Elliott’s costume

Willy is perplexed by Elliott’s pretentious Halloween costume.

It’s been a while since I last made a comic, but here’s my latest. Stardew Valley for some reason gives me a lot of inspiration. Yes, I did call Elliott’s costume pretentious, but please… Don’t hate him! Halloween comes every year, and he, like me, probably got bored of doing the same looks. He was probably a pirate a million years in a row, and wanted to stick to the theme but do something different. I was a cowgirl-skeleton one year because I wanted to do something different. So call me pretentious too. He’s still my husband on two different game files. I think I might divorce him, wipe his memory, and marry him again because he’s that great.

Anyway, don’t mind me. I’m just preemptively defending my choice of words to describe a fictitious character I have a crush on.

Also, I really wanted to see what Elliott looked like with a handlebar mustache, and bring back the earrings from his concept art. I thought they were really cute.

I didn’t get to finish my interview today.

I was almost done, but I foolishly knocked my Webcam and mic out of the USB drive while I was talking with my hands. My interviewers inquired for a little, asking if I was still there. I kept trying to get back, I said “yes, I’m here!” but the mic didn’t reconnect. They agreed to end the meeting.

I get my connection back, and I emailed them saying I’m back and we can resume the meeting. But they are interviewing someone else, one responds, thanks me for my time, and they will be in touch if they have more questions. I am bewildered that we are putting this important meeting to an abrupt halt. I am stunned and step away from my email and vent to my family about what happened.

After regaining my composure, I respond to the email, saying thank you for talking with me, I enjoyed the discussion, and I apologize for the dropped connection. I still want to finish the interview, as I may have answered their questions, but I still had my own questions. I had hoped we could speak again tomorrow or next week to finish. But the response I got was discouraging.

“Unfortunately, we are no longer interested perusing your application.” I’d only interviewed a half hour ago, and didn’t get my conclusion. I’d appreciate it if they at least pretended to consider my candidacy.

I don’t know if it had something to do with my screw-up in that moment or a poor reputation I may have with my former coworkers and managers. This was an educational nonprofit I worked at for three years while in college. I withdrew from my duties somewhat during my final year, but this was due to a physical change in my appearance that the children I tutored noticed, and I did not want it to attract more attention. My boss noticed my performance issues, but I did not have a confiding enough relationship with him to explain my insecurity that caused them. I went through the academic year without much worry about the job, only to be shocked the following fall that my boss replied to my email that he was not rehiring me that year due to my “repeated issues,” which, though I don’t defend my distance, it was never indicated to me at all that these would cost me the position. Later the student employment specialist had emailed me saying she had been trying to get in touch with my boss several times throughout the summer about the paperwork needed to hire me for the coming academic year and he had not returned any of her messages.

I wonder if this incomplete interview was connected at all to my former job at this place. Does my reputation stink that much? I had been trusted in my job there for most of my college experience. I had thought I was well-liked. Was I just interviewed today for quota purposes? Because I doubt much time had been given envisioning me in the role. Why would an employer not allow a candidate to finish an interview?

I just want people to give me the chance I deserve.

ABC should have canceled “The Goldbergs” a year ago.

It was formerly my favorite contemporary sitcom, but now, it often brings plots with little stakes or thought.

I saw this season’s premiere last night, and man… I didn’t laugh, and I think once I even gagged. Okay, to start, ABC reserves the right to fire Jeff Garlin. If his behavior was making people uncomfortable, he deserves to be held accountable. ABC has not disclosed much detail of what exactly Garlin did or said, but I take it is was repeated derogatory humor. Maybe ABC overstepped and could have found a better solution than firing him, or maybe it was the only feasible action. Like I said, they haven’t revealed much of the substance of his misdeeds, so it’s hard to say. But still, the treatment of his character Murray in the show is very unusual. He died between last season and this one I guess, but his demise is not treated very gracefully. In the opening, this is brushed aside. Instead Beverly in more involved snooping into her children’s lives, helping Erica and Jeff set up a nursery. Murray’s father is now living with them, and over the seasons Murray had mentioned his father was disinterested in his life, and the same goes for his death in this episode. Ginzie says his eulogy for Murray was very short. This betrays Pop-Pop’s character. Like his son, he doesn’t display affection so outwardly, but still, he cares. And Murray and Beverly had confronted him enough times to learn this.

Same thing with Beverly. Murray and her children and their significant others had confronted her time and time again that they want her to be involved, but not to the overwhelming extent that she is, and she learns his lesson for a little while, but then turns up the selfishness. Erica and Jeff’s wedding is “her wedding,” and their baby is “her baby.”

Oh, Erica and Jeff. I’m annoyed with how both of them have deflated. Erica had high ambitions, and still does, but unreasonably thinks she can take it all on. A husband and an upcoming baby while finishing college… Not to mention both she and Jeff plan to attend grad schools, optometry school for Jeff and law school for her, so they may have to separate depending upon where their education leads them, and still raise a child. And… She still pursues her music career sometimes. She had been a responsible character before, but despite the fact she has made some big lifetime milestones, she is increasingly naive and dependent on her mother and parents-in-law to fund her life. I know it’s set in the 1980s and people married and procreated earlier then, but that’s no excuse. Given their circumstances, I feel they married and got pregnant at a very inopportune time, and too often fiction gives the narrative that “even if the timing isn’t right, everything will work out okay,” but that’s often untrue and will set future marriages and parents up for failure and disappointment. Not to mention, many of these developments are retconned when Erica and Barry visit Lainey on the spinoff “Schooled,” set a decade later. Erica does not mention marriage or children, and in fact implies that she and Jeff broke up to make Lainey feel less alone in her breakup with Barry. But if we believe the later “Goldbergs” time-line, Lainey should know Erica and Jeff had been married for a while since she was the maid of honor. She may have assumed they divorced, but… That’s a stretch. Also, I may be mistaken, but I believe either Barry or Erica tell Lainey that their parents are doing well in “Schooled”, which is another retcon, as Murray would be alive into the late 1990s.

Jeff is another character who irritates me because of his flatness. Erica broke up with him only a few seasons ago because he was not his own person and was too submissive to her interests. Then he changed a little I guess, stuck up for himself in one thing, and they got back together, then engaged, and then… He goes back to being spineless. He sometimes sticks up for himself with JTP, or to Beverly… But not enough. He’s the worst with Erica, despite the fact that she dislikes it and wishes he were a decisionmaker too.

Finally, the farewell to Murray, as I mentioned, is so hollow and half-hearted. While Erica keeps his chair, Beverly keeps his shirts, and Adam and Barry play on a baseball field they made to summon him a la “Field of Dreams,” something about it feels disingenuous, but it’s hard to really describe. I know there is friction in the relationship between the network and Murray’s actor, and I think it shines through in the writing and performances. Because of this friction, I doubt there will be many follow up episodes to extend on their grief. Compare it to the death of Albert “Pops” Solomon, the children’s maternal grandfather played by George Sehgal, who actually did die in real life as opposed to Garlin’s firing. This is handled with much more care. The family connects with Pops’ old hobbies, friends, and belongs. They even mention the fuller aspects of his life, like being in World War 2, betting on horse races, writing love letters to his wife, meanwhile Murray is only mentioned sitting his chair, watching TV, and calling his children morons. But there was a lot more to him than that, but I guess ABC doesn’t want to remind us about this. His memorial is purposefully mundane.

Anyway, I feel as though a lot of this is done to check off a box on a list of tropes that make “great TV moments.” Marriage, pregnancy, death… We especially need the female sibling to get married and pregnant…because that’s all women think about, right? And ABC probably thinks their female audience is still sore that Barry and Lainey called off their wedding… So they think that Erica and Jeff being married is some kind of retribution. It feels like a lot of storylines were introduced by pressure from the network rather than organically. The season is still early, so maybe it will get better, though I’m doubtful. Part of me wants a good portion of this season to stay unaired because I feel it will just be that bad. (By the way, I would have had Murray and Beverly get a divorce or have him go on a yearlong business trip to explain his absence and to avoid the cheap grief, and open the doors if Garlin changes and could be rehired again for a guest appearance.)

Remembering those lost in the World Trade Center attacks, 2001

It’s an appropriate time to reflect. Some sad occasions have happened in recent days for me, the death of a relative, a family friend, and a global public figure, though I will reflect on those experiences in a later post. The World Trade Center attacks were a formulative experience for me to witness. My memory is murky as the years go by, but each time the memory is revisited, I make more connections to those vignettes that still exist in my mind’s eye.

I was five years old, approaching six in four months. My parents were shopping for a new house in our city to make room for our new baby brother, who was then around nine months old. I had just started kindergarten, and my parents wanted to stay within the same school district. My sister was four, and she and I detested visiting open houses with them. Our brother could just sleep through them, but we had to walk around and try to admire stuff we didn’t understand. Our previous house had been sold before we’d picked a new one, so we stayed with my grandparents in the meantime.

There was this strange movie on television occasionally with burning buildings. My parents enjoyed action and detective stories, so I figured it was one of those. But my mother acted differently when this movie came on. She’d rush to turn it off or change the channel when she’d see it with us children in the room. My grandparents hosted visitors often, so sometimes my uncles, aunts, or adult cousins would come over and want to play this movie. I didn’t get the fuss. I’d sometimes watch Law and Order with my mom when I couldn’t sleep, but the violent parts were short and she’d cover my eyes. Why was this shot of burning buildings so long? Did this movie have any other scenes?

The day of the attacks was a Tuesday, which was a day off for kindergartners and a half day for the rest of my elementary school. My teacher briefly explained to us the following day that some bad people attacked our country with planes. I feel like I learned pretty early on some of these planes came from Boston, departing from Logan Airport, so several of the casualties were local to our metropolitan, but I can’t remember when exactly I learned this. But the day she informed us was otherwise an unremarkable day.

The repetition stuck with me. People said “never forget,” flew the American flag, and just generally exhibited nationalistic pride. But people did it outside of patriotic holidays like Veterans’ Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, or Independence Day. I didn’t understand it. Over time, I heard the phrase “9/11,” and I’d be shown pictures of those towers that got burned in that movie I saw in kindergarten. Overtime, I realized I’d seen it. That was the real news at the time, not the fictitious news in some doomsday movie.

People began talking about censoring things. The Simpsons, a cartoon that tempted me but was forbidden to watch because it was not for kids, had a nuclear power plant in it that blew up sometimes, and over the years networks wanted those episodes shelved because they thought it insensitive to victims and their families. Around 2003 or 2004, my mother finally allowed us to watch this highly-acclaimed show, SpongeBob Squarepants, despite the fact she found it obnoxious. In an episode titled “Just One Bite,” which I felt to be a remake to Dr. Suess’ Green Eggs and Ham, SpongeBob’s cynical colleague Squidward proclaims his dislike for Krabby Patties, despite his never eating one. The first half of the episode has SpongeBob channeling Sam I Am, coaxing Squidward into trying it in a multitude of different settings. Squidward finally caves, but…unlike Green Eggs’ protagonist, Squidward is too prideful to admit his fondness for it. He breaks into the Krusty Krab restaurant during off-hours and suffers two gasoline burns in each doorway in his pursuit. This is done in effort to avoid confronting SpongeBob about his desire for the sandwich.

Except…something was different in the episode around 2007 to 2010. I couldn’t place my finger on it, but it felt shorter and…maybe missing some kind of detail? I shrugged it off for several years, until I came across a Youtube video around 2015 titled “SpongeBob Just One Bite deleted scene”…it was the scene of Squidward getting injured by the gasoline bucket. It was strange. The episode premiered in 2001, during which time I was not allowed to watch it, but the offending scene remained in tact for approximately 10 years after the tragic events of 9/11. Nonetheless, its removal is still seen as aftermath for the occasion.

Similarly, music was scrutinized too. People were sensitive to certain metaphors like “you dropped a bomb on me,” “you light me on fire,” “you are electric,” etc. Lots of pieces in the hip-hop and rock genres were temporarily banned. Today, it seems some circles are warming back up to this kind of hyperbole and explicit displays, but others still seem to have a collective post-traumatic sensitivity of this aggression.

There’s a lot more thoughts I have on this occasion and may create followup posts, especially about the censorship and nationalistic escalations. Anyway, I will conclude to say never forget, and participate in the AmeriCorps day of service if you can to mark this occasion.

Domain update and contact info

Hi readers, you may have noticed since my last post, my blog’s URL has updated. It’s now been shortened to sheiladebonis.com, though sheiladebonis.wordpress.com will navigate you to the same site. I’m just trying this out for now, and I’m unsure if I plan to renew the custom domain for next year. It’s a little daunting the amount of features WordPress has.

Also, with the purchase of my new domain, I also have an email address attached to this blog, sheila@sheiladebonis.com. Last time I tried sending an email from that address, I had some sort of setup delay, probably due to it being newly created, but it may be usable now if you’d like to send me anything. Additionally, I have sheiladebonis@proton.me. Both of these will act as ways to get in touch. I’ll be experimenting with both to see which server I prefer (Proton has the edge as of now, simply because I could begin sending email instantly). These addresses are for followers, the public, and some journalistic pursuits.

It’s pertinent new media personalities have some internet-enabled way to get in touch with fans, but I’m wary of the big social media juggernauts because while they can be decent communication tools, they are isolating, a time-suck, and leave many feeling inadequate about looks, relationships, or jobs. I’d used a few in the past (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat) but they are more trouble than they are worth for me. Please do not bother contacting me in any of those aforementioned places. My accounts are either deleted, privated, or abandoned. Email seems to be the only messaging system I’m still comfortable with. Maybe one day I’ll share my other messaging credentials with my followers (Signal, Telegram, or Discord) but email is simplest now,

Anyway, that’s it. Talk soon,

So many unethical opportunities

As I’ve mentioned before, I have my pride. I am agreeable, but less so nowadays. I am fatigued at employers offering volunteer work or piteously low rates. With age, I’ve learned to be less patient and make more demands.

There is one editorial industry which does often pay handsomely, but I have my pride and my morals to make me refuse this. It’s essay ghostwriting. Yes, I’ve assisted my siblings, friends, and classmates sometimes with their compositions, but never have I completed an assignment entirely on their behalf, their name next to my words. Perhaps if the platforms that offered these services regulated the practice a little more (i.e. the ideas, theses, analysis and research *must* be that of the student’s, and the writer can synthesize them) I may consider. But the way it is now is just a helter-skelter black market.

I’m not going to name these platforms, but you may already know of them. If you search the writing/editing job board on Craigslist from time to time, you’ll see them. Some even try to give an empathetic angle, that people write these essays for new English learners, people with low to no literacy, people with learning disabilities, etc. That’s no excuse. As someone who grew up with a learning disability it’s fine to have a crutch but to have a proxy complete your evaluations for you is insane.

I do really love the tone and flavor of academic writing, and I’d like to continue it, though indeed, don’t have much opportunity for it now as I’m currently unconnected to a school as a student or faculty. But this is not the way to reemerge in the genre.

Proving myself

The reason I maintain this blog, largely, is to prove myself. In my resume, I list one of my occupations as a freelance writer, and sometimes, I feel that’s untrue. I’ve done a few paid projects here and there sporadically, and worked pro bono for a few years, sometimes consistently, but I’m not actively taking on projects. Part of that may be the fault of my dignity and uneasiness with the “gig economy” or social platforms. Years ago, I’d applied for some projects on Fiverr and Freelancer.com, but never got any attention there. Even if I could attract attention on the content mills like those, I might not want it. Folks look to pay meager wages there, and the only people that want to take that kind of work are third-worlders or, people who I alluded to earlier, those who have no dignity.

I, of course, want a full-time job. And in the meantime, I try to freelance, but I don’t have any streamlined strategy to find work. I mainly send queries and pitches, or enter contests. Sometimes editors have these freelancer rosters, where you pass your contact info to them via some form, including links to samples, and indicate what subjects you are interested in writing about. I fill those out sometimes. But “auctioning” myself for a job doesn’t seem right to me. I’m not going to devalue my services just because I want work. Unemployment checks are adequate here and often I’d rather just take them then subject myself to tomfoolery.

Maybe another aspect to my problem is it’s hard to balance out looking for full-time work and project work. Ideally, I want full-time, but sometimes I feel like I have to cycle back to going to project work because of my lack of experience in some areas. For instance, I’d love to write copy. And I’d know how to do it. Growing up, I’d pour over the catalogues from Sears, Lands’ End, L.L. Bean, Sharper Image, Oriental Trading, Toys R Us, Circuit City, Best Buy, HearthSong, among others. The copy on ecommerce brands isn’t as human-centered as it is in paper catalogues. It’s mostly stuffed with keyphrases instead of anything meaningful, and I’d love to fix that. I know how I’d do it, but because I haven’t done it before I’m often passed up on offers. Thus, the way to get experience in copywriting could lie in a freelance contract.

Anyway, I want to make an impact more than anything. I want to leave a trail of beautiful prose and verse whenever someone plugs my name into a search engine. Hopefully that will happen one day, if I, and others, allow myself the opportunity.

Civic duty

This week, I had my first jury duty summons. It was…underwhelming. I kept thinking there was something amiss. You see, after arriving at 8:30am our first day, the judge dismissed us around 10:30am. There were two cases on the docket that day. The first had reached a settlement, and the second had a defendant who waived his jury trial. With a docket of two cases, and a pool of around thirty potential jurors, I was almost certain most of us would be picked. But I guess jurisprudence can change at the last moment.

It feels like when I’d complete a test within a fraction of the allotted time in school. Was the test duplex-printed and I didn’t look at the other side? Did I skip something? Was there some other component I hadn’t heard about? It was just astonishing. I’d been told two months in advance of my summons. I’d pushed off appointments and plans until this week’s conclusion because I was unsure of the duration of my service. I was prepared to be interviewed and analyze things. Truth be told, I thought it would be good practice for job interviews and maybe a chance to network, but I digress.

Anyway, the way my state law is, I won’t have to do this for another three years, if that. I was nervous, but those nerves were in vain. I hope I can make a judicial difference…one day.

Back to fiction

As a new adult, I opted to transition into nonfiction writing because I saw it as more commonplace and utilitarian. I was pretty confident the world could find a place for me there. And I am there, sometimes.

But often nowadays, it’s hard to break into the 24/7 news cycle, coupled with so called pundits pontificating their own commentary and opinions. There are often too many aspects to a story to consider. I am not at the frontlines of the Roe v. Wade overturning, nor the Russian invasion of Ukraine, nor Shinzo Abe’s assassination. I don’t often have a lived experience or connection to events like these. I do feel terrible about them, but to make a statement or write an article about such events sometimes feels like preaching to the choir to me. Sometimes there’s a wealth of disaster to dissect. I cannot often pinpoint the one which aggravates me the most. I cannot always suggest solutions.

Fiction is full of allegories and allusions. Public figures, personal acquaintances, and even other fictional characters can come together in fiction. It can propose new ideas and solutions. It’s both escapism and realism, albeit in another plane. For some reason, fiction is where I’ve been getting more ideas lately. Maybe I’m hanging out with Elliott in Stardew Valley too much (although I couldn’t write a novel-length feature like he could; I’m going to start with stuff at a few thousand words before I get to the hundred-thousands).

Maybe it’s the summertime idleness that’s getting to me, but I often can’t talk about life without making a comparison to something that happened to SpongeBob, or what Fran Fine did once, or the way Hamlet manipulated someone, or how Phoebe Buffay got tricked, or how Arthur Read had this great idea…I know, I have a strange combination of fiction that resonates with me in my mundane world.

Point is, nowadays I really see the place fiction has.

Sometimes I do better than I think I do.

I had an interview a few weeks ago, which I felt went okay until it was time for me to ask questions. They were all about certain privileges of the job, and I got pretty much the same answer for all of them: the privilege would not be available due to the nature of the role being temporary. I felt my questions left a bad impression. I felt one may presume I am haughty or entitled in my concerns over telework, union units, or benefits packages. Of course, I never meant to imply those things are paramount to my employment. I’d worked for this company as a temporary contractor through a staffing firm, and I’d just wondered if there would be any difference between that and working as a temporary employee directly through the company, as this role was.

Anyway, I got an email back today. While I didn’t get the job, I did get feedback that I gave the most detailed responses and answered everything in full. I am so glad I still left a positive impression despite my embarrassment. As someone with NVLD it’s hard for me sometimes to meta-cognitively read how people read me, and I’m so happy when folks directly tell me their thoughts in a gentle way.