Someone once said - and I’m paraphrasing - the older you get, the shorter every year seems. Even when I first heard it years ago, it rang true: a year already seemed like an increasingly miniscule segment of time to me, while my daughter often expressed dismay at how long a year was. Hell, she still whines and moans when she’s told she has to wait a week.
Then, just a few minutes ago, before I started writing this post, I looked back at my previous posts, searching specifically for the one in which I talked about backing up all the writing I’d done for this site, and potentially changing evertything around a little. It SEEMED relatively recent that I’d posted that, and sure enough, it was only about five posts down the page. It’s probably down there somewhere if you care to scroll - it’s called “First Post In Months!”
I’m not gonna bother hotlinking to it because like I said, it’s right there, on this page, just further down.
Anyway, the date on that post, where I’m talking about doing a back-up of the material on this site just in case I lose it when I update Wordpress, is May 14, 2013.
A whole fucking year flew by.
You wanna know when I started the back up I talk about on that post?
Fucking yesterday. And it is exactly as I predicted - time consuming and redundant. Navigating the databases where all my stuff is is tricky and kind of weird, and I have to check each item to make sure it is what I think it is, because for whatever reason there’s a lot of extra junk behind the scenes. It’s gonna take a while.
But I’m doing it. And the REASON I’m finally doing it after a year of pussyfooting around and procrastinating is because I’m about to launch a podcast and I want to use www.willkenyon.com as the URL for said podcast. To that end, I’ve updated and fleshed out the mp3 software I intend to use, and I want my Wordpress to be completely up to date and compatible, so I don’t have trouble uploading podcasts, and no one out there has trouble listening to them.
It’s really not all that complicated, and I could probably manage without all this updating and backing-up. But like I said A YEAR AGO, it really needs to be done. I might as well do it.
As for the podcast, well - I’ll tell you more as we (yes, we - this is a collaborative effort) get “episodes” in the can. I’d like to have a few weeks worth before I launch it, and I’d like to have at least three or four recorded before I talk much more about it.
If you look one post below, you’ll see that the last time I wrote something for this site, it was November of last year - almost six months ago. Consider this a much needed update, and a placeholder, until I get my shit together and get in a position to move on.
In the meantime, thanks for reading, thanks for visiting if this is your first time, and thanks for sticking with me if it isn’t.
Look for one last update in a couple of weeks. Then, be on the look out for a shiny new willkenyon.com.
Hopefully I’m not full of crap, and it won’t take another year.
Before we begin, let me warn you: there are some mild spoilers below for a number of TV shows, and a LOT of spoilers for The Walking Dead in particular. Carry on at your own risk.
Lately, I’ve expressed to a lot of people my absolute disdain for AMC’s The Walking Dead. Meanwhile, I expressed my absolute adoration of HBO’s Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead’s counterpart on AMC – Breaking Bad. I tried to explain WHY I hate The Walking Dead so much in comparison to those other shows, and I think I did a decent job. Still, I’ve given it a lot of further thought, and I thought I’d try to clarify, and to broaden the discussion a bit.
So let’s talk about The Walking Dead, about Game of Thrones, and about Breaking Bad. And to make things even more interesting, let’s throw in another highly influential (and controversial) show from recent years: Lost.
Why do I think Breaking Bad is the best of these shows, followed by Thrones and then Lost? And why do I think Walking Dead has become a heaping mess of dogshit?
It’s all about the planning.
From my perspective, that’s the difference between all four shows – each show’s ability to engage me, thrill me, surprise me, and please me directly correlated to the amount of planning the show’s creators put into it. I get the distinct impression that Vince Gilligan always knew more or less exactly where he was going with Breaking Bad. Sure, there were some gray areas that needed to be filled in, and he had to react to his audience and his investors to some extent. But he had a plan.
On the other hand, I think that the show runners and producers of Walking Dead have so deviated from Robert Kirkman’s original comic book (which I don’t think is that well planned itself) that it’ll take a Herculean effort to turn the mess they’ve made into anything cohesive and satisfying. I see the show petering out into oblivion as other, better shows come to the fore. All it takes is someone producing ANOTHER zombie apocalypse story (or something similar, since zombies are getting played out) which is better written and better structured. When that day comes – and I have a feeling a script is out there somewhere – it’ll be the bullet to the brainpan that puts Kirkman’s creation down for good.
In between lies Lost and Game of Thrones, and I mention them here to demonstrate how varying levels of planning contribute to a show’s ultimate success.
Anyone who’s read the books in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series knows that HBO has done a remarkable job in staying true to the books. Again, that’s a qualified statement – there ARE differences, as there are wont to be when you’re adapting page to screen – but as much as I think they can, the show’s producers are not “interpreting” Martin’s vision, but genuinely sharing it. Thank God for CGI. (On a side note, I think the new Hobbit movies, while enjoyable, are shitting on Tolkien’s quaint little book).
The problem with Thrones lies with Martin himself. I believe in my heart that he, too, has a plan – but he’s writing the series awfully slowly, and I think the scope of what he envisioned now scares the crap out of him. His “plan” is for two more books, but holy cow he’s got a lot of terrain – both figuratively and literally – to cover. And he’s running out of time.
The power of Thrones SO FAR is that there are existing books that will carry the series forward for three, maybe four more seasons. That gives Martin some time. Also, the show’s producers haven’t deviated from his existing storylines, so they’re on track and everything makes sense. Sure, that means those of us who’ve read the books weren’t that surprised by things like Eddard’s execution or the Red Wedding. But so what? It was still great television, and think about all the people who WERE surprised.
The only problem I foresee is if the show catches up with Martin. Then what? I hope to hell that doesn’t happen, but it could derail Game of Thrones, especially if they start making stuff up as they go along, the way Walking Dead seems to be doing now.
It’s been well documented that Damon Lindelof, J.J. Abrams, and Carlton Cuse had a plan for Lost’s early seasons. And it showed. The show was tight, fascinating, exciting, and profound. But in the end, the mythology behind the mysterious island was murky, and the plot and pacing suffered. I personally stuck with them until the end – and what an ending it was – but was it an ending the show’s creators had planned? From everything I’ve read, the answer is no. They had a plan for the beginning, and they stuck to it. But eventually they were winging it, and that showed as well.
Which brings us back again to The Walking Dead.
As of now, the comic book on which the TV show is based is up to around issue 115. It’s been around for almost 10 years. If you read the letters pages in the back of the comics (I have) as well as other things Kirkman has said about the book, you get the impression that his approach was similar to the one the Lost guys took: he had a plan that would sustain the book for quite a while, but after a point it became really, really vague. Kirkman admitted several times that he wasn’t sure what would be happening a year ahead of wherever he was then. He sort of knew what he wanted to accomplish, but he didn’t know the details.
Now this next part is just my impression, and if I’m wrong, then correct me in the comments: I believe that he had a DISTINCT plan that would carry him up to the prison, and the survivors’ experience with The Governor and Woodbury, but after that… nothing. Since that point in the comic, I think he’s been winging it.
After the prison, I stuck with him, hoping some forward movement would happen. After all, there are only so many people in the world who could become zombies, and over time wouldn’t the zombie numbers grow less? Despite the tyrannical nature of The Governor, wouldn’t other, similar pockets of humanity and civilization eventually rise up and prevail?
I can tell you that as of issue 100, there have been gleams and glints of it, but they were all quelled and destroyed by a horrifyingly bleak outlook on mankind’s capacity for compassion and peaceful coexistence. In Kirkman’s vision, the zombies are only the initial threat – tyrants, demagogues, and murderers are abundantly able to finish what the zombies started.
Kirkman has said repeatedly that no character was safe, with the possible exception of Rick Grimes. Trust me, he meant that. But what THAT means, folks, is that there IS NO POINT in investing emotionally in anyone (except Rick, whom I HAVEN’T been able to invest in because I don’t like him). It is my opinion as a writer that the most engaging literature requires you to emotionally invest in someone. Again, that’s qualified – you can have literature that contains no one worthwhile, but the best literature does.
I quit the Walking Dead comic book when one of the best characters was senselessly pulverized. Not just killed – pulverized. I won’t tell you who.
Adding to the problem inherent to the book itself is what the show’s producers are doing to the existing material. Did you know that at the point in the comic book that the show has reached, Andrea was still alive, and she was one of the book’s best characters? She wasn’t the annoying, indecisive creature Lauren Holden was required to portray. Dale was still alive, too, and he was also very likeable. Sophie, too.
You know who’s dead? Tyrese. Carol. The baby Judy. Lori. Herschel. THE GOVERNOR. Shane died early in the mix – before he became so unlikeable we WANTED to see him die. And every single one of their deaths were affecting and powerful and even meaningful.
At this point, what we’re seeing on AMC is resembling Kirkman’s already chaotic vision less and less. If the show’s producers and show runners had stuck to the script the way the Game of Thrones producers have, you would have been terrified of The Governor. You would have been shocked at what Michonne did to him. And you would have been as horrified and surprised by the end of Woodbury and the time in the prison as so many people were when the Red Wedding happened, when Charlie drowned, and when Todd visited Jessie’s ex-girlfriend and her kid.
All that opportunity for good, even great television? Gone.
Kirkman said that he wanted to change things up, to add a few surprises, but I think it’s gotten out of hand. For instance, I LIKE Daryl, and I liked Merle – he was actually a better right hand man to The Governor than Kirkman’s Sanchez was – but now I think they’ve gone too far. I think they’re spiraling out of control.
And when you let things spiral that far out of control, when you deviate from the plan too much, you lose it. The writing itself gets sloppy. You lose continuity and opportunities for solid story-telling. You have actors who become unsure about how to play their characters. I see all of this happening to The Walking Dead, and just like Kirkman’s zombie apocalypse, there’s no end in sight.
Look at the date of this post. Now, look at the date of the post before it. See that lag time? That’s too fucking long. You can’t have a credible and popular blog site if you start having lag times between posts that are a month or more.
But that’s what’s started happening here at my Little Corner of the Universe.
Now, you gotta understand – the lag didn’t happen because I’ve lost enthusiasm for this particular aspect of my writing “portfolio”. Au contraire – I have ideas for posts all the time; I’m constantly thinking about writing material for you guys, my audience, the loves of my life. For instance: I have another couple of installments of A War Between States. I want to review several book offerings from my friends Collin Kelley, Jay Magidson, and Elaine Burroughs. I have heretofore unvoiced opinions on several games, several movies, and several beers. And don’t get me started on this Benghazi nonsense and Congress voting to end the 40-hour work week.
Truth be told, I don’t actually even lack new material. You can visit other places around the Web and see my presence there. Check out Scribd.com for some free story samples I posted which somehow became VERY popular. I also have a Facebook page for my novel at https://www.facebook.com/TheSurvivorOfSanGuillermo, as well as a web site for the same book. And I’m on Goodreads and Fictionaut.
Nah. The reason I’ve slacked on this web site for a couple of months is threefold, and has nothing to do with enthusiasm or lack of material.
First reason is obvious, if you know me: I don’t have enough time. Writing new material is time consuming, and I’m generating A LOT of new material these days, just not for this site. My novel, The Survivor of San Guillermo, is on the verge of getting published, and I have to work on editing it hard to make sure that happens. I also designed a board game based on a hot intellectual property, and it’s fairly text intensive. A major game publisher has agreed to take it on – IF we can score the license. Finally, fortune dictates that the economy is picking up a bit, so I have client work for the first time in months. When I started this web site about four years ago, my client work was dying off, San Guillermo was in a slough, and the board game was just an idea I had. Now, things are different. And though this web site’s content has suffered, I believe all these other changes are good.
That’s just the writing-related stuff which occupies my time. There’s also the work on my house, getting it ready to sell, and there’s dealing with the kids – they’re at an age where they require a lot of attention and help.
My next reason for not updating The Little Corner is that staying up to date with my Internet presence takes a toll. These days, unless you’re lucky – which I’m not – you have to maintain an almost constant presence on social media and among your target audience. Part of that IS this site, but it’s also Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and all those other places where you can find me. It’s called “micro-blogging” and I’m fairly proficient at it. But it takes time and energy.
The MAIN reason, though, that I’ve slacked with The Little Corner is way more complicated: it’s because my Wordpress overlay is out of date and I want to update it, but I’m scared to. My hosting service assures me that everything I’ve written is backed up on databases somewhere, and my web savvy friends say chances are updating the Wordpress on my site probably won’t cause any problems. But I’m not so sure. Shit’s never that easy. I have this sinking feeling that when I update Wordpress, it will create all sorts of compatibility issues, and that all that data simply won’t be readable. I envision the site coming out looking like a Microsoft Word doc that’s been opened in an incompatible word processing software – the words will be there, but so will a mish mash of odd symbols and wing dings. Things will become a jumbled mess. And I’m fairly certain several pictures will be lost.
Or not. But I’d wager on 50/50 odds.
“Well, Will,” you say. “Why don’t you just do a back-up of all your content on an external hard drive or something? Then you know you’ll still have it all.” To that I say YES!!! I believe I will! But… backing up four years of posts on a hard drive takes what, ladies and gentlemen? That’s right… time. And it’s tedious, repetitive work.
So… enough with the excuses about why my web site has been inactive. Instead, here’s where I make a transition and tell you about an exciting plan that stems from all this, and then invite you all to come back regularly to see how far my plan has gotten.
Should the Wordpress update in fact really erase my data or render it unreadable, or even if it doesn’t, I think I’m going to use the back-up as an opportunity to review and reboot my content. Here’s the thing: I have over FOUR years of material I’ve written for this site, and some of it is really great stuff. Also, over the years my audience has grown, and a lot of you simply haven’t seen some of the fantastically genius posts that appeared on The Little Corner a couple of years ago. It’s there – you can go looking right now if you want to. But with a reboot, I can bring it to the fore again, and you won’t have to work so hard.
For “old-timers”, it’ll be like visiting friends you haven’t seen in a while. You’ll be able to sit back and say, “Oh yeah. I remember that nonsense. Will Kenyon is a big dork.”
Of course I’ll write new posts, but by reusing some older ones, some of the pressure I put on myself every week to “write something” will be lifted. I see it as a win-win for all of us.
I’ll likely start the back-up next week. When THAT’S done, I’ll install the Wordpress update. Then we shall see.
Keep coming back. Don’t miss anything. M’kay?
I just got back from a trip I used to make more regularly - to New York City, home of one of my alma maters and the place I lived for a chunk of the 1990s.
This time I also went to Connecticut (I went to Connecticut last time I visited New York as well, back in November, but I didn’t write about it for some reason) to see some friends that I’ve made through gaming: the “Fantastic” family, Josh Look, Bernie Frick, Jeff Luce, Michael Fralish, Peter “Tootsie” Putnam, Al and Shellie Rose, and Zev “Z-man” Schlesinger.
A lot happened. Many games got played, many beers and bottles of liquor and cups of coffee got drunk, many good times were had. Josh Look killed six or seven banshees with his car. Strangely, though, as I sat down and decided what to write about regarding last week’s excursion, I came up with the following three things. These aren’t game session accounts, or tales of drunken bawdiness, or even shout outs to people I met and will only see when I head up north again. But these are the things I’ve been thinking about now that I’m home.
New York’s Lack of Color
Isn’t New York supposed to be one of the most fashionable cities in the world? If so, then what’s with the decades old INSISTENCE on wearing black from head to toe? Did I wear that much black when I lived there?
It’s been many, many years since I lived in New York City, and recently quite a length of time passed between visits. At the same time, I’ve added color to my wardrobe - specifically different shades of blue, gray, and green, which are colors that look good on me (as does black). When I got out of my cab near Times Square last Wednesday, wearing my subdued but definitely blue sweater, my blue jeans, and my light blue shirt, I must have stood out. Around me was a sea of black, punctuated only occasionally by people who dared wear something else. Sure, their cuts and fabrics and weaves were fashionable and modern. But everything was black. And unlike every other time I visited New York, and unlike the years I lived there, I noticed. In other towns across our great nation, they say again and again that X and Y are the “new black.” Apparently, no one told New York.
Now, I like New York as a city much more than I like Atlanta, but now I have to say that at least Atlanta has people dressed in all the colors of the rainbow. And I rather like the variety.
The Cigarette Generation
We were sitting on the couch in Matt Loter’s mom’s house on Thursday when Matt made an off-handed comment. I’ll paraphrase: “Man, the generation before us - everybody smoked. Now, even though people smoke, it’s NOTHING like they did before.” For some reason, that struck me.
He’s right, you know. When I think about how many people I know who smoked when I was a kid, it’s overwhelming. No one thought anything of it, even when it came out about how bad smoking was for you. People just shrugged and said, “Quitting smoking is more difficult than the crap I’m going to go through because I smoke, so fuck it.”
Really! That’s what they said! More or less.
I see my generation as the one that did the most quitting. I never smoked, but I had a lot of peers who did. MOST of them don’t any more, and the ones who still do really are saying “Fuck it.” But I’d be willing to lay hard money on the probability that if they have kids, they will ACTIVELY discourage their kids from taking up the habit. Way I see it, it’s only a matter of time before cigarette smoking becomes a novelty pastime. The rules are finally in place to control it, and even people who smoke admit that the drawbacks are steadily outweighing the benefits. (And what are the benefits, anyway? The euphoria? The perception of coolness?)
When you get a bunch of us together over alcohol and games, smack talk will occur. I am a proud talker of much smack, and that includes pointing out the foibles in someone’s gaming skill (ask my friend Jay Elgin about his math). This past week, much smack talk occurred, and we laughed good-naturedly at it. BUT, as Josh and I were tooling around post-gaming on both Friday and Saturday, we were laughing even more - without resorting to insulting anyone. What we were laughing at was just a silly bunch of non sequiturs and absurdist observations, but they had us giggling like little boys looking at their first girlie magazine.
Now, by insult, I mean latching onto something genuine about a person - something about the way he looks, or acts - and milking it for its humor. Insult humor can be funny, but I think it takes a special way of doing it to make it funny. Otherwise, it’s just… insulting.
There are people who are funny - they have comedic timing, a way of saying things, a certain something in their voice - which makes you smile when they tell you a story, or makes you laugh at yourself when they do even a shitty imitation of you. When those people make a joke, you laugh.
But let’s face it, there are also people who simply aren’t funny. When they tell you a “funny” story, you usually get bored after the second sentence. When they make a comment, you CAN help breaking into a smile. And when they employ insult humor, they really only succeed in insulting their subject.
I think it comes partially from the delivery, sure. But I think a big part of it comes from WHY the person is attempting humor in the first place. I’d be pulling your leg, or outright lying, if I told you there was not a narcissistic motive behind anybody who tries to make a joke. We ALL like it when people laugh at us (as long as we’re trying to make them laugh at us). But if you think belittling someone, and failing to respect that person at the same time, will lead to comedic success, well… you’re really no better than those kids who poked fun of the fat kid in fourth grade.
But if you actually like and respect the person you’re making fun of, it somehow comes across differently. You don’t come off as one-upping them. You don’t come off as a bully. The object of your ridicule may actually feel affection coming from you, and not derision. THAT’S when you know you’re doing it right.
Oh, and people laugh, too.
Even so, there are people - I could name THREE right now off the top of my head - who are WAY sensitive. As good-natured as your ribbing might be, they’re gonna take offense. Also, you have to be careful. If there’s a subject someone is sensitive about - her weight, his hairline, his height, the fact that she’s 40 and single - then it’s best to learn early what that subject is, and to avoid it. Find something else.
And if you come across an overly sensitive person, avoid THEM.
I don’t mean avoid making fun of them. I mean avoid them altogether.
Fuck those people.
So, yeah. That’s what I came away with. Insults, cigarettes, and the color black.
Next time I go up, I think maybe I’ll come back and write about chimneys, salt and pepper shakers, and whether or not farting in elevators makes a good occupation.
Early last year I wrote a piece titled “Why I’m Cool With the End of the World.” Back then I was ready - things were routine, I was treading water with everything in my life - basically, an apocalypse would have shaken things up and made things interesting again. Why the hell not.
The things I was cool with still hold true - except Obama DID win, and I am a little interested in how his second term rolls out, especially since he’s finally showing a little backbone against Boehnhead and the Republican House.
Truth is, though, in these final hours I’m not so sure about it all. You see, 2013 looks very promising for me, and it’d be a fucking shame if we blinked out of existence just as I was hitting my stride and getting off this Godforsaken plateau I’ve been on.
For your edification (and end of the world enjoyment) here’s a quick pictorial of some of the things I might miss out on if Planet Nibiru is for real:
These three stacks are novels. Over the last 12 years, I’ve written all three of them. The one on the left has moments of brilliance, but needs a major rewrite that I’m not sure I can give it. It was my first - call it an exercise in learning how to write a book. The middle one, The Survivor of San Guillermo, is going to get published in 2013. And the one on the right - The Talented Boys - is better than either of the other two.
Twelve years, I’m finally getting a book published. End of the world. Fuck.
This is an intricate, yet highly enjoyable and immersive board game I designed, which is based on a millions-dollar intellectual property that I can’t disclose until the property rights owner agrees to license it. If it gets licensed I’ll be ecstatic, because the IP is one I love, that my friends love, and that I believe is worthy of as much respect as Star Wars and Lord of The Rings. Even if we don’t get the license, I can adapt the game to a different IP and still have a great and highly publishable game.
Unless the world ends.
This is the back of my house. About five years ago, I added a new sun room to the back, with a little help from my dad. It was a project several years in the making, because I had to work on it in the nooks and crannies between doing all the other things I do. But it’s a great room - and it adds thousands of dollars of value to my home, as well as several hundred square feet. I’m almost finished with it, and then Aida (my wife) and I can start seriously looking into selling our house and upgrading to something even bigger. I’ll probably have it done by spring, weather permitting.
Finally, there’s these two little ones. As sure as I am that they’d get a free trip to Heaven should the apocalypse prove real, and thus avoid the horrors of teenage-dom and adulthood, it’d be a travesty of Earth-shattering proportions. I’ve invested most of my heart and a lot of effort in making certain these two are happy and wholesome. Having that job cut off before I finished it MIGHT piss me off more than all the other stuff combined.
So yeah. I take back what I said earlier this year. The end of the world can wait.
“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” - Verbal Kint
“One of the NEXT greatest tricks the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that Welfare Queens DID.” - Me
Living where I live, I’ve seen her. I’ve stood in line at the grocery store behind a large black woman who’s piling corn chips and Fanta and a 20-pack of hog jowls on the check-out counter. Several children orbit around her, dressed in hand-me-down clothes, but looking relatively healthly, maybe even a little plump. She proceeds to pay with a food stamp card, gruffly yelling at the kids to behave, and maybe being just a little rude to the girl who’s checking her out. As I check out behind her, she leaves, hobbling across the parking lot with the children trailing behind her like baby ducks, and as I follow her out of the store, she gets into a big boat of a car, driven by an ill-tempered-looking older teen who obviously elected to stay in the car as she took the younger ones shopping.
I’ve seen her. And I’ve heard Ronald Reagan describe in a 1976 campaign speech a version of her that we’re all disgusted by: “She has eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards and is collecting veteran’s benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000.”
The thing is, to see the woman I saw and assume that she’s the living embodiment of the Welfare Queen that Reagan described is a convenient supposition that is inherently racist, and based totally on a false premise. Welfare Queens like the one Reagan described DID exist, but they were few and far between - one in a million. And fraudulent as their welfare claims were, their impact on the economic well being of the United States was still minimal.
In recent years, Welfare Queens have become nonexistent, mostly due to the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act that Bill Clinton signed into law in 1996. The PRWORA has limited the time someone can stay on government assistance, AND provided for the elimination of loopholes that could be exploited, as well as fraud that could be perpetrated.
Still, some people see a woman like the one I described, and they get an automatic sense of revulsion and indignation. Their tax dollars go to keeping that woman afloat, and she’s buying corn chips and Fanta?
Well I’m here to say, “Get over it.”
When presented with the notion of taking care of our poor and underprivileged in the United States, a lot of bleeding heart liberals will try to appeal to your heart strings or your sense of moral justice. They’ll say “We have to take care of our poor because it’s the right thing to do.” Well, I think morality in the United States has become so circumstantial and arbitrary that posing that particular argument, though noble, is increasingly useless.
Instead, let me appeal to your bottom line. Let me tell you in terms that even Adam Smith would approve of, WHY we need to take care of our poor in the United States. Even if some people abuse the system. Even if some people make choices with their pittance of a government handout that you don’t approve of.
First: how much does it cost YOU as a taxpayer to take care of the poor? Well, according to the Congressional Budget Office and White House reports, approximately 1.664% of your tax liability goes to welfare programs, food stamps, and government subsidized housing. That means a family that makes $50,000 annually will pay approximately $63 a year into the “welfare” system. By extension, and playing fast and loose with tax brackets and increased tax liability, a family that makes $100,000 will pay about $125 into the system, and a family making $250,000 will pay somewhere around $250-$300 annually.
That isn’t much, especially compared to how much of your tax liability goes to Social Security, Medicare, and the national defense.
“But why should I pay ANYTHING to help these people!? Why can’t they help themselves?” some might ask.
The short answer is: because it would cost more to NOT help them.
It may surprise you, but Section Eight housing does not provide poor people with palatial estates, and food stamps don’t buy daily stacks of pancakes and three-course steak dinners. The choices poor people make with the trickle of money the government gives them (Fanta and Fritos, or getting new rims instead of visiting the dentist) may be deplorable to you - and they are to me, too. But believe me when I say that your life and livelihood at $50,000 a year are WAY better than the relative squalor most welfare recipients in America live in. And their hold on their lowly lifestyles is tenuous. You cut them loose, and terrible things will happen to them. Terrible things which will cost YOU money.
Pretty much four things happen to people who find themselves without a means to provide food and shelter for themselves and their family. Let’s look at each one in turn, shall we?
1. They become indigent. That is, without a home. Homelessness in America is a real problem, with real economic implications. Here’s some cost statistics for you: To incarcerate a person for vagrancy costs approximately $54 a day. The average cost per hospital visit for an indigent person (and indigent people are exponentially more likely to require hospitalization than the average person) is $2414. The annual cost of ONE BED in a homeless shelter funded by HUD’s Emergency Shelter Grants program costs $8607 more than the annual average cost to house the same person in Section Eight housing. Now, ask yourself: these people are indigent; they don’t HAVE any money to pay for these things. So who’s going to pay for them?
2. They turn to crime. Studies have proven again and again that there is a direct correlation between poverty and crime. And when there’s increased crime in an area, either the government has to spend more money to increase police and crime intervention, or the place becomes unlivable, an untenable sinkhole in the American landscape which contributes NOTHING to the country’s GDP, and which depresses local markets and real estate values. Add to that the exhorbitant cost of incarcerating someone - sometimes up to $20,000 a year - and you understand the economic impact of criminal activity. Also, consider the personal cost of being the victim of a crime. Insurance may cover it, but your premium’s sure to go up. And there are some losses insurance simply can’t cover.
3. They die. Now, if you’re as cold-hearted as some people I’ve encountered, you may think this is the most desirable outcome - after all, if these people die, they’re no longer dependent on the welfare system and we don’t have to pay for them anymore. Well, all moral repercussions aside, you’re wrong. To make sure a dead body is disposed of properly, most likely by incineration if no one claims it, costs a BARE MINIMUM of $500-700 dollars. Even now, there are hundreds of morgues and disposal sites across the country that have a backlog of unclaimed bodies which need either to be incinerated or buried in a “pauper’s grave.” It costs money to make sure they’re not improperly disposed of - and improper disposal leads to disease and unsanitary conditions. There are 4,300,000 people on welfare in the US (and 10 TIMES that many on food stamps). If a quarter of them died as a result of having their government subsidies cut off, we’d have a $5 million dollar dead body crisis on our hands within a couple of years.
4. They get off their “lazy asses” and try to enter the workforce. Well first of all, more of these people ARE working than you think: slightly over half of welfare recipients who have no barriers to work - no mental or physical disability, etc. - DO work. Recent statistics have proven that there is no city in the United States where a person working a minimum wage job can afford a typical apartment at the current market rate. So people who earn minimum wage have to either pile their family into a space that doesn’t fit them, work MORE than one job, or subsidize their income with food stamps and/or welfare.
There’s some debate as to what would happen to the labor market should a sudden influx of former welfare recipients occur, but most everyone agrees that one of two things will happen in the short term: 1) Because a lot of welfare recipients have less skills and education than non-welfare recipients, they’ll languish in unemployment. Even if you have a work force who wants to work, who NEEDS to work, there simply aren’t enough jobs to go around. Or… 2) Because these people are willing to work for less pay, they’ll supplant other workers who currently hold jobs with low skill requirements. In that case, the people who WERE working will languish in unemployment, because again - there just aren’t enough jobs to go around. And since those people probably paid into the system while they WERE working, they’ll expect to get unemployment benefits.
As a side note before I conclude, I’d like to point out that I haven’t even mentioned the children of welfare recipients. As deplorable as you may think the “welfare lifestyle” is, there are children involved - and in the first three scenarios I described above, there’s a distinct possibility that the children will suffer fates similar to their parents and guardians. And even if you don’t care a lick about what happens to these kids, innocent to most of the misdeeds you ascribe to their caretakers, there’s still the price tag THEY carry - which you’ll have to pay one way or another.
And there you go. If you make $50,000 a year, you pay only $63 annually to support welfare in the United States. But think about what that $63 gets you: less death, less homelessness, less crime, less unemployment.
So, when you see that woman and her kids, and you see her buying Fanta and Fritos, just sigh to yourself and remember that you’ve probably made a bad choice or two in your life as well. But remember that because you pay that measly $63 a year, that woman and her kids aren’t dead, or homeless, or breaking into your house, or competing with you for your job - all of which would cost you more, much more, than what you currently pay.
If you read the post below this one, you’ll see all the stuff I was working on until last week. I say last week because that was when I got selected to serve on a jury for a trial that is still… going… on. Now, I’m not complaining - this is really interesting and fun, and it’ll no doubt provide fodder for future posts as well as knowledge for future pieces of fiction. But it’s my explanation, my EXCUSE if you wanna call it that, why those posts STILL haven’t gotten done.
We keep getting recesses, but they’re only 15 minutes at a time - so while I’ve been able to cobble together THIS post, I’m finding it hard to concentrate on longer, more involved things. And in the evenings when I get home, I’m still responsible for helping the kids with their homework, getting dinner together, and making sure baths and bedtimes are made on time.
Also, as many of you know from Twitter and Facebook last night, I spent a couple of hours with the Presidential debate.
Anyway, as cool as this particular jury duty is, I hope it’s over tomorrow or Friday. Shortly after that, I should get one of those posts I listed below finished for you.
I have another post right here. In fact, I have two. In fact, I have THREE.
But right now, they’re waiting on important components:
One piece has a bunch of photographs accompanying it, and those photographs require a whole lotta touch-ups. The piece is basically a diatribe in defense of my need for validation. Yeah, I need validation sometimes - don’t we all - but in the last couple of years it seems like I’m not getting anymore the level I desire. Then I look around me and… well, you’ll see. Once I get the photos all cropped and sized and color-treated as best I can, you’ll see.
For another piece, I need an audio bit from my good friend Barbara. I’ve had the next two sections of A War Between States finished for a couple of months now, but sometimes - like now - getting all the voice actor parts recorded for the podcast takes Herculian effort. I’m down to just Barbara on the latest installment, and I’ll have that done the DAY she doesn’t forget to come by after work and record for me.
Another piece requires me to finish my friend Eric Sasson’s short story collection, titled Margins of Tolerance. I have ONE MORE story to read, and then I’ll give it a review. Eric (and anybody else who’s reading this right now), I assure you that I love your stories. One or two hit so hard I cried. No shit.
But you’ll have to wait for my review of Eric’s book. You’ll have to wait a little while for all these upcoming posts, because components are missing and this week I have jury duty! But they’re coming, along with…
1) a possible piece on why recent episodes of How To Train Your Dragon are allegories for the war against science and alternative energy in the United States.
2) a review of my friend Collin Kelley’s short story collection, Kiss Shot.
3) a teaser about my upcoming novel, The Survivor of San Guillermo.
4) a shout out to the folks over at Hallowed Waste Press, who graciously opted to attach their name to my second set of short stories.
5) a possible diatribe about the 2012 election, depending on who wins and how he does it.
These are pending, but I felt like I had to come up with something for you right now. Right this minute. This teaser, this bookmark if you will, was the best I could come up with for now. It didn’t make sense to use my energy on concocting anything else, given all the stuff I already have planned.
Look for the rest later this week and/or month.
San Guillermo is the short name for what I’ve called my science fiction/Weird West/time travel novel, which is currently getting shopped around. The loooooong name for it is The Survivor of San Guillermo.
I procured a URL for it a little over a year ago that’s separate from the one you’re visiting now. That was when I decided that no matter what, San Guillermo was going to get published, whether with an established science fiction publisher, a small time publisher, or simply by little old me. Those short stories I published last year? Well, I wanted to sell some of my stuff and put my words out into the world via self-publishing. To test the market, so to speak.
Ultimately though, I was just practicing, and learning how to format, produce, and market material for public consumption.
I practiced. And oh, did I learn.
Recently, I got a teaser up for my upcoming novel.
You can find it at www.thesurvivorofsanguillermo.com. It’s not much yet, but hopefully it’s just enough for you, dear reader, to be intrigued. That means that if you’re just a fan of fiction (in particular that of a sci fi/time travel nature), you’d be somebody who would want to try my work in long fiction form. Although San Guillermo itself isn’t a long novel, it’s the first of three parts - so it’ll keep you going for a few years.
If you’re an editor or agent, hopefully this will demonstrate that I’m serious about this work’s publication. I’ll publish it eventually, even without you, but if I DO publish it WITH you (and I want to), I’ll do my damnedest to make sure it doesn’t disappoint. Hell, I already have a promotional web site and a rough marketing plan in place, and I’ve only finished my final edit for the first two thirds of the book itself.
I also have four artists who have rendered, or are rendering for me, illustrations based on their interpretations of certain scenes from the first third of the book. Later, after the initial run of hits to the web site peters out - like I’m sure it will - I’ll put those illustrations up, with quotes from the book. I may even put up a sample chapter or two.
So, if you’re an editor or agent, you dig this somewhat unconventional ploy at selling my book, and you’re interested in the book described at the other web site, then give me a shout. You can find me on Twitter (@williamkenyon), Facebook, Google+, Goodreads, and you can contact me via e-mail (email@example.com).
If you’re a reader or fan, just sit tight. It’s coming. One way or another, it’s coming.