Monday, August 24, 2015

Dating Sites and no not Ashley Madison

I got bored the other day, so I hopped on a dating site. See I live in an area here in the woods, twenty-two miles across Bainbridge Island and Puget Sound as the crow flies from Seattle. I seem to run into more potential dates in Seattle than I ever do in my area here in Kitsap County. Or they are clear across the country or the world from me. 

I've been saying that I'm sure there is someone for anybody, somewhere. I just figure that my potential "soulmate" (a kind of ridiculous romantic notion) is probably in the back alleyways of Mumbai, or Tokyo, Rio, or Belfast (or for that matter Dublin, Galway, Cork, or Limerick...see I'm going there in less than a week for my birthday, so....).

I've been single now since 2010 when my girlfriend and I split up after about a year and a half. She was a great lady but she kept breaking up with me. So on about the fourth time I said I thought maybe I wasn't what she was looking for. 

She was a very lovely Vietnamese businesswoman and I think she had trouble with my being white, mostly because of her family and not really her. I also wanted to pay as much time on my writing as possible and as my kids were just about grown and moved out of the house and onto their adult lives, I needed to have someone going to keep me from empty nest syndrome. Plus, I've made great strides in my writing career now too!

But that's not what I'm here to talk about. 

I'm on a few dating sites just for fun, but I don't much go on them. Not sure why I'm even there, really. I think it's like when I'm shopping for sweets at the store. I am losing weight, so I don't want to eat sweets. I just look, and move on. Window shopping if you will, so I don't buy in the end. 

And no, not Ashley Madison. 

I find a dating site dedicated to people cheating on their supposed best friend in life, utterly despicable. I don't understand the concept of cheating. IF you love someone, if someone is your best friend in the world and you marry they, how can you possibly kill their spirit by going out on them when they don't know it? 

Now I'm pretty open minded and I feel whatever agreement two people have as to what their relationships is, is between that couple (or threesome, or whatever they have agreed upon). But when you agree to be with only them and they don't know you are running around on them, well, you're a low life, aren't you?

I've been trying to change careers and if anything will suck up your time keeping you from attaining a goal... yeah, it's relationships.

So I get on this one site and run into a woman here or there who strikes my interest. I look past the surface info and photos and inevitably find a reason why it wouldn't be workable. Fine.

It's in the not workable part that I found something interesting. What exactly is it that makes them, unworkable?

Number one I think is, I just see the crazy in their eyes, in the look. After several marriages and various girlfriends over the years, the crazy has just gotten to be too easy to located.

Number two is either their location or religion or both. 

They seem to be equal in number of instances. Funny how I can see a photo and know instantly they are Catholic (having been raised Catholic) and I'm almost always right. 

Location has to be reasonable and religion definitely has to be reasonable.

What's reasonable for location? VERY local. I don't want to spend two hours getting there to see them (or vice versa) and the location around here is shall we say, interesting? It's really nice around here actually... unless you're into dating. 

Anyway, same goes with religious orientation. If there even IS one indicated. Yeah, I'm not big into religion, maybe you've noticed that. I'm not exactly secretive about it. Because then it feels like it's more than two hours from here for me. Here, right up here in my head, see? Get it? It's then more like it's light years from where they are then.

So then there is a number 3. 

Which I suppose is... what they say in their profile. Not to mention their photos. It is so annoying when someone posts photos of their flowers, or their pet (espeically if their pets are their children, I mean, really? If there's not enough listed about them, then they are holding back something, right? But if it's too much, then they are either giving up too much (and why?), or they are just too opinionated and either have issues like in having too many rules, or maybe they're simply too high maintenance. Many very attractive women have that issue in having been treated so well by so many throughout their lives. It's not so much a statement about them as it is about what you might have to deal with in being in a relationship with them. And I have no doubt that it's just like that if you're a woman looking for a guy.

But it got me to thinking.

If there's NO one out there then who is reasonable for me to take a crack at, then what's the common denominator in my not finding anyone who works for  me? 

Well. Me, obviously. 

Good grief, what a loser. Right? What a jerk! A cretin!

In considering all that I do realize something. Actually I realized this a long ago but it doesn't help me much in writing it out here now, does it? I'm quite sure I must be coming across the same, to some anyway of them anyway. 

So what's that mean? It's just not really workable I suppose.

I've actually always done much better in person. 

To consider putting your life on paper and then try to look good, is problematic to begin with. Rather when you see someone who catches your eye from across the room, then it's far easier to discount them and move on and not even realize it. Or to find that spark that suddenly flames up into something curious and interesting and well, there you are. All the work getting started is done without even thinking about it. 

And if they say too much or too little (well that comes when you start talking I suppose), other things can dilute the negatives, be it a smile, a laugh, a movement, a glance. Some of us are far better in flirting in person I suppose. Some of the "magic" in who we are is in us interacting. One has to wonder in viewing profiles online and rejecting them, just how many would you have gone for, if you had met them in first, in person?

What was my point in bringing this all up?

Romance I think. Interpersonalities. How we boil ourselves down to a profile and miss some of the great things in life in not having allowed things to grow and mature organically and within physical proximity. Don't get me wrong. 

I met my first online girlfriend back in the early 90s online (obviously) on a BBS, this being pre-interwebs and all. I was thirty six and she was twenty. She found me. She had heard of my reputation on that site and became attracted to me.

Seems she heard about a transexual flirting with me who I thought had been born female. Hey, just my preference. There is so much baggage for me in dealing in relationships, I really don't need any more than the usual that I'm familiar with. So shoot me. Once she outed herself to me online (we never did meet), I was a little stunned. I had started to realize someone was wrong when our sexualty as we discussed, seemed to match up too well. As if she were a guy. A Tomboy? Maybe. But I started getting an odd feeling. So one day online I asked some probing questions and she fessed up.

I tried to explain to her that she really needs to make that clear up front, not later on. I had recently just gone through this kind of thing with someone else on that site. A woman who said she was a model. She told me about her traveling Europe with another model friend. We got as far as phone calls. 

Then she fessed up about having been raped in Europe on that trip, then gaining a lot of weight. I felt betrayed at that point and the betrayal outweighed her physical changes from what she had described. I had a degree in psychology and I was seeing some serious issues here she needed to deal with, before she dated like this. 

I explained to her it was better to be up front with people, and not deceive them as how can that work out to her benefit? I'd also been through my last two major relationships which both ended in deceit. My long time girlfriend through college had an affair, then ran off and my just recently ex wife, had an affair and I threw her out. I was a little partial to not being lied to by that point in my life. Especially considering I had never had a woman break up with me until I was in my 30s.

Getting back to the transsexual, I was actually worried about her meeting some guy who then finds out he situation and he hurts her. I treated her like a person, I showed concern and I was concerned. Well she told everyone on the dating site and I so I somehow got a bit reputation for being cool, I suppose. 

Which led to a relationship with a very attractive, very bright twenty year old computer tech (who looked a lot like Mackenzie Davis' character Cameron Howe, on the excellent show, Halt and Catch Fire. Even down to the short blond hair and who even my housemate liked back then and she was pretty harsh on whomever I dated. She said of all the girls I had dated while living with her, she liked that one the best. High praise indeed. 

Halt and Catch Fire, which I just heard was being cancelled as I write this but hopefully uncancelled by time this blog is published in a couple of weeks as I'm in Ireland at the time this blog goes live. 

That Vietnamese lady I mentioned in the beginning? 

I also met her online back in 2010. She actually (again actually) initially contacted me. This was on a dating website (BBSs having gone the way of the dinosaur by now I suppose though it wouldn't surprise me to find there are still some around).

We met up, hit it off and had a great eighteen month relationship. Until I got tired of being broken up with. Well I understand. She'd had a tough life in some ways, certainly, romantically speaking.

Even though I've had some very good success stories in online dating I still prefer meeting someone in person for the first time. there's just something more as I said, organic about it. I feel like the tentacles of personality have a better field to invest in, to be enriched in. Surely it can work online and then you meet.

Look, that concept of finding someone similar online with similar interests and orientations in life, is all reasonable and everything, but some of my most intense relationships were when we were very different and people would even remark on it:

"How did you two ever get together. You're so very different?"

Love, we supposed. We very much loved each other and the differences just didn't matte.

Not right away anyhow, but after about five years or so (mostly because of raising kids really) those differences did seem to matter after all. Quite a lot actually. Of course those relationships didn't last forever. But it was really Something, let me tell you!

Anyway, like I said. Dating sites. I was bored one day....

Still am. 

Well, moving on.... I have writing to do and an upcoming trip out of country to get ready for.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Don't Wear the Holy Blinders.

This has bugged me for a long time, most of my life really.

So many people who are religious want to wear "Holy Blinders" to allow them and the Devout never to see what all God has created for them NOT to see... apparently.
The Holy Blinders?
Much of fundamentalist theism seems to be like this. Surely the Islamic terrorists are like this, but also many Christians are like this, especially in the American wingnut Evangelical movement.

I've never understood it.

We have a form of thinking here where you have to worship a Being, divine or not and apparently regardless what is asked of you by this Being, this Divine Despot, this Galactic Dictator, it's all okay because after all, you were created by this Being. So anything, any abuse goes. He says kill your kid, bang, kid's dead. Right?

You are given rules to follow, to think a certain way but not another way; and to think more of this Being than anyone or anything else...apparently.

What I never got is that these people have found a way to cheat, on pain of death, what their divinely dictated path is. Rather than learn to be a certain way, rather than to build the spiritual muscle to be that certain way, rather than to suffer, toil and trouble over making their path what they believe it is and then tread upon it, they simply completely avoid being that certain way by using tricks, avoiding any need to use their free will.

How to succeed at using free will correctly? Don't use it at all of course. Eliminate the choice and bang, you're one day in Heaven. God must be so proud.

I don't think so.

In Islam they make women wear clothes to hide their features so men don't have impure thoughts. Rather than learning not to have those thoughts or learn to stop them once they crop up. Because apparently they found it too difficult. So they decided it's better to put upon women then to put upon themselves, or force themselves to have some inner discipline, to treat others accordingly and not abuse anyone outside of themselves for their own lack of strength as a human being.

Lazy? Simply that scared so as to have become irrational? Cowardly? Or what?

They will sometimes even kill people for not following the rules at times. Sometimes even over some very silly rules.

Rather than allowing them to be dealt with by that divine Being after death, they take the matter into their own obviously unclean hands. They can't even avoid thinking about sex without covering women up, So they are the dealers of death in "God's" name? Really? Sounds more to me like ignorant, poor self esteem punks in a street gang.

And don't tell me when all they can see is just a woman's eyes, that they don't spring to attention in seeing those deep lovelies looking at them from the deep mystery of that all encompassing cloth. As with the ancient Japanese. In covering women completely up in kimonos, the back of the woman's neck became a very erogenous zone for men.

It makes no sense.

A therapist I knew years ago once told that me her son (they were Japanese Buddhists), wanted to live in a monastery in order to live correctly. But she told him, and this is important, that it doesn't mean as much. It's not as useful as it is to learn to be how you'd want become while in a monastery while living in the real world. 

It is more important to live your life in the real world, dealing with real things in how a normal person has to deal with them on a daily basis. That is the true way to live. Yes we need those in monasteries as it serves a purpose for the rest of us as a kind of touch point. But most people need to live in the real world and deal with their beliefs as normal human beings.

Christianity is much the same in disallowing all humans from things like sex, contraception and because at times that fails, abortions. Rather than allow them each to use the free will God supposedly had based the trials of humanity on in the first place. Rather than allow these humans to make their own decisions, should others really be making those decisions for them? Isn't that cheating, not allowing those decisions to be made in the first pace by the individuals involved?

It's weird. It's dishonest. It's twisted. It's ugly. And many times... it's evil.
What kind of religious runt, what kind of weak, lame, wimpy people act like that in the face of a Supreme Being as if this Being won't figure out what they are doing? How they are subverting the challenges originally and allegedly given them? How they have twisted the Divine Message? How do they get away with it? Do they? Will they? 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Live it Outloud 2015 Summer Finale Concert

For several years in a row I went to the Ted Brown Live It Outloud finale concert at Tacoma's Rialto Theater. What fun this show always is. It's worth the $15 for a ticket.


This year the time zipped by and the end was upon me before I even realized it. Sure, some bands are better than others, but it gives you a feeling for two things to be sure.

One is that playing in a band is easier than you might think. How else did all those garage bands ever get anywhere. These are after all kids, young teenagers doing this and yet they sound incredible. Of course that is due in part to their mentors in the program. Not all are perfection to be sure, but they are doing it, they are experiencing and learning to be on stage, and acquiring so much in being in this program. They are getting a feel for it and getting up there and doing it.

All of which is saying much more than it sounds.

The other thing is, this is also much harder than it seems. They are kids yes, but they are like any musician anywhere, putting blood, sweat and tears I'm sure, into these performances. And it shows.

I can't stop thinking while they are playing how much I would loved to have done that as a kid, but how terrifying it must also be.

There are a few things however, that I might change or add, to the finale show. They have other shows like at Jazz Bones in lead up to the finale but sadly I've not made those shows... yet.

Many programs I've seen on this order in the past have shown a professional band at the opening and for several reasons. To placate the attendees to see a professional band as well as talented amateurs. Basically, to draw in an audience. But this program has a built in audience, parents and family and friends.

It would be nice to showcase to the kids what a band to shoot for looks and sounds like. To have a pro band might be a bit much and after all, we've all seen or heard professional bands. We should want to get  the kids involved, to support the program and not just have to watch a paid band show up, play and disappear. So, I would make a few suggestions.

Let's see some past alums show up and play to open the show.

Especially any success stories. Why do this? It gives the kids hope and an example of where their hard work could lead. Some might argue disingenuously, that it might make the other kids feel bad because they don't sound like them... yet.

But how does showing off what the program has succeeded to do, come off in anyway as bad? Besides, any kids feeling bad about something like that really shouldn't even be in the program in the first place. The entertainment industry is a brutal environment. You'd best be ready for it if you're headed in that direction.

So why don't we see at each season finale one of the previous bands or talent who have gone on to better things beyond the program?

I would admonish the program's directors and Ted Brown Music to let us see some past graduates and where they are now. I know they aren't hiding something. Their graduates have gone on to bigger and better things. I can only assume this lack of showcasing those successes is out of some kind of misguided concern?

Open the show with a graduate, with a success story! Show off! Perhaps alum of the program Cat Dewell could have opened the show (see Tacoma Music Camp site). Give the kids an opening example of where they can go with this program. Give the audience a show and let these past students show off to their mentors and the program.

This isn't the time to be humble. This is ROCK & ROLL! Bigger than life! Be Loud. This is after all, LIVE IT OUTLOUD! Right?

You could even have some of the top participants play in the opening band with the returning alum but of course, that would be up to the artist. Or perhaps they could play a final song like that. These are just some suggestions to enhance an already great program. Give the kids the motivation in rewarding the best to be better and the not so best yet, to achieve more as the possibilities are there.

I would also consider choosing the top three bands again for best bands. It's subjective right? So you don't have to choose a winner and two runner ups, just the top three.

Why?

Because if you don't you are setting them up for a real shock when they get into the real entertainment industry, one of the most brutal careers there are. There will always be I would assume, some kids who just won't make it. Now is the time to work that out before the entertainment industry chews them up and spits them out. Also "losing" is setting up those individuals in those bands for two things.

Those who can't handle it can save time and move on to something else in their lives that they can handle (this isn't about recidivism or capitalism as a company in having a program with repeat business (though that is surely a desire) but it's about turning out kids with professional orientations).

Those who can handle it and don't get selected can face reality and buckle down to work even harder for next year and come back a winner.

There are other programs like this around the country who are watching what the Live It Outloud's program is doing and they are using what they find useful. So as a leader in this field, why not push the envelope? Why not stay on top? Why not, lead?

All that being said this is an incredible program and if your child (or you, if you are a teen) think that this might be cool to do but it's too scary to consider, go talk to them at the program. Give it a shot! The worst you can do is fall on your face. The best is what I saw at the finale and the program works hard to set the kids up for success. It's really about what the kids can and want to achieve. About nurturing their potential to go as far as they want to go.

For myself I am far too old to be in the program and now, even my grown kids are now who are in their 20s. I look forward to next year's bright new students and bands so full with energy and potential, with many more to come after.

Live It Outloud!

Monday, August 3, 2015

If you love Art, Music, or whatever then cut loose, cuz... Dave Grohl told us to

I was watching Dave Grohl being interviewed by Sam Jones (Off Camera with Sam Jones). I love that interview show. I highly recommend it if you love art, music, writing, acting. The Robert Downey, Jr. interview was also very good.
Sam Jones' Off Camera with Dave Grohl
I liked Dave Grohl's attitude and things he had to say, I guess in being a purest about things. For instance, screw the computers "enhancing" your music. Just, do it.

It made me wish I had been a musician. I actually had wanted to and well, it just never worked out. I seemed to have a talent for writing and so, I'm a writer. 

One of the last things Dave said in the interview was to just do it.

The Who's Keith Moon
As he put it and to paraphrase, "When Keith Moon was playing, beating on his drums, do you think he had mapped that all out? He was just banging the hell out of those drums. When I first started out, I was working at a furniture store and I wanted people to hear me play. I would just beat the hell out of those drums and when I walked out, people would think, wow, he really played the hell out of those drums." (remember that wasn't a direct quote, but you get the gist of it)

That got me to thinking. First about how easy it is for musicians in a way. You play something, those you want to hear it, hear it, even those you don't know are there, or in a different room hear it. If it's good they will be drawn to it. Gee, how nice, how easy. Whether or not they even want to hear it they could inadvertently end up liking it. Same with visual arts, you just show it in a single glance and viola, they like it or not, but they've seen it, experienced it. Try that with a poem, a short story, a novel. Yeah, good luck. Even videos are easier.

Getting people to read your writings is real a bitch. Trust me. Then if they do they usually don't know what to say in response (unlike with a song, oh, "that's good!", or "oh, that sucks!"). It's very, frustrating.

I started playing guitar in second grade. You play a song and if you played well, one could just tell, people liked it. Even if they weren't listening, or wanting to, they really had no choice. Sound, happens. Try that with a short story. 

It's can be kind of a miserable life, being a writer. Until you can get someone to read it, and start paying attention, until you get a following. Then it becomes easier of course, but then the other difficulties pop up.

No, this really isn't supposed to be a bitch session. I just wanted to get to a point where I could say what I wanted to say. And that was this....

What Dave said to just play the hell out of it! Not to overthink it, not to artificially manipulate it...in a way that is what we do with writing. We write it, someone reads it, maybe an editor because if you want your stuff read, pay an editor or reader and it gets read.

I started to think about this. Writing isn't music. So how can I turn what Dave said toward my writing?

Because I still have a full time day job in order to pay the bills I have to schedule my writing times for when I have the time, energy, creative force. To do what Dave said, I'd have to have a lot of time.

I've played music and I've written pieces and between writing music and prose (or worse, screenplays as I also write those), music is much easier. You pick up your instrument and start playing and it comes to life. It doesn't work that way for writing. Not for me anyway. Writing is far more time consuming. Of course writing a song, starting and finishing it is much in the same but still again, during the process you can just say to someone, "listen to this", strum a bit and they experience it. How many times have we heard someone say or do that to us when we didn't really want to hear it and yet they played, we ended up hearing it and then we commented on it, good or bad?

But if I had the time... that is to say no day job, I could just write straight through, just bang the hell out of the keyboard till I'm finished. Like Dave does, or Keith Moon did. What could I turn out then? What would I discover along that way?


It got me to thinking. I thought about Hunter S. Thompson. I thought about Burroughs. Was I thinking about stream of consciousness Henry James? What? I don't know. But that was the thing, wasn't it? I didn't know? And I wanted to know. But I'd need time to decompress from this corporate life. 

I've discovered over the years of taking vacations that I need about a week, maybe two before I started to feel "Human" again. However, usually my vacations are only days, or a week or two. Sometimes I would just start to feel normal again (I think because normal is hard to recognize after a while not feeling it), it happens about the time the vacation is over.

Maybe that's why Europeans take a month off? 

I need then to what? Retire? Awesome! But my point is I would need time, a lot of it to decompress, then to start the process. Which is basically writing when it hits me and then beating the hell out of a story. What would that be like? Heaven, I'm sure.

Don't get me wrong. Writing is doing it, doing a lot of it. But when you have another entire full time job, that is when all this is relevant.

As it is now if I get an idea after bedtime, I get up out of bed to write it down. I write bits and pieces so I can later finish them, or use them somewhere I might not have foreseen at the time I dreamed it up. Which is the best sometimes. Last night I got up four times. I was exhausted, my brain was racing, and these were seriously good ideas. So I did it. But I slept in today. On a normal work night, I would have woken too tired to function properly at work all the next day. 

I guess you could argue, using Dave's reference, I could just sit and type furiously like a drum solo and see what comes up. But I do that now. I'm just looking for something else. Something beyond. Something I haven't and can't now do.

What is the point of all this? 

That I have a new concept to shoot for. That you could have a new concept to shoot for. For that thing out there on the horizon.

Maybe it would even lead to a different way of  viewing my writings. It's all good. Every little epiphany sparks something, moves something, evokes change, keeps things fresh. Offering hope of the beyond until finally you bring yourself to the beyond and that becomes the foundation for something new. A new you. A newness to what you produce. A new experience for those who experience what you produce on that new plane of existence.

Should be interesting....

Monday, July 27, 2015

On Being a Writer and a Professional

Time to dump reality and politics for a week (at least) and talk about something more fun, entertainment.

The creative process, then sharing with and hopefully fascinating people in maybe perhaps hopefully making them happy, or in possibly making them sad, but doing it all in such a way that they forget their own reality and enter mine, is what it's all about. At very least to have them enter a story that I have weaved for them to experience so they can attempt to wrap their consciousness around it for at least the short time they lend me their attention.

If they might happen to later think of it again at a later date, say the next day or better still the next week, just adds icing to the creative cake.

It is my responsibility to keep their attention, at least until they want to let it go. If things go really, really well, then hopefully I will be done with their attention before they are done with lending it to me.

Hopefully, I will leave them in a state of mind where they will still want more from me. If not now, then at some future point in their entertainment universe.

Hook them, then make them want to come back for more. It's what it's all about. Attempting to be fascinating and addictive.

This all started for me in 10th grade I suppose, with my first short sci fi story after written after having just finished reading Dune, by Frank Herbert back in 1970. When I finished that book I couldn't believe I had only just gotten it from my sci fi book club when it had actually been released five years previous. I was to say the least, inspired.

Maybe in part because I had been into sci fi for years already and had started so young. Science Fiction back then wasn't really a part of American life as it is now. Maybe because I had read Asimov's Foundation Trilogy years before written in the early 1950s, though I didn't get to them till the mid to late 1960s. Still, I was properly prepped for a book such as Dune when I read it. Or maybe it was because Dune was just that good of a book.

That short story I wrote the day I finished reading Dune, was the last complete short story I produced until college. I knew I could never aspire to be such as a "Writer". Or even more difficult to achieve, an Author of a Book. My first university fiction writing class in my senior year showed me something different. In fact it was actually my professor in my earlier and first college composition class in my sophomore year who made it clear to me that I had a spark and a talent for writing.

He was a man of passion and energy and he begged me to consider being a writer. I was impressed. More so than I think he was impressed with me. He both scared me, and motivated me.

It's an odd feeling to live your entire life dreaming of an unachievable thing and then to have someone you respect, and who is paid to know what's up in that area, tell you that you have a talent for achieving that dream. Then later on to find others consistently backing up that contention to where finally it seems as if you will allow actually that possibility to seep in, to take you over. To allow for he possibility that you may indeed have something to work with.

As with most things however, there is more to it than just having the talent.

Just as there are brilliant chess masters out on the streets playing for a buck a game. Masters who no rated chess master anywhere could ever beat. And yet those virtuoso live and play and die on the streets where no one knows their names. Their fortunes are only in the awe of those who do know of them, or have been lucky enough to have gotten to play one of them. For a great story on this see Jerry Seinfeld's interview with Michael Richards.

To paraphrase as has been said, "Dying is easy, comedy is hard." I'm unsure who actually said that first. The point behind that statement however is that living is one thing, trying to entertain is another universe entirely. Where one might think they are the best, there may very well be another field or another section of a field where others are even better.

Art, is not something that should be easy to do. Otherwise everyone could do it and it would lose all meaning. Though there are a few special cases who may seem to be able to do it more easily than the rest of us, even they should strive to push their limits. Like loving ice cream and trying to eat five gallons at a sitting, the quality is not in the eating. It's in the creating and a well trained palate will always discern the difference between the tasty and the truly delicious.

All that being said, I've always been able to spin a good yarn. I used to love to practice telling a story, to see how long I could draw it out before I began to see the attention wan in someone's eyes. Then spin it up again to see if I could once again enrapture their attention.

How long could I tell a really boring story in yet a very entertaining way? It was amazing how long I could go at times, how long some people would let me go on. It was also good training that I didn't realize I was exhibiting in the long run, more for myself, than for others.

One day a guy listened to a story of mine for about twenty minutes. When I got done he realized that the substance of what I had just told him could have easily been told in a sentence or two and he commented on that.

"I can't believe you just took like twenty minutes to tell me all that. But don't get me wrong, it was very entertaining to listen to. Thanks."

High praise. It was around that time in starting college when I realized I could put pen to paper and do the same. That writing was simply an extension of my verbal storytelling. So I began to do the same too, on paper. How long could I spin a story out, say almost nothing but in such a way that is very entertaining to read?

I first noticed this with some of the old writers like Edgar Allen Poe. Years later with Clive Barker. I found I really didn't care where they were taking me, as long as they kept spinning those amazing words in the order they ordered them up in. Beautiful prose. Something that has gotten somewhat lost today as we want writings that we can read quite easily on a train, in a bus station, during a few free moments. Rather than devote an evening to reading a good book, we mostly now prefer to watch a show on TV. Or, the Internet.

I guess I've gotten somewhere along those lines as an author who reviewed my book, "Death of Heaven" (now in its second edition) had to say:

"[Death of Heaven] ... has a Books of Blood vibe [referring of course to Clive Barker's seminal horror books], which really works well. It's in these tales that the author's writing ability shines. He demonstrates a lovely turn of phrase and some of the writing is almost poetic in its beauty."
From Author & Reviewer Michael Brookes.

You can also get just the first full chapter of my book by itself in ebook or audiobook format as, "The Conqueror Worm". I tell anyone semi-jokingly, I dare you to read that first full chapter and then honestly say that you have no desire to go on to the next chapter of the book.

That's not bravado, it's an accurate observation. I simply did a very good job on that story and of all my writings it's the one story, when every time I read it and get to the ending I get emotional. It's almost impossible not to. It is as I said, a well written piece of horror.

Or as one first chapter contest write up put it:

"The story itself is very strong, lulling the reader into a false sense of security as two young boys hunt for treasure, before ultimately morphing into a violent and sometimes disturbing tale of horror. This is done with such swiftness that it takes the reader almost completely by surprise, which only enhances the effect." from WILDSound Writing Festival's First Chapter Contest

Please feel free to drop by my website sometime. There's much more available there. Don't let that web site freak you out either. It's just oddness there, is all. Hang out on there for a little while, you'll see what I mean.

Anyway....

I just finished reading Tough Love Screenwriting by John Jarrell, I very much enjoyed that smack in a screenwriter's face by someone who should know all about it. I'm also re-reading Syd Field's seminal Screenplay, The Foundations of Screenwriting. As well as Storyline, Finding Gold in Your Life Story by the charming and talented Jen Grisanti.

They say, "write what you know" but people take that wrong. Most do, perhaps.

You need to know what you know and write from that perspective. Taking those diamonds of experience, you then need to be able to recognize them from you life and spread them around in your writing or storytelling for others to experience in such a way that it fits your purpose.

You can also then use them over and over if you just use them properly to your advantage. Twist them around until they are unrecognizable and remember, these are yours to use.

I'll give you an example. I used my son's CD of music from high school that he wrote, played and produced in my video book trailers. But you can only use so much of a limited amount. Eventually I started using pieces I had used before and by using some music editing software (Audacity) I twisted them, running them backward and playing with them until even my son didn't recognize his own music. In this music, only we have license to it (as he gave his permission) and I don't have to use music I need to pay for, or even make my own to use

Interesting story there. To keep it short, for years (since the 80s) I've kept a few cassette tapes labeled "practice tape #x" with music from when I was playing guitar alone, practice and simply enjoying myself.

Recently I pulled them out to possibly use on my videos, but none of that music survived for some reason. Ruined, lost or recorded over either on purpose or inadvertently, or perhaps an ex did it as I'd experienced that kind of passive \ aggressive thing before.

I was truly unhappy about the loss of those tapes because I remember really liking some melodies I came up with. I had planned to keep them in case I wanted to use them later or to finish out a song or two. But now sadly they are lost forever.

In that train of thought, that reminds me of another truism in writing: "kill your children" or "kill your darlings." Meaning that when you have some writing in a story that takes the reader out of the story and they see or realize they are reading the author, then you need to cut those pieces. Do not slow down the reader just to enjoy your brilliance. It should flow seamlessly. So either be brilliant always, or avoid hills and valleys whenever possible.

Yet also do not throw away your brilliance. Ever. Print them out or store them in a digital file, but don't delete them, that would just be showing your mind disrespect for the effort and intelligence it has shown and you should reward that whenever possible.

You can always use them in another story later. I've actually looked these tiny gems up and built entire stories around them. Freebies if you will. The work put into those gems came from my brain originally and eventually the processes leading up to the creation of that gem were stored in long term storage. So in using them later you access entire passages of your mind that you don't even know exist now. Time savers, really and truly.

Here are some of screenwriter John August's comments on writing. Among films he's written are, Big Fish, Frankenweenie, Dark Shadows, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie's Angels, and Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle and more. It's just always nice to hear another writer's perspective on writing, on life, on the effort it takes, and the payoffs it can give you.

All I have said here has only one thing tying it all together. That is, why did I write all this today? To sell my wares? To make you think I'm "somebody" (I'm not)? Or that I'm wonderful (I am)? Or that I'm some kind of genius? I'm not, I assure you, otherwise my life would be way better than it is now.

No. The common thread in all the above is this:

Entertaining people is a wonderful thing to do. You too can do it. If you really want to.

That's it. That's all I had to say in this blog for this week. Though I did try to add something more in case you were interested in writing yourself, or like once I was, thought you could never write anything worthy of others reading, thinking it was quite beyond you.

The mechanics of writing was what stopped me for decades until that first professor I told you about said, "Hey, don't think about the mechanics. That's what editor are for, after all." Thus giving me license to relax and simply tell my stories.

That's true and everything about editors but honestly in the end, we want to be our own editors as much as possible. It only enhances your writing and saves time. Sure get one, but make their job as easy as possible and learn from their work on your writings. If for no other reason it's cheaper for you that way. Not to mention they will brag about you to others which is just free marketing and publicity.

So how does one write a fiction story?

Pen to paper, really. Fingers to keyboard. Mouth to microphone. Just get the story out because in the end, writing is really rewriting. More rewriting for some than others surely. But to write fiction you have to write.

Find your idea, think of a kernel of a thought. Stabilize it on audio recording, or analog with pencil or pen or, digitize it with a keyboard. Whatever it takes for you to get your brilliance down where others can examine or enjoy it.

Give it a middle, as you have to start somewhere. Or give it a beginning or an end. Then write forward from that or backward, out outward. Then, read it back in it's entirety. Missing a good beginning or end? Write backward to the start, or forward to the finish. Play with it. The biggest obstacle I've seen is options.

Beginning writers (and experienced ones too) simply see too many options in what to write, what direction to take. But that gets narrower with experience, so relax. The more you write the easier it gets.

For myself I don't worry too much about an ending. For me in the beginning, for many years, that was my killer. A fear of endings. My friends told me years ago that they loved my writings but they told me, with love, "Give it a damn ending!" But I was terrified of endings. An ending meant you had put your stamp on it and if others didn't think it was brilliant, you were an idiot. It wasn't until I had to turn in many non-fiction papers in college that I started to feel the confidence to generate decent endings.

Once you have the elements in place, a fun story (fun in funny, or fun in sadness, but entertaining, scary, intriguing, etc., whatever). Then read it and fix any issues that bug you, that stop you, that slow you down. You need to do what I used to say as a tech writer was "massaging" the text. Smoothing it out, perfecting it. Read it as if it's not yours. Wait a day or a week and read it. Then as you read it once through keep in mind the stuff that bugs you, slows you, speeds you up, gets your blood racing or kills your mood. Keep notes if need be.

Then read it again and fix it. 

Read it again then and if you find now (after two, or twenty rewrites or re-edits) that it flows smoothly to a conclusion, but there are some really good parts that stop you dead, even if they are brilliant, that's when you kill your children, slaughter your darlings. Cut them. Save them. Move on.

Once you are past a first draft, get someone to read it. Someone you trust not to damage you over it, who can give you some advice ("I don't like this character, or this part", or "I love this part but...."). I had to do this on my own because for many years no one would read me. Certainly not family, not girlfriends, not wives. They couldn't seem to be less interested and that seems to be a common thread.

"No one listens to the prophet in his own village." There is a reason for that, so don't feel bad if no one is all that interested in your writings. 

Mostly, I got here by myself. It just takes practice, perseverance.

It was only in the past few years that I found some good readers and an editor to whom I'm forever grateful. In doing it myself all these years, it was not unlike playing chess by myself. Reading my own writings as if I'd never seen them before (usually waiting a week allows for that),

I have gained a lot in having had to do it all by myself. But then in getting an editor I learned that little bit more I just couldn't have done alone. Also, watching massive amounts of videos and documentaries about writers, reading their (only the good ones) good books on writing, I continued to educate myself

And then.... read your writing again. In the beginning of becoming a writer there are many rewrites. But as you do this over and over you do get better and better. The rewrites become fewer and fewer. Read it again. Edit it until it flows as well as you want it to.

In my beginning years I would say that I did this process until I wanted to throw up and could no longer look at a story, then I knew it was done; because I couldn't look at it anymore. Some would ask me back then, "how do you know when to quit writing and editing?"

I would tell them I would know because I simply couldn't read it anymore. So it had to be done. That was when I needed an editor however. I sent those stories out to sell to magazines and I did that for a long time until one day, someone actually bought one.

I'd finally gotten there and on my own.

Anymore? I just know when I'm done writing a story now. I have tied up all the loose ends. The beginning is intriguing enough to draw a reader on, the ending is entertaining and satiating enough that a reader may want to try reading something else I've written.

After a while you get to where you just know. My editor has said that I quickly caught on from her edits, my writing has gotten better, and she has to edit less and less. Considering that my writing was already good enough to sell to the market, it was good to hear that I have gotten even better.

Sometimes, a second pair of eyes are just golden. 

In summation if you want to write, if you have a passion for it, write. If you don't have a passion for it, then don't bother. But if you do bother, then do it right. Learn, but don't waste. Don't spend money where it's useless but at some point, you may have to put your wallet where you desires are. Just don't do it too soon because so much can be achieved in spending so little money. So many writers simply throw their money at and away (those who have it anyway and some who sadly, don't) and yet they never really learn a thing from it, or never get anywhere for all that money and wasted effort. 

There are multitudes of people out there wanting to take your money for your writings. I learned long ago that if I were to sell my writings, people would have to pay me. I wasn't going to pay them. 

Now I'm not talking about contests. That's entirely another cup of tea. But just as dangerous. Learn to verify, validate, check and double check. Never spend money on your writing unless you are absolutely sure you are getting value for it.

Track down who says what contest is good and which are the ones to avoid. The information is out there. Use it. Look before you leap. Validate before you spend. And only send something when you think it really has a chance, otherwise, keep working on it and yes, it can seem to take forever.

In the end if you want to be a writer you will.

Nothing will stop you. No one will hold you back. It's something that just has to come out, and it will. But how soon, how wisely and how effectively will you be at the post creative process, the marketing, selling, spreading around the word of your brand, your name?

It seldom happens overnight. For some it does. Luck does have something to do with it, sometimes even nepotism. But the skill has to be there to begin with. You have to be in the right place, have the (right) material available if someone asks. Make sure it's golden and don't fear success. The fear of success is a big killer of so many talented people. Just as they are making it they sabotage themselves, fearful of failure or in not knowing how to handle success when it happens, usually unexpectedly.

A famous author once said he wallpapered his home office with rejection slips until a wall was full. Then he filled another and another and then started on another room. I took that to heart only I kept a scrapbook of them until finally one day I got accepted and realized I was sad that I didn't get a rejection slip in order to see what theirs would have looked like.

I had to convince myself this sale was good. This after all was what I had been shooting for, for years. After a few days I did start to feel good about it. 100% good. You have to steel yourself to the reality of the pain of the business, the let downs, the lack of returned calls or emails, the rejections. Everyone is hustling and they forget you quickly if you're not right in front of them.

Talk about an industry with ADHD! The entertainment industry is brutal. You're only as good as your last work. You only exist if someone already wants you. To get a job you have to have had the job before. So on and on. 

But when it works, when you make a sale, when someone says how good you are or you see or read or hear someone compliment your works, it's really pretty amazing. But you have to get that going in a steady and continuous stream in order to make it all worth it. Otherwise, what you have is just a hobby. 

Make up your mind. Is this going to be a hobby or a business? Because if it's a business then you have to be professional. You have to do the work. It's hard work, just like any job. Don't just love the romance of being a writer, because so many do that and then fail or give up. Learn to love the hard, lonely hours spent producing words on a page. Love the process. Love the journey. The destination then will come but if you only love the romance or the destination, you may find yourself sorely lost.

So many marriages fail because people don't get that it can work and should be work because anything you really and truly love and want, takes effort to achieve and hang onto. Otherwise it's gone on the next tide. And that tide is relentless. So you have to be too. 

Success comes to those who wait it out, who work harder than they need to, who always expand their horizons so they will be ready for whatever comes their way. Inevitably when opportunity knocks on your door, you won't be ready or in the mood or it will be wearing a disguise just begging you to say no, to turn away or to give up. 

Remember that one all important thing if you want success.

Well okay, I don't really know what that is and it can be different for everybody. You have to find what that is, for you.

Just know that when it shows up, you'd better be ready for it because it will come at you full bore and from an oblique angle. You won't see it, you won't be ready for it and you may not even notice it when it zips by.

But if you do notice it, grab hold, hang on and the final key is...don't let go. Because then is when things get really interesting.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Bridge to American Citizens

I recently watched the film of Billy Joel's first trip to play in Russia in 1987: "Billy Joel: A Matter of Trust - The Bridge to Russia".

A very moving film.

I've been a fan of Vladimir Vysotsky for decades, around the time perhaps that Billy first learned of him while in Russia. In the film he said that he saw a line of people waiting to leave flowers on Vysotsky's grave, and that he was surprised to find that it was much longer than the one for Lenin's.


Vysotsky was a national hero who sung what he couldn't say aloud in public.

So at the next concert for the Russians, Billy dedicated a song to him, his song, "Honesty". It was so very touching and the Russians, those that understood, really appreciated it. It gave the song so much more depth, meaning, emotion.

That made me think of how the Russians felt and how they wanted honesty from their government. Which made me think of our own government and all the shenanigans going here in our expensively "free" country.

If only our own government would treat us overall like their own constituents, not just those of their Party. Because especially now a days being voted into office needs more concern about the country as a whole.

There has for some time been an issue in America between we the citizens and those we empower to run things for us.

Allow me to repeat that.

We empower YOU politicians, to run things for... US.

So why is that so hard for them to understand? Can they simply not hear reality over the roar of their egos and the flopping of checks from special interests flooding their inboxes?

This is an issue in both major parties but mostly exemplified and most easily exposed in the Republican party. The party of business and big money.
I would argue this is even more true for 2016
Someone recently said that they believe there is no longer a republican party at all, just a conglomeration of individual interests under the same now defunct party name. I had said myself a few years ago that the republican party was self destructing and that we would soon see it implode. Has it?

I had also then said that it looked like it was dissolving at that time and finally perhaps now it is after all dead though it's bloated, lumbering zombie-like corpse is still wandering around the national political scene, abusing us all and, itself.

As a zombie it may never "die", as it continues to make money for the rich, steal that money for the not rich in a kind of zombie "Trickle UP" economy, where all the money we make goes to the top few.

As Bernie Sanders said last week, we need a political revolution.

We need the rich to begin to see themselves as our saviors and not just as our masters, not just as a bank machine for their pleasures.

To those rich ones (like the rather slimy Koch brothers) who try so hard to be a political cancer in America, to those trying to abscond with our government and money, we say this:

Just be honest with us, as best you can be, because your partisanship is just not important to us as a nation. You need to consider if you are a minority voice, speaking only for themselves and then remember that they are not the entire country; that you and those in your pocket... government people... American servants, need to consider that in depth; to weigh that against the whole of the country; against what is best not just for you and your purchased constituents, but for the entire country; and as it also relates to the entire world.

This is no longer and has no longer been the case for decades now where one can concern themself only about themselves and theirs. We are all on the same lifeboat called Earth. If only you could get that through your leaded skull into your thickly calcified brain, then you could convince all your friends of the truth and depth of that concept.

Because you sir or lady (not that you deserve such a highly vaulted title), are not an island unto this world. Nor are your positions, your constituents, or your Party entities separate from all others who walk upon us.

Stop the stupidity of so many of your foolish beliefs, your disingenuous rantings, many of which you obviously do not even truly believe yourself. Otherwise, you would show yourself to be a fool, if not just a charlatan.

Denying climate change, putting down women, restricting their State given rights as well as the rights of voters? Trying to damage the office of the president and the President, apparently at all costs?

Sure many people claim these are "just my opinion". Really? Opinion, based on what? As John Oliver recently put it on his excellent HBO show:Last Week Tonight, referencing a Gallup poll showing one in four Americans believe climate change isn’t real:

"Who gives a shit? You don’t need people’s opinion on a fact. You might as well have a poll asking: “Which number is bigger, 15 or 5?” or “Do owls exist?” or “Are there hats?”"

I got that from an excellent article by Jeff Rouner on Houston Press, No, It’s Not Your Opinion. You’re Just Wrong. Check it out.

Anyway, how about trying instead to be supportive of our national government, even though your striving to support your own constituents and party. Try it. Raise them up. Enlighten them,. Enlighten yourselves. Force yourself out of your stodgy conservative ways, your self-serving, self aggrandizing bubbles and realize that we need action, but action in the right directions.

We can no longer afford to be concerned only about our own selves, our tiny minded group, our own desires. We have to consider what is best for our nation and the world and you my friend, are never going to get there in the way you are traveling now. You are outdated. You will suffer for this in the long run. The tide seems to be changing in part becuase of all the instant media and internet which you've abused, and which is now coming back around to eye you, hungrily, just as you have eyed us.

Above all else we need honesty from our government and officials so as not to be just another fascist regime like the old Soviet. The likes of which produced such voices of dissent as Vysotsky, when all others were fearful to speak out against those abusing the nation at the top.

We need a wave of progress in our government. More Bernie Sanders types.

We need from our leaders, a bridge to the American citizen. To all of us, not just to a select few. We need voting to start working correctly, big money to stop deciding our leaders. Real people to really lead.

We also need to have them start sharing with us as a part of them, not as their enemies, separate from them, such as we are, their employers.

In what business does it work to have those in charge so unaware of those beneath them doing all the work? Only in those businesses that fail, surely. Look around. We've been failing, though we are now pulling ourselves up off the bottom of the barrel thought still our infrastructures are deteriorated. Our digital bandwidth is suffering and 2nd class, our capitalism is defective and has taken over.

Those of power and wealth need to treat us not as their minions but as those in their charge to care for, protect, in an honest effort to serve America the ideal and the country, the citizens and the legacy, to prepare for our future and not just our present for only a few. Propping us up, props them up. Not propping them up, props us up as in their laughable "trickle down economy" shell switch con game.

They need not to just pummel us with their own not infrequently ludicrous beliefs while they push only for their own self-protective, self-serving self-interests. They need to share the wealth. I know, something hard for the greedy to understand. And....

Yes, I know, I know....boring. Right?

But it's all true and someone has to say it.

Don't we all? Don't we all need to say it? Over and over, over and over again, and again, until change finally is inevitable?

Hope springs eternal they say. But hope requires action.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Prepping for the Apocalypse - Sci Fi, or just Life?

I love a good science fiction, horror film or apocalypse book or film. But those are fiction. Reality can be far different. Though there are many good and well thought out ides used in many of those stories.

However some people get easily carried away with this prepping thing, cuz, you know, the apocalypse is right around the corner. Right? Okay, probably not realistically speaking.

That's really what it's all about. What's real and what's perceived or feared. Fear, is the mind killer, someone said.

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
― "Litany Against Fear" Frank Herbert, Dune

All of this kind of stuff is just risk analysis. It requires a study in the dynamics of that kind of thing. If you live in the wrong place in the Middle East right now, having prepped for bad times is probably a good thing. Except, someone more powerful will probably come along and take it, and possibly kill you first. But if you live in the UK or America, just how important is it to be so ready at the drop of a hat, to deal with no infrastructure, no food, no water no security?

Let's say you prep full out, you have your guns, maybe even a truck loaded with everything you'll need to "bug out" and hit the trails, running for the high ground, or some secluded areas you know about where you would expect to find very few in the case of a national degeneration of the government.

What if then, as you're "heading for the hills" as fast as you ccan, someone simply takes it all from you?

After all in having all that stuff, to anyone else who has no qualms about taking from others if they had a mortal need for what other have and they don't, you'd then simply be turned into a target. All your work over all that time, possibly years of acquiring things, all the money you would have spent, all of that labor and financial expense would simply turn out to have just been a hobby.

Let's say you prep your home for disaster and then finally one day, it strikes. Someone bursts into your home. They don't harm you but they take all your goods. Then all that money, effort, scrimping and storing would all go for naught.

Or let's say you do not do any prep. Maybe you die first. Or maybe someone takes you in and makes you a part of their family and you survive just fine. Maybe you are head of a family and you are responsible for others, especially children. So then you'd want to be more prepared than if you lived alone or didn't have any dependents. What then?

I look at all this like a fire drill.

What really makes sense? Well, it makes sense to know a way out of a burning building and to talk to your kids about it, to do a run through with them Because it's been proven that practicing something decreases fear and mistakes during an actual crisis. Even POWs have shown to handle their situation in captivity if they first have had POW training and experienced a mock up of what it would or could be like and have some examples of how to handle things under those conditions.

That gets down to experience and skillsets. Is it better to give someone food, or teach them to fish, as they say? Food lasts until it is gone. But knowing how to get more can sustain you for good.

That's how I look at all this.

If all the grocery stores are out of food, if the power grid goes down for a month along with the water system, what happens to you? What would you have available, both in your home and without? Nearby. Far away. What are your resources? Sometimes remote is better than nearby. These are the questions you need to answer, before tragedy strikes because once it does, it's too late.

We all tend to have some back stock in our home. But how much and how well do you rotate your back stock?

For myself I really don't need to go to a Costco type store more than every couple of weeks, or longer sometimes. Once in a while I will stretch it out longer just to use up what I have and clear out any older stuff and then rebuild. Though I do go in between locally for some minor things as unforeseen issues crop up.

What therefore would be MY concerns? I should probably address and have on hand at least a modicum of back stock or knowledge of where I can replenish supplies. But I also need to know where it's guaranteed to be if I need it. Otherwise, I need it to exist within my home.

We need to at least think over all this and consider it ahead of time.

And maybe do something about it. Whatever it is you would need to do. Watch survival movies. Horror movies are also actually good to watch in order to put you in a mind set for this kind of thing. They are not all good for this kind of thing but some are and some are better than others.

Because if the worst happens, you may find you have no idea what you will need, or what you might end up going through, or what preparation could or should have been done ahead of time.

Just don't go nuts over it. But give it some pre-consideration and do take some steps toward being self sufficient. The government suggests to have a couple of weeks of goods stored up should some disaster strike. In the US we have the National Guard and FEMA to help during your basic national disaster situation but as we've seen in the past in hurricane and earthquake disasters with flooding and roads being washed out, assistance doesn't always get to you in a timely fashion.

You may need at least for a while to be able to protect you and yours, to supply your family with sustenance in order to survive until help arrives or if they never do, so that you can become self sufficient in a new way. One without stores, without money, without supplies or a supply chain. You may have to deal with others trying to take from you what is yours. You may find you are taking care of others you had never foreseen you might have to take care of.

These are all things you have to think about before it is too late.

You may know how to get out of your house should it catch on fire at 2AM, but do you know how to get away from your house, your neighborhood, your city, should you ever need to? Do you know where safe zones would be to get away from the public?

If you try to get out of town do you know the fastest route? The fastest route when all the roads are gridlocked, or damaged? The ways out of town on foot if need be? Places to hole up during the journey either on foot or in a vehicle?

Perhaps waiting till the roads free up would be best way to go. Perhaps the longer you take getting out of town, the more dangerous the urban areas get as there become fewer and fewer people around.Do you leave town for open or closed areas? High altitude or low areas, near or far from large bodies of water?

Know your territory. Know your options, so that you have options.

In many cases seeking out the public would actually be the way to go as those are where the National Guard and others will seek to locate and supply. But if things were to go horribly wrong, you may need to avoid those areas say in the event of severe contagion and a lack of inoculations or medical care.

The point of all this is, disaster is not just a sci fi show on TV, or a horror film. Things do happen. But they do not happen all the time and so to live expecting it is questionable. As they say, plan for the worst hope for the best and live accordingly.

Learn a few skills that require no electricity, like how to live off the land. A weapon is handy be it a gun, a bow and arrows (and practice using them), a sword even or just a sharp stick. There are always weapons at hand with a little alteration.

Have at least a few of the right books and not an ipad with ebooks on it as no electricity can mean no ebooks. Books on basic medical procedures in the field, on survival, hunting, how to pick food in a forest. During a disaster where you may have to hide from other people, know your accessible forests, caves, and so on.

Places that are good for hiding in. The more viable supplies, potable (drinkable) water is good but it's not going to last that long anyway and really is, as many don't realize, just there to get you through till your government arrives or if they never do, aides you through that transition period of going from a monied economy to a barter, or self sufficient one.

In the end, should something ever happen, DON'T PANIC! Act.

What's the best way to avoid panic? It's to have considered whatever can happen before hand. Forewarned is forearmed, after all.