Saturday, September 25, 2010

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 09/17/2010

This past week kind of sucked for the most part with a fair amount of stupidity and nonsense that I just did not even want to deal with, but then again a few enjoyable things happened to take the edge off.  Overall, I am glad the week is over.

Friday Slice of Heaven

Comics bought this week - Last week I never made it down to the comic store, which should qualify this entry for the Slice Into the Woods section, but thankfully I made it down last night and was able to pick up the following: 5 Days to Die # 3, 5 Days to Die # 4, Brightest Day #10, Secret Avengers # 5Berserk #34 and I picked up The Goon Volume 4: Virtue and the Grim Consequences Thereof.  Another thing that should go into the Slice Into the Woods section is that I was dumb as dirt and did not add Morning Glories to my pull list and the second issue is long gone.  Same with Birds of Prey # 5, which might still be at the store, but I will need to have a look.  

Runaways Volume 1 HC - Written by Brian K. Vaughan with art by Adrian Alphona and published by Marvel Comics.  Okay, I have not actually read this out of print book that collects the first 18 issues of this highly-rated series, but I did at one point read the first six issues, which were great.  I happened to find this one sitting around at Borders and I had to pick it up.  I cannot wait to reread it and catch up.  Now to find the other two oop volumes.

Runaways, Vol. 1

Fallen Angel Omnibus Volume 0 - Written by Peter David with art by David Lopez and published by IDW.  I am over the halfway point of this thick, yet reduced size book that contains the first 20 issues originally published only in comic book form from DC comics, before the series moved to IDW.  The story centers around the city of Bette Noir, a city wrought with corruption, evil and supernatural forces which run free through the city each night.  Only "Lee," the Fallen Angel, stands in the path of evil, but 
seeking her aid can be a mixed blessing that can back fire horribly on the requestor if their intentions are not completely pure.  Some of Lee's actions are not completely becoming of an angel and at times she more resembles a demonic force as opposed to a guardian, especially when she brutally tortures Black Mariah, a force of evil in Bette Noir.  A complex book with a an evolving plot that is just beginning to play out.  Thus far very recommended and I need to track down the now out of print Fallen Angel Omnibus Volume 1.

Fallen Angel Omnibus Volume 0

Phoenix live at the Santa Barbara County Bowl on Sunday, September 19, 2010 - I did not want to go to this goddamn concert.  I forgot that we had bought tickets months prior and this was just another obligation in a long string of obligations keeping me from revising the novel.  I am so very glad that I went.  After a horrendous string of events involving my attempts to "fix" things around the house, which had me wanting to retreat to my bed at 4:00pm and count the day as over, I went to the concert.  The show was fantastic, the band was amazing and I have been listening to their album Wolfgang Amadeus non-stop.  I stood in the general admission area with people shorter than me standing in front, I was on my second Firestone beer and jumping up and down to the songs that I had heard before, but did not necessarily know beyond that.  My wife even turned to to tell me that it was nice to see me back to my old self...which says something about my state of my mind, and is somewhat distressing.  Great, fabulous, fun show that I would gladly pay money to see again.  This leads into the opening band...

Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Neon Indian live at the Santa Barbara County Bowl on Sunday, September 19, 2010 - While we hiked up the hill to the stage, I heard this band begin to play and didn't really give it much thought as my hearing sucks (too many concerts in the past) and it wasn't until I had bought my beer and was buying a shirt that I began to notice Neon Indian playing.  We hurried into the general admission area and I now greatly regret missing the first three songs.  Neon Indian was fucking outstanding.  All eight of us were bobbing up and down and grooving to the music and after the first song, I leaned over to Amy and said that as soon as the set was over that we needed to rush the merchandising booth to pick up the CD; she wanted to buy a T-Shirt.  Supposedly, the mastermind of this band is a barely-old-enough-to-drink guy, who is fully deserving of the critical attention that I am sure is bound to be coming his way.  Also, worth mentioning is that the crazy long-haired guitar player had a guitar with some sort of LCD built into the body itself that was flashing and displaying psychedelic images on it; I have never seen anything like it.  Sample their album, then just buy it (for sale Tuesday, download today) and keep an eye out for when they play somewhere nearby in the future.  The album to buy is Neon Indian Mind Ctrl: Psychic Chasms Possessed, I like the song "Should Have Taken Acid With You."  Great!

Mind Ctrl: Psychic Chasms Possessed (Dig)

Slice Into the Woods

All of Sunday, Pre-Concert, "Fixing" Things Around the House - If I can avoid paying money for someone else to fix relatively minor things around the house, I will do it.  Over the years I have figured out how to perform various minor tasks around the home such as hanging shelves, replacing shower heads, and spackling among a host of other things, but Sunday...fucking Sunday was not to be my day.  I started off with installing the new toilet paper dispenser, since the one that we did not really like anyways fell apart.  I intended to move it to left wall, which should have been a relatively simple task, but eight holes in the wall later, I had to move it back to the wall where it was originally located.  I persevered after accidentally installing the the plate from the old dispenser, but I got it done...finally.  
After that I decided to "fix" the toilet that would not stop running by cleaning up one of the parts.  Here come the disasters.  
We have an old Swedish pull-top Ifo Cascade toilet with nearly impossible to find parts, and in removing the lid, the pull-top knob, slipped from my hands bounced and dropped in-between the toilet and the floor boards...gone forever.  Shit.  Then, the plunger and the plastic bucket inside the bowl, after about 25 years of being submerged in water disintegrated in my hands.  No more using the toilet.  Son of a bitch.
I then went to clean the hair clogging the drain of the bathroom sink, and succeeded in freeing up the water flow, but also succeeded in making the plug not work anymore.  
After three failures in a row and over the span of a couple of hours, I was considering throwing myself from the secondary floor, but decided against it, since I would probably land on a water heater or some other plumbing related device and fuck up the bathroom even more than I already had.  Thankfully, the plumber who showed up on Monday and Friday confirmed that I had not done anything to the toilet and that everything had rotted away naturally, and the sink issue was something that he fixed in 10 seconds for free.  I still felt bad though.  Oh well, after about $280.00 later, the toilet is fixed and with all new guts inside.  Thank you Jerry the Plumber in Goleta!

The Suicide of Billy Lucas - 15-Year-Old Indiana High School Student - I just heard about this after listening to Dan Savage's Savage Love Podcast this week and I am saddened that this teen decided that the only way to escape what looked to be even more years of torment was to take his life.  Having been the victim of emotional and occasional physical bullying for the entirety of eighth grade because of my weight and refusal to try drugs, I am certain that I got off easy in comparison to what this poor kid had to endure.  In remembering that one horrendous year of my life, I would venture to guess that Billy was tormented by a handful of kids, but primarily was harassed by one or two individuals in particular.  If the school admins had been made aware of what was occurring, then they are partly to blame, but with vast overcrowding at most schools it can be very difficult for anyone in a position of authority to notice or catch anyone in the act of bullying.  The real blame falls on the children engaged in the harassment, and the main offenders need to pay and be made examples of to show that this type of behavior is not only wrong, but that their harmful actions will not go unpunished.  Criminalizing bullying will not bring this boy back, but it might help other children needlessly suffering at the hands of poorly-raised abusers.
"Kids will be kids" is complete bullshit, and responsibility for one's actions has to begin somewhere.  Those being bullied need to realize that this moment in time is temporary and that options are available to them for seeking support and possibly relief.  This information needs to be READILY available at schools for ALL forms of bullying.  Furthermore, additional resources for gay teens need to be made available as their form of abuse goes beyond what someone like me had to suffer through...I changed the overweight problem, this is about who they are.  Fuck the assholes who cry this is a lifestyle choice and indoctrinating our youth into homosexuality, it is simply preventing people from ending their life prematurely in response to an unending criminal harassment.  See Dan Savage's You Tube Project "It Gets Better."  I'm sorry this happened.  


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Still Thinking About Up in the Air...part 7.99

Okay, I need to wrap up the final Still Thinking About Up In the Air, at least until such a time that I can talk about other jobs, but here it goes.  I already established that I was actually happy at this job, I greatly enjoyed the people who I worked with and I initially, saw the possibility for the company to grow and be successful, plus I felt valued as an employee.  I was proud to be there and I had faith in the company.

As I mentioned last time, we were moving apparel from good factories to new (i.e. cheaper) factories that were not yet established as strong apparel builders.  This was the time that we also began to hemorrhage executives and directors, unfortunately, the owner was not one of the ones to leave.  The director of my department left shortly after the screaming session he received and one of the managers took his place, and he is a great guy.  We had so many Chief Operations Officers that I can barely remember them, except for one who was tough as nails and really wanted to turn things around...too bad he openly opposed many of the things that the owner said and did...later, dude, you're fired.  Top sales directors began to flee to our competitors in droves.  The truth was that these people were privy to information that us grunts did not have, and they didn't like what they saw; they also didn't appreciate being screamed at on a regular basis.

There was a revolving door of leadership, factories would not work with us, factories were holding shipments hostage until they were paid, we were losing customers tired of not receiving critical shipments, and the biggest brand--my brand--was taking back design of their apparel and gradually taking back control of the license.  With less and less control of the brand and a lack of understanding of the US market, the brand began to make some ugly-as-sin apparel that would never sell in the US market or replicate sales like we had when my company retained full control of the designs.  This led to one big question:  why did they take back control of the brand that my company had done so well with?  My guess...agreed upon by others in the that we were misreporting sales to the brand and not paying them the agreed upon royalties.

All during this time, the company moved distribution centers again, which was very costly, and the inevitable layoffs began to happen.  The first round of layoffs was not that big of a deal, as the jobs cut were people who essentially did nothing, and would regularly show up for only a few hours a day while collecting immense paychecks.  Good riddance.  It was the second and third round where things began to become scary.  This is when some good people began to be let go, people who really cared about the business, and there were rumors that these people were not receiving the best of severance deals.  *Something I have never understood...the people who were essentially stealing from the company (some literally), the first rounders, received very generous severance packages, while those who did their job and did it well, possibly investing years of their lives in the company, received all but a few weeks severance; at least they received something.  This kind of bullshit almost always goes down with troubled companies: the dip-shits prosper and the loyal hard-workers get the shaft.

You would think because the money was tight, the business was hurting, staff was being let go, and the recession was beginning to hit, that the company would tighten their belts (I love business jargon) and be conservative with their business practices.  Nope.  The company continued doing extravagant trade shows, which are a necessity, but they refused to scale back the scope of these shows and spending.  We also decided to move the company from Goleta to Carpinteria, which I assumed was a cost cutting maneuver, but then excessive amounts of construction was occurring on the first and second level to make the place extravagent; we barely filled the top floor.

There was also another party at the Bacara, which after the last party was a bit of a surprise, but the recession was either hurting them or we had signed an multiple year agreement to hold our party there.  Although the party was fun and stoopidly expensive, something was missing.  The confidence was gone and the people--what remained of them--knew that this was possibly the last party that they would be attending as an employee of the company.

The move to Carpinteria happened, which was a letdown to me now that I had a commute, but at the same time I had become much closer to the people still working for the company.  I worked closely with my new director, crunching the numbers and preparing the reports and we became pretty good friends.  Very shortly after, my direct manager, the woman who hired me, announced that she was leaving for somewhere stable and sane, and although I was very happy for her, the selfish side of me was devastated to see her go.  The only positive thing to come of my manager moving on, was that I was promoted to her position, receiving the promotion and the bump in only lasted for a few months.

The last three months involved the main brand going on lockdown and not just refusing to have our apparel shipped, but refusing to communicate in any fashion with the company at all.  Since I dealt solely with the main brand, I essentially had nothing to do.  Then, an outside investor--the second one--had been duped... sorry...convinced of the strong potential of the company, but even they began to have doubts.    Employees working like maniacs in an effort to salvage the company slowly began to realize that their efforts were in vain and finally began to understand that as long as the owner was not just burning bridges, but also cities and towns in his path of self destruction, that the company was doomed.  Construction on the ground floor then ceased and we were asked to keep the entry doors locked to keep local companies from showing up to demand money that was owed to them.

Then came the day our checks did not show up in our accounts.  People began asking each other if their checks had been direct deposited and as it became clear that the they were not, panic grew.   To put the icing on the cake, no executives were anywhere to be found.  After about an hour, people began to calm to the point of being nearly catatonic, opting instead to wander aimlessly around the office and peer out the window in the hopes of seeing an executive pull up with a bag of checks for each of us. Since I had been through this level of bullshit a few times in the past, I spent my time looking up California labor laws on what an employer was legally liable to provide.

Around 11:00am, the executives finally showed up to say that they were going to be writing out checks for each of us and that they would level with us as to the state of the company.  A flurry of corporate speak later, it was said that we were in dire straights, but that the company was not going away if they had anything to say about it and that they were looking at new investors to help us through this final rough period.  They then answered questions from the employees, including listening to one woman--a really nice, sweet person by the way--sob that she had faith in the company and the executives and that she trusted them to look out for all of us and take care of us.  Being the incredible cynic that I am, I thought that she was FAR too naive; two weeks later, I turned out to be correct.  *One thing to note is that the owners wife, allegedly an incredibly wealthy woman, was in attendance and rolling her eyes and acting openly hostile whenever an employee said something, which was very weird.

The next pay period came and again no checks, and no executives.  This time the employees skipped the panic stage and went briefly into catatonic and finally into anger and resentment.  People began calling their attorney brother-in-laws and calling friends to ask if their company happened to be hiring.  Some even went completely mental when noon rolled around and still with no word they began to raid the apparel sample rooms to grab anything that they could, but the real capper came when the owners righthand man showed up furious.  Here was a person who was always upbeat, positive and felt as if they were part of the company, and they were irate.  They told us that they were at the Employment Development Department and that the owner, his wife and a couple of the other executives were trying to see if they could get out of paying the employees--the ones who had stuck through ALL of the bullshit--their wages and their accrued vacation time.  This person said that the owners wife was so incensed that they personally were liable to pay all of us, that she stated, "they should be grateful that they even got to work for us.  What about US?  They're just the little people."  The little people.  The fucking little people?

Eventually, our lords of employment, the ones us "little people" just needed to shut up and worship, drove up to inform us that today was the last day of our employment and that we needed to come back in four hours to collect our final checks.  This time there was no emotion wrought statements of trust or faith, only an air of wanting to be paid so that we could get the hell out of there and put the whole experience behind us.  We were to be paid our wages, our vacation time, no sick time and we were offered a fabulous option to temporarily continue insurance.  The insurance, however, was not COBRA, since the company was dead, but an outside insurer that ended up denying almost everyone due to preexisting conditions; I was denied for an allergy test that I had taken the prior year.  I drove to Ventura to look around for a few hours and came back to gather my check from the unapologetic owner and his seething with contempt wife.

So many good and fiercely loyal people were cast aside that day as if they were nothing, but secretly I was relieved to be released from the drama and horrendous boredom of the past few months.  Writing these Still Thinking About Up In the Air recollections has been therapeutic to some degree.  It's funny how at one point my heart swells with love for those who I enjoyed working with, to sadness at how ignorantly hopeful I was, and to anger over how employees--the little people--are treated by businesses out to make a short-term buck for themselves, and maintain appearances of wealth as opposed to focusing on the long-term goal of being successful and everyone basking in the prosperity.  In the end I am glad I shared.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 09/17/2010

God this week dragged, but at least I cut into the fourth draft of my novel, which I am taking a hatchet to in a harsh way.  Down with the page count!  Also slowly finding an artist for my 5-page comic and working on designs for another blog, this time devoted to Tulip.  Also having multiple ideas for a teen book and about three comic mini-series that I really need to jot down before I forget them.  Burritos are calling, so let's cut right into things.

Slice of Heaven

The Mist - For this Stephen King movie, I am referring only to the black and white version of the film, not the color.  The director had strongly wished for this film to be shown in black and white, but the studio refused to let the movie release unless it was in color, thus we get the director's vision on disk two and thank goodness.  Part psychological horror and part monster movie, the film deals not only with the creatures in the mysterious mist, but also the monsters of the human persuasion.  It reminded me of the early Twilight Zone episode "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street," only in this film, the monsters are all too real.  Not for the feint of heart and very dark, and a word of advice...put the kids to bed for this one.  The scariest part of this film is when common folks begin listening to a completely mental Jesus-freak and act without conscious and out of fear...wait am I talking about the film or people listening to politicians and FOX news "personalities"?
The Mist (Two-Disc Collector's Edition) [Blu-ray]

The Stuff of Legend: The Jungle #1 - Written by Mike Raicht and Brian Smith with art by Charles Paul Wilson III.  Okay, dammit, this book must have come and gone from my comic shop and I had to order it online and subsequently wait for it to arrive; I am so glad that I did.  A while back I wrote about the trade paperback of The Stuff Of Legend and had nothing but praise for this beautifully magical series.  Every child at some point wishes for their toys come to life, openly hoping to one day catch their toys in the act of movement.  But in this world of living toys, there also exists The Boogeyman, who abducts a child into the nightmare world of The Dark, leaving the boy's most loyal toys and his dog to set off on a journey to rescue him.  Each toy has its own distinct voice and motivations.  Love, loss, urgency, and treachery, this series has it all.  The second issue of four of "The Jungle" storyline releases within the month and this time I was sure to have The Stuff of Legend added to my pull list.  I believe that I read somewhere that this series will be comprised of three volumes, but I am not sure.  Here is to hoping that when this series ends--I secretly wish that it never will--that all of the issues are bound into a single hardcover presentation.  I cannot praise this book enough.  Now, where issue #2!!!

G.I. Joe:  The Rise of Cobra - Okay, this one is partially in jest, but to be honest I actually had fun watching this ridiculous train wreck of a movie.  I may actually write a "kick in the jimmy" review of this one in the next week or two, but when it comes down to it, the movie held my attention for 93% of the time.  Action, stuff done blowin' up good, ninja shit, children beating the snot out of each other, a hot brunette with glasses, a hot and brilliant red-head, and cool underwater ships, what the hell else could you ask for?  Well, perhaps a story with a better plot, better dialogue, and better acting, but when you also have The Baroness and Scarlet brawling in their ultra-hot outfits, you can't go wrong.  So what if the screenplay was written by a 10-year-old who licked way too much Purell Hand Sanitizer, at least they had enough sense to sexy the shit up.  Heck, they also melt the Eiffel Tower with nanites.  My biggest complaint is that they put Snake Eyes in a rubber suit with a mask that has a rubber mouth.  What the what, movie studio?  Fans know Snake Eyes wears cloth--it breathes better--and that the mouth is not carved into the damn mask.  Someone must have told the studio after the fact, thus you can't see Snake Eyes's psuedo-mouth on the cover of the DVD.  Nonsense aside, this was fun and I have to restate....brutal kid fight and hot girl fight!  Check it out.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (Two-Disc Edition + Digital Copy) [Blu-ray]

Slice Into the Woods

Shadow, Golden Retriever and Menace of the Greenbelt - You know that nothing that annoying or horrible went down in the week, when the worst thing that you can complain about is a Golden Retriever named Shadow, who did not really do anything.  I have to break this one down.  
Six months ago, Tulip was out playing on the greenbelt and this manic, yet lovable, Golden Retriever came down with his owner.  She said that Shadow had been in a car for the past six hours and that he was very hyper.  She released him from the leash and Tulip ran up to show the dog her frisbee, but Shadow was so spazzed out of his mind that he was like a whirling golden tornado of destruction.  Tulip, not knowing what to do, ran to a corner of the greenbelt and Shadow charged after her wanting to play, but accidentally bowled Tulip over in his over excitement, trampling her.  Tulip screamed and big, empty-headed Shadow believing that Tulip was playing, chased her back towards Amy and I, where a snarling and snapping Tulip sought refuge until we picked her up.
Cut to a few months later, and Shadow comes barreling down to the greenbelt physically dragging the owner's daughter behind him.  Tulip sees the dog, screams and runs to hide behind our legs, with Shadow flying at us.  More high-pitched snarling and snapping follow and the psychotically happy Shadow is dragged away, leaving one traumatized Boston Terrier behind.
This Wednesday, I came home on my lunch break to take Tulip out and to play ball with her, and what do we see?  Yup, the dreaded menace of Shadow at the top of the greenbelt stairs.  Tulip, who seconds earlier had been a tennis ball chasing streak of lightning, slowed her pace and cowered at my feet; the retriever was nowhere near us.  His owner lead him to the far ends of the greenbelt, but that was not far enough for Tulip, who was shaking.  So, we left.
Now, whenever we go out to play, she stays at my legs and will not chase the ball, frisbee or me.  All she wants to do is cower at my feet and frantically scan the horizon of the greenbelt for her most feared enemy, Shadow, the nutsy hound from Hades.  Damn crazy dog.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Still Thinking About Up in the Air...part 7.75

Last week, I left off with the director of my department getting...what is the phrase?  Oh yeah, "torn a new asshole" by the owner of the company.  The director then gleefully skipped out the door and on to better and brighter things a few months later, leaving his position open for someone else to voluntarily adjust the collar of their shirt, stretch their neck out as far as they could, and gently lay their head on the chopping block.  Thank you, Sir, may I have another?

Before I go down the sad treacherous road of the apparel company's demise, I almost forgot to mention the first Christmas Party that Amy and I attended.  I was three months into the new job, and I was enjoying the people worked with me, and I was *gasp* actually feeling like I was making a difference at the company; I felt valued.  What the what???  The last time I felt that way was at the game company.  It was all quite odd.  Each morning, when I climbed into the car to head over to the office, I did not have the typical, "I hate my life, I hate your life, I hate hating life," attitude that I had developed over the preceding years of gainful employment.  Again, what the what???  

The Christmas Party was held at the Bacara, which for those not in the know is a stoopidly (intentionally misspelled for dramatic effect) expensive spa and resort located on the outskirts of Santa Barbara/Goleta that caters to folks who are...well...not me.  But now...I repeat...but NOW, bitches, I was goin' to the Bacara!  The party was out of control, alcohol flowed like water, the beautiful people at the company looked more beautiful than ever, the food was insane, the door prises were grand (I won some wine and a restaurant gift certificate), and dancing went on all night.  When it came down to it, Amy and I had a blast.  We ended up talking to the manager who hired me and we got to know everyone a little better; overall a great night.  We left on the early side and went home to pass out.  Back at the office on Monday morning I learned that the Bacara was threatening to never let our company return due to the amount of throw-up in and around the premises, including on the ladies' room door handle AND because three intoxicated young men decided the fountain at the entrance of this premier establishment was a good place to relieve themselves.  No, I am not kidding.  

Anyhow, the point of the whole Christmas Party story was that the party was fun, the people I worked with were cool and nice, and I was enjoying the job....*gasp!*.  Unfortunately, I started to look at the numbers on the spreadsheets that I maintained and I began to notice that some of the Chinese factories were not shipping our apparel.  I asked the director about this and he informed me that the owner enjoyed making the vendors wait for payment and essentially beating the hell out of them.  He also said that a certain amount of ass kissing was also required by the factories to retain our business.  This struck me as odd.  "Wouldn't it be better to take our best two or three factories and treat them as partners in our business, and always pay them on time and to back off on the whole we rule, you are sniveling peons attitude that we projected," I said.  The director laughed and looked at me like I were a cute puppy that had just piddled on the floor.  "Of course, Donist, but that is not how things are done here.  Trust me, I tried."  

Shortly after my naive talk with the director, I was asked to move all of the apparel that was in production at our biggest and best factory over to a brand new factory, which was a royal pain in the ass, but I did as told; this also happened with some of the other brands as well.  Our best factory had told us to hit the bricks.  This happened with a few more factories over the course of the year, and I was repeatedly asked to pull old records for the factories we were no longer doing business with, I assume because we owed them all a truckload of money.

to be continued...


Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 09/10/2010

For a four day work week, this week is dragging.  Can't wait for Friday, but there are some pretty cool things that I have come across over the past week and a pretty bad event last Friday that scared me silly.

Slice of Heaven

Labor Day Monday and a Four Day Weekend.  There's nothing better than a three-day weekend...except of course a four-day weekend.  During this nearly blissful time (see Slice into the Woods below) we went to Cold Springs Tavern to see our friends perform in their band, Holdfast Rifle Company, on a strangely warm evening.  We also had a picnic at the Rose Garden across from the Mission with a group of about ten of us, including the puppies, where I overdid it with the cheese and crackers, but whatchagonnado.  I was also able to spend a day working on my comic script and a few more on draft four of the novel--I am about ready to write a query and synopsis.  I also picked up an iPad, which I hope to be able to really mess around with this weekend, so I can begin a soon-to-be web-based project.

Comics Experience With Andy Schmidt - Last night was the final class for this six-week course, and now that it is over I can say that it was tremendously informative and helpful, not to mention fun.  The google group, comprised of my fellow students, provided vital information for my script and it turned out all the better for it.  Currently, my work is in Andy's hands and he will be providing a detailed critique over the next two weeks.  Once I have it back and I make the necessary changes, my fellow classmates and I will begin the process--on our own--to find artists and to eventually have our stories self-published in an anthology.  Should be a lot more work, but will be fun and worth it.  Also need to mention that Andy gave everyone who was interested a free month to the Comics Experience Comic Creators Workshop, where all aspects of comics creation are discussed and critiqued.  Should continue to be valuable and vital to my goals as a writer.

The Goon Volume 2: My Murderous Childhood & other Grievous Years - Written and drawn by Eric Powell.  The origin of the Goon and Franky is explained in this one, and it is not what I expected.  The story continues to be oddly beautiful and the characters even more entertaining than before.  Horny sea-hags, pie-addicted skunk apes, an army of cannibalistic hoboes, and of course zombies sucked me in even further, and now I have to get all of the rest of the tpb's.  Oh whoa is me, and my pocket book.  I have volumes 3, 7 and 8 on their way to me via a deal that I could not pass up, and now I have to get 0, 4-6 and 9.  Pulpy goodness through and through.

The Goon: My Murderous Childhood (and Other Grievous Yarns) Vol. 2
The Goon Volume 2

The Atlantis Chronicles - written by Peter David with art by Esteban Maroto.   An incredible and complex story and mythology created by Peter David detailing the history of the rise and fall and rise and fall again of Atlantis.  Each issue is told by Atlantis's historical chronicler, an ever shifting character throughout the series who instills their own bias and voice when they take up the task of writing.  The first half of this seven issue mini-series details the court of King Orin and the feud that erupts between him and his brother, Shalako. Where Orin wishes to focus primarily on Atlantean technology, Shalako wishes to appease the sky god, Suula, and live a life of sorcery and mysticism.  The feud escalates over Orin's decision to construct a dome around the Atlantean city of Poseidonis as a deterent to the invading tribes envious of Atlantean technology.  Shalako predicts this will anger Suula and that disaster will strike all of Atlantis, which comes to pass and the city sinks below the waves.  There is an abrupt jump in time starting in issue number five, which was a bit disjointed, but a page or two in and I was hooked all over again.  Now if only issue number seven would arrive so that I can finish this wonderful series.  Highly recommended.

Atlantis Chronicles issue #1

Legend of the Seeker: The Complete First Season - Based on The Sword of Truth novels by Terry Goodkind, this fantasy series focuses on Richard Cypher, the seeker and his quest to destroy the power-mad Darken Rahl before he conquers the world.  Richard is set upon his path by Kahlen, a Confessor attempting to find the Seeker and a great wizard, Zeddicus Zu'l Zorander, to lead the charge against the evil that is Darken Rahl.
I expected this show to be somewhat cheesy and only mildly entertaining, and although correct in my first concern, I was wrong on the second; it is very well done and highly engrossing.  Now I have to finish the twenty plus episodes before it vanishes from Netflix streaming at the end of the month.  Definitely worth watching if you are a fan of fantasy shows.

Legend of the Seeker: The Complete First Season
Legend of the Seeker Season 1

Slice Into the Woods

Tulip Getting Sick Last Friday - Nothing makes you feel more powerless than trying to help a sick animal or child that comes to you for help.  My heart broke when Tulip came to me not knowing what was happening to her and wanting my help, and I was powerless to do anything other than be with her.  It started with her not eating all of her food and she was fairly sluggish on the little walk that we took before I went downtown for a couple of hours.  When I returned, I took her outside again to go to the bathroom and she proceeded to violently throw up about five times.  This happened every hour for seven hours straight.  Panic crept in and when Amy got home, we took her to the vet.  Thankfully, the kind aid told us that this would pass and that if we wanted to see the Dr. we could, but he recommended that we remove food and water for 24 hours to let the problem work itself out of her system and to call if she was not better the next day.  Tulip continued vomiting bile until 8:45 p.m. and then that was it.  The next day she wanted to play, despite being weak, and started to slowly eat bland food.  Poor puppy.  This sucked.

Douchebagapalooza Starring Gleen Beck and Sarah Palin on 9/11 - SATURDAY!!! SATURDAY!!! SATURDAY!!!  At the Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska SARAH PALIN will be appearing LIVE for an evening of extreme patriotism the likes of which Alaska has never experienced before.  Also appearing LIVE on the center stage the King of Dignity himself, GLENN BECK.  Tickets available through Ticketmaster for $65* to $115* with a VIP More-Patriotic-Than-Other-Patriots ticket that allows a "meet and greet" with the man himself, GLENN BECK, for $200*.  Be sure to hit up the "wet section" to share a beer with your fellow patriots.  All proceeds from this HISTORIC event will go patriotic.^

*Prices do not reflect astronomical Ticketmaster fees
 ^It goes without saying that the fees will continue to NOT go to the 9/11 First Responders who still suffer from health issues related to this horrible tragedy.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Still Thinking About Up in the Air...part 7.5

The final three weeks at the shady tech reseller couldn't go by fast enough.  I definitely had a spring in my step knowing that I was on my way out the door, and I was very ready to shut and lock it behind me on the way out.  The foolish and still naive part of me expected to at least receive a heartless email saying, "we appreciate your years of service and wish you the best in all of your endeavors," but I did not receive any such response.  No thank you's, no goodbyes, not even a "don't let the door hit your ass on the way out, Chump."  Practically three years of my life were committed to the job that I was told would never move away and after two years they were off to join the dregs of the O.C. and they were mad that they did not get to fire me before I had quit.  The O.C.?  Seriously?  For all I know, part of their new benefits include a boob job and collagen implants for those who want them.  Oh well, stay shady and best of luck to you.

I began my first day at the apparel company excited and nervous, but happy for the fresh new start at a company that I had heard actually cared for their employees.  One of the first things I noticed as I began my tour of the building was that about 85%, possibly more, of the people working at the job were attractive with about 65% of those people being beautiful.  For the record, I am not being ageist in my statement, as there were plenty of people working for the company with many more years on me, and who would be considered "hot" by those who saw them.  That was a bit intimidating, but as long as the company stayed in Santa Barbara and it cared for me--just a little bit--I would be fine as one of the 15%.  Focus on nice Donist, focus on nice.

I immediately met some incredibly kind and sweet people who I still love dearly to this day, and despite everything that was to come from this upstart company's fiery demise, I will always be thankful for having the opportunity to meet them.  There was a steep learning curve for the job and the MRP system was fairly atrocious, which is odd seeing that it is from a company talked about often in the business and tech world, but I was able to learn things quick enough and I was assigned the international side of the company's biggest brand.

Being the stereotypical Donist that I am, and not being one for doing repetitive and mindless tasks over and over again, I began to find ways to trim down the processing time of tasks and to share that efficiency with some of my coworkers.  This was well received by those, who like me, would rather work on more important business tasks and to have more time to get coffee or baked goods from the bakery a few miles up the road.   There was one person, however, who did not appreciate change or taking a few minutes to install a simple macro, or to learn the appropriate steps that would make their life easier, but you can't please everyone.

Life was pretty good for those first few months, and I was...dare I say it...happy.  I had many friends, I was quickly learning many new things, I was appreciated by my bosses, the bosses were approachable and they actually bought donuts or bagels at times.  This is not to say that I did not work and that things were not expected of me, quite the opposite, but for once I felt like I was making a difference and the key phrase was appreciated.  Speaking of the word "appreciate", I quickly learned to appreciate the fact that the head of the purchasing department served as a buffer between the employees and the owner of the company.

I mentioned in the previous installment about this job how the owner of the apparel company has a loud, booming speaking voice, which could rattle the very foundation of the two story office building.  When he was upset or angry, however, that was a different matter entirely.  Months into the job, I was doing that thing I do at my desk, which sits directly outside of my director's office when the owner came stomping over and into the office.  He shut the door and proceeded to scream and yell at my boss's boss for around 25 to 30 minutes straight.  Now, this may not seem like that much time, but imagine screaming at someone for five minutes.  Okay, now imagine three minutes and then multiply that by 10.  If was fucking brutal.  I wanted to climb under my desk, curl up into fetal position and click my heels whispering, "There's no place like home."  Despite the door being closed, the owner's voice was so loud and clear that I could hear everything, although I cannot remember what the hell the problem actually had been.  About the midway point of the belittling of the director, I stood to look at some of my coworkers, who were only slightly shaken and they explained that I had nothing to worry about, and that the owner only verbally annihilated the higher ups, not the commoners.

The odd thing was that people were used to this type of behavior.  The screaming did not happen often, but it happened enough that everyone had heard it before.  When the owner had finished and stormed off from the director's office, I half expected to see him claw his bloodied carcass from out of the office and ask me to tell his wife that he loved her, but instead he calmly strolled out and asked me if I knew how to pull a couple of reports and if I could combine them all into some information for him, which I agreed to do if it meant it would save his life.  I was completely nonplused, he was his normal calm and cheerful self.  With trembling hands I quickly created the report which would become a staple in the company and prayed that I would not have to hear the director get yelled at so viciously ever again.  As it turned out, I never would, because he quit to go to a better job months later.

More to come....

Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 09/02/2010

I'm actually starting this on Thursday as opposed to Friday for a reason that will be at the top of Slice of Heaven.  Starting and finishing on Friday is barely working out, as I miss out on that extra 45 minutes because of the need to go to Cajun Kitchen.  Whatchagonnnado?

Slice of Heaven

Friday Announced as "Off" at the Day Job.  Every once in a while work manages to surprise me, and thank god they announced that in addition to having Monday off for Labor Day, we also have Friday off as well.  I really need the four day weekend, as my attitude at work has been less than stellar as a result of too much nonsense that I will not go into.  Now I can spend Friday morning at Coffee Cat revising my 5-page comic script for class and possibly begin tightening up the first two chapters of the novel so that I can begin sending queries out.  Bonus Friday is my double-rainbow.  What does it mean?  Who cares...four day weekend.  'Nuff said.

The Goon Volume 1: Nothin' But Misery  written and drawn by Eric Powell.  Damnit!  I have been consuming graphic novels and comics alike at an astonishing rate and here comes the next big hit to my poor defenseless wallet.  Like Pokemon, you gotta catch them all.  The primary word to use when describing this title is fun.  The Goon is a book that seems to have stepped out of a noir crime film and onto the set of The Night Of the Living Dead.   The Goon, known only as The Goon, is not your typical hero.  In fact, he is no hero at all, but more a gangster than anything.  He shakes people down for money, kills without a second thought, and I love him for it.  Paired with his diminutive partner, Franky, the anti-hero patrols the streets killing zombies and monsters, while finding time to collect protection money and enjoy a slice of pie.  Also introduced in the book is The Buzzard, scourge of the undead, who I am sure will be showing up in many of the upcoming trades.  Beautiful art and great storytelling, definitely worth checking out.
The Goon Volume 1: Nothin' But Misery (Goon (Graphic Novels)) (v. 1)
The Goon Vol. 1: Nothin' But Misery

Creekside (Deano's) Pizza, garlic french fries, Maker's Mark with soda water, and beer.  You can't go wrong with this combination -- it is simply impossible.  Who would have ever thought that I would fulfill my lifelong dream of eating garlic french fries, my favorite pizza and sip a bourbon all at the same time?  Well, that shit went down last Friday and will be happening again most likely this Saturday. Plus, Tri-Tip and Artichoke hearts as a new topping to replace the lack of salami at Creekside...a completely acceptable alternative.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo written by Stieg Larsson.  This crime thriller is a good read and definitely worthy of all of the attention and praise that it has received.  It has most everything a Donist could ever want:  Scum-sucking entitled multi-national corporate douchebags, malevolent sex offenders getting their due in creative ways, a brilliant and hot tattooed girl who would have torn my heart out and kicked it into the gutter--check, check and check. A very good crime novel, although dated by the descriptions of the technology used by the female protagonist, which had me laughing a bit when I should have not been laughing.  
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

 The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo I finished the book and this happened to be streaming on Netflix, so it was the obvious choice for a Sunday movie at home.  Vastly different from the book in some ways that work better than the book, but be warned that the movie begins to divulge some secrets that are not mentioned until the second book The Girl Who Played With Fire.  A good movie in and of itself, but--of course--read the book first.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo [Blu-ray]
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Mad Men Season Four "Waldorf Stories" - This show keeps getting better and will probably show up every week until the season finale in October.  Don Draper's world continues to crumble even when he receives some of the respect he has always wanted, Peggy makes a bold move to put a sexist art director in his place, and Roger Sterling remembers the first time he met Don.  Great episode.

Slice Into the Woods

Tulip and the Case of the Swollen Face - Yeah, this one is not a kids book (now there's an idea...hmmm).  Monday morning at about 6:15 AM, I was at the computer writing about the footwear company that I used to work at, when Tulip ran up to see me.  She does this every morning after she wakes up and after she comes in from going to the bathroom.  This time, though, I looked down to pet her and I could tell that something was wrong.  I sat on the ground and her face looked just plain odd and not right.  It was beginning to puff out and her eyes were beginning to partially swell shut and she crawled into my lap, completely scared.  She then proceeded to throw up three times and when Amy came back downstairs to see what I was freaking out about, she too began to lose her marbles.  I threw on my shoes, and was out the door to buy some Benedryl for the pup, but Amy then told me that she was breaking out in hives all over her stomach, too.  A quick trip to the store later and a call to the vet, and Tulip and I were on our way to St Francis Pet Clinic.  Dr. Morgan, who is great, gave her a shot in addition to the Benadryl that I had given her, but poor Tulip cried in pain when she was administered the shot and I felt horrible.  The swelling began to subside almost immediately and I worked from home to better keep an eye on her.  The Dr. said that it was most likely a bug bite from when she went outside in the morning.  Go to hell evil spiders!
I was too freaked out to take a picture of the hives, but here is a sad picture anyways.

A-Holes Who Steal Credit Card Information - Seriously?  Twice in less than a year.  This is getting ridiculous.  The first time was a security breach at a major bank who took part in the bail would think the millions they won could have beefed up their security.  Although the charges this time were $12.00 at a Home Depot in Oregon and $3.00 for a bus pass or something in Idaho, I am glad that it was caught so quickly.  Seriously, if you are a scum sucking credit card thief, picking on people in the same--or more likely worse--financial condition than you find yourself gets you a prominent seat in a special hell.  Why not go for Bernie Madoff's credit card?  He's not going to notice $15.00 worth of charges, especially not while he is in prison.  Or go for the credit cards of health insurance CEO's who deny your claim for no reason other than you might pay the amount as opposed to contesting it.  Grrr.  Suck it.

Value Added Analysis Posting of Teacher Scores - @#$!ing Bull@#$@.  How the hell can you compare test score improvement for kids at multiple levels of learning, family support (or lack of it), lack of a child's own personal responsibility, income levels, class size and countless other factors?  How difficult of a task is it to realize that a child is not a widget/product that can be lumped into a statistical pool?  Sure, some teachers need to go--I had some really bad ones--but this harms and embarrasses the good ones.  Here is a thought:  If this goes through, why not post the salaries and personal efficiency scores of not just city officials (Bell and Vernon), but post the same for the CEO's and management of banks, health insurance providers, car manufacturers, etc.  Yes they are private companies, but if they took a bail out and/or deal heavily with the public at large, they should be open to public scrutiny and scoring as well.  I'm looking at you, evil Koch brothers.