WATWB – Your Monthly Shot of News That Doesn’t Suck

The normal process for WATWB is to find a news story that shows off good people doing good things, talk about it a bit, and then hand you a link for more information. It’s a good way of doing things and supporting the little bit of good news that’s floating around out there, and it’s always nice to show that world isn’t populated entirely by complete dicks. Surprisingly, it’s not hard to come across something good during a normal week of perusing the news. Take, for instance, this picture of witches protesting racism.

Given the state of the world, you might think it’s a dicey proposition at best to find one positive news story a month, but it’s actually pretty easy. All too often we tend to perseverate on the negative stuff out there and ignore the good stuff, but all that does is harsh our collective mellows and give voice to the assholes of the world. Trust me, the assholes have enough of a voice as it is, don’t give them any help speaking louder.

For all the crazy, racist crap we’ve had this year, we’ve also seen counter-protests dwarf Nazi rallies, bad guys getting locked up, and all manner of folks helping out after the devastating Kerala floods. So, the world’s not all bad, it’s just a little tweaked right now and will eventually work itself out. We sometimes just need a little nudge in the right direction to remind us that it only looks like the world is going to Hell in a handbasket. With that in mind, I’ll remind you of two important things: 1). not everyone is a flaming asshole. Most people are actually pretty good if you give them a chance. And 2). There are still dogs in the world.

So, I’m not going to post a link to an uplifting story, you should be seeking those out on your own if you want to maintain your sanity. Instead, I’m going to show you what I get to come home to every night and remind you that there are plenty of dogs out there and they’re all pretty good critters to have around, even if one of mine is snoring on her chair right now.


So, share ’em up, folks. Drop some dog pics in the comments and brighten someone’s day. Also, I’d like to remind everyone, there are plenty of great dogs out there that needs homes, so check out your local animal shelter and find a furry friend who’ll always be happy see you. Doubly so if you have food.

If you’d like to connect your blog and help spread a little joy (or snark, like I do), it’s easy to sign up. Just ask and ye shall receive. Or go check it out here: here.

Our lovely and talented hosts this month are:
Simon Falk,
Andrea Michaels,
Shilpa Garg,
Sylvia Stein, and
Belinda Witzenhausen

~~~GUIDELINES~~~

1. Keep your post to below 500 words, as much as possible.

2. All we ask is you link to a human news story on your blog on the last Friday of each month, one that shows love, humanity and brotherhood.

3. Join us on the last Friday of each month in sharing news that warms the cockles of our heart. No story is too big or small, as long as it goes beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.

4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD Badge on your sidebar, and help us spread the word on social media. Tweets, Facebook shares, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. More Blogfest signups mean more friends, love and light for all of us.

5. We’ll read and comment on each others’ posts, get to know each other better, and hopefully, make or renew some friendships with everyone who signs on as participants in the coming months.

6. To signup, add your link in WE ARE THE WORLD Linky List below.

This is a Blog Hop!

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

And now, your moment of Zen.

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Real Men Don’t…

About fifteen years ago, I was working as a trainer teaching networking, system administration, programming, and database stuff to corporate IT folks and other folks who just wanted to try something new. One day, as I was walking out the door, I stopped to chat with the front desk attendant and some of of the other instructors. Somehow or another the concept of real men came up and the front desk attendant – a young woman with high standards – said something to the effect of “Well, there are no real men around here.”

I nodded, smiled, refused the urge to pat her on the head, and walked out the door.

For the most part, I’d largely forgotten that little interaction until a certain jackass had to drag male responsibilities back into the forefront of my head. It was just one of dozens of interactions every guy has throughout life that all boil down to the confusing and often contradictory rules of being a man. Now, I know women have similar issues to deal with and I’m not trying to demean anyone by saying guys have it harder. That’s not the point of this post. Now that I’ve gotten the legal boilerplate crap out of the way, we can continue and realize that women are better suited to discuss women’s issues than I’ll ever be.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been told by everyone that this is what men are supposed to do. It’s a baffling field, running the gamut from stop crying even though there’s a gash the size of Missouri in your knee to my dad’s sage-like wisdom when I got my first car. It was a ’65 VW Beetle, if you must know, a real classic bug with no headliner, torn up seats, and a back seat that would flake to dust if you looked at it wrong. His advice? “Don’t get anyone pregnant in the back seat.” Of course this is the same guy who once told me I should ask out some girl we saw at a McDonald’s in Tempe. When I explained to him that I lived in New Mexico and would only be in town for a couple of days, he gave me another piece of sage-like wisdom: “You’re thinking buy; you need to think rent.”

Sigh. Perhaps if I’d had my ’65 Beetle with me at the time.

So, so far in life I’ve been told crying is unmanly, not crying is unmanly, women are apparently helpless in the back seats of Volkswagens, and I apparently have certain responsibilities as a man to watch my language so I don’t corrupt the youth of tomorrow. Certain kinds of coffee aren’t masculine (espresso comes to mind), certain drinks aren’t for men (Manhattans), certain colors are off limits, I shouldn’t each quiche (good thing, too. I can’t stand the stuff), emotions are a sign of weakness, and maps are for pussies. And don’t even get me started on asking someone else for help. That’s totally a sign of not being a man. Don’t get in fights. Don’t be afraid to punch someone who needs it. Guns are good. Guns are bad. Real men love Jesus. Real men don’t need Jesus.

Blah, blah, blah.

If you do a search for what it means to be a real man – even on Google (who knows all and sees all) – you’ll find a bunch of rhetorical nonsense about treating women with respect, being honest, being truthful, being responsible, being born in August (no joke, I saw a shirt with that once), loving God, not buying girls, balancing his checkbook, and apparently not letting women do things for themselves.

You thought I was joking about that, didn’t you?
Doing the stuff you promised to do is a good thing? You don’t say!

I guess no GIS for real man would be complete without Rambo.
Sorry, I’m not growing a beard. Too damned itchy.

Okay, so I’ll admit, some of these are good ideas. Not flying off the handle at every little thing is a good way to approach life, but that’s not a “real man” thing, that’s a “I’m a grownup” thing. Most of the advice about being a real man that I’ve seen comes down to interactions with women and, again, while some of it’s good advice, that all drops back into the “I’m a grownup” category because that’s how grownups are supposed to behave.

With all this crap circling us it’s no wonder no one knows what to do anymore. So, rather than give my own list of things that define what real men are, I’d like to start a movement where we chuck all that crap out the window and start fresh with “don’t be an asshole”. That alone should suffice. It’s simple, easy to remember, and doesn’t take much effort to put into place. You’re hurt? Go for it and cry, just don’t punch the belt sander because that’s asshole territory. Yes. My dad once punched a running belt sander. He lost most of his knuckles. He was basically a good guy, but he also gave me a lot of experience about what not to do.

So far, my son hasn’t asked me what it means to be a man. This is a good thing since I don’t have any concrete answers for him. I’ll probably make something up about waking up in the morning, waiting for the morning wood to subside, taking a long leak, and then drinking a beer while rebuilding a carburetor on a ’66 Impala. And then, after he looks at me like I’ve grown a second head or explains to me why no one in their right mind would want a ’66 Impala, I’ll take him aside and tell him the honest truth: Do what you feel is right and don’t be an asshole.

Crap. I’ve already doubled the rules. Better stop now before I start making up more nonsense about what makes a real man. Got any comments, recommendations, or ideas? Drop ’em in the comments. I dig comments and I’ll try to not be an asshole.

Book Review – A Hell of a Christmas: Dear Satan by Padraic Keohane

Padraic Keohane has a wicked sense of humor and a clever wit. He always has, at least as long as I’ve known him and that’s been quite a while now.

I reviewed one of his books – a collection of short stories – back before I had this blog up and running. That book, Stories of Sagacity and Wit, was a fun read and I highly recommend it. Padraic’s latest work departs from the adult level short stories and splashes head-first into the kids’ books department. True to form, he approaches his story from a different perspective than most and has given us a children’s book that would actually be fun to read to a kid. In fact, were my son still of that age group, he’d probably think it was a hoot. Nowadays, unless it’s King, Matheson, or Horowitz, he just ain’t that into it.

Which is a pity, because A Hell of a Christmas: Dear Satan was a fun read. The general gist is Billy sends a Christmas wish list to Santa, but transposes some letters and hilarity ensues. Without digging too deep into the weeds, what you get is a story about the ultimate force for evil making the ultimate force for bike riding and giving it away because he’s really not that bad of a guy.

Aside from the obvious spelling lesson, there aren’t any treacly lessons about this, that, or the other thing snuck into the story, it’s just a fun little story about a kid who accidentally asks Satan for a bicycle. If you have young ones – and they have the right sense of humor – you’ll likely find this book is a blast to read to them.

“Billy is a good boy, but not a good speller. He wants a bike for Christmas, so naturally he writes to Satan. Will the devil and his crew get into the Christmas spirit? An illustrated storybook for the older kids and adults.”

Get your copy on Amazon

Assholes: Where to Find and How to Deal With

I think by now it’s a given that Twitter has a huge segment of people who fall into the “asshole” category. There are a lot of people who revel in being jerks; it brings them some measure of joy to tear people down to the point that they take their ball and go home. When you have people leaving the platform because they can’t deal with the bullshit, you’ve got a problem. And not just people like me – I could leave and no one would care – but names who make national news when they leave.

Whether or not Twitter will ever address this is up for debate, but my guess says they’ll continue to ignore it and hope it goes away on its own.

Don’t get wrong, not everyone on Twitter is a flaming sack of crap. There are plenty of talented, decent, entertaining folks out there just doing what they do. I’ve found most of the writer communities have been chock full of great people, so maybe it’s just who you follow and what you seek out that determines your joy-joy level.

So far, I’ve been lucky to avoid most of the nonsense. Save one person who tried to start a fight about whether or not a black dragon was Dungeons and Dragons copyright violation (the dragon was black, as in the color, not the Black Dragon from D&D), I’ve been free of bullshit. Even that chick was probably having issues that day and deleted her tweets within a couple of hours.

Then, earlier this week, I stumbled across an odd tweet to me: “Your tongue should be cut out”. Naturally, given the nature of the authors I tend to pal around with, I assumed it might have been someone goofing. The account in question, though, was just some random schmuck from Oklahoma. It turns out he was at least partially serious; some tweet I posted had horribly offended him and rather than doing the rational thing and just blocking me and moving on with his life, he thought offering up some mutilation was a better option.

The tweet in question was, I admit, pretty profanity-laden. But in a world where politicians can spin whatever lies they want without repercussions, I feel saying “fuck” a few times is pretty tame. It was a tweet for one of the writing games I regularly play, #SunWIP. The games give you a theme and let you to write something to that theme or use something from whatever writing project you happen to be working on. In this case, I made something up on the fly for a theme of “regret”.

Honest disclosure: I actually like saying, “Fuckin’ A, bro.”

Most people liked it or at least found it mildly amusing. Do a little deep thought and you’ll find it’s really nothing more than a reinterpretation of “actions speak louder than words”, just with more fucks in it. I have plenty of fucks to give and I’m not shy about sharing them.

So, aside from the cursing, it’s a pretty innocuous tweet. I didn’t call anyone out, I didn’t directly attack anyone or anything, and I didn’t try to spread a bunch of lies to distract from an ongoing investigation into foreign interference in a recent campaign and election. Which made it all the more surprising to have someone tell me my tongue should be cut out, especially since I typed this with my hands, not my tongue.

Now, let me back up a sec and explain something. Cutting out tongues is nothing new; it’s been used for centuries (or longer) as a punishment for everything from blasphemy to just talking about things you shouldn’t be talking about to flat-out punishment for back talk. It’s a brutal thing to do to someone, the kind of torture you really only expect from ISIS extremists who don’t have handy access to a cage and some gasoline. And, let’s be fair here, advocating it is some pretty sick shit.

Still, while my first instinct when I found out this dude was serious was to tell him if he came at me with a knife and a pair of tongs it would be the last thing he ever did, that would have escalated things. And, to be honest, some jackoff sitting in his trailer in Oklahoma isn’t much of a physical threat to me here in New Mexico. So, I tried something different.

Image and name blacked out because reasons.

Amazingly, he backed off. We’ll still never likely see eye-to-eye about language, but at least it didn’t devolve to childish name-calling or empty threats about fucking each other up.

The takeaway from this, at least for me, was that the old adage about it being easier to avoid a fight than to win one rang true. I doubt I changed his viewpoint about anything and he didn’t change mine, but at least the exchange didn’t come to blows over the Internet. Everyone walked away safe. No harm, no foul.

This kind of thing is bound to keep happening, it’s just something you should expect as more and more people learn your name and realize that something you did is the absolute worst thing that’s ever happened. Yes, that tweet is going to bring down Western Democracy and it’s way, way worse that 9/11. Expect that people have no sense of perspective and you’ll be ready for the worst of it.

I love Cyanide and Happiness.

But I did find it interesting that he was going on about the children and what it means to be a man. I really wish people would stop dragging that tired old “won’t someone please thing of the children” crap into every argument about stuff they don’t like. Just say you don’t like it. If something offends you, it’s you that’s offended, not the children. Children dig cursing. Trust me, I was one.

As for what it means to be a man? Well, maybe this is just me, but if your first response to something you don’t like is to advocate mutilating the perpetrator, you might want to take a good, hard look in a mirror and evaluate yourself before you go off on someone else. Maybe the person you’re wicked pissed at is an asshole, but that doesn’t mean you need to be one, too.

That said…

To be fair, I’ve curtailed most of my yelling at other cars.

WATWB – Your Monthly Shot of News That Doesn’t Suck

Here’s a fun factoid for you: It can take up to 200 years for a plastic straw to degrade on its own. So, in other words, that five minutes of tasty beverage means we’ve got to find some place to stick that sucker (no pun intended) for a couple hundred years.

Plastics are the bane of the environment. They’re usually engineered to be used one time only and then tossed aside like a bad prom date. We chuck them in the trash and then it’s someone else’s problem and we can get back to the important business of watching T.V. and bitching about politics on Facebook.

Those things don’t go away, though. The plastic straw takes centuries to return to the Earth and the plastic the damned thing is wrapped in takes decades to go away.

I get it, convenience is a cool thing to have. A sterile, plastic-wrapped straw just feels safe in a world where diseases are getting sentient and everyone has conveniently forgotten how to wash their hands. But there are better ways of dealing with this problem that don’t suck so much.

No, I don’t use coke, so don’t ask. The joke is, this is a real thing: a double-barrel coke straw that used to be available on Amazon.

By now, I’m sure everyone has seen the turtle with the straw stuck up its nose. If you haven’t, you can see it here. It’s pretty unpleasant, so be forewarned. The problem, though, isn’t a single turtle with a single straw up its nose. For all we know, that turtle was a coke addict and things got out of hand. The problem is the sheer amount of crap we use once and toss out. Americans alone toss out 500 million plastic straws every day. That’s enough to fill 125 school buses with single-use straws every fucking day.

Think about that for a moment. And then multiple it by 365. And then realize that 182.5 billion straws are getting thrown out each year. That’s a lot of trash for something that doesn’t even need to be used. While I’m sure the plastic straw industrial complex will fight it tooth and nail, there are alternatives: paper straws, reusable steel and plastic straws, or not using a straw at all. Even coke-heads know enough to bring their own straw.

So, how is this news that doesn’t suck? Well, for starters, there’s no such thing as suck. Sucking changes pressure and in order to equalize pressure, nature pushes liquids (and cocaine) forward. Also, more and more companies are looking at plastic straws and saying, “Take a hike, dipshit”. Some of this is public pressure, some of it stems from sea turtles with stuffed up noses, and some it comes from trash found at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

The good news of the day? The Walt Disney Company is getting rid of plastic straws (and other things) by 2019. Starbucks is doing the same thing. Eventually, plastic straws will be a thing of the past. Don’t worry, I’m sure there will still be some for those of you that want a “real goddamned straw”, but the rest of us will have moved on.

Then, in only a couple hundred years, plastic straws will vanish for good. And that, my friends, is a good thing. Personally, I’m going to forgo straws entirely, but in the rare instances where I feel I need one, it’ll be a cubic zirconia-encrusted straw with “Pimp Daddy” written on it. That should make me look classy.

If you’d like to connect your blog and help spread a little joy (or snark, like I do), it’s easy to sign up. Just ask and ye shall receive. Or go check it out here: here.

Our lovely and talented hosts this month are:
Peter Nena,
Inderpreet Kaur Uppal,
Shilpa Garg
Roshan Radhakrishnan
Sylvia McGrath
Belinda Witzenhausen

~~~GUIDELINES~~~

1. Keep your post to below 500 words, as much as possible.

2. All we ask is you link to a human news story on your blog on the last Friday of each month, one that shows love, humanity and brotherhood.

3. Join us on the last Friday of each month in sharing news that warms the cockles of our heart. No story is too big or small, as long as it goes beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.

4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD Badge on your sidebar, and help us spread the word on social media. Tweets, Facebook shares, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. More Blogfest signups mean more friends, love and light for all of us.

5. We’ll read and comment on each others’ posts, get to know each other better, and hopefully, make or renew some friendships with everyone who signs on as participants in the coming months.

6. To signup, add your link in WE ARE THE WORLD Linky List below.

This is a Blog Hop!

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

And now, your moment of Zen.

Don’t hassle the Hoff.

But What If It Was Real?

Stephen King once said that the impetus for The Mist came from a trip to grocery with his son and wondering what it would be like if there were prehistoric insects in it. From there, he no doubt wondered what they’d be like, how they got there, and what it would be like. King, being King, imagined a worst case scenario involving monsters, people losing their shit, and no end of mist covering the land.

It was kind of like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, only with more monsters and less hope. And, of course, it predated The Road by almost three decades.

This is how it is to be a writer. It’s all imagination. It’s like the games we used to play as kids, pretending all manner of adventures with talking rabbits, dogs with machine eyes, and Farmington’s vast wasteland behind my house that became any number of terrifying things. Are those flashing lights in the sky satellites, planes, or something more sinister? What if that noise you heard in the night wasn’t just the cat knocking things off the counter because she’s bored?

In other words, what if it was real?

Not real, but for a moment, before you saw the pole, you had a spark of belief, didn’t you?

We recently took a trip up to Edwards, CO – a small town close to Vail, but without the associated snobbery. The road took us up through Alamosa, CO, and onto a long, empty stretch of highway that cut through the Colorado plains like a knife. Just north of the Colorado Gators Reptile Park (yes, it’s real. You can go see live gators living in the natural, snowy habitat) lies the UFO Watchtower.

The UFO Watchtower is an out-of-the-way place dedicated to, among other things, documenting UFO activity in the area. You can stop and visit for only $2 a person or $5 a carload. It’s not a big place and in the bright sun it’s not much to look at. But remember, this isn’t about what it is, it’s about what it could be.

There’s something eminently creepy about this.

At night, you’d be able to see for twenty or thirty miles in every direction in a place where light pollution simply doesn’t exist. In the pitch black, standing on the roof of the watchtower, you’re likely to see all manner of amazing things.

That’s neither here nor there, though. UFO watching is an American pastime and there are more spots dedicated to watching the skies than you can shake a stick at. What made the UFO watchtower interesting wasn’t what was happening in the skies, it was what was happening on the ground.

You see, according to the woman who was running the place that day, there are numerous energy vortexes in the area where you can talk to the spirits or even, I suspect, travel to other places. To a casual observer, it looks like people have dropped off rubbish, bits of things, and the odd bra, and it was all left in situ to create some monumental bit of performance art – a modernist ode to the disposable American spirit, if you will.

It looks like a field of trash, but look a little closer.

That, however, is not the case. The ground is dedicated to small plats where people have left offerings to the spirits, hoping for a little goodwill or help with terrestrial problems. There’s a certain organized chaos to the place, like this wasn’t the ramblings of a diseased mind so much as one that had seen something beyond the pale.

Of course, that could all be marketing and a lot of available free time.

The point is, there’s mystery there. It’s something odd and unique. It may or may not be real, but what if it was? What a story that would make! The UFO part can be interesting on its own if it’s handled well (the X-Files did a marvelous job with it), but the addition spirits and energy vortexes adds a whole new dimension.

All the detritus out there is something that was important to someone, something they felt was worthy of handing off as an offering in exchange for some help. It may look like trash from the distance of Internet and time, but in the heat of the moment, that might have been a powerful experience for someone.

Now take that feeling, and turn it into a story. Then take it a step further and ask yourself what if it was real. Or, at the very least, start wondering. If you want to write, you need to look at things not as they are, but as they could be. And don’t be afraid to be amazed at things.

Book Review – 13 Wicked Tales of Witches by Avrin Kelly

Proving yet again, that Twitter isn’t just a vast wasteland of racism and horsefuckery, I found this book – and its author – on Twitter in one of the many writerly communities that have popped up over time. Avrin Kelly is a horror author busily injecting her own style into a genre that can easily get stale and predictable.

At some point in the past, witchcraft was considered the most heinous of crimes. Religious leaders likened it to harlots cavorting with the devil and the mere idea that a woman could be a witch was enough to ensure her untimely demise. See Salem, MA for information on what can and has happened in the past.

Witchcraft has taken a nose-dive as an addition to the horror genre in recent years as more and more people have come to the realization that a bunch of women cavorting with nature isn’t necessarily a bad thing and – gasp! – some of that old-timey nonsense about being Satan’s brides might be total bullshit flung by folks who didn’t understand what was going on or didn’t like the idea that women might have some power.

Avrin Kelly has taken witches back to the bad side of the tracks and let them work their magic on an unsuspecting populace. While it would have been easy to write thirteen tales about women turning people into newts, she took it multiple directions with nary a newt to be found. In some of the best stories you don’t even see the witches, but you feel their eerie powers poking at you in the woods.

These are clever horror stories, running the gamut from creepy-but-kind-of-amusing to Lovecraft-would-dig-this-if-there-were-more-apostrophes-in-the-names. My personal favorite was the last story in the book, a nice slow-burn yarn that didn’t end where I expected it to, but there are plenty of good short stories about witches to be had in here.

Whether it’s around Halloween time, or one of the other 11 (boring) months out of the year; you are going to love these 13 stories from Avrin Kelly…

Dear Reader,
I present thirteen stories to horrify you, make you question existence, and even those around you. Thirteen tales of treachery, magic gone wrong and spells done right. Stories about people, just like you, who had a run-in with a Witch… or who are Witches themselves.
You won’t know who the villains are until the end. You won’t know who the monsters are until they strike, but isn’t that the best part about horror?
The unknown?
If you are feeling particularly brave, I encourage you to explore the uncanny world of Witches, with me as your guide. Snuggle down with this creepy read, and come with me into the depths of wickedness and strange magic. To a place where nothing is ever as it seems, where the danger could be lurking in the shadows behind you or right beside you, in the light.
Thirteen tales of terror; every one of them involving a Witch…

– A handyman recalls the horrifying details of a job he wishes he’d forgotten.
– An overly curious English teacher gets way more than she bargained for when she sets out to solve a mystery concerning her next door neighbor.
– A Witch out for revenge on an unfaithful lover, finds he may have beaten her to the punch.
– A veteran cat burglar underestimates a wealthy old woman in the dead of night.
– A young handyman tells what happened when he went to work with his father one Saturday afternoon.
– A Warlock in college is having issues with his unruly doppelgänger.
– And more… Read “Thirteen Wicked Tales Of Witches” and treat yourself to some twisty, turny (is that a word?) Halloween frights!!!
Signed Sincerely,
Your Guide

avrin

Get it on Amazon

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