Monday, November 30, 2009

A Strange Dream + A Rant on Christianity

I’m sick.  I did my last mowing of the year on Saturday, had Thanksgiving with my family that afternoon, and have felt awful ever since.  I think it’s probably a mix of sinuses, allergies, and the chilled November morning air.  After church yesterday, I plopped on the couch and lay there for the rest of the day, watching STAR WARS in HD on Spike and playing Oblivion.  Keisha bought me some stuff to make me feel better (Reeses, Smarties, Trail Mix, Sonic Rt 44 drink) and made some great beef stroganoff for supper.  I went to bed around 9:00.  I read for an hour or so and then turned the light off and instantly fell asleep.

My dreams are often weird, but last night’s was quite strange.  I don’t know why or who was doing it, but I was being crucified.  It was my fourth crucifixion.  Apparently I was getting crucified every week for some reason, and it was time again for my agony.  I was laying horizontal on top of a cross.  Tight leather straps bound my wrists above my head and bound my feet against the cross.  Behind my thighs were several large, rusty spikes.  My legs were forced down and the spikes went into them.  I don’t know what happened afterwards.  I was frantic and scared and dying.  And then I either died or didn’t, but there was a lot of blood.  A LOT of blood.

I’ve never really been one to think that dreams have a meaning.  Sure, I believe God used Joseph to interpret dreams for the pharaoh, Jacob fought with an angel in his sleep, and many other instances of Biblical dreaming.  I even think God still speaks to us in dream, but I don’t look into all dreams as having a message.  The slope is too sticky to do that, so I make a point in not looking into dreams.  (I’m speaking personally.  For others, God’s plan is undoubtedly different.)

But the thing is, after Sunday School yesterday, or after reading the final chapter of the Interrupted study I mentioned a few weeks back, I’ve been thinking about how we know what God wants us to do.  I’ve been wondering what sort of practical, everyday things in my life can I change or work on for God.  I wonder how to hear God’s voice guiding me.  And so I prayed last night before I went to sleep for God to show me what He wants me to do.  I randomly opened my Bible, which happened to fall on Psalm 83.  The first verse reads: “O God, do not keep silence; do not hold your peace or be still, O God!”

This was the exact thing I was wanting.  And I wondered back to the Psalmist, Asaph, and how he was feeling God’s absence.  I closed my Bible and prayed again for the Lord to show me ways to be more like Him in my daily walk.  I am not one of those Christians that think they are better than everyone because I have Jesus.  I’m not one of those Christians that will scorn someone because of their sin.  No, I am no better than anyone.  I am a fellow traveler in this quagmire of filth, willing to be there for anyone in need.  I don’t care if our ideals are different.  I don’t care if our religion’s are different.  What I care about is showing a loving heart and lending loving hands to those in need.

It sickens me when I hear people—Christians—putting down other people.  Christians are no better than anyone else.  No, Christ tells us to be lowly and to serve, not to be haughty and above others.  I hear Christians making fun of homosexuals and it breaks my heart.  I hear Christians using derogatory words for other ethnicities and it breaks my heart.  And yet we wonder why the world is not coming to Christ.

Jesus did not make fun of others.  He did not hang out with the educated and higher-up Jews; He spent his time with sinners and tax collectors (the lowliest in the Jewish society).  He met peoples physical needs before He met their spiritual ones, and that is what I want to do.  I want to be sensitive to my environment, to have open eyes to see where people are hurting and what they are needing.  I want to be the eyes and hands and feet of Christ, helping my fellow sojourners.

And so, like last night, I still pray for God to show me what I can do.  I pray that my eyes are opened and my ears tuned.  Like the Brandon Heath song (see below, it’s a very catchy song with a sweet beat), my prayer is “Give me your eyes for just one second, give me your eyes so I can see everything that I keep missing, give me your love for humanity.  Give me your arms for the broken hearted ones that are far beyond my reach.  Give me your heart for the ones forgotten, give me your eyes so I can see.”

I see no meaning in my dream.  Not yet, anyway.  What I see is a world that desperately needs Jesus.  But I see a world that desperately needs food, clothing, shelter, protection, and love, too.  I see Christians that are too busy seeing to themselves and their own that the rest of the world is suffering.  I don’t want to be on that boat.  As corny as it sounds, I want to be on the love boat.  I want to show the world that we’re not all bad, that we’re not all spiteful and hateful, that we’re not all disrespectful and proud.  I want to show the love.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Weekend Special: How to Disappear Completely

I subscribe to Wired magazine.  I get it for free.  I redeemed enough My Coke Rewards points for it a few months back.  Three issues ago, Wired 17.09, had a story about what it took to disappear in the digital age, or if it was even possible.  There were a few different stories of men who all tried to fake their deaths or vanish but were all eventually caught.

Then, that issue went on to say that a writer named Evan Ratliff would drop his known life for one month and try to relocate.  He wouldn’t cease to exist, but he would try to become someone else.  His old passions would still burn, but he would have to make new friends, etc.  The rules were pretty simple: Evan would create a new identity, one who would want to live the same lifestyle, just in a different place with a different name.  In other words, he wouldn’t just head to a cabin in the woods for a month, he would try to recreate his life.  Wired had a contest that if someone could locate Evan and say a password—“fluke”—to him, then they would win $5k.  If no one found him, Evan would get $3k. 

This past issue of Wired, 17.12, followed up on that story.  The entire article is available here if you want to read it.  I found it fascinating.  Partially because so many people were looking for Evan, from private investigators to college students.  Partially because of the amazing capabilities of the internet.  And partially because I wanted to know if he succeeded.

I don’t want to ruin it for you, so I won’t say whether or not he was found within that month.  I burned through the pages with growing wonder at his life.  He did not tell anyone, his girlfriend or parents, his plans.  On August 13, he vanished.

His plan was well thought out and intricate.  His journal entries were mesmerizing.  He mused that he’d always been a loner, but this was something completely different.  He knew no one where he was.  He had no ID, no job, no friends, nothing familiar.

This article had me thinking a lot about the implications of starting over a new life.  I cannot imagine how difficult it would be.  Keeping up the lie would be tolling on the psyche I would think.  While going completely off the grid would likely ensure victory, that would miss the point of the exercise.  What good what it be to start over but not do the things you loved?  To me, that seems like dying, as doing what we love (and like) is what it is to live.

If you’ve got some time, I recommend you reading the linked articles above, especially the second.  The first one discusses the implications and limitations of disappearing.  The second one tells Evan’s journey.  Again, it’s fascinating, if that sort of thing intrigues you.  Share your thoughts about this, if you have any.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Things You Should Be Doing

It’s been a long time coming, so I guess I should just go ahead and get on with it. I’ve stockpiled a collection of recommendations, most of which are to be used with the interweb. Some of these I’ve probably mentioned before, but I don’t think that I’ve gone in to depth on any.

1. Google Reader. GR is a feed collector that is perfect for managing subscriptions to practically anything you can subscribe to online. Instead of using the Blogger tool for checking updated blogs, Reader will tell you exactly how many updates there are without you looking for them. Instead of going to check and see if XKCD has a new comic up, let Reader manage it for you. A beautiful thing about Reader is that it’s very easy to navigate and use and requires less time than other methods of searching and reading.

I can’t stress to you how much I love my Google Reader. (I pretty much love everything Google does. Chrome. Gmail. Reader. Picasa. The list goes on.) The biggest benefit is the time it saves and the simplicity of reading a feed. If you don’t use Reader and you spend a fair amount of time reading blogs, newspapers, comics, etc., you should consider checking this out. To use Reader, you only need a Google account.

2. Goodreads. I’ve had a Goodreads account for two years, but I didn’t start using it often until earlier this year. Goodreads is kind of like a social networking site for books and a way to manage your own library. Basically you catalog books as Read, To-Read, or Currently Reading. You can create custom shelves to further organize your books, too. Goodreads offers a ranking system for books that you’ve read, and also a place to put your review. You can read numerous reviews and opinions on all kinds of books, as well as get ideas for what to read next. You can find my Goodreads account here.

3. Swaptree. Swaptree is a pretty cool idea and has worked perfectly for me every time I’ve traded. Basically, it’s a website for trading books, dvds, cds, and video games. It reduces your environmental impact by “reusing” other goods that are no longer used. For me, I’ve traded DVDs and books that I no longer cared to own and received books, DVDs, and video games that I wanted. The system is designed to make trades fairly, so you’re not trading a $50 video game for a $2 book (unless you just want to do that). Swaptree is a free service, and the only thing you pay for is shipping your item out. I’ve not had any bad experiences with any of my trades, and I really like this site. You can check it out here. (You are required to register a home address and a credit card, but both are secure. The card is in case you choose to purchase shipping online and print your own shipping labels, which I don’t do.)

4. Fark. Other than NPR, Fark is usually where I find out my news. The site it simple. Users put up links to actual news articles, from reputable sources like CNN to the obscure newspapers in New Zealand. Each link is tagged with a label, such as HERO, WEIRD, STRANGE, ASININE, SPIFFY, etc. And then the users create a Fark Headline, which is the best part of the website. I have at times been rolling on the floor from laughing at a Farkers creativity. There’s no real way to explain it. The humor is there, and the fun-factor at reading the Fark Headline is a daily highlight I enjoy. Some of the content is NSFW, but it’s all tagged accordingly. I highly recommend this site, just to get a giggle.

5. Windows Live Writer. I know I’ve mentioned this one before, but I’ll do it again. I like the interface it offers for blogging and writing, especially when it comes to images. There are a few problems with it (the line spacing issue is annoying), but on the whole it’s a great program.

6. This. You really should watch this. It’s nothing but pure wonderful.

7. Google Wave. There's not much to write about it, but it's coming. And if it's as good as it's supposed to be, it'll be revolutionary and awesome. I have a few invites left if you want one.

Well, that’s really it for now. Sorry this is going out late (for anyone who’s been chomping at their fingernails waiting). I didn’t check my Reader yesterday and had 49 things to read this morning. Yikes.

We got a few flakes of snow yesterday, and it’s finally cold. Stay warm. Keep the homefires burning, folks, like Ronnie Milsap did. And Happy Weekend (whenever I leave work today).

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

A few things that I'm not thankful for.

1.0 The fact that there are millions of starving and helpless people out there
1.1 The fact that I don't do much to offset that problem

There are so many things that I actually am thankful for that I could not begin to sum it up in a list. I have been so blessed and fortunate in my life and I thank the Lord God Almighty for His blessings. A few things that I am thankful for, in no order at all...

1.0 Salvation
2.0 Turkey, dressing, green beans, mashed potatoes, corn, peas, ham, orange juice cake, sweet tea, and coffee.
3.0 Music
5.0 A church that I enjoy
6.0 A Sunday School class that we actually fit in with
7.0 Friends and family
8.0 Books
9.0 Doritos

So that's it. It's a holiday that we're spending today with Keisha's family. My family's gathering will be this Saturday. I have to work tomorrow. Core dump.

Be thankful for what you have, folks, whether it's a lot or a little. There's always people better off and worse off. That's it. Nothing more for today. Farewell.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Writing Wednesdays: The Absurdly Epic Tragedy of Oscambria 1.3

This is a continuing epic poem. You can find the previous parts here, or by following the "Oscambria" label at the bottom of the post. Enjoy.
While the yellow-faced Zzizgarg, I mean, Cornball,
Was conversing with his Father,
Spans away, Oscambria was mid-monologue
in an after Lessons theatre performance.
Oscambria starred as the lead actor,
Cademeaus the Beautiful,
In a play called “Sing to Me, Cadem!”

Let us listen in on his words.
“How can this be, you fiend,
that thee should offend
me and take the life of she I loved?
My heart! My soul! I am but a man
Burdened and weighted down
By your oppressiveness.

“Cindy never wronged thee,
oh Death, that you should smite her.
Her life was full of joy,
Her body a gift divine,
And her heart given to all.
I shall not stand this life without her,
Oh wretched horror.

“Hark! Mine eyes see her
beyond the Great Plain,
pale and terrible in her beauty.
I am coming to you, Cindy!”
And behold, our hero plunged a knife into his chest,
the blood flowed strong,
and Cademeaus the Beautiful died tragically on stage.

A moment of stunned silence
Was defeated by a powerful series of clapping
and shouting for his performance.
The blood-soaked body rose,
Bowed gracefully,
And walked off the raised dais and
Into the throng of his admirers.

“Thank you all,” said he, “that you came
to watch my performance.
I am but a mere semi-mortal,
Gifted by a spark of Flame in my heart
That propels me into the light of fame.
I can only do what my heart yearns to do,
And that is to kiss you, fair maiden.”

Oscambria pulled at a nearby virgin,
Embracing her in his hug and kissing her full on the lips.
She blushed, of course,
Having never been kissed before,
But also from receiving an act of love
From Oscambria, the acclaimed actor
And handsome hero of the stage.

It was there, surrounded by fans and
Adorners of gifts,
In his post-performance glow,
That a peculiar thing happened, the major plot impetus, if you will.
The youth all backed away in horror
And the elders retched a foul
and dark vomit.

Everyone began running at once,
Everyone but Oscambria,
To find a way of escape from the curse he suddenly found himself in.
The throng of worshipers
Had abandoned the actor within minutes,
Leaving him alone with the curse
And the agony that would ensue.

The Hero wept suddenly,
Tears stinging his young face.
His dark hair masked his countenance
For the time being,
Hiding the fear and revulsion etched thereupon,
Concealing the wondrous features
Of his handsome face.

Let us pause and consider this moment, dear ones.
Oscambria, the one day Hero of the Worlds,
The acclaimed actor and performer,
The one who bested Zzizgarg in a challenge in the Courte du Gods,
The one who defeated the Giant Koala of Havik,
Is down on his knees and weeping like a child,
Sobbing with abandon.

This, I offer, is the second lowest moment of his life.
This is where the tragedy begins,
Where the journey starts,
Where the plans are laid,
Where the gods are pleased,
Where a semi-mortal finds himself castrated from society
And suddenly cursed.

“What have I done,” cried Oscambria,
“That I should deserve this punishment?
It is more than I can bare.
My once beautiful skin is now wretched and grey,
Spotted with freckles and painful to touch.
And the odor that reeks from it
Is fouler than the Sulfur Sea of Hell.

“I dare not glimpse myself at a mirror,
lest I faint, or desire to pluck my eyes
like Oedipus of Old.
No, I shall leave this place and discover
Why I have been afflicted,
And who has wished me a-cursed.
What have I done?”

Oscambria rose from his position,
Just yards from the stage he’d just entertained on,
And dusted himself off.
He was still covered in the dark berry juice
That had been used as blood for Cademeaus’ fatal wound,
Still robed in classic Euro garb,
Still grey-skinned and cursed.

“Goodbye, dear stage, for I must leave thee.
I vow to you that I will return one day,
That I will perform on you again,
That I will discover the villain of this plot and knavery,
And that I will slay him with my own self.
Hear my words, Oh Muses, and know that I will serve
Thee with all my heart.

“Hear my vow, Oh Rone, and know that the
Fire that is in my lineage will burn bright in me,
That I will end this curse that has been placed upon me.
I offer you the Blood-cut, and I will avenge those that have wronged me,
I will live out my days in this agony
Seeking justice and vengeance,
And when I have found it, I will have my restoration.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Desultory Thoughts About Diddly Squat

There are times in life when you feel like Bono, walking through the empty streets of London searching for something that you can’t find, knowing that you never will find what you’re looking for. Or maybe you feel like a scarecrow that’s scared of the crows, which is really quite inefficient. But we’re talking kings and successions, even you can’t be caught unawares.

Don’t you hate it when the book your reading turns out to not be what you’re expecting? It’s like taking a big drink of pop, expecting the full richness of Mt. Dew and instead getting Coke or tea. While there’s nothing wrong with Coke or tea, there’s nothing good about that false excitement and sudden revulsion, either. Treasured is about finding tangible reminders of God’s active presence in our lives through life stories of the author. So far, I feel like I’m reading chick literature, which is a definite let down. Maybe it’s because I’m still coming off the high of Last Argument of Kings?

So prepare for the coup of the century, be prepared for the murkiest scam. Have I ever pointed out my favorite Disney movie of all time? It’s Aladdin. I love it. The comedy still cracks me up every time I watch it. Genie and Al are too funny. I’m glad Disney made good cartoon movies back then instead of this weird stuff they’re making now. My second favorite Disney movie? You’d never guess it in a million years.

Meticulous planning, tenacity spanning… Where does that leave us? In the dregs of the soup bowl? In anticipation for Thanksgiving? In the throws of the soul of music, floating on like Modest Mouse? We look into the mirror and see not ourselves staring back but the Witch King of Angmar, blade aglow and flail a-ready. (You have to admit, his design is awesome.) Startled at the sight of the Black Captain, we jump back and stumble into Outkast, which startles them into an outburst of “Hey Ya!”

Decades of denial is simply why I’ll be king, undisputed, respected, saluted, and seen for the wonder I am. Tearstained cheeks with mascara streaks make us all eke out own. The terror of everyday living, of everyday knowing, is enough to drive even the stoic up the wall of emotion. There is no sanctuary. There is only Australia, the last great hope for man. How sad would I be if I dropped my favorite coffee cup, the handcrafted one from the pottery place, and it shattered at my feet?

Yes, my teeth and ambitions are bared. The Ciabatta sandwiches for supper last night were really good. Heroes was okay, but only okay. Big Bang Theory was funny, as it always is. I was eschewing Black Friday deals (I have to work), but I saw that Best Buy is selling Fallout 3 GOTY Edition for $20. I can’t pass that up. They’ve also got Dragon Age for $40, but I think I’ll let that one slide for now. Of course, on the flip side, I always have my calculus.

Be prepared!

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Joe Purdy Concert

DSC00041 If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, then you’ll know that I am a huge fan of Joe Purdy.  His songs are powerful, combining both wonderful lyrics and catchy music.  On almost any given day with almost any mood I can listen to Joe and feel his songs, feel the emotion attached to them.  With that, I’ve wanted to go to a Joe Purdy concert for many years now, and now I can finally say that I have gone.

The concert was in a bar, 3rd & Lindsley, in Nashville.  The setting was dark and atypical of what a bar might look like.  The stage was small and there were no bad seats in the place.  This environment creates an intimate setting for the show.  Luckily, me and Keisha got a seat at a table right beside the stage, and if there was a front row, then we were on it.

Joe’s opening act was a French singer-songwriter named Julie Peel.  She played about six songs with just her guitar, harmonica, and kazoo for support.  Her music was catchy and soothing, and her voice was pleasant.  Overall, a great opening choice for Joe methinks.  You can check out Julie’s music at her website by clicking here.

DSC00055 Joe came onstage next.  He played a solo show and the concert lasted about 80 minutes.  It was exciting to see the dude so close and to listen to him belt out familiar tunes from his large catalog, in addition to some new music, too.  The sound was perfect, and the live show sounded almost as good as the studio.  Joe played a fair mix of guitar-based songs and piano-based ones.

Sadly, I was expecting a longer show.  Eighty minutes doesn’t seem long enough to me, but I understand that Joe was probably tired.  He himself drove 9 hours to get to the show, so I’m sure he was a bit worn down.  Plus, this was the last show before he took a Holiday break.  Regardless, the concert experience was awesome.

One thing that wasn’t awesome was this drunken fangirl that kept getting on people’s nerves.  I can understand fans calling for requests, but this woman was rather rude.  She stood only a few feet in front of Joe while he played and sang and she sang along with him, if you can call it singing.  It had to have been distracting to Joe, as he kept making side remarks about acting like an adult and being respectful.  At one point she was talking so loudly and getting pictures made that Joe said something like “…that’s a good one.  You go ahead and do whatever you want.  It’s your show.”  He later on joked about hiring “somebody to choke that b------,” which was inappropriate on Joe’s behalf and likely spoken in anger.  Finally (and paraphrasing) he told the woman that if she could keep her mouth closed and be quiet through his next song then he’d play whatever song she wanted to hear.  She didn’t last very long, and Joe didn’t play what she wanted to hear.  Joe played his last song, did a one song encore, and left the stage.

Really it was disappointing and disgusting.  Do some people not have any sort ofDSC00058 respect?  I think everyone should be required to learn etiquette and learn how to act when out in society.  I went to the restroom after the show and saw that woman’s husband/boyfriend/malefriend talking with Joe’s manager(?).  He, too, was very likely drunk.  He was yelling that that lady was Joe’s biggest fan and she just wanted to hear one song and that Joe didn’t have to act like that and that Joe was a piece of crap and that he wasn’t leaving until Joe played that song and that if he had to then he’d bust in Joe’s room and “throw a Bible at him” and bust him up and blah blah blah.  I decided to skip out on the restroom and leave.

I guess the point is nothing new.  Alcohol makes people do stupid stuff.  It also makes the rest of us think less of you if you’re drunk and stupid. 

100_3921 I have to hand it to Joe, he did a great show, even with the loud distraction he had to put up with throughout a few songs.  I definitely can’t wait to see him again.  If you’ve never listened to Joe’s music, you are missing out.  He’s got all ten of his albums on his website that you can stream for free.  I’d recommend starting with You Can Tell Georgia, Paris in the Morning, Take My Blanket and Go, or StompinGrounds.

Finally, I’ll post a video of a new song he did.  Joe’s had a long history of letting fans record video and audio at his concert, but I only recorded a few songs.  It’s called “The Ballplayer.”  Awesome stuff.  (If I’m not supposed to have this video up then I’ll remove it.)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Shadows, Erosion Control, Birthdays, Nashville, and a Homeless Shelter

It’s been a rather busy week and the weekend promises to be stuffed absolutely full. So much to say so much to say so much to say so much to say. I like lists.

1. “Shadows” is a song written by David Crowder Band, from their newest cd. A friend of mine, Alex, came o’er the other night and we practiced music for a while, including this song. After he left I decided to record a cover just to put it out there. Alex plays bass, which you’ll notice is missing. Hopefully we’ll be able to add the bass-line in soon. Anyway, I recorded each instrument as one track then mixed them all together to get the end result. Enjoy. (And if you would like to hear a different song/sound all together I did, check out this one.)
So there are a few problems throughout the track, like the staggered timing of some of the instruments. But hey, I’ve only been learning the piano for a little while now. All in all, I liked the sound, but it by no means compares to the awesome original, which you can hear here if’n you’d like. (Actually, I recommend it. And if you’ve not got the band’s newest album, you should definitely consider it. Absolutely brilliant and amazing. Available as a cheap mp3 album here at Amazon.)

2. I spent all day yesterday in a training class. At the end of the day, there was an exam, which brought back memories of college… If I passed the exam (and I think I might have) then I will become a certified Kentucky Erosion Prevention and Sediment Control (KEPSC) inspector. This is a little scary, as I have little-to-no practical experience (and only a tad theoretical) in these fields. Regardless, it is something that I think I will enjoy if I get to do it, plus I’d be one of the very few certified erosion folken in my company. But for now, this takes the back burner.

3. Yesterday was my brother-in-law Clint’s birthday. He turned eight. Tonight we’re going to Chuck E. Cheese’s to celebrate. Should be a rocking crazy fun wild and imaginative time.

4. I believe I’ve mentioned it a few times here on Rememorandom, but I love Joe Purdy. The man knows how to write lyrics and create beautiful songs, from tragedy to joy, from happiness to anger. I’ve got two concert tickets for tomorrow night’s show in Nashville, and I’m taking my wonderful wife with me to go and finally see him. It’ll be my first Joe Purdy show and I am double-plus super excited. Keisha and I are going to spend the day in Opry Mills. We’ll get to see the Christmas lights and whatever else is up this time of year. Then, when the concert finally rolls around, she’ll get to hear me sing for 2 hours or so. Man o man am I ready.

5. I mentioned that Alex and I were playing some music at my house. We’ve been getting together once a week to practice on some songs. Typically, when our Sunday School class has a worship service at the homeless shelter (twice a month), Alex plays bass, I play guitar, and my Sunday School teacher plays guitar and leads the songs. This weekend, it’s just going to be me and Alex leading worship, so that should be…fun?

6. I was contacted yesterday by someone who wants to do a guest post on my blog. Since my blog is called Rememorandom, I had no problems with this. I don’t do as many random posts as I once did, but my subject matter is still random and whatever comes to mind. With that in mind, I thought it’d be perfect for the blog. Not sure when the post will come, but it will come. Hopefully. Until then, the guest blogger will remain anonymous, unless they decide to leave a comment here and reveal themselves, which would ruin the suspense but give me reason to keep this sentence going on much longer than it should, thus making it a run-on sentence, a common mistake in writing, which is the act of creating written works was invented by Barnabas K Polka-party in 2012.

That mostly sums everything up. Oh, we did get Stella’s hair cut this week. Here are two pictures for your puppy enjoyment.

If you look on the counter in that top picture, you can see the Sunday Crossword of the LA Times for this past week. And if you close your right eye and move your head a bit, you can block out my face and just see Stella on the bottom one! If you want to see more pictures than you can shake a stick at of Stella, from puppyhood to now, you can view my Picassa album here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

STAR WARS: Death Troopers

Death TroopersI was quite intrigued when I first heard about the STAR WARS: Death Troopers novel. Actually, I believe I was open mouthed and awe struck. The introduction of zombies into the STAR WARS universe was unusual, but I grew instantly keen on the idea as soon as I learned of it. If you follow the above link you can read the blurb on the back of the novel.

The book is only around 240 pages and the pages turn very quickly. Partially because the chapters are short and action-filled, but also partially because the plot has you reading quickly to see what happens.

It’s hard for me to decide my opinion on this book. I was entertained by the plotline. I cared somewhat about the characters. I was intrigued by the zombie thing (who isn’t?). I was repulsed by the zombie thing (who isn’t?). And if you want to think about something that can scare you, think about zombie Wookies.

One problem I had with the book was that it wrapped up too nicely, too succinct for my liking. So much so that I had to roll my eyes in disbelief a few times. Sure, I can suspend reality into believing the undead are alive and hungry in a far away, make believe galaxy, but pushing too much luck/coincidence into a character and that suspended belief turns into disbelief.

One thing I really enjoyed was the rushed pace the novel took. The action is really intense and the fear of the characters is palpable. I had no problems visualizing the mob of zombies shambling through the corridors of the spacecraft. The blood and gore was described well enough to bring home the point, too.

I had mixed feelings about the characters. The two teenage brothers have my pity and I like them, but some of their actions are a bit stupid. The “sadistic captain of the guards” is also pitiable, but loathsome. The “rogue smugglers” were a bit too trite, but they held my attention. And the “lone woman on board,” who happens to be the chief medical officer, was a tad cliché, too. However, the relationships between these characters were for the most part well done.

As I said, I had mixed feelings on this book. It definitely fits in the STAR WARS universe (and apparently it is canonized), but only by setting, really. With a few minor tweaks, the novel could work in almost any given setting. I guess I wanted more STAR WARS philosophy, but it was lacking. I can recommend this book to you because it’s a very quick and entertaining read, but don’t set your hopes too realistically. Besides the few eye rolling scenes, I enjoyed the book.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Writing Wednesdays: The Absurdly Epic Tragedy of Oscambria 1.2

Last week's post includes Cantos I & II, if'n you want to read those before this one. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy this installment of my epic poem.
When the child of mourning arrived at his home
He immediately began his pleas.
“Hear me, oh Father, oh Glorious Rone,
oh Creator of Fire and spirit.
We have been wronged today and I seek your face.
Reveal yourself, show me your way,
And guide me in what to do.”

Zzizgarg made the cut and offering,
Casting the blood into the fire.
The temple darkened in the wake of the flare,
And a mighty voice spoke from the Flame.
(And it was a deep baritone, mind you.)
“Who calls me at this hour? Who dares wake me?
It is near two in the morning and I do not wish to be disturbed.”

The yellow-faced one winced at his error.
“I regret my actions, Father, for I forgot about the time lag.
It is I, Zzizgarg, your Blood-son with Paes,
Son of Fire and Ice. Forgive my witless brain
And my weak heart, Father, for I meant not to offend.
Indeed, I only come to you to seek vengeance on
The one who has wronged us.”

The Great Yawn of Heaven ripped through the air
And a loud Snap! followed. In majesty and grace
Appeared Rone suddenly, robed in flannel pajama pants
And a green, fleece robe.
“Wronged us, you say? No one wrongs me without my approval,
which is never, mind you, and anyone who tries suffers my wrath.
Consider your own actions, child, before waking me.

“When waking a god you had best have a good reason,
or your offense is as likely to cause more problems.
I was dreaming of giant bowls filled with 2% milk
And frosted corn flakes, large enough that it took
Six virgins to hold up a single bowl,
Six ill-clad virgins I say, and in a meadow of
Twilight quality.

“The cereal was grand, and now I find myself a-hungered.
You know that we gods do nothing free of charge,
And our prices are oft’ a trick,
But if you ask your request I shall likely agree,
So long as you bring me good quality corn flakes as an offering
Every morning for breakfast for the next fifteen years.
If you agree to this, I shall hear your plea.”

Zzizgarg gulped audibly, nodded and wiped his hand on his brow.
Blood from the Cut came off and left a red streak,
Vivid and crimson on his yellow-face.
“I will do all that you ask of me, glorious Rone,
whether or not you agree to my prayer.
You are my father, you are Fire,
And you deserve my devotion.”

“You speak wise, child, and you’ve taken the blood-oath.
Henceforth, you must bring me quality corn flakes every morning.
You will offer me a bowl for fifteen years.
If you fail one time, my anger will burn on you
And I will wipe your existence off of this plane.
Even if you are immortal, you are no god,
And I can make your eternity miserable if you fail me.

“Now speak, Zzizgarg, and tell me of our wronging.”
The immortal quivered and bowed.
“Today in the Courte du Gods I was challenged by a semi-mortal
named Oscambria. He is one of your lower sons,
born from your loins with a fleshling,
and his attitude is full of pride. I defeated him in his challenge
and he proceeded to blaspheme your name.

“‘Rone,’ said he, ‘is as much Fire as I am.
The old god spends all his time in his own stool,
Thick spittle pouring down his mangy face.
He no longer cares about anything but himself,
And as such he no longer exists.’
In rage I struck him, but he had a talisman
And drove me away.”

Flames erupted around the god, and his fury burned bright.
Tell me exactly, Zzizgarg, who he is and how he came to be.”
“Yes, your worship,
though I may have his lineage imperfect.
He was born near the time I was,
Back in DCCXI.

“His name is Oscambria, son of Oscar,
son of Reaul, son of Lanert, son of Eux,
son of Jamal, son of Raes, son of Nifty,
son of Walter, son of Carl, son of Raes,
son of Slater, son of Zachaeus, son of William,
son of Euxene, son of Vaxter, son of Killis,
son of Hopa, son of Mattsew, son of the woman Paliea.”

“Yes, I do remember now,” bellowed the god.
“She was a beautiful fleshling, married to a lowly pig farmer.
I offered him life in exchange for a night with his woman.
He refused and I had her anyway and I burned him alive.
She bore me a son, Mattsew, and then tossed herself
From the fjords of Ikly. The child would have died, too,
If I had not intervened.

“Perhaps I should not have stopped her and let the child die.
If so, then this Oscambria would not be here now.
Regardless, even gods make mistakes,
And now I will make amends for my error and end this line.
How would you have me slay the blasphemer, Zzizgarg?
Shall I burn him alive? Shall I feed him to a bull?
What would you like, child?”

“I am sorry, Father, but I do not want him to die.
As a semi-mortal, he will live a very long life, but he will have no eternity.
If you were to kill him now, then he would not truly suffer.
No, I think you should curse him,
Make every day he walks on this sphere a wretched day,
Make him rue his sins with every passing of the sun and moon.
Let him live a long life filled with misery, I ask.”

The god smiled and laughed a bitter, deep laugh.
“Yes, Zzizgarg, you speak with wisdom.
You have stopped me from ending this pagan’s life prematurely.
He shall suffer for his insolence, and he will know that I am Fire,
That I am no old, weak god like Thaed,
That this flame burns as bright now as it did when I became.
Yes, he will suffer, Zzizgarg.

“Your offering to me every morning will remind me of my promise to you.
As a sign of my promise, I will forgive your forgetfulness,
I will bless you with radiance. You will glow, Zzizgarg.
Furthermore, I will give you a new name, one that is easier to say.
Henceforth, child, you shall be known as the Flicker of the Flame,
The burning in your eyes will remind all.
You shall be called Cornball.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Side-Thoughts, or the Great Somnambulist Discovers Diesel

Happy Awesome Tuesday everybody.  It’s a great, grey and gloomy day, filled with rain and a hint of actual November temperature and gusts of wind.  I’m supremely exhausted.  I spent around 5 hours yesterday after work decorating for Christmas and cleaning up the house and stayed up until midnight or later reading STAR WARS: Deathtroopers.  Keisha stayed up until 5:30 doing school-work, so she’s probably even more exhausted.

NPR has collected and published a piece on the 50 Most Important Recordings of the Decade.  You can find the article, along with an 89 minute discussion on the results, here.  The full results are posted alphabetically below.

01. John Adams: On The Transmigration Of Souls
02. Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion
03. The Arcade Fire: Funeral
04. The Bad Plus: These Are The Vistas
05. Beyonce: Dangerously In Love
06. Bon Iver: For Emma, Forever Ago
07. Bright Eyes: I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning
08. Burial: Untrue
09. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: S/T
10. Kelly Clarkson: Breakaway
11. Coldplay: A Rush Of Blood To The Head
12. Danger Mouse: The Grey Album
13. Death Cab For Cutie: Transatlanticism
14. The Decemberists: The Crane Wife
15. Eminem: The Marshall Mathers LP
16. The Flaming Lips: Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
17. Osvaldo Golijov: La Pasión Segun San Marcos (Saint Mark's Passion)
18. Green Day: American Idiot
19. Iron And Wine: Our Endless Numbered Days
20. Jay-Z: The Blueprint
21. Norah Jones: Come Away With Me
22. Juanes: Fijate Bien
23. LCD Soundsystem: Sound Of Silver
24. Lil’ Wayne: Tha Carter III
25. Little Brother: The Listening
26. M.I.A.: Kala
27. Yo-Yo Ma: Silk Road Journeys: When Strangers Meet
28. Mastodon: Leviathan
29. Jason Moran: Black Stars
30. OutKast: Stankonia
31. Brad Paisley: 5th Gear
32. Panda Bear: Person Pitch
33. Robert Plant & Alison Krauss: Raising Sand
34. The Postal Service: Give Up
35. Radiohead: In Rainbows
36. Radiohead: Kid A
37. Shakira: Fijación Oral, Vol. 1
38. Sigur Ros: ( )
39. Britney Spears: In The Zone
40. Sufjan Stevens: Illinois
41. The Strokes: Is This It
42. The Swell Season: Once Soundtrack
43. Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabate: In The Heart Of The Moon
44. TV On The Radio: Return To Cookie Mountain
45. Various: Garden State Soundtrack
46. Various: O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack
47. Kanye West: The College Dropout
48. The White Stripes: White Blood Cells
49. Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
50. Amy Winehouse: Back To Black

I like this list.  There are some that I disagree with, but many I find quite good.  I haven’t listened to the discussion yet, so maybe after that I’ll understand a bit more why certain albums were chosen.

Don’t you hate that feeling of having read an amazing book or watched an awesome movie and you don’t have anyone to talk about it with?  If you’ve not read Abercrombie’s First Law series, skip the next paragraph.  SPOILER ALERT!  LAST ARGUMENT OF KINGS THOUGHTS BELOW.  YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.

Dave, since you’re to my knowledge the only one that’s read the full series, I really liked the ending of the novel.  It leaves the doors open for further adventures of the beloved heroes, but I’m not sure if Abercrombie plans to write any more dealing with these protagonists.  I liked how he left Logen’s fate up for interpretation, but I’m sure he made it.  I really would like to see resolution between Bayaz and the rest of the Magi.  I would like to see Bayaz taken down.  I was pleased with Jezal becoming King, though I’ve been expecting it since the end of book 1.  I want to know more about Ferro and what she does with herself.  I guess Abercrombie was driving the point that people don’t/rarely change, and this was a rather bleak outcome, but still enjoyable.  I felt Glokta wanted to change (Why do I do this?) but not enough to do anything about it.  I felt Logen really wanted to become a better man, but his desire to live superseded that.  (I want to learn more about the Bloody-Nine, too.  Does Logen go berserk and the Bloody-Nine take over, or is it somehow related to the Other Side?)  I think Jezal managed to change quite a bit, but not fully.  He was still a scared, weak man in the end, but I would be terrified of Bayaz’ fury, too.  All in all, a supremely fantastic tale.

THE END OF THE SPOILER SECTION.  I always get a hesitant pause when posting something like that, but I trust that you’ll obey the spoiler alerts.  If anybody feels like commenting on my comments from Last Argument, then please put a spoiler tag on your comment if you do so.

My NaNoWriMo progress hit a large standstill this past weekend, and will likely do the same thing again this weekend.  Still, I hope to continue to make a large chunk of the progress, but I don’t know if I’ll make the 50000 mark.  I found out yesterday that I am going to be going to a training course Thursday to try and get certified to become an Erosion Control Inspector.  I don’t really have much knowledge in this field and the training course recommends a prerequisite, but it’s not required.  So, I guess I’ll wing it and hope for the best.

Finally, John from Grasping For The Wind has created an interesting post on the worst endings in Sci-Fi and Fantasy.  You can find it here.  A few weeks back he also did a collection of best endings in SFF, which is available here.  I submitted for the best endings, but didn’t get around to it for the worst.  I probably would have nominated The Dark Tower series for worst endings, but that’s just me…

Remember, don’t count your chickens before they’ve grown razor sharp talons.

Monday, November 16, 2009


It's that sick feeling in your stomach the morning after,
knowing that you've violated your own principles mixed
together with filth.
It's the sobering feeling of regret.
But how can you say no?  Why does it rise from your own mind,
daring you to contradict yourself?
You smell the aroma, you see the smiles of the happy people,
the vibe of the good crowd and you know you're hooked.
You know you will fall to the temptation.
You know that no matter how resilient you are,
you're just another piece of chaff in the maelstrom of life,
unable to keep your word and integrity.

If that possibility of regret showed itself before,
if you could see the results of the actions prior
to taking part,
how much wiser we would be.  How much stronger.
Resistence seems unnatural, impossible.
Caving is inevitable.
But why make the choices you make?  Why choose stupidity?
Is it the false hope that one more time will be okay?
Why subject yourself to something you know you'll regret?


Yes, I regret eating New China Buffet last night.  I admit it.  Once again I resolve myself to abstain from buffets, especially Chinese buffets, but I know my promises are empty and weak.  I'm only human.  Well, mostly...

The First Law: Last Argument of Kings


Last Argument of Kings is the concluding volume of Joe Abercrombie’s breathtaking debut trilogy, The First Law. There’s not a whole lot of things that I can say in this review if I wish to remain truly spoiler-free, but I shall do my best, but I make no promises. You have to be realistic about these things.

It’s been two months since I read book two (reviewed here), and picking this book up felt like a meeting between old familiar friends. All those characters that I had grown to love were returned. Split between wars on both sides, the Union looks to be in quite a mess. Scores are settled amazingly. Loose ends are all tied up neatly. When the smoke clears and the dust settles and you finally finish the book, you’ll be left as speechless as I was. (Actually, I busted out laughing in disbelief, which led to “huh.”, which led to “wow".”)

Like with the previous novels, Last Argument of Kings is a novel about characters. You feel as if you’re inside the head of Logen Ninefingers as he contemplates what to do about a dire situation. You hurt with Jezal as he struggles with his day-to-day existence. You feel your neck crack and your eye leak with Glokta and wonder with him why he does it. The plot is chiefly character driven and the experience is perfect.

If you’ve read the first two books then you know that there is a lot going on in the Circle of the World. A lot of stuff you don’t understand, but you suspect Bayaz knows more than he’s telling. A lot of mystery and lies, and sorting the truth from fiction is a thrilling activity.

Over all, and to keep my mouth shut to remain spoiler-free, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The entire series was an absolute joy to read. The ruthlessness and brutality is reminiscent of GRRM, but at the same time different and unique. Everything reads realistic, and it’s easy to relate to most of the characters. I strongly urge you to pick up these books and read them. Enjoy them. Bask in their wonder. And when you finish, you’ll know that you’ve read something like you’ve never read before. The conclusion of Last Argument of Kings was a perfect fit to the series and I strongly recommend you try this series out.

And now, like with my review of Before They Are Hanged, I give you some of my favorite quotes.

"That's what war is. A lot of folk getting killed that don't deserve it." Dogman
"No, it ain't ever that simple. We all got our reasons. Good men and bad men. It's all a matter of where you stand."--Logen
Why do I do this?—Glokta

*An e-pal (David) gave me the last two books of this series. He mentioned that some books are just too good to set on the bookshelf and not share. I completely agree to that statement. Plus, his generosity was a refreshing breath of good, honest air in Internet Land. So, I now offer these final two books up to whoever would like them. It’d be strongly advised to have read The Blade Itself before diving into these. If you’d like them, just email me your name and shipping address and I’ll take care of the rest. From Dave to Me. From Me to you. Maybe when you read them you’ll pass them along, too. (If I get more than one email, then I’ll do some sort of random pick or something.)

Friday, November 13, 2009


First and foremost, you should watch the film below.  My friend Bill shared this with me and I loved it.  It presents what The Matrix would be like had it been done in the silent film era.  Trust me, it’s fun.  Especially if you like The Matrix, silent films, Russia, or general comedy.

Did you like it?  If you’re on Facebook, then you can’t see the embedded video because Facebook sucks.  If you want to watch the video, and I strongly recommend that you do, then click HERE or HERE.  You won’t regret it.

I cannot express how excited I am to be Nashville bound next weekend.  I’m going to see Joe Purdy in concert.  I’ve been wanting to see him live for a long time now, and the 2-3 hr drive will be completely worth it.  If you’ve not heard of Joe, you should check out his website, where you can listen to all of his music for free.  The concert tickets are cheap ($10) and the venues are small, so if he’s coming near you, you may consider a trip.

Have any of you played Oblivion?  Is it just me or is the lockpicking feature a lot harder than it was in Fallout 3?  I’m not sure I even understand it really.  I just throw the tumblers up and try to lock them in place when it hits the top, but this just doesn’t seem effective.  Bah, I’m sure I’ll figure it out eventually. 

I hoped to have a review of The Last Argument of Kings up here today, but I couldn’t finish the remaining pages last night.  I have about 50 pages or so left, so I’ll definitely review it on Monday.  Next up comes the STAR WARS Deathtroopers book mentioned a while back, since I’ve got it checked out from the library and it’ll need to be returned relatively soon.

Wasn’t The Office funny last night?  Speaking of The Office, here’s another rather interesting video.  It’s a morphing blob robot thing.  It’s actually quite astounding.  It confirms that our technological skills are slowly reaching Skynet levels and Terminators are coming.  Terminators and zombies…  awesome.

Okay, I guess that’s about it for the day.  My NaNoWriMo idea took a dramatic (is that a pun?) turn yesterday in the cogs of my head and I think I decided to change a few things in the character’s futures.  Press on everyone that’s doing it. 

Thursday, November 12, 2009

That Special Something

You know that deep-down feeling that starts in the pit of your stomach, goes up through the muck, wraps itself around and through the heart tightly and squeezes the muscle to let you know that you’re in love?  The feeling of your breath catching in your lungs, that little flutter that puts things in perspective?  You know, it’s that same good feeling you get from sitting around in a cold house all day with numbing bare feet cause you’re too frugal to turn on the heat and then you finally decide to put on some socks and house shoes and the world warms up.

Well that’s how it was in my life when I first discovered the food custom made and created for royalty.  I started eating it many, many years ago, back when I was just a sapling of a lad, likely around the age of ten or eleven or so.  I’m pretty sure my step-brother introduced it to our family.  And I’ve been in love ever since.  Of course I’m talking about Ramen Noodles.

Yes, friends, there is no food that can compare to the wonder that is Ramen.  It’s cheap.  It’s filling.  It’s tasty, with variety.  It’s easy.  It’s quick.  It’s comparatively not that unhealthy.  It’s completely customizable.  The pluses (Is that how you spell pluses?  Is it plusses?  Spell-check says they’re both correct, but Google offers no definition of either…) of this food are astronomical.  The applications practically endless.

“Shazam, I just accidentally sawed off my hand.”  No problem.  Warm up some noodles (better keep ‘em plain and not add the seasoning) and cover the bleeding stump.  You’ll find the hand restored in no time.  “Help, I can’t figure out the correct pattern in solving this 20,000 piece jigsaw puzzle.”  That’s okay, just crunch up a bunch of uncooked noodles and pour them into the pile of pieces and voila, it’ll solve itself.  Yes, friends, I offer to you that Ramen noodles are possibly the best food of all time.

Many a day I take my lunch at home, where I keep enough noodles stockpiled to endure the forthcoming zombie apocalypse, and I enjoy a piping hot bowl of Ramen.  My personal favorite flavor is Picante Chicken, followed by Oriental.  All the rest battle it out for third.  My cooking method, you ask?  Well, I lay the bag on the counter, go all crazy kung-fu chopping on it (carefully, I don’t want to bust the bag), pick up the bag and crush the rest of the noodles with my hands, pour contents into a bowl, cook in microwave for 3 minutes, DING DING DING, remove from microwave (carefully, I don’t to burn my hands), stir in seasoning packet, and sprinkle a metric tonne of black pepper on last.  The final step is utensil selection.  Typically I eat with a fork, but occasionally I eat with Doritos.  The bold, crunchy chips are perfectly designed to function as a spoon with which you can dig out your sustenance.  If I use a fork, I just crunch up the chips and sprinkle them in the bowl for that extra crunch factor.  (See, I told you they were customizable.)

As much as you’d like to believe, I am totally serious.  I really do love Ramen noodles.  I mean, I’m not like weirdly obsessed with them or anything.  I don’t have a Ramen producing factory in my garage.  I don’t have anime posters of Ramen monsters.  I don’t keep Ramen stuffed teddy bears.  But I do enjoy the food.  I suppose I always will.

NaNoWriMo Word Count:  14,361
Drinking:  Unsweet tea with Sweet & Low
Working On:  Erosion Control Plans
Oblivion Play Time Total:  ~10 hrs
Last Argument of Kings remaining:  ~100 pages
War?  What is good for?:  Absolutely nothing
Current genre:  Shuffle folk & worship

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Writing Wednesdays: The Absurdly Epic Tragedy of Oscambria 1.1

Today I begin the next story in my Writing Wednesdays segment.  The epic poem I am writing adheres (for the most part) to the rules that were mentioned in yesterday’s post.  This began as a personal exercise to see if I could stick to those rules and actually right something enjoyable in the epic poem vein.  I find myself enjoying it better by reading it aloud, but the flow does not always work well for this.  Despite the numerous flaws, I give you “The Absurdly Epic Tragedy of Oscambria.”


Hear, Oh Daughters of Gast,
Ye wondrous beauties of Yon,
And pour your inspiration out onto me.
Oh mighty and fierce Sons,
I ask thee to give remembrance to
All who are named in this tale,
That they shall ne’er fade into Black.

May the Children of Aoide, Melete, and Mneme—
Chakra, Ukulele, Kraut, and Kraus,
Oslo, Olso, Ooleo, Orpa, and Olxe,
Bernard, Halbert Dayspa, Antonio, and Wolfe—
Grant me the voice to deliver justice
To those poor fools that were caught up in the twine
Of the Sisters.

‘Twas on the eve of Invocation, Ochtobe 19,
when hope left the Hero and he despaired.
“Why must I find myself in this condition,
where nary Man nor god has e’er dared travel?
If there is hope for me, then it surely no longer
Dwells in my heart.  I am alone in this,” wept the Hero,
“And all have forsaken me.”

Listen, my readers, and I shall spin you
The Tale of Oscambria, the Hero of the Living Worlds.
His is a tale every child knows,
From the rice paddies of India to the
Slums of New Yorke City, from the Outback
To the Peaks of the Great Isles,
But I offer you the only authorized written history of his life.

Grab yourself a cask of Dew and pop the corn,
For the tale is a bildungsroman of sorts,
And you must be comfortable to enjoy and to learn.
Read with care, and observe the cruel way the Fates
Played with Oscambria, bringing him from
Hero of the Three Worlds to a lowly man
Sitting on an uncomfortable bed of a ruined once-glorious town.

“How do you plan to defeat me, Oscambria?
You are but a child of Fire and Flesh,
Not full in your deity. 
I am the mighty Zzizgarg, the Blood-son of
Majestic Paes and Mighty Rone, Fire and Ice
Both course through my veins.
Besides, you are not even immortal!”

“You filthy, yellow-man, I will defeat you with my wit.
You think I come to challenge you with empty hands?
No!  I have the talisman.”
The silence that filled the Courte du Gods was loud,
Like a bleating lamb before the offering,
Like a dead thundercloud on the plains,
And Oscambria laughed at their astonishment.

“You will mind your tongue, semi-mortal,
Or I will have it,” spat Zzizgarg.
“No, I don’t think you will.  I was born in this world
with my tongue, and I intend to Ascend with it as well.
Now I am finished with this pointless banter.
You will either relinquish your lunch money
Or face the wrath of the talisman.”

The yellow-faced Zzizgarg glared with red eyes.
His hand darted into his cloak, but Oscambria was faster.
The semi-mortal already held his god-cell in his hand
And his lithe fingers were moving quickly across the keys.
Before Zzizgarg even had a chance to react,
The challenge was over,
The thirty unique text prayers required for victory belonged to Oscambria.

“I will not be bested by you, mortal!”
“You speak true, Zzizgarg, for you’ve already been bested by me,
though I am semi-mortal.  Now, hand over the loot.”
The proud Zzizgarg gave up his money, sneering loudly as he did so.
“Do not think this is over, punk,” he whispered,
moving close to Oscambria so only he could hear,
“Because I will tell Father of this and you will be in for it.”

The Blood-son pushed Oscambria back and stalked off,
Leaving the Courte.  The audience clapped,
Hesitantly at first, but soon there was a full fledged round of applause.
Oscambria beamed, pocketing the money and bowing.
It is of interest to note the day of this interaction,
As it was fifteen years to the day from start to finish,
The Eve of Invocation, MMIX.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Closing A Few Things and Introducing Another

I mentioned on Friday that I had a lot of things going on over the weekend. I’m sure you’ve all probably been dying to know the outcome and success rate of my weekend. So, without further ado, first I present the results.

1a. I got me another Xbox 360, actually at a much better deal than the first one. Actually, Wal*Mart had a one-day special on Saturday where you could buy a 360 for $199, but get a $100 gift card, which really made it like buying the 360 for $99. So I waited in line, from midnight until 8:00AM, to get the ole 360. Plenty o’ fun I had, tearing a huge dent out of The Last Argument of Kings and working a 3AM crossword puzzle.

1b. Now that I have a 360, I finally got around to starting a game I’ve owned but been unable to play. I’m talking about The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Made by the same folks that did Fallout 3, the game looks promising.

2. I went and watched a play called “Come Blow Your Horn.” I won’t review it, but it was incredibly enjoyable. The acting all around was fantastic, the theatre intimate, the set simple and perfect, and the lighting and sounds were excellent. In addition to this, the play itself was quite funny. There’s just something I love about watching live performances. All in all, a great and jolly time. There’s actually a 1963 film version of the play, starring Frank Sinatra, if’n your interested.

3. The Last Argument of Kings is blowing me away. I have around 200 pages or so left (I’ve read around 75%) and I can’t describe how awesome it’s been. To keep it simple (and to ease your curiosity, Dave), the last thing I read had to do with the House of the Maker. Wow. Holy wow awesome. I have my suspicions of how things are going to play out, but I’m expecting to be completely floored.

4. My NaNoWriMo word count is 10,572. By the end of the day it should be at 16,667, but I don’t see me making that mark. Hopefully I’ll have at least 13,000, but I make no promises.

And now for your educational purposes, and for an idea of what’s to come on tomorrow’s Writing Wednesday, I give you an offering from Wikipedia.

Epic: A long narrative poem in elevated stature presenting characters of high position in adventures forming an organic whole through their relation to a central heroic figure and through their development of episodes important to the history of a nation or race.

Epics have nine main characteristics:

  1. Opens in media res.
  2. The setting is vast, covering many nations, the world or the universe.
  3. Begins with an invocation to a muse.
  4. Starts with a statement of the theme.
  5. The use of epithets.
  6. Includes long lists.
  7. Features long and formal speeches.
  8. Shows divine intervention on human affairs.
  9. "Star" heroes that embody the values of the civilization.

I started “The Absurdly Epic Tragedy of Oscambria” many weeks ago, and while I’m not yet finished with it, I have plenty to post for a while, too. I’ve been following and obeying these 9 rules, as well as a few other things. Tune in tomorrow to read the first installment. You know you want to.

Monday, November 09, 2009

3 Observations of a Dying Generation

1.  The generational gaps in our society are astounding if you think about it.  Look back forty to fifty years, where racism was commonplace.  Society was segregated by skin color, and those with the light skin color were superior to those with the darker.  White people could ride the bus and have a seat.  They could have a nice professional job.  They lorded over people like they were better, just because they had light colored skin.

Our generation?  Racism exists, but it’s much more convoluted and much less common.  Now, I think racism is only a very small problem in America and it’s fueled by every colored skin there is.  I can’t stand to hear people being racist, even if they’re joking, and it puts a stab in my gut when I hear it.  But I really hate reading the news and seeing things analyzed by race.  “Was this a racial crime?  Is this person the victim of prejudice?”  Those sorts of things kill me.  Really, what kills me even more, is why do we even have to consider the race card any longer?  Aren’t we all just people, trying to live our lives the best we can?  Who cares what color skin you have?

For the majority, I think the racism card is generationally dying off.  When President Obama was elected into office, sure, it was a big deal, being the first African-American president, but the significance of it was lost on me.  Racism is not a problem in my world.  Skin color means jack to me.  I didn’t grow up seeing race riots and KKK marches on TV; instead, I saw fictionalized women and African-American presidents on TV.  Thus, it wasn’t a stretch for me to accept a real dark skinned President for our troubled country.

2.  Fox News is another thing that hopefully will fade into oblivion with the passing generations.  Or, at least the way news is currently presented.  Sensationalism in general is nothing more than propaganda, skewed to influence your opinion in one light as to the other.  I don’t understand how people believe the things they see and hear from sensationalistic newscasts.  To me, it seems obvious when people are offering opinions instead of unbiased facts.

While I feel that yellow journalism is pretty much dead, I see things like Fox News in the same light.  It is my hope that the news will have a paradigm shift in presentation, reporting facts and little conjecture.  That’s why I like NPR.

3.  Another thing that is becoming obsolete is the personal telephone landline.  Our society is an on-the-go, wireless society.  My household does not have a landline and likely never will, as we use our cells for communication.  I can see no point in having a house phone.  Any faxing I should need to do can be done at work or the library, and internet service no longer requires it.  In fact, the only things I can see still having landlines are businesses.

There are many things going away, some good and some bittersweet and some downright tragic.  And even though my generation has its fair share of problems, I think we’ve got a lot to look forward to, as well.  Think back to the American Revolution and the fierce battles that were fought.  Picture it in your mind.  Now look at the picture below.

Is that how you pictured it?  An incomplete Death Star hanging in orbit?  An 18th century war fought with lightsabers?  If so, friend, then you truly know your history.

This post didn’t really convey the point I was trying to make.  What I was trying to get around to saying was that strawberry cream cheese on a nice bagel in the morning is something I’m thankful for, something I’m glad we have in our society and something I hope never goes away.  I believe in my generation, that we’ll stomp the racial card into near oblivion, that we’ll abolish Fox News, and that the death of landlines will make our cell phone bills cheaper.  We can do it, America.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The List of the Day

1.  I survived, which should be stated first.  In fact, the meeting was rather interesting, though it was filled with jargon and I had no idea what was being discussed from time to time.  Also, it would’ve been more interesting if I had been on this project from the get-go (1997) instead of jumping in when it’s almost finished.  Nevertheless, there’s a lot for me to do, though I’m not sure exactly how to go about doing it.

2.  The shooting at Ft. Hood fills me with sadness.  Why such senselessness?  How can someone get to the state of mind where they want to kill?  It pains me, but what can I do about it?  Pray, I guess.

3.  My XBox 360 was returned to the dealer, since it didn’t work, and instead of replacing it they decided to give me a refund.  I’m not sure if I like that, but now maybe I can get one even cheaper than the last one!

4.  I know where I want to go with my NaNoWriMo book.  I did my outline on the two hour return drive yesterday.  Now I hope I can pull it off.  I’m at a little over 7000 words, so I think I’m right on track.

4.673 David, I know you’re not a fan of CAPTCHA, so I thought I’d share this cartoon a friend of mine (Bill) sent me.Super Happy Robot Cartoon Captcha II Fun Hour

5.  I’m going to a play tonight.  It’s called “Come Blow Your Horn.”  One of my cousin’s is starring in it and one of my friends is a co-director.  I’m excited.  I may even review it!

6.  I’ve been doing quite a bit of trading on this website here, called SwapTree.  Basically, it’s a place where you list books/cds/dvds/video games that you want and then list books/cds/dvds/video games that you’re willing to part with.  The community is quite large and I’ve been satisfied with it so far.  Plus, it’s good for the environment, too, by reusing items instead of buying them new.  If this sounds interesting to you, check it out.  It’s pretty safe, too, I believe.

7,8,9,10.  Homeless shelter this weekend.  Third trip there.  The Last Argument of Kings is awesome so far.  I’ve drawn a few maps for my book, too.  Penn Station is good, but only if you’re not buying.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Fade Out Again

Written in advance, mostly just for the song that’s been in my head for a while now.

Lyrics are haunting and appropriate, methinks.  “Rows of houses all bearing down on me.  I can feel their blue hands touching me…”

But “Idioteque” is my favorite song from the band.

“We’re not scaremongering.  This is really happening.  Happening…Here I’m allowed everything all of the time.  Here I’m allowed everything all of the time.”  This song is probably my favorite Radiohead song.  The words are crazy and post-apocalyptic sounding.  While the musical interlude after the last chorus and before the Outro is not my favorite, overall I really, really like this song.

Ice age coming.  Ice age coming…

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Writing Wednesdays: The American Dreamer 1.5

This is the concluding post of The American Dreamer: Part One. If you've not read the previous five posts about this series, just click on the American Dreamer label at the bottom of this post and it'll give 'em all to you, or click here. As always, feedback's appreciated.

It was Thursday, December 14, 1882, when Hank Tasla awoke from his coma. No one was in the room with him at the time, so no one knows exactly how long he was awake before he emerged. It was early in the morning when he walked through his bedroom door and into the kitchen, where Mr. and Mrs. Tasla were quietly talking. Their talk ceased when the boy appeared. They tell me their conversation went like this.

“I know you’re not my parents,” he told them.

“Hank? You’re awake. You’re—” said Mrs. Tasla.

“I said that I know you all are not my parents. He told me the truth.”

“Hank, you’ve just had another one of your unusual dreams. We’re your mama and papa. Tell him, dear.”

“You’re mother’s right, Hank. You’ve been asleep for half a year. Your mind’s probably been running some, and you know how you dream.”

“He said that he found you in France, hired you to watch over me and report to him. And don’t tell me that it was a dream.” They told me that his voice grew angrier with each word.

“Who told you, sweetheart?”

“Dr. Tesla.”

I have to give them credit, if what they tell me is true. They kept up the ruse, never crumpling under the boy’s demands. The boy soon grew weary and went back to his room, dissatisfied and disappointed. The Tasla’s penned me a letter and sent it off within a span of a few minutes. Sadly, I was not at my residence when the letter arrived a fortnight later, and thus it went unopened until it was far too late.

They’re liars. They try to keep it a secret, but I can see it in their eyes. When I mentioned Tesla’s name they slightly winced, and I knew for certain that it was true. If this dream’s been true and revealing, then what does that mean about all the other ones I’ve had? I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet, but I don’t think I can stay here very long. I’ll try to stay through the Dead Season, or as much of it as I can. I have to put down what Tesla told me, or I’ll likely forget it. He told me I was adopted by a family in France. He did some sort of experiment on me to keep me from dying, but then decided to have me watched once he arrived in America. I don’t know why he didn’t just keep me and observe me. I can’t remember the rest of the conversation because I woke up. It sounds strange, but I think I’m seeing parts of the future when I dream. Or maybe parts of different futures? As always, I’m uncertain.

Mr. Jonathon Tasla
I’d like to say that things improved for Hank, but they didn’t. Our relationship was different. We tried to persuade the boy that we were his parents, but he never believed us. I guess you must’ve convinced him. We still treated him like our son, even if he didn’t wish to be treated that way. Throughout the winter we tried to communicate with him, but he largely ignored us. Mostly he just stayed in his room. I think he was afraid to go outside. Afraid of the lies.

Mrs. Elizabeth Tasla
I know we were hired to observe Hank, but we grew to love him as our flesh and blood. I was pregnant when we came to Mt. Easter, but I lost the baby soon after. We were never able to have kids of our own after that, so we poured all our affection into Hank. After he learned the truth, well, it broke my heart. He no longer wanted us. I thought he’d be able to forgive us, but he never did. I don’t know if I can forgive myself. It was as if all our love was a lie to him, and it pained me. I tried to talk to him, to tell him the truth, but he was uninterested. He didn’t care about anything or anyone, not even Ella Thompson, and she was always his closest friend. I think deep down me and John always knew that he’d find out, but neither of us knew how hard we’d take it. Without a word of goodbye, he left in February of 1883.

I saw Hank twice after he woke up. I spent every day at his bedside until he was moved to his own home, and then my trips grew less frequent. He looked so peaceful while he slept, but I knew that he was probably dreaming, and so he probably wasn’t at peace. Hank would talk with me about his dreams before the attack, always telling me the things he’d see and how they made him feel. I think it was his openness with me that led me to fall in love with him. Sure, we were young, but can the young not love?
The first time I saw him I came to him. I stopped by the Tasla’s around New Year to see how Hank was doing and if he’d made any progress. I was surprised to find that he was awake and in his room. He seemed surprised to see me, but scared and uncertain, too. I didn’t stay too long, as he didn’t seem to want to talk. I didn’t go back to the house, either, though.
The second time was a cold morning near the end of January. Hank was rarely coming out of the house, but he came and found me on my way to school. “Ella, I really need to talk to you,” he told me. I was alone, so we headed off the road and into the woods, near our playing spot. He had a frantic look in his eyes, like he’d been staying up all night.
“I’m going to be leaving Mt. Easter soon. I have some things that I need to do.” Those were his exact words. I asked him what he was talking about, but he didn’t answer. I asked him if this was about his dreams, and he nodded, but continued talking. “I’m sorry I can’t tell you myself. I don’t have the time. When this is over, I’ll find you. I hope that you’ll wait for me.”
It was surprising. I didn’t expect him to be so straightforward, but he was. I promised him that I would wait for him, and then in an act of boldness, I kissed him on his cheek. For a second his eyes softened and he looked pained, but the mania soon returned. “I’ll find you, Ella. I don’t know when, but I will.” Then he ran off, quick as a deer, leaving me bewildered and elated. A few days later, he was gone, and that was the last I saw of Hank Tasla.

Well, that's the end of Part One, which was actually subtitled "Mt. Easter." Part Two is called "The Wandering Years," and I've started writing on it. Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed this segment of Writing Wednesdays. Next week will bring a brand new story into the mix, and I promise you that you won't want to miss it. It's probably the most fun I've had writing something in a long time. Heck, as a teaser, I'll give you the title to it: The Absurdly Epic Tragedy of Oscambria. It's a fun one.