Friday, November 18, 2016

How the Man Cave was invaded and desecrated

Rules of the Man Cave
  1.  Only wash your bedding once every six months.
  2.  Talk to animals and yourself more than fellow humans.
  3.  Don’t buy new towels for the bathroom and kitchen. Wear them down to shreds.
  4.  Don’t invite a group over for a party or game night. Suggest they hold it at their   place.
  5.  Ignore repairs and maintenance needing to be done.
  6.  Don’t bother decorating the place; that’s way too feminine.
  7.  Never, never answer the doorbell ring, unless someone’s scheduled to enter   the Man Cave.
  8.  Honor the Temple of Isolation. Guard it with your life.

On August 1, 2015, my girlfriend Susan moved in along with her college student son Tim; with occasional stays by another college student son, Jonathan. And her two cats, brothers Nico and Sparty.

There are two ways for me to look at it:
  • My house is a much better place to live – warmer, fun, cleaner, decorated, repaired, and worth working extra hours to pay for.
  • My house was taken over by unicorns and pillows with tied bows, framed mirrors, antique decorations, new roommates, and three cats 
Let’s say it’s mostly #1 with a little bit of #2. There is one banner with unicorns on it, made to look like royal tapestry from England in the Middle Ages. The good news is there’s only one hanging up, and there had been two. Susan is open to negotiations.

Overall, I have to admit I’ve adapted to the new environment. I like it much better than during the darkest Man Cave days. But let’s be clear about something – the unspoken rules of the Man Cave were violated.

Before the move in, I’d had a series of renters staying in the front bedroom and bath, with all of them bringing in pets. One of them had asked me to adopt her cat Bonsai, who had taken to me before I took to her. I said yes, and Bonsai became the watch cat. I never saw much of the renter in the front of the house or his cat. It was officially a Man Cave. (I used to think that saying was stupid, until a little over a year ago when my house was invaded and desecrated. Then, the origin of the term made sense to me.)

As for the big story behind Susan and her sons moving in, she and I had been in a relationship for about two years and her lease was coming up in the summer of 2015. It made a lot of sense for her to move in, and one of her sons was in a good place to have a room and go to college not too many miles away. Her other son got to have a room when he visited, and sometimes invited friends over to play video games in the den and eat junk food. The cat brothers got their own space, eventually with a swing door placed in the bottom of the kitchen door for them to have full access to indoors and outdoors. It’s a win-win for all.

A big challenge was getting them moved in, with her stuff and my stuff needing more storage space than was available. We did a number of runs over to Goodwill and left several items in front of the house with “Free” signs taped on. That did get rid of most of it.

Now, if you replace a toilet with a new one, be careful about leaving the old one out in your driveway with a “Free” sign on it. Especially if there’s a middle school down the street from your house. Don’t be surprised to see that the toilet has been dragged out into the street; or that kids are laughing hysterically in front of your house, and some of them are standing around the toilet for group photos.

Then there was the move-in day, with two minor collisions I caused in a rented 30-foot moving truck; of which I will never rent again. Much better to hire the Starving Students or some other low-cost service. The second crash happened as we tried to squeeze into a fast food parking lot to have a meal we’d needed for hours. That Ford pickup was parked just a little too far out; or maybe I’m not so good at parking a 30-foot truck. Insurance companies were informed, with my claims adjustor taking several minutes to understand what I was trying to say – that I was involved in two separate incidents that day. He was good about it. I think they’re trained by the insurer on how to take the report and be supportive, without lecturing you on dumb driving.

My cat Bonsai had a very rough time with the transition, and she still seems to be getting over it nearly a year and-a-half later. Bonsai was living here about three years before they moved in. She’s older than the two cat brothers by about seven years, and has hissed at them quite a few times.

Bonsai’s main issue was having the Man Cave violated. It had been her palace as Queen Bonsai, occasionally sitting in the bay window and looking out at the masses who should have adored her. But the cat brothers who had moved in, Nico and Sparty, didn’t buy that one for a minute. One of them, Nico, occasionally enjoys crossing the boundary to her space and getting hissed and yelped out. That’s led to chases a couple of times, and knocking things over. No injuries so far.

Bonsai has lived out something of an allegory for us all to learn from. She has been her own worst enemy. The cat brothers, and human brothers, are fine with Bonsai and usually just leave her alone. She’s made all of this as bad as she’s determined it to be – never getting over her sacred space being invaded. She reminds me it’s better to accept change and make the most of it.

It does stay interesting in what was once the Man Cave.

Kitchen cleanup has become a new challenge in my life. What happens when a young man, who shall remain anonymous, cooks a meal but leaves some of the leftovers on the counter and doesn’t wash his dishes? Do you ask him to finish it up, and come out later to see none of it has been done? Do you eat the leftovers without telling him, as retribution?

Have you ever napped in a Coma Cave? There’s something about our house where people, except for me, sleep in really late; and maybe take long naps later. We live in a nice and quiet neighborhood, and in a comfortable house with air conditioning and heating. I might have left early in the morning driving for Uber as they’re deep in sleep; or I might be writing an article in the den, with the others usually deep asleep (including cats). That’s how the name Coma Cave came to me. A while back, I came home about 9:00 in the morning from Uber driving to find two furious housemates. The neighbor had hired a crew to chop down and grind up tree branches. They started at 7:30 in the morning! Could you believe that outrage! Peace and quiet in the Coma Cave must be respected!

I have to admit that life has gotten better since the Man Cave was invaded and turned into a home shared with loved ones. It’s great coming home – seeing what Susan has been doing and having a few laughs. Sometime I walk in the front door and toward the den, only to see her bare feet up on a padded stool with one or two cats lying next to her with the TV playing. Tim cooking his meals and visiting the kitchen in the middle of the night for snacks. Jon coming in very late, which we don’t discover until well into the next day. The cats being cute, like the brothers sleeping next to each other; and Bonsai, and me, slowly adapting to change.

Farewell, Man Cave.

How did we get so hooked on zombies?

Two statistics:
Literary rate of the U.S. adult population:  86%
Percentage of U.S. residents who’ve watched zombie movies and TV shows:  95%

Even though I’d stopped watching The Walking Dead a while back, I did get hooked on zombie stories long ago. When video machines came out in the ‘80s, I rented, and later bought, copies of the original Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. In the first half of the 2000s, I watched whatever came out – 28 Days Later, the Dawn of the Dead remake, and Shaun of the Dead come to mind.

Years later, I bought and read the World War Z novel and I couldn’t wait for the early days of The Walking Dead – before several of the cast members I liked were killed off. Since those days, Fear the Walking Dead has come out, World War Z with Brad Pitt, Zombieland (which I would highly recommend), the zombie-loves-human movie Warm Bodies, and the iZombie TV series.

I’d say we officially have a cultural phenomenon with zombies.

I’ve spent a lot of time pondering what it means and asking others for their opinion.

One quote that I liked came from Robert Kirkman, an American comic book writer best known for creating The Walking Dead. Kirkman said The Walking Dead really is “about us. It’s about how we respond to crisis.”

I saw an interview years ago with George Romero, who made the 1968 film credited with starting all of it, Night of Living Dead. Romero said that he’d tried to make the black and white movie as realistic as possible, like you were watching a documentary on something that really happened; with local TV news coverage that appeared to be reporting something that was taking place.

It made me think of stories about Orson Welles and The Mercury Theater staging alien ships landing in America during a 1938 radio broadcast. It was called “War of the Worlds,” based on the H.G. Wells novel. People went nuts over it, thinking it was for real.

Romero said that Night of the Living Dead, and later Dawn of the Dead, depicted what Americans were going through viewing TV news with violent footage from the war in Vietnam, riots and burnings in big cities, protests, the Pentagon Papers, and Watergate. Paranoia was palpitating through the air.

We’ve had a revival in zombie stories lately. I would say that Kirkman and Romero have made a few good points.

Here’s my take on what could be stirring up something close to paranoia, and how we’re responding to crisis and stressful periods of change……
  • ·       The Great Recession that started in 2008
  • ·       Mobile devices becoming tethered to our wrists starting with the iPhone in 2007
  • ·       Full-time jobs with benefit packages versus independent contractors
  • ·       Transforming from print, cable TV, and a laptop – into Netflix, Snapchat, Pinterest, Twitter, Reddit, and a revival of Facebook. All of it on a smartphone, tablet, or flat screen wall mounts; and the occasional e-book on Kindle and Nook.
  • ·       Owning a car versus sharing a car ride
  • ·       Fear of infectious disease pandemics taking millions of lives, enough for people to wear surgical masks
  • ·       Donald Trump running for, and getting elected, president. And for everyone else, Hillary Clinton running for, and nearly becoming, president.

Yes, you can survive anything – even during a zombie attack.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Aside from Donald and Hillary, legalizing marijuana was the big news on election day

I smoke two joints in the morning
I smoke two joint at night
I smoke two joint in the afternoon
It makes me feel alright

I smoke two joints in time of peace
And two in time of war
I smoke two joints before I smoke two joints
And then I smoke two more

“Smoke Two Joints”

A very big deal took place on Tuesday, November 8 – voters in California, Massachusetts, and Nevada approved recreational marijuana ballot initiatives – joining up with Colorado and Washington, which legalized marijuana in 2012. A few other states passed medical marijuana provisions this year. Maine is expected to approve legalization, too, while Arizona didn’t gain enough votes to pass its legalization measure.

Years ago, I was very much opposed to legalizing marijuana. I’d had my own problems with it and didn’t see the point of making it a legitimate business. In the past couple of years, I’ve opened up to it, especially after talking to Colorado residents about the positive outcomes of legalizing it in that state.

So far, so good. Better than keeping it an illegal trade, where people might get murdered over it. Now, if you're a pot smoker living anything like the lyrics to the Sublime song, that's another story altogether. You might want to get some help for it.

I do have a few questions about legalizing marijuana:

• Will there be Stoned Driving tests like BAC drunk driving tests?
• Will pot smokers band together and form a volume purchase club for discounts on Cheetohs, gummy bears, candy bars, sunflower seeds, and other treats to satisfy the munchies?
• Is there a good way to handle a socially awkward scenario when a group of people sitting behind you at a movie or sporting event, who wreak of pot, start laughing hysterically at stupid jokes?
• Will Visine go out of business when pot smokers no longer need to get rid of red eye?
• Who will be threatened to go out of business once it’s legalized? Hydroponics stores? Your neighbor’s son and his buddies?
• What corporations will get into the new industry? Starbucks, Google, and Amazon? Will they form an association? Join the Hemp Industries Association and sponsor its annual convention?
• Will it take away a good talk show topic for rebels like Woody Harrelson, Seth Rogen, and Woody Nelson?

If you've got any good answers, please leave your comment below.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

How to make a buck or two, or three, as a writer

I have some good news and bad news for writers out there.

Which shall I share first? How about the good news.

There are tons of opportunities to write and be published out there today, well beyond your blog, Kindle book, email accounts, text messages, and Facebook posts.

There’s a real need for writers out there with:
  • ·       solid writing skills and evidence thereof;  
  • ·       some knowledge/expertise on the subject matter, and some evidence thereof;
  • ·       keeping your word on the deadline and delivering what you said you would;
  • ·       competence in grabbing useable photos/images and getting them sized correctly;
  • ·       following guidelines in the headline, deck, captions, sidebars, AP style, etc.
  • ·       how to use WordPress.

There are so many ways to find these writing opportunities, starting with Craigslist. If you write catchy pitch emails that you send with strong writing samples to editors, you’ll eventually find a response you were looking for. And they will pay you someday.

Now, are you ready for the downside?

1.    Write a lot, make a little.
As mentioned, start by scanning over postings on Craigslist under the Jobs – Writing/Editing link. Start in your city and then expand outward. Then go look for some specialized newsletters, blogs, and websites with freelance writing opportunity sections. The go check out Guru, Elance, WriterAccess, and anything else that pops up. You’ll get a hit eventually, and in the meantime you’ll see that there is a vast demand for writers out there and very little in payments – many times it’s a $10 offer, or less. Not that many years ago, that same article might have earned the writer $100. Yes, I have seen offers to write for a buck or two, or three. You’ll also find that you’ll pitch quite a few potential clients, and you’ll hear back from hardly any of them. The trick is building a solid relationship with someone who will pay you decently and keep giving you the green light on your work.

2.    A handful of editors with a whole bunch of freelancers.
As I’ve experienced firsthand in recent years, media outlets are paring back on editorial staff and workers in other departments. Getting a job as an editor, or staff writer, is getting tough these days with much of the labor outsourced to freelance writers and contractors. Editors have a tough job to do, usually duties that one or two other people might have done in the past. They’re also told to tighten their budgets, and might have some real limitations on what they can pay freelancers; all this while learning how to use new content management systems and programs. They can get burned out, to say the least.  Sometimes they ask the freelance writer to do a lot for what they’re getting paid, but somebody’s got to get it done.

3.    Morphing of job titles and duties.
Writers and editors are taking on new roles these days. It’s typical that somebody becomes a copywriter who writes content used in websites, e-mail marketing materials, buyer’s guides, and advertorials. A content writer or content editor will do what they would have done in the past, and then some, as an editor. You might need to know how to work with YouTube and Vimeo video images and links, photo galleries, podcasts, forum discussion groups, and social media placements. As a writer, you might be called a blogger, author, staff writer, reporter, or content creator. You might even be called a writer; anything is possible, but you still have to write content that people want to read.

4.    A short list of writers making big bucks from whatever they write. I remember being advised years ago, by writers and instructors I admired, to let go of comparing myself to famous writers – or hinting that I would be one someday. I would need to love what I do, and not give up. It was suggested that I avoid using as role models Stephen King, or Tom Wolfe, or Lester Bangs (who tragically died at 34 without making much money, and boy, could he write), or Hunter S. Thompson (another sad, but wild, tale), or Lawrence Block, or Donald Westlake, or…….. As for lately, it’s probably a good idea to stop using J.K. Rowling as a role model. Whatever she writes now, way beyond the Harry Potter series, will be a huge success. While Rowling became the first billionaire novelist, I can come up with names of successful writers in every sub-category under the umbrellas of non-fiction books, genre novelists, and screenwriters, who have done pretty well in earnings and reaching avid readers.

In the end, a very small number of writers will make a lot of money and find avid readers. All the rest of us need to have day jobs and do other, hopefully legal, work to make a buck or two, or three.

For all the writers I’ve known and read over the years, rich and poor, and somewhere in between, we do have something in common. We stay on it like a dog on a bone. We don’t quit, even if the work is criticized, rejected, doesn’t sell very much, could be better, or whatever might apply.

So, are you willing to be like a dog on a bone?