Wednesday, December 01, 2010

I have Loque’nahak

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After a grueling 10-day hunt, and approximately 113.3 hours, I have finally tamed the elusive spirit beast, Loque’nahak. (See me above, posing for the picture with my newly tamed kitty on Ogrimm’s Hammer in Icecrown.)

The case finally broke when a newfound friend of mine, Maidentaiwan, located the furball patrolling next to the Skyreach Pillar and called me in—she is Grumplepuss’s kaywng (yet another hunter who I’ve befriended from my time in Scholazar Basin.)

While I might be going there on-and-off in order to run Oracle quests for reputation, I think that I’m going to spend time in Icecrown to uncover the storyline unfolding there (and perhaps I’ll actually check up on the devastated Azeroth.)

I ended up naming him Yule after the the season that I’ve finally tamed him during.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Camping Loque’nahak: Day 8, and another hunter got him

WoWScrnShot_112810_150611 Yesterday, before I prepared to go to Mill Ave, I had to take a shower—otherwise I would be an extremely stinky royal out in my domain—and while I was purifying my body, Loque’nahak spawned in my camp spot and another hunter picked him up.

#%*!

The good news? The hunter who picked him up happened to be Grumplepuss, aided by his kaywngstiad MaidenTaiwan, who have been helping me find the spirit beast as well. In fact, they tried to see if I was online first—as I wasn’t—and then tamed the critter. At least I am very happy that they cat didn’t go to waste, even if I failed to tame him myself.

The worst part of this is that the kitty spawned in my camp spot during the 20 minutes I was out to take a shower.

Talk about the worst of the bad fortunes.

Still, I’d like to thank Grumplepuss and MaidenTaiwan (Thunderhorn) for their help so far. I’m not going to be able to keep this up without some sort of help.

Mill Avenue Nights: Saturday, November 27th 2010

Once again winter closes its grip around the valley, dropping temperatures into the 50s. On the same night as the Festival of Lights parade leaving behind interesting trashcans and a slightly smaller presence of people on the Ave.

Certainly the temperature has a little to do with this.

Upon arrival, I got a little bit of interview time in with some buskers and some of the usual street rats who had stories to tell. In particular, a pair that I love seeing outside of Hippy Gypsy who wished us well and warmth.

I made it out there and discovered the street preachers out and about. Marcus and his sister had taken up on the corner with the Post Office as well as Al and his crew. I meant to get an interview with him as well, but it felt so cold I felt it would be necessary to close up the night a little earlier.

I also had a chance to speak with a part-Welsh (ethnically) woman named Winifred. The conversation ran the lot about languages, history, linguistics, paganism, and anthropology.

I have very little in the way of notes. (The temperature fell so far that my fingers ached from it.)

Crystal also made the street.

The Mill Avenue Resistance did not make a show. As usual for this year the drum circle remained empty and dark, the melancholy of the vacant space still calls out to me. I hope some day soon it will be filled once again with the sounds of hands on music.

Not too much to report again.

No photos, only footprints and red bricks.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Camping Loque'nahak: Day 5 and King Krush

I've been camping the kitty-who-swallowed-a-willowisp (I don't know why he swallowed a willowisp, perhaps he'll die). I've been trying to do this from 9am until 2am, or whatever times of day I can possibly stay up. The spot I've chosen in the easternmost spawn points in Sholazar Basin where the gorillas gather.

Well, today I was sitting around minding my own business when NpcScan went off. I looked eagerly down and noticed it had triggered on King Krush—a huge, green Tyrannosaurus rex who happens to also be a rare spawn in the region. I don't really care for the dinosaur.

However, he is a rare, so I figured: Sure, whatever.

I flittered off down past the wasp hive, spotted the dinosaur stomping his way blithely through the swampy ground. Landed, set down my trap, and hit tame.

The big guy went straight through my trap and whomped me with a fearbomb. As I ran, I waited for it to wear off with the big green dino on my tail. I quickly recovered, hit tame again, and waited. He hollered liked a giant, pissed-off elephant as hearts appeared over his head. As the hearts flew, he slashed chunks out of my health with his colossal flesh rending teeth.

At about 2% heath, he tamed.

My kaywngstiad suggests that I rename him: Killasaurus.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Shattering

WoWScrnShot_112210_165826 Now that The Shattering is upon us, I have still been working out various in-game reporting for The Green Dragon Inn. Azeroth has gone through some strange events lately in the prelude to Cataclysm.

Come along and keep up with me!

Cataclysm Elemental Invasion: Papers Please. When Orgrimmar became a post 9-11 wasteland, our reporter came to the scene to watch Blood Gaurd orcs frisking incomers. Those who were found to be holding cultist paraphernalia or literature were immediately arrested. Also, oddly, numerous cultists had set up around the city trying to open rifts into the elemental planes.

Cataclysm Elemental Invasion: Under Attack! Giant elementals have been emerging in the city themselves assaulting citizens and heroes alike! They have been trapping people in elemental prisons and the cities have gone into lockdown. Orgrimmar has been set aflame as fire and earth elemental manifestations stomp through the streets and the population flees out the gates; Thunder Bluff hunches underneath peals of thunder and glittering claws of lightning as water and air elementals harass and zap the unwary.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mill Avenue Nights: Saturday, November 20th 2010

The Ave felt pretty dead.

All things being considered, it had become quite cold over the past few days and that perhaps chased people into their homes and away from the red bricks.

The crowds had dwindled down to a trickle of people passing through the intersections.

I tarried only an hour on Mill, bought a soda from The Thirsty Dog, greeted everyone I could, and then headed back home again.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mill Avenue Nights: Saturday, November 13th 2010

Mill Avenue had a strange visit today from a belligerent set of street preachers led by Ruben Israel.

Ruben Israel 016 Amid his group, Israel brought five extremely well-girthed men, five large plastic signs, and one bullhorn. They stopped in front of the popular Mill Ave bar the Mill Cue Club—a place where other preachers have done a similar thing—the major exception, however, is that Israel’s crew are actively abrasive. The men with Israel used a particular tactic of insulting first and then asking questions later, they would pick elements on a persons clothing, their attitude, or racial features and throw epithets and slurs to gain attention.

Marcus Mattingly, one of the proper Mill Ave Christian street preachers, describes Ruben Israel as a heretic and people shouldn’t listen to him anyway. The presence of the new preachers and their signs did not affect the major Mill Ave preachers at all. The crowds did start to clutter around the Mill Cue Club, but it didn’t draw attention from the street preachers nor did it cause them any frustration. Other than a few shrugged shoulders and rolled eyes, thus was the entirety of Israel’s impact.

The Mill Avenue Resistance, in the persons of Gadfly and Kazz, quit their usual position protesting the usual street preachers and moved next to Israel and his crew in front of the Mill Cue Club.

Instead of putting up any sort of rational discussion or civil conversation, Israel and his posse only spat back insults and vituperations. Responses consisted primarily of non sequitur nonsense, abuse, racial slurs, and political insults. Gadfly brought the brunt of the attacks with her femininity being called into question and other hyper-misogynistic speech. Kazz was met with name-calling about his appearance every time he spoke, being called a hippy and branded as effeminate. These men obviously have massive problems with women—it certainly explains why there wasn’t a single woman among them.

Ruben Israel 006 “Please don’t put that girl on again,” whined one of the preachers over his bullhorn. “She’s annoying.”

Passersby also absorbed some abuse from them as they tried to shout over the noise from within the bar.

Mostly they would stop random people and call them “gay” as if that were actually an insult.

When I attempted to stop Rube Israel himself to ask him who he was with and what they were doing he chose to insult me ineffectually. At one point he called me out for not being able to read his sign even though I wear spectacles (wouldn’t that be why I’m wearing spectacles?) The address of his web page, whilst visible on the signs, was printed over the point where the pole inserts into the sign itself and thus made it difficult to make out. He also casually claimed that I was a Satanist. Not that I am, nor is that really much of an insult either, but he used it with the same role as their attention grabbing insults.

There wasn’t much of any substance to Ruben Israel’s circus act.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Cataclysm Elemental Invasion Warcraft Reporter

spearmintlisteningscree I’ve gotten a writing gig with Green Dragon Inn to do reporting on happenings on the Horde side of Azeroth—if there’s anyone who is familiar with my Around Azeroth reporting, it’s similar to that—so far I’ve written two articles for them, so I’d like to send people over to check them out.

They’ve also got an excellent podcast.

Cataclysm Elemental Invasion: The Cult in Azeroth. There's a strange cult spreading around town, in this case Orgrimmar, that I'd like everyone to meet. They appear to be an extension of the Twilight's Hammer, doomsaying and preaching end times dogma for all to hear. Except what you'll find surprising is who they're working for.

Cataclysm Elemental Invasion: The Elements Agitated. In this one our intrepid reporter becomes a one woman broom and dustbin service for the street of Orgrimmar and singlehandedly fights off a dragon. Well, not really, but read up and you'll see how that goes. Do I smell ash?

Monday, November 01, 2010

Mill Ave encounter with The Door on Hallowse’en

Mill Ave Halloween 007

This post entails an anecdotal narrative about an experience on Mill Ave, Hallowse’en 2010, involving a Christian congregation called The Door. There have been previous problems with them and their behavior on Mill Ave; but this year they managed to comport themselves mildly and without too much friction.

The first man to approach us from The Door zeroed in on me and immediately said, "I just wanted to let you know that Jesus loves you." He said this over-and-over as if I were failing the proper social reply. He was a small Latino man, the orbits of his eyes set further apart than is normal, but his face appeared round that gave him a sort of intense effect. He'd cropped his dark hair short against his skull and wore jeans and a collared shirt. I never even got his name during the entire discussion, but I did attempt to steer the conversation away from culture shock, but he felt rather committed to the hard sell.

"Thank you," I said, thinking that the "Jesus loves you," meme is generally a sort of blessing that Christians use (especially this evangelical type) to connect with the other person; however, that didn't do it for him. He quickly went on into his mirror speech, something that probably fits the jargon term "witness statement." Such as cliché to these statements he starts talking about how he used to live a self-destructive life, he did drugs (marijuana), drank alcohol, and partied all the time. And, now that's all changed.

Ostensively he would have attributed this change to his conversion to a particular religion. I am not certain what sect of Christianity that the Door belongs to, but it's probably theirs he would espouse.

His mirror speech followed script extremely well as he passed onto the question, "If you were to die, where would you go right now?"

And, as I like to work from Celtic mythology, as is my heritage, I said, "Well, the Otherworld."

He immediately went on to talk about Christian mythology, including about how they propose that when people die they'll be judged and then be sent to one of two places: Heaven or Hell. Here his mirror speech failed him for a moment as he ran into someone to whom these two terms create a sense of culture shock. So he attempted one of the worst metaphors I have ever heard on the subject,

"What do you see right there? In the street," he asks. Well, it's a street and it has cars driving in it. "What would happen if you tried to drive the wrong way down that street?" Well, you'd collide head on into another car. "After you die there's only two directions you can go."

That's not what the rest of the world thinks and it's certainly not related to any knowable reality (i.e. Heaven, Hell, the Otherworld, Xibalba, etc. aren't demonstrable so pretending they are is just stupid.) So I said, "No they're not..." I didn't get a chance to go on that every culture that has ever lived as invented itself afterlives of different sorts, from heavens, to hells, to happy hunting grounds, to the dwelling abode of the gods. There are near infinite and myriad answers to that question and not a single one of them can be tested (although some of them are logically absurd) so I have no reason to accept his assertion over any other.

Then he said something actually interesting and mentioned that The Door had a visiting preacher who had gone to Romania. I asked if the preacher himself was Romanian, no he wasn't, but his wife was.

Anyone who doesn't know, but there's a famous critter on YouTUBE, ZOMGitsCriss who also lives in Romania. So I'd be interested to see what she thinks about some of these subjects, but I have no reason to bother her.

Finally, our conversation ended when said missionary from Romania appeared.

He was a large man, almost taller than me—in fact loomed over me because I stood in the street and he stood up on the curb--square spectacles, broad shoulders bearing a plaid shirt, and dress slacks. His hair, dark from its appearance, buzz cut into a flat top. He carried with him a Bible that his hands dwarfed and introduced himself as John. When he spoke he delivered his mildly accented Midwestern words with a cheerful bombast that grew on his face and I could hear the slight pull of another language in some of his words (knowing that Romanian is a Romance language gave me some insight into some of the pronunciation changes, but I could have been supplying that through my own bias.) In all, John's ability to cover a full range of language and answer questions made him an interesting foil to the Latino man who had originally approached me.

I should point out that because he's a visiting missionary he's not connected to The Door or their cultish behavior directly and he's probably using them to help score himself money for his missions in Romania. This would readily explain why it felt like a totally different level of discussion talking to him rather than the Latino man who never gave me his name.

250px-BOR_CoA His experience in and of Romania really intrigued me. He mentions that Romania is primarily Eastern Orthodox (probably under the auspices of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Wikipedia gives the stat as 87%.) If John is working with The Door, I suspect this means that his sect is Protestant, which means that he'll face a certain amount of resistance from the local culture. He mentioned also that he had three mission churches erected in Romania—specifically in the Transylvania section, a huge chunk of the north western region.

He also went on to say that treatment of women in Romania is next to the most ugly, citing that they're second highest in the world for lack of women's rights; also that Romania is second highest in the world for abortions. He mentions there is no 911 service and that he continually hears crying and weeping where he lives in a multistory apartment building of women and children pleading not to be beaten. (I have no way of verifying these anecdotes or statistics, so I invite Romanian citizens and scholars to opine.)

I enjoyed speaking to him, but didn't get a chance for a full interview of his experience. He had to leave too early for that.

Welcome to Mill Ave, John. Just, next time choose a better congregation to spend time with.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

What to Read on the Web for Halloween

HLWN_2008__Jeepers_Creepers_by_irk Looking for a good Halloween read? Look no further than your browser. There’s a great deal of excellent weblit out there, tonight Irk and Char bring some of them to us with a blog post,

Let's get this out of the way - Halloween is my favorite holiday. It's sort of my Christmas. I share it with the goths.

Every year I like to get in the spirit of the season (pun not intended but impossible to avoid) by writing something creepy, like last year's Halloween story and... this year's Halloween story! You can read the 2010 story on the 30th and 31st, but I wanted something to keep you busy until then. So I asked everyone on Twitter to send me Halloween story links. As it is with Peacock King, all of these stories are available online to read for free! It's just like trick-or-treating, except I guess tricks don't happen unless someone's server goes down. Please enjoy these stories and support the authors if they show you a good time.

Stories include 100 Candles, DarkSight, Haunting Sins, Bradbury’s Ghost, and The Legend of Sleepy Phoenix (by moi). Irk and Char are the two authors of the Internet famous The Peacock King story weblit serial. If you want more to read after getting your scare on, theirs is a good place to look.

Link, via The Peacock King.

Friday, October 29, 2010

My All Hallow’s Read Offering: The Legend of Sleepy Phoenix

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My favorite folklorist and author, Neil Gaiman, has created the first annual All Hallow’s Read. And this Hallowse’en when I hit the bricks of Mill Ave, I will be carrying physical books with me—but, for those of you so far away from me, you can still get in on my tweet campaign for the The Legend of Sleepy Phoenix e-book.

It’s free! Just tweet.

It’s also a ghost story. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow updated for modern times—a motorcycle instead of a horse, but no Ichabod Crane, just our daring Vex Harrow and her taxi cab.

Link, via Mill Avenue Vexations and All Hallow’s Read.

 

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The Byzantium Outcast for sale at Amazon.com on Kindle

byzantium-outcast-kindle-edition I just published The Byzantium Outcast e-book Kindle edition in the Amazon.com marketplace. Right now it's going for $2.99. For the moment, I'm going to make the Arsenal stories about that much, while I'll keep the shorter volumes at $0.99.

"In her ongoing search for magickal artifacts in and around Phoenix, occult detective Vex Harrow makes a strange discovery during one of her favorite hunts--at a yard sale. She procures a strange, bronze statue that seems to have a lot more going on than at first it may appear."

Perhaps I should also get some longer, better back matter written. It looks short and weedy compared to others.
The Outcast--as seen on the cover in that oddly torturous and twisted pose--is a bronze-copper statue that I bought at a yard-sale somewhere in Chandler. It took a bit to clean off all of the scabrous green corrosion and centuries of grime, but there are some stains that even TarnX cannot remove. If you are interested in what this has to do with Vex Harrow then I suggest that you visit the story and read up.

The cover artwork is the lovely work of one of my artists, Nicole Cardiff. She's also the artist who did the cover for the 5th volume of Mill Avenue Vexations, "Drum Circle."

Link to buy The Byzantium Outcast at Amazon.com's Kindle store.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

SB 1070 really? Prison industry helped draft this debacle of a bill

Just saw this one and I’m not really happy about what I’ve read. The bill itself inflicts stupid holes in the ability of our police to do their jobs as well as provides dangerous leeway for arresting people who happen to be suspiciously not … white. There is a long held understanding that industries often assist with laws that would affect them, and the route to dangerous conflicts of interest is fraught there.

Over at NPR, there’s an article on exactly where this sort of conflict of interest can go.

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I don’t think that the people who directly benefit from the arrest and seizure of persons should ever have any say in criminal law. Unless it directly indicates their behavior (in which case they should have a say) but if it’s about what constitutes a crime outside of their purview or how long a sentence should go, they aren’t welcome.

Connections to private prison interests are everywhere in lobbies for criminal bills, with politicians, and other elements of our government—it is an extremely powerful, deeply set, highly moneyed industry.

That’s not safe for anyone.

Link, via NPR.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mill Avenue Nights: Saturday, October 23rd 2010

This one is probably going to only be photographs and not that many. My camera’s batteries died during the night. Didn’t have that much of a showing on the Ave, for reasons unknown, but I did take a few pictures for everyone to see.

Mill Ave Resistance 003

FREE CLOTHES. The Resistance protests the presence of the street preachers on the corner with the Post Office with charitable operations.

Mill Ave Resistance 005

In the very center of the photo is Crystal, she spent some time posing – but due to the battery on my camera dying, I was only able to get one photo of her and it’s not that great.

I really need to get myself a stabilizer/tripod or something similar to go with this camera for night shots. It doesn’t deal with motion so well because of the increased aperture and exposure for dealing with the dim light.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wannabe Vampires on Mill Ave

vampires5p101210.DPP_tmb0001_20101012183632_320_240 Cross-reported from Mill Avenue Vexations, wannabe sanguinarians Aaron Homer and Amanda Williamson trawl Mill Ave for potential victims among the itinerant culture. Not exactly the wisest choice for young-blood sangs but this pair doesn’t seem to have all their marbles.

The article writes about how they picked up some poor fellow off the street, offered him a place to stay, and then started inviting him to join in blood play (and drinking.) He tentatively accepted at one point, but quickly withdrew when the situation got beyond his tolerance. Unfortunately for him, the entire adventure ended badly when the boyfriend vampire, Aaron Homer, stabbed him a few times after he refused to give up blood the last time. Homer is now in jail pending bail.

According to Vex Harrow, anyone who wants to mess with the Millrats will have to go through her and “…if you bring harm to them, I will plant my boot so far up your ass you’ll taste the steel toe.”

Link, via Mill Avenue Vexations via FOX10.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Be aware of cold reading and cognitive bias at CVS

So, I found an intriguing blog that mentioned Mill Avenue, Miles Loves ASU, but it also had some somewhat creepy elements. I read it with an eye for the anthropology and it looks like a fairly straightforward experiential read with strong religious elements and mystical thinking. Most of the narrative takes place at the CVS on the corner of Mill & University and involves various people. A pretty basic read and insight into this culture’s thinking.

However, this is the part that I’d like to draw people’s attention to:

Amidst the awkwardness of the conversation, Kiah’s knees began to hurt and the Lord gave her a word of knowledge about one of the kid’s knees in the group. She interjected into the conversation and abruptly asked, “Who’s knees are hurting?”

One of the kids instantly responded with a mixture of shock and questioning concern. Looking quite taken aback, he tentatively told Kiah that his knees hurt. He told her that he had knee problems and that they had been hurting pretty bad while they were standing around talking.

To the kid who responded with a “mixture of shock and concern” be aware this trick isn’t exactly as amazing as it seems. What Kiah did—possibly without knowing it herself—is a form of a very old con called Cold Reading. Joint pain is not uncommon among humans, particularly the knees (especially noting how poorly our skeletons function for standing upright), so finding one person in three with hurting knees is not at all uncommon. And, failing to find someone with hurting knees, she probably would have shrugged it off.

To ascribe the discovery to a supernatural origin really pushes the whole thing beyond the pale.

The story then goes on to describe how the group uses an incantation over the boy’s knee and the pain goes away. (Did they incant over it after he took the weight off it?) “The kid walked around. And then jumped up and down on them. And then squatted and bent them and stomped his feet. To his dismay and the dismay of his friends, his knees were completely healed.” Dismayed… Really?

This sort of “prophetic evangelism” is actually somewhat problematic in that it appears to teach people to use cold reading on other people and then ignore failures (for those of you who know what I’m talking about, this is a type of confirmation bias.) It’s not actually mystical and to treat it in such a fashion can lead inevitably to poor judgment.

Link, via Miles Loves ASU.

Monday, October 11, 2010

“The Helvetica Venture” profiled at Joystiq magazine!

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Does everyone like humor writing? I sure hope so. While you might not play World of Warcraft—or even know exactly what MMORPG means—at least most people can connect to humorous writing. That’s exactly what I went for when I started work on The Helvetica Venture.

Today, WoW Insider @ Joystiq magazine posted about my story, World of WarCrafts: The Helvetica Venture.

The reviewer appears to have really enjoyed it, and I’m glad of that. I put a lot of work into it. I don’t know if I’ll have time over the next few months but for a couple more chapters, but if there’s any reason to keep it up—this is a good one.

Link, via WoW Insider.

Grammar: Proper dialogue punctuation

When writing fiction we often find ourselves in strange situations while writing dialogue between characters.

Dialogue Tags

When tagging dialogue, the last comma within the dialogue sentence is always within the quotation, and, in the case that it should be a period in a normal sentence, we transform it into a comma:

Correct: “I see you came back from slaying the dragon,” he said.

Incorrect: “I see you came back from slaying the dragon”, he said.

Do not capitalize the next word after the comma as if it begins a sentence as the quotation is really the beginning of the sentence and the tag is just an extension of it.

If the period at the end of the spoken sentence happens to be another form of end punctuation like a question mark or exclamation mark then you leave that inside the quotes, but still do not capitalize the tag:

Correct: “You made it mad!” he said.

Correct: “Why did you make it mad?” he said.

Incorrect: “You made it mad!” He said.

When a dialogue tag breaks a spoken sentence in two, the tag is set aside with commas:

Correct: “I was just minding my own business,” the dragon slayer said, “and from out of nowhere the dragon attacked me!”

If the tag instead breaks between two sentences within the dialogue a period is used:

Correct: “First it bit my shield. I fought it off,” the dragon slayer said. “Next it got my sword.”

Action Tags

Sometimes, instead of using “s/he said” we tag dialogue with action. If the speaker happens to be doing something while speaking. This route is called Action Tagging and works pretty much a lot like standard dialogue tags, except that the reader assumes that the actor is speaking. When doing this, it’s important to make it clear the actor is the speaker.

Correct: “I thrust for its loins with a deft stroke of my blade!” The dragon slayer lunged with his sword at the crowd and they gasped in delight.

In this case, the punctuation inside the quote remains intact and we capitalize the action tag.

Although, there are some cases where an action tag interrupts the flow of a sentence:

Correct: The dragon slayer moved close to one fresh face in the crowd. “The dragon loomed overhead, menace in his eyes and—” He abruptly put fingers to his mouth and coughed, blowing ash from his lips. “—spewed fire down upon my raised shield!”

In this case, the sentence and the action occur at the same time, but the speaker uses an action to punctuate his oratory. As a result, I’ve set it aside with em-dashes, punctuated within the double-quotes. It creates the effect of a significant pause in the speech, but a continuity of dialogue and action.

Multi-paragraph Dialogue

When dialogue passes over several paragraphs, it becomes necessary to split it up. To do so, we simply leave off the end quotes of the previous paragraph to show that the previous speaker has continued to speak (and a new speaker hasn’t taken up.)

“With her massive jaws she hemmed and she hawed at my armor,” the dragon slayer said as he stalked the room. “Try as she might, she could not extract me from my girded metal safety. Although her claws could catch, her jaws could not crush.

“So, knowing my time was short, I took my dagger from my boot and cut into the soft spot between foreclaw and thumb.”

Quotations within dialogue

Sometimes people quote others when they speak. The same rules apply for dialogue quotes as with quoting people in articles and research papers. Transform double-quotes within dialogue into single quotes:

Correct: “The dragon stood over my pinned form and said, ‘Wouldst thou good knight parlay a truce? I grow weary of our tumble and it’s about time for tea.’”

Conclusion

I hope that you found this instructive. I will write a few more articles on dialogue, but this the basics of how to punctuate dialogue. The next article will cover how to mix it up when writing dialogue—although it’s best to stick with what has been working for the reader, sometimes (like the action interrupt tag) it’s necessary to get a little strange in order to portray sequence to the reader.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mill Avenue Nights: Saturday, October 9th 2010

I spent much of the night discussing the finer points of Mill Ave ecology with my friend, Vice, who situated himself in front of Urban Outfitters. He’s started up a website for his spray paint artwork business along with Bruce Cormier (who has been spray painting scenes on Mill Ave for quite some years now.)

Spaced Out Studios

(Giant Flash applet and sound warning.)

He spoke of rumblings in the general population that the police might start cracking down on Mill Ave vendors. Especially those, he expects, who simply go to local 99¢ stores, set up blankets of those products, place a tin with the word “DONATION” on it and then attempt to sell them to passersby for an asking price of around $2-$3. Rumor has it, the local vendors have been complaining about them taking sales away from them. Vince believes that it will take a route similar to the gentrification and eventual regulation of the vendors at the Roosevelt Row First Friday Art Walk.

The Mill Avenue Resistance and Clothing Give Away

I’ve finally had a chance to witness the Mill Avenue Resistance free-clothing drive apparatus. With a rolled out blanket covered in folded shirts and a single rack of dresses and some pants, they served the entirety of the Ave from pretty much 9pm until 1am. Gadfly primarily manned the station with a beaming grin and friendly greeting for anyone who stopped to peer over the offering of free garb.

Although I don’t know that many people took any piece of clothing, many did avail themselves of toothbrushes and other sundries.

Mill Avenue Resistance and the Street Preachers

The usual Tom and Al show appeared along with a cadre of various others. They took turns on the microphone through the night with Kazz and Rocco intermittently manning their own megaphone to respond—according to the Resistance, the large mounted speaker failed to operate due to possible battery burnout. Another street preacher named Walter, dressed in jeans and a cowboy hat, also stood up to speak his piece.

As usual they handed out money for trivia questions and engaged people with The Good Person Test (a grossly immoral propaganda tool).

Some people stopped to cheer on the preachers, others passed by, plucked tracts of various design from the Resistance, or dallied to check out the free clothing.

Willow, a well known member of the immune response to this on ASU campus, also came out. She waved a sign for the passing crowds, “FREE HUGS FROM A TATTOOED LESBIAN” and got quite a few takers and come-ons in the process.

Mill Ave Blog Mentions

Looking around the Internet today, I found a mention of Mill Ave and the Resistance—and he also appears to have noticed our hug-bearing tattooed lesbian as well. He mentions Willow, her sign, the Resistance, and the street preachers over in a blog at Homebrewed Theology, “Street Preachers and Tattooed Lesbians”.

It probably took me a good 15 minutes to comprehend what I was seeing…. it truly was that surreal.

Prior to engaging the dueling bullhorns, I got my free hug, told her I was a straight ally, and then went over to talk with the atheists handing out clothes and stuff. I told them that of all the people on that corner, they had it right. They were there simply serving their fellow man expecting nothing in return. They were very gracious and said, “even though we’re atheists, I know where you’re coming from and we really appreciate it”.

Next up were Rocco, the atheist shouting back through his own bullhorn, and Walter, the street preacher. It was readily apparent that they were talking past each other, both standing firm on their own literalist interpretation of scripture, resulting in a conversation that was going absolutely nowhere. Honestly, it made me a little angry.

So, in a move I honestly never thought I’d pull off myself, I raised both my hands and shouted “Enough!”

I missed this exchange myself, but no doubt Rocco had a great time with someone else to actually engage in conversation. A common complaint that I receive from the Resistance about the preachers that they protest is about their enculted and recalcitrant behavior—they rarely change, they have little to say beyond their own inexpert myopic misunderstanding of their topics, and use a deck of disingenuous scripts.

Someone with some actual sense, or even something thoughtful to say, would probably give them great cheer.

The article I cite from continues on for quite a bit of culture centered discussion between Christians, so I’m not going to go into that. However, I will have to interview Rocco about his encounter with Mr. Homebrew.

Bringing something lively and interesting to the Ave.

Photographs

Mill-Ave-Resistance-011

A photograph of the Mill Avenue Resistance clothing rack, the tiny pieces of paper visible on the sides read: “FREE CLOTHING.”

 

Mill-Ave-Resistance-004

Group shot: Center has some members of the Resistance, Willow and her sign, Barbara, Gadfly, a few others semi-visible; on the right happens to be Al, with Kevin peeking out.

Mill-Ave-Resistance-013

Center: Rocco; Right: Kevin. Not exactly the best candid shot, but I was running my camera in burst mode in order to get some pictures of crowds. In front of the Post Office hanging out and chatting.

Mill-Ave-Resistance-007

This is Marcus standing in front of Al’s crucifix—I really need to interview them at some point about this new phenomena. Marcrus’s crucifix is visible on the left, flashlight strapped to the top. He had it set to “emergency signal” mode so it generated a sort of blinking-rave-light effect.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Mill Avenue Nights: Friday, October 8th 2010

I hit the red bricks with A and took a trip down to the slowly-filling Tempe Town Mudslick. It’s been taking some extra water from the Salt River via the Hoover Dam and a few other dams that have been opened up, but it doesn’t look to be over a foot of water down there yet.

The Ash Ave bridge looked fairly beautiful anyway. It’s a strangely lit bridge over which the light rail crosses the Salt River (aka the Fake Lake). Lights inside the bridge form a spectrum rainbow when it’s idle, and it switches between a crimson-cyan light pattern when a train passes over it.

Street preachers weren’t much in abundance due to the Second Friday festival out in Mesa—which I heard had some zombies and steampunk cosplayers.

Rainbow Lighting Light Rail Bridge

This is an image of the Light Rail bridge with the rainbow colors in effect, and one more to show off.

Ash Bridge and Etc 079

And this is what it does when there’s a light rail train crossing it. The crimson-cyan colors flow slowly from one side to the other, usually in the direction of travel along with the light rail.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Tornados in Flagstaff

tornado1 Not that far from me—well, if you see 150 miles being “not that far away”—some tornados decided to come and play havoc with a town that one of my friends constantly tries to get me to move to. Flagstaff, a city well known for its railroads and snow (and the fact that they’re not far from Sedona and the UFOs) got a licking recently.

The first tornado hit Bellemont — west of Flagstaff — around 5:30 a.m. Wednesday and the second touched down east of the small community a short time later. The third was reported along Interstate 17 just south of Flagstaff around noon.

Fifteen homes in Bellemont were so badly damaged that they were uninhabitable and the estimated 30 people who lived in them were evacuated. Authorities were setting up a shelter at midmorning Wednesday, said Coconino County Sheriff's Office spokesman Gerry Blair.

About 30 RVs were damaged at a business in Bellemont that sells the vehicles and runs a campground for RVs.

Of course RVs! I would be more socked if it hadn’t been a trailer park that drew the maw of doom down upon them.

Point in fact, I was just in Flagstaff not too long ago: Monday. Went there to check things out, kick a few tires, and get rained on—as Gaea herself decided to open the floodgates when I visited. The truth of the matter is that I really enjoy rain, however, I wasn’t driving at the time so I cannot say much for people attempting to navigate the roads.

The thunder and lightning really were something.

I believe that the tornado warning for much of Arizona has come to a close already (5pm today, Wednesday, last I heard.) So stay safe out there.

Link, via the Associated Press.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

“I like it” Facebook status meme goes viral

breast-cancer-awareness-ribbon_297b Looks like people have struck upon a particularly hilarious viral meme that has a very risqué connotation. Facebook statuses have been popping up all day displaying interesting variations of “I like it…”

I like it on the table.

I like it on the floor.

I like it on the closet.

What does it mean? It’s a reference to where women like to keep their purses. It is part of a breast cancer awareness promotion. According to The Washington Post the “I like it” status has some sort of stupid gender-mystique attached to it in that it’s supposed to be mysterious to menfolk—and this is why its stupid. Really? As if (1) men cannot get breast cancer and (2) as if they shouldn’t also be part of breast cancer awareness and research.

It’s curious, fun, and inventive—just get rid of the vapid nonsense about the boys. Breast cancer affects the entire human race.

Link, via TIME Magazine.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Mill Avenue Nights: Saturday, October 2nd 2010

I didn’t feel well for most of the night due to an illness brought on my travel, but things got better with a bit of better living through chemistry. At least enough to gather up some of my friends from Mill Ave and parade them around my domain. I got to see Rocco, Steve, Kazz, and Gadfly from the Mill Avenue Resistance. I also got a chance to see some of the street preachers in the form of Al and Tom, and also Marcus (and his new two-planks wooden crucifix—an addition I should interview him about sometime.)

The Mill Avenue Resistance

A no show for most counts.

They appear to have started doing some sort of clothing giveaway involving used clothing and a rack. I haven’t seen the clothing rack yet as it didn’t arrive tonight. They’ve been doing this for a few months now. Mostly attempting to alleviate the needs of the itinerant folk on Mill Ave—an act that I appreciate greatly as the itinerant community of Mill does need a bit of help.

Drum Circle

Gone.

Not a single person appeared during my entire time on Mill. I floated in and out of the area where we usually find that gathering, yet it remained deserted. Perhaps we’ll have to wait a while for the seeds of community to sprout and flourish again. I am still investigating its disappearance.

Interesting events

While Marcus preached from the site in front of the Post Office, I listened to passersby and I noticed that we have a small, but noticeable, contingent of Muslims now—or at least one outspoken Muslim.

“Allāhu Akbar! Allāhu Akbar!” he shouted as he walked past. Cupping his hands to his lips but never turning his head towards Marcus. The well-known exclamation from Muslim culture is known as the Takbīr and translates literally to “God is the greatest!” It is a common Islamic Arabic expression and considered a formal declaration of faith. Extremely similar to the Christian English expression, “Jesus is lord.”

Marcus didn’t appear to notice as he continued on with his usual preaching through his loudspeaker.

The device seemed to have some issues through the night. When I questioned him about that he explained that it had been stepped on drunkenly in a previous outing and now had become temperamental.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Understanding does not mean what John Reynolds thinks it means

john_mark_reynolds So I just stumbled across this piece by John Mark Reynolds in a recent column in The Washington Post entitled, “Trivia kings, but bad thinkers: understanding over facts.” In which he writes his opinion on the newest of a series of religiously weighted surveys, this one done by the Pew Forum. This recent survey shows that atheists (along with Jews and Mormons) are dramatically more likely to know facts about the religious doctrines of other cultures whereas the religious grade much more poorly. His assertion is that atheists, bolstered by the Internet and books, happen to be good at learning facts but do so without understanding what they’re reading. Thus the title of his piece which boils down of the survey’s results to “atheists are good at trivia.”

He blames the entire society of the United States for having become an entertainment culture where people don’t actually read, spend time ruminating, or actually examine their opinions. As he comments on entertainment culture, he points out that Christians make up a majority of the population yet,

Weirdly, Christians must clean up the mess of broader culture, but we have had little power to create pop culture in the last fifty years. The poor and the disadvantaged are always the first to bear the brunt of bad cultural ideas and only the religious remain on the ground to try to help.

Also weirdly, the poor and the disadvantaged are more likely to be religious, and since “three-quarters or more of the American general population” happen to be Christian... They're more likely to be mostly Christians. So, according to him these bad cultural ideas are coming from a strange minority but being absorbed gluttonously by the Christian majority the very same majority who must “clean up the mess of broader culture.” Something tells me that Reynolds doesn’t seem to get precisely what the word “broader” means.

In this sense it is easier to be an agnostic or atheist. You have rejected the mainstream of American history, which means you don't have to take responsibility for its failures, though you can appropriate its successes.

What the hell is he talking about here? Atheists (and agnostics of both stripe: theist and atheist) don't reject American history as a matter of their atheism or agnosticism in relation to the existence of a god or gods. This sentence sits here all by its lonesome. He cites absolutely no evidence for his assertion and fails to support it with even a single scintilla of rationale. American citizens both suffer the failures of our history and appropriate the successes of it. Perhaps this is a veiled attempt for him to prop up the false notion that the United States is somehow a Christian nation when the Constitution and its supporting documents go out of their way to cultivate a secular government.[1]

Third, we must demand that our government schools teach religion, not just the "facts" but with understanding. Wisdom will only come when we recognize why billions of the world's people believe what they do. This means that majority Christians must also accept charitable expositions of other faiths. When the state of Texas demands less coverage of Islam this is a bad step.

This “understanding” that he’s been crowing through most of this strangely sanctimonious article is actually what the rest of the world would refer to as indoctrination. What’s really odd about this is that he refers to the Pew research and notes how theists fail awfully at knowing even their own doctrine, but claims that they understand their doctrine. He then went winging around about how a person can know a bunch of trivial facts but not understand them; but he really didn’t get around to how precisely a person can have no grasp of any of the facts yet maintain an understanding of a subject nonetheless. After all, that’s exactly how he describes the theists who took the test.

Sure. Teach religion in government schools, but he’s going to be in for a nasty surprise when people realize he’s just basically stated that he wants government schools to teach children to be religious not just about religions.

He will really have to clarify that position before it’s even readable. Certainly he could explain exactly what the difference between knowing that Catholics believe that the communion becomes the actual blood and flesh of their god and understanding that bread and wine turn into bodily fluids and tissue. (This is one of the questions in the survey.)

We must do unto others as we would have them do to us. We must allow students to read books that come from different traditions, from atheism to paganism. The intellectual growth that will result will not be the sort that can be captured in a fill-in-the-blanks or multiple choice exam. Instead, we are going to have to support government school budgets that to allow for small discussion classes that can produce a deeper understanding of important ideas.

We already do this. No special, soppy religious understanding is needed in social studies. Answers are already available with an anthropological context as to why Catholic doctrine includes transubstantiation and the Ancient Greeks believed that their gods rested on Mt. Olympus and sometimes turned people into spiders and skunks. These aren’t even important ideas on the grand scale of living our lives among one another.

For example, one of the most influential books first published by an American is the Book of Mormon. It appears in almost no American government school curriculum, though it exercises a global influence and impacts the lives of millions of Americans. This is foolish. I am, to say the least, no Mormon partisan, but there are entire states in our nation that cannot be understood without some grounding in Mormon thought.

This unsourced claim isn’t for a moment backed up with anything more than mentions of Salt Lake City and Utah. The state is a secular entity due to the force of the Constitution of the United States and while Utah may contain a large number of Mormons, it doesn’t mean the state government gets to run off with their religious convictions in their throats. Utah isn’t some island nation separate and untouched by the rest of the United States. Want to read something extremely influential first published by an American try The Federalist Papers.

Places where he does hit the nail on the head, however, seem to be when he’s talking about trends of anti-intellectualism that seem to be rooted sternly in the austere grasp of American Christian thought. He mentions that Christians “should demand that their churches do more intellectual work.” If only it didn’t seem compelling that this is actually the source of the problem. The Pew Forum survey shows not only that Christians are the worst at knowing basic facts about other religions but they largely know neither their own doctrine’s facts nor could they understand them either (in Reynold’s logic).

He seems to make the weird argument that atheists and non-Christians, according to recent surveys, show better in IQ surveys, general knowledge of culture, and reading level & comprehension because atheists are simply good at absorbing facts. He argues that the intellectual elite reject the religious from their ivy-covered towers, and so forth. When he himself must rail against the brick wall of anti-intellectualism rooted deeply within organized Christianity.

I am not convinced the problem lies where Reynold claims it does.


[1] Salon.com: America is not a Christian Nation http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/feature/2009/04/14/christian_nation

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

TV Review: Chase

chase_nbc_tv_show_logo Here come the blonde warrior women of NBC! The next in my series of television premier series reviews comes Chase. This show reminds me briefly of every law enforcement TV show that has ever existed—but mostly it made me think of In Plain Sight (which I happen to love to death.) Sadly, it doesn’t work quite as well as In Plain Sight does with Mary Shannon as our blonde, quirky protagonist—instead Chase gives us a strong, brass-balled warrior girl in the form of Annie Frost.

And she’s one cool customer.

(What can I say? I’m partial to brass balls archetypical warriors like Vex Harrow.)

I have to admit, I subscribed to this one just because I can feel potential cracking beneath the surface—but it still didn’t manage to keep my attention very well. I found myself drifting out to read stuff on the Internet and edit my articles as I watched. The character drama is lacking and the action scenes are a little lax. However, I must say, they’re humorous enough to make me smile. During one apprehension scene (a chase scene no less) they actually ran through a herd of driven bulls and then crashed through a rodeo in progress. Let me just say, I’d never want to run through a rodeo even if it was just a calf wrangle. I’ve been to the rodeo plenty of times (I’m from rural Minnesota and we had a rodeo every Saturday and Sunday) and with horses and cowboys tearing up the dirt in the arena it was never a safe place to be standing.

Annie doesn’t really have much of an inner life yet. I haven’t been able to get a sense of her or any other character. This is where I think my particular tilt is going to show—I really like portrayals that give me personal access to characters, giving them life and energy outside of the usual on-screen presence. Right now: Annie lacks this. I’d really love to have a half-a-philosopher like Mary Shannon, or the brimming romantic cop, but instead I have a generic law-enforcement type going about her job. Perhaps she’ll grow out of it. I expect her to.

Maybe the show just needs a curious or strange fugitive to take down. Someone that can show me why I should care that our warrior lady Annie Frost has a heart or a grim sense of duty.

And, as a side note, can someone tell me why everyone keeps telling the rookie to hide his gun under his shirt?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Taking a Segway off a cliff: What a way to die

amd_segway_x2 In the news of the dire and strangely sarcastic, the universe attempts its hand at poetic irony. Segway’s owner has died. According to the NY Daily News,

The British businessman who owns the Segway company plunged to his death after driving one of his famous two-wheeled scooters off a cliff, police said Monday.

James (Jimi) Heselden dead at 62—by Segway, precipice, and river, possibly not in that order.

As @AvatarNelson of Twitter fame said, “The owner of the Segway company died driving his Segway off a cliff. This is going to be a PR nightmare for cliffs.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

TV Review: The Event

the-event We’ve seen a bit of an explosion in strange transposition storytelling techniques since Lost became so immensely popular. However, this sort of storytelling always leaves me in a lurch unless there’s a very good reason for it—and Lost really was not. We’ve seen it in stories like Day Break and Flash Forward to better effect. Now there’s a new NBC sci-fi television series to add to the list: The Event.

The pilot introduces us to two separate story arcs that still appear to be disconnected. In one of them a character named Shawn Walker who happens to lose track of his girlfriend (she mysteriously disappears.) While there’s the “leader” of some unknown and vague sect of people visiting with the President of the United States—the sect also seems to be currently detained in a Guantánamo-style facility in the blinding white north of artic Alaska. Who they are or what they’re about is left totally undisclosed.

The plot is revealed almost entirely in unfettered flashbacks. “8 hours ago,” “23 days ago,” so on and so forth. It does form a cohesive narrative, but it’s headache inducing in that it’s spends all of its time in flashbacks and none of it forming the current narrative. Although the first thirty seconds and the last thirty seconds are the current time.

The story begins with a news broadcaster screaming that the ground is shaking and then we see an aircraft flying very slow—presumably about to crash into the Presidential manor where he’s meeting with the leader of the mysterious detainees.

I subscribed to this one merely because it contains an extremely powerful sci-fi element that’s rather inescapable from the end of the first episode. To reveal that, however, would be a massive spoiler. Although, it was extremely tedious to watch the show up to that point.

Can this show probably save itself from becoming another punctuated dramatization soap opera like Lost?

It’s very likely.

However, it seems to me that it really just wants to hook the viewers with these manufactured mysteries that are developed now out of natural investigation but flashback storytelling—always keeping the viewer out of the loop so that they can’t grasp the moment. It’s a little bit insulting to me as a viewer. This is not Memento.

The show’s producer has promised that future episodes will use flashbacks more for character development than plot development but I’m almost too far gone to care at this point. As long as it doesn’t fall down the ever deepening rabbit hole that Lost found itself creeping through (but never reaching Wonderland) we might have a good deal in this show.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Recently published in the Premier Issue of PANÂCHE Autumn 2010

panache My short story “Meet the Pricers” has been published in the premier issue of PANÂCHE Journal of Poetry & Fiction: Volume 1 Issue 1 Autumn 2010.

“Meet the Pricers” is a short story set at a Goodwill store in Phoenix, Arizona—which just happens to also be the center of all Goodwill stores in the universe. Cammy, who happens to work a register, finds herself in an unexpected adventure when a customer brings a pair of socks to the front that lack a price tag.

An electronic subscription to the journal only costs $35.00 USD ($55 for print). People who buy a subscription now will receive the current issue (and presumably future issues, but it doesn’t say for how long). Although, there is no news yet if individual issues can be purchased.

Curious enough, the publisher of this journal is also in Michigan (where I am staying right now.)

Find PANÂCHE on Twitter and at Facebook.

Friday, September 24, 2010

TV Review: Lone Star

lonestar So we’ve got a new crop of television shows clangoring for my attention on Hulu and, just to be polite, I’ve started watching them. As a result, I’m going to review them to see what I thought of each one, and how I felt about them. Lone Star, a drama created by Kyle Killen, portrays the strange life of a con man and his father. Although the premise really strikes me as interesting—I certainly love con man shows and movies like Matchstick Men and White Collar—the pilot failed to hold my interest for very long.

The story sets itself up as the child of possibly the biggest con man in the industry, Robert Allen, works his way through the blue collar and white collar elite alike by bilking them of their hard earned money through selling them snake oil prospects (literally nonexistent energy prospects in oil rigging.) To produce additional drama, he’s running a split con that requires him to keep two separate lives—demonstrated by carrying two separate phones and address books with him. In one life he’s married to a billionaire energy tycoon’s daughter, and the other he has a lovely girlfriend. Both of them don’t know about the other.

Slowly but surely his oil-rig con begins to bleed out as he goes state-to-state seeking would-be investors into the project. Except that there’s no actual holding for them to invest in, so he’s going to have to vanish eventually. Of course, the ties that bind come into play pretty quickly as he happens to like his girlfriend from the oil-rig con and he will one day have to leave her in the dust when he had to quit his hunting grounds if he gets found out.

On the other angle, he seems to be attempting to get into his wife’s family business through her father by getting a job there and then swindling the company out of its vast finances—presumably through some sort of embezzlement. Except this is where things go sideways for his own family business (which happens to be the con) a he decides that he’d rather take this new 7-figure job instead of bleeding the company dry. A fact that his father doesn’t take too well as he’d rather not have his son quit the family con business to take up the mantle of a real energy financier and investment broker. A job that Robert is surprisingly talented at due to his many years tricking people into thinking that he owns a stake in oil and gas drilling.

The real heart cinch of the story that got me happened to be some of the characterization of his father and his own love life—especially how he juggles a girlfriend and a wife.

In one scene, he is propositioned for a one-night-stand by a girl in a hotel lobby who fancies him and invites him back to her room. She gives him a long, convincing argument as to why she should be able to take him to bed and his wife shouldn’t have to know about it. This after Robert first subtly hints, then directly promotes the fact that he is in fact married. At the end of the conversation the woman asks him if he could give one good reason why he couldn’t. And he tells her that he could give her two good reasons. The implied undercurrent here happens to be that those reasons happen to be his wife and girlfriend (between whom he’s cheating on each with the other.) An interesting fact for him as he chooses to keep his fidelity to them, even if they don’t know about each other.

The big spoiler for this episode lays here.

At the very end of the pilot, and near the point where I’d already lost interest, he had a final fight with his father. He’s been found out in his oil-rig scam and has to get out—a fact that means he has to leave his girlfriend behind. Something he doesn’t want to do. His father berates him viciously for forgetting to play his part, pretend to be a character, and not get personally involved in his con. As every con must end and there’s no reason for him to break his own heart while breaking the heart of the girl. However, he’s gotten too involved with his girlfriend. Instead, he finds a way that he can maintain his double life even with danger breathing down his neck.

“Because, Dad, I’m in love.”

“With which one, son?” his father asks. “The fake girlfriend or the fake wife.”

“Both.”

It’s cute, but in the end I’m not as interested in the direction that Robert’s life is taking. It’s keen enough that he has this con going on. His wife’s father is extremely scary and menacing but trusts him honestly. He does life this double life that could fall apart at any moment. But, I don’t know that I want to see where it goes.

I didn’t subscribe to it on Hulu, so I won’t likely be watching further episodes unless one catches my eye.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Facebook Denial of Service Attack

Update: Okay, this was a little stupid: the apparent DDoS against Facebook today, the Wired article that I found is from 2009 and I misread the date (thought 09 meant September.) Looks like what happened was an internal database snafu. Here’s a CNET article on the subject.

facebook Looks like Facebook is currently down due to a denial of service attack. While it’s been marked as “they were the victim of an attack [this] Thursday morning,” it’s still ongoing and it’s almost 1pm now.

“Earlier this morning, Facebook encountered network issues related to an apparent distributed denial-of-service attack, that resulted in degraded service for some users,” responded Facebook spokeswoman Kathleen Loughlin via e-mail.

We’ve seen this happen before with Twitter—and if it’s the same people who did that, someone wants Facebook offline today. I don’t know yet if Twitter is getting hit with the same DDOS at the same time or if this is simply targeted at Facebook without mangling Twitter.

If anything, it’s a pretty powerful DDOS to wipe out something like Facebook as they already absorb a lot of traffic; then again, that might make them more vulnerable. In the future of cyberwarfare, taking out distributed media-discussion on the Internet will be a useful component when governments and countries want to do things under cover of darkness. Of course, they’ll have to take out more than just Facebook and Twitter to actually make a dent.

Here’s looking forward to it reappearing later today after they get themselves sorted out. I will link the postmortem.

Link, via Wired.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Elements: Water

I am suddenly reminded of my great love of marine biology—although, the truth of the matter is that I hate fish. When I studied marine biology, I kept most of my adoration for the invertebrates: give me a sea cucumber, a jellyfish, a crinoid, or something similar over a fish. Please. The ocean is teeming with everything imaginable, but for some reason fish never really gave me much pause. The vast variation of other creatures, large and small, provided more than enough amazement for me.

Most of our planet is covered in it.

Its glittering blue provided not because of some refraction of water itself, but in most cases simply the reflection of the sky. At sunset the oceans become painted with a wash of gold and red; and at night, they betray no color, perhaps except the hushed green of bioluminescence tipping the waves as they crash in the surf.

Water will display prominently when I write the stories of the Helljammer series—a story mostly about naval engagements, pirates, zombies… You can’t have good pirate stories without lots of water. Unrelenting waves of blue, cast against open and clear skies, from horizon to horizon, but for the ports we visit to regain supplies.

Without water, we wouldn’t have piracy on the high seas. So I’ll thank it for that.

Water doesn’t show up so much in SciFi, relegated to the terrestrial worlds—or worlds that are entirely water themselves, like Europa, if simply covered in a layer of ice. Alien planets, perhaps, but not the spacers. They do depend on it, to an extent, but given enough power it’s possible to just tell an oxygen and two hydrogen to produce a water molecule, and form there it’s just a matter of doing that a billion times.

Water shapes the world.

Neither earth nor fire stand up to water. Water is patient. Mountains rise up, water wears them down. The slow, driving course of rivers carves out great swaths like the Grand Canyon; and perhaps it did the same on Mars—the arid world showing evidence of once perhaps having its fill of liquid water.

Water. It’s what’s in my drinking glass right now.

An excellent suspension for syrup and caffeine.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Millvexations.com lives again

That is all.

http://www.millvexations.com

(The problem occurred due to a dedicated IP address. It is resolved now.)

“The Academy” A. Barnes’s dirty, raw still-growing up ‘X-Men like’ serial

I’d like to introduce everyone to The Academy, which is a brand new serial fiction story written by A. Barnes who is probably looking for a few readers and maybe a proofreader. His first chapter was published none-too-long ago and includes a series of characters designed and offered by his friends on Facebook.

It’s a spit-polished work of love that represents the mainstay of new writers.

My claim to fame in this new story? Jessika, the first character introduced, is the one that I came up with for his story. She, like the other supers on the transport at the beginning, has some issues with her powers that she wants to get control of—namely, she’s capable of controlling her density at a molecular level. The only problem? Her stress levels affect her control. When she stresses, she becomes more dense, often to the point of cracking the floor (or flattening her chair) and when she’s too calm she can become insubstantial and float away.

He’s very rough around the edges, so don’t expect Hemingway; but that’s barely a reason not to engage. Even if you only stay for two chapters (there’s only two right now) you can still leave your mark, some encouragement, and perhaps part of a constructive critique.

All new writers can use a little bit of a heave-to from the rest of us.

Start reading The Academy at Chapter One.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Millvexations.com currently down

http://www.millvexations.com 

My wonderful hosting company just migrated our IP addresses but unfortunately my sites didn’t migrate with it; I am currently waiting for the website for Mill Avenue Vexations to catch up. (It is currently showing a default page instead of the proper start page.)

In the meantime, you could read the opening letter for Helljammer or catch up on Black Hat Magick (which run on a separate host.)

Interestingly, ProjectWonderful hasn’t noticed that it’s down yet, so it might just be displaying this to me (for some unknown reason) so I am hoping to see if other people are getting the same sort of reaction from their web browsers when they visit. Otherwise, I am letting their technical support troubleshoot the issue.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Elements: Fire

I am reminded of the words of Vex Harrow from The Holocaust Star,

A lot of people say that the world will end in fire; I’m not about to tell you that I know how it all ends—but I can say one thing for sure: it started with fire.

The ancients of every people loved the flame, and they already feared it. Prometheus brought fire as a gift and Coyote got burned trying to steal it. The Hawaiians say Ai-Laau, the forest eater, ruled Kilauea until Pele chased him off. My da says there is fire in whiskey that fuels the soul. As for me, I’ve got just four things to say about fire: it’s pretty when you keep at a distance, it’s a good friend when you’ve got a way to put it out, a terrible master when you screw up, and a savage enemy when it turns on you.

People are so hooked on fire that when we die we expect to find it blazing on the other side. Sometimes people strap themselves to the pyre to get a head start. Other times we burn sacrifices to purify them, which brings me to my own, albeit short, fiery interlude.

Fire has so much mythology behind it that it has a life of its own in every culture. It is nearly the first technology—the ultimate protector and destroyer. It enables us to live in places without light, with little heat of their own, to pass survival through the dead of winter under its blazing fingertips.

In modern day, as well as Scifi, we could see fire as the embodiment of the nuclear fires that give life to our sun. The underlying power that lives within the atom, when unleashed, fans the flames of war and devours entire cities as the case of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But that same fire, like all fires, when held in check can power entire cities, or raise nations out of the dust of mediocrity.

Electricity from fire, it’s the same infrastructure that enables me to tap keys to keyboard and write this trite prose right now.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Elements: Earth

Foundation. Stone. Rock. The unmoving ground. While the element earth contains a great deal of different connotations for many cultures—and some even eschew it from their lists of elements for other compounds—it is still the source of many of our raw materials. Earth: the container of all life.

We build our dwellings from it. We build them upon it. It comes in many forms, from the solidity of rock, to the trembling uncertainty of peat bogs. It gives rise to trees that stretch above it, roots that dig beneath, and provides the matrix for which all things mount themselves against the sky.

In the creation stories of many mythologies the earth is the first place—and from it all life is formed. From the earth all living things rise, and to it they decompose when they are done. The ultimate and final configuration of star-stuff that gives a place to stay, provides food, shelter, and all the comforts of life.

In Scifi stories, earth is the element of planetary bodies. The primary difference between spacers and terrestrials. Even alien worlds have all the makeshift necessity of earthiness—in fact, we could argue easily that even Mercury has “earth” although it is an airless, lifeless world it is only earth and nothing else. Spacers find it by taking small chunks of it in the form of asteroids, or necessarily learn to live with much less of it by producing food with hydroponics. The spacer and the terrestrial will, however, possibly argue about the merits of cold steel and artificial gravity, or gravel and the planetary weight of natural gravity.

Earth. It’s even the name of our home world.

It’s the calling card of modern day environmentalists. The body of the Goddess made manifest—the life-giver.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Mill Avenue in political news, recruiting ground in claimed electoral fraud

I am really not sure what to make of this, but it mentions both the Ave and Mill rats! See for yourself over at the The New York Times website,

But Steve May, the Republican operative who signed up some of the candidates along Mill Avenue, a bohemian commercial strip next to Arizona State University, insists that a real political movement has been stirred up that has nothing to do with subterfuge.

“Did I recruit candidates? Yes,” said Mr. May, who is himself a candidate for the State Legislature, on the Republican ticket. “Are they fake candidates? No way.”

To make his point, Mr. May went by Starbucks, the gathering spot of the Mill Rats, as the frequenters of Mill Avenue are known.

I can’t say that most of us on Mill Ave have any political aspirations, but he certainly picked from the new crew. Nobody from the old school would want to fall for this—well, actually, I can pluck up a few. In fact, I can think of some Mill rats, like Josh and Vince, who I wouldn’t mind seeing run for political office.

The only problem that I see here is that they’d end up getting chewed up and spit out. The political vein in Arizona runs deep into a subterranean motherlode of backstabbing, corruption, and dark subterfuge. The actions in and around Mill Ave and Tempe represent only the first few tunnels that wind through that strange, dark recess of the political mindset.

I don’t know that I’d inflict that on my worst enemy.

Not that people in some of those political offices don’t feel like our worst enemy sometimes.

Fortunately, the current mayor of Tempe, Hugh Hallman, is no bad person, nor is he a pushover. But still, I wouldn’t want his job.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Elements: Air

Our invisible friend, life-maintaining, and ultimately also one of the most destructive forces known to humanity. It contains all of my favorite things about the atmosphere. Thunderstorms—for all their connection to water, still remind me of the air that supports them—have always been my refuge. One of my favorite places to sit down and write happens to be amidst a storm.

(And, have I mentioned kissing during a T-storm can be the experience electric?)

Air has a special meaning when writing Scifi. Out there in outer-space, that airless void, it’s like a fish living in an aquarium—forever captured within the confines of a small space, a thin barrier between you and ultimate oblivion. Air is a necessity, and the oxygen in it our reaction fuel to run our muscles and build our bodies. Without it, we die very quickly. Which makes it even more amusing for first year biology students who learn exactly how poisonous oxygen is when presented in excessive quantities.

Want to kill people on a space station with air? First option: remove all of it, they suffocate; second option: pump in excess oxygen until their cells fry, or their very skin ignites and incinerates them like ghastly roman candles.

To the alchemists, the air supported a model for the luminiferous aether, a substance through which all light traveled—that possibly also supported the planets, as if they were suspended in a liquid, as well as the stars.

When the air is thin, we get lightheaded. And with that lightheadedness often comes a breath of euphoria—a twinkling exhalation of endorphins as the brain fights not to shut down. It’s the same reason why huffing works to produce profound pleasure, at the expense of damaging the brain.

Air.

If I am lucky today, it will deliver me a thunderstorm, and I’ll have more to write about.

Unexpected outage

So, about 12noon AZT, blackhatmagick.com went offline. I grabbed my cell and called Elaine once I noticed—at about 3pm AZT, when I was finally awake from an unexpected nap.

I had to move the flat screen monitor from Pixie over to Willowisp to get a look at the boot screen. She was up, running, and happy. I ran through a gauntlet of UNIX commands like “ifconfig” and “ip link” and “mii-tool” and discovered that both the ethernet card (eth0) and the cable were fine. In fact, thanks to mii-tool, I was able to determine that the cable itself had an actual link (no physical failure.)

Eventually, I relented and killed the CISCO cable modem. Up, down, and viola, she’s back online.

Now I just have to wait for ProjectWonderful to discover that the site is operating again and unsuspend my advertisements.

Oh, also, I have a nosebleed for no apparent reason.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What’s a capital 2 again?

This just in from my best friend’s day at work:

OMG… Gotta tell you something that happened at work today…

Just as the new boss entered the office I got a call.

User asks me how to make an @.

I say, "Okay. To get the @ sign: you hold shift and press 2."

She says, "Won't that make a capital 2?"

I do not miss a beat, and say, "Hon, the @ is the capital 2"

"Ooooohhhhh."

"Yep. Glad I could help you. See you later." *click*

Boss busts up laughing a moment later.

“Invincible” by Kyt Dotson

Go check out my short story, “Invincible” at Black Hat Magick.

This one is just geek-action-cheesecake for people who happen to like Hadaly, the AI from the Black Hat Magick series.

Friday, August 27, 2010

“The Fox in the Garden” by Kyt Dotson

Go check out my short story, “The Fox in the Garden” on Authonomy.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

THANK YOU, Wren

We love you, and we will miss you.

It looks like the long lived, Wren’s Nest, is shutting down. From The Witches’ Voice Facebook page,

Greetings! As many of you already know – or have discovered via a TWV link – Wren’s Nest is closed. There are new ways by which media and people exchange information. This page is one of them. We would like to thank everyone who supported, shared, commented and otherwise made Wren’s Nest News the resource that it was. It was my heart-felt pleasure and deepest honor to serve you. – Wren

It’s been a constant inspiration and I’ve loved reading the Wren’s Nest.

Started in 1997? 13 years isn’t bad.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Luck

Fate protects fools, little children and ships named Enterprise.” – Cmdr. Riker (Contagion, Star Trek: The Next Generation).

And in some cases: me.

Here I am today, Star Gate: Atlantis running through Netflix on the TV, wrapped up in the voices of my thoughts. And I am pretty lucky; although, one person’s fortune can certainly be another person’s misfortune. I have no job, no income, adding myself to the great unwashed masses—and not to mention starving authors who spend more time on their creative work than getting a living wage—but I am not homeless (again) nor am I without family or company.

I have chosen to study strangely divergent sciences: computers and anthropology. Yet, I am able to easily find ways to combine them through video games and social media. In fact, the emergence of social media itself is staggeringly luck-filled for someone of my interests. I use a lot of what I’ve learned from it, and from other people, in order to better enhance my writing. Such as how I’ve developed the most recent offering from Black Hat Magick in the form of Book 2 “Tango & Cache”.

(Still only three chapters and less than 9,000 words, but progressing on schedule for publication beginning during Fall 2010.)

I don’t see myself winning the lottery.

I don’t see myself being discovered by some traditional publishing house either, but I do hope to keep my semi-popularity up-to-date. One day I might have some minor fame to work from for my craft, but like most authors—especially the millions before me—I will probably languish in a glittering obscurity.

However, I might point out here: I am still lucky.

I have fans. I have a small cadre of dedicated, worthwhile fans, whose messages still warm my heart every time I receive them.

Keep an eye out for a new story appearing on Black Hat Magick for all you guys.