Monday, September 30, 2013

The White Flag

A assure you, that is John Cleese in this blurry-ass photo.

Greetings, Fellow Capitulators!

Back on the 16'th of this month I had the unique pleasure of seeing comedy legend John Cleese give a two hour presentation about his career. Interestingly enough, one of the most enduring themes of the show was the importance of luck.

According to John it was sheer kismet that his first stage show with the Cambridge Circus was elevated from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to London's West End and then went on to tour extensively in New Zealand and on Broadway. It was pure good fortune when David Frost took John under his wing as a writer for The Frost Report where he met future collaborators Terry Jones, Eric Idle and Micheal Palin. And it was a masterstroke of fortuitous happenstance when Thames Television offered these four, enterprising young lads a blank check to produce a new show that would eventually be known as Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Although I suspect that John is short-changing his prodigious talent somewhat, I also believe that, no matter how good you are or how hard you work, sometimes you need someone with power and influence to recognize what you've got, validate your worth and give you a shot.


Way back in April of 2010 I quit a lucrative-yet-thoroughly-despicable job and started writing this here blog. When I began, I had several lofty goals in mind. At first, all I wanted to do was vent about my miserable working career thus far. I also wanted to sharpen my writing skills, show that I could maintain a self-imposed deadline and avoid accusations of goldbricking. I didn't know what "goldbricking" was, I just knew that I didn't want to be found guilty of it.
But more then anything else, I really hoped that the blog would showcase my ability to string a sentence together. In turn I thought, rather naively, that someone in a position of influence might take notice of my previously-mentioned aptitude for sentence-stringablilty and offer me some sort of paying gig. Clearly this Pretty Woman-style scenario was the product of a fevered brain warped by watching one too many formulaic rom-coms.

Clearly, this delusion is entirely my own problem. Well, maybe writer J.F. Lawton deserves some of the blame, but mainly the onus is on this cowpoke right here.         

Alas this tacked-on, eleventh-hour, test-screened, feel-good, slap-happy ending didn't materialize for me. Sure, I made some cheddar from my book, a few shekels from the odd writing and editing gig, and a coupla bucks from the occasional background acting job but hardly enough money to be described as "sustainable". As a result, by savings account has taken more abuse then Bill O'Reilly's studio crew.     

As such, I've got some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that I've been forced to seek out non-editing / non-writing jobs that pay me actual real money. The good news is that I've found something in an area of interest that just might dovetail with writing on the side. Details not to follow, BTW, so you can exercise yer nosy proclivities some place else. 

So what does this mean for the three blogs? Well, the most consistently popular in terms of overall traffic, the board game blog, will get top priority. The days of detailed session reports are officially over and game play recaps will likely be limited to a few paragraphs with more of an emphasis placed on information and reviews. Basically, quantity over quality will become the order of the day.

I've managed to maintain a fairly regular posting schedule for my entertainment-related blog thanks to a stockpile of older, pre-written reviews which I've been dusting off and posting. Also helping to keep me productive is a self-imposed restriction that I can't watch a new movie until I review the last one I watched. Needless to say, this is pretty masochistic for someone who could routinely spazz out on three or four movies in one sitting. All new reviews will be capsule-style without a great deal of synopsis or analysis, I.E. more like this and less like this.    

Which leaves me with the sounding board you're inexplicably wasting time on right now. Regular Readers have probably already noticed that my entries lately have dwindled down from once a week to twice a month and that trend is likely to continue. This gives me a raging sad-on since this blog is by far the one I enjoy writing the most. It's free-form, creatively unrestrained and the one which feels the least like work. 

Here's the bottom line: if time retrains dictate that I can either write a chapter for my new novel or espouse some crackpot theory about Syria, gun violence or the ravages of unchecked mailbox rust, I'll probably go with the former. In fact, it's distinctly possible that I'll never write anything for free public consumption ever again.
And so it ends. Schadenfreuders, start your engines! 

Now, just because I've temporarily thrown in the towel it doesn't mean that my dreams have been permanently interred. At least I hope not! I still believe that my Richard Gere is out there somewhere and one day he'll notice me, foist me up and validate my real purpose for being here on this earth.

I just hope it happens before they put me in the earth.

EPIC SKIT Some inspired proto-Python lunacy on At Last The 1948 Show with John and his hilarious contemporaries Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graham Chapman and Marty Feldman.

REALITY FAIL  Sorry, but I just can't understand this world we live in. If velcro-head here can make $40,000 a night as a DJ, why the f#@k can't I make a living as a writer?  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Conspiracy Reality

Hello, Unrestrained Questioners!

Over the past ten years a veritable tsunami of conspiracy theories have cropped up about 9/11. For me, questions about that terrible day started to germinate in real time.

I've already summarized my own experience and thoughts about that dreadful morning in the form of this poem which I wrote last year. I was working in a cloistered call center environment on September 11'th 2001 and the only information I was privy to came from a dwindling parade of increasingly freaked-out customers.

By noon it was abundantly clear that the United States had just suffered a horrible terrorist attack and an inconceivably-terrible national tragedy. Despite the gravity of the situation, our employer resolutely kept us shackled to our cubicles. For the next protracted eight-and-half-hours, I tried to glean some information during my allotted forty-five minutes of break time, as well as from snippets of conversation with co-workers and customers.  Every once and awhile I had to turn back to my computer in order to sell useless tchotchkes to some company who also wanted their employees to act as if nothing was happening.

As soon as I got home I turned on the television and proceeded to watch seven straight hours of news coverage. Needless to say, I had a really hard time processing what I saw. This was big, really big. Like "bordering on the surreal" big.

As an imaginative kid weaned on James Bond movies and comic books, this was the sort of grand, maniacal scheme that only a Doctor Doom or an Ernst Stavro Blofeld could possibly dream up. Instead we were asked to believe that a bunch of amateur pilots, armed only with box-cutters and led by a cave-bound shmuck in Afghanistan, had somehow manged to defeat the most sophisticated intelligence and defense force on the planet to deliver the most devastating strike on North American soil ever.     

And then, at 6:20 pm our local time, thing got even weirder:

As I was watching this I distinctly remember turning to my wife and saying: "Wow, that building must have been in such bad shape that they had to demolish it."

I kept watching the news until around 12:30. Since it was a school night and I had to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for work the following day I forced myself to go to bed. Unfortunately, I barely slept a wink.  For hours I just sat there, my saucer-shaped eyes illuminating the entire room. All night long, my feeble, over-clocked brain tried to make sense out of what I'd just witnessed.

Fast forward a few years later and I stumbled upon this article about the demolition of the J.L. Hudson Department Store in Detroit, Michigan back in 1998.  According to the article: "In 24 days, CDI's 12 person loading crew placed 4,118 separate charges in 1,100 locations on 9 levels of the structure."

24 days.

Reading this instantly chilled me to the bone. I was still laboring under what my own eyes and ears had told me: that World Trade Center 7 was brought down by a deliberate, controlled demolition and hadn't collapsed because of structural failure. This feeling of unease intensified after I learned that no modern office building has ever collapsed due to fire.

That bears repeating: no modern office building has ever collapsed due to fire.   

Now, I'm not saying that the official explanation of what happened that day was false. I just find it difficult to believe that every single one of these structures pancaked in on themselves at free-fall speed. Within a matter of seconds, three of the most durable structures on the planet were reduced to a smoking heap of rubble and dust. This is especially far-fetched in light of the fact that the World Trade Center was actually engineered to withstand the impact of several jet planes:

Now, don't get me wrong, in my heart of hearts I'd much rather believe something like this:

But even sober explanations like this fly in the face of my own experience and instincts.

Contrary to the trepidations I've expressed here, I'd love to buy the official story of what happened on 9/11 wholesale. Mainly because the implications posited by any other scenario is w-a-a-a-a-a-a-y too disturbing to ponder.

Regardless, this time every year, just like clockwork, the grim theater of my mind's eye begins re-play the image of Building 7 imploding in a cloud of dust in a near-continuous loop.

And I end up losing a lot of sleep.      

EPIC DOC   9/11 still feels completely unreal to me, like a (particularly) bad Roland Emmerich movie. Although it's painful to revisit that awful tragedy, I'm hoping that our sustained vigilance and inquiring minds will someday yield some dividends of truth.


EPIC VID  Another short video, directly addressing the Building 7 conundrum.

EPIC ARTICLE  Here's a rather scholarly piece written by physicist and architect Dave Heller.

FAIL-URE OF TRANSPARENCY   Way back in 2002 Senator Tom Daschle held a press conference and revealed to the largely-oblivious press that both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney told him not to investigate 9/11. The question still lingers, why?

FAIL-URE OF CONSCIENCE  As if my own epiphany about controlled demolitions wasn't chilling enough, the predictions proffered by NeoCon creep Paul Wolfowitz in his PNAC document "Rebuilding America's Defenses" (written just one year before 9/11) is even more disturbing: