Friday, April 29, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday: The Doom of the Salt People Part 3

If you've missed the previous pieces, click here.  And please excuse the rough edges of this installment.  Needs some editing, for true.  Denouement comes next week.

     As the family slept, the time Before was drawing to a close. King Yostace had commissioned the warlocks and sorcerers of his realm to break through the Doors of the Deep. He searched for a cure to defeat death and to retain youthful vigor, for his fear of dying was topped only by his greed. On that night, the mages succeeded, and the Doors were thrown from their hinges.
      Ills and untold horrors burst forth, spilling out into the world like a creek through a poor beaver’s dam. As it happened, one of these horrors fled from the portal and ransacked the capital, bringing ruin with it. All that encountered it, everything with the breath of life in its lungs, was turned into a pillar of salt. And when its judgment on the capital was over, the horror fled from the city and out along the King’s Road, where it soon came upon a failing campfire.
      It was moments before dawn when the horror entered into the ring where the family of Cloy slept. It first consumed Cloy, burning his body to salt as he slept soundly. It then turned its attention to Zula, his wife, and filled its mouth with the sweetness of her blood and she, too, became a pillar of salt.
      At this time, Amos, the eldest child, stirred in his sleep, roused from a dark and dreadful dream. A cloud of smoke and ash surrounded him. He cried out, thinking he saw four glowing, red eyes circling where his mother and father slept. The smoke took the shape of a man and crouched before Amos. “Why do you cry out, manling? A nightmare?” It’s voice was sweet as strawberries, intoxicating as wine, and poisonous as bone-white mushrooms.
     Amos could find no words in his gullet. Instead, his right hand closed about the handle of the small knife his father had gifted him. His eyes strayed from the ash-man’s and fell on the two crystallized bodies of his parents, white and dull in the weak morning glow. He growled and brought the knife up, slashing wildly at the ash-man’s throat. Caught unawares, the knife found its mark, drawing a thin, jagged line across the ash-man’s pale flesh. Black ichor leaked from the wound, and as it did, dawn suddenly broke, white-orange light spilling into the glade. The ash-man made clicking noises, like a babe at the breast, as its body burned away in the sunlight. 
     All the children awoke then, and they saw the doom of their parents. Like two sleeping statues, Cloy and Zula were memorialized as pillars of salt. All the children wept, and after a time, Amos sobered up. “We must leave at once,” he said. “I know what did this, and we must find shelter before night falls. There could be more.”
     So Amos commanded his brothers and sisters to tell their mother and father goodbye. Then they sang “Timber’s Dirge,” the only death song any of them knew, and Iya led them all in a prayer. When they were finished, they loaded into the wagon and made their way back to their homestead (for the horses were not turned to salt).
     Now the sons of Cloy who survived that night are Amos, the eldest, and his brothers Tome and Yue. The daughters of Cloy who survived that night are Iya, Lecia, and Ann. These are the sons and daughters of Cloy, son of Caran.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Decemberists Concert Write Up

I tend to set high my expectations unbelievably high whenever it comes to going to a concert, especially when the band is one I really like.  The Decemberists are such a band.  And, as it turns out, I had my expectations a bit too high for the concert I went to Tuesday night.  But, alas, not all was lost.

Venue:  Iroquois Park Amphitheater, Louisville, KY
Status:  Ominous foreboding, heavy rainclouds, cyclonic winds
Opening Act:  Justin Townes Earle
Main Act:  The Decemberists (with Sara Watkins)
Time:  8:00, 04/26/2011

Dustin and I hit the road at a little after 4pm.  'Twas a 2 hour journey, through a time zone, and we had plenty of time.  We left Owensboro, tornado warning sirens blaring, ahead of the storms.  We foolishly dared to hope that the weatherfolk were wrong and the 80% chance of severe storms for Louisville was a lie.  Fortunately, we made it to the amphitheater without running into any serious weather.  We found a parking spot, grabbed our ponchos, and headed to grab seats.

I was interested to hear Justin Townes Earle, if only because I love his father's music.  Steve Earle is such an iconic folk-rocker, and I've been a fan of the man for a good while now.  Justin, it seems, inherited his dad's voice, singing in a wonderfully broken-but-smooth way.  His guitar style was cool to watch (from a musician's perspective), and his accompanying fiddler harmonized with the acoustic quite nicely.  All in all, Earle played for about 45 minutes, and the set was good.  Plus, it still hadn't rained.

At 9pm-ish the Decemberists took the stage, opening with "Apology Song," a humorous song that frontman Colin Meloy wrote for his friend after his bike was stolen while under Meloy's care.  The band sounded exactly like listening to an album, crisp and clear.  Meloy made a few remarks about the weather and the threat of tornadoes, alluding to a mysterious safety bunker beneath the stage for the band.

For the next hour and a half the band played, hitting nearly every selection off of their newest album The King is Dead, but also playing many songs from their vast catalog.  However, this is where I felt a bit slighted.  For some reason, the group didn't play anything from their brilliant Crane Wife album, which happens to be my favorite.  Unfortunately, that means they didn't play "Shankill Butchers," "O Valencia," or any of the three-parted "Crane Wife."

Still, despite none of my favorite album being played, there were two stand out performances.  The first was the devilishly fun "Rake's Song."  If you know anything about me and my tastes in music or dark fiction, it's obvious why I like this song so much.  I mean, the guy killed-- no, just listen.  Watch.  This is similar to how the band played Tuesday.
Don't the red lights paint the wicked deeds for what they are?  Spooky, eh?  Keisha doesn't like the song...

The best song was undoubtedly the encored "Mariner's Revenge Song."  This is perhaps the most popular song of the band, and I've waxed on about it before here on Rememorandom.  The song's long, but the tale is beautiful.  Before the band agreed to play it, though, they required the audience to scream as if we were being eaten by a giant whale.  After a few practices, Meloy was ready, and the familiar chords began.  The audience ebbed and swayed, the band shook and fell.  All of this was quite fitting to the lightning and stormclouds overhead.  Mercifully, no actual rain fell, only a few drops.

And the band exited stage.  A few moments later, they reappeared for a second encore, finishing off the night with "June Hymn."  Fittingly, the rain opened up during the final song, and we ended the night with a walk through the rain to the car.  We drove home through fierce gales, white squalls, and tossing waves.  I followed the eerie red lights of the lone semi in front of me through the storms for much of the way.

Eventually, we hit the port of Owensboro, and bed was soon bested.  Did I enjoy the concert?  Absolutely.  But, I like it when a band interacts more with the crowd, tells stories, rambles and has fun.  When Meloy was doing these things, it seemed like the Decemberists were enjoying themselves.  Most of the time, though, it seemed like they were just routinely playing their songs to their fans, keeping things relatively sane and simple.

As I said, I had my expectations high, and it seems like they were a bit too up-there.  That's not to say it wasn't fun--because I had a blast--but it could've been much more.  Oh well.  So it goes.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

When God Created My Toes, a Review

When God Created My Toes, by Dandi Daley Mackall, is a cute, rhyming children's picture book.  It's beautifully illustrated with bright, vivid drawings by David Hohn.  The plot is simple, written in short, catchy refrains, dealing with childhood musings by a young girl wondering if God had to hold his nose when He created her toes. 

The book progresses up through her body, asking similar questions for when God made her knees, ears, etc.  I thought the illustrations were stunning, and combining these with the verse, I think any young child would be able to pay attention to the read.

When God Created My Toes is a short, fun picture book, perfect for children learning to read.  It poses funny scenarios and wonderings, and also provides a way for parents to encourage their children to come up with their own rhyme.

*FTC Thingy: When God Created My Toes was provided to me freely from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for my honest review, which I've also posted elsewhere on the mighty Internets.

Also, if you want to help me out, feel free to rank this review using this handy star rating system.  Thanks.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Lent, a Reflection

"It is finished."  These were Jesus's dying words as He hang--beaten, bloodied, bruised, and broken--dying on the cross.  With wheezing breath and a mouthful of bile and sour wine, Jesus breathed His last and took on the final weight of God's wrath.  He did it for me, for you, and for everyone else in the world, so that we do not have to be condemned for our sins.  His sacrifice is the ultimate act of love, and there will never be an act greater than this.  For some reason, He loves me.

This is culmination of Lent, and the most profound thing I "learned" through my season of fasting.  For forty-six days I went without certain luxuries, weaning myself down from fruits & veggies in the beginning to juice & water for the last two weeks or so and ending with a 30 hour famine.  Had I been alone, I surely would have failed, but fortunately a few friends decided to embark on this journey with me, and we all succeeded, and drew closer to God in the process.

I'm not sure where to start on this reflection.  I spent a lot of time in the bible, reading Genesis through Deuteronomy.  I've not read from the OT in quite a while, so this was enjoyable and fun.  It's interesting to see Man's beginning, especially noticing the involvement of the Spirit in creation.  And seeing God's promise to Abraham, and carrying it out through Moses at the end of the Torah, is a lot of what I've focused on.  For some reason, God chose to bless Israel, a small, weak, and inferior nation.  He promised to love them and always be with them.

It's crazy to see Israel turn from God so many times.  Practically the rest of the OT is Israel's see-sawing up and down, in and out of God's will.  More often than not they're turned away, chasing after false gods and pagan rituals, even though God warned them not to do so.  And yet, whenever they repent and call on the name of the Lord, God hears their cries and redeems His people.  This love of God is what refined my outlook.  For how is Israel any different than my life?

I began my relationship with Jesus at age 11, fourteen years ago.  After salvation, the flame is always bright and fierce, but time and the world diminish the light.  I never turned pointedly to idols, but really, turning from Christ to pursue any other love is idolatry.  For years I loved Him and sought Him, I failed Him and hated Him, over and over again.  College brought about independence, which led (thankfully) to me buckling down and getting serious.  I earnestly prayed and sought Him more and more, and yet I still failed.  This is no different than today.  I still seek to be more Jesus-shaped with each passing day, but I still screw up and fail, too.  This, too, is what I've learned.  The more I seek to be like Christ, the more broken I realize I am, the more messed up I see myself, the more I realize that without Christ, I am nothing.

It's so humbling to think that Jesus intentionally chose to die for me.  We're calloused and selfish enough to think that we deserve it, but that's a lie to make ourselves feel better about His sacrifice.  For we've all sinned, thus we all deserve Hell and condemnation (Romans 6:23.)  Thankfully, for those of us who are in Christ Jesus, there is now no condemnation (Romans 8:1.)  We're no longer held liable for our shortcomings, for Jesus, the perfect, innocent, blameless Lamb, took on the full price of our sins, bearing all of God's heavy price for disobedience.

It begs the question.  Why does He love me so much?  Why did He give up heaven and glory to come to the earth and offer a path for redemption?  This is the mystery of the gospel, for God sees something inside me that I can't see.  He loves me despite me.  And this impossible love He has for me is the same impossible love He has for you.  This love is a gift we do not deserve, but it's there for us anyway.  I am so thankful to God that is was offered freely to us.

Lent ends with Easter, the day we celebrate Jesus's rising from the dead and finally defeating death and hell.  Without His resurrection, salvation would be impossible, but because Christ was blameless and pure, He was not condemned to an eternity apart from God, but instead given the right-hand seat of the Father.  His sacrifice was final and full enough to cover the billions of people that would come after Him.  All we must do is accept His blood, apply it to our account and God will give us eternal life with Him in heaven.  Everything else is nothing.  If we accept Jesus's sacrifice and his resurrection, we are promised life forever (Romans 10:9).  This is the greatest gift.

The past forty-six days were a great experience for me.  Not only did it open my eyes to God's wonderful love for me, but it also taught me some practical, earthly things, too.  I lost fifteen pounds, a nice side effect.  I didn't die, even though my stomach grumbled and complained many days.  It's sad how spoiled we are.  So many in the world live all their days without enough food, and we complain when we go 12 hours without a meal.  I also realized how much I crave soda pops (Mountain Dew, in particular).  I disciplined myself to waking up much earlier than I need to in order to spend plenty of time in the Word and in prayer.  All of these, plus the aforementioned greater understanding of God's love for me.

In conclusion, Lent was an amazing season in my life, and I'm glad I felt the conviction in my heart to observe it.  Even more so, I pray that you, dear readers, can profess this same love I feel in my heart toward Jesus.  If you don't know Him or aren't sure where you stand in your life with Him, then I beg you, put aside everything else and examine yourself.  Talk with a minister about it.  Read the bible, especially the gospels and Romans.  Shoot me an email, even.  Whatever the case, I urge you, don't let this gift pass you by.  It's the best choice I've ever made in my life, and by the love of God, I want to share it with the rest of the world.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday: The Doom of the Salt People Part 2

If you missed Part 1, click here to read up.  Two more parts to go after this.  Enjoy, and thanks for reading.

     There once was a young man named Cloy. He lived in the time Before. And like most men back then, Cloy owed allegiance to a crown, in particular one of gold, titanium, and beryl. This crown sat atop King Yostace’s head, a head that was full of great wickedness.
     It was tax season in the lands, and Cloy decided to take his wife and children to the capital with him to pay their dues. He loaded up his wagon with goods and crops, for Cloy was a harvester. Two barrels of oats he owed, and ten heavy gold coins on top of that. The taxes were hard on Cloy and his family, but never hard enough that they lost hope. They had each other, and as long as they had that, there was no tax that could separate them.
     He left his home in charge of his chief fieldhand and promised to return soon. The journey was but two days ride, but in the time Before, two days were different than they are now. Before, the sun would shine for twelve hours a day, and sometimes longer, if you can believe it. It would sit up in the sky all day long, spreading its warmth down on the lands below. In those times, the Nyxes were still confined and the Doors were still unopened.
     So Cloy and his family traveled all day and stopped to rest halfway between his home and the capital. He built a small cooking fire, large enough to make a meal and provide light for an evening story. He sent his daughters off to gather wood and his sons off to catch fish. He and his wife stayed behind to make fire, a secret still forbidden to the young children.
     When they returned, Cloy praised his children for their diligence. To each of his daughters he gave them a ring of dull bronze, and to his sons he gave them a short, green-handled knife. “These,” he said as he bestowed his gifts, “are your inheritance, children. They do not look like much, but they are more valuable than all the taxes of the Crown combined. The rings belonged to my sisters as children, and each spurned their gifts for greater blessings and more brilliant jewelry. All married foolish and cruel men, and all died in childbirth.”
     Cloy then looked at his sons. “And these blades were given to me and my brothers, but they, too, spurned their gifts for greater blessings and stronger swords. All but I took great, longswords, and all died in battle, fighting the king’s war. My knife has been with me since I was a child, and it’s served me well all these days, just as yours will serve you.”
     The children all looked at their gifts with curiosity, but not a one of them returned their rights to their father. After this, Cloy prepared a fish cake with some of the vegetables in the wagon, and the family gathered around the fire as he told “The Lay of Oscambria” while cooking. When he was finished and everyone’s bellies were full, the family slept comfortably, oblivious to the dangers lurking outside their firelight.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Stewart Little - More Pictures

Keisha had another doctor appointment Monday with her new doc.  This doctor wanted to do some new ultrasounds, and here are the results.
Isn't the 3d imagery awesome?  I'm curious to see how much our daughter will look like these pictures.

Another baby class tonight, safety and general "How to Hold a Baby and Not Drop One." This is the most important class for me, as I currently am only quasi-comfortable holding a little one. I always feel like they're so fragile and I have to be super super super careful.  Apparently babies are more resilient than I give them credit for, but still, this'll be a helpful class.

Immediately following this I have to rush to dress rehearsal for the Good Friday service tomorrow.  I'm surprisingly not too nervous, despite the fact that I'm going to be playing and singing a solo to a crowd that could potentially reach 50,000.  Literally.  I'm singing Leeland's "Carried to the Table," if you're interested.  And then I'm playing mandolin in one song, just me and a guitar and some singers.  I've practiced and practiced, and I'm just hoping my fingers remember where to go.

Ultimately, I suppose I don't care.  I'm not doing it to sound good or to be noticed.  I'm doing it to worship and to get others to worship, too.  I can't wait to see what comes of the Good Friday Service.

Part 2 of "The Doom of the Salt People" tomorrow. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Temptation of Adam

I've been a Josh Ritter fan for a while now.  The guy may possibly be the best songwriter alive today.  In particular, I've been playing over and over "The Temptation of Adam."  Going superlative again, it may be one of the best love songs out there, albeit cryptic and apocalyptic.  Not too many songs out there like this one.

If there's only one song you're going to listen to today, let it be Josh Ritter's "Temptation of Adam."  If you like it, check out the rest of his stuff.  Phenomenal. Makes me think of Fallout 3 for some reason.

Oh, and then there's his ubiquitous "Girl in the War," the song that first got me interested in Mr. Ritter.

Josh is one of the greatest folk artists out there now, and I just had to share what's been in my head for a good, long time.  If it sounds like I'm gushing, I may be, but if I could play, write, and sing like Josh Ritter, I wouldn't complain.  If you've never heard of Josh Ritter, check out his stuff!

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Strange and Wonderful Life of Logan K Stewart

So here I am, thinking about what to think about.  Writing on writing or listening to someone give a talk on being a good listener.  Watching the hands of the clock go tick tick t i c k   t   i    c      k on out to infinity.  Wouldn't it be crazy if the second hand moved counter-clockwise?  And why's it called counter-clockwise?   Why not anti-clockwise or double-plus-ungood-clockwise?

I'm making my way through Fragile Things, a collection of Gaiman short fiction and wonders.  Here's a link to "The Fairy Reel," a poem that begs to be read aloud over and over again, and best when done by the author himself.  I'm also making my way through Maria Tatar's Annotated Classic Fairy Tales as well as her Annotated Brothers Grimm.  Oh, and then there's Joanna Cole's Best-Loved Folktales of the World, too.  It's been rather interesting.

I spent a few hours last Friday morning discussing some interesting stuff, and after that was over, I went to the coffee shop and spent a few hours reading through The Book of Numbers and thinking about how much God loved the Israelites.  Some time later a man sat down beside me and we had a nice, lengthy conversation about the bible, difficult translations, and guitar.  "Alas," said I, looking ruefully at my flip flops and the pouring, cold rain outside.  "I must be off."  And I apparated to the library, where I spent some time leafing through books and working on a short story.  I've had ideas for "The Doom of the Salt People" in my head a while now, and since I was off and it was raining and the music was good, I went on and pounded out a bit.  Part 1 is available here, if you're interested.

Someone clicked the Next Slide button on the Powerpoint and then I was home, cooking Keisha supper, A) cause I'm sweet like that, B) cause I like to cook, C) cause we ain't had us a date night in a good long time and me cooking seemed like the right thing to do.  Grilled salmon, baked potatoes, sliced carrots, and my universally acknowledged, globally accepted three-pasta-four-cheese macaroni & cheese.  Some wine would've been perfect, but Keisha's got the darling growing inside her and I can't/won't drink an entire bottle, so we dined with unsweetened tea instead.

We've started watching Fringe (thanks Netflix & library!), and we're both really enjoying it.  It's like X-Files meets Law & Order / CSI or something.  So far, so good.  Somehow, we've still not finished Battlestar: Galactica (thanks Netflix & library!)  I think I can only take that show in doses.  I love it, but it's so tense and the drama is so emotionally charged that it's quite difficult to take down so many episodes at once. 

All I know is that it feels great to have my own guitar back in my hands, y'know?  There's just something about the way my baby feels.  I know its neck like a good simile.  My fingers know what fretboard they're used to.  Just how much to move and how much to press.  It's all good, now, but it was ungood a week ago.  Longer, even. 

Yeah, I got my TOMS last night.  Alex & Rachael are getting married next month, and as a groomsman, I got a pair of TOMS.  TOMS all around.  It's the first pair I've ever owned, but they're danged comfortable.  Plus, their mission statement is "with every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a new pair of shoes to a child in need.  One for One."  Quite the awesomeness, methinks.  Check out their website if'n you wanna.  Mayhap something'll tickle your cat fancy, do ya kennit?

Go wish Dave a happy 500th post while you're at it.   Tell him I said hi while you're at that.

Remember me to one who lives there.  She once was a true love of mine.  I feel like I could go on and on and on here, as an ellipsis shooting off into infinity.  I've still not touched on Saturday and its happenings, nor on the fantastic Palm Sunday service we had at church yesterday (yes, there were 4 donkeys, yes there were accidents in the church, yes it was awesome).  Yet, an ellipsis knows its place.  It cuts itself off at three dots, though if it ends a sentence there should be four.

I'll just wrap it up with this.  Breastfeeding class was last Thursday night.  I've never heard anyone say "breast" or "nipple" or "mouthful of breast" so much in my life.  The class was highly informative and tedious.  It easily could've been an hour shorter, but the teacher repeated herself at least three times after every point she made.  She'd basically say the exact same thing over and over again, driving home the point until everyone understood it very well, though she would usually rearrange her words or slightly tweak herself.  For very important things, the teacher would repeat herself, sometimes two or three or four times, making sure everyone understood what she was saying.  It was very informative and mentally taxing. 

Still no public revelation on our daughter's name yet, though it is literary, for you wondering minds....

Friday, April 15, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday: The Doom of the Salt People (Part 1)

     “Tell us a story!”
     “Yeah! Tell us a story, granddad.”
     Hu looked at his grandchildren with a frowning smile. “It’s late. I’m tired. We’ve a busy day tomorrow. There’s no time for a story.”
     “Please! We’re not sleepy.”
     “Yes, but I am.” Hu doubted his reasoning with six-year-olds was sound.
     “Tell us something from the time Before.”
     “Pleeaeaease!” They chimed in unison.
     “Fine, fine. But after it’s over I’ll not have another word from either of you. Square?”
     They nodded eagerly, smiles wide and hungry. Hu racked his mind for a moment, thinking of what story to tell. While he did this, he told the children to prepare for bed and he would tend to them soon. First, he stoked the furnace, throwing a small piece of timber into the flames, just big enough to last through the tale. Then he made sure the doors were barred and the windows sealed. Finally, he poured him a cup of summer wine. He suspected he’d need something strong to get him through the yarn he’d selected.
     And suddenly the work was over. He pulled his chair over to the boy’s bedside and sat his cup on the ground. “Have you said your goodnight prayers, yet?” Kile nodded; Ken shook his head. Hu sighed. “Well go on, Ken. Let’s hear ‘em out loud, then. I won’t start until you’ve said ‘em.”
     Ken started to protest but was silenced by Hu holding up a hand. “If you want a story, you’re gonna hafta say your prayers. Ain’t no two ways about it.” Ken scowled, but he obliged. A minute or so later he was finished. Hu nodded approvingly, but inside he knew the prayers were a useless tradition. If they worked, there’d be no such thing as Before. Annie and the kids would still be alive. He wouldn’t be hiding in some old, forgotten house in the middle of nowhere, worried sick all hours of the day that they’d be found and unable to sleep at night because of the memories.
     Hu knew that praying was a pointless action, but he still encouraged the boys to believe. No reason for them to be jaded at such an early age. They’d find out the truth soon enough, he supposed. Might as well...
     Hu shook his head. “Sorry. Just thinking of where to start.”
     The boys looked at each other, eyes rolling between the two of them.
     Hu coughed and took a sip of the wine. “Alright. This one’s called ‘The Doom of the Salt People.’” Kile and Ken’s eyes reflected in the glowing orange of the firelight, and for the hundredth time that day, Hu envied their innocence. “It goes like this...”

Thursday, April 14, 2011

KiTE, a Review

In the distant future, near the end of the 22nd century, Earth has not changed all that much.  People are still going about life as normal, though technology is advanced enough that space travel isn't unheard of.  Mason Dash, a pilot on the cleaning ship Kite, spends his working shifts orbiting the planet and eradicating litter, using KiTE's high-powered lasers and webbing.  Bored and ready to retire, Dash passes time at work by sleeping in his underwear on a sofa.  When he's home, he spends most of his time toying around with his AI personality Sheila that lives in the computer.  But Dash, ever the trickster, begins to suspect not all is right in his normal life.  Maybe the "abandoned" International Space Station II isn't quite so abandoned after all.  Maybe Janet, his wife, has grown suspicious of his relationship with Sheila.  Maybe he's gone off the deep end and is seeing things out in space.

Such is the setup for KiTE, by Bill Shears.  Well, that's my set-up.  The official blurb, taken from INFINITYbound's website, goes like this.
KiTE, by Bill Shears, is a science fiction novel set in Earth orbit. Mason Dash, operator of Kite, the flagship of Earth Orbit Maintenance Department’s debris sweeper fleet, suspects spacejackers on an abandoned space station may be using it as a platform for a terrorist attack on Earth targets. Sheila, his beautiful virtual companion, has been “enhanced” with an experimental free will module. Inside the computer system of Kite a digital uprising is under way. Sheila goes off on her own adventure and finds she’s forced to split her focus between Dash’s situation in the “real world” and an ambitious virtual tyrant who has also taken a fancy to her, and who wants to expand his empire beyond Kite. Meanwhile Dash finds the spacejackers are not what he suspected, maybe worse. And it’s just then that humankind’s first unearthly visitor appears in Earth orbit, who is none too pleased. Earth’s fate hangs in the balance.
Blurbs are always a fickle thing for me.  Sometimes I feel like they overdo it, throwing out spoilery when there shouldn't be any.  That's how I feel about this blurb and the one on the back of the book.  Nevertheless, that's neither here nor there.  This is not a review of a book's blurb, but a book review, and the question is whether or not I enjoyed Shears' KiTE?

Such a difficult question, honestly.  At times, yes, I thought it was fun, entertaining, interesting, and original.  There were some brilliant bits of character philosophy (I'm looking at you, HE_RA), some amazing sci-fi originality (how spaceships are launched, for example), and some clever dialogue.  And yet, I had a few issues through my read, too.  For one, there were a few too many grammatical/formatting errors.  Normally, I don't pay attention to this kind of stuff, but there were enough instances that it jarred me the wrong way and seemed to impede the story.  Another problem was the odd idioms Dash would use.  I find it hard to believe that a simple pilot would be quoting Shakespeare or old television shows, considering the time setting.  This, too, seemed to slow my progress with the story.

Still, at the root of the matter, KiTE told an entertaining (and at times engrossing) story.  Dash was passably likable, a sort of Everyman that I could relate to.  He had a sense of humor that at times was grating, but nevertheless funny.  Things seemed well and above his head and beyond his understanding, and his responses were how I could see myself acting sometimes. 

Unfortunately, KiTE is not just Dash's story.  One entire plot thread that I didn't care too much about was the AI.  Sheila was a great character, and her evolution was fun to watch.  HE_RA, on the other hand, along with the entire setting of Kite's mainframe, were boring and irritating.  I found myself dreading these scenes, not really interested in the characters or their plight.  When it was suggested that the AI were evolving, literally from some sort of artificial DNA-type thing, I perked up, but still I wasn't really invested in this.  I would have rather had more "personal" scenes, not "artificial," if that makes sense.

And the thing that I really enjoyed and hated at the same time was the narrative mode used.  Third-person omniscient tends to stimulate this reaction from me.  I prefer limited (or first person, even) to the 3-p-o mode, usually, and KiTE was no different.  It's hard on me, as a reader, to keep suspense up when the POVs are constantly shifting, and nothing is withheld.  It's confusing when there are many characters in a scene and the POVs shift so much, and yet it's also fun to read something in this mode every once in a while. 

So really, the question remains.  Did I enjoy KiTE?  Somewhat, both yes and no.  Would I recommend KiTE as a read?  That would depend on the reader, honestly.  I think sci-fi fans would enjoy it, and this is definitely a "hard" sci-fi novel.  I tend to go "soft" when I read sci-fi, so that could be part of my problem.  I'd also recommend it to someone looking for a short, not-too-serious sci-fi book, or someone interested in computers and AI.

*I received KiTE as from the author/agent/publisher for free, in exchange for my honest review.  No moneys were transferred in the agreement, nor were any baked goods.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Meta Logic in an Existential Debriefing with Rambling Verbosity (Obvious Redundancy)

The closer you get to writing in true stream of consciousness, the closer you get to understanding your own inner workings.  You see the Deeps where words form, a borrowed metaphor here, a cultural lambaste there, a song lyric weaving its way between and around the words, sometimes spilling over into the prose.  And when you try to nail down just what exactly you're thinking about, you realize that you're mind's hand is no longer holding a hammer and the nail is now an ibis wading in the shallows, now an image of Isis on top of Big Ben.

It makes me wonder if there's any sort of logic to it, and I long to say no.  The inner workings are too random, too influenced to have any real logic.  Sure, we can certainly concentrate on our thinking, but is the act of concentrating contrary to stream on consciousness?  I see the Stream as an ever-flowing source, unstoppable.  We may put up a dam and steal some of the thoughts, but we cannot hope to catch them all, let alone understand it. 

bottle of mixed juices setting on a desk inside a tiny man's hand with only one sugar cube available.  nimble fingers.  keystrokes.  mere ideas, and thinking, always thinking, three steps ahead and two sentences behind, never on the current.  what to do when one errs?  your you're their there they're editing breaks the Stream.  what to do when one becomes Aware?  Awareness threatens the purity of the Stream.  thoughts scramble.  piano songs...  12:49pm...  lack of output, standard and HD both.  is there a reckoning?

Can you imagine having a perfect memory, able to recall every thought you've ever wondered, each permutation an idea takes from a ONE to a TWO?  Horrifying, methinks.  What kind of filters are set up within us?  Are there some people without these filters?  A ripe and open mind, uninhibited? 

I posit that it may be impossible to write in true stream of consciousness.  The human mind is too wild to truly capture and replicate with 100% accuracy.  Perception can be grasped at, but even that is subjective.  Understanding can be rendered, but not wholly.  What a magnificent machine of thought we have!

I think the point is something about stream of consciousness and how fine a line one must walk in order to write effectively in the style.  On one end, you can go too deep, and the story--arguably the most important element to any work of "fiction"--suffers, drowned by the extraneous.  Or you can simply wade into the Stream, and the tone suffers loss.  It's a delicate task at best, writing in the Stream, but oh it's a fun one.

Monday, April 11, 2011


My daughters name is............ still a secret, and only select individuals are privy to that info at the moment.  ;)

I have launched a new blog today, which is currently titled Ruminating about Scripture.  That's the cleverest, most honest title I could come up with.  If any of you are interested in following or reading along, feel free to click on over there (where? here) and start reading.  There should only be one post per week, though there may at times be more than one, if the mood or urge strikes.  It's basically me sharing my thoughts and feelings about my journey through memorizing bible verses.

Also, for those interested, I listened to a fascinating interview with Pat Rothfuss last week.  It's a little over an hour long, and while I thought most was interesting, there were two parts that are definitely worth the listen to.  Click here to go to the source and get the goods.  The two places I think you should really listen begin at around the 25 minute mark and the 50 minute mark.

In short, one has Pat responding to many people's issue with Wise Man's Fear being slow with plot progression, and the other is something that's slightly alarming.  The response to the slow plot: "[The Kingkiller Chronicle] is a man telling his life story.  You wouldn't go to the library and read an auto-biography and say 'that guy's life didn't have much of a plot.'  Sure, there are elements of plot and story there, but life is rarely arranged neat as a book.  Why should Kvothe's be any different? [paraphrased, obviously, as Pat is much more eloquent in speech]"

The second, at the 50 minute mark, deals with a Robert Frost story.  Pat says, and this time I am quoting, "Everything I have to say about the story right now is in the second book."  I'm not sure what that means, exactly, but it strikes me as alarming.  It burns a small fire of dread where once there wasn't one.  I wonder, nervously, how much will be revealed by the end of the third book, and how much will be left unexplained?  Like Lost, what answers do I need, and how comfortable am I without getting some of them?

Anyway, like I said, I thought the interview was very interesting, and for all Rothfuss fans, I urge you to give it a listen.  I'm pretty sure its SPOILER-FREE for Book 2, but I wouldn't bet my hand on it.

[Lack of transition] The nursery furniture is now all assembled and the baby's room is set up and waiting.  One shower later, the dressers and closet are now slowly filling, and there are still two more to go.  Truly, though, my excitement is at a peak, and I cannot wait to see my daughter.  I already love her so much.

Back to the grindstone now.  Life is still extremely busy, but I hope to have another book review up 'ere the week ends.  Until then...

Friday, April 08, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday: The Life of Collin Chambers

This is a story I started a long time ago.  I had a rough outline, but I couldn't get my head around some issues to close it out.  Still, this piece works well enough as some flash fic.  Forgive the issues with past v. present tense.  Some is intentional, though probably not all...

     Collin Chambers lived in the big house at the end of the street. He was a blond white boy that was liked by most everybody around Yutucka, especially the rich folks. His dad, Sheriff Arlo, always kept a smile on his face whenever he was out in public. “Evening, ma’am,” he’d say. “How’re the kids, Misses Joyce?” But everybody knew what he was like behind that smile. Knew that he liked the taste of the bottle too much and nothing good ever comes from that.
     I guess you can say Collin and I were friends. We’d play with the other kids from around the neighborhood about every night, until the sun went down and the mosquitoes started biting. Then it’d be time to head home. All of us scattering like a bomb went off.
     One night Collin asked if he could be my partner. We were playing hide and seek. I said sure, why not. I’d already heard about Susie McGee and Janey Molls each getting a kiss from him, and it seemed about time I saw what all the fuss was about. Kate Brook told me at lunch that Collin walked them home and they kissed when he got them there. I’d only ever been kissed once before, and that was from a dare. Now that I finally had breasts, I knew kisses were in my future.
     So Collin takes my hand in his and we go off and hide up in a tree. The slimeball tries to make me climb up first, on account I was wearing a dress and all, but I told him I ain’t having none of that and that a gentleman would go first in case there were bees. He scowled at me good, but he started a-climbin’ quick enough.
     Well we got up there, and just in time, too. Ernie hollered out “Ready or not here I come!” just as Collin pulled me up. We climbed up a bit higher to a nook big enough for both of us and waited to be found. Sometimes it’d take a while, but I was in no hurry. I could tell something was burning behind Collin’s eyes. He had that little smirk on his face. “What’re you looking at?” I asked him in a whisper.
      “The way the shadows play across your face,” he said. “You’re beautiful.” I snickered. I’m not sure where he heard that line, but it sounded like oil was mixing with the water of his words. But I knew what he was after, and I was determined to give it to him, but on my own doing. Can’t let a boy go thinkin’ you’re easy.
     So I socked him in the shoulder and called him stupid. “What’s that for?” he asked me, rubbing his shoulder.
     “It’s for lying,” I told him. “The Bible says ‘thou shalt not lie’ and I know I ain’t beautiful.”
     “Yuh-huh,” he said and I punched him again. Right in the same spot. “Hey, stop it!” But I just laughed.
     “What’s a-matter Collin? Can’t take a punch from a girl?”
     He rubbed his shoulder and shook his head. “You ain’t a girl any more Anne. You’re a woman now.” He blushed. I figured I’d let him suffer long enough and I gave him a half-smile back.
     “Tell me I’m beautiful again,” I told him, and he did, but this time he spoke the truth so I didn’t have to hit him. I let him kiss me. We sat up there in the nook of the tree discovering young love. By the time we were through, our lips were swelled up and our faces were flushed and wet. It was getting late and we still hadn’t been found, but it didn’t matter. Collin walked me home and we shared another kiss before he left.
     That was the last time I ever saw him.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Hellboy: Masks and Monsters, a Review

Hellboy + Batman + Starman + Ghost = :\, eh, who's Starman? who's Ghost?

I wanted to like Masks and Monsters, if only because Mignola illustrated (but didn't write) a Batman & Hellboy story. Sadly, there was very little for me to enjoy in this doubly-arced collection.

The first tale is a cut & paste typical Hellboy story. Nazis are trying to revive an Elder God down in San Diablo. The BPRD disapproves. So does Starman, because the Nazi's kidnapped his genius father and are using him for malignant purposes. Batman's involved early on because the poor, manipulated scientist is giving a boring lecture in Gotham City, and Hellboy goes to investigate.

That's about it. Mignola's art even seemed less spectacular than normal. The plot was a yawn and I'm thankful this is not considered in the Hellboy canon.

The second story is about Ghost, another notable "superhero(ine)" that I'd never heard of. This piece was written by Mignola (though not illustrated by him), and it was definitely more enjoyable than the first. I enjoyed the brutal, retro Mafia bit at the beginning, and this piece had enough humor to make it almost worth the read. Sadly, some of the art was flat, but not all, and some of the plot was ridiculous.

Perhaps part of the reason I didn't care too much for this collection was because the last several volumes have been amazing. This book may be better as a standalone for someone only passably interested in Mignola's anti-hero, though there are so many other better options I can't imagine why anyone would pick this one up first. I suppose a diehard Starman or Ghost fan may like it, but if you're reading for the Caped Crusader, you're only gonna get a few scenes.

Overall, for any serious Hellboy reader, this ones easily forgettable and pointless. They can't all be wonderful.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Take a Breath

It's been rather silent here on Rememorandom for over a week now.  Some of you may have been worried.  Did he get mauled by a great, giant panda?  Did he eat a pita full of salt on a dare and go into a coma?  Did that hag finally hex him and he's now roaming the streets as a hungry aardvark?  Well, allow me to assuage your fears.  The answer is no, no, and, sadly, no.

You see, Keisha and I were looking at our extended forecast, and it turned out that this past weekend was one of our last "free" weekends until our daughter arrives in June.  The rest of them are loaded with baby showers or other sordid things.  So, spontaneously, we decided to go camping down at the lovely Land Between the Lakes.  I was a bit hesitant about my six-month pregnant wife sleeping on the ground (i.e., air mattress, even though I normally shun these sorts of luxuries on such trips, I'm not a Spartan when it comes to my sweetness and her comfort), but we did it anyway.

A beautiful day Friday with gale force winds.  A glorious Saturday with sunshine and cyclones.  A humid and ridiculously warm Sunday with forgettable gusts.   Lots of fun to be had.  We spent two hours or so in an 1850s-style homestead, talking with the locals and enjoying the weather.  We drove up to where my project for work is located, checking out the highway (boring) and looking at the ditches (boring), but still, it's nice to actually see the place in person instead of on a computer monitor.

I spent a few hours in the garden on Sunday and got a healthy (hahahaha) sunburn on my pale and milky white back.  Then I had some vacation time, which was spent emptying out the baby's room for the crib and furniture to go in.  This took much of the day Monday, but we finished.  Tuesday, another vacation day, was spent mowing and staining some chairs (see pictures below).  Tuesday night proffered chili dogs, a feast no sane person can deny, and I went to bed happy, working a crossword puzzle in the bed with Keisha 'ere the lamp went dark.

Things have been busy and will continue to be busy for a while.  There's a lot to talk about, but no time to devote to blogging at hand.  Instead, I'll mention briefly:  we attended our first baby class, where Keisha learned how to breathe properly; my project, which I thought was finished last week, apparently is unfinished and still needing revisions; I'm not really enjoying the book I'm currently reading, but I'm not "not enjoying" it, either; Easter approaches, and so does my solo; a new My Morning Jacket album comes next week, I believe; baby baby baby baby baby work work revisions revisions clean clean garden baby baby dogs bills work money money money money money 2 months no paycheck bible is good book i'm in leviticus now and read about sacrifices the other morning while eating breakfast and mymind'sshotandthere'snothingleftformetowriteaboutbattlestargalacticaisstillgoodtoomuch.........................

there will be another post this week.  maybe two.  back below the surface, now.  take a breath.  (if only i learned to breathe properly at a baby class...)