Letting Go

Against every “just in case” instinct that’s genetically coded in me, I’m donating this old ThinkPad T430 to the local ReUse store. There’s a Past Me who would be screaming, “Are you nucking futs??” but Present Me has enough experience to know all the other gear I have (a 6th gen ThinkPad X1C, a Lenovo m10 tablet, a Google Pixel 4) is more than enough. And if my X1C should become inoperable, then a cheaper, newer computer would probably be a better replacement at this point than an age-old T430.

Also, I have a history of taking pretty good care of my gear. I’ve only had one or two hardware failures in the 25 or so years that I’ve owned computers. And yes — god, was I fucked over! But the fact is, I’ve structured things now such that a hardware failure that once would’ve been “an utter fucking catastrophe” is generally reduced to “a real fucking pain in the ass” that I can probably recover from.

And those times when my hardware did fail and I had no clue where the next piece of hardware would come from, you know what saved me? ReUse stores! A $100, 9 year old computer that I could install Ubuntu on was a godsend that kept me going until I could afford something decent. Hopefully, I can give someone else that same experience.

Now I just have to actually get it ready for donation without being tempted to keep it. For once, I’m going to try giving something up when it’s the right time before it crashes and burns, and leaves me in tears.

Quickie Review of KNIVES OUT (2019) (Slightly spoilery)

Believe every good thing everyone’s said about this film! And yes, I might be biased because I actually liked everything Rian Johnson did with THE LAST JEDI.

Like any good whodunnit, no plot or character point is wasted. Not on me, who grew up watching MYSTERY on the local PBS station in Cleveland waiting for classic DOCTOR WHO to come on. Every characterization, even the ones updated for the 21st century, had echoes of every character I’ve ever seen or read. And I can’t think of any detail that didn’t come back around whether or not it was directly related to the crime at the center of the film.

By the way, anyone who complains about Daniel Craig’s Southern accent has never heard Benedict Cumberbatch’s accent in AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY. (Ugh.)

Okay, I’m going to get spoilery. I can’t help it, because it was my favorite part of the film and something that’ll stick with me for a long time…

I loved how Marta transcends the schemes of the well-meaning old White man who manipulated systems of race and privilege on her behalf the best way he know how and by doing so, ultimately wins by being true to herself. There aren’t too many pieces of pop culture that I can point to as an example of a nuanced view of how White people of privilege hurt, help, and even hurt by helping people of color.

#Weeknotes S02 E03

Not a great writing week for 2020. Catching up with the dayjob after a week of illness/self-care took a bit out of me. I wasn’t 100% this week; more like 85-90%. It was enough. My therapist would be proud of the reduction in the amount of self-criticism.

My back and neck feel progressively better. The chiropractor is covered by my insurance so at this point, I really don’t care if it’s placebo or not. So there!

Still, this week went by quick. And because tomorrow’s a holiday, next week will be a short one. Will it go by faster? I’ll let you know.

WRITING PROGRESS. It took a lot for me to get into the writing chair this week… but I did it!

Longest Writing Chain This Week: 1 day; but 2 writing days overall!

Revisions on Short Story 01 continue.

ROTTING MY BRAIN. No time for writing meant no time for THE EXPANSE or HARLEY QUINN. It’s all in queue, though. But we did make time for KNIVES OUT yesterday. I’ll do a write-up soon but in short: believe all the good things people have said about it!

FEEDING MY EARS. I finally caught the episode of WTF WITH MARC MARON with Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio. It was uncomfortable for me to listen to, but only because I was projecting my own issues. The tone of the interview — filtered through my own experiences — reminded me of the insecurity I can sometimes feel when I’m hanging out with people who are way cooler than I am, who seem to enjoy my company but are really tolerating or condescend to my presence. I think this is one of those times when I can safely say, “it’s just me.”

FEEDING MY EYES. Because I recommended it to a co-worker recently, I decided it was a good time to re-read my updated edition of David Allen’s GETTING THINGS DONE: THE ART OF STRESS-FREE PRODUCTIVITY. Hey, anything to get myself back on track.

Got through a couple of sections of Lydia Davis’s ESSAYS ONE, as well.

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK

I’m not sure at what point my reaction to these sorts of advances went from “That’s so fucking cool!” to “Fuck. Fuck. FUCK, we’re doomed!”

ULTRAPORTABLE EDC-IN-EXILE. My usual EDC bag — a Filson 258 briefcase — is basically a portable office with every basic analog and electronic tool I could possibly need to conduct my writing life and personal admin. I carry it with me almost daily when I leave the house. Yes, I’m that guy who just refuses to leave his damn bag at home. Luckily, I’m have the perfect camouflage for this behavior, living in a college town.

But on occassion, even I have to acknowledge there are rare instances where I don’t want to carry everything; that I probably don’t need to be carrying anything aside from my wallet, keys, and my phone. Still, I refuse to go completely without some tools that that would enable me, if I really had to, to get some thoughts down.

It’s for those times that I have my ultraportable “EDC-in-exile” setup, which is an old STM bag with just enough room for the tablet/keyboard combination that’s become my daily driver, AC adapter/2-port USB battery with 2 cords, a microfiber cloth, and the meds I carry around with me “just in case.” I didn’t take it out, but there are a couple of pens and a Field Notes notebook in the bag. Phone goes in my pocket and my Bluetooth earphones are on my head or hanging on my neck.

Why do I feel the need to always have something with me? Etgar Keret put my mindset into words nicely in his story “What Do We Have in Our Pockets?”

The fact is that everything I have in my pockets is carefully chosen so I’ll always be prepared. Everything is there so I can be at an advantage at the moment of truth. Actually, that’s not accurate. Everything’s there so I won’t be at a disadvantage at the moment of truth.

#Weeknotes S02E02

I didn’t slack this week. I got sick. And up until very recently, I didn’t see a practical difference between the two. The voices in my head say, (a) okay fine, “sick” is a reason but you’re still as behind as you would be if you just fucked off and (b) no one wants to hear you whinging.

Luckily, therapy has been good for me. So yes, I can acknowledge that I didn’t keep up with my daily diary (a la Barry) or drawing exercises (a la Brunetti). But I did take care of myself, and that was the important thing. Staying home from work, seeing a doctor, getting my back adjusted — all important things. Right? Right.

(And if repeating that to myself over and over really keeps the demons at bay, well that’s fine too.)

WRITING PROGRESS. So, then how’d my first week of 2020 go?

Longest Writing Chain This Week: 2 days. But I did have 3 writing days altogether.

I suck at coming up with interesting code names, so I’ll continue calling what I’m working on right now Short Story 01. Same “Short Story 01” I was working on this time last year, but I made some decent progress on its rewrite by experimenting with Oblique Strategies (I have an app) to get me through problem areas. The results are interesting, even if I decide not to keep them.

ROTTING MY BRAIN. Still working my way through THE EXPANSE but I’ve been seeing what the animated HARLEY QUINN is all about. Well, it’s now overtaken AGGRETSUKO as my favorite cartoon. HARLEY feels like it has everything I love about old Adult Swim shows but without the “Jokes for you and your stoner buds who’re up too late” vibe.

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK

Seriously, printing and scanning over WiFi with my tablet has actually made my life better twice this week.

IN THE WILD. Trying to address just one of the various and sundry ways I’ve neglected myself lately.

I know, but it helps my back, shut up. And, no jokes about “Now, why don’t you get your attitude adjusted?” My inner voices beat you to it!

#Weeknotes S02 E01

In 2019 I put a lot of work primarily into my personal life: my mental/emotional/physical health, family, friends. That work goes on, but in 2020 it’s time to invest some of the energy I got back last year into getting more words out into the world.

I’m taking my time deciding what projects I want to continue with or whether I want to start fresh with something new. Both routes appeal to me. I’m bound to pick something in the next couple of days and will go back to tracking and posting about how well I did or didn’t generate a writing chain this week.

I also plan to get through my reading backlog with three things in mind this year:

  • If I’m ever going to conquer my reading backlog, I need to do it in a systematic manner.
  • It might help if I read with an eye toward blogging my thoughts whenever I come across something that especially strikes me. I’m told people actually like my Quickie Reviews.
  • If I find myself slogging through a book, then I just need to just give it the fuck up and move on to the next thing.

Welcome to Donfoolery in 2020!

FEEDING MY EYES. Lynda Barry never disappoints. I’ve occasionally had to stop and put down MAKING COMICS because it’s so dense and full of more good stuff to absorb into my writing practice than I can ever try in a year, I think.

That’s not going to stop me from trying, though!

I’ve also pulled out something I bought but shelved last March, Ivan Brunetti’s CARTOONING: PHILOSOPHY AND PRACTICE, a book Barry mentions all the time. I know it was March when I opened it up last because I dug up a sketchbook I bought myself at the time dated “March 2019” before abandoning it. There was a lot going on at that time. Anyway, I’m not out to be any kind of cartoonist as a goal, but I’ve looked to exercises and ideas from both these books to keep the artistic juices flowing.

ROTTING MY BRAIN. Another item on this year’s to do list is re-establishing my geek cred. I’m a little out of touch with some things, but I’m catching up!

I don’t know how my geek card didn’t get revoked having missed the boat on THE EXPANSE. I can tell it’s leaving an impression on me, because things that do tend to keep my subconscious mind on the lookout for anything even tangentially related…

Getting through Season 1, I realized I’d actually seen a couple of episodes here and there. Guess it just got lost in the shuffle. Anyway, I’m on it now and yes, it’s every bit as good as everyone says it is. The main draw for me so far is Shohreh Aghdashloo, better known to me as Lakshmi-2 of the Future War Cult. I have to say, I can’t remember the last time I saw as compelling a character on sci-fi TV as Chrisjen Avasarala.

What impresses me most of all is how smoothly all the moving parts of the narrative revolve around each other in almost perfect, overlapping orbits. I’m through the first few episodes of Season 2. I’m sure I’ll be back with more to say!

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK

But you’re doing well
I mean, you’re not dead
So let’s celebrate while we still can

GTFO Here with this “Real Fan” BS

I’ve been meaning to post more besides Weeknotes, and I’m in a mood. So, why not let the two impulses dovetail?

You know, I used to have more patience for people who protect and defend their fandoms. Back in the day, there was a line to be held with the people who point and laugh for loving STAR WARS, or DOCTOR WHO, or any comic book. There was a good fight to be fought.

But now, I see “real fans” doing the pointing and laughing, targeting poeple with the gall to love what we love, except a little bit differently than how we do? Really?

And if you’re within spitting distance of my age and doing that (Yeah, I see you.), what the hell’s the matter with you? Try aging gracefully, FFS.

#Weeknotes S01 Extras

Some end-of-the-year website cleaning prompted me to do something about two post drafts from months ago that I never finished. Yes, I’d see them every time I log on, but I put mental orange construction barrels around them. Until today!

DELETED SCENE: 4TH STREET. This was a post that for some reason never got past the draft stage. But I thought it’d be a shame to waste this picture a friend of mine took at the 2019 4th Street Fantasy convention.

The panel was “Fantasy About Everyday People.” Probably the most fun I’ve had on a con panel!

DELETED SCENE: CHANNELING MY INNER ERIC BOGOSIAN. This was a post I was preparing ahead of a scheduled appearance at last year’s Boskone that I had to back out from unfortunately. I’d signed up for the third time in a row for their annual Open Mike.

I’d decided to post the piece I did for the second open mic in 2018, complete with pictures that represented actual props I used.

++

“Custodial Interference”

Hey, you found us! Craigslist, huh? Gotta love it, right?

Uh, so look, I’m sorry you missed out on the cauldron and the curved knives. And most of the candles, but there’s still a LOT OF STUFF left. In fact, I saved some the best stuff JUST FOR YOU! Because I can tell from your emails that you’re a SERIOUS collector. You want real super-villain memorabilia? I got some right here, in the back of my Dad’s van!!

That’s right — MY DAD, also known as The Satanic Panic!

Look, just please tell me you’re not some kind of reporter or writer, trying to cash in. This stuff is personal to me. These are MEMORIES.

I remember him reading me his manifesto when I was 10. At bedtime. I didn’t really understand it at the time. But I was going through his stuff after he died, and I saw where bits and pieces of it came from. Check this out…

I know, I know, “It’s just a game.” But to my dad, this was a BIBLE. And I’ll tell you, you go through this and see all the highlights and with notes in the margins… it’s just like Mom’s actual Bible.

And there’s more — see all those boxes? Books. Files, too. He kept FILES on his enemies, you know — “heroes.” You got names. Statistics: how strong they were, how smart they were, how wise they were, how dexterous they were.

And, MAPS — just keep digging they’re all in there. Hideouts he had in different cities like Detroit and Los Angeles. Different ISLANDS. All sketched on graph paper, and you can even see where all the booby traps were.

He’d make me learn them every other weekend after the divorce, when he had visitation. And even in-between… he’d show up randomly at school and sign me out. Mom would get SO PISSED. But it was bonding time, you know? Father and son.

He had a lot of stories about his exploits: Fires on Devil’s Nights? That was him. Tainted Halloween candy? All him. Inspiring kids to express themselves however they needed to, wherever they needed to — in the woods, sewers, tunnels, with makeshift swords and armor…

I know people wanna judge, but in his mind he was fighting the system. The system that gave him Vietnam, Watergate, high gas prices, got him divorced, all that stuff. He really was the hero of his own story.

He was to me, at least. I know; what do you want, I was 10.

Actually — you wanna talk about MEMORIES? Let me tell you about this… this is a TREASURE, I don’t care what my mom and her Pastor says…

EH?? A lot of things made sense when I found this.

After the divorce and the restraining order, mom said I needed help. She tried her church first of course, but that was just people touching Bibles to my forehead. Then I got in trouble a little bit, and Social Services came in, and made her take me to see a bunch of kid shrinks. One time, I got HYPNOTIZED and a bunch of things came FLOODING BACK that I’d totally forgotten!

Flashes, really. My Dad, and some of his friends in costumes — ROBES and GOAT MASKS. I didn’t get one — I guess I was naked? I’m not sure, but the THERAPIST SAID I was, so okay. I guess there was some blood and chanting and… well, I dunno, it kinda fades after that.

Funny thing is, when I wrote Dad asking about it (which technically violated the restraining order — OOPS.), he swore up and down he had no idea what I was talking about.

Anyway, flash forward 33 years later. Dad dies and his OLD VAN gets towed to our driveway with all his stuff. Mom sees it and FREAKS. “I want this stuff out of here. You ain’t keeping it. Not under MY ROOF…” blah blah blah, I mean, Jesus, I’m 43 years old, I’m a certified goddamn accountant, and I live here too… I’m keeping the van, though, I don’t give a shit what she says.

Anyway, when I saw this, I got a flash of something. I’m back in that room, and I SWEAR, now I remember a voice saying, “This is your legacy! You are the son of The Satanic Panic.” You are the Son of Satanic Panic… I am the Son of Satanic Panic…

So… anyway… Actually I have MORE stuff, if you’re interested. Just down the way, at the storage place. I can show you. C’mon, hop in the van… what, you just got here, you got time.

Oh, c’mon… wait, look, hey…

I got candy.

(c) 2018

#Weeknotes: Please Stand By

I wrapped up this year’s Weeknotes last week, but I did promise a follow-up if I had news. That job I applied for? Didn’t get it. It was the theme of the year, the standard “You were very competitive, we just decided to go in another direction but if another opening comes up, you will be the first person I call.” 0 for 3 this year. Yeah, I’m down but not out. This hasn’t ruined my holidays or anything; I’ve never been much of a holiday person to begin with.

In fact, all in all, this is the most relaxed I’ve felt heading into a holiday in years. Which is good, because I’m just as exhausted. But at least there’s some hope that while things have burned down, other things are getting rebuilt simultaneously, just like this portion of my apartment complex.

What things? I’ll put a list together between now and New Year’s!

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK. It’s all in your perspective…

#Weeknotes S01 E12

I’ve managed 12 of these Weeknotes entries this year. 3 months’ worth — roughly 25% of the amount I’d planned to do. But I’ll take it!

My 2019 didn’t start the way I’d hoped; more accurately, the last part of 2018 messed me up. In the end, it was all in the name of changes I needed to make, even if I hadn’t planned on making them. Some changes even panned out over the last year! Whatever happens, I know I’m heading into 2020 in a much better state than this time a year ago.

I think I’m going to take a Weeknotes hiatus until after the New Year. But expect an occasional post or two, year end rants and raves and such. And hopefully some news about that last iron in the fire.

IRON IN THE FIRE. I should know next week, just in time to either make my holidays or put a crimp in them. I’m good no matter what happens, though.

MOOC PROGRESS. Don’t talk to me about MOOC progress…

FEEDING MY EYES. I’m taking a “one bite of the elephant at a time” approach to my backlog. I’ve upgraded my tablet to something more suited to my aging eyes: a Lenovo Tab M10… as in 10″. Man, I just didn’t appreciate how sub-optimal reading comics on my smaller tablet was.

Anyway, the titles will look familiar:

  • MAKING COMICS by Lynda Barry
  • THE SITUATION AND THE STORY by Vivian Gornick
  • ESSAYS ONE by Lydia Davis
  • EMBRACE YOUR WEIRD by Felicia Day
  • IMPROV FOR WRITERS by Jorjeanna Marie

One bite at a time…

ROTTING MY BRAIN. I’ve been keeping up with the newest season of the anime ONE PUNCH MAN. I haven’t related harder to a character since THE IRRESPONSIBLE CAPTAIN TYLOR. It’s taking me awhile to get into this new season though. Man, is it slow-burning. Makes a Brian Michael Bendis comic feel like a flash fiction piece.

This season definitely focuses more on the OPM world, than on Saitama himself. But somehow just as I think I could be losing interest, Caped Baldy manages to show up at just the right time and for just long enough to keep me interested. Well, now I have to know what happens in the rest of the season.

IN THE WILD. Asher watching ONE PUNCH MAN with me last night…

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK

#Weeknotes S01 E11

Relatively short one this week, only because things have been busy at the dayjob since the holidays. It’s always a busy time of the year right as people are scrambling to get everything wrapped up between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I spent most of this weekend just taking it as easy as possible and fighting my tendency to make every second of it productive, at least this once.

But you know, just thinking about it now tickles my anxiety a little; like, “You still got time between now and Monday, get on the stick!” Especially since I’ve really let my progress slip on the MOOC I’m doing. And it doesn’t help that I learned that being a professional dungeon master is a thing. Makes me feel like I missed a calling in life.

I just need to get comfortable with just chilling the fuck out between things. I think that’s a 2020 goal.

IRON IN THE FIRE. So yesterday I had an interview for a new position at my dayjob. Things look good; then again, I’ve thought that before. But I’m one of two final candidates so my odds are 50/50 at this point. I should hear in the next couple of weeks, so I’m either going to have an awesome holiday or, well, an okay one. Y’all will know as soon as I do!

FEEDING MY EYES. Would you believe that yesterday I came across another episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE — “The Fear” — that I’ve never seen before?

FEEDING MY EARS. It only took me 30 years to figure this out…

IN THE WILD. This was the week that Asher finally ventured out of the bedroom (under his sister’s watchful eye, of course). Monday, he made it out of the hallway, and spends longer and longer out in the living room before being startled by something and scurrying back to his hidey hole. And just now, for the first time, he jumped up onto the living room furniture. He’s come a long way!!

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK