Previously, on josh bales [dot] net…

How is it that the first day back to work following a long weekend is so much harder than a regular Monday? I spent my first working hour slurping coffee, responding to easy emails, and trying and failing to learn a new-to-me Excel trick. Then my first meetings of the day involved a bunch of us sitting around, staring morosely at each other. Today felt like a hangover; not one of the body but of the soul.

Which begs the question: what then is the spiritual equivalent to Pedialyte?

Here’s what I’ve been up to this week.

Reading:

Fan-BLEEPING-tastic: Merriam-Webster on “expletive infixations.”

Finally finished BEYOND THE HALLOWED SKY. You can clearly tell that it is Book One of a trilogy because you get to the end of the final chapter and the narrative just… stops. I’ll probably read the next book, but this is for sure not my favorite style of trilogy.

Watching:

Finished season 2 of EUPHORIA and the first season of THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME. EUPHORIA is so good, but this season damn near broke me emotionally. Fezco and Lexi became my two favorite characters this season. Lexi’s play? Fucking bananas in the best way possible. But how things went down for Fezco and Ashtray almost made me cry, and reader — I am not a crier by nature.

I really wanted to like THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME, but the show made it so hard. The cast was okay but they had terrible material to work with. The mystery wasn’t very interesting, and its unwinding was poorly executed, the pacing was wildly uneven, and Garner and Angourie Rice, who played Garner’s character’s stepdaughter, had the chemistry of two potatoes sitting in a bin at Kroger. Jess and my sister both liked the show and the book upon which it is based, so it’s possible I am just the sole inhabitant of Asshole Island here. Victor Garber has a fun role in one episode, and it was nice to see Sydney and Jack Bristow reunited for a few minutes.

More than anything, THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME made me want to rewatch PEPPERMINT, the film in which Garner essentially plays The Punisher and absolutely murders everyone who was remotely involved in the death of her family. Maybe that’s what was missing from THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME: Jennifer Garner PEPPERMINTing her way through the mystery of why her husband disappeared.

Wanting:

A writing retreat. A week someplace quiet, just me, no distractions, where I can really kick off this novel that’s been simmering now for a while. Ideally, somewhere where I can go for walks. Comfortable patio or porch.A grocery store, maybe a couple of restaurants within a 15-minute drive. The woods would be okay, but it couldn’t be too isolated. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT ruined me on being alone at night in the woods. For that, I would need to be armed with a short-barrelled shotgun and a bat’leth.

Listening:                   

3 Hours of Relaxing Super Nintendo Music.

And Kirby:

He’s feeling better, but still having some issues. Hoping we will have them figured out soon.

The white dot is a piece of rice affixed adorably upon his snoot.

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We Don’t Have Much Time, So We Need to Make This Quick

What would you say to your 17-year-old self?

That is the question with which stacy-marie ishmael closed out the most recent edition of her newsletter, the very excellent The Main Event. For the context driving the question, you will need to read the newsletter. Which you should do anyways; it’s really quite good.

I read this edition of The Main Event as I typically do, early on Monday morning, while slurping coffee and desperately trying to activate for the day. It apparently caught me in a reflective mood, because I did something I almost never do: I wrote back. stacy-marie sent me a very kind note in return, which I’m not going to share, but I will share what I sent to her, in an expanded version.

This missive to my past self started off pretty sincere, but it didn’t feel right. Then I thought about what I honestly knew about 17-year-old Josh, and took a slightly different tack. It went a little off the rails, but eventually made it back to sincere-ish. This time, though, it felt authentic. Here you go.


Look, kid, I don’t know how long I have, so we need to make this quick. Yeah, I’m future you. Hola. I know you believe me because this is the sort of shit you spend a distressing amount of time thinking about. But in case you have any lingering doubts: remember that time [a highly embarrassing memory we will take to our grave and is thus redacted]. Right, yes, this is a real Back to the Future moment. No, you don’t need to recite your favorite BACK TO THE FUTURE 2 quotes to — no, I just said — look motherfucker, we don’t have much time, so I’m begging you: please, shut the fuck up.

First things first: here are the winning Powerball numbers for the next five years. High-dollar prize winners only. After you win, you tear this list up and you never, ever play again. You hear me? You don’t want to risk drawing the attention of the wrong people by winning big twice. What do I mean by…? Well, if I’m able to do this — talking to my younger self — then presumably other people can and have also. Since you don’t regularly read about some asshole from Iowa winning ten Powerballs in a row, it follows then that there is a secret watchdog organization whose sole reason for existing is to watch for these types of anomalous patterns and snuff them out. Better to play it safe. Which means: Don’t. Get. Greedy. Now, once you have your winnings, you’re going to start making some modest, relatively speaking, investments. Here’s a roadmap to follow. Again, the goal is to fly under the radar. You play this smart and do it right, before long you’ll be living someplace warm by the ocean, with all the time in the world to write, and maybe the means to do a little good in the world. You don’t care about that last one right now, but down the line, you will.


Now, that mercenary but necessary bit of business out of the way, if there was time, I’d also tell my 17-year-old self

If you fuck this up — and let’s be real, you have a wobbly moral compass, so-so impulse control, and an unfortunate predilection for thinking you’re the smartest person in the room — so there’s every likelihood you will fuck it up — it’ll be okay. You — we — have a good life. You’ll find your people, even if it takes til you’re almost 30 for it to happen. You’re going to become comfortable in your skin in a way you never believed possible, like your skin is a perfectly tailored suit. You’ll paint your toenails lavender and ocean blue and people will compliment you on it. You’ll call out strangers for not washing their hands after using the bathroom (yeah, we still get icked by lack of basic hygiene and sanitation). Your hair will start going gray in your thirties, but at 41 it will still be thick and luxurious. You’re also going to bleach it soon and go platinum blonde. (You haven’t started watching Buffy yet, but go to Lycos or Altavista or whatever and search for “Spike on Buffy.”) You won’t have kids (right? no clue how we managed to pull that one off) but you’ll become a dog person at the age of 38 (who knew?) and they will become one of the best parts of your life. You’ll blunder your way into a career that isn’t writing; one that not only pays well but that you also enjoy. (Spoiler alert: You’re gonna spend a lot of time in the Excel mines, moving numbers around on spreadsheets.) Speaking of writing: you’ll publish your first short story — in a reputable publication, no less! — and get paid quite a bit of money for it, and strangers will send you nice messages about it. This one’s a bummer, but the scourge of depression will discover you like it’s Christopher Columbus, and for a while, things won’t be easy. Most of the time, though, it will be manageable and better days will be ahead. I won’t tell you to be patient, because that is not a quality either of us possesses in much quantity, but fuck it: try to be patient. Enjoy being young. Take risks. Make mistakes, and try to learn but, ideally, not die from them. Take no shit. Stay curious. Keep writing. Please don’t fuck up this lotto thing.

Now it’s my turn to ask: What would you say to your 17-year-old self?

The 17-year-old in question.

Since this one is already running long, we’re going to end here today. The normal reading/watching/Kirbying stuff will come out in its own shiny post later this week.

Day Jobs (And the People At Them Who Keep Us Sane)

I don’t often talk about my day job here. It’s not that my employer is some big secret; a quick google search will tell you. I’m not ashamed of or hate my day job. I enjoy what I do, and I like to think the arrangement between me and my employer has been mutually beneficial over the years. Nor is it that I feel like I need to hide the things I write about here. If I did, I would certainly not be posting under my own name everywhere on god’s gay internet. I cuss and am just as much a charming(?) scoundrel during the hours of 0730-1630 as I am online and in my “real” life. (The primary difference between Work Josh and the other Joshes is that Work Josh has learned to cultivate a veneer of professionalism that the others don’t always need, or choose, to wear.)

The real reason I don’t discuss my day job here is boring but also, I think, understandable: I talk and think about work enough while I am at work, as well as outside of working hours because I have friends and family who also have the same employer, and when we get together work is a common topic of conversation, that the idea of logging onto josh bales [dot] net and talking about work even more typically makes me want to self-defenestrate.

Typically.

Setting aside that entirely too-long intro, I have been reminded lately about how wonderful the people I work with are and wanted to write about them a bit.

A few weeks ago, my immediate team came together for an onsite in Dayton. A few hours of work followed by a, uh, boisterous happy hour at a local cantina. It was sunny and warm, the cantina’s doors were rolled up, letting in a breeze, and the margaritas and tacos and margaritas flowed. The team doesn’t get together like this often. Everyone is remote, some of us live in different cities and states. We talk every day, but sitting at a table together, laughing at some wildly inappropriate comment someone just made, is rare. Such a convergence happens once, maybe twice a year. While I absolutely do not miss going into an office every day, I do miss that type of in-person camaraderie, especially with this crew. I like to joke that we may be a bunch of a-holes, but we’re decent a-holes because everyone is kind and a good human. They’re also some of the sharpest, hardest-working, and most delightful people with whom I’ve ever worked. I am hashtag blessed to work with them.

Then, a few days later, a slightly different configuration of us got together to take part in Dayton’s Walk to End MS, in honor of Norma, our comrade who passed away last October. Norma was one of the kindest, toughest people I’ve ever known. She had a wonderfully whimsical sense of humor and the deadest of deadpan deliveries. In a different timeline, she could have been a very effective standup comic.

Not all of us who were at the Walk are on the same team anymore, but we were all close with Norma. Catching up with those whom I don’t see as often was fun, as was getting lunch with everyone afterward. Norma had an easy way of bringing people together, and I’m grateful but not surprised that she was able to use that ability one more time.

After the Walk was over, we took a group photo by the bathrooms. A detail that Norma, I think, would have appreciated.

OF COURSE Kirby came with us.

Here’s what I’ve been up to this week.

Reading:

Bluesky is a newish social media service trying to replace Twitter. I’ve been on Bluesky for about a month and I really, really like it so far. The vibe is weird and goofy and fun and chill. Bluesky is still in beta and is invite-only for now, but if you’re legitimately interested in checking it out, hit me up. The benevolent devs have gifted me with one golden ticket invite code. You can also join the waitlist.

Warren Ellis with solid advice on breaking up with your phone and then hiring it to be your concierge. The significant hurdle for most people – myself included – is that even if we quit Facebook, Instagram, et al., most of our friends and family would still be using those services and we would lose a significant connection – maybe our only one – to those folks.

I’ve got like 8% to go on BEYOND THE HALLOWED SKY. So close.

Watching:

EVIL DEAD RISE. I really wanted to like this. The change in setting was interesting – a rundown apartment building in Los Angeles – but I didn’t find myself invested in the characters, so when they start dying off, my attitude was “it be like that sometimes.” RISE did make some interesting additions to the Evil Dead lore, but it wasn’t enough to make the overall film more interesting. I’d love to see another Evil Dead film set in a different time period and culture, like what the PREDATOR folks did with the excellent PREY. Hey, it worked for ARMY OF DARKNESS.

SCREAM VI. Now this was good. I’ve seen all the SCREAM films, the original is a classic, but as a series, they’ve never been beloved to me or anything like they are to some people. So it’s been a pleasant surprise to me just how much fun last year’s SCREAM V and now VI are. The newer characters are well-drawn, the legacy characters have interesting things to do, and the filmmakers have found a number of ways to subvert expectations in ways that aren’t dumb or contrived.

Wanting:

Shockingly, nothing this week.

Listening:                   

“Anytime,” by Eve 6 (aka the band behind the “heart in a blender” song). On their Patreon, Max from Eve 6 writes:

Way back in the year 2001 we had a song called Anytime come out on the soundtrack to a very serious and important art film called Out Cold starring zach galifianakis. The song hasn’t ever been available on streaming platforms. We’ve been getting requests for YEARS to release it but we couldn’t because we didn’t own the master recording……………………… until now!

I’ve never heard the original so I can comment on it, but this version of “Anytime” fucks hard, as the kids say. Punchy, and a bit of an earworm. It’s only available on the Eve 6 Patreon (at least, for now), so you’ll need to be a patron to listen to it, which, quite frankly, you should be anyway. Max is a fab writer and also really funny. He’s been a beacon of shitposting hope the last few years on Twitter.

And Kirby:

He’s feeling a bit under the weather right now, a side effect – we think – from an antibiotic he’s on. But he did enjoy sitting in the sun for a bit yesterday.

Photo by Roberto, our trusted Kirbysitter.

Mother’s Day, 2023

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms and mom-like figures out there, but especially to my mom. We will be celebrating as we usually do on this day, by going out for Mexican for lunch.

She hates pictures of herself, but tough shit, Lori — this one is cute.

Here’s what I’ve been up to this week.

Reading:

Two-thirds of the way through BEYOND THE HALLOWED SKY, by Ken MacLeod. I don’t read many space operas these days, but it was favorably mentioned in one of the 800 newsletters to which I subscribe, so I figured I’d give it a shot. (That it’s only 320 pages was also attractive.)

The plot summary per Goodreads:

When a brilliant scientist gets a letter from herself about faster-than-light travel, she doesn’t know what to believe. The equations work, but her paper is discredited – and soon the criticism is more than scientific. Exiled by the establishment, she gets an offer to build her starship from an unlikely source. But in the heights of Venus and on a planet of another star, a secret is already being uncovered that will shake humanity to its foundations.

I’m enjoying this one quite a bit. There are a bunch of characters, as one would suspect from a sweeping space opera, but their characterizations are distinct enough and interesting that it’s been easy for me to keep track of who is who. The plot is engaging and MacLeod never gets too infodump-y with the worldbuilding and the science/engineering bits. HALLOWED SKY is apparently the first in a trilogy, so unless the last third of this book goes completely off the rails, I am planning to read book 2.

Watching:

For my birthday this year, my sister got me a membership to the Drexel, one of Columbus’s indie theaters. We used that membership for the first time to see POLITE SOCIETY last week. The story follows Ria, a young martial artist and aspiring stunt woman, as she attempts to rescue her older sister Lena from marrying Salim, a rich and slimy chud. The plot is a little insane in the best way possible. Lots of ridiculous fights, humor that actually made me LOL, plus a talented and charming cast, and – most importantly – the runtime is only 104 minutes.

We also watched VIGIL, a murder-mystery set aboard a British nuclear submarine, the HMS Vigil. This one was so good that I actually stayed up past my bedtime – on a school night, no less! – to finish it.

Wanting:

This Steelcase Series 1 Work Office Chair, in canary. I think I’ve mentioned it here before, but for a while now the skin on my current office chair has been peeling off like it’s a character in a HELLRAISER movie. It needs replacing, but I can’t quite bring myself to pay $548 for a chair. Sure, my current chair has served me well for ten years, and I spend >9 hours a day with my ass planted on it, so, like with buying a bed, if I’m going to spend a third of my life (god, that’s depressing lol) using something, it probably makes sense to invest in something that will be comfortable and supportive to the old meat bag. I’m just not there yet.

Listening:

The most recent Hardcore History, HH 69* – The Twilight of the Aesir.

*Nice.

And Kirby:

I shared this on Instagram, but am also going to put it here, because 1) he’s just so darn cute, and 2) to illustrate why his nickname is Kirby Roo.

Busy Doing Nothing

I’m back.

We spent the back half of April in and around Santa Rosa Beach, down in the panhandle of Florida, doing our best to abide by the mantra of busy doing nothing.

Most days were spent at the beach, reading and dozing, cavorting in the surf, and watching the sunset. We had so much seafood. I ate my weight in redfish, mahi-mahi, and shrimp. Food there is so expensive; we spent $60 at a hotdog stand. A couple of Black Hawks from a nearby airbase buzzed us. Because we’re us, we found two bookshops and somehow managed to buy more books than what we brought with us. The view from our back porch was like looking into Jurassic Park. A valet at one of the swankier restaurants offered to sell me drugs because he “just got a vibe from me, man”; I was flattered.

Kirby came with us, of course, and lived his very best life in Florida. Almost everywhere down there is dog-friendly, so he went out with us a lot, ferried along in his trusty wagon. Sunsets on the beach, dinners on patios, and time spent wandering through bookshops. He became a mini-celebrity: In Seaside’s town square, one woman, on the phone with her husband, exclaimed, “It’s Kirby!” as we walked by. She’d met Kirby on the beach the night before and had just been telling her husband about him, and asked if she could get a photo of him. A different woman spent twenty minutes in line at a restaurant petting Kirby and telling him how beautiful he was. In a different life, Kirby would make an excellent wingman.

I am redder-finally-turning-into-browner, more relaxed, and happier than when I left. It was nice to come home and return to the routines of daily life, but – always the marker of a great vacation – I will be ready to go back.

Not a postcard.
How does a dog who is so derpy in real life manage to look so dignified and majestic in photos?