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Category Archives: Conspiracies Out To Get Me

Fast Cars and Loose End Times – David Hasselhoff is the Anti-Christ?

I’m dealing with a particularly pernicious ear worm just now.

It all started out of idle curiosity.

In the pilot episode of Knight Rider, was the pre-facelift Michael Long played by David Hasselhoff or another actor?

I was about 90% certain it was another actor, but memory is malleable and this is an important question. I had to know for sure.

Since nuking it from orbit wasn’t an option, I hopped onto the nearest local streaming service and found the pilot.

A two parter, and everyone knows how bad 80s television was. Would I be willing to endure nearly two hours of Vogon poetry-esque viewing in order to get my answer?

Clearly, no. Thankfully, to answer my question I would only need to watch the first couple of minutes.

Ahem.

I can confirm now that Michael Long/Michael Knight was played by a different actor for the pre-plastic surgery bits, one Larry (not Harry or Gerry!) Anderson.

(And the irony of using IMDB to look up his name for this post, and not thinking to do that earlier instead of actually watching, is not lost on me.)

I wonder if that actor was hoping for the series lead role, and if he was bummed to only get this entirely forgettable bit part instead. Is he at home now, in a fluffy recliner, watching YouTube footage of David Hasselhoff singing on the Berlin Wall, thinking bitterly, “That could have been me!”?

I like to think so. I mean, his career includes such post-Knight Rider highlights as “BMW Businessman” and “Tarlack Officer” in Star Trek:Insurrection.

On second thought, a glance at IMDB suggests he’s worked a lot more than The Hoff. Maybe it’s David sitting in the fluffy recliner, staring at the TV and shouting at Larry in that one episode of Castle.

(Let me just say, I have a newfound love of IMDB.)

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yeah, pernicious ear worm.

I’ve got the theme to Knight Rider stuck in my head. Duh da duh da duh da duh da daaa duh duuuh duh doo doo doo doo doooo doo ARGH!

That, plus after quitting about 30 minutes into the pilot, I realized that Knight Rider is the start of the end times. KITT is a precursor to, not self-driving cars, but the Cylons that will nearly wipe us out in the not so unforeseeable future.

Judge for yourselves:

Based on the 'twitching' speed here, I think KITT was given some of that high octane gas by mistake.
Ya think KITT had Intel Inside?
Future human/robot hybrid, or just the future of UV protection?
Definitely Intel Inside
By your command
Mask hiding AMD Inside?

I guess we should start replying to every Elon Musk tweet with, “As you wish.” *

* NOTE: Thanks to the thoughtful comment below, I have corrected an error in this post. I originally misquoted the Cylon catch phrase and said: I guess we should start replying to every Elon Musk tweet with, “As you command.” I apologize for the error and constructive criticism is always welcome.

 
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Posted by on 14 September 2020 in Conspiracies Out To Get Me, Life

 

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Look! Up in the Sky! It’s a Moonlighting Superhero! No, It’s Just An In Over His Head Improv Student!

If you were peeking surreptitiously through my window tonight and saw me groaning in pain as I reached under the kitchen sink to grab a garbage bag, you could be forgiven for wondering:

“Is he a mild-mannered writer by day who uses Krav Maga to fight crime at night? Is that why he’s so stiff and in such obvious agony now, having over-exerted himself during the off hours in his zeal for intemperate Justice?”

Honestly, right now it feels exactly like I do go out at night, but not to pummel ne’er-do-wells. Nope, sadly I think it’s more akin to them pummeling me.

But that is not the source of my discomfort.

No.

It’s something much simpler:

Improv comedy.

That darkest and deadliest of the comic arts, requiring its oh-so-foolish practitioners to work…without a net.

Dangerous stuff. Really gets the heart a-pumpin’.

Yes, instead of finishing his latest short story or the third book in the Marlowe and the Spacewoman saga, this mild-mannered author / engineer by day is moonlighting as an adrenaline-seeking improv artist during his “down” time.

And I’m not very good at it.

You see, in Comedy Which Is Improvised, as lay people call it, the audience expects to laugh. Ideally by something you or your fellow artists are saying and performing on stage.

You know, acting out wacky and hilarious scenes based on prompts from the people sitting in the dark in front of you, fidgeting in their seats, hungry for entertainment.

Ravenous, even.

And if you aren’t wacky and hilarious?

Well, the audience still needs to feed. And if they don’t get the delicious comedy they expect, there is a substitute they will accept.

Pain.

Turns out if you can’t make with the funny using words, the audience will eat up pain.

A very specific type of pain.

Self-inflicted.

Sure, you may think it’s funny to punch a castmate in the face and break their nose. Especially if they’ve been hogging the stage all night and stepping on your lines.

But not the audience. Oh no. From them it’s nothing but shocked gasps and indignant muttering and offers to testify on your castmate’s behalf at the assault trial.

But.

But!

Fall flat on your own face?

First a silence so deep descends upon the audience they can hear your teeth crack from the impact.

And then, a beat later, laughter.

Uproarious, gleeful laughter.

The more self-inflicted and gasp-inducing your injury, the more they lap it up.

And once they’ve supped on your personal misery, they discover too late they’ve developed a taste for it.

They want more.

They need more.

They. Must. Have. MORE.

More of your saucy, delectable pain.

So this past weekend I ended up flinging myself upon the hard, unyielding boards I was trodding in a desperate attempt to find a balance between killing myself (too much pain) and angering the audience (not enough).

Oh, how they laughed at my anguished wailing, how they chortled at my plaintive whimpers, how they guffawed at the gush of my hemoglobin all over the floor of the stage, hot and sticky and metallic.

Which is why today, I don’t have the strength to lift my damp, still blood-stained costume out of the washing machine.

Or a garbage bag out from the cabinet under the sink.

Today I learned it’s a good idea to have, if not a medical degree, at least an Associate’s Degree in anatomy if you want to get into the dangerous, high-stakes life of improv comedy.

Or, if you have the knack for it, be funny.

Either way, I think I’m in over my head.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on 26 August 2019 in Art!, Conspiracies Out To Get Me, improv, Life

 

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You Want Me To Be Funny? Then Tell Me Where My ‘Effin Pajama Pants Are!

So I’ve been taking improv classes for the last several months. I’m in my third class now, and we’re doing a show in two weeks.

Three rounds of classes, and I still suck at it.

One of the things I’ve learned from the class is that it’s hard to be funny when you’re tired.

Another is it’s hard to be energetic when you can’t sleep.

Finally, I’ve figured out that it’s hard to sleep when you’re dealing with anxiety.

This anxiety thing is fairly new for me. I’ve touched on it here in recent posts, but touching on it hasn’t really done squat to help.

At first the anxiety was over finances. I used to think I was brilliant and lucky to be a homeowner rather than a renter, especially since my mortgage is less than half what it costs to rent small apartments here.

But then pipes started bursting. And toilets leaking. And of course, right after blowing the Xmas gift budget on the kiddos, the first installment on our crazy high property taxes came due.

Suddenly I had moments when I wished I was renting.

(They don’t last long – rents here are worse than the property tax bills.)

That was the start of the anxiety.

But then the dog got sick and triggered an expensive vet bill.

The car needed some repairs. Expensive repairs.

After the repairs, the car still needs repairs. Because apparently the first round of repairs weren’t expensive enough.

Oh, and the dryer sounds like someone has taken a power grinder to a bald eagle. Which is not only seriously unpatriotic, but means I need to buy a new one of those too.

(New dryer, that is, not a new bald eagle. One bald eagle is expensive enough to keep as a pet.)

The water and sewer lines to quite a few of the houses on my street, which were all built at the same time as my house, have over the last few months started failing in spectacular ways that require digging up lawns and jack-hammering sidewalks. And, no doubt, shelling out lots of dough.

To add to my potential cash flow problems, I’m now haunted by the fear that the changes to the tax code mean I will end up owing money I don’t have this April instead of getting a much-needed cash infusion in the form of a refund that will allow me to (partially) cover the second property tax installment that, of course, is also due in April.

But that’s just the worst stuff that’s keeping me up at night. The thing with anxiety is, you also start being kept up by stupid things.

Is that weird intermittent smell that I may or may not be imagining a gas leak?

Does the dog’s constant farting mean the latest batch of dog food is tainted and we somehow missed the recall notice?

Is my boss going to suddenly realize I have no idea what I’m doing and fire me, which would, of course, make it impossible to pay my income taxes, property taxes, and oh-so-many bills (insurance, car repairs, vet, plumber, etc., etc., etc. to name but a few!)

Once I lose the house after being unable to pay my mortgage, where will I live? It can’t be my car – the mechanic is still working on it. Will I lose custody of the kids? Will I get saddled with an impossible alimony payment when my wife decides I’m a loser who can’t provide for his family?

Yes, that’s right. Now I’m anxious my wife going to leave me. Is it a realistic fear? I don’t think so, but realism has nothing to do with anxiety.

In a similarly unrealistic vein, is that bump on my hand cancer? Are the tiles in my shower on the verge of popping off the wall, forcing me into a remodel I can’t afford? Will the screeching sound that dryer/bald eagle torture device is making cause a fire? Is the toilet seal I spent half my weekend installing actually leaking even though I don’t see any water on the floor and eventually going to soften the ground under the house so much the foundation settles and cracks, inevitably leading to a partial collapse of the house?

Speaking of collapses, what about those trees in the front and back yards? We’ve had some windy weather lately – is one or more on the verge of toppling over into the house?

And where the hell did my ‘effin pajama pants go? I can’t find them. Anywhere. I need them to sleep!

I mean, what am I going to do? Sleep in the nude? What would the Missus, who is, in all honesty, almost certainly contemplating divorce at this point, think about that? Would it push her over the edge and into the sweet, tender arms of a divorce lawyer?

And when that tree does fall into the house in the middle of the night and I run out front to see what happened, forgetting I’m naked, will the neighbors point and laugh? And post a video of the whole thing on YouTube?

But then again, the pattern on those pajama pants is pretty bright and wild. If I do find them and put them on, would they be so distracting they keep the Missus up at night, predisposing her more towards dumping me just so she can get some damn sleep???

Because right now I’d consider divorcing her if it meant I could fall asleep at a reasonable hour and stay asleep through the night.

Damn those pajama pants!

Any now you know why I’m struggling with the improv class. And life in general. I’m tired, I’m vacillating between the edge of and deep in the throes of panic, and just not focused or relaxed enough to be funny and entertaining.

The icing on that anxiety cake? I have a show in two freakin’ weeks!

Not that I’m stressing out about that or anything.

 

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I’m not getting older, dammit! The world is just getting darker!

So I have a problem. One that requires more than a little blue pill to resolve.

Oh, if only a pill could solve this problem!

Or, for that matter, even a suppository.

I am deeply saddened to report that when it gets dark, and I mean very, very dark, I can’t see.

This is particularly disturbing because I do my best work at night. When it’s, you know, dark.

Yes, when my body most desperately needs to rest and rejuvenate itself, my brain is all, “Hold my beer.”

But in a good, non-alcoholic, non-electoral sort of way.

As you might be starting to suspect, I wrote this entry during the day. But I had no choice, given I can’t see at night.

You see, since everyone else in my household have brains that listen to their bodies, they’re all asleep at night.

Or should be. Get back to bed right now, Kiddo!

Sorry about that. Because of this (nearly) mass slumber, I can’t just flip on all the lights, crank up the volume on my .mod files, and take care of business.

Oh no. Everyone else in my household gets cranky when I turn the productivity up to 11 past, well, eleven. Suddenly the Missus and the one kiddo who actually does sleep at night are making snide remarks about needing rest and don’t I have work in the morning and look you’re making the dogs bark and oh my gawd what is that racket you are listening to it should be illegal to distribute it!

(My hearing is fine. Spider by They Might Be Giants is meant to be listened to loud.)

In order to appease the Missus, I turn everything off, go to bed, and when dawn’s surly light finally returns, make yet another medical appointment.

My doctor always sort of wilts and sighs when he walks into the exam room and sees me, like a blow-up punching bag suddenly deflating after one punch too many, then mutters “Oh no, not again.”

While most people would see this reaction and think, “Uh oh, I must be really sick!” I’m not worried. I’ve been here before. Seen the doc about this many times. And after the poorly hidden but inevitable eye roll, he always tells me the same thing:

“Still not getting more exercise? I really think you should focus more on that. Not being able to see in the dark? That’s nothing to worry about. You’re just getting old. Try turning on the lights.”

I am not getting old!

And turn on the lights?? Did he not read the above paragraph about other people in the house wanting it dark so they can sleep?

Since modern medical science has cast me aside despite my numerous co-pays, I was forced to do my own research.

My own experiments.

And I figured it out.

(So start writing up those Nobel Prize nominations, in case they won’t accept my self-nomination.)

I’m not getting older. Nope.

The world…is getting darker.

Hear me out. Once you see the evidence you will drop your jaws in amazement.

(Or disbelief. But if you stay silent, I can still imagine it’s amazement. So hush.)

Here’s a modern-day keyboard. Notice anything about it, aside from the dirt?

Peek-a-boo, I can't see you, goddammit!

Who uses this? Members of the band Disaster Area?

That’s right. It’s super dark.

Here’s what it looks like at night with all the lights in the house in the mandated OFF position:

I see London, I see France, I do not see this freakin' keyboard

The real reason schools started mandating touch typing classes…

Now you can see my problem (or more specifically, can’t).

And don’t tell me to get a back-lit keyboard! I’ve tried that! They require you to press a key combo to turn on the back-lighting.

Can you see any of the keys in the dark on the above keyboard? Can you? Then how the hell am I supposed to see them, hmm?

Think about it. Their design solution when you can’t see the keyboard is to require you to hit specific keys on the keyboard so you can see the keys. On the keyboard! It’s Kafkaesque!

They’ll be the first ones up against the wall when the revolution comes, let me tell you!

But, I perceive you mumbling as you nervously edge away, what do keyboards have to do with my supposition that the world is getting darker?

Well, aside from black reflecting back less light into the environment (ergo, making the surrounding environment darker), we once had, long ago, better keyboards.

And by better I don’t mean clickier (though that was better too). I mean beige:

Seriously, does it get any better than an IBM mechanical keyboard?

If my sunglasses were handy, I’d put them on before using this keyboard

See what this pinnacle of keyboard engineering looks like in normal lighting? Compare that to yet another modern keyboard (this time grey):

The Great Computer Compromise of 1995 between IBM and Apple solved nothing and only punted down the road the final, disastrous decision to switch to black for computers and accessories that future generations would lament for all time.

“We think beige is too bright. Waa waa. If black is too dark, how about we meet in the middle and try gray?” No. Just no.

But check it out what happened when I photographed my, if the Keyboard Industrial Complex PR hacks are to be believed, “old, tired, and passé” vintage keyboard in the dark.

WTFtl;dr! It actually got brighter:

OK, even I agree that white is too bright. Turn it up to beige AND THEN STOP!

CAPS LOCK on because DAMN IT, YES, I’M EXCITED ABOUT THIS KEYBOARD! AND NO COLLUSION! TOTALLY NO COLLUSION! COVFEFE!

Beige is a color I can type on in the dark. Because with beige, the cold encroachment of darkness is stopped in its sneaky, disabling tracks. I can look down and see the damn keys I need to press and then press them.

Presto! No back-light, front-light, or side-light required.

And it’s not just the keyboard. Tell me, how am I going to find that black CD eject button, cleverly placed, of course, right next to the black power button, on this particular, recently manufactured computer?

Stephen King's got nothin' on this scary beast

Hell, in this photo I have a spotlight on the chassis and I’m using a flash, and you still can’t see anything (except the dust bunny residue)!

But take away the above modern, fancy-pants, 1080p, USB 3.0, multi-core and multi-threaded (guess the color of the thread – hint: it’s BLACK) super computer and replace it with a late-80s, early-90s computer, and what do you get?

You get this, a right proper computing machine:

This. This I can effin' see.

The IBM “Just Try And Make The Room This Is In Dark” PS/2 P70. They don’t build ’em like this any more. Can’t afford to. Too much lead needed for the chassis.

That’s right. I closed the curtains, turned off the lights, and then tented the entire house (due to termites) before taking this picture, and it still looks like I’m standing outside on a bright summer day.

That’s how much frickin’ light beige computers give off!

Now it might be the termiticide talking, but I think I’d be able to use my computer at night just fine…if it were made out of beige. But sadly, as amazing as the above computer is, it does lack one feature deemed unnecessary in the 1980s and 1990s:

WiFi.


Do you have tales of horror trying to use an albedo-challenged computer in the wee hours? Share them in the comments so we can commiserate together and maybe put together a kickstarter to make a modern beige computer!

(Please comment. The Missus thinks I’m nuts and I need you to help me prove her wrong.)
 

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I’m dying, and it’s all NPR’s fault

The Missus and I recently celebrated another marriage anniversary, having destroyed the divorce pool our friends had going by quite a few years (if I can hold out for a couple more years I’ll win the jackpot, and I am totally going to win that jackpot).

As a reward for endur surviv enjoying so many years of agon horror blissful wedded matrimony, we decided to get ourselves FitBits.

(OK, the Missus is convinced I’m going to drop dead if I don’t get more exercise, and this was supposed to help put off that outcome. Which is strange considering the strychnine I’m pretty sure she’s been lacing my morning tea with (she has her own jackpot date in the pool, and I suspect it’s considerably earlier than mine…)).

The FitBits are great, once you get past all the data they are sucking up and phoning home to the manufacturer. So yeah, if you enjoy tinfoil hats as much as I do, then maybe “great” is a bit strong of a word to describe it.

But there are upsides. And one of those is the feature that is saving my life: the step tracking and daily goals associated with that walking. If I hit 10k steps a day, according to the FibtBit manual, I will live forever.

Immortality (and on top of that, looking pretty good too) is a pretty effective incentive, assuming most of that time is spent being single and looking fit (because you can be single and lonely or single and not lonely, and let’s face it, this culture is all about how good you look), so I’ve been pretty diligent in getting those steps in because when I hit that divorce pool jackpot I am gonna be rich AND look good!

Which is why I’m so upset that NPR has taken it upon itself to kill me.

That’s right, National Public Radio, you are really making me consider the possibility that Trump is right to want to cut off all your funding and redirect it to the Brown Shirts of America organization (welovehate.org, a 501c non-profit charity where, for tax purposes, you can write off your bigotry!).

Wait, I can hear you shouting, with more than a little surprise in your tone, NPR is good, how can you say it wants to kill you?

Two words, my loyal reader:

Pledge breaks.

What, that isn’t sufficient explanation? Seriously, it’s not obvious from just those two words?

Fine. I’ll spend more time sitting at a keyboard typing instead of getting in my steps, which means I’m adding you, loyal reader, to the list of things trying to kill me.

NPR is killing me with its pledge breaks.

Here’s how it works. I drive to and from work in a car. With a radio. And since I get incredibly anxious when there isn’t noise around me, I listen to the radio. And because I need to feel somewhat anxious in order to be motivated to move around and do things (also sometimes referred to as “functioning”), I counteract the soothing effects of radio noise by tuning into the news. That is, NPR.

It works great. The lizard portion of my brain is lulled by the cacophony spit out by the radio, but the sleep center is constantly stabbed awake by the onslaught of stories about all the terrible things happening in the world. And NPR strikes just the right balance of bad news and unbiased, level-headed commentary to keep me functional but not in a state. Unlike some other radio news sources.

(I’m looking at you, KCBS!)

But right now NPR is in the middle of a pledge drive, which means they’re going on and on about how important we the listeners are, how easy and affordable it is to pledge, how vile and guilt-ridden we should feel if we haven’t pledged yet, and matching funds and the like.

Which means I’m not listening to NPR.

I know, I know, they’ve got this thing called Pledge Free Streaming, which allows me to listen without the pledge breaks during the pledge drive, but I only listen in the car on my way to and from work, and I don’t have an unlimited data plan on my phone, and my state has a hands-free law, so risk of impending death aside, that just isn’t a workable option for me.

So because of pledge breaks you’ve stopped listening to NPR and now you’re suffering from a spike in anxiety that you’re afraid will kill you, you ask?

No. That is not how NPR is killing me. That’s far too obvious a play for an evil, left-wing liberal media outlet to use when trying to silence its own constituency.

No, their plan is far more insidious.

I have an AED strapped to my other wrist.

According to my FibBit and reports on NPR, my heart has stopped beating. Also, before pledge drive season, my arms were as smooth and hairless as a baby’s butt. Anxious Hair Growth syndrome strikes again, dammit. Also also, those 1980 steps? I haven’t gotten out of bed yet. Thanks, Obama, I mean, NPR.

You see, when I tune out NPR, I don’t turn off the radio.

I switch stations.

And because all the other news stations make me too anxious, and because the lack of NPR dials up my existing anxiety to 11, I turn to soothing, relaxing music.

Classical music.

The kind of music you swing your arm to, as if holding a baton and conducting the orchestra.

The arm your FitBit is on.

The FitBit that reads this ‘conducting’ as steps taken, therefore falsely incrementing your step counter so you think, at the end of the day, that you have attained those 10k steps when, in fact, YOU HAVEN’T!

That, that is how NPR is killing me. With pledge breaks.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get in some more steps. I think.

Would you like to support NPR and end its pledge drive early so Ian can drive to and from work at a relatively familiar level of anxiety? If so, click here to donate. Ian would appreciate it and NPR probably wouldn’t mind either. Just put “Give Ian some peace!!!” in the comment section so they know I sent you.

Better yet, don’t leave a comment. That might be seen as violating the restraining order they had issued against me after all the letters I sent and calls I made asking them to stop the pledge breaks…

I’m also thinking of a Walk-A-Thon sort of event where people can sponsor me. You know, hit x number of steps and you’ll buy a copy of my book. Or, conversely, if I don’t hit x number of steps you will return my book for a refund. If there’s enough interest, I’ll put together a cool sign-up sheet (that is, xerox the kiddos’ most recent walk-a-thon form from school with the school name crossed out) and let you, my loyal reader, make a pledge.

Call now, operators are standing by!

 
 

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Natural selection: Survival of the rudest

Humans may be the most evil animals on Earth, but raccoons surely are a close second.

Certainly they are the most inconsiderate animals on Earth.

Right bastards, they are, raccoons.

Whoa, Ian, what’s with the raccoon hate? What, you ask, have these cute, cuddly-looking little bandits ever done to you?

Plenty. They’ve had it in for me from day one, and you’re a naive fool to see them as anything but the thieving, conniving bastards that they are. To wit:

  • As a small child, a raccoon mauled our beloved family pet, a soft, cuddly, and thoroughly un-maul-worthy bunny rabbit.
  • Frequently while camping, raccoons have raided my campsite, stealing the heavy food I packed in. And, surprisingly, all the beer. Though I haven’t ruled out my campmates on that.
  • On one camping trip, the raccoons broke into my car and stole all the Blake Shelton CDs that somehow found themselves, against all odds, in my car. They left all the classical music CDs untouched.
  • A few months ago, a domestic dispute between two raccoons unfolded on my roof. Loudly. At two in the morning.
  • Regularly while driving at twilight, I see raccoons skulking about the street corner storm drains, a shifty glint in their eyes. Clearly up to no good.

As I said, the most inconsiderate animals on Earth.

Which brings to me last weekend, when they went from inconsiderate to just f*cking with me.

About six months ago, my beloved kiddos, playing in the backyard, decided that throwing toys on the roof and then asking big, gullible ol’ Daddy to get them was the bestest, funnest game in the world.

Teenage Mutant Smug Turtle, more like

This crime fighter doesn’t inspire confidence.

It took me about three rounds of this sport to catch on, at which point I flatly refused to go back up and fetch their latest volley, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle doll, a plush stuffed animal that shouted TMNT catchphrases when flung against hard surfaces.

Such as the ground and roofs with slate shingles.

So up it stayed on the roof, through sun and rain and wind. My refusal to recover it instantly converted this into their favorite toy. The kiddos still cry themselves to sleep at night, mourning the loss of that toy and cursing not just my name, but the date of my birth.

Which I find ironic, given if their curses against my birth had any weight or power, there would be no them to curse me.

Time travel has its paradoxes, and so too, it turns out, does black magic.

I’ve attempted to explain to them the dangerous lack of logic in such a curse, in case it turns out they do have magical powers, but apparently six-year olds aren’t that good at understanding where babies come from or how their Daddy’s genetics contributed greatly to who they are.

And as they are still six, I have no enthusiasm for the birds and the bees conversation yet because I know, when I make the Missus give it to them, I will bear the brunt of her irritation at making her do it.

So the kiddos, not understanding, just wail anew and spit at me.

Numbskulls.

(I will say, the spitting is an improvement over their pre-potty training days, when they found less pleasant things close at hand to fling at me when expressing their disdain.)

But speaking of bastards, back to the raccoons.

Last Sunday, I retired to bed early. I’d recently been tasked to hire an engineer at work, and the lovely recruiter scheduled an 8am phone screen with the latest candidate.

I am not a morning person. I have never been a morning person. If the sun wasn’t essential for all life on Earth, I would have it snuffed out just to sleep in an extra five minutes. This is how I feel about getting up early, let alone being well-rested when I rise.

So I not only had to be at work at the normal start time, but I had to be sharp and pleasant and ready to talk to potential talent.

Where_in_the_world_is_Agent_Carter

Greatest (British) American hero

Hence the retiring early, despite the Missus’ entreaties to finish watching Agent Carter with her on the DVR. I’d sat through the first hour, quite enjoying the episode, but it was one of those ‘two hour events’ networks often put on to generate excitement about a program, and I simply could not stay up another hour.

I left my poor Missus, wailing and gnashing her teeth at my absence from her side as she watched the second hour without me, and went to bed.

Except shortly after closing my eyes, I heard something in the crawlspace above my bed.

Well, possibly in the crawlspace. Or possibly on the roof.

It’s surprisingly hard to tell, when lying half-asleep in the dark, whether the thump thumps you hear above you are on the roof, in the crawlspace, or maybe the result of some Lovecraftian beast walking upside down on the ceiling directly above you.

I am not a morning person because the night terrors that arise from my twisted, dark imagination keep me up at night.

I am a morning person out of necessity.

I struggled awake. I threw on the lights. I reached for the cricket bat next to my bed.

Nothing on the ceiling, thank the Old Ones.

Still some thump thumps, though.

I went outside, still clutching that cricket bat, and checked the roof as best I could in my PJs, bare feet, and with no ladder.

Nothing, which told me a truly shifty bastard was at work.

Naturally, my thoughts went immediately to raccoons.

I went back to bed, light left on, and tried to doze off. All was silent and right with the world.

At first.

But then the thump thump again. Only this time, something new:

The Thing On The Roof (henceforth known as TTOTR): Thump Thump “Cowabunga!” Thump thump
Me: WFT?
TTOTR: Thump thump “Totally awesome, dudes!” Thump thump
Me: OMFG! The neighborhood teenage hooligans are playing on my roof, and they brought a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle doll with them! I mean action figure, I added, knowing they’d correct me as such had they heard my thoughts. Such are the teenage hooligans in my neighborhood – smug.
TTOTR: Thump thump “Cowabunga” thump thump I taunt you with my spooky ambiguity thump thump

I abandoned raccoons for teenage hooligans because come on, what raccoon plays with toys on a stranger’s roof in the middle of the night? It defies all logic.

I rose again from bed, blearly-eyed and more than a little put out. This time I went to the backyard, where a ladder leans against one wall of the house, left over from that game, many months ago, of Daddy Fetch From the Roof.

I climbed the ladder, and because I was tired and I couldn’t find a proper flashlight, used my cell phone for illumination.

Let me just say, when attempting to see something in the dark from far enough away that you have time to successfully climb down a ladder and flee in case said thing decides to charge you, a cell phone light is not sufficient.

This thought is the very one that went through my head as I alighted that ladder. It was not a comforting thought.

Made all the moreso by the fact that I couldn’t climb the ladder, hold my cell phone, and hold a cricket bat at the same time.

I felt naked.

Yes, my PJs are slight and flimsy (and mostly see-through), but I’ve never felt naked in them before.

Of course, I had forgotten all about the kiddos’ little game and the toy left up there as I ascended that ladder. I just knew that something very wrong was happening on my roof, and while I really, really had no desire to see what exactly that wrong was, the only way to get some sleep was to investigate.

I don’t do my best thinking when I’m tired.

Fortunately, in moving the ladder into position, I’d made a lot of grunting, groaning, and “Ow!”ing sounds. This, apparently, alerted the bastard raccoon on the roof that I was coming.

I was back to raccoons at this point because once my head cleared the eave and saw no living creature there, I knew only a raccoon could have slipped off so stealthily.

Almost like a ninja.

Teenage hooligans tend to make a lot more noise disembarking my roof in a hurry.

I speak from experience on that count…

The only thing to greet me, as I tottered on the top rung of my ladder, surveying my roof, was the now silent and dismembered TMNT doll.

This battle goes to you, raccoon, but the war goes on.

As is natural in these situations, I paused for a moment in order to tweet about it. I then scraped the remains off the roof, carried them into the kiddos’ room, and with a scream fit to reanimate a thoroughly dead-due-to-mauling toy, woke them so they might see the logical conclusion of fun had at Daddy’s expense.

I explained, as my father once explained to me while I lay sick in bed one morning, that a raccoon had mauled their precious, beloved companion.

There was much crying and wailing after this. Mostly from the Missus, who was not happy that I had awakened the kiddos in the middle of the night and distressed them so.

But they were out of school for the whole week and didn’t need to get up early like I did.

Why should I be the only one to suffer?

I am living proof that humans are the most evil animals on the planet. At least when they’re really, really tired.

No doubt the kiddos will carry on that tradition when, years from now and despite my protests to the contrary, they decide it’s time to unplug Daddy from life support.

Holy Disemboweled Ninja Turtles, Batman, the shingles on this roof look, well, OK, actually!

In case you thought I made this whole horrifying story up…


Yes, I’ve been away from this blog for a long time. It hasn’t just been raccoons depriving me of sleep and leaving me too stressed out and exhausted to post.
I had pretty much given up on life, and by extension, this blog, but then the raccoons came, and their outrageous disregard for common decency fired me up again. Gave me the will to live. Endowed within me a newfound zest for life (or at least revenge…).

 

 

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Based on my example, they probably think we’re lazy too.

Not up for the usual blog entry today, so instead I give you this little gem:

The Swiss think we’re idiots. And by “we’re” I mean Americans.

It wasn't until I turned fourteen that I figured out the corkscrew was for wine bottles and not nose-picking. Explains all those looks I got on camping trips.

Then again, I saw this and was still stupid enough to buy the knife.

They’re wrong, of course. In reality, poor implementations of autocorrect are responsible for our lackluster image abroad.

Shame on you, Steve Jobs. Shame on you.

Idiot.

 

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Why being a best-selling author is overrated and you should be relieved – RELIEVED – not to be one

Over the course of my life, I’ve learned to come to terms with a lot of things.

Not being an astronaut.

Not being an airline pilot.

I think in this dream, I forgot to use conditioner. The hair is long and glorious, but smacks of a hint of stringy.

This image from my dreams shows me wearing my astronaut jumpsuit just before boarding my rocket ship, crewed by the Swedish Bikini Team, who are all PhDs in Astrophysics, making me look like an idiot. As usual.

Not having the sort of comely locks of hair that make women go all atwitter when they see me, especially when I flip that glorious, glorious mane.

Not even having the sort of hair that you can grow long without it looking all oily and stringy.

These were hard truths to accept.

But perhaps the hardest truth to swallow was not becoming a best-selling author.

Yes, I had dreams. The dreams every author has:

Dreams of fabulous wealth.

Of being recognized wherever I went.

Of hobnobbing with celebrities.

Adored by fans the world over.

A subject of special interest to the beady-eyed lizard people who secretly run the world.

Alas, none of this was to come to pass.

(Except those bastard lizard people. They’re watching me. They’re watching me now. They’re always watching me.)

But, as with all childish things, I came to terms with it.

OK, I didn’t.

I am still deeply bitter that I am not the first best-selling author who flew his own plane to the launchpad before blasting off to his home on the moon, a crowd of beautiful women in the wake of his wind-swept, waist-long hair.

Instead, I had to find a way to cope.

Let me tell ya, compared to having your dreams come true, coping sucks.

But what other choice do you have?

In order to get past my crushing disappointment, I looked for the silver lining.

How does one go about this silver lining finding?

Simple. Imagine you had what you wanted.

So, for the sake of argument, let’s say I am a world-renowned, best-selling author.

Hey, you in the back! No snickering!

What would happen if I had attained this lofty goal?

First off, I’d be fawned over by devoted fans.

Many of them male, no doubt, but a certain sizable percentage would indubitably be young, attractive women.

Women half my age plus seven years, give or take.

This leads to problems. Because I know myself, and I know that all that love and adoration would go to my head.

Very quickly.

Especially when bestowed by beautiful young women half my age plus seven years, give or take.

Not so much with the men half my age plus seven years.

They, paradoxically, would be no threat to my marriage whatsoever.

Who knew?

Inevitably, I leave my wonderful wife, who I don’t deserve, and kids, who I will blame for the divorce, because that’s the kind of jerk dad I become once famous and vain.

And start dating a woman half my age plus seven years, who I meet at a convention celebrating the iconic movie series based on my best-selling novels.

Now I’m not attracted to dummies, so eventually this shrewd woman will get me to marry her, sans a prenup.

The wedding announcement has consequences. Primarily, it shatters the uneasy cease-fire between the ex-Missus and I.

The ex-Missus will engage in a bitter alimony and custody suit, making me a tabloid target and generally causing me a great deal of grief.

My kids will come to spit derisively when they speak my name, on those rare occasions they deign to acknowledge my existence.

My new marriage will be seemingly fun at first, but quickly descend into a living hell.

And why wouldn’t it?

The neo-Missus will suddenly realize that the middle-aged man who leaves his first middle-aged wife is likely to do the same to the second wife when she attains middle-agedom.

She will spend the next few years feverishly hoping I’ll age out of my sex drive before she hits her forties.

That fear will fester within her, eventually driving her towards a torrid affair with a man half my age plus zero.

Also, full-on, murderous hatred towards me.

In the end, I’m a cuckolded fifty-something year old who ends up murdered by his neo-Missus with a padded toilet seat.

It is not a pretty crime scene.

But before that, the stress and strain of my failing marriage and constant media attention, not to mention all the internet trolls leaving comments on my blog, takes its toll on my creativity.

My post neo-Missus books open to more and more bad reviews and fewer and fewer sales.

The movie franchise is destroyed by a sequel directed by Joel Schumacher (a pox upon his house), and now my books serve as the punchline in darkly unfunny jokes.

By the time of my undignified death, I am a penniless, unloved, forgotten literary footnote, a ‘Who was that guy who wrote that one good book and then sucked for the rest of his life?’ question asked during trivia contests at bars.

The answer to that question is, invariably, ‘There was a good book?’

By being a miserable failure as a writer, I avoid all that.

And there’s the silver lining.

So in all honesty, I’m probably better off not being a bestseller.

Sigh.

But a man can dream, can’t he?

 
1 Comment

Posted by on 3 December 2014 in Angst, Conspiracies Out To Get Me, Life, Writing

 

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A Practical Guide to Dealing with Government Surveillance

Worried the government is watching you?

Wondering what you can do about it?

Should do about it?

Well, first off, don’t let those friendly Feds intimidate you.

They’re just ordinary working Joes like you and me.

Except they have guns and can get all into your business.

But other than that, really nice folk.

Sure, I was a bit surprised when the NSA agents pounded on my door at 3am this past Saturday, sternly informing me it would be best for all involved if I didn’t publish this blog post.

Surprised and impressed. I hadn’t written this yet, or even planned it, and still they knew.

They knew…

But I wasn’t intimidated.  Inconvenienced by the need to change my underwear? Yes.

But intimidated? No, sir.

The first thing to accept, if you ever hope to cope with being under the extrajudicial microscope, is that you aren’t going to beat the government.

They have the Terrorist card, see? They play that one, and they can do just about anything they want.

So once you’re in Uncle Sam’s crosshairs, you better hope you’re wearing your best, sharpest bulletproof vest.

You know, the one that goes so nicely with your foil top hat.

If Auntie Samantha has decided to keep a worried eye on you, get used to the unwanted gaze.

She isn’t shy, and that gaze ain’t going nowhere.

That said, you can still have fun.*

So achieve acceptance as quickly as possible, find a clean pair of tighty whiteys, and look for the positive.

For no matter how tarnished it may be, there is a silver lining.

There is at least one civil servant, and more likely several, for whom you are the center of the universe.

Think about that.

Relish in the thought of all those tax dollars being spent on you.

You.

Makes you feel kinda special, doesn’t it?

And just because you’re being shadowed by CIA spooks doesn’t mean you can’t have a joke or two at their expense.

They’ll love it. All the three-letter acronym agencies of the government are famous for their highly developed senses of humor.

Here’s what I recommend, to keep those spies on their toes and a spring in their step:

When you go for a walk, always bring along a piece of chalk.

I do.

I like to stop in front of a light pole, or a utility closet on a street corner, or the entrance to a pedestrian underpass, and draw an inconspicuous mark with the chalk.

The local anti-gang squad here refers to me as “The Russian” because of my trademark scythe and hammer drawings.

Pro tip: if your mark is in paint, the cops can beat you and then arrest you on graffiti charges.

If it’s in chalk, they can only beat you.

And then call in the Feds, who arrest you on espionage charges and makes you do a perp walk on the steps of the Hall of Justice.

Boy, that was a laugh a minute!

(I wasn’t kidding about wearing your best, sharpest bulletproof vest. There are a lot of press photographers at those perp walks.)

Assuming you don’t get taken down by a division of rogue cops after leaving your mark, you can smile as you walk off, secure in the knowledge that someone just got tasked to watch that spot and photograph everyone who walks by it.

24/7.

Which is why I always leave three marks on my walks.

Any more than that, and they begin to suspect you’re trolling them.

And if, unlike me, you’re in prime physical shape, why not give that FBI tail a workout?

You know, long, meandering walks (often called ‘bracing’) punctuated with sudden, all-out sprints.

Nothing gets the old Federale heart a pumping like the belief that the subversive you’re following is trying to shake you.

Or better yet, run up to said agent and, while hugging her, slip a note with some random numbers on it into her pocket.

Now she’s got extra paperwork to fill out, and she’s under a cloud of suspicion too.

Share the love!

I also recommend saving your household garbage and trash.

The nastier, the better.

If you’ve got young children, save those poopy diapers.

Each day, before you go out of the house, stuff some of that nasty refuse in a nondescript, brown paper bag.

Hug the bag tight while you walk.

Better yet, hold it under your coat.

If you own a trench coat, wear it.

A trench coat totally seals the deal.

Then, when you reach a public trashcan (maybe next to that underpass entrance?), look around furtively before dropping the bag, gingerly, into the waste receptacle.

Those government bastards won’t just get their hands dirty; they’ll tie up a lab for weeks analyzing the contents of that bag.

On second thought, if you don’t want to get arrested on a weapons charge, better not use the dirty diapers.

For those of you less inclined towards physical activity and open spaces, you don’t have to go outside and get all sweaty if you want to mess with ’em. You can do it from your own home!

(Don’t do this from the office.)

(Seriously, don’t.)

(You will lose your job.)

(Took me three times to learn that lesson!)

When you’re surfing the web, browse Amazon for biohazard suits.

The supple fabric breathes, allowing me to breathe. Which is way better than that plastic bag I was using before.

I wear this because I am a Science ninja! Also, the mask is surprisingly comfortable.

Don’t buy one – the good ones are expensive (…I’ve heard…) – just make sure your browser cookies are turned on and…linger over the different models of protection against biological and radiological weapons.

Believe me, that gag’s a real gas.

I also highly recommend posting random messages on Craigslist, to give those poor saps at the NSA sniffing your network traffic something to ponder:

Danish Red cow seeks Vespa motor scooter to ponder this truth: the owls are not what they seem.

You could also encrypt all your emails, but let’s face it, the NSA cracked PGP years ago.

These are but a few of the things you can do to lighten the mood and break the tension when you’re suspected of being a dissident or worse.

But I am hardly the epitome of imaginative or creative. I’m sure you can come up with far better suggestions.

In fact, I’d love to hear your ideas. Feel free to share them here in the comments.

Let’s make subversive activity funny again.

* All of this assumes, of course, that you have nothing to hide.

 

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Think of the children! (Instead of ignoring them in favor of social media)

Walking past the kiddos’ room one recent evening, I heard crying.

“Daddy,” my son said, when he was still sobbing twenty minutes later so I relented and went in, “I don’t want to grow up, because if I do, I won’t be able to fit in your lap any more.”

I asked him to repeat that, because all I heard after “because if I do” was “I couldn’t be a Toys R Us kid.”

After he repeated himself, I sat down, forming a lap, and patted him over.

“Don’t worry,” I said as he plopped down on my legs, cutting off all circulation. “As you grow, I’ll just eat lots and lots of food so I get bigger.”

My son considered these words for a moment, and then burst into a new round of tears. “But Daddy,” he objected, “if you get bigger, you’ll break the house!”

This. My son fearing I’ll expand beyond the capacity of my house walls due to overeating.

This is why I have given up on social media.

Or at least dialed it way, way back.

Now a lot of folks who are going off-line or getting off the grid these days whine and drone on and on about corporate snooping and unconstitutional government surveillance.

Well, they can keep their tin foil hats. Those things are not my style.

And they’re utterly ineffective against government mind control rays.

If you want to properly shield your brain, you need to go lead or gold foil. Which is expensive and uncomfortable.

Not to mention, it gets you strange looks walking down the street.

(And mugged, more often than not, when it comes to the gold foil hats.)

But for me, social media had become an addiction that distracted me from family time and writing/editing time.

Also, work time, but that was more of a benefit than a disadvantage, in my view.

So, over the recent holiday weekend, I quit the internet cold turkey.

Just for the weekend, mind you, as an experiment to see how I fared. I’m not crazy.

The results?

The biggest benefit was that, with the mobile data setting on my phone off, my battery life went way up. Like 10% improvement up.

I know. Impressive.

The secondary benefit was I became aware of this strange, seemingly-but-actually-not intangible aura surrounding me.

The Missus, upon my commenting on this dawning awareness, snorted and said it was called ‘reality’.

I like reality. There are people and places and things that I can actually touch, feel, taste, and smell.

OK, the smell aspect isn’t always a winner, especially with kiddos still in diapers, but overall, a very worthwhile experience. Especially kissing. It feels way nicer to kiss real lips than displayed lips during a Skype session.

Last but not least, I must point out that during my 72 hours of disconnect, I didn’t miss the internet.

Considering how obsessive I am when it comes to checking for likes on Facebook, retweets on twitter, and visits on my blog, this came as quite a surprise.

How much of a surprise?

Well, usually when writing a blog post, I pause six or seven times during the writing to see if any of my other posts have gotten a hit since I last checked.

This post? Haven’t checked once.

Well, more than once.

Or twice.

The point is, I’m getting better. I’ve proven to myself that I don’t need it as much as I need things like food, water, and oxygen.

Even though it used to feel like I did need it, and in this order of priority:

  • Internet access
  • Oxygen
  • Ice cream
  • Soda
  • Food
  • Water
  • Hot baths with scented candles and Tangerine Dream playing in the background

The long weekend is over now, and obviously, since this blog entry exists, I have not given up on the internet entirely.

But I have scaled way back.

And in doing so, I’ve found I have more time and, more importantly, more patience around my family, friends, and coworkers.

(Since my boss told me I had to develop more patience over my probationary period, this is a double win for me!)

No longer do I view these ‘reality’ interactions as annoying but apparently mandatory distractions from being on-line and getting the latest status updates on people I’ve never met.

You know what else I did with this additional free time?

I  got back to editing my next book, Balloons of the Apocalypse. The sequel I’d originally planned to release this May, but which sat ignored on my computer for months. Why?

Because after I’d gritted my teeth through my work day, and then endured the dull agony of family time, I only had enough energy for one more thing. And when forced to choose between my indie writing career and on-line friends’ social updates, I chose the latter.

The latter plus watching that video of a wombat improbably attired in a Speedo wrestling with, and then eating, a python wearing a fedora.

I miss that video. It is awesome, but I’ve lost the link. Anyone have it?

But I digress. The point is, until completing this off-line experiment, I had no idea the former option, or any non-social media option, for that matter, was even a viable choice.

Turns out it is a viable choice.

The more you know.

You’re welcome.

Need a breakdown to decide if quitting social media is for you? Happy to oblige, because I’m a public service kinda guy.

Pros of internet and social media

  • That guy you follow on twitter because he’s a writer too? See exactly what he had for lunch today
  • Find out the horoscope for Libra even though you aren’t a Libra, or believe in horoscopes, because that very nice lady in Cleveland, Ohio (or so her profile claims) shares hers. Every. Day.
  • Discover the dinosaur-murdering truth about Steven Spielberg (that a-hole!)
  • Develop a deep and abiding hatred for family and friends because they are constantly interrupting your attempts to catch up on Facebook
  • Have a faceless, uncaring government build a detailed dossier on you based on where you surf, what you post, and what you buy, solely so they can predict your every behaviour, and when democracy is overthrown, know exactly where to send the shock troops to arrest you
  • Have a faceless, uncaring corporation build a detailed dossier on you based on where you surf, what you post, and what you buy so that they can make money off you without compensating you. Also, so they can predict when someone in your household is pregnant and send you coupons for baby formula. Actually, that one might be kinda handy…
  • The warm, cozy, but totally unwarranted belief that every time you tweet a link to buy your book on Amazon, it’s clicked on by thousands of eager fans-to-be. Or hundreds. Or even one

Cons of internet and social media

  • Incensed hatred of anyone, especially young children, who want you to forsake the internet in order to meet their social interaction needs
  • Lower productivity
  • Can cause Repetitive Motion Injuries and/or flare-ups
  • If a lot of the people you follow are female writers of a certain age, they have this thing called Beefcake Friday, where they barrage your feed with unwanted pictures of muscular, shirtless, well-oiled men, often fire fighters, which, coupled with the lower productivity already mentioned above, makes you feel even more inadequate as a man. Also, wouldn’t being slathered in oil make a fire fighter more flammable? Is that wise?
  • Cancer

I’ve done the math, and I didn’t even need a calculator! I will be doing a lot less internetting going forward. Which is good news for my family, coworkers, and anyone waiting for my next book.

But it’s very bad news for my oncologist. My poor, poor oncologist.

 

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