Archive for May, 2017

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

Look, an actual review about Rory’s Story Cubes goes like this: buy dice, roll them, write down your interpretation of the top facing pictures on how ever many dice you roll, try to interpret them and start writing. Repeat as necessary. Like many things we do, it’s not exactly rocket science. Though maybe the part about trying to roll dice and type at the same time, might be. Or just a riddle without solution. 

Yes, even I run dry getting ideas the normal way, watch and read stuff, ask weird questions and write down the resulting idea in my idea file. I don’t usually stay dry, because the universe likes me…for the moment, but it’s nice to have a backup plan. For me that’s pull out the dice, roll and see what pops. I have other methods, apps I don’t really use anymore, random generators all over the web, but sometimes the idea is to roll the dice just to see how weird things can get.

Now the purveyors of these dice will tell you the basic game goes like this, roll nine dice, try to use all nine face up pictures. Yeah, like I’m not going to roll more dice. I used to roll D&D characters by throwing six extra dice and dropping the crappiest six rolls guaranteeing that I don’t wind up with characters like one of my first basic game victims named Alpo (I was 10 and I misspelled Apollo, good thing it turned out) with two 3’s, a 6 and not a whole lot more. But, I digress. I roll twelve story dice and drop the lamest three results or not.

Starting out with the three basic sets with nine dice each that are available everywhere, the purveyors of these dice hooked me into buying all of the three dice extension sets that are so helpfully color coded. They also hooked me into getting four of five special nine dice sets related to various special licenses: Batman, Scooby-Doo, Doctor Who and LooneyTunes. I skipped the Moomin set, largely because when you say Belgian cartoon franchise to me I think Smurfs. For all I know a Moomin might be a smurf baked in the sun too long by Gargamel (there’s an image, especially if the victim is Smurfette).

I found I had to keep the special sets segregated in separate bags because the makers ran out of new colors with which to code the dice. All of the other dice have colors that tell you what set they came from, pink for Fairytale, dark blue for Verbs and so on. The special sets are all printed in black ink like one of the basic sets insuring confusion and an inability to find the special dice when you have to cast about for the elements to an actual Batman story. Trust me, you want the die faces with Joker, Scarecrow, Catwoman, the dreaded Cybermen and Daleks right where you can find them.

At this point, I must add a word about interpreting the pictures that come face up. Is the aquamarine Man in a Tube (see picture) die face from the Interstellar set a hibernation tube, a transporter, a cloning tank, or an Auto-Doc? Is the brick red man (see picture) surrounded by the jagged field a glow in the dark guy or electrified, like an eel? And just what the Hell is that black one (see picture) a burning bush delivering the Word of God or a scary spooky demon beast as last seen in a nightmare? Like Tarot cards upside down matters with some of these dice.

I’m sure the makers of the dice and others would say “Dude, they can be either, pick one!” To be sure, when the same picture comes up even I will interpret some of these pictures differently the second time. New rule, try to interpret said pictures in the weirdest and funniest way possible.

So do I actually use these dice to write stories rather than roll up prompt cards for semi-mythical later use at a party? Yes, a few months ago I wanted to start up some Batman fan fiction in part to keep up with the narrative arms race in my comic book store writing group. But, I’ve been whining for a while that all of my good ideas that don’t require rolling dice get shunted into anything but Batman. What to do? Roll the dice.

I will have to do some writing bag/notebook archeology to find all twelve possible elements I rolled because like so many of us, I shouldn’t put projects down because it will be months getting back to that story. What I do remember is coming up with Harley Quinn, Arkham Assylum, Moses’ basket and a dark tower in moonlight, both from the Fairytale set added to the Batman set.

I have three or four chapters of a story in my Dropbox file that starts with the single bloodiest night (possibly just a regular Tuesday) in a dark Gotham alley. A young boy found abandoned has special gifts and bonds to Harley Quinn as a surrogate mother. Batman objects because Harley Quinn is by definition a psychotic Clown Princess of Murder, hardly a positive foster mother. Mayhem and epic adventure ensue. So far, the moment that tickles me the most is seeing Harley holding the boy facing down the Gotham PD SWAT team making demands, including a clown-themed onesie for the boy. God, I’ve got to find where I wrote those elements down!

Now that I’ve bloviated a bit about how I use these dice (your methodology may vary), let’s dig into why you came for the ride. What did you roll while trying to write this post? Huh? Come on, be a pal…

First up for your discriminatingly violent pleasure (or not), we have twelve elements drawn from across the regular 63 story dice. The verb to jump. Zeus tossing thunderbolts. A first aid kit. Time/clock. Tackle/wrestle/fight. Sadness/worry. A lizard. A spiral galaxy. A bear trap. A levitating box. A caped hero/villain.

Oooh! How will I ever start…

Sunlight filtered down through the clouds above Olympus gracing Zeus’s footsteps through the clouds made solid through the force of human belief. Stroking his beard and shifting his hip to get his quiver of thunderbolts to settle just right for the long hours sitting on his throne. The father of the gods cleared his throat.

“Hermes!” Zeus bellowed.

He heard the skittering of tiny feet scampering underfoot. A quickly lifted foot prevented stepping on a lizard that…

Really? I’m supposed to give you more than a few paragraphs based on any one of my rolls without you greasing me with beer, money or heartfelt gratitude?

Okay, one more. Dance. Fountain. Icarus/hubris. Ward off. Henhouse. Planet Earth. Magic flute. Evil clown. Chained in dungeon. Call elevator. Broken bone. Magic flower. Think you could come up with something? This one might be tough. It starts out with a Fellini feel about people dancing in fountains (La Dolce Vita) and winds up in the place Mozart must have been doing the Magic Flute. I guess if you want weird either roll these dice or smoke lots of weed. Doing both is probably dangerous.

I wonder what Shelley, Mary Shelley and Lord Byron could’ve pulled off with these dice. Let’s not break the spacetime continuum finding out, they were professionals needing just a dark and stormy night.

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

I wrote a joke a few nights ago. Don’t all whoop it up all at once, but for me it’s a weird milestone…an actual joke. I’ve spent a lot of years working on books and scripts that might have been mildly amusing with funny, or at least smile worthy, scenes. I do black satire, I repeatedly said. Not actual comedy with jokes

Truth be told, I didn’t write the joke that I wanted to – A priest, a pastor, a rabbi and an imam walk into a bar… I never got any farther than that setup so rife these days for restarting/enhancing all the many religious wars on our planet. And I went back to other things. This potential joke still remains unfinished. And no, I don’t believe I’m particularly afraid of anything offending all four of the major religions. I’m just not terribly joke-funny enough to finish the joke in the hope that I could get out of Dodge while everybody else is still laughing before they realize that I just honked off about 40-percent of the world’s population. Alas.

So anyway, the joke I did write –

Why was the quantum physics professor across the road found dead with his eyes pecked out? Why was the chicken farmer found dead in a box, mauled?

A: Tired of it all, the chicken and Schrödinger’s cat made a deal to trade murders.

Rim shot, please! The joke, such as it is, needs the help. Maybe even a little booze to help the murmur in the tough room that I imagine going so silent as to be an audio black hole, waveforms go in but the curvature of spacetime is so convoluted that nothing in three dimensions ever gets out. A comedy Roach Motel if you will.

By comparison, these are the vignettes I think are funny and have gotten chuckles from people who hear –

A kaiju (in this case a trademark safe generic name for Godzilla) attacks Los Angeles rising out of Santa Monica Bay a little to the north of the Santa Monica Pier. A pretty blonde young reporter (unless the station does a bit of diversity pandering and goes for the pretty Latina reporter, is there any other kind?) is on hand to catch the monster on camera with her camera guy.

Reporter: Holy crap! A real monster! But what do we call it? Godzilla is under trademark to Toho Studios!

The cameraman says nothing for a moment trying to keep the monster in frame and in focus.

Camera guy: Dunno! We might want to run, though! It’s getting awful close. Angelzilla, maybe?

Reporter: Angelzilla? Works for me, we’ll use it until Legal says stop! You were saying something about we need to run! Let’s boogie, most Riki-tik!

Reporter and camera guy run away only to watch Angelzilla stomp the shit out of the Santa Monica City Hall which, if you care enough to Google the geography, is only a few monster steps inland from the Ferris wheel. Angelzilla, acting at my behest, made short work of the City Attorney’s Office on the third floor. I freely admit to a little anti-lawyer pandering.

More recently, I rewrote a scene you’ve already watched…Commander Spock about to die in a volcano. My addition to a scene I really liked and didn’t want to change too much…create an excuse for Spock to say in his deadpan delivery FUBAR, three times no less. A Vulcan saying Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition is hysterically funny to me. Maybe, it isn’t to you, but since it’s my script and my hands on the keyboard…Muhahahahahahaha!

Okay, now that I’ve checked Wrote a Joke off the bucket list even if it’s basically the unholy love child of a chicken joke and a Schrödinger’s cat joke if Alfred Hitchcock had paid attention in Physics class. A few social media likes and rolled eyes doesn’t make it funny, but rather cute.

I’m sure I’m supposed to go into full blovius going on and on about why we tell jokes and such. But, quite frankly I didn’t read those books before filling up a slow news day bragging up that I wrote a joke, just not the one that seems to matter. Truthfully, I know that I don’t really care about settling what happens when…a priest, a pastor, a rabbi and an imam walk into a bar, but it is funny to see the personally insolvable puzzles that we get hung up on. Like it’s supposed to be my job to write jokes on top of figuring the intricacies of the Action Movie?

So I invite anyone who cares to fire back the punchlines to the unfinished joke that come off your smoking word processors. Oh, one more element, I’m pretty sure various nuns do the dancing at this bar. Why? Who doesn’t love the Busby Berkeley dancing nuns from Mel Brooks’ History of the World Pt. 1? With that “send in the nuns!”

Similar protest statement written in happier times…

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

I have a friend that in these stressful times really needs to find a hook for putting a metaphorical zipper on his mouth. He basically has what historians traditionallly call a Becket Problem – “Will not someone rid of this troublesome priest?” – directly suggesting on Facebook that someone not named him murder DGF. Yeah, I’m pretty much expecting a visit from various Federal cops either beforehand to evaluate the level of threat or after the fact to determine how much of a conspiracy charge with which to fit on my friend. If it’s the former, I hope to pull off “he’s totally harmless” with a straight and believable face. If it’s the latter, I’ll have to see how well my “he was so normal” flies with the current crop of Federal cops who seem to be losing all sense of proportion and humor with each passing day. 

I will reiterate that the likelihood of my friend actually doing something like joining a murder conspiracy that includes a doctor, a boardinghouse operator and a few others exists somewhere between slim and fat. The most recent bubble up on his Facebook says he needs something to cathartically release the animus of him seeing our beloved Republic get sold up Shit Creek without Paddle.

I bitched him out on Facebook that he should keep his mouth shut on social media because this was at least the fourth time since November that he’s committed the felony of threatening the President. He has a young kid that will never see him again except through the bulletproof window in a visiting room (assuming these Feds don’t simply light him up). And he writes comic books I actually like reading.

The end of my comment included a bit where I suggested to him writer to writer that he should write a comic book a cathartic story involving a gruesome presidential murder and I would help up to the limit of the law. Something got through to him, my friend pulled his posts off Facebook. But, being a pitbull with a bone with certain types of story ideas, I thought it out and worked out a story outline.

Okay, so we’ve covered catharsis – the purging of emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, especially through certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music. Or in simpler Greg-speak, “I write it so I won’t have to do it.”

The handgrenade in the title derives from the fact that in my desire to feed my friend with a story outline designed to keep his head on straight for him to write, two things will happen. One, I would sacrifice one of many story ideas, something I don’t really do ever. Two, writing the outline for my friend or later just writing the book, script or comic book also puts me on the firing line if the Secret Service completely loses proporation or humor and comes after me. Handgrenade, indeed. I must really like this guy.

As I put some mental effort into this, as yet, unrealized story I kinda grokked out just where the limits of this story had to live. My suggestion to my friend included my common refrain about Names Changed to Protect the Guilty, that Dragnet had it wrong because the innocent don’t actually need protected identities.

 What this means in the delicate needle threading of a story about a presidential murder where we want to keep our need to shout – “Sic Semper Tyrannis!” – in purely fictional terms, gender switching. A female candidate/president is the absolute furthest thing from our pussy grabbing, Russia colluding…very nice man. Surely, having a woman president solves the problem of an Administration rapidly losing all proportion and respect for the First Amendment as we breathe.

It does the best I can to avoid what I fear coming for another friend who wrote Food for Thought (see picture above, review to follow whenever) during that awful eighteen month interregnum where we still thought Blue Facebook hadn’t lied to us about the election. I keep waiting for this other friend to get his Federal cop visit depicting DGF as a baby-eating cannibal. I doubt a picture of a Trump-esque president getting shot for his douchebag-ery will fly. Any male president being too close to DGF, in these times.

The minute I knew my fictional president had to be female, I knew I already had this story idea on my list, or at least the first part of the story. In the wake of Meg Whitman trying to buy her way into Governor of California using her own money without asking people for donations and her subsequent smack down, I had a lightbulb. Candidate Something Something but Clearly Female is put up to run by a group of advertising executives who see her self-financed campaign as a way to shore up a soft quarter.

The candidate begins to do well and the advertising guys are terrified that they might have to live with her as president…they send assassins. Naturally, a relationship much like Olympus Has Fallen develops between the candidate and head of her Secret Service detail. And then like a lot of my not fully realized projects I didn’t get much further, mostly due to not fully grokking the second half/ending of the story…until now.

I’m thinking this out ready to feed something to my friend in need of a dental zipper and writing distraction, suddenly I get the second lightbulb. All of that nasty DGF behavior that keeps the majority of us terrified to read the news every morning becomes the second half of the story. The Secret Service agent slowly discovers the Russia (Upper Dancing Bear-istan?) interference, the growing sellout to people willing to burn civilization down and the blustery WTF. Basically, leading to the Secret Service agent killing the president himself and then either turning his weapon on himself or agreeing to arrest and absolutely refusing to defend himself against capital murder and treason charges.

Wow! A more complete partial story outline that just needs a few more Save the Cat beats to be fully ready for prime time! Hopefully, making the killer ultimately the Secret Service agent will carry the rest of the weight for keeping those Federal cops far off and therefore legendary. If a Secret Service Supervisory Special Agent ever shot a protectee in real life, we will have already had the Apocalypse and simply didn’t notice. That and a female president, we can only hope that I can claim the mantle of fiction that Martin Scorcese got when Hinckley used Taxi Driver as his motivation on President Reagan.

The current Secret Service likely has even less sense of humor in this case than they would’ve for DGF’s predecessors. But, I would have to bet my freedom on being able to explain guys, fiction, I don’t actually mean it and I made the President a woman specifically to avoid this unpleasant conversation. If I or my friend run with this story, this conversation exists in my future. I think I can pull it off.

Moving on, I pitch this partial outline to my friend yesterday (5/10/17) with the specific thought of giving my friend a reason to shut up about killing people on social media. A day later, after he’s pulled his posts off Facebook, my friend listens intently but has already softened his hard heart. This means he wants to read my version whenever it will drop into our collective headspace. Yeah, we all get bouts of Not Invented Here. But, even so I just poured concrete into a major plot hole. Giving us the post title.

One last word, any real assassins out there taking me too seriously will be thrown under the proverbial bus sooner than it takes me to buy pizza. I just don’t want to win that way.

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

I don’t often get to name, or at least propose a name for a story/film genre. I mean, didn’t Blake Snyder already go there with his ten film genres that select for character interaction instead of setting and other factors? Yes and No. As you will see when I finally get around to reading the late Mr. Synder’s Save the Cat sequels to explain these storytelling threads to you, Dear Reader (post to follow whenever), I’m not sure my genre description completely fits in with the Restorative Three-Act story structure described by either Mr. Snyder or the earlier versions by Syd Field. But, there is nothing resorative nor redemptive about stories and films that might pick up my moniker of Tournament of Death

What is this Restorative Three-Act structure? A protagonist whom we find compelling for some reason meets various challenges that force emotional and personal growth that meets deep-seated needs. That covers Restorative. Three Acts? Well, it begins with key rules/guidelines to establish the character. It middles (ugly verb) with similar rules/guidelines for a Second (Middle) Act designed to heighten conflict both internal and external for the protagonist. It ends with a third act that resolves the majority of the dramatic themes and conflicts of the story resulting in a restoration of or positive improvement upon the protagonist’s worldview or life.

Basically, this thought process explains why Robert Altman so famously skewered Hollywood suits and their slavish devotion to the Happy Ending in The Player. On the surface, with regard to this story structure a careful reader should be asking – What about Tragedy? Not that it matters, but since the only tragedies Hollywood will even think about doing have the Shakespeare or Other Ancient Public Doman label on them, it’s just not going to come up very much. But, a more careful reading of the many works that assert Restorative Three-Act say that some tragedies do apply in category because a protagonist like Hamlet acts as a sacrifice for the redemption of others (Denmark abides despite all the royals being dead). But, still some stories just don’t fit this mainstream structure of which the Tournament of Death is but one.

Let’s list the examples to prove my point of a small subclass of narrative that defies other explanation. Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men and Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight. What do these movies have in common? Six to eight really horrible shitbag lame excuses for human beings walk into a closed or semi-closed environment chasing either their dark personal passions for revenge, destruction and misery or an awesome McGuffin that causes those dark emotional states. None of these horrible characters have any remaining shred of humanity left to allow them to leave the tournament site. And so these representatives of the ‘tyranny of evil men’ all stay in and kill each other, either to the last man or everybody dies.

No one grows. No one has anything like an epiphany of any kind. Every single one of them behaves according to the preset directives beat into them by their harsh lives up to that point. Bullets fly once these competing needs conflict with each other. The audience watches a bloodbath secretly glad to not be anywhere near as evil as these fictional men. This vicarious extermination of Evil subconsciously serves a similar emotional point to Yahweh saying in Scripture – “Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord.” – or – “Ye shall know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee!” It’s good to know that somehow Evil will kill itself off down from eight bastards with whom we wish not to share oxygen to one or zero. A culling.

Tarantino first. Eight dudes find their way to a remote cabin on the frontier trapped by a lot of snow. We follow Samuel L. Jackson’s character, a bounty hunter that forged a letter from Abraham Lincoln to get a small amount of peace from white assholes that might otherwise kill him just as soon as look at him. Trained by Mr. Tarantino’s previous movie Django Unchained we’re pulling for this man to prevail. All of America enjoys seeing the really racist white assholes of our past get their measure of divine vengeance so we can skip over the echoes of that racism in our present.

What happens? Samuel L. Jackson’s character strips his enemy’s son naked in the snow, forces a blowjob and then lets the man freeze anyway. Masterful job, Mr. Tarantino, tricking us with a seemingly interesting character to make us think this is a mainstream movie. Once we see this moment and how Mr. Jackson gloats saying those lines, we know we’re done and we should’ve known because the title is Hateful Eight. No false advertising claims here. And everybody dies…thankfully.

Even Mr. Tarantino sort of admits to this type of storytelling. In many interviews, he repeatedly says “I was doing a sequel to Django where he kills everybody in the cabin until I realized that the only problem with this as a Django story was Django. I cut him out and just did a movie with these characters stuck in the same room.”

Cormac McCarthy as interpreted by the Coen Brothers. In this movie and book, a down on his luck West Texas welder finds a bag of drug money that sparks a bloodbath when three or four different criminal entities all go hunting for the welder and the bag. In order to have a chance keeping the money, the wounded welder has to abandon key parts of his previous life while shooting it out with the bad guys. The story actually ends early in an indeterminate state where the welder and main assassin are wounded and waiting for the next shoe to drop whether the fight will continue into the future.

The extra villains in this West Texas bloodbath all die as if listed on a March Madness tournament bracket suggesting Javier Bardem might represent Duke in a year when they go all the way. In the same vein, Josh Brolin might be UNC coming up through the West brackets ready to deliver a cathartic showdown in the Finals. However, no one in this movie changes, grows or even expresses very much regret.

The lack of change is a major component of a Tournament of Death. Yes, if we were to take any of these characters and expand out their stories to highlight lives from birth to death the arcs would resemble traditional tragedies. We would see children figuratively and literally getting teeth kicked in by the harsh ‘tyrannies of evil men’ who then make a fateful anti-Restorative Three-Act structure decision to pick up a gun and throw away the sun. The filmmakers and storytellers involved all assume we understand that part going for characters similar to Clint Eastwood in Escape from Alcatraz answering the inevitable tell me about your childhood therapy question with – “Short.”

However, in the compressed timeframe of the stories presented to us Javier Bardem and Samuel L. Jackson are remorseless in the pursuit of their goal and simply can’t change. The die has been cast. Even if they could get out early as in No Country for Old Men, they can’t because character is destiny and these bad hombres just simply won’t pick up a cell phone and call Mom, Wife, or Former Best Friend for the money for a plane ticket to anywhere but here.

The above represents what a Tournament of Death is. But, please let’s not confuse this currently miniscule story genre with movies that fit traditional storytelling that otherwise use similar elements and motifs. Nothing about The Hunger Games comes anywhere close to a Tournament of Death, just because the tributes must fight it out for more food granted to their various homelands.

Katniss Everdine behaves as the heroine of what Mr. Snyder would refer to as A Dude (Lady in this case) With a Problem story. Katniss starts out as an ordinary archer in District 12 putting the odd rabbit on the table for her family. Then, her sister’s name comes up in the Tribute Lottery and she fatefully takes her place. Mister Snyder took the title of his treatise on practical screenwriter from moments exactly like this where Martin Riggs cuts the wrong wire on the bomb and says – “Roj, grab the cat!”

Once a writer goes for a Save the Cat moment, he or she is going for a traditional character who like Django getting cut out of Hateful Eight has no place in a Tournament of Death. The cat, sister or whatever is an attempt to engineer that we like the protagonist.

Another example of the possible confusion between Tournament of Death and this particular brand of Dude With a Problem storytelling: Rollerball (1975). First off, the 2003 remake doesn’t exist in my headspace; I come up punching if forced to talk about it.

Jonathan E of Energy’s Houston rollerball team is at the top of his game in a game where frankly ‘a man was not meant to grow strong.’ The Energy Board decides he will retire, but Jonathan wants one more year to go out on top. The Energy Board colludes with the Boards of the other companies that rule Earth to remove rules with each rollerball contest until he quits or dies. Jonathan digs in with his toe brakes to climb the wreckage on the track to score the only goal of the game. The crowd chants his name as he skates into history and a painted freezeframe to the strains of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D-minor. Not a Tournament of Death despite Jonathan being the last man standing.

So here we are with a new description for one type of rarely used story structure that doesn’t exactly fit the cookie cutter presented to us by our “required” storytelling books. As you may guess, I only like cookie cutters when I want a Santa-shaped Holiday Sugar Cookie with a red and green sprinkle motif. But, sometimes I want a slightly irregular pan-cut chocolate chip cookie that defies restrictive definition. I’m sure someone out there has an opinion that my analysis is total bullshit and will bring examples. Bring it. Better to discuss storytelling than to worry about anything coming out of Orange Man’s mouth.

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

Just a few days ago, I conversed with another writer about my general support for a Universal Basic Income as an inevitability over the next few decades. I cited one of Robert Reich’s video blogs from sometime last year where he defended the future usage of the UBI using this paraphrased syllogism – “in the near-future the 3D printer, the autonomous delivery truck and automated factory will kill many jobs. The successor to this iPhone in my hands, the iEverything box, will become the citizen’s point of contact with that distributed manufacturing culture that will reward the product designer and the owner of the 3D printer or robotic factory, but not the now unemployable factory workers. This iEverything box will still cost money and resources so that the designers and companies controlling those designs want to get paid. However, they will be marketing this iEverything box to a population that is largely unemployed and thus unable to legally acquire this technology to access this creativity economy. Therefore, a reasonable UBI set at a level that takes care of necessities – rent, food, continuing education, reasonable healthcare copays – would also allow citizens to buy the iEverything to participate in the economy to the benefit of everybody because corporations need customers to justify using the electricity to run the factory or 3D printer.” 

The reply – “so, your point is that society will change us from being workers to paid consumers.”

Yes, absolutely.

I went onto state that we would have to become designers, writers, composers, artists, scientists, marketing specialists if we A) wanted more money than allotted to us under the UBI and B) wanted to create the conditions that might make it possible for citizens to be happy in a post-work economy. Nearly everybody writing on UBI cites the assumption that homo sapiens as we currently understand ourselves self-defines according to the things we do.

Aristotle asserted that happiness was “the exercise of vital powers along lines of excellence in lives affording them scope.” Fancy speak for novelists write books and then try to reach their audience. Or any other nouns dropped in to replace novelists and books in your personal version of that sentence.

This is a good time to take a 45-degree tangent from the retelling of the incomplete verbal discussion with the writer that sparked this discussion to read Yuval Noah Harari’s similar take on The Meaning of Life Post-Work posted today (5/8/17) in The Guardian. Mister Harari suggests that people in the absence of work will retreat into a variety of what are essentially virtual reality systems to find meaning. Whether it be a VR game like Sims, Second Life or some kind of religion, whether a new faith or an old classic, meaning comes from an internal space where we apply rules and order from within.

Mister Harari correctly asserts that the creators of such virtual systems will remain gainfully employed likely forever. Another word for creator in the context of a blog column called Scribbler’s Saga…WRITER. Even L. Ron Hubbard was a writer. Jahweh (or the Hebrew priests and kings that made him up) made his/their point in writing. J.R.R. Tolkien (the subject of many MMORGS) was a writer that created a world we regularly visit between our ears.

This next part of my argument didn’t fully come out in verbal conversation (why we really invented writing), but I went on to say that society will have to change to teach people to be creative. My conversation partner replied with – “I don’t like a democratic culture, I want a curated culture.” On the surface, I agree. Crap can be king in the absence of editors, agents and other gatekeepers.

But, you’ll notice I said society must change to teach people to be creative. Basically, my assertions presuppose a massive overhaul of educational content away from a system originally designed to create the very factory workers losing more of their jobs each year, first to cheap foreign labor and then to robots. Said educational system has only managed to mutate into a dumbed down system to churn out Wal-Mart greeters.

Creativity, as we know it, has been a complete afterthought for much of the past century. People who aspire to more had to fight the forces and lure of “cut your hair and get a job” for much of that time. This emphasis on these now disappearing jobs led to people like my father, who most frequently asks me the – “where do you get your ideas?” – question that I referenced in a previous post.

As a child, I remember being fantastically creative. In one example, I would sit with friends in my room and wax craptological on things like Battlestar Galactica 1.0. Baltar made a Faustian deal for the Fires of Hell to destroy the refugee fleet (all versions of the show later succinctly pitched as Exodus in space). Satan only gives Baltar half those fires because cool like Heaven, just ain’t no good, Baby. We also played roleplaying games to scratch that itch.

I’m the only one in that group that went out on the writer limb. True, they became doctors, engineers and scientists channeling creativity in other ways. These fondly remembered moments tell me children are naturally creative with their own virtual worlds to callback to Mister Harari’s essay.

And bringing this back to my father that reads, but swears he’s not creative, how much of that was because he didn’t have to develop the creativity muscle? He always knew he needed a job, so he learned to sell insurance as ethically as possible. Dad’s exercise of vital powers.

But, what happens if he needed to write a book to avoid going crazy with inactivity? Old and current system, Dad dies on the vine. Hypothetical new system, someone teaches and encourages him to write his book, paint his paintings, or blow interesting glass objet d’art for people’s coffee tables.

Society is changing such that we won’t have the factory, Wal-Mart or the Army to siphon off people striving to find out what their vital powers even are. Education will change with it even if it must dangerously flirt with bumping into George Carlin’s famous observation that – “the real owners of this country only want people just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork, while still being passive enough not to realize how fucked they are.”

In small ways, I was a victim of an education that selected for jobs and security instead of creativity. My Tenth Grade English teacher, Mr. Holmes, was a total dick to me talking to me about my writing. My Eleventh and Twelfth Grade English teacher (electives only, the teachers for the required classes were also assholes), Berkeley Blatz, wasn’t. The small hook needed to be writer, even with an agonizing need to get it right.

I’m basically thinking all of this writer backstory as I’m talking to this guy, but not as articulately as I should (again, why we invented writing). I’m hearing what is basically a nasty form of elitism that he doesn’t want crap flooding our cultural headspace. Neither do I, but we all sort of have two definitions of crap. One is work released before the effort to make it good takes place. The other is work so far from our personal comfort zones that we react violently to it.

The gatekeepers my conversation partner espoused would help greatly with the first category of crap. However, editors and other gatekeepers have the same passions and prejudices as the rest of us possibly explaining how good writers with offbeat stories got crushed by traditional creation models. The answer is more creative people from all backgrounds to serve in those gatekeeper roles.

And I suddenly realized after we’d packed up to go home after our shared conversation and productivity session, that our current social media driven widely dispersed culture model is only “democratic” in the sense that he used the word if you take into account that our education process hasn’t caught up to preparing citizens for the new frontier. Educating more creatives also means educating more gatekeepers with similar skills who can be paid by the first artist to supplement their UBI money providing services, while the artist recoups from the sale of that art.

The neither fish nor fowl state of things as they are today seems virulently “democratic” because we haven’t educated more of those yahoos posting variations of you suck to really use their words and write reviews. The worst resort to vicious attacks from all sides because they don’t like things that fall outside a narrow band of acceptability, whether it’s “Major Kusanagi can’t be white, you’re racist!” – or “Wonder Woman isn’t feminist enough because she shaves her pits!”

But, does this virulently “democratic” culture expression change as we educate more creative people, some of whom will make a living helping other creatives be better? Do we get more comments online that express opinions without crossing the line into attacking? This is a fine distinction between well educated creative and critical thinking citizens who understand the basic Golden Rule of “write the review I want to read about my own work” and just letting everyone have a cell phone with a Post button. I honestly believe that, yes, more creative people will breed more curation. The perceived problem takes care of itself and we don’t have to pine for models that will never pass this way again.

My last major subheading in this imperfectly realized conversation is that writers really become salesmen chasing readership of which the money is a secondary reflection. This means we go to conventions and fairs dedicated to our preferred product line to personally convince the people on the other side of the table to part with a little bit of money and a lot more time experiencing our attempt at communication. As a byproduct we become the ultimate entrepreneurs engaging in the classic small scale capitalism that tells us “greed is eternal and can be good.”

So part of our education to survive in No Job Land will include going to meet other people, potential buyers one and all. And this social interaction will also answer the age old question – what motivates us to get out of bed and live in the absence of traditional employment? Writing and selling books for those of us who don’t heal, design or explore scientific mysteries is one perfectly valid survival plan. I’m ready-ish, are you?