Archive for December, 2008

New Years Resolutions for Everyone Else

(1) Work, Don’t Whine
 
– Nothing is more annoying than someone who complains about a predicament or ailment in their life, but do nothing to change it. If it’s a problem that can be rectified, take appropriate action. Otherwise, we don’t want to hear about it. If you’re with someone who treats you like dirt, dump them. If you’re feeling fat, exercise. If you hate your smoking habit, quit. It’s that simple. Sure, it’s work, but it’s work to a conclusion.
 
(2) Think and Talk Less About Yourself
 
– I read somewhere that a sure-fire way to becoming depressed is to focus only on yourself. “I” and “me” statements – if given reign over your conversing ability – not only make you less interesting, but also less interested in others; including yourself. Focus on others for a change, yet don’t let it drain you either. Keep some of yourself in reserve, but not just for yourself.
 
(3) Do At Least One Good Deed a Day
 
 – It has been proven time and again that there’s no bigger euphoric rush than helping others in need. No matter how small, take the time to do at least one good thing for someone new. Exceptions to this? Those that you know that are “exceptionally” needy. They’re the equivalent to energy-sapping black holes. Diversify to avoid this calamity.
 
(4) Make Critical Observations but Not Judgments
 
 – This goes hand in hand with the “I”/”me” statement manifesto. Focusing on others doesn’t necessarily mean focusing on their negative aspects. If you do that, then it will only sour your own mood. If someone asks your opinion of someone else, take the editorial approach; constructive criticism. List the positives and areas where improvement can be made. Therefore you can only be accused of making an observation, while not being misconstrued as a gossip queen.
 
(5) Don’t Talk, Listen
 
 – Chances are if someone is wetting your shoulder with their tears, they don’t want to hear your advice. They want you to listen. Do so. If they ask, then you have permission to offer sage wisdom. Otherwise, just lend the ear…not the mouth.
 
(6) Dont’ Worry…It Doesn’t Matter
 
 – Everyone has heard the phrase, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” However, no one ever applies by that. There’s an old Thai Buddhist saying: “Mai Pen Rai”. Loosely translated, it means: “Don’t worry, it doesn’t matter.” What it basically gives you permission to do is shrug off those little travails that can’t/don’t/won’t define your existence. Shake ’em off like so much detritus.
 
(7) Take a Walk Once a Day
 
 – I have found that the simplest way to get exercise and clear my head is a good walk, even in poor weather. The outdoor chill, or the glaring sun, doesn’t matter. A walk is the best way to let all the troubles of the day, month or week simply seep away. Catharsis by way of a stroll. Try it and try to disagree with me afterwards.
 
(8) Go on an Adventure Once a Week
 
 – The best way to broaden your horizon is to do something you normally wouldn’t try. The best bet is to look upon every new opportunity that presents itself as a “quest”, and you’re there to conquer it. It doesn’t matter the nature or magnitude of the experience as long as it means something to you. Oh, and that you had a kickass time doing it. Always a plus.
 
(9) Read
 
 – Whether it’s something in crayon, littered with pictures, or featuring cutesy animals, a good way to keep your mind fresh and focused is a good book. You might not even enjoy reading normally, but give it a shot for at least an hour a day. Use it in conjunction with a good beverage. Avoid the television. You’ll feel like you accomplished something instead, rather than watch time whisk by.
 
(10) In the End, the Only Opinion that Matters Is Your Own
 
 – You may not always be right, your opinion might not always be welcome. In the end, though, you don’t need anyone else’s approval. You are who you are, and unless you’re deliberately harming someone else, you have every right to be as you see fit. Fuck the rest.

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Wednesday, December 31st, 2008 Musings 2 Comments

Eldyr’Hai

Amidst the stars where empires fell

Wanderers make their living there.

Existence is harsh yet life prevails

While warlords tear away at cosmos.

Along the Spiral Run there dwells

A place known to few along clusters.

Ancients refer to it as the Refuge.

These wanderers call it home.

A name was given to it eons ago

In a tongue no longer spoken.

Where did the name have its origins?

Among the stars like so many others.

Let the wanderers find their home again

Even if it’s a place they’ve never been.

Beckon the gate to open once more,

And unleash the reverie of ages past.

When will all be normal for us?

Will the Age of Decay ever end?

All questions are what we know to speak,

For we’ve forgotten the words to the song.

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Thursday, December 11th, 2008 Poetry No Comments

My Future

Several years ago in college, we were given an assignment to do a write-up of where we saw ourselves in fifty or so years. Naturally, I did mine in story form. This was the result.

It is October the 2nd, 2052. 7 P.M. at night. Scenery scrolls by from the car window on my right side. The smooth hum of the electric engine echoes a soft vibration from beneath my feet. I catch my reflection in the windowpane. Sags have grown under my eyes after years of staring at words all my life. A thick head of gray hair, styled forty years out of date, lies atop my loose scalp – my own head of hair, no less. I tap on the transparent surface with my ring finger. The gold wedding band clinks as it lightly touches the surface.

The car is long with cushioned seats facing each other in the back, the interior of a limo. I’m being driven someplace. Two younger people are in the seats facing me. One is a woman in short cut polymer dress, while the other – a male – sits bow-legged in a color-shifting tuxedo. Both appear chipper, if relaxed, while my expression is a bit vexed. Both appear to be in their late twenties, and slightly resemble me in the face. Yet they have their mother’s dark brown eyes.

“This isn’t what I had in mind,” I say aloud with a grumble.

“You said you’d do it for Mom,” the woman replies. “She’s been planning it for months.”

“I didn’t ask her to plan it, Karen.” I turn away for a moment, gazing out the window again.

“Dad, just view this as something that’s been long in coming,” the younger man chimes in. “I mean, hell, they made a movie about it.”

My eyes close, but I smile a bit. “It was a pretty bad one at that, too.”

“What’d you expect? Look at the director they chose,” he laughs.

The car slows to a stop in front of an amphitheater. Both of my progeny quickly jump out. It takes a bit longer for me to roust myself from the seat – more due to my reluctance than any actual physical impairment. A banner is flying over the Romanesque exterior. It reads:

A TRIBUTE TO ELDYR’HAI

The series that I’d written over twenty years ago – five books total. All of which chronicled the misadventures of three space-borne outcasts, and was later made into three movies. The characters were horribly miscast, but they kept the story intact somewhat, which surprised me. I never thought it was my best work, but I had the most fun writing it.

On the exterior steps, a dignified brown-haired woman (five years my junior) races down. Even at her age, she still possesses an inhuman sense of grace – the woman who became my muse. She flashes me her token grin. I return her jovial gesture with a partial half-smile – awkward.

“Are you ready?” she asks.

“No,” I respond.

“Good,” she says, kissing me on the cheek as we walk up.

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Thursday, December 11th, 2008 Prose No Comments

Day’s End

Day Brennon never knew how much he missed it. Like a sea-born breeze brushing his hair back, the memories of a bygone moment in his life invaded him. Stepping through the sliding door brought forth the nostalgia instantly. The lobby hadn’t changed after all the time that had passed. Couches still lined the back wall, and weren’t all that different from the ones he remembered. Students herded through the open walkway, cautiously avoiding the bookworms that occupied the round tables on the far side. The couches on the other hand were the communal rest area for a varied array of slackers. Just like back in Day’s time at Elderwood High.

He walked slowly towards the entrance to Senior Hall, the lockers – lacquered white – in regimented columns ushering him in. Feeling out of place was a new emotion for Day. Everyone looked so young, and the ceiling seemed farther down upon him. Even the seniors, who deemed themselves ready for adulthood, still bore the onslaught of acne and questionable fashion tastes. At least, they were questionable to him. No one wore pants two-to-three waste sizes larger back when he attended. Black wasn’t a preferred color, and hairstyles didn’t defy gravity during his tenure as a student. A lot had changed on the surface, but the essence of it was still recognizable to him.

Vivid recollection crept up to him. Senior Hall held a particular significance. Locker #357. Day faced it with all the wonder that one bestowed upon a valuable relic. A crack in the locker’s door hinge revealed itself to his wondering eyes. He made that crack with an art cutter his sophomore year! His girlfriend dumped him that day, complaining that his name ‘Day’ was too queer. That moment lingered in his mind as a humorous stumbling block rather than a moment of grief. The so-called relationship lasted far longer than his friends predicted. Steiner – an old friend – kept tabs on the bets made in favor of the breakup. A bet that Day himself had entered.

Another peculiarity, which bothered him, was the memory of being one of the only sophomores in Senior Hall. The area designated to his ilk had overcrowded that year, leaving several in his grade locker-less. Others migrated to Freshman Hall at the urgings of the faculty, while a few others and he were given the leftovers in Senior Hall. Day dreaded that day he held his schoolbooks, gazing up at the overhead scowls of upperclassman; all glaring in dismay at their sovereign territory forever violated by the presence of an underling amidst their ranks.

He strolled further down and encountered an old man dressed in faded blue overalls. Regardless of his haggard appearance, the ancient figure wheeled a mop over his shoulder with surprising youthful ease. Day recalled that maneuver, and the man who made it famous. Chuck Whiltman, the Senior Hall janitor.

Good ol’ Chuckie hadn’t changed, even his face looked as sandpapery as ever. The only difference Day could spot was a missing tooth along his lower bridge, but that gave him character. Not that the old janitor needed any more character than he already possessed. How could he don the same grin, and hum the same tune after so many decades? It was beyond the former student’s comprehension.

The janitor passed by him without even the slightest hint of recognition. That didn’t surprise Day any. He never really stuck out to Chuckie. No one did. A different world surrounded that man, a perception everyone wished they could attain, but would never understand.

Day chuckled inwardly at the irony then decided it was time to depart.

Nostalgia possessed a divinity all its own for a fleeting moment, then receded back into the subject’s mind like an outgoing tide. Day stood there, feeling the change come over him as the memories trickled into the present. Recollection toppled over to welcome reality. The former student sighed.

The memories were small ones, insignificant to the blinking eye. However, those simple happenings held more symbolism than the grandiose events that supposedly defined the “high school experience.” He could recall his first pencil sharpener, yet couldn’t remember his first dance. A carving on the bathroom wall in the shape of a phallus amused him, yet the pep assemblies were little more than a blur. His first beer, still sour upon his lips, replayed itself in his thoughts, yet he couldn’t spell the name of his prom date. What type of phenomenon was this?

Then it hit him. One simple sentence.

“Dad? Can we go now?”

The lanky young freshman looked up at him, barely above five-four in height with green-dyed hair shaved to Chia Pet length. A skateboard hung from his left arm, while a tattered backpack relaxed limply on his bony right shoulder. The boy smiled quizzically, his braces flashing in the fluorescent lighting.

“Oh sure, Joe, no problem. I’ll get the car,” Day replied, as if awoken from a trance.

He wandered outward, pushed upon the handle of the less-than-sturdy glass door, and placed his reflective penny-loafers on the discolored cement. Turning his head, he viewed the sign upon the windowpane.

WELCOME FRESHMAN

It was then that he understood why he couldn’t recall the majority of the grander events of his youth, why only the little inconsequential things stuck out in his mind. His time had ended, while his progeny ventured forth to make memories of his own. Day withdrew his keys, and pressed the button on his obsidian-black key chain. The car alarm to a chrome-colored Lexus parked in front chirped in reply.

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Wednesday, December 10th, 2008 Prose No Comments

Spirits

Toby Reynolds liked to think of himself as a party animal. Every one of his Gamma Epsilon Chi fraternity brothers thought so, but the world had yet to discover his skills of debauchery. He planned to rid the unsuspecting public of their ignorance of him. Reynolds would show them what it meant to know . . .

The Tobe.

That was his nickname. He earned it on while balancing a keg on one of his biceps, and three bottles of tequila on his nose. This was his ticket into the fraternity. It would also be his ticket out–if only he could find the right place to make his debauch debut. Reynolds’ college days were coming to an end, and he had to find a new social livelihood. Today, he promised, would be that day.

Now, all you need to do is sober up, his mind said.

The frat boy shook his head vigorously, attempting to end the swimming sensation within. His Greek-lettered sweater reeked of Budweiser; his beige slacks were drenched. Some unknown sorority sister, whose name he couldn’t quite remember, had soaked him with a bucket of water. Everything after that was a blank. The last thing he recalled was looking at himself in a mirror, brushing back his thick red hair. He blacked out after that.

He now found himself on a street. How did he end up on this street? He didn’t recognize it. The road shimmered like polished obsidian. No cracks lined the asphalt, and no cruisers in fast cars left streaks of burnt rubber in their wake. The black surface lay untouched, virginal, free from wear or tear. The Tobe couldn’t even hear the echoes of emergency sirens passing by, not even a Doppler Effect residual. Reynolds was alone on a barren highway between the urban and the suburban. He was alone? The Tobe was never alone!

He needed another drink.

A friend of his once said, “You’re never truly drunk until you see a pink elephant. You may be buzzed, you may be hammered, and you may even be sloshed! But you are never drunk until that pink pachyderm crosses your path. So drink all you want until that happens!”

Those were words the Tobe could live by, and had lived by. He had yet to see a pink elephant. After a heavy night out he had seen many blurred objects, a spinning world, and lastly, doubles of people he knew. However, no animals of any kind ever manifested before his eyes. The Tobe was still in the zone. He wondered if he could keep up his winning tolerance a little longer.

He staggered for several blocks along the surreal street. Everything looked decadent. All buildings were made of brick, and rose out of the ground like living stone obelisks. Street lamps glowed with a fiery luminescence, which made his shadow dance in the flickering embers of light. He felt like dancing with it, but the subtle undulation of his shadow’s legs seemed difficult to duplicate. The lamps themselves were formed from intertwined metal, chain-laced together like outstretched claws at the end. The claws held the illuminating orbs that captivated Reynolds.

“Cool,” thought the Tobe. “I must be royally buzzed!”

After an hour of misplaced wandering, he arrived at a small pub. Like all the buildings in the area, it too resembled a medieval abode. The front walls were made of layered brick. Moss and vines covered the corners and sides, and the edge of the roof jutted outward like a flat snow shovel. The door looked cut from pine. A wooden sign upon it read “The Spirit’s Sanctum.” It was a strange name for a pub, but no different than “The Puck and Girdle” where he and his friends hung out.

He entered the establishment. The aroma of freshly poured ales invaded his nostrils. The smell brought tears to his closed eyes, for it was so intense. He opened them, half-expecting a typical sports bar with average-looking jocks hanging out and jerseys hanging from the walls. What met his eyes caused his heart to skip a beat. The inhabitants weren’t even human.

The barstools and chairs were crowded with an assortment of different beings. Elves occupied the far, right corner watching a re-run of Xena: Warrior Princess. A group of stout dwarves, beards braided in twists, played billiards in the back with an equally aggressive-looking pack of kobolds. At the bar itself, five gnomes, three chimeras, a centaur, and twenty faeries watched with sadistic glee as a miniature Pegasus fought a puny hydragon – on the counter. Bets were being monitored by a very gangly cyclops in a pair of khakis and a “Billabong” shirt.

“Okay,” Reynolds sighed. “So I’m a little beyond buzzed. I must be hammered. Just hammered! Not drunk!”

The Tobe approached the bar, keeping a fair distance from the fight of the small creatures. The bartender faced him. He had two heads–one the head of an eagle, the other the head of a yellow primate. However, he had the body of a well-built marble statue of a human. Both heads stared straight at him.

“What’ll it be?” Came the deep-voiced offer.

“Whatever’s the house special.” Reynolds squealed in reply.

“Ah, the Spirit of Etheron!” The bartender growled with admiration. “You are a brave one. No one has dared try that in an age! The last person was a dragonoid. He was supposed to be resilient to all forms of alcohol. Was he ever wrong! HA! I’ve never seen you’re type around here. What are you?”

“A G-gamma E-e-epsilong Chi.” He whimpered.

The bartender’s eagle eyes scrutinized him. “A Gamma Epsilon Chi? I’ve never heard of your race before. But, then again, I am new to the Nexus. I didn’t even know what an elf was until about a year ago. HA! Can you believe it?!”

The two-headed bartender patted Reynolds’ shoulder with a gruff hand. The impact sent him reeling. He barely recovered his balance. After regaining his composure, the Tobe weakly beckoned for his drink. The bartender slammed a large bottle onto the counter. The liquid within emanated a pinkish glow.

“Enjoy your Etheron Spirit, boy!” The primate face on the barkeep grinned. “Most do until the end!”

For the first time in his life, Toby Reynolds was frightened of a beverage. The smoking fluid within the bottle mocked him. He could’ve sworn he saw a skeletal face form within the liquid. He rubbed his eyes, and the image was no longer there. The drink looked calm and still, but he felt an aura about it. A feeling from within him quivered at the thought of ingesting it. Was it his liver? He didn’t want to know.

He couldn’t back down. He ordered it, and it was his fraternal duty to finish it. No one backed down from a drink. Especially not the Tobe! He grasped the bottle with both hands as tightly as he could, raised it to his lips, and let the rushing torrent cascade down his open throat. The taste of the first swig sent him into shock. Nothing could compare to the mixture of emotions and tastes he experienced at that moment. One moment he felt fear, and the equally powerful taste of vinegar. The next, he felt joy, and the matching afterglow of seasoned mint. The sheer joy rivaled orgasms in its intensity.

Suddenly all went blank. All thought, all feelings–both physical and emotional–ceased. He existed in a state of emptiness. Nirvana to the soiled brain. A small tingling sensation ebbed from within his spine. He arched his back to end it, but the tingling grew more intense. A moment later he toppled to the floor, mouth agape, eyes widened, and fists clenched. He couldn’t move. He didn’t want to move.

The strangest sight beheld him. A giant pachyderm, the color of his drink, loomed over his fallen body. The creature’s trunk swayed back and forth, causing a minor wind to blow by his frozen face. If Reynolds hadn’t known any better, he could’ve sworn the creature smiled at him. Anything was possible, considering the thing was standing on its hind legs. One such stump of a leg lifted off the ground. The elephant pivoted on its one remaining leg, then leapt into the air. The Tobe willed himself to watch where it would land, for he knew he was the instant target. What happened at that point was a blur to him, yet he thought he heard the two-headed bartender laughing in the background. All went black.

Existence faded from view. So did he.

#

Reynolds awoke the next morning with the worst hangover he ever had, although, that wasn’t his primary shock. He awoke in the Gamma Epsilon Chi house in his own bed. A banging sound came from the door. His head stung at the reverberation.

“What!” He yelled.

A burly young man with short-cropped blond hair entered. “Hey, Tobe. How are ya! We was worried sick, man. Franky and Alex found you passed out in front of the campus library. How much did you have last night, dude?”

“Too friggin’ much, Arnie.” Reynolds replied.

“Whoah! You mean to say that you–the Tobe–got hammered?” The blond frat boy said in shock.

“Not hammered, dude. Drunk. Really, really . . . drunk.” He corrected.

“You don’t mean . . . pink elephants drunk, do ya?” Arnie asked with worry.

“Pink elephants,” Reynolds repeated, stuffing his head into his pillow. “And dwarves, and elves, and fairies, and centaurs, and two-headed bartenders, and pink drinks, and . . .”

His voice trailed.

“Dude, you need to lighten up on the keg.” Arnie advised before backing out slowly.

Toby Reynolds didn’t hear him. He didn’t hear anything accept the trumpet call of Etheron’s Spirit parading through his skull.

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Tuesday, December 9th, 2008 Prose No Comments

Quick Queries with Mike Resnick

For the average fanboy, nothing excites to a greater degree than speaking to their childhood idols. Granted, a fan of any type is easily amused or entertained, much like dangling keys in front of a ferret. Everything within their vein is new and amazing. Quadruple that and you have my experience made manifest.

At the beginning of August, I posted an unassuming Myspace blog about the event that triggered the writer/reader in me; seeing an expletive in print. The book in question – Tales of the Galactic Midway: The Wild Alien Tamer by Mike Resnick – turned me into a reader, where before I was an illiterate simpleton. Future works by that same author made a writer out of me.

When I started this site, I carried over that particular post. It was called Painting the Dark Lady. I had not taken into account that the walls had ears. One Saturday night, while subsisting through a night shift – cream-cheesed bagel in one hand, tea in the other – I received a comment from Mike Resnick.

It read:

“Others have told me I inspired them to write, but I have to say you are the first to be so inspired by a 4-letter word.

Good luck.”

And just like that I was an inspired 6th grader again.

After picking his big genre-bending brain via e-mail, I finally type-stuttered the request for a ten-question interview for this very site. He agreed to participate, and this – fine folks – is the random result. Enjoy, but do keep in mind I’m no hard-hitting journalist. At all.

LL: At what point did you decide upon being a writer? Was it an epic epiphany, or something triggered by the magnificently mundane? (Like a lemur flinging poo?)

MR: “When I realized that as a writer I could work at home, sleep ‘til two in the afternoon, dress like a bum, and tell anyone I didn’t want to work with to go to hell, it became irresistible.”

LL: You and my cousin Jason have a fascination with Teddy Roosevelt? What’s your excuse for this…well…other than the fact that he was awesome?

MR: “Like most Americans, I thought he was a militaristic jingoist who yelled ‘Charge!’ when running up the stairs. Then, about 33 or 34 years ago, I saw The Wind and the Lion and was fascinated by the character…so I picked up a number of his books (he wrote 22), eventually read them all, then read some Pulitzer Prize-winning bios of him, and decided he’d make a fine character for a series of alternate history stories. Consider: as a teen he was considered one of the leading ornithologists and taxidermists in the country. After being a sickly child, he strengthened his body enough to make the Harvard boxing team. At 24 he became the youngest Minority Leader ever in the New York State Assembly. He wrote a number of books while in his 20s, including some bestsellers and the definitive treatise on naval warfare. He was a lawman in the Dakota badlands and brought in three armed killers during what was known as ‘the Winter of the Blue Snow’. He was the most efficient police commissioner the city of New York ever had. Then he got busy: governor, Rough Rider/soldier, Vice President, one of our greatest Presidents. For a guy who was thought to be a warmonger, he kept us out of war and became the first President to win a Nobel Peace Prize. He busted the trusts and created the national park system, then went on the first major African safari for a year, and later explored and mapped the River of Doubt (now the Rio Teodoro) for the Brazilian government. I suppose he slept every now and then, but I honestly don’t know when he had time to.

LL: In all your books that take place in your BIRTHRIGHT universe, the two alien races that appear most often in the background are Lodinites and Canphorites. However, I have yet to see a description for either of them. Care to enlighten?

MR: “Without running to the bookcase, I’m pretty sure I described the Lodinites once (maybe in The Soul Eater?). Why bother to describe the Canphorites? I’ve never had a story take place on either of the Canphor Twins (Canphor VI or VII), and I’ve never had an individual Canphorite play a major part in any story.”

LL: A necrophiliac mistress to the Messiah? A Bogart-like detective teaming up with a nymphomaniac elf? A con artist/priest? I’m surprised some of these characters made it to PRINT, let alone in major sci-fi publications. Do you have the Midas touch when it comes to The Pitch Session?

MR: “I have never had an editor suggest that I tone down a scene or lose (or change) a character. I think the world at least the world of publishing – has changed since I was a kid and you could learn everything about homo sapiens from science fiction except that we come equipped with genitals and an urge to use them.”

LL: You’ve written scores of novels that are African allegories. When did your fascination with the continent begin, and did you know it would inspire so many stories?

MR: “It began in the early 1950s, when I was 10 or 11 years old, and discovered the works of Alexander Lake (Killers in Africa and Hunter’s Choice, both of which I am proud to have brought back into print in the Resnick Library of African Adventure from Alexander Books.) It was Lake, and not Edgar Rice Burroughs or H. Rider Haggard, that hooked me on Africa…and no, when I was a pre-teen I had no idea it would inspire so many stories – or so many safaris either.”

LL: You write stories that so perfectly capture the air and feel of a futuristic bar scene, yet you don’t drink. How do you explain this dichotomy?

MR: “Maybe I can capture the ambience precisely because I always have a clear head.”

LL: Of your galactic gunslinger characters, which is your favorite? Oh, and who would win in a Mexican standoff? (My money’s on Billybuck Dancer.)

MR: “My favorite is the original Widowmaker, Jefferson Nighthawk (as opposed to his clones). I think he might win a Mexican standoff against Jericho (from Walpurgis III), but it would be close. If he’s the best, it’s not due to physical gifts, but because he’s a little smarter and a little more creative than the rest.”

LL: One stylistic choice I noticed you use is establishing an almost cinematic tone. You set the scene with exposition then let the characters do the rest. Do you do this on purpose?

MR: “Yes. I probably use dialogue more than any other writer; I’m more comfortable with it. I’m also very comfortable with first person narrators, which leads to less formal exposition. I can’t get away with it very often in books, but I’d say at least half my short stories (and all my award winners and most of my nominees) have been told in the first person.”

LL: Coffee or tea? Elaborate as to why?

MR: “Coffee all night long, seven to ten cups while I’m working. Iced coffee in restaurants with my meals. Tea never, not even in Chinese restaurants. (I mention restaurants a lot. When you work at home, it’s your one excuse to get out of the house.) As to why: I’ve never liked coffee, but when we bought a huge boarding and grooming kennel back in 1976, it was the coldest winter on record in Cincinnati (where the kennel was), and I kept warm by loading up on hot chocolate all winter. And when I gained a quick 20 points, I realized I’d better find some other hot drink to like…so I began trying coffee again, and soon became addicted.”

LL: I saw an interview with the late Jack L. Chalker once – an old compatriot of yours – and he mentioned never getting up before noon since he started writing full-time. Do you adhere to this philosophy?

MR: “Absolutely. I learned 35 or 40 years ago that almost no one phones or knocks on the door after 10:00 PM, so my typical workday is from 10:00 PM to about 5:00 or 6:00 AM. Most the writers I know keep vampire hours; if they don’t write late at night, they get up early and write before sunrise, like Bob Silverberg and Barry Malzberg…but they all try to do their work when no one’s around to disturb them.”

For more information on Mike Resnick and his works, visit his OFFICIAL SITE.

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Monday, December 8th, 2008 Quick Queries 3 Comments

Rain

He peered down. Elderwood High’s blacktop expanded before him. Jay decided this was the perfect place to do it. With careful thought, with great consideration, and with much reluctance, he’d chosen this to be the place where he would be remembered – as a spattered corpse, maybe, but remembered nonetheless. A real legacy, something that would stick . . .

Stick like his opened skull would in a few minutes. Jay smirked at that. No one understood his sense of humor. All of his peers found him morbid. Perhaps he was. On that same token, he found their mediocrity horrifying. Like pubescent geese they squawked about nothing of importance with stapled smiles that never waned. If he had to endure a world like that for the next three years – a pointless game of minced words – he would rather sit it out.

The ledge of the school’s gymnasium – the home of the Elderwood Satyrs – provided the highest point that the three-story school had to offer. Such an end would have a sense of poetry to it, a person who viewed life as a game plummeting from a place where games were played. Yes, that would be his legacy amidst the popculture herd of high school. At least he would finally have one. Years of anonymity would end – not with a bang, but with a splat!

What caught his eye from the left corner tore him away from that thought. A girl maybe no older than sixteen in faded blue overalls stood on the ledge as well, surveying the blacktop as he had, eyes blanketed by an oily mat of brown hair – an overdone bowl cut. She was singing:

If the rain comes
they run and hide their heads
They might as well be dead
If the rain comes
If the rain comes

“Hey you,” he called out. “Beat it!”

The girl stopped in mid-tune but didn’t respond.

“Look, I dunno what you’re doing here, but I would rather not have company,” Jay said.

She turned her matted head to him, and a dimpled grin appeared on her face – a Cheshire glow amidst a curtain of brown. “I’m waiting for my cue.”

He titled his head. “Cue?”

“Yes, cue. It’s supposed to rain today.”

Jay scoffed. “No, it isn’t. It’s sun-” a crack of thunder interrupted him “-ny.”

In his pondering, he hadn’t noticed the thick patches of gray gathering above him in the mid-day sky. Droplets followed – the very “cue” she had spoken of. Her smile widened and she giggled. Jay swore he found melody to the sound of it.

“It’s here!” she shouted, outstretching her arms, embracing nothing. “It’s here for me.”

“What the hell’re you talking about?” Jay asked. “What’s here? Why for you?”

“The rain is here for me,” she said. Streams of water cascaded down her cheeks, creating the illusion of tears. “The rain is me. I am the rain.”

Turning away from him, she returned her gaze to the puddle-dotted blackness below. Her arms fell slowly to her side. Drenched as she was, her pale undershirt didn’t cling at all. If anything, it appeared feathery. Jay squinted then gasped. Her clothing wasn’t wet at all, only her skin.

“Time for me to return,” she said through the beating shower, standing off her heels, bearing weight on the tips of her toes.

A moment passed. The downpour continued, clanking and splashing against stone slabs and metal rungs of the roof. Her chin raised, mouth closed, and hair parted away from her face due to sheer water-weight. Her chest didn’t heave. No chilled spasms racked her body. Why Jay noticed this, he didn’t know. Something about her seemed . . .

Before he could find the right words, she was no longer there. A muddled imprint of her shoes remained in her place. Jay dashed to where she had stood and gazed downward. The blacktop was empty. No blood, no body, just puddles.

“What the . . . What the . . .” he repeated looked up at the gray-smeared sky above him. “FUCK?!?”

* * *

He walked among the puke-green-lacquered lockers inside the school. Darkness shrouded the hall except for a few flickering florescent bulbs. They reflected off the trails of wetness Jay left in his wake as he trudged for the nearest exit. His lips contorted into a grimace, thinking about the last few minutes, still breathing heavily. Obsidian hair bungeed the water that remained – dangling, mocking.

With his right hand he swiped the follicle mop away from his vision. And he noticed the locker rows had ended. Several plaques lined the free wall. Framed black and white pictures, arrayed in segments. He read through the years of each. Some dated back as early as six decades ago. He hadn’t noticed this area before. Then again, he rarely set foot in Senior Hall. After screening the photos for a few minutes, he stopped at one in particular.

Jay’s face paled.

The photo of a brunette girl with a dimpled smile stared back at him. The etched letters below it read:

IN MEMORY

OF

RAIN MORGAN

1951-1967

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Monday, December 8th, 2008 Prose No Comments

Enoch’s Legacy

Enoch’s Legacy

None wept when a hero fell

Upon the blood-soaked ground,

His colorless stare directed

Upward.

Few saw what impaled him

Through his chest with graceless ease,

The hilt of the weapon pointed

Downward.

Some recall a flashing light

Signifying the end of a long struggle,

Causing the retreat of many a soldier

Backward.

Many knew his name before

He took up arms against the horde,

Grazing assailants as he pressed

Forward.

All will remember his sacrifice

For redemption of past sins,

Singing songs to usher his soul

Homeward.

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Saturday, December 6th, 2008 Poetry No Comments

Musings at Midnight

I woke up around midnight. The ol’ bladder beckoned for release. Ew, what a way to begin a ramble, eh?

Most can tell that I do a fair share of my writing at night. I’m not exactly sure why that is, but the only time I follow up on a textual tug is in the wee hours. When the average citizen is either asleep, working, or drinking themselves to Mordor, I’m clanking away at a keyboard. However, I can’t really call this a tradition, rather a recent phenomenon.

A clear side-effect of this is that the mind never shuts off; day, dusk, doesn’t matter. The last few days are evidence of this. During my work week, I averaged about five hours of sleep. Not for lack of trying or lethargy, but more for an overabundance of pondering. Oh, and dentist appointments.

So, there I sat after a mid-evening nap, right cheek numb with Novocaine, preparing to unleash an unhinged stream of conscience. Apologies in advance if none of the thoughts appear cohesive, connected, or correct. I’m in a off-my-damn-chest sorta mood.

Pronoun Problem

I was having a conversation the other day, and the subject of transgender came up. Often the issue surrounding this is how to address someone who is between procedures. How do you address them? Sir? Ma’am? Uh…hey you? That steamrolled into a topic of discussion about pronouns.

If someone were – say – gender-confused, mid-op, or possessing both sex organs, what is an appropriate way to address them? There’s a fifty-fifty chance feelings could be hurt. Heavy odds for so small a thing as a greeting. Opting out of the issue entirely would also cause trouble. “He/She” sounds stupid, “They” is too obvious and unspecific, “It” is plain wrong on so many levels. A person is not plant.

This got the ol’ English major side of me thinking. I had to dust off the degree a bit, the thing had been mothballed since the first Bush term of office. I started by adhering to universality and specificity. Most Indo-European tongues divide terms according to gender. One can’t think of language without putting forth masculine or feminine attributes to it. I blame the French for this.

The answer was easy; sidestep gender entirely. I came up with “herm”. You guessed it, the nicked version of hermaphrodite, and it acts as a blending of “him” and “her”.

Here’s an example of a gender-specific phrase: “He went to get him some soup.”

Altered to gender-unspecific: “Herm went to get herm some soup.”

Not perfect, but there’s at least a flow, albeit dodgy.

However, we finally settled on nothing. It was a moot issue. If all else fails, you simply address the person by the name they give you. Asking as such would also give a clue as to how that person wishes to be referred. But it was an interesting convo while it lasted.

Werdz ar phun.

Midget or Dwarf

One thing that has always surprised me is how a term so common in our lexicon can be harmful. Of all the words an average joe or jane wouldn’t believe to be offensive, it’s “midget”. I was surprised when I first heard of it. Monikers and labels that have graduated to the level of epithetism usually sound awful once they roll off the tongue. Without citing examples, everyone can agree that even the most benign of all racial slurs has a harsh – almost gutteral – quality when uttered. They don’t sound nice.

Midget, in sharp contrast, doesn’t have the same bite as it’s slurry cousins. When I think on it, I hate to admit it conjures an “Awww”. That’s just it, it sounds cute. Cuddly even. However, I can see how someone with that condition might deem it a slur. Not everyone wants to be called cute. I certainly don’t. Well, unless the bearer of the brand was of the buxom brunette variety.

Uh, moving along.

What I don’t understand are the terms that are deemed acceptable. Other than the commonly-grafted “M-word”, the alternatives sound worse, in my opinion. I will admit I’m not educated on the subject, but when it is addressed, the two accepted labels that stick out are “little person” and “dwarf”.

I’m sorry…dwarf? When I think of a dwarf, I think of this an ill-tempered, bearded, hermitic, gold-horder.

And little people?

When I think of little people, visions of DArby O’Gill come to mind. Or Gulliver.

If ever there were two terms that had negative connotations, it’s those two. Don’t get me started on the acronyms. The community is oft-referred to as the “LP Community”. There’s one problem with the lettering. The average American poo-flinger won’t make the correlation between L.P. and Little People. More likely, they’ll think of a vinyl copy of an Iggy Pop record.

I think some serious brainstorming needs to be done at LP Central for cooler terminology. If I had a vote, I would make a case for “minja”.

C’mon, it sounds badass.

 
(UPDATE: I later learned from a friend of mine that the term “midget” derived from one P.T. Barnum, used to describe the Little People he used in circus acts. Now I know, and now I eat crow. Whoo…that rhymed.)

Mexico, I’m Unimpressed

In January, I took a cruise to Mexico with the family. We made port in Ensenada by about the third day. And…oh…what to say about Mexico. The city of Ensenada was beautiful, bustling and lively. The architecture, stunning. The food was exactly what you’d expecting authentic Mexican to be, a gorgeous gut bomb. On the roads between towns, though, yeesh.

My aunt informed me that Baja and most everything north of South America didn’t have sanitation services. The evidence was as clear as the smog-filled sky.Trash littered the road like a trail of tuberculosis. During one excursion, I noticed a pile of garbage as tall as a neighboring building. Seagulls swarmed the bonfire of debris in a King Kong-Vs.-biplane manner. I wasn’t impressed.

The other feeling I got was an impending sense of dread when I was exposed outdoors for too long. Mexico feels like a surprise attack waiting to happen. This could’ve been media-induced paranoia, but the same aunt chimed in again with, “Oh no! Mexico is perfectly safe..as long as you know what you’re doing. And if you have someone who knows the lay of the land to show you the ropes.”

Wait, what?

I’m not a Layman when it comes to tourism, having left the country on three occasions – twice to Europe. Not once did I feel I needed to latch onto a local for subsistence. The only precautions afforded me on those treks were to keep my passport with me at all times and my wallet in my front pocket. The rest was self-explanatory. Mexico felt unsafe.

After observing the grime and grit, I can safely say Latin America is not high on my traveling to-do list. I’d sooner hit Siberia. Next on the docket is definitely Asia Major.

In a point of irony regarding Mexico’s sanitation deficit, does anyone else find it odd that a hefty percentage of the U.S.’s sanitation employees…are Mexican?

[Blank] and the Boys

I shall close this long-winded loquaciousness with one last observation.

Karaoke-ing is my proudest guilty pleasure. Maybe it’s the faux-fame, the peacocking element, or the challenge of testing one’s vocal chords, but nothing beats rocking the mic at a dive bar. Nothing. The dingier the atmosphere, the better, as long as I get my four songs in. However, there is one nitpick that I’d like to make.

There is one phrase that I dread from the KJ, though, “Ladies and gentlemen give it up for Chet and the boys!

And the boys. I fucking hate that. Once I hear that addition, I can expect one of three groups of people:

(1) Frat fucks.

(2) Aged frat fucks.

(3) Frat fuck bachelor party.

And not a singer among ’em. A yeller or two, maybe, but not a one to act as a tuning fork for the rest of the posse o’ pain. Worse is the song selection. It never deviates, two options only; “Pour Some Sugar on Me” by Def Leppard or “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling” by The Righteous Brothers. Like they’re in fucking Top Gun or something.

No beverage is strong enough to withstand the mournful howls of four or five drunken douches waxing un-melodic. Jameson came close once, but my ears still caught it. And they wept wax.

If one of you readers happens to belong to an And the Boys group, I have one request. Trade up a little! Go for some Neil Diamond, maybe. Last I checked, “Sweet Caroline” is nigh on un-butcherable. You can’t be any worse than an aged Neil.

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Friday, December 5th, 2008 Musings 1 Comment

O.D. (Original Dumbass)

So, I made a boo boo.

I knew I probably caught a bug. My sister’s boyfriend passed his lovely plague onto me. (What a thoughtful guy, eh?…Actually, it’s not his fault. He couldn’t help it.) However, I forgot to pick up some Airborne at the first signs of “the tingle”.

You know “the tingle” – that little itch in the back of your throat that rings like a tiny li’l bell. It warns you that something is amiss, slightly askew, not as it should be. I got that early indicator the following day, but didn’t act on it. I figured my usual powerhouse of supplements and uber-teas would protect me from any boyfriend-in-law cooties.

I was wrong.

Before my last day of work for the week, the head-clogging commenced. Boys in my family have the unfortunate side-effect of getting really stupid once the head swells with gunk. I noticed this as I was grocery shopping and forgot to pick up sammich meat. The clogginess reared its retarded head again when I made a second stop to pick up medicine. I forgot the stuff…twice.

Finally, I got home and armed myself before that night’s workshift. I made my usual Power Pomegranate White Warrior tea, doused with some DayQuil, and popped a couple of Mucinex.
Let’s stop there for a moment.

Normal Mucinex DM’s dosage instructions are as follows: one or two tablets every 12 hours, no more than four in a 24 hour period. That is for normal Mucinex DM.

The shit I got was Maximum Strength Mucinex DM. Information on the website indicates that if the recommended dosage is exceeded, possible side-effects include: nervousness, irritability, anxiety, hallucinations, and dizziness. The product shouldn’t be taken if other stimulants are consumed. My dumbass read the label without glasses on, and I assumed the dosage was that of the normal brand.

This means I went to work on two DayQuil (which were caffeinated), two cups of tea (which were caffeinated), two Maximum Strength Mucinex DM tablets, and had two more cups of caffeinated tea while at work. I’ll just say the shift went by really quickly, given that I only remember about half of it. It was like being drunk without the booze and on speed – wandering around the lobby talking to myself, checking the mirror to see if my teeth were straight, having intellectual debates with pair of scissors.

You know, the usual.

This continued throughout all of that Thursday. To any of you who had conversations with me during this bout, my sincerest apologies. I blamed the NyQuil, but it wasn’t Big Q’s fault.

I woke up that following Friday around 4AM, took out the trash, made tea, made oatmeal (for me and my brother/roommate), made a bagel with cream cheese and jelly…

It was 8AM, and there I sat writing this damn blog.

But my nose was clear…um..if that counts for anything.

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Friday, December 5th, 2008 Musings No Comments

I work for tea money.

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