Something Pretty for a Change

Since the last post, a few positive things have happened (hooray!).

I’ve finished at the ‘day job’ of the last year, but two weeks later to the day (today), I’ve started a short gig working for Elections Canada. Until the middle of October (at which point I had better have something else ready to go, or I’ll be really screwed again), I’m working as a ‘Revision Agent,’ which means I register new voters, and correct or up-date the records of existing ones. Hooray for democracy and the longest election period in modern Canadian history!

If you would like to know more about how to register to vote, or to check if you already are registered, or any other questions, HEAD HERE.

The one challenge of this position is that while I am permitted to have any opinions about anything involving the various parties or election process in general, I may not give voice to said opinions. Thus, no ranting and raving here (or anywhere) about debates, events during the campaigns, or anything else.

[:: heavy sigh ::]

So… in lieu of me venting my spleen about anything political, here’s a couple of pretty pictures I took this afternoon.

Sunny sky! [click to embiggen/close]

Sunny sky! [click to embiggen/close]

Big W! [click to embiggen/close]

Big W! [click to embiggen/close]

  
Mood: hot
Music: I Love You, Honeybear by Father John Misty [2015, Sub Pop Records]
Book: Marvel Comics (The Untold Story) by Sean Howe [HarperCollins, October 2013; ISBN 9780062314697]

FML (no, ‘From Manufactured Lard’ is not what it stands for)

[Edited to fix a few errors of grammar, lack of proofing, and occasional bit of ‘not paying attention owing to being in a bit of a rant,’ but nothing of any substance]

Earlier today I went to a ‘testing session’ for a job I really wanted to get a shot at doing. They have pensions, benefits aplenty, and job security coming out of their proverbial ass. It even has worthwhile stuff I could do, and thus would feel like I’m really making a difference in people’s lives. This would make me very happy.

Okay, they also pay pretty well, provide free counselling, a lounge area and Nintendo Wii, an employee discount program and computer purchase program, free parking and bicycle lock up, an on-site fitness facility and change rooms/showers… but anyway…

Basically, I need to find a place to work as I’ve just been laid-off from my current ‘day job.’ Because of that job I was able to move out on my own. Because of that job I was able to select this apartment within walking distance. Because of that job I was able to feel like I was settling down in a neighbourhood close to everything including my long-standing GP. Because of that job I was able to actually start stretching out and enjoying my independence.

But now, after barely over a year…

Fuck.

The search for work has been kicked into life again at high gear, as after the 13th of this month there is no income other than the government’s Employment Insurance system which will not cover my rent entirely, never mind the desire to eat food upon occasion. Thus, by the end of September or earlier I may either have all of my belongings in storage and be living in a rented room somewhere; or simply be laying in a gutter slowly wasting away.

My health continues to eerily echo that of Warren Ellis’ except I don’t smoke and haven’t actually gone into an Acute Stroke Unit (yet). My cholesterol is far higher than it ought to be for someone who eats as healthily as I do, exercises regularly by simply walking everywhere (it’s cheaper), and so on. Yet, the man whose work I enjoy reading, who has similar struggles to mine, and I recently said if he ever disappears, I’ll need someone new to keep me going (then shortly after he nearly died… one can’t help but feel responsible in a way) continues to keep going, so I do also.

But.

Meanwhile…

Did I mention I’ve been laid-off? Did I also mention I was at a testing… oh right; let’s get back to that.

I blew through the initial test in record time. Piece of cake.

Then the “keyboarding test” (this is what they call ‘typing’ now), during which I was supposed to get at least 44 words per minute as required, and I nailed 35 words per minute.

So, would I like to try again? Yes!!! Mother of God, YES!

So I delivered the same results on both tests. Again. Exactly.

“Well… okay, you’re done for today. Thanks for coming!”

I’d been there for just 30 minutes. For the first set of about six batches of tests.

Were I permitted to continue on for the rest of the tests, I would have aced them all. Seriously.

So I returned to my current job. Which I’ll be finishing one week from the day I’m writing this.

…fuck.

There is no way to explain how much panic fills my soul at this moment. I have nothing to fall back on. Nothing. Zero. Except for the State, but… HA!

This state of affairs merely points out ho much I have not accomplished and how little I have to offer the word, other than piffle such as the occasional podcast recommendations. This is not something from which one can make money to support oneself.

Much of my nearly-fifty years here falls into that category. Much of it has been my own devising, as well.

So much of my life has come to nought.

I have tried so many things that didn’t work out at all:

  • photographer
  • store owner
  • actor
  • arts journalist
  • director
  • TV / radio presenter
  • publisher
  • husband
  • face in the crowd / nameless citizen

Some things which could have worked out either were declared ‘not good enough for me,’ owing to not being sufficiently exciting or something; or I simply bit off more than I could chew and barrelled ahead anyway.

Meanwhile I chose to ignore all my options to become trained in something — anything — safer as a back-up.

Now it’s too late: I’m almost 50, unemployed, estranged from my wife, trying to support myself, and there’s no time left.

No wonder I hate myself. Who wouldn’t?

Yes, it’s incredible I keep going, despite the struggles that life throws at me. Yes, isn’t this continued struggle admirable? Am I not incredible for my fortitude? Am I not such an amazing —

Fuck off.

Certainly I appreciate the support and encouragement, but, as someone pointed out the other day, aphorisms don’t pay my bills. I’m getting tired of not having enough money to pay bills like a grown-up is supposed to.

Certainly, I have made bad choices as outlined above regarding my job skills and life’s path.

Certainly, I have done bad things to people over the years and my karma needs to be redressed.

But.

So. Very. Tired.

So. Very. Tired.

Seriously, this is getting to be too much effort. Honestly, if anyone needed a sign or some sort of Massive Injection of Luck / Help at this point, it would be me.

Anyone able to do that: the usual address, please.

  
Mood: frustrated
Music: The Out-Islanders’ Polynesian Fantasy, (1961); Capitol [ST-1595]
Book: Marvel Comics (The Untold Story) by Sean Howe; Harper Collins, October 2013 [ISBN 978-0-062314-69-7]

The Value of Effort

Sometimes, just sometimes, I wonder if it’s all worth it.

You know: the tears, the hiding under an eiderdown or behind a public appearance of peace and calm, the sitting a chair aimlessly scrolling through Twitter looking for something to react to with an expression of wit (which is a barely concealed attempt to remind people you exist in the hope someone actually gives a crap), the careful recording of thoughts in a journal to remind you that things actually got done, all of that. All of that shit. Everything good and bad and up and down and progressive and constructive and regressive and self-inflicted and loving and hating and everything possible in between. All of it without exclusion.

Is. It. Worth. It.

Am I worth it?

Do I care about me?

Does anyone care about me at all?

Does anyone who cares about me do so in any unselfish or non-self-interested manner; or are they merely doing it because they feel obligated to care, or hope to benefit somehow from doing so?

Who, if anyone, cares about anyone?

Why?

Then, out of nowhere I see a cat silently ‘meow’ at me.

Suddenly I don’t worry about anything anymore and spend five minutes scratching its ears, and the world disappears for a while.

Hobbes

Hobbes

  

Forty Nine (Plus a Couple of Weeks)

Random photo dropped in to provide ‘variety’ or some sort of artsy bullshit.

Random photo dropped in to provide ‘variety’ or some sort of artsy bullshit.

One isn’t supposed to compare oneself to anyone else in order to measure one’s own success. Further, life is a constantly developing journey and not some sort of destination which is a measurable destination on the road ahead. The idea of assessing the highs and lows of the recent past is as inherently daft as that of deciding in advance what will take place several months hence with absolute certainty. Pointless is the process of saying if all of that isn’t accomplished / wasn’t accomplished, one is an abject failure.

Let’s get on with doing all of that, then, shall we?

The last few years have been especially difficult for me on many fronts. The last decade or two have been as well, let’s be honest, but I’m ruminating on the most recent things, as anything more than that will cause me to curl up in a ball and whimper.

I started Atomic Fez Publishing and have met limited success with sales and ‘market penetration,’ despite trying anything I could think of as promotion as well as being very forward-thinking with eBooks.

My marriage went south owing to a number of things; including my chronic and clinical depression, continued financial failure, lack of employment, lack of initiative, and many other things.

Having moved out on my own–HOORAY!–the job I have now pays at an insufficient level to cover my most basic of needs. I desperately need dental work done and there is no way that can be had, even were I to go to the dental school that’s part of Vancouver Community College’s downtown campus. I will eventually need clothing / shoes / glasses / a day or so off; yet I cannot save anything to fund those, and any time I am not at work I am not paid (there are no medical benefits, paid sick days or holiday pay). The result of all this is that I feel more free than before, but freedom’s just another word for / nothing left to lose as the old song goes (shoot me now, I’ve quoted something Kris Kristofferson helped create), and I’m certainly as free as I can be to learn what it’s like to be part of the working population living below the poverty line. Living alone is great but paying the rent is twice as hard; I refuse to share an apartment when I’m nearly half-a-century, however.

At the moment I’m looking for a better job. This change in employment took over three years of fairly constant searching and had two false starts before I got this position. While I hope to find something soon, I’m not holding my breath. After a day in the salt mines, it’s tough enough getting the energy together to edit some author’s work that Atomic Fez is going to publish, never mind writing a cover letter trying to convince someone how they simply must hire me and only me!! I may as well just give up altogether, really.

The other obvious solution to this situation is spend less money. I cannot imagine this to be possible. Already I have enacted the following austerity measures:

  • walk to work (instead of driving or transit)
  • least expensive of everything in the way of food
  • no TV service paid for, just the aerial made from a couple of lengths of coathanger¹
    • yes, there’s Netflix, but that’s far cheaper than even going to a movie once a month, and dear God one needs some sort of circus
  • these internets are the only ‘luxury’ I’ve got (unless you count laundry or heat, you evil sadist)
  • no lunch for me; not at work nor any day

Previous careers for me have included stage & screen actor (as well as ‘background performer,’ which is to acting what a Choose Your Own Adventure is to writing), radio/TV host, retail business owner, photographer, arts journalist, receptionist, print shop employee, and photographer. All of that means I have the exact background required for a roué.

So… now what?

This is where Warren Ellis comes in.

Warren Ellis, photographed by Ellen J Rogers.

Warren Ellis, photographed by Ellen J Rogers.

Before the sound of screaming reaches your ears from the general area of the Thames Delta²–probably employing the the phrase “no don’t use me as a model for anything oh God shut up you really haven’t a clue you idiot” very loudly–let me explain why he is my particular yard-stick for how am I doing, then, eh?

He’s got a fair reputation as a writer, especially a cult following for his graphic novels in the Transmetropolitan series. He did a long-ish run for Marvel in the Iron Man series, so that at least one of those films used a couple of plot lines from his writing of “Iron Man Extremis.” One of his little short graphic stories was adapted into the films Red and Red 2, the former of which enabled him to buy his daughter a pony (based on the promise he never expected to fulfill, as the idea of a movie actually being made seemed so far-fetched). He’s done some writing  of columns for magazines and things; as well as two slim novels, The Gun Machine being extremely well-reviewed and I recommend it unreservedly. He’s got some awards.

He’s nearly two years younger than I, and seems to be struggling along to make a go of it the same as anyone, but with the extra joy of trying to do something thinky or at the very least artistic in the same way as myself. In our own circles (mine quite tiny, his larger but not massive) we are known; not ‘KNOWN,’ but ‘known.’ There are a couple of things I am making a guess at which cause I to be alike, but those I’ll keep to myself, as they aren’t my business (nor yours, shut up, stop snooping and go bother a Kardashian). We both have some regard, but it ain’t no big t’ing.

When I read his weekly newsletter–you will subscribe by clicking that–and see the regular day-to-day stuff about the work that goes into everything other than the putting words in an entertaining order which is basically 90% of the working day³ of a writer, it seems very very familiar. He’s spending weeks in the house with little contact with humanity, apparently. I’ve been there; oh God, yes.

Anyway, when I see he’s listening to “Europe Endless,” and then says things like…

On which note, I’m out of time and out of strength and really need to sleep. You should get an early night too, tonight. It’s probably going to be a long week, it’s probably going to be a bit weird. But I’m always rooting for you, because you take the time to read this, and that means I owe you. Take care, and I’ll see you next week if I’m not dead.

well, it gives me hope, really. I really need ‘hope’ right now. If he can keep going, then maybe I can too.

If he dies, could someone please point me at someone who might replace him for me?

A large box of ‘hope’ can be sent to the usual address.


¹ yes, really

² his term for that area of Essex in which he resides; I doubt any geographic or cartographic approval has been granted by any organization, or even should be.

³ ‘day’ being a very flexible term covering any amount nearing and often exceeding 24 hours

  
Music: Dexter Gordon, A Swingin' Affair [1962; Blue Note Records (BST 84133)]
Book: The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis [W.W. Norton & Company, February 2011; ISBN 9780393078190]

PODCASTS: Funny & Thinky Content Recommendations

MORE PODCASTS TO RECOMMEND!!! This time it’s all about funny stuff; thinky stuff; and stuff that’s both funny and thinky. Strap yourself in.

As before, the titles of the shows link to iTunes but put the names into Stitcher or whatever you use for podcasts and you’ll probably find them easily.

NPR’s “Pop Culture Happy Hour” [click to embiggen]

NPR’s “Pop Culture Happy Hour” [click to embiggen]

NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour is awesome and I’m not sure if it’s a radio-platform one as well or not. Things in the role of ‘pop culture’ are now mainstream, and it behooves us to stop poo-pooing Super Hero Movies as being ‘fluff’; especially as Kenneth Branagh directed Anthony Hopkins in one of them. They talk about music, movies, TV shows, books, comic books, and general popular culture topics such as why aren’t there more women in tech? or why aren’t there more ‘voices of colour’ on NPR? Thoughtful stuff and often surprisingly deep for someone who thinks very little of the potential for covering ‘pop culture.’ Give it a try.

CBC Radio’s “Under the Influence” [click to embiggen]

CBC Radio’s “Under the Influence” [click to embiggen]

CBC Radio One’s Under the Influence is all about the advertising world and its effect upon us as consumers, which is a bit of a closed-loop of us influencing it influencing us influencing it… Like ouroboros, really. I’ve loved this since it debuted as a summer replacement over a decade ago. It’s a look at marketing with societal geography and economics thrown together. It’s certainly not trying to train you how to be advertising person; but it could be said to be training you how to better understand what advertising is trying doing to do to you, and how to understand what you are doing to influence that.

Granted, not everyone loves the format…

Hey, to each their own, right?

It’s weekly, it should be wrapping up its season shortly, and has a bunch of supporting images and video on the CBC site supporting each episode as well.

NPR’s “Radiolab” [click to embiggen]

NPR’s “Radiolab” [click to embiggen]

NPR’s Radiolab (from WNYC) is thinky and informative and entertaining. News-ish, but not ‘current events,’ if you see what I mean. In a way, they’re providing the background behind the news of a month or more ago. For instance, there was an episode explaining about the life and pillorying of ‘Patient Zero,’ “Typhoid” Mary Mallon [and here’s the iTunes-based podcast of that episode]. Most of it at the outset was about her, how typhoid spread, and how she was dealt with; but then the episode veers off to find Patient Zero (the first one to carry the disease, yet typically one who shows no symptoms) of our modern day plague: AIDS/HIV. Medicine, the humanities (including sociology, geographical economics, and philosophy), and social justice all in one. I’ve found some fascinating stuff in their programming, and you can probably find some as well. Even the episodes that don’t immediately call to you will turn out to be good, at least in my experience.

MaximumFun.org’s “Judge John Hodgman” [click to embiggen]

MaximumFun.org’s “Judge John Hodgman” [click to embiggen]

The Judge John Hodgman podcast featuring Judge John Hodgman (part of the Maximumfun.org group of shows) is best exemplified by the recent episode “The Puck Stops Here,” so start there if you’ve never heard this one before. There have been a few in the last month or so which aren’t all that typical, as they’ve been a live show, and a couple where they were dealing with eMail. The usual format is simple: people come before His Honor [sic] John Hodgman in order to have someone arbitrate a dispute with someone else. One case involved someone who wanted to turn a room in their house into a sort of shrine to the Disney film Frozen; another show involved a rule where one person wanted to insist guests remove their shoes upon entering their home. This may not strike you as ‘hilarious comedy material,’ but trust me, it is. Amid the humour and satire is some solid, useful advice for living life in a better, more compassionate way. Mostly it’s damned funny, and more than a little nerdy on regular basis.

I may very well have finally earned my smoking jacket.

Guaranteed to make you lean over your desk trying to hide the fact you’re snorting with uncontrolled glee. Subscribe to the weekly updates, grab some of the old ones when you’re looking for an hour of great stuff, and donate during the annual MaximumFun Drive if you feel so moved to support the on-going costs of this totally free podcast only programme (I’m dead broke, otherwise I totally would).

NPR’s “TED Radio Hour” [click to embiggen]

NPR’s “TED Radio Hour” [click to embiggen]

Say what you will about the exclusivity of the TED Talks given to The Great and The Good; some of them are pretty cool, especially those which challenge common wisdom on a particular topic. NPR’s TED Radio Hour packages together bits of three or four, plus some one-on-one interviews with the lecturer, all with a common linking theme.

Due to the mainstream media, you’ve probably heard about the talks given by Famous People, but there’s also some really smart and entertaining talks given by mathematicians examining dating statistics, people who have shows about people working jobs you wouldn’t want to have, how drummers keep their rhythm patterns, and what scares us and possibly why. Really: there’s more context to the talks themselves than you might get from the videos, and this is a way to get a taste of what the TED Talks’ content is by way of a guiding hand.

Weekly, just under an hour, and worth trying it if you’ve only seen the lectures.

NPR’s “This American Life” [click to embiggen]

NPR’s “This American Life” [click to embiggen]

NPR’s This American Life is a bit of an evergreen, or even gold standard of radio story telling / reporting. That the podcast of it is popular is dead obvious. They divide things into sections with one story or report in each section which they call an ‘act,’ and the allusion to theatre is apt, given the style they use. If you’ve listened to long-ish documentary reports on the news that have a somewhat editorial slant (ie: not actually documentaries), then this is what sort of thing you should expect. Real little slices of life, told by those in the middle of the story, all of them linked with a common-ish theme. An excellent podcast to start with if you have never heard a podcast-style show before.

NPR’s “How to Do Everything” [click to embiggen]

NPR’s “How to Do Everything” [click to embiggen]

NPR’s How to Do Everything is funny, but always informative and sometimes a bit inspirational at the same time. ‘How to save a calf from a death by frostbite’ is just as likely a part of the content as ‘can I be part-man, part cheetah; no really, can I?’ The answer to the cheetah question is ‘yes, but it’s really neither ethical nor likely without tons of unsuccessful testing [cf. ‘ethical’ concern]. As for the calf: hot tub or Jacuzzi™.

If you want to, you can write into them and ask “how do I _____?” Someone wrote in and asked “why does my accidentally spilling cold water in the deep fryer help to loosen the scorched batter at the bottom?” which resulted in an interview with a woman who explained the physics involved in various liquids’ density and temperature’s influence on them (who then discussed her work consulting with the writers of Breaking Bad, which was fun). Weekly, always less than 30 minutes, typically about 15 or so. Funny but educational.

Warren Ellis’s “SpektrModule” [click to embiggen]

Warren Ellis’s “SpektrModule” [click to embiggen]

One of my personal favourites, Warren Ellis’ SpektrModule has been called “quiet music for sleepy people” by its creator, but officially describes itself as this:

This is an ambient / haunted music podcast curated by Warren Ellis, who is a writer from England

It used to be that his music recommendations tended to something akin to the sound made by someone using a circular saw on a sheet of corrugated metal, sitting in an empty cavern; whilst the Norse God Thor yodelled and smashed open large glaciers with both his forehead and Mjölnir; and a walrus made love enthusiastically with a moose [EG: Jumbling Towers’ 2008 album Classy Entertainment; which isn’t as bad as I recall it to be, now that I listen to it again]. These days, he’s more into ambient, soothing, ‘sleepy music’ in the style of Brian Eno in his experimental mode (Ambient I: Music for Airports; Discreet Music; Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks; Music for the White Cube; The Pearl, etc.). It gets released whenever Mr. Ellis feels like mixing one together, and typically runs just under an hour. You’re guaranteed to hear nothing you’ve ever hear of (unless you happen to live next door to him), and is great for putting on when you need to relax and focus on peace and serenity.


UPDATE: It would seem to be that there’s a point in mentioning The Great and The Good when promoting one’s blog posting. Behold.

His Honor John Hodgeman approves [click to embiggen]

His Honor John Hodgeman approves [click to embiggen]

Warren Ellis of 'Bloody England' promotes [click to embiggen]

Warren Ellis of ‘Bloody England’ promotes [click to embiggen]

So that’s quite heartwarming, actually! Thank you, gentlemen, both.