An Open Letter to Robin Williams and Family

It has been only a day, less than twenty four hours since the news of Robin’s passing had been reported. Social media has exploded since then. People from all walks of life talking about how Robin and his work touched them. And I am no different.

As I had written recently on death, my way is to share stories and memories of the one lost. It is through our memories that we hold on to them. The more painful, abrupt and profound the loss, the more difficult it is to do. To whomever reads this letter, I offer the ways in which the work and life of Robin Williams affected me.

Aladdin

The Disney movie came out when my son was the perfect age. It had a monkey and that funny blue guy in it. Before he was old enough to watch Robin’s stand-up with me, or even understand all the jokes his ad-libs were telling, we laughed at Robin’s humor. Which came into play several years later, by the time we’d already had to replace the VHS tape once.

That day sixteen years ago, walking through the Humane Society, we were faced with walls of dogs that weren’t even close to a match for our family… and one uniquely shaped Black Lab – Australian Shepard mix. He sat calmly in his kennel looking sad and lonely. More so, I felt a connection to him, and bonded to him right away when we took him out for a walk. When we found out his named was Aladdin, the title of my now nearly eight year old son’s favorite movie, it was the lynchpin in the serendipity.

This one role brought me the beginnings of bonding over comedy with my son as well as my best friend for the last sixteen years.

dead-poets_l_7721Dead Poet’s Society

This one dates back even further. It was my first year of college and I was considering if the choice to major in English and minor in Education was a good one. Back in high school, when I’d made this decision, it had seemed like the only correct one. Similar to the way I had – at five years of age – told my parents we should get a dog because I would have one when I moved out anyway, we should get started now. Unlike with that first childhood pet, I’d questioned my choice. A rough semester of nothing but education classes will do that to a guy.

Enter Dead Poet’s Society to answer those questions. John Keating picked up where Susan Erickson, Pat Meyers and Mrs. Olsen had left off. He inspired me from the screen. Had I been sitting in a desk while watching it, I would have stood on top at the end calling out “O Captain, My Captain.” And I have. Several times through my life. I may not be teaching, but that movie didn’t tell me I had to be a teacher. It showed me to find my own walk.

I stand firm in the belief that the movie was about Todd (Ethan Hawke’s character), about his transformation and growth. Neil’s role was nearly as important, but the effect of that was to drive Todd’s change. And John Keating’s. The message wasn’t really about the teacher inspiring them to stand on the desk, but the strength of that first young man to step on the chair… to lift himself to the desk. People can inspire you every day, but the choice is yours to take that first step.

The influence this movie had on me was profound, long-reaching, and still affecting me today. It was one of those things I looked back to when I decided to work seriously at this writing thing.

His Comedy

Back in high school, when I was establishing myself in the arts, we used to recreate stand-up shows. But not just any shows. This was the 80’s, a time of change and flux in comedy. Whoppi Goldberg, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Yakov Shmirnov (whose name I likely butchered)… these were comedians who were finding their own step, their own voice.

I remember distinctly during a partially scripted, interactive skit at the end of my final year in drama of a comedy awards banquet. It was modeled after the one that had been recently shown on television. During one of the bits, I gave an award to one of our dramatic actors for the bravery to modify Shakespeare’s lines on stage with, “Alas, poor Yorrick… steeeeee-rike!” (The bowling stance alone at the end of the line makes this a sight gag.) But it was a direct pull from Williams’ show – Hamlet being my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays.

His brand of comedy, and especially his improv, taught me as much about being funny and making people laugh as any of the masters from the birth of American comedy. Like Abbott and Costello, Martin and Lewis, or Conway and Korman.

His Frankness

Much like Richard Pryor before him, he didn’t hide his addiction issues once he was through them. He worked them into his act. A wise man once taught me to face your fears you had to name them. Identifying them and calling them out was as important to putting them down as the strength to fight them.

When I was thriteen, my grandfather died. The man who passed his last name down to my family. Grampy and Nonna were my favorite relatives. I’d also learned that he wasn’t a perfect man, his death was an effect of one of his imperfections. But he was my grandfather, so that didn’t make me love him any less. Learning another of my heroes had similar demons chasing him reaffirmed for me that anyone can stumble and fall. And that anyone can pick themselves back up again. They just have to take that first step onto the top of the desk.

His Life

I leave this train of thought and memory with this last piece drawn from that drama class so long ago. I cannot remember if this was a direct quote dropped into my speech, or if it was simply inspired by him…

Dramatic acting is easy, comedy is hard. Even clowns can cry.

And with the only blessing I can think of fitting for the man…

O Captain! My Captain!

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Open Letter to Political Posters

Okay, maybe I am overusing the “open letter” concept, but there are far to many people that fit this bill to call out any one person. Also, in these situations, if you call out any singular person they are bound to take it personally. And don’t get me wrong, this is on both sides of the aisle. As it were.

getalongA while back a normally moderate friend on Facebook posted a note railing against taxing corporations and the rich. His issue was the math didn’t work as it left less money for those entities to advance the economy. This isn’t a blog about that issue. Hell, it isn’t even about the governmental shut down. Don’t even get me started on that. It is about people. Friends.

Some of my family don’t seem to realize that I am a moderate. A moderate liberal, but a moderate. The current state of the Republican Party makes it so that they cannot produce someone that I can see voting for. It’s not going to happen. I’m not sure if many of my friends realize this as well. Most of us don’t discuss it. I have family members that can’t stop taking about the “revolution” and beseeching me to check out the Drudge Report for the “real facts.”

So here we go. If you support the Republican Party, that is your choice. Hell, even if you lean so far to the right that you walk in circles. Your call. I support your right to do so. What I do not support is your right to refer to me as a “Loony Lefty” or make value-based statements on my decisions. Once you start making personal attacks against my person and decisions, in an effort to maintain our friendship, I will “de-friend” you in social media. That goes for family too. It’s in my nature to love you, I don’t have to like you.

This came from one of the aforementioned people who lean so far to the left they circle-walk posting to my friends thread how us “lefties” were a “lost cause.” Now, similarly to some of my friends who are walking circles the opposite direction, I might think that people who are willing to shut down the government and put thousands of workers on unpaid furlough in an effort to force the reversal of a piece of legislation that has not be overturned any of the forty plus times you have challenged it is a “lost cause.” My comments in support of tax reform or campaign finance reform doesn’t even hurt anyone. But that isn’t my point. I don’t rage against that machine, so why would you do so to me?

I am fully aware that the statement that sparked this wasn’t made by a friend of mine, but a friend of a friend. At the same time, I have had to reinitiate the Alfano 30′ Politics Rule™ which states that political discussion will not happen within 30′ of me. Though realistically, I tend to do this around family or people I am not very familiar with. The arguments just aren’t worth it.

Seriously I have online contacts that treat me better than some friends and family. Charles St. Michael (a YouTube guy with as dark a sense of humor as I have) leans towards the right. Me the left. Both of us are mostly moderate in our leanings. I don’t agree with many of his political views. He doesn’t agree with many of mine. His posts are still funny. His cooking show still gives me ideas. And were we in a face to face setting, I would still buy him a beer and talk to the dude. Without knowing him personally, I get the feeling he would do the same.

I have an author friend who marks herself as a fiscal conservative so therefore is Republican. Whereas I cannot come to terms with fiscal conservatism closing down a government and costing the people millions in an effort to advance their political agenda. She doesn’t see it the same way. I’m not going to stop reading her books. I won’t refuse to review them on WLP. And I would still buy her a drink at a conference and talk with her. She’s funny and energetic and her stories are entertaining. I don’t think she’s written me off as a Loony Lefty as I am still on her friends list.

That is the answer. To those circling to the left as well as the right. Politics needs to be discussed. But never at the cost of friendships or other relationships. Politics should never replace respect. I bring this out for the younger people. My grandchildren (yes, I do have those), as the schools are starting to lean away from classes like Civics. Though my son (our youngest) did have to volunteer back in 2008 for a political party of his choice for school. We waited to see who he chose, we even allowed him to convince us as to why he thought we should vote for that presidential candidate. Luckily, he chose the one we were voting for anyhow. But I see those programs going away in many schools.

For this moral to the story, I will give you two pop culture choices…

Keep Calm and listen to Bill and Ted

Keep Calm and listen to Bill and Ted

Dalton will tell you when it's time to be "not nice"

Dalton will tell you when it’s time to be “not nice”

Another Open Letter to Bieber

Yes, here we are. Again. And like before, I know that you won’t see this. Hell, even your “people” won’t see this. And if they do, they won’t show it to you. Clearly your behavior in the news shows that nobody is driving the Bieber Bus.

Let’s hit a short summary of my previous issues…

  1. Memoirs don’t happen before you get a drivers license. Hell, you need a good reason for them to happen before you can buy a beer at the bar.
  2. If you have to tell people (especially your peers and fan base) you’re an artist and should be taken seriously, you’re not an artist. Respect is earned, not demanded.

I can tell the last open letter went unread as this newest bit displays a decided ignorance to the previously mentioned issues. And no, I’m not talking about the monkey. I mean, come on… we’re talking a monkey. If I had the cash, I’d totally get one too. I get it. Not having all your paperwork in order when taking it to a foreign country… THAT I don’t get, but I can forgive that one.

For those wondering (though none likely are), I’m not even talking about the pissing in a bucket thing. Teens do stupid shit. It’s kind of their thing. Well, most teens. And most of the time, their stupid shit is neither destructive, nor on display for the whole world. If I can see past some of the outlandish stunts Miley is doing in the public (hell on national television), I can look the other way here. Teenage douchbaggery, I get it.

And then you do something that the majority of the world cannot. You visit one of the Seven Wonders. Outside of a game of old school Civilization on a computer, most of my people will only see this through a web browser. So when faced with the Great Wall before you, the answer that popped into your head was to have your guards carry you up in on their shoulders?

In this day and age where my wife has me stop the truck so she can take pictures of the deer in the campground with her iPhone, how did you not understand people would be capturing this moment of Joffery-like behavior? Why don’t you just hired a guard with a seriously burned face and a sword, piss him off and call it a day?

You claim to be an artist. Art, especially music for me, is about the story. The story is about the experience. Here you were afforded one of the most potentially moving experiences of a lifetime – ANY lifetime – at the age of 19. And instead you decided to ride it on the backs of others. This shows that you don’t even take your own art seriously. How do you expect us to?

There’s no denying you have musical talent. But that is only part of it. Much like John Scalzi’s essay on how being a white male is like playing life on easy mode, possessing musical talent is like playing the musical game of life on easy mode. You’re already within reach of the prize.

My current favorite musicians (though I am nervous about claiming favorites in anything) are Wayland. The band does 320 to 330 gigs a year. They drive around in a retro-fitted airport shuttle towing a trailer with their gear. The last gig they had to cancel was because the rear axle on their trailer broke and it was taking time to repair. When a similar issue happened driving from the Pacific Northwest to Reno, they wrote a song about it. About the experience. Were I to see Mitch, Phill, Tyler… hell, even Dean… being carried up the Great Wall I would be considering the Warrior Wall back at my condo.

Not that they would consider it. They are from blue collar working stock. Each and every show they are genuinely appreciative of everyone that comes out to support them. And they have shown through their dedication, work ethic and passion that they are artists. Not a single one of them needs to tell me to take them seriously. That’s a big part of the reason I do.

You are left as a young man, not even legal to be in a bar, with more money than most people ever see in their lives. You have opportunities that most people can only dream of. Get your house in order and figure out what to do with it. When Patrick Rothfuss was left with (what he called) a “stupid amount of money” from his New York Times best-seller, he started a foundation that gave money to needy people. It inspired other artists to join in on the effort. He took his privilege and made it the privilege to others.

In both of the examples above, I have mentioned specific artists that I respect. Midwest folks, who made good. I am not saying to do what they do. Use the example to find your own path. And by that I mean your own path, not pointing one out to those whose backs you’re riding on. You’re a grown-ass man, stand on your own two feet. Prove you should be taken seriously, don’t expect it.

Zombie Joe

he who should rarely be taken seriously, except for now… 

An Open Letter to @WJJO

zipline

Many of my posts over the last year or so have been about music. Something about setting up a playlist for a story I am working on just clicked. It kept my mind focused while writing, and gave a real cohesion to the project. At the same time I became more involved in the music scene around my home town. I went to more concerts than I had in decades. I went to a couple of Sound Lounges at WJJO, the local rock station. I petitioned the help of morning show newsperson (and fellow zombie fanatic) Dee in coordinating a rock playlist for Under the Hood. And I went to remotes the show did. Beer, swag and music? What’s not to love, right?

rockfestAt one of these (a scavenger hunt of all things) I won a pair of day passes to Rock Fest in Cadott, WI. This past weekend my wife and I took our day up there, getting a hotel room to avoid camping on site. This was an extraordinary idea, but I will get to that later. In short, we chose to go Thursday. The first two days had the bands I was most interested in, but Thursday had both Aranda and Halestorm. And while I had seen Aranda at the Acoustic New Year (I wasn’t kidding about hitting the local music scene), I had yet to see Halestorm live. And what with me using a couple of their songs on the second Hood Series project, it made sense that I should go to see them.

umbrella-rockfestI was a little concerned by the fact the weather report was showing a heat advisory, with the index pushing close to triple digits, and thunderstorms starting around the same time Halestorm was supposed to take the stage. And no, the irony wasn’t lost on me there. But as I had sat in the rain during Bratfest to see Wayland, I figured I could easily do the same for Halestorm. Also, we were paying for the hotel either way. So I packed an extra full set of dry clothes (just in case) and we drove up.

The drive was fairly uneventful. We stopped for gas and sodas. As we got closer, we stopped for coffee. My wife, getting her directions mixed up, told me to turn the wrong way for McDonalds. She loves their coffee. Me, not so much. But we were “up nort” as some of the folks up that way put it. Still, as we were going the wrong way anyhow, we stopped in to the cheese, liquor and antiques shop behind the gas station with the Arby’s in it. They claimed to have espresso. Surprisingly, they did and it wasn’t that bad.

rockfest-lightsWhy do I bring this up? I discuss this as only my wife can turn me the wrong way for coffee and wind up finding a vintage blowtorch and wrench for her steampunk costume. I am not even kidding. McDonalds would have been cheaper. Though, in her defense… the pieces she picked up were really awesome looking.

Getting to the motel at around 1:00, they had told us we could get our keys early so we can get in after the concerts. Of course they just allowed us to check in early since the room was open. Which was awesome. We got to unpack the truck, rest a bit and then head out to the show. They opened the gates at 3:00, so we had some time.

aranda-pointsIt was a pretty easy process to get in, get out wristbands and park for the day. And so we stood in line to get in. It was at this point I noticed the majority of the people were either in shorts and no shirt or women wearing bikini tops. That made the notice at the gas station that women had to wear something over their bikini tops make more sense. It made things painfully evident that the crowd was looking pretty similar to the crowds we used to get at Festa Italia. Crowds that I think we have lost the ability to draw in, but are working on bringing back.

Also, it honestly made me feel even more old than the grey in my beard did. 😉

aranda-singsRobin took her camera and went into the photo line to go up and take pictures when Aranda took the stage as the opening act. I stuck behind on the lawn with the camera bag. I figured the less space we took up there, the better chance she would have to take pictures. Turns out I was probably right. It was just before this we figured out that we should have brought camper chairs. In the immortal words of Rick Perry, “Oops.”

She came back to where I was standing on the lawn with a number of excellent shots. She wasn’t sure, but she thought that Gabe might have been hamming it up for the camera a bit. Which of course made for some of the best shots. During the rest of their set we picked up some water, grabbed drink tickets for the day and sat in the Leinies Lodge to listen to the rest of the set.

aranda-playsFast forward a couple of beers, several waters and Dickey’s BBQ later and we are spending a half hour between All That Remains (which was a pretty hard core set as well, much different than Aranda, but still good) and Halestorm sitting in the truck for the AC. No clouds on the horizon yet, so we may get lucky. Once heading back in to the festival to grab another drink before Halestorm takes the stage though we get hit by the wind. I don’t mean a breezy day wind, either. I am talking a “we’re not in Kansas anymore” kind of wind. Nothing damaging. At least not to structures.

halestorm-hitting-itThe storms avoided us, but what it did do is kick up the pollen. And around these parts, at this time of the year, that can totally mean snake weed. Not sure the scientific name, but it is a white ditch weed that had been used back before pharma-days to treat snake bites. In my case, it kicks me on my ass. Seriously, it is like zombie-boy kryptonite. By the time we were into Seether’s set I was in the middle of my worst allergy attack in a decade.

That said, Halestorm’s set was pretty awesome. Right before playing American Boys/Rock Show, she picked out a kid (probably around 8 or so) in the front area with his parents rocking out. Seriously, the kid was throwing up the horns and everything. Arejay brought out the “big sticks” during his drum solo. I swear it was like he was kicking the shit out of his kit with a pair of escrima fighting sticks.

joe-rockingRobin hung out and took a bunch of pictures (likely for longer than she should have, but that’s the reason you bring an SLR with huge ass lenses to the show). She didn’t get a picture of the “big sticks” but plenty of shots, including a couple with Lzzy playing in front of the drums, managing to get both her and Arejay in some shots. And most importantly, I was able to sit and watch them play the two songs on my Hood Series playlist for book two. Two of the three theme songs I set for my pissed off villain in the book.

Like putting the paddles to the muse.

lzzy-hornsEven with the allergy attack kicking my ass all the way to Sunday… (hell, I’m still recovering) I had a hell of a time. The people at WJJO have reinvigorated my muse and my love of music. Live music. There is a difference between good music and a band that puts on a show. And honestly this is one of the best prizes I have won from various contests and drawings. Ranks right up there with the Kindle Fire that is an invaluable tool for doing my reviews.

If you’re in the Wisconsin area (Madison specifically) and are into rock and roll, this is the station to listen to. It is also one of the places to check out for live music in the area. They book it, promote it and keep it going. Listen to them, support them, because art isn’t just photos, paintings and storytelling. It’s cupcakes, decorated and flavored to your theme or book. It’s live music, especially if it is a show and not just a band.

And to the staff over at JJO, I can’t thank you enough. See you at Band Camp!

An Open Letter to Big Bang Theory

To the Writer’s Room at Big Bang Theory;

Thank you. I appreciate the geek culture and humor you have brought to the mainstream. I am not one of those geeks who denounces you as laughing “at” us and not “with” us. Then again, I have never been accused of being overly sensitive or empathetic. So take that as you will.

bbt-ddI did however see some dire implications in this last week’s episode where the guys took to playing D&D while the women went to Vegas. Not in the humor itself, mind you. I’ve been dealing with those types of jokes since Tom Hanks lost his shit and thought a mugger on the streets of New York was an orc bandit. (Forget that in the common rule system back then a cleric couldn’t use a dagger. Brain him with a claw hammer, sure… but not stab him.) For me, the issue was due to the implications that this episode of your sitcom would have towards my game night. Specifically, towards myself – the Dungeon Master for Life™. (Y’all might think I am kidding. Sadly, no.)

First off there was this exchange;

Sheldon – “I’ve never played D&D with girls before.”

Penny – “Oh, sweetie… nobody has.”

In and of itself, a fine joke. Bazinga. Though this left me in the awkward position of having “the talk” with the women in my group. I had to convince them that they actually existed. It was touch and go there for a bit. Trying to talk them down from claiming they were unicorns, I found myself debating the case while simultaneously fighting off Tim Curry and his army of goblins. It the end it all worked out without me having to convert a Scientologist to the side of Fey.

My second issue came with Wolowitz and his impressions that gave voice to his NPCs. While the voices themselves (and especially Dr. Cooper’s reaction to them) were humorous, it left me in a very Leonard-like predicament. I now have to become a junior Rich Little (a shout out to the older geeks in the audience) during my game night. While I fancy busting out a Walken impersonation from time to time, there are only so many situations where you can call for more cowbell in a role-playing setting. The timing… it’s no good… not right…

So suddenly the Alvin and the Chipmunkesque voice of Puff Puff (full name Dandelion Puff That Floats on the First Spring Breeze) the pixie companion of the party isn’t good enough. Now Puff Puff has to sound like Mike Tyson from The Hangover. Okay, that’s a bad example. Those voices are nearly identical. But you get my drift.

In short, as writers know that words have power. And I’m not simply talking about the Power Word series of spells. Words cast about in jest have power. They are the butterfly that sends ripples along the pond of my game night. And Ashton Kutcher is busy enough with being plopped into Two and a Half Men without having to join in on my game night too.

Sincerely,

Zombie Joe – DM for Life™

Ref: (pop culture reference cheat sheet)

  • Mazes and Monsters
  • AD&D (aka 1st Edition): Cleric Rule Set
  • Big Bang Theory: Sheldon’s Jokes
  • Legend: The Plot
  • Legend: The Scientologist in the Ointment
  • SNL: Host – Christopher Walken, Don’t Fear the Reaper skit
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks
  • The Hangover
  • The Butterfly Effect
  • Two and a Half Men: The Sheen Meltdown

An Open Letter to Angus T. Jones

For a couple of days I have considered starting this and put it aside. There were better people than I speaking up and I still had huge goals to hit in my NaNoWriMo project. This morning, on my drive in to the bagel shop for writing before work it hit me. Like being blindsided by a deer bolting across the road as I head to that first roundabout, it made crystal clear sense as it brought me to a grinding halt. What I had to say about it warranted me taking my own advice and write it down.

Will it make a difference? No. Not only will the young man in question never read this, neither of my readers have the issues I’ll be discussing. And I’m pretty sure one of those two are my wife. But like so often in life, I’m doing this for me. Call it a writing exercise to get me into the mode to get my 6000 words in today, bookended around an eight hour work day. Call it therapy the way a stand up comic will go up on stage and joke about his life as a way to work through it. But call it what it is. A rant. Buckle up folks.

Mr. Jones,

I, like many, have seen your video in which you urge us to not watch the show Two and a Half Men. I’m guessing more people saw this video than were ever intended or expected. I can see this being a boon to you in the consideration that “His Word” might get out to more people that way. We’ll get to that later.

First off let me say that I am glad you found a place where you think you belong. At your young age that is a rarity. There is no value to that statement as I am not as sure about the path you’ve taken your first steps on. At the same time, I understand the surety of youth and the conviction of the “righteous.” That said, finding a place you feel you belong doesn’t grant you the freedom to subject others to the slings and arrows of your outrageous opinions.

You don’t want to be on Two and a Half Men. The Christian you are becoming cannot come to terms with the role you are playing, the job you are doing. There is an answer to that predicament. Quit. Conviction isn’t in the words, its in the action. Yes, ironic that I am saying this in a blog post, otherwise known as words. But the fact that conviction is in the action is what compelled me to write a letter you will most likely never see and that could bring up uncomfortable discussions with friends or family.

Aside from your later apology to the people who work hard on the show you called filth, there is more to the situation that speaks to a lack of integrity. In the event that you did quit, you have ten years worth of wage from that job banked. Even now, in a job this season that you have described as “boring” you get paid for that single scene what it would take me over seven years to make in my job. Do you know what I get for doing that job that each year is worth about 2 minutes of screen time for you? I get the benefit of getting up before dawn so that I can go to a coffee shop and do my art for two hours before going to that job. If I’m lucky I get to stay up until around 10:30 or 11:00 that night further refining my art. Or reading others art.

The reactions of the fans and those around you should be telling. People are worried you’re being exploited. How much has this spiritual adviser’s ministry been advertised in the media thanks to this controversy? How much name recognition has he achieved with this gambit? And what does this righteous man, this mentor, stand for? Take him out of the equation for now though. That situation is yours to deal with. But in that instance I leave you with a piece of advice gleaned from a man I admire. When looking at your life and your place in this encounter answer two questions… Who am I? And what is the Truth? Something tells me the truth in this situation isn’t a pleasant one.

If you decide for yourself, as all young people should learn to, that you stand by the convictions you stated in that “testimonial” that was produced for the web (as it was a clearly edited and produced piece), then consider the money you’ve earned doing the work of “the enemy.” Set up a trust for a charity that could make good use of the money. There are a number of excellent foundations that have started up nationally that are dedicated to ending childhood cancer. Locally in my area we have the Badger Childhood Cancer Network. Nationally there is the Ronan Thompson Foundation.

Realistically we all have to stand by our truth. My truth is that I will likely never have the resources as you have been blessed with to be able to provide for myself with my art. The resources that you have earned through art you denounce as filth. Make no mistake, I consider comedy art. My writing would likely be considered filth by the same standards. But it is my art. And I won’t stop doing it. I sincerely hope you do not stop doing your job. I also wish you all the luck I could hope for in finding your way. Wasting the true blessings you have been given would be a crime.

I leave you with a final piece of advice taken from Neil Gaiman to students leaving art school to head out into an unsure world. Hopefully in your studies (as I have read you wish to break from acting for a college education) this will be of use to you. Make Good Art. “Leg crushed and eaten by a mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art.” Even if that Art is no longer acting. Make good art.

Yes, its unsolicited advice. And you will never see it. But still I somehow feel the need to say it. If for nothing else to convince myself the 12-16 hours I put in most days doing a job for the chance to do art are not in vain. And should we meet, I would shake your hand and thank you for any part you had in making me laugh over the last ten years. Even if it was at the butt end of a fart joke.

Zombie Joe

Another Open Letter to Bookstores

So, in spite of my experience with the February 23rd release day, I made the trip out to the Borders on the other side of town as it is just down the road from the Sundance 608  Theater/Cafe. Once a month my writing group meets there. Partially I was looking to pick up Roadkill (I won copies of book 2 and 3 in the series, so now I just need to pick up book 4) and Broken. The Cal Series from Rob Thurman is pretty awesome and aside from any promoting of Broken that Shiloh Walker has been doing (which is a lot), I am making a point to read more paranormal romance and the like. So, off I went.

My first stop was to see if the west side store (larger two-story one) had copies of Battle of the Network Zombies. They did not. They did manage copies of Demon Possessed by Stacia Kane and Dead Matter by Anton Strout though. I stopped looking through Science Fiction after finding a copy of Roadkill by Rob Thurman. One of the last two. Which left me with Broken.

So the Romance section in that Borders is thirteen flavors of eff’d up. They are all grouped into one section and not by subsection (which is not a bad thing). But then you have to take into consideration if the book you are looking for is a mass market, trade paperback or one of those novella sized Harlequin books. I managed to find a copy of Fragile (the prequel to Broken) on the shelf, but no copies of Broken. This is of course after figuring out they were trade paperbacks.

I make my way to customer service and since nobody is there (making me think about the last visit to Borders east) I looked it up in their system. It was listed as “likely in store” in the system. So I walked up to the front. The woman at the register could not even find the book in the system. She told me, “I usually don’t work with the searches, so I am not sure how it works. If you would like, you could go see Mike over at customer service.” Really? Boolean searches elude you? Never used Google?

Mike was not at the Customer Service Center, so I leaned against it and waited. At this point I was late to dinner with James before the meeting, but I wanted to see how this one panned out. I was curious. My Spock-like scientific mind wanted to see what the endgame was. To their credit the gentleman did notice me after helping another customer find the book they were looking for.

So I imparted that the book I was looking for was listed as “likely in store” but I could not find it. I informed him that it released today so I was wondering if it was just not stocked yet. I gave him the name and author so he could look it up himself to confirm the status of it. His response was so much more awesome in person but I had to send a tweet about it from my droid at dinner.

“Uh, sir. You do realize this is a romance novel?”

“Um… yeah.”

The look on his face was like I just asked for his number and if he like flannel jammies and sushi. It was classic. For the record, he did find the stack of books on top of the shelf in a wire display, just none in the shelving alpha-numerically. He was busy fixing that situation as I went up to pay for my finds.

Overall, aside from a register person that seemed to have a lack of understanding of a basic job function (totally my opinion mind you), the store was better than my visit to the east side. The only thing that would have made it better would have been copies of Battle of the Network Zombies. I would give my visit to that store a B. It was a little tough to find help but most book stores are understaffed these days.

I was impressed more with this store to the point that I also purchased a copy of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs for a local literacy charity. Just so I am clear on this as my last “open letter” was less than favorable, I am all for supporting the local stores. Even the big chain type stores like Barnes and Noble or Borders. Not to mention local charities – be it literacy campaigns or cancer support charities like Capital Candlelighters. Even if the workers at the store look at me strange when I buy a paranormal romance.

Shiloh Walker is running a contest around the release.

Rob Thurman is offering chapter one of book 6 if you pick up Roadkill this week as well.

Mark Henry on the other hand is offering snark and humiliation for picking up Roadkill. As is Mark’s way.