Friday, January 27, 2012

Close Call

We almost died today ... and nobody even knows it.

Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating just a little, but we did narrowly missed being hammered by a bus-sized asteroid.


Today, at about 10:30 am, asteroid 2012 BX34 missed us by only 36,750 miles. That's so close, it actually flew between the Earth and the Moon!

Although I cannot be sure, since the asteroid did not actually pass close enough for me to take samples, I'm fairly certain that, if the asteroid would've hit us, it would've broken up on Earth's surface, releasing dangerous space mold spores that would turn humans into zombies, bringing about the zombie apocalypse.

And that's not the first near collision we've had. Earlier in the week, a smaller asteroid passed us just on the other side of the moon. Sure it was small, and it was far away, and it probably wouldn't have made it through the atmosphere, But I'm pretty sure it too contained zombified mold spores.

So, you see folks? It really would be a good idea to heed my advice about the coming zombie apocalypse.

Until next time, folks ... if there is a next time ... prepare yourselves. And have a great day!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Ballad of Daleville Dan

Just thought I would post my latest in a long series of rants about all the stray cats running through my neighborhood. Don't get me wrong, I normally like cats, but these particular cats seem to have chosen my front yard for their community gathering, shitting, territory marking, and fornicating place.

This little dity came to me after my dog ran off chasing a cat the other day.  It was innocent, really. My grandson was at the house and wanted to go outside. He opened the door, and my dog spotting a cat in the front yard, so he quickly tore past my grandson, out the door, and after the cat.

Well, we all know by now, my city "aint got no ordnance 'gainst cats." (a direct quote from our local police station) but they sure got one for unleashed dogs. Did I mention my dog was not wearing a leash? So, here goes. This is a poem, or song, of sorts, sang to the tune of the Beverly Hillbillies theme song.

This here's a story 'bout Daleville Dan
And how one day, he got thrown into the can
from his dog gettin' lose, and doin' what he should
to the feline nemisis throughout the neighborhood.

Cats, that is. Felis Catus. Los Gatos.

Well, the next thing you know, the po' po's at the door
and Daleville Dan said, "What you here for?"
The cop said, "Got no ordnance for the cats don't ya' see
but we got one for dogs, so you're comin' with me."

Jail, that is. The Bighouse. Calaboose.

When he got sprung from jail, his dog had made it home
sittin' on the porch, and chewin' on a bone.
He surveyed his yard and said, "Isn't this swell?"
Dead cats all in the yard, and the dog has eaten well.

Cats, that is. Felis Catus. Los Gatos.

Gotta love Daleville Dan!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Honoring King

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
I would like to dedicate this special post to the memory of a visionary, and in celebration, not of his death, but his life.

This Monday we all enjoy the holiday of Martin Luther King's birthday. Of course, his birthday actually fell on January 15th, but in order to allow as many holidays as possible to land on a Monday, we instead, celebrate his birthday on the third Monday of January.

We should all be thankful for this holiday as it traveled a rocky road coming into being. Campaigning for this holiday began shortly after King's assassination, but many resisted it. Some believed that King's contributions did not warrant a holiday. Others were dead-set against it because of King's personal opinions on the Vietnam war.

The state of Arizona nearly lost its hosting of the Superbowl when it cancelled Columbus day to be replaced by MLK day. Virginia attempted to combine MLK day with the holiday celebrating the birthdays of General Jackson, and General Lee. They finally realized, years later, that combining holidays for two confederate generals with a black civil rights activist would not be ... prudent?

Even Ronald Reagan, the President signing the bill into law in 1983, was not convinced of the need for the holiday. He begrudgingly signed the bill after it was passed by overwhelming majority in congress. The first official MLK holiday was observed in 1986, although all of the United States did not honor the holiday until 2000.

I believe the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. is deserving of a national holiday.

King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his efforts to bring about civil change in a non-violent manner. Think he did nothing to bring about non-violent change. I'll just say this: If it weren't for King, we'd be witnessing change through the likes of Malcolm X and other (not so non-violent) activists.

I would also say that he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace back when it meant something - for things he accomplished. Not like nowadays when the award is given to people such as Barack Hussein Obama  for, I quote:
"His extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."
Seriously? Yes. He was given this award in 2009, after having served in the Presidency for less that six months. The award was given not for something he'd accomplished, rather as a measure of confidence to what he could do. Yeah, how's that working out for you.

Okay enough rant. The bottom line here is that, we should all take the time on Monday, even if it is only a few minutes out of the day, to honor Martin Luther King Jr. for what he was able to accomplish for this country. We should thank him for always striving to bring about tough social change and equality through peaceful protest.

I believe that he did more to educate people on social issues than anyone since. Sure, we can't say we live in anything close to a perfect society yet, and we probably never will, but we're a lot further along then we would be if it weren't for Martin Luther King Jr.

We should all strive to see others by some measure beyond skin color.

We should learn to rejoice in the diversity, and struggles of all people in our society, rather than squabble over such petty things as the pigment of one's skin.

Okay, sir. You can have your soap box back now.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Flexible Facts

Catchy title, right? I do what I can.

Many people say the media gave us our current President.

It’s true.

In fact, the media will probably give us our next President, whether it is the same person, or another; it will likely be someone the media (read major news channels) decides upon, and supports.

The same thing can, and should, be applied in writing. Remember, you are the writer, and your job is to influence the reader in a way that helps them understand your characters. Good, bad or ugly, you want the reader to see that in a character.

All that stuff you hear writers say like “I let my characters write the story” – that’s bullshit.

Writers create characters for the story. Or, the characters that writers create, guide the story.

If a character doesn’t work in a particular story, or grows in another direction, the story becomes different – a new story. If one insists on keeping the same story, then the characters must change.

Here’s an example, almost a how-to from different news sources, on how a story or character is influenced by perspective.

Way back in October 2011, an incident happened in a Greenwich Village, New York McDonald’s. Two customers and a cashier were involved in an altercation, which ended in hospitalization and arrest.

Let me just say this right up front: Rayon McIntosh, you’re my new hero!

But, some folks didn’t (and still don’t) see it that way.

Some of the first reports of this incident came from NBC New York. Here’s the link:

NBC New York: McDonald's Beating Caught on Tape

This first report, along with a video, would have you believe this lowly McDonald’s employee (and also made clear-a convicted felon) became enraged when two women ordered food and attempted to pay with a $50 dollar bill. He didn’t believe the bill was real, and somehow (through some creative video editing, cut to graphically violent scene) he just went berserk, and beat the crap out of these women with a metal rod. The video (put on by local New York NBC News station) even shows an interview with the father of one of the women, talking about the massive injuries his daughter sustained at the hand of this hooligan.

The owner of the store, Carmen Paulino, immediately released a statement expressing how deeply sorry she was for the incident, and that Rayon McIntosh was immediately fired.

It wasn’t until later, when a more complete video went viral on youtube, link shown here:

McDonald's Cashier Beats Customers (Funny, this video has been deemed "age restrictive" by youtube, maybe because of the brutal nature of the beatings. You may have to sign in or create an account to view this video)

The entire video gave a more complete story. It was only after it was shown (on the video) that the women first yelled a barrage of profanity at the cashier, before slapping him in the face. When he retreated, one of the women came over the counter, while the other went around the side to close off any chance he might have of escape

That’s when he grabbed a tool used to clean the grill (oddly enough, nearby) and beat the brain pudding out of his assailants.

Some now consider him a hero. Others are still too numb to the facts to understand.

On a side note (having nothing to do with anything) I think it’s important to note that all of his fellow employees basically stood around and watched as these two unruly customers came across the counter, hell-bent on killing the poor cashier. It was only after he found a weapon and was effectively defending himself, that his fellow workers attempted to stop the insanity.

I can’t help but wonder what would happen if he did not defend himself. Would his “friends” have continued to stand around with their worthless thumbs up their asses while these two customers beat the living dog snot out of the employee? Oh, and one other thing, it was later discovered that this employee was simply following McDonald’s policy of checking the large bill for authenticity. I cannot find any news showing a retraction of the store owner’s previous statements.

He was immediately charged with aggravated assault, and criminal possession of a weapon, and thrown in jail with a $40,000.00 bail. Now, even after the facts of the case, the two women have yet to be charged with anything beyond menacing and criminal mischief.

Oh, the charge of attempted burglary was recently added. Maybe that $50 dollar bill was fake after all. No wonder they got so upset when he checked it.

Okay, maybe I got a little off-track there. The point to all of this is that, as a writer, you can, and should create and manipulate your characters to fit the part you want them to play. If they grow into something else, don’t try to push them into your preconceived spot like a square peg in a round hole, just use a different character.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Bring in the Calvary

Yeah, I know I wrote earlier that I was going to be all up in your face this year on the blog. It's all part of the real me.

But here's something else from the real me. I know not many people know it, and if I do say so myself, I hide it pretty well, but I do have a heart.

Somewhere out there in the blogosphere, I heard a small peep. It wasn't much, but it was there. It was a cry really, of another person in some kind of trouble. Well, of course I ran to the nearest WalMart restroom, and stripped to my undies. Hey, don't laugh, it's a tough economy, and one cannot expect a superhero to wear a full set of clothes.

Actually, another blogger on my blogroll posted a link to an author of YA books, and a Mother needing help. It seems she's had a string of bad luck starting with a troubled birth of her last child. It went downhill from there with the loss of her job, and a screwed up payment system.

So, what she's asking for is just a little something to get her by until her husband's paycheck comes in. I guess their hospital bills were astronomical for the baby. My heart went out to her when I read her article, and some even say "His heart grew two sizes that day." Oh, wait, that heart swelling thing has already happened.

I'm probably butchering the story all up since I'm a writer and can't help but embellish the facts. So, here's a link to her post:

Misadventures in Candyland

Please take the time to venture over there and read her post. I'm not asking that you necessarily give money (although that would certainly be nice) really, an uplifting note would be enough. And, if you feel so inclined, I'm sure she and her family could use material things like diapers too.

I do not know this person, but nonetheless, was touched by the story. Go!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Indolence and Rabelaisian Discourse

Nature abhors a vacuum - Francois Rabelais

I’m a little late on this post, being that the New Year came and went nearly a week ago. Truth be told, the realization that 2012, the much hoopla’d year in which everything is suppose to happen, from electing a new President to the end of the world as we know it, is now firmly seated in the present, brought about some reflection on my part. Now, more than ever before, I’m beginning to feel the pressure of time (or lack thereof) bearing down on my brittle bones.
What about you? Do you feel it too?

It was in December of 2008 that I received a phone call from a hospital worker telling me that my father had been found in his trailer after having a stroke, and airlifted to a hospital in Seattle. Just when I thought the news could not possibly be worse, the woman on the phone goes on to tell me he was in a vegetative state with chances of recovery unlikely. But that wasn’t all. She continued to tell me that they were waiting on my decision to remove life support. I was forced to let them disconnect to spare him from suffering, and I arrived in Seattle the next day to begin the arduous task of sifting through his life, while making funeral arrangements.

My Mother died a few years before, and having just arrived from a military overseas assignment, I could not attend funeral services, a decision I’ve regretted since. Something I was completely unaware of, and that I was told while making arrangements for my father, was that my Grandmother died not long before my Father. You see, something I became rather skilled at, due to my military activities, was avoiding family relationships.

After retirement from the military, one would think I would rekindle those familial relationships, and reconnect with those who I love, and who cared for me. Was it laziness that precluded such an effort? Possibly, but also a kind of stagnation – a habit built upon and reinforced through years of practice.

It’s funny, when you’re young, time seems to stretch out in an endless segment, like a thread extending out to some unknown and unseen point in space. It’s different when you get older, and realize you can see the end point of that string. So, now, as my desire to accomplish this thing or that thing grows, my strength to follow through, my very endurance, wanes.

Consider this day the end of indolence in my writing efforts. My blog is about my reflections, my satire, and my fiction writing, so it’s time I show more writing. I’ll still write under a pen name for certain material but it’s time I show all of you some wares from the real me.

Does this also mean an end to my highly sarcastic satire? Hells no. If anything, you can expect it to become more sarcastic and more satirical – that’s just who I am. I like to tell it how it is or, at least, how it is to me. Yes, I’m weird. Yes, I’m abrasive. Yes I’m opinionated. It’s high time my blog paints a picture of the real me. So watch out readers, the real JL Stratton is about to make an appearance, and he’s one ugly, hairy, stupid, opinionated, sexy beast. Okay, well, I don’t know about the sexy part but it made me feel good to say it. Besides, rude and cynical humor paid off for Francois Rabelais, so why wouldn’t it work for me.

The best to all of you in this New Year. Thanks in advance for those choosing to continue following my blog. The rest of you? Well, I’ll just say “bless your heart” and “I know where you live.”