Monthly Archives: November 2010

Rich/Poor Gap and the Unemployment Benefits Are Cancelled

Back in my dark past, when I was a starving artist, I was a temp through a staffing agency. I got a long-term position with a company in Dallas, doing data entry, light administrative stuff, reading contracts, and all that mind-numbing business. There’s a moral to the story, and it’s relevant to the politics of the moment.

I used to park my car at the far edge of the parking lot, so I could get just a little more walking in my day. The local head of the office, a vice-president in something-or-other, had a reserved parking spot right up as close to the door as one could get. Her spot was better than the handicapped parking. I walked past her very fancy Jaguar every day and wondered why anyone would pay so much money for such a silly thing as a car.

I still drive the same car. 2002 Hyundai Accent, my dad bought for me new in 2002 for about twelve grand (thanks, dad! It’s been running like a champ!). I went in to be a long-term temporary employee. I was taunted with the specter of permanent employment, but this was all a tease. For whatever reason, the months ground on, and I was locked in a permanent temporary position.

I remember the day there was a fire in the office. A very small electrical fire, immediately caught by the fire alarm system and easily doused by the fire department once they arrived, caused all of us in the office to herd out of our little offices, into the street. Once there, we waited, cheerfully, for the fire department to arrive and put out the tiny fire long before it grew in size and danger into something real.

During the few minutes between the moment we fled the burning building and  the fire department arrived, this same vice president of something-or-other said, and I quote, “What if the building explodes?” Her car is right there, where the shattered glass and mangled iron beams and reinforced concrete from the tiny electrical fire, might brace for impact.

Thus, while we were all standing there in the parking lot, about thirty of us in this small, one-story office, she got in her car, and pulled out of her special spot in her fancy car. She drove to the exact other side of the parking lot, and pulled in behind my car. My little car was all by itself, in an open space in the parking lot, where I could walk a little before my sedentary day. She thought it was appropriate to use my car as a blast shield in case the building exploded. Right in front of everyone.

I watched her do it, and thought about how I had been a perma-temp in limbo between employment and unemployment, with no benefits, moving paper from one side of the desk to the other, for months and months.

In a completely related note, she often called me “Jeff”, if she spoke to me at all. This is not my name.

Needless to say, I am not employed there anymore.

There’s a moral in there for the Rich/Poor Gap and the cancellation of Unemployment Benefits during this time of crisis. See if you can find it.

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Farmville is the end of the world.

Farmville is not a fun game. But, I can’t stop playing it, if you could call it playing. In my mind I use the autumnal landscape because I am a lone survivor of a nuclear war. I am growing my irradiated vegetables to feed them to a food processed that will rip out all the toxins, leaving me with a nebulous golden pellet of foodstuff that I can either eat, or fashion into noxious kitsch to keep me company in the absence of life on earth. I grow radioactive rainbow apples, more bioengineering than biology, and harvest my mutant chickens that need to have the edible tumors cut from their bodies every few days.

Oh, the kitsch! Imagine the stylized vault dweller of Fallout fame placed upon a farm and there is no mental dissonance between the big-headed, cheerful farmer and the post-apocalyptic icon in a blue jump suit. Farmville is like one’s own Garden of Eden Creation Kit Interface, as if I am learning all the secrets and possibilities of the astonishing technology that will make life popular after the bombs have fallen.

That is my farm. I struggle on, isolated and alone in a vast field of decay, urging my kitschy, radioactive plant matter out of the stark earth. With what is left of the power grids if the world, and the pipes, I push goo through the pipes to distant survivors, with no other means of contact but the pasted pulp matter we harvest for our survival against the fading light if humanity.

To me, Farmville is a symptom of the end times.

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Thanksgiving

Between the loud football game, and the sounds of Warcraft, and Bejeweled and all the conversation, I am holed up in a noisy, noisy place. I thought I’d be able to do homework. Right. I can’t even think of anything to blog about.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope you are all happy, healthy, and enjoying your holidays!

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soft sexism

I was thinking about ants today, and bees, and the movies made about them. You know, Jerry Seinfeld voiced a bee in “Bee Movie” (which I admit I did not witness for myself…), and Woody Allen played an ant once. The Bug’s Life, as well, was about ants. All of these movies, naturally, feign innocence for the sake of the children. They have no interest in being deep or thoughtful, only in entertaining the children and their parents with simple morality tales. 

But they’re all sexist. Ants are all female. All of them. (Except drones.) Workers and warriors are all female. Bees, as well, are all female. We subjugated this life form and personified it, but altered the genders into what we perceive as “correct”. The hero’s journey plot requires a boy to take the journey, apparently. Somehow the story would be lessened if it was a group of women ants struggling together to thrive against a harsh world. The female empowerment message implied by the true gender of all the fictionalized insects is less important than imposing our own genders upon the bugs, for the sake of appeasing a cultural zeitgeist that requires a male lead to be the center of the story. 
This is what sexism really looks like. It isn’t an overt thing, and it even feels innocuous. Probably wouldn’t even notice it if someone didn’t point it out to you. It isn’t as bad as what used to be, but it’s still not fantastic.
So, when you’re writing your own world of insects, I encourage you to think about what is true to the culture you’re creating, instead of the one you are imposing upon them. Maybe try to find a happier medium?

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Arrival

“Never Knew Another is a weird but perfectly-formed koan of identity, memory, loss and loneliness. Dark, moving and unique.”-Felix Gilman (author of the ridiculously awesome books THUNDERER, GEARS OF THE CITY, and THE HALF-MADE WORLD, and if you’re here, I know you at least want to read one of his books, if you aren’t also a big fan!)

I expect the back to change as more people read the book. They will say things like “J M McDermott is awesome. He paid me to write this. I was promised beer!”

I may not have a large shelf o’ glory, but much of what I publish in short stories is in on-line markets, where the readers and money are at, and I’m only 30. I turn 31 in December. I think, perhaps, I’ve got a lot more books to write. For instance, the two sequels that are contractually obligated (and in progress–no worries, party people! I will meet my deadlines!)  will must be added.

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Scene from an autobiography

Timmy left the intruder’s left glove hanging in his front yard as a both a warning, and a lure.

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unripened persimmons

last night, discovered the strange tannic properties of an unripened persimmon. it forms a strange, dry-mouth-inducing paste in your mouth and throat, and down into your stomach. a particular tannin forms this strange paste. it tastes like a desert when it hits the mouth. It’s dangerous, too. It could clump up in the stomach, form a bezoar that must be cut away.

It was like biting into a sweet, delicious membrane of honey-infused apples, and then tasting the poison on the back when you swallow. It is like a bad story, the sweet, rich beauty in the unfamiliar fruit, the initial burst of sweet and tart like pleasure. Then, the tannic paste, clinging against the mouth and tongue in the unformed, unenticing bitter and dry waste of fruitflesh.

Even now, the next day, I can feel it in my throat, that strange paste, unappetizing and unappealing.

Do not eat Persimmons before they are ripe. They are dangerous.

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Untitled from Strandbeest on Vimeo.

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