother to listen to it.”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes! That really happened!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was all, Whatty McWhat? Are you seriously calling ME to ask what the message is on YOUR voicemail? Because if you are, clearly you are not understanding how this voicemail thingy works, dude.

Or maybe you understand perfectly well how voicemail works but you are “too busy” to actually listen to yours? Clearly, you are angling to be the first up against the wall when the revolution comesBecause talk like that is going to get you there, and I will be happy to lead the firing squad.

And last but not least – Why would you call a real estate office while you are driving around in an unfamiliar area and say, “I saw a house with one of your signs on it and I’d like to make an appointment to see it. But I don’t know what street it’s on and I’m new around here so I’m not even entirely sure what town I’m in right now.”

Albert Einstein during a lecture in Vienna in 1921
Einstein in Vienna in 1921. He probably parked his car first. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Here’s a thought, Einstein. PARK THE DAMN CAR. Ask someone where you are. Get out and look at a street sign. Or if you are so high-tech that you can dial an unfamiliar number while driving, I bet you own a GPS. Click that button that says “My Location” or “Locate me.” GO ON, TRY IT!

Wow, isn’t that stupendous? Now you know where you are. Now you can say, “I’m interested in the house on Sputnik Street in Cowtown.”

Now I might be able to help you!

Although I suspect there is no help for you or any of the people I’ve talked to this week. I suspect we’re all just becoming plugged-in cogs in The Matrix, incapable of rational thought, deliberate decision-making skills, and simple common sense. Maybe we will all deserve exactly what we’re going to get when the Mayan Apocalypse comes in December.

But more about that next time.

Back in a minute…

Stephen Hawking being presented by his daughter Lucy Hawking at the lecture he gave for NASA’s 50th anniversary. He is probably thinking about how doing those guest shots on ST:NG and The Big Bang Theory helped pay off her student loans, so she had better give him a damn award. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was really doing good with the blogging every week thing, but then I got this thing called a JOB. You have to put on real clothing (which does not include t-shirts and yoga pants and flip-flops, apparently) and you have to show up at their office at specific times of day and then – this is the really freaky part – you stay there for HOURS and do what they tell you to do.

I vaguely remembered jobs. I had several before giving birth to the shrieking, colicky mess that eventually became our own  Dr. Sheldon Cooper. For most of Dr. Cooper’s young life, I’ve been self-employed, freelancing for area magazines and newspapers on a pretty regular basis. Until about three years ago. In that time, the range of freelance assignments on a local and regional basis has gradually dwindled down to almost nothing. One of my former editors walks dogs and teaches yoga now. Another manages the county senior centers. With the advent of outsourced sweat-shop style journalism via “content providers” like Journatic, freelance news writing is pretty much a dead end these days.

And writing Internet content, which I tried for a while, is a poor substitute for actual print journalism. The emphasis with Internet content is to make your story short and fast. That means churning out lots of not-very-carefully researched articles week after week. Which might be worth it if the pay was stupendous. But in fact, the pay for producing Internet content is more in the range of – wait, let me do some math here: zero times zero, carry the zero. Yes, the pay range for Internet content is more in the range of laughable.

My fiction writing has begun to produce a very modest but steady income, but if I kept trying to churn out laughably under-compensated Internet content, I’d have no time to work on the fiction. So I’ve pretty much given up freelancing of all kinds at this point.

Meanwhile, Dr. Cooper is rapidly approaching the College Event Horizon, at which point he will become a singularity. The gravitational waves produced at the College Event Horizon are known to be more powerful than those emitted by a Black Hole. Stephen Hawking himself has commented, “If I had known how expensive raising a kid was going to be, I’d have canned the Physics crap ages ago and got myself a nice reality show gig on TLC.” Okay, maybe that wasn’t Hawking. Probably it was Bruce Jenner. Or that scary-looking chick with the huge lips. But you get the point.

So the bottom line is – lots less time for blogging, more time wearing make-up and real clothing. No pantyhose required, though. Thank God. I think I’d turn to a life of crime to fund Dr. Cooper’s college education before I’d start wearing pantyhose again.

Once Dr. Cooper is back in school in the fall, I should be able to spend more time on all my writing – including this blog – since I won’t be balancing the JOB with my priority duties as Dr. Cooper’s chauffeur.

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