Las Vegas, a Loon and “Too Soon?”

Ok, so someone shot up a country music festival in Vegas.  I’m horrified but not surprised.  We as a country care less about a person’s access to mental health treatment than their access to guns.  The end result isn’t surprising anymore, but it is horrifying.  As a result of that horror, a clamor is already up about gun control, with the predictable anti-gun control people clamoring back.  They say, It’s too soon.  Well, It’s not too soon, it’s overdue from the last fucking time we had a thing like this.

Getting out in front of the Right Wing parade, we’ve heard Bill O’Rilley issue what is essentially a shrug in a long form text format.  “The Second Amendment is clear that Americans have a right to arm themselves for protection. Even the loons.”  Here’s something I learned about Bill O’Rilley a long time ago.  He shot off his mouth about something – doesn’t even matter what it was and I can’t remember at this point – and was wrong and called on it.  His response to that was essentially, “Oh that?  Yeah, I was just bloviating.”  I’ve got a fairly extensive vocabulary but I’d never heard the word “bloviating” before.  So, I looked it up.  It basically means going on like a pompous asshole with very little meaning but lots of self-serving words.  From this I learned that in Bill O’Rilley’s world it’s perfectly fine to be completely and unambiguously wrong as long as you are an asshole while doing it.  O’Rilley is not a dumb guy and he knows he’s wrong here.  But that’s ok, because he’s also being an asshole.

The second amendment says nothing about self-defense.   The second amendment says precisely this: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Clear as fucking mud, eh?  One can interpret that a few ways.  My favorite is that it means everyone has a right to join the Army.  Even gays.  Everything in that text talks about the security of the state, not the person.  In fact, that’s exactly how it was interpreted until 2008 when the Supreme Court in a 5/4 decision (Heller) decided that it meant a right to self-defense even though that wasn’t anywhere in the text.  Scalia, the “originalist” and “constitutional conservative” did this bit of mental gymnastics, by the way.  This is not some hallowed right passed down from father to son and ingrained in the American experience, it is something that is as old as some of my favorite tee shirts.  And at any rate, it also says that shit should be well regulated.  ALSO the firearms that the founding fathers had any experience with were packed with a ramrod.  Sure, you can have one of those, right next to your sharp stick and all those extra commas that make the second amendment so hard to puzzle out.

Getting back to the topic at hand, it’s not too early to talk about gun control, it’s too late.  As of this writing it’s currently too late for 58 country music fans in Las Vegas and anyone who loved them.  And anyway, this happens with such frequency and morbid regularity that it’s a topic that is evergreen.  It’s always time to talk about gun control because even if it’s not in the news now, if you wait a few months it will be.

Mass murder is not the price of freedom.  The founding fathers did not write a document that granted us the right to murder each other with machine guns.  In fact, they were against a standing army because they feared a destabilizing military coup more than anything else and wanted to make sure people who were in state militias didn’t have their military guns taken away from them.  It’s a bizarre anachronism that really has more to do with post-revolutionary America than the America of today.

We’ve already seen an example of an amendment which was repealed because the distortions upon the American society became too great to bear.  The Eighteenth Amendment ushered in the prohibition of alcohol and unleashed violence and lawlessness in America.  Now to be fair, alcoholism was a huge problem back then and they felt something had to be done, but the Eighteenth Amendment and it’s laws didn’t take reality into account. Moonshiners, Rumrunners, and Gangsters, all universally armed, plied a now-illegal trade all because a magnified minority wanted the entire US to be dry.  The twenty-first amendment repealed that mistake because things in the streets went completely crazy.  Things in the street are now completely crazy.  Just because it’s in the constitution doesn’t mean it’s a great idea or should be encouraged.

We are a self governing democracy.  We the people CAN say that enough is enough and demand change.  We don’t have to just shrug.  And nothing about the arsenal the loser in Las Vegas shot at those people was “well regulated.”  We should be horrified and we should talk about gun control now or we should not be surprised when a slaughter like this happens again.

Stay Weird and Remember to duck.

-SC

Break Time’s Over – a Post-Pause Rant

I’d like to say that the reason that I haven’t been posting is some ineffable block.  Some almost supernatural opposing force what has decided to block my path and strike down my notion of writing anything worth reading.  This is what I’d like to say.  This has dynamic and dramatic tension.  This sets the scene for myself as the protagonist to rise to the occasion and overcome the issue facing me, completing a heroic arc and having some change to my inner being that is in some way profound and deep.  Also, I’d get the girl somehow and avoid the inevitable end of act 2 fireball.

I’d like to say that, but nope.  Can’t.  The less than satisfying explanation (or excuse, really) is this:  Got bummed.  Said “fuck it.”

And I feel childish even saying this even though it’s been god damned stressful and depressing around here lately.   I won’t bore you with it.  It’s just life.  Bullshit.  Destressing, depressing bullshit, but it knocked me off my ball and I just have to get back up.

And thankfully I haven’t blown it in any of the other stuff in my life that actually matters.  I mean, I like writing and I’d like to be writing something that is at least entertaining, but it doesn’t hold a candle to taking care of my family and staying ahead of the curve in my day job.  And I’ve even upped my game in being dad by working both an after school robot class and cub scouts for Candle Junior who has high functioning autism.

Since I’m on my soap box here, let me say one thing: Autism sucks.  I love my son, but his autism and his other challenges really… It really changes what it means to be a dad.  For instance, I’ve gone to numerous birthday parties with him.  The other parents, usually only one and not both, are standing around and chatting for the most part.  Not me.  There are two ways Candle Jr. operates in a group, poorly with assistance or excluded and off in his own world – and you fuck with that world at your own peril, especially as another kid.  And you really can’t blame the kids for not wanting to take this on.  They seek comfort and familiarity just like anyone else and would rather not dive into the strange, given an option.  It’s expensive, time consuming, socially isolating, ulcer-inducing, frustrating, and oftentimes crushingly heartbreaking.  I have no idea what is going to happen in his life, but I can already tell that he’s not going to have an easy time of it.

But he’s not dumb.  He gave me genuine pause yesterday asking me if infinity is a prime number.  This is coming out of an eight-year-old, remember.  We went over square roots yesterday because he was curious about imaginary numbers.  We talked about these little spikes on a stone building and I explained that it was because they didn’t want birds sitting there.  “Why” came up so I said that it was because they didn’t want bird poop there and wherever a bird was, they would poop.  “What’s so bad about that?” We went around for a second and the answer that satisfied him was that bird poop was acidic and would, over time, wear away the rock.  “I can see that.” Yeah, poop and numbers, but he’s eight and already not a dumb guy.  He’s smart enough to know that he’s different though, and that hasn’t yet begun to hurt him.  But I’m sure it will.

And I’ve gotten completely off track.  Said I wouldn’t bore you with specifics and failed.  I came here to explain the huge pause in my writing output and I got on a rant about how things that are hard are hard.  What a dumbass.

And speaking of dumbass, I … I just can’t stomach the news anymore.  What the hell is wrong with you all out there?  We’re fighting Nazis?  What the hell?  Is it 1939?  And we’re discussing an American citizen’s right to protest?  We already settled that burning the flag in protest is OK and now we’re wondering if you can fire someone for not standing for the Star-Spangled Banner?  At least there isn’t flame involved.  We’ve had three major hurricanes this season with astounding levels of damage to major population centers and North Korea talking openly about nuking the US and our allies, and we’re even mentioning this?

Here’s the thing, I’m a policy person.  The news can’t even get to policy anymore because of all this shit.  And when it does, Its craziness.  Why are we cutting taxes – especially on rich people and corporations – at a time of growing GDP and full employment?  That’s just stupid.  Here’s a reality check – why do we want more factory jobs anyway?  Those jobs are soul-crushing.  Coal mining jobs have been disappearing because it’s dangerous, hard, soul-crushing work that is also, happily, relatively easy to automate.  The Fucking RUSSIANS tried to directly fuck with the automated vote tallies in 21 states and having success in some of them.  The RUSSIANS!  Does any of that shit cut through?  No.  And it’s not even totally about Trump.  We’ve got all these serious problems as a country and yet if Kanye West farts into a microphone, that’s all we’ll hear about for most of the next few days.  Trump’s bullshit is just more voluminous and dangerous.  For instance, a lot of people get the first amendment wrong, but Trump, as an agent of the federal government, demanding that people not say or do something in protest is exactly a violation of the first amendment.  It’s almost the precise situation that the amendment was written to prevent – a monarch quashing descent.  And that protest predates Trump anyway.  It goes back to 2016.  It became about Trump (but still not about the flag or the song) when the big blowhard decided to start flapping his gums!  Everyone is confusing – either deliberately or in ignorance – the symbols of our country with the real deal.  It’s our principles that make America great, not the flag or the song.  It’s a noisy bullshit scandal that is literally about nothing.  And all the while, no one is talking about the fact that black folks are over-policed and WAY more likely to run afoul of the cops than anyone else.  It’s not perception, there are numbers about this.  While no one should be roughed up by the cops, it happens more often to black and brown folks.  This is math.  This is a fact.  This is totally lost now that politicians decided to make hay.

And I’m off track again.

The truly annoying part about all this is that this rant, barf from the brain, stream of unconsciousness bullcrap will inevitably meet more eyes than the episode of The Strange that I’m working on and is the point of having this website at all.  So yeah, I’m bummed in bumming times.  I haven’t stopped writing, though, even with all this garbage.  I just haven’t been writing anything worth reading (this article is a case in point) and I have not been editing.  That’s pretty much the bottom line.  And it’s because I’m having a hard time picturing that anyone notices the absence and I’m not sure what to do with that.  Work harder?  Dive into social media which I kinda despise as a waste of time and brain cells?  I don’t know and it hasn’t been a priority.

But I am coming back.  I plan on finishing All That Remains and getting on Episode 29 in the short term and then getting a schedule working.  I think I need a deadline because a break doesn’t seem to help.

Stay tuned and stay weird.

-SC.

Recharging, Revitalizing and Rewriting

Ok, so this summer sucked.  The highlight of the summer has been continuing to publish stories, but to be frank, everything else has been really hard.  Work, family, and working through the morass of my own mind has been a struggle.

And yes, the writing has suffered.  I’ve blown through my backlog and have also bumped up against a part in The Strange that I really want to rewrite.  Not that I’m getting huge traction on the story, but it’s not like I want to put out crap.

All that said, I’m not in a huge hurry.  One of the major personal health issues I need to address before it addresses me is stress.  And yeah, I know that sounds completely “pussy” but I’m trying to work out hypertension issues while having two ailing family members in my dad and my father in law, plus my wife’s issues and a disabled but increasingly capable son.  In short, I’m prioritizing this and working to find the time to do it right.

You know, I understand that this is another one of those “I’m late” messages.  I fear I’m judging myself against the standard of other people who are serializing fiction.  I don’t know if those folks are better writers, not nearly so lazy, putting out unedited copy, young and with too much time on their hands, or what.  All I know is that this guy right here is working at a very wobbly pace now because a couple of meteors have been thrown at my home planet.  I sincerely hope that anyone who is reading my work understands that.  I’m not being lazy or a diva or a perfectionist.  Publishing like this was meant to set a fire under my ass and it has done that.  I’ll get it done but I’m not giving myself a complex for not keeping to schedule.

That’s about it.  The next two episodes will be jar episodes and then things get into a higher gear.  Hopefully the people who have started will be patient while I get my act together and future readers won’t care.  That’s what I’m telling myself, anyway.

Stay tuned and stay weird.

-SC

Net Neutrality and Kneecaps

Hi.  Quick word from the Screaming Candle, AKA Patrick Lewis, about Net Neutrality.

This concept has a horrendous name, so hang in while I explain.

It’s really a shakedown by internet providers to websites for continued access at usable speed.  It should be Comcast/Verison/Company you’ve never heard of kneecaps your website or service if you don’t pay them more for transport issue.  Maybe Net Neutrality is a better name.

Here’s the thing, with all the double speak, fake news, gaslighting going on, it’s another way for big companies you aren’t even aware of and have never agreed to do business with being able to subtly get you to watch what they want you to watch.  How?  By making EVERYTHING slow and then only letting what they want you to see/hear/use go through at a normal speed.  This gives any and every company in the chain of supply from the source to you a veto power on what you will be able to do on the net.

Of course, that’s not how they are selling it.  The current argument against Net Neutrality is that you can pay extra for extra fast service for some things.  That, in technical jargon, is bullshit.  This is not a way to encourage innovation, it stifles innovation.  This is a way to put a barrier to entry to a small website like screamingcandle.com so you can’t access it as easily in favor of a bigger website that can pay extra, above and beyond their standard fees for service.

And let’s be real, here’s what happens under Net Neutrality.  Netflix uses (theoretically) 50 gigs per second (theoretically, they use way more) They pay for that bandwidth to their provider.  They realize that they need more, say double.  They contract with their provider to get more.  The provider now has twice as much money to spend expanding their own service.  They might even need to contract a better pipe up the line which then transfers some of the funds up and so on.  THIS IS HOW THE INTERNET WAS BUILT AND IT SEEMS TO HAVE WORKED PRETTY WELL SO FAR!  Breaking Net Neutrality is just a cash grab and a way to technically and legally affect what you are able to watch.

So, by whatever name, support net neutrality.  Your freedom of thought is at stake.

Freakin’!

Hi.

Thought I’d drop a line to let everyone know that I’m not dead and I haven’t given up on The Strange.  This quiet period is a reflection of me FREAKING OUT in my other-than-writing life.  While my dad is doing surprisingly well, considering how sick he was just two months ago, my father in law is not so great.  I’ve had a few stretches of being a single parent while Mrs. Candle went to help out and I will freely admit that I am terrible at it.  My son, the Little Candle, likes it because it’s pizza and iPad time, but… well, I’m not winning dad of the year here and it stresses me out like crazy.  My wife is a treasure.

Anyway, blah blah blah life blah blah day job blah.  As much as I would like to keep this on a schedule, I can’t let that be a stressor.  I’ve too many of them already that take precedence, with people counting on me.  The next episode will be up as soon as I can get my head on straight and pound the suck out of it.  I’m also cooking up some new things, which will sit and stew for a while till they are ripe.

In short, I’m still here and I’ll be getting back to you once I stop TRIPPIN’ BALLS!

Making a Quick Change

Hi.

This is an administrative type of message because I’m going to make a change to the site operations and I thought it would be rude to do without explanation.

I talked to WordPress support about the fact that I keep getting likes from my posts without anyone actually viewing them.  He mentioned that it is because people who follow the site get content mailed to them, or could.

I’ll be blunt, I like pageviews.  But more than that, I rely on traffic stats to tell me if I’m reaching anyone or if what I’m doing is full-out pointless.  So I’m changing the follow emails to only put out summaries rather than the whole post.  This will make anyone following actually click the link and get recorded as a view.

This requires more work from the people who have signed up to follow and I apologize. Having never worked with this system and not using the follow mechanism myself, I didn’t realize what was going on.  From my point of view, pageviews went down as follows and likes went up, which made exactly zero sense.

Please comment here or email me if this is a problem for your access to the story.  I’ve worked with enough people using sight readers (audio readers for blind folks) to know that moving the cheese like this could be an issue and I’d like to be as accommodating as possible.

So that’s it.  Stay Weird!

-SC

Assassins, Assholes, and Alexandria

An angry nobody shot at politicians practicing baseball yesterday.  This man doubtlessly thought of himself as many things.  A patriot maybe?  A freedom fighter? Vengeful spirit?  An Assassin?  Someone dedicated and willing to go to the lengths no one else will go because he’s just that macho, like the Punisher or Rambo? We won’t know for sure because he was shot to death for being what he was in reality – an Asshole – an angry nobody – a weak man who picked up a gun – a footnote.

There are people who are barking “EXTENUATING CIRCUMSTANCES” and “BUT he argued for…” and “But the policies…” and “The Tree of liberty should be watered!” and all that.  Those people should be ashamed of themselves.  Condoning, inciting, excusing, or carrying out political violence is an asshole and is profoundly unamerican.  The crowd that proudly displayed “we came unarmed this time” were assholes.  Anyone talking about “second amendment solutions” is an asshole.

There are no exceptions.  Political violence is inexcusable.  It’s the fallback of someone who is so weak of mind that they are unable to argue and work to further their cause.  OR it is the work of a demented and violent mind that has been armed and pointed in a direction by people who should know better and are, as has been alluded to earlier, assholes.

screamingcandle.com is not a blog in which I nakedly blow out my own personal politics because it’s supposed to be a showcase for my own hackneyed fiction.  I sincerely hope that Steve Scalise will survive this, though I hold no hope that he will be “OK”.  I’m a Democrat and though I have political sympathies with people all over the political spectrum – yes, even Republicans – Steve Scalise viewpoints and my own have very little common ground.  BUT the man is a public servant, a patriot and was elected by my fellow citizens in Louisiana to represent them.  I disagree with the man with a burning passion but what happened to him is deplorable.  It goes beyond politics.  The man was shot in the pelvis with an M4.  This is conjecture, but that can’t be good for your dick.  Or, your ability to walk, but … priorities.

I should not make light.  This is not a good time for this country.  We need engaged citizens, not assholes.  And I call them assholes, not murderers or thugs or anything else because these weak, traitorous cowards do not deserve so aggrandizing as a label that makes them sound tough.  There is nothing tough about harming a fellow citizen when their defenses are down and they are speaking their mind.  A slap, a punch or a gunshot.  All of these makes for an asshole.  So again, we need engaged citizens to patriotically denounce and continue to denounce this dehumanization and violent rhetoric in our public discourse.  It is unamerican and it diminishes the light of hope that this country provides the world.

Use your words.

Don’t be an asshole.

Sincerely,

Patrick Lewis

AKA: Screaming Candle