Thursday, February 2, 2012

You're Not as Weird as You Think You Are

Due to recent immersion in social media, the Fish has a less lofty sentiment to slap you with today but assures you, it is just as strongly felt. Maybe more so, since the people that present themselves as odd, phreakish, different, weird, strange, radical, and, yes, off the hook, are everywhere. Waiting so impatiently to be noticed, to have their vaunted strangeness noted, labeled and reacted to, they cannot bear to let it happen first-- instead, they tell you. Not with body language, barely controlled tics or the unspoken clarity of Tammy Faye's makeup. Not by letting you find out when they show up to your baby shower with a bouquet of puppies for a gift.

 No, they tell you they are different by telling you, in those exact words: in their blog bios, to your face before you can get their name, on voicemail, on their FB pages, on Pinterest and Soundcloud, on deviantArt, on any and every possible social networking site that has ever existed.  They shout it in caps and special fonts, I'm So Strange!
  As if we wouldn't know without the hint. Come closer, wretched souls, and I'll tell you a secret that could free you forever:

You're not as friggin' weird as you think you are.

 I'm all for individuality, for freakiness, for being what you are, and becoming what you want to be. But you've got to understand, just because your parents or teachers or village elders don't like your haircut, your job, your imported CD's or your sex partner's gender/s, doesn't mean the rest of us are in shock over it. We're not. Not even a little.

 Anything you wear on your body, be it bright colors, dark sackcloth, head-to-toe vinyl or woven fish-skin that barely covers your naughty bits, is finally just clothing. It may be appropriate according to your peers or inappropriate to the situation, it may be glorious or disturbing to some; but in the world of larger issues, it is trivial.

 Likewise, your face paint-- no matter what genitals you're currently sporting, your tattoos, your haircut, and color, your choice of jewelry, your favorite authors, the fantasy card game you play, what you ride in/on, who you worship, the kind of job you quit last week, and the name of the first person that snuck their studded tongue into your mouth. It's all trivial, and when you stop looking at yourself in the evil funhouse mirror of your own perception and turn your gaze outward, you'll see that. It's all been done before, again and again. Our truest human weirdness can't be cast into simple phrases and ironed onto a black t-shirt. What's strange now was average a hundred years ago, or a thousand. And will be again.

 Through no fault of your own, you're probably not a history-making oddity. You're not likely to become half the rebel that, say, Margaret Sanger was. Or Rosa Parks, or Charles Darwin, or Bruce Lee. All of these people had revolutionary ideas that led them to act in stunningly bold ways, permanently affecting the world we live in. Unlike them, every action you (or I ) take, from birth to death, is bound to be more important to you (or I) than it will be to anyone else. We are, in fact, destined for normalcy, and normal is bigger than you realize.

 This is something to celebrate. It should be good to know that being shy, being chatty, being self-absorbed, being passionate, being abused, being mechanically inclined, being good with computers, being a picky eater, being interested in seeing other people naked and bound and gagged, doesn't take you out of the realm of average humanity. Possessing any or all of those traits puts you firmly in the middle of this crazy crop of critters. And whatever filthy, drippy or rainbow-colored desires hide in your heart, there's someone else on this planet that shares your view. So lighten the hell up, and let people find out for themselves if you're unacceptable before you spill it all over a page somewhere.

You can still enjoy all the accoutrements of your identity as a weirdo. It's fun and probably doesn't hurt anyone much that doesn't want to be hurt. But if you can't wait to tell me about it, I gotta say, I'm bored already.


  The Angry Fish

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Value of Our Words, Part One.

 Sitting here with my coffee, I just opened an e-book to read and noticed something I'd never noticed before: a statement declaring, in short, that the e-book must not be shared in any way-- that each person who reads that book must purchase it for themselves. 

 Are you mad? This is wrong, wrong, wrong. It's bad manners and bad business.

 Although it's not likely anyone else would want to read off of my Kindle-for-PC or even another person's Kindle, Nook, etc., one of the great pleasures of books is the sharing of them. The borrowing that leads to chatting about them. As an author, I'm sorry, but you have no control over that, nor should you want it. It's your best bet for getting read. And getting read, by any means, is your best bet for being read again, for selling books in any format.

 As a writer, I'm shocked at this notion of possessiveness. Once the art has gone out there, it doesn't  belong solely to you anymore, and someone should have told you that before you got published. Your words are now our words: to chew on, comment on and share with like minds. To parody, to revile or respect. They are not ours to claim as our own, but that's where your power over your writing stops-- if your words themselves have force, it will carry; and if they don't, no amount of threats or warnings applied after the fact will empower them. That's art, baby, and you'd best get used to it if you want to survive along with the rest of us writers, musicians and painters.

 As a reader, I'm incensed, and I won't buy a book with this warning again. Traditionally I've understood that when I buy something, I own it, whether it is a hammer, a cupcake or a car. There may be responsibilities attached, but the item is still mine. That's commerce, and books aren't special in this regard. I buy a book, I'm free to read it or toss it, to enjoy or hate it, to underline meaningful passages in yellow highlighter or rip the pages up to line a birdcage. Your book coming to me in a different form does not negate my ownership. For you to say that it does is a breach of the trust between reader and author. You can't make non-ownership a special condition of that trust, not if you want to retain your readership.

 You own the art, but I own the book, get it? You can't tell me that if I let my Mom read it while she's visiting, she's a thief and I'm her accomplice. Sharing that doesn't involve monetary payment isn't stealing. You don't get to decide that it is, because it suits your needs. You don't get to redefine stealing this way and not be accused of a particularly foul type of censorship. In fact, money can sometimes change hands between readers/book owners and still not count as damage to an author. Last summer I bought a used set of The Chronicles of Narnia at a yard sale, and I doubt C.S. Lewis would have seen it as anything but good that his books went from a family that no longer appreciated them to one that does. Are you better than C.S. Lewis? Can you understand that shared enjoyment is worth more than a few extra sales upfront?

 If you're smart, you'll stop worrying about piracy and theft so much and start worrying about what happens when people that would have been fans decide that they don't like being treated as criminals for doing with your books what they would do with other books. There are plenty of books on the market/s to choose from, more than ever before in history, books on every subject and at every price.
 Believe me when I say that what cheapened yours wasn't the 99 cent cost to download-- it was the sentiment expressed in your warning not to share. I'm taking that warning to heart; I will never, never share your book.


   The Angry Fish

Monday, December 19, 2011

Keeping Christ in Christmas and Other Bogus Ideas

 I heard it last year, read it the year before, and this year, I'm both hearing and reading it, splattered all over every form of social media: Stop taking Christ out of Christmas with your horrible, all inclusive, politically correct holiday wishes! And on the other side, Please be sensitive and don't wish anybody anything particular, please make sure you don't offend anyone with your personal view!

 Are you kidding me?

 If you really feel Christ in your life, how can a friend or acquaintance offend you so by offering their good will towards you, no matter how it is worded?

And if you don't, why would you care if someone wishes you the best from their own perspective of belief? It's not like they're going to infect you with their deity's cooties. Oh, I know, most of you who say this mean it for others and not yourself. But there's a slight tang of condescension about a plea meant to spare someone else the agony of hearing kind wishes that don't completely align with their own ideology.

 We're grownups, we can take it, trust us. You're not the only sensitive person.

 And you Christmas people, you should be able to take it, too. Because it's not the Muslims or Jews or Atheists or Buddhists or Hindus or Humanists or Wiccans or People That Celebrate Kwanzaa (who could be called Humanists of the best tradition) that are draining the Sacred from your favored Holy Day with their simple, heartfelt words of greeting and good cheer, however ecumenical in expression.

 It's the mega-stores that use an excuse of Christmas to engorge their year-end sales, no matter what kind of anti-social behavior results from having packed & overheated stores, crowded roads, and frenzied advertising blaring from every surface in town. They care so much about making sure you haven't missed anyone on your list that they're willing to help you despise the people all around you.

 It's the folks who first decided to decorate their lawns for Christmas in November or even October, stretching what are supposed to be a few meaningful, spiritually reflective days into a months-long season of garish displays, mixed symbols and empty purchases. They meant to celebrate, sure, but it's long been another status war.

 It's the hollow grin of those who would link the birth of Christ to purchasing a car, or a computer, or a limited-time-only muffin. They would also be happy to push Lincoln's greatness down your throat in order to sell you a gazebo.

 It's the misguided minds in charge of charities, that try to use our sentimentality as a sparkling wedge into our wallets.

 And it's the relatives that expect each other to put "family" first during the holidays, using that like a club to beat down those who won't conform to the tiniest whim of the whole.

 The ones that aren't taking anything away from you or me are those who generously wish us well according to their own lights. Whatever fills the space in their hearts, if they extend some of the warmth it generates towards you, you should graciously accept. It's rare enough, in this so-called season of giving, and it should be honoured as such.

 So have a lovely Solstice! Most Sincerely,

                                           The Angry Fish

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

An Open Letter to People Bitching About Other People's Groceries

 Not a week goes by in my little village without some dissatisfied citizens complaining in some local paper about what they saw in the grocery cart of a person that used Food Stamps/EBT cards. They rail on and on about how those people should get jobs and are screwing the system etc., and it's all based on their dislike of what they saw perched in the grocery cart.
 One person is upset because there were sodas and snack foods, another is upset because an EBT user bought lobster tails or other expensive fare. I have something to say to you folks:


 You don't know these people you're judging. So why are you looking into their carts? Why are you creating ironclad opinions about their character based on what you see in that basket?

 It's rude to look into somebody else's grocery basket that hard. It's very rude to actively eavesdrop on how someone pays for their purchases, and it's moral idiocy to think that you know and understand them enough to make an instantly sound character assessment based on your ill-gotten information.

 Rudeness and stupidity aren't a good place to make moral judgements from. The fact that you pay taxes doesn't make you morally superior to everyone else, it makes you lucky you have the werewithal to do so.

 The fact that you pay the required taxes on your income in your country does not give you the right to decide what other people eat, no matter where their food dollars come from.

 Your taxes and mine pay for a helluva lot of things besides food stamps. Save your breath from bitching at your neighbors and try putting a little energy into finding out where most of the cash really goes. The money spent on helping people buy food is nothing to the money that is spent on patently evil practices. And unlike what your neighbors choose to munch on, that is your business, and mine, and ours.

 Most Sincerely,

   The Angry Fish