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Lots of Snow and No Class

Well, school was to resume yesterday. <pauses to let the Northerners and Midwesterners laugh for a bit> Yea…that did not go according to plan. I was largely unperturbed by the cancellations as they–well, let’s be honest here–they really just delayed the inevitable. You see, a couple of weeks ago, I lost hold of my sanity and mental faculties. It was all quite disturbing. In the throes of my breakdown, I enrolled in a class. A class that starts at 0800. If you can imagine the most chipper of individuals, the morning-est of morning persons–that is not me. I am a creature of the night, of the wee hours.

Conversely, I am truly excited about the course. It’s being taught by a friend of mine (J. Fisch-Ferguson, author and co-editor of Enter the Moon, whom you can find over here) and its focus is on short stories and actually sending them out to publications. My family has been encouraging me for a while to start seriously writing, so I’m testing the waters…at 8:00 AM…in 2-degree weather. It’s like the schedulers don’t even know writers. I should request hot cocoa and blankets for this class. Or I suppose I could bring some…

Other than that, I’m taking Neurolinguistics and a LIN elective titled “Doctor Doolittle Deluded.” You guessed it. I’m taking the latter for its name. For now, that’s it. Just those three. I’m kind of excited by the easier semester. It may set me back a tad, but I think I can live with that.

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Kougeki Shiro!

Most folks sing in the shower. That’s a bit mainstream for me, though. You know what I do?

<best Japanese accent> Special attack! <dramatic martial arts moves> Ice shine!

If you’re wondering what that looks like, well, it’s a mixture of Grey (from Fairy Tail) and Armstrong (from Fullmetal Alchemist). Let’s see. The first part is serious, mimicking Grey’s fist-in-open-palm motion; then both hands slick back the hair and a sparkling pose is struck, mimicking Armstrong. Simplified here, but it’s pretty amazing.

Have I always done this? No. Truth be told, I did not discover this shampoo/conditioner until recently. My hair’s kept short, so it takes me a while to go through shampoo. It was finally time to buy more, so I went to the store.

Pause. I rhymed! Done.

The hair products aisle is always daunting for me. I just want shampoo. I don’t care if it’s for curly hair, dyed hair, red hair, frizzy hair–I just want my hair clean. However, I saw this clear bottle on the shelf: Ice Shine.

Apparently there’s no silicone in it. I have no idea what that means for my hair, but I’m guessing I am safer now than I was.

There I am, standing in front of the shelves like a drowning cat, staring at this bottle. You know what was going through my head? See the second sentence of this post. Yes, I developed a special move while standing in the aisle. Quickest shopping trip ever. I don’t tend to buy things based on name, but I did this time.

My hair doesn’t feel any different. Who knows? Maybe it’s healthier at a structural level. All I care about is that my Ice Shine move can blind enemies as far away as 30 yards. it’s all in the control. Stronger motions mean a wider radius. I can direct my attack into a beam for further effectiveness, though this is best kept within 10 yards.

Moral of the story: Anime and martial arts movies can change your life.

In Case You Are Interested

I did some writing over the summer. For the most part, the pieces were serious ones, original ideas, etc. But remember the obsession I mentioned a while back? Hunters, demons, angels–ringing a bell? Well, I wrote some fan fiction. Yes, it’s the first time I’ve done so. I don’t know any of the rules (I assume there are rules) to such things. Only recently did I learn about shipping. My family has declared me an 80-year-old man…

Anyways, on a whim I posted the pieces I wrote to the fanfiction.net site. They’re a bit longer than what I’ve posted here (about 1,100 words each). If you’re interested in them, here’s the link: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/9634451/1/Perspective.

Because I have more space here, I can explain a bit more clearly what I did with them than I could on that site. Each chapter–there are five currently–is told from a different character’s perspective. While they are chronological, the events do not occur one right after the other. Between each chapter, some time is “lost” during which other conversations have taken place. I may fill in those situations later as it is a work in progress.

In an attempt to test myself, I did not name the speakers in each passage until the very end. I wanted to see if I could mimic the familiar characters well enough to make them recognizable without naming them. Additionally, I think it adds a bit of drama/suspense to the pieces. The reader gets the chance to guess and see if they were right; the characters add meaning or significance to the dialogue by personalizing it at the end, akin to bringing home a point. At least, that’s how I think of it. It may not work. I know my sister has mentioned she’s not crazy about it, but I think that may have been my presentation (I sent them to her entirely out of order, weeks apart, and with no introduction).

Let me know what you think, either here or there. I’m not really sure how the site works yet. Still acclimating myself to it.

No doubt you are all aware that the school year has begun. This semester I have Latin, Morphology, World Urban Systems, and 19th Century Russian Literature. Woohoo!

Urgency

I’ve mentioned my job before, how it’s customer-intensive, call-center similar, et cetera.  One of the services that we provide is a voice-mail system, but it’s a video file instead of an audio file. As with most messaging systems, there is an option to mark a file as urgent. The caller will rattle off a message and I’ll interpret it. Upon completion, I’ll ask, “Would you like to mark that as urgent?” Apparently, this single question is enough to break down any semblance of intelligence in the human mind.

Most responses are, “Uh…what? I don’t…uh…”

I also get, “Well, it’s not really urgent. I mean, I need to hear back from him, but whenever they call is fine.” Thereafter follows a tale of confusion that I inevitably end up interrupting for the sake of time as eons have passed since I asked the fateful question.

And then there’s this: “What does that mean?” It’s not the word that confuses these folks (like the ones from the first response), it’s the method. At least, that’s what I think it is. I describe it as an urgent e-mail. You know, the red exclamation point sitting calmly beside the date/subject lines. That clears up the caller’s befuddlement and I’m usually told, “Uh…sure.”

Naturally, this causes me to wonder…many things. Is the word urgent an endangered species? Will I be relegated to saying really, really important instead? Would it be easier if I said time sensitive? Are answers to yes/no questions also on the endangered species list? Is our education system truly that dreadful? Has our culture suddenly become high context? Are we afraid to commit to an answer, causing us to hem and haw our way through a halfhearted answer until someone makes the decision for us? 

Basically: What the hell?

It occurred to me, then, that we don’t use urgent all that often. It’s a “danger word.” It sparks that fight-or-flight response in us. Adrenaline starts rushing when we hear it. Can we say negative association? Methinks we can. So, I re-examined those responses and I think I’ve come up with an idea.

In the first month of the Zombie Apocalypse, Group A will die horribly. They’ll react too slowly or not at all, which will result in their brains being eaten for hors d’oeuvres .

In the second month of the Zombie Apocalypse, Group B will die. Also horribly. They’ll know enough to seek shelter and shoot the zombies in the head, but they’ll become the main course for said zombies because they were too busy grabbing everything off of the grocery store’s shelves to notice that they were being hemmed in by the starving dead.

In the third month of the Zombie Apocalypse, Group C will die. Yes, horribly. These are the guys who have decided to wax philosophical in their last days: These zombies were once human, so maybe they can be saved. They’ll be gutted at their microscopes as they try to determine just how it happened and how it can be stopped. Their blood will be like chocolate syrup to the zombies they try to inject with various cures.

There it is, folks. Three months, give or take, and the human race is annihilated. Make ready.

A Bit of Darkness

I’ve been organizing my scribbles. The notebook that I took with me to Ireland has quite a few scrawled throughout it and I’m just now getting them into Word. Having told you of my obsession with “Supernatural” and Cas, I thought that this piece was quite relevant. I wrote it before I was taken with the affliction. The Archangel Michael is the protector; I started thinking about what it would be like if he found us unworthy of his protection. It’s a one-sided dialogue. Yes, it was intended to be that way. Enjoy.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Millennia from now, if asked the same question, I will answer just as I do at this moment: No, I have no regrets. My journey was not perfect; there were things I did not do and people I did not meet. In all honesty, though, I think those seeming imperfections came together to form perfection. Without them, I could have done my part and gone.

Perhaps, yes. If I had met all of the right people, as you say, things may have been different. But it would have been a lie. Is that what you would have? No. I think not. I did meet some of those who were considered great and righteous. When they were alone their greatness fell away as if it were no more than a paper mask. Beneath it they were no different from any other soul.

Good? In a sense, I suppose, but not in the way you intend. It opened my eyes, this shedding of one character to reveal another.

Oh, yes, you are. All of you—your actions, your passions, your attire—all of it is carefully crafted to show others what you want them to see or what you think they want to see. If each of you lived as you are, this world would be dark indeed.

There is no light! You have destroyed every last glimmer that ever appeared in this miserable place. Each new spark is met with disdain and fear. What frightens you? It must be the knowledge that if you let light in it will change you. Or worse. It will make you see that you are each merely vain shells of the incredible beings you were created to be. Yes. That must be it. You would see how greatly you have failed and I doubt you could live with that much disappointment.

How many more chances will you need? Have you any idea how many you have had already? Thousands! Millions! Each of you is born into this life as hope, a hope that maybe this time you will succeed. But no. Instead you go on to become corruption. You soil all that you touch. Even the purest love is turned to the vilest contempt when placed in your clutching grasp. You are filled with greed and hate. You battle over land that has been its own from before the first dawn of this sun. You kill in the names of deities who would sooner see you locked in a bare room to save the world from your ravings. You are a disease.

Me? I am he who will do what no other will. I will cleanse this world so that a new hope may rise, untainted and strong. My sword gleams in the blackness of your sin. I will break down your walls. I will cleave your frail bodies in twain. I will watch as your souls are judged and your just reward crashes down upon you. Know your fate and he who brings it to pass. I am the Archangel Michael and ever will I serve him who sent me!

Oceans and Angels

I have a deep love for Neil Gaiman. It’s not an uncommon affliction. I also have a growing love for Misha Collins, which is similarly common. Over the last month, these two men have occupied most of my free time. So much time…

There are books that transport me, let me escape from whatever it is that’s overwhelming me at the time. There are books that enthrall me to the point at which sleep and food become hindrances rather than necessities. There are books that open my mind and fill it with facts, ideas, or possibilities of which I’d never heard. Every one of them is precious to me.

Mr. Gaiman’s works do something else in addition to all of this: They inspire me. After reading one of his books, I scurry about my apartment or office or hotel room looking for a pen and some paper. I’m driven to write and write well. I’ll stay in this frenzy for a number of weeks, scrawling bits and pieces of stories on stray napkins or scraps of paper. When the high ends–and it always does–I slump into days or weeks of nothingness.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane was released not too long ago. I had the book in my hands within a day or two of its release. It took me about a week to work up to reading it. It was shorter than I had expected and, before I even began to read it, I feared reaching its end. I knew it would take me only a few hours to read the whole of it. Anticipation and dread–a reader’s personal hell hounds. So, yes. it took me a while to convince myself to read the book.

Gaiman did not disappoint. It was wondrous, truly. I could tell you about the story, the characters, and the setting–but those would be spoilers. I disapprove of spoilers. You should read it with fresh, unadulterated eyes. That’s a difficult thing to do in this age. It’s worth it, though, if you can manage it. I started reading it and it held me until the very end. I even kept reading through the acknowledgements, mostly because I didn’t want it to end. Mr. Gaiman must have suspected this would happen. You’ll see what I mean. I ignored him and read on until there were no more words. It was a splendid journey, thought provoking and magical. After I finished it, I sat there for a while and just waited for something to happen. I’m not really sure what I expected. I thought about my childhood, the friends that I had (real and imaginary), the empty places in my memory. Nothing else happened. I went to bed, woke up the next morning, and went to work. I’d like to think that at least a piece of me has been changed, though.

The next several days were spent writing. Remember the ghost story I mentioned? In the end, there were no ghosts. Instead, there were hollow humans and shadows. I do like how it turned out. It still needs tweaking, of course, but I like it. Right around the same time, I resumed watching Supernatural. I don’t have a television, so I rely on Netflix. This means that I tend to be behind on everything. Supernatural was no exception. Over the last month, I’ve watched seasons 5-8. Some might call that a mistake. If it is, I’ll revel in my transgression.

One word–a name, really: Castiel. I could leave it there, I suppose. Say nothing further, save you from my new-found fangirl status. There’s no fun in that, though. Social media has done little to save me from myself; it’s only fair that you should be my next victim. My family is certain that I have been replaced by some other-worldly creature. It’s possible. This level of obsession is wholly unfamiliar to me.

The character of Cas is certainly intriguing: an angel of the Lord who falls for the sake of humanity. It’s not a new tale, but it is one of my favorites. The idea of purity becoming corruption–it occupies more than a few of my thoughts. That sounds creepy when read aloud. Awkward. Anyways, the development of the character is good. His story is good. His apparent innocence is so well contrasted with his being a warrior of God, capable of smiting demons with a touch of his hand. Let’s not bypass the fact that his presentation is damn sexy. Naturally, I started looking into the actor who plays the character so well.

Misha Collins (Dmitri Krushnic) is insane. He is adorable, but he is crazy. Not the electroshock-therapy kind of crazy. No, no. He’s the I-want-to-hang-with-you kind of crazy. What makes him particularly brilliant is that he doesn’t try to hide it. Wherever he goes, a wake of good times and fun seems to follow. What does that mean for his fans? Lots of pictures of him riding stuffed animals or an inflatable duck, of him dressed in drag on numerous occasions, of him modeling any hat that he lays his hands on, and lots of pictures of his tongue. There are also the “Cooking Fast and Fresh with West” videos on YouTube wherein he cooks whatever his son picks up at the store. Watermelon peanut turkey. Cornbread with marshmallows. In addition to being an awesome father, he’s the founder of GISHWHES (the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen) and of Random Acts. He’s spreading his brand of crazy. I think I can live with that.

He’s not the only celebrity to be charitable and to have fun. The poor man is just the focal point of my current addiction. Reading his posts on Twitter and Facebook and watching his interviews got me thinking, though. The adage “With great power comes great responsibility” keeps coming to mind. Great power usually means you’re visible to the masses. Being visible makes you responsible. If you have the money, the power, or the prestige to make the world a better place, then you best get to it. It’s not wrong for us mortals to expect that of those we idolize. For us to expect it of them, but not of ourselves–that’s wrong. We may not be able to send $500,000 to a homeless shelter or build a school for kids in a foreign country, but there are little things that we can do that can lead to the big things being accomplished. And we should do those until such a time as we are able to do better.

Basically, I’ve spent the last month or so contemplating my life and my impact on the world. It hasn’t been great. It’s been quite disappointing, actually. I recognize defects in the world, but instead of doing my part to remedy them, I lock myself in my apartment and in my own head to avoid them. Here’s where I’m supposed to say that I’ll do better, right? But I don’t know if I will do better. Maybe I’ll end up like Cas, making things worse despite my best efforts. Maybe I’ll end up like Misha, making things better because I’m giving my best. I don’t know. Something has to change, though. Might as well be me.

Z.

The Western Shores

South of Kilkee

 

The weather was beautiful, unlike anything we expected when we began planning our trip to the Emerald Isle. My sister and I flew in to Dublin and then drove across the country to Kilkee in County Clare. We stayed at a lovely B&B in the center of town; it was our base camp for the remainder of the trip. To be honest, we did not do as much as we had scheduled. There was a bit of a kerfuffle with the rental car and our budget was quite tight. But this was Ireland–beauty and serenity were within a fifteen-minute walk.

Our first couple of days in the country were spent exploring Kilkee and its surrounding area. It’s, apparently, a top-rated holiday destination. We had no idea about its popularity when we booked the trip. Also unbeknownst to us was the fact that the weekend of our arrival was Whit weekend. Needless to say, there were loads of people about the area and quite a few events staged. North of the town, beyond the beach, is a walking path up to a bluff. It’s not very high, but it was quite beautiful. It was drizzling that day and overcast; my sister started back almost as soon as we reached the top. I sat for a bit and just listened to the waves beat against the base of the cliff.

North Kilkee Cliff

The next day (or perhaps the day after) we went to the Cliffs of Moher. I know it seems silly to pay for access to a natural site, but it was worth the €6. Instead of walking the northern path, towards O’Brien’s Tower, we headed south, to Hag’s Head. This path is probably the less traveled of the two. It is not difficult to imagine the early occupants of the island coming to this place and standing at the edge, marveling at the sight–which is precisely what we did.

Cliffs of Moher

The southern walk is probably an hour and a half long. Thanks to our compulsive need to snap photographs and to our pensive tendencies, we took close to two and a half hours to reach the Head. Nearly halfway there, we stopped for a small lunch of blackberry jam and Nutella sandwiches and apples. Yes, we were very pleased with ourselves. Upon arriving at the tip, we took more pictures and then sat down to gawp some more. We resolved to not take so many pictures on the way back and reached the car in a little over an hour and a half.

Hag's Head

The next day, both of us were feeling a bit cranky thanks to our sunburns. We whiled away our time in the room and on the beach. Our next adventure took us to the south, towards Loop Head. A five-minute drive brought us to a beautiful spot that looked out on a piece of land that could have been torn from the coastline. We could see the stones of an old foundation on the top. Our imaginations being what they are, we spent a bit of time theorizing about what kind of building it had been and who had built it there and how they had managed it.

South Kilkee Cliff

From there, we continued southwards until we came to Ross and its bridges. My sister was not feeling well, so she stayed in the car while I wandered about for a while. I enjoy casual rock climbing and this spot was a good bit of fun for me. It was less fun for my sister. It seems that when she spotted my orange backpack lying on the ground near an edge, she thought the worst. She walked out to the bag and commenced looking for me, even calling for me. She did this for close to fifteen minutes by her account. Meanwhile, I had finished exploring a sort of double inlet and was making my way back towards my pack. I popped up over a rim and spotted her. With a ridiculous grin on my face I’m sure, I called her name and waved her to me. She was not amused. I was duly instructed to keep my backpack on me at all times. It was a couple of hours before she would speak to me willingly.

Bridges of Ross

Needless to say, we turned round after that and went back to Kilkee. The following day, though, we resumed our journey to Loop Head. We bypassed Ross. Loop Head was gorgeous, the pod-like grass and flowers lending themselves to our imaginations. Off the western edge, there’s another strip of land on which a variety of birds were nesting. My sister and I sat nearby and listened to their calls echo up the chasm. We watched them fight over prime locations, hearing a fair amount of name-calling in their cries. I went down to the southern point where there is a nice ledge looking out over the open sea. A few ships passed and their occupants waved to us. Otherwise, it was just the sound of the waves, the buzz of a hundred flying insects, the squawks of seagulls and guillemots, and the hum of my own thoughts. Not too shabby, Eire.

Loop Head

Z.