A Story That Needs to be Told, Part 1

I’ve struggled with this.

I have Stories I want to tell, Stories I am able to tell, and Stories I want to tell, but can’t. This one falls into the third category.

But to set the stage, you need to watch this…

Legend has it that John Wayne himself had to be physically restrained from dragging her off the stage

In 1973, at the 45th Academy Awards, Marlon Brando won best performance. Instead of accepting the award, he sent up Sacheen Littlefeather to deny his Oscar. This was far from the beginning, and far from the end. But if I am going to start in the middle, it might as well be from here.

Read the rest of this entry »


Why I Stopped Watching “Red Band Society”

I have never found a more perfect example of how misplaced direction and intent can ruin a show.

For those who don’t follow Network Television, Red Band Society premiered this fall with a promising pilot that centered around the inhabitants of a children’s hospital.

I find a small amount of Irony in the fact that these kids with Cancer, Anorexia, Congenital Heart Defects, and Cystic Fibrosis will have a happier ending than their show will. But don’t get me wrong, I’d be very happy with a happy ending. But when you place characters in a position of adversity, especially one as adverse as being a mostly parentless dual-citizen minor without health insurance, then you expect them to be dealing with something more serious than the Love Triangle they found themselves in.

This was the root of the problem. Out of all of the stories that could be told about the state of medicine in the US, or dealing with your own mortality before society legally considers you an adult, they instead chose to have the cheerleader fall for the tooth-pick chewing bad-boy.

It was as if the reality of their situation was superseded by what someone thought kids would find important. You could have taken these same exact plots and moved them to any other location and all you would have had to change  “Cancer” to “I didn’t get the iPhone I wanted for christmas”.

But this is a common theme in most of these “Youth Dramedy” shows, isn’t it? The inability to let children have Adult problems? And when they do, A La ‘Secret Life of the American Teenager’, there is the assumption that someone who is 16 (Who can be tried as an adult in most states), can’t face their own problems.

What is absolutely (and very hyperbolically) killing me about “Red Band Society”, is that every single production element is spot on. The show looks gorgeous, every single one of the actors is great, and the writing, when it is allowed to be, is fun and inventive. This show failed on only one front: It didn’t challenge anyone.

These are children who are fighting for their lives in a healthcare system that is likely bankrupting their parents. An Underweight young woman who is fighting her own Mental Illness surrounded by people fighting very physical illnesses; A Cheerleader with a cocaine addiction; a young man whose cancer has been neglected in favor of folk medicine. You can’t tell me that the show they wrote was the only one they could have written.

We deserve better.


What God, Chapter 5

Another Chapter! Chapter 4 Here

I knew that crime scene. I’d seen it before, spread over a loading dock in an alley in midtown. A scene I left chasing a man who was running from the scene. He was covered in blood. A man who I fired at and accidentally hit a lady further down the alley. She later apologized for getting in my way. The bullet is still in her collarbone, and she baked me a  cake to say sorry.

The worst part was that the body disappeared when I got back to the loading dock.

So I took a squad car back to the precinct and I stopped on the highway to grab a bottle of water out of the trunk. I was getting lightheaded. I’d have to twist some balls to get the blood-work off of the scene by tonight. Its not that I didn’t appreciate what the techs did, I just wanted to have some real evidence to follow before I started chasing ghosts. Ghosts seemed to like long car rides anyways.

“I don’t want you to start looking into this” Misha was right, of course. My only stake in this investigation was supposed to be the murder of Adam Kraden.

“But there is too strong a chance that it could be linked.” She knew I wasn’t wrong.

“Michael, you have a pad of paper that doesn’t say anything and-“

“It says-“

“It doesn’t mean anything!” It didn’t mean much, but it meant something.

“Look at this thing, Misha.” The evidence bag and the pad was between us on her desk. “Kraden was holding this before he died.” I flipped it over, showing her the bloody fingerprints on the back.

“Then tell me what to do about it.”

“Nothing. Not yet.” Misha wasn’t happy. A dead politician and a commissioner who didn’t approve in her choice of detective was enough to make anyone jumpy. For Misha? She was pissed. I didn’t like waiting to drop the worse news on her, but I’d rather she kick me out than spend another hour yelling at me.

“Why,” She pinched the bridge of her nose and measured her words carefully, “The Hell. Are. You. Here.”

“I wanted to let you know that this might be more complicated than the murder,” I heard her mumble a small ‘fantastic’ before I continued, “And also that I am adding the midtown files to this case. The body I witnessed is concurrent with the way Kraden was killed.” I was scared for a second that she was going to lunge over the desk and kill me with a paperweight. She didn’t. I would later wish she did.

“This is my career on the line too. If you fuck up, I fucked up”

“Do you trust me?”

“No, but I believe you.” This wasn’t the response I expected.

Being witness to something like Midtown and then having no evidence to back it up and having no one believe you- It’s an awful thing. You start to become obsessed with proving it. The midtown file was nothing more than my report and some nearby security camera footage.

What I wanted to do was to dig back into it, to link it somehow to Kraden or to find any lead at all. I wanted to make it real. And the worst part about this was that just in the early dark hours of this morning I was driving around trying to make myself finally let go of it. I wanted so bad to let it go. But then I see the parts of Kraden laid around his living room. Now I can’t.

I was back at my desk sipping a cup of coffee for twenty minutes before I even realized I had gotten the file. It was open on my desk. I forced myself to close it.


Goals and Plans: 2013/2014 Season

I was going to do this whole formal mission statement detailing what I wanted to do with the next year of my life.

And to tell the truth, I got bored.

So I am going to write a bit about the projects I’ve been posting, make a few empty promises, and possibly conclude with a limerick.

 

The first project has a special place in my heart.

What God

I started writing “What God” in my junior year of high school. Its my testament to the fact that if you keep trying to write an idea, sooner or later it will work. Its been through 6 different iterations, From Novel to Novel to TV to Movie back to TV then to This. And I am kind of in love with “This”.

But because I’ve spent so long working on this I know Michael’s whole story. I know what he did in college, how he became a PI, and I know what breaks him. But for some odd reason I started his story near the end. Its currently 15k words, all of which will be available in ebook format when I finish posting them here.

 

The other two projects were spawned from the same idea. A good friend of mine once had an idea: If there was steampunk, where everything was powered by a fantastical Victorian vision of the future, why shouldn’t there be Hexpunk- a world powered by Edwardian superstition. An industry of love potions lighted by will-o-the-wisps.

Devil’s House

Both were written around the same time- and are a great example of how one idea can create many different stories. “Devil’s House” is my bedtime story. Its too long to be a short story and too short to be novella. Its in between worlds- much like its own subject matter. In this I wanted to write something where the language was its own impetus for movement, where the words carried the story and not the other way around. I am hoping to one day develop this into an animated short- but in the meantime I’m having a hell of a time writing it.

 

Last is the Beast. 

Walküre

In my sophomore year of College I finally came to terms with the possibility of pursuing writing (Which I had been doing since 4th grade), as a career. Not one for taking future employment lightly, I decided that I was going to write every single day from then on out. This was the first project I started. For its breadth- it could very well be the last one I ever finish, when I’m 92 and blind.

One of the first things I wrote on this project was the last entry. I know where it ends, and I know where the four soldiers go. All thats left is what will probably be at least 120k words in between. While I look forward to finishing it, I know it will  a decade before I do.


What God, Chapter 4

The next installment of What God. [Chapter 3 found here]

Some things don’t bear explanation. Every cop there was wondering who could have managed to tear Kraden apart like that. I was wondering how his wife and daughter could have stood to listen to him scream. 50 people in this house combing it for evidence and only 1 paramedic taking care of the two women outside wrapped in heat blankets

I walked out of the garage, past a few buckets full of sick and a few more expensive cars. Ms. Kraden sat in the back of the ambulance with her daughter. The wife sat with a face of stone, her daughter was beside her shivering and breathing oxygen from a tank.

“Ms. Kraden, I’m detective Grant-“

She even sounded stone, “Someone already took my statement, detective.” I was glad that at least somebody had taken some time away from the bloodbath in the living room carpet. Messes like that tended to occupy the attention of men in my position. I had no wish to spend more time in there than I had to.

“I know. I’m going to ask you to go through it again.” It was the worst part of the job; asking someone to relive what they had gone through. But repeated tellings of the incident can often reveal more than good forensics. Every time you make someone retell a story they process what they saw and and heard, leaving out the unimportant bits and dwelling on the more important ones.

“He came in late. He often did. Because of work.”  Ms. Kraden didn’t believe herself but I let her continue, “He came in. He cursed a bit, I thought he stubbed his toe. I was upstairs sleeping. He then started talking, like he was on the phone. Then he started yelling, something like ‘I didn’t have anything to do with that, I left the company, how should I know’ then the screaming started.” I was marking all of this down when she stopped. I let her breath, studying my notes.

“They said it must have been more than one” It was the daughter.

I looked to Ms. Kraden for permission, but she was staring off into space. “What do you mean?”

“When they were talking there was only two sets of footsteps. My dads and the other persons.” She went back to the oxygen. I couldn’t imagine what she was feeling.

“Did you hear him speak? Did he do anything else? the other man?” But I still had to ask. This was about more than Kraden.

“I only heard the footsteps. It could have been anyone.” She looked terrified, holding onto the oxygen mask like it was the only thing keeping her here.

I let them be, thanking them both. I told them I would keep in touch. It was a lie, but lies are comforting.

We have two scenarios. Either Kraden saw someone he knew well enough to know exactly why they were there, or the attacker delivered their message without speaking.

I went back to the living room and started looking around. A number of techs started trying to call for my attention but I waved them off. “Was there any paper recovered?” I asked the room. None of them answered. “It can be blank, a scrap, almost anything. Hell, I’ll take a whiteboard.” That seemed to help them along. A small tech walked up and passed me a blood-covered pad in an evidence bag. I gloved up, pulled it from the bag and grabbed a nearby pencil. The old tricks still worked. I shaded the top of the pad, the only part that wasn’t soaked in blood. In that I saw a relief of the last thing that had been written there. “Where is She” in bold, blocky print.

I got someone with a camera to document and had the pad sealed back up. I then went outside and threw up.


Online Dating Turned Me Evil

Prologue:

I like to imagine that I kept to my principles in the end… I mean- I didn’t. But I like to imagine.

Act 1:

First thing to know: I haven’t been single in about 6 years. I have not been single for long. I haven’t tried to meet new people outside of school in a long time- which was why OKCupid and Tinder seemed like a good idea. I ended my last relationship on good (great) terms, and this might be part of the problem

Interlude:

Its great when you can end a relationship on good terms. Like the adults we know we are. But the human brain has a conditioned response to sudden loneliness- it wants to pitch and fit and throw a tantrum and not be lonely anymore. So when your brain wants to do this but you have no reason to, you start to look for an outlet.

Act 2:

It started with Tinder. I mean, it all seemed perfectly normal at first. I swipe right and I swipe left. It even comes with helpful labels. If you swipe right you see “Like” in friendly green, if you swipe left you see “Nope”.

This is when I should have known things could get bad.

If two people both swipe right on each other’s pictures, you get to “Chat”. Not being able to connect with people easily this seemed like a great idea! No need to go through that awkward period of finding out whether someone finds you annoying.

Its a trap.

Not in the beginning- No, Tinder makes you build your own prison. In the beginning you treat the system with respect, you only “Like” the people you’d actually like to talk to. You start to think that the system works. But it doesn’t. And you are why.

Act 3:

The swiping. Oh the Swiping. You start to no look at anything but the first picture, judging everything about a person on first glance. Duck Face? Swipe Left. Bikini Shot? Swipe Right. Every swipe brought me one step closer to hell- turning me into exactly the kind of person I hated. Soon I lost all sense of my principles, and after what seemed like weeks (it was only 2 days) without any matches I just started swiping right every time.

But it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t near enough.

Led on by this dark ghost of single life I joined OKCupid.

I could have sworn I heard a thunderclap

Act 4:

It had been almost a week of online dating. I get a few matches: One woman with a boyfriend who told me I looked like Peter Dinklage, another I scared off by asking bluntly what she was looking for.

Then on OKCupid I tried messaging people. Every awkward joke and question was another brick added to my cell in Hades.

What kind of person had I become, Silently judging the attractiveness of strangers. And I grid to be fair to those I didn’t- but only at first. Soon I fell even further. I judged harshly and swiftly.

If I was a super villain with an origin story, this is how I would have turned evil.

Act 5:

And this is where this tragedy takes a turn for the lighthearted. You see, I thought I was evil in the same way that Kite-Man thinks he is evil. Yes he robbed banks and stole money and jewels from museums- but then Kite-man saw The Joker beat Jason Todd to death with a crowbar, and realized that he was just an average man who stole things for a job.

I started to realize that the bar was set so low with men and online dating that I was somehow still considered a good person. I hadn’t sent any unsolicited dick-picks or told a girl how “Hawt” she is. I was middle-of-the-pack evil- Stealing candy from babies evil.

So really, this is the story of how online dating turned me kind of evil.


Poop, Abridged

I am going to say something that is not said enough in the world.

Holy SHIT… thats cool.

Genuinely. Shit is cool.

Wait… even SHIT is cool. Digested food is damn cool, and by god, its poop. Poop is awesome!

And why is poop awesome? Because not only is it the product of billions of years of digestive evolution, it spawns ecosystems in and of itself. Dung beetles aren’t just a punchline, they are a species of beetle that thrives on the digested grasses and plants of the savannah. They gather up their stash in a ball, hop on their front legs, and roll their ball of dung hundreds and hundreds of feet back to their burrow. How in the hell did this behavior evolve? is this behavior learned, or has it been so repeated that it is coded into DNA?

What about our relation to poop? Look at how it has evolved into our culture. Toilets became a mainstay as early as Sumer. We separated our waste disposal from the rest of society. Put it in the corner or behind walls, following the behavior of most other mammals. Its funny that as Cities and Communities grew, the propensity to separate our waste from our streets decreased. We went from Rome, and their advanced system of toilets and baths, to the renaissance, where chamber pots were emptied into streets and baths were practically prohibited by the church. Then we made thrones for our pooping, books surrounding it. Our waste eventually became a joke, a psychological symptom or precursor to disorder, something people laughed at or were ashamed of. There are vast segments of our culture that have developed around this one single subject. Not only are there papers, articles, and novels written around the subject, It is a common and unifying factor for all cultures in the world. Each and every culture has a way they deal with their waste, and Each one has its own vast history and hugely complicated social norms.

And that is just the abridged version of Poop.

Take any subject on earth has Infinite Academic Resolution. You can continue choosing any part of any subject and pull up a wealth of information. If someone hasn’t already written something on it already, then someone will, eventually.

So, Tell Me. Why in the hell are you bored. Oh, I see you, sitting at home, surfing the internet, looking for something new. I see through your charade. You think there is nothing interesting?

Here is a Challenge: Send me some subject, any subject, and I will attempt to pull out something fascinating within it. Really. Send me ANYTHING, and I will find some small seed of inspiration in it. Even better, I will inspire some seed of interest in you. Try Me.