May 22, 2013
All roads led to Emilia. I just took too many roads. When I met her, I strutted off a fishing boat straight to college. By the time we finally got together, I was a shambling wreck.
It began in Alaska, as most things for me did. I had just walked off my job as a commercial fisherman for the final time. Here’s something I wrote about that in 2010:
Some are born eyes wide open. They are the few that have an innate understanding of life from the get go. They understand love, and responsibility and the importance of others. I was not one of those people.
I suppose my eyes didn’t really start to open until I was 29. Up until then, I was the typical American boy. Stupid, self-centered, ignorant yet arrogant. I lived in the land of U.S. fantasy, where anyone could be great if they really tried and worked hard. Ronald Reagan was the greatest President ever, because my Dad had said so and I really didn’t care one way or another. I was the prototype American. I was oblivious.
It was 1996, and I was working on a fishing vessel. We were in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. I had been doing that job about four years. I was standing in a huge freezer and we were offloading the 30,000 cases of fish we had just caught.
The freezer was open to the air, and we’d load a pallet full of cases of fish, and the ship’s crane would come down and pick it up, taking it to the dock. So for about a minute, from deep within the ship’s bowels in a freezer, I could look up and see the threatening Alaskan sky. I stood in the freezer as they craned off a pallet of fish and looked up and felt snow hit my face.
I was 29, I was standing in a freezer on a boat on the Aleutian Chain, and it was snowing on me. I thought of going to college for the first time. I knew something had to change.
That was Day One. That was the day my eyes finally began to open.
I would never have met Emilia, a traveling student studying business, had I never gone to Alaska. Or if I had never worked on fishing boats. Or if I had never decided to go to college. Still, I waited six years to close the deal with her. But, apparently, other roads needed to be taken to get to her.
My wife was born in the state of Minas Gerais in the southwest of Brazil. While our cultures aren’t exceedingly different, differences show up daily. She once told me about watching “Moonstruck” as a kid. Knowing only Brazil, Emilia was shocked that the Nick Cage character – a lowly baker – could live in such a nice apartment.
“That’s how it is in the United States,” her father told her. “Jobs like that pay enough for people to be able to afford to live well.”
Ah, those were the days. A young Emilia would recognize the U.S. much easier today. Because labor is cheap, and it’s just going to get cheaper. Unless people snap out of it.
(Note 1: The full story can be found on the Wolfrum Chronicled Main Page.)
(Note 2: For an explainer on this project, please go here.)
May 21, 2013
Hold the phone. I just realized that this process allows me to post reviews of the book, while I’m writing the book. And, yes, I’m calling it a book. I have to call it something.
Anyway, Hugh from the Internet had this to say about the first three chapters:
Thanks, Hugh. We’ll see if we can keep the ball rolling in Chapter 5.
Writing has become a tough racket. I mean, the cream will still rise to the top and get notoriety and money, but the rest of us are left battling for a dwindling amount of scraps. Also, supply is through the roof. Suddenly, everyone’s a writer. I mean, I don’t mind the bad writers so much, but there are an inordinately number of good writers out there. Take Chris Kluwe, a friggin’ NFL punter:
I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life. They won’t come into your house and steal your children. They won’t magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster. They won’t even overthrow the government in an orgy of hedonistic debauchery because all of a sudden they have the same legal rights as the other 90 percent of our population—rights like Social Security benefits, child care tax credits, Family and Medical Leave to take care of loved ones, and COBRA healthcare for spouses and children. You know what having these rights will make gays? Full-fledged American citizens just like everyone else, with the freedom to pursue happiness and all that entails. Do the civil-rights struggles of the past 200 years mean absolutely nothing to you?
That was in an open letter to an anti-Gay rights politician. And how good was that? Crap, I can’t get my points across that well. Which brings me to the next problem for me: I’m really not that great of a writer. I’m sure you’ve caught on to this by now. I’m a good thinker. And I have a strong voice. So I do have that going for me. Plus I have good hair. And I think that matters.
Don’t get me wrong, however. I’m happy with where I am. Sure, I don’t make the big bucks – or any bucks – yet, but I’m getting there I had a 10-year journalism career at newspapers and magazines. I’ve been featured in the New York Times – twice – as well as the Washington Post and a ton of other big publications. I have 12,000 followers on Twitter, including movers and shakers like Ana Marie Cox. And let’s be honest, I did my part in tweeting out the vote and helping President Barack Obama win re-election.
In the end, I have to say that Arianna Huffington and The Huffington Post has helped create an Internet full of people who write for free, in search of that almighty exposure. Well, speaking as someone who’s had plenty of exposure that you can’t buy anything with it. She also created an internet full of sneak sideboob pictures of female celebrities. Quite the legacy.
Nonetheless, things are good for me. My star is rising. Still, it’s a tough racket.
I like my name. William K. Wolfrum. It has gravitas. It can sound a little too German, perhaps. Like, if you read a story that sa “92-year-old Nazi William K. Wolfrum was arrested for his crimes against humanity today …,” you wouldn’t blink an eye. Maybe this is why I have such confidence in my future. The name just can’t fail. It’s no “Shaquille O’Neal,” but it’s pretty tight.
The “K” stands for “Kenneth,” by the way. Which has no significance. It was just a name my mom liked. Here in Brazil, middle names have meaning. A child is given his mother’s maiden name as a middle name. When a woman marries, she either changes her name by removing her mother’s maiden name and making her father’s last name her middle name, or she takes on two middle names. My wife, for instance, is Emilia Albernaz Arantes Wolfrum. It’s a long name, but at least it has meaning.
Oh yeah, I’m married and live in Brazil. I should probably talk about that next. It’ll get good reviews.
(Note 1: The full story can be found on the Wolfrum Chronicled Main Page.)
(Note 2: For an explainer on this project, please go here.)
May 20, 2013
By William K. Wolfrum
I’m doing this because I’m trying to make some money. Plain and simple. My wife and I just finished building a house and I had to borrow $10,000 from my Dad. And I don’t pay it back immediately, I may go mad. Owing money to the man who single-handedly made me a wreck on all issues monetary is not something I can deal with at the moment. Seriously, the guy can squeeze blood from a penny. Yet while he’s squeezing, $1,000 falls out of his pocket and he’s none the wiser.
SPOILER ALERT: This will not be a book about my daddy issues.
Let’s try this again: I have known for several years now that if I wrote a book, or anything even remotely book-like, it would be successful. The main reason being that I’ve got contacts. Media titans like Jake Tapper follow me on Twitter and have let me know that they’d promote my work. I just had to produce some actual work, as it were.
Now, everyone thinks they have a book in them. Something to chronicle their lives and adventures. And most are right to believe their lives have great moments of drama, comedy and tragedy. There just tends to be no plot except that everything gets really nasty and tragic on a long enough timeline. Experiences happen, and we move forward. Life is not a movie and things don’t wrap up nicely. Things just continue, good or bad. All of this, of course, can lead to a fulfilling life. It just doesn’t make for rational storytelling. Very few of us have that one experience or adventure that defines us, that gives us a proper end to our story, that leads us to living happily ever after.
I can’t tell you if there’s a plot to this whole thing. I just know it’s time to let people know how I got here.
I keep thinking of this as an Austerity-era book. That it meets the needs of those who feel people should get less. On the bright side, this book shouldn’t lead to rampant unemployment and social unrest. I mean, that would be awesome if it did, but I should try and be realistic.
My left arm came out first when I was born, with my doctor using said left arm to pull me into this world. My little arm was paralyzed for a day or so afterward. Currently, I have bursitis in my left shoulder. Are these two events connected? So many questions.
Anyway, that’s how I was born. I was the youngest, with two older sisters who are eight and seven years older than I. That’s one of those things that cause people to raise their eyebrows and nod knowingly when they first learn about it. And they are probably correct in all their assumptions.
Mostly, though, my youth was spent engulfed in ignorant Americanism. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you. I played sports, watched “Happy Days” and listened to pop music. I knew what was taught in school and not a lick more unless it was about sports. I was good at sports and funny, so I didn’t get picked on. I was a happy, American kid. My youth was fun, but it essentially taught me nothing.
I used to work on fishing boats awhile back. I’ll discuss that more later. I tend to discuss it a lot because I have a firm belief that discussing my time as a commercial fisherman makes me look like a brave, rugged hero who has a penis that women should crave. Or something like that. Anyway, the boat I worked on was about 50 percent American and 50 percent Japanese. The Japanese were hard-working and stoic, and would warm up to you if you proved you were willing to work hard. As surprising as it seemed, I fit that bill and earned friendships with some of them, including a man name Nakasuka.
Here’s something I wrote about him in 2007:
I spent a good chunk of my twenties as a commercial fisherman in Alaska. It’s one of those things that appears fantastic in hindsight – steaming out of Dutch Harbor, wind blowing through my hair, muscles rippling, etc.
In reality, of course, it was a hellish collection of freezing 18-hour work days, surrounded by fish. Overall, an interesting thing to have in your past. At the time, though, it more or less sucked.
One thing those days taught me is that when scientists claim that the world could be out of fish in 40 years, they aren’t just hysterical eco-bedwetters. Even then, more than a decade ago, one was told about the decline of fish in the Bering Sea. And one could see how man abused the sea.
I particularly remember my first trip. Three months on a trawler, which was three months too many. We’d send a huge net down deep in the ocean and scoop up everything available. We fished mainly for mackerel, but the seasons were limited. On the day that mackerel season closed, we went in search of Pacific Ocean Perch (POP).
POP is a red fish, very easy to differentiate from mackerel. The first time we dropped the net for the start of POP season, we pulled up a full net of fish. Full of mackerel. As mackerel season had been closed, we weren’t allowed to keep any of them.
It took us just two hours to process the net of fish that day, as we sent 20,000 pounds of dead mackerel back into the ocean. The boat was filled with depressed young fishermen, wondering what the hell they were doing out there. It was an extremely sad day.
I was thinking about those days recently, more to the point, thinking of the Japanese guys I worked with out there on longliners (after my trawler experience, I worked the rest of my time out there on longliners, which are much less wasteful). You see, a Japanese company owned 49 percent (the most allowed) of our company, and always had several workers on board.
I was thinking of Nakasuka, in particular. He was a hardworking guy, who was as old then as I am now, about 40. While not a big fan of Americans in particular, Nakasuka (Suka, for short) would take a liking to anyone, provided they worked hard enough. We worked together for the better part of three years, and got along well, despite not understanding each other’s language.
What struck me as I thought about Suka was this – he’s out there. Right now. Because that’s what he is – a fisherman.
It was part of the reason the Japanese we worked with tended to dislike Americans. Because while the trite phrase of “They hate us for our freedoms” is a load of crap when discussing terrorists, it was partly true on a fishing boat. The Americans there were destined to leave the boat to try other things. The Japanese were fisherman for life.
The translator on board (we had a total crew of less than 40, and the translator also was a worker) told me once that for these Japanese men, being a fisherman was honorable. The culture itself was one that mainly cared about money – the only way for you to be successful was to make a lot of it. But fisherman were respected, even though they weren’t rich. They brought home the food.
But they were definitely jealous. We could come and go as we pleased, but their lives were mapped out, and had been for a long time.
Even then I knew I eventually wanted to be a writer or a journalist at some point, and I sit here now with those things as my job description. While Nakasuka is floating on the Bering Sea, still.
Because Americans are free. In our culture, we still make our own paths, rather than having them built for us, as Suka had. Since then, however, Japanese culture has changed somewhat dramatically. The young have more choices and opportunity. Suka missed out on that, but his children likely haven’t.
Because cultures change. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. What’s important for Americans, however, is to hold on to the one thing that we always hearken to – freedom. But as U.S. culture changes, and freedom becomes more and more attached to wealth, and freedoms become under appreciated, we need to fight to keep our rights as free men.
Was my time as a fisherman a wasted time of a wasted youth? To a point. But it was my choice, my decision, my experience. The pain and the cold and the wet have slowly left my mind, but the memories and lessons remain.
The main lesson was that I’ve been free to do whatever I’ve wanted, just about anywhere I wanted. That was the blessing, and I can only hope that future U.S. generations have the same freedom to have interesting experiences, or even make outlandish mistakes. Because cultures change. And not always for the better.
My dad wanted me to be a Major League Baseball player. Or he wanted me to take over his trucking company. If I wanted to do anything else, that was fine. But it wasn’t up to him or my mom to help me chart any courses. I appreciate the freedom I’ve always had to make the choices I wanted. That freedom has helped me make me the man I am today. But maybe, just maybe, if my parents could have had a little Japanese in them, they could have helped guide me to being the man I was supposed to be.
Either way, my left shoulder would still hurt.
Spoiler Alert II: Seriously, I’ll stop with the Daddy Issues.
(Note 1: The full story can be found on the Wolfrum Chronicled Main Page.)
(Note 2: For an explainer on this project, please go here.
May 20, 2013
I’ve had this Web site for a decade now. It’s gone through a couple transformations through the years, but has always served primarily as a place for me to write. It’s why I splashed my name all over the joint.
With that in mind, and to celebrate 10 years here, I am undertaking a grand experiment. Or at least, an experiment, grandeur TBD. Over the next several weeks, if not few months, I will be using this blog to put together a book, of sorts. This book will be a fictionalized, satirical, semi-autobiographical look at an aging writer trying to find his way. The protagonist is named William K. Wolfrum.
I’m going into this with the belief that the only place this will be published is my blog. Thus, I will be using things like hyperlinks, and will include Youtube clips to provide a soundtrack, so to speak. While I have been working on this idea for some time and know the story I want to tell, this process of writing will allow to include real-time news and social-media responses. This story will be told traditionally using sections and chapters, but some chapters will essentially be political and social musings, while some will be little more than tweet-length. As this progresses, I believe you will see patterns emerge.
While I will post the story on the blog as blog posts, the whole story can be seen in order, at the Wolfrum Chronicled Main Page. All updates and edits will takes place on this page, and I will notify readers of any edits that affect the plot.
This will be my main task until it is finished. I hope you enjoy this experiment, and please know that comments are welcomed and that I can be reached here or at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in donating any amount to this project, I will periodically place links to my Paypal account.
Also, as Twitter will be a character in this story, you may follow me here: @Wolfrum
May 19, 2013
Really. I know I’ve hurt you all in the past with false proclamations. But there’s something coming …
May 6, 2013
DULUTH – In a scene of overwhelming carnage, Bobby Jenkins, 9, brutally murdered more than 100,000 people, zombies, and other entities yesterday.
The slaughter began at 3:30 p.m. yesterday, when Sally Jenkins, mother of Bobby, allowed her son to play the video game “Slaughter Everything.” After doing some bills, Sally Jenkins stumbled across the murder scene and immediately sent young Bobby to his room.
“It was really unsettling,” said Sally Jenkins. “He was just going crazy, slaughtering everybody.”
While his mother was upset at the murder rampage, her son seemed to have no remorse for his actions.
“That was AWESOME,” said Bobby.
There is currently no investigation into the mass murder, and families of the deceased have been urged to continue playing their roles in the video game. Sally Jenkins said that there was a positive side to the scene of what many are calling genocide.
“At least his 2-year-old sister is still alive,” said Sally Jenkins. “And so are our neighbors and his schoolmates. Maybe I should just make sure he plays video games compatible for someone his age.”
April 22, 2013
NEW YORK — The writing style of satire was blown up in a suicide attack at its home in the upper West side of Manhattan. Snark and Snide Disregard were also injured in the attack and are currently in intensive care.
Satire, which gained prominence via writers like Jonathan Swift and Voltaire, has struggled to find its footing recently in the Internet-driven world, as more and more satire is associated with mindless attacks, sophomoric humor and the oft-imitated “Breaking” news story. Satire reached a low point recently when the magazine “The New Yorker” hired Andy Borowitz, who then proceeded to write the exact same story 175 consecutive times.
“These are dark times,” said mediocre, little-known satirist William K. Wolfrum. “Colbert may be able to resuscitate satire, but the rest of us are just repeating the same crap over and over.”
No one has yet come forward to claim credit for the attack, but some are speculating that it could be the result of readers demanding more during troubling times. At Fox news, Sean Hannity claimed this had all the earmarks of an Al Qaeda attack, but that he didn’t really understand satire, anyway, so who cares?
More on this story as it develops …
April 15, 2013
Over in North Korea, Kim Jong-Un has spent the better part of the month threatening to vaporize South Korea, the United States, and anyone else who wants a little vaporization. Now, generally, when a leader of a nation with nuclear capabilities makes wild, outlandish threats, the rest of the world pays attention, for reasons of vaporization avoidance.
For the 30-year-old Jong-Un, however, the threats have mostly been ignored or outright ridiculed. Basically, Jong-Un could have gotten more notice from the world had he made his threats from Guantanamo Bay. Justin Bieber being ignorant of Anne Frank caused more international waves than North Korea threatening to blow up everything.
And the simple fact is that the world’s response to Jong-Un’s temper tantrum has been spot on. The young dictator is doing what his dad did – rattle sabers, try to look strong, and hopefully get something out of it. North Korea poses absolutely no threat to the United States, and very little to South Korea, even. This is not to say an out-of-control North Korea couldn’t cause damage, but the fact is that even a 30-year-old dictator learns something quickly – you can’t be dictator if your country is blow to bits.
When it comes to nuclear weapons, any threat should be taken seriously. Except for this one. An all-out nuclear attack by North Korea would likely result in North Korea nuking the hell out of North Korea. But even that won’t happen. So let Jong-Un talk. Hopefully, he’ll have said all he has to say before Kim Kardashian has her baby and we can all pay attention to the important things.
March 26, 2013
Guys, want to avoid raping a girl? It’s easy enough if you follow the “Yes Means Yes” guideline. You see, consent is the key ingredient in consensual sex. How do you know when a girl says yes? Just use these following photos as guidelines:
This means no.
This means no.
This means Yes!
It’s pretty much that simple. But for more handy tips on how to avoid being a rapist, head on over to the Yes Means Yes blog.
March 22, 2013
My wife was bitten by the “Jaws” bug at a young age, and is terrified of sharks until til today. So this video is for her:
March 11, 2013
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama banned the controversial drone program here today, and reaction to the move was swift, as every other country on the planet immediately announced they would do the same, even France, which has a well-earned reputation of being a pain in the ass on these types of matters.
The move to ban drones was met by complete bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, with even staunch defense supporters like warmongering angry white guy Sen. John McCain giving it a thumbs up.
“This is just great,” said McCain, who appeared to be choking on something. “Really, great.”
Many experts, like William K. Wolfrum, the writer of this blog post, had said getting a handle on the drone issue was vital and would require a great deal of work.
“Getting a handle on the drone issue was vital and would require a great deal of work,” said Wolfrum, who just lazily cut-and-pasted that. “I had assumed it would require a bipartisan, national and international movement. But, what the hell do I know?”
Aside from banning all future drones, Obama signed an executive order to destroy all available drones, cease work on them, release all documents regarding drone usage, accuse himself of war crimes, impeach himself and give himself a lengthy jail sentence. Obama said that someone finally told him that predator drones have killed untold innocent civilians in nations like Yemen and Pakistan, and that killing civilians only further increases radicalization.
“They told me that and I was like, ‘Woah,’ and stuff,” said Obama. “If I killed innocent civilians, I must be jailed for war crimes. I would have no moral standing if I didn’t. Also, I was born in Kenya.”
In other news to further showcase how over-the-top this post has become, the stars of “Finding Bigfoot,” today found Bigfoot, who, for all intents and purposes, seems like a fine fellow. It’s goal achieved, the show has been cancelled to make room for “Bigfoot & Honey Boo Boo.”
March 7, 2013
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama – in an attempt to ease tensions with Senate Republicans – bought a dozen GOP senators dinner last night, in what all have said was a pleasant evening. The dinner was held at the Jefferson Hotel, with Obama picking up the tab out of his own pocket.
The 12 senators – John McCain, Tom Coburn, Bob Corker, Kelly Ayotte, Dan Coats, Richard Burr, Mike Johanns, Pat Toomey, Ron Johnson, John Hoeven, Lindsey Graham and Saxby Chambliss – were all so moved by the President’s largess, that all switched their party affiliation to communist immediately following the dinner.
“If this is communism, it’s delicious!” said Johnson, who dined on shrimp risotto. “The people United cannot be divided! And neither will a check when Barack is around.”
Following the dinner, all 12 senators said they would back any plan the President had on any issue, and will work to convince their GOP colleagues that “communism is where it’s at,” as McCain said.
“The President today showed his true stripes – striped bass that is!” said Coburn, wearing a Che Guevarra T-shirt. “Seriously though, President Obama is a great man and I’ll do anything for him now. Anything. Name it.”
While some of the 12 senators stated they wished now Obama would be more liberal and buy them dessert, the dinner was a major victory for the President. The dinner was also a victory for American political pundits, who have long stated that if Obama was only nicer to Republicans, then everything would be cool.
March 4, 2013
Via Jonathan Cait at New York Magazine:
Boehner’s gambit here is perfectly obvious. He wants to cut a deal with Obama, but understands that doing so would result in him getting fired from his job. But since “my members are so crazy they won’t even let me negotiate” is not a strong message to bring to a high-profile showdown, Boehner can’t say that. Instead he’s going with the time-honored method of just saying a bunch of words about politics until the interviewer gets tired of it and moves on.
Read the whole thing here.
February 18, 2013
My brother-in-law Marcelo struggled mightily coming out of the closet. While I and a handful of his closest friends and relatives knew he was Gay, he kept his true self hidden until he was 31. The combination of Brazilian culture and a male-dominated family made coming out seem impossible to Marcelo.
A little more than two years ago, he had enough. With the support of those of us who knew his secret, he came out to everyone. And for a man who had lived in pure terror of his true self being public, the end result was glorious. Marcelo was embraced as the man he is, and congratulated for having the courage to come out.
“It was like a fart in the ocean,” Marcelo said.
Last week, American professional soccer player Robbie Rogers announced he was a Gay man. In doing so, Rogers became the rare athlete in a team sport to come out. And while the taboo of Gay male professional athletes in team sports may remain, the reaction by Rogers’ fellow players was quick and positive:
The reactions to Rogers’ announcement came fast and furious and showcased how far American sports have come. And while Rogers said he was retiring from soccer, his former coach made it clear he was welcome back whenever he was ready.
“Yesterday I thought he was a very good player, and I still think that today,” Chicago Fire coach Frank Klopas said in a team statement. “Should Robbie want to return to the game, we would still be open to him being part of the Fire.”
I have written about the absence of openly gay male players in American team sports. It has long been groused upon that a Gay athlete would be a nuisance to the team and a divider in the locker room. The reactions to Rogers’ announcement shows that today’s athletes are more than ready to accept a Gay teammate.
For those who have complained about celebrities coming out of the closet, this should be proof of why it matters. Today’s athletes have known Ellen DeGeneres and Neil Patrick Harris and other LGBTs for their entire lives. They have grown up less ignorant and more accepting of the LGBT community. This has led to athletes like Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo openly and loudly supporting marriage equality. And it has led to the outpouring of support for Rogers.
The fight obviously continues. Aside from marriage equality, there are still too many rights the LGBT community do not receive. But with his teammates’ support and the general public treating his announcement like a fart in the ocean, Rogers has shown that Americans – especially younger Americans – are on the side of acceptance. And this is something to celebrate.
February 16, 2013
Brazilian actor/filmmaker Ariel Goldemberg was born with two things – Down Syndrome and a love of cinema. The cinemaphile has finished his first movie, which combines both these things – the critically acclaimed “Colega” – and is now after the finishing touch for his movie – to have his hero Sean Penn watch the movie with him.
The film is about three friends with Down Syndrome who break out of the institution they are living at, and go on an adventure that teaches them about life and that there are no boundaries in their way to live a full one.
Goldemberg made the above video in his pitch to get Penn to come to Brazil to has been viewed more than 1.2 million times, and includes pleas from Brazilian stars Neymar, Juliana Paes, Xuxa, and others. The video has spawned the Twitter hashtag #VEMSEANPENN.
“Colegas” will premiere in Brazil on March 1, and Goldemberg and his growing fan base are hoping against hope that the talented and eclectic Penn will be there. So pass it around, let’s help a young filmmaker meet his biggest inspiration.
Vem Sean Penn!