Open Letter to Wisconsin Voters

Now this might be more of a statement on those people I am connected to through social media, but I don’t think so. Sure, there is an overwhelming collection of people picking up the Blue Flag on my feeds. At the same time, I’ve had the Red Flag shoved in my face as well as people lamenting the Two Party System and how it doesn’t work. I think last night shows the truth behind the last of those statements.

Overwhelming numbers in the referendum voted to increase the minimum wage and to take federal money to expand health coverage in this state. Obviously those are the issues the majority of Wisconsin feels strongly on. Which is why I find it so confusing that my state voted in the candidate that has openly stated his opposition to both of those issues. All because there was a bolded red R next to his name. Or due to some “issue group” running an add about “Madison Liberal Mary Burke…” Because of course Madison Liberals are the problem, it says so on our television.

A while ago I was given the advice to not discuss politics, religion or issues on my blog or in social media. That it would alienate potential readers. Honestly, I think that is bullshit. Our lack of discourse as a community is what has led to this division among party lines. Which is why no matter what the issue is,  our government representatives will vote in line with whatever the party leadership tells it to. The party leadership that is bought and sold by people with money. And I don’t mean the middle class or the “Union Mob Bosses.” I’m talking millionaires, billionaires and corporations.

Last night on the national coverage, they threw out the staggering numbers. $100 million dollars spent to win a single gubernatorial election. Not to mention the statistic that was really interesting to me. Of the vast amount of people from the Nixon administration that were sent to prison for corruption back during that term, most (if not all) of the things they were jailed for are now legal. Lends a new view to the “I am not a crook” gag from back then. (Kids, Google it… trust me.)

To lend this back to my purview, look at the dystopian novels that are such a trend – especially in YA today. A small group running the government, trying to oppress and hold down the majority. They are split off into groupings based on the work they do, all of which is being done to the benefit of those in power. The protagonist is the plucky youngster that dares to rise against the power. Are you all practicing your three fingered salute? Because with the direction things are heading, you’ll soon be giving it as the Koch Brothers pick your children in a lottery to fight in a Running Man style reality show for food and basic health care as the prize.

Open your eyes and vote. Don’t vote Democrat. Don’t vote Republican. Vote the issues. If someone has an opposing view don’t open a discussion on politics and issues with “FOUR MORE YEARS! We kicked your ass this election!” Because that is what has gotten us to this point.

If you think $7.15 an hour isn’t a living wage, then consider who is in support of raising it. If you vote for the person that is holding back the bill to increase that, you’re voting against your beliefs.

Freedom of Religion is just that… freedom. It means the government cannot arrest you, seize your property or otherwise oppress you for your religious views. That doesn’t mean that you as an employer can enforce your religious beliefs on reproductive rights on people from other religions. Every other religious belief in the world is protected just like yours is.

And if your party has been dragging its feet and stopping up Congress for 8 years in an attempt to get the sitting President out of office, and you’re not happy with it (as a staggering majority of the American people are not by all the polls), then why would you elect more of those politicians? Seriously.

Do I think Mary Burke was the answer this election cycle? Not 100%. But I do think she’s a better option than Scott Walker. I am an Independent. I vote the issues. And I think that dividing our state to keep them fighting themselves and ignoring the state politicians is a bad platform to stand on. And I voting for a third party candidate will not affect change without changing the current electoral system, which is heavily geared to a two party format.

And you Democrats (or at least those unhappy with Walker and his policies) that stayed home and didn’t vote… You’re the reason this is happening as much as the Republicans that support the Democratic issues but still vote the Party Line. Or to put it into terms that Oliver Queen would deliver… “You’ve failed this state.”

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A Return to Banned Book Week

Comedienne or God of Media?

Comedienne or God of Media?

So I saw through a friend on Facebook an article about a woman in New Mexico getting Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman banned from her daughter’s school. Neverwhere. I know there’s the idea that you haven’t made it until you’ve been banned, but come on. American Gods, maybe… but Neverwhere? At least American Gods has the god of media asking Shadow, “Did you ever want to see Lucy’s tits?”

But for my part, this isn’t the big issue here. The issue is the mother and her take on why having Neverwhere as part of the reading assignments at the school was so bad. This is a direct quote from the article (which was directly quoting the mother demanding the banning)…

“A parent can’t read a 400-page-book to find out if it’s appropriate,” Wilmott said. “You rely on your school to do that for you.”

Let that one sink in for a minute. She feels it is too much to expect a parent to read a 400 page book to find out if it is appropriate for her child. In her mind it is the responsibility of the school to do that. She can’t be bothered.

To give some perspective, when my oldest grandchild was reading the YA books out there, I knew I wanted something better than Twilight for her to read. If you’re a “Twihard” or whatever they’re called, that’s fine. For my part, I wanted my granddaughter to have a more positive female role model to read about. That was how I got into reading Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. Also… zombies. And I’m not even the parent. Though, I am the one that buys the grandkids the books.

ZombiekinsCover.FINAL_LO2In our house we practice All Hallows Read (ironically started by Neil Gaiman), where they get a bag with a “scary” story (geared to their age group) and a chocolate monkey. The woman at the chocolate place one year even asked if I worked at the simian lab on campus. I told her in deadpan, “No, but I do have six grandchildren. They’re kind of like monkeys.” But this practice around Halloween has lead to gifts of The Graveyard Book (again by Gaiman), Zombikins, and My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish. The oldest gets more traditionally scary stories.

Now, while I agree that if the school is putting a book on the curriculum that they need to be responsible for it. Here’s the rub. They’re standards may not be yours. Mrs. Wilmott felt the book was “rated R” in content so not appropriate. After all, her daughter couldn’t get into a rated R movie. But that doesn’t hold up.

I read Christine when I was 11 years old. I read Brave New World, 1984 and Lord of the Flies before I could get in to a rated R movie. I gave my son World War Z to read for a history book report in high school before he was old enough to go to R movies. (I know the movie was PG-13, but this was six years ago and the book is not the movie.) His assignment was to read a fictional book with historical elements. At the signing in Texas, where I had it signed to my son as a gift, Max Brooks was tickled at the idea his book was read for a homework assignment. Or likely that his book would be allowed in the school at all.

If you are a parent, I understand. Work, taking care of the house, raising the kids… it’s all pretty daunting. There are people to ask. Librarians or the booksellers at the local bookstore is a good place to start. Keeping in mind you are asking their opinions. If you are truly that conservative you want your teenage child shielded from anything not viewable on an episode of Dora the Explorer, you might be disappointed in the recommendations.  But this is a place to start.

That said, I offer this to Mrs. Wilmott – or any other parent who expects the school, the state, or the television to raise their child – if you can’t be bothered to be involved in the raising of them (including their education), then don’t complain when they learn something you didn’t want them to. Also, consider what hiding things from them as they are supposed to be coming into their own at the cusp of adulthood. What lesson is that teaching them?

Rant over.

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”

In Which Zombie Joe Becomes a Meme

So I know I have touched on this before, but sleep disorders seem to be a thing with me. Like as in narcolepsy is one of the few of them I don’t seem to get from time to time. I was a sleepwalker as a kid. As an adult, when really run down with a fever, I will go on full discussions and actions without any memory of it. Though, to be fair, those discussions are like talking to a character in a David Lynch movie. On acid. The brown stuff. And meth.

willy-wonka-willy-wonka-hes-the-greatest-chocolateer_c_995800I bring this up as my insomnia has hit again. Which is a bit missing the point. It is always there. I rarely sleep more than six or seven hours on a good day. When I say it “hit” that means it “dialed its ass up to 11 and broke the knob off.” Seriously, I know I am really hitting the fatigue hard when I turn into a Willy Wonka meme. You know the one. Not the Johnny Depp Wonka either. The earnestly creepy one. The one that turns Gene Wilder into a dick. The one that makes me want to say, “You never get any sleep? Please, tell me again how you played Farmville past midnight and still went to work.”

Or more to the point…

You never sleep enough? Talk to me when you count the days until you suffer involuntary hallucinations.

Which lead me to…

You know how you can tell you are really starting to trip over the edge? You come up with terms like “involuntary hallucinations” and think its a thing. Like there are voluntary ones out there.

Last night I was so tired that while making risotto for dinner I cut myself across the knuckle of my index finger. I wasn’t slicing anything. I was just so tired I unknowingly neanderthal knuckle dragged my hand across the counter grabbing my measuring cup I was using to spoon broth into the pan. Luckily I was done chopping the shallots and garlic. On the down side, I had finished cutting the shallots and garlic. I made the wound and salted it in one fell swoop. It was pretty awesome.

Between work, the Midian anthology submission and the con planning, this is totally not what I need right now. At the same time, I am managing with only one day where the migraine kicked me in the sack and demanded I slow down. I am still able to be productive and type at way to fast of a speed at work. So, I think it is going pretty well. But then again, I did manage to sleep almost five hours in one stint last night. It may be the sleep high talking.

How Sure Are You?

I know it has been a while since I have blogged. Honestly, there wasn’t much for me to blog about. Well, aside from my D&D game night stuff (on a different blog address for a reason), or yet another post about Wayland, I didn’t have much to say. Then I went to lunch today.

Seriously, how many of the best stories start off that way. Out of nowhere… From left field… And then I…

no-jaywalking-signSo these students were walking the same direction as I was. One of them was touting not only his right, but his duty to yell at a car that doesn’t stop for them. Normally I would say, in his defense, pedestrians do have the right of way in the crosswalk. A trait of mass-delusional effects on campus here is that everyone on foot forgets those last three words.

IN THE CROSSWALK

Simple enough right? I mean we were taught the look both ways thing when we were kids, right? Our parents instilled in us the wisdom that a ton and a half truck trumps even an adult body, correct?

Not this guy. He talked about practicing crossing traffic on a seven lane road. A busy one. Even one of his friends was laughing at him for being an idiot. His answer to why he would do something so stupid?

Man, you just don’t know. It was so… liberating.

It continually astonishes me how kids manage to get accepted to this university and still don’t have the common sense not to walk into traffic. And if fact believe it is their right to cross, mid-street, against a light and from between cars.

For those of you who don’t believe Darwinism exists, I present exhibit A.

Dance Like Nobody’s Watching

Cliche, no? How many times have you heard this? How many friends have tried to be “helpful” with this advice? How many people have you actually seen do this? These answers and more on today’s blog…

Actually that sounds like the opening to a video blog more than a blog. I blame it on the videos I have been watching on YouTube lately. Mostly Charles St. Micheal a funny, irreverent and kind of offensive guy that leans to the right like I lean to the left. My personal proof you can disagree and still discuss. But I digress (as he does in nearly every video too).

The idea from this blog came a while back, after the episode of Supernatural titled The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo. Specifically from the opening scene. If you haven’t seen it, check it out over on YouTube. Consider it 45 seconds of homework. Fun little scene, no?

It probably won’t shock anyone to hear that after that episode aired there was a string of posts to FB and the like touting that “I’m totally going to do this from now on.” I sort of did myself, but for different reasons. My posts looked similar to this;

I’d totally do the elevator dance, but I don’t take the elevator from where I park.

Seriously, I take the elevator today but now out of the 8 albums of music I have a Felicia Day song!

WTH? 3 songs out of several hundred and this is the 2nd time this week!

You get the picture. Out of five days of that first week, I had one of the three Guild songs come up on my shuffle three different times. This is after loading up several albums into it so I had some appropriate scene music for my morning writing. Sort of like a playlist for the book – which I totally have now for when it publishes. The odds of probability there were pretty astounding. My thought? It must be serendipity. In short, the message is coming in and I am ignoring it.

Seriously, considering that scene from the video above, what better music to elevator dance to? Keep in mind I am a large redneck looking dude with a multitool strapped to his belt. I have actually had people speed up in walking or cross the street to avoid being on the sidewalk near me. Nobody wants to see me dance like that. Which is more than enough reason for me to do it. Of course I am the geek working “behind enemy lines” in a university athletic department. They already think I am just too odd.

This is my challenge to y’all. Don’t just say “dance like nobody’s watching.” Do it. Out in the open. On the street. Let people look at you strange. I had this attitude for a long time and something in my recent (last 10 years) past changed it. I remember my last flight to Texas the TSA agent asking if I was uncomfortable or embarrassed taking my tub back up for scanning. My answer was, “Sir, I am a gamer. I could carry it back over my head singing Zipadee Doo Dah and not be in the least bit embarrassed.”

Now, do I do this every day? No. Last thing I need is getting a “talking to” at my day job because I’m scaring the straights. But every now and again do I bust a little dance move going up the stairs to my office? Yup. The Athletic Director doesn’t take the stairs, so I’m okay with scaring a coach or two.

The Death of a Rule

The following is a blog about my string of political comments as of late, and my offer to my friends with opposing viewpoints. If you’re here for my Change Write Now stats or ongoing projects list, feel free to skip to the bottom of the page. You can even use the handy included anchor link. 😉

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Back in the day I invoked the Alfano Politics-Religion 20′ Radius Rule. It simply stated that no discussion of politics or religion could carry on less than 20′ away from me. While this sounds like a boon to me, it was meant for everyone’s benefit. My observations were that people tend to get pissed off talking about one of those two subjects. Being that I’m already kind of an asshole, it made sense that limiting the reasons for people to get pissed around me meant that friends and I could carry on. All seemed to go well.

Cut to the here and now, otherwise known as over 25 years later. I’ve learned over the years and this includes the rather helpful ability to not give a shit what people think of me. That isn’t foolproof as all writers are at least partially neurotic about their work and how it will be received. I’ve also learned that while one person can change the world, not everyone has to agree with you. That is where some of this comes in with relation to social networking.

I have several friends, acquaintances and followers who are Republican. Many of those are pretty strongly in the conservative subsection of that group. While I don’t really consider myself a Democrat, I rarely see anyone I would vote for in the Republican Party. Were one to come along, I would vote for them but this cannot happen because almost all (if not all) of the Republicans wouldn’t. This is fine as while I don’t agree with you, I’m not going to say you must agree with me.

With everything that has gone on over the last year and as this current year rolls on, I find myself adding caveats to the opening of the rule. If it is a problem of beliefs, I will “agree to disagree” even though I loathe that phrase with the  heat of a thousand suns. If there is a difference of viewpoints based on differences between us as people I can do the same. The caveat to this is that your argument has to stand up to some form of logic or reason.

If you support the far right due to a fundamental belief that marriage is between a man and a woman and the far right supports that in their “family values/family morality” campaign, then that is your right. If a leading spokesman for that campaign cheats on a terminally ill wife and then asks a wife for an “open marriage” and you forgive and still support him, how can you still claim “family values” in that scenario? This was a rhetorical question, obviously.

Without calling anyone out, earlier in 2011 when the Governor Walker situation came to a head I had a discussion with a friend. I would point out policies and legislation that the state Republicans were putting forth that were damaging to the state as a community and as a whole. It seemed that each new piece of information I put forth was met with “Unions bad!” If your reason for supporting a Governor who divides the people of the state to make them fight with each other and not pay attention to what he’s doing is that you’re anti-union, then I think you need to take a look at your motives.

Another example is another person that after the last presidential election asked my wife, “Are you satisfied with your vote? Are you really?” The reason this person voted Republican was that their family votes Republican. This is free licence for you to walk into a voting station and not pay attention to who you’re voting for and why. This is also free reign for a political party to push an agenda without losing voters. And for the record I responded to the question above with, “Why yes. Yes we are. You?”

Overall though, I’ll support my friends in their differences but there are lines. So if you see me spouting a little political due to current events, know this is because I am paying attention to them. The biggest benefit to Wisconsin that Governor Walker has done (in my opinion at least) is he’s made people start paying attention to politics again. He’s given us incentive to be aware of who we’re voting for and why. He’s made me look at current events and ask if Herman Cain is a bad choice due to his sexual misconduct, how does that make Newt Gingrich the moral compass of a nation?

And while I’ll support your choice to be of a different mind then me, please do the same. Don’t tell me why I’m “wrong” or you’ve then entered into a challenge. You can tell me why you support the opinion that is different than mine, but be prepare to back up the discussion. Spirited discussion will keep us all paying more attention to this process and making more informed decisions. If we reduce our discussions to flinging talking points at one another nothing will ever be solved.

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Change Write Now Stats (01/19/12)

  • Food – just under 100 calories shy for the day
  • Water – enough that I think I can swim now
  • Exercise – had to fit in during the day, but done
  • Writing – think I am almost done with current project
  • Habits – both met, although almost weighed myself
  • Sleep – still getting six hours total

Projects

  • Reading (print) – still on Silver Tongued Devil… reading time has been scarce this week
  • Reading (Nook) – on hold (see above)
  • Listening (iPad) – just picked up book 2 & 3 of the Iron Druid from Audible