Dad the Writer

The writer's greatest fear.
The writer’s greatest fear.

I’ve written extensively about the many things that a writer needs to do to make time and create good works and excel at his or craft.

That was before my wife and I ushered in Mattie, our precious little spawn.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Mattie to death. Nothing cheers me up more than hearing her laugh. That little smile of hers and her “I know I own your ass” look she gives us are some of the greatest moments of my day.

That being said, our toddler can be such a baby.

Every parent knows this. We certainly knew that any semblance of free time was gone the instant Mattie was born. What does this mean for our projects, though, for my wife’s photography and for my writing? It means we have to work much smarter than before.

Fatherhood by Kevrekidis on DeviantArt

I can write almost anywhere. Give me some paper and a pen and I can outline, draft, and do anything I need. I could do this before, but it’s so much more important now. I can’t just go to the computer and write an idea. Sometimes, I can’t even pull out paper to write said idea. Taking care of baby requires two hands, after all.

Time to get creative.

My wife and I have started using Evernote. It’s a handy way to quickly write down a note or save a webpage that we need for future reference. Because we both have the app, we can share lists, photos, and anything else we need while keeping everything sorted and catalogued for later. Barring that, having paper and pen handy, despite the abundance of thrown food, is still a viable option. I keep a notebook and pen nearby whenever I’m with the little one, and despite the focus needed to keep a little human in good working order, I’ve found that it’s still the best way to quickly write something down and keep going. When I do have time later in the day to actually sit and work, I quickly pull the notebook out and start expanding the notes and ideas, or the outright passages, into Word documents.

SPECTRUM DISORDER // STRESS by melissahooper on DeviantArt

This stop-and-go method to working is tiring, though, perhaps more than actually sitting down for a few hours to type. You can’t focus and let ideas just come to you. Sometimes, it feels like you’re forcing creativity, that the clock is ticking, and you need to get it done NOW. There’s no sitting and thinking and drafting and just letting ideas happen.

While it would be easy to think that any free time should be devoted to craft, that’s not the case. I’m not about to spend every minute the baby is asleep working on my writing. Aside from the fact that we still need to cook food and keep the house clean, there’s also the very important matter of spending time with my wife, talking, just spending a few minutes lying on the carpet and relaxing as the Little One plays by herself. This was one of the mistakes I made years ago, one for which I apologized profusely. Despite the writer in me demanding I sit down to work if I have even five minutes, I need to spend time with my family too. I can’t ignore them or the people I’m doing this for will suffer.

This all means focus is so much more important than before. When I work, I work. Nothing else matters. It helps that my wife and I have our desks next to each other, so that when one of us is working or if we’re both working, we can still chat and share ideas. This also means we need time to relax. Mediation, music, a walk outside, anything and everything to clear the ol’ brain pan before the next mad session. It’s not a perfect set-up, but it works, and discipline is paramount.

Stay tuned for Part 2! In the meantime, enjoy this:

The Writing Demon

Frankly, a razor would be less painful sometimes.
Frankly, a razor would be less painful sometimes.

March 25, 2012

I just sent off “The Divine Anomaly” to see if it will get accepted for publication. Like I wrote on Facebook earlier today, there’s a sense of peace that comes from finally saying, “It’s done.” I can focus on other things and switch to other modes of thought. I have a big item scratched off my to-do-list.

And it reminds me of why I write.

Students will often tell me they’re done with a work after about the second or third draft. That may be fine for a quick assignment, but for me, five or even six drafts are not enough. I have to make sure everything is just right. Of course, this has to balance out with my need to get the writing out. Eventually, one side has to shut up and the story must be declared “done.” That’s why deadlines, while annoying, are so necessary, even if they’re self-imposed. The entire thing is gut-wrenching and stressful and, let’s face, doesn’t pay well unless you make it big.

So why do I do this?

I could become a teacher. The pay’s better, and I’ve done it before. I can handle a room full of kids, middle school or high school or college. I could hire myself out as a copyeditor. That’s another job I’ve done, too. Article writing for publishers who need bulk material? Done that too. All of them pay much better.

And yet I stay with one part-time job that lets me get by while I work on these tales.

You’d be right to think I’m crazy.

But maybe crazy isn’t the word. How many people out there have stories to tell? I think I have one or two. Maybe more. Like George Orwell said, there is some demon within writers, something that pushes them to these self-destructive places where everything vanishes and only the writing, the story, exists.

I’ve grappled with my own demon for years. I’ve tried to make time. Once, I shunned the world and everything in it for the sake of getting the demon out. Then, I realized I needed people, I needed contact, to stay sane. Now, I balance my home life, work, and this website while also trying to finish Charcoal Streets. The stories and themes have been bouncing around my head since 2005 and now I’m finally in a position to get them down and finish them the way I want to tell them.

It’s difficult to explain the need to create to non-artists. Yes, it would be easy to sputter articles out. It would be a simple to take up a teaching position to pay the bills. I could copyedit.

But I need to create.

Maybe this makes me crazy. Fine. It makes me crazy. But I enjoy it.

Now, let’s enjoy some well-deserved laughs. See you soon!

Raising the Bar Hurts Students?

Raising the bar

February 27, 2013

As I get ready for another SAT class this weekend, I look around Facebook at friends who are also teaching and I come across many familiar sentiments. Some teachers want to grade hard but are afraid. Others are not sure if incompetence qualifies for plagiarism. It’s fine. No teacher has all the answers, but one old friend recently put up the following:

Student complained after seeing her grade on blackboard that I am ‘too harsh’ of a grader when it comes to papers.
My response?
“Despite what you might think, it is actually perhaps of greater importance in science than in any other field that you be able to effectively, clearly, and accurately communicate your findings in writing. I’m not trying to be harsh, I’m trying to help you improve.”
I offered to meet with the student during office hours, gave her the location of the writing center and linked two good science-writing websites for tips. Hopefully that helps!

People sometimes accuse me of being a grammar Nazi, of being too harsh, and of expecting far too much from my students. They’re only in high school, they say. They’re not AP and magnet program, they say. It’s onl;y their first year in college, others say. These are average, every day students.

Well then what the FRAK is wrong with wanting to raise the average?!

Writing. by ~Frost-Wolf17 on deviantART

Look, I understand that not every student will finish high school and go on to college. I understand not every college student will pursue a Masters. I understand that even at the graduate level, most people probably won’t be reading stories and analyzing literature.

But could we please, for the love of all that is good and holy in the world, please agree that making sure we can all communicate clearly, and maybe even sneak some critical thinking into what we’re doing, is a GOOD thing? I’m not going to push them so far that the whole class fails, but I don’t want to make it so easy they don’t learn anything new. And if a few of them have to think harder to get it, I’m more than happy to sit with them and explain the concepts to them.

Take my SAT students. They come from private schools and public schools. Some are getting ready to apply for college. Some are a year ahead. I’m treating all of them like potential college students, and I work with college students, so I’m VERY much aware that the current crop, and even the graduate level, is woefully unprepared for the rigors of higher education when it comes to writing.

Padlocks with writing by =angela6331 on deviantART

I went out of my way to learn this all the way back in middle school. I majored in it. I have a degree and career based on it. Fine. I get it. I don’t expect my students to put together sonnets in fifteen minutes or even an entire seven hundred word essay in under an hour. But I would like them to at least have the proper foundation to make themselves heard and understood.

It’s not just English classes. Like my friend said above, science requires very precise language, but as I’ve seen, scientists are also very fond of clutter. Better to cut it off at the source, don’t you think?

Not every person is a writer. I know that. But I’m not a NASCAR driver, yet I know how to signal, avoid danger on the road, and do basic car maintenance if needed. Why shouldn’t everyone know how to write clearly and communicate properly?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get ready for a podcast in two hours. Hello, wine!

In the meantime, let’s enjoy a good little set of jump scares with the trailer for The Conjuring.

Writing in Charcoal

Here are your writing tools.
Here are your writing tools.

January 28, 2013

Getting back into the groove of things after taking a month off reminded me of one of the most rewarding, and frustrating things about writing.

As I work on “The Lights of Pegasus” and get ready to send it out for publication, I found myself happy with the overall story, but unhappy with the details. For example, this story is set in a series of short stories I called the Endeavor Stories, a set of tales all set in the same 5,000-year span of human history and following the same families. I literately have years of notes, slang, and tiny details on everything from culture to food.

But I didn’t use any of it.

Looking back, it’s the reason the story seemed to so dry and empty. I ended up erasing most of it, except for the first five pages, and starting over. For many writers, that’s the kind of action that instantly spells doom. Why start over like that? Why not just rewrite it?

It’s the same reason I love drawing with charcoal.

Charcoal Face by ~livinitallnow on deviantART

When you use charcoal, you make the general outline of the drawing first, starting with the light and shadow and slowly building up the general shapes. After a while, you have something that’s similar to a first draft in a story. The image is simple yet captures the general essence.

Then you smear the whole thing.

You take your hand and you smear that charcoal until it’s nothing but dust. But the paper remembers. A vague outline remains even after you erase like this. That outline serves as a sort of guide. You start over but now work faster since you have a better idea of what the picture should look like. You know the mistakes to avoid. Little errors don’t compound. After a while, you end up with a cleaner, more layered image that builds on the afterimage of the first.

And then you do it all over again.

I may redraw something two, maybe three times. Each time, I build on the remains of the previous drawing until I’m satisfied with my shadows and light. It’s then and only then that I go in with a finer set of charcoal and add texture and details.

Charcoal by ~FJansen on deviantART

It’s the same thing with a story or poem. After erasing, you still remember the broad strokes, but you also remember the mistakes that slowly built up. That’s when you erase and start over. You can’t just try to “fix” the story by rewriting parts of it. Writers are sentimental and will want to latch on to every word and letter.

Better to just cut the whole thing off.

The new draft will be cleaner, sleeker, and still have that overall story, but now it may even move faster. You’ll be free of your own work.

At least, that’s the theory. It’s worked for me so far, but let’s see. Of course, you can do this with individual sections if you’re really happy with some parts but not others. It’s up to you.

While I keep writing, please enjoy Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren kicking ass and taking names in Red 2. I thoroughly enjoyed the first one and hope the second doesn’t suck a bag of donkey phalluses.

Tell the Story, but not the Whole Story

Yes, I'm sure the music's great, but we don't need every lyric to hear the song.
Yes, I’m sure the music’s great, but we don’t need every lyric to hear the song.

January 15, 2013

When does a story end? For that matter, when does it start?

One of the big problems I always have when I’m writing something is that I’m never quite certain where I should start the story. There’s also the matter of what parts of the story itself I want to show. I have images of specific events, specific scenes, but I always have to snake back to them, find out how we got there. Take the current science fiction story, “Lights of Pegasus,” I’m writing for later this month.

The basic story is that a research team has been dispatched to a distant star system where ships mysteriously disappear. The only person to ever leave came out insane and his ship was never found. Eventually, the new crew find that they are hallucinating and some are taking these as omens of a higher power, perhaps God, trying to warn them off.

The Church by *thebrokenview on deviantART

The original draft began with Sumiko Wright, the protagonist, attending a sermon given by the last ship’s survivor, Ulrich, now turned into a self-described prophet. My original draft actually included a fair amount of the sermon, a speech that set the stage for the setting and the dilemmas in the second third of the tale. However, after careful rewrites, I cut out everything and just started with the closing statements.


Because it really did feel like a sermon. Yes, the information got across and yes, you did learn a lot about Ulrich, but seeing as how he only appears in that first scene, it felt like a cheat. After all, this was Sumiko’s story. She and the rest of the crew were going into what was dubbed the new Bermuda Triangle.

And that brought another problem.

This is a short story, less than 10,000 words. How much can I show of these characters (Aguilar, Keri, Ericson, and James) and still get the right effect and keep the story moving? After all, having too many people and having too much background will bog the story down.

hallucination by ~kudrett on deviantART
Eventually, I decided that the hallucinations would be primarily seen from Sumiko’s point of view, but one or two others would hesitantly describe their own experiences. Hearing them second-hand, I felt, would mimic Sumiko’s own reluctance to accept that something possibly supernatural was happening. After all, up until she starts seeing devastated cities and hearing crying children, everything in the story is pretty hard SF.

Well, except for the hyperspace jumps. Hey, I needed a quick FTL mode of travel for this story to work, after all.

While others will eventually see the hallucinations, I’m deciding to really just go into detail with Sumiko and only hint at what the others are seeing. Since this is a science fiction story, I have enough to worry about when it comes to the science part and making sure the world is understandable.

More updates and writing stories to come! Stay tuned, and if anyone has any tips or ideas for a Shadowrun game, comment below. I’ll be running my first one this week and would appreciate ideas or situations.

Shadowrun Suspects Wallpaper by ~KlausScherwinski on deviantART

The Good and the Bad

Sleep is the for the weak!

October 8, 2012

It’s been a while since I actually posted here instead of randomness over at Facebook, so let me say this.

I needed the break.

I feel refreshed, I got editing done, and I was able to focus on only one or two projects at a time. On the other hand, I’ve also been eating a lot and haven’t exercised as much as I should have this week. This leads to the eternal conundrum: working out or Oreos?

After that fight is over and my arms and core are burning from the workout, I have another matter to tackle: writing. Writing is not something to be undertaken lightly. In fact, it should be an endeavor trained for and prepared for in the same vein as going into combat. Train and practice all you want, but be aware that the situation on the ground will later everything. No plan survives first contact with the enemy.

But I do have a plan.

I’ve been trying to finish Charcoal Streets for two years. Every time I think I’m a week away, something else pops into my head, but I have to accept the reality of my own advice. At some point, everything ends. I have to one day stop and just tell myself that the book is as good as it’s going to get. I can’t write every story for this one anthology. I just can’t. That’s what later volumes are for. I have to just stop and tell myself, “It’s good enough.”

I have to do the same thing I’ve been telling students for years. I have to set my ego aside. I have to put the work first. I also have to start writing more creative things, not just the articles here. I have to get back to poetry, short stories, flash fiction, all of that. Writing is influenced by what you take in, and the reason my fiction has felt so dry is because I’ve been reading so much news the last two years.

Articles will continue, but expect them to be a little more… abstract. Stream of consciousness. That sort of thing.

I have a few stories to share with you. I’d hate to waste the time.

Being Complacent With Failure?

Those aren't tears! That's life lubricant!

June 8, 2012

If there’s one surefire way to get me utterly mad at you, it’s to tell me “Everything happens for a reason” right after something bad happens.

Of course everything happens for a reason. It’s cause and effect. Things don’t happen without a reason. If they did, it would mean physics themselves had broken down and we were two seconds away from reality coming apart like a cheap sweater.

“Everything happens for a reason” is a nice way of trying to comfort someone by saying that something bad had a greater purpose. This supposes a universe that runs on a set plan that cannot be altered and is eventually going to come to a happy ending for someone. For example, major disasters “happen for a reason” to maybe teach the rest of us about humility and what is really important. Good for us, bad for the victims. 9/11 “happened for a reason” to bring us together as a country. Great, except we started two wars, destroyed our image abroad, and have a few hundred thousands dead people overseas that would disagree.

depression by ~deathswife666 on deviantART
Me? I’m currently trying to pitch a book no one seems to want to buy and am eating nothing but vegetables because meat is too costly. Oh, and I haven’t filled up my gas tank with more than ten bucks at a time because I never have that much available at any one time.

“Elves With Shotguns” is selling… not well. People who’ve read it like it and have left wonderful reviews, but it’s not getting the exposure it needs. This mostly has to do with not having any money for a budget. My bank account is pretty much shot. A month of no work will do that to you. I wish we had the time to do everything that’s asked for us, as well as pay comparable to other institutions around the country, but that’s never going to happen. I’d be happy to be able to work just 30 hours a week.

And yet…

A long time ago, I learned something about being frustrated and angry and down. I learned from both being in that position and being the teacher that gave a bad grade. Yes, you can be down. Yes, go get a drink. Get a lot of drinks. Vent. Punch a pillow, not a wall. I learned that last one the hard way. Play a video game and blow stuff up. Let it all out.

Then move on.

Everything happens for a reason, I know. Politics, favoritism, the economy, whatever. I can’t control those things. I can, however, control how much harder I look for freelance work. I can control how I decide to just power through the depression and get going with my life. I’m the one who decides I will look for a second, third, even fourth job. And if that fails, I’ll go out and drink, I’ll vent, I’ll punch a pillow…

And then I’ll take a deep breath, gather myself, and start over. Again. As many times as necessary.

Morning of Determination by *xkillz on deviantART

This isn’t the first time I’ve had to scrape by. It’s not the first time a plan to bring in extra income blew up in my face. It’s not the first time I felt the world was coming down on me.

I can’t afford to get some drinks, so here’s what I’ll do…

I’m going to have a minor freak out, calm myself, and remember the people around me. I’m going to get back to work and finish Charcoal Streets. I will spend time with my friends and family. I will keep my mind busy on the goal.

Frankly, I don’t have time to fail. No one should. Everyone should have something they aspire to do. Write, draw, read, cook, whatever. It’s not enough to just work, eat, and watch TV. We have to keep creating, doing something productive. Yes, watch cartoons, go out with friends, but creation is what keeps us sane, what keeps us going. Passivity is the death of the soul.

“Everything happens for a reason”?

Yeah, it does. I’m choosing to keep going. I would never ask anything of my students I wouldn’t do myself, so if they get upset they didn’t pass a practice test, I’ll just smile and tell them to keep going. I expect nothing less from them. The reason I’m still going is because to choose to do so.

That’s the reason. And I made it. You should, too.

And now, to help lighten the mood, let’s enjoy a mini-pig going down the stairs and nailing the dive.

The Price of Service

No, we're not done with the Middle East. Not by a long shot.

June 4, 2012

I’m working on a new Charcoal Streets story tentatively titled “When Angels Come Marching Home Again.” I went to the library to get some books for research (and could they please turn the AC on?!) and was initially torn on a number of issues.

If you read this blog with any frequency, you’ll probably notice that I am a raging liberal who, according to the far-Right wing, likes to eat babies and convert youth to communism in an attempt to destroy the Constitution that Jesus wrote. That being said, don’t you ever say I am not a patriot. I love this country. I may not have been born here, but I love the American dream and the opportunities I’ve been given in here. With that comes a deep respect for the members of our armed forces. With one major exception, I’ve known members of the military to be exceptional men and women who are willing to sacrifice their time and energy, often their lives, for this country. Nothing makes me prouder than to see these men and women in uniform.

So how can I possibly write a story that hinges on the troubles of a psychologically damaged soldier coming back and trying to adjust to civilian life while hurting those around him?

In Honor of Veterans by =nocturnalchilde on deviantART

A superficial reading might paint this as a tale that discourages military service and paints combat veterans as psychos who may hurt their families and loved ones. It might paint Esteban, the main character, as a monster. It would easy, ridiculously easy, to paint me as a guy who hates the troops and wishes the military were shut down.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s like any article I’ve ever written where I express concern with laws that hurt certain groups or the times I’ve lamented the state of education. It’s not that I hate the educational system or want this country to be toppled to make way for some utopia based on hypothetical scenarios. The fact is that soldiers coming back from the war face real problems.

For example, one of the authors I’m looking into wrote something I hadn’t considered before. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) includes constant nervousness and sensitivity to sounds. It’s a state of hyper-alertness where a former warrior may fall back on instincts without intending to hurt someone because of months, sometimes years of time of the battlefield. These are not a disorder, he says, but rather survival training that is essential in a war zone. In the middle of a war, what we would call PTSD is simply the combined instincts needed to not die. The trick is being able to help soldiers tone those reactions down to function in a peace-time environment. If they were ever re-deployed, those instincts would need to come back out, though. That doesn’t mean it’s not a problem, though, just that we’ve classified it as something different.

I struggled with writing this story, but I was, and I hesitate to use this word, inspired by an incident several years ago.

At a bar hosting one of my favorite bands, Pretty Visitors, I happened to run into a gentleman who had recently come back from Iraq. I shook his hand and offered to buy him a drink as a small thank you for his service. Then he explained he was a contractor working with Halliburton. He was also a bit tipsy and quickly got angry for the lack of respect he felt society gave to him and his friends. He’d lost people in Iraq, he said. People didn’t understand his pain. They didn’t understand what it was like to lose someone and come back to a country that hated you and wanted the war to end. He worked with Halliburton to help our country. He was just doing his job, he cried. Why couldn’t people respect him?

That’s when I realized something. He worked security for Halliburton. He wasn’t a soldier, or a marine, or anything like that. He might have been at one point, but now he was a private contractor.

Iraq Veterans Against the War by ~Latuff2 on deviantART

I don’t think anyone joins the Army or Marines or Air Force, Navy, or Coast Guard intending to get rich and earn respect. Pretty much everyone I’ve met who served has done so for love of country. The gentleman I met was out for money and glory and he lamented that society didn’t respect him for fighting for them… and money. That much became obvious as he said he was just doing his job and he and his friends worked for Halliburton to make sure we got the oil.

People need to realize something. I am against the wars in the Middle East. I think they were poorly planned and an attempt by business interests to make money despite any good done. The men and women who went and served and died, though? They didn’t make those choices. They followed orders. It’s the men and women who gave those orders and did so for money that I am against.

That’s what the story is about: choices and chances. You chose to become a soldier. You happen to get orders based on greed and self-service as opposed to national security. My conflict was with writing this story and having it come off as a condemnation of the troops. It’s not. A few hours of research into it, and I’m sure I can make this work.

I hope.

We just got out of almost a decade of wars. Our veterans need our help. Don’t forget that.

And now, to lighten the mood, I give you people who are real idiots from around the world. Enjoy.

The Ultimate Writer Confession

There are a dozen reasons I should quit, but...

March 27, 2012

Whenever my students tell me they’re scared to try, I laugh inside. They tell me they’re afraid of looking stupid. They don’t want to feel bad if things go south. If something happens and they don’t succeed, they’re afraid of what others will say.

Really? Let me tell you how the adults play…

In 2005, I asked one of the most highly acclaimed experts on speculative fiction in the country to be one of the men in charge of grading my thesis, an anthology that is now the upcoming Charcoal Streets. He and two other men who were experts in their fields had very good things to say, but some not so nice ones, too. This was one of two theses I had to write in the span of one year.

Stress by ~DinoChocoholic on deviantART

Two years later, I moved to Indiana for all of a week before getting a call from a United States congressman who wished for me to write speeches for him. After packing up, moving to DC, and following a series of events I cannot discuss due to some legal documents best left unmentioned, I had to leave, thousands of dollars in debt, in what I can only describe as a humiliating experience that left me battered and emotionally and financially wrecked.

I had one strand of hope, though. A motivational speaker, one of the best in the country, hired me to edit his novel. After some work, I suggested he get a ghostwriter and get sections rewritten since, as a writer, I could not give the final product my okay since my job was just to check for minor errors. He hired me on the spot and I rewrote a good third of his novel. It’s now one of his top sellers.

After contracting me to ghostwrite a new novel, from start to finish, he ended the contract because he wanted to go in a different direction. There went a good $35,000 dollars and six months of work.

A year later, I got work with a man who wanted me to write for him. He and I collaborated on a documentary I wrote and narrated after he and his crew went on what can only be described as guerilla filmmaking. In a span of a few hours, I wrote the script, we later recorded it, and we put it out for the world to see. I was in for a job writing for documentaries that exposed the things people didn’t want to see… and that ended in a meltdown that I chronicled here

Combine that with the three family members I lost last year, the stress of teaching, only being able to find part-time work, and you’d think I would have given up by now.

Hope by ~AmateurExpert92 on deviantART


Randomology Games is up and running. The first gaming book, Elves with Shotguns, is in the final phase of writing and art design, and I’m planning future books while working on the anthology Charcoal Streets, due out in the fall come hell or high water.

Why? Why do it? Every other major financial and professional break has gone bust and left me broke, depressed, and at the edge of my rope. Every one of these jobs ended due to petty egos and greed. I’ve been used by people and left with nothing but enough gas to get home, sometimes not even that.

Why should I hope for more out of this next venture?

…Why not?

Mamma didn’t raise no fool? No. Mamma didn’t raise a quitter. I’m going to keep going as long as I can type. I’m going to make something of myself, I’m going to have my name in print, and I’m going to look after the people close to me and the only way someone’s going to stop me is by killing me. I’m not going to stop. I’ll type with broken fingers in a burning house, but you can’t stop me. No one can. I’ll fail, I’ll get drunk, punch the wall and break my hand, but I won’t stop.

That’s why I laugh when students tell me they’re afraid to make a mistake. They should see how the big dogs play. We make mistakes all the time.

If you can’t take it, don’t even play. I’ve failed dozens of times. I only have to get it right once.

Troll Hunting

February 8, 2012

This whole YouTube vlog has really opened a lot of avenues of critique and condemnation. I’ll admit I was nervous. People are more active in places like YouTube that, say, a blog like this. More people are willing to comment and criticize a vlog than a blog. That being said, I got a chance to engage in one of my favorite pastimes.

Troll hunting.

The troll is a skittish creature. It jumps into a comments thread and leaves a badly-spelled jumble of words that should probably be an argument to what you’ve just written or said. The traditional strategy for dealing with trolls is to ignore them. Feeding a troll is like giving food to a stray animal. That animal will stay and love you. In this case, the troll has found a new source of food and you are its unwilling vending machine.

Of course, I feed the trolls. I leave little morsels of comments for them. I let them have a taste.

Then I poison them and burn their bodies behind the shed. Sort of.

Internet Trolling Demotivator by ~novaburst16 on deviantART

The recent video on Sarah Walls got a lot of attention, but a percentage of the comments on the video were by people who comically missed the point of calling out a racist for being a racist. They insisted she was right. They brought out things like their own dislike of Mexicans, how being a Navy veteran meant you could not be dumb, and how Mexicans are the real racists because they refuse to admit they come from a culture of violence and rape.

And no, none of those are exaggerations.

I answer back. I ask questions. I poke holes in their theories. After all, THIS little ol’ Mexican-American never killed or raped anyone and, as far as I can tell, is eloquent and can string together a coherent, logical argument. Faced with this and other facts, a troll will usually try and justify his or her prejudice and previous observations. This backs them into a corner. They get defensive. At this point, the troll will do one of two things.

It will end the conversation (sometimes launching one last volley of self-righteous anger), or it will launch into a full-blown attack.

Either one is a good thing. If it leaves, game over, but you had the last word. It if attacks, it shows its weakness. It exposes its hatreds and prejudice. The angrier it gets, the more it shows what it really thinks. It’s your job, though, to keep a level head. Maintain composure. Don’t give in to the hatred.

Focus it. Like a laser. Powered out of spite. That targets the idiot.

bowels of bigotry by *sketchoo on deviantART

I enjoy answering trolls. I’ve got three heads on my wall from the last three days. One admitted he was racist but claimed he had a good reason. Another insisted he couldn’t have an intelligent conversation with someone unless his opponent could speak English because Mexicans can’t think critically. The third basically said I was racist for pointing out a racist critique.

I do this for two reasons. Bursting people’s racist world-view and exposing them for the angry, ignorant pricks that they are brings me infinite joy. I can’t stand someone trying to justify prejudice, no matter how good their “rationale” may be. For anyone who stands by and lets this happen in the real world, there’s one more bigot who gets away with demeaning entire cultures. Secondly, it’s good practice. Even though, as the saying goes, you should never argue with idiots because they will take you to their level, it’s good practice for my teaching job. Every class, there is at least one person who wants to try and make a point and relies solely on hearsay and bad evidence. Quickly pointing out the holes in arguments like this keeps me sharp.

Besides, do you honestly think I’m going to let some closeted bigot get away with insulting my friends and family and try to justify it with “science?”

Oh. Hell. No.

That being said, I’m going to wash away those thoughts with a beatboxing baby.