Next Year I’ll…

This is the time of year when every gym in the country has a sign-up special. Be it 30 days for 90 bucks or whatever, gyms know now is the time that people decide they’re going to get in shape. Crunches, weights, running, cycling, burpees, you name it, it’s gonna get done and it’s gonna get done better than ever. They’re going to hit it hard, get swoll, get the body of their dreams and finally put Jason Momoa’s pecs to shame.

momoa

Ladies, you’re welcome.

Then, in about two weeks, if they haven’t pulled every muscle in their back or broken something important, the soreness kicks in and gyms across the country turn back into all the regulars quietly working out. Because the fact of the matter is getting back into shape is hard and staying there is even harder. It takes a certain mental toughness to go ride in 25F degree weather or drag your ass to the gym when the house is nice and warm and it’s way easier to make excuses than toss on some clothes and beat the snot out of the heavy bag for a while.

But those excuses won’t get you where you want to be.

badform

Earlier in the year, some of us were shooting the shit after Kenpo class and the subject of winning the lottery came up. That’s the ultimate in easy living: Someone hands you a check for eleventy million dollars and you’re on easy street for the rest of your life. You can roll up to work in a gold-plate Lambo, flip off your boss, and tear off into the sunset without a care in the world. Anyway, our instructor was listening and he said something to the effect of “If you want to do something, go do it.”

I told him I wanted to buy a senator and that took a lot of cash. Actually, apparently it doesn’t, but the sentiment stuck with me. The chances of winning the lottery – let alone buying a Senator – are infinitesimal. But the chances of trying to do so something and succeeding at it are much higher. And that, more than anything, is why I’m not doing New Year’s Resolutions anymore.

The problem with New Year’s Resolutions is they’re an effective way of putting things off. I’m going to get in shape…next year. I’m going to write a book…next year. I’m going to become rich and famous…next year. I’m going to take over the world and enslave the planet…next year.

Why wait? It’s not going to be any easier next year than it is right now. The weights will still be as heavy, the road will still be as long as cold, your ass ain’t gonna look any better in cycling tights, and that blank page is still going to be staring at you with its cold, dead eyes. But the sooner you start it and the more you do it, the less the weights will feel, the more the road will become your friend, and the more words you’re gonna see on that page. If you’re anything like me, your ass ain’t gonna look good in cycling tights, but so what? You can still enjoy the process.

If you want to do something, go do it. Don’t wait, don’t put it off, don’t wait for the perfect time, just go do it. You don’t need to wait until January 1 to make things happen. And if throughout the year you find yourself slipping, don’t fret it. Take some downtime and get back into like a boss. If it’s important enough, keep making it happen.

treadmill

There will never be a perfect time to write. There will never be a perfect time to get into shape. There will never be a perfect time for anything. There’s only regular time, so take advantage of it because all this stuff takes time to do. And, if you just got your gym membership or started your book, please, keep going. It’s easy to get burned out and decide to quit, but the rewards for continuing are worth it. Trust me, you can do it. And you won’t even have to wait for next year to start it.

portate

Feel like motivating someone? Comment it. I love comments.

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Merry Christmas

Not much to say, just no matter how you celebrate the holidays, have a great holiday season. Enjoy a selection of bizarre Christmas-y images and then go spend some time doing something you love.

How Twitter Became a Haven For Writers

Everyone knows Twitter, that bastion of toxic bullshit that’s driven people off its platform in droves. We’ve all heard the stories about gangs of roving assholes that attack anything they don’t like and relentlessly gnaw at it like a burlap hood filled with hungry rats. Or how it gave a voice to extremists and white nationalists and idiots of all stripes.

While all of those stories are true to some extent or another, there is another side to the platform that Dorsey and crew would be wise to publicize: It’s become a haven for writers to share snippets of their work and interact in a world that’s not actively spying on them like, say, Facebook. Or, at least if it is, it’s not as overt as the clowns running Facebook.

When the Internet first started gaining ground, there were all sorts of wild rumors floating around about how terrible it was going to be for everyone from children to moral adults and everyone in between. There was porn! There was violence! It was a haven for all kinds of bad behavior and you couldn’t turn it on with getting hit in the face with titties! What people failed to realize was while all those things were there – except for getting hit in the face with titties, that’s hard to do over a monitor – they were things you had to seek out. You didn’t just turn on the Internet (whatever that meant) and see naked chicks doing thing that would make the Marquis DeSade blush.

In the early days, the Internet was a lot of Geocities pages about The Simpsons and pilfered Star Wars scripts. It was cheap ani-gifs, dial-up 14.4kbs access, cybersquatting, and chat rooms. Yes, there was porn and stupid shit, but it didn’t bring down the Republic and turn us all into Satanists. If you didn’t look for it – and searching was a dicey affair back in the late 90s – you wouldn’t find it. It wasn’t like you just opened Netscape Navigator and bam! titties in your face.

Twitter’s a lot like that. What you see is largely dependent on who you follow. Somewhere along the line, artists, writers, and other miscreants started flocking to the platform and creating little communities. This is the kind of thing that needs to be shouted about. Fuck the Nazis, screw the incels, take all those worthless hatemongers and toss ’em in the trash heap of history where they belong; this is our time now.

Sure, there’s a bunch of crap out there, but there’s also an amazingly supportive community of writers and artists and an opportunity to branch out and see what other people are up to. There are daily writing games that let you explore and expand your own skills. There are people you can bounce ideas off of and get honest responses.

If you want to start out, start with Steven Viner. He’s the guy that’s pushing the #writerscommunity. Meet people, follow people, retweet people. Explore and expand. It’s that simple.

From there, start checking out the daily games like #musemon, #martialmonday, #btr2sday, #tuestell, #1linewed, #talesnoir, #thurds, #thurspeak, #fictfri, #satsplat, #slapdashsat, #saidsun, #sunwip, #seducemesunday, and the ever popular #vss365. Don’t expect immediate fame and glory, that’s not what this is about, but it is a great opportunity to meet some cool people from the comfort of your couch.

And now, since I’ve been talking about titties in your face, I’d be remiss if I didn’t put up a pic of a nice pair of tits.

tits

By the way, you can follow me on Twitter here.

Got any other good places or people to follow? Drop ’em in the comments.

No One Writes Plays About People Brushing Their Teeth

My play writing teacher back in college used to regularly tell us, “No one writes plays about people brushing their teeth.” At the time, my first thought was, “Oh, yeah? Just wait.” Of course, she was right and no one gives a rat’s ass about people brushing their teeth. People turning into rhinoceroses or people standing around waiting for some mysterious thing or person to show up are still perfectly acceptable, even if they are so mired in dense allegory that most folks never get past the rhinos or just who the fuck Godot was.

Hint: Godot was all the stupid shit we spend our time waiting for. At least according to Samuel Beckett, but what does he know?

But here’s a funny thing: Everyone brushes their teeth. And, just like there’s no one right way to eat a peanut butter cup, everyone does it a little differently. For some people, it’s a ritual: Present the toothbrush, bow, and move to each tooth with military precision. Others, slap some toothpaste on the brush and go to town while humming Bliss N Eso songs and drooling toothpaste on themselves. I’ll leave it up to you to determine which one I am.

How we approach things tells people a lot about us. Are we the kind of people who want a neat, tidy meal where the burger wrapper is folded exactly so and there’s a distinct place on the wrapper for the burger, the fries, and the ketchup and they DO NOT TOUCH? Or are we the kind of people who can eat the whole meal straight out of the bag and toss it in the back seat for the next owner of our car to deal with?

Little things that seem trivial when we’re doing them can cast long shadows on our psyches. They’re the kinds of things that add richness and detail to characters, too. Little quirks like collecting Pop Swatches or having an affinity for Teen Beat magazine might not be important to the character’s arc, but they can help explain why a character is doing something without, you know, explicitly explaining it.

Think about this way. How interesting is reading about a character when the author comes straight out and says, “She was anal-retentive”? Boring. What about describing how she opened her burger, pushed it gently to the side of the wrapper, poured the fries neatly on the other side, and put the ketchup perfectly in the middle. Or a character that eats burritos with a knife and fork? Or describing a room so organized that the books on the bookshelf were all exactly the same height and organized in perfect alphabetical order? Those little keys add up to saying someone’s a neat freak without resorting to actually saying it.

While it’s doubtful anyone will write a play about someone brushing their teeth, it’s entirely likely that describing the way someone brushes their teeth can create a more complete picture of the character.

When You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going

My first book was easy. That may or may not be the case for everyone and doubtless Henchmen could use some rework. Maybe at some point in the future I’ll go through the whole series and do some big ol’ honkin’ revisions. The bones of the books are good and some of the flesh is even tantalizing, but there are things that need work.

That said, I’ve learned a lot over the past five years or so; enough to make me realize I wasn’t the mad genius I thought I was. Five years from now, I’ll probably be saying the exact same thing along with words like “dumbass” “egotistical brat” and “no-talent ass-clown”. Such is the nature of the growth and change.

The more you work on something, the better you’re gonna get at it, especially if you pay attention to the feedback you’re getting. Yes, even the stuff that says you suck and should go back to giving handjobs for meth or the ones that say you should have your tongue cut out because you curse too much. Okay, I haven’t had anyone tell me the first one (yet), but the second definitely happened.

I tend to take valid criticism to heart. If there’s something actionable (get an editor) and enough people say it, it’s worth listening to. If there’s just that lone nut griping about something, it’s probably okay to pass it by. After all, you can’t please everyone.

Anyway, I stumbled across this image that I thought summed up the artistic pursuits nicely.

I-wish-I-was-born-with-Talent

All too often we assume we can’t do something just because someone else is already doing it better. When I first started Kenpo, the white belts stood in the back of the class and our instructor told us – first day – the only thing that separated us from him was time and practice. That’s the kind of thing that sticks with you and it’s the kind of life lesson that only sinks in after a while. What do you mean I’ve got to wait? I want it now.

Sorry. Can’t have it now.

Neil Gaiman has also said the first million words or so that come out of a writer are shit, but they’ve got to come out so you can to the good ones. It’s like a pipe stuffed full of bad ideas, anxious alliteration, and trite jokes. Push all that crap out and get to the good stuff. Hell, there’ll probably be some real gems floating around in the first million words or so, too, so polish them up and save them.

Now, I’m not saying your book sucks. I’m saying it’s not as good as it could have been if it was your fifth instead of your first. But guess what? You have to write the first through the fourth to get to the fifth.

Like anything else, writing takes time to come to grips with, time to find your voice, and time to get good at it. It can be a hellish journey, but that the end you’ll be able to experience the absolute terror of trying to explain to someone what your book is about without sounding like a babbling lunatic.

If you’re writing – keep writing.

If you’re feeling down about your writing – keep writing.

If your sales suck – keep writing.

Do it until your soul bleeds and you never want to see another word again. Then write some more.

But above all – keep writing.

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

About sixteen years ago, I was watering my plants when one of those poor college saps who got suckered into going door-to-door to get signatures on environmental issues wandered into my yard looking both lost and bright-eyed at the same time. I like to think he’s get his bright-eyed enthusiasm, but the going door-to-door collecting signatures has a way of beating enthusiasm down with a stick. Anyway, he was collecting signatures to get a bill passed that would help end the state’s reliance on fossil fuels. I told him I thought that was a wonderful idea and asked what the proposed solution was. Nuclear? Too dangerous. Wind? Too dangerous for birds. The answer, according to him, was solar.

Now, bear in mind, this was in the early 2000s when solar tech was nowhere near where it is now and nowhere near ready to take over even New Mexico’s energy needs. He dug in his heels and said it was solar or nothing.

In a way, he was onto something. But, just like the guy putting raw ground beef on a burger bun, he was way too early. The technology was nowhere near mature enough. The ability to kind of power a house didn’t translate to powering a state even in a part of the country where we have something like 300+ sunny days a year. That was bad enough, but he was adamant that the only thing that would work was a complete switch over to solar. No incremental fixes for this guy, he was just going to throw a shit-ton of cash at the problem and flip a switch when it was all said and done and everything would be perfect.

Much as I love the idea of solar power, I couldn’t get behind an all-or-nothing solution, so I bid him good day and didn’t sign his petition; it seemed like it had disaster written all over it.

Back in World War II (and trust me, this will make sense in a few minutes), Japan suffered such heavy bombing that its infrastructure was basically destroyed. Electricity, gas, water, everything. Even phone lines were toasted. Being the Japanese, they rebuilt everything better than it was before and even eventually build the most advanced cellular network in the world. That was partially because they didn’t have to shoehorn it into an existing system; it could be anything they wanted it to be so they made it totally badass.

Or at least that’s the story I’ve heard. It may or may not be true, but last time I was in Japan, their cell system (and cell phones) were light years ahead of anything else I’d seen at the time. Theirs could launch space shuttles, my phone could very slowly play Tetris on a 2″ black and white screen.

The US power system (and its attendant reliance on fossil fuels) is very much a thing and any new things that get added have to be shoehorned into that thing or it’s all gonna fall apart or not even make it to the adoption phase. Fossil fuels are so entrenched in our culture that even the thought of doing something else leads to screams of “socialism!” and “dirty hippies!” Even though getting rid of fossil fuel reliance would be an amazing thing, it’s going to have to be an incremental process that will likely involve bribing no end of Congress critters. It’ll happen eventually – there’s too much public outcry over pollution for it not to – but it ain’t gonna happen all at once.

Interestingly, in emerging nations, that’s a non-issue. They don’t have to worry about shoehorning new tech into old or paying off the old guard to let them do it because there’s just not that much infrastructure there to replace. As a result emerging nations are the ones driving innovation in renewable energy technologies like solar while the developed parts of the world are stuck using decades or centuries old technology. Just like the Japanese after World War II, they’ve got a mostly clean slate to work with.

That means that things like wind a solar energy are much more viable systems and their utilization is driving down the cost of the technologies and improving them at the same time. Meanwhile, here in the U.S., we’re still debating about clean coal and whether or not climate change is a thing.

So, hats off to innovation. It would seem that necessity really is the mother of invention. Read the original article here.

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And now, your moment of Zen.

lukegonnahavecompany

Why This Buzzfeed Self-Defense Video Doesn’t Suck

There’s an old joke in the martial arts world: How many martial artists does it take to change a light bulb? 100. One to change it and 99 to tell you how your way of changing bulbs won’t work.

If you’ve ever spent any amount of time around martial artists, you’ll know we’re fantastically egotistical, very dogmatic, and prone to pointing out all the flaws in every system but our own. Frankly, this is antithetical to the idea of martial arts. We’re supposed to be able to look past all the nonsense and collect anything that we can use, put a little thought into it, and say “Okay, this has some promise.” And then use it.

There was a video from Buzzfeed floating around Facebook last week that I stumbled across in one of the many martial arts groups. Predictably, the comments were full of “there’s no way this would work” and “you’ll get yourself killed if you try this” with a handful of positive comments. In my opinion, there were some decent tips in it, with a few caveats.

The video, in case you’re interested is here:

It’s only a couple of minutes long and worth a watch. Just as a side note, this is Buzzfeed’s property and if they ask, I’ll happily take it down.

Now, granted, there are some shady videos out there. Marie Claire had a pretty bad one that focused on fancy techniques to escape things like wrist grabs and chokes and relied a lot on fancy movements and specious theories with a few bits of good advice at the end. A pair of MMA fighters took that one apart and showed why it wouldn’t work. Here’s a hint: it wouldn’t work because it relied too much on being fancy and having a cooperative opponent. In a stress situation, fancy is the last thing you want and you can safely assume someone trying to rough you up isn’t going to cooperate. Rather than try an obscure Chin Na technique against someone grabbing your wrist, how about just kicking him hard in the balls and boogying the heck out of there?

As a martial artist myself (nearly 20 years of Kenpo), that’s what I found interesting about Buzzfeed’s video: There was nothing fancy about it. It’s just simple, relatively easy to pull off things. Someone grabs your wrists from behind? Look at who’s grabbing you, kick backwards as hard as you can then turn around (something you’d want to do anyway) and hit them. Easy peasy. Someone’s too close, maybe a bear hug or just getting a little too aggressive? Thumbs in the eyes work wonders for getting people to back off.

The only thing I didn’t think was a good idea was punching someone straight in the jaw. Someone else might be able to shed more light on this, but it seems like a hook to the side of the jaw or a straight shot to the nose would work better. Jaws can be pretty pointy and tough and the last thing you want to do in a fight is hurt your hand trying to hurt someone else.

Sure, the video might not be the way your system teaches Purple Dragon Spreads Its Wings or Monkey Steals the Peach, but that doesn’t mean it’s not functional. And functional is all we need to care about in a simple self-defense video. The question shouldn’t be “Why didn’t they go for a wrist grab to ground and pound?”, but rather “Will a rear kick to the midsection followed by forearm to the side of the neck be enough to create enough space to get the fuck out of the situation?”

That’s it. This is about survival and creating the means to escape, not auditioning for the next Kung Fu biopic. Truthfully, all self defense situations should be seen through the lens of keep it simple and keep yourself safe.

Again, there’s a lot more that could be covered. For instance, once you’ve got your thumbs in someone’s eyes and their head is tilted back at a huge angle, keep pushing. At the very least, they’re gonna stumble if not flat-out fall, but that’s something that’s beyond the scope of a video designed to give you a few pointers to keep your ass out of too much trouble.

Toward the beginning of this point, I noted one thing that I’d like to reiterate. Even though all this stuff is pretty straight forward, watching a video and doing stuff in the air is one thing. Doing it against a person is something else entirely. The air, and even a heavy bag, will just hang out and let you pummel it. People have arms and legs and they go in all kinds of weird directions and we even have pointy parts (like chins) that hurt to hit. Even some heavy bags hurt to hit – my instructor has a bag that feels like punching rocks – and a broken hand is not a surprise you want in a fight. Find a friend and very carefully work through things. Do that a lot. Do it until it you’re sick of it and then do it some more. That tactile awareness is very important. Then find a heavy bag and pound the snot out of it. Don’t just rely on two minutes of video-based self-defense techniques to make you feel safe.

Besides, fighting is great exercise and beating holy hell out of a heavy bag feels pretty damned good.

As always, I’m interested in your comments. Tell me what you think, share an anecdote, or tell a quick joke.