Girl it doesn’t matter just as long as it’s healthy

There is a stock photo of a baby in distress up there, which is critical for getting clickthroughs from social media. Now, I will write a dire-sounding article about a new trend on the Internet.

This new trend is hate speech against babies.

I claim, in an incredulous and yet serious-sounding way, that there is a new and dangerous movement on social media that advocates violence against all babies, just for being babies.

To further develop this clickbait, I search Twitter for a few obnoxious catch-phrases, including “babies hate” and “babies disgusting.”   I then provide a few links to some particular troll posts on Twitter, that make it seem as though this “hating babies” concept is truly an active movement:

“The trend of hate speech against babies is disturbing,” Dr. Hans Kutzler, a Ph.D. and Ed.D. at the University of Northern Nebraska, who I just made up. “This sort of claim to authority, even though it is never actually fact checked, lends an air of credence to the clickbait. But I might not actually exist. Or if I do, I might just be trying to make a few bucks myself through writing clickbait on the side.”

Do YOU think this trend can be stopped? How do YOU stand on the question of hating newborns who have barely come into existence? Inviting the reader to take action is key when writing clickbait. At this point, you have an emotional reaction to this article. And you want to write some long-winded diatribe yourself in the comments section, about how unfair it all is. And because you are all worked up about the wild injustice this article portrays, you will Share with all your friends on social media, thus increasing our page ranking even further in the search engines.

Make sure to post some incredulous question with your share, like “OMG is this real? Somebody tell me it’s not…” When someone tells you it’s not real, make sure to leave the link up anyway, thus increasing our advertising revenue even further.

All of the colours locked away, come out and saturate the gray



The novice asked Master Git: “My git flow is impeded.  I use a graphical tool to start and finish new features and hotfixes.  Today, my graphical tool is broken, and I cannot start a new hotfix.”

Master Git handed the branch of an olive tree to the novice.  Then Master Git said:  “git flow –help“.

The novice ran the command, and was bewildered.  After meditating upon the gifts, she was enlightened.



The Stolen Cherry

Git Expert was walking through a farmer’s grove.  The scent of cherry blossoms wafted through the air.  As he walked, he spied a beautiful cherry hanging low on a branch.  “git cherry-pick“, he said, and the cherry was transported to Git Expert’s tree.

Whereupon Master Git appeared and said unto him: “You bring discord upon yourself.”

Git Expert laughed.  “How could picking but one cherry hurt the farmer, if we do not tell him?”

Master Git disappeared without a word.  Later on, when conflicts occurred between Git Expert and the farmer, Git Expert was enlightened.


The Needs of the Many

Git Expert complained to Master Git: “I understand the perils of git rebase. I only rebase my own work. Why must I use the novice git pull, git merge and git push instead?”

Master Git said: “One is always less than more than one.”

Late at night, Git Expert forgot Master Git’s words.  He initiated a git rebase, but there was conflict.  At this point, Git Expert remembered the advice, and decided to limit the changes via git rebase –skip.  He pushed his changes and slept.

The next morning, the town seized Git Expert, tied a rope around his neck, and pulled him up on a tree.

In his next lifetime, Git Expert was enlightened.


The Historian

The historian came to Master Git. The historian asked: “My history is confusing. May I rewrite it to be clearer and easier to understand?”

Upon hearing this, Master Git nodded.

The historian asked: “Your history is confusing. May I rewrite it to be clearer and easier to understand?”

Upon hearing this, Master Git beat the historian to death with a bamboo pole.

In the next lifetime, the historian approached Linus Torvalds and asked: “Your history is confusing. May I rewrite it to be clearer and easier to understand?”

Upon hearing this, Linus Torvalds beat the historian to death with a bamboo pole.

In the next lifetime, the historian rewrote others’ history secretly, without asking permission first.

He lived nine hundred years, whereupon he was killed by a falling cherry tree.


I’m gonna swing from the chandelier

Back when I was an undergraduate at Harvard, we were pretty sure that Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Phantom of the Opera was camp. The travelling performance at the Segerstrom tonight confirmed it readily. The show is a grand, bloviating, overbearing noise, so confident in its declamations that it bored literally every single soul in the theater, on stage and off.

Phantom of the Opera doesn’t know it’s camp. It takes itself maddeningly seriously. There are holes in the story big enough to drop a chandelier through — why don’t all the theater performers merely quit when the Phantom threatens violence? Why don’t the policemen immediately shoot the Phantom either of the times they have him in their sights? (He manages to get in several long refrains before anyone can pull a trigger at him.) Why does the Phantom set the cemetery on fire? How does one burn a cemetery? Are headstones flammable?

Beeeewaaaaaare, the Phantom of the Awwwwwpraaaaaa! The melodic concepts are, to be fair, up there with Mozart and Wagner. But the orchestration is stuck firmly in 1987. It neither requests nor requires any apologies for the blaring front-and-center synthesizers. Waaaaaaaaaaaaa, waaa waa waa waa waaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Listen to this goddamn song, you rubes! Weber stole the Phantom of the Opera theme from Pink Floyd’s song “Echoes.” No, really, he did, note for note.

And during intermission, the only thing anyone could talk about was how fast the chandelier dropped. Man, did you see that thing fall? It fell really fast! I thought it might not stop! Whoa, that was scary, that chandelier. Nevertheless, when an act one climax depends on a prop and not on story meaning, then your story needs retooling. And that’s why Phantom is not aging gracefully — its emotional core doesn’t exist until Act 2, when the Quasimodo storyline takes over.

So why does Phantom refuse to give up the ghost? For the same reason Ringling Brothers does: it’s a spec-tickle, something to give the out of towners the smell of elephants and the sense that They’ve Seen A Shew. It’s loud and busy and ornate and noisome and not in the least bit sincere, just like a circus ought to be.

There’s fluoride in the water but nobody know that

To be a cultural citizen of the United States means to believe in the They.  They are the nameless, faceless swath of Otherness, the group of people to which you and I and the people in immediate earshot do not belong. They can be Islamic terrorists, Christian fundamentalists, rogue cops, vegans, Hassidic Jews, Dittoheads, the editorial staff of the New York Times, or the Conspiracy of J. R. Dobbs.  They desire power, secretly or no, but They are obviously unfit for it, and it’s only up to you and me and the other sane decent people to join the struggle against They.

We never tell you the names of They; that would require too much intellectual rigor on our part, and anger gives us sharper words than clarity when we talk about They. Anyway it would be both legally and morally actionable if we gave you names. They might sue, or worse yet, They might post on our timelines. Ergo They must remain formless and disembodied. The membership of They seems, superficially, to be defined by what makes We angry. But if We were willing to be honest (and We aren’t), then We would whisper to you that They are truly defined by what We fear.

We haven’t talked to They in a while. We unfriended and blocked They a while ago… when They posted that thing.  Motherfuckers, all of They.

Since assaulting They requires physical exertion, and since naming the They requires more thinking than is comfortable, our best solution to containing the They involves group monitoring.  We want editors-at-large, formal oversight committees, body cameras, snarky sound bites, internal audits, grand jury indictments, and we want it to be televised in thirty minute loops and simulcast on the Internet.  They will not get away with it.

They should be pilloried virtually, digitally. They should get comeuppance, in one hundred forty characters or less.  And we want to scroll and seethe and Share the anger. Yes yes yes, We knew it, We believed it in our bones: it was They all along.  Click Like if We are We.

Drain the whole sea, get something shiny

I’ve had a few churchgoing friends write Internet posts agonizing over the conflict between Romans 1:26 and yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling.  The word of God is superior to the rule of man, reason these religious folk.  And anyway, what law can require a minister to sanctify a marriage that he sincerely believes is a sin?

Reasonable question, churchgoing friends.  Let’s talk about your church.

Your church gets a number of privileges in our society because it’s a church… it doesn’t have to pay taxes, it can’t be told what to believe about the genesis of the world, and it gets the freedom to teach whatever it wants about God and morality.

Yet, as a resident organization of the United States, it is required to follow the laws of the country, regardless of religious beliefs. It cannot for example claim “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death” (Leviticus 20:9) and expect parents can get away with killing kids who talk back.

Believe me, I’d be dead and gone if that were the case.

Now in the US we have a series of laws, including today’s ruling, that reinforce the principle that people should receive equal access to public services regardless of what they look like, or what they believe. For example, if you own a restaurant and have a religious conviction that blacks are lesser than whites, you have no right under the law to refuse to serve blacks.

The Equal Protection clause has been interpreted many, many times in the courts consistent with this opinion.

Similarly, despite whatever a church’s religious beliefs are, if it provides a public service (as churches do), it must serve equal people with equal respect under US law, because it operates under US law and receives the benefits thereof.

That is not only the law; that is the morally right and upstanding thing to do.

So we can dance and lose it, lose it, lose it, lose it

I’m building something new and strange, that I can’t talk too much about.  Software construction is much like creative writing; it’s a lonely process, and one fraught with mistakes and false starts and encouragements and setbacks, none of which can be shared publicly until the result is ready for mass consumption.  The process of creating it has been expensive, and emotionally challenging, but I stand the chance to make a great deal of money if my talent matches my ambitions.

I am building it for the same reason that I wrote Zombie Vixens from Hell and The Hermit Bird and Silent Hill: Homecoming and every other large and important creative thing in my life; namely, the thing already exists in my mind and I am arrogant enough to believe that the world will benefit immensely from having the thing that is, at the moment, only real to me.

After all this is over, even if I am wrong and the world does not need what I am making, I will remember that, unless I had built it, I would never have known if I was right or wrong.

It’s hard.  It’s expensive.  And time is ticking into the past, never to be recovered.

And yet, despite the expense and the time and the minor disappointments… yet again, I believe that can I see the future of things, the same way I did with all those plays and songs and scripts and games that I’ve worked on.

Commandment number one of Captain Beefheart’s Ten Commandments for Guitar Playing is this: “Listen to the birds.  That’s where all the music comes from. Birds know everything about how it should sound and where that sound should come from.”  So I did just that.  I went outside and I recorded a blackbird and then I came back and pulled that sound apart, frequency by frequency.

Mother Nature, she’s not wasteful.  Three quarters of the genes in mice exist in humans, and only two percent of our genes differ from us to the apes. All those strands of DNA, matching, mating, reintegrating, but the underlying patterns are the same. The algorithms for finding the common subsequences, the music of us… we are all the same.

You listen to a guitar riff on the radio, play it back, change it, recombine it, improve it. Imperfect copies of imperfect copies of imperfect copies, until the original Xerox isn’t even recognizable.

I can hear things now.  Things that other people can’t hear. Patterns, relationships. How sounds flow into other sounds. How frequencies beget frequencies.  I know where music comes from.

Everything will be possible; all the sounds that might exist, will exist.

I want the world to be able to hear things, the way I can hear them.

And I ain’t asking nobody for nothing if I can’t get it on my own

Living as I am in the shadow of Los Angeles, I spend a lot of time in the company of television stars and writers and producers and their outsized egos. And it’s quite the habit for people out here to tell you who you are and where you came from. When everyone lives to be on camera and on stage, everyone is no better than who they seem to be.

Let me tell you who I am.  I grew up in a small town called Sissonville, West Virginia. For years I slept on a bunk bed, suspended from the ceiling, that my stepfather constructed from a sheet of plywood and a few two-by-fours. There was a junkyard behind the house. I used to go out there with a slingshot and shoot at the tentworms that spun sticky webs. The roads were poor. I remember that a big truck came through and paved the broken streets one day. Within a week the pavement flaked and chunked apart into pieces, making the roads mostly undriveable. We were poor.

I made do, with my imagination and with my brothers and sister. I invented and recorded radio shows with my tape recorder. I made up sketches and stories and little plays. I watched reruns of old comedies on one of the three television channels that we received. Eventually I got a cheap computer, a Vic-20. It plugged into the television. I learned how to make games on it.

I remember my father and my mother fighting, before they were divorced. Once she slapped him and I remember Dad on top of her, holding her down.

I remember learning to play baseball. My stepfather taught me. I remember learning to walk in the back woods, and how to avoid sliding down the mountains and hills. I know how to skip rocks and shoot guns and how to blow things up with bottle rockets and bang caps.

I remember my first fight. I wrestled the kid down but didn’t punch him. He left me alone after that. Come to think of it, all the kids who ever threatened me, left me alone after I went after them.

I know how to chop and carry wood, and how to sharpen a pocket knife. I know how to hoe corn and carry tomatoes and dig septic tanks. I know how to catch crawdads by hand without getting pinched. I remember the wooden toys that my grandfather carved for my father to play with.

I have walked in the woods and heard nothing and heard it loudly.

I suppose it struck me today, as I was being lectured about what I was and what I wasn’t, that perhaps I forgot that I am somebody, that I have a colorful and unlikely past.

I know who I have been. And I know where I came from.

And as I am starting to learn, precious few people in this traffic-jam town remember who they have been, or where they came from.

I’m only watching the game, controlling it

I know I do I, this is forever

The Doll, by Miro Galvan, has started rehearsals.  This is a little two-person show happening next month at the Little Fish Theater in San Pedro.  My character, Marko, is a forty year-old lonely man who has decided to acquire a live-in love doll as his primary companion.  The show is being directed by the able James Rice and it stars the lovely and talented Analeis Lorig.

Currently I’m wrestling with where my character is coming from.  Based on my first read of the show, nearly everything the character has to say is cynical, self-interested or abusive.  The show seemed quite dark to me.  And this show is apparently supposed to be a comedy.  So if I abused this poor sweet doll on stage the way that Marko sounds in my head, everyone would want to lynch me by the end of the show.  I needed help.

“Take out the cynicism,” Jim informed me.  And so I hit upon the idea of playing every line that Marko says, exactly the opposite from my interpretation of the text.  If the text is bitter, he’s feeling loving; if the text is flighty, he’s calm, and so forth.  Playing Marko this way, is, to say the least, a fun challenge, in the sense of an acting exercise.

Analeis is immensely talented.  It feels good to be challenged to turn in higher quality work.  I can’t merely phone it in, as I have done in lesser shows.  And since this is a little teeny two-person show, the eyes are on me and her the entire time — no down time.

She’s good.  And that is refreshing.  Actors who are good totally raise the level of everyone else.  It is refreshing to be challenged; it is refreshing to be able to use my own ideas.  I feel now that I can’t come in and just wing it — I had better come in with strong opinions and creativity about how to make Marko work.