Your Thoughts On Religion…

…really don’t matter to me.

I found this old (2009) thing what I wrote and thought I’d put it here.  It’s not exactly eloquent, but I stand by the message of “shut up.”  Anyway…

Most people I know believe whatever they believe and are quiet about it and that’s great.  But then there are the people who are vocal about it and have a desperate need to make sure everyone knows their opinion.  To those people I say this:  You know what I find interesting about your opinion on God and/or religion?  Nothing.  Seriously, I don’t care what you think and I’m tired of hearing about it.  I can’t imagine anything (with the possible exception of SEO seminars) more boring than yet another debate on whether or not there’s an afterlife or a god.

Atheists:  People have always believed in God or gods or witches or ghosts or aliens or bigfoot or whatever else and they will until the sun burns out so fucking accept it and get on with your lives.  Oh and by the way, I have an incredibly difficult time understanding how a bunch of you organizing and discussing your beliefs is terribly different from a church.

Everyone Else:  You NEED to shut the fuck up.  About everything.  Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, or Jew, just shut your fucking mouths and live your lives as well as you can.  Islam isn’t evil and the Pope isn’t the Antichrist and all of you need to stop judging other people because when you do, you’re stepping on God’s toes.  If two guys want to get married and you believe that’s an offense to God and they’re going to burn in Hell for their sins?  Let them burn in fucking Hell.  But what they do here in this life is none of your concern.  I understand you think that your way of life is the best and you want to share it with everyone but that’s crazy because it’s your way of life.  I guarantee you there’s someone in the world right now who thinks the best way to live is to start every day with a chicken soup enema and if he started insisting that everyone follow his lead, someone would slap the shit out of him.

I’m rambling.  I’ll end with two quotes from a guy who happens to be both a priest and one of the wisest people I know:

“God is bigger than our religion.  God is bigger than all religion.”

“Who on Earth would want a god they could understand?”

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Speculative Outrage

Oh man, did I call that wrong.  President Pussy Grabber.  I get that Hillary Clinton is really unlikable for a lot of people, but Donald Trump was endorsed by the fucking Klan.  I can’t believe this needs to be said, but:  When in doubt, vote for the candidate not endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan.  Jesus god, we’ve seriously lost our minds.  But I’m not gonna turn this into a think piece about the election.

You know what would have made 9/11 worse?  Facebook.

After the election, there was this growing dark cloud of despair hanging over my head, like a bad gag from a newspaper comic strip.  The closer we got to January 20th, the larger the cloud got, the more despair rained down, and not just on me.  Inauguration Day hit and it was horrible.

Then, on day fucking two, the White House Press Secretary addressed the nation, told a verifiable lie, and condemned the news media for failing to acknowledge the grandiosity of Trump’s achievements.  Which, of course, is condemning the news media for not sharing in a hallucination that no one else is having.

Day three, Kellyanne Conway goes on Meet The Press, and introduces “alternative facts” into the American political conversation.  Kind of like when Stephen Colbert introduced the term “truthiness” only without the humor and satire.  Let’s not beat around the bush:  Kellyanne Conway is the worst person in the world.

Trump is a moral wasteland in an expensive suit, but he’s also mentally ill and you can’t really get too righteous in your anger when dealing with the mentally ill.  Kellyanne Conway, on the other hand, holds a law degree from George Washington University.  She knows the legal definition of the word “fact,” and she knows the contemporary everyday definition, and she chose to claim there was such a thing as an alternative fact.  Fuck her.  She is a vile, manipulative liar, and the living avatar for everything that is repulsive about American politics.

The damage that will be done to our country and our people over the next four years will be horrific, and it will take generations to undo.  Of course, that’s predicated on the assumption that our country will have the desire to undo the damage.  We’ve swung so far to the right during the course of my lifetime, that might not actually be the case.  Trumps various appointees are a sick joke:  Jeff Sessions, Tom Price, Ben Carson, Rick Perry, Betsy “Grizzlies!” DeVos, Scott Pruitt, Stephen Bannon, Carl Icahn, and Sean “Pants-On-Fire” Spicer.  One gets the impression that Trump would choose an unrepentant alcoholic to hold his key to the liquor cabinet.

But for all of that, nothing has stoked the fires of outrage in my heart like Kellyanne Conway and her alternative facts.  Fun fact:  My browser thinks “Kellyanne” isn’t a word and throws the red squiggly underneath it.  I’m not going to be adding it to the dictionary.  Every time I type out her name, I want the reminder that it’s wrong:

She’s the worst.

But really, where I’m going with all this, is outrage.  I spent almost every day between the election and the inauguration trying to filter the echo chamber we’ve all become acquainted with out of my Facebook account.  I don’t want to see any news stories from bullshit sources, like ifyouonlynews.com.  I don’t want to see any news stories from any source that always skews liberal or conservative.  I don’t want to see any news stories from Huffington Post because it’s absolute garbage.  Ten weeks I spent doing this and you know what the result was?  Friends posting links to totally legit news sources, accompanied by, “R.I.P. Democracy 1776 – 2016,” and similar hyperbole.

If you’ve read everything up to this point, you know I’m worried for my country.  But can we please not mourn democracy until it’s actually fucking dead?  And by the way, I’m not speaking from a place of superiority, I’m every bit as susceptible as anyone else.  But for fuck’s sake.

Facebook went drastically wrong the day it began featuring trending news off to the right of the page.  I don’t want to know what people are screaming about.  My friends are now spread out across the globe, I want to know how they’re doing.  I want to see pictures of my nieces and nephews and my friends’ children.  I want to hear a funny anecdote about your day, or see the trailer for that upcoming superhero flick.  I DO  NOT WANT TO KNOW THAT YOU FOUND ONE OF STEVE MARTIN’S TWEETS OFFENSIVE.  And the thing that sucks is you aren’t even the one telling me that, Facebook is.

Fuck you Facebook.  Fuck you for gossiping about the gossip my friends are gossiping about.  Fuck you for telling me that the Kardashians are in another pickle.  Fuck you for showing me the stupid comment someone I love wrote in a thread started by a complete stranger.  And fuck you for introducing me to alternative facts.

You know what would have made 9/11 worse?  Facebook.

I 100% get that Facebook is a tool, and being angry at it is every bit as stupid as being angry at a hammer.  I 100% embrace that stupidity, because that’s what’s going to save my life over the next four years.  I can live without Facebook.  I can’t live without my friends and family.

So I’m done.  Like, not done done.  I’m going to have to login sometimes to promote an event or some equally rare situation where Facebook is useful, but I’m done having it in my life on a daily basis.  I took it off my phone, logged out of every device that was logged into it, and I’m going back to Google News and talking to people in person.

And on Twitter.

Shut up.

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America, 2036

In my vision I’m sitting on my couch, watching television with a faceless child, one of several in my ever-growing tribe.  We’re watching another mediocre clip show called I Love the Twentyteens.  Each episode is apparently broken down by year and this one is 2016.

It starts off with various b-list celebrities reminiscing about the time our country had a collective stroke over the Ghostbusters remake.  And then the tone changes and the music gets ominous.  An image of Donald Trump’s face floats across the screen with glowing red eyes, as the voice of Sauron from the Lord of the Rings movies bellows, “I see you,” in the background.  What follows is a flurry of standup comedians and TV personalities laughing about the time Trump thought he’d built a movement.

They talk about the complete meltdown he had when it became clear he wasn’t going to win the election, and how he turned the misogyny and the hate speech up to eleven.  As still images from his campaign trail montage, one into the next, they make jokes about his hideous appearance, his crepe-paper ego, and they marvel that there could ever have been a time when a large segment of the populace could have allowed themselves to be talked into giving that much power to such a petty, horrible man.

The screen crash cuts to video footage of white, screaming mobs at his rallies, shoving people of color and vomiting hate speech all over them.  A comedian’s voice speaks somberly about Trump’s efforts to create civil unrest and derail the whole country out of spite.  Screen grabs of racist threats and calls for revolution on various internet message boards stream across the screen.  If the people couldn’t have their bloated, hate-filled demagogue in the White House then by god, they were going to burn this country to the ground.

“But then he lost and nothing happened,” says a game show host.

“Clinton was inaugurated and nothing was on fire,” says a podcast host.

And the child sitting next to me turns and asks if that’s really what happened.  And I explain to him that yes, these were the same people who didn’t want to pick their own produce, let alone sacrifice their personal comfort for the sake of a political point.  For all their anger and bluster, they were just bloated, racist dinosaurs who hadn’t yet realized they were already extinct.  And the 2016 election was their death rattle.

“It’s like…if you’re going to have a revolution you should really make sure your army is made out of something sturdier than hatred and gout,” says an ageless Michael Ian Black.

And the child and I laughed.

Thesis Stress…

…and other good problems.  I don’t think 2016 was even two weeks old when I got the news that my good friend Gregory Toliver had died.  Gregory was another complicated genius I was fortunate enough to know, and with his passing I’ve come to realize how insanely lucky I am to have known so many like him.  And for now, that’s all I’m going to say about his passing.

2015 was mostly spent working on my MFA and working my full-time job on top of that, so while I did a LOT of writing, I submitted to damn near zero journals.  2016 will be different.  I’ve already submitted to two journals this year.  One of them has already rejected my submission, which is fine.  Toward the end of last year, I read a few poems during the open mic of a poetry reading in Pomona, and after I was asked by Andrew Turner (a friend) to submit one of them to his journal, East Jasmine Review.

There’s going to be a lot of links in this post.  It reminds me of the old geocities days.

Anyway, Andrew asked me to submit it, and I was very flattered and I did, and he published it.  I’m not sure if it’s in the newest issue or just on his site, but whatever.  You should buy the last several issues, EJR is a truly fine publication.  He also asked me to give him a recording of me reading it, so you can read it or listen to it here (I can’t deal with the sound of my recorded voice, but maybe you can):  Psychedelic Codeine Mobius Strip

Week and a half ago, I was asked by my friend David Stone for any of my love-themed poetry for a Valentine’s Day article he was writing for the Press Enterprise.  That article was published yesterday and you can read it here.  It was also published in the print edition.

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That’s my friend Cindy Rinne pictured to the left.  Easily the highlight of this last weekend was having one of my poems appear on an image I altered, next to a wedding cake made by my wife, Annette, at the Simply Red exhibition at the dA Center for the Arts.  Annette signed us up to contribute something to the exhibition, and I had no idea what I was doing until about a week ago.

The poem that was quoted in the Press Enterprise yesterday was written very specifically for Annette.  I decided to rewrite it into something a bit more broad, and then she thought it would look nice on a picture of Morro Bay, which is one of our favorite places (and also mentioned in the poem).  Problem was, I couldn’t find any of the pictures I’ve taken of Morro Bay, so I had to find one to work with.  This turned out to be incredibly easy.

I stumbled across the photography of Josh Willems, who I guess is a biologist.  Photography is his hobby, but he’s seriously good at it.  I found this image of Morro Rock on his site (click for hi-res).

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Copyright © Josh Willems

Gorgeous, yes?  So I reached out to Josh on Facebook and he got back to me less than 24 hours later, enthusiastically allowing me to use his image.  I’m always amazed by the generosity of the creative folks I encounter.  They’re good people.

But the theme of the exhibit is Simply Red, so I had to run it through Photoshop, which I had to do anyway in order to paste my poem over it.

While I was doing that, Annette was hard at work making an enormous wedding cake, which would be on display for the first few hours of the night, and would then be eaten by the people at the gallery.  Annette is amazing.  Her cakes are genuinely works of art, and they taste fastastic, and if we’d opened our bakery five years before or after the recession, she’d be all over your television.  Anyway, the end result looked like this (click for a better image).

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I wish I’d gotten a better picture, this one barely does it justice.  Everything on that cake is edible of course.  Crazy proud of her.  A hi-res version of my image / poem can be seen by clicking on the image below.

Meanwhile, I’m finishing my MFA this year.  Sixteen, seventeen weeks from now, I’ll have my degree and then, ate the age of 47, I’ll have to go out into the world and pretend to be a grownup.  The fuck is that all about?

Easily the one thing that’s going to eat away at my sanity most over these next months is finishing my thesis.  There are two parts to the thesis:  The manuscript, which has to be anywhere between fifty and a hundred pages (mine will be much closer to fifty), and the SOP (Statement of Purpose), which is the academic writing bit.  My manuscript is currently at 45 pages, has a title, and is looking good.

Keep in mind that “looking good” means wildly swinging back and forth between “not feeling embarrassed by it” and “everything I’ve ever written is dog shit.”

when_i_die_tAdded to that, is the fact that a lot of what’s in that manuscript is semi-autobiographical, detailing the complicated, frequently-ugly relationship between my father and I.  Many of the poems in this manuscript have already been published, in one form or another, by other journals so a lot of this is already public.  I’m going to do my best to see the whole thing published, however, which means at some point, I’m going to have to deal with family reaction.

But even that stress is just me working as hard as I can to avoid my SOP.  I have literally zero trouble writing long-winded academic essays, but when you have to write about your own writing?  As though you’re fucking Wordsworth?  Yeah, I’m having real trouble with this.

Q:  How do you write about your writing, taking your work very seriously, without sounding like an asshole?

A:  You don’t.

Maybe.  Or maybe I should just shut up and get back to work.

Life is really, really good right now.

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Who’s The Troll?

“Don’t feed the trolls.”  Once in a while, I apparently have to be reminded what a great piece of advice that is.  I’m at a point in my life where my writing is, once again, my only source of therapy, so I’m back to “thinking out loud” here.  I’m 46 years old and I’m ashamed of the words I’m about to type:

I’ve spent the last hour plus of my life arguing about George R. R. Martin with some random nerd I’ve never met before.

On Facebook, no less.  What a pathetic douche bag.  Me, not the other nerd.  Though he might be that as

The specifics of the argument are irrelevant.  What matters is some friend of a friend wrote something in a comment thread that I passionately disagreed with and instead of saying to myself, “Wow, what a load of horse shit,” I engaged with him.  And it went back and forth – a few times – and our mutual friend said something about backing off, which she should because I hate it when two of my friends starting squabbling in one of my comment threads, but (god I hate Facebook) then neither one of us really backed down and now we’re still arguing even after I started writing this post.  And this is the worst part:

I’m the fucking troll.

I’ve been online about as long as this guy has been alive and I know how to behave.  But I chose not to.  Why?  Fucked if I know.  But yeah, I’m the troll here.  Disgusting.

That doesn’t let him off the hook though, he’s still a condescending

There’s something wrong with me.  His first reply illustrated the lack of rational perspective that’s so prevalent among the more rabid fans of nerd culture (I’m a nerd by the way, we’re all on the same page about that, right?), and a complete unwillingness to take any kind of personal responsibility (and again, we’re talking about a series of fucking books here, not birth control, or something that matters) and I should’ve just walked away.  But I’d already engaged with the guy and it was way too late.

I wonder if this is what it’s like to be a junkie?  To actively, knowingly participate in something you know is wrong?  Probably not.  Regardless, I knew this was a stupid waste of my time, but my lizard brain refused to let go.  I’m the troll.

What a fucking drag.  And here’s something else:  I was genuinely angry with this dude.  I don’t even know him.  He might be a great dude.

He could be.  So I’m getting worked up and I’ve got that anger demon in my gut that just makes me want to invade a small village and destroy their food and water supply, and then, toward the end of this thing, this guy writes that he was about to write a nice message about how good it was to debate with me.

Fucking what?

Couple things here:  First, nothing about what we did was debate.  We were two self-righteous nerds yelling at each other.  Second…good?  What about any of that shit was good?

I guess some people are just hardwired to argue about shit.  I’m really, really not one of those people.  I mean, I’m inclined to argue about shit, especially pointless shit, but it’s an inclination I seriously dislike, and there’s not any part of the process I find enjoyable.  Read three paragraphs back where I mention the anger demon in my gut.  The real term for that is “stress.”  I was stressed out.  This guy enjoyed himself, apparently.  He totally wins.

I totally lose.  I probably shaved like a day off my life over this shit.  And I was a dick to some random dude in the process.

I just apologized to him on Facebook.  Because I’m a middle aged adult and that’s what you do.

Goddammit.  Maybe I’ll be a better person tomorrow.

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