Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Practice of the Future Magazine

After a long, long period of time, I'm going to be associated with a publication again; Practice of the Future will be launching soon! Well, the digital version is available already, but it's the printed copy I can't wait to get my hands on next week... I do some of the writing, and most of the proofreading/copyediting, for this quarterly healthcare-oriented magazine, and I've got to say I'm quite pleased with what my colleagues and I have achieved. Of course, this kind of thing isn't exactly new to me...

26 years ago today, August 18, 1995, I met up with some fellow 'zinesters at the second annual Underground Press Conference at DePaul University in Chicago during my all-too-brief stint as publisher and editor-in-chief of the Extreme. Disillusionment with the conference itself and the feuds I saw boiling over, coupled with a flood of submissions but a dearth of subscriptions, led me to unceremoniously pull the plug on the venture shortly thereafter, only eight issues in, and I still regret it...

Before that, I proofread and edited The Voyage of the SS Jeremiah O'Brien: San Francisco to Normandy 1994, a book by Coleman "Coke" Schneider about the Liberty Ship he was assigned to as a Merchant Marine deck cadet for its maiden voyage in 1944, and on which he traveled again 50 years later for the D-Day anniversary. Coke was a great man with a fascinating history, and I'm proud to have both known him and helped him with the book.

Before that? Well, in 1991 there was my semi-legendary stint as "underground journalist" and literary editor/propagandist of the Underground Giraffe. Met initially with amused tolerance by the management of the Toys "R" Us store where graphic editor Steve Augulis and I worked, the irreverent newsmagazine subtitled "Something to read while you're in the bathroom" found its way up a corporate level or two, and our comic and crass rants were eventually suppressed after five issues that year. I then released two final issues in 1992 as a gift to my co-workers when I resigned. I'm not saying that UG had anything to do with T"R"U filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2017 and closing all its US stores the following year... but I'm not not saying it, either.

And before that? I suppose my interest in journalism and writing and editing/proofreading began in high school. In my junior year, I was a member of the editorial committee of John F. Kennedy H.S.' school newspaper, The Torch; the next year, I was literary editor of our yearbook, The Knight. The proofreading bug has been with me ever since, and even when I'm reading for news or for pleasure, part of me is on the hunt for errors. Beware my red pen!

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

I do still enjoy writing, too, and though the work I do in my capacity as marketing manager for Microwize Technology and senior editor for Practice of the Future shows barely a trace of my trademark snark and outrage, I'm proud of it. Of course, the turns of phrase, the alliteration, the portmanteaus and double entendres I sprinkle throughout my song lyrics and short fiction and personal 'blog posts are nearer and dearer to my heart. I have fun with words when I can.

Kudos to my PotF teammates on a terrific first issue together! And, who knows... I just might be inspired to try my hand at the 'zine thing again...

Sunday, March 21, 2021

One Year On

A year ago tonight, New Jersey went into lockdown, with 1,327 COVID-19 cases and 16 coronavirus-related deaths. One year on, the state is seeing more than that many new cases a day, and as of this writing we're at 762,407 cases, and 24,134 deaths. (I wrote this 'blog post the next day; that reminds me, I never did finish writing "Unexpected Pandemic Blues...")

A year ago last Thursday, I did my first "working from home" post. Those posts had lost their charm, at least for me, long before I hit day 100 and stopped (the posts, not working from home). These days, I head to the office two days a week, but it's not the same.

A year ago April 7th, I took my Philips Norelco OneBlade to my scalp; I knew I wasn't going to be getting my longish hair cut at Astor Place in the Village anytime soon. (I finally did get a professional cut three weeks ago at Prestige Barber Shop in Lyndhurst.) Speaking of the Village...

A year ago March 7th, my friend Dawn and I took a trip in to NYC. I had no idea it was going to be my last for over a year, but we did notice that there were fewer people out and about on a relatively warm Saturday afternoon than normal. I do miss Mamoun's and Washington Square Park and Barcade and the Lower East Side and just being able to go to New York whenever I had the time and the inclination. I've never been more reluctant to get on a bus or train.

2021 held a few major hiccups for me at the start, but my girlfriend and I got to relax with an amazing couples massage and an incredible spa day not long ago.

What else? Oh, I'm still not making a lot of money off my music, but for some reason I've received more in royalties so far this year (this month, even) than over the past four years combined. Seems I'm getting streamed a lot in Canada? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Got Shazamed a time or two, too. (Yes, it was good for me, thanks for asking.) It's not enough to pay for another spa day yet, but if people are listening, that's good enough for me... and it appears that they are.

Speaking of money, I've decided to get my feet wet with cryptocurrency, and so I'm now the proud owner of over 69 quadrillion wei! ("No wei!") Sounds much more impressive than 0.06931 Ether. I've seen it drop as much as 26% from what I paid (which was admittedly not much), but it's recovered and has been doing all right for the past week or two. Not getting a spa day out of this anytime soon, either, but I'd been wanting to see what all the fuss was about, and I guess I'm beginning to.

It has undoubtedly been a hell of a year... but adversity builds character. Or something. Not like I wasn't a character already. I've had some wonderful moments over the past twelve months, though, and hopefully you have, too. Let's work together to make the next twelve better.

Monday, January 25, 2021

You Won't Believe What Happens Next!

Yeah, I know... but I swear that every word is true.

I was supposed to fly to Brazil on Friday the 8th. My mom has to go every year in January, for reasons of pension and Brazilian bureaucracy, and the last few years I've gone with her. Normally I enjoy visiting Brazil; it's a beautiful country and I've got family there. This year, I wasn't looking forward to the trip so much, but eventually I booked our flights...

...and found out, near the end of 2020, that we would in fact need to have negative COVID test results in order to enter Brazil. From tests taken within 72 hours of the flight. And because it seemed damned near impossible to take an RT-PCR test and be guaranteed results within 72 hours, I foolishly scheduled us for rapid (antigen) tests on Wednesday and Thursday. They came back negative (lucky me, I actually had a rapid and an RT-PCR test done at the clinic I visited, though the results of the latter took significantly longer than 72 hours to come back), but in the meantime I realized I'd made a mistake.

Frantically searching for somewhere that could guarantee PCR test results in time, I learned about XpresCheck, right in Newark International Airport, which had a rapid test that was molecular like the PCR test, and not an antigen test like the usual rapid tests. I was dubious, and so I called United Airlines for guidance, and was told that yes, negative results from this test would be acceptable for international travel. And so I scheduled us to get tested again, on Friday afternoon several hours before the flight, and these tests were neither covered by insurance nor inexpensive.

We got to the airport and headed to XpresCheck in Terminal B. Upon being informed that we were taking the test in order to travel to Brazil, the staff (to their credit) expressed skepticism that this test would be acceptable and urged me to confirm with United again. And so I did, with a 16-minute phone call during which I asked twice if I would be able to travel to Brazil with negative results from XpresCheck's NAAT molecular test, and was assured that I would because it was basically the same kind of test as the RT-PCR. So we paid and took our tests and got our negative results.

And were denied check-in by United, because the test results did not specifically state that we'd taken RT-PCR tests. I was angry and confused; the first round of tests were my fault, but this time I'd checked twice with the airline and was told twice that XpresCheck's test, performed right at the airport, would be fine. We had to leave EWR, and after more desperate searching online, I found a lab that would guarantee RT-PCR test results within 48 hours. Called 'em to make sure, then scheduled us to be tested on Saturday, and rescheduled the flight for Monday the 11th. (For those keeping score at home, this was now my fourth COVID test in four days.) We got the results in under 24 hours, in fact, and could've traveled Sunday night had I known, but at any rate, we set out for the airport again on Monday afternoon in a Lyft...

...which was totaled ten minutes later by a driver who most likely crossed over two or three lanes of traffic in a hurry and probably didn't even see us until it was too late. (Her car was totaled, too.) Our driver's airbag deployed, and she didn't seem to be injured. The right side of my mom's chest was hurt, probably because of the seatbelt, and she had trouble breathing in the minute or two after the accident. My own right side was sore, and I'm fairly certain I bumped my head, though not enough to leave a mark or bump; maybe ten minutes later, when I realized that my right forearm was also feeling some pain, I checked and found a shallow gash almost two inches long near the elbow.

The local police showed up quickly, and after a report was written up, the county sheriff's officers drove us (in the back, but sans handcuffs) a short distance away to a convenience store, so I could summon another Lyft (the accident happened under an overpass on a busy roadway). We did eventually make it to the airport, with plenty of time, and got through check-in and security with no further issues. And made it to Brazil.

We had fewer days there than we'd counted on, but then neither of us exactly intended to do a lot of sightseeing or travel, in light of the COVID-19 situation in Brazil being about as bad as it is in the US. One thing that surprised me, pleasantly, was how the vast majority of people I saw in Ponta Grossa were wearing masks, both indoors and out. We did get to spend some time with some family. My mom, still in pain from the accident, got an X-ray taken, which seemed to indicate that everything's fine. We didn't have any dramatic issues on the way back to the US this past Friday, fortunately, and even the Uber ride to the airport in Curitiba (Lyft hasn't made it to Brazil yet) was fine. We squeaked in just a few days before a negative RT-PCR test requirement goes into effect for entering the US (beginning tomorrow). We've both still got some leftover pain after the Lyftpocalypse, but mine is subsiding slowly, and mom will see her doctor if it's not better soon. After some quarantining, of course.

How was your January?

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

September Morn

Watching September approach this year, I was filled with a sense of... well, not dread, really. Wariness, and weariness, I suppose. While I've always considered fall my favorite season, and September is my birth month, it's been a more depressing month these past several years. You'd think Suicide Prevention Awareness Month would be a fun and cheerful time, but...

The age thing really doesn't bother or faze me. I still mostly feel like the 18-year old cool but awkward, respectful but punk kid I've been for a long time now. A bit less naïve and a bit more world-weary, even though I used to describe myself as the world's youngest curmudgeon; some grey in my hair, and a few more lines in my face, but I just can't think of myself as a 50-year old, even if that's what I am now. I wasn't upset by the thought of growing another year older, I was upset by the thought of growing another year older and still feeling lonely.

This year has turned out much different than we'd all anticipated. Well, this September turned out much different than I'd anticipated, in a good way. On New Year's Eve 2019, I got a fortune cookie with a slip of paper inside which read, "If you want it... take it." I'm not one to take fortunes or horoscopes seriously, but I did interpret this as a positive way to approach life, even if I didn't implement it as well or as often as I'd intended. As this month was beginning, however, I found myself confronted with an opportunity I really hadn't expected... and I wanted it, and I took it.

And now I'm happy again, truly happy (and not just for a few hours or a day or three) for the first time in years. Today's my birthday, and I've got a dinner date tonight. I wrote and recorded a new song in under three weeks, and it will be released shortly (yes, on Apple Music and Spotify and iHeartRadio and Pandora and so on). And so begins another chapter in the Andersen Silva autobiography.

Monday, July 27, 2020

On the State of the Disunion

As a middle-aged, American-born, heterosexual cis white man, I- well, I just shut myself out of the conversation, didn't I? I've still got opinions, though, and they don't always line up neatly with (or against) my demographic... and I really need to vent.

There's this ridiculous notion going around that one's "unalienable" right to liberty supersedes everyone else's reasonable expectation of health and safety. I can appreciate exercising one's rights even when that makes others uncomfortable or angry; I've certainly done so myself. I can't understand how you can want to live in a society but flout its conventions or scientifically-based rules designed to minimize the spread of a contagious disease throughout that society. You're as entitled to an opinion as I am, but my well-being shouldn't be dependent on your opinion. If you're significantly increasing the chances of the pandemic spreading, maybe you need to rethink whether you belong around other people at all (or at least other people who are willing to endure some inconvenience to reduce your risk).

Going back to upsetting others while exercising one's rights: yes, here in the US, we have the right to free speech. You, I, Donnie Dumbo, the CEOs of companies like Goya or Tesla or Facebook, politicians and political commentators espousing far-left or far-right ideologies (or anything in-between), authors and actors and singers and dancers and athletes, and any average Joe or Jane are all free to say just about anything we want, whether or not it's backed by popular opinion or facts or the almighty dollar.

What some people are objecting strenuously to these days, and labeling 'cancel culture,' is the new realization that they are not necessarily free any longer from the consequences of what they say or do, that they can be called out for it, rightly or wrongly, and that's just not the same thing as taking away your freedom of speech. (They of course have the right to write and sign that open letter, as their detractors have the right to rebut.) Too many people have gotten too used to the lack of repercussions. It's that lack of real response to what you said, and in some cases your platform, that's being canceled, not your right to say it. The First Amendment still lets you spew ignorance and hatred and bad jokes and laughably sad conspiracy theories, but the American people are making it clear that they increasingly no longer feel like they can't or shouldn't object, with their words or their wallets or their presence on the streets. In the United States of America, you've always had the right to be an asshole, and you still do; you're just more likely to pay a price for it these days. That should never include violence, of course, actual or threatened or encouraged, but if you're losing followers or friends or political support or job security or market share or profits, and that concerns you, maybe you need to rethink your words before you speak or tweet or post them.

This goes for anyone and everyone. People with whose opinions I generally agree are certainly not immune from saying stupid or cruel or blatantly false things. We all need to stop making excuses for 'our' person saying or doing something that we'd condemn if the 'other side' said or did it. Humans seem to have an innate need for an "us against them" mentality, to label someone as "other" and then fear/hate the "other," and that's hardly new. If American conservatives and liberals, and libertarians and progressives and socialists and neocons and neolibs and everyone else, won't stop the posturing and the finger-pointing and the wagon-circling when one of their own is rightfully called out, however, things are going to get uglier. I don't care about the Republican and Democratic parties; whether they survive or not makes no difference to me. What concerns me is their manipulation, their turning citizen against citizen over real (immigration, riots, unidentified federal forces with unmarked vehicles detaining law-abiding citizens in American cities - notice how non-violent, unarmed moms and nurses get tear-gassed?) or imagined (the "deep state," QAnon, the "destruction" of the treasonous Confederate "heritage") outrages while carefully maintaining the status quo.

Regardless of who wins the election ninety-nine days from now (con? yay!), neither the world nor the nation will burst into sulfurous flames on November 4th, or January 20th, no matter what the rabble-rousers on both sides tell you. (But vote, damn you!) Trump isn't the source of all (or even most) of the good or the bad things happening in this country. Trumpism and the issues that led to its rise won't end if Biden is elected president and Democrats keep the House and take the Senate. Progressivism and the issues that led to its rise won't disappear if Trump gets a second term and Republicans hang on to the Senate. The pandemic won't suddenly disappear, the economy won't be magically resuscitated, the rough beast won't stop slouching towards Bethlehem, we won't get Carl Reiner or Little Richard back. A dozen more Kamalas or AOCs or Notorious RBGs, or a dozen more Cruzes or Grahams or Joseph Kevin McCarthys, won't radically change my or your day-to-day life.

Change has to come from us. But we need to work together and agree on areas we want to change, then insist that our "leaders" listen. As long as we stay divided, and keep sniping at each other, and continue to insist that either:
  • you blindly follow authority and wear a mask, or you're stupid or selfish and want others to die
  • you don't care about unemployed Americans, or you don't understand this country was built by immigrants
  • you love abortions, or you hate women having choices and agency
  • you're "woke" because you're afraid not to be, or you're a racist/sexist/homophobe/transphobe
  • you're a violent, radical member of Antifa, or you're a fascist or "Profa"
  • you want to kill cops, or you want cops to kill minorities
  • you're out to destroy honest American businesses, or you're out to destroy the environment
  • you're a socialist or communist, or you don't care that Wall Street and big corporations get fat on our blood, sweat, and tears
  • you're a social justice warrior only "virtue signaling" on Twitter, or you're a social injustice warrior only "vice signaling" on Parler
we're not going to get anywhere. Life is rarely that black and white. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and Chief Justice John Roberts have this year confounded those on the left and the right who assumed that because they personally lean conservative and were nominated by Republican presidents, they would of course always rule on the side of the more conservative litigant. That's not how it works, or at least not how it should. There are Democrat legislators supportive of Trump, and there are Republicans putting money and effort into voting him out. This is how people work. Turns out you can say and believe that Black Lives Matter yet still acknowledge that police have a sometimes brutal job (encompassing more than it should, really) and most of them do it well. You can support our troops yet still want to spend less time and money on war. You can love the country and respect the presidency yet still be appalled by the words and/or deeds of the Oval Office's occupant. You can be comfortable and secure with your masculine heterosexuality yet still be a supportive ally to women and to LGBQTIA+ people. And you can be upset or angered by someone's speech or actions yet maintain grace and dignity in your response.

Most people aren't either angelically good or demonically evil, but somewhere between. Most of us don't actually hate each other, and understand that there are areas where you can compromise, and you can actually agree to disagree when the compromising's done, and that's what we need to remember. Don't let the demagogues rile you up. Anger can be power (d'you know that you can use it?), but you don't have to let yourself get angry over everything, and hate ultimately does no one any good. Well, maybe Facebook.

Sometimes it's your reaction, more than the action, that hurts you. Change your state. Remember the humanity of the person you think is so wrong. Remember your own, and that you've been wrong before, too, and will be again. Ultimately, whether my neighbor / manager / colleague / cashier or clerk / bus driver / local cop is gay / Muslim / a single, unwed mother / black / trans / a Spanish speaker / a member of the Democratic or Republican or Green or Libertarian Party doesn't matter to me. What you do or say or think in private, what you do or don't eat or drink, who you do or don't sleep with, how or if you practice a faith, doesn't matter to me.

What does matter to me is whether or not you're willing to have a discussion, to acknowledge that others have the same rights you do, even others you dislike or disagree with; that no one who doesn't pose a physical threat should be hurt or killed by those we've entrusted with keeping the peace; that treating each other with more respect and civility and humanity without needing government to mandate that behavior would be better for everyone; that talking less and listening more is a great start.

And with that, I've done more than enough talking.