Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Resolve to Confess and Some Adam Blue Updates

Of late, I have felt a sort of strange compulsion to straighten out my affairs. I also feel compelled to talk about it. It's not that my affairs have been terribly despicable, but rather that I have felt a renewed sense of purpose in life. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm going somewhere, and I want to feel good about how I got there. I don't think I've been a bad person, but I certainly feel like my life could use a dose of transparency. I feel like I should be able to walk into any room with a clean conscience. There are certainly things I've done in life that I'm not proud of and I feel the weight that comes along with shame. I think shame is the knowledge that you've done something wrong, or dishonest, and that you're capable of doing it again. Shame is the recognition of a weak resolve, and the only real redemption is knowing for sure that you won't make the same mistakes in the future.

I've been guilty of so many things over the years, most of them were crimes against myself. My most frequent trespasses have been: laziness, apathy, self-loathing, hubris, vanity, doubt and a litany of other smaller sins. That's about as far as I'm going to take my public confessions, I think I reveal a lot of my failings through my writing. When you create a character you pour in pieces of yourself, you project the things you see inside of yourself into these characters. It's a sort of way to secretly broadcast the things you want the world to know, but you get to hide it under the guise of hypothetical people. Not all my characters' failings are mine, but mine do sneak in there from time to time.

It's strange, that in spite of all the struggles I've had with faith and the concept of religion, I've never had any doubt about fate. Maybe that's how it starts? The idea that the journey is just as important as the destination. I know where I'm going, with an eerily prescient clarity and I know I have the opportunity to lead a fulfilling life. The trick is getting there and walking into that room with a clean conscience.

This is an outlook I've been circling around for a long time, and suddenly it began to feel like an attainable goal. I feel like I can live a better life, and be wiser for having made mistakes, having leaped too soon so many times, having taken my good fortune for granted, having fallen into the trap of disillusionment. Outlook is everything.

It's already begun to propel my writing again, a small difference with a very big impact on how I view myself and my accomplishments as a person. Who knows what other parts of my life will be affected? I might even go for a run, but admittedly I don't really feel guilty about not exercising just yet... I've got bigger demon-fish to fry. I'm not writing because I'm inspired. I'm living because I'm inspired, and the writing just kind of comes along part and parcel.

I'm better than I was, but I've got a long way to go yet.

On the matter of fate, it's hard to bypass coincidences sometimes. As I wrote this blog, The Who's A Quick One While He's Gone came on my Last FM broadcast. It's a song about a woman whose husband is a sailor, and when he doesn't return home she assumes that he's lost at sea. She has an affair, thinking that her husband is dead. When he returns home, she confesses her sins to him...

I can't believe it
Do my eyes deceive me?
Am I back in your arms?
Away from all harm?

It's like a dream to be with you again
Can't believe that I'm with you again

I missed you and I must admit
I kissed a few and once did sit
On Ivor the Engine Driver's lap
And later with him, had a nap

You are forgiven, you are forgiven, you are forgiven ... (ad lib)

You are forgiven

The last chorus really grabbed my attention.

"You are forgiven" over and over again. Sometimes it's just nice to hear, and I heard it just when I needed to. Fate is a funny thing.

All that said, I now present the fruit of my recent toils. I haven't posted a sample in over two weeks, so I'm putting a longer one here. This chapter is still feeling a little rough, but it's done, so I can rip it up next time I read through it. Feel free to offer comments and criticisms.

Chapter 7

Evening, Day 24: Adam Blue and the Cannibal Luau

“Adam,” the moon whispered conspiratorially “you’re in the clear. Go!”

Adam dug his hands into his pockets. They were deep and toasty against the cool air of the Baghdad night. His hands twisted like tigers in the lightless nylon and cotton blended jungles of his pockets. Adam stood on a marble patio scanning the near edge of the courtyard; his wayward mitts spelunking illegally into the cavernous depths of what he had come to learn, through his time in the Army, as forbidden territory. He checked the handful of scattered soldiers for rank sufficient enough to care about the interactions shared between his trouser pockets and his hands. In the Army, leaders could define themselves by how well they guarded other peoples’ pockets against those same peoples’ hands.

“Now, I reckon you’re gonna have to tell me again, buckaroo. Why can’t y’all put your hands in your pockets?” Cowboy asked.

Adam shrugged, the cigarette in his mouth glowing at its tip.

“Well, a long time ago, there was a mix up at a laundromat, and some General got his pants mixed up with a bunch of other pants. All that camouflage looked the same. The thing is, that General had something really important in his pocket. He wouldn’t say what it was… nuclear launch codes or something.” Adam said, taking a drag before continuing.

“The only way he could keep that really important something from falling into the wrong hands was to make sure no one ever found it. So he told everyone to keep their hands out of their pockets, and that’s just what they did. Only now, everyone forgot why, and those pants are probably long gone, and that important something is long gone too, but we still don’t put our hands in our pockets, and no one knows why.” Adam said.

“You bullshittin’ son of a gun, Adam. You got no clue, do you?” Cowboy said.

Adam blew out jet of smoke.

“Nope.” He said. He wasn’t alone.

The stark emptiness lurking in the lives of soldiers was filled with unspoken games. The contests pitted the slyness of the junior enlisted against the observational skills of their seniors. Younger soldiers would see how long they could break the rules before their leaders caught them. Peter Potter had once grown a full beard, but eventually abandoned the endeavor when Sergeant Alcott failed to notice. These games were essential to the morale of the unit, without them soldiers in key leadership positions would probably have blown their own brains out for lack of perceived purpose.

Additionally, the restrictions placed on the putting of hands in pockets helped to justify the existence of other soldiers. These soldiers worked in remote offices; they produced pamphlets, handbooks, and instructional note cards to fill the vacancies left by the evicted hands. Thanks to the contents of Adam’s pockets, he knew that ‘personal courage’ was a value that the Army had instilled in him. Adam knew that in dire times, he could flip open one of his soldiering handbooks and it would instruct him as to the proper methodology for running face first into a bullet.

Adam's clothes were a patchwork of hidden pouches, concealed by the camouflage distraction of the tiny squares painted over the surface of his Army Combat Uniform. This strategy helped to keep drifting hands from finding moorage on the bodies of soldiers.

Adam squeezed his eyes closed and divided the molecules in his body, the half of him that was man was left behind, a lump of coal. The other half was cosmic peanut-butter drifting away. Adam floated for a moment, creamy and good, at peace with the universe. He was the same stuff space was, vast and everywhere. He hovered out there in the vacuum of noiseless nowhere, ducking comets and skirting alien empires. He painted pictures. He dabbled in watery colors, sweeping purple space dust into icy frescos upon the walls of night. He illustrated hope in the darkest places, filling the void of black holes with simmering hues and opening wide stretches of nothingness to the possibility of color.

Adam wandered three dimensions of infinity, his soul struggling to find beauty in the wake of Colonel Carrington’s untimely disappearance. Trying to make sense of an existence in which Lieutenant Colonel Fritter could be unleashed on the na├»ve and unsuspecting. Where such a villainous creature might call itself a man, and walk with men on two legs, all the while plotting against men to sate its monstrous lusts.

“You are,” livestock, “in my eyes,” slaughter-house bound, “heros.” Colonel Fritter had said. “Today, I ask each of you to look inside of yourselves,” and see meat, “to lead the charge into,” the bloody grinder, “tomorrow, and spearhead change so that you might come out,” sausages, “victorious,” and edible, basking, “under the heat of this desert sun. These are grave times, but I know that you will satisfy my demand for obedience and” blood “sacrifice in the face of these,” gluttonous urges, these “challenging circumstances that call into question the strength your mettle as well as the fate of the whole” ruse, “of,” my “humanity. I have full confidence that you will conduct yourselves,” with no regard for your own lives, “in accordance with the systematic guidelines laid out in,” the lies spoken around the stilted words of, “my command philosophy.”

Colonel Fritter had closed his speech, picking the scraps of Colonel Carrington’s legacy from his teeth. He had devoured the best parts, and left those pieces he longed to forget to rot away on the muddy slopes of the river Tigris. Adam had sat quietly in the crowd pressed within the stifling auditorium. Flies had twirled in the thick atmosphere of the room, gathering on the walls and on the backs of chairs, discussing designs to carve up the bodies of doomed American soldiers. Colonel Fritter spoke, barely masking his contempt for the audience. Betraying their disguise, the feral gold almonds of his eyes seemed to muse endlessly on the abandoned scraps of hope and dignity they had seen fit to leave wither in the slender reeds, to be picked apart by scavenging flies and dogs.

The moon, glazed and balanced precariously upon the growing hedge of starry darkness sprouting up around the Earth, it shone down on the filthy white marble underneath Adam’s feet. He wisped slowly back and forth through the cosmos, lost in thoughts, an eternity away from the fearful circumstances of war.

Also, since you've gotten this far, I'm going to reveal that the book is now titled.

A Lively New Haunt for Crafty Old Jackals
Private Adam Blue's Last Distilment from a Long and Inward Discourse

Also, Monica (who blogs at Garden State of Euphoria) has been kind enough to work on a book jacket for me. She had to make one for a school project, and by doing the design for my book she gets double the mileage out of her work. More than double once I move to the publication process. Everyone wins.

Her working on the book cover is actually what finally forced me to nail down a title for the project. All in all, I'd say it's coming together nicely.

One concern I have is that when I move to publish the book that the publisher will demand a title change or a different cover. If it comes down to that then I'll self publish, and still have a rocking looking book. It's a win-win for me.

Monica tells me that the colors are a bit off in the version I have for some reason, but I'm going to post this until she sends me a screenshot of the actual colors. You'll get the idea, just know that the yellow should be greenish. All the reviews and stuff are ripped from other books for the purpose of her project. Obviously, I don't look like G.I. Joe. So yeah, the colors are wrong and there are some place holders in there, but feel free to click and marvel at Monica's awesome work...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A Foolish Poll, Given Serious Consideration

Earlier today, John Hawkins of Right Wing News posted a sort of light hearted April Fools' Day poll about being trapped with celebrities on a desert island. In the poll, you were responsible for choosing a leader for your group, from the assembled lot of celebrities.

With a little help from Google and Wikipedia, I've given this some serious consideration.

So, let's start off by listing our options...

Paris Hilton
Tom Green
Britney Spears
Andy Dick
Rosie O'Donnell
Michael Jackson
Carrot Top
Amy Winehouse
Courtney Love
Gary Busey

I'll be the first to tell you, this is not my ideal list of pop-culture personalities, but not all is lost. I think we've got a few closet survivors in the crowd.

So, with the magic of the internet at our fingertips, I'm going to list the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate, and then rate them in terms of survivability in the wild and then choose my leader.

Paris Hilton- The 27 year old socialite looks like dead weight at first, but she has some surprising virtues. There's the obvious fact that she's one of the younger members of our group, making her more vigorous, flexible, and resilient than her older companions. Consider also her role on the reality television show The Simple Life, where she and her BFFTM (Best Friend for the Moment) Nicole Richie were thrust onto an Arkansas farm to participate in the workings of a lower class agricultural family. She has youth, and at least some experience performing manual labor in a non-urban environment. While not necessarily suited to making survival decisions, I suspect that under proper advisement, Paris could be a survival candidate.

Tom Green- Now here's an interesting cat. The 36 year old Canadian comic/actor has a lot more potential than one might think. First off, he's been known to put all sorts of things in his mouth, things like udders. In a civilized locale, that's something of a faux pas, but when you're in the wild trying to survive, he who can stomach the most grubs and crickets may just have the longest to live. He's not a party animal, having recently tried to take his career in a more serious and relatively family-oriented direction and he has demonstrated some business savvy with his assets. That said, he seems to have a fairly level head. His background in radio, might make him useful for making basic repairs to and operating any sort of commercial radio equipment that the group might salvage from the wreck or find washed up on shore. I think Tom's got a high degree of survivability.

Britney Spears- The only real strength 26 year old Britney has is that she competed as a gymnast prior to hitting it big in the music industry. Unfortunately, she's out of her damn mind. With her string of mental breakdowns, I wouldn't trust Britney with a pocket knife, more or less the lives of other people. She's likely to demoralize the group, and will be left more or less incapacitated in the early days of the ordeal if she is currently hooked on any hard drugs. Detox is a bitch, or so I hear.

Andy Dick- 42 year old Andy's history of drug use and unwanted groping of celebrities really doesn't do us much good in a survival situation. He once got his ass kicked by Jon Lovitz. Good for Jon, I guess. Dick's work with PETA could give him a knowledge of local fauna, making him a potentially valuable resource for identifying edible game, helping the group to avoid poisonous critters. Even so, given his penchant for recklessness, it's unlikely that Andy would be key to the group's survival.

Rosie O'Donnell- At the age of 46, Rosie is one of the older members of the group, she's in poor physical condition, and her disdain for guns could lead to the sabotage of group of efforts. Her large frame, however, does afford her some leniency in terms of dietary requirements. She could certainly go longer without food than many of the slighter members of group. (Michael Jackson, Andy Dick, Paris Hilton, et al...)

Michael Jackson- The 49 year old King of Pop, is probably the least suited for survival in mainstream civilization, more or less, a desert island. Having been in show business from childhood on, Michael lacks any real world survival skills. In the off chance that natives are encountered on the desert island, Michael Jackson's insane international market penetration and popularity could save the group from cannibalization. (Though I should note that cannibal cultures are rare. Also, that there is likely little left of Michael Jackson that is actually edible.)

Carrot Top- The 43 year old comedian is something of a red herring (enjoy the pun, they're few and far between around here), since everyone remembers him as the wimpy frazzle headed standup comic who grew famous for his odd appearance and his unconventional use of prop based comedy. Even his fellow comedians think he's a pussy. I caught a Pauly Shore show in 2005 where Pauly thought he could kick Carrot Top's ass in a celebrity boxing match. Pauly Shore is about five-foot five and probably about one-hundred-fifty pounds. Carrot Top on the other hand has swollen over the years into a muscle bound goon. With his background in prop construction, Carrot Top may be the most valuable member of the team, bringing both physical prowess and actual skills to the table. It's pretty sad when this guy is our Professor.

Amy Winehouse- Well, it could be worse, 24 year old Amy Winehouse could be Britney Spears. Booze, drugs, booze. Useless in a survival situation, but possibly the least irritating gal in the bunch. Who knows, Paris could be cooler?

Courtney Love- She's the girl we use to console Britney. But hey, she knows how to use a shotgun. RIP Kurt Cobain. She may not have any skills, and she might be drugged out of her mind, but she's probably the most cutthroat bitch on the island.

Gary Busey- Here's our wild card. He's the only man on the island who is clearly insane. He's had some pretty harsh things to say about Britney and Paris in the past, so there's a good chance he might just go on a killing spree. He could really go any which way. Someone might have to take him down.

Here's how I order them in terms of survivability...

Carrot Top
Tom Green
Rosie O'Donnell
Courtney Love
Paris Hilton
Gary Busey
Andy Dick
Amy Winehouse
Britney Spears
Michael Jackson

And I choose...
Tom Green to be the group leader. He's a fairly level headed survivor capable of performing disgusting acts of self-preservation. Tom could spur the whole group to survive with his willingness to lead by example. An alliance between Tom and Carrot-Top could potentially save the whole lot of them... well, the ones that don't kill themselves... and the ones that don't get gutted in their sleep by Gary Busey or Courtney Love. She might just stop at disfiguring her rivals, and possibly spitting on their marred faces.

That's the best I can do with what I was left to work with. I wouldn't mind being on that island, I've seen enough Discovery Channel to know what to do. Thanks Bear Grylls.