Monday, May 31, 2010

Hopeless Memories

I didn't want to write about Memorial Day again... not for a while. But I've been mentally exhausted since Saturday. At first I didn't know why, but then the dawn of realization crept up on me. Blinded me, really. I should've known better, but I can honestly state that even with awareness of the encroaching "holiday," it took me by surprise.

The old (and dishearteningly accurate) cliché is that ignorance is bliss. Memorial Day was a far better weekend back when there was no one to remember. But those days are long ago, never to return. And the fucking list just keeps getting longer.

Sure, I can bitch about the wars, the politics behind the wars, the politicians behind the politics, and the seemingly ignorant voters (blissful voters, perhaps) behind the politicians, but that's never been and never will be the point behind being in the military. Not for me, anyway. Soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, whomever... they don't care. It's a job. And as blasé as that may seem, it's how most active service-members and veterans view it. There are no politics at the bottom levels. Only co-workers and friends.

Some of these men and women will continue to spend Memorial Day the way they've always spent it. With friends and family at the beach, or at a barbecue, or at an amusement park, or wherever it is their own personal traditions dictate that they go. For many, the status quo is a safety net... their way to cope. For others, it's a preservation of something. But they'll notice something different. They have no other choice.

Me, though. I'll be somewhere, lost in thought. It is a strange biological clock that reminds someone that it's time to be a little depressed and more reverent than usual. There's no point in fighting it. I'm already mentally exhausted, after all... why add physical exhaustion to the fold?

My time in the military - both the direct and indirect involvement - is now safely over. This newer status is likely never to change again and, for that, there is a small modicum of gratitude. But memories of names and faces remain, along with questions both hypothetically useless and hyperrealistically hopeless. Still, for one day at least, I'll allow them to be asked... and offer responses that have no answers.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Alas, You Once-Beautiful Water

*Yep, it's Friday, which means something's on my mind and it can't wait to get off...

A few days ago I posted a piece called "Beautiful Water," ostensibly about a woman but subliminally about the oceans. And, quite honestly, it is definitely about both. Water and woman are wondrously beautiful.

There is irony in the piece, however. I was rather drunk when I wrote it (and can't recall the exact day of its writing... certainly a few days before it posted) and while I was well-aware of this disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, I am forced to admit that it was only marginally on my mind as the piece was being composed. I did recognize its potential resonance, however, and am finding it increasingly difficult to remain calm (in a manner of speaking) regarding the subject matter of "Beautiful Water."

Within the past few hours (of this writing) I watched a video of Jacques Cousteau's grandson, Philippe Cousteau, Jr., examining how both the oil exploding into the Gulf of Mexico and the oil dispersant (known as Corexit) being sprayed by BP are affecting the ecosystem. It made me sick to my stomach. Horrendously so.

Within the past few minutes (just prior to starting this writing) I read a quote from Barack Obama in which he states, "This notion that somehow the federal government is sitting on the sidelines and for the last three or four or five weeks we've just been letting BP make a whole bunch of decisions is simply not true," among a plethora of similar statements.

To that, I say, bullshit. As I write this, it has been 36 days since the oil drill broke. 36 motherfucking days. Patriotic sentiment or no, this is the United States of America, a wealthy country (no China jokes, please) that is the home to some of the best - if not the best - engineers in the world. This oil problem is one that is to be solved by engineers... engineers who should've had a solution in 36 motherfucking hours, not days.

Anybody remember winning World War II? Getting to the moon? Sending satellites and probes to other planets and out of our Solar System? Reaching the bottom of the Marianas Trench (a nod to the Swiss engineers, Italian builders, and American divers)?

And this is why I don't believe Obama. Engineers (be they BP's, the US Navy's, NASA's, the Sierra Club's, Jiffy Lube's, who-the-fuck-ever's) could have solved this problem weeks ago had there been more pro-action by the United States government.

To his credit, Obama is publicly assuming responsibility ("My job is to get this fixed. And in case anybody wonders -- in any of your reporting, in case you're wondering who's responsible, I take responsibility. It is my job to make sure that everything is done to shut this down."), but he's also being superfluously childish in reminding everyone where the blame should go.

We get it. BP is to blame. There is no doubt in this and your saber-rattling, Mr. President, isn't convincing anyone that you actually give a shit.

The blame is obvious and we don't need your mouth to remind us of it. Just shut up and fix the problem. Punishment can come after we save the Gulf. Or, at least, save what's left of her.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

In-Love-In-Law

"You ready?" It is a rhetorical question, though one whose answer is not known, since there is no answer. Actually, there are several answers. All correct. All incorrect. This is simply a situation in which only the future will reveal what should've been said.

Peter winks upon Keith's nervous nod, then laughs when Keith nervously shakes his head. Peter's been married twice already - his third fiancée is sitting somewhere in the pews - and knows the answer doesn't even matter. All can be changed later. Reverted, converted, subverted... what have you. But this is Keith's first time as a groom. And he's about to crap his pants (figuratively, of course).

"Don't sweat it," Peter consoles, though it's already too late. Keith feels like he's swimming, his body an overwhelming source of humidity in a desert so dry. "I freak out every time." There's another wink, though even Peter realizes that his statement will probably just make it worse. After all, Keith believes that his "one, true" is in a dressing room across the church. There shouldn't be another time.

Still, Keith finds it extremely difficult to maintain his cool. Point of fact is that he's already lost it. He worries that some of his reasons for getting married might not be... completely appropriate. It's a secret he holds that is dangerously close to breaking free. So close, there's no point in trying to keep it anymore.

"I'm in love with my Mother-in-Law."

Peter gags.

***

"No, no, it's not like that," Keith stammers, trying to rectify the confusion he caused.

Peter stares at his best friend through squinted eyes. His brow is ruffled. This is just completely unexpected. And, like, totally wrong. "What's it like, then?"

Keith takes a breath. He really doesn't know how to explain it. He's not in love with his Mother-in-Law (or, rather, the woman who will become his Mother-in-Law in about an hour), it's just that...

"I sort of..."

"You fuck her? Please tell me you didn't fuck her."

"Dude! No." It's Keith's turn to be flabbergasted, though he probably should've expected the question. His Mother-in-Law, Susan, isn't unattractive, and were it not for her daughter, none of his friends would've questioned Keith bedding the older woman.

"You let her watch you fuck Catherine?"

That one, no reasonable person would expect. Although, for some reason, the memory of a porn movie watched while in college flashes through Keith's mind. Peter's, too.

"What the Hell is wrong you? Let me finish!"

Peter sits forcibly down on a small chair and almost immediately falls off. He quickly regains his composure, pulls his tuxedo coat straight, then crosses his right leg over his left knee. It is both a mock and quite sincere indication that Peter would love the whole story.

***

"So, hold on, one sec," Peter's trying very hard not to laugh. "You knew Susan for a year before you met Catherine, and that's what's fucking you up? That's it? Really? Come on, Keith."

"You don't think that's weird at all?"

"What? No, why the fuck would it be?" Peter is honestly beside himself. Of all the stupid things... "You sure you didn't sleep with her?"

"I swear."

Peter smiles; he can't resist. "And you're sure you didn't let her watch you pound her daughter?"

"Oh, Jesus Christ, Pete. We're in a church."

As Keith and, indeed, Catherine were both agnostic, Pete finds himself again being unable to resist. "You'll get used to it."

There's a loud knock on the door. It's time.

***

Peter finishes the toast. The ceremony went down without a hitch - which resulted in a deep, slow, and relieved exhalation from Peter immediately following the "I dos" - and the reception is proceeding nicely. His speech to Keith (and Catherine) brought uproarious laughter and more than a few tears and sobs. Peter's built for the limelight, no matter how small and subjectively important. He winks at his own fiancée, Amanda, and almost finds himself unable to resist another temptation.

But he holds his tongue. Sure, it would be funny (to independent observers only, of course), but Keith genuinely loves and is genuinely in love with Catherine, so to say anything would be ridiculously rude... and unforgivably disloyal. Peter is Keith's best friend, after all.

And besides, given that Peter's about to embark on his third marriage, he muses for a moment that perhaps Keith did it the right way. Instead of picking the bride and hoping for a great mother-in-law, maybe - next time - he should try it the other way around.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ridley Scott's Robin Hood

Of myths and legends, there are many (hundreds... thousands, even) I love. Regarding mythologies, I can safely claim that the Greek Mythos is my favorite. Regarding legends... well, that favorite would have to be Robin Hood.

Robin Hood, to me, has them all beat. King Arthur included. Maybe it's because I favor archery to swordplay, or maybe it's because Robin Hood has more successfully blended himself with factual history than has King Arthur. I guess I don't really know why, but good ol' Sherwood is just more attractive to me than the Round Table.

From N.C. Wyeth's fabulous oil paintings to Louis Rhead's amalgamation/interpretation of the overall legend; from Errol Flynn to a Disney-animated fox; from Sean Connery to Kevin Costner; from supporting roles in Ivanhoe to cameo appearances in Defender of the Crown... I just love Robin Hood.

So, by now it should be no surprise that I eagerly awaited the latest film adaption of the tale. One directed by an outstanding filmmaker (and a personal favorite), Ridley Scott, and starring one of the better actors of the current generation, Russell Crowe. I mean, these guys did Gladiator together. There was no doubt in my mind that this Robin Hood was just going to be a kick-ass film.

And then I watched it. It was definitely kick-ass. But, somehow, it was also very disappointing.

Before I continue, let's clear this up: Ridley Scott's Robin Hood is a good movie. Not as good as Gladiator (or even Kingdom of Heaven), but it's still very, very good.

But it wasn't Robin Hood.

Oh, sure, the names were the same, the era of history was the same, etc. But it wasn't Robin Hood. It was... it was... hmm... it was simply another "historical war movie." I have to apologize, as I'm really at a loss to explain this. The film just wasn't Robin Hood.

Now, Ridley Scott did a fine job tying the legend in with history (a much better job than Antoine Fuqua did with that King Arthur movie a few years ago) and really did put together a wonderful film... but the "Robin Hood" part of Robin Hood seemed absent (I apologize again, as I'm now repeating myself).

And... and... Russell Crowe was a very good titular character. Many complained about his casting, but like Michael Keaton as Batman, it worked. Not only that, Russell Crowe looks a bit like he could be a wrestler, and anyone familiar with the literary Robin Hood knows that the outlaw is only good at two things: archery and (voila!) wrestling. So Crowe was fine for me.

And Mark Strong rocked as the villain (as he always does, it seems).

But it just wasn't Robin Hood.

All that stated, go see it, for it is a good movie. And it sets itself up for a sequel which (probably unsurprisingly) looks like it will be "Robin Hood." I won't explain more... the film deserves a view.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bougainville Was Yesterday... And Forever

Brisbane, Australia - December 4th, 1944.

She's eight months pregnant, lonely, and very much in love. She's not seen her husband since she visited him in Townsville and impatiently waits for his letters. So much so that her mother constantly nags her that she's going to go gray waiting for the post. Still, the sense of relief at receiving an envelope more than makes up for the anxiety she feels - never mind the fear she instills in the postman. But something's strange about this latest letter. It's very short... and very odd.

Luv, name our son Theodore Aloysius.

And that's it. No explanation, no signature (though she knows his handwriting), nothing.

Theodore Aloysius? What an ugly name. And never mind the possibility that the baby might be a girl! Oh, he's got a lot of explaining to do when he comes home. "If he comes home" is a thought that never crosses her mind. If a thought could be afraid of its thinker, that one would be more than terrified.

***

Bougainville, Solomon Islands - November 7th, 1944.

He was a corporal in the Australian 3rd Division, the 25th Battalion of the 7th Brigade out of Queensland. Though his rank implied a modicum of experience, he had never seen action. Geographically, the Solomons were but a hop and a skip away from his homeland, but Bougainville was as alien a place as he could imagine.

His unit was taking over operations from the American 93rd Infantry Division, a unit comprised primarily of Negroes. Sure, he had seen groups of aborigines in his lifetime, but never had he seen so many dark-skinned men in one place before. He had barely even realized that America had blacks, much less allowed them into its military.

Though the island was clearly in Allied hands, many of the Japanese - ever the sneaky bastards - disappeared into the jungles and began conducting guerrilla operations. The Americans had been hunting them for a while, but now that their offensive was getting closer and closer to the Japanese home islands, MacArthur and Nimitz were whining about needing their troops. Hence, the arrival of the Australian militias.

As a corporal, he should've known better. Though taking a shit was usually a private act, out here, privacy usually meant death. Grunting away as those horrible military rations tried to make their way out of his system, he never even saw the two Japs in the bush. Didn't even realize that he was making so much noise a blind man could've found him. Oh, the jungle had much to teach.

Lucky for him, the American Negro was stalking the Japs. He didn't know it then, but the Negro was often allowed to go patrolling on his own. Mostly this was because the Negro's superiors didn't much care what Negro soldiers did, but partially because there was recognition that this particular Negro was as good a predator as any in the South Pacific. A lifetime of tracking 'gator in the swamps of Florida and Louisiana did more than aptly prepare that man for the type of warfare here. Hell, the Negro probably even found it fun.

The mixture of gunfire from Arisakas and a Springfield sounded strange. He'd heard Springfield's firing plenty of times, mostly from Americans conducting target practice back in Australia, but had never actually heard a Japanese rifle before. Their reports even sounded yellow.

The silence, though... that sounded the same that it sounded back home.

Soft groaning slowly broke the quiet, combined strangely with what he thought was laughter. His curiosity grew, but he waited for his fear to subside before investigating. Starting with a low crawl, he evolved to a crouch as his courage returned. He could see the dead Japanese in the moonlight, both shot several times by the Springfield. The soft groaning was coming from its wielder. The American Negro.

Bullets from the Arisakas had pierced the man through his stomach and his left lung. The wounds were bad. Mortal. And both men knew it.

"C'mon, mate. We gotta get you to the medics."

"Nah, brother. I'm a goner. Ain't no sense in trying to lie to God about it."

He grimaced at the American's words. As an enlightened man - self-professed, of course - he knew God didn't exist, and he couldn't help extending his pity to the dying man's belief. But he wasn't about to argue the matter on the man's deathbed.

"What do you want me to do?"

"Just leave me here. I wanna talk to the stars for a while."

He smiled. Regardless of religious persuasion, he admired how the dying man could greet the end of his world with such grace. He hoped that he would one day do the same.

"What about?"

The Negro laughed between labored breaths and bloody teeth. "What I'm gonna do tomorrow."

He stared at the American, stopping himself from joining the laughter. It seemed to him that a strange man dying in a strange place should have seemed more unusual, but there was a strange hint of familiarity in it. As if something told him that this is how men have been doing it all along. He dropped his rucksack and set his rifle down. "Alright, mate. I can stay."

"Alone, if you don't mind, sir."

The response shocked him. Who would want to be alone as they die? In those words, an alien world only became more alien. He stared at the man for a few moments, then nodded and gathered his equipment. Starting off, he turned and asked one final question.

"What's your name?"

Monday, May 24, 2010

Merlot and Coffee: The Drinks

It was an accident, I assure you. Okay, not really an accident, more like a drunken discovery that happened due to a drunken thought that was more or less purposeful. In other words, a sober observer might claim it was an accident, but a drunk one would've been like, "Hell, yeah!"

Merlot. Followed by coffee. Is awesome.

Yes. It is.

Okay, so all of those aren't complete sentences (actually, one is... extra points if you know which one...)(sad that many won't know which one is, isn't it?), but the point is valid: a glass (or glasses) of Merlot followed by a cup (or cups) of coffee tastes rather awesome.

I've been touting the combination for a while now, and several of my friends react rather, well, poorly. But I assure you, it tastes great! I don't know why. I don't even care. I just know that now that I'm in the process of eliminating alcohol from my diet completely (sort of), Merlot and coffee has become a pretty fun staple of a lonely night.

Yes, I'm lonely. Seduce me, someone!

Er... forget I said that.

By the way, I'm currently imbibing in coffee after having imbibed in 750 ml of Merlot, so if I fail to make much sense, you know the reason!

By the way (again), I'm not really fond of the exclamation point in writing, though I do recognize its usefulness.

Back to the point: if you find yourself enjoying a glass (or glasses) of Merlot, follow it (or them) up with a cup (or cups) of coffee. You will, I assure you, be pleasantly surprised. Even if you think it sounds disgusting (yeah, you know who you are!).

It's great!

Oh, and if you're wondering why I didn't just call this "Merlot and Coffee" (and added "The Drinks"), it's because I realized I want to save the title for a creative writing piece.

Drink up, bastards!

Friday, May 21, 2010

A War To End All Wars

Three men play a game of Axis & Allies on a dining table. To an observer, it is like any other time they play. Armchair strategies formulating in the minds of those who don't realize just how limited the strategy of such a game is. But the thought process makes them feel smart; superior. As if they control the world. Which, in point of fact, were the world actually relegated to being a playing board roughly 30 inches by 20, they do.

Tojo rolls some dice and laughs. FDR is not happy. Some ribbing is exchanged, but as the players' version of "Pearl Harbor II" wraps up, it is clear that the Axis have won a nice little victory. The Pacific seems lost. First Australia fell to the plastic Japanese, and now Hawaii. Stalin berates his superficial ally and mutters something to the effect that he could've done better.

Then Stalin calls out to Hitler, who is busy grabbing pretzels out of the pantry. The plastic US Army has invaded France (a few turns too early, as most historians would object) and Hitler is needed to conduct combat. He sits down, moves Germany's plastic Heer to the defender's side of the combat board, and grabs the dice. But he does not roll. The other dining-table-world-leaders stare impatiently, though they each know what is going through his mind.

"Maybe we should've went with Robert," Hitler finally says, referring to the former Churchill, who left the game as soon as the phone rang and the news was delivered.

"Why?" asks Tojo, also known as Thomas. "He was kicking our ass." FDR, real name Daniel, had usurped the role of Churchill, much to the chagrin of Stalin (whose name is, in fact, Josef... and spelled that way) and much to the delight of Thomas and the Hitler who is typically called Scott. Daniel sucks at games, particularly this one, and everyone knows it. It's why the rest of them always let Daniel play the United States... it doesn't take a genius to win with the US military, even a plastic one. Robert is their best player, but he left to spend the last few hours of his life with his wife and children.

In typical Daniel fashion, the early invasion of Normandy fails miserably.

Josef starts his turn, paying only marginal attention to the conversation at hand. He has no family to speak of, and his friends are all sitting next to him. Indeed, he doesn't really care for Robert and only plays on Robert's team because he's good at the game. Josef stews over Daniel's decision to move units out of Australia in order to reinforce the Caroline Islands - which are strategically worthless in Axis & Allies - as he mulls his own movement. Reflecting history, he resigns himself to reinforcing the Caucasus and waits for an attack on Stalingrad.

Scott, though, is too worried about the Western Front. Yes, Daniel attacked with far too few forces and, yes, Daniel is also playing the Commonwealth and poses little threat, but the attrition of forces in France is cause enough for alarm. Better safe than sorry.

"I don't know. It just seems like we should spend some time with family," Scott continues as he moves some Luftwaffe units into striking distance of the Commonwealth fleet. "Even if it isn't our own."

"What's the point?" Thomas retorts. "Not like anyone's going to know we were even here."

"It just seems like it, I guess."

Josef laughs a bit. "Very convincing argument you've got there, Scott. What would you do, anyway? Better yet, what would you want to do?" Josef looks at his watch. "You've got another 14 hours or so. What would you do with it?"

"I know what I'd do," Thomas interrupts as he surveys the Pacific Theater, looking for Allied weaknesses. He notices that China's interior is just about defenseless and decides that he's going to make a push once Daniel screws up the Commonwealth. "I'd go out, find some hot chicks, tie them up in my basement, get fucked up and fuck all night."

The others - save Daniel, who forlornly thumbs a photograph - laugh nervously, aware that Thomas is only half-joking. Always the hedonist, the rest learned long ago not to put anything past him.

"You're an idiot." Usually not one for confrontation, Daniel surprises everyone. Perhaps the impending end of the world has finally revealed a courage he has never seemed to have. "The world's going to end and you want to make it even more miserable. No wonder your wife left you."

On any other day, such a statement would have elicited a punch in the mouth from Thomas, but even he is flabbergasted by Daniel's defiance. Josef finally notices the photograph in Daniel's hand and tries to get a better look at it. He sees that it's a woman, brunette, smiling, but can't make out any other details other than a hand-written note on the back: "One day. Love..." Josef can't read the name. Mentally shrugging and saying nothing, he returns his attention to the board.

Scott, by far the most level-headed of the friends, finally breaks the awkward silence. "I wish I could see my sister and her kids. They're a day's drive, though. No chance." Turning to Daniel, he asks, "What would you do?"

Daniel ignores Scott as he, too, surveys the Pacific Theater. He knows he's lost the game for the Allies, but some mysterious romantic notion guides the movement of his pieces. The phones have been down for the last half-hour and none of them hold any hope that service will return.

Josef figures it out. Daniel is in love with some unknown woman who lives in some unknown corner of the world. The last time Daniel told them about some girl he met on the Internet, they ridiculed him for it until Daniel ceased talking to the girl out of embarrassment, so it is no wonder to Josef why Daniel has never said anything about this one.

"I'd tell her I love her," Daniel almost whispers as he lands some Commonwealth forces in an attempt to retake Australia.

"Who?"

"Does it matter? Finish the game."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sagremor

He was born sometime in the latter half of 2004, shortly after the first time I moved to Wilmington, North Carolina. It was August, I think... September at the latest. I can't recall exactly, but I do have the date written down somewhere. I watched him come out of his mother, Guinevere, along with his two twin brothers - Arthur and Kay - and his twin sister, Isolde. Yes, he was part of my Cats of the Round Table, and while I fear the worst, I hope that he still is.

But he's probably dead. Being abandoned in a place where coyotes and hawks hunt freely tends to lead to that.

Sagremor wasn't always the friendliest cat, at least not as I remember. He wasn't my favorite - Guinevere and Arthur were - though my ex-girlfriend claims that he was hers (along with Tristan, from Gwen's first litter). As such, the first year-and-a-half of his life is lost on me. Upon preparing the leave Wilmington in early 2006, my ex and I made the decision to give up two of our cats. We had six, and trying to move nine animals (counting the three dogs) from North Carolina to California didn't seem like an ideal situation. So, using a strange method of determination, Kay and Sagremor were selected to be given to my ex's mother.

Now, as I implied, I didn't spend a lot of one-on-one time with Sagremor and even though I wasn't giving him up lightly, I felt that it was something that wouldn't keep me up at night. The day before he and Kay were supposed to go to their home, that all changed. For whatever reason - be it animal instinct or some other paranormal observation - both of those cats knew something was up. One at a time, they came up to me as I watched television, climbed into my lap, and pulled a cute act... cuddling at purring as if begging to stay. Obviously, given my attachment to my pets (and animals in general), they were loaded into the back of the truck with the other seven four-pawed members of my family.

Once in the West, misfortune forced all of us to settle in a small desert town in Northern Nevada. It was there that four of the cats - Isolde, Guinevere, Arthur, and Tristan - disappeared (I later saw Isolde and Guinevere hunting together in the middle of the desert a few miles away, but that's another story). Sagremor and Kay, however, stuck around as if to emphasize their loyalty to me for making the choice to remain loyal to them. I miss the others, sure, and often dream of them, but Sagremor and Kay became my favorites... and not just by default of them being the only ones left.

Sagremor was, by all accounts, a cuddling cat. He liked to hunt, loved the outdoors, but he always came back within a few hours to use the bathroom and take advantage of a free hand for a petting. He had an obnoxiously loud meow, but it was an effective tool to let one know that he wanted inside (or outside, depending). He loved being picked up, held upside like a baby, and having his stomach rubbed. And he had ridiculously long teeth... so long that I often called him "Vampire Cat." He also had a recurring problem with his wrists and could often be seen limping, particularly after attempting too high a jump (usually from the top of a refrigerator).

Like all cats, he hated traveling by car, but he tolerated it as we returned to Wilmington in the summer of 2007, settled in a sub-let, then settled again in our own place (barely 15 minutes from where he was born), then left again in October of 2009. He tolerated living in a garage outside of Fort Bragg while I tried to tie as many loose ends as I could before returning to the West.

Upon our return, I knew that I would need to place him temporarily with someone while I yet again found us a home. So I left him with my sister, thinking he would be well-taken care of and babied as much as he was used to. While I stayed with her, she let him (and Kay) in the house, got familiar enough with him so he'd sleep on her lap, and everything appeared to be going according to plan. But, on Wednesday, May 12, I left for Seattle to take care of some things. I last saw him cleaning his brother's forehead in my sister's living room. He looked happy.

She kicked him out of the house while I was away. In my head, I know what happened, because I know Sagremor very well. No doubt from his "let-me-in" meows being ignored, he took off in search of friendlier pastures... pastures that were never meant for him to find. I've been scouring the desert, all through the night for the past two days, in an attempt to bring him home.

There's a chance this eulogy is false, rash, and the result of too pessimistic an imagination, and I hope this to be the case. But in that there are no signs of him, combined with the strange behavior of his brother - behavior I saw in Tristan when Isolde disappeared - he's probably dead. And I will lose sleep over it.


*Serendipity smiles upon me... within 20 minutes of this post going up, the chubby bastard came home. He'd been gone for almost 8 days. I'll admit, I overreacted. But I'm happy and don't care if you sneer, roll your eyes, or laugh. And neither does his brother, who seems happier than I am.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rating My Own "Write Anyways"

Yeah, so I caused a hub-bub. Been there, done that... probably going to do it again. Oh, but what hub-bub? Maybe you didn't ask that, but I'm going to assume that you did, despite my disdain for assumptions. Nyah.

Writing, that's what. In case you missed it, I wrote a piece concerning some philosophies I have toward the act of writing. Quick summary: 1) If you want to write, then write. 2) Writer's block doesn't exist. 3) Most of what you write will be crap. 4) Type even when you think of nothing. You can read the original rant here: On Writing: A Philosophy.

To punch those points home, I followed that one up with a list of 11 recent things I've written under the auspices of "type even when you think of nothing." That list is here: Write Anyways.

Naturally (well, in retrospect... I honestly felt that the topic would go away... wrong again!), several people emailed and/or called and asked which of those 11 pieces I felt were crap and which I felt were decent. When I said which were which, I got some strange reactions followed by more questions. So... I'm going to offer a cursory glance at my opinions of my own writing (which, believe it or not, I find rather odd to be doing):

First, the ones I like:
  • Uriah and Uriel: A Dialogue - this one wrote itself, and since it marks the first time that's ever happened to me, I'm rather partial to it.
  • Murder Mystery: An Exercise in Plot Creation - this one also wrote itself and reveals a sentiment that (I believe) all writers have.
  • Judicial Contempt - I'm actually on the fence with this one, but it's a companion to "Uriah and Uriel: A Dialogue," so I put it in this list.
  • Candy Girl - the twist came out of nowhere and was a lot better than where I thought the story was going.
Now, the ones I don't like:
  • Shadow and Sign - chaotic and unclear... definitely not into this one.
  • Overthought and Underdead - there's something to this one, but it's not quite right... something went unsaid, if that makes sense.
  • Go Tell It On the Molehill - to be honest, I find this one a bit charming, even though it's a bit false in sentiment.
  • Gaia's Lust - I'm guessing I was on a Greek Mythology kick. Oh, wait... I'm always on a Greek Mythology kick.
  • F-ing Up - basically transcribed (and fictionalized) a real conversation... more an exercise and less an actual attempt at writing.
  • His Wings Were Not Armor - had high hopes for this one, but my aim was low.
And one I didn't like, but after thinking about where the story will go, I now like:
  • The Window Blinks When the Mirror Sees - of course, this doesn't mean the rest of the story will be any good... still, it proves a point I try to make: what's written can be worked on; what's not written has no chance.
There's also been a new "Write Anyway" since I posted the list (The Scheherazadi, Part I), and I kinda like it.

What does this all mean? Not a damn thing, really. I'm just one opinion among, what? 7 billion? But I was asked, so there's my answer.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Beautiful Water

In the blue, over the blue, twin seas collide. Patience amid chaos, currents of wind and water caught between the hopes of breath and blood, longing for a moment that will never come. Storms of fury, propelled by lust, levied by the construct that some call love. But, they are not, and it is not. Merely the glint of beauty under a sun that shines everywhere, as long as they are nowhere.

In the blue, over the blue, hopes give way to reality. Impatience amid order, nature continuing her course between invention and convention, coming to a moment that never happened. A hurricane of thought, eroding memories unlived, but imagined. She is beautiful, though alone. Hints of what lies beneath blinded by a face that would again launch a thousand ships.

She is blue, within the blue, alive on a literal and figurative island. Patience amid order, following the rain as it washes away conscience and the remains of the day. Precipitation on the precipice, flowing down the path of least resistance while wondering what it would be like to be a flake of snow. Creativity gives way to necessity, and tears obscure a visage so wonderful when smiling.

There is no blue within the blue, as one shade fades into the next. Impatience amid chaos, enjoying the arrival of coming and going on a whim. She loves being wanted and wants to be loved, but knows that rivers of desires run to no command but their own. There is no beauty like water's, and none like the tiny beads of sweat, almost imperceptible, on the body of a woman I'll never see.

Monday, May 17, 2010

An Addiction to Coffee... Cups

A couple of weeks ago a friend and I were discussing flaws in people. We weren't being mean or anything, merely noticing that flaws, more so than "perfections," tend to define who a person is. Naturally, the conversation turned to quirks, habits, and the like. Afterward, I started thinking about my own personal weirdnesses, and it was when I asked my sister for a coffee mug (I'd been staying with her for a while and adopted a particular mug as my own) that I realized... I have a strange affinity for coffee mugs.

Here's how it all went down:

"Hey, can I have this?"

"Ugh. Are you trying to steal my Tinker Bell mug?" (Yes, Tinker Bell... if you got a problem with that, we can resolve it elsewhere).

"That depends. If you give it to me, no. If you don't, yes."

Now, I'm not certain if she did, in fact, give me the mug, or just resigned herself to accepting the fact that it was going to disappear anyway... but Tinker Bell is currently in my possession.

I have no idea why I wanted the mug, save that I've been using it several times a day for the past few weeks. It's an ugly sort of green (the color of Tinker Bell's tunic/dress/whatever the Hell it is she wears) with a ridiculous "personality checklist" on it (we are apparently supposed to acknowledge that Tinker Bell is a *check* Frequent Flier, *check* Short and Sweet, and *check* Makes Everything Magical), but I became hopelessly addicted to drinking from it anyway.

And this isn't the first time this has happened (sorry, Tink). Just a few short weeks prior, my mother wanted to throw away a "nasty" coffee mug that belonged to an old roommate of mine. He was an older fellow, pretty cool dude, though he only lived with me for a month. He had moved in a hurry (to be closer to his son, who was in Colorado... we were in North Carolina) and, as such, accidentally left his coffee mug. Not one for wasting things, I kept it and usurped it as my own.

Real coffee drinkers know that mugs get stained, no matter how and how often you wash them. My mother, an OCD cleaner, couldn't accept this fact and tried to throw my mug away (actually, she did... I pulled it out of the trash). She even tried to bribe me by offering me a brand new, clean coffee mug. I declined.

Yes, I think I'm crazy. I must also take the opportunity to apologize for jumps in logic here, but not only have I had a few cups of coffee (out of Tinker Bell, no less), I've also enjoyed a few cups of Merlot (also out of Tinker Bell).

On with the babbling! So... here's my worst offenses: I once worked in an engineering firm. I also once worked in a sound studio (actually, I've worked in sound studios more than once). At both of these particular places, I wound up using Styrofoam coffee cups. Again, I'm not one for wasting, so I wrote my name on each cup in question and reused them... for months. One wound up having the Batman symbol drawn on it, and the other wound up with a happy face. I kept both (even after I left these places) and still actually have the one with the happy face. I'd even still have the Batman one, save for one of my dogs destroying it on accident (which happened quite recently).

Anyway, I'm going nowhere with this. Just thought I'd share a quirk. I think it's time for more Merlot and coffee (which go together remarkably well... don't believe me? Try it!).

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Irrewind, 20100515: Language

I sometimes write about language (specifically English) because, well, I use it. Mostly I write about language because I have a covert desire to study linguistics (strange, though, that foreign language proficiency escapes me) and an overt desire to be a smartass (is smartass one word or two?) (hyphenated, perhaps?) (I bet you just love these rampant parentheticals). Yes, that is a warning not to take any of these seriously.

"Strange Afterthoughts of Language"
1) "I've caught a cold" - First of all, who catches a cold? It's not like my cold dug out under the backyard fence and I have to run him down with a milkbone and a leash. Or my partner and I held a stakeout at a house where a suspected cold might be selling drugs. The damn phrase should be... Read More

"Namely Neologisms"
Neologisms, for those who don't know, are "new words" created to, well, replace old words and phrases. For those who don't get it: neo = new; logo = word; hence, "neologisms," the "s" being an indicator for plural.
And, since I don't have anything better to do, here are eight neologisms that we should adopt into our... Read More

"The First Day of English Class"
 The second thing I would do is make each and every student write a book report on a venerable British classic: Where's Spot? That's right, assholes... you'll be doing a book report on "see spot run." And the caveat? Simple sentences only. Subject. Verb. Object. That's it. Anybody who breaks that rule fails miserably... Read More

"He and She Presents: Xhe!"
One of English's great shortcomings, from a grammarian's perspective, is its absence of neutral-gender singular pronouns. While most are blissfully unaware that the use of "they" or "their" as a singular reference is entirely incorrect, such use remains a bane for those who are actually schooled in the tongue. It's not really a big deal... Read More

"A Thousand Words"
A picture is worth a thousand words, they say. They say a lot of things that are bullshit. What does a picture of bullshit say? Not much; it's just an image. Maybe it connotes what it smells like, but what does it do for someone who's never seen a cow? Nothing. It's just a brown blob melting its way into grass. It's possible that it's still worth a... Read More

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Scheherazadi, Part I

"A malicious pill for a malicious thrill, eh?"

"I hate it when you talk like that." I really do. There's something about tech-djinn that irritates me. It's either the ridiculous tattoos they sport or the alarming amount of cybernetic implants that stick out of their bodies. But I take the pill anyway.

"How? Maliciously?"

I really want to smack that grin off its face.

The pill works quickly and I can feel the djinn plugging me into the golem, barely. It's been a while since I've gone for a ride and I guess I forgot about the numbness. But, desperate measures for desperate times, right?

***

Forgive me. You probably have no idea what's going on. Earth is a desert wasteland in my time and there aren't very many people left. A few dozen-million, if that. Yeah, the polar icecaps melted - well, one of them - but not for reasons you're thinking. Some assholes started a nuclear shootout. With all the interceptor defense systems, most of those bad boys got knocked down over the North Pole, it being under the flight path of those damned things. It's amazing what fallout can do to ice.

Long-story short: the Arctic disappeared, water went everywhere, and everything heated up. Literally and figuratively. Oh, the Antarctic is still around, but it's mostly exposed rock now. Who knew?

***

"Golem 2-7, up." My voice sounds funny when it's mechanized. I burst through the sand trap and check the heat shields. Five by five. Weapons-check follows. I'm good there, too. Most golem-drivers check their guns first, but I've seen what a fucked up heat shield can do, and I'm not into that.

"2-7, 2-6. TRP alpha. Your discretion."

2-6 is my squad leader. I've never actually met her in person - Hell, I don't even know what dune she lives under - but her robot voice sure does turn me on. Then again, being given a "your discretion" order always turns me on.

***

Sorry, again. You probably still don't have a clue what's happening. Screwing up Mama Earth didn't unite humanity in a Utopian movement to save her. Instead, it just made land more valuable, as arid and useless as it is. Valuable land tends to start wars. Ah, humanity. How blessed are we?

Anyway...

The golem is a third-generation mech-suit and currently the pinnacle of battlefield technology. And I fucking love 'em. First-gen golems were garbage. Conventional tanks and aircraft typically made being a golem-driver the most dangerous job a soldier could have. Second-gen golems were better, but only marginally. They were more mobile, sure, but much harder to learn how to drive. Golem-drivers were their own worst enemies in 2G systems. Then some yahoo figured out how to transfer human consciousness into machines. Even with the 3G interface system in tanks and aircraft, the golems became the kings of war. And everyone wanted to drive one. They afford one of the few available methods of actually walking on the surface of the planet. Still, if we die in one, our bodies go brain-dead. There's a catch to everything, no?

***

I see the target and I light it up with incendiaries. Some weapons cache or something. At least, that's what I was told. I'll never know, of course, me being a dumb grunt and all. I've been offered promotions to operations, but what sane person would give up driving one of these things? And besides, I happen to like seeing the sun.

"2-7, this is Djinn. Your FLUV is picking up something strange."

I need to quit soliloquizing. I didn't even notice it. But, yep, it's strange. It's a group of signatures, packed closely together to look like a larger signature. And it looks...

"This is Djinn. Are those animals?"

What the fuck? No, they're not animals. I switch from incendiaries to guns, more from reflex than any desire to kill. I think I'm seeing something I shouldn't be seeing, and because I think I'm seeing it... I can't pull the fucking trigger.

"Djinn, this is 2-7. Not animals." Fuck me. "They're people."

One points a large tube my direction. I'm still in shock, though every sinew of tissue in my fingers is screaming to open fire. There's a flash. I'm currently staring at them through visual specs, and I mistake the flash for a reflective glint of the sun. There's no mistaking that impact, though. I don't feel the golem falling because I'm passing out. This feels strangely like I've taken another pill.

*To be continued... maybe... in The Scheherazadi, Part II

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Foray Into Comic Books

I'm a huge comic book fan, and anyone who's read me long enough knows this. That stated, I've not actually purchased a comic book in at least three years; probably longer. My heyday of collecting was in the late 90s when DC enjoyed its renaissance and comics in general were of a relatively high quality. No, the late 90s were nothing like the new vision of comic writers in the 80s (darker, grittier, crazier), but the era was certainly a bastion of consistently good writing.

Then it all went to shit.

But, I figured I'd give the comic shop a try, and after watching Kick-Ass (the superb adaptation of the graphic novel) I moseyed my way into a store and picked up three books (and on Free Comic Book Day, no less... talk about serendipity). From DC Comics I grabbed Justice League: Cry for Justice #6 (of 7) and Wonder Woman #43, and from IDW I picked up The Last Unicorn #1.

And here's what I discovered:

I rarely read IDW Comics, save for the occasional Transformers title (once published by Dreamwave, a foolishly-run company that quickly went out of business). Like Dark Horse Comics, IDW specializes in licensed material. Always a fan of Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn, the comic adaptation caught my eye, so I bought it. The art was intriguing, in typical IDW/Dreamwave style, but the story is so fast, so ready to "get on with it," I was bored from page 1. Sad to say, I won't be picking up #2.

Now, I'm a huge DC Comics fan. Their stable of characters and legacies are, far and away, my favorite. Yes, I like Marvel, too, but nobody creates a modern myth like DC does. I'd go on to posit that DC seems to realize that it's in the business of comics and therefore (more often than Marvel) allows itself to "create worlds" in which to play, while Marvel attempts to stay "more grounded in reality." Sure, they wax and wane, but for the most part, that's what I've noticed.

Anyway, long-story short, I've been looking for an excuse to return to comic collecting for a while now. And I've not found it.

Wonder Woman has long been (along with Aquaman) the most popular DC staple who can't seem to hold her own title for very long. Her writers simply can't seem to keep her interesting for a decent period of time. The current writer, Gail Simone, seems to suffer from this shortcoming. Admittedly, as I have a fictional crush on the character, I picked up #43 because the art finally seemed appropriate to the title, and while not the best Wonder Woman work, Nicola Scott and Doug Hazlewood are definitely above par for the book. Still... serious letdown.

The Justice League is another DC staple that enjoys periods of extremely well-put together work and periods of extremely lame work. Browsing through the comic shop, I noticed that one of the best comic writers of the last 20 years, James Robinson, was handling the team. I'm usually hesitant to jump into the middle of a story (particularly a 7-issue miniseries), but I had to see what it was about. And, you know what? I kinda liked it. A bit quick, especially for Robinson (anybody who hasn't yet, pick up his fantastic run on Starman), but the art blew me away. Mauro Cascioli, whose work I've never had the privilege of seeing, is a brilliant artist, ranking with the likes of Alex Ross. I must admit, I've little idea what the overall arc of the story is about, but I was impressed.

Still, I doubt I'll be jumping back into comics full-on for a while. From the books I did pick up, to the advertisements for other books that didn't seem all that great, I'm not confident in spending the money... yet. But I will be keeping my eyes open.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Monsty Eye

*I informed my niece that I wanted to write a story about an eyeball, which somehow turned into "monster eyeball." Naturally, she wanted to help. This is my transcription (and occasional translation) of her story.

This is a story about Monsty Eye. He eats people who have bad dogs. Yesterday, he found somebody with a bad dog, so he took him to his lab. Oh, yeah, Monsty Eye has a lab full of other kinds of monsters, like the Sock Zombie and the Daylight Vampire. The Sock Zombie eats children who wear socks to bed and the Daylight Vampire eats children who sleep with nightlights on. The Daylight Vampire actually came to my house last night, but my uncle bribed him to go eat some other kids by giving him some candy. That's why there were candy wrappers on the kitchen floor this morning.

Anyway, Monsty Eye likes to eat people who have bad dogs. My neighbors have a bad dog. His name name is Lenny and he's a weener dog. I don't know how to spell weener, but my brother might. He's too busy playing Nintendo Wii though. And he peed on the toilet seat this morning. The neighbor girl doesn't take baths, so Monsty Eye ate her last night, I think. She stinks. I hope he ate her. Maybe that will teach her to clean herself.

Then Monsty Eye ate Cameron, who my uncle has never met, but I told him that Cameron has a bad dog. Cameron is my friend, but he should be eaten by now, so I guess I won't be playing with him anymore.

Then Monsty Eye ate Logan, my brother, but he left me alone. Logan doesn't have dogs, but my uncle's dog Jasper (he's a German Shepherd) barked at Logan because Logan is bad. So Monsty Eye ate Logan, because he also likes to eat bad people who dogs don't like.

Monsty Eye is a monster eyeball. I forgot to tell you that. But that's how Monsty Eye got his name.

Then Monsty Eye ate Colin, my cousin, because Colin is a brat and monster eyeballs don't like brats, either.

The next day the monster eyeball was full so he went back home to his lab and never came back again.

The End.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Irreviews, 2010: Issue VIII

Clash of the Titans (2010)
Director: Louis Leterrier
Writer(s): Travis Beacham, Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi, Beverley Cross (1981 screenplay)
Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes
-----
A remake of the campy and charming 1981 classic, this film is neither campy nor charming. It feels like it should've been campy, but it wasn't. Bad move. Break-neck pacing eliminates any chance of decent characters to emerge, and the plot is, well... somehow it manages not to be as good as the original. Not initially intended for a 3D release, the 3D scenes definitely feel tacked on and a bit rushed (the harpies or whatever they are look like crap), though the final Kraken battle does look pretty awesome. It's a pity the story didn't stay closer to the source material.
Verdict: Eh... SEE it, but wait for home video.

How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
Director: Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders
Writer(s): William Davies, DeDeblois, Chris Sanders, Cressida Cowell (novel)
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrara
-----
Not only one of the best animated films to come out in this young century (yes, that's acknowledging Up and Wall*E), it's one of the best films of 2010. The advertisements claim the 3D scenes give Avatar a run for its money, and it's true (although, let's be fair, it's easier to "3D" a cartoon than it is a live-action film). But, 3D or not, the story, the characters, the tone... Hell, everything about this film... is brilliant.
Verdict: SEE it! And again!

Kick-Ass (2010)
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writer(s): Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn, Mark Millar (comic book), John S. Romita, Jr. (comic book)
Starring: Aaron Johnson, Mark Strong, Nicholas Cage
-----
Matthew Vaughn's follow-up to one of my favorite films (Stardust) is damn close to being another of my favorite films. Satirical and extremely violent, the creators of Kick-Ass take the Batman mythos and turn it on its head. The result? A satirical and extremely violent movie that is fun, engaging, and a reminder of what compelling entertainment should be. Yes, I understand the "controversy" behind creating a young character who is so efficient a killing machine (the character in question is about 11, and a cute girl), but it's misguided. Batman and Robin (excuse me... Big Daddy and Hit-Girl) have rarely been so bold.
Verdict: SEE it. Fantastic all-around, but definitely NOT a movie for young children.

The Losers (2010)
Director: Sylvain White
Writer(s): Peter Berg, James Vanderbilt, Andy Diggle (characters)
Starring: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans
-----
Both an update to the original DC Comics "The Losers" and homage to The A-Team (which got its own movie), The Losers is a film that struggles to find its footing, but is nevertheless enjoyable. Each of the five male members of the Losers are portrayed by ridiculously charismatic actors, and the female member (portrayed by Zoe Saldana) is, well, rather hot (and equally charismatic). Jason Patric, the film's villain, is far too over-the-top and his subplot equally so. In fact, were it not for the villain, this movie would've been way better than it was. Put it this way: the whole of the film is less than the sum of its parts. But it's still better than a lot of films out there... and the characters (the protagonists, anyway) are classics.
Verdict: Hmm... not for everyone, but action and comic book fans should love it. SEE it.

Passion in the Desert (1997)
Director: Lavinia Currier
Writer(s): Lavinia Currier, Martin Edmunds, Honoré de Balzac (story)
Starring: Ben Daniels, Michel Piccoli
-----
I have wanted to see this movie ever since it came out. I almost watched it in 2009, but thanks to a DVR hiccup, the recording was corrupted. And now I've finally seen it. This is a beautifully-shot movie that is ultimately about, well, not much at all. Rife with "hasty scenes" meant to be shocking or otherwise disturbing, the overall story fails miserably at being moving or otherwise emotionally engaging. Sure, animal lovers will wax fanatic at the interaction between the protagonist and the leopard he befriends in the desert, but the silliness and too-fast pace ruin any chance of this being considered "artistic."
Verdict: SKIP it. You're not missing much, I assure you.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Write Anyways

So here they are... my most recent examples of "writing anyway." These are all the product of not having a clue or an idea in my head and simply hitting the letters on a keyboard until something (hopefully) coherent came out. Some are decent, maybe even good. Others are utter crap. Regardless, they were written under the auspices of what others call "writer's block." Which, by the way, does not exist.

For your enjoyment (or disdain):

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Correspondence

*adult content

Enclosed is a photo with my little league baseball team. I'm the cute one. - KW

Yes, you are cute. I find baseball boring. I prefer football. - AM

Football? I didn't know the French played football. - KW

You call it soccer, silly. Soccer. What an ugly word. - AM


That conversation took three weeks to have.

***

She's barely stepped through the front door before he throws her on the couch. He can't help himself. Doesn't want to. Though this is the first time they've met face to face, they've known each other for years. Serendipity made them pen-pals in the third grade. A love of correspondence kept them that way. Even in high school, when email started becoming prolific, they preferred to read the hand-writing of the other. Subtext lost in sans-serif remained in the lines and curves of ink. Email did, however, become their primary method of exchanging photographs... they've known what each other has looked like throughout their lives. Their voices, however, remained mysteries to each other until a few weeks ago.

She had written that she was coming to the United States. Not to visit him, of course, but to interview for jobs in New York and Los Angeles. He was excited that they would finally be on the same continent, but living just north of Dallas, he didn't think they would have the chance to meet during her trip.

An irresistible need to alleviate being alone changed all that.

She's smiling through their kiss and begins to laugh. Pushing him off slightly, she looks up and says, "Hello." There's almost another laugh, but their mouths draw together too quickly. During their long correspondence, they always managed to maintain a platonic facade. That wall has fallen, and neither would have it any other way.

***

I am not sure. He has been aggressive. I want to travel and he wants me to settle down. - AM

Nah, don't settle. The world is there to be seen, you know? - KW

I left him. I'm going to blame you if this does not work in my favor. - AM

I'll buy you a coffee if it doesn't. - KW


Are you going to mail it to me? - AM 

Got a gift card loaded with Euros just in case. - KW

That one took three days.

***

She lands gently on his bed, knees bent firmly on its edge. Her skirt is flipped up and she's in no mood to wait for him to undress. She motions him closer with her left hand and shifts her panties to the side with her right. He never even notices their color before she grabs his hair and pulls him in. Perhaps they are pink, but from his vantage, everything is pink.

***

"Hello?"

"Hello. This is Audrey."

"Holy shit. How are you? You sound... hot."

"I am hot. You know this."

"I suppose I do. What's up? Wow. This is weird."

"I am coming to America to interview for work."

"No shit?"


Three minutes.

***

She's on top, facing away from him. His hands lay gently on her hips, her silhouette arousing him more than he thought possible. She turns her heads and smiles, her profile seeming to glow blue in the absence of artificial light, then leans back onto his chest. Their eyes meet for moment before she playfully cranes her neck, exposing it to his awaiting mouth. She wants him to do something, but he's unsure of what. Confused, his hands begin to probe her body, fingers joining in lustful exploration.

"No, like this." There is no awkwardness in her command, and he feels no embarrassment in obeying. The language of their bodies becomes as fluent as their tongues.

***

"Will you?"

A smile, a nervous laugh. She covers her face in uninhibited joy. Though this is the first time they've met face to face, they've known each other for years. Thousands of sheets of paper exchanged between them lead to a simple answer:

"Of course. Yes."

Three seconds.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

On Writing: A Philosophy

People have asked, inquired, mused, implied, commented, criticized, and complained. Normally, such things would be ignored by me, but it's been pervasive enough that I've decided to address it.

What am I talking about? Writing, that's what.

Now, I'm the first to admit that I'm not a writer, so don't read this with that perspective in mind. I've been published, but nothing that was a big deal. What I am, however, is a reader (yes, there are paid readers out there). And I used to "run" writers. Usually screenwriters, but there's been one or two who've gotten memoirs and short stories published under my watch. Not that they really needed me... they were just lazy (don't tell them I said that).

Anyway, long story short: writers need output. Writers write, after all. Those who talk about writing (or worse, talk about "ideas") and never write are most certainly not writers. It's no different than someone wanting to be a baseball player but never playing baseball. Intent is rarely judged in any professional world. Execution, however, always is.

There are many "writers" out there who only like to share what is invariably referred to as "polished" or "ready" work. While I admit that this is a luxury that makes the process ideal, it's not really how it works. Editors and readers typically get involved rather early in the process and, in my experience, actually love to do so. There's always a cringing moment when one starts to read "polished" or "ready" material, because it's rarely anything but.

One of the tenets I operate on and like to instill in aspiring writers that I know and/or work with is that 90% of everything one writes is crap. It's true of the great authors, it's true of the bad authors, and it's true of aspiring authors and wannabe author/bloggers (certainly it's true here). 90% of what you write is crap. But everything written, no matter how bad, always provides something usable (such as character or plot) or editable. Getting something written allows the process to continue. WRITING IT ALLOWS THE PROCESS TO CONTINUE. Those who talk about writing will be and are relegated to, well, talking about writing.

I am not a producer. I can't do a fucking thing with your idea (which, as far as producers are concerned, probably involves hiring a WRITER to WRITE it). What I can work with is a draft, no matter how bad anyone thinks it is.

And the more one writes, the larger that 10% is going to be.

What's the moral of this rant? Write anyway. Type anyway. Writer's block is bullshit and doesn't exist, unless your hands and fingers are broken (and even then, there's voice recognition software to get around that obstacle). I "write anyway" all the time, less as an exercise and more to prove my point. And guess what? At least 90% of that stuff is crap, and I'm being generous. But it's workable material, rather than vague ideas in a head that refuse to come down and put themselves on paper (virtual or otherwise).

Writers write. So write. Accept that it'll be crap 9 times out of 10. If it's written, it can be improved. If it isn't, well... keep talking.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tender Are the Young

Diana hates living in the middle of nowhere. She's only 13 and, practically, is still quite adaptable, but 12 years of being a city girl is a hard habit to break no matter the circumstances. It wasn't her fault that her father was laid off, after all, so why should she be punished for it? She misses her friends, her old school - everyone here just seems like a backwards country blumpkin - and the reassuring noises of traffic and city life. Even the fresh air irritates her, though even she might admit it does so only because it's not city air. Her city's air.

Desert life does not suit her. According to those fashion magazines her older sister, Madison, reads, dry air is insufferably bad for the skin. Diana does not want bad skin, regardless of how many years of exposure it'll take to get. She can't spell melanoma, but she's afraid of it anyway. Sunscreen has replaced cheap makeup as her primary purchase. The fact that her allowance isn't enough to afford her both only adds to her irritation.

And what's up with a desert that has trees? This is not a desert; there are woods everywhere! Ever since the first time she was told Little Red Riding Hood, woods have freaked her out. And the abandoned mines everywhere - dark, mysterious recesses leading to the center of the Earth - don't help ease her anxiety any.

Shaking her thoughts, she checks on her newborn brother, Clark. Unlike her other brother, Oliver - he's 9 and currently engaged in some boring video game - she finds Clark extremely cute. The day her parents brought Clark home, she knew she was going to be much nicer to him than to Oliver. It was an arbitrary decision, to be sure, but one she felt rather mature making.

She sees that Clark's diaper is soiled and quickly retrieves another and some baby wipes to take care of him. Her parents and Madison are away at Madison's Sweet 16 birthday party, so Diana is, at the moment, the adult of the house. Diana's always loved having responsibility placed upon her shoulders, partially because she's a control freak, but mostly because she learned early on that it seemed like the only effective way at challenging the affection her parents laid on her sister.

As she fastens the new diaper, she hears a crash in the living room. After the moment of being startled subsides, she assumes that Oliver has reached another boss creature that he can't defeat. She's sure that he'll ask her to beat the level for him as soon as she's done with Clark. She really, really hates video games, but still likes being asked to do things that others cannot seem to. She grins widely and rubs the top of Clark's head, taking joy in his blissful expression. Then she hears the toilet flush and immediately realizes that something is wrong.

Oliver never flushes the toilet.

***

The television screen is cracked, the scene accentuated by the hissing buzz of static. Diana holds Clark tightly, consciously out of fear and subconsciously from a maternal desire to protect an infant that she should be too young to yet have. She debates calling out for her brother, but the smear of blood and tuft of hair stuck to the television convince her to keep her mouth shut. She's already noticed the draft flowing through the house and knows that whoever did this is still nearby.

Diana heads towards the kitchen, her hand already gently covering Clark's mouth - even at 13, she's seen too many movies in which a baby's cry or giggle gives away a victim's position. She just steps out of the living room when the power goes out. She pauses and listens, letting her underdeveloped survival instincts take over. As her eyes adjust to what little moonlight seeps into the house, she alters her destination to her parents' bedroom. Her father took great care to prepare his children for disasters and explaining that cordless phones do not work during power outages was one of the first things he made sure the children knew. The location of the corded phone - in the nightstand next to her father's side of the bed - was another.

She steps lightly, slowly, attempting to stay as quiet as possible. Though adrenaline is surging, she begins to feel the weight of Clark in her arms. She is nowhere near the point of needing to set him down, but the extra concern shakes her confidence. What if she needs to run? Madison is the runner, not Diana.

And then another sound. Sounds, really. From Oliver's room. How does the intruder know which room is her brother's? It takes her less than instant to realize that Oliver's is the only room decorated with toy guns, baseball cards, and model airplanes. It takes her less than a second instant to attribute the sounds to that of... eating. The thought freezes her and she starts repeating the phrase, "Monsters aren't real," in her head again and again in order to return motor control to her legs.

But something is eating in her brother's room. And she's no idea who is having the meal... or what the meal is.

***

There are wailing screams from a mother and helpless tears from a father as the parents wait outside. One deputy exits the house and immediately throws up. Another exits clearly already having done so. Both of their guns are drawn and neither looks to be in any mood to re-holster their weapons. A third exits, holding Clark in his arms. This deputy smiles reluctantly, but his eyes betray a mental scar that will never heal.

***

Diana saw its teeth blink. Its teeth. And it moved so fast. What was left of Oliver was placed under his bedsheets, reminding Diana of a small animal storing food for the winter. Winter was coming, and she knew that she was next. The beast still looked hungry.

It hadn't seen her to her knowledge, but she figured that it had smelled her. She was going to die and wanted nothing more than fall to her knees and cry, but she was still holding Clark. She had to do something.

***

"And the girl's body?"

Deputy Wayne coughs, clearing out some leftover puke. "Same as the boy's. Half-eaten, tucked back into bed."

Detective Allen doesn't know what to think. He's never even heard of something like this, except maybe in fairy tales. "The baby?"

Wayne grimaces and spasmodically shakes his body. "He's fine. Found him in the microwave, covered in baking soda. He had a piece of candy in his mouth."

***

Clark was safe, tucked away with his scent covered, and hopefully distracted long enough not to make a sound. It was Diana's penultimate protective act. For her final, she banged on the door to Oliver's room, yelled as loud as she could, ran to her bedroom and jumped under her sheets.

Moments later, she knew she had been right. Its teeth did, in fact, blink.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Separation Anxiety

I'm in the process of giving up my pets, and it sucks. No, it's not a permanent situation, merely one borne of necessity as I attempt to resettle into an oversized city and get back to work. As soon as I'm able to acquire a place with a decent backyard, I'll retrieve my four-legged companions (all five of the bastards) and live happily ever after... at least in terms of cats and dogs.

I've done it before with two of my dogs (Jasper and Starbuck), but this will mark the first time that I'll be separated long-term from my alpha male (Jax, who's very close to getting his nuts chopped off) and the two most loyal cats I've ever known (Kay and Sagremor). Oh, there's a possibility Jax's adopted mother won't be able to handle him and he'll wind up with me in the city of angels, but until that presents itself, I'm planning on not seeing him for a while.

And it sucks.

I'm not a worrier. That gene seems generally absent from my DNA, but I am going to feel a bit sad at not being able to run and spoil these guys (yes, they're all male... that's another story). I know this beyond any reasonable doubt. A while back I drove to Las Vegas for some work. This drive marked the first time I made a long-distance drive without my dogs in the back of my truck. I couldn't help but checking the bed every so often to make sure they were doing okay, even though there was nothing back there.

And now I'll be making another long-distance drive to drop them off with a friend of mine so I can concentrate on getting back into the industry that I left over a year ago. And it sucks. I can already see myself suffering from depressing separation anxiety on the drive back. It's bad enough that I've already left my two cats with my reluctant but willing sister. I feel as though I'm somehow punishing them for their loyalty (that, too, is another story).

But, people have to do what they have to do.

It still sucks.

Sucks, sucks, sucks, sucks, sucks.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Irrewind, 20100501: Metaphor II

When I started these Irrewind thingies, I led off with a group of writings I call "metaphoric prose." Sounds obvious, I realize that, but to me "metaphoric prose" just means a poem too lazy to be in a poem format. Thanks to some unexpected motivation last summer, I sort of went on a tear of the things and knocked quite a few of them out. Not my favorite style of writing, but I found them useful when writing other things, and I did enjoy them.

Anyway, here are more:

"The Strange Walk That is Memory Lane"
Nostalgia's a strange thing. Okay, maybe not, but it is a curious thing that so many find reaching into mail boxes on memory lane such an addicting sensation. Most of the time nothing is there but junk mail. Sometimes, however, letters completely forgotten are pulled out and delivered anew. Maybe it's a memory sent, maybe received... Read More

"Beauty; Fear: A Fairy Tale"
Fear in beauty. Beauty in fear. Opposite ends of a compass that only points in one direction. Shy in the face of a beautiful woman is the same as fear in the face of drowning. The more beautiful it is, the better to kill you with. The curious snake bearing poisoned apples, the avalanche of pure white sliding down a mountain, a smiling cat... Read More

"Memoir of a Forgotten Memory"
There's a friend lost somewhere. There always is. Someone or something that brought out childhood laughter, someone or something that was there to hold when the sky fell. A neighborhood crush, maybe a teddy bear. A random snippet of a show on television. A sad movie whose title was never known. Or, perhaps, the perfect angle... Read More

"Sine Nomine"
It's imagined many ways. To the left, to the right, straight ahead with eyes closed and the hope that nothing goes awry. So many thoughts into so few spans of time. A sensation longing to endure, betrayed by a lifetime seemingly unwilling to begin. In the dark, a mirror or a photograph, perhaps real or just of the mind's eye... Read More

"The Whale and the Albatross"
It's empty out here, but there's air to breathe closer to the surface. Silence is relative, the gentle breeze and the crest of wave so familiar they make no noticeable sound. Cloud and island are all that break the landscape of blue deserts. A setting sun and its reflection point the way home and to a much needed rest. Tomorrow, sunrise will... Read More

Irreview, Book Review: The Nutshell Technique

I have, to date, read well over two dozen books on screenwriting and its related mediums (theatre, specifically).  While most - if not all -...