4.30.2011

Boston, The TSA, Rage and The Monster

I'm on my way to Boston ComicCon to be a part of a pretty huge announcement for a thing -- and I must pat myself on the back for this -- I have somehow managed to keep secret all this time. Trust me, tomorrow and going forward, you'll know more than you ever wanted to know. But for now, just keep an eye on my Twitter and Facebook pages. Around 6:00PM, all will be revealed.

The last time I was in Boston was for ROFLCon in 2008. While I was there, I ended up involved in what I will term an "altercation" because that's what the TSA called it when they put me on a watchlist for 2 years (Want to read about it? Start with the blog post for the background, and then read the story).  And walking through Logan to find a restaurant that serves something I can eat without completely obliterating any sibilance of trying to stay on the path of good health, I saw the gate where it all went down.

And it brought it all back. Not that it wasn't with me when I got on the plane -- it's hard not to let thoughts like "Remember what happened last time you were at that place?" when you are headed to a place. But being there, seeing it... It put me back in that place. And all I can really remember is being full of rage.

It's not the only time I've been full of rage, and it's nowhere near the most full of rage I've been. But it was there, and I was in it. Rage is the only thing that unifies my perpetually-split mind into a singular goal. It makes me see white. It conquers the armies I have in place to keep myself in check.

It makes me physically ill. It makes me want to hurt another person. I don't like hurting people -- I know my persona and the stuff I write sometimes makes it seem like I do. But I don't. I like punishing the unjust and putting people in their place when I feel they deserve it... But to hurt? It's an alien thing to me. It goes against the grain of the wood from which I am cut.

And I wanted to hurt that man. I wanted to show him what happens when you violate another person's space. I wanted to show him what being a bully earns him. And it's a strange thing for me, because it seems that that's part of my chosen mission -- to find those that willfully impose themselves on others and be the man who teaches them why they shouldn't do that.

And that sounds so logical and direct and planned. And it somewhat is. But it requires me to do two things I don't like: inflict myself on people and face the fact that I am built in a very unnatural way.

I am a monster. Pure and simple.

When I am out of control, I don't just lash out. I destroy. I seek the weak points and exploit them. I crush.

I've only experienced total blind rage twice in my life, and I actively fight to keep rage out. Anger is such a dangerous drug. It controls and destroys, and it does so by aligning my perception to exploit, with laser focus, everything I perceive as weakness. And when it even barely creeps into me, I wage war within myself to keep it out.

And then, an entitled prick goes and puts his hands on a small girl standing up for herself. Or, a bully from the past inflicts himself on someone in the present, exerting dominance. Or, evil soulless people appear from the past and inflict themselves on the present.

And I have to keep control, lest I destroy. And I am, as much as I can possibly be, a creator. I want to create beauty. I want to share delicate and intricate and complex concepts with an elegance that makes them simple. I want to draw beautiful things, beautifully. I want to craft my words and express myself so that the picture in your mind is clear and clean and taps into a part of you that feels and is governed by experience.

Destruction is the last thing I ever want to bring into the world. I don't want to be a monster. But I am. And when I see it, have to fight it.

And here I sit in this airport in this city, waiting for my ride to take me to a place where I get to be a part of one of the greatest creations I've ever been blessed enough to be involved with. It's a thing of beauty and splendor and freedom and sharing. And while I sit here and stare at half my breakfast that I can't eat due to the swimming and swirling in my stomach and the shaking of my hands, I ponder an email and my subsequent response from someone in my past who has been a topic of recent posts, who laid waste to several lives around me.

I have to face my monster before I even get out the door. Is it a test? Am I being asked by the universe, "Are you truly ready to be a part of something beautiful?"

I am.

4.28.2011

Hey, Remember FarkTV?

Some of you remember way back in the day when I was working on a show for Turner called FarkTV. I actually wrote and produced the first season. It wasn't a very good show. In fact, it was pretty fucking awful. But there were some good moments. In fact, there were some pretty goddamn great moments if I'm being honest.

Here's a few I remember fondly. You can see when I was still quite the fatass. I'm quite a lot more awesomer now... Well, at least, I have fewer chins.

Crooks (2nd episode) -- the idea was what if "COPS" was done from the crooks' point of view, where they're doing high concept crime and end up staging stupid crimes to cop to to get out of big jail time. GENIUS RIGHT (My first time working with Chris Burns)


(can't see the video? click here)



Sniper Joe (from our pilot season - one week long) -- true story, cops try to use loud music to get protestors at a school for the deaf to leave the building.

(Can't see the video? click here)


Black Bear Rage -- If you can't find the allusions in this one, you're dumb, frankly. I was the main bear. 

(Can't see the video? click here)


DogVinci Door (This was the last one I wrote and produced before I left, and I'm still happy with the way it came out). You may recognize Chris Burns from the utterly amazing Avengers Assemble! 


(Can't see the video? click here)


You'll notice I play a cop. A lot. That's because I'm not an actor. Not even slightly. And I looked like a fat cop with a flatop when I had my flattop.

I only bring it up because today, while doing absolutely nothing at all related to Fark, TV or anything else, I serendipitously ran into Ben Morgan, the director of the show. Ben and I had a falling out (exacerbated quite heavily by a manipulative person who worked us against each other at every turn -- a complete and utter sociopath. If you have been wondering who the "other" one was... Well, he's in 3 videos up there). We didn't talk for years. It was a really, really bad falling out.

Today, we saw each other, and within a second we were hugging and making amends. We have both changed. You know how I've changed because you've been following along in my blog -- I got in shape for football, I experienced some really great successes and some extremely low lows.

What's strange is that Ben went through something similar, and how we learned - individually, but at the same time - that the vast majority of our issues between each other (which stemmed from being extremely similar) were being worked against us by the third party. And we were able to admit that we've both matured quite a lot, learned so much since then, and written people like him out of our lives.

The details remain between us. What you should know: some unfinished business got finished, and amends were made. And it's a very good thing. And I can now, four years later, admit that I even miss parts of it.

I learned more about myself -- mostly who I am NOT -- through FarkTV. And while at the time it was painful and there was quite a bit of money lost, I'll go on record as saying it was one of the most formidable experiences of my adult life.

4.25.2011

So, Let's Talk New Book Crap

It's getting time for me to start announcing all kinds of crap related to the new book I told you I was releasing soon.

Where I am now: About 70% of the way through laying it out. I've collected the stories, written the new content (!), talked to the artist about the cover (!!) and prepped the printer (!!!).

What I am stuck on: I know that I'm releasing this as a digital book -- Kindle, iBooks, ePub, so on and so forth (PDF and Google Books as well, for those who can't afford to buy anything -- but you will need to trade me your email address :) ).I have been told by many of you that you want a dead-tree / paper book made available, so that's definitely happening -- there will be paperback copies. They will be available through Amazon and at your local bookstore (just like my first self-published book).

 What I'm wondering is if I should do a limited edition hardcover again or not, and if there should be a book tour.  So that's what I'm pinging you about.

You know the drill -- comments, Facebook comments, Tweet me, email me, whatever. Tell me what you think. Would you preorder a hardcover this time around? If so, how much do you think is fair?

Relevant information: The book's total pagecount is sitting near 280 right now. With my first book, the self-published one, I did a limited edition Hardcover for preorders only, and nearly 4000 were ordered in just a few weeks. It was HELL to ship out, but I'm willing to do it again for people who want them.

Hardcovers can ONLY be obtained through preorder. The last time, the price was $24.95. Since that time, costs to print have gone up slightly, but I want to gauge your interest before I make any final decisions on price.

I'm also considering a limited edition print of the cover along with the preorders. Trust me when I tell you, this cover is SWEET.

So, thoughts?

4.21.2011

Yet More Fucking VIdeo I've Been Made To Keep

A few weeks ago, Merrill Hagan complimented me on this video I made while training for the Arena Football League and kept me from deleting it:


What's really fantastic about digging through all this old video stuff and then being told not to delete it is that it's making this week's blogposts really, really easy. All I have to do is embed these stupid things and then talk about how self-conscious I really am about them -- despite the fact that I actually recorded myself, edited the recordings and made them public.

And the reason I can go through the exercise of making mini-movies starring me and still be self-conscious about them is that at the time, the people viewing them were a much smaller subset of my audience. The Penguin video was only seen by the people who contributed and a few other Mentally Incontinent forum members (Remember when forums were really cool and the only way for communities to talk to each other? Before Facebook? Yeah, those were the days, get off my lawn, etc).

And I'm very close with my readership -- or at least, I really do try to be. I regard your reading me as the ultimate compliment. I want to thank you whenever I get the chance. When people comment or email or friend me on Facebook or whatever, I try to get to know them insofar as they're interested. Cause that's the fun part of this for me.

And so as this blog and my books have spread around, and I've lost the handle I once had on knowing just about every reader I had (even in the thousands, it wasn't that hard -- the MI Forums and email work really well for that), I start to realize I'm much more widely read than I can actually keep tabs on outside of pure traffic log numbers.

And so, when I post this crap, I realize it's being watched by people who are newish to what I do and how I do it, and see these videos and go "Okay, what?"

What you have to understand is that everything I do -- ALL of it -- is community driven. When I decided to play pro football, there were lots of discussions with my community about it. Why I wanted to do it, how I was going to go about it, and then after that, I split it off to its own site and let those interested follow that particular little activity over there.

Same with Art of Akira and everything else. And I have to say, it feels very strange now to not be able to actually hold on to each individual community and get to know them and interact with them. Sure, Facebook and this blog and email are still active. There's still a lot of involvement. We all still get to talk.

But something I kinda figured would happen but never actually realized the implications of it happening with the Penguin published Mentally Incontinent book -- that book went out to strangers.

Total strangers. Strangers who picked the book up, read it, either liked it or hated it, and moved on.

That was new. It still is. When I look at the people on the Mentally Incontinent Facebook page, there's only a small subset that are also friends with me. That's weird.

Where am I going with this?

I don't know. Sometimes, you just drink from the firehose and hope to catch as much in your mouth as you can. But one thing I do know: From working on collecting and writing the next book (You forgot, didn't you? There's a new book coming. Soon. Like, REALLY soon), I've been analyzing the holy shit out of my writing, my career, and my methods. And I've decided I never, ever want to be "famous" (not that there's even a slight risk of that).

I like where I was with the first book. I know you. You know me. We talk. We build a thing together. You read what I write and either like or hate it. You tell me how and why. Neat things happen.

I want that. That is the golden ratio for me. And if my community shrinks with my self-publishing efforts and I sell 1/10th what I used to sell -- GOOD. I never did this for the money. Anyone who does is a fool -- not that there isn't a career to be had doing this, but starting off saying "I want to write to become rich" is a lot like saying "I want to solve world hunger by planting these pumpkin seeds."  Pretty goddam impractical, and all you're going to do is rob the fertile soil of the only thing of value, pretty fast.

But yeah, football video. Yay. That's up there ^^^ -- go watch it or something. Or don't.

4.20.2011

That Stupid Penguin "Internal Sales Video" That I'm Forcing Myself To Not Be Embarrassed About

Hey, remember this? Some of you are in it.



(Can't see the video? click here)


I was going to delete it, but some very nice people told me it's actually neat and I should keep it. So instead of being embarrassed about it, I figure, fuck it. I'll post it. 

I did the same thing yesterday while in one of my little funks. I was feeling down about yesterday's debacle, and started questioning myself and the difference between "me" in my stories / journal / writing and "me" in life, and if I need to be such a dick, and blah de blah. So rather than whine, I tweeted "HEY EVERYONE I AM FEELING SORRY FOR MYSELF PUBLICALLY! PAY ATTENTION TO ME AND FIX IT". 

Boom. Instant diffusion. Just like posting this. Now I'm not embarrassed anymore. Blame Colette Bennett for my newfound confidence. 

4.19.2011

I Fucking Hate Pretending I Like Your Stupid Kids

UPDATE 2:22PM: Since my inbox has been inundated with "Wait, what the FUCK?" emails, I've added an explanation to the end of this post. 

I have to tell you... One of my friends has the ugliest and stupidest kid I think I've ever seen.

I'm serious, this child is a fucking abomination before God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost. He's not retarded or afflicted, as far as I know. It's just... ugly and dumb. He's 3 years old, and speaks in this Neolithic tongue, half English and half... I dunno. Sanskrit.

He walks into things. Like... he's walking, and boom. Wall.

And that's not really what I want to write about here. Picking on children isn't what I'm about. They're kids. They're immature, they stink, they get into trouble, and they produce nothing useful. But that's what kids are. It's nothing great or even useful to pick on a kid. It's just bullying.

But I can't get to my actual point without the setup, which is the fact that this ugly bumbling child exists and is the offspring of friends of mine. And now that that's established, I can tell you that I'm actually setting up the fact that his parents' really, honestly and truly think that this child is brilliant and beautiful.

And he's so not. The kid is just this animated lump of meat. It's like what you'd get if you recorded yourself doing some faux Chinese accent in a microcassete recorder, placed it in a little erector set with a few motors attached, covered the whole thing in silly putty and taught it to walk.

"Blah You want blargh you GIVE ME soda?" *thud*

His parents are  hormonally deluded into thinking this kid is the Golden Child. Like he's going to be the one to finally liberate Tibet. I get loving your baby. I get raising them and giving them your all. But come the fuck on -- your child just stacked some blocks that might spell "CAT" and you're ready to ship them off to West Point to lead the greatest military in the world to righteous conquest?

It drives me nuts to go over there. But I have to, because they're pretty good friends. They were great before they hatched this thing they've somehow attached an insane amount of value to compared to it's actual worth. But they're good friends, and I honor them, and their choice to make this... Thing. That I am glad to see makes them proud. But every single time I do, I know that they know that I fucking hate that shit. They know me. They know that I attribute absolutely no value to people beyond what people bring to the table.

What does this kid bring to the table? Chaos. One time, the kid was walking through the garage, bumbling about like an off-center top while we were working on setting up my buddy's air hockey table, and he just collided with a table holding a few wrenches. The whole mess came down on him and I laughed - because that's funny, right?

I mean, *bumblebumblebumbleTHUD* *CRASH* -- HOW IS THAT NOT FUNNY?? You can't not laugh.

And his father got PISSED. And I had to stand there like a fucking dick apologizing for doing what came natural while watching an inferior baby human do something utterly stupid. If the shit was on America's Funniest Videos, it'd have won $10,000. If it was on YouTube, it'd be rebroadcast on CNN every day for a week instead of real news.

They have all these "Baby Einstein" videos... I keep telling them they need to maybe investigate getting "How To Use A Spoon - The Video Series" or something.  "Walking For Dummies". Anything useful.

Ugh.

Anyway, my point is that it drives me crazy we can't be real about the people around us, especially those related to us -- and doubly especially kids. And I've found it harder and harder to make the trade-off between being honest and keeping friends.

I've found myself going out of my way to do things for people I don't want to hurt or lose in my life, from as far a distance as I possibly can (mostly over email or Facebook), just so I don't have to be around them and fake like I'm not uncomfortable in the situation while keeping them in my life by helping them.

How fucked up is that?


UPDATE 2:22PM:

Okay, so. I've gotten completely hammered over this post. A few people loved it and got the humor. There's been some Facebook and Twitter pushback, but mostly people have emailed directly in lieu of commenting or responding via Facebook or Twitter, and their emails all begin the same: "Look, I love what you do, I read you every day since (insert date here), and I didn't want to call you out in public, but you crossed a line here."

I was planning on just moving on, as I do with most of the incendiary things I write. But this one just seems to require I explain myself. So, pulling liberally from an email I wrote to two friends of mine, I'll attempt to explain what's going on here.

First, thanks to all of you for reacting and responding. I'm glad you said something if it bothered you.

Second, if today's post is your first experience with what I do, I can see where it'd leave a bad taste in your mouth.

The point of this post was to get to the very last bit, about the line I have to walk with increasing frustration between being honest with how I feel and keeping friends, readers, and respect. It stings more and more the older I get. When I tell the truth, people rail against me for not having common courtesy to just hold my tongue. When I hide how I feel, I feel like a disgusting disingenuous liar. If I ever have to confess to someone that I was holding back the truth from them, it gets dirty and nasty -- especially given my reputation (wanted or not) for being "The one guy in [their] life that will tell them the honest truth, no matter what."

This post is 100% just a slam on my buddy. He knew I was going to write it. He dared me to. He didn't think I had the balls to go out and full-on call a baby ugly and stupid. He was wrong, and he probably knew he was wrong, because I've known him for YEARS. It's a running semi-joke between us that I think his kid is one crayon short of a pack, and his response is that his kid is going to be the top rated quarterback on the wrestling team at West Point with a 5.0 grade average.

Basically, I tell him how I feel about his kid, and his response is about 300 types of "Go fuck yourself."  We're like that.

Also, in earlier posts, I talk about the innocence of children and how any person who would ever rob them of that innocence should be demolished. I have an incredibly special place in my heart for kids. That said, As corny as this might sound, sometimes I forget a) people read my stuff, and b) people don't read ALL of my stuff. This is a brain dump, and day by day, it shows little peaks and valleys in my life. Last week and the week before, I very publically delved into some deeper emotional stuff and wrote about it, most notably the behind-the-scenes with a girl I once knew, whom I've written about in two books. It was like finally revealing to all of you who have been with me for the past few years the identity of the wizard behind the curtain.

Most folks liked it, and some hated it. I was told I was "in some rut" or "in a pattern" of getting emo. Today was a bit of blasting out of that, I guess.

Now, most people deal with the posts I make by just saying "Screw you, Joe, you're wrong on this one." Others post long reactions / responses to aspects of an entry and give their side of things. Still others will ride along, agreeing heartily with every post they get laughs from UNTIL I touch on a subject they are sensitive to. Not that I am trying to be this, but the analogy would basically be what South Park does to people. Nothing I write is false or faked. The things I say come from a real and honest place. I just choose the most expressive, brash, emotional, what-have-you language to say them. And it's all to get a reaction. And if I offend in the process, so be it.

Do I hate my friend's kid? Not even slightly. It's a child. It's innocent. It deserves to be protected and sheltered from harm until it's old enough to try to fend for itself in the world. Do I honestly believe the kid to be unattractive? Yes. Do I think the kid is behind every single one of my other friends' kids in development? Yes. Has the kid spilled a drink or four on me? Yes.

But I love the kid just the same, because I love his parents. And I tolerate it because, good or bad, it's family (not my blood family, they're a special kind of horrible -- my friends are my family). And he'll likely grow out of it. Not being a parent, I don't have much understanding for the younger years of a child's development. I am largely uncomfortable around young kids, because I think I'll break them. If you're not familiar with what I look like, I'm a gigantic gorilla of a person. And I started life as an ugly, slow child myself. I grew out of at least one part of that. This kid will be the same.

Look: At the end of the day, the point of my writing, my books and my work is to go kick over anthills. Sometimes, the anthills are political (you should see the hatemail I get when I bring up the Tea Party, Conservatives, Left-Wing hippy retards, religious zealots, right-to-lifers, and such). Sometimes, it's my own anthills -- I go digging deep into myself, show people this emotional thing, and then move on. And sometimes, it's venting about how frustrating my buddy and his wife are with how glowing they are about their child. They do it for effect.

So, this was me kicking over their anthill. He read it three days ago. He showed his wife. They both cracked up. I was holding onto it for a night I couldn't get anything else out, and as at least one person on IM knows, I was having trouble writing anything last night. So this is what you guys got.

I know this long explanation is a part of what I write and how I write it that you don't get when you read it, at least initially. You (the audience) aren't SUPPOSED to. This is my journal, it's in my head. You read it, you visit my head. It's a strange place. Get comfortable, and if you need to leave, go ahead, no one's guarding the door.

I'm not sorry I wrote this, and I'm not sorry I posted it. I'm not sorry if you took offense. I'm not sorry if you never want to read a thing I write again. It's your right. But with all of that said, I do control the context with which I present things, and in this case, I AM sorry I didn't provide more. And you, my reader, should understand where I am coming from on things like this.

4.17.2011

Geeks, Hackers, Transvestites and Circuitry

I just spent a rather fantastic weekend at Notacon 8 in Cleveland, Ohio. If you aren't familiar with Notacon (and are too lazy to click the link), it's a hacker / maker con. It's a weekend filled with talks, demos and workshops on the geekiest shit you can imagine, presented by the smartest people you will ever meet.

In other words, it's a building full of Neo's.

Anyway, my talks were on The Art of Akira and How NOT to Redesign Fark.com. The first was a more entry-level, non comic book/anime world talk on Akira, animation and my collection and the exhibit itself. The latter was half analysis of modern design on the web and the difference between commercial vs. Community sites, and half confessional by me on what exactly exploded in 2007. It all went really well. There will be video soon, when it's up I'll link it.

I attended talks that ranged from heuristic analysis of viral outbreaks on computers vs. Biological viral outbreak mapping, wiring and soldering circuit boards, building audio chipcore music tracks using glitched Amiga boards, lockpicking "lock pick proof" locks, the history of the ink pen and falconry. I hung out with security and tech ops from companies like Amazon and SecureWorks and spent the better part of the weekend trading old Dot Com war stories with Alex P. from TheDailyWtf.com. And I loved every second of it.

But the thing I loved most was meeting a middle-aged transvestite named Mark. Mark was part of Notacon staff. I'd seen him at other Notacons, but was so busy or engaged I never reall ran into him. But this con, everyone collected every evening into the con suite which was the upstairs lobby of the exhibit halls. And when Mark floated up to a group of us, dolled up in heels, makeup and falsies bigger than my wife's realsies and said hi, I just had to get to know him.

I heard his stories and saw pictures of his wife, who he loves very much. He told me how he gets jumped once a year by Neanderthal guys who have to solve confusion and fear with violence. He doesn't want a gender reassignment and isn't gay. He just really, really likes dressing as a chick.

I respect the shit out of Mark. He faces obstacles you and i really never have to face. And arguably he brings it on himself; after all he could just dress like a dude and solve his main problem.

But it would just introduce an even worse problem. When he dresses like a lady, hes comfortable in his own skin. Every single day when he walks out of the house, he knows who he is and what he wants to be, and EVERYONE else who doesn't get it can go fuck themselves.

Can you say the same? I can't.

4.12.2011

A Peek Into How My Brain Works

The following is a conversation with myself that's actively taking place, right now, in my own head. Let's listen in, shall we?

...But there's apparently a pattern--

Fuck a pattern, who cares? Just write what comes out.

But nothing's coming out, that's my point! I can't relax and just let stuff pour out of me like I have been.

Why not?

I told you why not.

Mike's comment yesterday? 

Yeah, and about a dozen other people. The pattern they see--

I told you already, fuck a pattern! Who gives a shit if they see a fucking pattern!

I give a shit! I don't want a pattern in my writing! I want to write stuff naturally--

It can't be a natural pattern?

...So you admit there's a pattern!

THERE IS NO PATTERN. You're writing what comes out! You're writing naturally! Isn't that what you want?

Well, yeah, that's what I want, but--

SO FUCKING WRITE!

I CAN'T!

*sigh* Fine. Break it down for me. What's the problem.

I've already DONE this for you.

Do it again.

What good will it--

DO. IT. AGAIN.

...Fine. Mike says lately he sees I've been digging into my past, being more introspective, writing more about feelings and whatnot. People have backed this up in the comments on Facebook and on Twitter and here, talking about how lately, they're seeing some softer, deeper side of me.

Are they?

I don't know... Maybe?

Is that a bad thing?

No, I guess not...

So what's the problem?

The problem is, I don't want to start some ridiculous trend where everything I write is perceived to have some deeper meaning beyond what just needs to come off my chest today. And I don't want everyone thinking that, because lately there's been posts that deal more with reflection and emotion and introspection, that if I come out of left field with something that just cracks me up or I find odd or makes me angry, that I'm trying to break out of some pattern.

Like the Wolf Knife thing?

Exactly! People have been emailing me all day saying that it felt like I went there just to bust out of some pattern!

There isn't a pattern, though...

I know that! You know that! But apparently they don't know that...

So what? They read this thing, they get what you give them. Give them what you want to give them.

I want to give them something worth reading!

So fucking do it, what's the holdup?

I can't focus on writing naturally because now I'm too wound up about how it's being perceived.

Who cares about how it's perceived? Just write.

...But there's apparently a pattern--

Fuck a pattern, who cares? Just write what comes out.

But nothing's coming out, that's my point! I can't relax and just let stuff pour out of me like I have been.

Why not?

I told you why not.

Mike's comment yesterday? 

Yeah, and about a dozen other people...

And so on, ALL FUCKING DAY TODAY.

So yeah, this is what you get when that happens. Hopefully tomorrow the needle will get unstuck on the record and move on to the next track.

4.11.2011

I Present To You... The Wolf Knife

So, there's this "present" that I got back in 10th grade. It was from an uncle I didn't even really know, but he wanted to make this grand gesture and give me a "coming of age" present or whatever. So, for Christmas when I was 15, I got a package in the mail which contained the single most incredible item I've ever received in my entire life: The Wolf Knife.


Now, this knife was far too epic to be wielded or kept by only one person. And it was obvious that my uncle I didn't even really know wanted this to mean a tremendous amount to me, so I did the right thing.

I immediately regifted it to my friend Mike, who proceeded to almost knock himself out laughing.

It became a tradition every Christmas for a few years to swap it back and forth. When we moved in together, we would randomly take turns hiding it in each others' rooms in various places. Sometimes, there were entire months where The Wolf Knife would go unfound, only to spring upon the new owner during a visit to a box full of old comics or in a drawer with the church socks no one ever wears and keeps in a separate drawer from their real socks.

When I moved out of his place and bought my own house in 2001, I ceremoniously gifted the knife to him during our going away party, and bid him keep it until such a day he could find a qualified owner. And he swore that he would. And after that day, I never saw the Wolf Knife again.

Fast-forward to today, when I was going through a box of books to ship to people. And there, in its wooden case with a picture of the Three Wolf Moon -- and I kid you not, that's original from the box when I received it in December of 1992 -- I found The Wolf Knife. He hid it there a while ago and has been waiting patiently for me to find it.

And now I share it with you. I hope you enjoy.










4.10.2011

Outside Looking In

Mike came over this afternoon and, before even congratulating me on the Rangers making the Stanley Cup Playoffs yesterday, he asked "So what's going on with you?"

A momentary flash of What The Fuck? went across my face, and I shrugged my shoulders.

"The stuff you're writing lately... It seems like something's up," he said.

Mike is one of the very very very few people who actually witnessed what was going on with me back in 2009, during the Dark TimesTM and can be sensitive to my shifts in mood. And what's funny, at least to me (most definitely not to him), is that he's been watching my moods shift his entire life. It's the 1 and 10 thing. And he's gotten so used to it. He never worries about me when it's just I HATE THIS or I LOVE THAT.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

He brought up the 18-year-old glimpse post from Friday, and a few that dig into some of the more reflective pieces I've been putting up (God... "pieces." Shoot me. It's a fucking journal). "Seems like you're digging kinda deep lately," he said with his finger up his nose.

"You too," I immediately replied. He didn't get it.

Because I'm the one writing this stuff and then hitting "Publish" and then never going back and reading it (unless someone wonderful spots a typo or grammatical error -- and thank you for pointing those out, seriously), I rarely think about the trends of my writing, or how it presents to everyone else. Once it's out of my head, it's gone. And if something more meta lingers, it might reveal itself in individual posts or stories across some time.

I'm oblivious to this. To me, each and every thing I write is it's own thing. I put it down, I push it out, and I don't revisit it for a long, long time unless I must. And I'm hoping very much that I don't sound like a prick when I say this: this is my life here. This is me living. When you read something I write about, it's almost always something that just crossed my mind or happened to me. It's very reactive. So to me, it's half catharsis, half trying-to-make-you-laugh-at-my-stupidity.

So when he asked me if things are okay, I was a bit taken aback. And when he explained how the current string of posts appeared to him, things started to click. Reading back through some of the posts the past few weeks, I can see why he'd be curious. Not that he has to be on watch or anything, but he's my friend. He's lived through almost everything I write about. And for me to bring up Michele, after all these years and having avoided writing about the back history on her, it probably tripped him up a little.

"There's nothing to worry about," I replied. "I'm working on a new book, so I'm going through and looking at the stuff I've written that I'm proud of, and researching some of the stuff that I wanted to write about from my journals."

He nodded. He totally got it. It's really hard to talk about in abstract, but basically, different types of projects put me in different "head spaces." When it's a graphically intensive project or very design-centric, I dive into websites and portfolios and look at what's current versus what I've done in the past, both to get inspiration and to avoid copying or looking trendy. When it's a website, I sit at my dining room table -- a room devoid of any books, computers or anything else, and draw what I see in my head in terms of layout, then list out what the site needs to do and how best to do it.

When I go to write a book, I dig through everything I've ever written, trying to find the stuff I actually like, and analyzing the stuff everyone else seems to like. I try to understand what makes a story entertaining, but also how I can write it so I can feel proud of it. And with this one, the past few weeks, I've been digging into all the old Mentally Incontinent stuff and reading it to find out which stories I think would make for a good collection. Naturally, I pondered over the Total Prosers one and got stuck there for a while.

"So I dug up the journals and read them, and realized that I've written about Michele -- or, around her actually -- a few times, but never told that story."

"Makes sense," he said. "But what about the other stuff?"

I shrugged. "I'm just moody, I guess."

"Ah," he replied. He burped, and then congratulated me on the Rangers making the Playoffs.

4.08.2011

A Momentary Glimpse At My 18 Year Old Self

I was digging through my "archives" today (which is what I call the massive rows of file cabinets that I store all my Akira and other animation cels in, which also houses my old journals, letters I chose to keep from people I no longer know, important papers... All that stuff). And as I am wont to do about once every few years, I dug through a bunch of my old journals.

I have TONS of these things. In fact, I kept a paper journal from age 12 until about 2007, when blogging kind of overtook my need to get things down in a personal journal. And as I was digging through these old spiral bound college ruled tomes, I picked up one from 1995.

That was my Senior year in high school. I was 18 years old. It starts in January, my birthday month, and ends around July. It's the same journal which contains all the crap that Total Posers is based on (to date, the ONLY story I've ever written that I'm actually proud of, even if it's not a fan favorite).

Now, it's not like I was looking around and stumbled upon my journals. "Oh, wow, would you look at that? How did THESE get here..." I know where the damn things live and what's in them. I wrote them. I know they are in the 3rd drawer from the bottom. I know they're in chronological order, and this particular one is right after the 1994 journals. I'm not surprised by the fact that it's there, right where I left it last time. 

But I will say, as I flipped through it and past all the scrawling that Mike and that Romance.net girl, Kayte, (who was the "star" in the OTHER story I am somewhat proud of) did in there, I hit a passage that actually kind of struck me as, at the very least, not as bad as everything else I was writing at age eighteen and wishing I was Henry Rollins. And I want to share it with you. Mostly because I have nothing else I really want to write about. Well, nothing I can put words enough around to make any sense, anyway. I'm in a weird place right now. Maybe that's why I'm digging through my journals; trying to find out things maybe I'm better off forgetting. But that's besides the point. 

This was written March 14th, 1995, and is about a girl (aren't they all?). 

her name was Michele. I met her at the beginning of my Senior year, and was 100% enthralled from the second she refused to say hello. I passed her notes with stupid jokes and cartoons on them. One day, she finally answered one, and it simply said "Why are you doing this?"

I responded "Why'd you wait so long to ask?" She turned and looked at me with these fiery eyes; her fiery eyes. I just smiled. 

We talked every single day after that. She was a puzzle I wanted to solve. She was retaking her Senior year, because her house burned down the year before, when she was supposed to graduate and she had to miss the rest of the year. She alluded to the fact that it might have been arson; I never really knew the whole story. What I did know, however, is that her mother was an alcoholic (my birth father was), her brother was abusive (as was mine), and she had trouble with the concept of sitting in that school all day. 

So we ditched class together. A LOT. I was a "student aide" to the principal my Senior year. For those that don't know what that is, basically I worked in the office for a class period and did whatever the principal needed doing, which basically amounted to telling her jokes and, on at least 20 occasions, driving her car to go pick up Dunkin' Donuts coffee and danish (and occasionally, she'd buy me a blueberry donut; the only edible thing in that place). As such, I had a standing hall pass. I could go anywhere, at any time, for any reason, because our principal Linda Jones trusted me.

I abused the shit out of it, and on much more than one occasion, I abused it with Michele. And she appreciated that. It got us both out of classes and allowed us to go hang out outside, in the wrestling room, and other places people weren't during the day. 

As hard as it is to believe, even though I was a teenage boy with hormones raging at all times, I never thought of her as a girlfriend or even had romantic interest in her. In fact, I dated several other girls (if you can call it dating). But I really just wanted to know her. And the more I knew her, the more I wanted to know. She had become my favorite subject in school. I wanted to figure her out. And every single piece I thought I fit together ended up revealing more of a picture I realized I could never understand. 

I became addicted to this girl. I wanted to spend as much time as I could with her. But between morning workouts for wrestling, school, wrestling practice and my "extra English period" (which you can read all about in the Total Prosers story I linked above), the only real time I got to see her outside of school was after her shift at Subway, which ended at midnight. 

I used to sneak out of the house every single night from December to go see her. I'd borrow my friend Jay's car when he'd let me, and when he wouldn't, I'd walk the five miles to the store, hang out with her, and she'd drive me home. Sometimes (a lot of times), she'd sneak into my house and sleep with me. And by that, I mean literally sleep. She hated being home. She couldn't stand it. So I let her stay at my place at night. 

I even set her up a spot on the side of my bed so when I left for school at five every morning, she could stay and sleep without my parents knowing she was there. I had a waterbed which sat on two rows of shelves, so she kept clothes and other vitals in that side's drawers. I had a habit of never turning off my stereo, which greatly helped during this time. She'd sneak out of the house when my mother left to run errands or meet friends every day.

I did this despite the fact that my parents would have flat murdered me if they ever found out. Which, until today -- right now, in fact -- they never did. Sorry mom. Remember how we never had any milk or cereal? Now you understand.

One night, after weeks of simply coming over and sleeping, she broke down. I held her close and promised her no one would ever hurt her again. I lost my virginity that night. I fell in love. Or, at least what passes for love at age 18 when you've never really given yourself to anyone emotionally before. 

The very next night, everything went back to normal, except that I was completely head over heels gaga over this girl. And she kept coming over, and we kept being "really good friends" and she kept listening to my stories about my past and my life and not passing judgement, which made me even more crazy for her. 

That is, until she didn't. 

She stopped hanging out with me at the beginning of March. She stopped coming to school. No one knew where she was. She pretty much disappeared for a while. The teachers in my school knew we were close, and tried to get me to get her to show up. The problem is, I couldn't reach her. I would go over to her house, and she wouldn't answer the door. She never answered the phone. I showed up at her work one day (something I was really scared to do), and she wouldn't even look me in the eye. So I left.

It turns out, she moved in with a guy who worked at the Blockbuster Video across the street from the Subway she worked at. She didn't know how to tell me. Things had gotten too horrible at home. She couldn't handle the stress of trying to work full time and go to school. She didn't officially drop out, she just... Dropped out. And all of this came from the guy she moved in with, who was actually very kind to explain it all to me. I knew that they talked. I never thought twice about it. 

"She didn't want to hurt you, I think," he told me. 

So, the "not really awful for being an overemotional teenage boy wrought with emotion and not enough intelligence to actually express any of it" thing (very slightly cleaned up because EUGHHHH I can't just let some of these grammar things continue to exist):

March 14, 1995, about 2 AM:

I'm sitting in my car outside your house. It's two in the morning and I'm trying to think you out of bed. You always meet me. But not tonight. Not this time. And it's not the first time, and I don't know why, and yet here I am. 

I keep feeling the worst feeling in the world... Every time I look at the clock and realize it's ten minutes later, and you're not coming out. Not tonight. Not this time.

You say you know me, but all you see in me is yourself. And I want to believe I'm you, so badly. You're everything I wish I could be. Strong, intelligent, funny and aware. You don't want to know anyone and you couldn't care less about anything. 

I want to know the world. Worse; I want the world to know me. I care about everything. I want more than anything to be understood. And here you are in my life, at least pretending to understand me. I don't mind. It's a gesture most aren't willing to make; and the me you think you understand is, at least, someone I wish I was.

And that's why it hurts so much when you shut down, because I'm not strong enough to be you. I shut down too. I can't pull you up. I can't help you. You help me so much (you try at least, and that matters). You don't even realize when you're doing it. By being so strong, you give me that strength. By talking to me about what you think I need to hear, you show me you want to see me. 

I'm not naive enough anymore to believe you when you tell me it's all going to be okay. Every night it gets worse. I don't know what's happening to you or why. You won't tell me. You always made me do all the talking. You always told me how to fix myself. And now I realize, you were really telling me you want to be fixed. And I want so badly to help you. Now. Tonight. 

But you're not here. Not tonight. Not this time. 

I'll go back home; I'll sneak into my window and sleep for two hours and get up for school. Maybe today  you'll show up. I doubt it. 

I want to know you're alright. I want to know you'll still be there to make me alright. I want to go up to your window and tap and roust you out of bed and know what's going on. 

But I'm not that brave. Not tonight. Not this time. 


Anyway, this whole story ends with me trying to kiss a student teacher. If you clicked the link above, you'd know that. This was in the same year, I had my crotch thrown up on during a botched first date, and I got the crap kicked out of me by a girl who attempted suicide by Advil. Among a LOT of other things.

I'm not sure why I told you all about Michele, or why I shared this passage. The truth is, I'm not sure why I do most things. I'm kind of an idiot. You know this about me. And yet, you keep coming back. So thanks for that. Thanks for trying to understand me. It means a lot.

4.07.2011

Why I Chose To Leave Penguin Books

SO... How was your weekend last weekend? Hear any strange news? Especially on April 1? Like, maybe, your favorite author in the whole wide world got a 6 book, $250,000 deal from Random House?

Well by now, you know it's not true, Neil Gaiman is worth WAY more than that. And it's also not true that I was offered that. It was an April Fools gag, borne of a tweet/post two days prior stating that I had exited my contract with Penguin/Gotham.

A lot of people commended me for the early setup and perfect execution. But the truth is, it was no set up. I've been working for over a year to exit my contract with them, and finally it came through. I didn't even think about the proximity to April 1 when I posted the news. But it definitely made for a good lead-in, huh?

So, the big question: Why? Why would I leave my publisher? Well, let me clear up some of the easy assumptions:

Did Penguin fire me? -- Nope, I left. It was my choice.
Did I screw up and get dropped? -- Nope. They very much wanted my next book.
Was sales performance down? -- No, I've sold very solidly and consistently since the book was released.
...Okay then, it was your choice, your sales were good, you didn't screw up and they didn't fire you. So then, are you nuts? --No.

So why leave? Well, the answer is actually really simple, but the explanation is quite long. The short version: In 2011, it makes NO sense for small or mid-tier writers to court or stay with a publisher. It just doesn't.

The truth is, there's a big push at every major publisher to court digital. Penguin wanted my books to be flagship / early push digital books, with no paper copies. For this, they were going to pay me $0.00 in advances and 30% royalties. And to make their means, they want to charge $12.99 a copy. For a digital book.

Let's think about this a second. $12.99 for a product they don't have to print or ship anywhere, whose median price point across the marketplace is $6.00 or less. And they are going to pay me 30% of the royalty, which would be $3.90.

Add to this that Penguin, Random House, and every other publisher has essentially no traffic to their dedicated ebook stores, with most sales taking place across Amazon and iBooks.

I can put the book out myself for zero advance and 100% royalties. I can charge $3.90 for the book itself. I can sell MANY more copies than I would have at $12.99, and I don't owe anyone anything.

My first book sold a little over 15,000 copies, self-published. I made roughly $7.00 on each copy sold, shipped, at $14.95 cover price.

My second sold even more, and yet at 7.5% royalty, I still haven't covered my $27,500 advance. And I have probably sold fewer than 100 digital copies in the Kindle store, due to the insane price point.

When you add to this that I wanted a book out the very next year, in November 2010, and they still hadn't even decided on a pitch, and even if they had it'd take 12-18 months to get one out the door, and when they did get it out the door they would push like hell to sell it at $12.95 digitally... Lame.

More than that, they've pushed back against every idea I've attempted to put forward, with digest sales (a chapter a month at $0.99), special digital editions, signature print editions for preorders only...

It's been a chore. And it's actually not the fault of my editor -- he believes in me and has pushed for these ideas. It's the industry. It's broken, irreparably I might add. It's built for the long process and long sale, with sales reps courting brick and mortar stores, and position on shelves to a beholden audience determining popularity of a product.

Now, I can send you a link to something I like and you can have it immediately. No store, no sales rep, no annoying 30% off if you use your annoying membership card. No waiting for royalties. No breaking advances up into multiple checks. I can just stick it out there, point you to it, and boom -- you have my book. Yay.

And if you want a print copy, I can do that too, with very little effort. When I produce my next book, there'll be print copies available, as well as digital. And it's all very easy for me to set up -- and it won't take 18 months to produce.

All I need to know, and this is serious now, is what you want to read next. A "Best of the Worst" Mentally Incontinent colleciton, with the 2nd place voted stories? A "Romance" series, all about my silly whimsical romance stories? All new material? If it's all new, do you want a fiction book? A collection of essays? More Mentally Incontinent?

Hell, let's make it two books for 2011. A collection of Mentally Incontinent or Journal stuff (along with all new material included), and a departure for me, a fiction book. Sci-fi, fantasy, mystery... That's YOUR choice.

You tell me, and I'll make it so. April 30 is the deadline for ideas, concepts and suggestions. PLEASE post them in my journal's comment section or in the comments of Facebook (if you're reading this in aggregate as a post there).

I need suggestions for both the collection of stories book and the fiction book.

For the collection, there will be a book available for pre-order IMMEDIATELY and it will begin shipping May 31, with Kindle / iBook / ePub available the same day. There will be a hardcover edition of the new book for preorder as well, same as my first self-published book, limited only to those who preorder -- and no more.

For the fiction book, there will be a book available for pre-order September 1, and it will begin shipping October 1, with Kindle / iBook / ePub available the same day. There will be a hardcover edition of the new book for preorder as well, same as my first self-published book, limited only to those who preorder -- and no more.

I hope you all agree, this is great news. I'm free to do the thing I always liked doing -- putting things out my way. And I hope you'll come along for the ride.

4.01.2011

The Most Creeped Out I've Been In A Long, Long Time

As some of you have noted after not seeing me in more than a year, I actually have hair now. For years, the only style my hair had was a #2 guard on a Wahl clipper set. But I decided at some point a year or two ago that it was time to grow out of that and keep a bit of hair up there.

And as the time has gone by, I've gotten a little more daring. I've gone from crew cut to somewhat of a crew cut to actually keeping an inch of hair on the top of my head.

But with recent events, such as really tight deadlines on last minute projects, a ton of back-to-back travel, getting insanely sick, then more really tight deadlines on more last minute projects, I've just not had time to get to the barber. I find it a little ironic that I, the guy who owns and curates the Art of Akira Exhibit, now had Tetsuo-hair.

Now throughout the past year and a half or so, I've been going to the local SportsClips, which is essentially a butched up salon where men can feel manly about getting shampooed, massaged and styled. There's SportsCenter on every TV and the place is decked out in lockers and chain link fencing. But I make no bones about it. Its a salon. I have a stylist. Her name is Dana.

I am a secure man. I don't mind admitting these things.

Dana is the only person who has found a way to manage my exceptionally weird parts. I actually have two of them -- one of them is a pronounced, run-of-the-mill part, and the other one sits somewhat on the side of my head, the result of a childhood accident where my head was literally ripped open by a nail that was half sticking out of a wall. Not that I wanted to go ram my head into this nail; but my brother -- who was 8 years older than me, much larger, and really pissed I was in his room -- tossed me down the stairs quite literally, and on the descent, I just happened to make contact with it.

The result -- yet another reason I hate and never talk about him, and a weird part in my hair which causes it to grow in a totally different direction, much like a Rhodesian Ridgeback dog. And Dana has figured out how to tame it.

I like Dana. She's good people. She knows me, and we get along well. With other customers, all the stylists -- Dana included -- pretty much have a script, mostly focused on sports. But we talk about each other's spouses and what they've been up to, and how much we hate Nicki Minaj, and how lame the newest movie of whatever sort is. And this whole week, Dana's been off. Except for yesterday. And I refuse to try another stylist. It had to be Dana.

So, I walk into SportClips and Dana greets me with a smile. She beckons me back to her chair, and sitting in it is this 12-ish year old girl. In her lap was her 14-ish year old sister. Both were blonde, really really skinny, and somewhat enamored by the person who had just walked in (me).

Even as they got out of the chair, they kept their eyes on me. I smiled and said "I'm sorry to make you move." They didn't say a word. Their father, who was getting a haircut in the chair next to mine, smiled and said "Sorry."

"Not at all!" I said, attempting to be nice.

The girls just stared at me. They both wore ELCA shirts -- Eagles Landing Christian Academy, the local Tea Party breeding ground around these parts. They struck me as cheerleader types. And they were freaking me out a little.

"You work out?" the younger looking of the two asked. Her voice was odd. It was half question, half accusation.

"Yeah," I said with a chuckle, "I work out. I gotta do something to keep from being even fatter than I am now!"

Dana laughed, slapped my shoulder and said "Stop it, you're fine!" The other stylist laughed and said "Come on now!" The father getting his haircut chuckled.

The children? Nothing. They just stared.

So Dana set about the process of getting the bib on me and talking about seeing Andrea on the Animal Planet the other day, rescuing cats on the Animal Horders show.

"Yeah, she's been on a lot lately," I said. "I'm super proud!"

Dana began talking about her dog, which was new the last time I saw her, when we were interrupted by the younger of the two children.

"You're married?" she asked. Same tone; half question, half accusation.

"Yep," I said with a smile. "I'm a lucky guy."

"His wife is an animal rescuer!" Dana chimed in.

Nothing. Just stares.

Dana began talking again, and I was conversing with her, when the younger girl said apropos of nothing, "I work out too."

Conversation stopped. I couldn't look at the girl directly, but I looked up in the mirror and saw her staring at me. "I do CrossFit with my dad."

At this point, I was beginning to be a little freaked out, mostly due to the severe fracturing of just about every social moray put in place between strangers for precisely this reason. But I was being nice, because she was just a kid.

"I've done CrossFit before," I said. "I like it. I'll start doing it again in a few months."

"Why don't you do it now?" she asked.

"I'm working on another phase of my workout," I replied.

The dad just sat there. Nothing out of him, nor out of the older of the two girls.

Somewhere behind me, Dana said "...Okayyyyy..." And began cutting my hair again.

The two Children of the Corn stood in relative silence while the rest of the haircut took place. When it was time to walk back to the rinse sink to get my hair washed, they were there. The father was in the far left chair, getting his hair washed. The younger girl was in the middle chair. Dana asked the older of the two girls, who was in Dana's regular chair on the far right, to "Get up, sweetie, I need to use that."

She did, and I sat down. I gave her a somewhat nervous, freaked out smile as I did. And when I did -- having said nothing at all this entire time -- the older looking of the two girls said "I don't have a boyfriend now, but when I do, I want him to be like you."

I was officially creeped the fuck out.

Finally the father spoke up. "Let the man be," he said, sounding a lot like Michael Landon in Little House on the Prairie.

I sat there with a hot towel on my face, stunned and somewhat ready to run out the door. Dana tried to make small talk, but I could tell she was freaked out too. The father and his two girls left, saying nothing else.

As soon as they walked out the door, Dana said "What the FUCK was that?"

"I don't even want to know," I replied.

Nothing more was said after that.