Life Has No Schedule

image.jpeg

I went to World Con 76. Their convention is much like the San Diego Comic Con, except there aren't any big Hollywood celebrities, you're not forced to move with the crowd because there aren't 150,0000 people attending, costumed super heroes and villains don't roam the convention center, and the con centers around books. Specifically SFF, science fiction and fantasy. This is the group that gives out the Hugo Award for the genre, which is like getting an Oscar. So much of fiction is riddled with romance, because that's what sells, so it's heart warming to see an organization dedicated to SFF.

I was excited to go to the Hugo nominees' readings where the authors read a selection from their own books. There might have been sixty to eighty seats, but they were all taken, so I had to stand. I didn't care. I wanted to hear excerpts from great writers. Then we were told that the fire marshal wouldn't allow us to stand as it was a fire hazard. WhatchutalkinaboutWillis? I had a clear path to the door had there been a fire. Still, I and the other standers were asked to leave. I suggested to the room we bribe the fire marshall, but that wasn't well received. Especially from those seated. Bastards. Joking...things like bribing or paying off porn stars and Playboy models ain't my thing.

image.gif

I decided to go to a talk about how aliens might think. The panel was made of two university professors whose specialties lay in human consciousness, and a SFF author who studied AI at MIT. Her name is SL Huang, which I assumed was her pen name, since the panel kept calling her Lisa. She sort of had this Natalie Portman thing going on. Dating has been hard for me, so maybe my celebrity crush was manifesting itself in some way. But I checked out her website, and she's quite an accomplished author. She had to be in her thirties. She looked younger, but Asians don't raisin.

Then my insecurity reared its ugly head into my mind. Here, I'm writing an article that will likely never be read, had been going to a writing group work-shopping my second book when the first one isn't even published, and still trying to get representation from a literary agent. Loser!

Breath...om...Keyser Söze...

I reminded myself that life has no schedule. Except that things are born and then they die. I know, real insightful. It seems people need to plan everything that happens in between these two points. I have to graduate high school in order to go to college, then I can get a job and earn enough for a down payment for my first home by this age. I'll need to meet The One soon if I want to have kids because I don't want to have them too old, otherwise I'd be too old. Eventually I'll have to change jobs every now and then so I can get the requisite pay increases and save for my retirement. And I do want to leave something to the kids when I die because they're my children and that's what a parent does.

In the span of 105 words, I've scheduled my whole life. All of that, by the way, is crap. Life has no schedule. Some people die before they're born. Others die after more than a century has past. A lucky few make it big in their chosen industry. A majority do not. Some people earn their way in. Others do not...ahem...the Orange One.

image.gif

My writing group and I had been interviewed and on a podcast. One of our writers had an interesting story. He volunteered at the San Francisco Writers Conference where he set up and tore down rooms for presenters. He set a room once for an author who pulled out binders full of rejections letters from literary agents that had amounted to hundreds. He eventually made it, but it was through sheer effort and not giving up. In contrast, a dozen agents rejected JK RowlingKathryn Stocket, who wrote The Help, was rejected by 60 agents. The point is that different people make it at different times. And because we as humans are very bad at telling the future, we don't know what's coming around the bend. Had Stocket given up on the 59th rejection, she would have never found her current agent and her ensuing success.

Does that mean you should never give up? No. I think there are circumstances that may indicate ending something is good. I had given up on acting because I fell out of love with it. My best friend and I had decided not to open our own martial arts school after planning and working on it for a couple of years. So far a reason to give up my writing hasn't presented itself to me. Having a never quit attitude doesn't guarantee success, however you define success. But you'll never succeed if you don't start or give up too early. And be cautious about attaching your happiness to circumstance. Not making it in any industry doesn't affect your happiness.

Life has no schedule.

Choice and Fear

image.gif

Here's a simple math problem. If I were to flip a coin, what are the chances of heads turning up?

A. 50%

B. 50%

I didn't say it was a hard math problem. Let's say the coin lands and gives us heads. Now if I flip the coin a second time, what are the chances of me getting heads again?

A. 25%

B. 50%

C. 75%

Ooh. Three choices! The answer is B. Let's say the coin turned up heads again. Flipping the coin once more, what are the chances we get heads again?

Believe it or not, the chances are still 50%. Each coin flip is completely unrelated to each other. They're separate events in time. I hope it's easy to see this truth.

Living as humans, we're constantly haunted by our past. Maybe it's evolution's way to help protect us from making the same possible fatal mistake. But when this fear of the past seeps into other parts of our lives that may not have the benefit of killing us, then issues may arise.

image.gif

I have a friend who has had a devastating past with men. In general, men have not treated her kindly. In many cases violently. Her current beau is a strange bird, a conspiracist, or a believer of such non-scientifically proven things as the earth is flat and the moon landing was faked and...well...to go on would be a waste of space.

Short story long, they've broken up numerous times, citing mental abuse, specifically him wanting her to believe in the crazy. After breaking up for the last time, she's told me she would never go back to him again, using the words, "Read my lips...no new taxes." OK. That was George. But we all know how that turned out. So, too, did my friend go back on her own word. But it's her life, and she can do whatever she wants with it.

I bring her up for a specific reason. When they had ended it for the nth time, she feared that she would not find anyone better than her ex, citing her past. So I gave her the coin flip math problem, which she answered correctly, and I said that her past does not determine who she dates in the future. She wasn't sure, but she put up a strong front on Facebook, posting happy pictures.

Several months later, I hear through the grapevine that she went back to her ex, well her non-ex now. I guess my coin flip analogy failed to imbue her with the courage to seek a new man. Hey. Who knows? They may work it out.

image.gif

So how do you know when to "get back on the horse" or when to move on?

Because if my friend works her relationship out, and they both live a life filled with happiness, then it doesn't matter if they broke up and got back together many many times. In contrast, if they fail as a couple, then she may have wasted a lot of time.

Sometimes you act in the face of fear because in reality it's all in our heads.

I remember listening to an interview with Kathryn Stockett, who wrote The Help. She was rejected 60 times before finding her literary agent. So if she had decided to give up at the 60th rejection, she may have not found the success she has today. Emotionally, she has gone through a rollercoaster of a ride trying to get her book published. All writers do. She must have had intense doubt as the rejection letters piled higher and higher. But something in her spoke to her, to continue submitting query letters, despite the fear of rejection. But she did it! If we look at the coin flip analogy, each letter had no effect on the other. She could have possibly received endless rejections because one rejection does not promise that the next won't be. And she could have received an offer letter if she had queried her current agent first.

image.gif

An example of real fear is when a grizzly bear is chasing you. As you're running away, you remember a frightening fact. They can run way faster than humans and over greater distances. You look back, and the bear is gaining on you. Fast. Good luck.

Let's get back to my friend and her beau. She decided to start the relationship yet again out of fear, which was that she wouldn't be able to find someone as good as him. We can't say that there is a better match for her because there are no guarantees in life. Save death. But we do know there are plenty of other men out there that she hasn't explored. So her fear that he's the best for her is unfounded.

It would be one thing if their relationship worked, then there'd be no need to look further. From what little I see of them, she's trying to change him, he's trying to change her, and that to leads conflict. In other words, they haven't accepted each other for who they are. Nor have they accepted themselves. Once those things are done, then getting along with each other becomes much easier.

Mind of a Writer

"I always knew that I was..."—my friend gestured above his head—"on a higher level than my ex."

I nodded. Though, I did not agree. But what do I tell the guy? "Naw, bruh. Dat shiet is whack, yo.  She a person. You a person. Das it. Ya feel me, bruh?"

Translation: All humans are created equal.

What do I mean by that?

Well, when a CEO walks down the hallway of any building and sees a janitor mopping the floor, the CEO may think she's above him. Now, if we're talking the business world where imaginary things like corporate ladders matter, then sure. The Tooth Fairy is also an imaginary thing. As are ghosts. Vampires. And soul mates.

But when a human is born, her value is no more than a human that's been on the Earth for 80 years because we all need to breath air, eat food, drink water, shit, pee, and sleep. A person can literally have all the money in the world, but he will someday leave his dead human body and all his shit and move on to whatever is next. This is the fate of all humans. For some, that time comes sooner than later.

That doesn't mean that people can't be better at somethings than others. Some are taller, some are richer, some might even be faster.

Now, of course my friend wasn't talking about human equality. He's a dude. And dudes are visual creatures. That's why we like to watch porn. Whereas women are mental creatures. And...I don't mean mental as in crazy. Mmm...OK. They're insane but that's not the point. They get turned on by reading porn. That's why romance novels claim at least 50% of the money spent on fiction. Women devour them up like starved vampires sucking on fresh virgin blood.

My pal had referred to his ex's looks. I'd hung out with her many times. She treated him really well. So for some reason it saddened me that he would say something like that about her. Which prompted 'We're all equal motherfucker!' thought in my head.

I've also heard my female friends say that they're way out of some poor soul's league. But more often than not, they mean personality wise. And this is where men, including me, get tripped up.

We're thinking, 'Bitch! I know shiet. I's gots me some knowledge. I ain't no dummy. That's three qualities right there, baby!'

But that's not what women mean. Remember how I said that women be hella crazy? I didn't say hella? I should have. They're nuts. Their minds are all over the place, in different dimensions, in imaginary worlds, in places that the toughest man would be like, "Oh, hell no! I'm getting the fuck outta here."

I'll be eating dinner with my girlfriend. We're having a deep conversation about life. This is what's going through her mind: Does he love me? Is my lip gloss good? I'll reapply after dinner. Why is he so argumentative? Is he going to be like that when we get married? When should I bring that up? Cuz last time I did that he ignored me. I don't like being ignored. My cat ignores me. He's so cute. And chubby. Wonder how my bff is doing? Why hasn't she texted? I texted her a minute ago. Hmm...my hair, why won't it grow faster? Are we still talking about life? What about our life? And will he eat my cat? Cuz he jokes about making him into a stew. He better not. That would piss me off. Gawd, I'm full. Ooh. Time for dessert. I'm fat! No I'm not. Fatso! Stop it! I wanna check my phone, but he hates that. Eh...he won't mind.

And that's within one second.

Women want someone who can handle them. And handle them like a man. They want that man to take control. Not like rape. But women want men to make decisions on what to do this weekend, where to eat, have their own opinions and passions, initiate sex. I get that.

But when a man tries to display his dick, both literally and figuratively, it ain't sexy. When I write at Starbucks, sometimes an older gentleman comes in and orders a tall coffee, a pastry, and sits at a table. He places a napkin on the table. On it he gently lays his Porsche key on its side, so people can see the Porsche symbol displayed like a billboard and will know that this man who is eating his pastry and drinking his tall coffee owns an expensive automobile manufactured by Porsche.

That, gentlemen, is how you show how small your dick is.

How did I get from human equality to showing your dick? Hell if I know.

Light the Way

Driving down the street, I turned right and felt my car labor up the hill. I dropped the stick shift into second gear and sped up before I realized I had passed the house I was looking for. My tires crunched the gravel until they halted. I stepped out of my car and saw a set of stairs that led up to what I thought to be the front door.

This part of Oakland seems nice, I thought. I wasn't sure why that thought buzzed in my head. Maybe because I opened the trunk and brought out hitting pads and didn't want to start a fight. Not that I couldn't take care of myself. My car could be a good getaway vehicle.

I walked up the stairs and remarked at how quiet the street was. Once at the front door, I could see through the screen door an old Chinese gentleman sitting in his cushy chair. His trim hair was as white as the white marble rocks that paved the front of the home. His wife, I assumed, approached the door. Her hair complemented his, but permed. I think. What spurred in my mind was her impending accent. In fact, there was no doubt that she would greet me with an old thick Chinese accent. I wasn't afraid of not understanding her as much as not liking Chinese accents. Especially thick ones. Don't ask me why.

She smiled. "You must be Jimmy. Tony is waiting for you. Common in," she said in perfect English.

There wasn't a drop of an accent. If I closed my eyes, the last image I would expect to see was an elderly Chinese woman. The next thought in my mind was that her English was probably better than mine.

Tony's grandfather stood from his chair and shook my hand and welcomed me in. Also in perfect English. Was I in the Twilight Zone?

No. But this assignment was about to teach me three life lessons.

That was my first: What I see in contrast to what really is can and often be two different things.

Truth be told, I was a little nervous. Taking on a paying client was new to me. Not only that, but I had to figure out how to imbue this Tony with confidence while teaching him how to be a lethal weapon.

Down this narrow hallway that splintered off into bedrooms strolled a skinny thirteen-year-old Chinese boy, standing about five feet tall. His eyes were heavy and hair matted from his nap, which I eventually found out to be a daily habit. We greeted each other, and Tony led me down a steep set of stairs.

We had met once before at my best friend's going away party, Tony's former martial arts teacher. And mine. Penn was chasing his Hollywood dreams and was leaving for London to study theatre and drama at the famed The Old Vic. His departure had been dramatic for me because I was losing a close friend, and he gave me little guidance of how to continue the martial arts training of his clients he had gifted me. This added to my nervousness. Why? Both Penn and I had been throwing around the idea of opening our own school that not only delved into self defense, but also addressed issues that these kids might be facing. That of course went out the window when Penn had decided to go to London. Now, I didn't want to screw Tony up as a person. I had issues of my own with no concrete idea on how to solve them. So I had been trusted to solve Tony's? Good luck kid.

"This is where Penn and I would have our lessons," Tony stated.

We ended up in the basement that was filled with a lot of nick knacks that only an old couple who had been together for decades could collect. Toys from the past were stashed in shelves along side old books. Boxes and crates were shoved against the wall, and an old Chinese calendar hung along side faded pictures. There was so much stuff, I couldn't recall what color the walls were. What floor space we had was enough to run basic drills, which was fine, but when we shifted to movement drills, I would need more room.

"Oh, they can move their car from the garage if we need more space," Tony said, referring to his grandparents.

I didn't really know what to say except for, "Fabulous."

What peaked my interest was a door on the back wall. It just sat there, waiting to be opened. For some reason it looked ominous because nothing blocked access to it, despite all of the stuff packed into this tiny space.

Since this was our first official lesson, I wanted to spend time assessing his abilities, which helped lower any student's guard, so I could converse with Tony and try and figure out who this skinny kid was. I slipped my hands into my striking pads and held them up a little higher than his height. He struck the pads with pretty good efficiency and power for his size. His pad work filled the small basement with explosive sounds like firecrackers. I wanted to say he could beat up little girls now, but this was our first lesson, and I didn't know if he could take my sarcasm. Yet.

The door kept stealing my attention. It was a few feet off the ground. So to step inside, someone would have to climb in. And it wasn't a normal door like those that led into bedrooms or bathrooms. It was squarish. Why was that?

"What's behind the door," I asked.

A veil of coldness draped down Tony's thin face. His eyes seemed to darken and his shoulders tightened toward his chest. "I don't know. I don't go in there."

Images of dead bodies sparked in my mind.

"Where does it lead?" I prodded.

Tony shrugged. "Under the house?"

"Have you seen what's in there?"

Tony took a few steps away from the door and gazed at it as if he was seeing a long dead tormentor come back from the netherworld. "Someone might be living under there."

What was interesting was there had been no easy way of getting under the house other than through that door. So where did this poor kid get the idea that someone could be living under there like a troll?

As my weekly lessons continued, there was one simple truth I had found out about this kid. Fear was a very real thing that he had been living with for a large part of his life. It had to have originated from somewhere. Tony lived in a very safe neighborhood where the idea of a robbery was sinister. I mean, he attended private school. His parents were well-to-do. He had friends.

What gives?

Tony was close to his older sister who had Hollywood aspirations as well. Crystal had talked shop with Penn when he was Tony's teacher. She seemed well adjusted, aware enough to know what she wanted, and had a healthy social life. He often talked about her and had the normal brother/sister conflicts that all siblings have. During times of struggle, he would go to her for advice. It's heartwarming to know that he still does to this day.

His father was a restauranteur at a well known eatery. He was a tall man of six-feet, the shortest among his brothers. His demeanor was gentle and friendly and giving. I had never heard a harsh word come from his mouth. Except when talking about his daughter's then boyfriend. If anything, Tony inherited his father's temperament and eventually, his height. Yes, Tony would outgrow me. Then I met Tony's mother. Talk about ominous doors. I'm not referring to Norman Bates kind of relationship. But...

Tony's mother worked as an assistant D.A. for the City of San Francisco. She had prosecuted people that horror movies were based on. And like any civil servant, she was overworked and stressed. But both parents were on top of their kids' needs and education. The mother more intensely, like the military's Apache helicopter. To say she was overbearing was understating things, like saying Bruce Lee was some Asian dude. I understood, coming from a Chinese family myself, that overbearingness had come from a deep love and want for her kids to be successful in life.

This was when I learned my second life lesson: Children are people too. I watched Tony struggle with the constraints his mother placed on him. And I watched the struggle she had with her son, trying her damnedest to mold him into the man she wanted him to be.

All of this was to say that Tony had learned and lived with a lot of unnecessary fears that came from somewhere, and I inherited the simple job of showing him most—if not all—of his fears were created in his own mind. In other words, not real.

Another twist had shown up during one of our lessons. We were in the middle of a drill, and I slapped the back of his hand. He cradled that hand with the other, brought it up to his mouth like a mother would, and kissed it.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"I'm kissing it to make it feel better."

"Are you serious?"

Tony nodded.

Lord. How does anyone teach toughness? The fastest way? By throwing that person to the wolves. Knowing his mother was a prosecuting attorney prevented me from doing this. Also, I was taking a shine to the kid. But an idea popped into my head. One that would possibly get me sued. Again, I reminded myself what his mother did for a living.

In our next lesson, I walked through the door and greeted Tony with a smile. He turned around to lead me to our training area. I targeted his back. He suspected nothing. "How are you?" I said. And slapped his back hard. Really hard. So hard that it could be heard a mile away.

"Ouch! What was that for?" he cried.

"What? It's just a friendly pat on the back."

Next lesson. I enter Tony's home, greet him with a smile. He turned around. Slap!

Next lesson. I enter. Smile. He turned around. Then looked back at me.

"How's school?" I asked.

Tony put his guards up.

"What?" I said, giving him the most innocent look I could muster.

"A lot of homework."

"Ah. Are you done with it?"

Tony turned around. "Not yet."

Slap!

The boy learned to have his guard up, to be more aware. But that didn't stop the slaps. Sometimes they would come during a drill. Sometimes after the lesson. Other times I would slap his shoulder because he would never present his back. In the end, he didn't kiss his hand when he got hurt. At least not in front of me. And hopefully Tony learned that he was a lot tougher than he gave himself credit for.

The ominous door stared at me.

I had been teaching Tony for around a year. The slaps ended. Naturally. But Tony still had irrational fears. So in the beginning of our lesson, I told him that he had to open the door in the basement.

"Will you be here?" he asked.

 "I'll be here."

Tony stepped up to the door and hesitated. "You're not going to trick me and stuff me in there? Right?"

"Would I be that mean?" I assured.

He gave me a look to remind me of the slaps he had received.

I found a flashlight from the piles of nick knacks in the basement and stood about a few feet away from the door.

Trembling a bit, Tony reached for the door handle and let a moment pass. He closed his eyes and took a breath, then opened them. He pulled the door open. Cool air entered the basement, bringing an earthy smell. The concrete foundation expanded under the house into the dark. More nick knacks were packed off to the sides. Some lumber. But there was enough room for a person to hide with evil intentions. That was what I read from Tony's eyes.

"Let's go in," I said.

"Serious?"

"Yeah. If there's anything in there, then you and I will handle it."

"You're not going to just lock me in there, right?"

I didn't bother asking if he thought I could do such a thing. "I'll be here."

Surprisingly, he climbed in first, trusting that I wouldn't shut the door behind him, forcing him to suffer alone. I climbed in after with the flashlight. There wasn't much height between the foundation and the bottom of the house. So we had to squat. We shined the light around different crevices so Tony could see nobody was lurking, hopefully dispersing his fear like a shadow.

"I'm gonna turn off the light."

"For how long?"

"Fifteen minutes."

Tony's eyes widened to almost round-eyes. And that was a feat. He had very slanty eyes. "Serious?"

"How long then?"

"A minute."

I smiled and agreed. I turned off the flashlight. And we waited, squatting like old Chinese men in kung-fu shoes, smoking cigarettes.

"You OK?" I asked.

"I think so."

"Nothing to be afraid of."

"But you're here."

"So?" A moment passed. "You could have done this alone if you wanted to."

"You think?"

"Don't you?"

Tony didn't answer. "Is the minute up?"

"Don't you?" I asked again.

"Probably."

"Want to try?"

Tony thought for a moment. "Next time."

I opened the door and stepped down. Tony followed.

We never tested that fear again. Maybe because I knew he could do it. Or that he had outgrown that kind of train of thought because he could reason it out, that most of his fears were fake.

Five years had gone by. I relished our time together because we became friends, much like how Penn and I had been. As all kids do, they grow up, graduate from high school, then move out-of-state to attend university.

He had been at university for a year or two. He was talking to his roommates who were going through their own growing pains. And he realized something. In one of the rare times we saw each other, he said that he had been thankful for having me help him through his issues. That he was glad he was beyond them. Truth of the matter was that Tony was more than capable of moving beyond his own issues. Sometimes people need a flash light to find their way.

And it's not like he would never have problems again, or that sometimes life shits on people. But it's how we handle it that shows how far we have grown. And it was at this moment that I knew Tony didn't need a person like me anymore. That was my third life lesson. I would have failed as a teacher if he did. But I hope he knows that I'll be here.

Praise tha Lawd

Thank tha Lawd tha rain has come!

California has gone through one of the worst droughts in 2014/2015 and the much needed rain has drenched the state with more to come. Thanks El Niño. Or should I thank Gawd? Did She give birth to The Kid? If so, then Gawd is a woman? I mean, if God made man in his/her image, and God created everything, essentially giving birth to it all, then God is a woman. Right?

According to a friend of mine, no.

So my girlfriend and I and another couple had decided to make the trek to the Sierra Mountains. We spend the long New Year's weekend skiing and snowboarding down the groomed mountainsides on pristine white snow. What we see is beautiful: Thick white snow carpeting the never ending mountains.

image.jpg

On the way back, my friend was schooling his girlfriend about how evolution was really a big conspiracy and that the Earth was young (6000-10,000 years old). I tried not to pay attention because when it came to religion and evolution, I'm pretty ignorant. I know the basics, like there's Gawd and Heysoos, and we was once be a single-celled thang called a single-celled thingybob and den we turned into peeps...baby chicks.

Plus, I'm not a fan of people who argue that science is failing us.

What peaked my interest was that my friend mentioned a tyrannosaurus rex bone had been found with soft tissue still intact within the fossil. "How could that be?" he lamented. "Soft tissue can't survive 65 million years. The Earth is not as old as scientists have said."

I was stumped.

"How can a cat turn into a bird?" he retorted. "How can an alligator evolve into a human? Evolution is a conspiracy. Show me a picture of a bone where a cat turns into a bird? There isn't."

"That's not what evolution says," I chimed in. I tried to tell him that evolution has branches. So the branch of animals that evolved to cats is not likely to evolve to birds. And alligators are not going to evolve into humans.

We continued this stupid debate and then he put the onus on me to provide him with evidence to support the theory of evolution. "Not a picture," he demanded. Actual evidence.

Well...it's not like I carry around a catbird bone. My girlfriend would probably think I'm weird. She already thinks that, so I guess if I had a catbird bone, it wouldn't hurt to carry the catbird bone around. Maybe wear the birdcat bone around my neck. Or was it my neck bone connected to my head bone?

So I turned it around and asked him for evidence that God was real. He mentioned the Bible. Didn't humans write that, I countered. It was inspired by God. How do you know that? There are statues with the name David with writing on it. So a statue is your evidence that God inspired humans to write the Bible down on paper? There are statues all over the world that contain the same writing, my friend offered.

In summary, I had to produce real world evidence to support the theory of evolution, the catbird bone, and all he had to do was point to these statues. In other words, he could have second or third or fifty-second hand resources, but I couldn't point to the work scientists have done on the subject.

Taking a break from our useless conversation, we veered off the highway and stopped off at a diner. My friend's girlfriend had complained to me about how much he had talked endlessly on his religious and conspiracy tirades. And if it hadn't been for those, their relationship would be perfect.

After ordering our food, he started to question my girlfriend about her religious beliefs. I could tell he he wanted to poke holes in her religion because he believes his should be the only one.

I jumped in and said, "We can't change our past. We're not even guaranteed tomorrow. Nor do we really know what happens when we die. What's important is this present moment. Do we live in happiness and peace now, or do we worry about what will happen after we die?"

My friend wasn't ready to admit what I had said had some merit. And that's fine. But unless you're 007 or you can actually do something about conspiracies, why spend what little time you have on this little blue marble called Earth worrying about it?

In the vain of the success of Star Wars, hate does lead to the darkside. What really depresses most people is a disconnection of some sort. It's the reason we all seek connection through relationships, friends and family (I could have just as well gone to the Sierras by myself, but it's more enjoyable with friends), New Year's gatherings in crowded cities, drunken bars during the holidays. We crave connection. We get it through people, through prayer, through doing things like painting, writing, singing, petting cats.

So I assume that my friend needs to go on these religious and conspiracy tirades in the hopes of convincing people he's right, so he feels connected and supported. But that's the thing about religious faith. He shouldn't need others to believe in order for him to believe. And that's what I find so weird about religious fanatics. Why do they need others to believe? Is it because they truly care about their fellow woman, or is it out of insecurity?

About that dinosaur bone with soft tissue still inside. I decided to look it up to see if this was some kind of hoax. And it wasn't.

The Writing Dead

The Walking Dead spoiler alert muthafukkas!

He's alive! Glenn is alive! Who is this Glenn that you are referring to?

In season six of The Walking Dead, one of the mainstay characters, Glenn, had plummeted into a sea of zombies. Nicholas, a minor character, had given up, seeing no way out, and shot himself in the head. The falling dead body pulled Glenn off the top of the dumpster, and all we saw were starving zombies grabbing and ripping. Blood spilled everywhere, guts poured onto Glenn, and the fans were shocked to see the only Asian in the show to die. Or had he?

Then one of the writers/producers of the show released a statement through the follow up show, Talking Dead, "So I'll say this: In some way, we will see Glenn, some version of Glenn or parts of Glenn again, either in flashback or in the current story to help complete the story."

Theories arose of his survival. So of course everyone tuned in the next week, a whole seven days later, to find out Glenn's fate. Not only didn't we find out, but we got a flash back to another character, at this point a minor one, Morgan Jones. A ninety minute episode.

Some fans were pissed. Others loved the episode. I saw a fan comment, "Glad for the break. It's been intense." Uh…it had been a whole seven days. That's 168 hours, 10,080 minutes, 604,800 seconds. If watching a TV show gets you pent up for that long, I might suggest going outside for a walk.

It took three episodes before the fans found out that Glenn is alive. And I sorta get it. If the writers' intention was to put the audience through a period of tension, withholding Glenn's fate, so we would feel what it's like to live in a zombie apocalyptic world, then fine. Badly done. But OK. However, what the producer did by releasing the statement afterward was gawdawful stupid.

Why?

Let's take a simple magic trick: A magician stands in front of a black armoire and opens the double doors. His attractive assistant steps inside and waves to the crowd. The magician closes the doors and turns to the crowd. "Don't worry. We'll see her in some way, shape or form soon." Then waits three weeks before opening the doors to reveal that the assistant is still in the armoire. She's dead, though. Oops. 

But, braddah, she no disappear or nuthin'. Supwitdat? 

I know, cuz.

Here's a small list of things the writers had fucked up:

  1. A basic law of the show is that anyone can be killed, save Rick. Kill Rick, and the show is over. Killing Glenn would have been good for the story, supporting this basic law.
  2. Another basic law is that zombies will eat anything that is alive or freshly killed. Keeping Glenn alive after falling into a sea of zombies destroys that law.
    1. The writers can say that the blood and guts covering Glenn camouflaged him from the zombie horde. But this only works if the blood and guts came from a zombie. Nicholas wasn't "ripe" yet because the zombies were still eating him.
  3. This also destroys the law that anyone can be killed. I'm not saying Glenn can't be eaten in another episode, but saving him here takes a lot of sheen off of Death can come to anyone.
  4. Zombies don't give up. They have no reasoning, so why would they? If they smell fresh meat, they'll go after you. Even if a barrier like a fence stands in their way, as seen in the prison episodes, they'll continue to claw at you.
  5. They messed with our emotions, which is good. But they also revealed their hand when they released their statement. And by doing so, they manipulated our emotions by breaking the fourth wall, the TV screen. That tatters if not severely beats our suspension of disbelief.
  6. As I said earlier, theories of his survival arose. The shitty part is that we were right, and as a result we were not surprised (see the comments in the link).
  7. And much like the assistant who didn't disappear, nothing changed. Glenn didn't become a better person. He didn't become worse.  No one was around to see his miraculous act of survival, so no change there. Since there was no change in this pivotal cliff hanger, then why show it? To piss us off?

I think for most fans of the show, they won't care but are relieved Glenn is back. As a storyteller, I care. But I currently don't have to balance storytelling, ratings, and selling commercials. This is something the writers/producers have to do, especially during sweeps.

Spoiler alert again, muthafukkas.

And strategically, they may be waiting to kill Glenn when a character from the comics named Negan comes to the show. He's a baddie. Actually, he's a bad muthafukka. Cause he does do Glenn. Well…not do Glenn, but does do Glenn in, or do does Glenn in, or doo-dah doo-dah-day.

A Blonde, a Geek and a Hunk Walk Into a Bar

As a writer, I like to work with assumptions that readers may have. It’s sorta like a red herring, where we assume one thing, but witness a completely different outcome. For example, a geeky-looking guy walks into a bar full of beautiful women and gorgeous hunks. We’ll call him Geek. He approaches an amazing blonde standing at the bar wearing a skintight dress that reveals her dedication to CrossFit. We’ll call her Blondie. I know, these are creative names.

The audience assumes the geek will buy her a drink, trip over his words trying to start a conversation, and then crash and burn when he asks for her number.

Geek doesn’t offer to buy her a drink, but tells the barkeep he wants a Hefeweizen. “Hi,” he says. “My name is Geek.”

“Hey,” Blondie says. “I’m Blondie.” (I know, masterful storytelling here.)

Geek looks her up and down. “I love that color. Your dress. I’ve been looking for a cool color to paint my den in.”

Blondie laughs. “Oh my God. I bought this at a second-hand store. Never in a million years would I go into a place like that. But something called to me, and I went inside.”

Geek smiles. “So I guess you’re high maintenance?”

“Definitely. Be scared, Geek.”

"I totally am," Geek says and play-pushes her away. “At least you’re secure enough to admit the truth.”

At this point, the audience is amazed that Geek has fared this well. I am, and I’m writing this stuff!

Outside, a loud motor revs as the valet taps his sneaker, waiting for the driver to open the Ferrari car door. Like floodlights turning to shine on the main act of a rock concert, the door lifts open, and Hunk steps out onto the concrete ground in his snakeskin shoes. To say that Hunk has a granite jaw and a superhero build would be like saying Superman is super.

Hunk makes his entrance into the bar and scans the patrons like a king would his subjects. His deep blue eyes catches sight of Blondie. Hunk struts over, leans on the bar next to her opposite of Geek. Hunk, however, doesn’t even acknowledge Geek as if Geek has a cloaking device making him invisible. Yes, he’s a geek, so that’s the simile I’m going with.

“You’re gorgeous. I’m Hunk."

“Hi, I’m Blondie."

The audience knows Geek has met his match and feels that Blondie will go home with Hunk. I would, and I ain’t gay.

“What do you like to do for fun?” Hunk asks.

“CrossFit.”

Hunk checks her out. “I think every woman is jealous of your body.”

Blondie smiles. “What about you?”

“I love to drive. I just ordered my third Ferrari. They’re amazing machines.”

“I meant, do you CrossFit?” Blondie says and leans back. “This is Geek.”

“Hey,” Geek says. “I love to drive too. My Jetta kicks ass. Most people think it’s a girl’s car. Psh. It is.”

Blondie laughs.

“I’ve had to fight off many gay men,” Geek continues. “So, please, Hunk, I'm not gay."

Hunk narrows his eyes. “Can I buy you a drink?” Hunk asks Blondie.

“No, thanks,” Geek answers. “I’m a cheap date.” Hunk has a blank stare. “It means I can’t hold my alcohol."

“Thanks, Hunk,” Blondie jumps in, “but Geek and I were in a middle of a conversation."

BAM! The audience is enthralled at Geek’s success. Now, I know what you’re thinking. This is the best story ever. But, as I’ve tried to demonstrate both in dialogue and commentary, that leading the audience or reader one way, using their expectations against them, we can make the most mundane scene at least be somewhat more interesting.