Summer Break Ya Neck

I’ve been thinking about summer vacation this week, and how it’s so conceptually at odds with how we think about work in this country. I mean, when you’re a kid, having summers off from school isn’t regarded as some kind of radical notion — it’s just the way things are. It’s normal. But as soon as you exit the education-industrial complex, the societal expectation is that you are going to work at least 40 hours a week for the next 50 to 60 years of your life, with a couple of weeks off a year. And that’s if you’re lucky. Too many people have to work two jobs just to pay the bills and survive, working weekends, overtime, second shifts, third shifts, split shifts. As an adult, the notion of taking leave from one’s responsibilities for two to three months in the middle of the year — ostensibly to rest, to relax — is antithetical to capitalist ideology. Offer such a proposal out loud with any degree of real ingenuousness, and most people will look at you like you’re a goddamn crank, or — gasp — a socialist.

What a person does for work monopolizes so much space in our self-identity that it overshadows almost everything else about us. Think about it: when you meet someone for the first time, odds are one of the first get-to-know-you questions they will ask is: “So, what do you do?” You’ll instantly know what they mean, because that’s how we’ve been conditioned to think, and you’ll respond with something like: “I manage a team of developers at The Rabbit Company.” Your answer won’t be: “Well, I’m a gardener, and I spend most of my weekends in my backyard tending to the 15 types of produce I grow. Oh, I also pay my bills working being a middle manager at a company that peddles vibrators. But I loathe that place and Ted, my colossal anus of a boss, so instead I prefer instead to talk about how well my cucumbers and tomatoes are doing this year.” Because if you say that to a stranger, they are not going to think, Wow, this guy’s radical candor is so refreshing. Let’s be friends! Instead, they will smile and nod, and describe you later to their loved ones using adjectives like “weird” and “off-putting.”

It’s an extreme example, yeah, but I bet you’d never think to describe yourself as a gardener — your passion, hobby, etc. — first, and a manager of whatever — the thing you do to stay alive — second.

We give so much of our time and energy to our jobs, wrapping our identity and self-worth around what we do, what we produce. It’s dumb and sad, and so many of us do it, even if we don’t want to and try not to, because… that’s the capitalist society in which we live.

I’m not suggesting that one can’t or shouldn’t strive to find a job they like. If you’re going to spend at least one-third of your life at Job, ideally you should find one you like, or at least don’t hate. I really like my job, a circumstance that I never take for granted. It’s okay to like your job. And, in the very unlikely event you think you love your job — that’s okay, too. So long as you always keep this one immutable fact in mind: A corporation doesn’t care about you. You are a means to an end for it. You and a corporation are not “fambly.” The moment the cost of employing you becomes less than the perceived value of what you produce, the sand in the hourglass that is your current employment starts trickling down. 

So consider this affirmation. Repeat it to yourself every day: You are not your job. You are so much more than “what you do.” And never, ever forget (to paraphrase the labor writer Sarah Jaffe):

Work will never love you back. 

Columbus Pride was yesterday. It was nice to march with our friends in the ECLA and show our support. The turnout was amazing. Watchers along the parade route were six or seven people deep the whole way. I espied only one small group of sad bigots that were protesting. The hate emanating from their shitty PA was subsumed by the cheering and happy noise of the crowd.

On Friday, I went to my first Creative Mornings Columbus event. The guest speaker was Karen Hewitt, who gave a talk on the topic of “Reverie.” It was a really fun and fascinating talk. Karen’s ideas on the difference between dreaming and dream execution, and how each requires different tools, resonated with me quite a bit.

All of this shit — thoughts on summer break, Karen’s take on creativity, plus the normal rotgut my brain generates — has been swirling in my head of late, so I’ve decided that, beginning tomorrow, josh bales [dot] net is going on summer vacation for the next month. (Yeah, it’s not two to three months, but a shorter break feels right, so I’m going with my gut.) For the next four weeks, my hope is to redirect the creative energy I typically put in here to other writing projects. My goals are to clean up and try to publish the essay I alluded to last week, and to finish a short story that has been languishing in my brain for a while.

See y’all on July 23rd.

Even with no eyes, you can always tell when Kirby is staring at you.

You Can’t Outrun ‘Em

I started writing something this week that was supposed to be small but unexpectedly morphed into a longer essay. It needs time to marinate before I do a proper edit, so it’ll probably go up next week.

In the meantime, how about some links?


The Marvel Cinematic Universe is an unprecedented, marvelous (har har) achievement — one that’s engulfed Hollywood and is choking the film industry.

Even if the Marvel movies aren’t your bag, this is a fascinating history of how the MCU came to be.

Sometime during the last couple of years, I realized that I no longer needed to see every piece of intellectual property Marvel puts out. As much as I enjoyed A VERY HAWKEYE CHRISTMAS and THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY CHRISTMAS SPECIAL, WAKANDA FOREVER and THOR FOUR were not good, had bloated runtimes, and committed the worst cinema sin of them all: being boring. Will I watch LOKI season 2 and GOTG VOL. 3 whenever they show up on Disney+? Yes. But the next AVENGERS, CAPTAIN AMERICA, et al.? Not likely.

So a whistleblower from inside the right genre of government agency, the super-secretive National Reconnaissance Office — a long-time employee who absolutely radiates “credible source” energy — turns over classified information to Congress about how the U.S. government has in its possession “recovered intact and partially intact craft of non-human origin,” and there’s hardly a blip about it in the media. Fucking wild.

Grusch said the recoveries of partial fragments through and up to intact vehicles have been made for decades through the present day by the government, its allies, and defense contractors. Analysis has determined that the objects retrieved are “of exotic origin (non-human intelligence, whether extraterrestrial or unknown origin) based on the vehicle morphologies and material science testing and the possession of unique atomic arrangements and radiological signatures,” he said.

“We are not talking about prosaic origins or identities,” Grusch said, referencing information he provided Congress and the current ICIG. “The material includes intact and partially intact vehicles.”

Ceramic weapons, hand-painted to look like the dishes in your grandma’s cabinet.

The morning star in particular would look handsome in my kitchen.

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

Reading:

The latest Trump indictment. Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up:

  • Trump knowingly took boxes of classified documents from the White House.
  • Trump stored those boxes of classified documents, some of which were so full that papers were spilling out of them, in an unsecured bathroom at Mar-a-Lago.
  • During an interview for an upcoming book, Trump shared a classified plan of attack on Iran.
  • Trump allowed himself to be recorded during that interview and said that he knew this plan of attack on Iran was classified and that as POTUS he could have declassified it, but as a former POTUS he could in fact not declassify it: “See as president I could have declassified it. Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret.”
  • Trump repeatedly lied and obstructed, over and over again, about having the classified documents in his possession to the government agencies tasked with collecting said classified documents, for a period of about a year and a half.

The full indictment makes for a fascinating and infuriating read. It’s one thing to read a summary in a news article, but reading the transcript of a conversation where he casually and openly admits his guilt is another. I can only imagine how it will land for the jurors to hear the actual audio of his distinctive voice.

If after this you still think Donald Trump should be the next president, then you are not the patriotic American you probably think you are.

Watching:

Each month, the Drexel screens a series of films based on a certain theme or a director’s oeuvre. Last month, it was the films of David Lynch. This month, the theme is “Seduction Cinema”: erotic thrillers from the 80s and 90s, full of low-life protagonists and the most fatale of femme fatales. So… right up my alley. BODY HEAT played last week. Tomorrow is BASIC INSTINCT. My hope is to see all four films.

BODY HEAT is a nearly perfect film, expertly written and directed, but its greatest virtue is the talent in front of the camera. I mean – just look at this cast! Kathleen Turner is the star of this show, and she smolders so much on screen that it’s a wonder the film reel never caught fire. Even the supporting cast is fabulous. Mickey Rourke, baby-faced and radiating charisma during his few brief scenes. A dancing Ted Danson. And Richard Crenna, clearly having a blast as Turner’s character’s bastard of a husband. So good!

Listening:                   

To Jenny Lewis’s new album, JOY’ALL, which dropped Friday. I haven’t given it a full listen yet, but the few songs I have listened to are, unsurprisingly, catchy as hell. “Psychos” in particular has been stuck in my head.

And Kirby:

We had an unexpected visitor last weekend. While I was outside with Kirby, this adorable “little” puppy wandered into our yard, somehow managing to squeeze her sizable melon in between the bars of the wrought iron fence.

She wasn’t wearing a collar, so we didn’t know her name or where she was from. We assumed she was local, so we posted in our neighborhood’s Facebook group and on Nextdoor, then waited. She was very sweet and well-behaved and stayed with us for several hours, where she drank a lot of water and napped on the floor in the library. We eventually reunited her with her humans, who informed us that the wee lassie’s name is Shorty.

How did Kirby handle having a guest dog in the house? Benign indifference is how I would describe his attitude. He was fine with her. A little curious. It probably helped that Shorty didn’t try to come between him and his mom. If she had, I’m not quite sure how our old-man little mama’s boy would’ve handled it.

Out of Office, But

I am gifting josh bales [dot] net and myself a bye week today — look! I used a sports term — but I did want to briefly pop in because today my parents are celebrating a special milestone: their 46th wedding anniversary.

Happy Anniversary, Mark and Lori. Thanks for always trying to model the best example of a successful marriage, even when y’all are pissed at each other. Here’s to another 46 years.

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.

.

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?

Warm Nights, Chill Vibes

Programming note: after this week’s edition, josh bales [dot] net will be out of office for the remainder of April, returning on May 7. My aim is to be off-screen as much as possible during our retreat to the Florida panhandle, but there will no doubt be some posting on Instagram. So if you want to see pictures of my dog and the ocean, feel to follow along there.


In Dayton this weekend to see comrades both old and new.

The new comrade – like two-weeks-old new – I was honored to hold for several hours yesterday, something less awkward for me now than it would have been a few years ago, before I became accustomed to holding a geriatric dachshund in the same manner. Then dinner at Salar last night, several perfect hours spent on their back patio, the air warm but the vibe chill, with many drinks and foods consumed.

Today we see a few more people, including attending a birthday fête for Sarah.

I have adjusted to being a Columboner for the most part and generally enjoy it, though it’s always wonderful coming back home to Dayton, a city I love and where (most of) my people are.

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

Reading:

I don’t often give up on books, but I am with THE DESTROYER OF WORLDS. As much as I liked LOVECRAFT COUNTRY, its sequel is just not working for me. Once upon a time, I would have felt guilty about setting a book aside. Now, though, my philosophy is that life is too short to power through something I am not enjoying.

…I feel like this should apply to more than just books.

Watching:

Uh, nothing this week. I’m not even sure I turned the TV on. Oh, wait! I watched DREDD the other night. I wanted something short and delightfully violent, and DREDD was streaming. It’s a terse, fun film. I’m bummed they never got to make more of these.

Wanting:

To bleach my hair platinum blonde. Something like this. I’ve been wanting to properly do it for years, ever since I sort of did it fifteen years ago and it turned out mostly orange. My grandma had dark hair, and when it began to gray, she went blonde. So, to my haters, I say: if it was good enough for Grandma Millie, it’s good enough for me.

Listening:

The sun has been out in full force and the weather warm, which for some reason correlates to wanting to listen to punk records. One such record I’ve replayed several times this week is Screeching Weasel’s EMO. I know this is not every Weasel fan’s favorite record, but it’s one of mine. It’s earnest in a way that feels authentic, while also being hella catchy. This one doesn’t have a bad song, but “Passion” and “Last Night” are two of my favorite tracks.

Their cover of the Cranberries’ “Linger” is also fantastic, but, alas, it’s not on Bandcamp.

And Kirby:

Enjoying that wagon life.

Plus a bonus! Molly:

This picture of Molly came up in one of Jess’s memory things, and I had to share it. She could somehow make even the bitchiest of resting bitch faces look sweet. I miss her.

Time Traveling with a Wright Bro

A few years back, Jess sent me an announcement from the Wright Memorial Library in Dayton. The library was putting together an “art and literary zine” to commemorate their 80th anniversary, and they were seeking contributors. They wanted pieces that focused on place (libraries, Dayton, etc.) or the passage of time, either looking backward or forward. The zine was going to be titled GLIDE.

It was a fun concept, and I hadn’t written anything of substance in a while, so I figured why not throw my hat into the proverbial ring? There was just the not insignificant question of: what did I want to write about?

There used to be a life-size sculpture of the Wright Brothers’ Flyer in downtown Dayton that I would walk by every day on my way to and from work. Wilbur is piloting the Flyer, while Orville runs along beneath it. I wondered how the brothers would feel if they could get a glimpse of such a monument to their success. Especially if it came in a dark moment where they wondered if they should give up?

And so it was settled. I would write a time travel story about Orville and Wilbur Wright.

“A Brief Detour” is a gentler story than the sort I typically write. No violence is done to anyone (bicycles notwithstanding), what few cusses there are are mild, and the tone is lighter. And it was exactly the story I needed to tell, then, to drag myself out of the rut I had been in, writing-wise. Writing it was… I won’t say effortless, because it wasn’t — but it came easily. Then working with the folks at the library to edit and refine it into the best version of itself was a pleasure. (One day I’ll write a whole thing about how much I genuinely enjoy the editing process.) Seeing “A Brief Detour” in print, holding GLIDE in my hands, gave me the confidence to tackle “In the Land of Broken Things” later that year.

I’m not sure how many copies of GLIDE were printed. Enough for all the contributors and some extras for the public. If I’m ever fortunate enough to publish a novel, that future book will sit next to my copy of GLIDE on my bookcase’s ego shelf.

A PDF version of the zine is still up on the library’s website, but it’s a bit clunky to read. So I’ve decided to give “A Brief Detour” a second home, here on josh bales [dot] net. You can read it here. There’s also a link on the Writing page.

Hope you enjoy it.

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

Reading:

Working my way through THE DESTROYER OF WORLDS.

Interesting thoughts from Warren Ellis on How To Build A Blog Without Social Media. josh bales [dot] net syndicates to various social media platforms, but my SM audience is relatively small. Perhaps 300 people see what I write. But I blog because I enjoy doing it, not because I expect a ton of people will read what I write. Blogging in the era of social media is certainly a labor of love, emphasis on the love.

Watching:

I really enjoy the works of John le Carré, but I love the adaptations of his books even more. This past week we watched the limited series of THE NIGHT MANAGER, which is right up there with the 2011 TINKER TAILOR SOLIDER SPY for me in terms of “fuck this is good.” Tom Hiddleston always makes for a somewhat bland leading man — looking at you specifically, KONG: SKULL ISLAND — but he does a solid job here. Hugh Laurie, though, is magnificent as a cold-blooded but charming international arms dealer. The joy of the show is watching Hiddleston’s protagonist insinuating himself into Laurie’s character’s work fambly, all of whom are interesting and multi-faceted, and manipulating them into tearing their fambly apart. The show aired in 2016 but I learned a second season is now in the offing.

The new INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY trailer dropped yesterday at Celebration, and it made me so happy.

Wanting:

A vacation. Which, thank the sorcerer, I will be embarking on in a few weeks.

Listening:

I have been knee-deep in spreadsheet hell this week — Ex-hell, if you will — so I’ve been listening to a lot of moody ambient music. Dark ambient, metropolis and Cthulhu is one of my favorites.

And Kirby:

He’s got no eyes, but you can still somehow feel the judgement radiating from him because Jess wasn’t sharing her cereal milk.