Friends, do you love Jeff but don’t get enough of him? Do you like actual play pods set in the world of Stephen King’s Dark Tower? If so, we got a show for you! Go click the War for the Tower link on the main menu for all the deets. Tell us what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org!
I'm just finishing up Stephen King's Song of Susannah, the sixth book in his epic Dark Tower series, and it's got me buzzing. The last part of the story gets pretty meta, and it's really hittin' me in the place where I live. A writer writes, but also, a writer publishes. I have so much good stuff laid down for these books I'm writing, but I haven't had the guts just yet to bear down and finish off the first one, and for about the ten-thousandth time, I’m thinking about why.
The book business has changed so much since i was a seven-year-old kid, writing my first short story (The Golden Earring - not the 70s era rock band, but rather a tale about an evil young girl menacing her family). As long as I can remember I've wanted to be known, to be a famous actor, or writer, comic book creator, rock star, or film director, but my hangups kept me from getting anywhere near the place where I'd have to actually find out if my work could pass the test.
I played trombone beautifully, but I rarely practiced. I made cartoons and cracked jokes, but didn't submit anything to anywhere or join a sketch group. I wrote songs and sang my heart out, but I didn't keep a band going long enough to play my tunes for a paying audience. I did a few auditions but hated the waiting, the rejections, the wondering if i was good enough to put up with all the failure. I studied film and animation, got all set to move to LA upon graduation and chase my dream of world stardom, then found a girl, got wrapped up in addictive love, and shelved that dream like all the others.
All that time I was writing. Video game treatments, screenplays, graphic novels, short stories, fantasy roleplaying game adventures, on and on and on, and yet I never tried to publish. I figured it was because of my insane fear of rejection, the same kind of fear that kept me from asking out the girl of my dreams in sixth grade and every subsequent girl after that, figuring no one really needed to waste their time on me until i had developed the bravado and confidence required to make it into adulthood. I always knew I was special - it was pretty obvious to me that I had a cute face, an imaginative mind, and my words sounded pretty when read out loud - and yet I shuffled my way through life taking whatever was offered, and trying to make peace with whatever it was that turned out to be.
And then one day I realized that I would never be a writer if I didn't create something and finish it. I started writing an action/adventure story specifically designed to appeal to my wife at the time, a romantic exercise that ultimately ended in failure. The whole time I was writing it she was cheating on me, so by the end of our marriage I had nearly an entire first novel that I didn't really want to read.
I never did finish The Heart of the Maya. I still love it, would in fact love to publish it one day, but as a hard sci-fi tale of Guatemalan drug lords and scientific discovery, it's fairly well dated to the pre iPhone era. And I wrote it to appeal to a woman that maybe never really cared whether I published anything or not, so it was pretty difficult to muster the motivation to polish it off.
Amidst all that unpleasantness I switched my focus to poetry, rap, and songwriting. I started a band (kind of), hosted an open mic, and even got published for the first time in a now-defunct literary journal (Wrist).
So what changed? Was I suddenly cured of the fear of rejection? Not hardly. I had grown hard somehow. Somehow I realized that I was good, that my work had relevance and purpose, and that I had things to say that were important. Instead of limply blogging into the universal void, hoping someone might witness my genius and elevate me to god status, I discovered this crucial bit of wisdom: if i wanted people to read my work I had to be it's greatest champion. I had to learn how to quiet the voices of self-doubt and neurosis and say unto the world: "shitty writers get published every day. It's my turn to be the world's next shitty published author."
And then suddenly, like a model dinosaur crashing out of an exhibit at the natural history museum, self-publishing tore its way out of the dusty backroom of irrelevance and became more or less the standard for new writers. Here I'd been, working up the courage to submit my work for thirty years, only to discover that gatekeepers didn't really matter anymore.
I still want to be published. I still want a professional editor to hack away at my manuscripts, still want to go on speaking tours, still want to get my stuff made into movies and become a household name, but for the first time in modern history a writer can do that stuff, and ALSO do whatever the hell he or she wants on the side and have some segment of the population take an interest in it.
I'm currently writing the first draft of the third novel in a space fantasy series that I love, based in a world (or worlds) that I created by accident fifteen-plus years ago, a world that's been fleshed out via my podcast, tabletop roleplaying game, and hours and hours of random daydreams, a world that I hope is one day as well known among nerds like me as Star Wars or Star Trek, and I don't know when or if they'll ever be published by a real publishing company. But I know more completely than ever before that I am a writer, and my work is worth reading.
I'm still afraid of rejection, and (for a few reasons too heavy to go into here) I still have a perverse subconscious unwillingness to complete things and be successful, but I'm fighting. I'm ready to be known and liked, or disliked, on my merits as a human being and/or as a writer, and I'm ready to succeed, or fail, whichever way the wind may blow.
I owe a huge debt for this newfound confidence to my beloved girlfriend, Kathy Cao, or as her friends call her, KC. She's one of the few people that have ever told me she loved my writing. In fact, I probably wouldn't be writing this post if not for her saying she'd like to read another one. Stephen King may have inspired me to write on this specific topic, but she gave me the ears to listen for the space where that direction might come through.
It feels real good to be with someone who appreciates my gifts and who has the warmth and kindness to say it out loud. It makes me wonder if more great writing would be happening if more partners were willing to praise their loved ones the way that Kathy praises me. It's worth a shot. Maybe there's something your loved one is good at that they've set aside for awhile. Maybe it'd be fun to see if they'd try it again. So go on. Shake things up a bit, why don't you? Maybe there’s a masterpiece in there just waiting to see the world.
Before anyone asks the (completely reasonable) question "Why would I take political/social advice from a comedy podcast?", let me just say that we spend a lot of time on the show tackling serious issues, and we always try to find a positive way to talk about them. Also, I was an anti-war activist and free speech advocate for years before giving it up to make dick jokes on the radio. So, with that context, let's tackle this whole World War III thing.
The attack by Trump on Syria's air defenses is a joke. It will likely have serious consequences when it comes to human life, it definitely betrays a serious lack of concern for the Constitution and international law, but it's not what you think it is. Essentially, this is something I call Murder Theater.
When Assad ordered the chemical poisoning of dozens of innocent people, he knew full well what the reaction would look like. In addition to being a horrible dictator, he is Putin's puppet in the Middle East. And, in case you haven't read a newspaper in the last six months, Donald Trump is clearly Putin's puppet in the United States.
Before we go any further, let's define a few concepts that tend to be confused. First, let's talk about Conspiracy.
Conspiracy, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is defined as "A secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful.". The other definition, perhaps more relevant to this current attack, is "The action of plotting or conspiring."
A "group" is loosely defined. But if you accept that a "group" could be as small as two people, this attack is most definitely a conspiracy. Put away your finger-wagging about the Kennedy assassination and 9/11 (also conspiracies by this definition), and let's go over what we know.
First, Trump decided unilaterally to strike military targets in Syria suspected of being involved in the deadly chemical attack. Second, the British defense minister claims to have been informed before the attack and he agreed with its necessity. Third, Vladimir Putin is suspected of giving prior approval despite Syria being a Russian ally.
So here you have Trump, with all his well documented shady associations with Putin, deciding over the course of two days to attack a site that may or may not have delivered the chemical bomb. Putin likely was informed ahead of time (probably to give him time to withdraw any Russian forces in the area), so do you really think Putin wouldn't have told Assad? Seriously. This is the very definition of Murder Theater.
"Murder Theater", as I define it, is a situation in which one conspirator (Trump, in this case) launches an attack against another as a response to an Inciting Event, with the intention of proving to the conspirator's supporters and outside observers that they are taking action. By informing the supposed target of the attack ahead of time, the target is able to remove troops and high-value war materiel before the attack begins.
The reason I call it Murder Theater is because people die. Yes, some buildings and maybe a runway were damaged, but shrapnel and debris from the missile strike most definitely killed and maimed innocent civilians (who were conveniently not informed of the strike beforehand). It's like a murder mystery dinner in which the sous chef gets shot in the head at the end of the night.
So now we have Donald receiving accolades from toady journalists and frightened politicians, while responsible journalists and world leaders look on in disbelief. What could have been a defiant condemnation of a despicable and horrible act (the cold-blooded murder of 72+ Syrian citizens with an internationally outlawed WMD) has become a tool of a small group of deviant men to prop up their power and intimidate their political opponents.
Donald Trump has now set a precedent of engaging in unilateral military action without the consent of any governing body. This is even worse than George W attacking Iraq for 9/11 (a ridiculous failure of Congress to take any meaningful steps to constrain his power), an act which was given tacit approval by a spineless Congress. This is Donald Trump's first strike in a war against the very foundations of American democracy.
It's become essentially an agreed upon truth that Donald Trump is a puppet of Vladimir Putin. His financial and political allegiance to someone whose values are completely at odds with anything approaching democracy suggests that we are all in danger of becoming Russia's pawn in the game of international control. This is a life and death struggle for the soul of American democracy, and Donald Trump has fired the first shot on behalf of a despicable dictator not named Bashar Al Assad.
It's up to us to call this what it is: a naked assault on everything we as Americans claim to stand for. Do we really want to let this corrupt executive branch redefine the limits of deadly force? Is this what George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for? Is this an America we can be proud to hand off to our children and grandchildren?
I don't think it is. Murder Theater can not and must not be allowed to become commonplace. We must contact our legislators and express our discontent at this transgression of national and international law. If we want our democracy to survive the next four years, we are required to stand up and be counted.
Now let's get back to those dick jokes.
Friendos! I have a new podcast. It's a lot of fun. I've been taping episodes since way back in July and I'm finally putting it out. Well edited, about an hour per, and lots of fun. There's five up right now with more to come every week. I hope you guys like it. I'm pretty proud of it.
And if you'd like to read the novel I've written based on the show, get at me! If it's not out yet I'd be happy to send you the current draft. You can give me notes!
Anyways, I'm really happy about this new phase of my life. I love the players and the characters that populate this world. It's been 15 years in the making.
Thank you so much for all you do!
Guys. Let's talk. Let's talk about what we're gonna be doing this year to make the world a better, more livable place. Some of you will be protesting. Good on ya. Others will be taking part in the slow process of representative democracy, by getting informed and staying active.
Others, like me, will be trying to do what we always do. Make better art.
I know, I know. What the hell do artists have to complain about?
I get it. But let me make my case. Artists have to put everything they have, everything they ever were and everything they wish they could be and put it into something that other people get to pick apart and talk about whether it's good enough to hang on their wall, or get a CD pressed, or put t-shirts on store shelves. We make art because we can't not. It eats at us. It demands our attention. It makes us go days without eating. Days without talking to friends or family. It breaks up our relationships and makes us hard to talk to at parties. We run out of money because we had to have that thing that will make a new bit of expression that much more authentic. That much more real.
We give and we bleed and we cry and we suffer that you all may laugh a little bit harder at the end of a hard day. That you might marvel at something you thought you understood but are starting to understand that you barely understand anything. We blow your minds and ease your souls and break your hearts and put them back together again. We don't do this because we think we're better than you. We do it because we can't not do it. We can't stop. We give everything we've got to make it and when we give up, it's because we get tired of not having it valued enough to keep putting in the time.
Some of us will be on the front lines fighting the revolution, whether spiritual or physical. Some of us will be paying attention to the news and staying on top of our shit so we can be there to help people who are in trouble. And some of us, the poor losers at the bottom of the heap and the much beloved celebrities of stage and screen, some of us will keep grinding, keep pushing, and keep striving to make sure all of us have a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
Art makes life worth living. So if any of you are wondering why I'm not out there fighting in the streets, it's because I am giving what I have to the cause of truth and beauty as best I can. Maybe it will inspire someone to stay alive. To keep fighting a little bit longer. And if, god forbid, they find out they're an artist, maybe we can inspire them to keep going just a little bit harder, so eventually they'll be as good as we know they can be.
I'm sorry I didn't do more to stop Trump and these insane Republicans. But I can tell you straight up, I did what I could to energize the debate. Because that's how I express myself.
Alright. Enough defensive, self congratulatory bullshit. Go do something. Be of value to your fellow beings. And for God's sake please don't beat yourself up. You're somebody's favorite person, even if they haven't met you yet. And they'd hate to hear you talking trash about their favorite person. Hang in there.
P.S. Got a miniepisode coming out in a bit. Me and KC are sleepy and stoned. It's fun.
Hey guys, it's been a while since I've written, not cause I'm super depressed but because I've been hella busy with other stuff. In the meantime, I wanted to give you a head's up about friend of the show Erica Knapp's blog, A Charmed Life. It's all about her history growing up in a cult, her experiences healing from sexual violence, and her life now as a mother, student, wife, and dog trainer. It's super well written, guys. Give it a read!
Ah, yes. Lamotrigine, check. Warm bath? Check. Instrumental Spotify playlist for writers? Check.
Had crazy allergies today. Went in to pick up my prescription at Bartells; stopped at the Nome first to grab some tea. Saw old homeboy Brent Carter behind the counter, shot the breeze a little. Nose was a goddamn waterspout so while I was there I must've blown it thirty times. Them little napkins were gettin a workout.
Brent is a great dude. The kind of dude I've always loved being friends with: hardworking, loyal, good to his woman, a good father (and dog father), kind to his coworkers, respectful and prompt with the customers, and on top of everything a wicked awesome singer/songwriter. Vaudeville Gallows is still one of my favorite bands. Hopefully he gets back into the game at some point when he doesn't need to work sixty hours a week.
His dog is super special too. Kona. What a fuzzy angel. She's gettin old; little white whiskers pokin through on the muzzle.
Claritin's kicking in, snot trail beginning to slow. It's good because the area below my nostrils is starting to get inflamed from wiping.
Sinus feels stuffy. Body feels cozy, bath water just a little on the cool side of awesome.
Music is super chill. Stomach's growling but I don't care. This moment is what I'm digging. I'm soaking it in because once the L kicks in my ecstasy/chill vibe may go away.
Sex Drive came back a few days ago. It's nice; makes things domestically a little easier, more connected. I worry .
It seems like the average person doesnt realize how deeply our sexual systems are linked with our mental state. As one philosopher said "the brain is our largest errogenous zone". It's why the crazy person is often the best sex of your life; they're riding waves of confused feelings that either compel intensity or cause them so much distress the intensity of sex is a temporary antidote to it.
For those whose sexual drives aren't pushed by strong emotion, the brain still has an influence. Maybe you have a set of smells that get you going, a certain kind of music or film that puts you in the right mood. Maybe it's a look in her eyes, the way her breath gets quicker and shallower as she realizes it's about to be on.
For a sex and love addict, sex can be a beautiful minefield. For me, the most passionate sex is the new kind, The result of a love hunt: the way her eyes meet mine, the way our hands interlock, the way she glides around the room attracting my stares. The stare has weight; it pulses with the blood.
Of course now I'm in a committed and, for the first time, healthy relationship. New romance is out, replaced by a love that is safe and supportive. Gettin up for that kind of sex can be tricky.
Sinking lower into the shallow water. Back hunched against the porcelain, temp just right, stomach still yawning. Music buzzing between my fingers as I type. Worried that my partner may not appreciate my heavy-duty sharing, breath is a little tight.
She moves me. When I let myself indulge those old romantic swells, I remember why I love her. I let myself moon a little. Kiss her on the top of the head in front of company. Show her that I care. Close touching in the kitchen as she gets ready for the party.
Nose is mostly dried. Breathing a bit easier. Head thick but thinking isn't too distorted.
Should I get out?
Going to interview a prospective tenant later. She seems cool, good taste, possibly artistic. Bringing the boyfriend so I can assess him too. Running a studio, podcasting, watching shows, and having people over, I'm gonna need to make sure they aren't antisocial. I've got that covered enough, lol.
Guess I should get out of the tub already. This one's fuckin long.
See you on the flip side, gang. If this roommate doesnt work out, I'll still need one. If I can't find one I'm gonna be bruh-hoke. Everything is Awesome and Mailman Studios need disposable income to run effectively. Get in touch. At the very least an interview could be fun. Think of it like an audition.
Time to shower off. Hair is itchy and stomach is positively angry.
Love you guys!
This has been a very productive week.
My Lamotrigine ran out last week, and because I hadn't planned ahead I didn't have any good way to refill it. I've been wanting a new shrink for a long time (mine's old and doesn't really get me) so now I have a new appointment coming up with a guy that seems pretty legit.
This meant that I'd be flying without modification for at least a week.
Today I plan to go pick up the refill and get back on the horse. I'm worried though, because I've been super chill and fairly productive this week. Which opens up so many issues.
Am I really bipolar 2? If so, what am I doing screwing around not taking meds? Yeah sure, I feel better without them, but so does everyone right before they fuck eight prostitutes, race their car in a school zone, or get into a heated political discussion with a police officer.
I'm in a weird spot. Nearly two years have passed since I was first diagnosed as having bipolar 2 (by the same out of touch pyschiatrist I'm trying to replace). Since that time, I've tackled my anger issues and childhood trauma through therapy (CBT and EMDR), gotten into 12 step recovery programs for codependency, alcoholism, and love addiction; learned how to be in a respectful and non-codependent relationship with an unselfish person; patched things up with my mom and dad to the point where I actually let them help me; worked to develop true male friendships; gone back to one of my old loves, tabletop roleplaying games; and bought a friggin house.
I'm growing up in a way I didn't think possible before. And of course none of this would have been possible if I'd still been running around unmedicated.
So now I get to meet with a new shrink and talk it all out. Could I take a smaller dose of Lamotrigine? One that wouldn't make me so sleepy and unmotivated? Should I be on an antidepressant long-term? Should I take Adderall for my ADD, which might make being organized and getting creative stuff done easier?
I know I need to be on something; I just don't know how much. It's tough because when I'm in a hypomania, like this week, I'm so much fun. I talk to my friends. I make jokes. I build websites, plan roleplaying campaigns, get shit done around the house. I pay my bills. And best of all, I don't feel the need to overcompensate with silliness and intensity to ride out the feelings of self-loathing and apathy. So saying "yes" to meds now is a bit like saying "no" to having fun.
Being crazy is not easy, guys. It takes diligence and discipline to keep from raging into antisocial extremes. Even when you've found the perfect chemical cocktail to function well in life, things may not be perfect.
In my case, I might sleep too much. I might not pay my bills on time or go to the grocery store. I might have writer's block for weeks or have zero interest in physical intimacy.
But what's the alternative? Hiding out, staying up all night, burning out friendships with needy texts, spending too much money on shitty food and shows I shouldn't stay up for?
It's been so hard for me to separate out how much of my issue is psychological, and how much is biochemical. It's possible that I'm at a point now where I can try to live life without chemical enhancement and just see how things go. But the hard truth is this: I'm still scared.
Two years ago, a girl I liked saying I wasn't her type sent me into a near-suicidal tailspin that ended up driving me into the high-flying world of mental illness and psychopharmacology. And now I'm a lot better. So the question is: do I let this drug-free state roll on and cross my fingers, or do I bite the bullet, pick up the scrip, and get back to the new normal? Either way, there is no perfect choice. And this, my friends, is the personal pasta roller that is managing your own mental health. No question can really be answered definitively, everything's up in the air. And at the end of everything, it's all up to you.
Spoiler alert: I'm gonna take the meds. Someday, maybe, I'll try life without them, but for now I gotta make the safe play. Wish me luck! Down here's the song I wrote after checking myself into the ER for my brain problem.
Not My Type
[written August 2013]
i dont wanna love you like a dog anymore
dont wanna huddle outside your door
no i dont wanna stare at your picture again
but im about to break all my rules again
i know that the dream i had wont come to life
but i been like a ghost ever since that night
yeah i been hauntin you but you still cant see me
watchin who youre lovin wishin that could be me
i dont wanna be that man i was when you said
those things to me
youre not my type
youre not my type
i know it isnt right
but i miss you every night
im down but im wishin you could pick me up
sick to death of wishin i could give you up
no i dont wanna love youanymore
no i dont wanna stand outside your door
you said that you was ready but you lied to me
you left me in my driveway and im so damn empty
i wish that i could shine
but you still wouldnt see im fallin to the ground
and ill try not to break down
ill try to forget the gentle sound
your lips made when we hit the ground
i know you think youre better without me
so then it makes sense that youd say to me
youre not my type
no i know its not right i still miss you at night
i could give up this fight
to just lay down in your sight
shine your light
shine your light
shine your light
youre not my type
What's up, gang? We got us a new squarespace website, thanks to a sweet offer code from Paul over at the Mental Illness Happy Hour, who is totally awesome. Tell us what you think so we can make it as awesome as the show!
It's been awhile. Originally when I started blogging I was committed to doing at least one thing per day before going to sleep. Then I fell into a pretty serious depression. Perhaps the first since I started on this new medication.
So I'm back, having slept over 9-10 hours the last two nights and getting down to the last two nicotine patches before I'm fully over smoking.
For those who don't know, depression doesn't make sense. Nothing about life the last two weeks has been any harder than before. I've treated myself well, kept stress down, and generally done what I can to stay on top of these feelings.
But I stopped making lists. I stopped walking the dog. I couldn't even think about exercise. And my thoughts about my ex girlfriend were overwhelming. You can say it's about grief, withdrawal or just plain feelings that come and go like the wind. But on top of every other shitty struggle it was nearly unbearable.
But let's be real. It's been months since I've seen her. As beautiful and funny as she was, she was selfish, closed off, and hard to trust. Maybe the hardest part to accept is that someone I loved more than anything could be doing things with another man that she never did with me. That I am inadequate, or that the very thing I feared has come to pass, that once she began healing and treating her mental illness she would have a status, enabling her to date someone taller, stronger, richer and more handsome than me.
Now that I'm rising from the depths of depression, I'm beginning to realize just how sad my life is right now. It sucks. I project this image of a confident, happy-go-lucky artist, but really I'm a faker, still unable to finish things, still unable to convince others to take part in my projects, and lonely as fuck.
I know what to tell others: tell yourself "I do enough, I have enough, I am enough". And yet, I'm still hungry, still lost, still longing for something that cannot be. Maybe that's just my natural state. Maybe it can't be changed. And that's what's truly terrifying.