Friday, February 26, 2010

Slaughterhouse 60

END TIME: 10:19 PM

“Please give your personal application of "zeitgeist" to your last essay and include your view from your position on your space time continuum; also consider others younger and older.”

Now, what I was talking about in the first essay was the importance of attempting to participate in content or activities that were outside of someone’s defined comfort zone, because of the danger of living in a self-selected realm of knowledge. If you never make any effort to have your assumptions questioned, you’ll have no idea if you’re right.

Now the self-selected realm of knowledge that I’m picking from is a diverse range of opinion, because that’s important to me; I’m almost certainly reading someone’s work who you absolutely can’t stand, because part of why I’m reading them is to know why I disagree with them. I know that if I threw up my hands and dismissed every single person who disagreed with me as “haters,” that certainly doesn’t infer that I’m making a particularly persuasive argument. Unfortunately most of politics is currently conducted in this fashion.

From a cultural or music perspective, I’m at an age where I am simply no longer the target consumer. The people who buy music by the truckload, like I used to, Maybe you had to listen to a song by Beyonce that had nine writers and six words in it, but I actually know why I hate it because I tried so hard to get through it and couldn’t. I don’t really need to force myself to listen to anything new musically, because the audience is so fragmented that every radio station only plays the same 10-15 songs between the same 7-8 commercials. My sister and my younger coworkers have a much greater grasp on the cultural and music zeitgeist than I do; they’re around younger people, they see more movies, they have the pace and energy to worry about those sorts of things. I hope to God that there aren’t a lot of Us Weekly junkies over at the Strategic Air Command, but I think I know better.

And with where I’m at in my life – single, two kids, busy, self involved hobbies and interests – that’s why I’m not that immersed in it. I’m even a part of the growing number of Americans who don’t watch very much television, so all those big, collective moments that seem to happen every late spring that involve the disappearance of a beloved network television show that less than a few million people watch, I miss out on what all the fuss is about. I mean, were there people who missed any of those benchmark departure shows – Cheers, Seinfeld, Sopranos, Everybody Loves Raymond – who won’t have the opportunity to watch syndicated reruns or boxed episodes of the DVDs until the end of time if that’s what they so chose? Somewhere right now, a cable television station is showing a “Seinfeld” rerun.

I imagine when I was younger it was more important because it was a link to the rest of the world, and when I’m older I’ll be able to view current events against the perspective of more personal background and history. How much more fragmented things can get and retain a perspective that encompasses a collective zeitgeist, I’m not sure. If you think of something like Facebook, where the first page for everyone consists entirely of news from their friends, and the option exists to block news that you do not want to hear. (Since this usually relates to simulated criminology and agriculture, all is not lost.) The journey has been interesting, but the path ahead is murky. It’ll be intriguing to see where it goes.

Writing Project Update

Writing Project Update

Words this week: Less than 500. I did a lot of video work for Space Monkeys promotion this week (the results of which you can see splattered across my friends' and my Facebook pages) and worked late on a number of occasions. Rest assure that everything's falling by the wayside pretty much equally, not merely the writing.

RESPONSES TO LAST WEEK: 5 - and you wouldn't believe this, but my office found it rather popular.

QUESTIONS THIS WEEK: There were 3, but this week's winner is Jay Lyden, who contributed the largest individual donation to the Space Monkeys and the St. Baldrick's Foundation. You can follow his example and get us closer to our goal by donating at . Thank you!

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: Please give your personal application of "zeitgeist" to your last essay and include your view from your position on your space time continuum; also consider others younger and older.

I'll try not to meander, but I think I have an idea.

RESPONSE DUE BY: 2/26-27 midnight

Friday, February 19, 2010

Slaughterhouse 59

Slaughterhouse 59
END TIME: 11:32 PM

"Write a scene as though your life were a sitcom."


A set of half-wall cubicles in a very grimy basement, with four desks being shown.

At a desk in the back corner, a shorter Asian gentleman is staring closely at a too-small computer monitor, tapping his right foot obsessively and singing along with the radio. His desk is meticulously neat, pencils organized, and he’s wearing a suit.

In the opposite corner is a woman with stacks of magazines lining several bookshelves, four framed pictures of different cats (one of them showing an article surrounding it that makes it apparent it was cut out of a magazine, minimizing the possibility that she actually owns the cat in question), and multiple tins of cat food.

Toward the forefront, staring straight up, is a heavyset gentleman with a shaved head. He is staring at the ceiling at first glance. A second glance proves he is asleep. A quick listen reveals he is snoring.

A twitchy, loud guy in a sports coat with a laptop bag slung over his shoulder strides through the glass door on the left, past a paper sign that indicates the door must stay closed. Four months ago he replaced the paper sign with a mirror image of the words on the sign showing through the other side of the glass, as if the letters had suddenly decided to turn around and face the other direction. No one has noticed.

TWITCH (into cell phone) Loved? Adored? Popular? You’ve got to be out of your mind. We’ll be lucky if they don’t want to shoot us. I know right now what my day’s gonna be. I’m going to walk into this meeting and the only thing that I’m going to come away with, after an hour and a half, is that when I walked in the door downstairs, the security guard at the desk didn’t take the snap off of his holster. That’s the ONLY thing that might go right. It’s all our fault. That’s why we’re here.

Twitch sits down at his desk, grabs an orange gumball from a jar on his desk, mimes dribbling it twice, and throws it at the heavyset gentleman’s mouth. It bounces off of his eye, startling him awake.

HEAVY: What the hel….lo, Mr. Happiness.

A shot of the floor reveals nine other gumballs scattered about.

TWITCH puts on a phone headset and covers his left ear. He is still talking on the phone as he’s doing this.

TWITCH: Look, if they actually LIKED everything we did, if they were so happy with the course of their day that they sent us cards and pizzas and nice little notes that said we were good to them? You know what that would mean? It would mean that when they ruined everything, when they lost the file they were working on, when they caught the virus, when they moved a whole mess of folders around on a group drive for no reason at all, they couldn’t blame us and they would actually OWN UP to the fact it was THEIR fault. They’d have to go home and look in the mirror at night and splash a glass of cold water on their face, and say, “You know what? The computer works fine. I’m the one who ruined it. I have an easy job. I don’t mine coal or unload cargo ships. I’m not a landscaper working in 110 degrees. All I do is push some buttons so that other people don’t have to. That’s all. And I suck at it.” You think that’s going to happen? You think anyone’s going home tonight and saying, ‘Wow, Thank Christ for IT, otherwise I’d be looking for paper files in a cabinet for about a week instead of pushing a couple buttons.’ Trust me, our only hope is that we stay right where we are at the moment – a cab ride away from the overwhelming desire to take our own life. I gotta run. I’ll talk to you in a bit.

MAGAZINE LADY (reading from screen) Wow. Guess who died.

No one responds.

CORNER SINGER: (singing) “I thought I knew what love was/What did I know/Close pays car lawn for Trevor/Pie wood bust get ‘em snow”

TWITCH stares at him with his mouth agape and adjusts the volume in his headset. He looks at a large digital clock next to his monitor, which reads 7:02.

TWITCH (to himself): 30 more years of this and I can retire.

Writing Project Update

Words this week: 650. Nothing on the projects. I may need to start setting the bar a little higher, because I feel like I haven't had much time for anything.

Responses to last week: Two.

Questions this week: 3. (Ken, Ken, Ken)

Third question this week: "Write a scene as though your life were a sitcom."

Looking up, staring at the ceiling, wondering what I have done to deserve this.


I started cross-posting these to my Facebook page a few months after I started it, and Facebook is where most people wind up reading it. For New Year's of 2009, I made a resolution that I was going to write 4000 words per week toward one of three writing projects: a memoir, a diet and fitness book, and a roman a clef about some of the more colorful aspects of a previous career. (I did make a good bit of progress on each.) If I didn't hit this word target of about 12-15 pages per week, I would write 500 words on Friday night, at random, on any topic that anyone wished. What I wanted to ensure is that I never stopped writing for longer than a few days at a time. I had a blog that was set up at, officially titled "Working Out The Bugs," a place where I could write something for an audience with no expectations of readership.

To ensure the randomness, I set up an email address at The mailbox automatically populates from my ISP when I push a button; I don't give myself a chance to study ahead, so the earliest that I know what's coming is usually Thursday afternoon. I don't start writing until 9 PM Friday night, and I have to have the whole thing finished by midnight. And whether I like it or I hate it, it goes up. I welcome and encourage feedback - you can do so publicly on FB through the comments or through email, and while I won't publish what other people write to me privately I post a count of how many people told me what they thought.

There really are no rules. Topics can be resubmitted over and over again; I will answer absolutely anything (because if I wanted to duck something I should have met my word target during the week) and if I quote something at length it doesn't count towards the word count - I have to write the 500 words myself. I may go back and correct spelling errors or if I left a sentence unfinished (sometimes I skip around) but I don't make structural changes or edits. They're designed to be dashed off, work quick, grind it out and let it rock.

I do try to write no matter the circumstances, but I have given myself a night off here and there, usually during my racing season. I've posted book excerpts and older material here some nights when there aren't enough questions or when I just know I'm not in the kind of shape to look at a screen for a few hours. I've put stuff together on my Blackberry while sitting in a laundry room or on a laptop in a hotel somewhere. It's part of the rhythm of my weekend and I have a lot of fun doing it. I don't know if it's made me a better writer, but I do know how to get just enough of an idea in place.

Thank you for reading, for contributing, for telling me it's awful or that it made you laugh. And one more thing...


Once again this year, rather than subjecting yourself to the cruel randomness that is the Inbox chopping block, you can buy your way to the front of the line. The largest individual donor to my page or to Team Space Monkeys by February 25 for the St. Baldrick's Foundation gets to choose next week's topic. Regardless of whether or not you want to win fabulous prizes, I'm shaving my head to raise money for juvenile cancer research. I would appreciate your donating to our cause here:

Thanks for your help!

RESPONSE DUE BY: 2/19-20 midnight

Friday, February 12, 2010

Slaughterhouse 58

Slaughterhouse 58
END TIME: 11:37 PM

You’ve reference Gu Gel a number of times. Performance enhancing everything has been in the news lately. What are the least natural occurring substances you put in your body/ingest on a regular basis? What’s your philosophy on man made chemicals?

(Your narrator grins broadly, and several people who learned long ago to stop asking “Why do your hands always shake like that?” glance down and sigh.)

I’m generally healthy. By the standards of the United States, I’m about the average of the bell curve when it comes to body mass, maybe I’m on the sweeter side of the needle when it comes to endurance, and I know that I have a very high tolerance for pain. (This became evident this week, when a doctor said that I had shimmied right past a common cold into bronchitis and a sinus infection. Apparently I’d been wandering around with an ordinary cold for a while and it wasn’t until it mutated into something a little zippier that I had to stand up (or, in my case, fall asleep) and take notice.

My philosophy on man-made chemicals is, I’m all for them. Man made chemicals began when somebody mixed some grapes with some yeast and realized that the result could knock you on your ass. I’m a fan of alcohol (particularly when I’ve been prevented from having any for a week because I’m tanked up on antibiotics) and its ability to erase the interminable span of time between evening and the next morning. I remember the Cheesecake Factory, across from the Ritz, had a drink on the menu called the “Twilight Zone” which was “double everything and fruit juice.” The bartender knew the reason I was there was I’d just cranked out some upgrade work at the hotel across the street, was still jacked on the raw terror of a high-wire database maneuver that could have thrown the place into chaos but had gone off without a hitch, and it was 1 AM and I needed all that adrenaline to disappear. The first was always like playing Where’s Waldo – is that 151? I think it’s 151! – and the second was always the one that would get me to sleep as long as I could cross the street and ride the elevator. But me and booze is an entirely different subject. (And here’s where I should mention I’ve never taken illegal drugs of any kind. Street pharmacology frightens me.)

The chemicals that Beth is referring to aren’t the stuff that’s sold off of backlit shelves, but by places that are ostensibly interested in my good health. I’ve found over the years that your body is your own laboratory, and you’ll never know quite how far you can push yourself until you try. The problem is the advice is always from someone who’s selling something, who’s bashing something, who’s really trying to get you to do something else entirely – and I hate it. You will not find anything more dangerous to your health than Redline, a powerful caffeine-based stimulant that has the world’s most comical warning label on it, including “The consumer assumes total liability if product is used in a manner inconsistent with its labeling” and they point out that there are two servings in a little blue bottle the size of a can of Red Bull. (Which tastes like yellow Triaminic. This stuff tastes like Children’s Tylenol.) There’s stuff hiding out in there that they barely have names for, and next to the US Recommended Daily Allowance there’s a little cross, because the boys at the lab haven’t figured out how much “vinpocetine” the human body needs in a day. They also say “Do not use this product if you are more than 20 pounds overweight” and have the slogan “Feel the freak/Feel the freeze/Watch the fat burn off with ease!” So a little bit of a mixed message, sure. But it has no calories. It has no sugar. They don’t even bother trying to pretend there’s natural flavors in it. It’s all lightning, and if you go for a run ten minutes after drinking one you’ll feel like something out of “The Matrix.” It’s wonderful.

This is the far outlier of anything I’m willing to put in my body, even further out there than the vitamins (my standard non-event day breakfast is a lot of vitamins and cold black coffee, no room no cream no sugar) and I, who can normally knock down espressos at 9 at night and sleep like a coma victim at 11, won’t drink any of it after 3 PM.

But aren’t there consequences? Aren’t you afraid?

Sure I am. I get my blood pressure checked when I visit the doctor and when I donate blood, along with cholesterol, and even just this past week I walked in dead sick and got 120/67. I can hear the people who (rightfully) point out that I don’t eat enough and I don’t sleep enough and it’s all going to come to a very bad end if I don’t knock it off with some of this foolishness and learn to pace myself like a normal human being. And I’d be more afraid of using this stuff when I was starting out and my heart rate monitor would occasionally show “200” than I would be now.

In terms of performance enhancement, I don’t use the stuff during a competition because it makes me too nervous. Gu’s a meal replacement – coffee and a piece of danish after a long night, making sure all of my blood sugar doesn’t crater and leave me a blubbering, Julie Moss-like mess after a carbohydrate bonk. Seeing as donuts would do a number on my stomach and the coffee wouldn’t be worth tasting again, the Gu does what I want. And nothing that I take is on the World Anti-Doping Association’s list of banned substances, so I’m in the clear in that regard, though I may need to look up this inhaler and nose spray they prescribed me this week.

I spend a lot of races alongside bodies a lot sleeker than mine, a lot faster than mine, that are in better aesthetic shape than me. I see bicycles that cost four times as much as mine and I see men with shaved legs and skinsuits. I nod to myself and think, “Better to work on the engine before the paint or the tires.” Yes, some of the fuel that I take isn’t the smartest thing to be doing. It’s the one area where I’m probably less cautious than I should be. But at the bleeding edge of success, there’s always a willingness to push yourself a little further than I think is reasonable, to know that I’ve hovered out over the edge of the cliff like Wile E. Coyote and been able to scramble back.

Writing Project Update

Words this week: Around 3500. I wrote about work and I wrote about the Wagerfecta and I finessed and bent the world to my will and I wrote about the Space Monkeys and I wrote some cool stuff you won't see and I got bronchitis and a sinus infection and I slept a lot when I wasn't writing.

RESPONSES TO LAST WEEK: 2. Thanks - I hated it, it was lazy and cheap and tossed-off and it actually posted with a clause just hanging out there, like Ron White talking about Lug Nut Day. I also can't break down my entire belief structure in 500 or 5000 words. It's tricky.

QUESTIONS THIS WEEK: 6 (Beth, Beth, Beth, Ken, Ken, Ken)

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: "You’ve referenced Gu Gel a number of times. Performance enhancing everything has been in the news lately. What are the least natural occurring substances you put in your body/ingest on a regular basis? What’s your philosophy on man made chemicals?"

Heh-heh-heh. Oh, this will be fun. Catch you in a bit.

RESPONSE DUE BY: 2/12-13 midnight

Friday, February 05, 2010

Slaughterhouse 57

Slaughterhouse 57
END TIME: 11:07

“Assess President Obama's first year in office.”

See, I KNEW it. I know the political temperament of a lot of the Slaughterhouse readership, and I know some of you are ready to hurl a brick through your monitor at the very mention of his name, and a lot of you are looking to see if I can write something that rips the lungs out of every Republican from here to Crawford, Texas.

And I have a hard time doing this. First off, anytime somebody blames “the Government” for anything, I remember that I work for the taxpayers of Clark County, Nevada and the City of Las Vegas (doing what exactly, I’d rather not share), so I know that “the Government” is not some massive organism like Godzilla, stomping around and wrecking shit for the hell of it. It’s people who have been given a job to do because other people were too lazy or stupid or venal or criminal to just make things happen the way they were supposed to, so instead we get government. If you were smart enough to realize that we live in the middle of the fucking desert and you’re not going to be allowed to have a rice paddy or a cranberry bog because we don’t have the water for you to attempt that nonsense, you may not need much government. But maybe you argue against things like fluoridated water and vaccinations and zoning. Maybe you’re one of those people I see on television every once in a while screaming that the government should get its hands off your Medicare, which is akin to the butcher running after you in the parking lot and telling you not to burn his steak.

I believe in government doing a few small things for our country and then leaving us the hell alone; I believe that you can do pretty much whatever you want with your life as long as you don’t expect me to participate or pay for it. I believe there are things that we do collectively because it wouldn’t be as good to do them ourselves, like build a road or defend our nation, and that should be about it.

That said, I did vote for President Obama, I did help the campaign, and I extorted promises from several people who said that I would probably agree with a lot of his ideas – and believe me, my friends are anything but a bunch of giddy liberal crusaders who have shoulder-length hair and Phish albums – that the moment he turned out to be just another politician, they owed me drinks so that we could get drunk together.

It’s been over a year and I haven’t collected.

I like Barack Obama because he’s an intelligent man who has the capability to relate to other people as a human being. (If you want to doubt his intelligence I’ll expect a response as to why you weren’t the president of the Harvard Law Review.) Even though I didn’t vote for John Kerry because he made my skin crawl, I liked Obama's speech to the convention that talked about how we aren't red states and blue states, but people - and as a former Republican from a very blue state who's now more of a purplish character in a very blue city from a very red state, if you count all the empty parts - that resonated.

First off, he compares favorably to his predecessor. For everyone who said that the only reason the President sounds so smart is he’s reading from a TelePrompTer, I would respectfully point out that I have yet to see him wade into a sentence like a big game hunter with a knife between his teeth, and let’s all agree that presentation skills are part of the job. You never knew WHAT George W. Bush was going to say, sometimes with amazing results (“I can hear you, and the people who did this are going to hear from us soon enough”) and sometimes with genuine mystery (“So long as I'm the president, my measure of success is victory -- and success”). There was a reason he left office with an approval rating in the 20s.

Secondly, in the Sheer Raw Titanium Balls The Size Of Grapefruits category, you can’t beat the fact that both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were proposed as supplemental expenditures. This means that they were not voted on as part of the budget, and therefore they were not counted as part of a budget deficit. The Obama budget when he came into office was the first to incorporate both wars to get a true fiscal cost of what these wars were actually running us.

Have you tried this yourself? Have you explained to your bank that you’re declaring your mortgage “off budget,” so all of the money that you’re spending on a mortgage doesn’t count against your net worth? They take a dim view of that sort of thing. So when the Republicans start howling about the fact that B. Hussein is some no good commie socialist who’s plunging the budget into areas the likes of which we’ve never seen, ask how that off budget thing is working. There was nothing supplemental this year, and there isn’t next year, either.

And if a Republican wants to start hollering at you about “things that are going to bankrupt my childrens’ futures, you can point out their side passed Medicare Part D, which cost $634 billion to give drugs to seniors, and which Wikipedia notes, “By the design of the program, the federal government is not permitted to negotiate prices of drugs with the drug companies, as federal agencies do in other programs. The Veterans Administration, which is allowed to negotiate drug prices and establish a formulary, pays 58% less for drugs, on average, than Medicare Part D.[32] For example, Medicare pays $785 for a year's supply of Lipitor (atorvastatin), while the VA pays $520. Medicare pays $1,485 for Zocor, while the VA pays $127.” Nice of you to jump on for fiscal restraint now, once we’re down to the last can of tuna fish – particularly after the Star-Kist was going out the door by the case in the last decade.

I’m curious to see how the rest of the administration’s efforts turn out. It looks as if the Republicans are on the verge of forgetting that hey, we don’t like you either, and seem to feel there aren’t consequences to obstructing rather than governing.

In short, I think it’s an improvement, but I also think it’s too soon to tell.

Writing Project Update

Words this week: 1500, and work's getting zany, so any progress in the short term will be hard fought.

Responses to last week: Three.

Questions this week: 4. (Dad, Ken, Ken, Ken)

Third question this week: "Assess President Obama's first year in office."

Oh, wow. You're going to make me talk politics here? Sigh. Here we go.

RESPONSE DUE BY: 2/5-6 midnight