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From the Vault: No Guilty Pleasures

I’ve had a pretty rough week so far, so instead of the post I wanted to make, here’s an expansion on a comment I made to my flatmate the other night, while she was watching The Mindy Project. It took me a while to encapsulate this idea properly, but here it is.


Courtesy Hasbro

I’m making plans to go see Transformers: Age of Extinction later this week. Possibly on that most American of holidays, Independence Day. What better way to celebrate the birth of a nation and honor the sacrifices made by those fighting for its autonomy than a big-budget action movie filled with Americana iconography and military/weapon fetishism? I’m someone who tries to see media in general, and movies and games in particular, from a more critical standpoint, adding my voice to those attempting to discern good qualities from bad and directing the spending of those willing to listen.

Admittedly, however, there is a part of me that will always love the Transformers, no matter what Michael Bay does to them.

And that’s okay.

I’m honestly getting more and more disillusioned with the notion of the ‘guilty pleasure’. There’s an idea in our culture that there are certain things that we are not allowed to enjoy, or at least not allowed to admit we enjoy. We should hate ourselves for eating food we know is bad for us. Entertainment that goes for cheap thrills or laughs should be put down. And if you admit to enjoying sex, slut-shaming will fall on you by the bucketfuls. I mean, it should fall on everyone in this culture, but I think we all know women get it a lot more than men do because the patriarchy is, in fact, an extant and present danger to progress and free thought.

Let me wrestle this thing back onto my point. My point is that, as long as one is being safe and smart in their choices, no pleasure should be labeled as guilty. Sure, if you eat nothing but fast food all the time you’re going to have health problems, but that isn’t to say you should never eat any fast food ever. There are those who make that choice, and they’re healthy people I admire. I may even join them someday. But on occasion, I will get a hankering that can only be satisfied with a late night Taco Bell indulgence.

Basically, if no actual harm is occurring, and things are being taken in moderation (including moderation, as St. Augustine would say), it’s difficult for me to really describe any pleasure we take from life as “guilty”. After all, life is long and difficult, and moments of true pleasure, joy, and release can be hard to come by in our daily struggle to keep ourselves and our dreams alive. Why make things even more complex and potentially hurtful for ourselves or others by leveling judgement on what we enjoy?

Sure, some things can be objectively bad or wrong with what we like. We can acknowledge that red meat is bad for us. It’s easy to see the flaws in a movie that’s not up to standards. Hell, I love Flash Gordon even though I know some of its effects are cheap even by the standards of the day and a good few story points make zero sense. But I love it in spite of those flaws. I enjoy the hell out of the time I spend laughing at the antics or belting out Queen lyrics. It’s just fun. It’s a pleasure. And I don’t feel guilty about it.

I don’t think you should feel guilty about your pleasures, either.

Go Outside

Courtesy allthingshealing.com

I love the amenities of modern life. Video games, the Internet, films, toaster ovens, books, on and on. As a writer, I am used to making myself a bit of a recluse, something of a hermit, tucked away in a solitary room where shelves heave with papers and the only sounds are the tapping of keys, the scratching of nibs on parchment, and my occasional outburst of profanity.

But I have to remind myself that I need to go outside.

People are outside. This can be a frightening thing, to be sure, but it’s also where stories come from. Every person is experiencing their own story. There’s also the fact that this is our audience, as writers. The people wandering the streets, riding in buses, and grinding their teeth in cubicles want – no, need the escape fiction provides. And we, as writers, are poised to provide that escape.

Fresh air is good for you. Even a brisk walk to and from the corner store can do wonders for the body and the mind. I’m a big proponent of public transit, not only for the environmental aspect and its positive affect on city infrastructure, but because it promotes folks like me not being quite so lazy and actually walking more from place to place. I have errands to run, and I’m actually looking forward to it, because it means getting out of the house.

I’m not saying you have to go run a 5k. I’m not saying you should eschew key work times to go for a stroll. I am, however, saying you should go outside from time to time. Your work, your games, and your refreshments will still be there when you return, and the rewards will be all the sweeter for your efforts.

Flash Fiction: Hello Human

So Chuck Wendig coined the phrase Spammerpunk and I thought I’d get down on that.


Hello human,
Greetings from another human. I am human and interested in human things. Your planet which you call Earth has many resources important to humans. An offer generous to humans can be made. Many lucrative offers to other humans have provided human familial units with much material wealth for reasonable replacement demands. Many benefits material wealth can be provided unto your fleshy human carapace especially when alternative is complete annihilation of species. Compliance is preferable to resistance. Please to be considering generous offer.

500 Words on Trolls

Courtesy Bewytchme.com

Yes. They’re real. They’re disgusting. They think they’re always right. But they don’t live under bridges; they live on the Internet.

‘Trolls’ is modern shorthand for people who use the broadcasting power and, occasionally, anonymity of the Internet to spew their opinions at people. No matter how ignorant or misinformed those opinions might be, these people like nothing better than to put themselves out into the world as experts in their fields. There are times when you can’t grok the context or tone of plain text when presented, but in the case of these folks, there’s almost always an air of smugness and faux superiority. I don’t know how they do it; but they do.

As succinct as ‘trolls’ is as a descriptor, I feel like a better, more descriptive one already exists. Guttersnipes. Think about it. It fits perfectly. People take aim at a topic or comment they wish to inflict themselves upon, and fire off idiotic rounds of so-called ‘knowledge’ into an unsuspecting crowd that had neither the desire nor the need to hear what they have to say. That covers the ‘snipe’ part – the ‘gutter’ part comes from the fact that it’s one of the best places to live when you surround yourself in shit. Much like pigs.

The thing about the perspective of a pig, is that they likely see things around them in the context of pigdom. When the farmer comes by, unless the pig is Babe or a MENSA member, pigs likely belive it’s just a bigger pig who happens to walk upright and always carry a slop bucket. When you’re a pig, all you see is other pigs. Pigs, however, are better than trolls.

“I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.” – Winston Churchill

Trolls don’t see you as equals. Like cats, but without the benefit of cuddly fur or attractive purring, they look down on us. They think they’re better than us, more enligthened, better informed. Let’s overlook the fact that a lot of their opinions tend to come from FOX News, or hate groups like GamerGate, or some place even more idiotic like 8chan. Any intelligent creature can expose themselves to this sort of hateful, ignorant, inflammatory dross and recognize it for what it is. It takes a particularly loathsome human being to simply parrot those things.

The worst ones are the ones that backpedal. When they get called on their bullshit, they start to take up a less controversial position. They will make a racist remark, and then when called on it, will say something like “I’m colorblind”. That way, they maintain their supposed moral superiority and can accuse their accuser of being overly sensitive. It’s bullshit, and these people live in it.

How do we deal with them? Don’t feed them. If you engage them, you will find their positions intractable and their smugness insufferable. They may consider silence a victory. Some fights, we just can’t win.

Image courtesy Bewytchme.com & GU Comics

NaNoWriNOW

Courtesy floating robes
Courtesy Floating Robes

Hey, you out there!

Yes, you! Aspiring novelist! Getting geared up for NaNoWriMo? Got some ideas? Pencils sharpened, pens inked, paper at the ready? Excellent!

I wish you the best of luck.

I won’t be participating this year. Or… maybe ever.

Don’t get me wrong. I like the concept. It’s a structured event to shake would-be writers out of complacency and the motivation-sucking doldrums of everyday life, and makes them write, dammit. I mean, if you are a writer, you should be writing. Otherwise, this fellow is going to yell at you. And you don’t want that. Trust me, you don’t want that. It’s all shotguns and dogs and beards and whiskey breath and using “fuck” as a preposition and oh god the nightmares.

I kid, I kid. He actually does brush his teeth.

But that’s why I won’t be doing NaNoWriMo. I have one novel that’s been in final draft hell for far too long, and another idea that is so eager for me to start writing about it I can feel it lingering in the back of my mouth, like the somewhat cottony feeling from last night’s drinking binge that can only be washed away with more precious booze. So I’m not going to wait for November to start writing that novel; I’m going to start right the hell now.

Well, as soon as I finish this post, but you get the idea.

As I’ve said, I don’t want to disparage NaNoWriMo. I say if you want or need the impetus to get that idea moving forward, go for it. I’ll be happy to cheer you on and give all the advice and support I can.

I just don’t feel I can wait for the new month to roll around.

I have, in a very real sense, waited long enough. Too long.

My time to write is now.