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.
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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 – Close Your Eyes by Paul Jessup

One of Orwell’s key ideas in 1984 was the notion that language shaped thought. It wasn’t an altogether outlandish idea, even if he used it in sinister and double plus ungood ways. We need words for our brains to conceptualize things and explain them to other people. Without arguing the efficacy of communication or whether the intended meaning is delivered along with the rest of the message, it’s easy to understand how the languages we use can shape the way we think. Even Abbot’s Flatland touched on this idea when one of his characters was trying to describe the concept of “up” to a group of two-dimensional beings.

As I recall, Abbot’s character got locked up for the heresy of discussing extra dimensions beyond the required two.

Language is at the heart of Paul Jessup’s Close Your Eyes – a collection of two novellas and one short story stitched together into a novel. Each bit has its own flow, but they all work together to tell one meta story.

Jessup uses language as both the crux of the story where language is a virus and he uses language like a surgeon wields a scalpel as he weaves together the tale of a ship adrift in an ocean of stars. In the course of their adventures they stumble across a particularly virulent strain of language that rends sanity in twain. It would seem that even in a world of automatons made of wax and hyper-intelligent ship’s computers, the bug that strikes people down was something no one expected: Language.

It’s a unique way of dealing with diseases. The language in question is almost like a computer virus that infects, propagates, and ultimately consumes its victim’s minds. The novel alludes to the fact that the language has already decimated entire planets.

Jessup has his own style of writing that is unique in all the books I’ve read. At times it’s punchy, direct, and almost Spartan in its usage, at other times it flows with the symmetry of poetry. As if his concept of linguistic viruses wasn’t enough, he uses language to great effect to heighten the more surreal aspects of his world.

Think of Close Your Eyes as sci-fi with a purpose. It would be easy to say the ship’s AI is reminiscent of HAL from 2001 or the linguistic virus as similar to Stephenson’s Snow Crash, but Close Your Eyes goes in different directions. Even if the idea that there is nothing new under the sun is true, that doesn’t mean existing things can’t be rearranged into new and exciting things.

All in all, a good read.

“Language is a virus. Open this book. Read the words. Feel them infect you. Identity is a disease. Flip the pages. Stay up all night. Watch it transform you. You cannot deny it. You cannot close your eyes and shut out the changes. You know you want to. You really want to. But it’s too late. You can’t.

Critically acclaimed author of weird fiction Paul Jessup sends puppets to speak and fight for their masters. Welcome to a far future universe that stretches the imagination to breaking, where a ragtag crew of post-human scavengers rage and love on a small ship in the outer reaches of space, and moon-sized asylums trap the unwary in a labyrinth of experimentation in both identity and sanity.

Welcome to Close Your Eyes, a mind expanding surrealistic space opera that not only includes the out-of-print classic Open Your Eyes, but takes it to whole new level in a much awaited sequel.

Go ahead. Pick it up. Read it. Let it infect you.”

Get your copy on Amazon

Check out Paul’ Blog

 

An Interesting Note About Twitter Writing Tags

When I was learning to program, I didn’t really get coding until I had to do it for a living. It’s all fine and good to understand how variables work or what LINQ does or how to stuff data into a database and get it back out later, but until I was given a task – write a program that will do this thing – I didn’t fully get coding. It was the act of being given a set of requirements and having to figure out how to convince a program to make those requirements work that taught me more than any class ever could.

The same thing happens with martial arts, or digging ditches, or writing blog posts. The theory is one thing, the actuality is something completely different. You can’t learn to dig ditches from a book, you learn to dig ditches by digging ditches. And if you want to get better at digging ditches, dig a lot of ditches.

martialshovels
Ditch digging martial arts. Yes, those are shovels. Trenching shovels have been used as weapons almost as long as they’ve been used as shovels.

It’s a common theme among writers that if you want to get better at writing, write a lot. Practice, after all, makes perfect. As long as the practice isn’t just further encoding bad habits like ending every sentence with “motherfucker”. Unless you’re Samuel L. Jackson, you don’t get to end sentences with “motherfucker” motherfucker.

Writing is supposed to be this free-form exercise of expression – and it is that to a certain extent – but it’s still nice to make some money doing it. To do that, you have to write things that people want to read. There are writers out there that refuse to sacrifice their artistic integrity to make a buck. It’s all fine and good to put on your black turtleneck, grab your ultra lightweight Mac laptop, and sit in a coffee shop all day writing wry observations about things, but if no one will read what you’ve written you’re just wasting time and turtlenecks.

That means writers need to be flexible enough to write things that people want to read, but clever enough to do it their own way. Because unless you’re Sean Penn, your book had better not suck if you want someone to read it. And sometimes that means you need to write something that doesn’t consist of wry observations or an awful lot of anxious alliteration, or , in my case, witty banter and explosions.

This is where breaking out comfort zones is a good thing and one great way to do that is to just do it. Just like with me and programming, sometimes you have to be given a task – write something – and not be able to write what you want about what you feel like writing about. There are writer’s groups out there that emphasize exactly this kind of task. Or you can go a different route and try playing some of the Twitter writing hashtag games. The writer’s group will give you better feedback, but you can play the Twitter games stone drunk in your underwear if you want.

The way all these games work – and you can usually just check Free Writing Events for up-to-date info – is there are daily hashtags that let you write something up and tag it for other people playing the game. Then everyone goes through and checks out the Tweets. Sometimes the themes are tricky to pull off creatively, sometimes they’re just fun. For instance, this morning’s #Thurstale theme was just “Favorite Line”, so Tweet out whatever your favorite line is. This is one of mine from 06/07/18.

#ThruLineThurs, on the other hand, had a distinct theme: Red Herring. There are a lot of ways that could be interpreted, so I decided to have a little fun with it:

Most of the games will have a theme that the Tweet should adhere to. Ideally, you’re supposed to pull a line or two from whatever book you’re working on, but that’s not strictly a requirement. #SlapDashSat is one of the few that’s completely theme-free.

As an added bonus, Twitter writing games are an excellent opportunity to gauge how well a particular line will be received. I’ve had a few lines that I thought were brilliant, but they just laid there like a bored hooker when they hit Twitter. On the other hand, a few throwaway lines like the one about Jennine above, did pretty well and this morose bit of dark humor did great (by my standards, anyway):

The point is, there are very good reasons to play these games. You might not win anything, but the chance to stretch your writing legs and test a few things out is priceless. Do yourself a favor and try ’em out. Let me know and I’ll even retweet you.

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

The normal way this monthly shot of good news is supposed to work is I say some witty things and point at a story I found in the news that’s uplifting and then everyone goes away happy.

I’m going to shake things up a bit this month because reasons.

I don’t have  feelgood story to share this month. That’s not necessarily because there’s nothing good going on in the world, I’m sure plenty of people had great days, many kisses were exchanged, and at least one person decided to not scream at that jackass in the Prius who was going way too damned slow and get in the slow lane that’s what it’s there for jerk. Instead, he took a deep breath, turned up the music, and sang along with the Hilltop Hoods.

I’d like to point something out. There’s this prevailing philosophy among Americans that things were better in “the good old days”, back when everything was shiny and new and things were just better, gosh darn it. It’s utter hogwash, if you ask me. The “good old days” were really only good for a certain pale-ish, male-ish segment of the population; everyone else got the shaft. Those days were marked by a lot of social upheaval and violence. Go back even further and you’ll find pestilence, war, famine, crime, disease, you name it.

The point is, it’s easy to look around and say everything sucks. There certainly is a large amount of suck still lurking in the alleys and under the beds of the world, but there’s less suck now than there was. So, why do people pine for the “good old days” when things really aren’t that bad right now?

When I worked at Kinko’s (yes, I did once answer the phone with, “Thank you for calling Kinko’s, your new way to evil), we had to go a week-long brainwashing training session in the basement of the main Albuquerque Kinko’s. I remember two things about that: 1) I hate basement corporate brainwashing events, and 2) people tend to focus on the negative things.

That’s why we like to think things suck ass nowadays, because we perseverate on the bad stuff and ignore the cool stuff going on all around us. We live in a magical time where you can access all the information in the world from your phone, or reach out and communicate instantaneously with people on the other side of the planet, or learn a new language in your pajamas.

So, to help focus on the good things, here’s a list of bad stuff that’s not as prevalent as it used to be. Sure, the world’s not a perfect place, but it gets better bit by bit as long as we let it.

Just to shake up WATWB a bit further, you’re gonna get some homework. Spend a little time thinking about some good stuff and leave it in a comment. Rather than finding the traditional feel-good news story, let’s create our own feel-good stories.

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 co-hosts for the month are the lovely and talented:
Peter Nena, Andrea Michaels, Inderpreet Kaur Uppal, Shilpa Garg and Damyanti Biswas

~~~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.

A Short Bit Of Horror

The best bits of horror are the ones that don’t come and go in a flash. It’s easy to look at most slasher films and yawn because the idea of a guy in hockey mask killing teenagers after they have sex is not only trite, it’s over too soon. Real terror is the stuff that sticks with you and running some kid through with a knife takes more or less about the same amount of time it just took the same kid to have sex with the hot cheerleader (or football player, whatever floats your goat) a few minutes of on-screen time ago.

At least they went out doing what they loved.

Dude, flossing actually feels good. Try it sometime.

Even something like “The Thing” – a classic horror movie if there ever was one – derives its best scares not from the weirdly shifting alien creature, but from the growing sense of unease and paranoia that permeates the movie like rancid popcorn butter on your fingertips and the roof of your mouth. You’ll likely get over the head sprouting spider legs, but the gnawing worry that everyone around you is a thing will hang out with you in your house for a few days, drinking cheap beer on your couch.

Sure, you could say there’s a creeping horror that some knife-wielding maniac is going to kill you after you have sex, but if you’re really worried about that after nookie time, you’re doing it wrong. Besides, after you’ve dealt with a few knife-wielding maniacs you realize they’re just regular Joes looking for a swift kick in the balls.

Bring it, sucker.

Now, I get it, horror is different for everyone. Some people get squeamish about blood, others don’t like needles, still others – like me – have a thing about teeth. For my money, any horror movie involving root canals is gonna haunt my dreams for weeks. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be a horror movie. That scene in “Marathon Man” where the Nazis are giving Dustin Hoffman an impromptu root canal without anesthesia still freaks me the heck out.

But the best horror stories are the ones that actually happened. They don’t have to involve witches or devils or Nazis with dentistry fetishes. The most terrifying thing I ever heard of happened on a soccer field in bright daylight.

This is a story that a buddy of mine in Kenpo told me. Apparently one of the guys he knew was a field doc for a soccer team and was working when one of the players got the ever-loving snot smashed out him. He got hit so hard it dislocated his hip joint – just popped that sucker right out of the socket. That’s scary, sure, but it’s apparently not an uncommon injury in soccer. When you get your hip popped out, you writhe around on the ground until someone pushes your leg back into socket and you move on. I gather it hurts, but it’s not the worst thing in the world. Not as bad as, say, having Nazis fuck with your teeth, but still not fun.

Yeah, do yourself a favor and don’t look up this scene on YouTube. It’s at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-OviftusB8

So, this player gets his thigh bone pushed out of socket and the medics rush over, check things out, and do what they need to do to get it back where it belongs. A few tweaks, a mighty shove, and the leg bone pops right back into the socket.

The player immediately starts screaming bloody murder and rolling around in obvious agony like someone just crushed his teeth in a vise or he just got some wicked paper cuts on his nipples. The docs, needless to say, were perplexed. They felt around and it seemed like the leg went right back where it should have.

The human body is a cool thing, but it also doesn’t take kindly to getting  slammed around. The player had gotten hit so hard that it not only dislocated his hip, but it shifted one of his testicles. That testicle wound up in the empty hip socket just before the docs slammed the dude’s leg back into place.

Yes. This actually happened. Enjoy your next soccer game.