It’s been some time, I admit. I don’t even have a real worthy excuse, either. I’ve been doing the usual; working, catching up with our daily household emergencies (where the hell are all the clothes hangers, why is the insane kitten at the top of the Christmas tree, did I get anything ready for Cub Scouts tonight?), work, etc. There was an unfortunate incident involving cloned pre-historic saber-toothed badgers, but that was totally my fault and I can’t use that as an excuse. I start the day with a list of things to do and end the day with most of them not done because I spend the intervening hours reacting to what comes flying my way. Argh. Oh well.
About three months ago, one of our cats died. We had two, a brother and sister from the same litter. They were about 14 1/2 at the time. The male is still with us, but his sister went to the great sun-warmed napping couch in the sky after a year or so of treating an overactive thyroid. Complications entered the picture, but we all got to say goodbye one last time as we passed her from lap to lap and then put her back downstairs in her bed before getting the kids ready for baseball practice. When we went back down for another quick goodbye, she was gone. It was sad for us, but hit the kids hard because the cats were here before they were, so that’s all they knew- Abby and Stimpy. Stimpy (the girl. Abby is the boy, and that’s another blog post entirely) was the sweetest cat ever. Even though we had the cats for three years before our human offspring showed up, they never got jealous of the kids. In fact, they adopted them in a way. They played with them, were more patient than I ever could have been, slept on them and loved them, and basically were everything you’d ever hope an animal would be.
After a suitable period of mourning, we adopted two kittens from the local shelter. They weren’t related and were a month apart, but they think they’re brother and sister now. They have an arrangement with our older cat; Tanner and Maddy are welcomed as long as they don’t get too rambunctious with our old guy, in which case they can expect a light cuff on the head but nothing more. They like him and he has grown to like them back, and we were very relieved to see them all getting along and hanging out with each other.
This, of course, meant we needed to buy some new cat toys, which leads me to this post. Below are a series of pictures of toys I’ve found scattered around the house. You must guess whether it’s a cat toy, kid toy, or suitable for both.
So, where do you fall in that statement? I have friends on both sides; some aren’t quite Doomsday Preppers but think like them, others figure the world is a shining example of civilization and everything will be wonderful forever.
I straddle the middle ground. I like to think positive in regards to the world in general, but I also think it’s foolhardy to assume nothing bad could ever happen to us, both as a country and as a civilization. There are too many unpleasant things out there in the world, too many dark sides to humanity. There are folks who would kill each other over religion, race, income, and simply where they live. There are also a lot of kind, forward thinking enlightened souls who would like nothing more than to make the world a better place.
I would paraphrase Tommy Lee Jones’s character in Men in Black. He’s just told Will Smith that there are aliens in New York and only the MIB knows. He says something to the effect that individuals are compassionate, intelligent, and capable of all the good things we attribute to humanity. He also says that people, as a group, are scared, reactionary and easily led to do the wrong thing.
There is a quote by Frederich Nietzsche I’ll post here. I lost my book with the dog eared pages and notes in an airplane seat back pocket, but here’s the saying as I remember it:
Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.
Sounds pretty reasonable, no?
In other news, I finally finished the fifth novel in the Birthright series (which I’ve titled Birthright: Pursuit), and boy are those poor people in trouble now! I’m editing and trying to work on a cover, but I’ve built a new ship model to add to the one I already made and Sketchup just can’t seem to handle all those polygons at one time; the program just locks up and crashes when I try to put both models in the same scene. Not sure what I’ll have to do about that, but it’s my problem, not yours! So, editing away I go, while starting work on a different project. It’s set in modern day Colorado, about a man who finds himself and in fact the whole city on the wrong side of a government crackdown.
I’ve finally been getting back into working on my latest book. There are plenty of great excuses (mostly involving a lot of time spent away from home due to work) and I’m glad to be able to get back to my story and characters. It’s my preferred way to relax, to vent, to be creative and feel like I’m building something rather than just sitting around watching TV shows about spoiled housewives or beauty-pageant moms.
I’m at a point in the story where a character is going to need to deal with an issue that’s been a long time in coming. She’s just lucky when it comes to her little corner of the war; she gets the job done, takes risks and always seems to make it out alive (if not a bit roughed up in the process).
People always line up to go out with her on the next op, but she comes back and usually some of their number don’t. So she finally has the revelation that she’s surviving and they aren’t.
I want to explore her dealing with survivor’s guilt. Now, I know a lot of people from transplant recipients to firefighters to natural disaster survivors can run across this affliction, but the story is about a fighter pilot and so that’s where it centers.
I’ve been reading websites, various foundations that study and help treat this condition. I should probably surf some message boards as well.
The quandary is this: I want to acknowledge this real issue and the fact that it happens. This is a story, an action novel, but the real world is not just Michael Bay and John Woo movies. Real people deal with the consequences later. The problem is, this is not a series of books that is meant to focus solely on heavy issues. I want the story to move, to be fun and yet serious in a Joss Whedon sort of way.
So, I want her to have to come to grips with this, but I don’t want the story to become JUST about this. I want it to be authentic, to honor the very real condition and acknowledge that it can and will happen to anyone, but I don’t want it to feel fake or forced, like I was somehow obligated to shove something in there to show I’m aware of a particular cause.
That’s all, really. No witty comparisons of original vs JJ Abrams Trek or anything like that, just venting the thoughts hammering around my head right now.
I will keep reading and try to have my character deal with this situation as realistically as possible. It’s not the sort of thing that gets ‘fixed’ by the end of a chapter, so I hope I can do it justice.
Sorry I haven’t kept up on posting the blog like I should; I’ve seen formulas for how often a blogger should send something to the people who have subscribed. No matter whose computations you’re using, I have failed miserably. I can throw out all kinds of great and well-thought-out excuses (big changes at work, household projects, being involved with our kids’ various activities and sports, even a brief encounter with a three headed demon that we accidentally unleashed from an enchanted cell while digging in our backyard. That took a whole weekend to straighten out, by the way.)
That being said, I had a thought the other day. Well, two thoughts. First, I needed to buy more yogurt. Second, I wanted to pick up a new philosopher/interesting person to read. I’ve made my way through Nietzsche and I’ll be damned if he wasn’t an interesting fellow. Love him, hate him, or think he was bat-turds crazy, you couldn’t read his works without examining your own life and decisions. And really, isn’t that what a philosopher’s job is? You don’t have to agree with them, but if you sit back and think about your own path I figure they did their job.
I had settled on Yeats. I know a few lines and I decided to look around the library when I was struck by the thought that the typical philosopher we picture in our heads is probably dead. Philosophy and philology used to be high powered, tenured, revered posts at universities across the globe. Once a guy made his name, he got on staff and spent the rest of his life flinging insightful barbs out at the rest of us and maybe doing the occasional speaking tour. Maybe he’d challenge another thinker to philosophize or something in a smoky back room bar or something really interesting.
It didn’t seem to me like we have those types of people any more. I was about to be sad (because I get sentimental about the weirdest things. I still feel sorry for the poor dusty fax machine under my desk), but then I thought that maybe things have changed. Maybe we’re all philosophers now.
Think about it: anyone with an internet connection and a free blog page can have a forum to the world. Whether anybody cares is a different story, I suppose, though it strikes me that many great writers and artists weren’t fully appreciated in their day.
Still, the idea is out there; if you have a deep thought, one that might change the very way we approach life, you can spread it to the masses and the whole world can be enlightened. You don’t have to be an old tenured professor wearing a plaid vest and using a cane in order to have your words heard and appreciated.
Anyone with a blog can be a philosopher. Plain and simple. So, share your wisdom with the masses!
ps- My suggestion to share your wisdom is in fact the only wisdom I have to offer at this time.
I was going through the ‘getting to know you’ phase with a couple new co-workers yesterday. I walked in on the conversation as they were talking about their various dietary choices, and it sounded something like this:
“I’m gluten free.”
I had to chuckle. Now, let me be very clear about this: I don’t care what you eat, where you do it, or who you do it with. It’s your life, not mine, and as long as you’re not actually hurting me in the process, I encourage you to do whatever makes you happy.
It just made me think of a scene that could have been in a Steve Martin movie, maybe L.A. Story.
So, now I will introduce myself as “almost-middle-aged-guy-who-is-doing-his-best-to-eat-healthy-and-exercise-but-also-likes-meat-and-beer.”
And no, I cannot have the duck.
But I became distracted by the announcement of a cartoon.
You see, I love cars, and I have kids. I’ve made a habit of occasionally showing the kids bits of Top Gear episodes and occasional burnout videos on Youtube; you need to show the next generation the right things, after all.
Well, I was going to post some sample renders of my latest Sketchup 3D project, a battleship that I’ll be using for my next book cover. However, I ran across a post on Twitter from the Top Gear feed…
Yup. Clarkson, May, and Hammond will be lending their voices and likenesses to the animated show airing in the US in March. Yes, I’m still working on that 3D model, but I’ll be taking time out to watch some tv with the kids as well!
So this is what I get for posting a blog entry from my phone. Somehow WordPress decided I wanted to password protect my blog so nobody could read it. Makes perfect sense…
Should be fixed now, so I hope toy give it another chance!
Alright, I stole that from AC/DC. Now that I have your attention, I’d like you to ponder something with me.
With the Olympics coming up, I’ve been thinking about all those athletes who spend their days training. And training. And then taking a nap and training some more. At some point in there, they probably work a job, but it seems like the people who want to compete at the Olympic level often sacrifice work careers in order to stay at the top of their game.
It dawned on me that these people are battling for a unique distinction: the Best in the World. That’s right; if you win Olympic gold, nobody will ever be able to talk smack about how you’re not good enough and they’ll beat you the next time you both race your bobsleds in the park. No, you are the best in the world, a feat displayed on a world stage in front of millions.
What would it be like to be the best? To feel that, for at least the next couple years, nobody else gets to say they’re as awesome as you? I personally think it would be pretty mind-blowing.
I mean, I figure I am pretty good at my job, know my way around a toolbox, can belch my name in one breath, and can still beat my kids at their video games, so I figure I’m doing ok. But the title of Best Minecraft Player is not in my future. Nor is Best Shower Drain Cleaner-Outer.
Now, don’t take this as melancholy longing for something I gave up along the way. I was never going to be a Level 100 Dungeon Master or championship hamburger chef, though Championship Minivan Drifter is something I’ve considered training for. Ken Block, I’m talking to you! Click here to see what I’m talking about. I have an all-wheel-drive minivan; I’ll give it a try anytime!
Is anyone out there the best at something?
I received this from Top Gear’s Twitter feed. Not sure how they did it, but of course if it involves cars you can’t count out the Stig when it comes to the possibility of analyzing and following the Google Truck and racing ahead in order to get a nice snapshot of himself.
Now, if only he’d been doing a big smoky burnout in something rare and expensive!
I recently saw a Youtube video from Ashton Kutcher, of all people, where he tried to give the kids the low down on how to be successful. Not some shiny, idealized Hollywood version, but a talk about hard work, perseverance, and being honest with yourself. There was one part I love to tell people about – and I paraphrase- where he said he was never too good for any job he had. Working his way up, he claimed that he never spent his days whining about how he was better than what he was doing and how he should be the CEO already, but that it was a stepping stone, an experience builder for his next job. That’s the way the world works, oddly enough. You put in your time, learn your trade, and if you’re really lucky you marry Demi Moore and make millions of dollars.
Think of all those great actors and directors; they got their start somewhere. Harrison Ford built sets when George Lucas brought him on stage. Joss Whedon was a script doctor on a Toy Story movie, Brad Pitt drove a limo and carted strippers around. So stick with it, Fry Cook; one day you might well be on posters around the world!
Making a segue into another realm of the entertainment industry where hard work matters, there is also one shout-out that should be given to Ralph McQuarrie. If you’re not a sci-fi or design geek, you may not know the name, which is a travesty. But this one man was largely responsible for the Star Wars we all know, and like those script doctors and set guys who never seem to become household names, he was yet an integral part of the movies we all know and love. Major character designs like Darth Vader, R2-D2, Chewbacca, many of the sets and major vehicles were all drawn by this man. He also worked on the original Battlestar Galactica and others. Here’s a perfect example of a guy who created things that were enjoyed by millions over decades, and yet many probably don’t know his name.
So think of all these things next time you are at your job and it’s not going your way. Boss is riding you, co-workers are lazy and gross, and the taco truck in the parking lot is late for lunch. Just take pride in plying your trade, because even if you never become Ashton Kutcher, you could still be a Ralph McQuarrie; incredibly important but in the shadows, known only to those that really matter.