Sunday, December 22, 2013

Behold (A Short Story)

Connor Alexander


I felt his nose break against my fist. I hadn't hit anyone since Stanford. He'd been about to hit me though. I could see it in his eyes. There was fear there. And something more too. It scared me.

Phillip flailed backward, clutching at his nose and trying to maintain his balance. With a thump he landed on his ass. I thought he might try to get up and attack me, but instead, he crawled toward a closet on one elbow, one hand still pressed to his face. He was leaving a trail of thick dark blood on the wood floor.

I looked back at.Candace. Her red curls stood out in the dim light of the entryway. Her hand was to her mouth in shock, but her eyes were fixed in fascination. This had all gotten out of hand so quickly. She'd asked me to come here because she didn't feel safe alone with Phillip. It seemed routine. Who hasn't had to go back and pick something up from their ex? Without a second's hesitation I told her I'd come along.

Phillip opened the door. I'd been surprised by his reaction when he saw Candace. Was it relief? Was he still in love with her? He seemed almost confused. The moment she told him that we'd come for the portfolio though, he changed. His eyes went wild, his fists clenched, he stuttered. I saw him, or at least I think I saw him, start to cock his arm. So I hit him.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The 10th Day (A micro short story)

On my recent trip to New Orleans, I had a sudden inspiration for a micro short story (only 139 words). I typed it into my phone during our descent and now I present it here for your entertainment.

On the first day Kenna's fighter had come crashing down into Mara's wheat fields. On the second day, he felt like he was healthy enough to return to the fight, but no one came for him.

Instead, at night, he and Mara and Jack watched the distant battle from the porch. Jack rapidly bored of staring up at the tiny blips and flashes among the stars though and would turn to play with his toy space fighters.

On the seventh day, Mara told Kenna over dinner that she wouldn't mind if they never came for him. Jack nodded his agreement.

On the eighth day, while they sat on the porch, watching the night sky, Mara reached out and took Kenna's hand. He didn't let go.

But on the tenth day, they came for him.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

DD-249 (A Sci-Fi Short Story)

A short story that I wrote in prep for NaNoWriMo. Let me know what you think down at the bottom.

Connor Alexander

Alex woke up feeling Holly's warmth on his back. He kept his body still but craned his head back to get a look at her. Her tight red curls still perfectly framed her face, despite having slept on them all night. Her breath drifted up at him in slow puffs, slightly acidic and bad smelling but at the same time comfortingly familiar. Her breasts were soft against his back and he had to smile. She really didn't like being 'big spoon' when they slept, but she always gave into his pleadings in the end.

He made the decision to try to let her sleep if he could, today of all days. Alex slipped out from under her arm and out of the bed that really was too small for two people. The room was cramped, the air stale. Where a normal window would have been, there was an LED sunlight simulator meant to both fool the brain as well as help Vitamin D production. There was no point in a real window. The view would have just been a lifeless, darkened wasteland.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Gravity of Gravity

*A Spoiler Free Review Of Gravity*

When this summer began, I had sort of a mental list of films that I wanted to see on the big screen. Being without regular income as well as having a decent home entertainment system means that going to a cinema is like going out for a fine dining experience. Summer can be extra tough because they tend to pack in a lot of blockbuster big budget films that tend to look better on a larger screen. So I chose the films that I would see in advance, noting director, subject, cast and potential big screen pay off.

In wrapping up my summer viewing, I've decided on a fine dining analogy. Each film being compared to a portion of a nice meal. The opening cocktail was Iron Man 3. Not bad. Listed as a house special. It more or less confirmed my expectations and set me up nicely for the appetizer. The Wolverine was that appetizer. Better than it's predecessor but nothing to really rave about. It was good enough to whet my appetite. There were side dishes of Elysium and Star Trek Into Darkness. Elysium was like some finely done broccoli. It was great broccoli, but in the end, it's still just a vegetable. You can only get so much out of it on it's own. Star Trek though was like some kick ass mashed potatoes infused with garlic and thyme and topped with fresh sour cream. Doesn't matter that it's full of carbs and fat, you want more. For dessert, Pacific Rim was like an amazing banana split, covered in whipped cream, cherries, fudge, caramel and strawberry sauce. It was a ridiculously overloaded sugary mess devoid of nutritional value. I ate every single bite with a stupid smile on my face.

But I left out the main course. That main course was Gravity. Gravity was like a filet mignon and when I walked away from my meal, it was the only thing I really ended up remembering (well, that and the dessert). Gravity is a film like few others and it makes total sense that it comes Alfonso Cuaron. The man is quickly ascending a list of crucially important directors that are taking the torch from the last generation of epic filmmakers like Scorcese, Spielberg and Kubrick. With Gravity, Cuaron took a bold step into rare narrative territory and thankfully, the studio execs gambled on that step. Gravity is the kind of film that when you finish it, it's easy to wonder how it ever got released in this Transformers/Romantic Comedy/Miley Cyrus culture.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

24 Days Of Corporate Greed

I lost my job in March of 2012. I had two credit cards, a student loan and a mild balance on all of them. I paid more than the minimum payments every month and a rarely used the cards. My credit rating was pretty damn high.

I didn't used to get much junk mail. But slowly, over the last year and half, a trickle turned into a waterfall.

But more than just junk mail, I began to notice that it was specifically offers for credit cards. Low APR! Cash back! No interest for the first six months! Every bank and issuer had an angle. And they didn't stop.

Last month, I decided that rather than just throwing them right into the trash, I'd keep some of them. I wanted the project to go on longer, but I got sick of the sight of them. This is 24 days worth of credit card offers:

At first I attributed this to stupidity. I'd say things like, "Don't these idiots know that I'm unemployed?" The ridiculously obvious answer to that question is "Yes, of course they do."

This folks, is evil at it's most refined and potent. Dante couldn't come up with a version of the Devil this sophisticated. These evil banking fucks are sending me these offers because I'm unemployed. Think about that. Think about how goddamned predatory that is. Not to mention, look at that waste! How much paper, money, man power and time is going into sending us all of this, just so that it can end up being recycled?

I'd really like to bundle these up with some rubber bands and slap someone across the face with them. But there really isn't any one person to slap, is there? So I guess the best I can do is just scream out into the void: "Fuck you."

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dead End

If you haven't read this column and you're feeling either perky and don't want to stay that way or are depressed and want more fuel for the fire, go check out Unemployment Stories over at Gawker:

It's an amazing compilation of letters from real Americans without jobs. How they got there, what they're doing and how it has affected them.  I deeply connect with many of the writers and sometimes have angry reactions to others. I even submitted my own letter to them awhile back. It's a grim view inside the carcass of America.

The reason I'm writing this today is that the hammer has finally fallen for me. My unemployment insurance has run out. My savings are dwindling. I just notified my credit card companies and student loan offices that no more money will be forthcoming. I'll be selling my car since I can no longer afford insurance or gas.

It's been 15 months since I was laid off. While I have a huge burning hatred for the owners of the company that laid me off, I don't blame them for my situation since then. There's no one thing or person to blame really. I could blame the government or the economy or corporatism or my parents or myself - but to no useful end.

I've done my best to be responsible since then - financially, socially, emotionally. But there's no doubt that it has taken its toll on all fronts. Intellectually, I find it truly sad. While it's impossible not to take a hit to your ego, to your self-esteem, in a situation like this, what hits me harder is that this entire country is hurting and I'm a resource that's going to waste. I'm a healthy, hard working, intelligent adult. There's no reason that I shouldn't be part of the work force.

Instead, after more than 200 applications to everyone from Microsoft to an adult bookstore, I got this from Target the other day: "Thank you for taking the time to apply with us. We are unable to offer you a position at this time, but we do appreciate your interest in Target." Which sums up everything pretty nicely.

I'm still writing fiction, and I'm happy to say that writing has become a huge part of my life in the last year. I'll probably continue to do it for the rest of my life now. But it's not going to pay the bills, probably ever. Which leads me to the last question:  What do you do when you're out of options?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Furry, A Rape Victim and a Black Guy Walk Into A Bar

There's been a big dust up lately regarding rape culture, rape jokes, misogyny, bad male behavior at Cons, the list goes on (I've written about some of this in previous posts). This evening, a friend posted a link to this debate between Lindy West and Jim Norton on the topic of rape jokes and I felt like it was time to jump in and throw out my white male privileged opinion.

Before I do though, here's the link to the debate. Go watch it. (Props to @MistressMatisse for tweeting it to my attention)

Okay, so here's my two cents. There IS a way to tell a rape joke and have it be funny (wait for it...). In my humble opinion, comedy is about sharing pain. We laugh at things because we've either experienced them directly or indirectly ourselves. Much like music or sex or even eating, laughing is something we do as a species that is a communal experience. It's meant to bring us closer together.

I'm going to defend my statement that it is possible to tell a rape joke and have it be funny by using three examples.

First, a comedian tells a joke about furries to a crowd (Google it if you don't know). Regardless of the content of the joke, there are a few things to consider. One, are there furries in the audience? Since most don't go to comedy shows in their outfits, we won't know. So, one should assume there *might* be a furry in the audience. Does it change things? No, and the reason it doesn't is that a person who is a furry has chosen this lifestyle and unless they are mentally deficient, they understand that it is a lifestyle that is outside the mainstream. While furries take themselves seriously and have every right to do so, they should also be prepared for the world at large to not get their lifestyle and have some thick skin about it. As long as the comedian isn't making fun of the actual furry in the crowd, I think we can all agree that this is fair game.

But here's a second part of that equation. What if the comedian is a furry? It changes the tone of the joke entirely. Almost unequivocally it makes the joke funnier because by making the joke, the comedian is giving us permission to laugh along *with* him. This means that everyone is included now. The comedian, the audience and even other furries in the audience can all laugh along without feeling like they are a target.

Second scenario. A comedian tells a joke about a black person. Same list of parameters. Are there black people in the audience? Does it change things? No, it doesn't. The difference here is that black people are born black and it is inherent to who they are. Unlike furries, no one chooses the color of their skin any more than they choose what country to be born in, what gender they are or how tall they are. Right there we have a deviation. But when we get to the second factor, that is, is the comedian telling the joke black, everything changes again. This is why Michael Richards calling someone a nigger was so offensive when Chris Rock's bit on the word is funny.

Again, the difference is about inclusion. In the video clip above, Mr. Bell actually makes a few jokes about being black and that's okay because it's at his expense. He's inviting us into his world and saying 'laugh along with me'. Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock are masters of this kind of comedy. I can't count how many white people I've heard say that they feel guilty for laughing at some of the stuff that Dave Chapelle does. I promise you, that stuff would not be funny if Michael Richards did it. It's about inclusion.

Which brings us to the third and final example, rape jokes. The reason I used furries and black people in my two examples above is that there are elements of each situation in rape jokes. In the second scenario, we saw that a lack of choice (a denial of consent as it were) was an element in racist jokes. The exact same things can be said for rape victims. Like race, people do not choose to be rape victims (If you disagree with this statement just stop reading now and never return to my blog). However, the same cannot be said for rapists, the perpetrators. They, like furries, have a choice. They chose to be rapists. Rapists chose to take someone's consent from them.

So, how can a rape joke be funny? Take the elements from the first two examples and combine them. Two ways rape jokes can be funny! If a comedian wants to make fun of rapists...that's funny! Cut loose with your jokes about rapists. The sooner we make fun of them, the better off we'll all be. The second way that a rape joke can be funny is if a rape victim makes it. And if any of you know a person (or are a person) who has been the victim of a sexual assault, you know that you'll be waiting to hear that joke for a very....very....very long time. (Hint: It's not ever coming)

Comedy is a weapon. In the right hands it's a deadly one. Time to point it at the right people.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

I Did That?

Just a quick note of amazement. Last August I began writing a blog under a pseudonym that by November, I'd decided to turn into a book. That same November, I jumped into National Novel Writing Month with both feet and began writing Five's Fate under my own name.

By January, the book under my pen name was out (more than 400 pages!). By April, Five's Fate was out (more than 350 pages). I also have begun two new books, one under my pen name and one under my real name. The pen name book has close to 50,000 words already and the book under my name is at about 33,000 words.

Both books I plan to have finished before August, or at least into the editing process. The fact that I might have four books published in a year is kind of surreal to me. Every few days, I stop and think about it and say, "I did that?"

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Seattle Freeze

This is a touchy subject for a lot of folks and I can understand why. After living in Seattle for three years though, I feel I'm qualified to write about it. Before I get into my perspective on the Seattle Freeze, the perceived phenomena of a polite but chilly social atmosphere in the Emerald City, let me explain my own personal background briefly.

I grew up in Southern California moving around a lot. I have no siblings and was raised almost entirely by my mother with a dash of great help from my grandmother. When I say I moved around a lot, I attended four elementary schools, three junior highs and two high schools. After that I was in the military. I also lived in Minneapolis for two years and then New Orleans for 10. After hurricane Katrina I lived in L.A. for four years before coming to Seattle.

So, I've lived in a few places (I believe I once added up that I have had 38 mailing addresses in my life, going back to infancy.) and I've had to make new friends over and over again. It's old hat to me. While moving was often hard, as an adult, I've learned to be a bit of a social chameleon because of that moving around. I'm proud to say that I still have friends that date back to junior high and that I keep in touch with friends from all over the world.

When I heard about the Seattle Freeze, I instantly thought of Minneapolis which has a lot of similarities to Seattle. It was settled by a lot of Northern European types, it's about the same age, has a thriving LGBT population, has very progressive politics, etc. So, since I made quite a few good friends there once I broke through the proverbial ice, I thought that Seattle might be similar.

Right away I noticed that Seattle folks are very 'friendly' and polite. They're good people, smart, educated, progressive, with big hearts. But I put those marks around friendly for a reason. Friendly is not the same as being welcoming.

Upon moving here, I began to quickly make friends with my co-workers at my new job. I also had a couple of legacy friends, transplants from New Orleans, who helped me make adjustments to my new city. But it didn't take long to learn that Seattlites, while polite to strangers, have no interest in knowing them.

I'm sure right now, most Seattlites that are reading this are fuming and pounding their keyboards. But let me illustrate with an example. Shortly after I  moved to New Orleans in 1996, I went to a show at a great venue called Jimmy's. I went alone and didn't know anyone. I saw a girl, sitting by herself on some steps smoking a cigarette. I sat down beside her, struck up a conversation (her name was Sharon) and within a few minutes she said, 'I think I know a couple of guys you should meet'. She introduced me to Harry, Mark and Ryan at that same show. They in turn invited me to join them at a club after the show in a different part of the town, which I did. It snowballed. Within a month, I knew dozens of new people, had more phone numbers than I could keep track of, and had something to do almost every night of the week.

I'd been in New Orleans for *maybe* two months at that point. Today, most of those folks are still my friends and I continued to make new friends all the way up until Katrina.

I can't imagine anything like that here in Seattle. Where in other places, I've walked into a room and seen a sea of faces turn toward me as if to say 'who's the new person?', here in Seattle, I walk into a place and see circles of people all facing inward. They don't know you've walked in and they don't notice when you leave.

I believe in giving a place a chance. My general standard is a year. It's hard to know a place before a year. Sometimes you just haven't found your niche, your groove. Well, I've been here three years now and I know *fewer* people than I did two years ago. Once I was laid off, I quickly realized that many of my work friends were just co-workers and they just drifted away. Leaving my apartment behind to move in with my girlfriend has exacerbated the situation even further. I'm cognizant of the fact that being unemployed limits some of what I can do. I really do get that. I also realize that West Seattle is a trek for some people.

Nevertheless, I've never felt as alone and isolated as I have since I moved up here to the PNW. I don't blame any one person. Everyone has busy lives, doing their Seattle thing. They have kids and jobs and hobbies and classes and sports and clubs. But I guess that's kind of my point. In the other places I've lived, especially New Orleans, I've always gotten the vibe of 'Hey we're all doing this great thing, would you like to join us?' while here in Seattle I've gotten 'Hey, I'd love to get together with you but I'm busy with this group doing this great thing'. Instead of 'Hey, let's go grab a drink together and get to know each other a little more,' you get 'Hey, I'm having a party and you're welcome to come'. Which again, is all polite and friendly. But where making friends, to me, has always been a back and forth 50/50 proposition (Hey, I like Battlestar Galactica and you like Buffy, let's watch an episode of both), in Seattle, the lay of the land seems to be 'I'm very busy so if you want to do something with me, either join me in a group setting where I don't have to make additional plans or prove to me why I should fit you into my busy schedule.'

Again, I want to say that there is a lot to love here in Seattle. I also truly think the people here are nice. But they're very insular as well. The Seattle Freeze is a very real thing (and from what I've heard from some others, extends through much of the Pacific Northwest) and for me personally, it's won. I've tried for three years and I just don't have the energy to keep trying any longer. Seattle Freeze, you win.

Monday, May 20, 2013

News For Humans

Fighting has killed at least 28 people, people said Monday.
People said that more than 70 people have also been wounded in the fighting.
An ally of a person, some people are heavily invested in an organization and have sent people to aid people. People's growing role in the conflict also points to the deeply sectarian nature of the war, in which people seek to overthrow a government.
The increasingly overt involvement of people in the conflict is almost certain to threaten stability in the area, which is sharply split along sectarian lines, and between supporters and opponents of someone.
An organization which relies on a wide network of people, cited "sources close to [a] group" for the death toll but declined to reveal their identity. It said at least 50 people were also killed in the battle for an area on Sunday.

This was a sample test for an idea that I've had in my head for awhile now. This is a portion of an actual news article released on 5/20/2013.  Based on other news reports and past knowledge, it's easy for a follower of the news to guess what changes have been made to this article.
But for most people, this altered piece of news should be confusing. It will leave the reader wondering what the hell is going on. What I've done here is strip out any references to regionalism, culturalism, nationalism, religion, anything that could bias a reader. What I've left in is a focus on human beings. Because, to me, in the end, the only really important stuff in this article is still there: 28 people died Monday, 70 were injured, 50 people killed Sunday. By other people.
Everything else is window dressing. Some would say that the other information helps us get perspective, but I say that it helps obfuscate and minimize those deaths. Where did this happen? Oh, over there, so it's not as important. Why did it happen? Oh, that's why. That makes sense.
I'm not saying all news should be reported like this all the time. What am I saying is, it's harder to assign any kind of bigotry toward 'people', without having other labels to hang on to.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Shooting That America Will Forget

Today, on Mother's Day, there was a shooting in my beloved city of New Orleans.

Here's the link:

To me, this is the same as the Boston marathon bombing. No difference. I don't care if the attackers' weapon of choice is a gun or a bomb and I don't care what stupid religious beliefs these idiots have or don't have. I don't care if you call it an assault or a shooting or a bombing. It's just mean, hateful people hurting innocents and that's what matters.

But because this is New Orleans and it involves guns instead of bombs and no one was wearing a turban or shouting 'Allahu akbar', Americans will just bury their heads in the sand and chock it up to a statistic. Fucking wake up America.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

It Was A Bad Call Ripley, It Was A Bad Call...

It's really hard to watch other people make mistakes. Especially if you don't feel like you have the right or the place to speak up and say something to them before they make it (or even after).

There's this narrow place in any relationship where on one side you feel like if you *don't* say something to them about their impending mistake, you are failing them as a friend. On the other side, you are intruding and overstepping your bounds as a friend if you *do* say something.

So, for my own sake, since I'm only human and I know I make mistakes. I fully endorse and empower anyone who might call me friend to throw out any advice at me. I'll never be offended, I promise. I might say 'you don't have all the information' or 'thanks, I'll weigh that appropriately'. But I won't ever get mad at your two cents.

Thanks. That's all.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Eight Belles

I have a strange relationship with horse racing and the Kentucky Derby specifically. In short, horse racing horrifies me. Let me explain.

In 2008, I'd never seen any horse races, never been to one and, in fact, outside of some petting zoos had no experience with horses. Never ridden one or sat on one, although I did sit on a pony when I was three for a photo. I'd never really paid attention to horse racing as a sport. Growing up in Southern California, I'd sometimes see commercials for Santa Anita, but it always seemed like another universe.

That changed in 2008 with my then girlfriend, soon to be wife, Sonja. Her family had a big tradition of getting together for the Kentucky Derby and making a party of watching at her parents house. There was food, booze, and about 20 friends and relatives packed in around the TV. It wasn't my thing, but I'm always game for a party so I tried to get in the spirit.

Before the race began, we all began to discuss the horses and their backgrounds. Immediately my attention was caught by an underdog, a filly named Eight Belles. Apparently, fillies were a very rare occurrence in Kentucky Derby history and I loved the fact that she was an underdog. We all began to pick our horses in a friendly betting pool and I was the only one that picked Eight Belles.

The race was amazing to watch and we were all stunned at Eight Belles incredible performance. She took the lead and was seemingly going to win it. But in the last quarter lap or so, she began to slow. Something was wrong. In the end, she slowed enough that she lost first place to another horse and came in second.

Then things went horribly wrong. Right there on the track, they shot Eight Belles and killed her. Everyone around me was cheering the spectacular race. The person who had picked the winning horse was high fiving everyone. The announcers were very excited for the winner. Then they briefly mentioned that Eight Belles had broken both of her legs and had been euthanized on the spot.

Even as I write this now, I'm tearing up at the thought. It wasn't just that she had to be killed. It was that so many people seemed to hardly notice. This beautiful animal who had been set to pull off an amazing coup was forgotten and discarded in a matter of seconds. In less than a minute this horse went from winning the Kentucky Derby in an upset to being dead on the track.

The horror and sadness I felt that day for the horse, the incredulity I felt at the people around me and on the television at their lack of concern or compassion for Eight Belles all combined to make me upset to the point of being nauseous. I had to step outside and get away from everyone in that house.

I have no interest in watching horse racing ever again. Whenever I hear about the Kentucky Derby, I can only think of Eight Belles, the first and only horse I ever cheered for.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Bend Of My Gender

I'm going to start this post with a short anecdote. Not long ago, Jen and I went to birthday party with an Adam Ant theme. It was fun! We dressed up for it and as part of the ensemble, Jen painted my nails. I got lots of compliments on them and I found that I enjoyed having them painted.

A month or so later, and they're pretty much painted all the time now. For a good number of you, that might seem strange. But I've tried hard in my life not to attach gender to anything outside of itself. If that makes sense. Cooking isn't for girls, football isn't for boys, yadda yadda yadda. I don't expect my view on these things to be the prevalent one, but I'm also not interested in siding with the majority just for the sake of being in the majority.

Then last week, Jen and I were at a restaurant and there was an older couple sitting a few seats away, maybe late 60s. After about 10 minutes, the guy leans over to me and says, "I really like your nails." I was a bit taken aback and my first thought was that he was being sarcastic. It turns out, he really did like them. More than that, he told me that he enjoyed painting his toes. They both told me that they hadn't run into any other men that painted their nails and I thought that was kind of sad.

The other day, as part of a package deal that she'd gotten awhile back, Jen took me to Aveda where she got a massage and I got a facial. I've only had two other facials in my life, both gifts. They aren't really something I can normally afford. My esthetician complimented my nails, my eyebrows and my overall skin care.

This of course got me to thinking. From somewhere deep within the recesses of my brain came voices that said things like : "Painting your nails and getting a facial are so gay" - and gay sounds like in insult when I hear that voice.  There are other more (seemingly) rational voices that ask if this in some way effects my gender, my sexuality, my masculinity. Thankfully, there's one voice that always rises to the top and drowns out the others. "If you like your fucking nails painted, then paint them. It doesn't mean ANYTHING expect that you like your nails painted!"  I like that voice.

My personal gender and my sexuality are, to me, a sculpture that I continue to refine and chisel at. I sometimes glance around to see what the other sculptures look like, but I'm trying hard to remain true to what I feel is the truth of my own personal sculpture.

Which leads me to some other things. Lately amongst my social circles and the news at large, there have been a lot of articles and conversations about sexism, feminism, misogyny, female body image, rape culture, sex workers and the list goes on. Something in me is telling me that my attitude about my nails and all of that external stuff is connected. I don't know how exactly. I'm still working that out.

I don't have any deep answers (and I've commented on many of these social issues in previous posts). But what I will say is that I like my nails. They look awesome.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Fuck Your Cover Letter

With over a year of unemployment under my belt, I've had quite a bit of experience in applying for jobs. I've read the websites, watched the videos, reworked my resume multiple times and even attended the Washington State mandated seminar for the perpetually jobless.
Over this last year, I've learned that most of the time, somewhere around 90%, I get an auto-reply from companies, acknowledging they've received my application. Somewhere around 3% of the time I get either something more personal or an auto-response saying that I've been passed over. Around 1% I get a call or a follow up email or an interview. (Around 6% I just never hear from at all.)

The company I really wanted to work for was Hasbro, specifically, Wizards of the Coast. I somehow actually landed myself an interview with them last year and it was awesome. I didn't get the job and I can live with that. But since then, my enthusiasm has gradually waned. Yes, I want a job. Yes, I want something that feels 'right' and fits me well. More than anything though, I just want to be able to pay my bills and get on with things.

So, when I read a job posting that says: "We are looking for a thoughtful, personalized cover letter that demonstrates your qualifications," my response is, "Fuck you and fuck your cover letter." I'll spend an hour being witty and smart and trying to figure out all the right key words and phrases to make sure you notice my cover letter. I'll hit send. Then I'll get an auto-reply. The end. You know what I won't get? That hour back. Or the countless hours I've spent doing the exact same thing for every other company in this state that I've applied to.

I want to work but, at this point, if my resume isn't enough to get your attention, then you don't deserve me.

Monday, March 18, 2013

"The State Of My Modern Music" or "Technology, Bitches!"

I began DJing in 1998. By 2004 I'd amassed a pretty sizable music collection, most of it in CDs, but plenty of vinyl and mp3s too. Katrina wiped that clean except for the mp3s.

I slowly began collecting tunes again through various channels, but buying CDs and vinyl was quickly becoming bulky and too expensive. I was moving toward digital.

When I lost my job last year and decided to move in with Jen, I got rid of my old desktop. I saved numerous large playlists to Spotify and decided in the spirit of trimming my possessions a bit, that I'd go even mp3 free and try to subsist entirely through Spotify. But Spotify doesn't have everything and once I started considering DJing again, I saw the flaw in that plan.

So, a few months and a lot of research later, I have this stuff MASTERED. My music collection isn't just back, it's dynamic, accurate, accessible and so 21st century that it should glow Tron blue. It is full on bad ass. This is how I did it:

Sunday, March 17, 2013

An Amazing Photo

So, this picture is definitely Not Safe For Work. It's also probably not for those easily offended, although I think it's beautiful.

With that warning, let's proceed:

Monday, March 4, 2013

One Year...Of Unemployment

Tomorrow marks one year of unemployment for me. It's the longest stretch I've ever gone without work as an adult and it's had a profound impact on me. Just go look at a few of my previous blog posts.

Sitting here a year later, still uninsured, using up the last of my super-extended federal unemployment insurance, I'm amazed at what I have and haven't done.

It's surprising that I haven't found a job, that's for sure. I did get a wonderful $5 gift card from Pagliacci's Pizza included with my letter from them telling me they'd gone with someone else for their PR/marketing position. I even got a few dozen 'thanks, but we're going with someone else' emails. All very kind.

On the other end of the spectrum though, I've written not one, but two books. And I'm damn near finished with a third. They aren't going to give Hemmingway a run for his money, but I'm proud of them and I've seen my writing drastically improve in the last 365. What's more is that I've gotten an amazing sense of satisfaction that I've gotten to feel a few other times in my life. When I opened my nightclub, when I got my degree, when I shot and created my TV pilot, I felt the same sense of accomplishment.

I expect to finish a third book this year and start on a fourth. I don't know if I'll be able to convert my career into being a working author, probably not. But if I can keep writing and find a way to pay my bills, I think I'm going to make it through okay.

Back to writing.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Paint Shaker

The lightning strobed across the endless blackness.

I was sitting at a table. It was small, wooden, round. The chairs were plain and matched the dull, cheap look of the table. I was wearing the same clothes I'd had on just moments before. The table was illuminated by a light source that seemed to come from nowhere, above our heads in some impossible place. It's light carried no farther than a few feet from where we all sat. Beyond that lay an inky void.

The lightning strobed across the endless blackness.

There were four men at the table with me. Three to my left, one to my right. The three men to the left were nearly identical. Aging, thinning hair, narrow faces. All wearing ill fitting black suits with white shirts. Their neck waddle hung loosely in their collars.The only way to tell them apart was that they sat in descending order of height from right to left, each a half a foot shorter than the last.

To my right was Paint Shaker. He was shirtless and hairless. His skin was a mottled gray. Over his eyes and mouth, heavy iron plates had been riveted. I called him Paint Shaker because every few seconds, his head would shake inhumanely fast, vibrating until it became a blur.

The lightning strobed across the endless blackness.

The tallest of the three men had dealt a hand of poker and I realized that I was in. All four of my opponents looked at me expectantly, waiting for me to pick up my cards. Paint Shaker's head shook violently.

I reached down and picked up what I'd been dealt. But when I saw what was on the flip side of the red Bicycle backs, I knew I was doomed. They were all coupons. Just coupons. Not even able to beat a simple pair. I considered throwing my hand to the table.

The lightning strobed across the endless blackness.

There was a ringing. A second ring. It was a telephone. A man approached in a suit. He had a fish head and was dripping wet. His suit was soaked. He held the telephone in hands that were human, but covered in scales. He reeked like a pier. The telephone was an old corded rotary number. A faded pea green, its cord trailing off into the dark infinity.

Fish Head ignored the ever growing noise from my opponents who seemed annoyed at my delay. Fish Head brought the telephone to me, its receiver still in the cradle, it's body still ringing loudly. I picked it up and put it to my ear.

The lightning strobed across the endless blackness.

“Hey. Are you okay?” It was Harry. I glanced around and looked to Paint Shaker. Was I okay? Harry repeated his question. “You alright?”

The lightning strobed across the endless blackness.

I opened my eyes. “Yeah, I'm okay.” I was in the passenger seat. Harry was driving. Matt was in back. We were heading out to the theater. Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible.

The above story is true. Sort of. I'd written a version of this quite awhile back and it got lost so I thought I'd give it a go again in honor of my being a bit loopy from my current bout of insomnia.

The reason I say that it's sort of true is that it's my memory, in exact detail, of what happened to me over the course of a few seconds of being unconscious. I sometimes have a vasovagal response to drugs or needles ( the reaction forces blood toward the center of the body, away from the brain, sometimes causing the person to pass out). I don't consistently have the response and have learned to control it a bit as I've gotten older. In this case, I was trying a particular recreational drug for the first time. Based on my response, I never did the drug again. However, I'm the only person I know who has ever reported vivid memories during unconscious periods. This is not my only memory of this sort, but it was certainly the most extraordinary.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Rape Culture

The phrase 'rape culture' has been really taking off recently and I'd like to think it's brought some awareness to an important topic. That said, like most movements or memes, there comes a time when things go just a bit too far and something important is lost. A core concept has been twisted or an important bit of logic has been overlooked.

For your consideration, I give you these two quotes which I was exposed to by friends on Facebook:

And this:
Most men fear getting laughed at or humiliated by a romantic prospect while most women fear rape and death.” - Gavin De Becker

I have big problems with both of these statements and I'm going to explain why I think you should too.  But first, let's get this out in the open right away: Rape is wrong. Rapists have no excuses. Victims are never to blame.  We clear?  We SUPER clear?  (Feel free to re-read those last few sentences as many times as you need to until we're all on the same page.)

So, let's jump in here. Both of the above statements seem reasonable on their surface. They appeal to what many of us would call 'common sense'. And in terms of 'rape culture' internet chatter, they're easy to get behind and say 'Yeah! Think about that for second!'

The problem with both of these statements though is that they completely and totally dis-empower women. And until women are made to be seen as equals in our society, we'll still have problems.

The first story relates the idea that when confronted with an unwanted homosexual advance, a male should realize that that is what women deal with their entire life - a fear of an unwanted advances made by someone who is physically more powerful than you.

Let's make two simple assumptions that I hope most of you can agree with. 1) Not all women are stupid. 2) Not all men are rapists. Now that we have these two basic assumptions to go on, let's plug them back into the scenario presented in the first quote. A man makes an advance on a woman. According to the quote, the woman is afraid. We don't know whether or not the man is a rapist though. There are two possible outcomes. The woman does not respond to the man because she doesn't know whether or not he's a rapist. This is the smart move since no one wants to be raped and why take chances, right? The second outcome is that she permits the male advancement. This may or may not lead to a rape.

Based on this, we must now assume that all women in relationships are stupid. Yes, when your partner first made advances on you, you ignored your fear which was alerting you to potential danger and you let a potential rapist get to first base. Bad move, ladies.

Now, I'm going to, as they say in the old westerns, 'head you off at the pass'. "You're taking it too literally, she didn't mean every time a man makes an advance at a woman, she meant when they're unwanted." I imagine a simple argument for the quote and against my reasoning would go something like that.

My response would be, 'how is a man to know when a pass is unwanted, until it's made?' What I wish the woman had said when she'd spoken to the young boy about his fear of being hit on by a man was that no one should be offended or scared when someone of either sex flirts or hits on you. We need to be creating a world where anyone should feel comfortable saying to anyone 'I find you attractive' and not have the recipient feel threatened. Instead, she confirmed his homophobia as a basis for opposite gender fear as well.

I firmly believe that the direction we should be heading in, if we want to reduce rape in our society, is not one of putting up more walls, but breaking them down. When she told that boy that women feel terrified from fourteen on, she may well have created a rapist. How? Well if I were that kid, I'd now be on eggshells around girls. I wouldn't want to talk to them. I'd second guess everything I did and said. Most people don't get off on making others afraid. And a gulf created initially by hormones and genitalia would now be a gulf made massive by misunderstanding and fear.

As a boy, everything, and I mean everything, I said to a girl was a flirt. Every time one looked at me in a hallway I was secretly hoping it was because she thought I was cute. I didn't have a girlfriend till I was 19 and I was painfully awkward around women. No one passed on to me the equivalent of that first quote. But had someone told me that, I'd probably still be a virgin today. I'm not a very confrontational guy and knowing that someone was terrified at my advances would've kept me away - permanently. Yeah, nothing creepy or rapey about a 40 year old virgin..nothing at all.

Dropping gender for just a second, people don't have the right to not be offended, scared, pissed off or whatever. That's something that needs to be surgically removed from any conversation about rape. Everyone has a right to BE safe. No one has a right to FEEL safe. If you want to argue that with me, go right ahead. You know who'll be on your side? The extreme religious right. They FEEL like homosexuals are pushing an agenda on them and that the government is taking their god away from them and that their marriages are threatened by Bob and Steve's.

But if we're all equal and all of our feelings are valid rights, we all lose. That's madness. Feelings are our own personal responsibility. A man has every right to make an advance at a woman (and vice versa) and she has every right to respond in any manner she chooses. And part of that choice is her option to be afraid. But that is not in anyway connected to the man. A 250lb man covered in tattoos and piercings and wearing leather has every right to flirt with the 98lb woman in her church dress. If she's afraid, it's not his fault.

Which brings me to the second quote. This makes me angry, I'll be honest. First off, going back to our previous assumption of 'not all women are stupid', how many women out there have gone on a blind date where they actually thought there was a chance they were going to be killed? I'm going to make the reasonable assumption of 'zero' outside of folks who are suicidal. So, right off the bat, I feel like we're dealing with hyperbole that makes women look dumb. "Most women fear rape and death," from a "romantic prospect"? Why are you women not raging against that quote? It's incredibly insulting.

More importantly though, it makes a horribly sexist assumption. I think most folks will agree that rape isn't about sex, it's about power and violence. I think most people can also agree that the terms 'rape', 'sexual assault' and 'assault' don't make a big difference to the victim and shouldn't to anyone else either. There's large venn diagram there in which all of those fall into the circle of 'my personal sanctity has been violated and damaged.'

With that in mind, let me admit that I've never been harmed on a blind date. I've also never been date raped or sexually assaulted. But using the logic of the quote above, I should be terrified to walk out my front door. Why? Well, I'm not a very big guy. Most of my life, I've weighed between 130 and 160lbs (I was 113 when I went into the Navy if you can believe that). I've been assaulted seven times in my life. I've had bloody noses, black eyes, bruised ribs, chipped teeth, I even had my forehead slammed into a steel pole. All by males who were larger and heavier than me. Seven assaults.

Now, I'm sure some of you are saying something like 'those cases are just boys fighting, that doesn't count.' I've never instigated a fight. I've never thrown a first punch. The only 'fights' I've been in are ones where it's been me against a harasser (I refuse to use word 'bully'. No such thing. You're harassing someone or you aren't.) or in a few cases where I stepped in to defend a woman. So, if we're all equal regardless of gender and my opponent outweighs me significantly and I did nothing but defend myself, I don't think lumping it into anything other than assault is fair.

I'm not equivocating my getting punched in the nose with a rape anymore than a woman who had her ass pinched would equate her experience with a man having his jaw broken. What I am saying is that either *people* are scared of dying on blind date or they aren't. I don't think they are, as a general statement. So instead of being elucidating, this quote is inflammatory. It aggravates the 'us vs. them' scenario. 'It's women against men and now men are gonna pay!'

We have to start judging people based on their actions, not their genders and not preconceived ideas about their roles. Both of the above statements make horrible, inaccurate, broad statements about men that only serve to push the genders further apart culturally. The first statement fosters the idea that a person larger than you who finds you attractive, is inherently dangerous. The second implies that either men can't be afraid or that women have no ability to make reasonable calls about their own safety. I reject both quotes and their foundations, wholeheartedly.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

I'm an Author, SHHH, It's A Secret

I wrote a book. I'm a published author. But I can't share the title with you or even the subject. Here's why.

So, about 11 months ago, I was laid off. More accurately, I was unkindly and unceremoniously dumped on my ass by my former employers, may they spend eternity in a very warm heaven.

About 8 months ago, in the midst of still looking for work, I started a blog. It was a lark, not a joke, but meant more as an experiment. It was never meant to go anywhere or become anything. I was mostly writing it as a way to keep up my writing skills, have a creative outlet, and pass the time with something that wouldn't cost me money.

For the sake of explaining why I can't tell you the title or the subject matter of my book, I'm going to create a fictitious example of what my blog was all about. Let's pretend that I pretended to be a Los Angeles police officer who's name was John Smith. John Smith decides he's going to write a blog about being a cop in L.A. and all that goes along with it - the politics, the racial tensions, the brutality. But, John Smith realizes that if he puts all of this out there on the web with his name attached he'd be fired at the very least. His whole life could be turned upside down.

Instead, John Smith decides to change names and dates around so that no one can guess who he is in real life. He uses the fake name of Frank Jones. He changes around just enough information that he knows that no one will be able to trace it back to him. John Smith writes this blog because it makes him feel better to be able to vent about some of the tough things he has to deal with.

But something unexpected happens. His blog becomes popular. Not LOLcats popular, but he has regular followers, who question him, prod him, support him, chide him and encourage him. Soon, the blog has taken on its own life.

John Smith started out his blog talking about things in his past. Eventually though the events in the blog have 'caught up' to present day. John Smith decides that writing about present day events are too hard to disguise and instead sort of wraps up the blog.

Someone suggests to John Smith that his harrowing stories should be assembled into a book. That's when I, Connor, in real life, decided to compile all of these blog posts into a book.

Without intending it, I had created a complete arc for my John Smith character, starting with how and why he became a police officer, what happened to him and where he is today. As a book, it's more than 400 pages.

But...The book had to be published with John Smith's 'nom de plume', Frank Jones. Since the book is written as the events were real, to use my own name would be to undermine the very authenticity the writing strove for. Knowing the true author's name would endanger 'John Smith' and out me, Connor, as fraudulent, since I'm not a cop.

So, there you have it. It's published, I can call myself an author now and I'm very proud of the book. But I can't tell you the title, the subject matter or my nom de plume.

On the plus side, back in November, I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I got a great start on a book that I'd been wanting to write since 2004. I've gotten more than 70000 words in and I'm about 3/4 of the way through the book.

This book, a speculative fiction/fantasy book will have my name on it and I'll let you know as soon as it's available. So, Connor Alexander doesn't have a book out yet, but he's an author.