Thursday, July 1, 2010

What I've Learned, While I've Been Busy

TIM FERRISS is the guy who wrote a book about living the good life by working only 4 hours a week. I find that no matter how hard I try, I still don’t care to know anything else about him.

ON THE OTHER HAND, Tim Farriss is the chief guitar-slinger for INXS, those guys that ruled the airwaves for much of the 80s and 90s. Him I care about.

INXS STAYED RELEVANT by writing songs that seemed both immediate and timeless. Not many current artists do that, and those that did have been around, doing what they do, for quite some time.

THAT SAID; I STILL BELIEVE that “Don’t Change” from 1982’s Shabooh Shoobah album remains INXS’s high-water mark. Probably because of Farriss’ jangly, fierce guitar and Michael Hutchence’s bold, yet plaintive voice – a sweet merger of one of rock’s best voices with one of its great underrated guitar gods.

I ALSO FIND THAT I’m listening to a lot of Bob Mould lately, in all his forms – with Hüsker Dü, Sugar, and solo. He’s yet another artist of the era that wrote both immediate and timeless songs and music; and he’s a guitar god of his own. He’s still recording; he’s been around, doing what he does for quite some time.

I’D BET THAT neither Tim Farriss nor Bob Mould work only 4 hours a week. Now, they could, and they’ve earned the right to. After twenty-odd years of creative work, it’s expected. Pimping out a book that supposedly tells you how to score the good life without really trying isn’t quite the same thing. It’s shameless pandering to the easily-led.

WHICH REMINDS ME… I’m becoming less and less tolerant of volunteers lately. When a person with a creative bent – say a photographer, a writer, a designer – is trying to make a living at his or her work, and other people without those relevant talents are “volunteering” to do the same, everything falls apart. The work won’t get done correctly, and probably not on time. Then the initial client is forced to use either substandard, late work, or then has to hire the same person – or the same kind of person – that was originally trying to do the work. This is usually at a higher rate, but it forces the creative person to fix the problem the volunteers created.

WHO BENEFITS? The volunteer, who tries to pimp out his “work” on a resume.

AS MY FRIEND TOM SAYS, “Lord, save me from the volunteers.”

VOLUNTEERS TEND TO cluster in groups, too. They’re like fleas, or Twilight fans, or sheep.

SPEAKING OF THE “LAW OF ATTRACTION,” isn’t it strange how those disciples of the post-modern Force have yet to see that they’re pretty much only preaching to each other? It’s a new definition of Nut Cluster.

I THINK FOREST GUMP defined the Law of Attraction and its followers the best: “Stupid is as stupid does.”

HE DIDN’T SAY – but should have – that “Life is like a box chocolates. Sometimes you get shot in the ass, and sometimes something worse happens, like finding a Nut Cluster in the box at the bus stop.”

THE PRETTIEST BUS STOPS I’ve ever seen were on the Monterey peninsula, along California’s Central Coast. These bus stops featured handsome wooden benches and carved signs. Apparently, there is quite a bus system running from the cities and towns of the peninsula to Salinas, where John Steinbeck lived and wrote for a while.

AND YES, the Monterey peninsula really is as pretty as you’ve heard, even in the fog. Which is pretty much all the time right now, damn it.

THE HOMES AT Carmel-by-the-Sea are simply amazing. They tend to be smaller and artistically decorated – instead of coming from the more, More, MORE! school of thought – and are designed to fit in with the environment of the town.

THEY ALSO HAVE NO street addresses. No numbers deface the front of the houses; instead most of them are named. Residents collect their mail at the post office. New houses also have to be built around trees. Apparently very few people are upset at this ‘terrible government intrusion’ into their lives, since they keep living in one of the loveliest towns in the country.

OF COURSE, the town is also considered to be America’s first artist colony, home to actors, artists, writers, poets, playwrights. One must assume it’s a pretty liberal place, that.

CLINT EASTWOOD was the mayor of Carmel for a while. He’s an actor, and apparently a moderate Libertarian. He seems to have no problem with that ‘terrible government intrusion’ into the lives of the Carmel residents, since he was in charge of it.
FUNCTIONALLY, he was The Man*. What he wasn’t was a teabagger. No right-wing nut job teabagger would be caught dead in a town that harbors so many communist, liberal, Obama-loving, pro-environment, queer-tolerating atheists – particularly those who so flagrantly support legislation that is anti-business.**


**IT CLEARLY HARMS the woodcutting and address-plate making industries.

I CONTINUE TO REFER to fringe right-wingers as both “nut jobs” and “teabaggers.” Why’s that? In some movies, one who is teabagging can also be said to be receiving a nut job.

IT’S A SORT of cosmic-porn bit of serendipity that reminds us just how funny the teabaggers are.

YOU KNOW, UNTIL they kill another doctor, or some more cops, or some such.

YOU’D THINK that these guys who’ve been trying to teabag America for a year or so now would consider returning the favor, but no…

APPARENTLY, common courtesy isn’t.

AMONG THE DRIVERS in Los Angeles, courtesy of any kind might actually be against the law. It’s either that or they like stop-and-go traffic so much that they just keep putting up with it. If they learned that they could follow an interstate curve without slamming on their brakes every three seconds, there wouldn’t be any stop-and-go traffic.

YES, I’M BLAMING L.A. traffic on California drivers’ inability to navigate 10-degree curves without riding their brakes like 12-years olds joyriding in their daddy’s Accord. Or his Mercedes; it is L.A., after all.

IT WON’T SURPRISE YOU that we drove through Los Angeles again on our way to, and back from, the Monterey peninsula. I’m now even more devoted to the concept of a workable mass-transit system.

LIKE THAT ONE in Monterey, Carmel, and Salinas.

THE PROBLEM IS that a truly workable mass-transit system in Los Angeles would be derided by the teabaggers as being anti-business – harmful to the fast-food, gasoline, automotive repair, cell phone, and handgun industries.

UNLESS WE CAN get Clint Eastwood behind it.

DESPITE CIRCLING THE 7TH LEVEL OF HELL – also known as the 405 – we enjoyed our trip up and down the coast. We also got to see much of Big Sur and California 1 – those bits not concealed in fog. It has earned the right to be considered one of “America’s Most Beautiful Drives.”

I HAVE SOME photos. Of course, a lot of them feature a lot of fog.

THERE WAS NO FOG either time we went through the Santa Ynez Mountains north of Santa Barbara. California 154 – also known as the Chumash Highway – remains somewhat untouched by development. There were once thousands of Chumash Indians living in the area. I hope those who remain have some claim to the place; it seems just.

THE ONE PLACE I wanted to see some fog was in the Santa Lucia Mountains near San Luis Obispo in the evening. I’d read about the Dark Watchers of the Santa Lucias, and thought it would be cool to see one.


THAT HASN’T STOPPED ME from planning a short story that involves the Dark Watchers. It’s just too cool an idea to pass up.

EVEN JOHN STEINBECK wrote a short story, “Flight,” based on them. I’m no John Steinbeck, but I think I can work with this idea.

I’VE ALSO got two other ideas for short stories, in addition to the various works-in-progress I have out there. I’m also bouncing a comic-book idea around in my head, based on a powerful character that is politically motivated.

ANY COMIC BOOK ARTISTS want to chat? Drop me a line.

I THINK I’m a good writer. I know I’m not great, and I’m fairly certain I’m better than “somewhat good,” so I’ll happily settle for that.

I ALSO KNOW that I’m really terrible at actually sitting down to write. I need peace, quiet, and a stretch of time in which to actually work. I can’t grab ten minutes and do it. I’ve tried.

YOU DON’T WANT to see the results of that.

WELL…YOU MIGHT. The core idea for “A Chilling Wind” went on paper in about ten minutes. The script for “Pop-Up Prophecy” took me five.*** It’s just that I haven’t been able to do that kind of work with any regularity.

***IT ACTUALLY took three minutes, but it feels like bragging to say that.

AS A RESULT, I find more and more that I am jealous of those writers who have the time to write, or the ability to get it done with the few spare minutes or hours they have during the week. The ones who have both the time to write and the ability to write with just a little time drive me bat-poo crazy.


BUT BECAUSE OF the crazy hours and days I’ve worked at the US Census, and because of the changes that have taken place (such as our upcoming relocation to Imperial Beach), I’ve been unable to do any writing whatsoever. I’m jealous, and a bit ashamed. I should be able to do better.


DESPITE THE EFFORTS of the bureaucrats in suits to keep this from running smoothly, census work is starting to wind down.

JUST BECAUSE you wear a suit doesn’t mean you’ve earned respect; it simply means you wear a suit. I don’t care about your lapels.

FURTHERMORE, I’m more inclined to respect a person in uniform than one in a suit. But I still don’t feel I have to.

THE WORK CONTINUES. There are only two more operations that I will be involved with. These won’t be nearly as hard as this last one.

TIM FARRISS could do this work. So could Clint Eastwood. Tim Ferriss probably couldn’t. But he’d look good in a suit not doing it.

IT’S HARD TO imagine John Steinbeck in a suit. He had more important things to do – like writing good books.

I’D LIKE TO WRITE a good book of my own, and maybe someday I will. But I’m going to need a little bit of free time to do it.

PROBABLY MORE than four hours a week.

I’LL LET YOU KNOW when I’ve got it. It won’t be long.


  1. Reading all of this makes me all giggly. Anybody ever tell you you're a funny guy?

  2. Nope. It's never come up. :-\

  3. Ahhh. I've missed me some free association Nick thoughts. :) And references to Steinbeck.

  4. Thanks, Tony. Given that that was the longest gap in the blog yet, I've got to never let that happen again. I'm getting rusty. I was almost nice during much of that...