Robin Williams’ Suicide Ruined My Writing Career

Immediately after news of the Robin Williams suicide broke, there was an outpouring of breast bearing and self-mutilation of the scalp with seashells everywhere I turned.  Actually, if that was literally what I saw in response, I would have enjoyed it more because to plagiarize The Bloodhound Gang, “A lap dance is so much better when the stripper is crying.”  What actually happened was prolific public emoting from an overabundance of sympathy, empathy, and good old-fashioned going along with the crowd to avoid being seen as an asshole.

Maybe I should have used a word besides “broke,” since that seems to be the emerging background.  Loss of work, sudden poverty, death of a loved one, and immanent death seem to be the four big reasons a man commits suicide.  I forgot pending arrest.

I’m going to risk every follower and fan I have (all fourteen of them) with today’s post, fully understanding the tsunami of opprobrium headed my way very shortly.  You are likely reading the suicide note for my writing career, but as my kids say, “YOLO.”

Excluding people who at one time or another were in possession of a phone number Robin Williams would answer, who among us has any sort of connection with him that did not stem from a commercial transaction?  By that I mean, he provided a product (entertainment, laughter, acting ability, etc.) and you provided him money.

If your hand is up right now, compare your connection to Mr. Williams with others in your life.  Would you have been able to drop by his house and be allowed in?  Perhaps you served with him on the PTA?

I would argue most people who do not pass the Telephone Test mentioned above are actually grieving at the prospect of not being able to consume the product that is Robin Williams.

“Oh, but Carlos, I have a personal connection to the issue of suicide,” many might reply.  So do I.  My father committed suicide three weeks before Christmas 2010, and my brother and I did not find his corpse until he had been decomposing for seventeen days.  Liquefaction is the technical term.  So please tell me again how I lack understanding of the subject.

The Give-a-Shit Meter registers “zero” for Robin Williams.  Quite honestly, it measures the same toward you, dear reader, because we don’t share a true connection.  I expect the feeling to be reciprocated.  All outpourings of emotion at my eventual death are strictly prohibited.  If anything, I want a liquor soaked bacchanalia with gun play, strippers, feats of strength, and midgets in tuxedos riding unicycles serving shots of tequila.  Oh, and sideshow acts.  I love sideshow acts.

For those with such a deep sentiment toward Robin Williams, or any other public figure, please answer the following:

1.  What is the name of his dog?

2.  What flavor was the cake at the last birthday party you and he attended?

3.  What did you and he discuss the last time you talked on the phone?

Anyone able to answer just one of these questions is free to grieve for as long as he feels appropriate, and I will shut my pizza grinder.

Now that I have thoroughly angered everyone on the planet, I would like to make my point about celebrity, social media, and shallowness.

We feel connected and important because we have this number of followers or that number of back-links to our blog.  We make friends and earn admirers halfway around world, but don’t know the names of the neighbor’s children.  As a society, we can stand neither solitude nor silence.  So, we fill the vacuum with ephemeral connections to people we have never met.  No amount of product put out by an actor, comedian, musician, or public figure will fill the hole in someone’s heart.  Whether that person lives or dies is irrelevant.  Fulfill your life with those around you.


James Patterson, the Devil, and Cheap Bastards

My fellow cheap bastard and blogger, Dysfunctional Literacy, posed a few questions in his most recent post with the clear intent of generating a dialogue among his readers in the comment section.  However, his tactic backfired because my thoughts were too much for a comment and warranted a post of my own.  Then again, he may have just succeeded beyond his expectations since he now has a link to his blog from mine.  Well played, sir.

Should you have bought your daughter the James Patterson book?  I understand your mixed feelings.  James Patterson does seem to lend his name quite freely to works in which he has questionable levels of involvement.  Perhaps “lend” and “free” have the wrong connotation in this situation.

My counterpoint would be that Mr Patterson has earned his level of success and name recognition.  I doubt a literary-minded witch gave him the proverbial “famous while alive vs when dead” dilemma.  Whatever your personal opinion on his writing, people have voted with their dollars.  I am envious that Mr Patterson has the ability to simply slap his name on something and have it sell like fried Snickers bars at a National Fat Acceptance convention.  However, despite my envy, I do not begrudge him the ability.  I would do exactly the same, given the chance.

Most of what I see written about James Patterson and his ubiquity does everything short of calling him a sell-out.  Perhaps these writers are afraid of alienating the Great and Powerful OZ.  Maybe they fear the backlash of an angry mob of James Patterson fans coming after them.  I would love to be a sell-out.  That would mean I have something lots of people want to buy.

And if by chance Mr Patterson should read this post, let me say, “You are a magnificent talent, sir.  And extraordinarily handsome, as well.  I would gladly give you top billing on a book I wrote….Call me!”

Is Amazon the Devil?  Probably not.  Perhaps a minor demon, but not the big Beelzebub himself.  It depends on your perspective.  Traditional publishing methods are what caused me to give up writing entirely for a decade because I was not seeing a return on my efforts.  Then again, maybe I wasn’t published very often because I sucked.  If that is the case, I might still suck.  In my defense, I haven’t been told that lately.  I might simply be mediocre.

Much like Walmart, Amazon has never done anything, but made my life better.  Raise my quality of life by offering me less expensive stuff?  How dare they.  However, in the current dispute with Hachette Publishing (Which most writers have no stake in), I did find the letter they sent to KDP members quite the whiny punk move.

The thought of applying strict time management to your daughter’s book browsing is brilliant.  We do it for most everything else.  We limit the time they have to get ready for school, prepare for bed, and stand over them while they perform any number of activities while looking at our watches and hoping traffic doesn’t delay the rush to the next enrichment activity that enhances our child’s college application.  Parents have made over-scheduling their kids into dozens of activities an art form, so why not apply the same principle in the bookstore?

The funny thing about time and getting things done is that every project will expand to fill the time allotted.  I am consistently amazed at my own ability to churn out work of any sort when under a deadline.  And since I don’t think I’m particularly talented or special, I suspect everyone has that ability in them.

So tell your daughter to hurry up.


Moichandising! Where the real money from the movie is made

MoichandisingMy Favorite Color is Camo.  Five words that send a self-depreciating, humorous message about the speaker, his lifestyle, his worldview, and possibly whether he might end up a defendant in a lawsuit.  Si Robertson of the A&E show Duck Dynasty said those same five words on the show, and the marketing department launched an entire sub-line of merchandise featuring the quote.  To paraphrase Mel Brooks in “Spaceballs,” the real money is in Moichandising!

A&E knows how to spin off tie-in merchandise like nobody’s business, but now a Florida company is suing A&E, et al. for violating a trademark the company alleges it registered a year before show began airing.  Of course, the plaintiff wants A&E to stop selling the products with the five dirty words and pay damages.

Note: Outside of references to the lawsuit, I was unable to find anything on Google about Hajn, LLC.  Go ahead and try for yourself, if you don’t believe me.

The two main claims of the plaintiff boil down to 1) A&E is using their massive market penetration, brand recognition, and existing distribution network to unfairly benefit from something we created (which is lawsuit talk for “you are making the money that should be in my pocket”) and 2) because Duck Dynasty is so overwhelmingly well-known, everybody thinks we are ripping you off (more lawsuit talk meaning “you make us look like the plagiarists”).  I will go out on a limb to say if the plaintiff can produce proof of trademark, this can all be settled with a modest cut from the A&E Moichandising Pie.

The interesting part to me is how these five words that only make sense in two or three combinations can represent a federal lawsuit.  I understand the concept of trademark and brand dilution, but I don’t see how the juggernaut that is Duck Dynasty is doing anything other than boosting the bottom line of the plaintiff.  I should be so lucky to have this happen to me.  As proof, I ask: “Have you ever heard of the plaintiff before today?”

And on a related topic, in my mind this is essentially a plagiarism beef.  The difference being the length of words lifted and whether the words were appropriated from a person or business entity.  Plagiarism is easy.  Trademark is a bit tougher because it involves exceedingly short strings of words that are pretty easy to unintentionally string together, or as is likely in this case, repeating without intent to appropriate.

So, I have a deal for the producers of Duck Dynasty and the marketing folks at A&E.  In my early days as a writer, I sold several slogans, which is what the industry calls the phrases on bumper stickers, buttons, refrigerator magnets, etc.  I still have a whole mess of them that never sold because the companies only had so much money to spend on content.  I am perfectly willing to let ‘Ol Uncle Si blurt some out during interviews.  I’ll start with one I just came up with.

“I don’t mind being plagiarized as long as I get credit.”

So get to work, guys.  While I’m waiting for the check to arrive, I’m going to get working on Carlos Cunha the Flamethrower.