Greetings and Salutations!

Welcome to the longest-running* yet least-read** blog on the internet! Here you'll find me writing about all the things that I write about, which strikes me, just now, as somewhat recursive. In any case, enjoy :)

* not true
** probably true

Sunday, June 04, 2006

On writing

Severance, the birds of leaving call to us
Yet here we stand, endowed with the fear of flight
Overland, the winds of change consume the land
While we remain in the shadow of summers now past.
When all the leaves have fallen and turned to dust
Will we remain entrenched within our ways?
Indifference--the plague that moves throughout this land
Omen signs in the shapes of things to come.
-Dead Can Dance, "Severance"
I've received my proof copy of "All the World a Grave" and am in the process of editing. For both of you who've already bought the book, I apologize for all the typos. I'll send you a corrected copy if you want.
Jae (hi!) is one of those two, and was kind enough to share some thoughts with me about the book. To quote her quoting me, she yells because she cares :) But I have to say, going through the book line by line, I am not displeased with those stories. Oh, they all have their weaks spots, they were all written three or more years ago, and I have grown as a writer since then, become more adept with words (though sometimes you can't tell by this blog).
Each of the stories has a solid core of an idea that I wanted to explore, and whatever faults they may have, they were all victories in their way. I think they are all readable, and enjoyable in a dark way.
They came from a dark place inside me. Jae says she's not a fan of horror (or was it fantasy?); but really these stories use the genre devices found in dark fantasy to explore aspects of what it means to be human; that much I can tell now, at a distance from their writing. That much of them also deals with suffering is because at the time, I myself was suffering spiritually, psychologically, emotionally. If I were writing them today, I might dispense with genre conventions. They would be even darker then; they would take place in the world you and I inhabit.
Jae also says these stories are an S&M freak's wet dream. Heh. Seriously, though, there are certainly elements of sex, and pain, and humiliation. But I like to think that the subject matter is handled in a mature, sensitive way. And to be honest, the acts themselves are less important than the characters' reactions to them, which ranges from indifference to utter rejection. This is not erotica (sorry folks).
It is endlessly fascinating to a writer to hear what others think of their writing. Praise or scorn, it matters very little. The worst thing is indifference. Not that Jae was heaping scorn on the book. Far from it.
I'm still, after all these years, finding my voice. I believe I've outgrown the writer's voice that dwells in such dark places... but I don't know. Do we ever really heal from the wounds life brings us? My ability to shape prose has only improved since I wrote these stories. I wonder if my ability to view the world through anything other than smoky lenses has as well.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Sticky Issues: "A Threat Too Far"

It's been a long time since this first Sticky Issue, and I decided to do a remake, but with a bigger budget and better special effects in honor of TT's impending jail sentence.

Click on pic, then click on 'all sizes' to see it in all its monochromatic wonder.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

I am smart.


You can tell by the hat. That's why I'm gonna put together a book of all the decent Sticky Issues cartoons and sell it and stuff.

I'd like to conduct an informal poll on whether anyone would actually BUY such a book first, so if you don't mind, leave a comment telling me whether you'd shell out your hard-earned cash to see never-before-seen episodes of Ninja Joe and other stickiness.

Thanks!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

When you go to the flickr meetup...


ryan dozing off
Originally uploaded by Coppertane.
you meet people who can actually take pictures (unlike yours truly). Coppertane RAWKS.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Sticky Issues: Time for a Tiger

Too small? Can't see? Click on pic, then click on 'all sizes'. But please do so apolitically.

And dear Tiger PR sugar daddy/momma? Have I told you lately that I love you?





Friday, April 21, 2006

Sticky Issues: The Podcast!

Too small? Can't see? Click on pic, then click on all sizes. 'Cuz yer mama said so.

This one's dedicated to Miyagi and Brown.




Thursday, April 20, 2006

Sticky Issues: "The Package"

Too small? Can't see? Click on pic, then click on 'all sizes'. That should satisfy your package!



A blue hippo and other likely things



Found this image in one of MachineBoy's books -- "Good-bye Mommy" to be precise. (Illustrations by David Melton, illustration copyright 1977, there, that should get the blue hippo lawyers off my back.)

Other likely things:

Um... wait, I'll think of something. Gimme a minute. No, sorry, nothing's coming to me. I just really really like this picture. God knows why. I think it would be an excellent business logo. Maybe for a jazz bar. Or a weight-loss center. Or a recording studio. In any case, yeah, enjoy the blue hippo while I go to my motorcycle lesson.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Sticky Issues: (NKF) "Reunited"

Too small? Can't see? Click on pic, then select 'all sizes'. That should get you paroled.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The NKF Rogue's Gallery - Redux

Durai check.
Yong check.
Loo check.

(hmmm... arrests coming just before elections. Coinkidink?)

Too small? Can't see? Click on the pic, then select 'All Sizes'. That should see justice served.

Monday, April 17, 2006

An Unpopular Opinion

An Unpopular Opinion

No-one who knows me would ever accuse me of being conservative, or right wing. On my list of favorite things, I rank George Bush just below genital herpes; I rank George Bush with genital herpes just above winning the lottery.

Am I a liberal? Sort-of. I believe in freedom of speech and the right to privacy. I believe in freedom of religion for the religious, and freedom from religion for the non-religious. I believe a woman has the right to an abortion up to but not beyond the time the little bugger in her womb has a recognizably human face (I know, terribly non-scientific. Sue me.) If she can't be arsed to get one before then, let her suffer through labor and give the little tyke up for adoption. I believe that a person's sexual orientation is their own damned business. Why the hell should governments get involved in what two consenting adults do to/with each other in the privacy of their own bedroom/shower/custom dungeon with fur-lined handcuffs? You can also insert the 'freedom from religion' opinion here.

I also believe that, sometimes, war is better than the alternative.

"Hey," I hear you shout to your significant other, "MercerMachine thinks war is better than peace!" No, smartass, that's not what I mean.

I'm talking about Iran. I'm talking about the fact that Iran is blithely pushing the world toward the brink of World War III. President Ahmadinejad is, quite frankly, a rabid dog bent on making an armed confrontation happen. Why? Because he wants the Muslim world to rise up and destroy Israel and, if possible, as much of the west as possible. He wants an Islamic fundamentalist state to spread across the globe. And he doesn't give a rat's ass how many millions die in the process.

I prefer that didn't happen.

And because Bush is a dumbfuck, he's tied down American forces in a pointless war in Iraq when they would be far more useful in dismantling Iran, which has or sooner or later will have REAL weapons of mass destruction. Good job, George.

But really, there are a couple of things to be learned from Iraq and applied to Iran: America sucks at democracy building, and it is the master of an outdated mode of combat. Sure we can beat any army in the field if they're stupid enough to go toe to toe with us. But guess what? Modern warfare isn't about brigades and artillery barrages anymore; it's not about tank divisions. You want to see the face of modern warfare? You can't, my friend, because it's covered with a cloth. Modern warfare, sad to say, is about bombs hidden in the sand by the side of the road, bombs strapped to the scrawny chests of fanatics willing to blow up women and children (I was going to say non-combatants, but there's no such thing anymore) and guys bicycling their way to work at the petrol station. If you think Iraq is bad, Iran would be a hundred times worse.

The good news is, we don't have to change Iran's political or social structure. We just have to make sure they don't build nuclear weapons. And that will take force to do. There is no way to reason with the likes of Ahmadinejad. Sanctions won't work. Political discourse won't work. Conventional warfare will work, but the cure will be at least as bad as the disease.

The question remains: What will work? Quite frankly, I think the best solution (and by no means is it good) are targeted airstrikes. Take away Iraq's ability to create nuclear weapons. Clinton set the precedent in Kosovo.

Yes, people will die, including innocent women and children and the guy on the bike on his way to his crap job at the petrol station. But far fewer than would die if there was an invasion.  Far fewer civilians, and far fewer soldiers.

"But wait!" I hear some of you cry. "That will just make the terrorists even more prone to commit terrorist acts!"

Really? Do you really think so? Do you really think they need an excuse? As E@L said the other night at dinner (I think he was quoting somebody else), it's like a door opened up somewhere to the 14th Century, and all these fanatics are pouring out—but with modern weaponry. I'd rather their arsenal didn't include nuclear weapons. To be fair, I'd rather Bush's arsenal didn't either.

And I'll give you another unpopular opinion: I hate these fanatics with every fiber of my being. Why? Because I believe in freedom of speech and the right to privacy. I believe in freedom of religion for the religious, and freedom from religion for the non-religious. I believe a woman has the right to an abortion. I believe that a person's sexual orientation is their own damned business.

And they really, really don't.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The bag

"Why do you carry that thing around?" she asks for probably the hundredth time. "What have you got in there? Bricks?"

It's my shoulder bag she's referring to. Yes, it's heavy (heavy enough that at the end of a day carrying it and MachineBoy around, I can feel the muscles in my shoulder and neck protesting. I stretch and stretch, roll my head this way and that, but only sleep will relieve it, and tomorrow I will carry it off to work, and to lunch, and home, and wherever we go in the afternoon on my half-Saturday with the two people in Singapore that I love.

And no, I never adequately explain to her why I take all the junk inside virtually everywhere I (we) go. Inside, if you cared to look, you'd find a massive notebook/sketchbook, a pencil case stuffed with all manner of pens, pencils, erasers, correction tape, scissors, etc. You'd find a book or two, currently whatever A-Level literature I'm plowing through and whatever genre fiction I read whenever I've had enough of literature. You'd find scraps of notes, my little digital camera, and odds and ends from my last outing with the son (pacifier chain, food-crusty bib, whatever). But the important thing is the notebook.

"Why do you carry that thing around? You hate your back issit?"

I carry it around because it is a constant reminder that I am a writer. I carry it everywhere because it reminds me that I am supposed to be observing, and writing. Because it would be damned easy to slip into the rut of everyday life. To forget what, at the core, I hold myself accountable for being. It would be supremely easy for me to let myself slip into the rhythm of work home parenthood. It's a solitary business that's a shitload of work, has taken me years to become proficient at, and has damn few rewards besides the rare sliver of self-satisfaction.

Let me tell you a secret: Nobody wants you to write.

It's true. I don't care what they say. Your mom doesn't want you to write. Your significant other doesn't want you to write. Your boss doesn't want you to write, nor do your friends, nor your children, nor do editors or publishers. Other writers don't want you to write. Comprende? NOBODY wants you to write, ok? They don't. Those who love you resent the time you spend away from them, mentally if not physically, even if they never tell you. They want you, not your words.

Those who you send your words off to? They want to see another submission like they want to develop leukemia. You're just a literary telemarketer, sucking up time they could be spending working on proven talent (aka profitable writers), or working on their own novel. And sometimes, if they've had an especially bad day, or your submission is especially craptacular, they'll let you know in no uncertain terms that you'd be better off doing something (anything) else besides writing.

The only person who wants you to write, my friend, is a person who you will most likely never meet. The one I call Dear Reader. Stephen King has millions of Dear Readers; I have no idea how many I have, but it can't be more than, say, 50. On a good day, 50. And while I care about Dear Reader, I don't write for D.R.: I write because I am a writer.

And that's why I 'carry bricks' around in my gray Eastpack shoulder bag and give myself a pretty-much constant crick in the neck. Because I have a vocation, and that vocation requires certain tools. I need to be ready at all times, and I need the solid, slightly uncomfortable weight of my bag to remind me what it is I am supposed to be doing with my life besides loving my wife and son. Without that constant weight, I am afraid I might well forget about it. And if I do that, a big piece of me will be lost. I would be diminished.

I don't mind failing; but not trying is not acceptable.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Why cats don't (bother to) blog


The other day, master cartoonist Yaakov Kirschen (Dry Bones) somehow took a wrong turn down a dark alley and ended up at SomethingSticky. He was kind enough not to comment on my pathetic attempts at cartooning, but he did wonder if I could write up something along the lines of Why dogs don't blog, but for cats.

He says:

After a life as a confirmed dog lover, I'm now living with ... A CAT!! She's a bossy little thing and lately I've been fantasizing about what her constant meowing is all about. Any ideas?

This one's easy :)

Why Cats Don't (bother to) Blog

Zzz... yawn, stretch, contemplate imponderables. Stretch.

SLAVE! come closer, so I can rid myself of excess hair on your conveniently placed trouser leg! Rightie, leftie, rightie, leftie, that should do it. Did I SAY you could pet me? The nerve. Walk off in huff, find clean laundry to curl up on top of. Zzz.

SLAVE! Use your cunningly-placed opposable thumb to scratch under my chin. Yes. Yess. Now, go get me some of those tasty pre-pressed snacks you keep on top of the refrigerator, thinking I don't know about and/or can't reach. Feed me from the PALM of your hand, dolt. Must I explain everything? Ah, well. You aren't the brightest spark, but nevermind. Stick with me and you'll be allright. Why don't you sit down there on the sofa? That's it. I'll just curl up here. You keep scratching... keep... thassit...zzz.

SLAVE! I require a substantial meal. Preferably something fishy. Be a good human and open one of those can things. And milk, definitely milk. Unless we have cream? Ah, well. Oh, and slave, be a good human and use those digits of yours to write my blog entry.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Mangoes, pecans and memory

The other day I remembered (and what a ghastly word, to re-member, to puzzle back together the dead flesh of memory) waking up one morning when I was seven or so to the sound of the old pecan tree outside my window being shaken violently, the sound of the pecans falling on the roof above my head and rolling down to the ground outside (there were no gutters on that rented house on Avondale).

San Antonio is full of pecan trees, you see, or at least the South Side is. Big trees even in my youth, with broadish, long green leaves shaped not unlike some Neolithic man's flint scraper. You could tell the season by the life cycle of the pecans. Spring, and yellow pollen was everywhere, utterly covering the windshields of those unwary enough to park beneath their generous shade. Summertime, and the webworms would attack, binding up groups of leaves in roughly head-sized bundles. The cicadas' sang from them then, a rising and falling note that went on and on, from dawn till dusk.

Late summer/early autumn, and you could see the nuts begin to take shape, covered in a tough green skin. By the beginning of winter, that thick skin would split, and pecans would begin to fall.

It's strange to me now to have the exotic all around—mangoes, papaya, rambutan, coconut, lychee, durian—and not have a single pecan available that wasn't packaged and shipped thousands of miles.

Anyway, they were illegal immigrants. Of that I have little doubt. They didn't speak a word of English that I heard that morning, and when they talked softly amongst themselves they used a Spanish that even to my young ears was differently paced and inflected from the everyday Spanish I heard in the neighborhood.

There were two men, a woman, and a girl a couple of years older than me. The younger man climbed the tall pecan tree and shook various limbs at the older man's direction, occasionally swiping down a stubborn bunch with his hand. The woman and the girl collected the nuts in a big mesh plastic bag and a black plastic bag, according to some system that wasn't apparent to me (then or now). Nowadays it's all mechanized, of course; there's a sort of modified cherry picker that comes along, grabs the tree by the throat so to speak, and shakes the shit out of it. Reminds me of some poor kid getting shaken down for his lunch money. They only use that in the pecan groves; the stately old neighborhood pecans are too big to be subjected to such indignities, I guess.

Anyway, I sat on the back steps in my pj's and gawked. They cast the occasional sidelong glance at me, but continued shaking and gathering. I don't remember exactly what I was thinking. It was unprecedented, strangers in our back yard, taking our pecans. I remember they seemed in good spirits, as if this wasn't work, or at least not onerous work.

My mom eventually came out and took a long, silent look.

"Can they do that?" I asked.

After a little while, Mom shrugged. "We aren't going to pick 'em," was all she finally said. The she shooed me in for breakfast.

Thinking back on it, I suspect that as a single mother with three kids, she was balancing their trespass with her understanding of how hard it could be to make ends meet.

#

This memory was brought up out of the depths the other day at work. I glanced out the big front windows and saw two men and a little girl picking mangoes from the trees that grow between the public car park and Upper East Coast Road. The younger guy was up in the tree with a knife. The older guy had a mop handle, but he rarely used it. Instead, he would catch the mangoes the other guy tossed down, and roll them into discrete piles, presumably by ripeness. The little girl would very seriously collect them one by one and put them in the appropriate basket of their bicycles.

The funny thing is, they also seemed in good spirits, though they were not oblivious to the stares given them by passers-by. And it seemed to me that, be it mangoes or pecans, there is something slightly illicit in taking what is free to be taken, something vaguely embarrassing—but not so much that it dampens your good mood at getting something as good as a mango or a pecan for nothing more than a little effort.

It makes me want to climb a tree, and shake, and see what drops.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Three Singaporeans prove themselves to be, uh, not the sharpest crayons in the box


Well I have to say that part of me really, really wishes these guys had actually succeeded in completing their quest. The other half thinks they really, really need to stop watching so many karate flicks. Besides, one Mr Miyagi is dead, and the other lives right here in Singapore, not Japan.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Freshmen

We were always hungry then
and food would not sustain us
We turned to cigarettes and cheap beer
shallow philosophy and cheap literary allusions
and music in a thousand shades of sameness

We turned to desultory lovemaking
and mimicked elation and depression
We cried vacant tears when things ground to a halt
We were learning how to be ourselves

And still, participating, I stood apart;
Most of us were learning who we were
I was finding out who I had been.

Friday, March 31, 2006

MachineBoy


machineboyupright
Originally uploaded by MercerMachine.
Have I mentioned lately that my son is extremely cute? I think I'll have to up the starting bid.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Untamed Spaces

Saturday afternoon at a café by the river. There are louring clouds and a fitful breeze. Rain seems inevitable, and given the humid heat, welcome. The river is rippling, unpolished pewter.

Planted in precise squares along the waterway remade expressly for the tourist industry, trees are dropping their leaves at a pace that far exceeds any sort of leafy regeneration. One to my left rakes the gray sky with tortured, leafless branches. Twisted black lines on a backdrop of dead gray; an imitation of winter sparseness. But of course there is no winter here; only times of more rain or less. Nothing as wild as the seasons for Singapore. Nothing so messy, so—unconfineable. At one degree north of the equator, there is a place for everything and a fine for everything not in its place.

It's a day for loveless lovers to pick apart each remembered gesture, each misspoken word. It is a time to call up the ghosts of the taste of his or her lips, the particular vintage of sweat-dampened skin. It is a time to try and remember that heady blend of perfume and stale cigarette smoke and pheromones, the feel of crushed felt and vinyl and stockings and chilled, eager flesh. A time to remember fumbling, trembling hands and stuttered words and brittle starlight. A time to remember, if you care to, her flexed calf, the sweet swell of her breast in dappled moonlight, your shaking limbs, her unsteady breath.

Time, too, to remember how it ended, and how you were half-mad with it.

Time to remember a time before, when violence drove you out your bedroom window one harvest moon night, to walk twenty-eight miles to your brother's house, and when you arrived, footsore and full of wonder and anger and a sense of your own unconquerable Self… Time to remember that and so many other days and nights and hours and moments when you found that you had slipped somehow into some wild space in between work and school and home and sleep and dinner and church and haircuts and grocery shopping and watering the lawn and commuting and the evening news…

That is, if one were so inclined. I am not. These images, these phantoms of the past have sprung unbidden on me this afternoon. I have no particular desire to take a trip down to the heart of darkness once more, whatever wonders it may hold. There was a time when I would brood on such things, on such a day.

Is that the difference between twenty-five and thirty-five, I wonder? Or is it simply the difference between single and married, between being childless and being a parent? I don't really know. Maybe all three. I could call up for you the shades of loves past; I could quote incidental poetry and lend you a taste of my history, both bitter and sweet—but what would be the point? It should come as no surprise to you (or me, for that matter) that I have loved before, that I have felt passion that brought down all my reason. That there were times I wandered amidst the ruins of myself, that I have dwelt, if only briefly, in wild spaces. It should come as no surprise that passion led inexorably to a bitter end or that all my Xanadus tumbled in upon themselves. But it was all quite literally long ago and far away, and for the life of me I couldn't tell you what lesson there was to be learned from all of it.

More importantly, you who are reading this already know this story, these stories. You've experienced them for yourself, I have no doubt. You've loved the wrong person or the right person in the wrong way or at the wrong time. You have, at one time or another, felt the very core of you being ripped away, be it in passion or sorrow or, God help you, both at once. You have known the coffee spoons. You have dared to eat a peach. You have heard the mermaids singing each to each, and you have learned what it is to drown and yearn for drowning, for the cessation of breath. You have learned that both passion and loss will give you an appetite for annihilation… and if you are reading this you have, one way or another, turned away from that siren's call. The dead don't read blogs.

Or perhaps you have no idea what I am talking about. It doesn't matter. If you understand me, you know words will never be able to explain what it's really like, whatever 'it' may be. If you have never experienced anything close to what I'm talking about, then all you can get is the false impression that you have some idea what it is like. You don't, my friend. Not yet at least.

#

I don't know what makes me think of these things, besides a leaden sky and turgid waters. Maybe it's just that Singapore is so small, so contained and controlled and predictable that I am in danger of becoming small and contained and controlled and predictable. Of course that may be an unkindness to Singapore, an easy out.

Maybe it's important to remember that I once contained sound and fury, even if, in the end, it signified nothing. That I, like Whitman, contain multitudes. Maybe this mood is only a tap on the shoulder from my subconscious, reminding me that I have been to untamed spaces. That I carry them inside me, forever... as do many. That if I am looking for depth and significance and untamed lands, I should stop searching Singapore and start searching the faces and the words and thoughts around me.

So tell me, Dear Reader, do you have a clue as to what I'm talking about? Tell me your stories; sing to me a verse that the sirens sang to you. I have grown tired of all my old stories, but I never grow tired of Story.
  

Friday, March 24, 2006

Sticky Issues: "You Passed"


Sticky Issues: "You Passed"
Originally uploaded by MercerMachine.
Too small? Can't see? Click on image, then click on 'all sizes'. Simple, no?

Friday, March 17, 2006

An Issue of Faith

When I was young I wanted to be a priest, or a preacher. Trouble was, I didn't believe in religion. God, sure. But not the god found in the Bible or the Koran or any other holy book. Just God as a creator, as the prime mover. Omniscient, omnipotent, sure. But not one who handed down any commandments. God doesn't care if you eat pork or take his name in vain or commit adultery or murder or any other thing. Or if he cares, it's in no way we are capable of understanding. God, I believe is utterly disinterested in rewards or punishments. He gave us free will. He wouldn't revoke it in the afterlife, if there is an afterlife.

Which brings me to the issue of faith.

Coming from where I came from, surrounded by poverty (a distinctly American poverty, mind you, but when you don't have enough to eat or money to pay for medical treatments, you're poor in any country) listening to people saying 'you gotta have faith' in the face of hardship… Well, I grew up thinking of faith as the thing you had when you didn't have anything else. In my less kind moments, I thought of faith as an excuse not to get up off your ass and do something about your situation. More compassionately, faith was what you were left with when you'd run out of options... rather like when Tinkerbell dies in Peter Pan. Usually faith was just a poor substitute for planning, and if God didn't help you through whatever crisis you were going through, then your faith assured you that when you died at least, everything would be okay.

But even in elementary school I never believed in a God that would reach down out of heaven and, with a flick of His finger, remove an obstacle from my path. He may well know when a sparrow falls, but He does not stoop to catch it. At best He is the Eternal Witness; and if He is that, that is sometimes enough. From someone who has suffered many things in utter solitude, I tell you that is an article of belief that has power.

So anyway, I substituted endurance for faith. Like Matthew Ryan said, nothing very good or bad ever lasts. Time rolls on, and the intolerable situation is inevitably replaced by some other situation either better or worse, but at least different. I learned to grit my teeth and squint into the wind. Eventually my capacity for endurance became my Achilles' heel, but I've written about that at length elsewhere.

What's surprising to me is that it's taken me 35 years to really understand that the passive faith of my childhood is not the entirety of faith. There is at least one other side to it. I'm talking about, for lack of a better phrase, 'active faith'—the kind of faith or belief that allowed Gandhi to stare down the British Empire and empowered MLK to change the face of American society for the better. I'm talking about the kind of faith that is so powerful that, even after the person is dead, their faith-based actions continue to move in and shape the world.

I'm talking about faith as an engine for action, rather than a shield for the powerless.

That's what I wish I had. The motivation of faith. Instead, I find myself in a morass of conflicting impulses and motivations, the dog-ends of desires, the abandoned constructs of a half-dozen 'meaningful' directions. All of which leaves me standing still, blinking and puzzled at the beauty and ugliness of the world, physically vibrating with the need to have purpose. I'm puzzled and angry and longing for that sense of purpose and direction that has eluded me all my life. I am an arrow without a target. I am a sword cutting only air.

Dear Aliens,

Please don't visit our planet, however the likes of NASA plead, beg or cajole. We are, as a species, utter twats. We wouldn't know what to do with any advanced scientific knowledge you might be able to offer us. We can't even manage to put people whose homes were destroyed by hurricanes in a place safe from hurricanes, much less do things like, oh, end poverty, war, disease or Bill o'Reilly's 'career'.

In short, dear aliens, stay as far away from us as you possibly can. Whatever it is that has turned us into idiots barely able to find our own assholes with two hands and a flashlight may be catching, and then you too might end up with leaders like this. Twice.

When we call, just pretend you can't hear us, ok? And if we ever manage to colonize another planet, you may want to think about clearing out of this arm of the galaxy entirely. I guarantee property values will plummet.

Of course, I am the exception that proves the rule. I've never done a dumbass thing in my life. Oh, wait, yes I have. Lots of times. But nobody ever paid me to be the leader of the free world or the director of a national emergency agency either.

So maybe one favor, dear aliens? Could you maybe point some sort of ultra-high tech device at Washington, D.C. and demand that all Republicans and (Joe Lieberman) resign immediately or be turned into blobs of snot or something? And you could just turn everybody at Fox into blobs of snot, no warning necessary.

Thanks, love ya,

MercerMachine

Lost in translation

Language, as much as I love it, is a flawed tool.

I don't know how to express how I feel. Not because I don't have the words, but because words are so clumsy, so... imprecise. It's not melancholy, or sadness, or angst. It's a general, pervasive longing for something. What, I have no idea.

The morning sun dribbles into my study at an oblique angle, and the dog lies on the floor, ears cocked to the neighborhood sounds, but otherwise is still as a statue. Tomorrow my son will be one year old. The curtain shifts in a fitful breeze. My body, ravaged by seven hours of non-nicotiene supply known as sleep, seems to be buzzing at right angles to the world. It feels as though my head is swivelling around on broken glass.

The world is a beautiful place, and I am happy to be here. But this longing, tinged with a species of dissatisfaction, is like a pebble in my shoe. It keeps distracting me. It ruins my focus.

I am longing for something besides a cigarette. I wish I knew what. If I did, perhaps I would be able to explain it. Or satisfy it.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Ladies: if you plan on getting raped, don't do it in South Dakota

...and if you do, don't stick around ifyou get pregnant. It's now illegal to get an abortion in South Dakota for any reason other than to save a woman's life.

I can't be the only one who is feeling vomitously disgusted over this.

As soon as Alito is confirmed as Supreme Court Justice, the Right Wing nutjobs in America do this. It's been planned down to a T. they've been waiting a long time to put something up that will challenge Rove vs Wade, this time with a Supreme Court stacked on their side.

Will the Supreme Court hear this case? They have to. Will they strike down the SD law as unconstitutional? I give it a 60/40 probability that they will.

But that 40% scares me.

If that happens, the 50 states will fall into a patchwork of abortion-legal and -illegal states, further dividing a country that has been polarized by two scandal-ridden elections, a futile war, political and corporate pillaging, profiteering and sophist punditry, and a President that feels no remorse about trampling over the constitution or sending troops to die over a lie.

I don't know my America anymore. I view it from the distance of Singapore; like an oil painting, you must take a few steps back to begin to make out the whole. Up close, I knew America as colorful, vibrant, sometimes garish. Now, removed, I see violent discord amidst a clashing, dangerously imbalanced composition.

I wonder if my America ever existed at all outside my skull.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

You call this clean?!?

7 PM on a Sunday night. The house is silent: Wife and son are off with the in-laws, maid is off with maidly friends. Just the dog and I, and he'd rather be out exploring the neighborhood.

Just to update everyone, I've been working and commuting and doing family-type things like family photos and such; I've also been studying for my automobile and motorcycle license-type stuff. And I've been getting the paperwork sorted out for my external degree course at the University of London. It seems I'm going to have to take a A-Level exam. At 35, I've got to sit for an A-Level, as U of L does not recognize the American CLEP test. So I've been sorting that out. Fun fun fun.

I've also been trying to sort out my head and my heart.

It's not a midlife crisis, but I am sort of questioning what the hell I'm doing with my life. What I *want* to do with my life. What's important. Drawing cartoons, however amusing, can't be it. Teaching kids how to read, while fulfilling, is not my life's calling or ambition. Writing… well, writing is always there, in the back of my mind, but to be honest I haven't got the interest at the moment to finish anything I've already started, and I haven't got the time, energy or inspiration to start anything new. Bu the itch is still there; it's always there. It never goes away. There is a constant, droning voice inside my head that mutters 'you should be writing, you should be writing, you should be writing…'

Maybe I should be. Just finished Atwood's 'Surfacing' (it'll be on my A-level, doncha know) and the small, egomaniacal voice inside me muttered in disgust 'Christ, I could do better than that'. To which the less-small, sardonic voice inside me replied 'Okay. When are you gonna?'

Silence.

Whole lotta questions, whole lotta forward motion getting built up; in four years I'll finally, actually have a degree. Then what?

I'm too old to save the world. To be honest, right now all I want do is tour the world or buy one small, beautiful corner of it and dig my burrow.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Indefinite Hiatus


MercerMachine
Originally uploaded by MercerMachine.
So I got some stuff to take care of. Don't worry, I'm fine. Could be a while before I post again, though.

When I get back, I want this room cleaned up!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Sticky Issues: (Un)Common Sense Award

Too small? Can't see? Click on pic, then click on 'all sizes'. If you must.

Still scooping the poop... or, I TOLD YA SO.


Just saw this on Crooks and Liars:

"One of the most under-discussed and under-appreciated political facts is the depth and intensity of George Bush's unpopularity in this country. It isn't just that his approval ratings have fallen into the 30's again, although that is significant. More significant still is the fact that Americans disapprove of his performance in every region in the country, and in almost every state." --Glenn Greenwald

Which reminded me when I said this 226 days ago:

In other news, dubya seems to be having a hard time of it back in the US (cue false sympathy). According to Yahoo news, his approval rating has been below 50% for weeks. Gee, some buyer's remorse going on? Too late now, Red States. You rode the elephant, now you get to scoop the poop.

As the war in Iraq drags on and American soldiers continue to get killed for a cause that was controversial from day one, I guarantee his approval rating will continue to slide. The problem is, he doesn't care. He doesn't have any more elections to win, now does he?

The best that can happen is that any proposal he tries to push through gets stalled in Congress. It's about damage control, now. Bush doesn't have to worry about re-election, but thankfully the house and senate do. And since only 15% of Americans believe that Congress is doing anything that directly benefits the American people, maybe it's finally time for American government to start shaking off the bush 'compassionate conservatism' pall.

Oh, and where the hell is Osama? -Me, June 26th, 2005

Sigh...

Wheee! Redux

So it's 6:50 AM, on a Sunday morning. I am awake, and have been for, oh, about two hours. There's a reason my son has a shirt that says 'I don't sleep, NOBODY sleeps'.

I'm running into difficulties lately in writing. Part of it is to do with the fact that my free time is limited--basically an hour and a half on the bus to work, and the same back. I can do little sketches on the bus, but for some reason I just can't write. Maybe it's the inevitable old man hacking his germs on the back of my neck, but my concentration is just barely enough for cartooning. Stringing several coherent sentences together seems to be beyond me. And with a six day workweek, that doesn't leave much time. What time there is I have to split between wife, child, errands, and things like what I'm doing now.

Which is why I'm taking motorcycle lessons.

When I take public transport, I'm spending three hours a day, six days a week cheek-to-jowl with dozens of hacking, sneezing, smelly strangers. If I take a taxi, the time is cut by two-thirds: but the cost QUINTUPLES. I end up working for the taxi company.

Ergo, I need my own transport, one that's cheap. It's not a midlife crisis or a death wish. It's an economic and mental health necessity.

Plus, all my life I have been 'forbidden' to ride a motorcycle. Dire threats have been vocalized should I ever consider it. The main threatener being my mom. Well, Mom's on the other side ofthe world now, and I AM 35. If I wanna ride a motorcycle, great jumping Jehosephat, I'll do
just that.

Wheeee!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Brief bulletin, more later


I've started taking motorcycle lessons! M-O-T-O-R-C-Y-C-L-E! Lessons!

How much do I rock?

Now if only on my next lesson I can reliably find neutral gear.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Dear American Press: Boo F*&%$ing Hoo

Dear White House Press Corps and every other news agency who's been whining that Darth Cheney didn't tell you himself that he shot a guy in the face and heart-

You lazy-ass slacker losers get no sympathy from me. We got papparazzi that are able to update us when Sharon Stone gets a new frigging wrinkle on her face; you can't manage to know about the VICE PRESIDENT SHOOTING A GUY'S FACE OFF. Do your f*&%ing jobs!!!! Where were you, sitting in the White House Press Cave enjoying the free fingerfood and coffee when Cheney took off for his lawyer hunt?

The guy's been implicated in outing a CIA undercover operative and may well face an indictment: Why aren't you bird-dogging his fat ass like he owed you fifty grand and suddenly bought a one-way ticket to Tahiti?

I'll tell you why. Because you're lazy sacks of s&!t who expect to be spoonfed every drip and drab of information, which is why you guys are so frigging imbalanced and clueless when it comes to reporting the news. It's just easier to print what the White House gives out, than to actually do some JOURNALISM, isn't it?

F*&K YOU, you whining crybabies.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

For the Screwy Skeptic


minority
Originally uploaded by MercerMachine.
Everyone with a certain level of intelligence feels like an outsider- it has nothing to do with race.

Everyone who is an outsider is always missing home, because it is an ideal that should exist, but doesn't.

So take solace in the company of familiar strangers, and carry your home with you, a pastiche of all the wonderful bits and pieces you've experienced in your life.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Sticky Issues: "We Don't Torture"

Too small? Can't see? Click on pic, then click on 'all sizes'. That should clear up the rash.

An unsuccessful experiment

So I tried cutting back on my Prozac dosage for various reasons, like expense, because I felt ready, because I am a moron, etc. Went from 40mg to 20mg a day. At first things were fine. Then they weren't.

My extreme irritability crept back in, and then my weird anxiety/avoidance thing, and then the touch of paranoia. So I'm back on the full dose.

Sigh.

Looks like I should invest in Lilly stock.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Adventures of Ninja Joe! poster

Feel free to print this out and apply it to your cubicle wall/prison cell/padded room.

Sticky Issues: Sick leave


Sticky Issues: Sick leave
Originally uploaded by MercerMachine.
Too small? Can't see? Click on pic, then click on 'all sizes'. That should do ya.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The IDA is watching me.

I've taken down "The Problem with Prophets" cartoon because:

a) I heard on the radio tonight that it's now not okay to publish images of the Prophet in S'pore;
b) I've gotten a hit from the Infocomm Development Authority;
c) I'm incredibly paranoid since I cut my Prozac dosage in half;
d) Small, jail-like spaces really freak me out, and
e) I won't blatantly disregard the law, even if I don't agree with it.

In case you were wondering, 'TPWP' had received 833 views on Flickr.

Peace be upon you.

Sticky Issues: Are we surprised?

Too small? Can't see? Click on pic, then click on 'all sizes'. That should do ya.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Sticky Isues: Stand by yer Man!

Too small? Can't see? Click on pic, then click on 'all sizes'. That should do ya.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Sticky Issues: A Heckuva Year

Too small? Can't see? Click on the pic, then click on 'all sizes'. That should do ya.

We heart Crooks & Liars. No, really.

Crooksandliars.com featured "The Problem with Prophets" on one of their blog roundups. Just call me Amanda Hugnkiss.

Samantha Burns hits the nail on the head



This in a nutshell is why non-Muslim Westerners are so angry about the 'Cartoon War'. It's a serious cultural divide. It seems as though the Muslim world couldn't care less about the mass murder that Islamic terrorists are perpetrating, and yet many feel justified in attacking embassies that have nothing to do with publication of drawings of the Prophet.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Adore me!

Okay, here's the list of my doodles that have over 100 views on Flickr (as of 10:40 pm, 5 Feb 06). Wow. Who wants to talk syndication? I have a powerful urge to make my living drawing stick figures. Can you make my dream come true?

Sticky Issues: Once Upon a Tomorrow (2114)
Sticky Issues: The Problem With Prophets (542)
Sticky Issues: A Dream Deferred (393)
Sticky Issues: Good News! Bad News! (302)
Sticky Issues: The NKF Maths Tuition Center (256)
Bloghead (Sedition Edition) (247)
Ninja Joe: On the Bus (236)
Sticky Issues: The Sweet Hereafter (229)
Sticky Issues: The Times They Are A'changin' (226)
Sticky Issues: The Great Casino Debate ( 221)
Sticky Issues: State of Disunion (207)
Top Terrorist (181)
Ninja Joe: at the 7-11 (175)
Sticky Issues: The latest Craze (158)
Sticky Issues: A Satisfying Conclusion (156)
Ninja Joe: vs Busker-man (138)
Sticy Issues: Republican Snapshot #2 (134)
Sticky Issues: Singapore Low Cost Terminal (119)
Sticky Issues: The Cartoon War (116)
Sticky Issues: Chain of Command (115)
Sticky Issues: Republican Snapshot #1 (113)
Sticky Issues: Ye Olde Mother Tongue (111)
Notxiaxue: Swimsuit Issue! (109)

Sticky Issues: The Cartoon War

Too small? Can't see? Click on pic, then click on 'all sizes'. That should do ya.

I believe in a just God, a merciful God, a caring God. I believe in a God who gave us the most precious of gifts, free will. An inescapable consequence of free will is the need for freedom of expression. How can this be blasphemous?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Friskodude:State of the Union Drinking Game plus Dubya's Speech!

Oh my god. I think I peed myself.

I hate the big picture

So I turned on my comment moderation feature. For, like, 2 hours. Then I turned it off. At the end of the day, I've got to put my money where my mouth is. I can't blather on about free speech and then censor comments on my own site. If X wants to comment here, she's welcome to. As you can tell from the previous post, she's not likely to add anything constructive, but as long as it's not spam, hey, go ahead.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

X finds my blog

In refection of your e-mail, and upon my start of John Gardner’s Art of Fiction, I can’t help to think that your advice is pointless and shallow. Everything a writer starts is the beginning of something, and it is this – this reason, that I keep everything that I have written, and at times I go back and re-explore all those old ideas… and sometimes I find treasures there. And after all, wouldn’t you just love to see all that I’ve written thrown away – maybe that would in fact make things a little more equal. Well, to that I say, Fuck you... to atone for your words… like you were free from any wrong doing – where is your apology or your remorse? I may have been the physical embodiment of the furies but by no means were you a saint. It was your constant ignoring of me, your constant self absorbed nature and your solitude that left me in longing – that I was just so damn bored and acted out for something to get excited about… and the best you can do is a lonesome e-book out there in the dead space of electrons - to be forever bounced between diodes and nothing more. And selling out, at that, by whatever sells. You may think it funny now, but the future holds my last laugh. I will earn my place at the table and then some, but it is the seat of your lowly table that I will refuse because there is something greater out there – a true pulse; one of flesh, blood and all things devoutly human with all the pleasure, pain, ecstasy, and disgust to be found therein. There will be no little boy tales of dragons, or sorcerers conjuring spells to propel heroes through the mire of a writers’-workshop-generated-plot. …oh what good fortunes to be taken under the wing of one of the best writers of our generation (the world just doesn’t know this yet). Don’t get me wrong – it is not by this association alone that will allow me success at such a lofty feat, but one must consider where Kerouac would be with out Ginsberg, or Ginsberg with out Burrows… But I digress on so many interpersonal blah-blah-ings related to encyclopedias, last names, and forecasted descriptions to be found with in. AND WHAT THE HELL DID YOU KEEP THE SCABBS OF MY TATTOO IN YOUR JOURNAL FOR ANYWAYS???? Where is your pushcart prize nomination, MM??? It was all just the means to justify an end. It was all just the means by which my heart grew little harder and my skin a little thicker… to conjure fictionally certain shapes and shade of a destruction more extraordinaire…

gravity

So E@L asks me the other night if I'm getting tired of blogging, and I say, truthfully, 'no'. But I am getting tired of the nature of this blog-which is to say I'm getting tired of my own nature.

The sad truth is, I envy Xiaxue and her ilk the ability to blather on endlessly about nothing, just as I envy her staunch readers the ability to find entertainment in posts with so little substance. But the truth is, Xiaxue isn't the disease; she's just one of the more obvious symptoms.

The truth is, most times I disappoint myself. I feel like some schizophrenic clown, a bizarre entertainer tap-dancing through cartoons and sardonic asides, and occasionally stopping the music for a moment to reach for something profound, important—something better, more meaningful. And every so often I manage to touch something approaching truth… and then it's back to the conspiratorial wink, the friendly nudge, the ole soft shoe.

Does anybody know what the hell I'm talking about? Does it matter? Maybe only to me, to the editorial voice at the back of my head that constantly yells 'Clarity! Clarity!'

Maybe the Xiaxues of this world have the right of it. Maybe it's all just about bread and circuses and this week's object of derision. Maybe all this time I've been struggling to break through to the other side of…nothing.

But there are those times, brief, far too far between, like the Wright brothers' glorious thirty-odd seconds at Kittyhawk, where I break free. I soar.

Trouble is, I cannot stomach a few seconds here and there. I am not content to count achievement by the word or paragraph, only to fall back to mediocrity, to serviceability, to – clarity.

I cannot stand the pull of my own gravity.

Monday, January 30, 2006

wanting

My earliest memories are of wanting. A toy, a sweet, for my mother not to leave for work, a pebble from the gutter—want colored my world as it only can for someone who is powerless. Want was a spike pinning each day to the next. Want would overwhelm reason and accountability in an instant, leaving me shaking, sick and in tears. The lack of my object of desire was as the death of millions; ghastly, intolerable, shattering. I had absolutely no coping mechanism, no armor, nothing that would shield me from the rending effects of want left unsatisfied.

And yet, somehow I survived. Slowly, over the course of years, of decades, I learned to manage my wants, to minimize them, to trivialize them down to a level where they were always easily satisfied. A cup of coffee, a cigarette, a book. Just the act of lighting a cigarette can be, for me, a deeply satisfying experience. It's like magic: I snap my fingers and flame appears, as if by magic, burning away the specter of want. Instant gratification. It has so little to do with the physical addiction, and so much to do with the emotional one.

Everybody wants. Everybody has said or felt or thought, 'If I don't get ____, I will surely die." It is, as they always say without actually thinking about what it means, human nature. We are the ape that wants, and will go to extraordinary lengths to have. We are the creature that will desire the fruit from the highest branch, when there are plenty of edible bits lying right there on the ground, unnoticed as we trample them underfoot in our rush to climb the tree.

I still don't know which is worse: wanting too little, or wanting too much. The want, however, is inescapable.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

sg blog awards, redux

a little anonymous bird tells me that the Sg Blog Awards are chugging ahead at a stately pace. Inside sources indicate that the winners could be announced as early as March 1st. Inside sources also indicate that time to nominate blogs is running out...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Sticky Issues: Ye Olde Mother Tongue

Too small? Can't see? Click on pic, then click on 'all sizes'. That should do the trick.

Sticky Issues: Baby Steps


Sticky Issues: Baby Steps
Originally uploaded by MercerMachine.
Too small? Can't see? Click on pic, then click on 'all sizes'. That should do the trick.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Sticky Issues: The Sweet Hereafter

Too small? Can't see? Click on pic, then click on 'all sizes'. That should do the trick.

Monday, January 23, 2006

the man who drew stick figures

Dear Tomorrow Editors-

It seems I've made some of you upset. I wish I could say I was sorry, but that would be pretty silly, since that was my intent.

Why would I want to do such a thing? Not because I dislike you. Quite the opposite. I have a huge amount of respect for most of you, and at least a certain amount of respect for all of you. Which is why I felt it was important not to let this whole issue just drift away quietly.

You don't have to agree with me. That's not what this is about. Right now I'd be happy with just the discussion, open and honest, about what Tomorrow.sg really is. We've all heard many times that Tomorrow simply isn't some sort of focal point to sway public opinion, and is certainly not the drumhead for political change in Singapore. You're just boliao guys trying to do boliao things. Which is rather like saying you just keep that gold bar around as a paperweight. What you use it for doesn’t change the fact that it's pretty damn valuable.

So I made some of you upset. What I really wanna know is, why do you guys even care what I think? If you're just boliao guys trying to boliao things, then hey, I can be just a guy who draws stick figures, right? Why should it matter? In the grand scheme of things, I'm just one blogger. On a daily basis, more people read the back of dog food labels than read my little blog, and probably with more attention.

So let me ask again, because I really wanna know: Why do you care what I think?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Meme of 4

Okay, okay, for dubdew and mr miyagi. Ask me another day and you might get different answers, though.

4 jobs you've had in your life
Soldier
Bookstore manager
Bowling alley pinboy
Marketing manager

4 movies you could watch over and over
The Salton Sea
Braveheart
The Crow
28 Days Later

4 places you've lived

San Antonio, Texas
Muncie, Indiana
Austin, Texas
The Little Red Dot

4 tv showed you love(d) to watch

Firefly
Stargate SG-1
Survivor
Battlestar Galactica (old and new)

4 places you've been on vacation

Bali
South Padre Island
Bintan
Bangkok

Four websites you visit (almost) daily

Tomorrow.sg
Die Stunde Null
Crooks and Liars.com
Michael Moore.com

Four of your favourite foods

Cheese enchilada plate- Casa Rio, the Riverwalk, San Antonio
Frito-bean-and-cheeseburger, Ironhorse Café, New Braunfels, Texas
#3 Breakfast (cheese and mushroom omelette, hashbrowns, bacon and toast with a big glass of milk), the Family Diner, Muncie Indiana
2 roti prata and iced milo, RK 24 hours eating house, Serangoon Gardens, Singapore

Four places you would rather be

Spiderhouse café, Austin, Texas
Mojo's Daily Grind, Austin, Texas
The Metro, Austin, Texas
Tahiti

Four tagged

No tagged. Do if you want, lah.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Sticky Issues: "A Dream Deferred"

Too small? Can't see? Click on pic, then click on 'all sizes'. That should do the trick.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Sticky Issues: Once upon a Tomorrow

Too small? Can't see? Click on pic, then click on 'all sizes'. That should do the trick.
(For those of you interested in such details, this cartoon has been viewed on Flickr 1,655 times as of 8:05pm, 21 January 2006. It's my experience that only nude photos get comparable traffic. So I think the question of whether the public at large cares about this issue has been answered with an emphatic YES. They sure ain't in love with my artistic ability...)

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Xiaxue makes an ass of herself (again)

Surprise, surprise. What disturbs me most about the whole sad, sordid little mess is that her fellow editors at Tomorrow are curiously (some might say ominously) quiet on the whole affair (excepting, as always, Agoooga). Perhaps they've learned something from the gahmen after all: when one of your own shows their ass, pretend it didn't happen.

I'm actually quite disappointed with Tomorrow. My opinion of Xiaxue couldn't have gotten any lower, but Tomorrow's editor's actions and inactions in regards to Xiaxue's Durai-esque blunder make me question whether Tomorrow is worth my continuing support. Or yours. Or anybody's.

C'mon, guys: the silence is killing you.