Archive for January, 2017

Hide in Plain Sight

Posted: January 6, 2017 in Uncategorized

An Incompetent Misadventure of Mickey Mouse Politics and Keystone Cops Tradecraft 


The weapons of a battle subsequently declined…

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

I apologize for the political undercurrent in what is supposed to be a non-political “writer assisting other writers blog.” There are concepts that a crime or, more importantly, a cyberpunk writer can use for their stories. This post counts on that basis. But, if you still ain’t convinced, FO it’s my stupid story and I’m telling it. I will call it The Time I Fucked Up Pulling Off an Online Houdini Act and Dropped Grand Plans to Contribute More Directly to the Great Resistance to Der Gröpen Führer’s Administration. 

I woke up on Post-Election Wednesday like many other urban Californians wondering what Faustian Bargain Der Oränge Führer made to scoop up the 80,000 votes in three key states needed to steal the White House. I felt anger and a generalized fear of the worst case scenario eschatology that seems to be what the Professional Left needs people like me to feel while we organize for war. To a certain extent, I still feel these things, but in just a few weeks I’ve walked back a lot of my ardor for war. I’ll get to that part later in this narrative.

I was going to blog. Like the Little Drummer Boy, my words are all I have to give. But, we now live in NSA-Off-the-Leash-Land where I expect Edward Snowden to get accidentally shot or jailed within eighteen months now that whatever small country is hiding him might crack under American pressure. I would rather be a live literary symbol kicking shins and running away than a dead or jailed martyr to Free Speech where they’ll kill my ass on the inside not with shivs and ass-rape, but simply taking away my pen.

Thus, the blog needed me to disappear at least enough so that G.N. Jacobs didn’t have his name on it. But, the best Houdini acts in the modern world really require winding up in Tahiti with a fishing pole and a babe in a grass skirt without a fucking cell phone. So already a fatal wound to a dumb-ass plan. But, I had to make my mistakes in an unconscious semi-Freudian way to realize I made my dumb moves because I wasn’t doing this stupid political blog anyway.

The Caged Tiger blog as I would’ve called it has so far been been a exercise in preachy douchery and let’s put it down with a bullet to the head before someone gets hurt. I’m sure I goofed my tradecraft semi-intentionally, but hey I now know what disappearing acts take to pull off and can actually write fictional variations of a cyberpunk Blank (someone without an active citizen file) character.

First off, disappearing is a cash-only business unless the Marshal’s Service uses their muscle to create a whole new credit portfolio for a witness in hiding. This meant in my steaming rage I needed new el cheapo gear that I could treat like the way One Percent bikers might treat a Japanese brand motorcycle…not well. Internet connections leave traces so using my current gear is like robbing a bank without a mask and then mooning the security cameras with my address and phone number tattooed onto my left butt cheek.

A quick hit on my three minutes of research told me that new email addresses require a phone number entered onto the setup page. The email provider wants to text or email you just in case you screw the pooch and forget your password. But, you’re trying to set a literary ambush for Der Gröpen Führer and his goons, you can’t use the Sprint iPhone with all the bells and whistles known to be in your name.

Similarly, I needed a computer cheap enough to throw off the cliff to the right while running left that lasts about as long as it takes for the SS to start shooting. After which, I was going to put on my lie face (the same one I use at the Post Office when asked about liquid in the mail). I knew I wanted a complete firewall between me and my fictional alter ego, second cousin to Harvey the Rabbit; I must buy one of those inexpensive Lenovo machines.

I buy a likely thrash-wagon machine and a pay as you go phone with a $15 card all with cash at a local Best Buy. I had my phantom name picked out just in case, but you don’t need a name for the phone if you pay cash. Of course, most providers of pay as you go phones have a default setting where you end up getting billed monthly at rates cheaper than most smartphone plans, in this case pay as you go means no long term contract to justify them giving you a good price on an expensive smartphone. You are still robbing the bank barefaced and mooning the camera.

Pay as you go doesn’t become the semi-mythical burner phone we’ve heard about on cop shows unless you, the purchaser, understand that you have to consciously choose the no plan option. This is where you buy the phone with cash and chase it periodically with phone cards from the provider also bought with cash. The clerk will offer to set the phone up for you, but if you do remember no plan, act naturally and don’t drop your real name into the sales chitchat. He or she might remember what you look like, but can’t give the cops your name. I chose to do my own setup elsewhere, I’m not a CHUD when it comes to tech setup.

The Lenovo goes to a coffee shop where I use the WiFi for setup. Now we need the fake name I prepared. Computers want a name, a phone number for recovery purposes and since we’re talking a thrash-wagon running Windows 10, Mini-HAL wants to automatically guide me through a Outlook/Hotmail/Live account setup. This is required because this account forms the basis of the Microsoft account on which we get Office 365 (I have commented in earlier archived posts how much I hate the subscription model for my writing tools. Apple still sells a version of Office that works with the mobile apps to go around paying Microsoft the rent. Microsoft doesn’t. When doing things on the up and up act accordingly). Luckily, it’s pretty standard to get a year free, if you setup a fake email.

I use my picked out name. I went with a name slightly modified from the name of a guy who tried to screw me over on a movie a long time ago. Yes, I can hold grudge and imagine Der Cheëto Führer’s stormtroopers booting the door looking for me and busting him. I changed the name more because the real dickhead is Hispanic and I’m not. I went with an Anglo sounding close cognate. Believability.

I open up an Outlook account and get my free Office 365 using this fake name. I defer entering the burn phone number until later in the session because I want to set it up online using this connection away from my house. But, I eventually do because you can’t cheat this part of the system. Luckily, inventing my nom de guerre gives me all the information Microsoft actually needs: name, phone number and ZIP code (if required I could’ve given the asshole’s address, but I wasn’t asked. Don’t volunteer extra information doing this).

I decide to wait on starting up the foreign blog for a few days. I want to get used to the keyboard. I type the introductory post. I refresh in my mind why I haven’t liked Windows in a long time, but I’m going to put up with it to fight the good fight.

But, you did hear me say I fucked things up ever so slightly that a determined stormtrooper on the keys would still burn me down? I lost the 3”x5” card on which I’d written down the password to this first Outlook account and the burner number. I don’t panic, I know how to click Lost Password…right up until Microsoft gets crafty and turns the procedure into an interrogation where I needed the old password to make the new password. I’m having an existential Yossarian moment, if I had the old password, I don’t need a new one.

I throw up my hands in a Fuck it Moment and set up a second Outlook account. Office 365 still runs on the old account for one year. Then I either get a new semi-disposable thrash-wagon or come up with a reloadable debit card paid for in cash to buy next year’s subscription (remember cash only or they trace your credit and debit purchases). Not liking this idea.

At some point in this botched recovery, I texted my regular phone from the burn phone. I was prepared to try this lie – “Hey Officer, I meet a lot of writers and this guy asked me for my Word templates to start writing and like a moron I emailed them to him. He thanked me by text.” But, let’s get real here, are you starting to see the Keystone Cops quality to my disappearing act?

I write a few more posts venting my furious and righteous anger against Cheëto Hitler. I dither setting up the foreign blog.

The point was to use my burner number to set up a variation of cagedtiger[random number] [at] google.com.fr or however France assigns top level domains these days. The thinking was that the French version of Blogspot is on a French server allowing French authorities to tell American authorities to go fuck themselves when they come calling with the international subpoena – “Leave us alone, you arrogant American swine! This blog tells the truth and does not advocate any violent solutions! Concepts that used to matter even under American law!”

I didn’t get that far so I don’t actually know if opening up a French Google account using a burn number with an American 424 area code is A) possible or B) just stupid once the goons have a reason to do digital forensics. But, that one is a go with it and smile and wave like the Queen moment. I’m not getting on a plane just to buy a French burn phone…talk about chasing good money after bad.

The good thing about the delay in creating the French blog was it gave me pause to take stock in this whole Der Cömbover Führer thing and my need to bloviate about it. I have journalism training earlier in my life. I love good journalism, even if I’m just not in a place where I can chisel $50 per article/post working in print/digital. I write essays when I need to and perhaps my annoyance re-reading my intended posts is overly harsh, but…

The position essays at the beginning of the blog would likely be great, or at least eminently readable. I’m good at what I do. But, once I finished establishing my Moderate Kill All Sacred Cows attitude designed to have a blog that also pissed off lefties for their many stupidities that made Der Smäll Pënis Führer and his goons possible, this Caged Tiger blog becomes a news recap blog…ugggh!

For the most part, other commentators are eating up all the clickbait porridge faster each time our raging infantile sandbox bully unleashes yet another tweet-storm. As a lone dude with a blog, maybe I pick up readers with a nice turn of phrase. However, suddenly I’m in race to post first commenting on the same shit everybody else is. And we all hate the guy for the same reasons, so except on my best days explaining things my work would just sound like the same noise. And I fully intended to keep up my novels and regular blogging, do you see the hint of delusion here?

I think I instinctively knew I was delusional from jump, which might be why I accidentally on purpose made my tradecraft mistakes. I don’t really have the time to knock the rust off my political bloviating skills, so I get lazy and inattentive creating about four ways my nom de guerre links back to my real name. Yeah, I just shot my fantasies of literary hard elbows leading to the possibility of chatting up all kinds of fems at protests in the foot.

So what now for me? My mission segment is distraction and entertainment. I’ll stick to that. Luckily, for the moment I’m white, a dude and after this post going as silent on social media as my big mouth, ego and perniciously cute cat videos will let me. I’ll outlive and outlast the fat orange bastard while reading what I need to stay informed as a voter. Not telling you if I do anything else for the cause.

So now you have some insight into how not to pull off a digital Houdini. You can create characters for your story or…sorry, I officially admonish you not to try anything you read in this post for real, even though under American law a person has the right to use any name he or she likes unless there is intent to defraud. And no, I’m never telling you my now abandoned nom de guerre, I might still need the fictitious fellow for once last duty – getting me the fuck out of Dodge before nightfall.

Manchester-by-the-Sea

Posted: January 5, 2017 in Uncategorized

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

Have you ever blundered into something that everybody else seems to love, but you can’t stand? For me, Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester-by-the-Sea is that movie. Luckily, I have no idea where Rotten Tomatoes is headquartered or I might buy a little extra trouble this year mailing the review aggregator site a lunch bag full of flaming dog crap over this one. Okay, in an effort to just use my words, I will breathe it down, merely light up a literary flamethrower and pretend I torched up said steaming pile going to town as the one voice in the wilderness that didn’t have an Oscar-bait moving experience.

The log line: the sudden death of a beloved older brother brings a Boston area handyman home to the seaside village of Manchester, Massachusetts in order to confront the tragic demons of his past while making arrangements for his nephew’s last two years of legal childhood.

I found at least three related things wrong with this movie that begin and end with it felt like a long ass movie. I spent a lot of time fidgeting in my seat, checking my watch that wouldn’t tell me the time because the glow in the dark hands hadn’t been charged up with light and wishing I’d just gone to see Rogue One for the fourth time.
I suppose I could generally bust on the molasses in winter pace of Lee Chandler’s (Casey Affleck) story as he returns home during a seemingly harsh Massachusetts Bay winter unable to bury his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) for several months because the ground in the cemetery froze. Sometimes slow character based movies work and might’ve worked in this case, but for the incessant and regularly spaced flashbacks to reveal why Lee absolutely will never return to Manchester to take up responsibility for the last two years of his nephew’s childhood.

I think there were ten flashback sequences and it took at least eight to reveal Lee’s pain, while meandering through other interesting, but still off-putting aspects of the extended family drama of the Chandlers. However, my tolerance for the flashbacks ended around the sixth trip into the past. And this more than anything else slowed the experience of this movie to a crawl highlighted with an emotional feel akin to claws on chalkboard.

Lastly, in the negative column I can’t tell if Lee Chandler annoyed me as a character, or if Mr. Lonergan simply dropped the ball allowing this character to have a full dramatic arc. Either way Lee Chandler didn’t seem to change very much for going home and this ultimately bored the crap out of me, adding to the misery of yet another flashback. Like with most things, bet on the true answer being both at the same time.

On the character side of things Lee Chandler is a stereotypical resident of an Upper Bay fishing village: hard drinking, hard fighting and an emotionally closed off man’s man who works with his hands. Between the work of Mr. Affleck’s brother, Ben, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg and a few examples of his own movie past, we’ve seen this character before. But, in Manchester-by-the-Sea we finally get to see how boring this character can be when something goes wrong failing to hit story beats that get left on the table.

Now I will defer to the expertise of the actors listed above who all were raised in the area and don’t need a dialect coach to manage the accent, but is everybody who lives there like Lee Chandler? Especially when the audience (or me at least) might feel cheated that he never finds his words relative to his open wound that prevents him from seeing Manchester as home? Or that the character also never really finds his words concerning the many subplots surrounding the core of the movie that get brought up in reaction to the hated flashbacks?

Okay, just what is Lee Chandler’s core wound? Once upon a time after kicking his loud and loaded friends out of the house at the behest of his wife, he makes a fire in the fireplace forgetting the screen. The house burned down killing his three children sleeping upstairs as a result. All of the other information in all of the other previously presented flashbacks immediately seemed like distractions in retrospect, but as I said above I felt annoyed, fidgety and bored by the time I saw what the movie was all about. Too late for me to care. And there were a couple flashbacks after the house burned down.

The device of losing family through tragic carelessness basically means the movie only has two ways out. Lee finds his words related to his loss and realizes that it’s time to come home and be an uncle and guardian. Or Lee admits to his nephew why he can’t come home, that the pain of seeing the old house lot and those faces that still live in Manchester would kill him bit by bit every day. The movie chose the latter, but did so in a mushy indistinct way with dialogue that allows the character to remain emotionally closed off and angry – “I can’t make it.” Which allows me to feel cheated out of a semi-tragic arc where not everything needs to work out by the last reel, but makes me feel.

Now what was good about this movie? Likely the hook upon which everybody else and his brother decides they liked this story? Acting. Acting. Acting. And did I mention acting?

Casey Affleck chews scenery playing up the smoldering fury of his character which goes a long way towards disguising what I see as the structural weaknesses in the character’s arc. Yes, I never felt like I got a full story out of the character but what ended up on screen wouldn’t let me take my eyes away, get up and go to the bathroom, or walk out early to beat traffic. So pretty much there was a good movie somewhere in the exposed footage. The most frustrating kind of annoying movie, the almost experience.

Another acting shout out goes to Lucas Hedges as the nephew, Patrick Chandler. This newcomer expertly plays the foil that should, in another version of this script, either convince his long lost uncle to stay or actually say – “Look, Patrick, what did your dad tell you about why I left? My kids died because I was loaded to the eyeballs and stupid. I can’t look at the harbor. I can’t look at the houses and those fuckin’ Widow’s Walks. I can’t stay and you can’t leave, or at least you shouldn’t just go. Not without a better plan, for which I’m sorry. So what do we do now?”

Patrick also gets to steal the show with his other scenes as an adolescent: his horrible band, his, count ‘em, two girlfriends and expressing how freaky not burying his father is. These funny and touching moments help to liven up this badly structured mess that otherwise had me figuratively clawing out my eyeballs.

If I had to pick a recent (if 1992 counts as recent) Oscar analogy what with the buzz going around that I clearly don’t support, treat this film like Scent of a Woman. Pass out Oscars for Mr. Affleck and/or Mr. Hedges, if you like; just please don’t give it any of the other important statues.