Found my middle school journal…

get me out of here please help me get me out of here
c. 1998

I was a creepy kid.

There was also page after page of really horrible poetry on my depression, as well as a trove of short stories about teenagers who don’t want to be corporate drones, and corporate drones who die regretting their choices. One lady gets ejected from her Land Rover on the 405 and has her head crushed by oncoming traffic while she laughs hysterically about her wasted life.

How I ever wondered why didn’t do well in an office environment.

The Status Quo

I’ve been pretty down since that weird bullshit with the yelling trash thrower.

On the one hand, her manic screaming and chasing routine reminded me a lot of my mom’s manic screaming and chasing routine, although she didn’t end it with an attempted fist fight, which was refreshing for me. But it did take me back to an emotional place that I’d hoped I’d never be in again. On the other hand, the very nature of her whole deal left me doubting a lot of my own instincts about myself and my judgement calls.

If I hadn’t thrown that shit in her trashcan, she probably would have just flipped out on her helpless, terrified little children and never left the house. I essentially made the first wrong move of the night. But if my judgement on trashcan etiquette is wrong, where else am I way off base? I probably shouldn’t have been walking in such a nice neighborhood in the first place, I mean, why did I ever even try to leave the barrio? Clearly, I’m not fitting in here as well as I thought. My whole business is about community and connections. Hell, my mission statement talks about “reaching out with an honest hand.” My entire empire is built on the notion that I have good instincts.

If I’m making bad calls, then what the fuck am I for?

I know, one psycho with a froggy iPhone case does not a trend make, but tell that to whatever section of my brain is responsible for the last four days of moping and depressive emotional spirals.

What am I doing here? Why did I think I could? Isn’t it about time I stop trying to make fetch happen?

16 months ago, I took a flying leap and launched my freelance career. It was horrible. I was insane for six straight months. It was also amazing, in the way that so few things in life really are legitimately amazing. It was stomach-in-my-throat intense.

That’s mostly faded. The stress still grinds me apart from the inside, but it’s nothing I haven’t felt every day since I started this thing. Overall, the most persistent feeling is exhaustion. When I sleep, I dream about work. When I work, I run myself into the ground.

Then here’s this lady, and I just feel defeated. I’m already running on fumes. The excitement of taking a new risk has completely worn off, the sense of accomplishment that comes with building something is a long way off, if it’ll ever happen at all, and I’m totally vulnerable to every kind of doubt.

This is when the status quo kicks in. I get up every morning and work because that’s what I do. It’s what I’ve always done. I feel like this might be pointless, like I’m a failure or a bad bet, but I make the phone calls I’m supposed to make and I take the meetings I said I’d take because that’s the plan until I have a better plan.

We all want to do what we love and live the dream, and that’s nice. Everybody needs inspiration and motivation from time to time. At the beginning of something is never when you need that shit. It’s smack in the middle of year two when you’re starting to burn out, and you lose sight of the passion that brought you this far. It’s a late summer night, when you’ve taken three showers just to keep you awake, and nobody knows or cares.

You’re not getting a medal for showing up at work every day, just like there’s no news articles about people picking their kids up from school on time. Even in the dreamiest of dream jobs, there’s a slog that everybody does. There’s a moment when you’re too far in to remember the beginning, and far enough away that you can’t see the end.

We’re covered in rhetoric about seizing the day, grabbing the bull by the horns, claiming the prize, winning the race. That’s one day a year. Maybe every other quarter if you’re a lucky son of a bitch. But every other day, you get up, you go to work. You keep your head down, even if you’re the fucking boss, and you bang it out. Day after stinking day.

Then one day, the sun comes out. The birds sing, the planets align, and everything everywhere is amazing. And the next day you go back to work. Because someday, the sun will be back. If you’re willing to work for it.

The Ballad of April O’Neil – Review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

Friend Lauren and I went to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles today, and it was a whole lot better that I was thinking it would be. With a 19% on Rotten Tomatoes, I was expecting Lucy levels of terrible (which, hilariously, got a 66%).

It must be said that I enjoy Michael Bay. Since Bad Boys, the Michael Bay name does more to sell me on a movie than it could ever deter me, although I did have to bored-quit Pain and Gain. I just couldn’t, hard as I tried.

A lot of other reviewers are bitching about the changes to the storyline. Do they mean the changes from the comic, the 1980s TV show, the 1990s movies, early millennial cartoon, 2012 animated series, or the manga? Anybody who lays a claim on the Ninja Turtles better be a reader of the original comic and no other iteration, or they’re going to look pretty silly.

The changes they made this time are a little heavy-handed, but I don’t mind. This entire franchise is aimed at children. Wild coincidences come with the territory. As do fart jokes, with this movie also has.

I was pleasantly surprised with April O’Neil. I have to say that I can’t remember anything about her from the 80s cartoon, except that I hated her. It could have been as simple as the fact that her jumpsuit is yellow, my least favorite color.

And, as much as I love the action movie stylings of Michael Bay and his ilk, I have to say that lady characters in summer blockbusters tend to have one universal rule: The less screentime the better. They’re either screaming to be rescued, or getting eye-raped by the camera.

Surprisingly, April only deals with one of these issues. She is frequently an object of the male gaze, but she at least gets to express some small feminist outrage over not being taken seriously, although it seems to be for the distinctly unfeminist reason that she’s too pretty to be a real reporter. Not, for example, that the misogynistic, heteronormative old boys club feels strongly that women aren’t capable of hard-nosed reporting. Adding to the argument that her real struggle is one of being too attractive, her no-nonsense boss is played by Whoopi Goldberg, one woman of color to prove all your feminist and racist arguments are for shit.

At no point does April come across as a helpless victim. If anything, she appears to be more than a little bit stupid, but extremely well meaning. The fact that she seems to have no actual friends does make me a little sad. Her roommate is afraid of her, and her sidekick thinks she’s crazy and only hangs out with her because he wants to fuck her.

Will Arnett, who plays the sidekick in question, is basically phoning it in, but there’s not a lot more anybody could have done with that role. His entire motivation as a character seems to be April O’Neil’s ass.

As for the turtles, they are awesome. Character design is amazing.

ninjaturtles

The bother interaction is awesome, as is the animation. It’s worth the ticket price just to see them swing, jump, and skate around New York. Not to mention the combo chase/fight scene that is the show-piece of the whole film.

There are also some pretty great jokes, which I loved.

The plot is more than a little bit crap. It makes absolutely no sense, even the five year old who was non-stop kicking my chair realized who the (should have been a surprise) bad guy was right off the bat. At least, it seemed that way when he shouted “He’s evil!” in my ear.

The worst part of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were the children. In addition to the junior can-can dancer behind me, there was an entire family sitting beside us who decided that their infant really needed to experience the joy of CGI. The baby babbling along happily wasn’t actually that bad. The toddler chattering constantly through the whole thing and shouting over the baby did make it hard to hear the dialog on the screen.

On the bright side, it gave me implicit permission to talk to Lauren on and off throughout the movie. Because if your kid is shouting, I’m going to make fun of the dialog. And the plot.

teenage_mutant_ninja_turtles

If You Can’t Take the Heat – Review of “In the Raw”

cover51532-mediumIn the Raw by Nikka Michaels and Eileen Griffin

Thanks to NetGalley and Carina press for the review copy.

Fellow culinary students James Lassiter and Ethan Martin lust after each other in secret, but each man assumes it’s a one-sided thing. Lassiter, the pretty-boy rich kid feels the pressure from his soul-less conservative parents to go into the family business: corporate chain restaurants with cheap ingredients, uninspired menu items, and down-trodden employees. On the other side of the spectrum, white-trash Martin and his sister are orphans who look out for each other, and work hard to make it in the big bad world of professional chef-ery.

When a class competition throws them together, sparks fly and tempers flair. The initial action is all ego grinding, which is what I’m calling it when the massively over-inflated balloon of their delicate male opinions of themselves just fruitlessly squish against each other to no particular end. But what starts out as anger turns quickly to passion when the two figure out how to “work out” their differences.

In the Raw does end up being quite an adorable little love story, although I personally think it’s pretty schmaltzy, and totally unhealthy. Martin is a fucking headcase. What the author may have intended to be sexy bad-boy attitude came of as emotionally abusive nutcase to me. Any one of the terrible things he says to Lassiter both before and after they consummate their relationship are grounds for a break-up, number deletion, and the end of all contact. And his sad sack excuse that he’s poor, works too hard, and therefore has no manners is totally shit.

For the extremely affordable price of $3.99, its a good get for anybody who’s into cooking, and doesn’t mind one character hitting several red flags in the emotional abuse warning list.

4 stars out of 5

Come to Portland, Get Trash Thrown at You

I was minding my own damn business, walking my sweet, adorable dog, you guys know Pepper, but in case you don’t, here’s a refresher:

pepper_in_white

I happened to be walking her through the nice side of my neighborhood, which, I’ll admit was my first mistake. But, it’s a super beautiful walk, and people are usually so pleasant. I’ve been walking her there for six months and never had anything so much as a weird feeling on that walk. Until today.

I just had to call the cops in a lady who started throwing trash at me. #pdx

Like all responsible pet owners, I pick up Peppers shit in little plastic bags, that I am then forced to carry around with me until I can find a friendly trash can. Today, I was in just this predicament when I came across a bin someone left in the street. I was overjoyed, and causally popped the little shit bag into the can.

Then I heard a frantic knocking, and realized that a middle-aged woman was knocking on the window of the house who’s can I’d just used. She then opened the window and demanded that I take my dog’s poo out of her trash. If the trash had been full, and the poo on the top of the bin, I actually would have reached in and gotten it, but the bin was nearly empty and the shit bag had fallen between some old salad and something else I didn’t want to look too closely at.

“I’m not going through your trash. I’m sorry, I won’t do it again.” I said

“You are going to take that poop out of my trash! YOU CAN’T JUST PUT THINGS IN OTHER PEOPLE’S TRASH CANS!” She yelled.

I decided to agree to disagree, and started walking away. She ran out the front door onto the lawn. She was wearing a salmon colored sweater set and holding her hands out in front of her like claws. I continued to walk away.

She picked up the trash and upended it, spilled garbage all over the street in front of her own house. When I looked back, she was on all fours searching for my poop bag, which she then flung at me with extreme prejudice. It flew about 20 feet, but by that time I was at least 200 feet away, and I felt it was probably a good idea to keep walking.

Then she yelled "I WILL CHASE YOU!"

Then she got in her car and she chased me.

She's a woman of her word, I'll give her that.

I assumed it was over at that point. I was already thinking of how I’d blog about this crazy lady throwing her own trash around when I heard screaming behind me. At first, I thought she must have taken off at a dead run and caught up with me, but when I looked over, I realized she was driving her SUV next to me, pacing me so she could scream out the open window.

I remember feeling kind of impressed by her dedication. She was looking straight at me, and her ponytail kept flopping all over the place while she was yelling. Then, while the car was still rolling along next to me, she took out an iPhone in an adorable little frog case and held it straight out in front of her with both hands.

“I’m filming you.” She said

“Why?” I asked.

“I’m filming you and I’m going to report you for littering.” She said.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said. “Leave me alone!”

Later, I asked the police officer if it would be considered littering for me to put my dog’s poo in her trash. He said that no, technically what I did was illegal dumping since I used a service (city trash) that they pay for, and I told him I’d gladly kick this poor destitute woman down a dollar or two to pay for the use of her trash.

I mean, if I can’t afford to be generous, who can?

He also said that since she was the one throwing trash on the ground that she’d be the litterer.

At the time, I didn’t know this information, but I wasn’t entirely sure what her next move was going to be so I called 911.

Did you know that Portland 911 makes you say “It’s an emergency!” into their automated answering service before they’ll connect you to an operator? They also give you the option of saying it in Spanish. “Esta es una emergencia.”

I never had to call 911 for any reason when I lived in the ghetto. Now we move to this nice neighborhood and people are throwing trash?

Money really doesn't buy happiness, you guys.

As soon as she realized that I was on the phone with the 911 operator, she sped away down the street. I decided to wait for the cops to come, just to make sure I reported it. On the one hand, everybody has bad days, but not everybody decides to throw trash and chase down fellow adults with our cars, which is kind of nightmare behavior.

I didn’t get to ask for her name, and of course I didn’t remember her address, so the only identifying factor I was able to give the officer was her black, late-model Mitsubishi Outlander, and her salon-style blond highlights. Unlike her, I have no photographic evidence of my escapade.

Ugh! I should have gotten a picture of her for the blog. I was so freaked out at the time, it slipped my mind. #TrashLadyComeBack

So, scary trash thrower. If you’re reading this, could you send me the YouTube link? I feel like it’s important to document the fact that people in million dollar houses can be miserable, low-rent skanks just as easily as people from the ghetto.

And, if you were wondering, Officer Fred* said that, despite my technically being a dumper, he felt like more Portlanders should pick up their dog shit.

Ben, on the other hand, has always felt uncomfortable with me putting my dog’s shit in random trash cans (only the ones on the street, I’d never go in someone’s yard), might have indicated that I brought this on myself. Although he did at least conced that her reaction was uncalled for.

Personally, I have no problem with people putting their trash in my trash can. I’d rather it go in a trash than on the street. It would never have occurred to me that somebody could have those kind of possessive feelings about their waste.

I do think it’s funny that in the span of 6 months, I’ve had my car vandalized and trash thrown at me, when I spent 5 years in Hawthorne and literally nothing happened to me or anything I actually own. Ben’s car got vandalized twice, and yeah, there were shootings and stuff, but I was fine. I told this to Officer Fred*, and he was unamused. He did give us a ride home, though, so that was very nice.

*Name changed to protect the innocent.

Editor’s Note: Some people have pointed out that it was not my trash can. Having never had a sense of ownership over trash cans, it honestly didn’t occurr to me that anybody else would mind me putting trash in their can. I assure you, I have been disabused of that notion, I’ve seen the error of my ways, I will not be throwing trash in anything but my own or public cans from now on. But seriously, people who feel so strongly about their trash that they have a screaming, chasing people fit over it should maybe think about taking up a hobby. I’m not saying this out of spite, but for your own mental health. Calm the fuck down, it’s just trash.

Verizon and The NFL Want You to Be That Guy.. That Rapey Fucking Guy

I’ve been catching up on my Teen Wolf, and part of that involves the MTV site and watching the same 4-8 commercials over and over again.

So, the first 19 times I saw this pair of misogynistic douchertisements, I was mildly annoyed, but over the 47 subsequent viewings, I have decided that I have two mortal enemies in my life and they are Verizon and The NFL.

Be a shitbag to your lady date! Be a shitbag to your stupid little lady kids!

This is the sports league where it’s cool to be a rapist, or at lest there are no real consequences for it. This is the sports league where they don’t even punish you for domestic violence until somebody else finds out!

The commercial actively encourages football fans to “be that guy.”

DID THEY SERIOUSLY NOT GOOGLE THE PHRASE “BE THAT GUY” BEFORE THEY DECIDED TO MAKE IT THEIR FUCKING TAG LINE?!

09_11_2014_thatguy1

09_11_2014_thatguy2

09_11_2014_thatguy4

09_11_2014_thatguy3

Okay, so maybe you work in advertising and you don’t read fucking AdWeek, The Huffington Post, or even BuzzFeed, but the fact that you don’t have a single person on your entire marketing team that would not recognize the massively popular Don’t Be That Guy campaign makes me feel very bad for your future marketing prospects.

Sooner or later the 50 year old white dudes you’re selling your shit to will all die of heart attacks, and the only thing you’ll have left will be us,the dregs of the marketing world. Educated consumers who believe in things like consent and fucking tact.

Or, maybe this is the NFL’s coming out parade.

If you can’t beat ‘em, knock them the fuck out and drag them out of the elevator, am I right, NFL? Hey, be that guy. Be that rapey, shitty, abusive fucking guy because who’s going to stop you? Certainly not the millions of NFL fans who could give no shits about anything that’s wrong with your industry, from the health of the players to their off-field behavior, anything goes with this crew.

Just suck on that money dick, NFL. You don’t need decent fans. You certainly don’t need (ick) lady fans. Fuck bitches… whether they want it or not. Let’s make that the new league motto.

And the truth is, I don’t care. If the population of this modern-day Gomorrah wants to waste what little actual life is afforded to them on football after working underpaid jobs, taking other people’s shit, and wheezing their way through caloric bombs with no nutritional value in place of actual food, who am I to judge? I have my own terrible habits. Just maybe don’t RUB IT IN MY FACE that your entire industry has absolutely no regard to women whatsoever while I’m trying to seek my own small bit of oblivion in the form of a Teen Wolf marathon.

Why I Stayed and What I Learned

It’s hard for me to talk about domestic violence, but not for the reasons you might think. Yeah, all the predictable reasons are there:

  • Because I still internalize the wrong-headed idea that I let someone abuse me, that you can’t be strong and capable and get knocked around.
  • Because I worry about the fallout from naming living abusers.
  • Because nobody ever put me in the hospital, so it really wasn’t that big of a deal.
  • Because I still think the term “emotional abuse” sounds fucking stupid. Like somebody hurt my widdle feelings and now I need therapy for it. “Emotional abuse” doesn’t do justice to the way this bitch unmade my brain.
  • Because, like most people, I re-frame the abuse in terms of what occurred, instead of what it did to me.

But I also have a hard time talking about domestic violence because the prevailing wisdom is that a person should immediately leave an abusive situation, and part of my story is that, if I had it to do over again, I would never give up what I learned by staying as long as I did. I’ve always wanted to write about this, but I feel like my experience could be so easily misinterpreted. This isn’t about minimizing abuse, and this isn’t about blaming the victim, nor is it about baiting an abuser, or living in denial.

My mother terrorized me, especially in the last few months that I lived with her, after my first failed attempt at leaving. My truck was half in her name in order to save on car insurance, and the only place I had medical coverage was through her health insurance. So when I tried to leave the first time, she told me she’d report the truck stolen if I tried to take it, and she held my birth control hostage, which is important because that’s what keeps endometriosis from turning me into a semi-conscious, vomiting mess one week a month.

I tried to leave that first time because I knew that’s what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to leave. Having to go back only made me more determined, and I knew that I’d have to trick her into signing the truck I bought and paid for entirely into my name. I also knew that I’d have to find my own healthcare, to which I am eternally grateful to Planned Parenthood. I always say that I owe them my life, and this is why. Without free access to healthcare, I would have had to decide between staying with my mom or navigating a chronic, debilitating condition without treatment. Part of coming back meant approaching it a different way, so that when I left the next time, I left for good.

If I had succeeded in leaving the first time I tried, I don’t think I would have half the confidence I have today. When I was a kid, I got hit by my grandfather. I never stood up to him, and I lived with a sick pit of terror inside me for years. When my mom started on her abusive progression, I thought I was taking ownership of the situation by fighting back, something I was too small to do before.

But I was still reacting on pure fear. There was nothing intellectual about screaming back at her when she screamed at me, shoving back at her when she shoved me. All I’d managed to do was turn my flight into fight. I was still no better than a cornered animal. When my sponsor suggested that I stop answering her, stop reacting and stay calm, I couldn’t. Fighting her had become a reflex.

I justified a lot of my own yelling and shoving because she did it first. I didn’t have to treat her like a daughter should treat a mother, or even how one reasonably polite house-mate treats another because she was the instigator. She’s the one who kept me up half the night telling me about her suicide plans, she’s the one who literally dragged me out of my bed in the morning. She was always the first to scream, shove, threaten and hit.

Over the weeks and months, I practiced staying quiet when she was loud. I had hoped that this would inspire her to similar action, but the truth was that when I offered no resistance, she ramped up the chaos. In the months after I managed to stop reacting to her, she pinned me against a wall for the first time, threw things at me, and her habit of keeping me awake late into the night and dragging me out of bed by my feet in the morning became a more and more frequent occurrence.

The delusion that our relationship wasn’t abusive because I gave as good as I got was shattered, along with the misconception that my ability to fight her meant anything about my fortitude or my composure. When I reacted without thinking, I was completely unable to figure out her end game. When she would accuse me of starting fights she’d started, or other things she was clearly doing instead of me, I thought I was going crazy. When she brought up my not inconsiderable character defects, I felt like I deserved it. When she claimed that she only said and did these things because she loved me, and that she was genuinely worried about me, I believed that I might actually be the stupid, incompetent reject she told me I was.

But when I worked on not reacting, I found something amazing. I started by not responding to her first insult, but reacting to her second one, then I made it through to the third, fourth, and so on. Slowly I worked my way up to standing calmly in the middle of her screaming, slapping, shrieking, throwing hurricane, and I saw clearly what was happening. She needed me, not the other way around. Not anymore. I admit, I had needed her. I needed the drama, the co-dependent declarations, even the violence.

It is massively important to me that I recognize my own agency, even through the worst of it, because how else can I stand outside of that context? Once a person admits to having been a victim, we tend to keep them in that box for the rest of their lives, and I’m not okay with that. First of all, it separates “normal” people from us poor victims, and second of all, it paints a picture of both my past and my future that I just don’t subscribe to.

I grew up in a home where, no matter what I did, I ended up getting punched in the head. It was no secret that I was unwanted, and that nothing I could do would change that. So when I had somebody telling me what a worthless piece of shit I was, when I had that affirmation, I was finally home again.

I’d never addressed the childhood abuse. I thought it was good enough to say my grandpa was evil, and that was that. But I never looked at the way I was shaped by his actions. The fact is, I was so hungry for any attention at all that I was ripe for abusive manipulation. All anybody had to tell me was that I was special, and they could have done anything to me. Because she said she loved me, she got to tell me I was stupid, she got to blame me for every negative feeling she ever had, and she got to take her rage and her sadness out on me without consequence.

By staying, I did get more shit than if I would have left when I initially tried. But I also got the gift of being able to look at her from my own eyes, from the collected center of myself and see what was happening. She would do anything she could to keep me off balance. Keeping me awake, keeping me in fear also kept me from realizing what was going on in our house. It gave her the advantage. Because I was always afraid, I was never using my analytical mind. By the time I did leave, I wasn’t reacting out of fear, but out of a sense of rationality I didn’t have only a few months before.

Instead of being just another evil abuser, my mother was a co-conspirator in a plot I no longer wanted to be a part of. It’s true that as the adult, and the breadwinner, she had the advantage, and it’s true that she was responsible for what happened in that house. But I’m still really grateful that I was able to figure out why it was so easy.

I’m not easily rattled or intimidated today. I think that’s because of the work I did while I was still in that house.

Urban Fantasy for the Argumentative Soul – Interview with William Dooling

Today’s blog is an interview with urban fantasy writer William Dooling. Dooling has self-published his first novel Synchronicity on the Amazon marketplace for $3.99.

I usually review gay smut, and my previous interviews have been with up and coming gay erotica star, Brock Wilder. When I asked to interview you, I told you this, and you hinted that there may be some content in Synchronicity my readers would find familiar. So, tell me, do we get to see the smutty side of urban occult mystery? 

Well, I’d hate to be accused of false advertising so I’ll say up front that I’m a product of the Catholic education system and, while they did a good job preparing me for life, they stunted my ability to write excellent smut. As your readership no doubt knows, writing good smut is very difficult, and bad smut rings really hollow…so there is not as much of it here as there will be in future books. However, as a preview: the book is largely about categories and the challenges of putting people neatly into them. One thing I’ve never been comfortable with, regarding urban fantasy and fantasy in general, is this idea that “virgin” is this tight little category that some people fit into and other people don’t (IE “Only a virgin can slay the demon/assemble the seeing stones/tame the unicorn”). Of course, in the modern world, what separates virgins from non-virgins is this extremely fuzzy line that everyone draws in a different place. This virginal ambiguity kickstarts the early plot…so yes, there is some mild smuttyness.  Future books will have more, and I already have a major story arc about a character from this story becoming the most sought-after sperm donor on the Eastern Seaboard.

Who are the heroes of Synchronicity?

I’ve had the basic idea for this story for a long time. The basic premise is simply that a collection of very different people are in the library the same day a bomb threat is posted on the door…so our heroes are a diverse host of folks you’d expect to find in a library: there’s a priest, an engineer who believes in psychokinesis, a chemist who doesn’t, a homeless dude, a world-renowned physicist, a school reporter, a children’s english teacher, a geriatric librarian…and so on. The idea is essentially to shove a big cast of characters that all believe slightly different things into a box and have them fight it out.

Who is the ideal reader for Synchronicity?

I don’t know yet. I only decided to self-publish after some soul-searching about whether this book would actually matter to a special kind of person. I’m convinced that it will. I’ll put it like this: I wanted to write a book that was half Urban Fantasy (the sort of thing Jim Butcher would write) and half an Encyclopedic novel like Infinite Jest or Gravity’s Rainbow. Now, this sort of book has the potential to build common ground among disparate groups of intellectuals (for example people who read Fullmetal Alchemist and people who seriously study 16th century alchemists) but it also has the potential to piss everyone off. I’m just about to figure out which.  I would like to think that no matter your religious or political worldview, there is at least one character in Synchronicity that wins at least one argument on your behalf. Basically, the ideal reader of Synchronicity is the sort of person that likes having arguments and listening to them.

In another interview, you mentioned that you hired a professional editor, even though you’re self-publishing. Many of my readers are self-publishers, or aspiring self-publishers. Having used a professional editor, do you think the future of self-publishing has a place for the freelance editor?

There’s some important caveats here. Every writer should have an editor, but I strongly discourage the use of online editing services…or basically anyone you don’t have a long-term relationship with. Editors need to know their writers. Most freelance editors simply know markets.

The relationship between a writer and an editor is one of the most powerful and deep ones in the entire span of the human experience, and grave violence has been done to it in recent years. One thing that I mentioned in that interview you linked to is that in the old days, writers would work with dedicated editors for many years and across multiple projects, such that the editor would get a feel for the author’s artistic vision and have a good understanding of what constructions worked…and didn’t work. Nowadays, “mainstream” authors will tell you all kinds of horror stories about big publishers laying off, overworking, or constantly switching their editors…because they realize that the mass market doesn’t really care about the kind of tiny details editors exist to refine.

This is my first attempt at self-publishing, I have very little working knowledge of what I’m doing, but I would advise anyone starting out to find an editor who knows and understands their work. An editor is like a close friend who gets paid money to tell you when you’re being an ass. My editor did a very good job with this, and the book is better as a result. I also think that an editor serves an important function in the self-publishing world, similar to what good cover art does for a comic book: It shows that serious effort went into the final product…that it’s not just crap. This wasn’t a lark. This was something I put time and money into.

At one point, one of your characters says that “Philosophy is a profoundly disappointing field of inquiry,” a statement I happen to agree with, but I’m a little bit surprised to hear it from a man with a Philosophy minor. What, if anything is the value of philosophical study in a modern world?

In the specific passage you mention, the characters are discussing what is usually called an “Ontological Argument” for the existence of God. The idea is that you can prove God is real using basic logical constructions no one could possibly argue with. Most theists are dimly aware that this is possible, but often do not take the time to learn exactly what this sort of argument proves, when executed correctly (the answer is “very little”). They just assume it works, and go about their day to day. People do that a lot. Philosophy is, and should be, disappointing in the early stages, because what you end up learning is how shaky the foundation of knowledge actually is.

As you get better at it, you start to gain a better understanding of why you do the things you do. This is quite valuable. In writing (and incidentally, in sex) you never get very far if you simply let your initial impulses and assumptions control you…if you don’t think about other people, and what they want, and why they want what they want. You end up being that kid that doesn’t eat vegetables, that boyfriend that doesn’t perform well in bed, or that author that just writes crappy knock-offs of other people’s stuff. I’d like to think that studying philosophy…or anything really….helps a person examine their life, and in the process be a better person. It has absolutely no utility in “winning” arguments, proving how smart you are, getting a job, or making money…but it does, I think, make you better at being a person, and a friend to other people.

Anything you’d like to add?

The real promise of self-publishing, and the information age in general, is that we can build communities that would be impossible in “real life.” I get very cynical about the modern world sometimes but I am very glad that blogs like yours exist, because you and your readership have an eclecticism that makes real art possible. Thanks for letting me share my art!

Also, chapter two, scene two of Synchronicity contains an attempt to write the most obscure joke in the history of humankind. If anyone “gets” it, please write me at Theodidactus@gmail.com because we should talk more.

I will continue to read your blog with great interest!

Thank you, and thanks for the interview. That book again, ladies and gentlehumans is Synchronicity, and it is for sale on the Amazon marketplace for $3.99.

Ben’s Back!

His plane landed Wednesday morning and we’ve already eaten our way through most of Portland. Which is nice, because in the two weeks he was gone I mostly survived on a regular rotation of yogurt, cereal, and hot dogs. Also Trader Joe’s taquitos.