Blood & Ink Video

Posted: November 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

© 2010 G.N. Jacobs

I really hate Craigslist for many reasons (spamming, flagging, unrealistic expectations, etc), but the one that really gets me is the amount of people who post jobs or gigs in the writing section who are basically cheating their college educations. Some are either willing to pay for it the rest are even more delusional by not paying for their cheating.

Every week, I run into someone who posts a variation of  – “Help! I’m in this class and I need a term paper on ________ done yesterday!”

In my search for writing and editing jobs, I don’t even respond to this type of desperate, delusional and stupid post. I’m not going to take your money by giving you copyrightable material that you can then pass off as your own. Whatever skills I have at writing came because I do my own work and I lived my life instead of paying someone else to live it for me. I tend to put my name on things with a copyright symbol, because it’s my brain at work not yours.

It was my brain and my drive to communicate that allowed me to find my niche despite completely screwing up getting a degree. I’m the guy without the degree who can do the work. And I’m not going to give someone who clearly doesn’t want to be in the classes they’re in any quarter.

The most recent and hilarious example is something from the Houston page where a student took a Fundamentals of Music course and now must write a composition as his or her final exam. The post claimed that the class was a General Education elective and help is needed now. A set of requirements is given and no pay is offered.

I’m multitalented listing writing/editing at the top, with photography somewhat below that but still a worthy skill set and I do have pretensions to music. I can hear composition in the completely untrained way a record producer might speak to musicians in English when saying things like – “Speed up the strings” or “Slow down the kettle drums.” What little music comes from me is completely improvisational and I couldn’t help this student if I wanted to. Trust me I don’t.

Because of undiagnosed ADD and a complete mistrust of the cookie cutter mentality in my higher education, I blew plenty of classes. My stories are a little better because of this overt failure, so did I really fail? Then I left school and taught myself the things I truly needed to know. So, why when I have a healthy distrust of college because I couldn’t fit the mold do I get annoyed enough at Craigslist cheaters to blog about them as one small part of not liking Craigslist in general?

The Ds received in Introduction to Film (Yes, I got a D in a film class, those that know me are shocked, shocked!) and Music Appreciation taught me to get out of classes for which I had no feeling. If I didn’t know I was going to write prose and poetry for the rest of my life, I would fight to retake classes to even out my bad grades. At no time then or now would I pass someone else’s work of as my own, because I learn as much from tanking classes I had to take because the form has to be obeyed. I want other people to man up and take responsibility the truth that a college’s Art Studies requirement can be filled with painting, or basket weaving and drop classes they might not complete. Paying (or not) me to do your work for you to maintain your GPA to get into the better graduate school doesn’t fly.

And a whole segment of Craigslist exists to feed off and enable such cheating. I found services ads for writers promising that their papers are “100-percent not plagiarized.” I will rob banks before I sell out to help another human being fail at being the best people their skills, talents and fortunes can make them. I would rather deal with any A minus or B student who missed being valedictorian because of that film class instead of the fast burners who skated the system and left school with a sense of entitlement. Cheating is not compartmentalized the cheater will make a move on your spouse because he or she can.

Meanwhile, back on Craigslist I see plenty of repeated services posts from people continuously reposting to keep their ads fresh in the public mind. I do the same, because trying to make money as an editor I have to expand beyond my home site of Los Angeles. Even I check the Los Angeles jobs and gigs pages out before trying New York or Chicago, so if I want national reach I have to bend the rules. I have written decent ads that are just beginning to show fruit after six weeks or so. I repost them as is because if I write ads every time some flagger thinks I should I wouldn’t have time to do my work.

I repost my ads when they expire, but I see ads slightly changed and reposted every two days. I know the ads are substantially the same because the headers are the same. I post three pages at a time using one email account. I bend the rules a little and others bend it a lot. Yet, in all this process I am currently being picked on by a flagger who doesn’t like that I repeat my ads and told me to “Burn in Hell, moron.”

Flagging is a huge joke anyways; I had a Chicago ad flagged by someone who didn’t bother to email his or her aspersions to my character. I go back to an earlier version of the same post and repost it with no changes. Three weeks later, no one cares. I intend to do the same with the Burn in Hell lady. I will repost until Craigslist actually follows through with a suspension. It must help that all I’m doing is advertising my services as an editor and not intending to cheat anyone.

False suspension notices from Craigslist are one small part of the spam that comes in when you post an ad. Craigslist themselves warns people against account phishing, so when I get the threatening suspension note I log into Craigslist. If I am suspended my password shouldn’t work, two weeks later my account is still active. Somehow, I think the bar to get booted off Craigslist is much higher than certain spammers and flaggers realize, because the site wants the truly offensive off but realize that some people are just angry and looking for a fight, explaining why I’m still posting.

The other Craigslist spam is equally silly. I wish I could collect money for everyone sending me a link to the Digg page promising that I can increase my hit rate and make thousands of dollars from home. Getting hits has to do with three things: new content, aggressively posting links everywhere on the web and sliding money to Google, Yahoo and MSN to get to the top of the page. Besides, the “Google” or “Craigslist” kit are the same scam where you read the fine print and discover that you will pay $170/month until you say stop. Eventually, the Federal Trade Commission will catch up.

Yes, I have a lot of reasons to hate Craigslist but I am getting work. But the good news is that Facebook has a better model where I develop a circle and hit them up for work, just as I would when I hit an in person mixer. Burn in Hell? Ha!

© 2010 G.N. Jacobs

Mom really knows how to deflate a guy. This time around it was my costume for my big Star Trek scene. I go to a modest effort to find the right shirt, black pants and proper scowl to play Guard Number One in an upcoming episode of the fan series: Star Trek: Odyssey. I send Mom the picture afterwards. Her reply: “You don’t look so tough, but then you never did.”

I suspect that Mom, yours, mine, or anyone’s for that matter, is constitutionally incapable of seeing past the sweet boy who got at least a half an hour’s entertainment from Prince Albert in a Can or a well-timed fart. She will always see her little boy trying to look fierce instead of convincingly portraying a thug. Good thing, Mom isn’t a film reviewer or I’d be dead as an actor.

Considering that the goon I played must have graduated at the top of his class at the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy, maybe Mom has a point. So, after throwing on a Klingon sash, a headband to cover an eye and a purple scarf, I sally forth sans dialogue to poke people with script immunity with guns and flop onto mats. That part is all in a day’s work.

But, this moron tries to control two pissed off Tellarites all by his lonesome. Real prison guards will laugh; I wasn’t scripted to be smart enough to bring restraints, I stood too close to both of them and I needed the second thug who only shows up after I get smacked around. So, getting worked over by this itty-bitty little girl in this case is as much a punishment for being stupid as it is that I was dealing with people possessing script immunity.

These two Starfleet officers later put two phaser shots in my ten-ring as they escape. I carried a smaller gun for this scene because I figured it was a demotion for being such a dufus who couldn’t even get a shot off before I died. Actually, now that I think about it, I couldn’t get into the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy. When Mom sees the footage, she’ll say, “told you.” Mom hasn’t seen the footage, yet.

Still, it is deflating to hear Mom say, “you don’t look so tough.” I wonder if more Moms played along when the boy does fierce dress up if the world wouldn’t turn out slightly better. We dress fierce and play thug as a way of chest thumping – I’m strong; I’m master of my domain.

After a certain point, Mom’s don’t play along because their child is cute. They can’t see anything else. The vampire I played once upon a time that learned the hard way about Vaseline in hair was cute and a little bit stupid to boot. It took football pads for her to acknowledge me as a monster.

It is a sad fact that nothing works for all boys. While I may have been the cute boy, seeking acknowledgement from Mom that I am appropriately ripped enough to take my place in the world, others really need the deflating. Attitude is good arrogance is not and sometimes only Mom can see the difference. Am I annoyed? No, I love Mom.

At five, I would’ve whined that she wasn’t appropriately terrified of my war face. When I was five, Mom would’ve humored her boy with the right noises that sound faked to an adult’s ears. She was and is that kind of supportive parent. At forty-two, I’m just Mama’s little boy mugging fake anger for the camera and flopping on the mat. God, I hope it’s just Mom that sees through my tricks.

So far, only Mom has gone for the balloon pop. That’s one ego bullet dodged. Truthfully, the adult me stopped caring about ego reinforcement from Mom. But, the little boy that considers goofy costumes and flopping on the mat an acceptable way to make a living still runs to Mom seeking approval.

I still can’t decide if I wanted Mom to say – “Ooh, how fierce!” – or not. I’m not sure I’d know what to do if she did.

Crossword Puzzles

Posted: March 20, 2009 in Uncategorized

(c) 2009 G.N. Jacobs

Recently, I rediscovered crossword puzzles as a way to kill time and boost my already considerable vocabulary. It’s interesting how similar the various puzzles are regardless of the writer and/or publishing venue. They look the same using similar Javascripts and many of the same words, day after day. Here are my thoughts for livening up the puzzles.

I can’t do anything about the look because why do you reinvent the wheel? Whether it is the Los Angeles Times or USA Today, the online engine works especially well for my brute force technique. I try letters until I get the color that says I got the right answer. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t even think about a paper crossword these days. I don’t know where my pencils are.

But, I would vote several words, placeholders and other answers off the island and into that Disney vault where movies out of DVD rotation go. I would start with epee. I mean no disrespect to the remaining practioners of the redheaded stepchild of the fencing world, but at least ten puzzle appearances in two weeks is a bit much. How about saber, foil, rapier, broadsword or claymore?

I’m also getting sick of seeing variations of Aloe Vera, usually the aloe part, on my puzzles. Aren’t there other herbs and remedies available for use? I anxiously await the clue – “reputed to be good for energy and virility” – so that I could use ginseng. I sure don’t go near the real stuff, because I have all the virility I need. If I could afford saffron at the grocery store, I’d include this spice too, oh well.

Another clue for the vault would be “a large shoe,” which always nets E-E-E as the answer. It’s amazing how many times this shows up whenever the creator needs a three-square answer to make the other more important answers fit into that neat square box. You’d think that a puzzle maker would throw in the almost equally large D-D-D just to frak with the audience.

Puzzles have become littered with Roman numerals and Greek letters as another type of placeholder answer. Well, I survive these questions largely because I did go to college and took at least one Classics class. No, I did my reading in English, but some osmosis about numbers and letters did seep in. Either that, or I learned my Roman numerals from trying to decipher the pretentious copyright statements on many TV shows.

For some reason, Otto I and Otto come up quite frequently. The first is an obscure Holy Roman Emperor. I am educated enough that I can reasonably converse about most French and English kings, but those German and Austrian guys that held the title Holy Roman Emperor? What? Who?

I remember only one really good story starring a Holy Roman Emperor. Henry IV pissed off the pope and got excommunicated. Since appearing to be a good Christian was required to be king anywhere in Europe, Henry stripped down to sackcloth and ashes and waited barefoot in the snow until the pope forgave. Of course, the next time they saw each other, Henry led an army that dictated terms to the pope and the Papal States. Further comment about such ironies of the unholy intersection of religion and politics is best left for another essay.

That Otto I comes up so much suggests I need to read more nonfiction. OK, I will just as soon as I get through Guns, Germs and Steel, The World is Flat and The Ten-Cent Plague. The good news is that Otto without any modifiers is very easy for someone with more books to read than time; it’s a Simpsons’ clue. Personally, I wouldn’t get on the bus with Otto, but then I’m not a cartoon character with script immunity.

The Simpsons are very well represented in other clues. Doh, Moe and variations on Ned Flanders top the list. The creators seem impressed that this show that seems as if it’s been on practically forever has added two words to the OED: doh and meh. Some writers go the character that only the diehard fans would know, they have twenty plus seasons from which to choose. But, my brute force method solves everything in time.

What surprises me by their absence are Star Trek puzzles. You’d think that with Paramount drumbeating the countdown to 5/8/09 and the movie, which will largely determine if Star Trek gets to stay alive as a franchise that there would be more puzzles. I miss seeing phaser, Klingon, Romulan, Jefferies Tubes, warp drive and warp core in puzzles. Yeah, this is where you the reader remind me to write the damn thing myself. So, when I find a puzzle writing engine that talks to Macs, I’ll let you know.

Now, I can’t really complain when the puzzle goes for a broad appeal with a lot of recent music references, but I still do. I know Classic Rock very well and can hold my own with Jazz and Classical. My reason for the snobbery is that the music sucks more with each passing year. We live in a world where American Idol has replaced both the concept of paying dues and the contributions of the few record label A&R men who knew their jobs. This offends at so many levels, so of course I’m ignorant of this new stuff.

I have other peeves with the recording industry that play out in my puzzle-verse. Do you think if they worked with more of their artists to get good instead of dumping them at the first tiny dip in sales that I’d know more about them? And don’t get me started on Hip Hop, a genre of which I am proud of my ignorance.

I grew up on the four-part complexity of rock and so I’m never going to like the abject simplicity of rap that is a drum line (often sampled) and lyrics. And then it became even harder to like rap, because finding someone with something to say other than Hos, blunts and sticking it to Whitey has become impossible. So, these types of questions really zap my solve rate.

The reason why I said I can’t complain about questions for which I don’t get the cultural reference is that if solving the puzzle is so damn important, then between my dictionary and a Google search I have no excuses. I’m just lazy and would rather discover the new information by virtue of solving around the dumb clue than actually search some of these things online. I also simply fill in vowels and consonants like on Wheel of Fortune.

This is years of writing experience telling me where the remaining letters go if I know a few, but don’t get the clue right away. Q, J, X and Z are almost useless letters that the Donald would probably fire if we let him be in charge of the OED. That is why they’re so valuable on the Scrabble board.

My puzzle experience (assuming that’s a skill worth putting on your resume) also says to be ready for the writer foxing things up with a secondary definition. For any word that has two or more sub-meanings in the dictionary, expect the clue to refer to the most obscure sense of the word that will lead you initially to some other word entirely. On paper, this is frustrating, but just a time waster online. Which is the point.

Aunt May was on a Roll

Posted: January 10, 2009 in Uncategorized

© 2009 G.N. Jacobs


            What follows comes with no solutions, but something is off. I recently had a conversation at my favorite comic book store, the kind for which I deserve combat pay.

            We refer to her as Aunt May, a reference to Spider-man’s silver-haired caregiver. Our Aunt May is a retired teacher who seems to need to blow off steam about everything. When spooled up, she’s quite hostile.

            I spent four hours as the object of her unfocused rage at the world, when I would rather discuss the relative usefulness of various items in Batman’s utility belt. Aunt May yelled at me over things with which I have very little responsibility. It began with a tirade against the current Israeli invasion of Gaza.

            While I don’t support Israel’s selective memory that allows some of its policies to do a toe dance with the racism performed by Nazi Germany, I do realize that there are two sides to the fight neither very palatable. I didn’t have the heart to mention that the Israel – Palestine conflict is as much about rockets and suicide bombers as it is about Palestinian ghettos. In short, the easiest way to avoid an Israeli invasion is to not shoot rockets. I said nothing; Aunt May was on a roll.

            About this time, my friend and Supreme Autocratic Ruler of the Comic Book Store, Adam, put his fingers to his temple and asked her and, to a lesser extent, me to use our indoor voices. Gee, I missed the memo about reverting to five-years-old. And the rambling tirade changed subjects to various domestic horrors.

            I was at a loss to understand how Bernie Madoff’s allegedly being a Jew had anything to do with stealing $50 billion. To me thievery is universal; it’s wrong everywhere on Earth. But, Aunt May blathered on that if Madoff could rob Elie Wiesel’s foundation, then clearly Jews had lost their moral center. I did speak up here, but she cut me off. Aunt May was on a roll.

            Then came the recent Satan Claus Killings juxtaposed with the Amish School Slaughter and the Virginia Tech Slaughter. Of course, my eyes glazed over at the mention of Amish girls lined up against the wall and shot. It was a while ago and other barbarities had succeeded it.

            Aunt May took umbrage at my blank eyes mistaking me for being part of the problem. She even at one point said I should have my head examined, the classic out for people who don’t really want to have an actual discussion. If I really were part of the problem, I would have hit her for combative need to lash out. But, I said and did nothing of the sort, because I know who I am and Aunt May was on a roll.

            It didn’t matter to her that trying to understand things seems to keep me calm; I was just not outraged enough over Santa Claus killing off his in-laws. Aunt May clearly didn’t like me calmly explaining that Satan Claus felt he’d lost everything, even his dog, to the in-laws. Remaining calm only set the woman off more and variations of – How can this happen? – peppered her speech.

            Given that I sensed a fondness for a proactive prevention program, I did try to tell her that said measures would destroy the freedom she abused to yell at random people in a comic book store. Like a lot of things I didn’t get very far. I pictured Soviet-style mental health where dissent and disagreement are mental health problems that threaten the state. I imagined flipping the bird to the moron behind the wheel and having to answer to a Public Psychology Board that typically cokes people up on a 1000 milligrams of Thorazine just for insulting another driver. Aunt May was on a roll.

            True, not every part of this conversation was a tirade. She did calm down later as the topics became more personal. I said a few emotionally neutral things about my Dad and she went on about her “so-called friends.” My only contribution was to tell her that choice of association is the only real choice many people have.

            Yes, telling unstable people personal things can be dangerous, but it did calm her down. Some things need to burn out, like Aunt May being on a roll.

            At some point here, I mentioned being a writer. And I got the injunction to use my words to change the world, which is something I thought I already did. But, I suspect that she doesn’t understand that fiction is equally good for that process. I couldn’t tell her that I learned as much about the duality of Man from the classic Batman story The Killing Joke as I have from eight years of therapy. But, that part digresses into another essay.

            Believe it or not, we shook hands as she left.

            What did I learn from this mostly incoherent encounter? Aside from the obvious to any with a pair of eyes, I learned nothing. The world and the people in it are messed up and remaining calm buys as much grief as does flipping out. In short, I’m owed combat pay for Aunt May was on a roll.