Thursday, August 1, 2013

Fuck This Guy: WI Governor Scott Walker

Hello and welcome to “Fuck This Guy” a new series that we at Ink & Bourbon are please to bring you. This will update weekly, unless we really feel the need to post more often, which seems likely.

For our inaugural entry, I have selected Tea Party darling and possible GOP Presidential candidate, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker.

Walker was elected in 2010 as part of the Tea Party wave. He won on promises to focus on jobs and fighting Big Government.

Now, fair enough. I totally understand why people would be in favor of smaller, less intrusive government that focused on improving their economic well being.

Let’s see how he’s doing:

On smaller, less intrusive government:

Well, he did return 36 million in federal grants to set up health care exchanges, so I...guess that’s getting government out of our business.

Oh, but then he signed a law to force women seeking abortions (which are legal, by the way) to submit to a trans-vaginal ultrasound.

So, we keep federal money out of your business, but we can shove a probe up your business. That’s less intrusive.

Oh, yeah, and all those Tea Party tin foil hat aficionados who worry about government Jackbooted Thugs but love them some Walker:

Classy. Arresting a Marine Corps vet and trampling his flag, violating rights to free speech and assembly, and trying to seize a camera from a bystander. If this happened in Washington at a Tea Party rally, every Republican in America would be howling for Obama’s impeachment. But this is ok.

Alright, so maybe he has to unleash the stormtroopers to counter those Union thug sympathizers like teachers and firefighters, and we can’t let women decide what gets shoved up their ladyparts, that would be madness. But he’s been good for the economy, right?


But the remaining jobs are better, right?

What? Wages falling at twice the national average?

Ok, ok, that must be left over from the days where Union thug artificially inflated wages. Now that the huge burden of living wages and health and safety regulation have been lifted, businesses must be flocking to the state, and the economic boom will lift all boats. Yea, Reaganomics!

Oh, what the fuck? I mean what the fucking fuck?

So, small government means no cash for health care, but they can still arrest you for protesting and desecrate the flag. It’s ok to violate the First Amendment so long as you stay away from the Second, and nonconsentual twat-wanding is not intrusive government overreach, but safeguarding our most vulnerable citizens.

So, fuck this guy. Fuck everybody who voted for him

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Just Be There For Each Other

Boston is my city. I’ve lived all my life within an easy half hour drive to the Hub. Except at rush hour, when it’s an easy two or three hour drive.  I have close family living in the city proper. All my life, going “into town” meant Boston. I still say “hahbah” for “harbor.”

I’ve spent the last thirteen years working on the ambulance in Boston’s northern suburbs. EMS being what it is, I have friends and co-workers and former partners working at every service and hospital inside of Route 128.

The events of April 15th hit a lot of people close to me very hard –excuse me –hahd, and I just want to say a few things.

As frustrating as it is, there’s a lot we can’t do right now, a lot we shouldn’t do right now, and only one thing we should.

We can’t change what happened. We can’t erase the fact that on a beautiful day, when the city was enjoying the annual celebration that is the marathon, bombs tore through the crowd, killing and maiming people who wanted nothing more than to share in the camaraderie of the event. There is no cause, no goal that can excuse that.

Most of us can’t do much right now to prepare for this kind of thing, or prevent the next time or punish those who carried this out. There are people working on it, and when they know more, we will be better able to act. As a paramedic, I’m sure our procedures will be updated, and when they are, I’ll make adjustments.

What we should not do is speculate. Let’s not scapegoat foreign terrorists or the militia movements or anyone else just yet. Better to be uncertain now and right tomorrow than certain and wrong today.

The one thing we can do, must do, is support and respect one another in our time of shared loss.  Don’t post graphic photos. Don’t belittle anybody’s urges to pray or hope or provide comfort, even if you disagree with their beliefs. Don’t call for revenge. In time, we can demand justice. Don’t utter the words “false flag” or “conspiracy”within striking distance of me.

Just be kind. Be a friend. Hug your kids and your family, buy your coworker a cup of coffee, let those close to you know that you care, because there may not be another chance.

And, Boston, remember: Don’t be a peckahhead.  Just be wicked pissah to each othah.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Dancing on Graves for Fun and Profit

Do not speak ill of the dead, we’re told.

Why not?

The dead are beyond the reach of my slings and arrows. More dangerous, to my mind is the whitewashing of misdeeds done by the recently deceased.

I will agree that Westboro Baptist style celebration at the death of young men and women taken too soon is offensive to the grieving family. It is insensitive and hateful.

But if a person dies in the fullness of time, and that person’s acts were harmful to many, I don’t see why a little fist pump is so bad a thing. If an old, miserable dick dies, I think it’s fine to be happy that the world is a bit less dickish.

Margaret Thatcher began her reign of evil by abolishing free milk for schoolchildren aged seven to eleven. Turning back Vietnamese refugees, because of “concerns” about the number of Asian immigrants, demolishing labor unions, privatizing services, making the first cuts to the NHS, and the utter tone deaf awfulness of her response to the crisis in Northern Ireland all show a callus disregard of basic human dignity and needs of anyone not wealthy and English.

I won’t shed a tear at the end of a life, when countless thousands of more innocent lives were destroyed or made harder by policies she championed.       

To show my UK friends that it’s not a matter of national identity, I assure everyone I’m shining my tap shoes for dancing on the graves of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney as well.

So I will happily accept criticism of my comments and attitude, while echoing the sentiments of Labor MP George Galloway who tweeted “Tramp the dirt down.”       

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Holes in the Safety Net

I feel the need to bitch about the state of Massachusetts Mental Health system.

It works as though the Powers That Be sat down and said, "How much money can we spend and not actually solve any problems?" and went from there.

A few years back, they closed all the state hospitals. This basically meant finding all the mental patients to be cured and shoving them back out on the street. It was a cost cutting measure.

OK, fine. If we feel that "this ain't no hippy commune, you're on your own," that can work. Not exactly compassionate, but a valid philosophy.

Here's the rub. We still pay for it, we just don't get results anymore.

As an example, we got a call to respond to the phonebooth outside McDonalds for the man who was having suicidal thoughts. Fair enough. We headed out, finishing our coffee en route, because I'm not dumping out my $1.97 worth of caffeinated happiness for some guy who can't handle life's slings and arrows, and we find this gentleman at said payphone.

He has evidence of bilateral Samsonite Sign (suitcase in each hand), and wants to go to a Holy Family hospital, which is farther than the town hospital we normally use.

Me: Why the Hole?

Him: I was just there *hands me envelope of discharge instructions*

Me: *scanning papers* OK, you were released from the mental health floor yesterday. Have you been taking these meds?

Him: No.

Me: Ok. Have you called this doctor for follow up?

Him: No.

Me: O....K... So, what's going on today.

Him: *recites list of symptoms exactly identical to those outlined on his discharge instructions*

Me: So, pretty much the same thing that was going on before you were hospitalized.

Him: Yes.

Me: And this is their recommended solution, and you aren't doing it.

Him: *Long, "life is complicated" soliloquy. No ride to the pharmacy, can't make his doctor appointments, etc.*

Me: Uh-huh. So what do you want to go back for, if you're not going to follow the instructions?

Him: Oh, I was fine when I was there. I was at McLean's (another mental hospital) twice this month, then I was at Holy Family, and I'm fine when I'm there.

Me: *Reads more of his paperwork, finds that he was at McLean's from the 12th to the 16th, back from the18th to the 23rd, out for four whole days in the wicked world, then at the Hole from the 27 to the 29*

So, did McLean's talk to you about some follow up or a discharge plan?

Him: Yes, but *life is complicated soliloquy resumes*

Me: *aware that partner wants to get lunch soon* OK, hop in.

Clearly this guy cannot take care of himself out in the real world. Medicaid will pay for a 4 day stay at a short term psych ward, then he'll be given THE SAME FUCKING instructions, and sent out, so he can call me long about the 5th of the month to take him back.

Now, the guy has issues. Just looking at him and talking to him, he's not one of the guys who games the system and has a breakdown two days before the rent is due so he can live for free for a few days. He has real, honest to God issues. He does ok in an institution where they monitor him and make sure he gets his meds. So well, that they boot him out in four days with a list of follow up stuff.

But, he can't hack, and needs to go back.

Now, when we had this guy in a state hospital, it cost the taxpayers money. But now, in three weeks, it's cost them four ambulance rides, four ER visits, and sixteen days of stay at mental hospitals, plus the benefits he gets while on the outside for food and housing. And, guess what, It doesn't work. He's still just as nuts as he was last month.

Now, to put him in a facility long term, and make sure he can handle outpatient treatment before his release would be an expensive solution. Bopping him on the head and dropping him in the river would be a cheap solution. What we are doing is an expensive lack of solution.

God, I hate the way the government saves me money.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

When the Fic Hits the Fan

Time to make me some enemies.

I don't see the point of fan fiction.

Like, at all.

It's one thing to be influenced by another author. We all are. I can often tell a writer's favorite author just by reading his work. Brust was a Zelazny fan. S M Stirling has read a lot of George MacDonald Fraser. The influence is there. People say my fiction reads like a cross between a consumer safety warning, Miranda rights and the back of a cereal box, and I say "Well, that's what I'm exposed to."

Taking somebody else's setting and characters and writing stuff with them seems kinda....creepy. It's like when I was a kid playing with Star Wars action figures. Except if I did it as an adult. And posted it to a website. For writers to critique. And got pissy when people called me on it.

And I was really proud of the scenario where Luke and Han, with the help of the GI Joe team, beat Darth, two storm troopers and a Care Bear to free Leia and Catwoman.

Ok, I used to freely mix my action figures. We'll just call that "non canonical fan fic"

First up, form a legal standpoint, you'll never have a leg to stand on. You'll never be able to sell it, or even post it legitimately, because it's somebody else's copyrighted material. Even if it's brilliant, it will never be wholly yours. The clear, legal exception is parody. My feature Brokeback Mount Doom, where Sam and Frodo examine the master and servant relationship in lurid detail, was pure art.

Second, it looks juvenile. Like my Star Wars example. When we're kids, we imitate. I played Raiders of the Lost Arc and Star Wars and Robin Hood as a kid. I probably did what would be called Fan Fiction today in creative writing in fourth grade. That was largely because I was eight. I had no adult frame of reference from which to write except those I stole from books and movies. If I'd gone with the "write what you know" theory, my stories would have been about building tree forts, drinking chocolate milk and playing Star Wars, Raiders and Robin Hood.

One of the best ways to be able to write well, is to have experiences on which to draw. You can't write a love story unless you've been in love, or even a love scene generally unless you told some girl you were in love. Or you just had a nice car, but that's not the point. When you are young and inexperienced, sure, you steal the love story from Beauty and the Beast or Princess Bride, because that's what you think a love story is.

It's not until later that you learn about the nerves, how hard it is to look nonchalant buying condoms, how cramped a backseat really is, and the whole awkward learning curve from the first kiss to whether to call the next day. Or the actual glow inside when you look at a woman you've been married to for years and still feel that rush.

Third, it's cheating. A lot of effort goes into creating a good solid world and the characters who inhabit it, and it's just lazy to let some other writer do the heavy lifting and then come in and use the stuff.

Now, there's an appeal to using an interesting, unique established setting and great, well developed characters, but there's an appeal to using marked cards, corking your bat, using steroids or getting some guy in a bar to fall for the shoelace trick.

But it's still cheating.

Do yourself a favor. Do the grunt work. Make up your own stuff.

You'll thank me later.

Stole that one from my dad.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Just Talk to People

I recently did an author talk at my local library. It went very well, sold a handful of books, made some new contacts. It just flowed nicely, people had enough questions to keep the momentum up any time I ran down, so it was a nice, informal chat.

This brings me to my main observation with personal marketing. Most people who deal with books are really receptive to new authors.

Let’s face it, nobody goes into running a bookstore or a library for the riches and free perqs and legions of hot groupies. They do it out of a love for books and reading. They want to meet authors and sell books.

The counterpoint to this is that most small bookstores are run by one person, and a very few emp0loyees, so they tend to be busy and easily distracted. This means that while they are happy to talk to you, they are also likely to take ages to return phone calls, to forget who you are when you call them again. Don’t be discouraged. Be polite and understanding and very gently persistent.

Some writer friends of mine asked me for more specifics on how I talk to bookstores, libraries and so on, so I’ll elaborate.

First of all, have some books on hand before you talk to anybody. If the owner of a bookstore is intrigued by what you have to say and wants to stock three copies of your book, be ready to drive them over that afternoon. This kind of spur of the moment deals happens often enough, and you simply don’t want to have to tell a paying customer that you can have copies in a week, or that he needs to order them from the publisher/distributor/wait for you to run off some copies at Kinko’s. I cannot stress enough, have three to five copies in your hands when you talk to a potential seller.

Then, it’s just a matter of introducing yourself.  Be as light and friendly as you can, tell them you are a newly published author, and give them a reason to care. You’re a local author, or your books deals with their specialty, or you went to school or work nearby.

And be accommodating. If they want some books, offer to get them over there today. Deliver on promises.

Neil Gaiman once said that to be successful, you need to be two of three things: talented, pleasant and reliable. All three is great, but you can get by if you have two. Just talent won’t save you if you are an unreliable ass, and so on.  So no matter how good your book is, if you don’t deliver it when you say you will and sound like an arrogant prick, nobody will be interested.

So, my basic pitch is something like:

Hi, I’m a newly published author, (note connection. Local author, alum, slept with some of the same people, was in jail with your brother) and I was wondering if you’d be willing to take a few copies of my new book on consignment. (They love this. Means it costs them nothing if it doesn’t sell, so you get in the store, get the eyeballs, and if you do make sales they’ll want more.) It’s a new sci-fi romance historical thriller about time traveling vampire lesbians at a school for mutant wizards (feel free to strike through what doesn’t apply) and it’s fucking brilliant. It’s like “Dresden Files” meets “Mother, Juggs and Speed.” (Or suitable comparison. “Twilight” meets “A Shadow Over Innsmouth” hasn’t been done yet.)

Standard bookstores want to make 40% of cover price, so make sure you can price accordingly. Once you get there and meet the owner, have a contract of sorts stating what the terms of the consignment are, and what you can be expected to do if they don’t sell. Most bookstores will have one of these ready to go, and would rather you stick to their rules,  but have one in your pocket in case they don’t have a standard policy. Always make sure you know what you’re agreeing to.

After you have books in a shop, link that info. Blog it, facebook it, put a link to the store on your website and tell your publisher or agent or whomever to pass the word. If customers show up and mention that you steered the to the store, the owner will be thrilled he took your stuff. Especially if they drop money on other stuff while they’re there.

If you do sell copies and they ask for more, get them out there as quick as you can, and at that point, suggest maybe doing a signing, reading or whatever. If you’ve moved some books and made the store a few bucks, they’ll be more likely to agree to this, and if you’ve proven reliable, they’ll feel better about scheduling an event with some assurance you’ll turn up.

Once you have a contact, you have a place for any new stuff you do publish. But do not call every week to see if your stuff has sold. I keep a log of where I have copies and go through it monthly, and check up. That’s not excessive and it shows you’re engaged, but not stalking them.

So, in a nutshell, just talk to people. Small places are more likely to be receptive, since the guy who makes the decisions is the guy in the store, not a district manager a time zone away which may be the case for a big chain store. They also want to appeal to local tastes and that angle is an easier sell.

And the worst they can do is say no.

It’s not like we’ve never been said “no” to.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Author talk and book signing

Author talk resounding success. Easily made as much as I would have sleeping on the ambulance for that same hour and a half.