53 year old man about to be evicted…

November 9, 2015

I totally stole this from Reddit. Link is here –> http://i.imgur.com/xoT1Zdg.jpg


And here is the context, taken from the comments section.

Not if you live in Spain. This picture was taken by Andrés González Manzano, a partially disabled 53-year-old man who was about to be evicted after the rent-controlled flat he was living it was bought from the local government by an investment group and he couldn’t find a job to keep paying rent.

The reason why the police was in riot gear is because this man was supported by one the groups that opposes the huge amount of evictions that have happened since the crisis wiped out millions of jobs and stopped people from paying rent or their mortgages, so they expected resistance. Nothing serious, mind you; at worst, some people were barricading themselves inside their homes and refusing to leave. But the powers-that-be do not like any kind of protest, so riot units (which in this country full of politicans scared of their own citizens had already become a common presence in demonstrations) were increasingly sent whenever they smelled even a little bit of trouble.

The amount of evictions have been so large, and the attitude of the people responsible for them (banks, politicians, police) so ruthless, that this was a very big debate in Spain for a while. Sure, if you don’t pay you shouldn’t be entitled to keep your house, but when thousands of people lose their homes because they can’t find a job due to a crisis that was by and large caused by the banks that are evicting them, then something is definitely wrong. Things are changing, though. The leader of one of these anti-eviction groups is now the Mayor of Barcelona, and the new Mayor of Madrid has also taken measures to avoid any more evictions.

Lookin’ Out My Back Door

July 20, 2015

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Lookin’ Out My Back Door.”


Three words compounded into one. I wrote it how I say it. Roll it off my tongue. Reminds me of the way Dad would say it when things didn’t go his way. He didn’t plan much. He went by the seat of his pants. He never really committed to anything because he is one of those people that is good at pretty much anything. But, when real life didn’t look like the picture he had in his mind, he would shake his head and say that word that is really three words.

It’s not God’s fault. I don’t imagine my yard is part of His Divine Plan. And it’s not like I even believe in God. Even if I did believe in God, if my yard was part of His plan, if a prayer from me would make it look like I want it to in my head, He would certainly lose all his credibility. That being said, I still like the word. Even if I don’t believe in God, the word has great meaning for me. Which is kind of funny, when you think about it.

I spent summers working for Dad when he owned a landscaping company. I can remember two particular events very clearly.

One, was having to take a gas mower and a red jerry can of gas, to a townhouse complex he won the contract for. These were houses that had a patch of grass that measured three feet wide by maybe eight feet deep. Barely enough for two passes with the lawnmower. Dad came by after the first hour.

“Goddamnit,” he said. “Look at that.”

I had finished maybe a dozen houses, pushing my mower, up, shifting it over, and pulling it back, turning off the mower, taking the mower across the pebbled asphalt – I can still see that grey pavement fleck with tiny stones – I don’t think I ever saw black pavement until I was in my late teens, until after we moved out of the city. I once thought to save time by keeping the mower running between houses, but after I tried to drag the running mower over the curb and the horrifying scraping and chipping noise that came when the mower blade bit into the curb that went around that small patch of grass, I shut my mower off after each lawn.

“You did them all wrong,” he said.

Because I had done only two passes and did not overlap the mower, there was a rooster comb in between them. He made me go back and do them.

The second event involved a fifty foot coil of thick rope and a Flymo. The yellow rope had turned grungy yellow with age and I couldn’t touch it with my bare hands. The Flymo was a wheel-less lawnmower. I also had a red jerry can of gas for this event. The job involved cutting a half bowl of grass, thirty feet high and about hundred feet around. It served as a football field for some team. I had to stand at the top of this bowl, with the rope tied to the handle of the Flymo, and lower the mower down this 75 degree slope to cut the grass, and then drag it up again.

After the first hour, he came by in his truck. “Goddamnit,” he said. “What’s taking so long?”

I took three times as long to finish it as any of his other employees normally took but I think I was twelve or thirteen at the time. I finished it. And I never cut the bowl again.

What do I see when I look outside my back door?

I see green grass that my wife cuts religiously. I’m rarely home early enough from work to get to it and I almost never want to do it on the weekends.

I see grass that I hope is green from intermittent springs and falls of dumping a couple of yards of top soil down at a time but I’m sure has more to do with luck.

I see a simple patio, made of basic stones, the spaces between the stones filthy with weeds I’ve attacked with everything from expensive chemicals to potions made from recipes downloaded from he internet. We have lawn furniture – a donation from my wife’s parents, my in-laws. We don’t eat outside much in the summer because it’s way too hot these days. In the fall mostly. I like how the sun sets and the colour it makes the sky. I’ve always wanted to plan a tree right in the middle of the yard, watch it grow year by year.

I see have a barbecue that I find any reason to cook on. I like the look on my wife’s face when she really enjoys what I make. I work between trying something new and sticking with what I know she likes.

“Goddamnit,” I think to myself. “I’m lucky. And I’ve got a lot of goddamned work left to do.”

The Heat Is On

July 18, 2015

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Heat is On.”

I’m always focused on deadlines when I am at work. Some of them are very specific. Others are implied. When it comes to writing, though, I need to create my own deadlines. And those don’t always work for me.

When I’m at work and part of a project team, if my deadlines aren’t met, no one can move forward and all timelines have to be recalculated and extra people may be recruited to get things back on time, and that takes money and no one likes to spend money at work. It’s all about doing only what you have to, seeing how much you can get away with not doing, and paying as little as possible for what you have to do.

For those projects, I make myself finish in half the time, and spend the other half tearing at it like I hate it and want to see it destroyed. That way, when it is presented to the team, I have prepared myself for all of the objections and questions that everyone will inevitably have. In most cases, the objections are constructive, coming from people who want to see the project succeed. In the loudest cases, the objections are merely because ‘haters are gonna hate’. That took me a long time to accept, that adults do things like that, but they do and it’s best to be prepared for them.

The implied deadlines are those ominous emails, coming from corporate head office, or from the vice president, or worse yet, from the corporate head office of your customer or the vice president of your customer. They don’t say exactly when they want an answer, and the emails are never more than four sentences. They begin with the phrase ‘Can you tell me’ or ‘What do you know about’. They follow with an event that needs describing or data that needs to be analyzed from a specific period of time. They end with something about getting back as soon as you have data. Usually, they are sent just to you and copy only your direct boss. Those are emails that need to be answered before you go home, needs ninety or more megabytes of spreadsheet analysis, and cannot be an answer that is more than three or four sentences long. They take all day to wall day to write and once it’s sent, you re-read it and wonder what you’ve done all day.

I have tried very, very hard to make writing the same thing. But marking a day on the calendar that reads “I will write 90 000 words by the end of the month” or creating a daily reminder that “I will write 3 000 words today” isn’t creating a deadline. It is a window dressing at best. It makes it look like you are doing all that you can to finish what you start.

Colour coded sticky notes and the bleeps and bloops of digital calendars aren’t deadlines. Deadlines have to posses meaning.

If I don’t finish that project at work, it will cost time and money to get it back and track. If I don’t get back to that vice president, I am telling them they are not important and I have better things to do. If I don’t finish that story…. Meh. No biggie. I’ll get back to it tomorrow. Finishing that story needs to mean something for the deadline to be important.

I’m great out of the gate. I can make plans and outlines and landmarks to be on the lookout for on the path to success. I’m great at that. And for the first few weeks, it looks great. And then I miss the one gate. And I replant and move forward. And I miss another. And then another. And then suddenly, I see all the work it will take to get back on schedule and I shut it down. A week later, I’ve got another idea and the cycle starts again.

To make deadlines work, I need to enlist the aid of people that are dependent on those deadlines. Like, starting a story for my daughter and having her read it and fall in love with it and bug me over and over again to finish it. Or, writing an outline for a novel and writing a few thousand words of it at a time and giving it to a friend and having them email me over and over again to finish it or, better yet, give me suggestions on how to move forward. Those are two things that give my deadlines meaning and help me to get the work done.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m behind schedule on both of the examples I’ve given and thank God those people don’t let me forget it. Sure, for some people it might look like I’m treating it like work, and yeah, they’d be right. But for me, the work of it is half the fun.  

Everyone who loves scifi will love #Haphead

April 25, 2015

What I have always admired about Jim is his fearlessness. What I have come to enjoy a great deal is his work.
Haphead is an idea of his, made real by an amazing production team.
It is a dystopia that he wants you to live in, not tear down. This first season immerses you in that world and you finish it wanting to see what happens next. The actors are committed to their roles. You can feel it when you watch it. I am not afraid to admit that I have a small crush on the protagonist. She’s gorgeous and gifted.
I’m focusing on Jim Munroe because he’s the one I can relate to. I knew him in high school.
Didn’t hang out with him but it was impossible not to know who he was. I think he was seven or eight feet tall and wore Doc Martins – which was what we did back in those days. I bought the tee shirt when he ran for student president. I want to say it was a silkscreened image created by Terry Lam o Marilyn Monroe.
Long after high school, when I read the Toronto Star article on him when “Flyboy Action Figure Comes With Gas Mask” was published by HarperCollins, it made me jealous and proud all at the same time. Felt good to say ‘I know this guy’. I pimped him out large when I bought it at the bookstore.
After the deal with HarperCollins, he basically said ‘Fuck it, I can do this on my own.’
And he did.
He self published “Angry Young Spaceman”, then “Everyone In Silico.”
“Everyone in Silico” is particularly memorable because I managed to get my wife to go to Rancho Relaxo for the launch. I still have my signed copy. My wife still has the memory of the time I took her downtown that once to see that thing with the guy who wrote the novel.
It doesn’t take much time to finish that novel once you get it. The writing and the pacing and the setting make it a breeze to read and it also gives you a small pinhole into Jim’s brain, to let you see what he thinks the future is all about.
I also managed to catch him in Ottawa one time during the “Perpetual Motion Roadshow”. It took place in the restaurant of the Embassy Suites. He did a presentation where he recorded a walk through the city in ‘Grand Theft Auto’. I don’t think it was a recording of him playing the game. Just his characters walk through the city, seeing what there was to see. I thought it to be genius.
His next work, “An Opening Act Of Unspeakable Evil” was a bit of a departure because it went from a novel to a graphic novel, both of which were superb. I didn’t ever go to any shows for that one, but I do remember reading it and believing it was entirely possible to turn into a bird creature in response to the Rapture. Seriously, do yourself a favour and read it.
I could go on and on about his work, but you can check it out for yourself at his site. http://nomediakings.org/
From there, you can go and see for yourself what Haphead is all about. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7QPkgzXpc8

It’s hard to make a stand, which is also a great song by Sheryl Crow

April 22, 2015

“A Man For All Seasons” is my favorite play.
Sir Thomas More is my favorite person from history. That play encouraged me to read “Utopia”. I think I was in Grade 9 or 10 when I read it. I’m sure I have my Penguin Edition in my bookcase. In turn, that books opened my mind to other works. But “A Man For All Seasons” has always stuck with me.
The quote that I think about once or twice a week is the exchange between Sir Thomas and Roper. About giving the devil the benefit of the law.

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

That applies to law and life.

I would treat the devil as my equal and give him every chance that he deserved, which is no less the chance than I would want to be given.
The world is thick with people and if we all stand tall and support one another and give each other the opportunities that we deserve, then we can survive the strongest wings that blow our way.
But when we cut each other down by robbing them of what they deserve, we end up alone. And when those winds of change blow across that barren landscape, who will be there to hold you up?
It’s a naive notion, I know. And my parents always said I would grow up and have a hard time ‘playing the game’. But its me. I’m happiest when I’m being me.

Listening to SModcast reminds me of the first time I saw Clerks

April 20, 2015

“I can do that,” I said to myself.

I was working the production line on the midnight shift at a factory when I said that to myself. I wrote a screenplay around one night at a coffee shop. I remember a friend of mine reading a draft of it and commenting that I was overdoing it on a pair of characters I’d created. They were twins that finished each others sentences. I wanted them the way they were because the represented how people followed the crowd. And it was a tool I would use to close the 2nd act. But when I got that criticism, I put the script in the drawer. I would only go back to it in my head from time to time, never bothering to look in the drawer.

My short stories and novel ideas work much the same way. I write them and then talk myself out of them. Who wants to hear what I have to say anyway? I still write them. I just don’t do anything with them. Oh, the odd time I’ll send out a smidgen of what I write to a close friend, but only the smidgen.

I followed Kevin Smith because I admired him for doing what he loved at all costs. I watched his movies and went to every appearance that I could. I stood in line with my brother at Massey Hall for ‘Evening With Kevin Smith 2’ to ask a question (I wouldn’t have asked a question. I would have thanked him for his movies). My wife and my other brother and his girlfriend got a 3 second shot on screen as the camera panned the crowd – I could have been in that shot, too, had of I sat in my comfortable seat.

I lost respect for him on his last appearance. It was after Zack and Miri and he looked and sounded like shit. He talked a lot about getting high all the time and doing a lot of nothing. I didn’t watch or follow anything of his after that. Then I watched Tusk. Then I started listening to SModcast, starting with Episode 311.

And I fell in love with him all over again. I saw that he was having a tough time being himself, no more or less than anyone else in the world. I listened to Smodcast. I thought about Tusk.

“I can do that,” I said to myself.

I need this. Oh, do I need this. Windows Holographic is going to chagne everything. Welcome back into the game, Microsoft. Where’ve you been?

January 23, 2015