Konnichiwa!

No, this is not going to turn into Blog of Japan, but I am gradually easing into the daunting world of Japanese and all its delightful confusion. And, as I learn more about their culture, my own seems to be just as confusing and daunting!

Anyway, today I am going to express my . . . well, at last check it was at “eye-rolling irritation” but now it’s gone up a notch to “gritting my teeth” annoyance at yet ANOTHER mainstream media article laying out the sad story of people who voted for scumbag politicians who were going to X and then are SHOCKED when X comes to pass.

This is not the first, fifth, or fiftieth one of these I’ve seen, where publications pay writers to travel to areas and interview people who cast a vote for a large orange toad who blopped out EVERYTHING he intended to do on the campaign trail and continued blopping the same blops ever since (except for the frequent times when he changes direction on his previous blops), and then when the blops hit the fan and affected the lives of the voters, there is just such genuine shock and dismay and horror.

HE SAID HE WAS GONNA. I don’t know how to translate that into Japanese yet but in the meantime here it is in Na’vi: Poltxe pol säro’a sivi

Learn that damn sentence and learn it fast, because the folks with the working minds are getting very tired of hearing about all these stupid-ass people who voted for IQ45 after *AFTER* [AFTER] listening to him “talk” and reading the gobble-spit he yorks up on Twitter when he’s on the can, and then have the nerve, the temerity, the GALL to wander around afterward and PRETEND TO BE SHOCKED THAT THE THE ORANGE TOAD DID WHAT HE SAID HE WAS GOING TO DO!!

All this does is reveal the stark naked fact that not ONE of these Trump-dumpsters thought that ANY of the insane fly-laden horseshit that flew out of that orange piehole was to be taken as truth. They all thought he was full of hot air like “every other” politician . . . only they RAN on the fact that he WASN’T a politician, didn’t they? And that was something they WANTED! They wanted someone to shake up the stodgy old status quo in Washington and show ’em how a real Big City CEO runs things! He’s TV! He’s glitz and glamour!

Yeah, well, there’s a funny aspect to the word “glamour.”

It also means “illusory attractiveness.”

Like the fact that everything that Trump is and ever was is fake, false, flimsy, and a sham. I’m not even convinced that he has a soul. He’s that empty.

And the sad fact is that ALL OF IT was clear to anyone with eyes and a functioning brain. Everything he is is built on lies, flim-flam, and bullshit. He’s the king con man.

Except in one area.

He said he was going to take a much tougher stance on immigration.

HE. SAID. HE. WAS. GONNA.

And people voted, and then he was elected, and now we’re here.

So STOP WRITING ABOUT IT. It’s real simple: lots of stupid people voted for him. They were stupid then. They’re stupid now. They will not learn. STOP GIVING THEM ATTENTION.

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Yeah, it’s been a while

I have more reviews in the pipe, but in the meantime, a short PSA.

Hey Starbucks,

I am a former Blockbuster employee and let me tell you a little story.

Working with the public sucks. People are stupid. They are cranky, demanding, rude, and sometimes psychotic. And they are also kind, generous, and friendly. And sometimes they can get violent and you have to call the police to deal with them.

What you DON’T do is call the police on people who hang around. It’s annoying, especially if you ask them to leave, but hanging around a place of business is not a crime. Yes, in a perfect world people would all go into stores and behave perfectly, buy things and leave, but this isn’t a perfect world. It runs along okay in general, with occasional hiccups, and that’s what the police and courts and laws are for. But those are for the serious matters, for the things that can’t be resolved on a civil level.

One thing that is true of ALL customers is that no matter how clearly a policy or offer is stated, they will misread it and insist that it means what they think it means, or insist that they are an exception. The fact that businesses make money and some make more money by screwing people has been lodged in some peoples’ heads, and this makes them difficult to deal with. They think they can get around things, and you as the employee have to deal with it.

You never know what you’re going to get when you deal with the public. It can be wonderful or horrible depending on how you approach it. Human interaction is hard for a lot of people, and it’s where our prejudices and bigotry can raise their ugly heads.

One night when I was working at Blockbuster Video a customer came in wanting to rent a movie. It was some no-name straight-to-DVD piece of trash that we only had four copies of, but her eyes had been drawn to the magic word “Guaranteed” that was on a shelf high above the movie she wanted, and she assumed that it meant that EVERYTHING on that whole section of shelves was guaranteed to be there. It wasn’t. It was guaranteed to be there or it was free (we’d give a coupon for a free rental) for the SPECIFIC FILM that we had tons of copies of. It didn’t mean we guaranteed that we would have the exact movie she wanted at the exact time she wanted it, but that’s what got lodged in her brain and she refused to let it go.

She asked if we had the movie she wanted, and I said no, they were all rented out and only one was due back that night. She said “Well it says it’s guaranteed.” I told her that only the movies that had loads of copies were guaranteed to be there OR IT’S FREE, and you’d get a coupon if it wasn’t, but that didn’t apply to the piece of shit she wanted to rent.

She didn’t leave the store. She wandered around, waiting, browsing, chatting with other customers, but she didn’t leave. I even mentioned her to some of my regulars and as I was talking about her, she SHOWED UP and caught me talking about her. I couldn’t convince her to leave. I begged and pleaded and tried to reason with her, but she was insistent on staying to see if she could get her movie if someone returned it.

I don’t remember the exact time but she was there until closing, so it was more than four hours. Probably six. We didn’t call the police to have her hauled out. She loitered around in our store for HOURS and we didn’t call the police. She was a disgruntled older black woman (older than me, and I was a teenager) with the kind of nice-on-the-surface attitude that covers a nasty streak. Polite to a point, but you could tell she was ready to attack if you said something out of line. I treated her with respect and tried to reason with her, but for whatever reason she was dead set on getting her way.

That should have happened at Starbucks. Guys come in wanting to use the bathroom and are told no, and they decide to hang around because they’re waiting for someone or maybe they’re trying to figure out their day, whatever. If they’re not obstructing customer flow or annoying people or being destructive, you leave them be. Just like you would if instead of a couple black guys, it was a couple middle-aged white women, or a couple white guys in khakis and alligator shirts.

Some people loiter and hang around. It’s the way things are. But you have to question the fact that black guys means “trouble” to TOO DAMN MANY white people just on inspection and that has got to STOP. It needs to stop happening.

WHITE PEOPLE, HEY YOU.

BLACK PEOPLE ARE NOT A THREAT TO YOU. THEY ARE NOT SCARY. THEY ARE PEOPLE JUST LIKE YOU. WE NEED TO STOP THIS DUMB ASS SHIT BECAUSE IT’S GONE BEYOND EMBARRASSMENT AND NOW WE’RE INTO DISGRACE. WE NEED TO STOP.

I know I’m yelling into a hurricane here, but sometimes you just have to say it.

Valentine’s Day, 2018

Okay, since it’s been how many times.

Guns are weapons meant to kill. They have no other purpose.

They come in all forms and all varieties, but functional firearms are deadly weapons that kill. That’s IT. They are not “tools” in the same way a hammer is a tool.

A hammer is a tool designed to drive nails into wood. That is its intended function.

You can kill a person with a hammer.
You can kill a person with a crowbar.
You can kill a person with a pair of bolt cutters.
You can kill a person with a shovel.
You can kill a person with a baseball bat.
You can kill a person with a hockey stick.
You can kill a person with a Hattori Hanzo sword.

You can kill a person with a piece of paper, if you’re good enough and have a hemophiliac target.

You can kill a person with a car. A car is a deadly weapon in the hands of the wrong person, but its primary function is transportation.

A gun is a weapon whose purpose is to kill. It is made for NO OTHER FUNCTION.

And guns make things easy. They don’t require skill to use, at least, not a lot of skill.

It’s surprisingly hard to kill someone with a sword. There are all sorts of variables. Length of the sword, weight, sharpness, strength of the person wielding the sword, skill of the person wielding the sword, what the target is wearing, is the target a fast runner. Even a lethal stroke can become non-lethal if the victim moves the wrong way.

Same thing with knives. You can stab someone a surprising number of times and not kill them, and even a cheap pair of jeans can foil a knife blade.

Yes, you have to know how to hold a gun, how to aim, how to shoot, but that’s something that can be learned in a matter of minutes, and if someone is close enough, you don’t need hours of practice to be able to hit them. Most guns fire bullets as fast as your finger can pull the trigger, and once you fire that first shot, I’m led to believe that the rest come easier.

They fire hot pieces of metal into a body, where the velocity of the bullet causes internal damage enough to wound or kill a person. The mechanism has been in existence since the seventeenth century, but really only got rolling in the nineteenth, when the American Civil War started with musket-loaders and ended with gatling-guns.

Pistols and handguns, rifles and shotguns are so tied into our culture from the very beginning, from necessity, where guns were needed in wild areas that could be dangerous. But when we reached a time where we didn’t need guns at our sides constantly, we kept them anyway because they were just part of the landscape.

But at some point the gun started becoming less a tool for hunting or protection and more of a fetish, an obsession, and as more and more people wanted in on the orgy, the gun makers saw vast fields of green and guns went from something that just exists to something every American needs to have.

To feel safe.
To feel proud.
To be American.

Tying pride and protection with deadly weaponry was a disaster, as many Americans willingly believe that the right to own deadly weapons without restrictions is fundamental to freedom. They fear a tyrannical government taking their weapons and leaving them defenseless against whatever boogeyman they decide on—the government, gangs, criminals, immigrants, ISIS, clowns, fruit vendors, who knows.

(It’s useless to point out that even if they bought every gun they could get their hands on they would only last a few seconds against a single military platoon.)

(It’s also useless once they start in on “well if you take our guns then the criminals will overrun us because they don’t care about the law and they’ll have guns and we’ll be defenseless” because pointing out that many people live without guns in cities with criminals who do have guns and somehow they aren’t all getting mowed down won’t fit into their pre-programmed narrative.)

So now, we have a nation held hostage by rich gun makers who own politicians; it’s in their best interests to keep people scared, paranoid, and buying guns. It’s profit to them to have lesser and lesser restrictions on guns.

They don’t care if people die.

It will require enough people—both sensible gun owners and non-owners—to stand up and demand reform, and replace paid-for politicians with people who are strong enough to stand up to the gun lobby and say “You’ve taken enough blood.”

It doesn’t have to be zero-sum; another frustration I have with the gun-humping crowd. They see it as all-or-nothing, when the reality is that you are not going to magically zap all guns out of this country overnight. And I don’t even know that I’d be in favor of that, as much as I’d like to live somewhere where if someone wants to take me down I have a shot at being able to survive. I have no problem at all with people who are intelligent and capable of understanding the AWESOME responsibility of having a gun, and who take the time to learn how to handle them safely, who store them safely, and who basically don’t even let you know they have one because to them it’s not something to brag about. Those are not the people I worry about. They’re also not the people who get nasty and defensive at any suggestion of gun control because they understand the responsibility they have and are probably just as tired of the open-carry brandishing overcompensating fools as I am.

But there is absolutely no reason, aside from an NRA-beholden Congress, for there not to be a sensible, universal set of regulations passed on who can own guns, and what kinds of guns should be available to civilians. That it should be at least as difficult to buy a gun as it is to obtain a driver’s license. We put more barriers up for people who want to learn how to practice law, to drive a car, to own a business, to enroll in college, to get a costmetology license, to be licensed to tattoo or pierce people, to CUT HAIR!!

Than we do to own a deadly weapon.

In many states with no waiting period, no requirement for licensing or competency or any demonstration that you are capable of handling a weapon that can kill someone in an instant.

It’s this way because the people in power are owned by the gun lobby.

And nothing will change.

On Being “Problematic”

The whole thing with liking problematic artists is something I generally don’t go into, because it’s a bog that can be easy to get completely mired in with no way out. The first problem is even bringing it up, because there is a contingent that will attack if you are not openly 100% against whichever people they don’t like. If you try to bring any balance or perspective into the equation, you are now and forever a horrible person and a rape apologist. Okay, so those lulus are easy enough to ignore.

But then you get into the deeper questions; what exactly makes someone “problematic”? Actions? Words? Both? How many? For how long? Do apologies or changes in character matter? Ever? How far does it go–is an actor who even appears in a film made by a director who is later found to have assaulted someone now tainted as well? See how utterly ridiculous and totally off the rails this can go? And where in ANY of it is there any real help or support for the victims of real abuse? Is there even any?

I know there are obvious examples but this whole thing has unraveled into finer and finer tendrils that are starting to poke in everywhere. I’m a pragmatist at heart and I fully accept that human beings as a whole are pretty awful creatures. We’re greedy, violent apes who use and abuse pretty much anything and anyone we come in contact with at one time or another while being capable of enormous compassion, generosity, kindness, and love towards one another. We seem to yaw from one extreme to another without much in the way of reason or rhyme, and still haven’t figured ourselves out.

So given that; actors, musicians, artists are all people too. They should not be expected to be some perfect model of humanity at all times, never ever making a single human mistake along the way. And yes, some of them are going to do awful things because humans are frequently awful creatures and some of them happen to be in the entertainment industry. But determining the level of awful, the qualities and weight, and then balancing that against what joy their work brings is a horribly difficult set of calculus to do if you have some kind of Purity Standard that must be met before you can watch a show or a movie or listen to a song.

I can hear the objection already, so let me address it:

Well then you’re saying that it doesn’t matter what someone’s done, you’ll still support them?

Stupid on its face, to be sure. No, it does matter. But the measurements have to be present and clear. Let’s give a concrete example. Harvey Weinstein. Will I throw out any movie I own that he had a hand in making? Fuck no. Will I go to see any new films of his? Doubtful. Will I do anything knowingly to enrich him in any way ever again? Absolutely not.

See, this is the kind of thing that has to be taken on a case-by-case basis, by each individual, based on his or her own judgment. I still own a DVD copy of Bill Cosby: Himself. It’s one of the funniest fucking things I ever saw, I still know the routines by heart, and though I haven’t thrown it out, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to watch it again. I think I keep it around as a barometer, to judge where my line is. I will, naturally, never purchase anything by Mr. Cosby ever again, or do anything to knowingly enrich him. That’s also where my line is.

But the thing is–I can still enjoy the work of someone who isn’t a perfect person, or perhaps is even a bad person. I will admit to still enjoying Mel Gibson’s earlier work, before he went off the rails, and I don’t believe that doing so means anything more than “Hey, I love the Lethal Weapon movies.” My enjoyment of something of which he is a part is not some kind of blanket approval of his entire existence, nor should it be. I can think of many authors and musicians and actors I probably wouldn’t get along with but whose work I love. I even like one of Ted Nugent’s songs (Stranglehold, if you must know) and I LOATHE that man. I can even look at the watercolor painting Hitler did and say that it’s not half-bad.

And again, more and more I see more obvious cases like Cosby, Weinstein, Woody Allen, and Roman Polanski yielding to much more specious “problematics”; people who make jokes, who are merely accused of something, or who are guilty by the court of public opinion based on rumors or lies. Things get blown out of proportion and swept up by the hysterical masses and suddenly someone who makes an off-color joke is on the same level as Weinstein. That’s what I have a problem with, and why I refuse to just jettison all my entertainment because someone else thinks I should.

Musings on Telepathy

I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of telepathy, of being able to connect with another person’s mind and understand that person completely. Though I have a particularly vivid imagination, which is far more expansive than I think anyone can imagine (and again, how can you know without telepathy, eh?), I find that I still can’t imagine what it would be like to touch another person’s mind, or how that would even work. Would it be pictures? Music? Feelings? No idea.

So I revel in the next best thing. Art. Music. Film. Books.

Books are telepathy. Someone’s thoughts put on a page, picked up by another person and pulled into their head. My thoughts here are being transmitted to you. It’s a crude form, but it works for us humans.

So an interesting theory came to me as I was pondering this idea. If you’re anything like me when you read, different texts have different “voices,” if you will; writers have different cadences that come across in their writing, and different writers appeal to different readers, which got me thinking even more.

Is there a connection between the mind of an author and the minds of readers who respond most strongly to their writing? A strong bond, similar lines/trains of thinking that make a strong connection?

For example: I am a dedicated reader of Stephen King. His books, more than any others, are able to absorb me completely. I feel like I’ve physically been to Derry, Castle Rock, the Overlook Hotel, Salem’s Lot, even Dallas TX in 1963. There is something about the way he writes, the style, the magic of how he puts words together that pulls me into a zone where I no longer feel that I’m reading. I’m reading, but the movie is playing full-speed behind my eyes. It’s that zone when you’re reading the words and seeing them on the page and yet not seeing them. When that happens there is a powerful connection made, and when it’s made over and over with totally different books (and in King’s case books that span decades), I wonder if that means that there are similar neurological things going on in my brain and his, that whatever grooves in his brain grooves in mine the same way, and that’s why his work absorbs me so quickly and easily.

This might be a fun experiment to try; find the authors (and it doesn’t have to be strictly fiction, since some non-fiction can be just as gripping) that consistently pull you into the “inner eye movie zone” and which ones don’t. Or which ones draw you in but only with effort, or the ones that you can’t approach at all.

IT has been a while

Long overdue but work shake-ups, breakdowns, and computer problems wait for no one.

I am very excited about the upcoming film IT. Apparently this is to be the first part of a two-part film, with the second film, assuming the first is good, completing the arc with the grownups. Very out of sync with the book, but if you know the book as well as I do (and I would guess that only King himself would, since I have lived and breathed that book on more than one occasion), you know that trying to turn it into a standard film would be impossible.

IT is a novel that spans not only 1000 pages, but also seven characters as children and then as adults, a town in Maine, a monster from beyond our dimension who has been there since time immemorial, interweaving an impossible web of their lives, the town they grew up in, the town itself, and the long, bloody history of which they gradually become aware. There are flashbacks and flashforwards and so many complexities that I am in awe that it flows as well as it does.

You don’t read IT.

You experience IT.

I’m a reader, always have been, since the first time I took TIME magazine to my mother and pointed at the headline letters demanding to know what they were. I read the way people listen to music, and books often transform in my hands and become movie projectors. King’s books do this often to me, not all the time, and some are stronger than others. With his writing I lose the sense of reading, it’s more like things are unfolding in front of me.

I’ve read IT probably nine or ten times, and each time it’s like going back to familiar territory, and the venues, the scenes, the visions are always the same. My internal movie screen is very reliable, and the Barrens, the clubhouse, the streets of Derry, the library, the Standpipe, the remnants of the Kitchener Ironworks, the Tracker Brothers lot, and the dreaded house at 29 Neibolt Street (in my head it is always nay-bolt, not nee-bolt) are as clear to me as if I were there myself.

The house on Neibolt Street in particular. If you’ve read the book you’re nodding, and if you only know IT from the 1990 miniseries you’re probably thinking “what?”

The miniseries that came out in 1990 was as good as it could have been for what it was; a television miniseries made on a TV budget in a time period where special effects were still in their infancy. To tackle IT at all was a feat, but the choices were pretty ugly; make a feature film that would try to cram everything into a two-hour story, make a really long movie that no one would want to see (and this was before Quentin Tarantino brought the idea of two-part films to us), or a trilogy that would require a huge commitment. Or, put it on television, with the concomitant lower budget but the ability to have more airtime.

I own the miniseries and have seen it multiple times (Tim Curry was the first clown to really scare the shit out of me), and it does have some very good scary moments that do sync with the book. But there was a great deal left out, naturally, and places where things just didn’t work. And it never synced up with my mental Derry from the book. While watching the miniseries I had to force myself to recognize them as the characters who existed so differently in my head.

The house on Neibolt Street is a rather large and important section of the book that was partly cut out and partly absorbed into other scenes in the miniseries, probably because the writers/producers didn’t know how to work it into the story, since it’s a confrontation with the creature, and a pretty important one, but isn’t the last one they have as children. It’s a lengthy engagement in the book, with Eddie and others going there twice before the big confrontation, where they determine that the house is where It lives and they make silver slugs to kill It. All of that was mashed into other parts of the miniseries and the house was never mentioned.

Evidently the house figures prominently in the film, and I am very excited, not least because the glimpses I’ve seen get very close to the mental picture in my head.

So to end this rambling, I am excited to see a film that seems to match up more closely with the mental movie I’ve been watching every time I read the book. I hope that they manage to extract the right half of the story and get it right, so that they’re able to finish it, and with today’s technology get maybe a little closer to the insanity of the end of the book.

When I was young, I didn’t really know what good music was; I was raised in a house that veered from Glenn Miller to Toto to Steely Dan, and I remember having a cassette tape of 50s songs (I think it was when McDonald’s was doing their rock n’ roll promotion thing, it had Rock around the Clock, Wake up Little Suzie, Runaround Sue, Runaway, Great Balls of Fire, Summertime Blues, and a few other fifties standards) that I played until it broke, but I never really had any real conscious knowledge of music until I was a teenager and I found the Beatles. Or rather, they found me. The insanity of Beatlemania drove me both forwards and backwards; I read everything about the Beatles I could get my desperate hands on, and that included reading about their inspirations and the music they listened to, which was Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, and so on. Music I was already familiar with in part, but I raged on like the good little addict and snatched up any and all music I could get my hands on (not easy in the days before youtube and mp3s, when I had to try to find tapes or the newfangled CDs not to mention the money required for such things).

Strangely enough, I veered toward what you could call the “black” side of the “Beatle Inspiration” line; I found most of Elvis’ music boring and to this day find little to admire–I don’t dislike him either as a person or a performer, but I simply do not get what all the fuss is about and find other singers to be much more talented; to me Little Richard could bounce Elvis out on his ass any day of the week, but I digress. The white side was fine, but bland (save the always wild Jerry Lee Lewis), but the black side was the stuff that honey and gold was made from. As much as I might dig Rock around the Clock, Summertime Blues, and Blue Suede Shoes, those songs don’t get you leaping around nearly as well as Tutti Frutti, or Roll Over Beethoven, Maybelline, or Johnny B Goode. They’re all great, but I gravitated to the mighty Chuck early on, him and Little Richard, and never looked back. I don’t care how many times I hear it, the classic Chuck opening riff will never leave my soul or my heart, and even though Chuck has left us physically, his mighty spirit and music will always be here with us. Never got to meet him or see him perform, but his song and voice is in my soul, so maybe on the flip side I’ll get to groove on up next to him and do a little duck walk across the stars.