Well, I am a rambling blogger, so I’m just lumping together some quick thoughts from the week.

• Even though I have a teeny-tiny bit of history with BloodRayne, I never watched the movie adaptation. As I was flipping through the channels the other night, I caught it on the Sci-Fi channel, so I decided to give it a fair chance. I only made it through a few minutes, and I remember the moment when I decided to change the channel… it was when I was sitting there and thought to myself, “Wow, Kristanna has a really nice tan.”
• 2009. Universal Studios in Orlando. Harry Potter theme park. For some reason, I feel an urge to drink way too much ale in the Hogsmeade tavern.
• My mix-it-up crazy thought of the week. Dr. Seuss stories done up by Jhonen Vasquez.
• So You Think You Can… Clog? Clogs are cool. I’m totally gonna custom order a sweet pair of pimped out clogs.
• Once upon a time, there was a wondrous and insightful television show known throughout the lands as The View. Meredith provided a sense of professionalism and decorum. Joy pounced on unsuspecting guests with her predatory wit. Debbie pitched in with an overabundance of youthful energy and enthusiasm. And Star joined in with her lawyer-like analysis and cross examination of guests. It was a good mix, and I used to watch it every day I could. It seemed to cycle through a typical startup business cycle where you start out with less serious business and more fun but eventually work your way into more serious business and a lot less fun.
• The movie Music and Lyrics turned out to be as much fun as I thought it would be after seeing one of those “behind the scenes” shows on cable about it. Lots of fun… lots of laughs.

There’s a first time for everything. As I’ve learned from many (very) personal experiences is those firsts can carry a lot of clout… especially in the youthful experience-deprived mind of an adolescent. Probably the most memorable first for me was my first kiss (of the non-familial variety). It was nothing like what I’d imagined because… well, you’ll see…

At one point in my young life, I found to my complete and utter shock there was a young lady with a crush on me. I’m not sure how I made this initial discovery. Maybe it was due to her stalker-like qualities… showing up everywhere I’d be. Walking by my house every day after school even though she lived in the opposite direction. Watching me in classes we shared. Leaving stuff behind in classes I had after her, so she’d have an excuse to go back into the classroom after I was seated.

Yet, I ignored her. I was in love with the most beautiful girl in our class, and this other girl… well, she didn’t exactly turn heads. If you looked close enough, there was potential for her to develop into a gorgeous woman, but as is the folly of youth, you don’t spend much time looking ahead (and just noticing the undeveloped girl). But I did notice her eventually. It was difficult not to. Especially when she gathered up all her courage one day and asked me out on a date.

I knew deep down I didn’t really have a shot at the girl I was in love with, and I was (extremely) single at the time. Probably due to my poor boy’s wardrobe, excessive nerdiness, super-svelte figure, extreme shyness and an uncanny ability when I did speak to nervously say what I felt in the most embarrassingly wrong way. For pretty much all of my younger days, I didn’t handle social scenarios very well and wasn’t comfortable with communicating what I thought (I learned much, much later in life these were aspects of Asperger’s Syndrome). As I considered her offer, I remember thinking at some point, “Maybe I don’t handle myself with all this boy/girl stuff because I haven’t practiced it enough. I always get better at sports when I practice. Maybe it’s the same principle underneath it all.”

So, I agreed to go out on a date with her.

Dinner was rough to get through. Being shy, I usually hung out with groups of people. People that liked to talk, so it didn’t make much difference if I didn’t say much. I was an expert in conversational camouflage. But at a dinner table, one-on-one with a girl. I was completely out of my element. I was hoping she’d be a talker, and I could just sit back and be a good listener, but there’s one thing to note for all those people out there dealing with someone crushing on you–even if they already know everything about you, they still like to ask a ton of questions hoping to find out even more about you. So, I had to talk. Well, kinda talking… I spat out verbs and nouns and adjectives and sometimes they were even in some kind of order that resembled real sentences. Since I was fumbling words left-and-right, I just decided to blurt out a quick joke about it. And she laughed at the joke. That one laugh calmed me down enough we were able to have a decent conversation (she was also filled to the brim with nerdiness, so that made it easy to discuss on-the-edge topics like chemistry and geometry and literature).

After dinner, we began our walk home (it was a small town, so you could get to most places without much wear-n-tear on your sneakers), and she led us by the park where we sat down to watch the last little bit of the sun setting. She sneakily wiggled her way closer and closer to me as we continued to talk, and when I turned to say something to her one time, she was right there… whispering her response where I could barely hear it as she stared deeply into my eyes. I leaned closer to hear what she was saying, and it suddenly hit me… this is gonna be my first kiss. Growing up schooled heavily in the ways of the hopeless romantic, it was a moment I’d thought about often. In my mind, it had been built up as something special. Something magical.

And when our lips touched, something “special” happened.

My mind raced through a gazillion thoughts… Am I gonna screw this up? What if I turn out to be a bad kisser and she tells everyone? Then no other girl in town will want to kiss me and my lips will remain virginal until I go to college where I’ll screw up another kiss and find myself banned from kissing any girls on campus. Then I’ll be selling blood to scrape up enough money just to get prostitutes to kiss me.

For some reason these thoughts caused a little anxiety. My face went pale, I started sweating, and I pulled away from her with a look of horror on my face. Then I stood up and ran.

Ran to the nearest set of bushes in the park where nerves and anxiety were transformed into vomit. Large quantities of vomit. And when she came over to see if I was all right, she caught sight of me upchucking and got hit with a serious psycho-sympathetic response as she started heaving her dinner into the bushes as well. She apologized to me over and over thinking we both got food poisoning from the restaurant she chose for dinner. The apologies quickly became tears. I figured this date hadn’t turned out anywhere close to what she had planned. I think she was hoping for a magical moment as well.

I wanted to make her feel better. I wanted to let her know it was all gonna be okay, but I wasn’t really sure how. So, I did the first thing that came to mind (well, second since I wasn’t sure how well kissing works with vomit-breath). I grabbed her hand and squeezed it tight. When she looked over at me, I looked into her eyes, smiled and said, “Maybe we should try this before dinner next time.”

It was enough to make her smile. And at that moment, it was the most beautiful smile I’d ever seen. From that day forward, I found myself attracted to nice smiles. Sure, a woman with a healthy pair of legs will get noticed, but smiles always seem to keep my attention.

I haven’t done one of these in a while, so I thought I’d dig into the ol’ “thought bucket” (estimated count is around 300+ ideas right now) and see what I have sitting in there growing stale from disuse (and at least let it see the light of day somehow). Here’s one that was a fun, crazy idea I had a long time back that I abandoned when some other time travel stories showed up on the scene.

“The Temporal Pimpernel”
A new take on the public domain story, “The Scarlet Pimpernel” as a foppish, bored aristocrat from the future engages in anonymous swashbuckling adventures throughout history to save rich and wealthy people of the past from certain demise and whisk them away to safety in his future world. But one day, his wife discovers she’s one of these aristocrats from the past, but her memories had been rebuilt to hide her identity in the future. The authorities learn her secret and threaten to send her back to her primitive origins (where there’s not a single future luxury or convenience to be found) unless she works with them to unmask the Pimpernel.

This idea came to me when I was discussing public domain properties with friends, and being a fan of swashbuckling adventures as a kid, one of the first stories to come to mind was “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” This idea evolved from that as I tried to think of a way to put a twist to this classic swashbuckling hero. I even had a little short story I wrote going through what looked like a classic Scarlet Pimpernel story until the end when he tells the person he saved about how history says that person actually died… just before transporting him to the future to start his new life.

Dashing hero full of bravado and daring. Sword fights. Displays of acrobatic skill. Embarrassing the constabulary along the way. Misdirection. Deception. Defying death. And time travel. All blended up into a fun little idea.

I’ve seen a lot of crazy things in my life. I’ve been through the ringer once or twice (more like a dozen times). I’ve had a couple moments where I felt like I was at the breaking point where I’d just collapse under the crap and stress in my life. I made it through those times, and when I think back on it, I wonder… “How did I make it?”

When I was in training for military survival instructors, one of the areas that always fascinated me was the POW resistance training. Guess it’s my love of psychology and my curiosity of what makes the human mind tick that drew me to it. The goal is to prep military personnel to handle (resist) the stuff that could be thrown at them in an enemy prison. Physical torture, mental anguish, feeling like your captors are always a step ahead of you, and all the stressors pushed onto a prisoner to break their spirit and get what they want out of them whether it be vital information, propaganda material or even in some extreme cases… defection.

In some stories I’ve worked on, I’ve had to analyze characters and get a feel for where their breaking point would be. It’s generally a combination of two areas of concern that lead to a meltdown… factors that are important to a person and factors that are not important to a character but still put a drain on vital energy and mental welfare. When breaking down a POW, the captors tend to play on that second area to chip away at a prisoner’s energy and defenses and then hit them with the first area to hit them with something that might put them over the edge.

A sapling tree can only bend so far before it breaks. The weaker but steadier winds will keep bending the tree… setting it up for when a powerful gust comes along and finally snaps it. In the POW camps, it might be little things like torture, bad food, poor living conditions, lack of sleep, irritating (and repetitive) sounds, and more that slowly put a drain on energy, patience, and mental toughness. Imagine for a moment…

You’ve been stripped down and crammed into a crate not tall enough for you to stand in and not broad enough for you to actually sit. Outside the box, they have the sound of a crying baby playing over and over again on a loudspeaker. You were kept up most of the night by the guards, and they stop by your crate to make sure you don’t fall asleep. The guards also give you a small peephole and make sure they smoke, drink, and snack within your viewing range. They also use this time to gossip about how easily some of your comrades gave in, and how they could just get rid of the rest of the prisoners because they have all the info they need. Suddenly, it’s a few hours later and your crate eventually becomes a restroom as well as a bedroom. The smell starts to make you nauseous when your empty stomach isn’t rumbling. Baby screaming. Pins and needles numbness in one leg while the other begins cramping up. Eyes getting heavy. Expendable. Naked. Friends and comrades suffering the same fate.

Then they bring you into a room and hit you with stuff you care about. Factors that are important to you. They talk about your hometown. They talk about your parents discussing their current employment status and health. They talk to you about your girlfriend and what she did recently. They make you feel like they have people everywhere and everyone and everything you cared about is jeopardy. For many people who used all their energy resisting the non-essential stuff earlier, this is where they tend to find out they don’t have enough gas left in the tank to deal with matters that are actually important to them. This is where they usually break or let down their guard just enough to let their captors in.

This comes into play in the real world as well. People sweat the little things so often, they take away from the energy and time a person could devote to things more important to them and their livelihood. They put up with and tolerate too much minor crap all the time, and it bleeds them dry inside. Until something important comes along and breaks them.

So to put a character on the edge of breaking, I can toss in a variety of non-essential stressors to wear them down and then hit them with something big. And if a real person wanted to keep from breaking down, they could work through all the little stuff causing problems in their lives and eliminate them and free up energy and time to deal with bigger issues.

Since yesterday was Memorial Day, this is dedicated to the memories of my military friends who have passed away and to let my military friends know I haven’t forgotten them. I even pulled out photos and clippings tonight to let my mind relive some great times. But as much fun as I had in the military, it wasn’t all fun and games. In fact, I can honestly say there were some times where I was stressed out far beyond anything I’ve ever encountered in the civilian world. Piss off the wrong person, and you could find yourself knocked down a few pay grades… or find it difficult to get promoted to the next one. Minor mistakes might be forgiven, but make a mistake at the wrong time, and your livelihood’s in danger (or in some cases, your life). Political agendas. Power trips from kids fresh out of college being put in charge of teams. Superiors that feel threatened if you’re too smart. Superiors that feel threatened if you’re not good enough and might make them look bad. All the fun stuff.

But at the end of each day, there always seemed to be good friends to help you get through it all. Friends to laugh with. Friends to party with. Friends to chat with. Friends to help out when you needed it. Heck, one of these military members became my best friend… and my wife.

Some of those friends though… they died serving in the military. It’s not all glory and “take a bullet for your country and bleed patriotism” when it comes to people dying in the service. I’ve had military friends die from things like a training accident, helicopter crash, heart attack, motorcycle wreck, and suicide. And even though I try to put it off as late as I can on Memorial Day (considering it’s the next morning already), I still take time to remember them each Memorial Day. A couple of those friends were there for me during some rough times and helped get my life back on track. I always seem to find good people like that in my life, and it always hurts when you lose a good friend like that.

They did some good in their short lives, and whenever I go out of my way to help someone, part of the reason I do it is for them. Sometimes, it’s tough to find the time and effort to help others. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel like the help is even appreciated. Sometimes, it feels like others are out there doing their damnedest to undermine my efforts for whatever crazy reason they might have. And sometimes, I wonder why I even bother. But every year on Memorial Day, I remember. I remember what their friendships did for me… for my life. They each could have done so much more for so many others, but they can’t. So I do what I can to pass on what was given to me… hope, confidence, laughter, happiness, friendship and so much more.

It’s my way of thanking them for what they did for me because… well, I never really took the time to thank them when I could.

Romancing the StoneSo, I have this big screen, HD TV my wife got me for Christmas one year… just before I started my new job where I travel all the time and only get to enjoy it on the weekends. But on those weekends, I try to get the most out of it as I can with my “research” watching and breaking down movies from various genres. I’ll go through rental movies, I’ll go through DVDs in my collection (I seem to buy them faster than I can find time to watch them), and I’ll get all click-happy with the remote seeing if there’s anything interesting on to watch.

Today, I did all three, and I came across a movie from my youth I hadn’t seen in a while (but since my mom loved the movie, I saw it plenty as a kid)… Romancing the Stone. As I watched it, I remember myself thinking, “Damn, I forgot how much fun this movie is.” Sure, it’s got some cheesy bits, and it’s not a champion in the realm of cinematic achievement. But it was fun to watch. Taking a machete to Joan’s expensive Italian shoes. Using the marijuana for their campfire in the wrecked plane in the jungle. The guided tour of the village during the chase scene escaping from the army vehicles with the mounted machine guns.

So, I sat there and thought about the fun movies I’ve seen over the years. Galaxy Quest, Last Boy Scout, Big Trouble in Little China, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Hawk the Slayer, Pirates of Penzance, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Goonies, Pirates of the Carribean, Kung Fu Hustle, Ice Pirates, Army of Darkness, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lethal Weapon, Con Air, Grosse Pointe Blank, Better Off Dead, Karate Kid, Bulletproof Monk… well, I’m sure I could be listing out movies all night here.

Sure they aren’t what people would necessarily consider masterpieces, but they scored high in the fun category for me. And when you’re looking to be entertained, fun usually works for most people. I think the quest for that “masterpiece,” for that gleaming statue of recognition… I think it gets in the way sometimes. It’s a goal to strive for, but when I think about it, I’m more into the “fun factor” with movies. I tried writing a screenplay I thought would have a shot at recognition. Emotional. Artistic. A thinking person’s movie. But over halfway into it, I tossed it to the side and never finished it. It hit the emotions, but it just wasn’t fun. I just couldn’t picture myself sitting in a theater with that movie for a couple hours and feeling fully entertained.

As I think more and more about it, I realize I started writing for fun in the first place. It was an outlet to entertain myself. And even though I share my writing with other people now (instead of hoarding it in dozens of notebooks buried in a closet), I still write for my own entertainment. I still write to have fun.

Sure, I could probably write one of those masterpieces if I put my mind to it, but deep down, I want to write the fun stuff. I want to give back to the people that entertained me over the years.

I want to be an entertainer.

We’ve all probably hit that cliché of getting a song stuck in your head. Whether it be the ol’ Green Acres theme or some emotional lyrics from an Anna Nalick song or even some crazy tune from my childhood friend, the Dr. Demento Show… it’s something determined to get in the way of all those other thoughts rattling around in your mind. It clings to the surface of your consciousness and takes annoyance to new levels. Like an old friend paying you a visit and wearing out his welcome after not taking any of the four thousand subtle hints to leave.

But it doesn’t have to be a song. Any thought can get stuck in there. Movie quotes get to me quite a bit. They’ll churn in my brain taunting me cause I can’t figure out where they’re from or who said them. The rough ones to deal with are those strong memories from the past. Stuff you spent months or years putting behind you, and without warning, a casual meeting or a sentimental song or a random conversation will force them to the surface.

Why are those the rough ones? They have an emotional sting to them that worsens the longer the thoughts stay in your head. You know it’s all in the past. You know it’s best to leave it all behind. You know those thoughts shouldn’t even phase you any more. But they do. They become the bouncer with the big-ass Mag flashlight standing in the doorway to your other thoughts. You can see all the other thoughts just inside the doorway dancing it up and having a good time, but bouncer boy’s not gonna let you get to them without inflicting a little aircraft aluminum-based pain first.

I’ve run into this situation a few times in my life, and I’ve tried different methods to exorcise those pestering demon memories. I’ve tried drinking them out. I’ve tried sweating them out with lengthy runs. I even remember trying drastic measures in my youth like pounding my head against a wall for an hour to maybe knock the thoughts loose or sitting in the snow in my boxers staring up at the night sky hoping to freeze the thoughts out of my skull. And after all that crap, I eventually found out how to get past them… acknowledge those memories.

Ya see, those memories and thoughts are attention whores. They just want your time, and they’ll harass you until they get it. If I don’t write them down or talk to someone about them, they’ll linger in my mind for as long as they possibly can and constantly be in the way. In the past, I learned to push past them to get stuff done. Sometimes I still do that until I can find time to acknowledge those thoughts… until I can find time to get them out of my system.

Lately though, it hasn’t really been a song or a distant memory hanging out in the cozy little lounge in my brain… it’s been a story. “Hey, you’re a writer. That’s a good thing.” It is… and it isn’t. The problem with this story is I’ve been afraid for years that I couldn’t write it. Well, not really that. I was afraid I couldn’t capture the beauty and tragedy and emotions of this story with my writing. I was afraid I’d ruin it if I tried to write it. And all this time, I ignored its calling and just pushed past it. I forced my way through it to get to all the other thoughts I needed to access for work and my writing. In a sense, this one story’s been holding me back.

That changed earlier this year. I finally found the courage to put the story to paper. The fear’s still there, and I catch myself scrutinizing every thought and word associated with this story. It’s taking a lot longer than it normally takes me to write a story, but at least I’m plugging away at it when I get a chance. And tonight I hit a milestone with it. I’m up this late because I finally got enough of the story down to make a difference… to clear out all the mental clutter and make it easier to pull out all those other thoughts.

Except now, I just caught myself humming the damn Green Acres theme song.

Working late on stuff and just letting a few thousand mp3s run on shuffle when I start thinking about the names of some of these bands. That has to be half the challenge of forming a band… coming up with a memorable name. Here are some of my favorite band names…

  • The Fratellis — I saw this name pop up on the satellite radio display, and it was probably the easiest time I’ve had remembering a band name. It’s those damn Goonies references. They stick with ya.
  • The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus — Is it an apparatus for a red jumpsuit or is the red jumpsuit the apparatus (or is it something different altogether)? Does a jumpsuit even need an apparatus? If you’re wearing a red jumpsuit does that make you some kind of de facto crazed red jumpsuit apparatus? I like names that make you think. Wait… driving you crazy counts as “making you think,” right?
  • Death Cab For Cutie — If I weren’t a Beatles fan, I’d be scratching my head wondering how this name came about. It could almost pass for one of those casual conversation things. “She’s a cutie. In fact, she’s so annoyingly cute, I just want to cram her into some hell-bound death cab and only tip the driver a nickel so she can fully enjoy the experience.”
  • Skinny Puppy — Hehe, I know the origin of this band name, but unfortunately, the reality is much more boring than thoughts of these industrial bastards running into some wild event that inspired this name.
  • They Might Be Giants — Don Quixote quotation or George C Scott movie?
  • Tangerine Dream — I guess ‘dream’ denotes a better impression than ‘nightmare’. Tangerine Nightmare would just promote unhealthy images of tangerines with chainsaws, machetes, and hockey masks going on a rampage through a token camp/sorority/isolated cabin in the woods. But then, certain dreams could be bad too… tangerines rolling around your dreamscape in lingerie, French maid costumes, or sporting corsets and whips.
  • Sum 41, Front 242, Apollo 440, Blink 182, Eve 6 — Is there a rhyme and reason to the numerical madness or is it one of those, “It’s gotta be unique… hey! Let’s add a number to it to make sure it’s different.” And yes, all you X Files fans… I’m actually geeky enough to know who the eyeball-chomping psychopath Eve 6 is. ^_^
  • Ego Likeness — “An ego? Us? Nah. You’re just imagining things. Maybe it’s got the likeness of an ego, but it’s not actually an ego. Or maybe it is and it just wants you to be confused.” They’re one of the few bands on MySpace (aside from some local Austin musicians) I’ve added to my friends list. Their name actually caught my attention (and their samples sent me off to purchase their music). Might have to drop them a line sometime and see if they’d share the origins of their name.

And now for some fun. Whenever I get stuck with a title for a story I’m working on, I just start adding “of Doom” to the end of random words/phrases until something serious hits me. I wonder how that’d work with band names…

The Fratellis of Doom, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus of Doom, Death Cab For Cutie of Doom, Skinny Puppy of Doom (ooo, I like that one), They Might Be Giants of Doom, Tangerine Dream of Doom, Front 242 of Doom, Eve 6 of Doom, Ego Likeness of Doom.

And Seth and I will be there. Seth’ll probably be participating in the art frenzy (so you’d be able to get some of his artwork in the auction), and I’ll more-than-likely be downing tequila and giving him crazy ideas for stuff to draw. “No, no. Yoush needs ta draw one a’ dose mutant teenie ninja-y turtley thing… ies. But make it a shexy female ninja-y turtley… thingie.”


“Yeah, you.

“Come a little closer.

You want some sun? High quality. No waiting. Get your fix right here.”

Look at those scientists in action. Wow, who could have guessed that exposure to sunlight could cause endorphin release. And that does what now? Oh yeah, it makes you feel good and even provides pain relief. Hmmm… no wonder it takes so long for people to figure out they’ve been fried to a crisp under the sun’s rays. That sun, he’s a tricky one–deluding everyone into thinking he’s good while he’s really out there building up his vast following of sun junkies.

So now, they’ve show the sun’s all addictive and causes cancer. It’s like smoking without the bad breath, work authorized breaks, and tobacco companies to blame.

It’s a crazy, mixed up world out there. Next thing ya know, they’ll tell me spiders like to cuddle.