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Friday, May 10, 2013

The Gift

The wooden lottery wheel clunked dully as the small chips inside churned against each other.  A stillness gripped the group of men who stared mesmerized as the wheel stopped and was opened by an older gentleman.
"Ten.  Mr. Than."  With those three words spoken by that wizened voice, the group heaved a collective sigh.  No one had dared breathe until it was over.
"It can't be me!" yelled a short, rather greasy-looking man.
"Mr. Than, we all agreed that this is was how we would determine who would go-"
"But I'm the only Theama left in the region!  I have no family to inherit the Gift.  Surely you cannot send me!"
The elder man narrowed his gaze.  "Then tell us, Mr. Than, do you see Death on anyone's face right now?  No?  So no one will die in the next 24 hours, so I suggest you go in haste.  It is only a day's travel to the city and they must have the antidote immediately.  If you hurry back, we will only have to deal without your services for a single day."
Mr. Than shook his head.  "But it isn't just too dangerous to collect the venom without me.  You know that I'm also the only one who can tell when one of the Vorpal Beasts is going to die.  And collecting from a weak Vorpal gives us the most venom with the least risk.  You'll have to stop the entire collection process if I'm not here, and we can't afford to stop making the antidote, not even for a single day."
One of the other men walked up to Mr. Than, putting his face inches from the smaller man's.  "Listen, you little worm.  My daughter has been struggling with Ghost Pox for a month, and this stuff is the only way to cure her.  I'm not about to let your-"
"John, give him some space," said a heavy-set woman.  She walked between them and pushed the pair apart.  Mr. Than stumbled back against the far wall of the compound.  As he pushed away from the wall, he noticed that his arms appeared pale and withered.  No one else seemed to notice, but the sight struck him to his heart.
"Please, I can't go.  I need to stay here, to continue the work.  I'm sure someone else can make it faster than I could, anyway," he pleaded.
The woman rolled her eyes.  "Fine.  I'll go.  Than, you can stay here.  But when I get back, we are going to have a talk."
Mr. Than looked up at her.  Suddenly, the pallor of death left his body and appeared on hers.  He shook his head, but no one was paying attention to him any longer.  "Sam, you can't…" he said, but she was already walking out of the door to load the cart.

Guilt wracked Mr. Than for the first time in his life.  Never had he seen the results of his actions spelled out so clearly before.  For the next hour he watched his friend load the cart with boxes of precious vials, completely unaware that she was about to face her own mortality.  Sam just finished hooking a horse up to the cart when Than snuck to the stables.  A minute later, the sound of pounding dirt and excited horses caught everyone's attention, even Sam's.  Nine people scrambled to corral the horses.  One snuck away unseen, taking the cart and vials with him.
As soon as the frantic sound of horses and men faded into the background din of the woods, Than let out a nervous laugh.  He thought that the adrenaline would have died away by that point, but instead he remained wired and tense.  Once more, his arms were pale and rotting.  Now he rode off to meet his death, but hoped he could at least deliver the vials safely before his untimely demise.  There was no fear any longer.  He knew he was going to die and he faced it head-on like a soldier marching straight into the enemy ranks.
Hours passed.  The constant adrenaline made Than grow weary and fatigued.  Although his skin appeared more rotten with each moment, he had no idea when his final act would begin.  He had not driven the road in over a year and was surprised at how overgrown the road had become.  His horse continually tried to move off the path, but Than wouldn't let it.  For nearly an hour he struggled to keep on the right course.  Suddenly the horse froze and a shiver ran through its flank.
"Come on, I want to deliver these vials BEFORE I die," he said as he jumped down from the cart and walked up to he head of the horse.  He grabbed the reigns, but the horse pulled away violently.  Suddenly, it jolted forward and snapped the leather that kept it bound to the cart.  Than fell back as the horse ran off into the thick brush.
"Dammit, horse!  Get back here!" he shouted, sitting up.  As soon as he stood, however, Than himself froze.  Behind him he heard the distinct hiss of a Vorpal  Beast.  Fear returned in full-force as he spun and found himself staring at the ethereal creature.  It resembled a massive white snake with the face of a dog and a single pair of limbs, each ending in a sickle-like claw.  Than backed up against the cart.   "C-come on.. you don't have to kill me yet.  Just let me get past.  Just let me pass…" he repeated over and over as the beast approached.
Suddenly the sound of hoof-beats grew loud.  The Vorpal coiled some as a horse came into view.  Than ran around the side of the cart and sighed.  "Thank goodness, you damn horse.  I didn't think… Sam?!"
Riding atop of the horse was his friend.  "Than, there you are!  I was worried!"
Than's eyes grew wider.  Her skin was rotten and peeling.  "Sam… no…"

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Reality TV

I despise a vast majority of reality TV.

I despise it for many, many reasons.  The editing.  The manipulation of its audience.  The subject matters.  The lack of morality.  The fact that it is only so prevalent because it is cheap to make (little writing + high ratings = $$$) and because of a writer's strike.  There are a few that at least attempt to be educational, and I can stand those.  Heck, I enjoy some of them, but they aren't your normal "reality TV" fare.

The reality TV I watch is usually things like Mythbusters, Dirty Jobs, Deadliest Catch, Storm Chasers... picking up a trend?  These are all on Discovery.  There are a few that aren't on Discovery as well.  I had thought that these kind of reality shows were immune, or at least resistant, to most of the negatives that surround other reality shows.  There's no sex, little violence, it teaches you stuff, and the editing can't go THAT far, can it?

Apparently, it can.  Now, for some shows, like Mythbusters and Survivorman, there are hundreds of hours of footage for one one-hour episode, so of course lots is going to be cut out.  But they aren't cutting things out in such a way as to make you think that Jamie and Kari are in a tempestuous relationship when they aren't.  And I really, REALLY hate it when my emotions get manipulated in such underhanded ways as editing.  It is one of the reasons I am skeptical about commercials, previews, and trailers.  And sex... I'm not a prude, but I don't need someone to use sex to sell me something.  This is why I can't really get "into" Game of Thrones.  I'm sure it's well-written and entertaining, as all my friends enjoy it.  But they introduced me to it on what has been dubbed the "porn-episode."  And my gut reactions was this: if the writer(s), whoever they may be, feel that they need to turn to such blatantly gratuitous sex and nudity in order to captivate and entertain the audience, then I don't need to waste my time on the show.

But all that aside, I found out today that, no, Discovery is not able to resist the allure of questionable editing.

I have been waiting for the second season of Gold Rush to hit Netflix, and it just did.  So I watched the first episode.  If you are not familiar with the show, allow me to sum up the pertinent parts of Season 1, as the audience was shown it.

A group of 6 men, Average Joes desperate for money, lease a gold claim in Alaska and have a hard time figuring out how to work together and dig the land.  The owner hires one "Dakota Fred," a seasoned mining veteran.  Fred and the Hoffman crew (the 6 guys) do not get along at all.  At the end of the mining season, the crew finally discover "pay dirt" (gold), and Fred drops the bomb that he wants to mine the land on his own next year.  The crew makes very little, only $20k.

At the beginning of the 2nd season, the crew makes as much in 3 days as they made in most of the season the year before.  They have found the pay dirt.  While they are doing that, Dakota Fred goes to the owner and it looks like he convinces the owner that the Hoffmans are bad for the site, so the owner sells Fred the property.  Because they didn't pay their lease at some point during the winter, Fred doesn't have to honor their lease terms.  He essentially kicks them off the land and decides to mine it for himself, after they did all the hard work.  That is the end of episode 1.  I have not seen further, yet.

Well, that sounds like a rather underhanded thing to do, doesn't it?  I figured there had to be more to the story than that.  So , I did a little online digging.  Fred released a statement about the situation a while back.  I will not claim that this is the truth, but it is closer to the truth than what we have been shown.  Apparently, the Hoffmans asked to be let out of their lease.

Now, that certainly makes him look less villainous, doesn't it?  It's all about editing.  And it is a little annoying that Discovery would do that for their ratings.

I have to ask, however, why they asked to be let out of the lease.  I can think of several other pieces of information that are still missing from the picture.  I would be grateful if anyone could fill me in.

1) Did Dakota Fred convince the previous owner of Porcupine Creek to sell by providing him with... selective information?
2) Did the crew decide to be let out of the lease, or was it all their leader's decision?
3) What fueled the decision?  Was it an animosity towards Fred (who got under their skin because he knew what he was doing and they didn't, but, like many people I've recently discovered (including many on the crew), has poor social skills)?  Was it because they had a better offer?  They needed ratings?

The editing leaves so much out it irks me.  The facts could paint Dakota Fred as anything from a relatively innocent victim of reality TV editing to a walking, talking douche with glasses.  Not surprisingly, people are keeping quiet about the matter.  And this begs another, even more vitally important question.

So what?

So what if Dakota Fred made an underhanded fiscal decision that will land him big bucks?  Does it matter if he's a saint or a sinner?  The REAL truth is that I will never meet the man, I will never talk to him, and this has no real impact on my life.  It is once again a manipulation of my emotions, trying to get ratings by painting someone as a villain.  It is a temptation to sin by trying to make me hate a man based on lies and deceit.

And that is why I hate reality TV.

The other reason?  It can be addictive.  I may still end up watching the rest of Gold Rush, despite the nasty editing.  But I will most certainly be keeping that skeptical eye on things.  Remember, we see what they want us to see.

Monday, May 6, 2013


So I certainly have my share of distractions that keep me from writing.  I have quite a few video games I would love to play, such as Guitar Hero/Rock Band, the Uncharted games, Batman Arkham games, Might and Magic, Portal 2, a decent variety of Blizzard games, and a choice of Final Fantasy games.  But, for the most part, these have been on the back burner for quite a long time.

I have a variety of board/card games I love to play (and more I would love to own) such as Settlers of Catan, Race for the Galaxy, SmallWorld, Agricola, and San Juan.  You could also put strategy games into this category, things like Chess, Blokus, and Tara.  But I don't get to play these very often, because Addy is too young, Amy isn't interested, and my friends are all, like myself, adults with busy schedules.

I've also been trying to get back into roleplaying.  I have done my fair share of online roleplaying, but it is either entirely too addictive or takes entirely too long.  My friends play a weekly D&D game, but they live many states away so I have to webcam in... and D&D is not really my thing.  I'm much more into Champions, possibly the most versatile roleplaying game out there.  But I don't know enough people nearby who are interested, and I don't want to GM.  So my sister is starting one up, but it keeps getting pushed back and I find this very disheartening.  I do, however, spend some of my time writing up characters for the campaign.  Who knows, I may end up running a game myself as the GM and keep these write-ups for my campaign.

Of course, games are not my only, or even my biggest, distraction.  By far the biggest is Adelaide.  But she's a special case.  I have a daily dose of webcomics, and I'm sure that if I cut them down I can actually save a bit of time.  But what can I say, I love webcomics!  I will likely post a few reviews on here before too long.  Maybe for games, too.

Music can, at times, be a diversion as well.  I am a guitarist and sometimes play music for a co-op group we have.  I also play at a family worship night every other week, and I work on classical guitar pieces in my free time... of which there isn't much.  It's hard to practice when Addy is awake, and I don't want to wake her if she is asleep.

This blog has actually become a bit of a distraction.  Or, more precisely, the readership has.  I like looking at my stats to see how many people read it, where they hail from, and what I can do to increase my readership.  Though I rarely get comments, I am getting between 30 and 50 people reading when I post.  And for some reason, many are in Germany.  So, here's a shout out to my German readers!  Now, I know an audience of 50 is not much, but it's a start, right?  And that's 50 people who may actually purchase my novel when it is completed!  Who knows, I might actually make enough money to make writing the thing worth it.  :)  One of my professors told me that as writers in today's world, where the publishing industry is in constant threat of going belly-up because it can't seem to adapt to technology, we have to learn to promote ourselves.  Publishers are increasingly leaving their authors out in the cold to do their own promotion anyway, which more or less defeats the purpose of having one.  So, if I am to self-publish (which is no longer a taboo), I need to learn how to get an audience.

Now, if only I could keep the non-productive and non-essential distractions to a minimum...

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Revelation to John

The main reason why my story, Murphy's Law, hasn't updated in nearly a year is because I am currently working on a novel.  It is something I've been working on for about 2 years now and I am getting very close to the end of the rough draft.  Now, when I write, I tend to plot out every plot point ahead of time, work out all the details so that I do not inadvertently miss something vital.  I know that not all writers do this.  But even though I draw out story arcs, write outlines, map out my Action/Reaction (Scene/Sequel to some), and keep extensive notes for that which I must change or be aware of during revisions, I still end up going off track from time to time.

During one of these little unscripted adventures, I realized that I had a potential sequel.  Already, a sequel, and I haven't finished the first book.  I'm not sure how many sequels I can pump out of this thing, or want to, but the more I thought about this sequel, the more I want to write it as well.  It's not well-developed yet, but I have plans.  And knowing these plans allows me to integrate what happens in this sequel into the first book, so that, although they could be seen as stand-alones, they tell one story.

I will try not to spoil anything.  However, in my preliminary research for the second book, I re-read all of The Revelation to John (also known as The Book of Revelation.  Singular.) and began to take notes.  And I noticed something... unusual.

Ask anyone what "Revelation" is about, and they will tell you that it's about the end of the world.  A select few might mention the four horsemen of the apocalypse, or the seven seals, or even the Beast and his number.  Only those who have actually read it will tell you that it also involves a 1500-mile-long-1500-mile-wide-1500-mile-high city of Jerusalem descending from the clouds in all its glory and splendor.

Some of this is true.  There is the city of Jerusalem with golden streets.  Some of this is half-true.  There are actually 2 Beasts.  Along with the Seven Seals, there are also Seven Trumpets and Seven Bowls.  And if you count the horsemen, it can be argued that there are in fact 5, and pestilence is not one of them.  But one wide-believed aspect of Revelation is not true at all.

Nowhere in the Book of Revelation does it mention the end of the world.

The Revelation to John starts with St. John writing to the seven "churches" of the early Christian world, and these messages are very specific.  He then jumps straight away into his Revelation, with no real introduction other than "After this, I looked..."  It is quite conceivable that the entirety of Revelation was a warning to early churches steeped in thick metaphor and symbolism, the meaning of which has been utterly lost over time.  In this case, Revelation bears nearly no importance to the modern world at all.  If it had any, we've forgotten how to decipher it.

But, for the sake of argument, let's assume that this is not the situation.  It is still quite possible that some of the events of Revelation already happened, and that they are very out of order.  There is the story of the Fall of the Angels right there in Revelation 12.  He was defeated by St. Michael, the Archangel, and 1/3 of the angels were thrown down the Earth with him.  This is after the 7 Seals have been opened, and after all 7 trumpets have been blown.  Does this mean that all which was written before this point happened in our distant past?  Has "the Dragon" not fallen yet?  Or is it out of order?  

Again, let us assume that it is in order, and that things have not happened yet.  What is it that Revelation actually tells us?  That lots of people die?  Well, yes.  But lots of people (more than the 144,000... much more) don't die, and in fact are revered.  Revelation is not telling us about the end of the world.  It is telling us about the Beginning.  The Beginning of something wonderful and holy and inclusive and nonjudgemental and beautiful.  The last chapter, 22, begins with the River of Life flowing through the great city, with a Tree of Life on either side bearing a different fruit for each month.  The leaves of the trees heal nations and nothing accursed can exist there.  Then Jesus, the Spirit, the Bride, and all who reside there, welcome you, the reader, to join them there and take the water of life as a gift.

Revelation is about hope and life.  So, how is it that it has come to be known by the opposite?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Statement

I'm sure they are keeping quiet.  If the police questioned you, be honest, and that's just what I had done.  I am a woman of my word.  I'm sure Mrs. Miggins didn't say any lies, either.  She never was one to speak up, especially when her dog would dig around in my begonias.  But that Mr. Garth…

It was 8:35 in the a.m. when Police Lieutenant Conroy rang my door bell.  What an unchristian hour to disturb someone, even if it is "official police business."  Everyone knows that 9 a.m. is the earliest time to call on a neighbor.  I shall have to speak to Mrs. Conroy about him at the next Sunday Social.  I had just finished making my chamomile tea when he started to pound on the door.

"I'm coming," I called.  I clutched my robe closed and slipped my Clarks on.  When I opened the door, there he was, with two fine young sergeants and that stern look on his face.  He always meant business.  "Lieutenant, whatever can I do for you?"

"May we come in, Mrs. Lee?" he asks, but I hadn’t said a word before he walked right in as if he owned the place.  "I'm sure you know why we're here.  Where's the money?"

"I haven't the foggiest, Lieutenant," I told him.  The nerve of him, barging into my house at such an hour and then accusing me like that.  We talked just the day before, you see.  I gave him my statement, and I told him that, but apparently he wasn't satisfied.  Why, I remember when he was knee-high to a jack-rabbit and twice as mischiev-e-ous.  It feels like just yesterday I caught him traipsing about my garden with that pop-gun of his, playing cops and robbers.  I can't even remember how many times I warned him about the garden.  But Mr. Lee took care of that now, didn't he?

Where was I?  Oh yes, this morning.  "We have a witness who says he saw you grabbing a bunch of the money that flew out of the car, Mrs. Lee.  We need it back," he says.  A witness?  There's no such thing as "a witness."  It was Mr. Garth, as sure as pie.  He never was very trustworthy.  You know, back in '78, he was the one who told us that his best friend, Bobby McGee, you know the fella, with the beard and the cauliflower ear?  He was the one that told us Bobby was cheating on his poor Marybell.  And with Molly Miggins, no less.  Never one for secrets, that Mr. Garth.

But I digress.  "I'm sure I don't know what you are talking about.  I told you yesterday that I wasn't home.  I was in town at the market."  That's what I said.

"We checked on that, too, Mrs. Lee.  The market was closed on Monday because of the shoot-out at the bank next door," he says.

So I say, "I know.  That's why I had to turn right around and come back home.  It ruined my entire day."  I swear, detectives nowadays.  You all watch too much TV, you've lost touch with reality.  To think that a God-fearing woman like myself would lie to an officer of the law.  I never!

So he says, "Funny.  We had the roads blocked and no one saw you on the road.  In fact, a neighbor across the street swears that your car was in the driveway all day."

Can you believe it?  Ms. Trencher?  The hussy.  "Well that can't be true, Lieutenant," I said.  "You know Ms. Trencher is getting old.  Why, just the other day she forgot to untie her dog all day.  He got tangled in his leash and my Jason had to rescue the poor animal.  He still has the poor beast and is nursing it back to health."

"About that," he says.  "No one saw her dog tied up, and Ms. Trencher claims that your son threatened to kill the animal if she didn't give him the money she picked up."  As if my son, who works night and day to afford medical school would kidnap some poor dog and then ask for a ransom!  The nerve!  It's Ms. Trencher, I tell you.  She must have picked up the money and is trying to blame me so she can keep it all to herself.  Did I ever tell you that she used to keep her daughter locked in the closet if she didn't finish her chores on time?  And I'm sure I saw bruises on that child more than once.  And she never goes to church.

But the Lieutenant would hear none of it.  "Ma'am," he says, as if I didn’t practically raise the child.  "Ma'am, do you mind if we look around?"  Well, I had nothing to hide, so I said "sure" and off they went.  They tore apart the whole house and found nothing, as God is my witness.  Then one of the sergeants sees that shed out back, the one I haven't used in years, not since Mr. Lee died, God rest his soul.

"Ma'am, we're going to have to check your shed, as well," he says.  So they go out there and open the shed.  And you know what happens next.  There's Ms. Trencher's dog, muzzled and caged, with all that money just sitting there.

"I haven't been out here in years," I told them, but they arrested me right then and there.  I tried to tell them it had to be the Collinses.  They live next door.  I'm sure they could get to the shed.  You know, officer, I never did see the Kelty boy after he got their little girl pregnant.  I'm not one to spread a rumor, but I used to hear them digging at night.  But that Lieutenant Conroy.  I am going to have to have a word with his wife once this whole matter is settled.  Arresting me.  So unchristian.

My first not-so-Friday Flash

May is National Short Story Month (NaShoStoMo for all you NaNoWriMo-lovers).  There is a fantastic tool out there for writers, and I'm going to try to start using it.  It's called #FridayFlash.

The gist is to write a story of 1000 words or less and post it up on Friday.  Then, put it on the Friday Flash Collector and post a link to the story on twitter using the hashtag "FridayFlash."

Now, I know it's Saturday.  I'm late.  I had meant to write it yesterday, but being a stay-at-home dad means you have little time, so it's easy to get distracted from all the other things you want to do when you find the time.  And yesterday there really wasn't any time.  So, I'll post it now.  The following is my first!  And I got the inspiration from a news article.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


So I've been busy in the last week, but not in a fun way.  Due to certain future events, I am definitely feeling the crunch to make sure the house is presentable.  In addition, I've had more chores to do than usual.  Just last night (after 8:30) I sorted and washed about a gallon of strawberries, put away dishes, washed dishes, did laundry, cleaned up, made bread, and wrote characters up for a game my sister is running (which is starting to feel a little like a chore).  And that's on top of making plans, doing the calendar, folding laundry, making Addy's bed, doing more dishes, making dinner/tea, taking Addy out to pick strawberries, paying bills, etc. etc. etc.

I'm not trying to make you all think I do a lot of chores.  But it still feels like a lot of chores to me.  And if not chores, then responsibilities, such as scouting and taking Addy swimming.  I've written very little in the last week, and in the last 3 days I've actually felt like writing is the last thing I want to do.  I had to force myself to write up those characters, and I usually find that enjoyable (the only reason I did was because I didn't have the time to actually get into real writing).

So, no, I have not written much recently.  I need to get back into the mindset of writing.  It feels like I'm struggling with a combination of writer's block and writer's blockade.  When I find a small time to write, I don't feel like it.

Having a toddler is not conducive to being an author.