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Jul 3

Napoleon The Bull

Posted on Tuesday, July 3, 2012 in Ramblings

My friend Kym reminded me the other day of something that happened to me during the summer of 1983, when I was still young and (more) naive. I’ve told the story a few times with the intent of portraying for people what it was like to grow up a geek boy on a backwater farm, or as part of a run-down of my past physical injuries. The context today will be different… but, first: the story in brief.

My dad had a couple of bulls he was raising for slaughter. One - the older, larger one - was named Napoleon (the other, incidentally, had the less inspired name of Roscoe). You may recall that 1983 was the year George Lucas released The Return of the Jedi, and if you know me, you know how much that impacted my summer and my upcoming teenage years.

My dad also had this peculiar device called a “hog prod”, which was essentially a metal cylinder with a plastic grip on one end and two prongs on the other. A bunch of D batteries in the cylinder gave it its power, and the prongs gave it its purpose. All you had to do was jab the prongs into a pig, and Ned Beatty’s worst nightmares came true.

It also looked remarkably like a small light saber.

Well, one day the week after I saw Jedi, I climbed the tall fence that held Napoleon and Roscoe. I was reenacting that scene in the movie where Luke went berserk and swung at his dad again and again until he was sweaty and Vader had lost a hand. For some reason, I chose Napoleon as my avatar for Vader - I walked up to the bull without fear, said a few lines from the movie, and gave him the point of my “light saber.”

There’s a reason they call it a HOG prod and not a CATTLE prod. All I did was piss Napoleon off, and since he’d never seen Return of the Jedi, he didn’t know he was supposed to cow before me (pun intended), and help me destroy the Emperor. Nope. Instead, that fucker charged me. He caught me in my ribcage with his small but still formidable horns and tossed me a few feet backwards, flat on my back on the ground. Then he put his head/horns against the bottoms of my feet and pushed me along the ground for about 10 feet, apparently in an effort to reenact that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indy drags himself under the Nazi truck. Which was bullshit (no pun actually intended here), because I’m pretty sure Napoleon hadn’t seen Raiders either.

After pushing me along, Napoleon backed off, ran around in a wide circle for another pass at me, and then stopped, confused, because I wasn’t there anymore. While he was circling back around, I’d jumped to my feet, crossed the 30 feet back to the fence, VAULTED said fence (which was seven or eight feet high), and run halfway back to my house, where my mom would access my injuries and conclude that I’d probably cracked a rib (which hurts, BTW), and maybe broken a toe (which doesn’t hurt quite as bad).

So, here’s the thing. As a young boy, I was for several months after that absolutely TERRIFIED of Napoleon. And he knew it. Whenever I went to do my farm chores near his pen, he’d come up to the fence and bellow at me. A few times, he’d rear up, and I was sure he was going to leap the fence and come chase me down. I had nightmares wherein Napoleon escaped his pen and was on the fucking porch of my house, waiting for me to come out.

Still (and here’s the context of my story for today - aren’t you LUCKY), if you asked me if I regretted prodding a bull with a hog prod, or if I regretted reenacting a fantasy story in a less than fantastical setting, I’d tell you no. If I had to do it all over again, I’d do it. I’d even accept the nightmares and the broken bones - and here’s why.

1) It makes for a great story. Kym heard it when I was in grad school at NYU, and he remembered it. You’re hearing it now, almost 30 years after the fact - and I bet you chuckled. I’ve told the story quite a few times, mostly successfully. We as humans make mistakes, and it is those mistakes which make us stronger individuals and give us stories to tell. I mean, how good would Snow White’s story have been if she hadn’t eaten that apple? Jonah’s if he’d done what God told him to do in the first place? Tony Montana’s if he’d shown restraint and a lack of hubris? Hell, Walter White’s if he hadn’t felt so loyal to Jessie?

2) The nightmares gave me insight into the power and nature of nightmares, which makes me a better horror writer.

3) Regardless of how scared I was of Napoleon, I still had to do my chores. Facing him EVERY DAY after he charged me made me face my fears - heart racing and pissing myself be damned. In later years, that made me more fearless - more CAREFUL, mind you, but more fearless. It gave me the ability to do this.

4) Ultimately, we ate Napoleon. This in and of itself gave me a sense of justice and vindication. Fuck you, Napoleon - you charge at me, no matter how stupid I was being, and I WILL EAT YOU.

Jun 18

Floor 4C by Caleb Wynn

Posted on Monday, June 18, 2012 in Featured Friends of Will, Ramblings

A little over a month ago, I came up with the idea to have guest posts every once in a while here at WillKenyon.com (Here’s where I put forth my plan.) I didn’t know if it was going to be a good idea at the time, but after a couple of guests, I’m thinking that it was. That it is.

Caleb Wynn is a good friend of mine who happens to have cystic fibrosis. We don’t talk about it much, and when you don’t talk about it much, you don’t realize how much something like that is affecting your friend. When I invited people to submit to my site, Caleb gave me the following little essay about his condition and a little girl he once knew…

Floor 4C

Perhaps due to luck, perhaps due to fate, and completely due to genetics, I was born with Cystic Fibrosis, a chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system. The average life expectancy of a Cystic Fibrosis patient is 40, give or take a few years, depending on severity. My case is a moderate one. I have problems with both my lungs and my digestive system, but none of my issues are extreme so far. Because of the nature of my disease, normal day-to-day routines often leave me out of breath, tired, and weak. Also, I become depressed and cynical, especially when I think about how I’m living with a chronic, terminal disease. I think that when you are born with or develop a terminal disease, it’s easy to pity yourself and prey on the sympathies of others. It’s incredibly easy to maintain a grim perspective on life, and that’s just what I did until I was thirteen.

When I was five, my doctor recommended to my parents that I see a psychiatrist to assess my mental well being, so they made an appointment and we went, thinking nothing of it. When we got to the psychiatrist’s office, she gave me some basic psychological tests to complete. One was to draw a picture of anything I wanted. After about ten minutes, I handed her a colored drawing.

“What is it?” she asked.

“It’s a sad pine tree,” I replied.

Worried, the doctor told my parents what I had drawn and offered some suggestions. To this day, my mother jokingly tells me that she should have paid attention to the doctor and foreseen what I’d be like in the following years.

Sometimes I had to go to Egleston Children’s Hospital on the Emory campus in Atlanta, where I’d stay on floor 4C, the area for Cystic Fibrosis patients. The halls on floor 4C had walls painted purple, with green stripes running down the center, and with a thick, white handrail running the length of the wall. The floors were tiled with slick white, speckled tile that allowed for loud and fast rides down the hallways on squeaky-wheeled IV poles. The rooms themselves had the same color scheme as the hall, except that the floor tiles were colored. The rooms were small  - just big enough for a bed, a nightstand, drawers mounted in the walls for clothing, and a little couch. The bathroom had tiled floors and walls, and some of them had drawings from former patients on them. The two windows in the room I usually occupied looked into the hallway and out toward the side of the hospital. They were useless for receiving natural light. Being trapped in a room like that for two weeks at a time often drained any brightness from my personality. But on a particular trip I made when I was thirteen, things turned out to be different.

During my various stays in the hospital, I have met a number of people who opened my eyes to the world around me. The most significant of these was four-year old Abigail.

Abigail had severe liver failure as well as some heart problems, and was on the list for transplants. She had a fairly large scar that ran vertically up her stomach to her chest, and the funny thing about our first encounter was her willingness to compare scars. I showed her the scar I had gotten from stomach surgeries that runs horizontally across my abdomen. Abigail found this to be especially funny, and enjoyed talking about our matching (well, opposite) scars. As for her other physical features, she had short, curly blonde hair and light blue eyes, and she stood at about four feet tall.

When Abigail was two her parents had brought her to Egleston and left her so that they wouldn’t have to bear the so-called burdens of her condition. The worst part was that her parents would visit her on her birthday, but never any time other than that. This must have caused a lot of confusion for her because at night, when I would wander the halls while I couldn’t sleep, I would hear her sad and unanswered calls for her parents. Hearing Abigail’s muffled cries forced me to contemplate my own situation. It was then that I came to the realization that this young girl was caught in a web that was far worse than the tangled mess I perceived myself to be in. I didn’t understand then and still don’t understand how any parent could just leave a child to die at a hospital.

I still remember the first day I met Abigail. I was walking by the playroom on floor 4C during my rather routine stay, and I saw her there, playing with Legos and dolls and wearing a face of complete and utter boredom. She looked up at me as I passed, and asked, “Do you want to play with me?” Since I was also completely bored after spending a week in a hospital room, I decided to say yes, and went in to spend some time with her. Aside from a low, round table and the toys scattered around the carpeted floor, the playroom looked exactly like any other room on the floor. It was even as small as the other rooms. 

As we began to play together, her bored and indifferent face quickly turned into a big, bright smile, and for days afterward, every time I walked by the playroom, I would hear a voice ask, “Do you want to play?” I always did, and playing with Abigail erased the monotony of my time at Egleston that year.

A year later I went back to floor 4C after having surgery to remove part of my colon, and I had the opportunity to see Abigail again. She was in even worse condition than the year before, and still hadn’t received her transplants, but she was still so happy to see me, and I still hold her joy dearly in my memory. 

Seven months later I returned to floor 4C and found out that she’d never received her transplants, and had finally passed away.

That a young girl of five, with problems far worse than my own, could wake up, ignore the cluster of IVs she was connected to, and ask me to play with her was truly eye opening. How could anyone one deny the request of such a trooper? I sure couldn’t.

It was absolutely amazing to me that Abigail could be so happy in spite of her condition, while I was always so morose.

Every time I saw Abigail, she was ecstatic, yet I struggled to find that mood within myself. This puzzled me. I wondered why I felt the way I did and came to the realization that I needed to stop thinking long-term and begin thinking short-term. The question became, if a child can live day to day, why can’t I?

I still haven’t found the answer that I’m looking for, but I’m closer than before. I still have good and bad days and I’m not always the most cheerful person to be around, but the same could be said for Abigail, or any other human being for that matter. But by shifting my focus from the very broad and future-based to day-to-day, and by appreciating the life I do have, and not the life I wish I had, I have made myself a happier person and given myself a more fruitful existence. And I know that my current, more positive outlook on life with a terminal illness can be attributed to my time spent with a five-year-old girl who exemplified maintaining a bright outlook in the midst of turmoil.

Realizing that I only get out of life what I put into it has been a great help in the adjustment of my attitude from negative to positive. Additionally, understanding and coming to terms with the fact that death is inevitable, while a grim thought to be sure, is in my opinion key to obtaining and maintaining a child-like attitude in life. Children like Abigail don’t dwell on the inevitability of death and are, for the most part, happy. So would I not be better off in adopting this train of thought as well…?

May 21

My Back Hurts

Posted on Monday, May 21, 2012 in Explanations and Excuses, Featured Friends of Will, Ramblings

A lot of people wanted to know how the Warrior Dash went on Saturday, so I figured I’d let you know.

First, a quick rundown of my schedule that day: I TRIED to go to bed early that Friday, and mostly succeeded. I was in bed by 9:30, but a combination of coughing (I was a the tail end of a cold which is way gone now) and the fact that I was getting to the climax of Koji Suzuki’s Ring meant that I only succeeded at going to sleep by about 11.

I got my ass up at 5 a.m. the next day - Saturday - took a quick shower to wake up, then hopped in the car and drove the hour and a half to Clayton, GA, where I parked and strolled up the hill to meet my friends and do the Dash.

Running with me that day was Jeff Jarvis, the guy who told me about this adventure, plus my friends via Jeff - Jimmy Liang and Luis Uribe. Our “wave” started at 9:30 - early, but when they explained WHY they liked to do it early, it made sense. If you go early on, the trail is less muddied, and so’s the inside of the shuttle bus, should you need to shuttle back down the hill to your car. Mmmm - muddy shuttle bus - just like the inside of someone’s colon.

See? Makes sense to go early.

As we stood around waiting for our wave to start, I vowed silently to myself that no matter what, I’d try to keep up with Luis, who’s training to join the FBI next year. I figured if I could hang with him, that meant I’d make good time and I’d have a buddy to help me with some of the surprises in store for us.

As it was, I DID hang with Luis, although I think several times he hung back a little to let me keep up with him. We left Jimmy and Jeff behind in a crowd and didn’t see them until they finished a few minutes behind us.

For the most part, the race was fine. I’d been running three miles several times a week for several weeks, so the running didn’t phase me at all. What GOT me, ultimately, was a couple of the obstacles. The climbing? No big deal. I just wasn’t expecting quite so much SWIMMING. In 50 degree water. After running a mile. More or less fully clothed. Cold water in such circumstances makes your heart race, folks. It’s tough.

Still, the only time I got a little scared about whether I could finish was when I made a miscalculation regarding one of the watery obstacles. At one point we had to jump off a pier into a pond, then swim across to a pontoon thing in the middle. We then had to pull ourselves onto the pontoon, cross it (it was really slick and you had to take it easy crossing it), then jump back into the water and finish crossing the pond.

I watched several people plunge into the water ahead of me, and saw that none of them went under. So I figured the water was maybe five feet deep, and I jumped in thinking I’d just touch bottom, then bob my way across to the pontoon.

Fucking water was waaay more than five feet deep, and I went under without a good breath. Now, I’m a good swimmer, so I recovered, but when I got back up I was winded and a little shocked by the deepness and coldness of the water. I swam over to the pontoon and tried to pull myself up onto it, and… couldn’t.

Other people were trying to get by me, so I backed off of the pontoon, treading water and trying to gather myself. I thought about swimming around, but I didn’t want to be a pussy. I thought about swimming UNDER it, but then wondered if maybe there was a net. Finally, I felt better, so I tried at last to do the obstacle the way I was supposed to - and this time I was able to get up and over it. I had to pause though, after I got to shore. After a minute or two, though, I was ready, and I started running again.

In the end, I finished the 3+ miles in 42 minutes, 15 seconds. I was 419th out of 851 males in my age category - so I was in the top half. Also, I finished 2646th over all, out of 6186 participants. So yeah, top half all around. And I mostly kept up with Luis. Oh, and I jumped over the fire at the end without setting myself alight - something my son Eli was very scared of happening.

Finally, I managed to raise over $400 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. As a St. Jude Warrior, I got access to a shower facility after the race, which meant I wouldn’t muddy up my car. Yay!

Let me close by sending a shout out/thank you to all the people who donated to St. Jude for me: Chase Bass, Keri Bulloch, Chris Hartley, Linda and Vahe Najarian, Charlie Nealey, John Porter, Jerry and Allison Rhodes, Joe Shorter, and Caleb Wynn. You guys rule.

May 18

I Am The Warrior?

Posted on Friday, May 18, 2012 in Explanations and Excuses, Featured Friends of Will, Ramblings

It’s funny. I have all these irons in the fire - shopping two novels, writing another one, plus writing new short stories, poems, and a graphic novel, plus maintaining this web site and ANOTHER web site that has yet to be unveiled, plus raising two kids, wooing a potential new client, and finishing various house projects and all the housework that needs to be done.

All that, and all I can think about is what I’m going to do tomorrow.

Yeah, so here’s the deal. Tomorrow I’m getting up at about 5 a.m. (on a Saturday morning! GROAN!), taking a quick shower and shaving my head to the skin again. Then I’m driving two hours into the north Georgia mountains where I’ll suit up, paint my head red, and start running on THIS obstacle course.

Naturally, I have to blame somebody for this bit of foolishness, and today I blame my awesome friend Jeff Jarvis.

Jeff has been doing the Warrior Dash for a couple of years with his brother and several of his friends. Being a guy who kinda digs running, and a guy who kinda digs partying, I gravitated toward participating in the Warrior Dash myself. Last year I wanted to do it, but the timing wasn’t right and I missed out. This year, I’m in. Me, Jeff, our friend Jimmy, and several hundred other “warriors” are set to run, sweat, crawl, climb, and hurdle ourselves through water, mud, and fire.

It’s occupying a lot of my bandwidth - enough so that I figured if I was going to write a post for this site today, it’d have to be about tomorrow’s impending adventures. So that’s what you’re getting.

As a final note, I found out that I could actually use my “Dash” in a charitable fashion, so I hooked up with St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and dedicated my run to raising money for sick kids. If you’re reading this and helping sick kids is something YOU’D be interested in, here’s a link to my St. Jude’s site. Click through and donate. I’m thinking about writing a follow-up to this post letting you know how the Dash went, as well as saying a big thank you to everybody who donated.

Thanks ahead of time. Wish me luck.

May 9

Telemarketing Tirade

Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 in Ramblings

It’s one of those things we deal with in America - the possibility that sometime, as you’re sitting down to enjoy dinner with your family, the phone is going to ring. And if you answer it during the dinner hour, there’s a HIGH probability that it’s some kind of survey or solicitation.

I get them on my land line all the time, and because I don’t have caller ID on the land line (I only maintain said line out of a specific need, and since AT&T sucks, I’m not gonna pay them anything extra for anything extra), I’ve pretty much started to ignore that particular phone. Besides, anyone who needs to talk to me knows to call my cell phone, which is on 24/7, and is usually located somewhere within reach. (If you call me at 3 a.m. like Daigle did once, you better be funny drunk, in jail, or in labor.)

Yesterday I got FOUR solicitation calls on my CELL phone. This has never happened before. Now, I DO have caller ID on my cell, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything in this case, since I answer calls from unknown numbers anyway. In the past, an unknown number either meant a friend or family was calling me from a different phone, or it meant a potential client was calling with a job. I HAVE to take those calls - they’re my bread and butter.

Anyway, yesterday, four times. I was excited every time, because I need some client work. Then I was pissed every time. I have a LOT of minutes on my calling plan, but still - every single one of those calls chewed into them a little bit. And they wasted my time.

Now, before you say anything, I know about www.donotcall.gov. And the first point of this post is to share its existence with anybody out there who DOESN’T know about it.

My land line is registered there and has been for 9 years. By the way, that doesn’t keep solicitations from happening, because you can still get calls from charities, political organizations, and telephone surveyors - and believe me, companies will disguise themselves as such to get at you. Still, I can’t imagine how many calls we’d get if we didn’t have that phone number registered.

I THOUGHT that my cell phone need not be registered because some law prohibited telemarketers from calling you on a line where you paid for your minutes. After getting four calls in one day, I called my cell carrier (which is Verizon) and asked about this. SADLY, I WAS MISTAKEN. Cell carriers don’t typically give out your number, and actually work hard to keep your number quiet. Apparently, though, their efforts aren’t foolproof, and your cell number - should it escape your grasp - is fair game.

Except for www.donotcall.gov. So I registered my cell number there last night.

I never understood the logic of cold calls and mail inserts, anyway, but I’m not going to go into that right now, because THAT tirade is long and bothersome, and I want to get to the next point.

And… the next point is to sell you on www.donotcall.gov. If you haven’t registered your phone number - be it land line or cell - on the Do Not Call Registry, you need to do it. Telemarketing ramps up when the economy fluctuates, and we are if anything in a great state of flux. The web site is easy to use, it’s practically instantaneous to get registered (although you have to wait 31 days for the calls to stop), and for the most part it works.

Remember that non-profits, churches, and politicians can still call you, and you can still get called to “participate in a survey”. But - and here’s something I DID NOT know until last night - the web site provides a means for you to file complaints against callers whom you think are in violation of the law. And although the majority of calls that I get SEEM to be legitimately exempt from it, many times I have my doubts. Now I know I can act on my doubts.

For instance, to me this means that, if at the end of a survey the caller tries to sell me something, I can report it.

All those mortgage lending companies? I’m gonna report them unless they’re from a genuine bank, and I seriously doubt many of them are. The ones that tell me that I need to CALL NOW regarding the interest rates on my credit cards? I’m pretty sure they should get reported.

Now, I don’t know what kind of effect reporting these violations will have, and that’s kind of why I’m writing this post. I want everyone that reads it to register his or her phone, and I want you all to help me report these people. Like I said, it’s pretty quick and easy - it takes less time for me to file a complaint against a number than it does to delete all the spam comments this site gets in a given day - and eventually, maybe telemarketing companies will get the point.

And THAT point is this:

No, we really don’t want any.

Apr 11

Making The Decision Not To Panic

Posted on Wednesday, April 11, 2012 in Ramblings

If you’ve ever wondered - like I have - if you could keep your shit together during some disaster, like a zombie apocalypse or a 2012 end of the world earthquake/tsunami/volcano/flood scenario, then you’ll enjoy where I’m coming from with this little story. After experiencing a few potentially disastrous situations, I’ve discovered something about myself that I’m kinda proud of, and that I hope will hold true should the disasters in question “scale up.”

This past weekend I was at Jekyll Island with the family, just taking a few days away from the city to celebrate Easter and get a much needed rest. Sunday evening I got kid duty, and I decided to take Madeleine, who’s just shy of 10, and Eli, who’s 5, to play putt putt golf. Eli fucking LOVES putt putt.

We played through a few holes, and somewhere around the 11th, I made the mistake of stepping into Eli’s backswing. Now, he’s a little guy, and you don’t need a lot of swing to make a golf ball putter toward a hole 20 feet away. Still, a golf club can be a formidable bludgeon, and even a little swing from a little guy can hurt. He hit me in the hand, and I jumped back and yelled. Eli was immediately scared because he hurt Daddy, but the pain was only momentary (nothing broken or even bruised - just a “warning” pop), and it was my fault for walking into his stroke, so I told him not to worry because Daddy had made the mistake, not him.

All was well. Then, on the 18th hole, MADELEINE walked into Eli’s backswing. She’s not as tall as me, so she didn’t get hit in the hand - she got clocked in the face.

And here’s where it happened.

You would not believe the amount of blood a blow to the face with a golf club will bring forth from a 10-year-old girl. Madeleine immediately started screaming – loud enough to draw a crowd, and loud enough to absolutely terrify her little brother.

Blood flowed through her screams. She held both hands to her face, and both of her palms filled with blood until they overflowed, so that within moments, blood was dropping in small puddles onto the walkway and the golf course. I knelt beside her, and as I worked to calm her and to check her out, blood flowed in rivers down MY hands and arms.

But somewhere in there, just as the fact that my daughter was hurt – potentially very badly -  registered in my mind, and just as the blood began to gush, some part of me said to every other part of me: “Being afraid for her will not help her. Being conscious of all that blood will not make it stop. There are logical steps you must follow now as her father, and you must do them all while reassuring her and her brother that everything will be fine. Even if you have to go to the hospital in the next few minutes, you have to follow the steps to that end, and you have to do it calmly.”

I made the split second decision not to panic. Instead, I simply knelt beside her, ignored the blood, and looked into her mouth. I told her I needed to check her teeth to make sure they were intact. I touched each one near the place she’d been hit, looking for broken ones or loose ones. Someone brought me a stack of paper towels and I thanked them, then used the towels to wipe away blood and stop the bleeding. Then I looked for the hole which was causing all the blood.

As it turned out, her teeth were fine – she’d simply gashed the inside of her lip.

So there was never any need to panic. In fact, I worried more about Eli blaming himself than I did about Madeleine’s injury (I took care of that, too).

Still, even if there had been something worse – if Madeleine HAD shattered her teeth or needed stitches or something like that, I’m pretty sure I would have taken the same calm, logical approach. And this isn’t the first time I’ve had to go into myself and turn on the cool blue logic. I’ve watched my wife have two grand mal seizures - I simply moved her away from furniture and held her until she was done. I’ve seen a finger severed (not mine), seen a compound fracture as it happened (again, not me). Through it all, I remained calm. I was the one who called 911 and was able to get the injured person to a hospital. And I’m pretty sure I could do it again and again and again.

I only have two concerns. One is how I’d handle things were I the injured party - although I was pretty calm when I broke my jaw, and that hurt like a motherfucker. My other concern is how being half asleep or drunk might affect my ability to keep it cool.

Ultimately, though, I’m pretty pleased. I know how to keep my head.

Which could come in handy when that hidden meteor crashes into the Earth in December.

Mar 28

The Little Corner Turns Three

Posted on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 in Explanations and Excuses, Ramblings

Okey-dokey. Another year gone by and nothing much has changed here at my web site. Hits and visitors have leveled off a bit, but are still rising ever-so-slightly. I still try to post at least once a week or more, on topics ranging from beer to politics to religion to philosophy to games to literature. A War Between States is still trickling in. Etc.

The things that have changed for me this year have been things APART from this site, so although they affect what kind of thing I do here somewhat, they haven’t impacted The Little Corner of the Universe’s purpose - which is to give you periodic pieces of my mind, where I try to impress you with my wit and wisdom. Where I try to be funny and cerebral at the same time (doesn’t always compute, since the scat humor I sometimes digress into can hardly be called cerebral). Where I try to convince you that I’m pretty much correct pretty much all the time.

If you’re new here, thanks for coming to the site’s third birthday "party." If you’re an old friend, thanks AGAIN for helping me stay afloat and encouraged. Thank you thank you thank you.

And keep coming back.

Now, I’d sell myself short if I didn’t point out the ONE thing that’s changed here - and that’s my side navigation over there ->

You’ll see there a link to the two collections of short stories I had published last year. One set I self-published, after a bunch of soul-searching whether it was the right thing to do (I maintain that it was). The other set got published by Hallowed Waste, a small, newly established "press" run by a friend of mine who took an interest in me and a couple of other folks, and was willing to back us. Those stories represent an endeavor that I’d like to see be as successful as this site has been. Or more so.

So, while you’re here, I now encourage you to do TWO things. Take a little while to look around The Little Corner - check out some of my past rants and raves. AND, take a minute to go to whichever point of sale floats your boat, and then fork over the .99 cents it takes (I know, right? Only .99 cents!) to get your hands on my stories.

I think that, after you do, you’ll become a regular. I aim to please.

Mar 12

The Walking Dead vs…. Me

Posted on Monday, March 12, 2012 in Ramblings, Reviews

Hey, here’s a funny one for you. It’s Monday morning, the day after the next-to-last episode of the second season of The Walking Dead aired on AMC, and I’m writing something about the show without having seen that episode. If you’re reading this AND you saw the show last night, you might have one on me - below, I’m gonna promise to watch at least the last two episode of this season, and you’ll know even before I do what my reaction’s gonna be. So read on and enjoy your little taste of foreknowledge.

The television adaptation of The Walking Dead has bothered me ever since the end of the 5th episode of season one, when the group of survivors went into Atlanta and walked into the CDC. At first, I thought my problems with the show extended from the fact that the show’s producers were deviating wildly from the plot of the comic book series, of which I’ve been a fan for maybe seven years. As the CDC story arc panned out and the season came to an end, I was a little irritated that Shane was still alive and that they’d gone into Atlanta as a group - two things that simply didn’t happen in the comic. You can see some of my thoughts on these topics in this review.

That said, I still found the show interesting, the characters compelling. And I trusted Bob Kirkman enough to wait him out. Even the comic goes through rough spots, but he always leaves me both devastated and satisfied.

By the time the second season started, I’d forgiven the deviation from the original. One thing I DON’T like is hater fan boys who turn their emo faux-intellectual noses up on anything that claims to draw from a source material they’re already familiar with, even if the adaptation is good. And… since I don’t care much for people like that, it concerned me that I was thinking in those terms. 

Ordinarily, I don’t: I LIKED Zach Snyder’s Watchmen movie, even if it wasn’t as earth-shattering as Alan Moore’s original comic. As much as I like Philip K. Dick, I think the movie Blade Runner is waaaaay better than Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Also, as the Walking Dead survivors came across Hershel’s farm, with Shane somehow alive and no sign of the awesome comic book character of Tyrese ever showing up, I was still starting to become intrigued with the conflict Shane’s presence was creating. I started thinking, “You know, this is interesting. This is something that must have occurred to Kirkman AFTER he killed Shane off in the original. He’s exploring a ‘what if’ that he can never go back to in the comic, and he and the show’s producers and writers are doing a great job of it. This is pretty good, if not great, television.”

So I watched. I forgave some hambone, asinine scenes like “Glenn in the Well” and “Andrea’s Crotch Grab” and “Only Otis Knew Who Exactly Was in the Barn.” And the tension between Shane and Rick grew - exacerbated in good  measure with Dale’s distrust of Shane and Hershel’s misguided authority over them all.

Now I’m 11 episodes in, and I grow weary, and I’m wondering why I’m increasingly less enamored by such a critically-acclaimed, highly regarded series. I went to Facebook last night, and there was a scatter-shot of “Holy crap!” and “That was intense!” and “OmiGod!” from my Facebook friends regarding the episode which had just aired. I’m sad, because I haven’t felt very excited by the show for the last three episodes.

Before writing this, I sat down for a while and tried to figure out why, and I think I’ve got it.

It has nothing to do with the deviation from the original, although the deviation DOES contribute to what IS wrong. It has nothing to do with the occasionally shoddy writing. (What was up with that scene between Carl and the stuck zombie last week? Carl’s not stupid, and they’ve been teaching him how to hold a gun.)

Very simply, it’s this: with only two ironic exceptions, I don’t LIKE any of the characters very much. And in a character drama - which is what The Walking Dead essentially is - that’s a problem.

Specifically, I think they’re all coming across as weak, or if they ARE strong, as douchebags. I KNOW I’m not supposed to like Shane, but I’m tired of not liking him - I want his soulless evil to come to a head, please. And I want him to die when it does.

Trouble is, I also think Carl’s a bit of a douchbag, too. As is Andrea, and in a weird sort of way, Carol.

On the flipside, there are the weak characters. Lori Grimes is little more than wasted space. Maggie’s fun to look at, but she hasn’t done much beside give Glenn grief. Hershel’s other family are non-entities whom I assure you will eventually get killed. As for Glenn and Hershel, well, think about it: Glenn was the brave go-to guy when they needed runs into Atlanta, but he’s freaked out by runs into the sleepy town near Hershel’s farm? Three episodes ago, Hershel was a patriarch of strong convictions and resolve, but now he’s deferring to Rick and soaking his sorrows in booze? Really?

And Dale. Well, Dale’s a whiny bitch, and if he were really concerned about Shane’s evil, he would have put a bullet into Shane’s chest and been done with it. Except he’s a whiny bitch and couldn’t.

And finally, there’s Rick. For those of you who haven’t been with Bob Kirkman and his character of Rick Grimes for seven years, let me tell you - the conflicts Rick feels WITHIN himself are essential to what makes The Walking Dead comic book work, and some combination of Andrew Lincoln’s inability to convey those conflicts effectively as an actor, as well as the hit or miss material he’s been given to work with, leaves something to be desired.

In fact, all of the acting, though initially powerful, has become - in a word - tedious. You could make a drinking game out of it. You have to drink every time Rick looks off into the distance as if considering something important. Drink every time Shane turns his head away in that certain manner he uses and says something despicably profound. Drink every time Carol tears up. Drink every time Glenn gets that hang-dog look on his face. Drink every time Andrea does something with a pistol besides shoot it. Drink every time Dale flares his hairy-ass nostrils and starts to pontificate.

The only characters I’m not tired of are T-Dog and Daryl. And here’s some irony (or IronE if you know what I mean): they aren’t even characters in the comic series. They’re new. They’re deviations. And I still like them.

Which brings me to part of WHY I think my displeasure in the show is stronger than other people’s, and why people who haven’t read the comic might not feel the growing disdain I feel with the TV show personas. You see, in the comic book, I LOVE these characters. I’ve already said that Rick’s internal conflicts drive the book. It’s powerful stuff, and I don’t think it’s as evident in the show.

Additionally, there are things going on with Carl in the comics which would blow your mind - and they’re only hinted at in the show. Andrea is a BADASS without being such a bitch. Dale is still a conscientious guy, but he has a backbone and a heart of gold that makes you love him. Glenn is essentially the Glenn of the first season, without all the worry. He’s also funny.

And Shane is dead.

I’ve decided that I’m going to watch the last two episodes of this season despite my misgivings, and I’ll keep watching next season if these last two episodes can convince me to like even ONE of the characters I don’t like now (or at least kills a few of them). Like I said, you might already know if this is the case or not, based on last night.

I’ll probably watch that episode either tonight or tomorrow, and I’ll let you know.

Jan 19

Why I’m Cool With the End of the World

Posted on Thursday, January 19, 2012 in Geopolitics, Ramblings

As you may have heard, the world is once again scheduled to end, this time on December 21st of this year. I’m with the majority of you in hoping that this is not really the case – I’d like to go on living for a few more years, at least long enough to see my kids grow up. And if you actually WANT the world to end, I’m sorry: you’ve been inflicted with the crazy and you need to be bundled in a straight-jacket and dumped in cold water repeatedly. The world’s a cool place. Except for people like you.

I’m also one of those who doesn’t actually BELIEVE that the world will end any time soon. I find it ironic that Bible-thumping doomsayers like Harold “I Took Your Money You Gullible Chumps and I’m Not Giving It Back” Camping claim they know when the end will come. Especially when their hallowed book, The Bible, specifically says that the end’s gonna be a surprise. Now, if things came to a close on December 20TH, that would be a coup. I think God’s got a sense of humor, and that… well, that’d be something.

Ha. Ha.

Now like I said, I don’t WANT the end to be nigh. But if it were… I’d be okay with it.

Why? Well, for two solid reasons, and for one reason that depends on how the rest of this year goes.

Reason number one is that it’d confirm a lot of people’s faiths, including mine. You atheists have it easy – you can sit comfortably in your arrogance and intellect, absolutely sure that there’s nothing out there – no great divining force which exists eternally and exerts a powerful force of will on the comings and goings of the universe. Those of us who believe have it a little tougher. First, we have to put up with you dissing our intelligence because we choose to believe in something we can scarcely see or feel.

Worse though, is that we have to accept something that we can scarcely see or feel. But that’s why they call it faith.

Now, I personally think that sometimes we CAN feel or see God . To paraphrase a few people who said “it” better than I ever could, and who also happened to say it before I could: I hear God in certain pieces of non-autotuned music. I see God whenever one of my children smiles. And there’s GOT to be something to the Fibonacci sequence. There’s GOT to be.

If the world ended as predicted, chances are pretty good that God would have something to do with it. And so then us believers would have a few minutes of being able to say “Nah nah nah boo boo! We were right and YOU guys are the idiots!” A few minutes, that is, before we were all swept away in a maelstrom of holy fire and apocalyptic fury. But still. How satisfying would that be?

Reason number two is that I’m not as successful as I want to be. I’m not a failure by any stretch of the imagination – the sheer fact that you’re reading this is indicative of my relative success. Hell, I make a living as a writer. I’ve been published more than many, many people who are trying as hard as I am. I have a decent amount of followers on Twitter.

But I have yet to approach the level of success I think I deserve. And I recognize the distinct possibility that I never will.

If the world ended before I found huge success, I could blame the end of the world for everything. I could say, “I MIGHT have been the next Kurt Vonnegut or John Irving, except the motherfucking world ended.” If the world DOESN’T end, and I get old and have to start wearing diapers again without having found the success I deserve, then I can only blame myself – myself and an unjust world.

I’d rather blame Armageddon.

Finally, and I’m sorry to wax political at the end here, but it needs to be said – I’ll be even cooler with the end coming on December 21st should Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, or Rick Santorum somehow oust Barack Obama as President.

You see, I think the U.S.A. is holding on by a tenuous thread to its greatness as a nation. And while I don’t think Obama is our savior by any stretch of the imagination, I think he does represents a step back in the right direction, or at least a stop gap to keep us from sliding over the edge and into a shitstorm of trouble. If a Republican gets the Presidency in November, and we keep our awesomely Republican Congress, I think it’s only a matter of time before the U.S. becomes a hellhole, unrecognizable as the once great leader of the free world.

If the end of the world comes, we won’t have to see the U.S. relegated to crappyness. We can still potentially go out at the top of our game. Or at least close to it.

One thing that really would make me sad about the end, though, would be that my children would never become adults. Sure, they’re still innocents, and according to most believers, innocents pretty much get into Heaven. Still - and call me selfish if you want to, I don’t care - watching them grow and flourish (and smile) is something I’d like to continue doing. The end of the world would pretty much mean I couldn’t. And that would suck.

So when December 22nd comes around, I guess you’ll find me breathing a sigh of relief along with the rest of you.

Breathing a sigh of relief and waiting for the next apocalyptic doomsayer to make his appearance. Which - and I believe this prediction is much more reliable than predicting the end of the world - he will.

Dec 24

2011 Holiday Postcard

Posted on Saturday, December 24, 2011 in Ramblings

We get a lot of holiday cards every year, and we mostly suck at reciprocating. But I’ve found that doing THIS - using my site to give you guys a shitty snapshot of my kids framed in a holiday theme - suffices for a lot of people, and HA! It saves paper. And postage. And you can look at it in June and still feel the holiday spirit. Unlike all those holiday cards that get tossed, eh? 

Anyway - I’ll save you the ALL the awful details of how scary this holiday season has been for my family. (You’re still gonna get some for context.) Suffice it to say that my wife’s grandmother died peacefully in her sleep last week, and while it was expected and anticipated, that hardly softens the blow. Granna was adored by everyone in the family, and she’s left a big hole.

Meanwhile, following shortly on the heels of all that, my mother got put in the hospital for pneumonia. Considering her cigarette habit and her poor respiratory health (she’s gone through bouts of emphysema, bronchitis, and pluerisy), and given the taste of death that Granna’s passing left us with, we’ve been a bit edgy these past few days.

But alas, Christmas Day is nigh, we’re otherwise if great spirits and reasonable health, and I can hear sleigh bells ringing even now.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!