Monday, June 28, 2010

Random Acts of Kindness

The Coroner's Report has been around for some time now and through the havoc of the past couple of years, I've fallen off of a pattern.

Time to change that.

In 2009, I did a series of blog posts titled "Moving Polaroids" and they all seemed to hit a nerve with people in a good way. Each post was based on a childhood memory.

I've decided to bring those back as a weekly installment. So from now on, each Thursday, there'll be a new Moving Polaroids blog. I invite each of you to share as you will. Not all childhood memories are good. Hell, a large portion of my readers had some fairly rough times as kids. You'll be reading good and bad from me because I know you wouldn't expect any less.

On Mondays, I'll be posting blogs designed to ignite discussion. You tune into see what I'll be writing about, and believe me when I say I'm just as interested to hear your thoughts and opinions. That's the situation of writers and readers; we have a symbiotic relationship and I'm perfectly happy with that.

Coming up on Thursday - the first installment of the ongoing Moving Polaroids.


In the past, I've asked what's the worst thing you've ever seen. The responses varied widely, and I have to say it's a miracle most of you aren't in therapy or in a tower with a rifle by now. Either way, I appreciate the responses.

Today I'm asking from the different perspective. Let's put a positive light on things. In your entire life, what's the biggest act of kindness you've ever witness personally? Some selfless act done for the sole reason of making someone else smile.

I'll tell you mine.

My crew and I were in Florida because John, one of my brothers, was getting married to Becky. Granted, you need to understand, he's not a blood brother. I have three best friends I've know for over twenty years. They're brothers in all ways. I'd lay down in traffic for them, take a bullet, hide the body... you know what I mean. Their names are John, Doug, and Tim. They are all geniuses, retards, rock stars, and morons in their own right.

One of the things I think that has kept us friends this entire time is that we all have our own blends of sarcasm. We are loyal to each other to the letter. We have no problems throwing down if need be, but we all have big hearts - though we reveal it on our own terms.

So, we're all in Florida, having a grand time of things. We ended up going to Universal Studios to hang out and see the evening parade.

To say it was crowded would be an understatement. Everyone gathered there for the parade. The music was jamming, the parade floats started coming by and the crowd was cheering and clapping.

When they started throwing out beads, children ran to the edge of the line to catch them. People were reach and grabbing like it was a bouquet at a redneck wedding.

In these moments, I tend to pause and take a look around at my boys. I watch their faces, their expressions. I take notice of the things going on around us all. I caught Doug's line of sight and noticed him watching an older woman in a wheelchair near the back of the crowd. She had someone behind her wheelchair, helping her. She was smiling a little at the madness of the crowd and I wondered, briefly, what she was thinking about all this.

Doug worked his position toward the front of the crowd a bit. Some other float came by and tossed out a handful of beads. I saw Doug jump to catch one (that's saying a lot, you see, as he's roughly the same height as a yard gnome). Then I saw him fight his way back through the crowd.

He leaned down toward the old woman and she looked up at him. Then I saw him place the bead necklace around her neck. She smiled wide as if they really were jewels he'd given her.

She thanked him, her words lost among the noise of the crowd, and Doug smiled to himself and joined us again. I caught his gaze and gave him a nod. He returned it with that "Yeah, I know I'm the shit." expression that only he can generate properly.

We left not too long after that but the memory has stayed with me for years. I hope it stayed with the old woman too.

I wondered about her more. I'd watched her expression change. I wondered if she was thinking of her life, of another time when she was younger and a love of her life had done something sweet and kind and selfless. Had he made her smile like that?

I hope so. I think so.

I know so.


So, dear readers. Tell me yours. What's the act of kindness that stays with you?

Currently reading: A Boy's Life by Robert McCammon. I've read McCammon before and enjoyed everything, but somehow this book never made it into my hands. It's one of the best things I've ever read and it fills me with inspiration to achieve something so beautiful.

Currently listening to: My usual mish-mash. The Dead Weather (kind of an edgier Black Keys), some Patrick Watson (I heard a track called Tracey's Waters on a skateboarding video and fell in love with it). The new Eminem release Recovery, which I am digging the hell out of.

Currently watching: Saw Splice and enjoyed it. Still thinking about the dangers of cloning and screwing around with DNA.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Hannya at 39

But time makes you bolder.
Children get older.
I'm getting older too.
I'm getting older too.

So, take my love, take it down.
Oh climb a mountain and turn around.
If you see my reflection in the snow covered hills,
well the landslide will bring you down, down.

And if you see my reflection in the snow covered hills,
well maybe the landslide will bring it down.
Oh, the landslide will bring it down.

-Fleetwood Mac, Landslide (excerpt)

Well here it is. 3:11 am, the morning after my 39th birthday.

It was a good day.

It started with breakfast in bed brought to me by Kelli and my daughter, Chloe.

After I drank my coffee and woke up a bit, I went for a run. No. No one was chasing me. I went for a run because I signed up for a 5k run in October and I have to get my ass back in training mode for it, else I have a heart attack right before Halloween and that just won't do. I didn't run as long as I was at my prime a few years ago, but I ran...and it felt good. It felt right. That's what matters.

I got back home, rested my jello-legs and talked with Mark and Amanda for a bit over birthday wishes.

We continued the day with visiting J.F. Gonzalez and Brian Keene at a signing/fund raising effort at the Comix Connection and then stopping by my brother/one of my best friends on the planet, Buddha, aka Doug Metherell to check on his daughter, who recently broke her femur in a playground accident.

After coming back, we picked up my son, Carson, and lounged around a bit, had a picnic, ate some cake, and ended up playing with Funky Werepig, Greg Hall and his lovely wife, Sam. They brought me a codpiece to be feared and joined us while we watched fireworks and the evening ended up with some time in the kiddie pool and star gazing.

It was a good day.

So why, you may ask, am I still awake at this time of morning.

I don't know. I don't have an answer.

This post isn't going to be some maudlin entry about how I'm feeling some midlife crisis or how I'm fearful of mortality. The truth is, I don't know what it's really about.

I do feel older but not in a bad way. I look at my children. My daughter, 10 years old, but just on the edge of becoming a young woman. I revisited memories of her as a baby today. Seems so long ago that I held her in the middle of the night as the bottle warmer sizzled in its cradle. So long ago that I drove her and her mother home from the hospital as Muddy Waters' Electric Mud cd played on the truck stereo.

I look at her now. Her sense of humor. Her silliness. Her heart, easily touched. Easily hurt. Her eyes, full of emotion and baring her spirit whole and complete for the world to see.

I look at my son, six, coming into his own as a young boy. His hair always tousled and mussed. He recently learned to ride a bike without training wheels and he's taken on the mentality of a viking warrior guiding his stallion. He's willful and strong, stubborn as all hell, but carries a heart as tender as any beneath his lean chest.

Changes, every day. Good. Bad. Neutral.

I don't have a problem with change, but damn there's been a landslide over the past couple of years. Enough changes to gag a rhino.

Truth is, I am feeling older. Not as old as my years, hell no. But noticing enough to make a difference in my mentality.

My mother turned 59 this year. My father, 60.

How the hell did that happen? You're kidding, right? My mother is the one who packed down a trail in the front lawn and pulled me with her onto a homemade toboggan out of barn roof tin to sled our asses off in the middle of winter.

My father? Hell, that guy's the one that has boundless energy. He can roof a house or plow a field and still have time to stay up and watch a good boxing match at night.

Time is a beast you cannot reckon with.

It flows, fluid and slick through your days while you do your thing. You don't notice it until it's there in front of you and BOOM, there it is. Ten years have gone by and you barely blinked.

It's truth in its rawest form, but no, I'm not maudlin. I'm not upset about it.

Though the past few years have brought change without end, I've come to realize a few things.

Change is inevitable. It's going to happen so you'd best just buckle in for the ride. You can accept it, or you can fight it, but either way, in the end, it's going to happen.

Each year is a new year. Each day is a new day. Each moment, a new moment. They're all yours if you decide to own them. You can waste them. You can make use of them. Either choice is fine, but accept the choice for what it is.

Time does make you bolder. Children do get older. We get older too.

I've seen my reflection in the snow covered hills.

I've seen a landslide... but it hasn't brought me down.

I'm still standing and I'll be standing long after this.

I've got to see what happens next.

I've got to see the changes.

I've got to see.

Monday... big changes in store for the Coroner's Report.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Cost to be the Boss

I've worked in the advertising industry, in one form or another, for almost 22 years. Designing ad campaigns, packaging, brochures and other marketing materials is commercial art at its definition. I am developing art based materials for a business and turning a profit by doing so.

I'll be the first to admit that reading market trends and demographic reports has made me cynical of the American public in many ways.

Yesterday, Publishers Weekly tweeted an article on the paranormal romance tidal wave. You can read it by clicking here.

It was an interesting article discussing the growing (and growing and GROWING) genre of Paranormal Romance and all it's spiderling offshoots.

After Kelli got home, she must've seen the gleam in my eyes and thus began a debate on art vs commerce.

One of our great friends, who I shall not name, was told by an editor to "dumb down" his novel and it would probably do very well. He had written it beyond a fifth grade reading level (no, I'm not making this up... the fifth-grade reading level thing is pretty much the accepted rule of thumb for best sellers) and wouldn't do well with the majority of the population.

Over the last ten years or so, I've gotten to know quite a few full-time writers. Kelli knows and has edited for tons more. Granted, most of them are writers in the horror genre instead of mainstream fiction, and that makes the chances of being a huge hit even slimmer, but there's a very thin percentage of writers that are doing well. Most bust their ass day and night in order to keep the bills paid and food on the table.

Our debate on art vs commerce continued on and I cited examples of some writers that are household names. No, I don't feel the need to mention them here but you would recognize them. So would your parents. Probably the soccer mom next door and her sister who has a reading circle every Thursday night.

A frighteningly large portion of today's best sellers are poorly written. They are literary Big Macs. They may provide great entertainment and story and an ending that wows the audience, but the writing itself isn't there.

Know who the largest group is who complains about how poorly written the books are?

Other writers. The majority of the American public either doesn't notice, or doesn't care because they are selling tons. Thus became my comment about the writers writing Big Macs can afford Filét Mignon.

Sadly, I have to direct you to THIS article, discussing this very issue.

Go on. I'll grab myself another cup of coffee and wait. Believe me, you're going to want to read that one.

I haven't read Cormac McCarthy's The Road. I have tried to read No Country for Old Men and it made my eyes bleed. At first I thought there were just typos. A badly edited manuscript. But no. As the pages kept turning I saw it was intentional. The lack of punctuation made me want to punch a dolphin.

I put the book down and it's gathering dust.

I AM THE MINORITY HERE... because No Country for Old Men sold a metric fuckton, became the buzz of the Hollywood Machine, blah blah blah.

Art vs Commerce

Raise your hand if you've read:

Karl Edward Wagner
TED Klein
Algernon Blackwood
Shirley Jackson
Ray Bradbury
Charles L. Grant
David J. Schow
Robert Bloch
Richard Matheson
Hugh B. Cave

Okay. You, you, you over there (hey, your fly's down by the way), you with the goatee and latte. The rest of you? No? The rest of you can go stand in I-fucked-up-corner.

That list is some of the most influential writers ever, gifting us with some of the best prose most of us will ever encounter. Yet, they're sliding by the way side for today's reading generation. You know, the ones who don't care about things like... PUNCTUATION.

At the end of our discussion (which I'm sure will continue), I told Kelli to write what she writes. That's what we have to do; both of us. We write what we write and I'm well aware of that. As individuals, we want to tell the best story possible in the best way. We want to have an emotional impact on the reader. Give them chills. Make them cry. Have them laugh out loud.

We do what we do and write what we write and get bitch-slapped by our Muse and when we slap its ass and send it out, an editor or agent will decide how to package it.

And, believe you me, so will the American public when they sit down at their reading circles and drink iced coffee and eat their Big Macs.