Monday, January 30, 2012

Writing for speed, for fast reading

Time. We all feel pressed for it. We want more, we have little, we try to save it, kill it, find it, or abuse it. So when we read, how does the time we have affect it?

I don't write to be read quickly. I never have. I can, I just don't enjoy it as much as letting the words flow unimpeded. I don't really like to read quickly, myself. I do it, but mostly it is for taking in data. A news article, a methodology, a new technology. But reading for pleasure? I like to enjoy it. Read a really long book if it's good, or take my time getting through it if it's short.

I write as I like to read, so that it takes some brain power to take it all in. I want to feel my mind gently massaged by the author, then have the rug pulled out from beneath me from time to time. It's not just about tension building, it's also about utilizing my mind while I'm reading. It is for me, anyway.

But I've noticed recently that author's are (and to be fair, they are being bullied into) writing so that people can read as fast as possible. Let's face it, people are lazy anymore. They want movies, not books. So the writing today has to be written more and more in a manner that is, as I've recently heard it stated, "crisp, clean and clear". That sounds great, right? But you have to ask yourself a question.

Why? Why does it have to be so clear? Sounds like a stupid question, doesn't it. But it's not, really. It's because to read fast you have to have text like that, don't you?

When I was a kid in eighth grade in Catholic school, I was taught the Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics method in my Washington State History class. Back then people like JFK and learned it and his Vice Pres. LBJ, and other big time government and business people. I got up to 10,000 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This was up from 250 words a minute at 60-70% comprehension. I was shocked when I heard that, I thought I read faster and understood and retained more. They told us that 350wpm was about average. I was below average. When it came to reading something that was deep, or say a text book, you still had to slow down, possibly even back to 3-500 words per minute.

After I started to use the method, reading was like watching a movie. But after a while, I quit doing it. I quit doing it because while reading a good book, I wanted to spend time with it. I wanted it to take a week to read it, or more. I wanted to luxuriate in it. Some books were so good, I wanted to spend a month reading them, or a year. I actually limited myself to reading a certain number of pages per day so the book would last longer; so that I could have time from day to day to ruminate, to wallow in it.

But we don't have that kind of time anymore. We need everything quickly, we want everything right now, or before. And I think that is sad. I've read some books that were so deep and interesting, I couldn't get through a page very fast at all. I would even have to re-read parts several times. Something that method taught me that was important; that if you don't understand what you are reading, re-read it until you do.

But I found it was mind-stimulating, it tickled my brain, it was fun. I loved it.

Clive back when Pinhead wasn't so well known
And so my desire has always been to write in such a way as to enjoy the ride and not just the destination. As example the difference between Steven King and Clive Barker. King tells a good story but his prose isn't so much fun to read and sometimes it's kind of annoying and long in the tooth. He's not even a bit long in the tooth either, he's simply, long. With Clive, I almost don't care where he takes me, I just enjoy his words and how he puts them together. He is after all, an artist.

There are other author's like James Branch Cabell, with his novel "Jurgen", where it literally made me giggle in places with what he did to my mind (yes and that says a lot, I, me, giggled, that is pretty unheard of). I would have to stop at times and take a breath. Now that, is a book! I should say that others I know have read that book and didn't get a thing out of it.

But that doesn't explain the small cult following that Cabell has.

I had a friend recently read a book I'm writing. She returned it saying, "Too many words!" It was not quite the review that I was looking for. But after a day or so, it started to make sense to me on several levels. I started reading it from the beginning with as clear a mind as I could muster, having written it in the first place.

I found that I had simply made it too hard, and she is very bright, intelligent. If it was hard for her, it was hard. I had made the text, but more so, I had made the overall story, too inaccessible. There was no lead up to the hard stuff. No slide to open with, just a hill. More a wall perhaps. There is writing to slow things down, and there is throwing up a wall.  I didn't want a wall, I wanted a hill, but not right at the beginning. After for any reader, you have to sell their continuing on. So at the beginning, I wanted a slide. The art of this is in skiing smoothly along that fine line between the two.

Think of it as being on an exercise machine with variable speeds. You don't want to start with the hardest settings, you want to start easy, then have a variable hard and easy program to make it the most effective. But you also don't want it hard or easy all the way. Giving yourself rest periods is the most effective and you will get in shape the fastest and in the most healthy way possible.

So I took the book and reviewed it. I figured it out in the end that if I reversed the timeline, to make the beginning easier, more accessible, I would draw the reader in, get them invested. Then, I would offer them the harder stuff, the deeper stuff. By then, they would be invested enough that they would not find it easy to put down. Then, they would want to finish it. I would have opened enough doors that they would want to learn enough to close them all in hopefully, an ending that would be cathartic and rewarding.

In doing that one thing, reversing the timeline (as I saw it), it changed the book completely. Of course, then I had to massage the prose into an appropriate form to make it flow. I had to write new material to link it all together and in that process I got a new book out of it that I found pretty amazing.

But that  also put me at 678 pages and that brought up another issue. Length. eBooks on Amazon, Createspace and elsewhere, have limitations on the size. And now again, we're into that speed issue. What are readers looking for in their Kindles, their eReaders? They want easily accessible writings they can read on the bus, pick up at a moment's notice and start off where they left off.

That means, you can't really be reading a very deep piece of work. And so we need to write more shallow content. Don't we?

Is that what we really want? Or, need? Need in the way of our minds really need? Or simply need in the way of our time constraints?

My Gramma with George Liberace at the Tacoma Elks Lodge
When I was young, my grandmother, a guiding light in my life, told me that when you read books, you should pick a book that will teach you something, change you in some way. Challenge you. She said that every other book you read, should be above your level, difficult to read; you shouldn't even understand some of it. Then you can read a book for fun for your next book.

But now  a days, we have gotten into simply reading for fun. We have become a world, or at least a nation, of fun seekers. Life is about fun, we think. That is the most important thing in the world (to us).

On a side note, I was asked the other day by a new writer how I would write a novel. I said there are three ways to do it. Write an outline, then keep filling it in until it is a novel. Clive Barker once told me that was how he was writing his books. Another is to write multiple essays and link them together in some way. Chelsea Handler has written her New York Times Best Sellers that way. The other is simply to write, then fix it as you rewrite it, reorganize it. This latter is how I write short stories. The essays are how I write longer pieces or for instance, the novel I'm working on. But in the end, you have to choose your own method, one of those or another; whatever works for you, though.

So, I'm left in a conundrum. They say, write how you write, that is how the great writers have done it. But some of them have the Van Gogh syndrome and have become famous after death. Am I into posterity, or making a living? Bettering the quality of my somewhat difficult life now, or to be venerated after I pass on? I assume it is a fine line between those two things.

My decision? Simply to continue doing what I've been doing. I write something for myself, then for the masses. Perhaps who knows, maybe one day I will find a way, become a good enough writer, for it all to come together.

Now, all that being said, either way of reading is just fine. Whatever makes you happy. I merely wanted to point out that I think we've lost taking our time in reading, enjoying the prose as well as the story. Enjoying not just the ride as well as the destination but the quality of the vehicle we're riding in.
Graphic for my first published short story
But there is one thing that bothers me. The first short story I ever got published I wrote for myself. My friends were complaining about my stories being too confusing. So I promised to write easier to read stories, after, I wrote just one more where I could let it all hang out. I wrote above the standard 9-12th grade level, as newspapers and magazines, at least, were written back then in 1991. I wrote it to purge myself, knowing I would then have to start writing only in a much more simple way. Then, I sent it out to magazines and it became my first published fiction story.

So what do you learn from that? Don't listen to your friends?

It wasn't very supportive of the theory that I needed to write more simply, more directly. Still, it is all kind of up in the air until you find your voice; perhaps more so, until you find your audience; and I am still at that junction. I've tried short stories, but you can't really make a living at just writing those. I've been writing screenplays and that is coming along well, but really it has little to do with prose. So, perhaps the novel is where I should have been all this time. I guess I will just keep doing what I am doing, and one day, it will all fall together.

Time will tell, after all.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Our Strange Culture and the Patriot Act

Before I get started, allow me a moment to wish you all a Happy Chinese New Year of the Dragon. Gong Xi Fa Cai (Mandarin) and Gong Hey Fat Choy (Cantonese)! I hope this new year becomes a happy event for all.


Now to get started. We do have a rather "Strange Culture" anymore, from what I know of it, anyway. First, let me just say outright that we need to repeal the so very unpatriotic (and so called), "Patriot Act".

I see nothing Patriotic in it. In fact, it strikes me as a rather cowardly, fear mongering act of a bunch of "cowboys" who were in office at the time (cough, cough, Bush, Bush....).

We do not now have a culture like we did when that act was being discussed, nor like when it was passed, nor even afterward. IF there are "terrorists" out there trying to get us, I have two things to say about that. One, we have laws covering this already. Two, if there is a culture in the world where people want to kill us, we need to be adult about it, intellectual about it, figure out what the problem is, and fix it. Or simply draw faster then they do.

Also, this is what we have "intelligence" agencies for. If you cut their resources so they have no money to do their job, as they started doing in the 80s, then this is the situation you will find yourself in. But you don't throw out the constitution because this is hard on us. That, is what I find "cowardly".

Otherwise, the Patriot Act is simply yet another American easy way out method of "fixing" our troubles.

I just watched a documentary called, "Strange Culture". What a strange thing it was. Strange, scary, irritating. Remember when the government used to fun the Arts? Why did things go so wrong, that this is a no go any longer? Who was mismanaging our Government so that we cannot afford to move forward on the path to more leisure for our citizens, and more arts and sciences? And not sciences solely for the benefit of the corporations.
Hope Kurtz
The "Strange Culture" documentary is about an art Professor and professional artist woke to find his wife had died in bed. She was young in her forties, attractive, and fully supportive of her husband and the art collective he was involved in. When the paramedics came to their home, they saw part of the new art project he was working on and called someone. Soon, the FBI got involved.

It's a cause and a situation that had brought in the likes of actress Tilda Swinton as Hope, Jay Ryan as Steve, along with Peter Coyote and Wallace Shawn Thomas.

From Wikipedia:
Steve Kurtz - Really, this guy is a Terrorist?
"Steve Kurtz is a professor of art at the SUNY Buffalo, former professor of art history at Carnegie Mellon University and a founding member of the performance art group, Critical Art Ensemble. He is known for his work in BioArt, and Electronic Civil Disobedience, and because of his arrest by the FBI in May 2004. His work often deals with social criticism."

Rather than simply first listening to what the artist had to say and checking it out, they became proactive and rather than check out intellectually, using "intelligence" (in the information gathering sense, as well as in the use your damn head, sense) to discern what he had actually been doing, which would also have saved the US citizen millions I'm sure, they instead treated the Professor like he was a "terrorist".

This man, who was distraught over the death of his wife, was harangued, harassed, indicted, and put on trial. A process that lasted several years and cost him his money, time, energy, and nearly his sanity and his health and could have ended him up in prison. For having done, nothing, illegal.

Is this the kind of America we want? Because it seems to me that if it is, then we aren't any longer the tough, self-assured kinds of American I've always known us to be. Rather we have somehow morphed into a bunch of school girls, fearful of the playground bullies.

Steve's friends started a petition when all this started up. Some of his art students signed it. But some were afraid to. Why? Why, were US citizens, of the "greatest country in the history of the world", afraid of their own government, of speaking out under the First Amendment, of standing up to say they believed someone was innocent? Innocent until proven guilty. Unless someone labels you as a "terrorist".

And what is a terrorist? Is it someone you "think" might be one, or do something that makes them one, or is it someone who has done a terrorist act? Yes, it would be nice to catch terrorists before they act. But look at what it's gotten us. People afraid to speak out when they know someone is innocent.


The "Patriot Act".

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Special Ed. - Update on 1/18 from Fight for the Future

I received this in an email yesterday about the 1/18 blackout:

[Yesterday] was nuts, right?

Google launched a petition.  Wikipedia voted to shut itself off.  Senators' websites went down just from the sheer surge of voters trying to write them.   NYC and SF geeks had protests that packed city blocks.

You made history today: nothing like this has ever happened before.  Tech companies and users teamed up.  Tens of millions of people who make the internet what it is joined together to defend their freedoms.  The free network defended itself.  Whatever you call it, the bottom line is clear: from today forward, it will be much harder to mess up the internet. 

The really crazy part?  We might even win.

Approaching Monday's crucial Senate vote there are now 35 Senators publicly opposing PIPA.  Last week there were 5.   And it just takes just 41 solid "no" votes to permanently stall PIPA (and SOPA) in the Senate.  What seemed like miles away a few weeks ago is now within reach. 

But don't trust predictions.  The forces behind SOPA & PIPA (mostly movie companies) can make small changes to these bills until they know they have the votes to pass.  Members of Congress know SOPA & PIPA are unpopular, but they don't understand why--so they're easily duped by superficial changes.  The Senate returns next week, and the next few days are critical.  Here are two things to think about:

1. Plan on calling your Senator every day next week.  Pick up the phone each morning and call your Senators' offices, until they vote "no" on cloture.  If your site participated today, consider running a "Call the Senate" link all next week.

2. Tomorrow, drop in at your Senators' district offices.  We don't have a cool map widget to show you the offices nearest you (we're too exhausted! any takers?).  So do it the old fashioned way: use Google, or the phonebook to find the address, and just walk in, say you oppose PIPA, and urge the Senator to vote "no" on cloture.  These drop-in visits make our spectacular online protests more tangible and credible.

That's it for now. Be proud and stay on it!

--Holmes, Tiffiniy, and the whole Fight for the Future team.


P.S. Huge credit goes to participants in the 11/16 American Censorship Day protest: Mozilla, 4chan, BoingBoing, Tumblr, TGWTG, and thousands of others.  That's what got this ball rolling!  Reddit, both the community and the team behind it, you're amazing.  And of course, thanks to the Wikimedians whose patient and inexorable pursuit of the right answer brought them to take world-changing action. Thanks to David S, David K, Cory D, and E Stark for bold action at critical times.

P.P.S. If you haven't already, show this video to as many people as you can. It works!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Special Ed. - SOPA and PIPA Protest

January 18th, 2012 is the largest online protest in history, to stop theinternet censorship bills, SOPA & PIPA. Join in by blacking out your siteand urging everyone you can reach to contact Congress now.
I was actually against the internet becoming money based way back in the 80s when we thought it (information) should be free. We were right, we were wrong. We had no idea it would turn into what it has, back then. Good things have happened on the web, I have to admit. But there is still plenty of room for it to remain free and open. Yes, we have to protect intellectual properties. But not to the exclusion of what we thought was its original purpose: to serve the people; to protect the people from their own government and that of others; to make the arts, information and knowledge free to all (or at least that in the public domain, and thanks wikipedia); to bring Humankind closer together; to make that which is hidden from us, more transparent. It has now also, and was starting to be apparent back then, been made obvious that the biggest threat to the people is from corporations in capitalistic countries and the government leaders in communist and dictatorial countries. So far so good (Arab Spring). So let's not let it slide into the dark any further than it has already.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Original screenplay, or adaptation?

I'm going through some changes as I've explained in my page on this blog. So from now on, I'll be shooting for only Monday morning blogs. There may be others now and again but I plan to maintain my Monday blog as my main one.

Now, to the point.

Someone asked the other day if you should write a novel before a screenplay, or just write the screenplay. The question was also asked whether the novel adaptation didn't give you more copyright protections.

Frankly, about copyright, I'm just not that concerned for various reasons. Register your screenplay with the US Library of Congress, and/or, the Writers Guild. Now, move on. There is however, in the book field, more of concern now a days about having a platform. Those who are buying would be more interested in your work if you already have followers. If you have a novel, you'll need readers; better yet, followers of your novels, then it's going to be easier to get attention to sell your screenplay.

Writing an original screenplay is fun, hard work and has great amount of freedom. But it can be daunting, especially for a new screenwriter; there are simply too many options to choose from. Adapting a novel however, even your own, supplies you with a ready made road map so you can possibly move faster. Adapting someone else's novel, has it's own built in issues.

For one, it's not the best thing to send in to a screenplay contest, send in one that is original and fully yours. They will want to know you for what you can do, not how you can write someone else's work, transliterating it into screenplay format.

If you are adapting your own novel, it's much easier. If it is someone else's that brings up other issues, including the obvious interpersonal ones. Adapting a novel eliminates some of the need for building and planning. But that brings up issues since what works in a book, won't always work on the screen. You could almost say it seldom works on the screen.

If you've ever seen a film adapted from a book and you didn't like their choices, it can either be lack of skill on the part of the screenwriter, or simply that most books just don't lend themselves easily to screen, unless you tear them apart and rebuild them. At which point you lose some of the readers. But then, if a good movie comes of it, it may be worth it.

After adapting two novels in a row last year, by two different authors, I found it a great pleasure to get back to writing my own original screenplay. It can be pretty frustrating at times adapting a novel because you may find you have to change a single element that can change the entire dynamic of the story, requiring you to go back to the very beginning, to start over. You may at that point want to, or have to, abandon it. On the other hand, that just makes it more of a challenge.

When I got to the end of the screenplay of the second novel I adapted, I realized the story was fundamentally flawed and at that point I had to drop it. Since I had too much other work that I had to get to, I got it to a complete, cleaned up point and laid it down. I may go back to it later, since I put so much work into it, but for now I don't have the time to restructure it. Because it's another author's novel, I felt an obligation to them to try to maintain the original story line as much as I could. The changes I did make, I felt were warranted and actually made the story better. I did what I could to make it work in the time I had to work on it.

Since I need their permission to use their novel before I could sell it, that can run into issues. You certainly can get the paperwork drawn up first so that you can do what you want, but I hadn't done that as I wanted us both happy with the final product. If I was getting paid up front for it, then the paperwork becomes much more important.

I have yet to adapt my own novel but I'm finishing one now that I will later build into a screenplay. As I am the author it will be so much easier to argue with myself over how I'm ruining the book. Hopefully in the end, it will be worth it. Also with it being my own adaptation, I can clearly see the entire thing in depth, unlike with another author's novel.

As to the question, writing a novel first gives you a great back story, depth of story and character; of course, same with another author's work. You can also of course, write the screenplay and later write the novelization of it. I suppose it can work either way and both have benefits.

I like the freedom I have in writing an original screenplay without a novel first. But I see value in both. I don't think I would ever always write a novel first and then adapt it. It only takes doing it once to see why. But neither would I never adapt a novel. But then I'm kind of like that. I enjoy the variety and the challenge.

What I've found however is that by writing in one format and adapting to the other, you flesh out elements you wouldn't normally notice in only a single format. Then adding that, if it's useful, to the other format, you will have a more complete story. And story is what it's all about.

As an example, I have a short story "Sarah". I originally wrote it as a short story but I've written it to screenplay format. I've since gone back and forth between formats updating it as it developed from within one format to the other. After all that, last night I found an ending that was perfect and I wouldn't have found that, I'm pretty sure, if I had not been going back and forth like that.

In the end, it's all good. Try many different things. The more you do, the more you learn. That goes in any field. That's why liberal arts degrees give you a more rounded background in the end. But eventually you will need to settle on what is going to get you the furthest. Consider you only have so much time and energy. Put it into what will push you along in your efforts the furthest.

Basically, write. Write a lot.Write all the time. And send it out. No manuscript or screenplay ever got sold sitting in a dusty closet being forgotten.

Friday, January 13, 2012

"Did you exchange, a walk-on part in the war, for a lead role in a cage?"

One of the seminal lines in my young life, while in my twenties, was this line:

"Did you exchange, a walk-on part in the war, for a lead role in a cage?"

That line in Pink Floyd's 1975 album and title song, "Wish you were here" was a banner that my friends and I followed through the late 70s. 

Pink Floyd are probably more well known for their "Dark Side of the Moon" album and their songs, "Time" and "Money". Or their later work on "The Wall" album and film. But "Wish you were here", was a magical album for some of us. It was no "Dark Side of the Moon", to be sure, but it had it's own kind of charm.

I was in the Air Force at the time, what we called, "The War". Compared to my previous life, just being in the military felt like "War". But it was peacetime; still it felt like a war to us. Mostly a way between us younger people and the Sergeants and Officers. But, we had what we felt was a "walk-on part in the War", there was no war, so it wasn't active; rather it was an easy, "walk-on" role. We wondered, what would a "lead role in a cage" be?

It was all cerebral, no one was shooting at us. The "enemy" was the establishment, the administration, the government, our superiors (though we didn't really think most of them were very much superior to us).

Certainly you cannot now compare our experience with that of soldiers in Vietnam, or more recently, the Middle East wars. But we didn't have that to contend with.

I remember in Basic Training, we were lead into a classroom and given our "72 hour briefing". By that time, actually by the first fifteen minutes after arriving, many of us had realized we had made a big mistake. At the briefing, we were told that "up to this point, any of you, could have, at any time, walked away with no ramifications whatsoever. You were free to leave. But as of this briefing, you no longer have that right. You are not Airmen in the United States Air Force and if you now try to leave, you will be considered AWOL, Away Without Official Leave, and you will be brought back, and you will be prosecuted."

I remember, everyone looking around at one another and the looks on their faces. Because the only reason some of us hadn't already left, was because we thought we were already able to be prosecuted, or given an other than honorable discharge, something you don't want following you around all your life. So we were pretty bummed. There were a few acknowledgements of cursing in the seats and a few smiles from our Technical Instructors (TIs). That was our first real beat down. We had been yelled at and given a hard time and we thought that was our beat downs, but we had just learned that we were way out of our league here.

The TI then told us that for anyone in the Flight (a group of fifty guys) who had thought that they would join the Air Force to get away from their mommies and daddies, they had just made the worst mistake of their young lives. Because by time they got done with us, they will be wishing to God they were dealing with only mom and dad. This was not the place to run off to if you want to get away from being told what to do, and when and how to do it. More worried looks from the seats.

Oddly enough I went in Law Enforcement, a Cop, then ended up in Survival Equipment

By time I got to my main base, after Lackland BMTS and after Chunute AFB training school,  I was pretty indoctrinated. I swore along with others of my acquaintance, not to let them beat us down, break us, or make us drones. It became very important to us to remain individuals. We realized the need for teamwork, for being able to follow to group in order to complete our mission and survive in a war situation; but we wanted to hold on to our belief that we were individuals, we were in control of our destinies and we were not "own" by the government.

I can remember whenever two or more of us would be walking down the street, we'd quickly realize that we were walking in locked step. We would do everything we could to walk out of step, but within a minute, we would be marching along together once again. That was extremely frustrating and concerning to us at the time.

After days and weeks and months and eventually years of doing the same damn job day in and day out, dealing with orders to do what we were told time and again, some of these things banal and ridiculous, after a long time of being frustrated at the military lifestyle, it became even more important to us to maintain our individuality. We would grow our hair long, wear our olive drab fatigues in a way to get away with it hopefully but wear them in some way, differently than everyone else. Few got away with that.

We'd try to wear our hats differently. That didn't work. If you're hair was long, you got a $50 ticket from the Law Enforcement guys, and even more demoralizing, you then had to pay for your own haircut, even thought you didn't want one, and had to already pay a $50 ticket.

I can remember one day, "California" Dan, came into the back shop and was upset about yet again, something like this happening to him, some burden our being in the military had put upon him once again. He was from California and was a tall, lanky, kind of odd character, but intereting, passionate (too much so for our or his own good, at times) and was one of my best friends. I had grown up in Washington state, just north of him in Tacoma. We had grown up in very different lifestyles but were both pretty much rebels.

However, I was a little older than him and had figured out how work the system. He was pissed off yet again about something. Angry at the powers that be and I remember him reminding me about the line, saying that he didn't want to be one who sold out, and he was worried that they would win, and his personliaty (which like mine, was bigger than life, but his was out on his sleeve for everyone to see and poke at):

"Did you exchange, a walk-on part in the war, for a lead role in a cage?"

That was when I realized just how much of an impact Pink Floyd had had on my, on our, lives. We hung tenaciously on to that concept of maintaining our individuality. We were not going to be "Lifers". There were two types of individual who went on beyond an initial six year service, the "Career" guys who could be guys like us, who wanted to retire at thirty-eight with twenty years in; and the "Lifers" who were generally complete assholes, hard, possibly redneck, macho types. We avoided them like the plague.

We did our work, biding our time, waiting to hit that day at which you become a "two digit midget" and have less than 99 days left in service; then the glory of almost, that penultimate, "one digit midget", and finally, you're out. It was a time we thought would never arrive. Four years active service, then a fearful two years out of uniform of inactive service, waiting to be called back, for a war to happen, for them to find something you did wrong and pull you back in, possibly to go to jail. I saw that happen, too.

Getting out, seemed a far fetch dream and until then we had exchanged a "walk on part in the 'war' for a lead role in a 'cage'." In this case, the "war" was Life and the "cage" was the military. We felt like we were in prison. We used to say that our situation was worse than being in prison because there, you had people forcing you to return to your situation. But in the service, we got off work, got to go home off base, but then in the morning, of our own recognizance, we had to force ourselves to return, as much as we didn't want to.

It meant to us that we had sold out in a way. All we had to do, not to return, was not return. But then we did.

Sucks being antisocial, a rebel, in the underground, or the "Brotherhood" as some termed it; those who led a life not sanctioned by the powers that be. We called work, "The Farm" and the barracks, for any sad enough to be single and unable to officially move off base, it was called, "The Zoo", because of something the guys that lived there and did weird things.

It was a strange time for us young guys. It was hard to get through and required drink and partying from time to time. Trying to act and feel normal while not being a part of it (the military). I probably had the longest hair on base, and never once got a ticket. Which was weird for my friends, some of whom had gotten several. Because I learned the rules, the regs, the tech manuals, and became very good at my work, I became "The Chosen" for my shop.

I made my boss look good, earned days off from passing tests I was tasked to do when traveling inspectors showed up.I kept my appearance perfect. I used Dippity Doo on my hair and wore my hat whenever possible. One time downtown, a civilian clerk at a store wouldn't believe I was in the Air Force until I showed him my ID card with my photo on it. Everyday, as soon as I got home, I showered that hardened gel out of my hair and suddenly, I was transformed into a, Civilian! Amazing. We had to do little things like that to maintain our sanity.

And music, was one of those things that really helped. Being basically rock type guys, we loved listening to rock and roll when we were working in the shop. But our Shop Supervisor was from Texas. So he listened to Country music all the time and back in the late 70s, it sucked. To us anyway. It wasn't what Country is now. So when I took over as Shop Supervisor, life was good.

Finally the day came when I got out. And life was really good. Until I tried to find a job. After being responsible for people's lives, for millions of dollars of equipment, I couldn't get hired at McDonald's. It was pretty sad. After a year of no work, living at my brother's, he talked me into going to college. And I did. And the rest is history. My college years were the best years of my life and led to a lot of great things.

But if it wasn't for some of the music out there, I really don't know how some of us could have made it. And some of us didn't. Even in peacetime, some people don't make it out of their military days alive. But then I had to come back to that question, too. I've been working in IT for years, and I had to work in a cubicle, in an office. I've had friends tell me, who worked out of doors, that they could never work in a cubicle. And again, I had to consider that question, only now, it had a somewhat different meaning; one that I realized, after my services years, changes from time to time throughout life:

"Did you exchange, a walk-on part in the war, for a lead role in a cage?"

Well, now that my kids have grown up and moved out, I've been able to do my job from home. No more cubicle, though I'm still tied to that corporate life. I've also been working very hard now for a few years to be able to make a living through more artistic pursuits, through my writings, and things are progressing well. Not fast enough to be sure, but I'm seeing progress.

One of these days I have high hopes that finally, I will abandon that lead role in a cage, and move on out into greener pastures. It's only a matter of time.

Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here (1975)

So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from Hell,
Blue skys from pain.
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

And did they get you to trade
Your heros for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl,
Year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found?
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Words are our greatest magic

Speak out. Speak intelligently. Think of others, not just yourself. Our government now seems to be run by only the fearful, the greedy (yes, possibly you), the selfish, those of limited vision even when they think they are looking to the future. What future? It is their future. Not our future.

Police beating on the elderly, on women and children, on educators and the spiritual in public demonstrations (what are you so afraid of?).

Arresting people for "public dancing" (really?).

In the final Harry Potter movie (Yes, I'm invoking HP), Prof. Dumbledore say (and how would he feel about all this):

"Words are in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it."'

When we as Humans first developed the use of language, it was the most potent magic we had. One word wrongly used, could get you killed; in many ways, for many reasons.

As we've evolved, we have formed new ways to deliver words, some divorced from us in time and space (recordings, writings, etc.). We have infused our language, we have created multiple languages, and learned more than one. We have created lexicons pertaining only to one thing. In a word, we have diluted the magic of our words to the point that the odd example only seems to be truly effective unless you are a wordsmith and can turn an effective phrase at will.

But there is a good chance that what we have done, has again evolved and that we are in the middle, between the old and the new; perchance one day, words will again have magic, and more than we could ever have concieved of. Physics even supports this.

In rotating certain elements that exist in pairs, by rotating one, it forces its mate, that could be anywhere, any distance away in the universe, to replicate its actions at the same, the very same moment. That includes elements in the brain. It's, "magic" and lends itself to the possibility that true magic is possible. There is even a contention in physics that in all possible dimensions of this one, in another, somewhere else, physics there could be very different than what we know. Perhaps, "magic" is possible in one of them. The old monkey and a typewriter hyposthesis.

It is a consideration that could drive the Role Playing Gamers a little mad with desire, or frustration.

When you consider how one can merely say a few words, or a single word and evoke a response, it;s a kind of magic all of its own. It really is kind of amazing. When you read a really well crafted novel, or a news article, or watch a movie, or a documentary; when you consider the response it can evoke, it really is pretty amazing, don't you think? That without touching something, you can make something happen.

We all have our consciousness raised, hopefully, and thankfully, from one point in our lives to another. Words need to be our magic, we need to share those words. We need all the magic we can get.

Look around the country at the nonsense that is happening. Look who has taken over our government: the ignorant, the cowardly, those fearful of immigrants, losing their money, fear of what? Where are the heroes and the free and brave?

Why does this always degenerate into politics? Hmmm.....

But to not speak out? That is to hide the magic we have at our disposal.

I think we all need to speak out, and the more the better. Hiding in the dark is what those who want to abuse power are hoping for. The Dark Lords, if you will. The Mitt Romney's, the Newt Gingrich's. Possibly, the Barack's.

Remember, the more you hide, well, the more you hide.

Remember about how the governement should fear the people, not the people fear their government. That doesn't happen by hiding. It doesn't mean you have to march in the streets (but please, feel free to do so). It means you have to speak out, change opinion, enlighten, educate, open minds.

Sometimes, grassroots thoughts, just telling what you believe, makes another feel stronger, so that they then tell someone else and, the more who share their thoughts, the better. It's what Hollywood did in the 50's in speaking out through film so that the idiots and conservatives, the fear mongerers, who were too damn stupid to understand, who couldn't see what was right before them, let it pass; and so it shaped the 60s, allowed it to happen. The more you constrict, the more you set up the next expanse. So, in a way, I'm not too panicked. But to see what is happening around us, is scary. 

So don't, NOT speak out. Conversely, speak out as much as possible and in ways that are both clever and decisive. Abandoning the country (you ex pats), hiding your beliefs (let them be the fearful, not you, not us), isn't the bravest way to go about things; it's just the most comfortable. We have been comfortable. Look where it's gotten us. And if you think this, is good, that you've achieved something positive, then you are part of the problem.

Look how well speaking out has worked for those ignorant people, those conservatives, religious types who have subverted our government into the morass of problems we now have. It worked for them. Didn't it?
Years ago, someone in the Christian right realized, "Hey, if we band together, our tiny foolish voices can have an impact, we can change our nation, we can subvert how things are going. Even though we're the minority, we can be thne vocal minority and people will start to think we're the majority, even though we know, we're not."

And they were right, to the decimation of our freedoms. To the propagation of the George W's, the Newts, the flora and fauna of the demise of a great nation.

They meant well, surely they did, in their tiny minds. But they have nearly destroyed a great nation. But not yet. In doing what they have done they have not only achieved their goals in limiting the freedoms of the liberals, the libertines, the progressives, but as always happens, which they didn't seem to get, they are limiting their own freedoms. And it will (and is) coming back to bite them. Foolish, short sited people. Stupid fat little hobbitses.
Religion does as it always does, it holds us to the past, to the limitations, to the small thinking, to the desires of a God understood or created back during a time when eveything really was fearful and limited.

And what do we have now?

A limited bully country, steeped in fear, conservatisim. Is conservatism bad? No, of course not. Not unless it is taking blinding ourselves to its extremes, as we have done. Conservatism doesn't mean, closed mindedness. But it has however, become that.

"Our goal, at all costs". It is fundementalism in its worst form. We might as well become the old Communists of the Soviet Union. Have we bceome, are we becoming, what we have destroyed? And in destroying them, taken on what we have had to learn to be rid of?

Sometimes, it feels like it.

But there is magic in our words. Evoke the magic. Big things come in small ways. Share your thoughts. Allow intelligence to rule. Speak your mind but speak intelligently, use words in an intelligent manner, for the best possible future for all Humankind.

Think, then speak. But speak. The more you think first, the more power your words will have. For therein lay the magic.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ronnie Butler Jr. video

Talent Alert! On the lighter side of things... well sort of, I mean, what Ronnie is singing about, hmmm, I suppose it's kind of got a dark side to it, but in a very cool, very interesting and entertaining way. What am I talking about?
Okay, Courtney (Zito) had recently said, "Check this guy out, he's a friend of mine, Ronnie Butler."

I trust her opinion. So, I did. I checked him out.
Is that sexy cute, or what?
Courtney is a film actress who also produces the very funny and entertaining, "Hollywood Girl." I've talked about her and that project before, producing her own web series much in the vein of Felicia Day with "The Guild" web series that she produces. One stop shopping kinds of ladies: writer, actor, producer. I like them. Attractive, artistic, funny, interesting... there are some very talented people out there on the web.

So I was pleased to find another talent I had yet to hear of. Granted, he doesn't really have that really good looking girl thing going for him, so he'd better have something special. Oooo, I think he does.

So, who?

Ronnie Butler Jr. Courtney had said to check out his video so I did. I told him I really liked it and he said thanks. Seemed like a very likeable, interesting, clever guy.

It's a very well done, entertining video. I liked it, I liked this guy and his attitude. The song is: "The Photographs of Your Junk (will be publicized!)". Funny, accurate, true, to the point.

He takes the word "junk" and squeezes all the meaning he can out of it, turning it into something very poignant and aware. Our life really has morphed into something beyond, perhaps out of, our control and his music video exemplifies this eloquently and with humor. So, check it out and see if I'm not right about this.

And if you liked that one, try this one: Obama! A Modern U.S. President (Musical Spoof). The byline says: "What happens when the President is accused of not living up to the country's expectations? He breaks into song!!"

That is really well done. It made me smile. We need more of this kind of thing, if you ask me. Enjoy. Let Ronnie know, too, that you liked it (if you did, and how could you not?).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Horror film standards

Why or why, in horror movies and slasher flicks, does the "good" guy always hit the "bad" guy just enough to break free, and then simply run off?

As a rule of thumb, if you ever have a chance to smack an attacker and it gets him off of you, spend the next couple of minutes or so as your one and only goal in life, to finish the damn job. Think Pres. Bush in the first Gulf war. He could have finished off Sadman Insane, but no, like any virgin in a college slasher flick, he kicked ass, then ran away.

Yes, of course it's a plot device to allow the story to continue, but I also think it's simply bad writing and the writer admitting they aren't good enough to do any better. I think it also says about the character that they really don't deserve to live. Is the compulsion to escape really stronger than the compulsion to live? I can accept certain things, like a slashed throat means the actor pulls his head back to display the appliances and F/X, when in reality you would lower your head in a vain attempt to stop the blood flow. But it gets out of control.

And that is the idea, right? To feel out of control? That circumstances have gone beyond your ability to handle them, and yet, in the end, you succeed? Unless it is the type of film where everyone dies in the end. Which I kind of prefer, actually. But it depends, on whether I was looking for horror, or slasher flick. I think in a slasher flick, someone needs to survive. In a horror film, anything goes.

I wrote a short story once where the protagonist dies in the end, by his own hand, because he couldn't take his reality. That, was horror, it left you with a horrible feeling in the end. The first time I saw Cronenberg's, The Fly, I felt like I needed a shower after that. He turned out a great horror film.

Horror, is either to have a roller coaster ride to Hell, then a catharsis in the end, so you can have that, "I survived Hell, and walked away from it in the end." But there is that other kind, where you don't feel you survived anything but you have experienced the worst things possible, and after the end of the titles, you are free to go back to your life, safe, secure, but maybe not feeling fully secure; maybe a nightmare that night; maybe the film sticks with you for a day or two. "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" was like that for me. Very disturbing.

Slasher flicks are like a roller coaster ride, with a puzzle, something to intellectually keep you going. So when it is a cheap thrill, as I mentioned before, where someone takes out the killer, then simply runs away, so the killer can come back to get them again, and again; or when the killer is killed, but comes back to life, again and again, it just feels like a cheap thrill, a video game with a reset.

I suppose I prefer a horror film with a thriller element, something that is visceral with an intellectual component. When you do that, you can't have those cheap thrills. You have to supply a solid scenario. If one of the "good" good guys or girls takes out the killer, even momentarily, rather than have them simply run away, have something happen so they can't kill the killer off completely. If you have them fall through the floor, have a set up ahead of time about how the building is very unstable, or there was a good reason for the floor to be weak.

So, you need the killer to get taken down a few times in the film, but you also need him to get back up, but reasonably so. Hidden set ups and interrelated components, reasonable interruptions, all need to be peppered through the storyline.

Also, hindsight needs to show proper foresight was possible. You can't just have the killer know what the people will be doing, so he can set things up ahead of time, when it is unreasonable for him to know certain things.

I've been watching a lot of horror films the past two weeks, trying to get a handle on them. I've found some very good low production films, and some very bad, high production films. It's pretty hit and miss. But I find it really upsetting when I watch a high production value film and they have fallen down on something as simply as having used a quality script. Because, one good script, well thought out, and even poor production values can't kill the feeling that you have had a good time.

So, I don't know, do studios just think the kids are stupid? Because it is my understanding that we are getting smarter, not dumber. Just because academic grades are falling, does not mean that kids don't still pay a great amount of attention to their favorite entertainment forms.

So wise up studios. And for you screenwriters, plot well, plan well, and don't take conceptual shortcuts. Let's raise the bar, not lower it.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Senator Michele Bachmann

This started as a weekend blog. But it got kind of unweekend like so, here we are today.

Be Smart! Be Brilliant!

This weekend, I give you the antithesis of being smart and brilliant. This is more of an editorial that simple quotes (sorry about that), but I find these people so despicable, well, I don't know what else to say other than let her speak for herself.

Since Michelle Bachmann dropped out of the race for President (and I'm not a theist, but "Thank God"), I thought a few unhumble words of hers from my favorite past news reports about her was called for. What we should be concerned with here, is that there are actually Americans who support and have similar beliefs with her, that someone who thinks this way can even make it to any position of power in the United States of America. I don't know what happened, but this isn't my America of education, acceptance, and support.

People like this are a backlash against what America is all about. They are American Spirit killers, another product of fundamental religious beliefs which are most functional for holding Humanity back from evolving, advancing to the higher nature we are obviously predisposed to and religion is built mainly to retard. To be clear about where I stand on people like this, I find her views disgusting.

She belongs in some other backward country, maybe a nice homophobic communist country would be best for her and her throwback types. They want to treat American citizens like defectives, people who for all intents and purposes are productive, caring individuals. If communism was the horror of the old days, this type of person is the horror of the present. I fear for us on who may be the horror of the future, if we don't find a way to educate these people into the real world.

I give you, Senator Michele Bachmann:

I will tell you that I had a mother last night come up to me here in Tampa, Florida, after the debate. She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter. –Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), on the HPV vaccine, Fox News interview, Sept. 12, 2011

Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn't even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas." -Rep. Michelle Bachmann, April, 2009

If we took away the minimum wage -- if conceivably it was gone -- we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level." -Michele Bachmann, Jan. 2005

[Pelosi] is committed to her global warming fanaticism to the point where she has said she has even said she is trying to save the planet. We all know that someone did that 2,000 years ago.

''I think there is a point where you say enough is enough to government intrusion. …Does the federal government really need to know our phone numbers? [I haven't been a Bachmann supporter but I do think it's really cool she is apparently all for legalizing Cannabis and same-sex marriages, at least according to the above comments.]

And what a bizarre time we're in, when a judge will say to little children that you can't say the pledge of allegiance, but you must learn that homosexuality is normal and you should try it.

One. That's the number of new drilling permits under the Obama administration since they came into office." – Comment to a conservative conference in Iowa in March.
THE FACTS: The Obama administration issued more than 200 new drilling permits before the Gulf oil spill alone. Over the past year, since new safety standards were imposed, the administration has issued more than 60 shallow-water drilling permits. Since the deep water moratorium was lifted in October, nine new wells have been approved. - From Huffington Post

The farm is my father-in-law's farm. It's not my husband and my farm. It's my father-in-law's farm. And my husband and I have never gotten a penny of money from the farm. – On "Fox News Sunday."
THE FACTS: In personal financial disclosure reports required annually from members of Congress, Bachmann reported that she holds an interest in a family farm in Independence, Wis., with her share worth between $100,000 and $250,000. - From Huffington Post

This is a very serious matter, because it is our children who are the prize for this community, they are specifically targeting our children. — Senator Michele Bachmann, appearing as guest on radio program “Prophetic Views Behind The News”, hosted by Jan Markell, KKMS 980-AM, March 20, 2004.

If you’re involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it’s bondage. It is personal bondage, personal despair and personal enslavement. — Senator Michele Bachmann, speaking at EdWatch National Education Conference, November 6, 2004.

Well, let's hope this is the last we hear of her. But I don't have high hopes. Even if she leaves, some other ignorant fool will find their way into the limelight as they have in the past, Palin, Gingrich, Perry, there's always room for more ignorance at the top. I can only hope that at some point, America will find enough education that they stop supporting the sad, pathetic, the closed minded, and the fearful.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Weekend Wise Words

Be Smart! Be Brilliant!

This is my second attempt at a weekend blog of quotes. My first one, I changed out as Monday's blog because it was about Michelle Bachmann and quickly got pretty negative. I prefer to have a more positive blog for the weekends. But I also like reality. Democracy, it's better than most, but not exactly what we need.

What that is, I have no idea. So in the meantime, it will have to do, as it has had to do since the time of Aristotle and Plato. Thinking, however, never hurts. Here are a few things to consider, the next time you, or someone you knows, think they like someone like Michelle Bachmann, Sarah (I can't finish my term as Governor) Palin, Newt Gingrich, and so on and on and on....

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.
Winston Churchill

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried. Winston Churchill.

Nothing can be more abhorrent to democracy than to imprison a person or keep him in prison because he is unpopular. This is really the test of civilization.

Winston Churchill [on this one, think about that law Obama signed off on last New Year's Eve that allows detention of American Citizens (AMERICANS!) for an indefinite period of time.]

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?
Mohandas Gandhi

The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.
John F. Kennedy [now think of all those ignorant people (strangely, mostly Republicans) running for the highest office in the history of the world]

Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.
Oscar Wilde

In a democracy the poor will have more power than the rich, because there are more of them, and the will of the majority is supreme.

Democracy passes into despotism.
[Despotism is a form of government in which a single entity rules with absolute power. That entity may be an individual, as in an autocracy, or it may be a group]

Tyranny naturally arises out of democracy.
[Haven't we been seeing that lately? Not tyranny as a dictator, but tyranny as a process of our government. Not bad like in the Soviet Union, or as it has been elsewhere, but we are headed down a path that people should be very concerned with. Kind of downbeat, right? Well then, I will offer you one more positive quote.]

Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.
Franklin D. Roosevelt

And that's what I've been saying all along. But education alone doesn't work, you have to educate yourself with the right education, and the bible, ain't it. Now is the Quaran, or the Book of Mormon, or other such things. Critical thinking alone kills those all off as any kind of rational basis for thought.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Wackness - Living Life Without Foresight

I was just sitting here watching "The Wackness".  Great name right?

A pot dealer was listening to those graduating. They were at a party and they were talking about how they were going on with their life and he was still going to just deal drugs. He was looking himself, at his graduating High School soon.

It got me thinking. When I was just about to graduate High School, there was no talk, among anyone that I knew, about who was going where to do what. I ended up working full time at an Insurance company that my sister had worked at before she went to work as a model, then a Flight Attendant, which she is still doing.

I had applied at a bunch of places and the one hit I really got, that worked out, was the insurance company my sister had worked at. Well, it was a first job out of High School, after all. She had said, tell them I'm your sister and you will have a good chance there. They told me later that once I mentioned my sister's name, I had a job, they were so impressed with her.

To be fair, I only failed on one thing they put me up to and the simply gave me another job. They had wanted me to resetup their warehouse. It was full of legal insurance forms. I walked around there for a couple of hours and then, sadly, went to my boss and admitted a loss of what to do with them. He was very nice about it and said that the last guy they gave the job to couldn't figure it out either. Now were they to give me that job now, I could do it in my sleep. But that has little to do with being a seventeen year old.

Getting that job was kind of my academic history all my young life. I'd hit a new grade level at school, my sister having been there several years prior, and they'd take one look at me, and you could see it in their eyes: "They're related?" they would think. Several people even mentioned it outward: "Are you really related to your sister? By blood? DNA? Etc.?" Yes. We were related. She was the pretty straight "A" student, I was the solid straight "C" student with ADD.

Point being, I did get a job. Kept it for a couple of years too, until I decided to quit and travel before going into the Air Force. Plus, my little brother was busy dying and I helped out there off and on.

But no one from High School, as I remembered it, talked about or expected to get anywhere. I had been told in fact, that at our school, we had the highest incidence of rapists, robbers, burglars, and criminals in general, in the entire city. Twice the  Puget Sound Bank across the street from our school had been robbed by one of our students. One guy, they pulled right out of gym class, his gun and the money both in his gym locker along with his civvies.

Lucky us. A banner group of students at that school. Now to be fair, there were plenty of students that didn't know that culture at school and probably went to college after that. But I didn't know any of those kids.

Anyway, watching this film pointed out to me that in this world of today, kids now talk about where they are going, what they will do, where life is leading them. In my world, when I left High School, I guess I did pretty good in the end, but then, I know now there was an upper middle class group that I suspect most of the school didn't talk to. I suspect my sister knew that group and was surely in it.

Something similar happened when I was in college. About three months before I graduated, I went into the "Career  Center". I said that I was about to graduate and wasn't sure what to do about getting a job, using my new, soon to be, four year degree. They just looked at me and said, "Why weren't you in here back in September?" I said, no one told me to, I had no idea I needed to be. And they replied that most of the kids had been searching for a job since the beginning of their Senior year in college.

News to me. My girlfriend too, who had lived with me since we started college. After graduation, we both went back to our old jobs, well, career fields anyway. She was a veterinarian technician. She had started volunteering before I met her, when she was younger. I went back to Tower Records. This was after I got out of the Air Force, after the Insurance company.

After I started college, I got a Veterans Administration check once a month to pay for my school and board. But it wasn't much so I got a part time job at Tower. Then when I moved to the University after getting a two year degree, I coasted for two years, really not needing a job. At least, needing study time more than job time. So when I graduated, they said to come back if I needed to, until I found a job more based upon my degree (Psychology).

But I never wanted a job as a Psychologist. I only had wanted to learn about people, so I could write. I immediately found that a job as a Psychologist paid the same as I got at Tower. Great, all that time, money and effort, for what? So I looked elsewhere and ended up with a job in the computer field which I eventually excelled at and have made good money at for many years now, raised a family or two and now the kids are out and I'm on my own.

But, I kind of stumbled through things. Foresight would have been awesome. But then again, I have always been pretty good at "surfing" or "dancing" through life. When a waves shifts, you have to be able to stand on that board and keep surfing; or when life shifts on you like music or a dance partner, you need to be able to keep dancing along.

That's all great and everything, but really, it's not a bad idea to learn about what is coming up. To be forewarned about what to expect next, to be prepared to jump on the next train, or answer that door when opportunity when it knocks. In a way, I didn't have that in my life. But that didn't mean that others didn't have it, or that I can't have it now.

I'm sure there are others out there who also have had this experience. Sometimes, all it takes to counteract that, is to have someone to tell you to look up, look around, go ask people. Find out, what you need next, what the next step will be in the direction you are headed. Ask those who have been there, ask them far enough ahead of time so that when it is your turn to do something, you have either already done it, or you are prepared to do it.

The wackness of life doesn't need to bring you down. Rather than it wacking the Hell out of you, you should be wacking the Hell out of it.
I had this happen in Canada once when I was 17, she said she was 13 and I politely found another new friend.

Just remember Look Before You Leap, sometimes, way before. The next time you have that thought (or no thought at all) about a big change in your life, seek professional help from therapists, career advisers, doctors, lawyers, whomever know what you will be encountering. If you are going to get married, seek counseling about it, now, beforehand. If you are thinking about divorce, same thing. If you are about to graduate college (and don't tell me you are most of the way through your final year), seek counseling. Set yourself up. Let the world know what you want and that you are ready for them.

One other thing. We should be raising our kids to look ahead, too. We should be raising our kids to believe they need to retire by fifty. It may be the only way we get this society to actually start to look at that. In case you haven't noticed, we are retiring older and older. We need to be retiring younger and younger. We need to be thinking ahead, in many different ways.

Simply consider, that any change you are going to be going through, that a year ahead of time, you have already started full speed to set yourself up for success. Yes, you may be able to dance your way through anything, if you find at the last minute, that you need to have already done this, or that. But consider how much further down the line you will be, how much richer your life will be, if you are already to go, when the time comes.

Don't seek to ride the wave. Be the wave.