4 Things to Remember Before You Protest

Unless you’ve been in your closet for the last month, you may have noticed a growing incidence of protesters seeking redress against the government of the United States. It’s spreading to other countries now.

More civil unrest is almost inevitable in the US.  Prices are skyrocketing, wages aren’t going up, and unemployment is horrifyingly high.  The Occupy movement doesn’t surprise me (I expected something like it) but there is one thing they need to remember.

WHEN YOU POOP ON THE STREET YOUR MESSAGE IS LOST.

The Occupy camps have created a Woodstock-like atmosphere of filth, stench, and destruction of public areas, and now people are getting killed.   Here are four ways to ensure that your cause gets its due.

#4 – Don’t scream.

When you were a kid, did you listen when your mom or dad yelled at you? And what happened when you yell at them?  I’ll bet you a dollar they told you to go calm down and then they would listen to what you had to say.

If you yell at people, they’ll focus on the screaming and not the content.  They’re also likely to run from you.

#3 – Don’t hit anybody or throw anything.

Violence does the same thing as screaming.  Let me tell you a story.

When I lived in Santa Cruz, California in the early ’90s, the city enacted an ordinance that stated you couldn’t sit on the sidewalk unless you were waiting to get into a restaurant.  The ordinance was supposed to reduce the number of panhandlers downtown, who were scaring away tourists and bleeding revenue from the merchants there.

That’s all fine and dandy, except the ordinance was unfair. According to the wording, if you sat on the curb to tie your shoelace, you could be in violation.

So a peaceful (hear that? PEACEFUL) group of protesters simply went downtown and sat on the sidewalk.  The cops picked them up and removed them as discreetly as they could.

Outside agitators from Berkeley heard about this and swarmed in.  Not their town, not their problem, but that didn’t stop them.  They had to have their say.  Expecting trouble, the cops showed up in riot gear.  I can’t blame them either, although some people said it aggravated the situation.

I was down there watching this.  Someone climbed up a light pole, and when the first rock hit a cop’s helmet, I vamoosed.  The subsequent riot ended up with numerous people being arrested and more than twenty windows broken.

The ordinance was quietly repealed.

Did the riot cause this? Perhaps, but knowing Santa Cruz’s vocal population, and knowing also that the city was open to criticism (at least at that time), the sit-in might have done the trick.  The main focus on that night’s news was not the ordinance, but the broken windows.

#2 – Make sure you have done your homework

The Berkeley agitators poked their nose in where it didn’t belong.  They didn’t spend time downtown, so they didn’t understand the problem.  The Internet is full of these protesters, haunting comment threads and blogs galore, waiting to pounce on any suggestion of unfairness or oppression.

On Consumerist, a blog I like to read about consumer issues, there’s always someone who does this.  He/she will post a criticism, usually of the original complainant.  Everyone else will jump down his/her throat with “RTFA(read the fucking article)” and if he/she tries to stick to the first uninformed argument, further comments will be quickly squelched.

There are many more people out there fact-checking than you think.  Because of the relative anonymity of the Internet, they have no qualms about pointing out your mistakes and completely derailing your protest.

So make sure if you post a rant against beef producers for selling ground-up cow assholes to vitamin companies for protein supplements (I made that up—I hope), check your sources and make sure they really are.  You don’t want to be sued for libeling someone, or spreading stupidly false information.  Go to snopes.com and look it up first.   Chances are someone already sent it in.

#1 – Give the other side a chance to rebut you.

What?  WHAT?  Let them speak?  Surely you jest.

If you let someone else tell their side of the story, they’re much more likely to listen to you.   Those farmers might be selling ground-up cow assholes to vitamin makers, but if you listen to them for just one damn second you’ll find out they use them for DOG supplements, not people ones.   (Disclaimer—again,  I made this up.)  If you just scream over them, you’ll never find that out.  And then you’ll look like an idiot.

If other people are always saying to you “JUST LET ME FINISH!!” you may be guilty of this.  Ask your controversial question and then listen for the answer.  If the answer is bogus, then feel free to point that out.   But you better see #2 first.

BONUS—Don’t kill people.

‘Nuf said.

The Journey of the Noble Gnarble

The Journey of the Noble Gnarble is a lovely children’s book by multimedia author Daniel Errico, illustrated by artist Tiffany Turrill (I know her!  See her link in my blogroll!).

Aimed at children aged 3-6, the story is about a cute, colorful sea creature called a gnarble seeking to swim to the top of the sea, where he can finally see the blue sky he’s dreamed of and do a flip in the sunlight.   Along the way, he faces perils, and nearly gives up.

I don’t know if you can say it’s a moral little tale about persistence, but it’s sure a delightful one.  The author plays with language and invents words in his rhymes, like “koggers” and “swimming bungaloo.”  I read bits of it out loud to myself and wished I had a kid.

This is primarily a picture book, and the illustrations don’t disappoint.  Tiffany Turrill’s drawings are richly colored and exquisitely detailed.  And I’m not just saying that because she is my friend.  One thing I liked was finding lots of little sea beebees (as she calls them) inserted in the backgrounds of the pictures, giving them depth.  Each time you look, you see something new.

Poor gnarble…will he be okay? Read the book and find out!


Author Daniel Errico is the creator of a website called FreeChildrensStories.com, which he made to give all kids access to stories even if they don’t have any money for books.  Computers are becoming commonplace even for lower-income people, thanks to contract and prepaid smartphones and smaller, cheaper machines.   Free wi-fi is everywhere.

Studies have shown that kids who are read to or read at home do much better in school than kids who don’t.  According to the linked paper, all they need is access to print and someone to read to them.   Support your local library so all children have this chance.  Sites like Daniel’s would be accessible there, where parents may be able to print a story for free or a small copy fee.

I don’t have any rugrats, but a book like this is a treasure.  It’s the kind of thing a kid would love to revisit on a regular basis, and perhaps share with his/her own children.   I bought a copy for myself at Amazon.  This would make a great Christmas gift for a child you know, or an elementary school teacher’s classroom.

Check out the gnarble!

5 Ways Being Creative Sucks

People tell me being a writer must be so cool, that I should quit my job and work from home, they wish they could write a book, etc.  I have no doubt my artist friends have heard similar utterances.

Truly, it is pretty awesome.  I can write something that’s in my head and make you see it (at least I hope you do) and live vicariously through my characters.  So it’s good, mostly.  I’d rather have it than not.

BUT…

In no particular order, here are the things about creativity that suck.

It’s not fun ALL the time

I hear over and over in freelancer blogs, articles and comments how everyone thinks full-time writers have it made.  The cliché is a pajama-clad person lolling on the sofa enjoying daytime TV in between occasional bursts of typing.  Stay-at-home moms get the same “You don’t really work” crap.

THIS IS THEIR JOB.  If they don’t do it, they don’t eat.  They just don’t have to sit in a stupid office like you.

Even part-time, it’s work.  Imagine writing a term paper.  For six months to a year.  That’s kind of what it’s like to write a novel.  If you’ve penned a thesis, you know what I mean.
 Money

Yes, there are plenty of paid writers out there doing more than content work.  And I know graphic artists, illustrators and musicians who are professionals at least part-time.

Most of them have a day job.  You know that old joke about every waiter is an actor?  That is truer than you know.   Also, freelancers have to work longer hours than someone employed traditionally because they have more to cover, and they never know when the flow will dry up.

Most of us won’t make the big bucks like John Grisham or Ken Follett.  We’ll be lucky if we can pay the bills.  “Just sell a book!” you say, smiling brightly.  Yeah, okay, after a year of writing and editing, and another six months of querying, submitting and waiting for people to get back to us—hell, we’re out on the street already.

It’s always in your head

Families of novelists often complain they are distracted and spacey when they’re involved in a manuscript.  We’re sorry.  Really, we don’t mean to ignore you.  We love Aunty Myrtle and we’d like to go to her cat’s anniversary party, but the book is demanding all our attention.   We probably see Christmas as a free afternoon to actually get something done.

Once you get in The Zone, it’s extremely hard to turn off your brain and focus on anything else.   For those of us with a real job, weekends, holidays and evenings are the only time we have to write.   Good scheduling and an understanding partner are priceless.  Some writers are better able to prioritize than others, but it’s something you can learn.

The whole “mad genius” thing

Recent studies showed a supposed link between creativity and mental illness such as depression and psychosis.  A high percentage of artists and writers are addicts, too.

Correlation doesn’t mean causation. If you’re a free spirit, you might already enjoy doing things most people would label as crazy.  Less-inhibited personalities may mean signs and symptoms are more easily noticed.  Either way, it can produce the wrong kind of attention.

As for depression and substance abuse, those can both stem from extreme disappointment, frustration and stress, things artists have to deal with on a regular basis.  Financial, career and relationship struggles will do a number on anyone.

And I won’t even mention the waves of “OH MY GOD I SUCK SO BAD” low self-esteem that wash over you periodically.  Especially when you read something so good you can never ever hope to duplicate its success.

It bites you in the ass all the time

Stephen King once mentioned something about how everyone told him “It must be great to have such a vivid imagination!”  Yeah, he said, until it turns on you with sharp teeth.

In bed late at night, you hear a noise.  A normal person might think “burglar” or “damn raccoons / possums / idiot dogs next door.”  A writer might have his hideous, gory death worked out before his feet even hit the floor.  Both will still be scared, but one’s gonna torture himself a lot more than the other.

Don’t even get me started on what Facebook can do to you.  The usual “why’d she post that?  Who the hell is [unknown work friend]?” shit only gets magnified.  Next thing you know, you’re cyberstalking instead of working, ready to meet your partner at the door with a flamethrower.

Yeah, thanks a lot, imagination.   You suck.