Thursday, November 29, 2012

Batista's 6 Golden Rules For Staying Out Of Prison

You know, there are times when the actions of my fellow human beings on this planet alarm me. I mean, I have to sit back and wonder just what is going on in people's heads when they do things that are just asking for trouble. Now, I'm no saint. I've made my own share of boneheaded mistakes. Hell, they've made me who I am today: a cautious, careful, law-abiding citizen. But when I look at the news, or listen to some of my friends detail the ails of their own lives, it becomes apparent that perhaps not everyone has learned the same lessons I have.

So I thought I'd write them down. These are generalized, grand sweeping rules I've adopted to govern a lot of what I do in life. Or, to be more accurate, how I go about ensuring that I avoid incarceration. As such there aren't many to list, but the few I have below are cherished chestnuts I maintain in my day to day dealings in order to ensure my cherished chestnuts remain out of the fire  . . . and out of the hands of some big dude named "Bubba."

So, let us proceed:

RULE 1 -- "Mind your damn business."

This should be pretty obvious. We all know it's true, after all. And yet, why do so many people ignore this sage advice? This is one I've been guilty of before in my youth, although usually for altruistic reasons. I was always that guy -- well meaning, but usually sticking his neck out too far for someone else when they don't really require his help. Yup, that was me. Too good for my own good. I got burned one too many times on this one, though, and so generally these days I very rarely help a stranger or acquaintance unless they ask me specifically for help. Because sometimes what you think is a solicitation for assistance is in fact just someone looking for another set of ears to vent their frustrations upon. And all that's required of you in such a situation is to simply listen. Things have the tendency to get much more complicated if you stray from this plan. This also includes breaking up fights and/or trying to referee an argument between two heated individuals. Take it from me, just stay out of it!

RULE 2 -- "Never lend friends money."

I would include family in this one, too, but for me family is different. You have just the same or even less of a chance of getting that money back from family members as you do with friends, sure. But the difference is that you're kinda forced to stay family with these people. Shared DNA, you know? Not so with friends. I swear, nothing sours a friendship faster than a buddy who promises to pay you back and then never does. For me, having to then ask said friend to pay me back is twice as bad and really infuriates me. I've had it happen before; suffice to say I no longer speak to these people anymore. It sucks. I can only recall once lending a good sum of funds to one of my best friends, and only because he was in such dire straits at the time. Happily, this friend wasn't a douche nozzle and actually paid me back. But, no, as a general rule I don't tend to risk this behavior often. I value my friendships, and would like to stay out of prison even more, thank you very much.

RULE 3 -- "Never speak aloud in public your opinions on politics or religion."

When I say "in public," I mean in front of a good sized crowd of people you don't know personally. Like on the subway or at some function you've been invited to speak at. First of all, to those who agree with your views -- you're simply preaching to the choir. What a waste of time! But, for those who do not agree with you . . . you could be risking a huge fight or, worse, your own life. See, you can control what you say. So exercise that control! What you can't control, unfortunately, is if Fred sitting in the third row five seats from the left remembered to take his psych meds that morning. Some people (i.e., MOST people) cannot stand when someone else has a differing outlook from their own. At best, they'll roll their eyes and hate your guts in silence. But at worse, Fred decides your right arm might look better lightly seasoned and sauteed with a nice side of buttered parsnips. Do not feed the lunatic, people! Keep your opinions to yourself.

RULE 4 -- "Never look for easy money."

There's no such thing. Honestly. Easy money is almost always illegal money. Case in point. A good friend of mine recently came into a great deal of dough. His live-in girlfriend--always looking for a good thing--convinced him to invest all that cash in a new development scheme her best friend was cooking up. This friend, not knowing much about real estate and investing, took her word that it was a sure-fire thing and agreed to go along with the plan. He had no idea what he was getting involved with might not be all that legal. All he focused on was that he would make tons more money back on the returns--and quick! Lo and behold, it ended up in the news and is now a huge federal lawsuit in the making. Lesson to be learned? Never trust "easy" money. It's never a sure thing, and is almost always guaranteed to send you to the big house.

Rule 5 -- "Don't commit a crime."

Well, duh. I know this goes without saying, but here's what I mean. Even if you are all but guaranteed to get away with it--don't do it! In my book, even a 0.05% chance of getting caught is too great a risk. A few years ago, a construction worker friend of mine tried to convince me to rent a truck so that we could drive over to the construction site he was working at and load up all the spare spools of copper wiring that were lying around. According to him they were surplus, and if we didn't pick them up quick the rich contractor would, and keep all the money from selling the excess to the scrap yard for himself. This friend swore up and down that there was nothing criminal about the enterprise at all, just a matter of beating someone else to the punch. The site was not guarded or surveilled, and he had the keys to access the grounds nonetheless. It would have been a quick in and out operation, netting us roughly 5 grand apiece! As tempting as it was, my common sense of course kicked in. I just knew this could not be legal. And sure enough, it wasn't! Had I given in to my friend's insistence, who knows where I might have ended up. But it's not all that difficult to guess . . .

Rule 6 -- "Don't be a gossip."

Seriously, no one likes a false witness. Or a rumor monger. Talking about someone else behind their back is probably the lowest form of human social interaction there is, and yet it is the most popular. I guess it's hardwired into our little primate brains. Something our ancestors did to pass the time while picking out gnats and fleas from each others 'dos. But it's just not cute. Not only does gossip have a tendency to quickly escalate to the passing of untruths and wild speculation, but it can end up really hurting the target of said gossip. And if we're dealing with the likes of poor, unstable Fred again . . . You remember Fred, right? Forgot-to-take-his-meds, Fred? Yes, well, you get the picture. I think in the annals of human history more fights have been attributed to he said/she said shenanigans than any other activity, save "yo mama" jokes. And as my man Yoda was once heard to remark: Fights lead to handcuffs. Handcuffs lead to jail. Jail leads to . . . (anal) suffering!

And there you have it. While this list is certainly not exhaustive, it does encapsulate the very rules I try my best to live by. Most of these are fairly obvious, true. And yet, I see them broken time and time again by folk who should really know better. Have you checked your local news lately? Exactly!

But of course, because I'm such a kind and gracious host, if you can think of any more rules of wisdom to live by and keep yourself out of the slammer, please post them in the comments section below. I'll be more than happy to add them to my list!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Help With A New Story

Sometime earlier this month, I mentioned a new short story I had just recently completed. You can find that post here. I also mentioned needing to trim it down to around the 5,000 word mark or below, even though the rough draft clocked in at around 6,800 words or so. It was a tall order, but I was dismayed when, upon re-reading the draft, I ended up only cutting around 400 words when all was said and done. Dang it! Simply put, there was way too much in the story which I felt was critical to what I, the writer, wanted to have said. Try as I might, I simply could not cut anything more out besides the odd word or three here and there. Baby stuff, really. Not the major cutting I would need to do in order to get the ms under 5k.

To make matters more complicated, a dear and trusted friend of mine who I shall not name but who's opinion I trust more than anything, agreed to do an early reading and was able to hash out some of the finer points with me. We both concluded that, rather than cutting anything from the manuscript, I should in fact add more. Specifically, my friend felt as if the story was missing a key scene. Something that would not only help explain the motivations of my protagonist better, but which would also allow some of the finer plot points I was being coy with make more sense to the reader. And I agreed with this assessment.

So I went back to the drawing board and crafted a whole new scene to insert. The scene turned out really well, and I'm very proud of what it brings to the overall effect now.

See? Collaboration is wonderful!

But here's the thing. The story is now 7,400 words long. Not terrible; it still falls under the 7,500 max for a classic short story. And I'm sure I can pare that down by another 200 words or so. But it might make this a little harder to sell to certain markets.

But that's besides the point of this blog post. What I wanted to ask of you, my friends, is if I could get any volunteers to do a second round reading for me? I trust my regulars here, and all I'm really looking for is someone to do a cold reading and give me their frank opinion on what I wrote. You don't have to get too technical with line edits and pointing out typos and grammos and all those sorts of nitpicks--although, I certainly would not begrudge that level of attention to detail. No, if all you can do is give me a quick assessment on whether or not the whole bloody thing works as a story (e.g.: yes, it does; or, no, it has some issues, dude!) then that will be perfectly fine as well. As will anything which falls in-between these two extremes.

All I'll say about the story itself is that it is dark and mysterious, with vaguely supernatural and religious undertones, although if you really know where to look you will realize that it takes very definite sci-fictional cues. Or, at least, SFnal ones. Speculative Fiction is, after all, a very broad and generous genre. This story in particular deals with the themes of death, love, and fate. With heavy focus on the first two.

So, if anyone is interested and up to the task, please contact me via e-mail (it's up at the top right of this blog, under my profile) or via my Facebook inbox, and I will send you the link and password to access the Word doc. It will be saved as an .rtf (Rich Text Format) file, so it should work on everyone's preferred device of computing. I hope.

And I must stress this: Please do not feel obligated. I will not disown you for not reading my story. I don't even really need a whole lot of readers; just one or two who are dedicated to the task and have the free time. Of course, the more will always be the merrier . . . but don't feel pressed if you really can't be bothered. I of all people understand how real life gets in the way of things, and there will be no hard feelings on my part. I totally understand.

That being said -- those who do undertake this mission, I will love you long time and FOREVER! :) Not that you in any way need to find that a significant motivator.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sometimes, Life Throws You A Rotten Lemon

. . .  And just you try making lemonade with rotten lemons!

Was watching a tv show last night where this boy gets reunited with his mom after 18 years, having not seen her since he was just a toddler. And I thought what a sweet moment that was, and how it gives one hope. And then it hit me: I'm never going to see my mom. Like, ever. And that hit me pretty hard indeed. See, there won't be any tearful reunions. No "sorry I missed out on most of your life, son." I will never have that. Ever. My life won't resemble a Lifetime movie, or a Hallmark card. My mom is gone from me forever.


Now, sure, I've known this all along. But something about that moment, watching it happen on the tv screen, just brought it all home at once in a way that twenty-seven years of mourning have not. I mean, it struck me with such clarity and force that -- HOLY SHIT! I will *never* be with my mom again. I think somehow, some way, deep down inside . . . I think I actually had this feeling like I would see her someday. Like this nightmare would one day end and all would be well again. I would have my mom back, and this lifelong empty hole of loneliness inside me would somehow fill up and make me whole.

But, nuh-uh. Not happening, buddy. This is life. What, you thought it would have a happy ending? Fuck that shit!

Needless to say, I don't believe in heaven and angels and harps 'n' clouds and all that bullshit. I do believe that none of us on this Earth have even the foggiest real notion of what happens to us after we die. So, with that in mind, perhaps there is still a chance I will be reunited with my loved ones someday. Because, who's to say that I won't be, right? I sincerely doubt it, though. Something tells me that what you see is what you get with this life we have to live. So, I guess the message is: make the best of it when you can, while you can. This Earth is meant for living life to the fullest and getting the most out of such a corporeal, tactile existence.

Because we might not know what happens next, but it damn sure won't be like this.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

We Have A Winner!

So, yeah, here we are. Wednesday morning.

Two days ago when I wrote this blog piece, I did in fact say that this morning would prove me right. And it certainly has. It's official: sanity has been restored! I'm feeling quite ebullient today to say the least. Despite the prognostications of the punditry who seemed intent on making this a very close race for the sake of ratings, all the so-called "battleground" states with the exception of North Carolina went to Barack Obama. So, really, how close was it all anyway? According to the majority of "in the know" political insiders before the election, there was no way Obama was going to get a clean sweep of these key states. Similarly, I began to hear such nonsense about how the prez could likely end up winning the electoral map, but lose out to the popular vote. The latter claim, because this country isn't run like a sorority, doesn't have any legal merit anyway. But it was being predicted nonetheless. And even that did not come true. By final count, Obama had 303 electoral votes to Romney's 206. There needed to be 270 to win, so the deal is done. We keep the same man in office for the next four years. And in popular votes (so far), he's garnered 50.3% (59,854,458 votes) to the challenger's 48.1% (57,176,621 votes). Even better. I don't know about you, folks, but I see no equivocation in those results. There's a clear-cut winner here!

We're sooo going to Disney World after this.

This race was nastier than it had any reason to be. It left many exhausted and embittered, disillusioned and hopeless. But sometimes that's politics. I remember feeling much the same back in 2000 and 2004. And yet, that too passed. Because I do believe that this country has already been headed in the right direction, I actually have a lot of optimism about the next four years. I believe we as a country needed the stability of keeping the status quo in order to truly get ourselves back on the right track. Mittens would have wrecked all that. So, yes, this is a HUGE win in my opinion. I also feel vindicated for having supported John Kerry back in 2004. I didn't want him as our candidate (I was rooting for Howard Dean), but I went along with my party because I thought getting Bush out of the White House by any means was worth swallowing my doubts about the man. But the rest of the country made me eat humble pie over that decision, and I was okay after a few days. Republicans will have to do the same now. Hello, this was your John Kerry! Mitt Romney was never the right person to send up against the Obama machine, but every Republican pretended to act as if he was. Hogwash! No one in their right mind should have believed in this flip-flopping corporate shill. But they hated the idea of a black man in the White House even more, to the point of ignoring common sense. And so, this is the result. You reap what you sow.

Mitt watches Karl Rove make an ass of himself
on Fox News. That sinking feeling . . .

Ah, yes. Vindication. It feel so good! And now, this ends your obligatory political blog post here on The Bimillennial Man for perhaps another four years. If even that.

Stay frosty, my friends.

EDIT:  For those wishing to view the clip of that blubbering ass Karl Rove desperately trying to deny Obama a win in Ohio--going against even the sober admissions of his cherished Fox News compatriots, no less--simply click here and sit back to enjoy the circus. I know I did.

Monday, November 5, 2012

My Thoughts On Tuesday

I try not to get too political here on The Bimillennial Man, and that's not about to change. Not because I'm afraid of offending anyone (I'm entitled to my own opinions after all, aren't I?), but because I see it as rather pointless. After all, to those on the same side of the political fence as I am I'll just be preaching to the choir. And to those who hold opposing views to mine on how this country should be run . . . am I really going to be changing their minds? I didn't think so. So, yes, what's the point?

But seeing as how tomorrow is going to be a fairly important day on the political side of things here in the U.S. of A., and because I will be doing my civic duty as a tax-paying citizen, I thought I'd just briefly and even vaguely describe my general feelings on things.

1) I think it's fairly obvious that the guy I'm backing is in fact going to win. I mean, the media and polls will have us believe this thing is going to be scary and close, and may even involve another Florida voting disaster ala 2000's presidential election. But I'm not buying any of it. I think it's going to be fairly by the books and that my candidate will win. Not because I'm being overly optimistic and hopeful, but in fact realistic. I've been telling my family members this for several weeks now. I have the same feeling now as I did in 2004 when I was absolutely certain John Kerry would be receiving the short end of the stick with Bush's bid for a second term. It's eerie how very similar things now compare to the race back then, in certain respects. But for me to say more I would have to become specific, and I've already stated that this blog entry would not be about that. We'll just have to see if my feelings are correct come Wednesday morning. The world as we know it won't end whoever wins, however, so don't expect any major losing of one's shit here on this blog then. It's going to be business as usual for me regardless, so don't cry for me Argentina.

2) If you are a citizen and don't vote, you are an ignoramus. I'm sorry, but it's true. I don't care what your carefully rehearsed excuses are about the political leanings of the state you live in, the demographics of your neighborhood, or how you no longer live in the voting district you're currently registered for. Just STFU and admit that you suck at being an informed, participating citizen and would just like the country to run itself. It's okay, really. This country was set up to include and represent people like you, whether the rest of us like it or not.

3) Please stop with this Popular Vote vs. Electoral College debate already. People whom complain about the electorate voting system in place here in the States obviously don't know shit about how demographics work. This country would be a disaster if we chose our presidents based on a popular system. The nuances of the Electoral College are many, yes, and at times they may seem convoluted to the point of deliberate obtuseness bordering on the criminal . . . but it's still a whole lot more accurate than a popular vote could ever be. I will always support the electoral system we have in place here, even when at times it may seem to favor the other guy in the race. Just because the candidate you didn't vote for wins by a very small margin in electorate ballots doesn't automatically make the system bunk. It's still a far sight more civilized than the chaos and mob rule mentality that would reign were we ever to go back to the populist format. Ugh! No thanks, please. I'd like my leadership choosing system not to resemble American Idol-style pandering, thank you very much.

4) To those complaining about too many attack ads and annoying commercials on tv, I say: you still watch commercials? WTF dude, it's called a DVR. Fast forward through that crap! Or, skip tv altogether and do something else. I think throughout this entire year I might have seen maybe three pro-Romney or pro-Obama ads combined. And somehow I've managed completely to miss any negative ads out on both candidates. True, New York is not a battleground state and so I have less inundation of these particular tv spots than those in say, Ohio, do. But then I also believe commercials were made to be ignored, and you have only yourself to blame for paying so much attention to them. Me? If I can't fast forward through them, I find myself checking e-mail or Facebook on my phone until the program I'm watching resumes. Romney could come on tv hawking Joseph Smith's golden underwear and it would barely register a blip on my care-o-meter. If you already know where each candidate stands on the issues, as well as their track records in such regards, then those ads have nothing new to tell you anyway. Just ignore them. The rest of us certainly do.

And there you have it. My general thoughts and feelings on the political climate the day before an election. I may elect (pardon the pun) to post something equally vague and non-impacting come Wednesday when (hopefully) all the hooplah is over. Or I might not.

Just please, for the mother of all that's good, please go out and vote if you are eligible to do so. Don't be a mouth breather, not on this.

Thanks all!

Panama Trip - Day 1: Here There Be Balboas!

In late May, 2017 I embarked on a trip of a lifetime. A trip to Panama's steamy tropical province, Bocas del Toro. Now, before 2017 ...