Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My Brother's book

Ramblings Post #109
This is what they call the final straw. I said I was gonna do it, and since I have the time now, what with the PS3 pilfered, I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna finish one of the many novels I’ve been working on since....a period of time I’m too ashamed to admit. Which works well with my life changes theme currently in play. Okay, it’s not the final straw, but it sure is a good reason to get back to something I do like to do.

For ages my older brother has talked about publishing a book. The Great African American Novel. It’s an odd wish when I think about it, in this day age but I guess my older brother and I are kind of a black down market version of Frasier and Niles Crane: Maybe a little too smart for our own good, maybe a little to urbane, maybe a little too intellectual. My brother runs a blog that covers political commentary while I do...well this. Our mother was a school teacher and I think it shows.

Think black, without the cool suits, or the money.
And one of us actually is balding!

And he’s been working on a novel, as have I, for years now. While other black guys work on a way to put rims on what they’re driving, or try for a record deal, or promoting parties... my brother and I have been “studying the human condition” so we can distill it down to words that educate and inspire. Well, he has, I’ve been trying to write something funny. Well, recently, thanks to the modern technology of Kindle and other ebook readers, he's put together a tome of short stories and managed to get it, I guess, published. Well, e-published.

For some reason he called it DaddyMomma.

He said he named it that a while back and the title stuck with him for some reason, and now means something to him. What it means I’m still working on.

I have yet to read it, due to the pilferage from my house. My backup computer system won't support any of the available e-readers it downloads in (the back up runs on Windows 2000, the readers start at Vista). But I guess i've read snippets and parts of it for years now, a short story here, a story idea there, and to be honest if you plan on checking it out, my brother specializes in literature.

What is literature?

First, let me tell you what literature mostly isn't. It mostly isn't that the "african american author" section in your local book store, with a vast cadre of books that read like badly concieved, outlined and written rap albums in word form. The stories are for the most part exploitative thuggery, simplistic, the characters cardboard or worse, the writing uneven and disjointed. My younger brother bought me a book a few years ago for Christmas, and it nearly spurred me into a writing frenzy as I finished. The idea of that hot mess being published and me not writing anything for publication was like someone laughing at my soul. And I don’t like to be laughed it. Unless I’m telling jokes.

No, my brother writes about themes, and ideas, and characters with depth and flaws. Deep thought provoking stuff. That’s literature. I've seen the other stuff he wrote, but until I get either the wireless for the laptop connection or a new computer, this novel is gonna have to wait for a second, but I’m fairly certain this isn’t a tome of jokes and funny stories. His works are usually about relationships - between father and son, old and young, just stories about people. Literature need not have a compelling story - like a spy novel or adventure tale - but it merely needs to make you think. And my brother is big on making people think.

I just realized that he also doesn’t really ever read what I send him. Interesting. Partly because I'm guessing, what I write doesn't seem to make him want to think.

When I finish, I'm gonna send him the whole thing and ask for a page by page commentary.

Yeah right.

Barkeep, did I tell you my brother wrote a book?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

My Second Worst Birthday Ever

Ramblings Post #108
I guess that there are moments in life that teach us lessons: Your mother knew more than you realized or, sometimes it pays more to listen than to speak, or maybe next time you'll read the instructions. Today's lesson is "Things can be replaced, people are more important". Of course I could have learned this next month, or next year, but no, I had to learn it on my birthday.

So I get the internet back on Tuesday. And I've got an item or two in the hopper for the weekend, got a major change of life scheduled to start next week, life is getting on track for once. Sure there is a rough spot or two, but if it was easy it wouldn't be worth it.

But today is my birthday, so it should all be swell, right? (I can't believe I used the word swell)

Only I'm not really feeling it. Something about the day is off. So when I pick up the phone around noon and see I have a missed call....from my alarm sense of foreboding comes to fruition. Somebody has been in my house.

They took the PS3 and my newer desktop computer, and tried to take the flat screen. Had they gotten the flat screen you would be watching the live feed from CNN of a crazed man running through the streets of Atlanta.

So today has been calling trying to get everything back to balance. I called my Mom - to avoid the you should have called me phone call later, and Spanky - because we tight like that, and my personal Contractor - who does everything else. Not in that order. Worse, I had to be out of the office, which is bad because what I do is a day to day thing, my back up was taking a day off and so the work will either be double tomorrow or triple on Monday. So I got that going for me.

I talked to Sporty who reminded me that things could be replaced and she was just glad it was stuff and not me. My uncle stopped by and promised to send my cousin and hooked me up with guy he knows who is also a contractor that could help me out today.

So I guess it about family. And prioritizing. Because in the end, this is my stuff.

I'm waiting on my contractor...and my uncle's guy, and just kinda seeing what happens.

Barkeep. The Woodford Reserve. If I'm in, let's go.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Five Days. Five long Days

Ramblings Post #107
What happens when the world stops? What happens when all you know is torn from you and all you have left is the ancient tools of a civilization long past its prime? What happens when your...internet connection goes down? Friday night I came home to discover no internet at my house and it took AT&T five days to fix it. Here I will relate the horror the agony, the pain, the boredom, the surprise at how often I check Facebook, the ability to focus that suddenly arose, the paucity of good phone games and how Direct TV and a PS3 made it all bearable.

Friday Night

In my neighborhood, how you break into a home is you a) cut the phone lines, b) turn off the power externally c) break a window and crawl in and d) destroy the little box that contains the actual ringing thing. Standard procedure.

So Friday, I ducked out of a boring company function, get home and lay out on the couch for a hot minute. My auto currently is AC deficient - that becomes important later - so enjoy the cool of the house and nod off a little bit. So around 10pm or so, as I've apparently turned into a complete homebody, I mean home on a Friday night in Atlanta, I decide to check the web for the usual flotsam and foolishness.

I get the no network error and figure something is wrong with the system. Run a check - reset network access, check cables, diagnostic on system, and then I finally check the actual phone line. Which is dead. So then I grab my flashlight, and step outside, to find that my phone line has been cut but that they couldn't get the power box open. By the way, shout out to MasterLock and its fine products. So yeah, that happened. Again.

So then I discover that my ISP is, er, how can I put this delicately....oh, yeah, bullshit.. I call the Repair Line and get the automated service, which after running me through the basics, enters a "trouble ticket" and tells me that they'll have a technician on next Wednesday. Yeah, right. So I call the Customer Service line which tells me that I need to call the Repair line. So I call the Sales line, where I get an ACTUAL PERSON, who tells me to call the Repair line, you know, where there are no actual people.

And since my home alarm runs through my phone and I was supposed to be going home to see my folks out of state, we suddenly have an impasse.

I dial up some Red Dead Redemption in disgust and shoot people at random for a while.


I'm up at 8am on a Saturday burning up cell phone minutes. I call everybody I already called and then a few more. I call the folks and apprise them of the situation and they're understanding. For the first time in a while I actually have a few things worth stealing, so I'm ready to hunker down and defend the fort. By staying home.

I finally get someone on the phone from repair around noon, and I calmly explain the situation. I know the game, and I know that screaming at people usually only works if you've worked up to a rage, as they tend to feel bad since you were soooo cooperative when you started. I'm assured that a tech will be assigned shortly and that the local manager will call me with a update.


Meanwhile my brother, with whom I had planned traveling home with, has the idea that since I have to stay and he's going , we can switch cars since mine gets much better gas mileage. I knew there was a reason I bought that thing.

So I spend the day waiting for the AT&T guy and playing Red Dead Redemption. Which really is Grand Theft Auto in the Old West, which actually makes it a better game since the writers seemed to have turned their brains back on and got a little more creative with the all important side games. So I'm playing, and playing and playing. When finally, my phone buzzes and I'm all excited because, um, nope, it's just Shade.

Turns out that Shade is in town visiting Scoop. She's the one who lost her husband in February under some truly tragic circumstances, and Shade dipped out on her residency for the weekend to check on her girl. Now that's care and compassion for you. Only now they're fighting like usual and Shade needs somewhere to catch her breath. So I ride over and pick her up and we go hair shopping.

Seriously, I did not realize that their are that many brands of hair.

Afterward we slip over to my place because she just needs some place else to be. After informing me that I should have married a chick in an old picture I have, as she's thumbing through my movie collection she mentions that she's never seen Bill Cosby/Sidney Poitier classic - Let's Do It Again. This is an outrage and a travesty. So we put a bottle of wine on ice and pop the movie in the DVD. We laugh, we marvel, she's suddenly bright again.

I love old movies. I must have seen this 40 times.

After the movie we talk about her and Scoop. I remind her that all she can do is let the girl work through her grief and wait on the other end. I also realize that because Shade is going through residency, only THE must fun time in a doctor's career [note sarcasm] she's not in the best position herself, but things don't always go as planned. It's not always pretty or pleasant, but it's what you have to do. I drop her back off and notice for the first time that the AT&T guy still hasn't shown up.

I also realize that it's been more than twenty four hours since I've checked Facebook.

I look down, but my hand isn't shaking. Yet.


Red Dead Redemption is a long game, and now I just want to freaking finish. Actually, compared to GTA, which had over a hundred missions, its actually pretty short now that I think about it. Okay, maybe I'm just tired of it. And every so often I get up and walk into the computer room/library/4th bedroom in my house before I remember the internet is still off.

Long ass short game.

I wash some clothes, run to the grocery store, mope on the couch, stare at my phone willing it to ring and announce that the repair guy will be there in five minutes. I do not work on my book.

Okay, side point. at some point in the previous week because I have the summer off I had decided that I was going to finish one of my many half started not fully formed but really incredible books. Not the little, well, to be honest overly long love letters to Sporty wrapped in book form, but an actual novel. With characters and a story line and plot and dramatic intensity and all that. I'd actually framed out one of them at some point in the last few days and had started re-writing (okay, I'd redone the first page, but that is a start) and had been thinking about it off and on up until Friday. Strange how little things knock you off your feed.

Late afternoon my brother re-appears with my car, which he complains has no AC. I know, I told him this prior to leaving. He compares my car to a rolling sauna, and swears he's lost 10 pounds since he left. We laugh, and talk for a minute or three and he's gone.

So it's me again. Me and that no internet having computer. Alone.

Apparently my home computer is only good for having the internet, because I realize I haven't touched it in two days since it doesn't have internet. So I sit down, arrange a few pics in some folders, open a few programs and mess around a bit. Oddly, I work on my "website" with no ability to actually post the results.

My Facebook away time nears sixty hours and surprised I'm not sweating bullets, curled up in the corner rocking myself. Oh wait, I have the AC on and pint of vanilla ice cream. I'm good.


In the office, there on my desk is a computer that IS hooked to internet.

I check the sports, the weather, the news, the comics and it's only then that I realize that I mostly use the internet for useless stuff, and that the entire affair is trivial. I also realize that I really really like the trivial stuff.

I call the good people at AT&T again, and get transferred back to Repair, only this time after a brief 22 minutes on hold I get through! Eureka. Wait, I was here on Saturday and that got me a six day wait! Okay, so I calmly explain again to this new rep my situation. She's amazed to find out the robbery method (she honestly said "Wait till I tell them this one") and willing to help. Only problem is that she can only do so much, because logically, she wanted to help so that means she really couldn't help. Of course. So I get my "get well" date bumped up to Tuesday, not Wednesday.

Like, cool.

Yeah, right.

So Monday night is watching TV and playing Red Dead Redemption. I have other games I should be playing, possibly better games but I'll be damned if I'm going to play anything else until I finish this game. Also, the FOX show the Good Guys is improbably good. Improbably.

Thank God I didn't decide to dabble with this game and take classes at the same time.

What I wanted to do by Monday night....if the punch would hit my ISP.


My brother once said that a hardcore gamer has to play something every chance they get. I may be a hardcore PC head, because I just realized part of my morning routine was to get up and check my email. And futz around on the computer a bit. Which is kinda sad.

I get up and hang out for minute, figuring why drive to work and then back from work if the repair guy is coming. So I wait around and wait around, and whoa, it's after 10am. I get my stuff drive into the office, get started and the my phone buzzes... know who it is.

So I get back in my car, and drive BACK to my house where dude is already done. My communte is like 15 minutes, so there really wasn't a issue, just the wires. He's just waiting for me to check and make sure I'm satisfied. We even have a brief discussion where the tech gives me some fairly surprising options, including another company's product!!!

So I'm back. Not that anybody was watching....

Barkeep, let's just kill that keg. Wouldn't want it to go bad.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Comic Books Baby...

Ramblings Post #106
I like those things I like. I will not apologize for them. Well, not for the ones that aren't illegal (in which case I don't know what you're talking about). And what I've done as I've grown older, is learn to cultivate pleasure in small things. A good book. A quiet moment. Nudity. Those things that either cost little or nothing but enrich life and make the world a little sweeter. Because you never know when you'll be broke. Especially in this economy.

I love comic books. I have loved and read comic books since I was ten years old or so, when I bought my first one and was hooked. I used to have to hide them, as my mother - who was a school teacher and encouraged reading - was distraught over the clutter my continuing purchases would bring. At work I would slip down the block and half to this spot called the News Stand where they sold papers, comics and used books. It was there that my passion for reading blossomed, as comics were still fifty cents and I could buy books for $2.

I've always really been more Marvel than DC, with the exception of Batman. (Batman is just too damn cool) It always to me seemed like DC characters lived a little too far into a fantasy world, where nobody recognized superman when his only disguise was a pair of glasses. I remember one issue where Spiderman came home to an empty fridge, or where they had a duo who called themselves "Heroes for Hire". They just seemed a little more grounded.

I stopped reading X-men and Spiderman and the like when you realized you'd grown up by the characters were still and always would be 20 years old and ridiculously in shape. That and you had to buy all the various incarnations of Amazing, Web of, Spectacular, Pick another adjective Spidey and X-Force, Uncanny, New Mutants, or X-something else cool to keep up with the story lines. Even as the story lines got more mature, and alluding to things like racism and murder, I kind of drifted away. Well, not all the way away, if the art is good I'll still pick up a book.

For example, after reading Howard Chaykin's venerable American Flagg series, which involved a dystopian future, black market basketball, and politics so dirty you couldn't scrub them clean with steel wool, I found that good art is the key to getting me reading. I'll still read anything I can find by Chaykin, even though his hero always seems to look the same no matter the title.

Currently I'm reading Phil Foglio's Girl Genius, a deep and richly textured alternate earth gas light adventure, which has to be on what would normally be issue 55 or so. The characters have depth, there is a back story out of this world. And if you're halfway interested, the whole thing is online for FREE!! That said, I went out and bought the books he sells so he can pay the rent.
(NOTE TO RECORD INDUSTRY: See you can give the stuff away and people will still pay for it anyway. If it's good. Oh, wait, that if it's good applies, so never mind.)

I also just got into another online series, Spacetrawler, which a kooky little tale about ordinary people picked to save the universe, or something, who aren't quite ordinary. Unlike the usual assortment of brave souls, you've got your wackos, vegans, and pacifists all having to work out something. Throw in a perv, a man I can only describe as an paranoid nut and Russian tea cookies and suddenly you've got a story that so far actually has teeth.

On actual paper, a new title that picked up on a whim is Chew, another alternate earth story where due to the bird flu chickens are outlawed, and so the FDA becomes the most powerful police force in the country as it tracks down black market chicken. No joke. I sounds stupid, I know, but the lead is a guy who for whatever he eats (besides beets) can see its complete history. Which is a surprisingly useful tool. I picked up the first two issues because I thought it would be cheesy, but I'm now a fan.

My latest find is King City, by a guy named Brandon Graham. He reminds me a bit of Sergio Aragones, the infamous Groo artist who, if drawing a group of 100 soldiers would take the time to draw 100 different faces and expressions. King City's art is so dense you know some of the images you know are just throwaways, but the attention to detail is just cool. Even better, the story is engaging, but reads like a story should with no wasted exposition.

I love a good read.

Barkeep, let me get a nice tall whiskey and ginger.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Oil, oil everywhere, and not a drop to drink

This is a political post.

There is a way to fix the Gulf of Mexico. It's effective, safe over 30 years old and has been used in the same region before to combat pretty much the same issue.

The problem is that the people running this thing don't want to promote it or advance it, and its for the same reason that 100 ton box is sitting on the bottom of the of ocean unused - Profit. That's the reason they're even considering the boom, the sponges, the rags, and Kevin Costner's centrifuge thingys: They want to recover the oil.

Still, BP officials overseeing the cleanup efforts were not giving up just yet on hopes that a containment box — either the one brought there or a larger one being built — could cover the well and be used to capture the oil and funnel it to a tanker at the surface to be carted away. Officials said it would be at least Monday before a decision was made on what next step to take.

MSNBC, May 8, 2010

BP was ready to use the dispersant when they figured they could cap the well, disperse some and recover some. Then they couldn't cap it, not because the box wouldn't fit, but the way they intended to siphon off the oil still gushing didn't work out. Ice crystals. I kept trying to figure out why ice crystals in the box would make it unsuitable for covering the leak, but the crystals clogged up the removal system. Dropping a 100 tons on it, covering that with more concrete and stopping the leak - if even for a little while - became secondary to recovering the oil after all this was over. At least when the fix was only supposed to take a day or two. Or five. They tried the box a over a month ago. ITS STILL DOWN THERE.

Is it still clogged? They haven't been able to lower a few heaters? What gives?

And every method put forth so far still involves capturing the oil.

But if you watched the link, you'll see there is a way to get rid of the oil, but nobody running this thing wants to touch it. The method, used twice in the 1970s in the SAME region, by the oil industry, is proven effective, safe for the environment, might actually help the fish in the area recover faster, but won't allow oil recovery. I realize that BP is gonna need that oil revenue to foot this bill they're lawyers are charging triple fees to get them out of paying (and those legal fees), but this well is lost, so what's the hold up?

It's like a action movie where the hero won't close the doors to contain the blast and save the world, because those doors are really really expensive, and doesn't want to scuff them unless he absolutely has to.

Right about now, BP is running out options. That they've turned to fire as a possible fix shows the desperation to at least put on a good show that they are doing something. And this sludge is starting to leave that greasy feeling on the Obama administration. The magic negro the country thought they elected is looking more and more fallible every situation. I know he just got BP to promise to pony up 20 billion towards the damages, but that money's got to come from somewhere, so they might kinda need this oil.

Okay, let's be real, they'll post up the 20 billion and then roll it forward as a one time charge against their taxes, which means they pay this but no taxes for like three years, so it's like whatever. So they don't really NEED the oil, they want it real bad. It makes this PR nightmare a little more palatable. You know, that profit concept I mentioned at the beginning. I mean, its been 60 days and some people are worried is BP still gonna be able make their dividend payment, not clean up the Gulf. My quarterly profit vs. your entire livelihood. Profit can warp the mind.

I don't know if the proper people in the administration have even heard of this solution. I mean if you're BP, would you even mention it?

And that's a damn shame.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Self Shot

Ramblings Post #105
I don't ask for much. Usually. I've been blessed with relatively good health, a brain that functions and family that has lived a remarkably long time. I worked through the whole of this past recession, own a home and car, been able to pay my bills and have been able to give support to those I love when they needed it. So where did this sudden attack of vanity come from?

Apparently there is a trick to the self shot, or I am just very unattractive.

There used to be a little shop that made sandwiches where I worked, and used to joke with the guy there that if he ever went out of business, I wanted to buy the mirrors he had because in THOSE mirrors, I looked good. In fact in most of the mirrors in my house I'm fairly passable. So I have what is apparently the delusional impression that I'm not that bad looking. But I bought a new camera, and like every other person who has a digital camera that fits in your hand, I took a few snaps of myself in that arm extended just a cool angle kinda way.

I want to believe I was holding the camera wrong.

So I took a few more snaps, from chin level, from the side kinda, that three quarters look, you know, mixed it up a bit and see what falls out of the wash. Think of a black Shrek. On a completely different but semi-related tangent. I have an interesting theory: A woman plus a digital camera plus time equals naked pictures of said woman. Now they might only exist for a few seconds before she erases them, but they do exist at some point! It is my honest belief that every woman checks, because we all know that mirrors are dirty stinking liars. I bring up that only semi-related tangent to say that apparently the mirrors in my house are now dirty stinking liars or I really am that bloated tired looking middle aged black guy in that photo of me.

Actually, I think I look worse than Black Shrek.

Now that is depressing.

I have long been of the mental delusion that I'm a quick workout or two from being Olympic level shape, but passing my reflection in the windows at the job and now this incident are shifting my perception to something akin to me being three Krispy Kreme doughnuts from being in a size 4x shirt. Which as we can all assume, would not be good. This of course neatly segues into my next life theory, in that the modern woman is more visual than her predecessors and as such the degree of success you have to have before appearance becomes irrelevant is now much higher. Or in simpler terms, where I'm at now I have to have six pack abs or something very close. Gazing down, I'm starting to believe I'm heading back up to the"keg". Whereas I had gotten down to a "party ball", and had been flirting with a "case", I believe I've lost focus.

I'm considering a formal weight loss program. Like monitored.

Or maybe if I just hold the camera and shoot it from the other side with a different light. Or from that other way. Yeah. That will work.

Barkeep, do beer goggles work on oneself?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Not a good Saturday.

Ramblings Post #104
I wish I could stop thinking. Stop dreaming, stop imaging, just stop coming with ideas and notions, concepts. I wish I could just stop and live in the moment, in the now. No memory of what was, of hurt and longing, no hope for the future. I just want now. And even now ain't all that grand.

Sometimes I just don't know. I just don't. Today is a day when I just wish it would all stop. I wish I could just leave and not come back. Give up the job, the house, my friends, school and just be someplace, somebody else. Today is not a good Saturday.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Bar Chatter

Bar Chatter #13
Sometimes it ain't enough to make a post, but it still needs to go out...its just bar chatter

This is a "plus" sized male model from Fantastic Man, an online magazine for men's style that bills itself as the fashion magazine "for guys who hate fashion magazines."

Apparently to them, this guy is big. Seriously.

This isn't a plus sized model. This is just like...a guy. This guy is big as compared to who? Maybe a twelve year old. I mean he looks like a guy, just a guy, and he's considered "plus"? What does that make me?

I'm beginning to see what the hell women are so mad about. Who is picking these people?