Friday, October 30, 2009

Musical Interlude

“And I think it’s gonna be a long long time til touch down brings me ‘round again to find I’m not the man they think I am at home, oh no, I’m a Rocket man, burning out his fuse up here alone.”—Elton John, Rocket Man

“People always told me that bars are dark and lonely, and talk is often cheap and filled with air. Sure, sometimes they thrill me, but nothing seems to chill me, like the way they make the time just disappear.”—My Morning Jacket, Golden

Man, I can’t find a decent video to “Golden,” which I wanted to share today. Core dump. Instead I’ll have to embed this video, which isn’t anything special, but it does let you hear the wonderful song that I’m talking about.

It’s really quite amazing how music affects some people and does nothing for others. For me, music is a large part of who I am and how I go about my day. When I can close my eyes and listen to the exciting combination of voice and instrument come together in a beautiful mix, it’s like I can feel something working that’s right and pure.

On some days one song may inspire, while on another it could just be noise to me. But no matter what, I have to have music playing if I’m going to be productive. I usually prefer slower, folkier, acoustic sounds when I’m concentrating or trying to be artistic. And for some reason, on rainy days I like to go through my ipod and play songs that are about rain. Sometimes, though, I feel like playing very loud stuff, just to get the fun and energy from the music.

And listening to music almost always makes me want to pick up my guitar or sit down at the piano and play. There’s something immensely satisfying just feeling the frets beneath my calloused fingers as the steel strings are pressed. It’s comforting and unchanging. It’s relaxing and pleasurable. WARNING: YOU SHOULD SKIP THE REST OF THE POST. IT’S POINTLESS. JUST WATCH THE VIDEO AND SAVE YOURSELF THE TIME AND AGONY OF READING THE REST.

I don’t know what the point of today’s post is. There’s no insight, little musing, and a music video. My mind feels like it’s going a million different places at once, like there are avenues of my brain that need to be explored, but I don’t understand. I do like lists, though.

1. My Xbox 360 arrived yesterday via UPS. I set it all up and then the darned thing wouldn’t turn on. Apparently the power supply brick/cord is broken, which is a common problem I discovered. So I get to ship it back to Best Buy and have it either replaced or refunded. Bummer.

2. I made yet another cheesecake last night, this one a simple, plain cheesecake. I’m thinking about putting a spider web design on it for the Halloween party, but I’m not certain.

3. The fan, to my left, sitting on the filing cabinet, above the computer, right next to my Boba Fett bobble-head figure, is wobbling, wobbling wobbling.

4. Do you ever think about the community of bloggers and how cool it is that we can communicate across the world with people? How, in my case, the love for a single book (The Name of the Wind) can connect you with people that have similar, yet different, tastes? It’s amazing, I daresay, what we have.

5. I can see myself sixty years from now being a crazy old man, his mind shot and addled, unable to discern the difference between reality and fiction. Space cars will whizz by me as I walk down the sidewalk, toward the Old Timers Park, where people like me will gather to remember.

6. I’m not in a mellow mood, but at the same time I am. I’m confident that I’m not doing all that I should be doing, but I wonder how I can actually do more. Does that make sense?

7. This one’s right-justified, just because it’s awesome. I signed up for a free Snuggie. I hope against hope that it’s not a scam. What’s cooler than a Snuggie?

8. I think I’m going to try and put a blurb of my NaNoWriMo story up on my author’s page, available here. If you’re interested in following my progress or anything like that, that’s where all the info will be.

9. Beware and abstain from tofu.

10. As a fun, side project, I recently started writing an epic poem. It’s probably the most fun I’ve had writing in a really long time. This doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy writing and that I don’t have fun, but this poem is an attempt at comedy, and I’ve found myself laughing at my own jokes, which I think is okay. I’ll probably be sharing that for the next installment of Writing Wednesdays.

11. I had this weird and terribly sad, but ultimately happy, dream last night. We (I’m not sure who that includes, but definitely me and Keisha) were hanging out on this pier with somebody that had made this device that let people fly in the winds. For some reason we decided Stella, our perfect puppy, needed to try it out. As soon as she was in the air the winds picked up and she went flying off into the horizon, leaving me and Keisha screaming for help and a puppy barking in terror. I took off flying after her, but she was too far gone and I couldn’t find her. Far, far away I landed at my mom’s giant mansion on the ocean (we live in KY, so I don’t know how that’s possible) and was tired and sick and sad. Then, all of a sudden, a soaking wet and horribly distraught puppy crawls onto the sandy shore, and when she sees me she breaks into a run and jumps into my arms and starts licking me. Then I woke up. Of course I pulled my puppy close to me and scratched her belly. Man, I love that little thing.

Usually, my Friday posts are a different sort of post. By Friday, I’m burned out and ready for the weekend, and by Monday I’m ready to start posting again. Sometimes I have things to muse on, but usually I just cap-off the week with a crappy post. Dang, I wrote more than I thought. Blah. Such is the life.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween’s A-Comin’

In the spirit of the season, I shall postpone my review of STAR WARS: Fate of the Jedi: Omen until a later time, which may be tomorrow, or may be never.  Now that that’s done, that means I’m starting (finally) on Joe Abercrombie’s The Last Argument of Kings today at lunch.  I cannot wait to dive in and see what’s going to happen there and see how The First Law series ends.

Enough of that.  Let’s take a look at some Halloween themed stuff.Scoobie Doo Remix Zombie1.  Post-Apocalypse survival.  Growing up a fan of Scooby-Doo, this picture blows me away.  I can imagine the world in which Velma and Scooby find themselves in, but I wonder what sacrifices they were forced to make to survive.  “Jinkies,” I can hear Velma say, “this post-apocalyptic vampire and zombie infested wasteland is a tough life, eh, Scoob?”  Anyway, I thought the image was pretty cool, and this could be an interesting comic/Adult Swim show idea.  This image originates from here, by the way, if you’re interested.

I’m not sure what it is about the post-apocalyptic genre that I love so very much, but I do like it.  Whether it’s reading a book or playing a game like Fallout 3, there’s something very attractive in the post-apoc setting.

2.  Zombies.  I found a very interesting article called “Zombie 101,” written by Matt Zoller Seitz.  Basically there is a few paragraphs written about zombies and their cultural significance to us, which is interesting to read.  However, at the end of the article, Seitz has created a 12 minute video essay that really drives home the point.  The essay pays homage to all sorts of zombie films and I really enjoyed watching it.  You can find the article and essay here.

Have you noticed that recently both zombies and vampires have become very, very popular?  I’m sure Twilight had something to do with the vampire revival, but I have no clue what started up the zombie revolution.  I grew up with zombies, and I can remember my mom waking me up at night when I was a wee lad to watch a movie with her because she was scared to watch it alone.  That movie was Night of the Living Dead, the defining zombie movie.  (Okay, in the haziness of my mind it may not actually be NotLD, but I’m pretty sure it was one of Romero’s classic B&W zombie movies.)

3.  Jack-O’-Lanterns.  This year I’ve decided to do some actual pumpkin carving other than a traditional Jack-face.  I’ve not chosen exactly what I want to carve yet, but I have narrowed down my options.  There are a lot of ideas out there, and some cool stencils, too, if you’re interested in trying it out.  If it turns out good, I’ll try to post a picture.

4.  Candy.  Man oh man oh man do I love candy.  Hard candy, like Runts, Gobstoppers, Sprees, Nerds, Sweet Tarts, Bottlecaps, and suckers, are a constant nag to my sweet-desiring mouth.  Soft candy, like Chewy Sprees, Skittles, Shock Tarts, and Gummy anythings, are an equal temptation for me to scorn.  And then there’s chocolate.  There’s just something that’s hard to ignore when you’ve got chocolate, especially dark chocolate, tempting you, calling out to you, begging you to bite into its wonderful bark.  And adding peanut butter to the chocolate is often something I cannot refuse.  Dang, now I really want some candy.  Maybe I can convince my brother-in-law or my cousins to part with some of their loot after the party this weekend.

I hope you all are ready for Halloween.  I know I am.  Plus, I’m planning on making another cheesecake for the party this weekend.  I may try and put a Halloween spin on it, even, if I think I’m up to the challenge.

(NaNoWriMo is approaching quickly, and I, like Dave, am chomping at the bit.  Actually, I’ve cheated a bit and wrote a few things down in my planning stage.  But I’ve justified myself, telling myself that I have to still write 50,000 words in November.  And I’m getting my 360 today…)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Writing Wednesdays: The American Dreamer 1.4

This is Part 5 of 6 of The American Dreamer, Part One. The previous parts are all linked by following the "The American Dreamer" label at the bottom of this post or by clicking the link you just read over. I hope you enjoy. The part of Rooster is probably one of my favorite parts that I've written so far. And, as always, comments are welcome.

I know exactly what he’s going through. I’ve been there, too. Kind of. Back when I was a little boy I would have these peculiar dreams, and everybody told me that I was crazy. Ha! But I kept on telling ‘em anyway. Telling ‘em that the world would come to a stand-still, that there’d be bloodshed like they ain’t never seen before. And I was right, too. In 1871, the Great Civil War started up. I was seventeen. An’ I told ‘em, too. But I went and joined in the war, fighting for my country and all. I took a bullet to the scalp. Yep. The hot lead went right into my head. I kept on a-fightin’, too, with blood just running down my face. Men were running away from me, like I was fightin’ for Satan’s Army. ‘Course, I was seeing more than just blood, it was the lust for battle, too. I killed twenty-nine rebels that day. Some with a musket, some with my saber, and some with my bare hands. Finally I lost enough blood that I collapsed on the battlefield, amongst the corpses. My vision went black and I passed into the Land of the Dead. There I had a dream like I’ve nary had before, but what it was about I swore I wouldn’t tell. No sir. Like John the Revelator, my lips are sealed. But I woke up. I guess several days had passed. I was in a hospital, with all those poor sods that were missing arms or legs or both. I had a bandage o’er this eye here and an awful headache, but at least I woke up. Just like that boy did, too.

I still don’t even know who this man is. He’s been talking to me for a while, but I have no clue what his name is or what he wants with me. Fix his mistakes? What mistakes? He talks so fast that I find it hard to keep up and grasp what he’s saying. I hate to interrupt him, but I have to. “Excuse me,” I hear myself say. My voice is deeper than I remember.
The man stops speaking and looks at me with surprised eyes. “What is it, Hank?”
“You seem to know all about me, but I have no idea who you are. And,” I add hastily, “would you mind talking a bit slower? It’s hard for me to focus.”
He smiles a broad grin, his mustache spreading thin over his lips. His teeth are slightly yellow. “I apologize. I must have assumed that you would remember me, but I don’t know why I thought that. Ahem. My name is Dr. Nikola Tesla, but you can call me Nik.”
My mind snaps to attention at the mention of his name. Tesla? That’s the name I keep seeing in my dreams. Suddenly I’m not sure whether or not I should trust this man. He seems amiable and friendly enough, but I’m uncertain.
“What’s the matter, Hank? You’ve paled.”
“Your name. It’s familiar. I’m not sure why.”
“Maybe you’re remembering me. Let me give you something to help you with your memory and your attention. I developed this as an alternative to caffeine.” He rummages through his desk and pulls out a small metal bead. It begins to glow, faint orange like the corridor’s lights. “You simply swallow it as you would any common tincture.” He slides the bead across the table.
“How does it work?” I ask, picking it up. It’s slightly warm, but not hot.
“It is like a magnet but for energy. It will attract electrodes all around you, drawing them to the bead. When the electrodes pass through your body they will charge your blood, which in turn will charge the brain. Eventually the bead will dissolve, but that one should last for a while.”
I swallow the ball. What can it hurt? I’m already lost as it is. Immediately I can tell the change. As soon as the bead is down my throat I can feel an addition of pressure all around me, like everything is pushing on me. Tesla can see my distress.
“Don’t worry, Hank. You’ll get used to it pretty fast. I have one inside me, too. It really helps you stay alert and fresh, so much so that sleep is all but impossible.” Is there a slight wink in his eye, or am I imagining that?
My skin tingles everywhere. Even my hair feels it. It’s almost as if I’m connected to everything in this room. Glimpses of my life flash through my mind. A small boy in a growing town. A scared boy on the run. A soldier in a strange future. An incredibly old man, telling stories to children. A man sitting in a stadium, watching innocent people die. A secret wedding with a beautiful woman.
It’s overwhelming what all I see and process. I did not expect this. It’s still disorienting and confusing, but things begin to make sense. But why? Why is it like this? I imagine I am like a baby bursting from the womb, alive and anew. “What have you done to me?” I roar, no longer content and complacent.
Tesla shirks back, startled by my outburst. “I did not expect that to work that quickly,” he mouths, pulling at his collar. His eyes look suddenly very tired. He sags into his chair. “I suppose I should have given you that earlier. Perhaps I should restart, eh?” It’s a rhetorical question, but I nod anyway.
“I was traveling through Budapest when I found you. You were young, hungry and dying. I had an idea that I had been working on, but I’d never tried it out on anyone. Then, seeing that you were doomed anyway, I decided to test my experiment on you. So, I took you. At first, it seemed that it was not going to work, but I did not give up on my ambitions.
“I finally succeeded shortly after we arrived in France. Honestly, I felt a bit like my childhood hero, Dr. Victor Frankenstein. I could see his errors and I knew that I could be above them. But, as you were not dead, I did not have the guilt he must have felt. Instead, I had the hope of sparing a life.
“You began to recover quickly, and within a week you were completely whole. You were very young, and would not remember any of this, so I decided to conduct my grand experiment. I hired a family to adopt you and keep watch over you, as if they were your own flesh and blood. Then, we went to America.”

Mrs. Imogene Epperson
Hank was always a great student. He participated in the classroom, and always finished his homework. He endured hardships when he first started his schooling here, mainly over his skin coloring, but also from his strange choice of words. It was almost like he had a touch of insanity, but he was too smart for that. I just attributed it to an overly imaginative brain. But after he woke up from his coma, things changed for him. He acted differently, towards me, towards his peers, even towards his studies. I’m sad to say it, but he never returned to school after his recovery. Shortly after that, he left Mt. Easter.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are, A Review

Where The Wild Things Are Like most folks under the age of 40, I read Where the Wild Things Are when I was in elementary school. The book, written by Maurice Sendak, was a particular favorite, alongside classics like Green Eggs & Ham (by Dr. Seuss), Love You Forever (by Robert Munsch), and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (by Judith Viorst). Yes, I remember really liking Where the Wild Things Are, especially from the fascinating art and vivid imagination of the protagonist, Max.

When I first heard about the movie adaptation last year, I was hesitantly excited. I wasn’t sure how there could be a movie made from a short, ten sentence picture book, but I still decided that I would see it.

Where the Wild Things Are, directed by Spike Jonze, stars Max Records as Max from the book. (I know, it’s kind of ironic, but it’s the truth according to Wikipedia.) The movie is quite similar to book in several ways, but there are many creative avenues pursued by Jonze as well. The film runs for just over an hour and a half.

The acting from the movie was solid and well done, and the emotions on Max’s young face were perfectly captured for his scenes. His anger was vivid, his sadness was evident, and his joy was impossible not to notice. In fact, this role was only Record’s second filmed acting role, and his performance was noteworthy. In addition to the fine acting by Records, the voice acting of the Wild Things was top notch. Many well known actors fill these roles, and all do a great job with giving unique character to their Monster.Where The Wild Things Are Poster

To me, the best thing about this movie was the surreal art of the Wild Things. Their island is vast, but somehow small, too. There are expansive deserts, a creepy forest, rocks and bluffs, and a magnificent oceanscape, all complete on the one island. Each monster is beautifully crafted and marvelously detailed, from their odd assortment of feet to their individual heads. And the giant fort-house that was built was breathtaking.

Another thing I really enjoyed about this film was the accompanying soundtrack. Some songs were guttural and wild, filled with arcane whoops and screams that instilled a sense of craziness. Other tracks were somber and bleak, and these fit their individual scenes perfectly.

It may come as a surprise, then, when I say that I did not enjoy the movie. While the acting was fantastic and the art was beautiful, the film was too weighty, too serious, for me to say that I enjoyed it. Max is a very mean, lonely kid, and he spends all of his time in his own imaginary world. He is not disciplined at home, and at one point he even bites his mom. But this was not why the film was heavy. No, the heaviness sets in when Max runs away from the “Real World” and goes into his imagination.

It’s easy, yet complicated, to see the metaphors and symbolism each of the monsters embodies. They are all depressed and sad and they are hoping for a King to make them feel happy. Max becomes that king, but he fails, and everybody stays pretty much the same: depressed and sad. The heaviness of life sets in on the island, and it’s a little frightening. Eventually Max realizes he wants to go home and he leaves the island to its own problems.

The conclusion of the film is a powerhouse of emotions, and I spied my eight-year-old brother-in-law wiping tears from his eyes. Indeed, the heartstrings were tugged a bit, but I didn’t turn to tears, only disgust and confusion. After I left the movie, my remarks were that it was not what I was expecting. No, it was too heavy of a film, and because of that I did not enjoy it. However, I’m not really sure if you’re supposed to enjoy it. Sure, the imagination was a fun trip, but it was too rooted in the sadness of life and love to last.

Overall, it’s a bit unfair for me to not like the film. Really I was upset that there were all these valid life problems presented and no real resolution, which is how life truly is. But, we Americans like our cinema to end with resolution, and I felt that there were too many loose ends in this movie. So, in the end, I can recommend watching the film, if only to revel a bit in childhood fantasy, but I can’t promise you that you’ll glean much from it other than life is heavy and hard, and sometimes even our imagination is not an escape.

More of Writing Wednesdays and The American Dreamer tomorrow. You can find my review of Terry Brooks' The Dark Wraith of Shannara on my Goodreads page, and I think clicking here may take you to it. And if you don't use Goodreads, then you really, really should.

Monday, October 26, 2009


I’ve been all of content and dreaming I have been.  That means, yes, that I’ve had a busy weekend.  Friday night we (Keisha and myself) headed out on a date, which included a nice dinner at home, a trip to the mall for Halloween nick-knackery, a trip to Coldstone for ice cream, a trip to the Book & Music Exchange for looksies, a trip to Wal*Mart for more Halloween ideas, and finally a trip back home, where, exhausted, I fell into a lengthy bit of slumber while Keisha watched old episodes of The Nanny on Nick.  And that’s just Friday.

Saturday we kidnapped Keisha’s 7-almost-8 year old brother and brought him with us as we ran around and painted the town.  Actually we met up with some new friends and watched Where the Wild Things Are and then went to Real Mexican Hacienda for some delicioso food.  As the evening waned, we all headed o’er to Stewartland and carved pumpkins and other things well into the night.  Fun times there.

Sunday was church.  As I mentioned a few weeks ago (but never really followed up on), my Sunday School class has been working on a series titled Interrupted.  This led us to volunteer at a local homeless shelter, and since then we’ve been hosting a service there on the second and fourth Sunday’s of the month.  Yesterday was the fourth Sunday, thus we had a service.  Then we went to our church service, followed by an afternoon of Wii (still with my brother-in-law) and sleepiness, followed with an evening church service, followed with me falling, once again, into a lengthy bit of slumber.

On the surface, it may seem like a very busy weekend, and it was.  It wasn’t one of those weekends that are too busy to enjoy, as this one had a bit more free time built into it.  Plus, I had some amazing finds/buys.

1.  The Eye of the World and New Spring, the first novel and prequel novel in The Wheel of Time series.  Both of these from the Book & Music Exchange for less than $5.00, which seemed like a steal to me, as I’ve been wanting to get into this series for a while now.

2.  I bought an Xbox 360, with a 60GB hard drive and a lot of other features.  For a long time I wanted a PS3, but they’re just too expensive, and I found this one for less than half the price of a PS3.

3.  The last part of my Halloween costume.  I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be Horatio Caine or Dr. Greg House, but in the end I chose House, and that’s that.

So, ‘twas a fun-filled weekend, albeit a busy one.  I think I may play a bit more disc golf after work today, and then watch Heroes and Big Bang Theory later on.  I’ll probably review Where the Wild Things Are (and possibly a book, too) tomorrow.

“People stare and we just ignore them and they go away.”—Recently, DMB

Friday, October 23, 2009

On Minesweeper and Logic

I’m a fan of Minesweeper.  It’s really a pretty simple, logical game.  You get a grid of squares, you click on a square and a number, n, is revealed.  That number means there are n bombs touching that square.  For example, if you click and a 2 is revealed, then 2 of the surrounding 8 squares are bombs.  The act of logical deduction is thus used and eventually the minefield is cleared.  The Microsoft bundled Minesweeper comes with three difficulties: Beginner (which has 10 mines), Intermediate (which has 40), and Expert (which has 99).

I’ve played Minesweeper since I was in high school, and I’ve always enjoyed the mathematical rules the game must obey.  Using a logical approach, with deductive MinesweepBeforereasoning, practically any game can be solved after the initial guessing is made.  I used to believe this, especially in the Beginner and Intermediate games, but after playing Expert for a while I am forced to admit it is no longer valid.  The image to the right clearly ignores all logical reasoning and the final game is reduced to luck.  The odds that the top square will have the mine is 50%, while the odds that the bottom square is the mine is also 50%.  How can I pick one of these over the other?  Where is the logic that I so dearly love?

Sadly, it is absent.  The logic completely breaks down at this point in the game, sending my brain into overload and frustration.  And when logic fails, it’s often a strange situation we find ourselves in.

Because I’m a nerd/geek, and because I love math & science, it’s pretty obvious that my brain is structured to think logically.  If A makes B happen every time, and B is always causing a C to occur, and C sometimes results in D happening, then it’s easy to see that A will logically lead to C, but A won’t always result in D.  This thinking method is how my brain functions.  It’s my comfort zone, the way I attempt to understand life and the things therein.

Unfortunately, as in Minesweeper, there are logical breakdowns in life.  These usually enter into play when uncontrolled emotions become involved.  As an artist, I believe artwork stems from passions, and these passions are connected to how we feel about things.  Our feelings shape who we are and how we’re perceived if we act on them.  If we don’t, then part of me thinks that we are denying our natural urges, but another part of me thinks that we should be able to restrain ourselves from acting.  We can’t be stoics…

Things done with moderation are a good thing; they exercise control and give us a bit of liberty.  However, too much and we’re soon a slave to our desires, the freedom replaced with bondage.  For example, a little television is fine and perfectly accepted, but when you’re spending every waking, possible hour in front of the tube, then there is a problem.  Anything that becomes an obsession is never a good thing, in my opinion, as I think we should be free from anything that holds us down.

All of these things seem to breakdown life’s logic.  It does not make logical sense to spend 10 hours a day watching TV if you need to be doing something else.  It’s unhealthy and perceived as lazy, and I’m rather inclined to agree.  Furthermore, it doesn’t make sense to spend every possible moment with your nose in a book, either, for similar reasons (though reading doesn’t typically have the “lazy” stigma attached to it.)  It does not make sense to take a drug that you know has a chance of killing you, of giving you a terrible addiction.  While we may get pleasure from doing these things, doing them in excess is a bit of a logical failure in my eyes.

I guess it all can boil back to me being an engineer.  Like most people, production is a positive thing in life, and we feel good about ourselves getting things done.  However, as an engineer, I strongly feel that efficiency is as important.  Does it make more sense to spend one hour focused on study, accomplishing a great deal, and possibly even finishing the assignment or to procrastinate, put off studying until your favorite show is over and then stay up into the night, letting your synapses burn dry and your thoughts shrivel up?  I just don’t understand life.

By no means am I above it, and I am plagued by procrastination as much as the next lad/lass.  Typically I try to accomplish things efficiently for a while, but eventually I grow tired and want to do something else (like, say, pick up my guitar or sit down at the piano).  Like Brandon said on his blog the other day, persistence is key (okay, he didn’t say it like that, but that was the meaning.)  If we press on, disciplining ourselves against our whims and desires, then we’ll find that we’re more efficient, more productive, and more logical.

Logically, persistence is how we get into our obsessions anyway.  We form our routines, doing the same thing over and over, day in, day out, and eventually we’re a ‘slave to our selves.’  Some look at the root of problems by taking that first step, that first smoke, that first look, that first whatever.  If they hadn’t did it the first time, then they wouldn’t be in the shape their in.  While I partially can agree to this opinion, the second (and third…) step is equally impactful.  Those are the ones that form the addiction.  (I know there are things in life where one time is enough to start the addiction, but these don’t work in my allegory.)

So, if persistence is how we get into our messes, it’s also the way we get out of them.  Our bodies are weak, and we can change them if we desire it enough.  If we want it more than anything, if we set our goals on truly being liberated from everything in life, then we can change.  Through persistence and repetition, never giving up even when we fail, we can rise above this world and its logical breakdowns.  We, my friends, can be free.

Afterword:  Wow, this post morphed from my original idea.  Initially I wanted to talk about how our emotions can take control of us and lead us to acting differently, lead us to being illogical, but instead I went off on other things.  I have no idea how I got on the topic of obsessions and addictions, and it seems like I have procrastination posts a lot…  Oh, and if you’re wondering how my game of Minesweeper ended, just look at the cool little smiley face man with the sun glasses at the top of the picture beneath this paragraph (woah, that’s a lot of prepositional phrases).  Yep, I got lucky.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Midnight at the Oasis, or Energy Drinks and Other Jazz

I guess I have David Wagner to blame for my current predicament. See, he’s mentioned it a few times before that he likes to drink a Monster energy drink poured over ice, which I thought was rather brilliant. Why had I never thought of anything like that before? And how much different is Monster from Diet Mt. Dew?

So I decided yesterday on my way to work, at my normal Texaco pit stop, to buy an energy drink and a cup of ice. Instead of the crazy expensive energy drinks, I focused on a $.99 one, which led me to buying two. Getting to work, pouring my drinks in ice, I couldn’t help but feel excited.

I greedily drank the first one, my mouth exploding with the rich, sweet taste of caffeine and sugar. “Egads!” I shouted, “David was right.” Before lunch had arrived, I had consumed 32oz of a high-caffeine energy drink on ice. Like 99.83% of all other energy drinks, I find their taste a mixture between pixie sticks and Sprite, thus, enjoyable. (It’s actually an odd set of descriptors. A Pixie is a fairy creature, as is a Sprite, though I don’t actually mean the energy drink tastes like fairy sticks and a fairy. Just an interesting observation.)

Nevertheless, this consumption was not without problem. Apparently caffeine makes little boys wanna go tinkle, and so I found myself in the restroom five times within four hours. I’m not sure how my bladder had so much liquid, unless the energy drink actually set up a Logan-to-Liquid factory inside me.

Of course, as I am sitting here at my desk, a new day presents itself to me. Of course, on my to work I made my mostly-typical pit stop. Of course I decided to buy a cup of ice and another energy drink.


Yesterday I found this pretty sweet article titled “Inland Seas Worth Seeing: The 10 Most Amazing Lakes.” The environmental engineer inside of me was intrigued, and I decided to take a gander at these so called amazing lakes.

It was pretty unbelievable that such beautiful lakes existed on our often depicted ugly world. The pictures were, indeed, amazing. Jellyfish Lake, Palau, was featured on Survivor or something, but it looks pretty cool. I really, really liked the otherworldliness of Mono Lake, California, a hypersaline lake in our great USA. The color-changing Diego de la Haya of Costa Rica has some awesome pictures, too, as does the Dead Sea in Israel. Yes, friends, if you want to be amazed at some beautiful scenes our planet can give, check out the link provided.


Our perfect puppy, Stella, made like a debutante this week, and we introduced her to a large society of fellow captured and tamed beasts. That’s right, Pet Smart was hosting a Halloween costume contest for pets, a puppy parade, and a free photo of your dog, in addition to a million coupons and free goodies. So Keisha made Stella a ballerina outfit, complete with a pink tutu, a pink feather boa, and a baby’s white tee-shirt, and we took our fluffy puppy out to see the world.

She’s been out a few times, but never with this many pets. There were dogs of all types and size, from a St. Bernard to a tiny Chihuahua. There was even a ferret on a leash. Anyway, Stella did remarkably good in the dog’s company, and she didn’t really get too agitated or anything. While she didn’t win the contest, she did get a lot of free goodies, which I’m sure is okay with her.


Tonight I am going to try my hand at a new desert/snack: Sweet-Roasted Rosemary Acorn Squash Wedges. You can find pictures (they look fantastic) and the recipe here. Hopefully mine turns out as good as these, and if so, I plan to have them finished around the time Keisha gets home from classes as a surprise.
It’s going to be a busy day. Clean, cook, watch Flash Forward, 30 Rock, and The Office, and possibly even Project Runway.


Finally, yesterday was a very enjoyable day. Sure, I had a stomach ache, but that’s okay. Other than that, I got to hang out with a friend from high school. We had enough daylight after work to play 17 holes of disc golf, and we both shot really good. We then went to Stewartland and played a game of chess. (And man was it fun. It’s been so long since I’ve actually played real chess with someone that I forgot how much I enjoy the game.) Sadly, we ended in a stalemate, though technically I had my king and a pawn and he had just his king… Then we got out my book of Sunday crossword puzzles from the New York Times, the ridiculously difficult ones, and proceeded to almost completely solve one puzzle in around 2 hours or so. All in all, an enjoyable evening.


This post has been all over the place, filled with ************ as my only transition between ideas. I know, you may think ********* is not an appropriate transition, but it works fine with me. Really, I’m not kidding. It does. Mostly. Ok, ok, I apologize for the gratuitous use of ************, it’s not like I didn’t try, but ******* just kept coming and I couldn’t stop it. (I’ve had a lot of caffeine already today, and I’ve only been awake for one hour and forty-seven minutes. Looks like it’ll be another good one.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Writing Wednesdays: The American Dreamer 1.3

Part 4 of "The American Dreamer." The previous parts are linked appropriately, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Also, I'm trying to keep these posts around 1200 words for the story sections. Do you all think that is too much or not enough? (My typical non-Wednesday posts are around 600-900 words, usually in the low end unless I'm musing...) Thanks for any feedback or criticism.

Jimmy McNayre
I went to check on Hank a few times while he was out. Dr. Stovaugh said that he didn’t appear to be making any progress, but he also said that he didn’t appear to be getting worse, either. Ten days passed and Hank still had not recovered. Understandably, his parents were devastated. Mt. Easter was in an uproar over the incident, but there was no proof leading to who had attacked Hank. Anyone with a pair of eyes and a beating heart could tell who had attacked him, but what could we do about it? One day I approached Jesse Stevens during our lunch hour. I told him flat out that I knew it was him and that he was gonna pay for what he did. I intended to punch him in the face or kick him in the knee, but instead I just leered at him for a long, silent moment. I let all of my animosity out in that stare, daring him to do something about it. He soon was shamed and looked away, like a dog does when it knows it’s done something wrong. I whispered it into Hank’s ear that afternoon when I went to see him. It would be our little secret. We weren’t best friends, but we were friends, and friends stick up for each other.

I started collecting these statements about Hank at an early age, back when we were both much younger. At the time I was simply curious. In the early years I would pose as a Government Worker, asking my questions. When I could, I’d get updates from my informants, but that didn’t happen as much as I’d wanted. First I would start out broad, getting general information about the Tasla family, and then I would hone in and ask about Hank. After he left Mt. Easter this became much more difficult to accomplish.

The whole thing is strangely familiar to me. I appear to be in a holding cell, likely deep beneath the earth, judging by the musty smell and the cool walls. While it is cold and dark, it’s not from the lack of light and warmth. There are glowing orange wires of some sort, running all along the cracks of where the stone walls meet the ceiling. They are my soul companion. I am thankful for the light, but the heat just leaves me desiring more. I can hear nothing outside the door but for the occasional sounds of shooting sparks.

I have no idea how long I’ve been down here, nor do I know what they want with me. So I sit here and think on my life. It could be summed up in three words: Loss. Pain. Empty. All I have are these scraps of a life, half-filled memories of different people, different times, different worlds.

The door swings open and in walks the small man with the mustache. “Hello, Hank. I’m glad you’ve woken up.” He waits for me to respond, so I grunt. “If you would come with me I would like to try and help you.” I have nothing to lose.

The corridor is mostly an extension of the cell. Instead of wires lining just the top of the wall, there are wires also along the middle and bottom. Apparently three lines of wires produces much more heat than one set. I can hear water flowing somewhere.

The man leads me down a flight of stone stairs and into another room. “Watch your eyes,” he says as he opens the door. This room is completely different than the last. Bright orbs of light hang from the ceiling, showering the room in complete white. The sudden transition causes me to stagger for a moment. When my vision returns I notice several sets of wires along the walls, floors, and ceiling, all glowing dull orange. The heat in the room is nearly unbearable.

Near the back of the room are a desk and two chairs. He leads me there, offering me a seat. “Hank Tasla,” he states simply. What am I supposed to say? I nod. He picks up a large manila folder. I can see many sheets of neat, lined paper inside. I see the name HANK TASLA printed neatly as he holds up the folder.

“This is my greatest achievement, Hank, but also my biggest blunder. When I first met you, you were malnourished and gravely ill, barely a weaned babe. I was in Budapest, preparing to travel to France when I found you.” He paused, sitting the folder down and flipping it open. “Things are not easy for me to explain, and my tale is not one with glory, but I shall do my best to make sense to you. I owe it to you.”

I nod, once again confused. What is this man talking about? “Hank, I imagine you must feel lost and broken, like your mind’s been thrown into a centrifuge and mixed about. Sadly, that is one of the side effects of my test. But I have found ways to counterbalance the memory loss. Memory, it turns out, is just another type of energy, one that I’m particularly interested in.”

The man leaned across the desk and looked into my eyes. “Hank, if you’ll give me the chance to help you, I believe that I can make you better.” I take him at his word.

The boy lay in his coma for a total of one hundred and seventy-two days. The remarkable thing was that it actually lasted that long. Initially he was swollen and dark blue. Several of his ribs were likely bruised, but he had no broken bones. His cuts and gashes were sewn up and stitched, and the swelling dwindled. Still the boy did not wake up. His body was eventually moved back to his home where Mr. & Mrs. Tasla could see to him. Ella still came by and visited, fiercely loyal to her dear friend. Pastor Andrew stopped by several times a month to check on the family and to pray with them.

The Tasla’s were grieved over their son’s dead-but-alive state. They couldn’t understand why someone would do something to their little angel. They considered uprooting and moving the family from Mt. Easter, but discarded the idea pretty quickly. Instead they chose to write letters to friends and family, encouraging them to move to the town, to settle and help the place grow.

As it happened, many of their friends and relatives decided to take the Tasla’s up on their offer and moved to the growing town. New shops and businesses opened up during the course of that summer and fall, and soon Mt. Easter began attracting more folks. By November of 1882 the population in Mt. Easter had risen by thirty-five per cent, and the Tasla’s were no longer the only family of color in the town.

As the town grew, so did my list of spies, each ignorant of the other’s existence. Life in the town continued on. Well, for everyone except for Hank Tasla, who was with me at the time.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

RIP IV Challenge Update and a PSA

I signed up for the R.I.P. IV (Readers Imbibing Peril) Challenge back a few months ago. The challenge is, essentially, to read eerie fiction (mystery, suspense, thriller, dark fantasy, gothic, horror, and supernatural) and to have fun while doing so, and also to share that fun. I chose to participate in the Short Story challenge. So, without further ado, I give you my thoughts.

The Shadow Over Innsmouth, by H.P. Lovecraft
Innsmouth, MA is a fishing town that was once large and prosperous, but over the years it has fallen on hard times. The unnamed narrator (who from later notes by Lovecraft turns out to be Robert Olmstead) is telling the story of his travelling and touring of New England, in particular his time in Innsmouth. Outsiders caution the narrator against going to the shambling town, saying how some people have disappeared and how the Innsmouth folk don’t take kind to strangers. Against his own judgment, the narrator decides to go on a daytrip.

As he arrives in the dilapidated town, he immediately notices the horrible smell of fish and ruin. The people he sees all have a peculiar look and gait about them. The antique architecture is strange, and something eerie seems to be going on.

I enjoyed The Shadow Over Innsmouth. The tale was spooky enough to have my pulse race a bit faster than normal. As the story progressed I became more engrossed in the tale and history of Innsmouth, especially when Zadok began to give the history to the narrator. If you can get past the wordy introduction to the story, this tale is truly eerie. By the end, you’re left with haunting images in your mind and a dreadful stench in your nostrils.

Dagon, by H.P. Lovecraft
This story is much shorter than the previous one, but they are related to one another. This tale is told in a similar fashion, by an unnamed narrator recalling an incident by being stranded on a lifeboat in the ocean. While he’s at sea he witnesses something that leaves him haunted and terrified.

This story was a quick read, but the impact was strong and felt. The last few paragraphs are shocking, and as I finished I blankly thought about what had just happened. I can’t say much, but if you want to read a quick-paced, psychological-paranormal horror tale, Dagon is it.

Together, these two tales examine the impact on the psyche, and the "madness" that ensued was quite believable. These stories by Lovecraft have given me a taste of what the Master of Horror is capable of, and I'm sure I'll read more Lovecraft in the days to come.

And now, here's a Public Service Announcement from around 1979. (Apparently there are a slew of these sorts of PSA's, but I've never seen any.) Enjoy. Writing Wednesday's tomorrow...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Y: The Last Man, Full Series Review

Y The Last ManVertigo comics ran Y: The Last Man from 2002 to 2008. Consisting of 60 issues, these comics deal with a world devoid of all men except for one, Yorick Brown. Even more, every mammal on the planet with a Y chromosome dies except for Yorick and his pet monkey, Ampersand. This series attempts to looks at what life would potentially be like on Earth if a catastrophe killed off all men.

I read this series rather quickly, checking out all ten volumes from my local library. The first four volumes, Unmanned, Cycles, One Small Step, and Safeword were phenomenal. The artwork is simple and not overly impressive, but the story is amazing. From the opening scenes of issue #1 I was hooked. It’s unsettling to watch half of the world’s population suddenly die, and the survivors reactions were heartfelt and real.

Yorick Brown, an escape artist, is on the phone with his girlfriend, Beth, who is overseas on an anthropological trip in Australia, when the plague hits. Immediately the phone lines are disconnected and Yorick is left, alive and alone, in a world absent of men.

He and Ampersand set out on a journey (like so many stories do) to make their way to Australia and find Beth, but things go awry on the way. The Daughters of the Amazon are a fierce group of empowered women that wreak havoc on all, especially when they hear of a surviving man.

The plot of Y is epic in magnitude, spanning almost five years and five continents from issue #1 to issue #60. Surviving in a man-less world is full of challenges, and it’s amazing to see how people cope with the loss. The mystery of why Man was wiped off propels the plot, and why Yorick and Ampersand survived is a greatY the last man2 plot device. All in all, the overall plot was great, even if some of the minor story arcs weren’t fantastic.

The real beauty of Y: The Last Man is the characters involved. Yorick’s group of travelers—Ampersand, Dr. Allison Mann, and Agent 355 namely—are all looking for a way to restore Man back to the Earth. I found myself attached to these characters, and their love and care for each other was palpable on every page. The supporting characters are all interesting and worth investment, too. But Yorick Brown was the true character who captured my heart. His survivor’s guilt is understandable, his failures are more than his triumphs, and his change is character is great to observe.

The middle issues (Ring of Truth, Girl on Girl, Paper Dolls, Kimono Dragons) fail to offer the same amount of excitement and curiosity as the other volumes, but the bits of story they do add are insightful to the characters. The penultimate issue, Motherlands, kicks the story back up a notch, and things get interesting really fast. By the climax of the series in Volume 10, Whys and Wherefores, I was blown away. In fact, I’d go as far to say that the entire series was worth the read if only for the brilliant ending, especially the “Epilogue.”

When I closed the final pages of Y, I felt strongly for Yorick and the trials he had Y the last man lastendured. His life was chaotic, going from a 22 year old young man into a world thrown into all out craziness. The writing was solid (mostly) and the characters were well defined, but I expected this from the Vertigo team. I think I would consider adding Y: The Last Man to the list of “Comics/Graphic Novels You Really Should Read” posts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), but it’s not my favorite story arc.

In the end, Y: The Last Man was a great comic series that posed some excellent, thought-provoking questions and I can easily recommend it for both men and women. The series is serious, but there are several laugh out loud moments as well. While the comics are definitely for a mature audience (there’s plenty of language, sexuality, and violence), they were brilliant. So, if you’re looking for a graphic novel series to read (and you’ve already read the ones I recommended in the linked posts above), why not try Y: The Last Man? I enjoyed it, and it gets my recommendation.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Bells, by Edgar Allen Poe

This is one of my favorite Poe poems.  I feel like sharing it, since it’s the season for Poe.  I like the way this poem flows and the feelings it gives.  It’s definitely better to read aloud, which I recommend you do.  Above all, enjoy.Poe

Hear the sledges with the bells -
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time, 
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells -
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

Hear the mellow wedding bells -
Golden bells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
Through the balmy air of night
How they ring out their delight!
From the molten-golden notes,
And all in tune,
What a liquid ditty floats
To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats
On the moon!
Oh, from out the sounding cells
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
How it swells!
How it dwells
On the Future! -how it tells
Of the rapture that impels
To the swinging and the ringing
Of the bells, bells, bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells -
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!

Hear the loud alarum bells -
Brazen bells!
What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
In the startled ear of night
How they scream out their affright!
Too much horrified to speak,
They can only shriek, shriek,
Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire,
Leaping higher, higher, higher,
With a desperate desire,
And a resolute endeavor
Now -now to sit or never,
By the side of the pale-faced moon.
Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
What a tale their terror tells
Of despair!
How they clang, and clash, and roar!
What a horror they outpour
On the bosom of the palpitating air!
Yet the ear it fully knows,
By the twanging
And the clanging,
How the danger ebbs and flows;
Yet the ear distinctly tells,
In the jangling
And the wrangling,
How the danger sinks and swells,
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells -
Of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells -
In the clamor and the clangor of the bells!

Hear the tolling of the bells -
Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
In the silence of the night,
How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy menace of their tone!
For every sound that floats
From the rust within their throats
Is a groan.
And the people -ah, the people -
They that dwell up in the steeple,
All alone,
And who tolling, tolling, tolling,
In that muffled monotone,
Feel a glory in so rolling
On the human heart a stone -
They are neither man nor woman -
They are neither brute nor human -
They are Ghouls:
And their king it is who tolls;
And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
A paean from the bells!
And his merry bosom swells
With the paean of the bells!
And he dances, and he yells;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the paean of the bells,
Of the bells -
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the throbbing of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells -
To the sobbing of the bells;
Keeping time, time, time,
As he knells, knells, knells,
In a happy Runic rhyme,
To the rolling of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells -
To the tolling of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells -
To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cheesecake (again), and a Few Other Things

Where to start?  Last night I decided to attempt another cheesecake experiment, this time choosing to make a pumpkin cheesecake for Autumn.  This one was much simpler than the dark chocolate one, and so it didn’t take me as long.  In the end, the cake came out not as pretty as I’d hoped for, but not bad looking either.  The overall taste was great.  Smooth, sweet, and pumpkiny.  I didn’t like the softness of the crust, and if I choose to make this recipe again I’d probably bake the crust a little longer.  But the recipe was easy to follow and the results were definitely worth it.

[Windows—Virtual Memory Minimum Too Low.  Your system is low on virtual memory.  Windows is increasing the size of your virtual memory paging file.  During this process, memory requests for some applications may be denied.  For more information…]

So.  Yeah.  Halloween’s just 15 days away.  We’re having a Halloween party at Stewartland this year.  Our neighborhood has almost a trillion kids in it, and on our street alone there are 65 (and our street’s not very long!)  So Halloween should be fun.  I’m thinking I may wear my awesome mullet again…

I decided to jump on the bandwagon with David and Crystal.  I’ve been toying with the idea for a while, but finally the inner author in me decided to take a dive.  I signed up for the NaNoWriMo challenge, which is a challenge to write and finish a 50,000 word (or more) novel during the month of November.  You can find more information about this by following the badge/link on the sidebar.

My step-dad’s having surgery today.  Back several months ago he was helping his dad cut some limbs out of a tree and he fell.  I think it was around 17ft or so up in the air.  He’s really lucky to not have more damage than he does, but he does have a lot of damage (crushed bones and the like in much of the right side). 

Speaking of lucky, check out this video of a six-month old baby surviving being hit by a train.  Apparently his stroller rolled down a ramp just as a train was heading into station and was hit.  His mother rushed to get the stroller and the train crashed into it as she was reaching for it.  Thankfully no one was hurt.

Oh, it looks like Joe Abercrombie will be shelved slightly longer than I thought.  I forgot that I have a library book to read (the next volume of The Fate of the Jedi series), but after that I’ll jump on The Last Argument of Kings.

I guess if you’re wanting to read a shout-out to why Chewie is the best sidekick in the Sci-Fi realm, you can click on this link.  The article is actually pretty dead-on and quite funny, too.  I always liked Chewbacca much better than 3PO.  That’s about it for today.  Sorry.  Maybe better luck next time.  Reviews next week!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

On Posting, Commenting, Google Reader, Diet Mt. Dew, Pat Rothfuss, Windows Live Writer, Previews, and Bad News

Two days ago I mentioned that I intended to post more about why I blog, expounding more on the history of this blog.  Since then, I remembered that I’ve posted about that once or twice in the past, and I feel that these are excellent posts if you’re wanting to know more about the Why and What of Rememorandom.  In fact, I don’t really have much more to offer to these past posts other than I enjoy the community and company of my fellow bloggers (both readers and posters). 

I’m a big fan of the commenting part of blogging.  I typically subscribe to comments via email and I enjoy reading the reactions of other folks, to see other opinions opined.  When I get comments here at my blog, I attempt to comment back, in part to let folks know I’ve read it, and in part to carry on a (slow and often short) conversation.  (It’s like email.  If someone sends me an email, I usually attempt to respond to let the sender know I received it and have read it.)

But I really like reading other blogs, too.  The blogosphere is a continually growing world, and there are so many I enjoy that I think I’d be lost without Google Reader.  It’s no secret that I love Google and it’s products (yes, I’ve been using Chrome as my browser for a few months), and naturally I use Reader to manage my subscriptions.  I’m not completely sure I’m sharing notes and stuff correctly with my Google Friends, but I’ve got the subscription thing down.  If you need help managing your many blogs you read, I’d recommend trying out Reader (if you don’t already).

There’s no easy way to transition from Google Reader into writing on Diet Mt. Dew.  On most mornings, on my way to work, I stop by a gas station and get a refill on my 44oz cup for $1.05.  This is a fair price for 44oz of delicious fountain-tapped Diet Mt. Dew.  My transition to the world of DIET soda was pretty smooth, and now I can honestly say I prefer the taste of DIET Coke (not Pepsi) and DIET Mt. Dew to their non-diet counterparts.

As most of you are probably aware, Pat Rothfuss has posted up on his blog a raffle for a chance to get your name into The Wise Man’s Fear.  It’s really a pretty simple, straight-forward process.  I’ll be mailing in my check and stuff within the week hopefully.  And if you don’t know who Pat Rothfuss is, please leave my blog immediately, go to Borders (or B&N or BAM or your local bookstore) and buy the paperback copy of The Name of the Wind.  Or, if you’re too lazy (or cheap), send me an email and I’ll mail you a copy.  I keep two or three paperback copies to give to unsuspecting folk…

Last week, Shellie suggested I try out Windows Live Writer, and I’m proud to say that I love it.  The interface is simple.  The problems I occasionally encountered with HTML and things are all but gone.  The only qualms I have with it is that I have to double space between paragraphs and that I can’t use my Blogger Labels.  I can’t fix the double space thing, but I can go in and edit the Labels after I publish my post.  So if you have any problems using your blogger, try the Windows Live Writer.  You can download it (for free) here.

I’m reading through the entire epic of Y: The Last Man right now, and it’s pretty good so far.  30 Rock starts back up tonight, and Flash Forward comes on, too.  I’ve been savoring and taking my time for Joe Abercrombie, but The Last Argument of Kings is coming up next.

And now the bad news.  You may or may not be aware of this, but I have a brother named Jake.  I did a 3 part post series on our relationship and my love for him back in February (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).  He’s in the Army.  He served in Iraq for a year or so a year or so back, and since he’s returned he’s had a baby (just born back in August).  Turns out, he’s going to be going to Afghanistan in January and he’ll be gone for a year or so, this time driving a truck or something.  Needless to say, it’s stressful, and I ask for you to all pray for his safety.

That’s it for today.  A lot of stuff.  Now, it’s time for a crossword puzzle…

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Writing Wednesdays: The American Dreamer 1.2

This is a continuation of the previous two Writing Wednesdays. Part One is here and Part Two is here. This is a long post here, but I didn’t feel like cutting it off at the third section. Once again, feedback is appreciated.

Jesse Stevens

Of course I know Hank Tasla. He’s the darkie that lives in that poor house near the church. His whole family is one big joke around here. People act like they care about ‘em, but nobody does. They ain’t nothing but coons, and I tell him that every chance I get. I got kicked out of school for a week after I told Mrs. Epperson not teach him. I said he didn’t need to learn the stuff we learn, that he’d never amount to more than a black piece of coal. If I ever catch him alone I’ll make him wish he never moved here.


It’s terrifying. I wish that there was some way for me to convey how real my dreams are. I dreamt that I was walking along a road, paved and wide. All around me were buildings that reached up into the sky, taller than anything I could imagine. Automobiles, which I can only describe as a transportation machine that’s like a smaller carriage but much faster, crowded the streets. People like I’ve never seen before walked all around me. I found myself moving with the crowd, and eventually I ended up inside of a large arena, similar to the ancient Coliseum. My wrist was inspected as I entered, and some sort of red light was moved across my arm. Every seat was full. The attitude was a mixture of excitement and dread. The people around me talked in fear, like they were waiting for something to attack them, but were uncertain whether or not they would actually be victims. Then a flat voice rang throughout the arena, calling out a series of numbers. A man near me let out a wail, moaning like a dying dog, and was taken. Soon a group of men and women were standing in the field below me, stripped of their clothing and trying unsuccessfully to cover their nakedness. Then a group of nine masked men surrounded the naked people. The flat voice spoke again, instructing the masked people to kill the others. At once they began screaming and begging for mercy, but their sounds were silenced as a brilliant burst of light erupted from the nine’s outstretched arms. When the light cleared there was nothing left of the people within the circle of the masked men. We were then prompted to leave, and as I was walking out the door I spied a familiar word, one that I recently read in another dream. TESLA. I’m not sure what this means. It’s remarkably similar to my last name. I’m not sure what it was that I witnessed, but I hope to not see anything like it again.


It was the week before Charles Guiteau was to be executed. The national trial for the assassin of President Chance Garfield made newspapers everywhere, even in the far off places like Mt. Easter. The town was keenly interested in the outcome of the trial, as the Guiteau family had traveled through Mt. Easter a few years before the assassination. At the time, Charles was offering his legal services to anyone interested in them, but no one took him up on his claims. Much of the town’s population was gathered around Aberthon’s Mercantile, waiting for the regional newspaper to arrive, when Hank found himself the victim of a terrible crime. The boy was curious to get a glimpse of Mr. Guiteau, and he decided he was going to go to the Mercantile and buy a newspaper for himself. On his way to the store he was attacked. Hank was hit in the back of the head with a shovel and the boy dropped to the ground, writhing in agony. His assailants took turns hitting him with the weapon, spitting on him, and kicking him until he blacked out. They left him unconscious on the street, his small body broken and swollen. As the citizens filed out of the Mercantile, full of gossip and news of Charles Guiteau, a group of folks spied Hank’s body. He was taken to the Apothecary, where Doctor Stovaugh treated him the best he could. Days passed and Hank Tasla remained comatose and no one knew for sure if he’d ever wake up.


I’m sitting at the kitchen table, shaking my head in disgust and worry. Ella and the kids are at her mother’s house and they’ve been gone for two days now. I can’t remember why, or it’s quite possible that I never knew why. There’s a note scrawled on a scrap of paper in front of me, penned in her sweet hand.

I can’t take this anymore, Hank. It’s too hard on me and on the kids. You either devote yourself to us or to your work, but not to both. It’s not fair to us. Once you make up your mind, you’ll know where to find me.

I wipe the tears from my eyes, wondering how things got this way. Wondering why it feels so real. Wondering why I keep having dreams of being a young, poor boy in a small-but-growing town. Ever since I started working for the T&E Foundation things have grown weird. I wonder if it’s coincidence.

I pour myself a glass of wine and sit out on the back porch, staring up at the stars above. Millions of tiny white pinpricks on the black canvas of space, winking softly down on me. The bitterness of the wine is somehow sweet to me.

A soft breeze blows and I see the faint outlines of some of the kid’s toys tumbling through the yard. Half a mile down the road I can see the next house, illuminated by a brilliant white nightlight. My own yard’s dark. Concealing. I take comfort in the anonymity the shadows give.

I hear the light footsteps on the deck behind me the second before the blinding lights fill my vision. Pain racks through my head. The scent of spilled wine fills my nostrils. My hands dig into broken glass and I wince. I’m hit a few more times while I’m down, and soon I find my hands are tied behind my back and my head is covered.

I’m marched back into the unfamiliar house. Kind voices tell me to keep calm. What do they expect me to do? I’m as calm as I’ve ever been. Apparently my wife and children have left me, but for the life of me I can’t recall the kid’s names. I’m aloof as to why. The only picture of Ella that I can think of is of a small, white girl with brown curls, walking down a dirty road hand-in-hand with a poor, brown boy. Her eyes are the same color as a November sky, impressive grey. I don’t know who I am. Confusion, when completely accepted, is a type of calm.

The bag is removed from my head after I’m seated into one of the kitchen chairs. I’m completely bound to the seatback. My captors all stare at me with hate or curiosity. One is a middle aged woman who looks vaguely familiar. Her blond hair is in a pony-tail, and her eyes greet me with disdain. Another is a nondescript man, full of muscle and strength. He stares at me with blank eyes. The final is a handsome man, his black hair parted and mustache groomed. He looks at me with intent and a smile. He, too, looks slightly familiar.

“Do you know why we are here?” asks the small man. I shake my head, determined to remain compliant. “Hmm. I thought as much.” He paused for a moment, and then asked, “Do you know who you are?” I blink and shake my head. “Hank, I am here to set things right in the natural order of things. Long, long ago I began my work. I worked side by side with Dr. Edison, creating many of these glorious machines we have and use today. Together we were pioneers in the bioelectric and mechelectric fields. Unfortunately, our interests were not always aligned, and so we parted ways.

“I remained dedicated to my calling, progressing leaps and bounds in my work. I found a way to harness and cultivate electrodes in the air, and I knew that this was the way of the future. Countless hours later…” I find myself losing focus. It seems like it’s been ages since I’ve heard so many words. I can’t help myself when I yawn. The man stops talking immediately.

He glares at me for a brief moment and then his smile returns. “Of course, you must be exhausted. A night with no rest will do that to you, eh, and after this many years you’re bound to be worn thin. How is your mind?”

It takes me a second to realize that he’s asked me a question. How do I respond? I don’t know enough to lie, so I’m stuck with the confusing truth. “I’m not sure,” I croak out. My voice is only slightly louder than a whisper. It sounds strange to my ears. “Everything is uncertain.”

The woman is growing bored, it seems, though she still looks at me with hate-filled eyes. “Yes, I imagine it is Hank.” He speaks my name with confidence, like he knows me. My name is one of the only things of which I am certain. “And I am sorry for the way this was handled, but we’ve been trying to locate you for a very long time, and were quite unsure as to how you would react. Thus, we felt that care should be taken to avoid any chance of escape.”

Escape? Why would I run? I don’t understand anything, so I simply nod. “Good. Dr. Hatley, would you mind prepping the serum? Hank,” he says, turning back to me. “I’m going to have Dr. Hatley give you a shot. It will help you relax. When you wake up you’ll feel much better. Is that okay?”

I don’t like the way the woman stares at me, the way she’s holding the syringe, but I remain compliant. I nod again. She steps close to me and I feel a pinch in my arm. My eyes, already heavy, grow suddenly more burdensome to keep open. I blink a few times, seeing my captors watching me with the same mix of eyes: anger, apathy, and curiosity. Within a span of seconds, I keep my eyes closed and fall gently into the realm of Dream.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Open Mouthed and Awe Struck

An apology: Today’s post was not originally going to be about this. I was going toDeath Troopers write more about the reasoning behind my blog, behind my title, behind different themes and elements that appear here. Instead, I get an email that leaves me open mouthed and awe struck. So, if you’re tired of STAR WARS news, I apologize, but I urge you to read on…

Wow. This is something I’ve honestly never expected to see. Before I go into details, just take a close look at the cover of the new STAR WARS: Death Troopers (by Joe Schreiber) novel that was released today. Can you see the blood and chains? Does the decapitated stormtrooper’s head mean anything to you? Nothing? What if I give you a one word prod in the right direction? Zombie.

Yes, friends, you read that correctly. Zombies. Or at least that’s what the blurb reads like to me. You decide.

When the Imperial prison barge Purge–temporary home to five hundred of the galaxy’s most ruthless killers, rebels, scoundrels, and thieves–breaks down in a distant, uninhabited part of space, its only hope appears to lie with a Star Destroyer found drifting, derelict, and seemingly abandoned. But when a boarding party from the Purge is sent to scavenge for parts, only half of them come back–bringing with them a horrific disease so lethal that within hours nearly all aboard the Purge die in ways too hideous to imagine.
And death is only the beginning.
The Purge’s half-dozen survivors–two teenage brothers, a sadistic captain of the guards, a couple of rogue smugglers, and the chief medical officer, the lone woman on board–will do whatever it takes to stay alive. But nothing can prepare them for what lies waiting aboard the Star Destroyer amid its vast creaking emptiness that isn’t really empty at all. For the dead are rising: soulless, unstoppable, and unspeakably hungry.

Sure sounds like zombies to me. And in the STAR WARS universe, too. The author, Joe Schreiber, is a known horror author and this is his first installment into the STAR WARS universe. In the timeline of things, it takes place just before A New Hope, and it is canon.

The review I read indicated that the novel is indeed creepy and spooky at times, and that the story is bleak and hopeless. While this is typical with the zombie genre, it’s (potentially) exciting to see how it fits into the STAR WARS universe. And, since it’s close to Halloween, I could easily fit it into some holiday-themed reading.

I’ll definitely be adding this to my reading pile.

An after-thought: It’s coincidental that two days ago I posted a review for Zombieland and yesterday I posted a review for the last STAR WARS novel I read, and then today I have a post that combines both zombies and STAR WARS. It’s odd that I’ve never heard of this novel until today, too. Tomorrow will continue along with Writing Wednesdays and the story of Hank Tasla.