All I'm going to say today is please check out my Amazon author page, where I have now uploaded eight short stories in digital format. Some of them have never seen the light of day. Others were available for free on my website until very recently, where they got very little attention at all. Maybe they'll be perceived as more valuable now that they cost anywhere from $0.99 to $2.99. If you don't want to buy anything, please still click "Follow" on my page. If you do buy something, please leave a review, unless you hate it. Now, to pad out the post, here are the pictures I made with AI for some of my book covers. I'm poor and I wanted to crank these stories out as fast as possible, so I didn't want to pay or wait for an artist, and instead, I supported this abomination. But creating more AI content on the internet actually leads to AI cannibalizing itself and getting worse, so you're welcome, artists.
In conclusion, please check out my Amazon author page.
The job search has been infuriating, to say the least. Most of the places I apply to never even get back to me. I think that's extremely rude. A friend just told me the other day that a lot of places now use computer algorithms to filter out any resumes that don't mention the exact same keywords they're looking for, so I need to rewrite it for every freaking application. I feel like I shouldn't have to spend my free time doing that. The amount of time I have to spend applying for jobs instead of enjoying being alive is enough as it is. Then, too, I have to compete with like two hundred other people for every position, and I can't entirely suppress the evil thought that I would be better off if the pandemic had killed a lot more people. And a Master's degree isn't enough to stand out. So here I am with like two and a half weeks before school starts again, still an effing substitute teacher even though I have an effing Master's degree. I'm going to do as little substitute teaching as possible because I hate it and I have literal nightmare-inducing trauma from some of the worse schools. Even the best assignments are, more often than not, boring and far beneath my skill level. Is this really what God wants for me? If not, why won't he lift a finger to help me get something better? This whole summer has been pursuing one opportunity after another and watching nothing happen. Agency shmagency.
I haven't gotten any money yet from the freelance writing site I signed up for. If the population of the Slack channel is any indication, I have to compete with over three thousand people for the single-digit number of orders that customers place every day. I'm going to just go ahead and blame ChatGPT for that. I did successfully get an order and was actually excited about it, but then I couldn't start because the customer wasn't able to pay in advance. That order's still open and I'll be able to do it if and when he does pay but in the meantime I've got nothing. I also signed up for a couple of audio transcription sites, but due to high demand, both of their qualification tests are closed until further notice. I also signed up for Upwork, and with that one I get a limited number of "Connects" that I have to submit along with proposals for jobs, and of course I can get more if I pay for them. I recorded some footage to help test Eleos Sensors' emotion recognition software for therapeutic purposes. I got $5. Or rather, the guy paid me $5, but Upwork won't let me withdraw my money until it's over $100. It was more about gaining experience and building credibility on the platform than the money, but still, I want my money, damn it. My results made me smile, though. They'll need to figure out how to make the software work for emotionally repressed autistic people, because I'm sure I won't be the last one.
And so on and so forth.
My strategy for a while was to gather a following on my blog and then tell my readers to go buy my real writing when it got published, but over eight years later, I've started to realize that's not going to happen. So whatever. Yesterday I started uploading short stories that I wrote in graduate school to Amazon Kindle for 99 cents each because why not? As of this writing, none of them are up yet, but they will be soon. And then I'll see if they get any more attention than my blog does. I'll only get 35 cents for each sale, but that's 35 cents with no effort after the initial upload, so I'll take it. I also just decided that I want to publish the book I started over a decade ago. I wanted it to be perfect, but at some point I just have to say it's good enough. I want to self-publish it on Amazon by the end of the year. That might be a horrible mistake, but I really don't feel any motivation to shop around for publishing companies, get rejected dozens of times, and then argue over the content of my story when I do finally get one. I'm trying not to get my hopes up. Realistically, with the way my life has gone up to this point, it will go nowhere after the countless hours of work I've put into it. But I happen to know that I'm very talented and I happen to think that it's very good. It deserves to go somewhere, damn it. I barely ask God for anything anymore because I've lost my trust that he cares about what I want at all. But maybe I'll make an exception. I have nothing to lose.
Even though I didn't like the Star Wars sequel trilogy very much, I don't have the raging hard-on for Disney to fail that a lot of people clearly have, and it makes me very sad that Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is bombing at the box office. Harrison Ford acted his heart out and he deserves better. I suspect that most people just aren't giving it a chance because they think an action movie with an 80-year-old lead actor is ridiculous, but I thought it was handled very well. Indy's age is a major theme of the movie. Not just that he can't do all the things he used to do, but that the world around him has changed and no longer seems to have a place for him. It's an almost meta deconstruction of a character archetype that was never meant to last beyond the 1930s, and it gives Indy a satisfying character arc and his series a satisfying conclusion. Some people complain about the plot holes and silly parts, and I think they're overreacting. I'm not aware of any fictional movie plot that doesn't fall apart if you think about it too much, and the Indiana Jones movies were never meant to be very realistic or serious. I watch them to be entertained and I give them more grace than movies with loftier ambitions. This movie entertained me. It bored some people, and I guess that's just a matter of personal taste. But I hope we can all agree that it's nice to see Nazis get what they deserve instead of being allowed to march openly in the street.
I am not pleased with most of the Supreme Court's recent decisions. The whole thing seems like a farce to me, given that its interpretation of the constitution is mostly dependent on the political leanings of the presidents who appointed its members, and that there appears to be no check or balance on their power to force that interpretation on the entire country. Because of this, one of the worst presidents in American history has left an impact that will last long after he's gone to jail. I hate what Republicans are doing to this country. I hate their pathological revulsion to science and education and equality. I hate their vicious crusade against human rights and everything good and virtuous. Of course they're trying to raise the voting age now because they know young people aren't going to swallow their bullshit. They know their days are numbered. Their party is going to die, and it thoroughly deserves to die. But God knows how much irreversible damage it will do in its death throes.
I still spend too much time arguing with idiots on Twitter. Since yesterday I've gotten into several arguments over this tweet:
Tessa said she was told this by one leader in one ward. She didn't claim it was a widespread, consistent, or "official" Mormon belief. Yet at least a dozen Mormons asserted that she was lying. I have no problem believing her, not only because I was also taught weirder spiritual things than that in the church, but because I personally remember a small controversy in 2012 over the revelation that multiple temples barred menstruating girls from doing baptisms for the dead. The Salt Lake Tribune article and By Common Consent blog post about it can still be accessed via a two-second Google search. With a little more digging, I found the spreadsheet that Feminist Mormon Housewives readers compiled by contacting several temples and asking about their policies. But "spurious media" and feminists aren't acceptable sources when you have a persecution complex because ad hominem logical fallacy. Hence the arguments. Today I got so frustrated with one jerk who had the critical thinking skills of a clam that I gave up trying to reason with him and just pissed him off until he blocked me, which was very satisfying.
Also, the unhinged bigot who posted a different picture of herself with her family proclamation flag every single day of Pride Month (and still has the first one pinned to the top of her profile even though Pride Month is over) is now asking people to donate $50,000 to fight against a restraining order that someone filed against her. She thinks her constitutional rights are being violated. She has a very shaky grasp of how the Constitution works. She thinks the establishment clause prohibits public schools from teaching LGBT equality because that contradicts her religion, but not from teaching her version of God. (Of course, most of her right-wing Christian allies think her church is a heretical cult and won't be teaching her version of God or respecting her beliefs much at all if they get that kind of power, which, again thanks to young people, they won't for long.) Maybe I need to repent for being amused that other idiots are giving her money just so she can make an ass of herself in court.
But also, you know, people like April Wilde Despain are the backbone of the Republican party and the reason Trump got elected, so that's not very funny at all.
Assuming I pass the trial, which I know I will, I have a freelance writing job that won't likely support me but will allow me to rest easier while I keep looking for other stuff. I'll be writing things based on customers' ideas that they don't have the time or the skill to write themselves. I won't be allowed to discuss any of that writing here, or even get any credit for it when it's published, but I'll get a little money and hopefully have a little fun. The trial has been fun. I wrote 3000 words based on the criteria and in the next couple days I'll revise it and send it in.
My sister Melanie asked me for advice on starting a blog like a year ago. It's a good thing she didn't ask for advice on making a popular blog, because I couldn't have helped her with that. But it looks like she now has a blog with two posts. It's called "Almost Canadian," an obvious reference to us growing up half an hour from the border of Quebec and watching CBC instead of PBS. If you enjoy my sarcasm, snark, anger, and scathing religious and political criticism, I don't think you'll get any of that from her. But she has a strong writing voice and a charming sense of humor. I think she's a better writer than I was at her age (23), even though she only just recently realized it's what she wants to do, but I'm not jealous or anything. Okay, maybe a little. I'm just going to focus on building up my relationship with her in case she gets rich before I do.
I read a few Psychology Today articles about near-death experiences yesterday. NDEs have increased dramatically since the mid-twentieth century as medical technology has advanced to be able to save people who are farther and farther gone. They confirm of one of two things: that our consciousnesses will survive death, or that spiritual experiences are a byproduct of our brains having evolved to screw with us in countless ways. Obviously one of these possibilities is comforting and the other is terrifying. I'm guessing NDEs were all but nonexistent for most of human history when people simply did not wake up after their hearts stopped, so I doubt they influenced religious beliefs. But are they evidence for religious beliefs or merely influenced by them? Many of their motifs are strikingly similar across cultures, but Hindus don't encounter Jesus and Christians don't encounter Hindu gods. So maybe a biological commonality of human brains is being filtered through cultural influences, or maybe the higher power that receives dead souls is manifesting itself in different ways depending on what people expect and recognize.
Many, maybe most neurologists and other scientists are skeptical. One hypothesis holds that NDEs are hallucinations caused by dying brains flooding themselves with the psychedelic drug dimethyltryptamine, but there is as yet little evidence that dying brains actually flood themselves with the psychedelic drug dimethyltryptamine. I should think that would be an easy thing to check for, but I'm no expert. Another, in my opinion more convincing, argument against the reality of NDEs is that similar experiences can be triggered by non-life-threatening conditions like fever or anesthesia. I'm not sure how a believer would respond to that, but any honest believer in any spiritual phenomena must be compelled to acknowledge that they have a significant neurological component and consequently can be set off by things happening in the brain. Hippies have recognized this for a long time. Why God would make spiritual phenomena so unstable and unreliable if they're meant to be a guide to divine truth, I can't imagine.
One of the biggest counterarguments in favor of the reality of NDEs is the profound effect they tend to have on people. Most people find NDEs very peaceful and pleasant, sometimes so much so that coming back to life is a disappointment. They lose any fear of death they previously had, feel more purpose in life, see more beauty in everyday things, and become less materialistic and more altruistic. Standard hallucinations don't do that to people. I find this point very compelling, though there's still a chance it could just be a twisted cosmic joke, like how the Book of Mormon has a real and powerful spiritual impact on many people despite being a nineteenth-century fraud. A small percentage of people have unpleasant, lonely, or frightening NDEs, and while this would be difficult to test scientifically and I don't want to make insensitive assumptions, I'm dying to know if they're bad people who have reason to fear God's judgment. It would make sense for them to be a small percentage because God is supposed to be merciful and I believe few people are truly evil in their hearts.
Anyway, this is cool stuff, and though none of it is conclusive, it somewhat assuages my anxiety about death, at least until science marches on and ruins it for everyone.
So this happened, really, I swear.
It was a nice surprise. I haven't made any money off my writing since 2014 when I worked for the USU campus newspaper and made, if memory serves me, five dollars per article. I suppose I could be trying harder to actually publish stuff that isn't blog posts. But I just want to say that everyone is more than welcome to follow this person's example. If you're considering it, do it fast before I offend you and change your mind.
I was going through the stash of old papers that I've hoarded for nostalgic reasons, weeding out the ones that I can now bring myself to part with, when I found this comic that I drew for a class in 2018. I posted it on my blog once, but I couldn't get the scanner to not cut off the edges, so I just took a picture of it that was probably impossible to read on a mobile device. This time I got a better scan with a better scanner and decided to crop each individual panel, and on top of that to offer the commentary that both people who read it the first time have undoubtedly craved since then. Through the miracle of modern technology, these scans bring out every wrinkle and smudge on the paper in high definition. (Believe it or not, in person it actually looks white.) The context of this comic was that it had to be about some aspect of American culture because the class was about American culture. (Mostly it was about racism.) So I made it about American political polarization and mud-slinging because that really ground my gears. (It still does.)
I got in arguments about politics at the school lunch table, mostly over whether or not I was racist, and when my parents got over their concern about me being kidnapped by strangers from the internet and let me get a Facebook account in 2009, I made a photo album entitled "Obama Sucks!" I really and truly believed he was an anti-Christ trying to destroy the United States and take away all of our rights. If he were president today, I would probably be "Meh" toward him like I am toward Biden. At least both of them can go five minutes without lying or globally humiliating this country.
The class in question was Honors U.S. Institutions, which (spoiler alert) initiated the slow process of my political views becoming more nuanced. Nowadays it must be the "heterosexual cisgender white males suck" class. The girl behind me, who I think underwent a similar process even though I don't purport to know her thoughts and only purported to here as an attempt at humor, is the subject of my essay "Chasing Kelsey."
This was my initial reaction to this quote, but now I try to live by it. Until recently, I displayed it on my homepage, but after leaving the church I cancel cultured Oaks because of some less admirable things he's said - "It's wrong to criticize leaders of the church, even if the criticism is true," "I know that the history of the church is not to seek apologies or to give them," and a number of homophobic statements unequalled by any other LDS leader still living. Last November during a Q&A at the University of Virginia, he straight-up lied that BYU didn't practice conversion therapy on gay men during his tenure as president, which is so impossible to rationalize that the church's apologists haven't even tried. So he's not someone I want to promote as a spiritual leader. Nonetheless, I appreciate the glimpses of political nuance that I've gotten from him (he's obviously conservative but not a fan of Trump or what he stands for) and I still like this particular quote. I had an extra incentive to cite it in this comic because my professor was new to Utah and I wanted to convert him.
Saskia and I were both admins of a Facebook group called "The Awesome Mormons' Secret Society of Awesomeness" that furnished an embarrassing percentage of my social life in college. Someone pointed the irony that the admins tended to be liberal while the group membership tended to be conservative. Someone, probably Saskia, said it was good and then clarified, "That we are liberal, not that all these conservatives are here." I said, "I take it I'm not welcome then?" And then Saskia said this and blew my freaking mind. The group is dead and most of the admins have left the church by now.
My first real exposure to Donald Trump was a Bloom County storyline where he gets hit on the head with an anchor and has his brain transplanted into Bill the Cat. That was also my first exposure to Bill the Cat, so it gave me a weird first impression. Bloom County's portrayal of Trump wasn't altogether flattering, but I figured whatever, maybe it's just making fun of him because he's rich, so that didn't give me much of an opinion on him one way or another. And then suddenly in mid-2015 I heard that he believed vaccines caused autism, and that was a wake-up call. And by the end of that year I thought his misogyny was so self-evident that I didn't understand why his "Grab 'em by the pussy" recording came as a shock to anyone. In fairness, when I attended one of Utah's Republican caucuses in 2016 the entire discussion revolved around stopping Trump from becoming the nominee, but of course as soon as that failed Utah decided that having principles was overrated. Yeah, I'm more liberal now, but my objection to Trump has always and will always have far less to do with politics than with the fact that he's an absolute garbage excuse for a human being and I'm sick of people kissing his ass and trying to gaslight me that he's the Second Coming of Christ.
The narration is poorly phrased. The "impossible concept" here is not being mindlessly devoted to one of two political parties. I still get this crap from strangers on the internet who assume I'll be traumatized by them insulting Biden after I've insulted Trump. And yes, even though George Washington owned enslaved people, he had some good ideas.
I stand by the first sentence in my speech bubble one thousand percent. A lot of people in this country are going to burn in hell for deliberately preventing us from solving this problem that the rest of the developed world has solved. For God's sake, America, stop pretending it's normal for your children to live in fear of being gunned down at school. The second sentence, I'm not sure about. It's complicated. The issue, notwithstanding how liberals constantly misrepresent it, is not one of just refusing service to people based on their sexual orientation - which I unequivocally oppose - but of refusing to participate in a practice (same-sex marriage) that the business owners believe are wrong. Nowadays I think such beliefs are wrong and harmful and I'm not sad to see them rushing to extinction, but the constitution protects people's right to not only hold beliefs that others find offensive, but to act on them within reason. Liberals now argue that this protection doesn't cover people when they're providing goods and services to the public, and I can see the appeal of that reasoning, but I don't think it's supported by the constitution. Not that I claim to be an expert. Also, yes, Germany conducted its 2017 election like adults.
I now have the answers to my questions posed here. They are "It was inevitable as soon as we ignored George Washington's warning and created political parties in the first place" and "We don't," respectively.
Here it is, folks, the most holier-than-thou thing I've ever written or drawn. The ZB on my shirt stands for Zaphod Beeblebrox. Get it? Nowadays, "snowflake" seems to have declined in favor of "woke." I've seen two people in my life claim to be "woke" and at least two hundred people derisively accuse other people of trying to be "woke." Not by coincidence, the latter group is much, much, much more annoying.
Okay, so both of my blog's regular readers could tell you that despite my best efforts to live by the Oaks quote and be eclectic in my political views, if I were to draw this comic today and be honest with myself, I would be standing further to the left, that is to say my left, which is the reader's right. As much as I try to be critical of both sides and blame both sides for the dumpster fire that is the United States of America - and both sides are to blame - I am forced over and over again to conclude that one side is a much bigger problem than the other. One side is a haven for bigotry, ignorance, conspiracy theories, censorship, and a uniquely American brand of narcissism. One side is constantly an obstacle to social, scientific, and environmental progress. One side simply denies the existence of obvious crises (e.g. climate change, systemic racism, a global pandemic) that it doesn't want to have to deal with, and openly mocks the other side for acknowledging reality (e.g. by calling it "woke"). And I've just been reading Peter Carroll's history of the 1970s, It Seemed Like Nothing Happened, and I'm equal parts fascinated and consumed with rage at how little has changed in fifty years.
I mean, just last night I saw Deseret News readers bitching because California is going to provide free school lunches for all students. Yes, geniuses, we know that "nothing is free." We know that taxpayers are going to pay for it, just like they've been paying for the kids to be forced to go to school in the first place for a very long time. If you're so damn concerned about taxes, maybe instead of complaining about children getting food, support police reform so that cities don't have to keep settling for millions of dollars because cops can't figure out how to stop abusing and murdering Black people. Just a thought. Also, speaking of cops, more children at school are shot dead in this country than cops in the line of duty, and since you're hell-bent on not letting that problem be solved, the least we could do is not make them pay for their own food. Anyway, this is the sort of thing that makes me want to scream to the heavens, "Why, why, why are Republicans so ------- stupid?" But I'm trying to be fair and balanced, I swear.
Oh yeah, and as a bonus just because I happened to find it in the same stash of papers, here's my preliminary sketch of the layout of the comic, with some marginal notes related to other aspects of my life at the time. It's garbage now, but future historians will be all over it.
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
- David Young
About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.