Masks & Mirrors

This has to be the weirdest Halloween Season of my lifetime. People have been wearing masks everywhere for months now, and will be for many months after. I’ve got plans as I do every year for All Hallows Eve, yet they may take place only here at the house.

Our plan is to have our own little Halloween here at the hacienda, not attend any parties, and if anyone stops by for Trick or Treating, that’s fine. I will wear my plague doctor mask underneath my costume mask and hand out the good stuff as usual. It will be the first non school night Halloween in a few years now and before all this pandemic related chaos I had been looking forward to it. We always go all out for Halloween. In 2017 I was Spiderman (AGAIN), in 2018 it was a months long quest to assemble the best Darth Maul costume I could, complete with the most screen accurate lightsaber which by itself set me back hundreds of dollars. For 2019 I put together a Leon Scott Kennedy cosplay starting with an actual police officer uniform as a base, and authentic tactical gear, just to go the extra mile. This year’s costume will be less elaborate.

Symbolically, a lot of masks have been coming off people and institutions this year. I suspect a few more will fall this Halloween Season and in the next few months. Some of our friends and family may not react well to this. In all honesty, I’ve cut myself off from quite a few people over the last few years, because they are delusional. We are almost to the point where some major illusions are going to be shattered once and for all. Of course, some people will still cling to them, like those poor old Soviets that missed Stalin until their own dying days. But the rest of us, who can still see reason will have to pick up the pieces and move forward as best we can. To put it in appropriate Spooky Season terms, the light of the new moon will show us some things in the darkness we didn’t want to see, and the full moon on the night itself will reveal some very bad news for our freakshow economy.

There. That is my formal Fortune Teller prediction for Halloween 2020. Perhaps, like that time in second grade when one of my teachers read my palm before Trick or Treating and told me I would go to college, get married and have two kids, it will be eerily accurate. Perhaps only some of what I foresee will come to pass. But, if even only half of what I suspect we will see come to light it will be one hell of a ride over this next year. Massive financial fraud. Money laundering. Stock market manipulation. Conspiracy to…well, you get the idea.

Coincidentally, if my fortune telling proves correct, some shocks to the system should be right around the time this book comes out:

Counterfeit Collective is all about that fake society

So, we might all be too busy standing in bread lines to buy it, but hey—at least it will be out! That’s progress, right? I absolutely love what the artist did with the cover art concept I had. This country is a circus on the best of days, and really needs to grow up and become something better …like a Ren Faire or a Community College.

This project is a short volume of poetry exploring themes of illusion, delusion, lies, damned lies, statistics, nationalism, racism, denialism, all sorts of isms. Some of the poems have been published previously, others were written to fit the theme. It is about the masks our society wears to fool us into playing the game, the masks we wear into the carnival, how many of the games are rigged and all that goes along with that. Given how dark this year has been, I sometimes wish I had opted to go with the other theme I’m collecting poems for, which is much more spiritual, but here we are. That one will have to be next year if we live.

After the formatting is done and the ebook hits the market, there will be print copies eventually, but there is no firm date on that yet. Once I have sample copies, I may know more. Next month, if all goes well, I’ll be entering a contest in another genre, with at least one script. Next year I’ll have other things coming out in one form or another. It’s challenging trying to look past the train wrecks that are already here and those I think I see coming up, to focus on those things I want to bring into being. I’m sure everyone can relate to that on some level.

I hope you all stay safe and sane, and keep working towards a brighter future. I voted early this past week and dropped off our ballots at the usual official drop box location. This is the most important election of my lifetime. If you haven’t already, you need to go vote. It is well past time we had adults back in the rooms where national decisions are made.

Next time, I’ll update with where to find the book once it is published, what I’m working on currently, and what I hope to be doing in the future.

May the Force be with you. Always.

I can’t wait until 2020 is hindsight

I’d hoped to update before now, and to have something to share. Cover art is about to be created for my book, and everything is taking longer than it should. Some of this is my fault, the rest is circumstances.

Last year, I wrote about the perfect storm of perfect storms that was about to roll up on our shores, and honestly, even then I had thought it was “near future” not tomorrow that we would see the effects of climate change hitting. Then Australia was on fire at the beginning of the year and now the southwestern U.S. where I live is going the same way. There are nearly 100 major fires burning over here at this moment in time. Ice shelves have collapsed, it’s been one of the busiest hurricane seasons on record already, and fall and winter are going to be rougher than years past for many reasons aside from the once in a century pandemic.

When I last remembered to blog, it was not yet known how devastating this disease was, or how badly our current administration would handle it. It was back in late April/Early March when I expected to be doing some new things, and then my kids stayed home after spring break. They’re still at home. The school district here has been doing a fairly good job with online schooling, but we may have now reached a point where if they insist on requiring my girls to go on campus for any reason–even just testing–I’m going to have to withdraw them. It’s not as if what they’re proposing is safe right now–in Israel they are about to lock down AGAIN. Schools became a major vector for them after they rushed to reopen. You would think that school administrators and elected officials here would consider that and other examples around the world to be “teaching moments”, and respond accordingly, especially in states with high infection rates such as AZ. But, you might be wrong. We shall see.

On the writing front, I did receive good feedback from my editor on the poetry book, and that will be out in Q4 sometime. The revisions on the novel will take much more time. I’ve got no time table on that, I just want to get it right. Once the collection is out, I’ll be working on that, and there are a couple other projects I will be pitching for different media. It is hard to find motivation some days to work on these with everything else going on in the world, but the creative work does help with my depression.

I sincerely hope that all of you that read this stay healthy and safe throughout the rest of this dark year. Wear a damn mask. Do your part. Remember that we are all in this together.

02/20/2020

I missed posting on palindrome day due to being busy. This date will have to do to satisfy my OCD. 🙂 It’s close enough I guess. Updates on the writing front: no new novel news. A collection of poems is forthcoming. Currently in editing. After that, one of the two short film scripts I wrote last year is due to be revised.

There are some new things on the horizon. In the next couple of months I’ll be in the studio for a podcast and a session zero of a roleplay campaign that is planned to be streamed on Twitch and possibly other platforms. That should be fun.

Other than those things, I’m just dealing with IRL stuff. Need to do taxes, and shift some investment strategies. We haven’t had a five year plan in more than five years, and we really need to be ready to move by the end of 2024. So…yeah. This is starting to loom large in my mind now.

Updates on when the collection comes out will be here and on whatever social platforms I’m still on by then.

/Gandalf

Expect me when you see me.

09/19/2019

Captain’s Log, Stardate 73181.5

Life on Earth is …intriguing. Sometime last year a source informed me and several others that 9/18/2019 would be the date that some disclosures would be made and it would be the “beginning of the end”. If you don’t know what situation I’m referring to, it doesn’t matter. What is interesting is how this individual and another keep calling out specific dates well in advance and with some specificity of just what is going to happen…and not being as wrong as your average meteorologist, or financial guru, or doomsday cultist, etc. In fact, it would be disturbing how often they are eerily correct in what they tell me if I wasn’t in a Zen state much of the time.

It is quite a time to be alive. We are about to the point where we will be forced to make an evolutionary leap. It’s just not climate change, and overshooting the real finite resources we have, it isn’t merely advances in technology that are changing entire industries, it is an almost perfect storm of perfect storms rolling up on the shores of our post-feudal societies. If you have never watched Drunk History, or Adam Ruins Everything, or read anything that makes you realize what a haphazard mock-up of a functional civilization we are living in…you may be shocked by what is coming in the next few years.

I won’t be, but I imagine that all those who are still trying to drag my country back to 1950s Mayberry will be. They are still all clinging to their previous industrial revolution fantasies while automation is about to replace whole segments of the workforce with Skynet.

They’re still arguing for manual labor jobs when we can 3D print entire houses right now. There are self driving trucks and cars on the road right now. There will only be more of them. Those particular trends are worth mentioning because not even the old trades will be safe. They are no longer needed. Now our so called society will get to grapple with reality on several fronts. We still have a consumer based economy, but so many more consumers are about to be consumed by progress. This is where it will begin to break down. The only way out is through.

I didn’t mean to write such a stark take on that, but here we are. Big changes are coming. We need to beam everyone up. I’ll let you all know whenever I have a concert or a reading in Ten Forward to lighten the mood. Til then, Live Long and Prosper.

National Poetry Month

In the spirit of National Poetry Month, I’ll share a few of mine, what ideas or situations inspired them, and which poet’s styles influenced them. When I was growing up, there were books by e.e. cummings, Leonard Cohen, Edgar Allen Poe, Yeats, Frost, Kerouac, Basho, Rumi and others lining the bookshelves. So many styles of poetic expression to explore and learn from. Add to that the books of songs from many of my parents favorite musicians, and the poems and songs in the Lord of the Rings books I started reading at an early age, it’s no wonder I dabble in all these things.

Here are a few of my own, some previously published and others not.

time delay

had I had a handy handle

on anything at the time
my i might have missed
the fallout from the line

whereas

without the wherewithal
to withstand

the demented demolitions
in psycho culture landmines
its
explosion
was
extraordinarily
effing
ERUPTIVE

&

I was quite concussed.

“Time delay” received some positive feedback from a literary journal, but was never published til now. It is probably the most obvious which of my influences is at work here. There is a poem in the book “100 Poems” in which e.e. cummings describes a slow motion explosion and that was the part of that poem which inspired this bit of wordplay. In mine, I’m toying with words that begin with the same letter or sound, and describing my allergic reactions to the culture in my country in my younger days. Now, it is safe to say that I do have a handy handle on things. TD was written in 2016.

Intangible

the ghost that walks

through this venerable house

is long past gone

–yet it walks on

the places it made for itself

fallen into ruin, crumbling day by day

it dreams old dreams, retraces old steps

where other spirits fade away

the deep bells toll

the cemeteries fill

with every other soul

it strides onward still

the haunts change

but the fabled weight of ages

finds the stubborn wight unchanged

where other spirits fade away

the ghost still roams

through this weird world

it’s long past gone

–yet it walks on

the dreams it dreamed for itself

fallen into ruin, crumbling day by day

it finds new places, learns new steps

where other spirits fade away

Intangible first appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine, and later on Instagram where I posted a picture of the poem in print. It is harder to say which of my favorites influenced this one, and it is about the feeling I’ve sometimes had as I’ve grown older. As friends or family members or people I’ve known pass away, and I’ve somehow kept going, despite some serious situations that might have gone the other way.

“Sonnetra”

Though it flows in the course of honeyed words
Or silent, certain gestures ever thus made
Akin it is to fabled springs in enchanted wards
Ambrosia in our cavernous world of shade
There are two truths that define it forevermore
It may flow from lie and return to lie
It flows in spite our desire that it die
Felt, unfelt--it writes all our tearful lore
In all the days that will define our time
Its storm rolls in, and passes beyond
Ere the days diminish, this much is clear
Hold fast thy course, or by phantom lights steer
Onward, ever onward where thou desires't remain
Above all, have a care, in thy travels here
That thee does it thine way!

“Sonnetra” was one weird idea. The last line came to me first, and the title is kind of a pun. I don’t know where these ideas come from, people…I just roll with them. I’ve only written a few of these in my life, and there is not much call for sonnets these days. It is the age old observation that love sucks, and you might as well just love yourself first and do what you need to do for you. For this one, I really tried to channel Edgar Allen Poe for the style and just to carry the idea to its conclusion. It is obviously a riff off Sinatra’s “I did it my way” and it amused me to imagine either Chris Hemsworth or Tom Hiddleston singing this sonnet to that tune in full Thor regalia. It is almost as “out there” as the poem “Contrast” which appeared here some time ago.

So, there you are. Just some poems to celebrate National Poetry Month. One day, they will all be part of a collection, even the weird ones. Until then, I recommend some of the other poets I’ve been reading lately. Billy Collins, Andrei Codrescu, Erin Belieu, and Sandra Hochman.

Poetry can be profound in a few lines. Three, or one hundred and three. It is also sometimes just fun to play with words. It is great to read at any time, but is especially helpful if you find yourself in a rut. Then you can turn to the mystical musings of Rumi, or just experience the raw thoughts of someone else, and see your own humanity reflected in whatever kind of fun house mirror that person has going on. If nothing else, it will probably give you ideas.

Matters of Perspective

As the son of an artist, a parent of two creative kids, a student–and sometimes teacher–of martial arts, a trainer, and all the many other things I’ve had to be as a working class guy, I’ve seen a lot of different angles to the things that go on in our weird world. There are moments where I’m less patient than I might otherwise be because I’ve seen this all before. There are also many instances where I’ve been more patient than others around me because I’ve seen this all before.

My Dad was a painter, and every so often things would get better for the family when he sold a painting. When he wasn’t working on his art, he was usually working at least part time as a night auditor at different places. The short film script I wrote entitled “The Auditors” was at least partly inspired by this. Not so much as that it features much in the way of what he did, but it was the first time I heard the word, and it stuck with me. It is not a word I have heard often since, and this made it more memorable to me.

Recently, my daughters were discussing social media (they are both YouTubers) and they went into great detail about not only what content they wanted to create in the future, but all the other things that platform entails. They were seriously talking strategy for building their brands and growing their respective audiences. This led to a discussion of follower numbers on different platforms, and questions about why they differed so much. The same person or business could have a strong following on one social media, and get no traction on others. I have seen this firsthand, and it is hard to fathom. You can see social media engagement that doesn’t always translate into subscriptions, or ad revenue, or whatever you are hoping it will do. Some of my own projects did get their share of likes and click-throughs and all the usual things that are supposed to lead to Internet prosperity, and yet did not.

The amusing part of that discussion was where they asked what my highest follower number was on any platform, and then they declared that I was famous when I told them. It’s not even remotely the case, but from their perspective, it must seem that way. (They are teenagers, after all!) If you are measuring your followers in the dozens or hundreds, seeing a subscriber number over five digits has to seem like a lot. I tried explaining all the various reasons why it doesn’t mean much. There are indie writers I know that have hundreds of thousands…but then, they are also following nearly that many accounts themselves. It is a type of marketing approach for them, and doesn’t by itself make them well known. There are also many published authors with multiple bestsellers that have far fewer followers than that.

So these were some of the things I was contemplating when I was at a presentation this past week on the importance of branding for creative artists. As someone in the room asked “how many people do you know with fourteen million views on YouTube?” Well…I still don’t really know him, but now I’ve been in the same room with one guy who has. He had some excellent suggestions of course, and really knew his stuff on all the major social media sites. I’ll absolutely keep his advice in mind going forward.

To bring this full circle, some of my earliest memories are from when we lived in a ghost town in New Mexico. It was kind of like an artist’s commune in a way. There were several painters that I remember besides my Dad. For all of them, art was something done for it’s own sake. They didn’t have “careers” though they did most often have jobs while working on their art. Their influence is one of the reasons why I rarely place great importance on what society thinks. Art was what they lived for, making a living was just a necessity. Once I saw that society only wanted to pay them for their time rather than their art, and that all sorts of people within our culture were rigging things like a shell game, I was no longer interested in any part of the rat race. The sort of thinking that it produces led some publisher somewhere to declare Jack Kerouac as “unpublishable” which is laughable now, and should have been then. He is not my favorite poet, but only if you are thinking of everything as a commodity, and how you might market those commodities, and those thoughts are the absolute limit of what you can conceive of–could you possibly come to such a conclusion. There is a long line of rejected writers of various genres that went on to become bestsellers or outright legends later on, that attest to how wrong people can be when they are thinking with their business hats on.

Relating that back to the meeting, they always have an “introduce yourself” part of their events, and one of the attendees who mentioned making short films as far back as the 1970s, and as recently as a few years ago described himself as a “wanna-be”. Someone else chimed in that that’s better than a “has-been”. Most of the people in that room are creatives, and all of them just want to do their thing, whatever that is. There are writers, actors, directors, producers, cinematographers, musicians and composers, stunt people, grips, make up artists, and every other skilled position anyone would want on their squad. They all have different backgrounds, and differing levels of experience, but I would not call any of them a “wanna be”. Most of them that I’ve spoken with “wanna DO”. Most of them have done something, and would like to do more.

That is all there really is. People doing stuff. I’ve been backstage at all sorts of things: theatrical productions, grand openings, tournaments, demonstrations, banquets, auctions, a parade, and probably some other things I’m forgetting. I’ve never seen glamour anywhere. Attempts at appearing glamorous, definitely. Everything is a slightly different kind of show biz. The Internet hasn’t changed much of what is out there, it just amplifies some things. Often as artificially as any old school roadside attraction. Things still go bust. Hype still sells crap, or fails to. Same as it ever was.

So, when all is chaos around us, and the sky is falling once again after the latest app redesign, just try to focus on what you want to do. Some of us have seriously lived through the death of entire technologies. A new app GUI isn’t that bad. If it’s not dead yet, and you aren’t either, it’s all good as long as you have a goal you are working towards.

The Waiting Game

Hey. Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you’re all having a good day. Currently at the hacienda it is beautifully gloomy. We’re just playing the waiting game over here, both me as a writer, and my family as…just one of many that may be effected by a second government shut down.

It would be nice if we lived in a functioning society, but such is life. All of January, one of us went to work without pay until that issue was resolved. The other of us realized he had chosen a very bad time to switch certifications, because those too must be paid for. This process got delayed til after that whole debacle was resolved, but now I’m fully shifting gears in the day job dept. More on that later. One editor is reviewing some writing of mine, I’ve just received my first official rejection of 2019 from a literary journal, (so that’s out of the way now) and decisions on two more are pending.

We shall see what happens with those. I’ll be sharing more this year though, here on the blog and elsewhere as things develop. For this next two rounds of submissions I’m back to targeting some of the paying markets which are very competitive. Other journals are on my list because they either appear to be a good fit, or in some cases, they have asked me to submit some of my work.

So the more things change, the more they stay the same. Some of my poems and short fiction experiments will be appearing this year on Instagram, online journals, and other places. I’ll update here with where to find them as these show up. Other things I’m working on …stay tuned. 🙂

Good luck out there!

Happy Holidays!

Last night I was at a film group meeting at the Jewish Community Center in Tucson, and as it was the third night of Chanukah (Hanukkah) there were cookies and gelt after the event. It was nice. I brought a couple each back home for the girls. It reminded me to wish everyone Happy Holidays whatever you are celebrating this month. Here at our house, we are observing the usual Xmas celebrations with a fake Yule tree and lots of super hero and Star Wars ornaments. There are some Pagan and Buddhist elements also because we are non denominational like that. So the Solstice will be celebrated, but in a very open minded way.

The meeting itself was actually a networking event, which was fun but still involved speaking to people in a group setting. This is not my best event in the Human Olympics. It went as well as it could have I suppose. There are a couple of projects I’ll be looking for collaborators for in 2019, and it was a good first step.

On the writing front, two short film scripts I wrote this year are about to be evaluated by a consultant who judges for a major film festival, nearly two dozen poems are out on submission and a collection’s worth will be on their way to an editor after one last proofreading pass. The novel is nearly ready for its deep dive into the icy waters of the publishing world. Its BatDad is very proud.

At the halfway mark this month, we have a birthday, and then another teenager to deal with. After that is the Hallmark Xmas event, then the Generic Whitebread New Years. I’m almost done shopping. I think. Once into 2019, there is an anniversary, the real New Year (Chinese New Year!) and the last family birthday for a while. Then there will be few events aside from the projects I’m working on until the next Holidaze cycle.

I wish everyone the happiest of holiday seasons, and a very happy New Year! I’ll see you on the other side, hopefully with more frequent updates. MTFBWY.

8/8/18

It is a dark day. Which is great, because I absolutely adore heavy cloud cover. Here in the desert, the kids are back in school already and we are currently under a power conservation warning due to the extreme heat, so the rain could not have come at a better time.

I have a long list of Things To Do for Q4. One last round of submissions for 2018 is among them. After that, the only things on the writing front will be when some collected poems and two scripts get evaluated. I’ve been told to expect savagery on the script front, and I imagine the poems won’t get off easy either.  The second draft of the novel will follow those into the editor’s dungeon. (and it will be about damn time)

There are day job deadlines as well. In the next couple of months, I will need to renew my AED certification and then also re-certify as a trainer. It’s that time once again. There are some other goals and family obligations, so the last part of the year is looking to be extremely busy for me. I wish there were more hours in the day, but I do what I can with what I’ve got.

Expect me when you see me.

 

“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.”

–Gandalf

May the 4th be with you

Greetings, citizens of the Galaxy.

There’s not much going on over here on Tatooine. Oh sure, there might be a droid army blockade going on somewhere, or an Imperial raid happening in some wretched hive of scum and villainy, but those things are far, far away.

I’m about to get back to work on the second draft of novel #2. It’s coming along slower than expected, but is going well. I’m happy with where the characters are taking it, even though they seem to be dragging it out a bit here and there. Editors may have words with them later, but that’s not my problem. Just a few minutes ago, I finished the script to another project that I’ll be working on after said novel gets submitted for their approval. Which is cool!

So tonight is more writing. Tomorrow there is boxing and an improv class, then the only things on my (planned) schedule are Thai fighting next weekend, and a ComicCon the weekend after that. If all goes well the rest of this month, and nothing unforeseen happens–this time–it should be fun. Which I’ll need, because the school system will also release the krakens around that time as well. For SUMMER. The ENTIRE summer. Yes, I agree. It is horrific.

If you don’t hear from me for a while, remember…the Force will be with you. Always.