republicans

Out there trying to pass off like they’re the only patriots while they’ve repeatedly shot down bills helping veterans, bettering health care and you know, protecting the country against their own attempts at fascism.

Of course, on a dull day back in 2001, I woke up after a late night shift when a friend called to tell me to turn on the television. The only thing I could think while I watched the towers fall was how Republicans were going to use it to turn the country authoritarian. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out – they’d been trying to since Reagan and Nixon. And now, they had their pretense.

The Bush family can talk shit about Trump all they want and be totally right about his corruption and his fascist desires, but they started this ball rolling. It was Reagan, Bush Sr. and the Neocons who paved the road for these wannabe dictators. They deserve much of the blame for it. They capitulated to terror by pushing for authoritarian policies. They stoked the fire. That it grew out of control does not absolve them of their responsibility for it existing in the first place.

Target: 900 words
Written: 1329 words, novella: The Mungk

grandbaby day

That adorable little granddaughter is on the way. I’m beyond excited. Seeing her happy little face will be a blessing after all this tension and darkness.

My wife’s mother has taken a turn for the worse, contracting COVID and developing pneumonia while in the hospital. According to what we’ve seen, the consistency of application of the hospital’s policies to prevent infectious spread is sorely lacking and depends on who is working and how they feel that day. One person needs nothing but a cloth mask; thirty minutes later someone else is in full HAZMAT.

They go room to room without sanitization; they went from a person with a known infection straight to my mother-in-law’s room, where they treated her and her roommate with no sanitization in between. I’m not a doctor, but even in non-COVID times, I thought there were policies in place against things like that, to prevent the spread of dangerous infections.

Welcome to the Alabama of Ontario.

Target: 700 words
Written: 462 words, novella: The Mungk

how to be kind

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, because it pertains directly to who I want to be, as well as how the things I want to write (eventually) work out in the end.

I haven’t read anything specific to kindness (though I’ve read lots on kindness), so I’m kind of winging it here, if only to clarify for my own mind what it is I mean by kindness.

We aren’t talking “nice guy”, like the dude from all those 80s movies that we all felt for with his unrequited love, but who in reality is mostly a creepy stalker who offers little to the girl he loves beyond being a total doormat, but still feels entitled to her love (and her body, usually – more often than not, it’s the idea of sex that drives this behaviour, not the actual person).

I can say that truthfully because I’ve been that guy (and thankfully, am not anymore) and know enough of those types of guys to know that they (formerly we) never actually see the object of our desires for who they actually are, but rather, a woman we trick ourselves into seeing on a pedestal, when the thing we really want to see them up on is a stage with a stripper pole, just for us.

I know an eminent feature of kindness is the selflessness aspect of it, but I’m not sure we can divorce the good feeling of doing something nice from the act, nor necessarily should we. From a behavioural, psychological standpoint, if doing nice things for others feels good, if being kind makes us happy, then it’s motivation to continue doing so, or do even more. Feeling good/being happy plus doing nice/kind things for others? Sounds like a win/win to me.

I think it’s the motivation that matters. Is the intention to do good for others driven by the desire to good things for others, or for self-aggrandizement, or as cover to do other, shittier things? I’ve certainly known both types, and I think we can all point to people who do good things for self-serving motives, and not because it’s a good thing to do.

The driving force behind the kindness is who comes first, I think. If the primary purpose of the act is to polish your image, or provide cover for other, nefarious behaviour, or to bolster a person’s ego, then though the end result might benefit the same as a true kindness, it is not an actual kindness.

An actual kindness puts one’s own benefit second. We can still feel good because of the act. We can still bolster our reputation. It can make up for shitty behaviour (as penance, not as cover). But that’s not the primary reason behind it.

The primary purpose has to be the kindness itself. Whether it’s nice words, making someone laugh, donating to charity or buying the guy’s coffee behind you in the drive-thru, the point is that our benefits must always be secondary to the benefits received by the other party.

I’m not sure I’d call it selflessness entirely, because there are obviously benefits (warm fuzzies, connection with another person), but I think it’s subjugation of those benefits. Too much of our philosophy and politics are defined by dichotomy; a spectrum makes more sense (or even a multi-dimensional polyhedron or set of polyhedrons only connected in concept). I know that’s more difficult to grasp, and either/or is simple, but life is more complicated than that. Humility becomes key.

As the Tao Te Ching puts it (badly paraphrased), we do our work and we let it go.

Target: 700 words
Written: 60 words, novella: The Mungk

three little birds

Music plays a big role in synchronicity in my life. The right song at the right time – like Bjork’s Undo yesterday when I was on the verge of a meltdown, or Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds this morning when I’m overwhelmed with all the things I have yet to do today – can be life-altering.

There’s a reason I like to build playlists around the things I write – the connection to the song allows me to understand my characters and their circumstances in greater depth, or even ridiculousness. It lightens the mood (or deepens it, depending).

I think I missed a calling creating soundtracks for movies, or as a director. Tough to say. I’m not sure I can deal with the Hollywood machines. As much as I might enjoy the art industry, it’s populated with some ridiculous individuals, and in my growing age, I’m finding myself far less tolerant of other people’s bullshit.

Politics and art may have to do without me. Perhaps I can carve my own niche and ignore them all.

Target: 700 words
Written: 538 words, novella: The Mungk

burnout

Happy fourth of Fuck You. I’m Canadian, so this means little to me. I do wish our neighbours to the south would get their shit together and stop prioritizing guns and their own petty egos over the lives and freedoms of everyone else.

Instead, they’d rather give each other the middle finger and pray for oblivion. Assholes. Happy belated Canada Day, instead!

Target: 700 words
Written: 666 words, novella: The Mungk

criticism

Criticism is weird here. I’ve long maintained that in any forum I might run, I would not censor, but as I see the way free speech is manipulated by those who would use it to sow dissent and spread misinformation, I start to see some value in minimizing voices that would lie or demean.

Free speech, after all, isn’t total and doesn’t free anyone of consequences. That’s the part these right wingers forget: you can say what you want, sure, but that’s as far as the right goes. It doesn’t mean anyone has to listen, and it doesn’t mean they need to provide you with a platform, or that there won’t be consequences for the things you say.

On the other hand, I find the left-leaning outrage machine can often create its own chilling effect. Those in defense of a cause can often fail to see nuance or see offense where none is intended and dog pile on. That can make many people unwilling to engage or say anything, which is the same as speech suppression. In all things, we should endeavour to listen first and react only after we’ve taken the full picture into account.

A good example to me is Tomb Raider. The Angelina Jolie movies weren’t great movies, definitely a product of the late 90s, early 2000s “extreme”, but to me, the character was played far more true than the 2018 version. However, any criticism of the 2018 movie, no matter how poor, went out of its way to praise Alicia Vikander, who played the character well, I suppose. The problem was that the character wasn’t Lara Croft. Lara is independent, confident, a daredevil. She doesn’t whimper or cower in the face of adversity. She is intelligent and skilled.

Vikander’s version spends most of the movie behaving like a scared rabbit. She’s lacking in skill and other than a penchant for solving puzzles, she doesn’t demonstrate anything more than mildly above average intelligence. She plays the role like she’s in a horror movie, as though we’d transported some 1970s final girl into an Indiana Jones movie. The movie itself isn’t that bad, and Vikander’s performance is solid for what it is.

The problem is that it has no connection to the character she’s intended to portray, beyond some hamfisted plot insertions and name drops. The movie itself actually suffers from being given the Tomb Raider name; had it kept the plot and been stripped of Croft family, it might actually have played quite well. But because the inevitable comparison to the source material and the already well defined version by Jolie, all we get is a Lara Croft stripped of strength, wit and courage. She’s not a badass; she’s a wimp who gets very, very lucky.

Of course, any and all criticism of Vikander’s portrayal movie was chalked up to misogyny, as though all we wanted was some Pamela Anderson-busted chick in hotpants. And truly, there were undoubtedly people whose only real complaint was that Lara Croft had been stripped of her most noticeable asset(s). Fuck those people. To me, that’s a problem easily overcome by a strong performance and a good script.

The much bigger and far less misogynist problem is that they didn’t just drop Lara’s most prominent (again, easily ignored by a strong performance) physical attribute. They also stripped her of intelligence, courage, confidence, wit and the self-assured and almost playful sense of rebellious independence fans of the character have come to know. It felt like a watered down rehash of Evie in V For Vendetta, but with none of the redemptive emergence of strength. And again, if the character being played had not been Lara Croft, it’s a performance to be praised, for a character developed entirely on her own without the stigma of prior history. You wouldn’t play Romeo as a dude too aloof to get caught up by some girl; you don’t play a rebellious, tomb raiding daredevil as a simpering little girl being pushed around by men. It would be acceptable if it were being played as an early, unmolded version of the character; in that case though, we should see flashes of the woman she would become. This feels like a totally different person, matched in name alone.

The reviews for the movie naturally fell into two camps: those of the beta cuck boys stuck in their basement lamenting over the fact that Lara doesn’t look like a porn star (which is what they really want – someone to ogle through some action shots) and those who wanted to pan the whole damn thing but were so worried about being labelled misogynist for disliking Vikander’s portrayal that they went overboard the other way to cover their tracks, panning everything but her. (See also Ghostbusters: Answer The Call, which is a completely run-of-the-mill comedy, not special, not terrible, had its moments, but if you read the favourable reviews, it was the single greatest female-led comedy of all time and anyone who said otherwise was a woman hating monster).

Shrug. To me, the endgame should be getting away from the outrage machine and the talking out my ass/lying and twisting things to suit my narrative regime. Both are chilling and discourage quality conversation.

To me, praise and criticism are earned, not automatic. Praise should be garnered for what you did well; criticism is an opportunity to re-evaluate. If you did something truly horrible, well, you’re going to suffer through some shit. Your best bet is to try and understand why, learn what you can from it and move the fuck on.

Target: 700 words
Written: 873 words, novella: The Mungk

settling down

I guess it was a bit of a spiral yesterday. The problem is that it becomes very easy to forget that there are always options. They may not always be great and they aren’t always easy, but they exist.

It is a telling feature of how our current society is structured that we are so often placed in chains and forced to suffer because of the system’s design. Any system that deliberately induces debt to create servitude, where one can lose everything because of choices that might be beyond their control, or made at a time when things were very different and knowledge or circumstances did not allow us to see the full picture, is a corrupt one.

Any system so designed is not one that appreciates or promotes freedom. Freedom means choices, and if a system such as our current corporatism removes choices in favour of indentured servitude through the debt-as-chains phenomena, then it is no friend of freedom.

Target: 600 words
Written: 451 words, novella: The Mungk

lock in

I’m so angry right now, I don’t know what to do. Every goddamned weekend is the same. Relentless, non-stop demands on my time from my fucking godawful workplace that refuses to get me any goddamn help.

I’m suffering from crippling depression, such extreme levels of stress that right now, at this very second, it’s all I can do not to scream. I’m so pissed off that opening my mouth for any reason feels like it will result in a manic, anguished howl. So I’m not saying anything, but that feels like a storm tearing apart my insides.

My own personal tornado, rippling my guts to shreds.

And there’s no help coming. Despite the apparently “tight” and “worker friendly” job market, I can’t even get a call. I see people switching jobs to better ones all around me, but me? Nothing. Not even a phone call. How is that possible, with my resume?

Can they sense my hatred of IT coming off the page? I FUCKING DESPISE IT.

I don’t know what to do. I can’t quit. I have bills to pay. I can’t keep doing what I’m doing, because I’ll jump into traffic. I’m not getting any help at all from the higher ups. Their eyes just glaze over and they immediately change the subject any time I mention how much I don’t want to do this job. They’re ignoring my anguish, because it’s mildly inconvenient.

Christ. Sunday goddamned morning and I’m so stressed out and frustrated, I think I’m going to have a coronary. Sunday fucking morning. I shouldn’t be thinking about work at all, but IT NEVER GOES AWAY.

I hate it so much, but the world doesn’t offer options to guys like me. People who fell into a field when they were fucking children, before they knew shit about shit, and now, twenty years on, burdened with debt and mortgage – there are no options. No way out. No way to go back to school. No way to change fields. What you chose when you were a goddamn child is what you are forever?

I refuse. I refuse, I refuse, I refuse.

Where are the options in this supposed land of opportunity? This system of capitalism, where only one’s gumption is required? I work my fucking ass off, and it’s quite literally going to kill me. Do I quit and lose my house? Does my family get no place to live, because god knows at these prices, we could never afford another one, or even a fucking rental? Do I die by accident, and hope the insurance money lets my wife and daughter get by? What the fuck are my options? Scream, have a heart attack, lose everything? Nothing in between?

The system failed me. It has failed us all, that anyone could get fucked like this.

Target: 600 words
Written: 1101 words, novella: The Mungk

how do we stand it?

This constant pressure. When thirty seconds of uninterrupted silence seems like an impossibility.

How do we live? How do we get through? How can we focus?

I want to quit so badly, but with no other income on the horizon, how is it possible?

We’ve all been trapped by the corporate hegemony, buried in our addictions to technology and debt and all the latest must-haves by entities that have trapped us in the same way heroin traps its devotees.

I can’t help but wonder: when is enough enough? I often wonder when our leaders will step up and make this insanity stop, but I forget. They aren’t on our side. They are as beholden to the notion of economy over all as those people in Waco were to David Koresh. Meanwhile, almost all the world’s ills, whether it’s the leftist plea for some compassion and sanity, for some metrics beyond dollars and cents to gauge our well being, or the right’s descent in bigoted and fascistic madness, it all stems from the same place.

The boot on our neck is that of the profiteers, and they’d rather have us fight each other than focus on the real problem – THEM.

I suspect that when the day is upon us, when the inevitable collapse comes (and it is coming – all bubbles burst, and this is one of the biggest in capitalist history), I would not be at all surprised to see executives being dragged from their homes, by police or angry mob – which remains to be seen, and depends on how corrupt the people in charge at that time.

I certainly don’t advocate violence. I do believe profiteering is crime, and I would love nothing more than to see every single oil executive, right wing grifter and Wall Street financier hauled up in front of a jury and given no quarter on their lies.

Unfortunately, I strongly suspect the government’s ties to these assholes and the system of corporatism under which we’ve been yoked, no matter where they sit on the political spectrum, is too great to be overcome. Certainly not by means of the very systems they’ve corrupted.

There must be a better way.

Target: 500 words
Written: 227 words, novella: The Mungk