Convention Countdown

Tomorrow Gina, William, and I are heading south. This is my first extended time off work since Willie was unceremoniously ripped from Gina’s body, and I’m ready.

In the past I’ve made the mistake of opening my mouth around celebrities. Gina is the charming one, so it’s usually best if I hang onto her arm and let her work her magic. Just about all the happy memories I have of real connections with folks I admire are thanks to her. All the cringefestival trainwreck gutpunch nightmares that have me waking up in cold sweats at 3 am are thanks to my terrible overly-planned notions of what I thought would be funny.

“See, you push a robot in like, every episode. Well, every one with a robot.”

“Well,” said Frazer Hines, “I did push a Quark once.”

“No man it’s like all of them. Every time, and I was like, ‘Hey it’s time for Robot Tippin’ with Jamie McCrimmon.’ You should have t-shirts made, man.” I flailed around mimicking shoves to an invisible robot.

“Uh,” he said, “I need to go talk to someone over here.”

This was after I asked him what a drink ticket was. This motherfucker owns racehorses and some hayseed just asked him, “What you do with this ticket?” at a mixer that said hayseed paid for in advance knowing there would be drinks involved. I went to get a beer.

By the time I got back, Frazer Hines was chatting up my wife and I had it all figured out. Well, I had two things figured out. Frazer would much rather talk to the ladies, and I’d do better to let Gina sparkle and just observe and report instead of trying to perform around performers.

I really phoned this one in. Fake mustache, wrong beret. Frazer said I made a stunning Saddam Hussein.

We ended up spending most of our time that night with Richard Franklin and Wendy Padbury. Richard brought up politics, which amazingly did not go badly, and he ended up being the de facto host of the whole shindig. We talked about work, and from that point on he knew us as “Gina and Bob, the booksellers.” Gina made the real connections there, though, especially with Wendy, and it was wonderful how they palled around all weekend.

Andrew Cartmel caught me on my way out and expressed dismay at not getting the opportunity to spend more time with me. Me, BABY. We talked about bookselling for a couple of minutes and he invited me to stop by and see him the next day. I didn’t take him up on that because I was afraid I’d have to buy his $40 paperback. When I got back to work, I ended up tweeting to him about another new release of his, The Vinyl Detective: Written in Dead Wax. He replied, sparks flew, and we’ll be getting married in the spring.

So my charms do work, but only on a relatively small demographic.

I have a new plan that will surely widen my audience: I’m going to strap Willie to my chest. Yes, I became a father just so I could use a super cute kid as celebrity bait. Nothing can go wrong with this strategy.

I’ll have on my brand new, getting-much-closer-to-screen-accurate Brigadier costume, and Willie is going to be Baby Benton from the Third Doctor story, The Time Monster. “We” (meaning “Gina”) took some artistic liberty and made him a baby UNIT outfit since Sergeant Benton just wears a diaper in the episode and that’s not a costume, that’s neglect. I even have a UNIT button on the front of his carrier. It’s going to be amazing.

Gina spent the last couple of months making Sarah Jane Smith’s Andy Pandy outfit from scratch while wrestling with a growing infant. That’s right up there with summiting Everest in my book. I also realize this jumble of names and words probably means nothing to 95 percent of the population, but believe me, this shit is important to Whovians.

This is a large convention, so I don’t expect anything as intimate as what I’ve just described to occur. We’re going to WhoFest 4 next month, which will be a small weekend hotel hangout, but FanExpo is more like riding Space Mountain. You spend hundreds of dollars and stand in line for hours for mere seconds of thrill, but some of those memories last a lifetime, which is what keeps us going back. There are also weird moments, like the time I poured my heart out to Rob Schneider about watching SNL with Dad and he seemed to really get it. Then, Rob and Gina eloped.

So happy together.

This brings up an important point, though. I am easily cropped out of every photo we’ve ever taken with a celebrity. Gina looks like she belongs there. It usually looks like the actor showed up for a photo with her.

Willie is my secret weapon. I’m going to be all up in that photo op now. I don’t care if Alex Kingston and Catherine Tate are going goo goo ga ga over him, he’s strapped to me. We’re Master Blaster. Quaid, start the reactor. We’re a team, baby, and I’m going to get me some love.

If all else fails, I’ll ditch the fam and run away with John Barrowman. No one can resist a man in uniform.

Under Construction

I’m working on something. Until then, I don’t want the last thing you see to be my shitty political opinions, so here you go. A placeholder until I’m through or I give up in a fit of self loathing. I hate even talking about it because it always jinxes me.

In any case, I won’t be announcing this because that also fucks me up. I’ll just leave this here. Maybe read some of my old stuff you never read. Give me a yell if you miss me. I hope you do. That’s kinda why I do this in the first place.

Everyone who ever created something did it to get out of Hell.

I’ll see you on the flip side, hopefully.

Attack of the Analogies

It was hard not to nanny nanny boo boo the Republican failure deliver the coup de grace to Obamacare yesterday. I had fun for a bit, but it’s time to get back to work lest we let frowny Paul Ryan become the new six months of punched Richard Spencer.

Before I’m labeled a buzzkill, have your high. Drink in the delicious failure. Savor it for a moment but not too long.

Now that the Ewok celebration has ended, the remnants of the Death Star will plummet into the atmosphere and lay waste to the forest moon, but wait! That doesn’t work at all. Vader is alive and golfing, and they’re still going to build that Star. If we’re talking Star Wars analogies, I’d put us in Empire, on Bespin.

The situation isn’t even that optimistic, though. It’s more like you’re in a pit in Buffalo Bill’s basement and he’s yelling, “It puts the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again!” You haven’t even grabbed his dog yet, but even this analogy is flawed. We all know Agent Starling will show up and save the day (even though she hooks up with Lecter and attends a brain-chow dinner two films later, which is pretty apt if she’s the Democrat), and we don’t have that luxury.

It’s more like this: You’re on death row, and it’s time to walk the green mile. There’s no stay of execution, no reprieve, and you’re strapped to the chair. It’s time to light up ‘ol sparky, but something happens. The folks in charge can’t decide on whether they should give you enough juice to just kill you or pump so much current across your sautéed skull that your grey matter cooks out your eyesockets, so they decide to take five and figure it out. You’ll still ride the lightning after they burn through a few Parliaments (nine out of ten machine gunners agree, Tobacco tastes best when the filter’s recessed).

So, yes, while avoiding the certainty of now, like the next-to-last surface suck of a drowning swimmer, may seem like a thing to fist pump over, remember everyone loses the race to the bottom of expectations. This is the land of “Dubya was great, Mitt would have been fine, we’d take two more terms of Obama having civilians murdered and destabilizing nations,” you know, those sorts of things.

Today I witnessed a miracle. I do not throw this word around lightly, and I’m not referring to the right’s gun-to-your-temple misfiring yesterday. Two long time conservative acquaintances of mine wondered out loud, “Why can’t we just have free health care?” Why, indeed.

Don’t vote for politicians who tell you single payer will never happen (not with that attitude). Don’t believe corrupt leaders who say the people can’t be reached. Something stinks, and even the dookie connoisseurs are beginning to smell it.

Don’t give up on what you know is right just because it seems a million miles away (or even 238,900). If you’d expected to be on the moon by now but you’re face down in the mud, it’s not time to suck in and embrace life as a salamander.

Stand the fuck up and keep rolling, rocketeers.

List O’ Films

Everybody’s doing that thing where they post a list of things no one reads, which only serves to spark more viral list-writing. I always get in on the tail end of these so allow me to jump on this lifeboat before our sinking culture plummets into the briny deep. I’d hate to be the guy who hits the propeller.

Films from years in which I was alive on Earth (this time, anyway, no reincarnations):

1978 – Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
1979 – Kramer vs Kramer
1980 – Приключения Электроника
1981 – Через тернии к звёздам
1982 – E.T. the Extra Terrestrial
1983 – Падал прошлогодний снег
1984 – The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension
1985 – National Lampoon’s European Vacation
1986 – Peggy Sue Got Married
1987 – Cherry 2000
1988 – Killer Klowns from Outer Space
1989 – Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
1993 – Remains of the Day
1994 – Little Women
1995 – Sense and Sensibility
1996 – Emma
1997 – Home Alone 3
1998 – The Parent Trap
1999 – Inspector Gadget
2000 – Hollow Man
2001 – Pearl Harbor
2002 – Reign of Fire
2003 – Freaky Friday
2004 – Mean Girls
2005 – Herbie: Fully Loaded
2006 – Just My Luck
2007 – I Know Who Killed Me
2008 – Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the I can’t do this why god
2009 – Labor Pains
2010 – The Social Network
2011 – In Time
2012 – John Carter of Mars
2013 – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
2014 – American Sniper
2015 – Trumbo
2016 – Sausage Party
2017 – The Dark Tower
2018 – S.C.O.O.B.
2019 – Why We Fight
2020 – 放下你的武器
2021 – 美国狗
2022 – 节俭的生活

 

What Do You Do with the Meme that You Feel?

“Forty times in a raging storm,” I said to myself in disbelief. I held up the newest edition of Memes Weekly, which had been speedily delivered by the failing socialist U.S. Postal Service. The cover story was a photo of Fred Rogers with white text over it. It was an incantation.

Thunder rolled. The hiss and pound of rain against my roof crescendoed into a roar. My feet carried me into my front yard before I had time to consider whether or not I’d been the first. I’d find out soon enough.

“Fred Rogers,” I said. “Fred Rogers.”

“FRED ROGERS! FRED ROGERS! FRED ROGERS FRED ROGERS FRED ROGERS FRED ROGERS FRED ROGERS FRED ROGERS FRED ROGERS FRED ROGERS FRED ROGERS FRED ROGERS FRED ROGERS FRED ROGERS FRED ROGERS FRED ROGERS FRED ROGERS FRED ROGERS!

FREDROGERSFREDROGERSFREDROGERSFREDROGERSFREDROGERSFREDROGERSFREDROGERSFREDROGERSFREDROGERSFREDROGERSFREDROGERSFREDROGERSFREDROGERSFREDROGERSFREDROGERSFREDROGERSFREDROGERSFREDROGERSFREDROGERSFREDROGERS!!!”

I didn’t have time to contemplate its effectiveness. The clouds folded and rolled away ahead of something the size and color of a Eurocraft 44 Explorer. The wind howled against its flat bottom.

I hadn’t noticed that another Postal Service truck had stopped on the street in front of my modest home. I’m not sure how I heard him through the roar above me, but the awfully familiar man in the left-side seat turned slowly and met my eyes with his yellow-tinted reading specs, which painfully burned into my retinas like two welding arcs, and spoke with a voice that seemed to originate from the center of my skull: “I am the herald of Mister Rogers, delivered speedily to you this night. To you, the quickest of all, I bequeath the behemoth, the reckoner, which you and only you command.”

What now was clearly a foot clad in a blue canvas shoe howled down above the spot where the truck was parked. As its shadow loomed over the man in rare Postal Service dress garb, he said, now with his own voice, “I never thought I’d miss the smell of dandelions.” He had just begun to reach towards my bushy unmown spring lawn when the shoe landed on his truck and slammed it into the ground with such force I was lifted off my feet and thrown into the neglected bushes that surround my house.

Stars. The sky, roiling. I was vaguely aware of the scratches on my back, and I’d just started to claw my way back to my feet when another boom shook the earth. The decorative cover fell off the front porch light and shattered on the concrete below. I was thrown between the bushes and the red-pink bricks of my domicile. I tasted dirt and blood. I was face down, and I opened my left eye. An ant crawled across the gravel.

HELLO NEIGHBOR,” said a voice from above. I heard a window break. A car alarm started going off at the apartment complex the next street over.

I lifted myself up and leaned against the wall. It stood, now, in the street. The soles of its comfy shoes were sunken, crushed into the pavement. Small flames licked up around its right foot, where the postman had been.

“Uh, hello,” I said.

I LIKE YOU JUST THE WAY YOU ARE.”

“Um, well,” I said. “That’s fortunate.”

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THE MAD THAT YOU FEEL
WHEN YOU FEEL SO MAD YOU COULD BITE?
WHEN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD SEEMS OH SO WRONG
AND NOTHING YOU DO SEEMS VERY RIGHT?

There wasn’t a window left intact in the neighborhood. The single car alarm in the distance had become a gaggle of angry honkers. The air sizzled, and the hairs on my arms stood straight up. A bright blue bolt hummed down from the mist and reverberated like a Tesla coil as it ripped into the asphalt behind me. My home stood between me and the explosions that rocked through the complex beyond, but I felt almost unbearable heat wrap itself around my face. The beam snapped off, and while my ears rang like they had for hours, once, after an Ozzy Osbourne concert, I didn’t hear any more horns.

IT’S GREAT TO BE ABLE TO STOP
WHEN YOU’VE PLANNED A THING THAT’S WRONG,
AND BE ABLE TO DO SOMETHING ELSE INSTEAD
AND THINK THIS SONG.

“What am I supposed to stop?” I asked. “This? I haven’t done anything except summon you.”

I CAN STOP WHEN I WANT TO,” he said. A bolt tore down from the sky and ripped into a house three doors down that’s been abandoned since the financial crisis in 2007. A small cloud mushroomed up above the ball of flame as a gas main caught and belched another sphere of hot death into the air. The house next to it caved in on itself with a groan and a clatter. The weeping willow in the front yard melted and sizzled before its skin popped off like a frank carelessly dropped in a Fourth of July barbecue pit.

“I can’t breathe,” I shouted.

I CAN STOP WHEN I WISH,” he said. The ringing in my ears doubled and increased until I realized it wasn’t coming from me. A Learjet had clipped him on its approach to the Jonesboro Municipal Airport. It seemed to drift sideways as it careened over the end of the street and slid out of view. CAROOM. Another tremor rocked me to my knees. The burs between the Bermuda grass bit into my right knee through the hole in my worn-out Dad jeans.

I crawled out of the flower bed and turned my face to the sky. He was obscured by smoke past the mid-calf, but I knew he was up there with that wise face and that perfectly parted silver hair, so comforting. Did he smile? I couldn’t see, but I knew he must have.

I CAN STOP, STOP, STOP ANY TIME,” he said.

“Please stop,” I yelled up at him. “Please stop now!” I coughed repeatedly and spit, which landed, black, on the brick lining the sidewalk.

AND WHAT A GOOD FEELING TO FEEL LIKE THIS,” he replied, “AND KNOW THAT THE FEELING IS REALLY MINE.

I tensed my shoulders and neck. My teeth squeaked against each other. Seconds ticked into a minute. Was it over?

“Mister,” I started, “Mister Rogers. Fred. Fred.”

Silence, except for the low rumble of combustion all around me.

“Did you stop because I told you to?”

KNOW THAT THERE’S SOMETHING DEEP INSIDE
THAT HELPS US BECOME WHAT WE CAN
FOR A GIRL CAN BE SOMEDAY A WOMAN
AND A BOY CAN BE SOMEDAY A MAN.

I heard sirens in the distance. They’d be here soon, and I didn’t want to waste any more time. Fred had said all I’d needed to hear, and I only had one request.

“Fred, yesterday I read they probably aren’t going to, well, you know,” I said. “You must know. Fred, we have to do it.”

A police car hurtled down Caraway Road and passed the street. A fire engine behind it slowed and began to turn in. Within seconds, another patrol car arrived behind it and its driver slammed the breaks and steered to the side through the corner yard to avoid a collision. Its tires tossed up clods of earth as it plowed to a halt.

The air crackled, and I knew we’d see the end of Jonesboro before we got on to other things. A blue bolt raced down from above, rattled through the soil, and tore the cruiser in half with a hiss and a pop.

“Fred,” I said, “Fred, we have to get Kony.

Opinions, Man

“Call of Cthulhu,” the man said.

“I don’t want that,” said the boy.

“I bet there are some funny descriptions in there.”

“The kids at school won’t even know what it is.”

“They’d probably identify it as a Metallica song more than anything else.”

“It’s like a squid or an octopus, right?”

“Well, son, it could be described as a lot of things. A squid. An octopus. Michelle Obama,” the man said. He chuckled.

My back was to them. I froze.

“Terrifying things like that. Pretty scary stuff,” the man said. He spoke for my benefit now. I couldn’t see him, but I could feel him talk to the back of my head.

I continued scanning.

After a few minutes, they’d wandered off. In the meantime I’d identified a couple of clearance books about succeeding at comedy. I’d ordered them years ago for a dude who seemed like a bit of a douche. At the time, I wanted to tell him you couldn’t learn that stuff from a book, but what the fuck do I know? I get paid to grit my teeth and listen to people say idiotic shit.

(Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have much love left for the Obamas, but I know why the man said what he said. It’s the principle of the thing.)

I flipped open a book about acting. Jack Nicholson had written the introduction, and he sounded fucking crazy. I skipped forward. There was an interesting passage about some popular actress, who they only referred to as “E.J,” getting yelled at and practically hazed by the acting coach. I skimmed over it quickly. It read like hot hippie bullshit.

I’d considered writing about bad poetry today, so I grabbed a few of the dumber-looking titles and glanced through them. They were all too boring or too sexy or occasionally too brilliant. “Why am I doing this?” I said to myself. I placed them back on the shelves.

I walked to the service desk to get some clearance stickers. Manager X was there telling J.D. about how she’d cured the common cold with essential oils.

“I have to be honest,” he said. “That is some straight-up witchcraft.”

I waited until she walked away to tell J.D. he was a better man than I for listening to her nonsense.

“Dude,” he said.

“I can’t take that shit, man,” I said. “It sets my fucking brain on fire.”

Revolutionary Brocialism

What do Mark Twain, Helen Keller, George Orwell, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malala Yousafzai have in common? They are, or were, socialists. Capitalists love to conveniently leave this fact out when speaking about any of them and prefer to focus on their individual accomplishments.

In Malala’s bestselling book, I Am Malalathe word “socialism” appears only three times, twice in a quote, and once referring to being “torn between Islam and secularism and socialism.” I don’t want to sound all conspiracy theorist, but perhaps her American publisher, Little, Brown and Company, a subsidiary of Hatchette Book Group USA, has kept something from us.

From Al Jazeera America:

“I am convinced,” Malala wrote in a message sent earlier this year [2013] to Pakistan’s International Marxist Tendency (IMT), that “socialism is the only answer, and I urge all comrades to struggle to a victorious conclusion. Only this will free us from the chains of bigotry and exploitation.”

I’ll not bore you with my version of Marx for Kids. There are accessible versions of his works in abridged and manga versions, although I’d suggest everyone read the Communist Manifesto in full. It’s a pamphlet and written to capture your attention, and I don’t think it’s aged badly in that respect.

I must tell you that I’ve had to pause here and consider how to proceed without punching down. I think I can do this indirectly, by punching up at some of your corporate masters. If you still feel a sting, that’s the trickle-down punches working their way to you. We all know trickle-down doesn’t work, though, so you should be safe enough from direct bombardment. Sure, a rising tide lifts all boats, but what if you don’t have one?

Here’s an anecdote I never thought would be useful. I worked for Sam’s Club for a short time in the mid-Aughties. Back in the day I had no idea what labor laws were, or why worker’s rights were important. I knew we had loads of safety rules, and breaks for some reason. I assumed it was because it just made sense.

As my training went on, I realized how stringent the rules were concerning clocking in and out, working off the clock, and taking breaks on time. They were serious about getting those right, and as a manager I spent a big chunk of my time policing it. Again, I thought the benevolent company wanted to take care of its workers and would stop at nothing to make it so. Later I realized they were probably sued for some complaint or another and they must have instituted those rules to save themselves the trouble.

That’s The Wal-Mart Way!

One day an employee of mine had worked six hours and missed her lunch. This was a thing people got written up for, and she was extremely upset. I’d just promoted her to a thirty-hour-a-week job and she’d been written up once for tardiness. This would have been her second time-related write up and the third would mean termination.

Being the nice guy I was, I told her I’d take care of it. I logged onto the trusty ol’ Tandy 3000 green-screened menace, threw around some punch cards and magnetic tape, called Alan Turing, and before long I’d adjusted her time onto the wrong day. The next day someone caught it and I was immediately terminated, but that’s not the important part of the story.

Why was she horrified about being fired? Why did I jump through all those hoops just to get sacked? Somewhere back through the ages, during prehistoric times when Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble must have gotten together and formed a union at the quarry, they came up with a series of demands. In the epochs since, some of those demands have been made into state or federal laws. Many of them haven’t but they’re the kinds of things people strike over. Things like having a lunch on time or at all.

There’s no Arkansas law that says you even have to have a lunch, but what a great way to union bust. “If we give them all the things they’d ask for anyway, profit sharing, breaks, time off, then hell, they’ll have no reason to ask for bargaining rights!” the CEO says, followed by maniacal laughter. “Bonus: If they fuck up our company-mandated time requirements, we’ll fire them.”

This is how they appropriate what you hold dear, and it ain’t just Wal-Mart, honey. Corporate America owns our government, so believe me when I say every right you are afforded is being used to bludgeon you over the head until it breaks, at which point it’s tossed in the bin.

The really cool thing is that once you’ve killed labor movements long enough, once even Victor Frankenstein cannot resurrect them, it’s time to start rolling back the very perks that buried them in the first place. People take on more responsibilities for no increase in pay. They get cut to under 30 hours a week and lose their health benefits. Their position gets erased when they’re on maternity leave. “We only have to offer you a comparable one!”

We carry this appropriation into our personal lives. If a film represents a cause we care about, it’s suddenly required viewing. If you want people to watch the controversial Digital Buffalo Love (starring Autotuned Hermione) so they can learn about same-sex villain/henchman relationships in France be my guest, but don’t pretend you’ve done anything other than convince bigots to give Disney money.

On a slightly more serious note, when people go see Get Out and rush online to tell everyone to “go see it now and self-crit,” their intentions seem justified, but what exactly are they doing? Some of you may ask, “Self-crit? Is this one of those new buzzwords I’m going to be forced to learn?” Why yes, yes it is, but never fear, because it actually means “Look deep inside yourself for all the shit you’re wrong about, say a few Hail Marys and publicly self-flagellate.” Liberal thinking has much in common with classic strategies embraced by organized religion, like public shame, but the ineffectiveness of tarring and feathering people, figuratively and literally, has been demonstrated repeatedly throughout history. Nine out of ten psychologists agree, “It’s bullshit.”

At this point I’m so deep into left thinking that I’m not convinced there’s any good way to pursue social issues under the mantle of capitalist thinking. It always, always ends up propping up someone’s business or political career. Even the aforementioned film about race relations is specifically written to be some Invasion of the Body Snatchers type tale about how horrible white moderates are, and I agree, but their answer is to do what, exactly? See the movie and tell your friends to see the movie? Well, that made some folks rich. Change the way you live? How? Vote for Democrats? Has that been effective so far? Although pretty much everyone dies at the end of Get Out (spoilers, sweetie), I’m pretty sure the answer they’re suggesting isn’t socialist revolution.

There really is no struggle but class struggle, and while institutional racism absolutely exists in America, along with a shitload of problems relating to race/ethnicity/religion amongst the populace, the answer isn’t “Be a dick to each other online and support massive corporations.” I’ll take criticism from socialists who understand the answer isn’t throwing money around, especially when it involves making wealthy corruption-supporting moderates richer.

When it’s coming from folks, even well-meaning folks, whose answer is, “Vote for candidate X because they are the lesser of two evils, this is how the system works and somehow magically our problems are solved,” I consider them misguided at best.

Hillary Clinton lived in Arkansas for decades but either she didn’t pay attention or she conveniently forgot that deplorables are experts at bullying and don’t take kindly to being referred to as garbage. The bottom line was that 75% of eligible American voters weren’t compelled to vote for her. I recently argued with a Hollywood script supervisor who claimed Clinton was the victim of a coup. Hey, if Hill-Dawg wants to be President of the People’s Republic Of California, where she actually did win, I hope you’ll accept my application for residency. Anything is a step up from Red State Hell, but I’m not sure they’ll be able to process my visa from underneath the smoldering rubble of war-torn Sacramento.

We should have mailed it to the Marx Brothers.

Even Bernie’s milquetoast, half-assed Obamacare version of socialism was a bridge too far for the DNC, and their oligarchical immune system kicked into high gear in order to expel the disease. It was successful, but the host may not survive. While the Trumpenproles appropriated her insults, the bros mostly recoiled in horror and fell all over themselves crying about how they weren’t sexist.

Learn to adapt. Take a page from the #winners. If some pantsuited Lean In faux feminist calls you a “bro,” own that shit. If killing the beast that hollows out worthy causes and slips them over its heaving, vicious bulk like sheepskin makes you a bro, then I’m a Revolutionary Brocialist.

Don’t tip your fedora too hard while you attempt to wake Sleeping Bougie. Don’t confuse my figurative language for a man/woman dichotomy either, because this works all ways, but do remember that just because something rubs you the wrong way doesn’t mean you have a prepaid pass to online or real life harassment. Any cause worth filching will be canned, watered down, and delivered along with a complimentary t-shirt by capitalists looking to solidify their station. We can’t expect people to give up their life’s work because it got popular enough to commercialize. As long as the Thing lives and breathes, no one is safe, and it’s a direct sock to an activist’s jaw if we punish them for what we know is an inevitable outcome.

I will, however, torch the Thing when I can spot it, fallout be damned. No advertising campaign funded by a hedge fund manager will move me for long. Knee-jerk emotions are part of the human experience, but once you have a moment to wipe away that manly single tear, you don’t have to be an investigative journalist to Google the source of a moving viral video. The answer waits two or three clicks away, and, “Worked for Conservatives in the UK parliament,” isn’t a conspiracy theory. It’s public knowledge no one points out because they’re too busy taking the bait.

We all know steering leftists towards any common goal is like herding cats. It’s always been that way, though it’s often glossed over, but if you study the history of revolutions they’re all made up of a mixed bag of folks with their own alliances and strategies. Some people, like the Bern, think Democratic Socialists can work at their own version of incrementalism. There are folks on the other end of the left who think the system won’t change until it’s burned to a cinder. Whether that’s supposed to happen actively through violence or passively by waiting for the long decline of late-stage capitalism to exhaust all our resources and collapse in on itself depends on who you’re talking to. I’m a lover, not a fighter, but I also can’t see how we’re supposed to save the patient without removing the cancer.

Fully Automated Gay Space Communism seems a silly, glittering utopia at this point. We can’t get there from here, and while I’ll never stop dreaming of Star Trek when I shut my eyes, if we’re talking about real-world action, that dog won’t hunt.

Revolutionary Brocialism, though, is something you can apply to everyday life. When you’re faced with corporate bullshit in disguise, bro up. When it’s implied a film release will do something concrete for race or gender relations in America, don’t buy it. We’re not emotionless cretins, here. If something made you identify with someone or feel alive, I’d not take that experience from you. If you imply it’s something other than entertainment, that’s where we part ways. You’ll never see a film about socialist Twain, King, or Malala (first name feels right), because a studio won’t stab itself in the eye. They’ll core out a husk and present what feels good and sells and when they take the stage to accept the award, they’ll shit on the bad capitalists and pump their fist for the good ones.

There are no good ones. We can’t polish that turd, and no matter how much liquid nitrogen they apply, it’s all going to melt back into diarrhea when heat is introduced.

I’ve called myself the Chairman of Arkansas Space Communism so much that people around here have started thinking I invented the notion. Like most of my ideas, it’s a jalopy cobbled together from science fiction and stolen memes. Maybe I’m not so different from capitalists in that respect.

I will, however, lay claim to Revolutionary Brocialism. I’m just enough of a dick to be that guy, and if we’re talking about the hero Gotham deserves, you’re looking at him. I was born a bro, baby, and I’m never going to change, so I might as well put it to good use.

The next time someone tries to feed you pig shit and tell you it’s caviar, tell them you don’t like caviar then point them towards the outhouse. You can’t always shoot the messenger, here. Someone powerful told them what they were delivering was a delicacy and they believed it, but the goal was to poison you so badly you wouldn’t bother to fight back.

I’m poisoned, infected, riddled with this shit but I’ll fight. I’ll damn well fight as long as I breathe and there’s something left to fight for.

There is a spectre haunting America. It is the spectre of Revolutionary Brocialism.

Hillbilly Eulogy

Yesterday I had a rare day off without the girls. Their mother finally delivered on that trip to Disney World, and they’ll be gone for a week.

I didn’t want to stay cooped up in the house, so Gina, Willie and I went for a drive to scenic Hardy, Arkansas. I haven’t been up that way since the girls and their mother had a harrowing car accident last July, and it was nighttime then. I wouldn’t have paid attention to the sides of the road, anyhow, because I was too busy screaming.

The hills around here have always harbored the remnants of the Old South. When Lee stopped throwing poor misguided individuals into his meat grinder and gave up at Appomattox, my great-great-granddad took his bullet-riddled ass to the house, which was on flat farmland. He was a sergeant in the 2nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment, and I can’t prove this theory, but back when I was into genealogy it seemed like there was a positive correlation between being a stand-up-and-fight (or run-and-hide) infantryman and knowing when to go home and crush people of color all civilized-like, with institutions and personal discrimination instead of open warfare (except for a bunch of folks wiped out in Oklahoma and Arkansas, but we don’t hear about those much, unfortunately).

The cavalrymen, the bushwhackers, they were usually the ones forming militias, or the Klan, and they took to the swamps and the hills. They stayed in those swamps and hills, as poor people do, and while Trump yells about poor urban (which, along with words like thug, has become one of the various new dog-whistle n-bomb equivalents) citizens (arguably impoverished, at least in part, by the echoes of the very conflict I’m discussing) there are generations of poor rural folk who never left the muddy low ground or the forested high ground to learn the valuable lesson of getting along.

I lost count of the Confederate flags flying at homes, farms, and businesses along the way yesterday, but it was at least a dozen and probably closer to twenty during the just-over-an-hour long drive. One ranch had a tall black iron gate with not only the Confederate battle flag, but the first Confederate national flag and the Bonnie Blue Flag flying above it. Those people aren’t fucking around.

I’m a white descendant of Confederate slave owners, so I’ve tangled with this issue my entire life. I’ll still be grappling with it when caffeine, retail work, and my terrible coping skills seize this old ticker. My Dad was a Heritage not Hate type of guy. If I said, “The Civil War,” he’d say something like, “Which civil war? The American Civil War? That’s what Yankees call it. It’s the War Between the States or as my daddy used to call it, the War of Northern Aggression.

Later in life he told me some of the guys his father ran around with were actual Klan members. I’ve already poked holes in my theory, here, because this is my grandfather we’re talking about, the guy who said black people (and not in language that kind) had brains the size of walnuts, and he certainly wasn’t from them there hills.

Dad was a step removed, though. He was Republican enough that all he saw was green. That’s not to say his ideas weren’t problematic from time to time. If I mentioned Chinese or Japanese people, he’d quickly calculate how many years it had been since they had been, as he said, “Sticking bayonets in our boys,” and holler it at me. (If you don’t know what a holler is, it’s a couple of steps down from a scream or a yell, and there’s joviality implied, usually at someone else’s expense.) He usually didn’t use slurs unless he was quoting someone, but he hung out with guys who did. He was big on decorum, and he thought it was tacky to behave that way.

Though I considered myself a liberal at a young age (or a Democrat as far as I understood, which was very little), I gleefully accepted Civil War related gifts, like a Confederate kepi I got for Christmas when I was eleven or twelve. I still own the damned thing, and I’m not sure why. Somewhere there exists a photo of me dressed as some sort of Neo-Nazi on Halloween fourteen years ago, and I have that hat on in the photo. Prince Harry, eat your heart out.

I’m required to mention how absolutely reprehensible that costume was, but in retrospect, it’s actually a wonder I wasn’t up to much worse. There was a time in high school when the pep band played “Dixie” with glee. It used to be Trumann’s official fight song until it was changed to “Arkansas Fight” somewhere down the line. We still played it, and sometimes a friend and I would bring our Confederate hats and do our best to intimidate the visiting players from rural towns in the Mississippi Delta, the populations of which were mainly African American.

Mom worked in one of those towns, which is why she wasn’t ever keen on this bullshit. I never heard a racial slur pass her lips. She might call someone a motherfucker or, to take a line from Dad, “The sorriest son-of-a-bitch who ever farted through a pair of cotton drawers,” but that just wasn’t her style. If I had any mercy or compassion for anyone in those days, it came from her. Still, I was my father’s son, and my friends weren’t any help.

I’ve been avoiding the word because it isn’t mine. I can’t tell this story without it, though, so if you don’t like to see a white dude type it, this is where we part ways.

There must have been a fistfight a day at Trumann High School, or at least it seemed that way. The short break after lunchtime was usually prime time for fisticuffs. From time to time they broke out in the halls between classes, or in the class itself, but those folks weren’t ever that serious about fucking someone up. If you wanted time to spar, lunch was it. The guys who really wanted you dead scheduled their battles royal after school behind the Methodist Church across the street, which is the church where just about every member of my family was married, including me (the second time).

Occasionally, the conflict would be interracial, and that’s when everyone did the chant: “Fight fight, a nigger and a white, white don’t win, we all jump in!” That last part was a lie, of course. No one ever jumped in. There’d be one kid going like Golden Gloves and one fat larval-stage redneck on the ground. No idiot among us was ready to sign up for an ass-whoopin’.

Stranger yet, when the Klan came to town and held a rally at the corner of Arkansas highways 69 and 463, every teenager and unemployed person in Trumann seemed to be gathered at that spot, and with a 40-50% unemployment rate that was quite a few folks. We were a multicultural crowd, or as much as we could be in 1990s Arkansas, and we’d joined together to jeer those sheeted assholes. A young black man took his shirt off and got ready to defend his title, but the cops intervened and whisked the half-dozen Klan members away. In Trumann, we wouldn’t have any outsiders busting into town and oppressing our black neighbors. We could do that ourselves.

I don’t think the cognitive dissonance of these things struck me until I was selected for Arkansas Boy’s State. If you aren’t familiar, these shindigs are run by the American Legion and they drag kids off to college campuses for a week of conservative indoctrination camp. We learned about government, calisthenics, and how worthless we all were. Our counselor was a large cruel man who said things like, “You boys are supposed to be the cream of the crop, but it looks like some of you done slipped through the cracks.”

It couldn’t have been their intent, but the sheer stress of being hazed by West Point cadets and old Republicans brought us together. It was a treat to gather in the small common television room, and one day when Cheers came on, a guy started singing, which quickly led to us all joining in. If you ever thought those spontaneous film musical numbers were unrealistic, think again. Maybe they’re not as common as Hollywood would like us to think, but even young Arkansas teenagers burst into song if placed under enough pressure.

As luck would have it, one of our first football games back home that fall was against a team full of guys I’d attended camp with. One of them was the drum major of the band across the way, and as the president of the band council it was my job to go over and greet them. I received a hug, which I didn’t expect, and we chatted for a bit before we were forced to return to our stands and cheer on our respective teams. Our band director, who was new that year, told us to get out “Dixie.”

My heart sank. The fellow I’d just embraced was black, as were at least half his classmates, and what we’d been doing finally hit me. “No,” I said. “I can’t.”

Someone went down the stands, I cannot remember who, and relayed my message to the band director. He just looked at me and shrugged. I don’t know what my old director, who’d left the year before, would have done. He was a bit of a drill sergeant, and he probably would have told me to play it or else. The new guy was more passive-aggressive, but the result was the same. We played “Dixie.”

I held my trumpet to my lips and pretended to play. It was probably the weakest rendition we’d ever performed, which wasn’t saying much. Within the months since we’d been abandoned by Mr. Massey we’d fallen from being a national award winning band who often performed college-level music to a mediocre small town shitshow with strictly junior high levels of competency. It was a disaster, which was even more of a disaster now because the first chair trumpet wasn’t playing, and some of the other kids weren’t either.

Thing is, this wasn’t an awakening for me. I was embarrassed about potentially offending that one guy I knew. The realization that we’re wrong comes in fits and starts and setbacks. When a person of color asked me out in high school, I’d considered saying yes, but when I told my best friend he looked at me with big eyes and quietly said, “But, Bob. She’s a nigger.” He didn’t speak that way often, which gave his words more gravity in my teenage mind. I couldn’t do it.

I vacillated between Dad and Mom, right and left, for years. My politics were weird and fuzzy, a basket of contradictions. By the early Aughties I considered myself the master of post-racial irony. I’d prance around wearing swastikas because it was funny, and I’d display irreverence for any racial issue because we’d already had our first black president, Bill Clinton.
It wasn’t until I watched black people die in the streets on television during Hurricane Katrina and witnessed the refugees coming into town on buses that something clicked and made me put that shit to rest forever.

I’m not going to outline the events of the past dozen years, but you and I know there have been enough for anyone even half-paying attention to recognize how absolutely fucked we are as a society. It’s only gotten worse, and my eyes are open. I’ll not claim to be cured or to have seen the light. It doesn’t work like that. I fuck up constantly, online and in real life, and I have to readjust my behavior. I’m the kind of guy who learns from my mistakes and I still have trouble because it isn’t just a bad habit we’re talking about here. It’s defective programming I can’t remove without blowing my brains out, so I’ve had to learn to think around it. Sometimes I have to repeatedly relearn things I’ve learned and forgotten, but it’s part of the process.

So knowing who I am and what I’ve seen, when we drove down that road yesterday I didn’t feel rage. I’ve been there and I’ve dealt with those feelings. I was perhaps a bit embarrassed, but I was mostly sad that America has failed these people. They’ve been used as tools repeatedly and thrown into the brush to rust. I don’t want to rewrite Hillbilly Elegy here. There’s plenty of blame to throw around, and people aren’t ever entirely free of personal accountability, but it would be pretty bootstrappy of me and against everything I believe to say, “Well I did it, why can’t they?”

My mother and other family members and friends did their best to tolerate my ignorance and let me fuck up repeatedly until I figured things out on my own. There’s probably a way to accomplish this before someone reaches their mid-twenties, though. My daughter attends a daycare and a preschool where she is the minority, and I think she’s going to be great in this respect. While, again, she’ll always have to struggle with the complications of being a white person chained to the baggage of history, her own actions will be honorable. I know this, and it is a blessing.

We also never were poor. My classmates called me a rich kid from time to time and I didn’t understand it. Our huge house seemed normal to me then, but the one I live in now is much smaller. It wasn’t until I started visiting my friends houses in my teen years that I realized most people didn’t have a sprawling mid-century modern home. Some of them lived in trailers or the remnants of old Singer shotgun houses. Some of them lived in the housing projects that comprise what seems like a third of the residential areas in town.

My mom struggled and wrecked her credit but she always provided. We probably had way too much, and it’s thanks to her and Dad, as well, who didn’t let us go without anything. If we had to get braces, Dad ponied up. If we needed new shoes, Dad took us to Foot Locker.

F. Scott Fitzgerald put it better in the second line of Gatsby with, “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

But if, if we’re going to go through the mental gymnastics of “You too can be a shitty guy or gal, just the worst, and learn to be less shitty, maybe even tolerable considering your background within the context of American history,” we have to ask ourselves how. The right-wing of the American political clusterfuck has seized on this opportunity to drive a despot into office. For every regretful sign-holding red hat-wearing frowny faced apologetic piece of meme fodder there’s ten or twenty more hiding in the bushes who aren’t sorry, and they’re ready for this shit.

Unless you’re a fellow shitty white dude, I can’t make you do the emotional labor of considering answers. If you want to vote for Democrats and take the classic liberal view that people just haven’t had it explained to them the correct way, have at it. Maybe there’s some weepy corporate propaganda that will turn the rural poor’s lives around. I’m sure that terrible Blind Side bullshit makes some white people feel good enough about charitable acts, or at least it appeals to their business sense. There’s nothing better for your portfolio than cruising Memphis and searching the streets for star football players. I’ll see you kids on Poplar.

I can and do yell all day about how fucking ridiculous this seems, but I cannot focus upon well-meaning slacktivists the level of ire I should reserve for not-so-well-meaning Neo-Confederates. Thing is, and here I go playing my sad white man fiddle, I’m often too tired, too busy, or just plain too sad to give you anything but, “Take it to the pink march,” and block you. I’m not proud of this, but I’m human too. This is my sorta half-assed apology, take it or leave it.

There’s something to that rage, though. It would be too convenient for me to go, “Well, Marx said any social justice effort that gets assimilated by the bourgeois, like John Carpenter’s Thing, and made into a pulsating mutant version of itself, only serves to perpetuate the monstrosity’s life and eat you in the process while convincing you it’s the only way.” At least I think he said that. What’s important is that while I could and often do throw the concerns of moderate activists into the trash heap of opinions where they usually belong, it is crappy for me to revel in this.

It is a special sort of nihilism that says, “Well, your efforts and cause would be legit except you answer to a CEO who makes seven figures so off with you.” It’s not so binary. There are probably some charities that are only 30-40% evil, when you get down to it, and at the end of the day, is that so bad? I give money to children’s hospitals, which seems like one of the best gestures I can make towards the system I despise, but I also acknowledge that the hospital administrator is probably living in a huge house and driving up and down Poplar looking for new football players.

So I’ve been bad lately. I’ve gotten a bit too extreme in my methods, but my point still stands. What, exactly, has the ghost of the American Left done for rural workers? What has it provided them since the days of Joe Hill? Who has spoken to them since Woody Guthrie roamed the land figuratively killing fascists?

The Democrats don’t have answers for the rural poor. The Republicans say they do, but they’ll take that tarnished, broken Craftsman back to Sears and trade it in for a new model as soon as its convenient. I don’t put the onus on you, the oppressed and the downtrodden (if you are that), to shed a tear for Merl at Dixie Auto. I do put it on you to have political goals that support the rights of American laborers everywhere and the dissemination of information about class consciousness. This is a must, a priority, and if your political leaders aren’t doing it, they are not your leaders, they are your owners.

It is not original to suggest the Democrats have made long careers of annihilating or assimilating progressive movements in America. I’ll also not feign ignorance of the American political system and suggest you could vote your way out of this one. I will say, however, there’s ugly in them hills, but it’s ugly I’ve shaken hands with. I’ve hunted with it. I’ve eaten dinner with it and I have, on occasion, loved it.

It’s such a jolly notion, “Bob Talbot is arguing for Neo-Confederates today,” and if that’s how you’d like to wrap it up, I can’t complain much. You’re incorrect, but I can see how you got turned down that road. Back up a bit, and come down the one I’m on, which is down here:

For all my faults, I stand here today a great-great-grandson of slave owners, a grandson of Klan associates, and a son of an often-misguided conservative. I don’t think I’ve beaten the odds, but on paper it looks like something that would end with, “and now I’m president of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

It actually ends with, “I am a guy who fucks up a lot, constantly, but at least I know I do, and I’m working on it every day. I also don’t think it’s cool to treat people like shit based on how they look or where they’re from, and that flag is fucking stupid.”

I’m also an atheist, which isn’t required, and a space communist (arguably a revolutionary brocialist), which pretty much is required (if we want to survive, at least).

Politics won’t ever end hate. There’s a door people have to walk through on their own, a gate, perhaps, attached to a big black wrought iron fence. When I look back down that gravel road, I wonder if it had to be so, and if maybe some folks profited from making the trek so damned long. I can’t ask you to take to the swamps or the hills as a missionary with compassion in your heart. What I can ask, or plead, is that when someone comes stumbling out from under those three flags, maybe point them to a good book or two. If they’ve made it that far, there’s a good chance they’ll step into the clearing.

Calling All Sinners

You want to know what my dream is? It’s not that I do something so cool I can make a living showing up at convention centers and selling autographs. That would be quite nice, but it’s not the grand prize. It isn’t vast wealth, either, but I wouldn’t turn it down. If you’re talking about a real life Konami Code (up up down down left right left right B A start), money is it. You cannot convince me a billionaire still understands how actual humans live. They don’t buy first class plane tickets. They own the airline.

No, I want to to achieve something so spectacular you’ll forgive me for anything.

This is a touchy one. I got stuck in the goo today by naming a name, because those come with a lot of baggage. If I get too specific, I’ll be forced to roll the die and make saving throw against intersectionality. No, I’ll let you decide on the sinner’s identity. Take your pick of your favorite celebrity or politician. Who is your guilty pleasure? Which musician did something reprehensible yet you cannot stop bopping to their groove? Who did you campaign for even though they did that thing you don’t agree with, because it’s complicated, right?

Here is the human algebra I always mention. Achievement is the secular Hail Mary. Success is absolution. We’re all weighed by each other. Are we worth it? What have we done?

It’s simple, really, to assume people will have some quirks or flaws. We all deal with imperfect people every day and we strain ourselves trying to see their admirable attributes. The silver lining scales up, though, like tax breaks for massive corporations compared to your measly relief, and the pain, excruciating for you, scales down to a pinprick for them. I’d love to blame capitalism or society, but whatever the cause, the tiny bit of mercy you’d personally receive if you robbed a bank is multiplied a million fold if you hold the global economy in your hands and you’re charged with robbing the American people.

If you’re a great artist who invented a genre, a captain of industry who developed a product that changed the course of human civilization, or a producer who made one of the greatest films of all time, maybe there’s more mercy for you when you’ve been accused of heinous crimes. You might not always be able to directly murder someone and remain free for long, but indirectly? Place a few levels of organization between you and the target, and you’re solid. Anything less than that also seems to be fair game. Repeated sex crimes, violence, embezzlement, you name it. These are the perks of being somebody.

Strange karma is at play here. Everyday folk who may not have much to their name often get by on charisma. Fame is a multiplier. Wealth, even more so. We’re obviously fine with this because it’s made clear every single time we’ve cause to discuss it. “Everyone did that back then,” we say, or, “You have to ask yourself why you’d say that.”

Better yet, we’ll say, “You have to separate the art from the artist,” or, “They understand how politics really work.”

Something about this makes religion sound nice. How refreshing it would be if you all answered to God, but then there’s another problem. I’ve seen video of a retired warrior who stood in front of his congregation and told them how he ate the hearts of children, which imbued him with their life essence. This was acceptable, though, because he’d asked God for forgiveness. We cannot do with an absentee landlord, either. Perhaps a Great and Powerful Oz of our making, a robot of apocalyptic proportions, would suffice, but if it were well designed it would put us out of our misery shortly.

There are complications of who one is or what one looks like, and NeoLiberals still struggle with this race to the bottom of equality for the famous, as if it translates to equality for the rest of civilization. “If two people are multi-millionaires separated by a scant few million, why should one make more than the other?” they ask. “If one man beats his wife and has a career, and the other beats his wife and also has a career, why do you mention one more than the other?” they inquire. Surely utopia will spring forth across the land when we’ve achieved equality for celebrities!

There is a notion that notable, rich, and/or famous people elevate everyone who identifies with them, but how is this demonstrated to be so? Have police officers shot less civilians? Have less people been brutally beaten to death because of the way they’re dressed? The system, as it does, will grab issues we hold dear and make them seem instrumental in its plans only to simultaneously demonstrate their ridiculousness and futility when couched in NeoLiberal thought.

How many actors and politicians does it take to stop a pipeline? How many t-shirt sales does it require to stop fascism? If these are quantifiable things, why not pursue those finite numbers? We have transportation capable of moving Hollywood to North Dakota. We have wonderful t-shirtmongers who can and will provide the cloth if science says, “This number will make freedom and justice blossom from the cold earth.”

There are no people of fame or power exempt from my ire. It is not reduced, it is multiplied. As long as we persist in this way of life, I’ll always question authority, always, but it doesn’t always come with a big oak desk flanked by flags. Authority can also be the person who wrote your favorite series of books. It can be a beloved cartoonist. It can come from the diocese down the street or the man yelling on the radio. Because someone speaks the name of someone you’ve likely never met and it means something to you, they hold influence. Such appointment can only be met by the checks and balances of public opinion, and sadly those often lean towards deification instead of scrutiny.

I am sad that I felt forced to write this in defense of a what began as a stupid joke. The person in question was not important to me, and it was a throwaway comment meant to get laughs. This is my non-apology because I am not sorry I said it. I am only sorry I didn’t have room to post this first.

It is tiresome to spend hours and a thousand words explaining a 140 character tweet, and I probably won’t do it again. If I deem it prudent and I have room, I may list the relevant celebrity crackers who’ve done worse (sorry, David Bowie). Otherwise, consider me shitty and erase me from your life, if you must.

By the way, the money shot:

I’m so sorry I said “paradoxical time-travel cultural appropriation couldn’t have happened to a better guy.” The 59 peecam victims say hello

Marty McFly didn’t invent Rock ‘n’ Roll. He learned it from Huey Lewis and the News, who learned it from Chuck Berry. It’s a paradox when Marvin calls Chuck. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Luckily, in this case, we know it’s Chuck because we lived it, and it’s a work of fiction.

Insensitive or not, if you’re worried about your legacy, maybe don’t commit crimes against dozens of women. The music is still good, but I’m going to stand by my initial statement: Michael J. Fox sang it better.

If some repetitive three chord tunes are enough for you to erase the experiences of all those folks and berate me for saying so, I don’t know what to tell you. I hope that Chuck Berry prize is worth it. It’ll be coming in the mail any day now, I assure you.

How to Fail at Business Without Really Trying

It’s not uncommon to round a corner at the bookstore and end up face to face with a customer. It happened again not even ten minutes ago, near the puzzle fixture. “Excuse me,” I said. She encroached on my bubble.

“I’m Batman,” she said in a growl before she marched off.

I don’t particularly enjoy being close to strangers. I’m forever scarred by an extended photo shoot with Eve Myles, because she kept talking to me four inches from my face. The subject matter, while ribald, wasn’t the reason for my stunned expression in the photo that hangs on my living room wall. It was more the fact that I never thought I’d have Gwen from Torchwood (or what’s-her-face from Victoria) repeatedly barking her nasty thoughts directly into my mouth.

The horror.

I’ve felt like dirt all morning, but it’s not worth spending time on. Every time I come up with a way to articulate it, I’m struck by the realization that I can’t make you feel this and even if I could, I wouldn’t want to. I’d basically have to drive to your house and shoot your dog.

That’s not a threat. Believe me, I’ve seen what happens to pet harmers in this country, and I’d rather not spend the next thirty years in prison. I’m constantly amazed at how Americans deify dogs and cats, though. Seriously, folks, I’ve had pets I liked and pets I barely tolerated, but it’s weird how people’s mercy toward other humans comes to an abrupt halt when cuteness is involved.

Even the biggest prison reformers, who preach rehabilitation and education, would be calling for the public execution of a guy who kicked a stray dog. People can’t even handle villains doing it in movies. Sure, Patrick Bateman just rapes and murders a few prostitutes in American Psycho, but god forbid he harm an animal.

We’ve elevated our canine and feline friends above children, even, because we’re obviously okay with the murder of kids in every war zone since forever. I’m sure you can think of at least one armed conflict where you’re like, “Well, yeah, but they started it.”

I’m going to start a charity with the express purpose of parachuting baskets of kittens into Syria. All kidding aside, though, I get why it’s such a red flag. When dude hollows out Sparky and wears him as a hat, you think he might be capable of doing that to you. As a society, we don’t really give the military murder of civilians a second thought (unless there’s a guy in office we don’t like) because we’re all well-drilled on “legitimate” use of force, but maybe we should. Maybe we should have asked when the Navy Seals were going to machine gun our daughters. Maybe we should have asked when Obama was going to drone bomb our house.

Me, I’m for rehabilitation. Give the man some time off for windsurfing and he’ll be back to lobbying for mediocre NeoLiberal half-measures in no time. Watersports Prison might even cure puppy stompers, but we’re going to have to brainstorm a better title, y’all.

Now that I’ve dug this hole, I might as well roll around in it. I’m doing the thing I said I wasn’t going to do up there, but that’s okay. It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission. “May I infect you with my malaise?” sounds stranger than saying, “Sorry for being an emo edgelord.”

The best option I’ve found, though, is, “Thanks for listening.”

Believe me, the sociopathic talk is all hypothetical. If I were really that way, I wouldn’t be working retail. I’d be giving YouTube speeches about how I became a billionaire by taking risks and giving no fucks and how you too can be successful if you just buy my book and follow these 13 precepts and attend my $750 seminar. 

I still have Facebook friends who share that shit, and while they might feel inspired after they watch it while clutching their dogeared copy of 48 Laws of Power, they should take note that their beloved business gurus almost never fail to mention their dad’s business, at least in passing.

I hope you have dad’s business, budding entrepreneurs. Sometimes even that isn’t enough. I’m living proof.

Don’t weep for me. I shed my tears for the nonexistent American Left, which let the downtrodden think the only way to get by is by figuratively and/or literally playing the lottery.

If you ever see me go silent for a bit and emerge with a business book to sell, or better yet, a self-transformation manual full of my hard won answers to life’s nagging questions, assume I’ve cracked and gone over to the dark side. Like the work of good ol’ L. Ron Hubbard, the illusion will be effective even after I’ve revealed my intentions for $29.99, hardcover only.