S.G. Browne

Protocol Police & Cell Phone Criminals

Sometimes I wish there were Protocol Police, Officers of the Social Graces who would fine people for inappropriate behavior and arrest repeat offenders who would have to serve time at an Etiquette Rehabilitation Center.

People who litter.
People who swear in public.
People who don’t say please and thank you.

Honestly, some of these people need to go back to Mom and Dad for a little refresher course in good manners.

I see it all the time. Men and women and teenagers who seem to have no interest in behaving properly. On any given day, I can walk out my front door and witness multiple acts of behavioral disobedience. Of people who seem to think the rules of common courtesy don’t apply to them.

Bicyclists disobeying traffic laws.
Owners failing to clean up after their dog.
Drivers refusing to merge.

If you ask me, the world would be a better place if everyone understood the concept of merging. And if people would learn to clean up their own messes.

Cell phone #1But some of the worst public offenders of social etiquette are people on their cell phones. On their iPhones. On their Blackberries.

Answering their cell phone in a restaurant.
Shouting into their Blackberry on the bus.
Taking out their iPhone during a movie.

Your iPhone’s a flashlight, asshole. A bright, colorful, $300 flashlight.

Turn. It. Off.

The problem is, when using their cell phones, people often don’t bother to pay attention to those who exist around them. To how their actions affect others. To the inappropriateness of their behavior. They exist in a bubble of personal space that excludes anyone else. A cocoon of electronic communication that prevents them from interacting. Plugged into a world of applications and search engines and social networks.

It’s as if by discovering more ways to connect, we’ve lost the ability to interact with the people sitting next to us. It’s as if by improving communication, we’ve lost the ability to relate without the comfort of an electronic leash.

Everyone’s here but not really.
Everyone’s taking up space but someplace else.
Everyone’s connected but disconnected.

Filed under: Just Blogging — Tags: , — S.G. Browne @ 2:33 pm

Zombie St. Pete

I know I mentioned this in passing at some point (though exactly when eludes me and I’m too lazy to look back at my posts for reference), but I’ll be flying out to Florida at the end of February to attend the release party of the zombie anthology Zombie St. Pete – a collection of zombie tales that take place in and around sunny St. Petersburg, Florida.

Although I didn’t contribute a story to the anthology, the editors were kind enough to invite me to write the introduction.

The event kicks off at 5:00PM on Saturday, February 27, at the St. Pete Pier and will include signings by yours truly and the contributors to the anthology, readings from selected stories, live music, and Thrill St. Pete’s reinterpretation of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” It should be a zombie good time. So if you’re in the area and can’t get enough zombies, come on by and join the fun.

In addition to the release party, I’ll be in Florida a few days before appearing at bookstores in Orlando, Sarasota, and St. Petersburg. You can see the details and schedule of the release party and my signings on the Events page or to the right of this post under Upcoming Events.

Hope to see you in Florida!

Filed under: Breathers,The Writing Life,Zombies — Tags: , , — S.G. Browne @ 4:05 pm

It’s So Bad, It’s (Not) Good

That old saying: “It’s so bad, it’s good.” Well, when it comes to movies, I have to disagree. Bad acting, bad scripts, and bad direction only create one thing. Bad movies. Unwatchable movies. Movies that make me glad I’m watching them for $9.00 a month on Netflix and not for $9.00 a pop at the movie theaters.

And those are matinee prices.

Obviously, everyone has their own opinion on the artistic merit of movies. Personal preferences and perceptions come into play, which is what make movies and other form of art what they’re supposed to be. Subjectively enjoyed. As a friend once said, the moment you start to quantify art, it ceases to become art.

391px-Return_of_the_living_deadposterThat said, I’ve recently watched several movies through Netflix that I’d always been told I had to see for one reason or another. Movies I’d somehow missed that were cult classics or must-see movies: MAD MAX, BUBBA HO-TEP, and RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. While I found BUBBA HO-TEP more marginally watchable ( come to think of it, I don’ think I actually finished watching the film), I can’t ever imagine having a reason to watch MAD MAX or RETURN ever again.

Yes, I know MAD MAX was made in 1979. Yes, I know RETURN was supposed to be silly. And yes, I know there are worse movies. But ALIEN was made in 1979 and I can watch it every day. AIRPLANE and TOP SECRET were meant to be silly and they’re much smarter films with better writing. And I haven’t seen any movies that are worse than these in the past twelve months.

By the way, the worst film I think I ever saw was GYMKATA. Though HEARTBEEPS, HOUSE, and PRAYER OF THE ROLLERBOYS are in the running. As is almost every Sylvester Stallone film that came out in the 1980s.

So what do you think? What movies were you told you had to see that you thought were a waste of time and money? What are your unwatchable films?

Filed under: Movies and Books — S.G. Browne @ 3:43 pm

My Safeway Alias & People Who Call Me Steve

While I tend to do most of my shopping at Trader Joe’s, I occasionally go shopping at Safeway, a chain supermarket in California that offers discounts on merchandise to shoppers who are members of their free Safeway Club program. This is one of the main reasons I shop at Safeway. As a member of the Safeway Club program, I can get a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in any flavor for $3.49. At least $1 less than at any other grocery store, including Walgreens. Score!

Not to mention all of the other discounts I can get on such items as Odwalla Superfood, organic butter, Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips (for baking chocolate chip cookies), and Dungeness crab, in season.

But Corona beer is still less expensive at Trader Joe’s.

But back to Safeway.

When it comes my turn at the check-out register, I punch my ten-digit phone number into the point-of-sale terminal and watch as my Safeway Club Card member savings appear on the electronic register readout. Once my sale is complete and I pay for my groceries, the clerk tears off my receipt, glances at it, then hands it to me with a smile and says:

“Thank you, Mr. Cypert.”

Or, to be more precise, Mrs. Cypert. The name on the receipt for the Safeway Club Card program is a woman’s name. I’ve omitted her first name because I didn’t want anyone to go off and Google her.

Anyway, I don’t know who she is, but for the past ten years her name has been attached to my phone number on Safeway’s Club Card system. I don’t know how it’s attached or why, but it’s my phone number and I’m not changing it. And it’s not like I care about the accumulated benefits of the Club Card program. I just want my discounts.

So I say “Thank you,” take my receipt, and go merrily on my way.

This isn’t the first time I’ve willingly accepted the identity of someone else.

Back in college, an acquaintance I met at a party at the end of my junior year kept calling me Steve. Scott. Steve. They share two of the same letters and there’s a vowel in there. Not the same one, but there are only five vowels (and sometimes “y”). Close enough for an end-of-the-year party, especially when you don’t expect to run into the person again, so I didn’t bother to correct him.

Naturally, we ended up in a class together the following fall.

Surprisingly enough, the professor never used any first names and I didn’t know anyone else in the class,so when this misinformed student once again called me Steve, I still didn’t bother to correct him. I don’t know why. I just didn’t. I was 22 and in college. It seemed kind of amusing.

After a while, enough time passed where I couldn’t correct him. It would have been awkward. So I became Steve. It got to the point that if someone called out “Steve!” across the campus, I’d turn and look to see if it was for me.

So I’m okay being Mrs. Cypert, so long as it continues to get me $1 discount on my pints of Ben & Jerry’s.

Filed under: Just Blogging — Tags: , — S.G. Browne @ 12:15 pm

The Things They Left Behind

I’m reading Stephen King’s Just After Sunset, his first collection of short stories since his Everything’s Eventual in 2002.  Maybe it’s just time talking, slowly removing pieces of my memory, or maybe it’s because I didn’t find any of them particularly memorable, but I can’t recall any of the stories from his last collection.  Yet I can still remember “The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet” and “Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut,” among others, from Skeleton Crew, so I’m guessing it’s more of the latter.

And as usual, I sit down to write something and end up straying off topic.  How I’ve manged to finish writing several novels, I have no idea.

I just finished reading one of King’s stories in Just After Sunset, this one titled “The Things They Left Behind.”  Like many of the stories I’ve read so far in this collection, it’s layered with a good depth of human emotion that affects you on a personal level rather than on one of fear.  It’s Stephen King at his storytelling best, managing to make you examine your own life and the things that matter.

KingThis particular story deals with a would-have-been victim of the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and personal keepsakes of co-workers who weren’t as fortunate that keep showing up in his apartment.  The keepsakes, not the victims.  I won’t go into the details of the story, because they’re not what prompted me to write this.  At least not until the end, when the main character meets the widow of one of his co-workers and she relates the last thing she said to her husband before he went off to work:

“I wish I’d said something better than ‘Bring home a pint of half-and-half.’  But we’d been married a long time and it seemed like business as usual that day, and…we don’t know, do we?”

No, we don’t.  We don’t know what our last words to someone might be.  To a friend.  A parent.  A lover.  We never know what might happen when someone we cares about walks out the door or heads off to work or gets on a plane.

It’s easy to forget this, to get caught up in the comfortable rhythms of life, to expect everything to go as planned, to put your faith in the business as usual. And really, there’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s what allows us to enjoy the present.

But I’d like to think I could make an effort to end the conversations with my friends and loved ones with something personal.  Something that matters.  Something that resonates with the understanding that these connections I have with the people who share my life are precious and I don’t want to take them for granted.

Something other than “Bring home a pint of half-and-half.”

Or, in my case, a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.

When you’re a writer, you get to go back and edit what you’ve done.  The words your characters have spoken.  The actions they’ve taken. You get the chance to go back and make the words count.

Unless you have a time machine, you don’t get to edit your life.  You’re stuck with your words and your actions.  Sometimes you can atone for them, make things right, but other times, life doesn’t give you that option.

So make the words count.

Filed under: Just Blogging — Tags: — S.G. Browne @ 8:52 pm