A Salute to Stupid Moments.

Many Moons Ago, back when all the world was young and I was in high school, I was in love with this girl.

Let me be clear: I was surpassing smitten. Totally twitterpated. Beyond befuddled. Past Pathetic. You get the idea.

We had known each other since middle school, and things had never quite worked out. There were 150 miles between our homes but by the time high school rolled around it sometimes felt like there were only inches between our hearts--THAT kind of pathetic.

I suppose this story takes place in late high school, maybe 15 or 16 (I graduated high school before I turned 17). We'd been conversing at this point for maybe 4 or 5 years. We saw each other maybe three or four times a year if we were really lucky, but it didn't matter. I'd met her mom, but hadn't yet had a chance to meet her father, though I'd heard a lot about him (Architect, Vietnam Vet, Professional-Quality Photography hobby, a bit on the serious side, etc.).

We were trying to keep things on an even keel, because we knew the distance, so we tried our best at being close friends without ever really committing or starting a relationship, and it gave this this surreal air that drove us both nuts, but it was easier than committing and then spending our months openly pining for one another, I thought. All that reall happened was we pined secretly, but it was high school, and that sort of stupidity on the part of our hearts was tolerated by our adolescent brains, which hadn't yet developed properly, I suppose.

I distinctly remember a get-together of a large group that we jokingly called "The Krew" at the time (a name I gave it, I suppose) at a mutual friend's house. His story and how her story and mine interact are their own series of dramas for another day and another time. Beyond complicated. Anyway, the lot of us (maybe six or seven teenagers, all close friends) were hanging out at his place and went for a walk.

When we returned from our walk, her father had arrived and she spotted him in the foyer. She drew me aside and introduced me directly to her father (the man who, had I had the smarts to admit it, I wanted to be my father-in-law within a decade) personally.

And stupid, retarded, ignorant, high-school-student me did something truely beyond idiocy.

Over the high school years I was the confident, outgoing kid of most of my social groups, including the Krew. I was the one who was self-assured enough to speak out at any time, tell a joke anywhere, and get away with it. And I was uncool and unattractive enough to still be approachable by most people, so I could dance a fine line with most of my high school friends and be glib and flippant and it came across as arrogantly cool instead of just clueless.

It was a habit I had picked up sometime in middle school, instead of a wave to friends, I would throw an at ease off-hand salute. Almost tossed carelessly from my forehead, it was the ultimate in immature high school gestures.

And standing there, in the foyer, meeting the father of the girl I loved, I saluted in this exact manner.

No "I've heard a great deal about you sir. It's an honor to meet you!" No extending a handshake. Just a flippant gesture and an "Oh, hi!"

Within moments my collosal error had been registered in the deepest recesses of my brain and I felt like an idiot but you can't pause midsentence halfway down the hall and run back and say "Sir. . . my brain misfired. Can I shake your hand and try this first-impression thing again?"

I was so ashamed of it that I never mentioned that meeting again. I never even apologized to the girl (who deserved it, since I'd just made a fool of her with my sloppy manners) for the scene. In different circumstances, months later I would meet her father again and we would have a series of far more successful interactions and conversations, but I would always remember what a horrible ass I had made of myself in that foyer and it's a memory that has stuck with me.

In time she gave up on me, and I moved into school with a gusto and buried myself in my work, and she fell for someone else. I guess in the end maybe it didn't matter that much, I can't imagine that single event was the breaking point or anything, but it still sticks out in my mind as an error I should never have let myself make.

Ah well. Consider this story my salute to stupid moments. We all have them. I guess my objective in life is to minimize mine.

Thursday, June 30, 2005


A little bit of internet history.

The rabbit Oolong, is probably known to at least a few of you. You recognize him from this image.

Posted by Hello

His photograph was used as a visual weapon-of-war in forum discussion to shut down people who began babbling incoherently on a topic.

What many of us (including me, until today) didn't know was that this wasn't a spontaneous picture. This was one picture from an entire portfolio of Oolong's work, much of which focuses around the strange (to us westerners) Japanese entertainment genre of "head performance." It's the process of recording images of animals that have been trained to balance items on their heads.

Back in May, 1999, Oolong balanced a 35mm film canister on his head for a picture (you can still find it on this page--last picture). Previous to that Oolong had been photographed following his owner about house, garden, and parks and engaged in more normal rabbit activity. Namely sitting still and looking vaguely nervous or sleepy.

But after that breakthough picture, most of Oolong's posing became head performance related, and he expanded his repetoir to include lots of object. CDs, Cookies, and Tomatoes were soon balanced on his noggin. And eventually, one of his images (not of a simple pancake, as we westerners thought, but of Dorayaki--a Japanese pastry filled with bean paste) was captured, captioned, and became a common weapon in the war against incoherency and mindless chatter on forums around the world.

Oolong died on the 1st of January, 2003. His dignified final moments were recorded by his owner as he was cared for, so that he died as he lived, a performer. I hear that his owner is now raising a new rabbit that he hopes to train to follow in Oolong's footsteps.

I think that Oolong, who made sacrifices of privacy and simplicity of life to eventually ridicule foolishness in all its forms was pretty cool. There are few more noble endeavours in life, I think, for a rabbit.

For more facts and information about Oolong, check out his Wikipedia entry.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Buffer.

So a few weeks ago I started building a buffer of posts that I have written but am waiting to publish. The theory is that I can use this buffer to wait-out any dry-spells created by my odd and tempermental travel schedule or by writer's block.

I've decided that nothing is quite so pathetic as a well-written or interesting blog that just goes-away because the author leaves off posting for a week and then feels guilty about coming back. It's anathema to a dedicated readership. Hopefully I'll still be able to access the internet daily over the rest of the summer and so even when I don't have time to write update, I can just publish one sitting in the buffer.

It also allows me to encourage more variety in the blog content. My life tends to happen in tight groupings. For example, due to a change in schedule I was able to watch 8 movies this week. That's a lot of movies. So I wrote reactions to a couple (About Riddick already ran), and this way I can use the buffer to spread them out, so I'm not talking about just movies for a week, then not mentioning them for a month. Hopefully the variety will allow my writing to entertain more people each day who might otherwise get bored if I kept up my Gene Siskel impression for too long.

Wait, my Siskel impression would really suck. Cause then I wouldn't post at all. I'd just lay real still. [Ba Dum Bump!] Ok, that wasn't funny. If you're a member of Mr. Siskel's family, please accept my apologies.

Anyway. . . for now I'm trying to make it a habit to write two posts per day, minimum, so hopefully by the time this post actually gets published the buffer will have twenty or more posts in it.

[From Day of Publishing: The buffer of drafted posts is up through the 17th of July, and most of them are just awaiting a final edit.]

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Link Day Lundi.

I have decided to make each Monday here at AiW a 'link day'. I realized that I accumulate more links to use than I have posts in which to use them, and so Monday has become link day.

You will recieve no less than three links. One to a service, one to an article, one to a time-filler.

For example, the time filler may be a blog, a game, or a comic strip.

The service might be a download, a storage system, or a scheduler.

The article might be a blog post about cats, or a wired article about the future of fiber optics in the next decade.

You might receive more links than three (for example, a product link as well), but three is the minimum.

Oh, why Monday? Because in French, Monday is Lundi, and Lundi starts with an L. For me, alliteriation's awfully appealing.

The time filler of the week is Fifty Word Fiction. Addictive little snippets for anyone with an overactive imagination.

The service of the week is Hello. Which is really two services. One is meat of the program: the instant image transfer and discussion client. It allows you to chat with a person while trading pictures with them, either out of a collection of your own photographs or any other jpeg image. Very handy when you want to share a visual part of your life with someone and speak to them at the same time.

The second part of the service is "bloggerbot". If you use the blogger system, blogger bot will take any image, resize it to a standard size (640x480, 800x600, etc.), build a thumbnail, and upload the thumbnail and the resized image to the free hello servers. It then automatically generates all the HTML text and adds an entry to your blog with the thumbnail clickably linked to the resized image. Very handy. I use it for all the images you've seen here.

The article of the week is me geeking about about Wine and Science. It seems some scientist from the University of California at Davis and a New Jersey Real Estate developer have developed a $50,000 MRI for Wine that can determine whether or not the bottle has 'turned' (become sour tasting) as it aged.

And a product, because it's cool. 1,082 books from Amazon.com, bundled together. The Penguin Classics Library Complete Collection. You can even browse the list by author, or title.

Monday, June 27, 2005

It has been too long.

I've been out of the online-public forums for a while. I haven't touched a forum or other discussion medium in almost a year, preferring to post recollections and read the writings of others without commentary.

However, in order to comment from time to time on a few friend's Xanga accounts, I recently created a Xanga account of my own (I'm the robot, and the site itself is named and title with Casablanca references). Now, less than 48 hours after I created this account, I find myself in a minor tizz with a fellow named Dan. The tizz concerns this entry about the Tsunami and the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

In short, I was a bit critical of the writing and methods. He then left a comment for me describing my words as "strident beyond need" and called the ghost-account "a bit "in your face"."

Now, the "in your face" comment probably is a reaction to the headline for the Xanga account. It's a quote from the character Ugarte in the movie Casablanca. He's talking to Rick, Humphrey Bogart's character, at the time. He tells Rick that "just because you despise me, you're the only one I trust." I used this as my headline because I love the line and the dual-sentiment it can express. The character's desperate need to trust someone, and his knowledge that his own character is so flawed that he should only trust those who think him worthless.

It would appear that the quote was mis-interpreted by our good friend Dan, and so it has begun. Sadly I note that the tizz has begun not with a direct and polite refutation of my commentary but rather through the targeting of my character and style. Too bad really. I've posted one half of my second response on the entry comments linked above. I've offered to take the other half of the conversation to e-mail because there are two different issues at work here and I'd like for Dan to have a chance to remain as dignified as possible throughout what could become a very messy discussion if it occurs in a public medium like the Xanga comments system.

It should be interesting. I had no intention of creating any discord with this account, but I should have realized it would be inevitable. Ah well. This is the way life goes on the internet.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

About Riddick.

An open letter to David Twohy, Director of "Pitch Black" and "The Chronicles of Riddick."

Dear David.

First, please refer to the following definition of an Anti-Hero, and explain to me how the actions of Richard B. Riddick fit that description in any form during the second installment in your attempted franchise.

In your first film, Pitch Black, Riddick is a confusing, intriguing character. He manages to be scary, mean, and sadistic. There is a hint of noble, but in a sick sort of way. The film becomes a story about second chances--how the redemption of Fry shows him a path to his own salvation. It's a stirring, promising concept. We could only hope that this lush, meaty character and the immensely 'real-feeling' universe you spun out of 60 days in the Australian outback a half a decade ago would come to life again in the sequel.

Perhaps we were hoping for a tale of how Riddick, now redeemed and struggling to rejoin the human race, faces trials and tribulations because whenever he attempts to act on his newfound nobility he is punished by the evil members of mankind. Perhaps a story of how he puts his combination of quiet power and fierceness to good use, protecting the innocent and, like Fry, not-so-innocent. Or perhaps a dark tale of him backsliding into his former murderous character.

But why on earth did you respin for him the same concept from the first film? Why did you imply that he was a different kind of evil, or a 'bad guy' at the beginning of this new movie? In the last film his salvation sequence is made quite clear. And the new movie shows no relapse in his character. So why play the same card twice? You said yourself that you weren't going to go back and re-make the same movie, yet that is exactly what you pretended to do by claiming that Riddick was back in the "Bad guy" role.

Yet there is no validity in this claim, because the audience gets a clue, from Riddick's very first scene--in which he doesn't kill a whole bunch of Mercs who are chasing him--that he's no longer an Anti-Hero now. He's not a bad guy. He's a good guy. If we weren't clued in then, we should certainly get a clue in the next major action sequence (where he risks his life for payback against a guy that killed some random innocent he abandoned on a backwater world five years ago). This is not the same character from Riddick. This character isn't a ex-mass-murdering ex-psychopath. He's just some slightly irreverent dude who is really good at kicking people's asses.

He is now become a very poor rendition of the hero-in-disguise concept. And this should not be confused with an anti-hero at any time.

Second, who the FUCK wrote your names for you? Evil Legions called "Necromongers?" The "Quasi-Dead?" A cold planet in a place called "the Frigidos System?" A sunlit world called "Helion Prime?" A hot world called "Cremetoria?" David, listen closely: A thesaurus is not a tool for inspiration. It is supposed to be a writing aide. Back away from it and try for some of the originality that the Wheat brothers showed when they wrote the story for Pitch Black.

Third: Shave. The goatee makes you look like a goat.

In summary, I'll put it in terms even Metallica would understand: Pitch black good. Chronicles bad.

Posted by Hello

Pitch Black Good             Chronicles Bad

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Soapbox Time.

Update: The Land Grab Has Begun. I hope your house isn't located somewhere valuable.

All is not well.

I know I don't have many readers but this needs to be said to every voice that will listen.

Neil Boortz has written an editorial I need you to read.

I know most of my readers don't follow the links I post here, but please please please, if you only follow one of my links all year, make it this one.

The supreme court ruled yesterday that eminent domain applied for private enterprises acting in the public trust.

You need to understand how terrifying this situation has just become.

If you didn't get that: The supreme court just decided that your local government can take your property from you at 'market value' and then hand it over to a developer.

Private Property Law is one of the cornerstones of the US constitution, and this amounts to complete reversal of any concept of private property. Every piece of property your family controls you now keep in your possession only at the pleasure of the government.

Let us use a personal example: My family owns one acre of land. We have talked, off-and-on, about investing the money sometime in the future to split the land in half and built a house on the resulting half-acre where our "garden" now sits. However, at this time we have no intention of doing so and won't for many years.

Now, imagine that a private land developer comes to Tallassee, sees our property, and offers us market value for the half acre lot. We would refuse the offer because we don't want to sell the property and the value of it as an undeveloped lot is quite low.

Under the supreme court's ruling, he can go to the local government and convince them that they will earn greater property taxes and therefore increase public revenue if he can develop a house on that land. Based on this argument, the local government can then force us to sell, at market value, that lot, and then turn around and sell (or hand over) the land to the developer.

That should scare you shitless. If it doesn't, you're a fool.

Please, go read Boortz's editorial. Once you've read that, go and visit the Institue for Justice and the Castle Coalition. There are ways that we can defend the right to private property and make our voices heard. All is not lost.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Willy Nilly Silly Old Bears

If someone put a gun to my head, and told me to recommend a single blog from the Mercer Bear's webring on Xanga. . .

I would recommend Ryguy.

It's not that I know Ryan particularly well, I don't. It's not that we're particularly close, we aren't. But Ryan captures the purpose and ideals of what I expect from a well-written, competent personal blog better than anyone else on the Mercer circuit.

Don't get me wrong, there are other good posters on the Mercer Bears webring, but Ryan's writing quality, heartfelt introspection, use of external links, biting sarcasm, goofiness, pop-culture references, brilliant near-art escapist essays, sometimes startling honesty, and update schedule (often) all combine to form a very high quality blog.

If you are looking for a role model of good blogging--the Xanga way--use him.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

BitTorrent and Avalanche

Ok, for the web-heads among you, check out this editorial from John C. Dvorak.

It is an interesting claim, and frighteningly not as far-fetched as you might think at first. The 'security journal' he links to is moronically misleading and fundamentally anti-BitTorrent.

Oh, and for extra laughs, check out the powerpoint presentation from Microsoft Research Cambridge. The following image is from that presentation. Tell me, just what the fuck is the Y axis supposed to be? Hope? If you aren't scientific, don't pretend. It just makes those of us with scientific training want to take away your computer and tell you to play with crayons and blocks for a while.

How the "professionals" do it. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

How "Content Protection" hurts the consumer.

I ran across a post on Slashdot recently pointing to an article about how copyright issues are creating a problem for amateur photographers.

It seems that due to recent lawsuits that professional photographers have leveled against printing houses, the retail printing and development places are now refusing to print 'professional quality' digital images for fear they might be copyrighted and would therefore incur a lawsuit.

We now live in a world where the 1970s concept that "if you've got the negative, it's your picture" has been turned on its head by a digital process that has no 'base negative' that can't be reproduced. And as a photographic culture we need to accept that and adjust the business and the law to make room for a different kind of reproduction. Legal action is not the answer, especially not against an innocent third party developer that is just doing its job in providing the consumer with what they want.

This sort of lawsuit spawns from the same devious and shortsighted mentality the RIAA is using as justification for holding technology companies responsible for the actions of their consumers. It is absurd. Akin to suing a manufacturer of bolt-cutters because your bike was stolen.

Personally I think photographers should be selling the rights to the images they capture and not just prints of them. I've always thought that it was awfully sleazy to photograph a wedding and then rather than selling your services and the images, you sold printing access to them, as if the wedding was something you possessed and you could farm out the memories of its occurrence as you pleased.

To those photographers who have sued: It's one thing to defend your right to control the reproduction of your own images, as an artist. It is another entirely to sue a company for allowing such reproduction to occur. It is not their job to police your work, and doing so only discourages amateur photography as a whole (which I suppose might be your objective, since you are professionals and probably see us amateurs as competition).

The concept of "controlling reproduction" of information needs to be abandoned. We live in an age where any information can be reproduced, most of it flawlessly, without negligible resultant cost. Audio, Video, and Images can all be ripped, recorded or scanned and reproduced digitally for almost zero cost and little-to-no investment in hardware (a computer, scanner, and all the necessary software could total less than $500 and still be able to do almost all the reproduction work in near-real-time and many of us all possess those components already). That makes the concept of policing the reproduction of content almost meaningless.

This is akin to suing the manufacturer of my scanner because I might use it to scan a copyrighted work. It is foolish, anti-progress, and morally wrong.

To those who sue third-party technology houses and printing companies over such things: Don't target a brick-and-mortar business just because you can't get at what you perceive to be the enemy. Let your paradigm shift and realize that you live in a different world now. It's two-thousand and five. Welcome to the new fucking millennium. It is time for you to grow up.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

In Good Company

Posted by Hello
I just saw In Good company.

The trailer for this film intrigued me from the moment I heard the opening notes of David Byrne's soulful "Glass, Concrete and Stone" and when Carter latched onto Dan's "invitation" to dinner, I was hooked.

Then the movie hit theaters, just a few short weeks before I left for Europe, I was unable to find the time to see it, and I refused to go alone. I've gone to movies by myself (Hero and House of Flying Daggers for example) before, but this was different.

So I missed my chance to see it in theaters. Work kept me busy and I had a journey for which I needed to prepare. When I returned, it was out of theaters and on its way to DVD release.

Tonight (the 18th of June), I finally managed to see it. It was everything I had been promised by what I had heard and seen and read and a little bit more. After the parts implied by the trailer, the movie advances through a winding continuation of reality. We are reminded that there is an "after" and it isn't always "happily ever." Please note that I'm about to speak about how the film ends, so this is a spoiler alert. Fairly warned be ye.

The movie opens all the right doors and sets up all the right dominos so that it could give us a hollywood ending. You may remember those. They are the endings that I ranted about way back in Clichés are tasty! over a year ago. But rather than give us the happy tie-up-all-the-loose-ends guy-gets-the-girl perfection, it gives us real life. "Per l'amaro ed il dolce"--for the bitter and the sweet. The guy doesn't get the girl, though she does follow her dreams. He doesn't keep his job, though he worked hard for it. He's searching for himself. After the roles are reversed the mentor gives the young ex-boss a chance to work as his right-hand-man, and when the kid turns down the opportunity, the mentor lets him go with words of encouragement and wisdom. The mentor doesn't get the boy he was hoping for, but he has learned a few lessons from the boss that might as well have been his boy. Everyone grows up a little bit.

"Timing is everything", the movie tells us, through a third-tier supporting actor in a scene near the end. The film has taken a slice out of the lives of a handful of people and spun their stories into a heartbreaking story about life and work and love. There are three huge days in the lives of Dan and Carter. Days where everything comes rushing at them at once: jobs gained, jobs lost, pregnancies, divorces, moves and changes of plan and direction. At each onslaught we feel the stress and the fear and the reality of their lives closing in. Their ability to weather the storm and brace against each other for support--even as they argue and fight and sometimes resent one another--is what makes them human, and makes them worth respecting.

And as the movie begins to wrap the shroud of finality around itself every piece is appropriately addressed. Each character is cared for. And as Alex gets on the elevator I found myself praying that the movie would let the doors close, and let it be ok that she and Carter weren't "forever." And the doors closed, and in the final scene, when Carter answers his phone, it is not Alex but her father Dan--his mentor--that has called, to tell him about the baby. And it was beautiful that it was as real in its ending as it was in its beginning. Not perfect, but not horrid. Just real. Like water on glass.

I love it. In a single viewing it has become one of my favorite films.

[publishing note: the publishing of this post was delayed by two days so that it wouldn't overshadow father's day.]

Monday, June 20, 2005

40 day Freakout

So I was doing the math today and I realized I have 40 days between tomorrow and the day we throw a party in my house for between 30 and 50 people, depending on the turnout. And I am scheduled to be gone for around 25 of those days.

In case you aren't aware of this litte gem: due to the ongoing renovation of half of our house, we don't have a kitchen. We have a sort of awkward, pretend kitchen space with toy appliances. The oven works, but we have no range. In its place we have the range equivalent of an easy-bake oven. Our ancient "dishwasher" occasionally cleans the dishes, but often just moves the stuff that was on the spoons onto the bowls. We have no countertop space that isn't covered in crap we don't use, and we've actually got cabinets installed that have to come out before the new ones can go in.

So today it became clear to me just how much had to be done and I stressed out just a little. So I moved around a ton of shit to prepare the area in which dad needs to work next. I hope he and mom appreciate that. It creates work for her too, since she has to sort and re-store all the stuff I moved.

And I'm out of paint for my pet-project, the office/guest room that I'm renovating, so I can't do anything else with it today.

anybody here remember IRC?

/me shakes his fist at the heavens and shrieks like a little girl.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Father's day.



A special day,
just for the one,
who begat daughter,
and created son.

In his eyes,
laughter and pride
we've lived his dreams
we've traveled wide.

Can't convey
how much he's worth.
he's always kept me
down to earth.

Life saver, Big Fish, carpenter, scientist, storyteller, bargain shopper, jack of all trades, mathematician, cook.

Dad. Thanks.

For a different take on Father's day, and a different perspective. . . try this post.

A little pre-father's-day news.

Hey everybody. All four of you are probably wondering about the 'newsy' posts I used to do and where they went. In general I've been cutting back on them in favour of more abstract content, but here are some random snippets:

I got my motorcycle's instrument panel light fixed, so I can see how fast I'm going after sunset again. This is a good thing. I also tightened the chain (overmuch, grr, gotta fix that now) and found out how to replace the tachometer cable, which I'll be doing soon.

I finally saw In Good Company. I'll post a full write-up of my impressions on Monday, but since I'm posting a bit about father's day tomorrow I don't want it to overshadow that so it's being delayed, even though the first draft has been written. Sorry.

And my co-author from The Road, 80 (alias Adrienne) is starting a photoblog, called Through the Camera Lens. It's going to be incredible. Check it out. Make it one of your daily visits, so that she is encouraged to update daily. Maybe if we're really encouraging she'll keep posting most of the pictures at near-desktop-quality.

Neal Stephenson's latest.

Neal has done it again.

This time with a little New York Times article called Turn on, Tune In, Veg Out. Think of it as a recruitment poster for the technocratic subculture that was created by a handful of dorks in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Or a rallying cry for computer geeks everywhere.

The article uses the modern Star Wars movies as its foundation. Revenge of the Sith is referenced to illuminate the differences between the first three movies and the most recent three. It does all this in a way that is both unique and cutting. Brilliant stuff.

Saturday, June 18, 2005


I just watched Hitch.

If you haven't seen it yet, it's worth watching. It's funny, inventive, and romantic. A sharp film.

I'm going to assume you have seen it and reference it without giving details. You know how romantic comedies always work--guy and girl meet, fall in love, something goes wrong, massive misunderstanding, they don't see each other, then they get back together in the next-to-last scene.

There is a scene after everything starts to fall apart where Albert, the lovable schmuck, comes to see Hitch, the professional 'date doctor' who just closed up shop as a result of a gossip column story that ruined his ability to do his job. They have an argument in Hitch's kitchen. It was a surreal moment for me because it was as if I was watching my 18-year-old-self argue with my modern self. Albert screams at Hitch all the things I once believed and followed and thought would save me.

And I was wrong. I was wrong because you don't just need faith in the power of love. You need the right circumstances and the luck of the draw and the right smile. You need for her to be understanding and for the right words to be said and for yourself to be a little less like yourself than you are.

The movie, because it can't say these things, says what it should say to keep the viewer's hope alive: Albert is a great guy. It's Albert that wins the girl, not Hitch's advice. But I'm hung up on this fact: Hitch still pointed the way, and without his advice Albert would just be another piece of flotsam on the shoreline, and the gorgeous celebrity girl who falls for him would never have noticed him.

In truth, no matter how much movies like this make me smile, I don't believe them. I'm still Hitch. I can manufacture relationships out of the gossamer strands of a smile or a kind word or a glance across a crowded room. I can build a fantasy world that becomes a reality for other people, but I refuse to do it for myself. I can't stomach the thought that I would be forced to make something for myself that I want to be as natural as breathing, and so I refuse to try and turn away those who offer.

I have had my share of opportunities. I have had my share of entanglements. I have had my share of women wondering why I won't settle down. What makes me restless and guarded and distant and cold all of a sudden when I was so warm and welcoming only ten seconds earlier. I enjoy drawing a woman in, and I like being wanted--everyone does. But I'm like a catch-and-release fisherman. I don't want to commit to actually consuming what I catch, I just take pleasure from the sport of it.

Sickening, but true. And if there is any sport to it at all, I cannot bring myself to consider following through. The very process of making it a game for myself makes me keep my guard up and means I'll never let it down, even if the "right girl" ever does come along. Why would I? As long as she reacts positively, I'll just play the game until I've reeled her in and there's no more game, then I'll remove my hooks and let her go, even if she doesn't want to leave.

What I am waiting for is a fish that refuses to bite, but comes to the boat on its own. And that never happens. If it did, the entire concept of Hitch's job would be laughable and absurd, instead of being a very believable plot device.

And so I will keep playing my games because if I stop, I'll be completely alone, and won't even be able to pretend that I'm wanted anymore. [editor's note: this might be the most emo thing I have ever written.]

I won't be miserable again. I turned from that path long ago. But adrift in the currents of life, without one hand on misery, happiness may be beyond my grasp.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Card games in coffee houses.

Over the past few years, I have been involved in many small gatherings at many venues.

Few are as enjoyable to me as card games in coffee houses. Last weekend I played Dutch Blitz with three friends, and despite all the other great moments of the weekend, I think that is the moment that I will want to savour most.

Card games (and even simple board games like Chinese Checkers or Chess) draw out interesting dynamics. They allow for fascinating new ways for the bonds and relationships present to express themselves.

I have a distinct and precious memory of playing Spades with three friends in mid-December at the original Joshua Cup downtown. Cord of Three was there that night, playing Christmas songs on the tiny corner stage. The hot chocolate and coffee and hot Chai tea mingled and mixed to create a pleasing, winter aroma that reminded us that we weren't home, but that friends could still be found around us.

PFK and I played against Cole and Crane. It was a blessed escape from our constant focus on tests and proving that we'd spent our semester absorbing new knowledge and learning new skills.

Another good memory in that same room took place over a year and a half later, in mid-fall. Five of us playing a game of Chinese Checkers. Myself, EKG, Cole, Mal, and 80. It was an odd mix of friends old and new, laughter and camaraderie floating over tension and jealousy and even a little bit of resentment.

And there I was, in the middle of the maelstrom, cavorting like a puppy with a new toy. Dare I be honest and admit that it was fun? To see four of my friends act thus, and know (or suspect) each of their secret thoughts, and yet still taunt and tease them all as if all of life were merely a reflection of the game we played, or pretended to pay attention to playing?

I remember also, using our school cafeteria as a coffee house, that same semester. Playing Dutch Blitz after dinner as the cafeteria slowly cleared and the last of the people from tables around us gave up on giving us dirty looks and went out. Blue was in on that game, and we had a lovely time with it. Shouting, laughing, growing closer even as we called each other horrible names and swore on our mother's graves to send one another to the gates of hell if somebody didn't "play a motherf***ing red three!"

It was a good evening, even if it was a little wild.

And now, this most recent memory. Dutch Blitz again. Blue's Girlfriend had met up with him and joined Cole and I this time, and the four of us played and laughed and told stories.

And a few nights ago, my mother and I played Canasta and spoke of old times, and my memories of playing card games as a child with my family. Back then I was still so small that I could not hold my own hand of cards, and had to use a special card stand my father built for me so that I could play. My memories of family time spent playing games are some of my best memories of my childhood, and I carry that positive feeling with me whenever I play games. Far moreso than watching a movie or just sitting and talking, game playing reminds me of who my people are, and what they mean to me.

These miniature communities, constantly growing and dying, each reflect a little world. And each such world has its own rules and physical laws and politics and romances. I love each one. I hope you too get to experience games in such a way at some point.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Today's. . .

. . .two great tastes that taste great together.

Guinness and Macaroni and Cheese.

No, I don't know why.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

What Grade Are You In?

[Comedy - Be ye not alarmed.]

For those of you that don't know, I was homeschooled from birth. Literally, our parents never stopped making us learn. Sometimes, if we didn't learn anything new for more than an hour, they'd get out a whip and swish it threateningly, while saying "If I don't see some learning happening in the next thirty seconds, I'm gonna flay a couple of hides!"

Sleeping was difficult.

So were summers, when other kids were gleefully dumping their entire school year's worth of knowledge down the drain of cheap sugar candies and summers spent riding bicycles, we were learning that you should lift with your knees, not your back, and how to remember the recipe for pancakes (it's called "the rule of two", I'll post it sometime).

In fact, looking back, the vast majority of "learning" was actually "doing work our parents didn't want to do." Though it made us pretty self-sufficient, it also allowed for some entertaining disaster moments (8 year olds and mixers full of flour sometimes make waffles, and sometimes create huge flour-clouds which cover the entire kitchen in a thin layer of white powder. Whoops).

We were once required to complete our chores on Christmas morning. Before we opened a single present.

Not that I am bitter about that.

Where was I? Oh yes, Grades!

One of the most annoying things about homeschooling is interacting with victims of the public school system who had somehow missed the memo that there were children out there learning things on their own, in family groups, without the aid of our glorious and illustrious public lockup program for adolescents.

As students of the "unschooling" method who followed a mantra that assummed the standard education archetype was the worst way to manufacture useful children, we didn't learn in set patterns, groupings, or levels, so there was no way to equate our educational level to a grade system. Even if we had attempted to use a method, we'd have been forced to grade by subject anyway: "I'm an 11th grade art student, a 3rd grade math student, and a 5th grade English student", my sister would have been able to say, at the age of 8. It would have been a brain warping and useless metric.

So we simply ignored the concept of 'grading' altogether. As long as we were learning, ranking our learning was a pointless task. There were only the two of us for daily comparison anyway, so it was simple. "My sister is better than me at art. I am better than my sister at spelling." That was all the comparison we needed. For us, "the year" ended in December and started in January. The idea of a year that ended in May and started in August was completely foreign to us both until we started University courses in our teens.

However, the aforementioned victims had lived in a world of grades for 2/3rds of their 'learning' lives, and didn't even class children by ages anymore. Supermarket checkout girls were the worst.

Nothing confuses a fresh-out-of-high-school kid more than seeing a 10 year old and a 7 year old in line at the store on a Wednesday afternoon in February. And the question that is always asked during the ensuing conversation is "What grade are you in?"

Now, I was not a particularly stupid child, nor was my speech normally lacking in eloquence. However, I had no idea what "grade I was in." How would I know? I didn't take tests to rate my performance against some arbitrary statewide or national metric, and really had no clue.

So I would stutter and look confused and say. "Um. I, uh, don't know?" And I could tell from the look on the face of our interrogator that I had just reduced my mental rating to "retarded child" in her eyes, and obviously the explanation for me being in the store at this time of day was that I was too stupid for even the short bus to accept.

In truth, I was dying to say "I'm seven, you asshat. Just once, I'd like one of you intellectually-stunted mentally-degenerate register jockeys to just ask my age! Or would that be too hard for your assembly-line molded, classroom-diminished brain?"

Or whatever the equivalent would have been in my seven year old vocabulary (I'm pretty sure I would have replaced "asshat" with "mean lady!" for instance).

So it is that I have always resented the concept of grades, and being asked which one I'm in. I stick to asking children their ages, when I'm forced to interact with them at all, and then proceed to ask them about anything but school.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Fable of the Woman and the Snake

Come near and hear an ancient tale retold by an old tongue in an young head.

A woman on her way home from the village in the winter spied a snake lying wounded and freezing in the grass on the roadside.

As she approached it gasped out a single warning. "Take care, for I am an adder."

The woman, overcome with compassion for the poor creature, ripped off a bit of her cloak and bound its wounds, then carried it towards her home against her bosom, where her body's heat could aid the health of the beast.

As they neared her home, the snake was revived by the warmth of the woman's body and struck out instinctively, sinking his fangs deep into her breast.

As the woman's vision faded and she collapsed into the dust, she asked the snake for a reason. As he slithered away into the grass by the roadside, the snake left a long wet trail of tears behind, and only cried out "Foolish woman! You knew I was a snake when you decided to carry me."

Download Monkey

Ok, so to prove my status as a media monkey. . .

My "Media" Folder is subdivided into three primary sections: Audio, Images, and Video.

The Audio folder contains music, albums, and some radio dramas. It contains 19.8 gigabytes of data in 4,207 files.

The Video folder contains music videos, martial arts demonstrations, kung fu fights, small studio projects, major (and minor) fan films and even a couple of full length movies. It contains 22.6 gigabytes in 1,284 files.

And the images folder contains personal photography, an art collection, a collection of comics, forum combat images, photoshopped hilarity, and various other items of personal relevance. 557 megabytes in 2,354 files.

So yes, I am a media monkey, and it gets worse every day: I have four large video clips and another 350+ music files in my 'incoming' folder that have not yet been sorted to their new homes in my collection.

I'm a little obsessive about my sorting system. My music, for example, is sorted by genre, subgenre (if applicable) and artist (if I have more than 3 or 4 songs by that artist). This means there are 284 folders containing and organizing Audio alone. Similar sorting schemes exist for video (118 folders) and images (134 folders).

I've got a slight problem, I guess you could say.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Repairing friends.

Posted by Hello
Why don't we call it that?

When we meet someone new, it is said that we have made friends with someone. An interesting turn of phrase, implying the creation of one relationship and two new people, two friends out of what were previously acquaintances. Or we say we made a friend.

"What did you do today?" "Oh, I made a new friend!"

Posted by Hello
It is almost as if we are saying we can create a new person out of someone who was previously something less than complete because they were not yet our friend. It's an odd expression, but that's English for you.

How are friendships created?

I was once asked to explain the difference between an acquaintance (how I class 95% of the people I speak with, day-in and day-out) and a friend. Stumbling for an expression and grasping at straws I finally stammered out "A friend is someone for whom you are willing to make sacrifices."

Posted by Hello
It doesn't summarize exactly the feeling of friendship, but it draws a thin but perceptible line between someone you know, and someone you care about. For an acquaintance you might be happy to see them, tell a joke and share a laugh. But for a friendship you will give up luxuries, swallow your pride, or pull the strings at your command to make their lives better. A friendship is something important, something valuable.

Posted by Hello
It is about coming to a place where you realize that you don't want to go through life completely alone, and you're willing to give up little things for the big picture. And the big picture means a web of relationships, some of which are merely informational, and some of which involve giving up important things. For a romantic friendship it might mean passing up a job out of town for something less prestigious but closer to the one you love. For a partner-in-crime it might mean surrendering yourself to see that someone else escapes punishment. For an old friend whom you've offended, it might mean something as simple as swallowing your pride, extending your hand and saying "I'm sorry about what happened. How are you?" These manifestations of friendship might be the noblest of all human gestures, and they certainly could be the most rewarding.

We say that we are repairing a friendship when one becomes damaged by misunderstanding, insult, innuendo, or enmity. We are, in a sense, repairing friends. Recreating a functional two-person relationship from the wreckage our missteps have caused.

I think that there is a time to make new friends and cut old ties. But there is a more noble time, which is when we make sacrifices to keep old friendships alive.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

If you're a gamer. . .

. . .then this is funny.

If not, go forth and immerse yourself in multiplayer games until it becomes funny.

"The Jedi Council told me to STFU."


Closeness and Distance.

Ok, I'm skipping the (six post) buffer to post this as I write it, because it's timely.

I have a little brother. I call him Blue. His Blog can be found on Xanga at DeepBlueSee.

He recently posted a 16 question query about people who know him, which was to be copied and pasted into the comments field and then responded to. This creates an instant feedback loop about the author from his friends, and is a very cool idea.

Rather than providing feedback about the writing, it provides feedback about the author and gives the other readers a frame of reference built out of the impressions of the author's friends.

Here is the permanent link to that post, with comments.

Something struck me when I read through the eight responses to his post. In eight responses, including his girlfriend, adopted family, and close friends, one set of responses stood out. It was Jason, his twin brother. They are as alike as twins can be, sometimes disconcertingly so. My ex-girlfriend thought Justin had grown a beard incredibly quickly when she saw Jason for the first time. Now, I'll be the first to admit that my ex wasn't the brightest bulb in the chandelier at all times, but they are close enough that such an error is easy to make.

The reason Jason's comments stood out is intriguing to me. The 12th question in the list (numbered 13) is "Ever wanted to tell me something but couldn't?"

It's a good question. It betrays a fundemental and important line being drawn in the sand. And Jason, the man closer to Blue than anyone, who has literally known Blue since before birth, is the only responder who gave an affirmative answer to this question. Now, I know Blue pretty well, and I'm confidant when I say that there is nothing that Blue cannot hear from his brother that will ruin their friendship. No fact too secret or dark and sinister for it to destroy Blue's ability to be a brother to his twin. And yet there is some piece of information, some story or tale or fact that remains reserved by a twin brother. Not perhaps out of fear or malice but a simple need to contain the secret within himself that overrules all other impulses and even the most conrete types of trust.

It's causing the formation of an idea in my head. When you first meet someone, you have a very limited need to share information with them. Maybe something sets off a visual connection and you have a common thread (A shirt for a developer, or a beret for a French major) but the desire to share anything that you might need to keep secret is nil. All the information you feel driven to share is public knowledge. Or at least, the knowledge you share has such a low 'secrecy quotient' that you can share it without guilt.

As the relationship develops, and as you and your new aquaintance become more and more intimate with information, you begin to break down the social constructs that would keep you from telling them the secrets of your life, and the information that other people don't know (how you hated 5th grade, then how you never understood punk music even though you tried for years, then how you were once sent home from school for calling someone a horrible name you are now ashamed to whisper) becomes something you want to share, and your closeness to the person continues to override the secrecy quotient.

But perhaps, at some point, with those of us who keep secrets, there are some that have such strength that their containment outstrips all closeness and understanding. We meet lovers, spouses, brothers, sisters, mentors and students. We form bonds that will withstand the test of time. We make friendships that we would give anything to keep. We form loyalties so powerful that we would die for our dearly beloved. But for some of us, there are still those things that we want to tell someone, and yet refuse to reveal. For some of us for whom there might be a secret so deep, and so dark, that it will never see the light of day. What an amazing thought, that our desire to tell such secrets increases as we become closer and closer in our relationships with others, and yet there might still be some mystery insurmountable by any form of intimacy.

What secrets do you keep? Do you ever dream of telling them to someone?

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Win XP and Cleartype

So I ran across a little post today from Matthew Pennell over at The WatchMaker Project. It describes how to enable ClearType font support for Windows XP, and it is cool enough that I'm reposting it here.

Using ClearType results in some basic font improvements, including smoothing and darkness adjustment, and makes the default windows fonts much easier on the eyes. If you're on an LCD, either stand-alone or as part of a laptop, it can result in major improvements in the readability of text. If you're on a CRT but just always liked that quirky, slim-and-smooth look of the Mac fonts, well, you're in luck.

I used mine to improve font width and contrast, and the new look is really nice.

Here's the tip, originally from Simply Geeky.

1. Right-click on your desktop and select Properties.
2. Click on the Appearance tab.
3. Click the Effects button.
4. Check the box (if it'’s not checked already) that says use the following method to smooth edges of screen fonts”.
5. In the dropdown box just below the checkbox, select ClearType (default is Standard).

But I'll go one better. If you're a moderate geek who doesn't just want ClearType support but also wants it to look pristine, hop over to the handy ClearType tuner (you should probably use IE) on the Windows website.

And if you are a power-geek that wants to tweak and be able to access the advanced properties directly, skip both these methods and go to the download page for the Windows ClearType Tuning Powertoy. There is a tuning wizard built in, but if you want to get more hands-on with the settings, you can jump straight to the advanced properties tab once it is installed.

Note that all three of these tips are for XP. They might work with Win2k, but I doubt it. Enjoy!

Friday, June 10, 2005


Posted by Hello
One moment I am perusing the internet. Another model gallery. Searching for a set of pictures that I can add to the collection. My justification is that will somehow become a better photographer if I can gather a collection of photographs that represent the concepts I want to convey.

The next moment, there is a sort of odd shift, and I am somewhere else.

I am being driven home from a party. I'm in the passenger seat of my little brother's car. Kid is sitting directly behind me.

The semester (and the school year) is ending, there is perhaps maybe a month left to go. It was a good party. Everyone was tired, but we laughed and played games and watched movies. But the three of us--me, blue, and kid--are going home a bit early before the movies get started and the tone in the car is decidedly melancholy. In a room full of cheerful extroverts, we three are those who leave such places more tired than when we arrived, and the mood inside the Blue's little Neon is quiet like the first autumn day when the leaves finally admit that they can stop fighting and let winter take them.

A light drizzle has begun and is supressing both traffic and sound, making it feel as if we are an island of humanity traversing a great empty space. None of us feel the need to talk too much. A small amount of running patter fills the space well enough, but none of us need it filled to bursting.

Externally, I am absorbing the silence and the unity of our little band of three and it is soothing and restful for me. Internally, I am fighting with my self, and with my plans. Kid is a project of mine. I'm not sure why (thirteen months later it will occur to me that she spoke my love language fluently and it was shaking the foundations of my world--but at the time I didn't know that). I am the reason she came with Blue and me to the party. And after a fashion, I know I am a project of hers. We have much in common, and we want to be close. There are complications though. She's currently tending to the end of an awkward one-sided breakup. I'm still nursing a fragile long distance relationship almost a year old.

Confusing matters further is the fact that when the month is out I will walk across a stage and take in my hand a piece of paper that will motivate my move away from this town, and Kid is just finishing her first of four years in this school. Though we're only 2 years apart in age, the academic and social gulf that our culture forces upon us is astounding. Complicating matters more is Blue's singleness, and the fact that he's attracted to Kid. I don't blame him, but I know, deep down, that he and Kid would never work out--they'd never even get started. And I know more than that. I know that Kid and I will happen. I can see it in my mind's eye as clearly as if it were a memory and not a prediction.

I am slouched in the seat. Resting my head in my right hand with my elbow propped on the armrest, and watching the rain and other cars drift by like steamers lost in a fog at sea. When her hand right hand finds mine in the darkness of the car it is shocking but not surprising. The electricity of touch is captivating and tantalizing--moreso because it is surreptitious. Her fingers find my hand and the side of my neck. It isn't a caress, but it isn't just a touch either. They are searching for feedback. . . searching for a yes. I think about the touch, and consider pulling my hand down, sitting up and shifting so she loses contact, but I cannot bring myself to move. Somehow my fingertips brush against her hand as the mist massages the images filtering through the windows, and I let the touch linger long enough to confirm that it is voluntary, then remove my hand, letting my body language betray nothing to Blue.

I don't want to hurt him, and I don't know how to say everything that needs to be said. I let her touch remain, and we have a conversation. I don't know how, in retrospect, we did so. Low voices perhaps, but sometimes I wonder if perhaps a temporary telepathic ability was provided to us by some means I don't understand. I speak first.

"It isn't right. There are too many factors. There is another."

"I know. But this isn't about factors. This is about you and I. I need to know that something could happen, if things were different."

"I need that too. But things aren't different. What good will it do?"

"It could serve as reassurance. As hope for something undiscovered until now. Just knowing that there is another like me means I may find him again someday."

"I understand. Do not let go."

So we ride for a time. As we near campus positions change, the touch is broken and the conversation ebbs and flows through the normal patterns that it shares among those with little to say in the aftermath of a social maelstrom.

And now the image fractures and fades and I am back at my desk, and fourteen months have passed. Pedro the Lion's Bad Diary Day's begins to chide me, a scolding reminder that I was the one who cheated on another who needed me. And I begin to doubt the memory. Was it real? Did I dream it?

But in my mind I cannot deny the real-ness of the moment, even if I doubt its factual truth. This simple memory is as devious as it is brilliant, sneaking to the forefront of my mind when I least expected it to resurface. What am I to do with such a damning reminder that I left behind what could have been for my practical realization of what is, and what will always be?

I am to share it. To make clear to those around me the fate of one who choses poorly. "Look well, O Wolves."

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Cocktails and Dreams

I saw Cocktail last night. And I loved Tom Cruise's bartop poem.

"I am the last barman poet. . .

I see America drinking the fabulous cocktails I make
Americans getting stinky on something I stir or shake
The sex on the beach -- with schnapps made from peach
The velvet hammer, The alabama slammer.
I make things with juice and froth
The pink squirrel, The 3-toed sloth.
I make drinks so sweet and snazzy
The iced tea, The kamakazi
The orgasm, The death spasm,
The Singapore sling, The dingaling.

America you're just devoted to every flavor I've got
But if you want to get loaded, Why don't you just order a shot?

Bar is open."

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Dearest Pellicio II

[I finally got around to the second installment in the Vampire Serial, Dearest Pellicio. Enjoy. The first part of this segmented short-story experiment is here.]

After I had puzzled over the other documents in the packet with the one I posted here, I decided I was so intrigued that I would spend some time attempting to discover more.

Another visit to my great uncle revealed more information about this particular packet and the name Tindale. It turns out he had run across additional information on that part of a different Irish family, but had never been able to run to ground a reasonable connection between our lineages and those of the Tindales. However, in his efforts he had contacted a gentleman named Elias Tindale, who had done a little asking around and then told Ted that Johnathan Tindale had never had any children, and so we couldn't be descendants of his since he was an only child and his blood died with him.

I got the contact information for Elias Tindale from my great uncle, and made a few calls. He'd moved since Ted talked to him last, and was now living in a nursing home quite near the law offices of an old friend in Atlanta. I decided that going down to see him might be best, and arranged to hit two birds with one stone.

The meeting with him was short and uneventful. He explained that John had died a bachelor on an expedition into the western frontier of America near the turn of the century. A dead end. I asked him if he knew anything about a man named Alexandre Viajante or a monastic order called Sangue Amantes. He said no, and I thanked him, took my hat in my hand, and made for the door.

I have continued to search for other information about these two men, but have turned up nothing yet. In the interim, here is the second letter from the packet. The exterior of the envelope holds a date of December, 1873. I suppose that when Tindale recieved the letters, he marked the date so that he knew how much time they spent in transit.

Dearest Pellicio, October, 1873

I know that my first letter, coming without warning as it did, probably surprised you, and that perhaps you haven't yet made up your mind about contacting me. However I'm also sure I have some information that will make you consider it further.

You're having trouble sleeping. The mid-day sun makes your eyes water. Your skin has darkened slightly but you begin to experience burning if you stay in the sun for long. Your working schedule is becoming increasingly difficult to manage and if you retire from the heat of the day you find yourself falling into a deep sleep almost immediately. Your hair is beginning to darken in shade.

Your eyes are changing colour. It's subtle, but you've noticed it. You can hear things. Grandfather clocks bother you because you can hear the grinding of all the gears, not just the tick-tock of the pendulum. You've taken to attending church less. You even change your route on your way home from the docks so that you don't pass in front of St. Paul's.

You are growing up and growing into something new, my boy. And I, because I was foolish and impulsive, am not there to welcome you into your new life as I should be. I am attempting to make arrangements to return to England within the year but my position here requires me to attend to a great deal of business and the organization of the local branch of government on which I'm working is horrendous and needs a complete overhaul. It will be some time before I can embark for England again. Until then I am afraid that these missives are all I can send you.

There is much you need to know, and I will try and let in a little light on your condition. You are not sick. Nor are you cursed. A doctor is not needed and a priest would only condemn you for what he doesn't understand. There are some physical issues that I must address, however. You have had your blood mixed with mine, and it is making you into something else.

You may have noticed that your face is changing shape slightly. Your body is developing a set of muscles in your upper mouth and jaw line. They will control your canines, which you may have noticed now grind oddly. You may have also noticed that the top two appear to each have a tiny whole you can feel with the tip of your tongue. These are normal. They might bleed periodically during the coming months as you learn to move your teeth, but they will eventually heal. I imagine you've seen many stray cats on the docks and know how a cat's claws work--retracting while walking and extending to grip when climbing or fighting. The new muscles in your mouth allow your improved teeth to work the same way. Each morning you should spend some time attempting to control their movement. You'll find their range of motion and that their most comfortable position is one that allows them to look similar to normal human canines.

In addition to this, your night vision will grow better and your strength and stamina will increase. We are not a shape-shifting race. We are not magicians or sorcerers like those bastard Turks and Slavs that can make themselves into a creature or a fine mist--we must retain our natural form. But you will find that you possess the ability to change the weight of your body as you move, giving you a speed and a horizontal spring much like that of a hunting panther. You will find that when cut, your skin heals quickly. This speed will increase for most common types of cuts. Be careful, however, for there are a few elements that will have a very negative effect on you. For example silver will cut you more effectively than other metals and the cut will heal slowly. Garlic also will send you into coughing fits if you consume it, and if you get any in an open cut it will burn you badly.

Your reaction to sunlight will worsen over the coming months and I recommend you seek a new profession, as the dock work in the midday sun will not agree with you for long. I know that there is a great deal of business conducted at the docks after the sun has set for the day, and much of it appreciates the discretion that darkness provides. I am including a short note sealed with a wax symbol. If you deliver yourself to the offices of a certain Harold Shande, an import and export man there, you might find that he has use of you in a job more suited to your new condition, my note will grant you access to him and contains my letter of recommendation.

Now I must speak of something that will seem to you unholy and evil. I regret that it is a necessity and that I cannot be there to reason with you and reasssure you as to your new nature. If you plan to continue with the Giröshke, you'll need to begin to feed your thirst for blood. You've probably noticed that it has begun to take on a new flavour for you when those channels in your upper canines bleed, and you'll find this flavour is important.

I wish I were there for what I must tell you next, because I remember my own mentor and how he guided me through the process of becoming brave enough to drink the blood of the living, and it is a difficult and frightening process for a young lad, even with an old and wise one by your side. You will just have to be strong.

Each night as the moon approaches fullness you will find the thirst strengthens, and as it wanes your thirst shall decrease. I recommend that as the next full moon approaches, you seek out a young lady from the neighborhoods around the docks. I would advise you against learning her name, for this first one's purpose is only to cement the process of the change in you. If you grow to love a woman your desire for her blood will kill her in time, and the results of your actions will fill you with despair. Choose carefully, and drink deeply. Spend the evening making sure she is empty. When you are finished she should be as white as fresh snow.

I leave the logistics of the task to you, for you know of the repercussionss of capture. You're a bright boy, and I am confident that you can plan your own actions with great competency.

If you do this properly you will not need to drink of another for two moons, and you will have time to adjust to your new body and seek out a lady of stronger constitution from whom you can collect with more decorum. I will write to you with additional advice on these matters in the time that follows.

Now, let me speak of the gifts.

There are three gifts for each member of the order. A brother in the fold of Sangue Amantes does not age at normal speeds. I was born in the year 1513, and turned in 1547 by a sailor freshly returned from the new world. I am now nearing the middle of my fourth century and if I am lucky I will savour the taste of two more before the life flows from me. You are younger than I was when I turned and may live longer. Remember, you have not been granted immortality, but if you are careful and wise and keep your health you may live to the ages of Methuselah himself.

Second, the physical properties of which I have already spoken will be your second gift. The speed of the panther and the eye of the owl. The ability to heal most wounds and draw strength from within yourself to crush wood and bend steel.

The third gift is always specific to each member of the order, but they fall into three broad categories: the power to disturb the elements, the power to tweak fates, and the power to enfold minds. My gift lies in manipulation of physical fates. I can modify the possibilities of games of chance and adventure. I was a gambler by nature, and my new gift gave me the ability to win fortunes and establish an estate for myself.

You, I believe, will receive a gift from the third category. I feel confident that you will find that your ability to influence the minds of others becomes more and more pronounced as your thirst is made manifest. More on that in my next letter.

Now I regret that I must finish here for the time being. I'll begin organizing my thoughts and instructions to you soon and include them in my next missive. For now I must tend to some governmental details. Fools! So much red tape, so little blood.

Alexandre Viajante

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Oncoming Train

I once told myself I could be all things to all people. In so doing, I made myself an empty space. I became exactly what I tried to avoid.

The irony is that I can see it coming on, like a train far down the tracks. It is a part of my middle-future. The foreground of the rest of my life is filled with this blankness. Beyond that? I suppose it depends on how I survive what is coming on.

I was a dreamer once upon a time, but I'm no fool. Still, it certainly appears that I will continue waiting until the last possible second before I get out of the way, I'm just not sure why.

I suppose I'll find out when the train gets here.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Redwall Abbey.

Posted by Hello
I've been reading the Redwall books over the past few days.

I grew up reading them. Back when I was pretty young, maybe 12 or 13, they captured my attention for some time. I have 8 of the books in the series (there are 17 now) and have read at least two more, though I don't know their names now. The magical and mystical world that Brian Jacques weaves enchanted me as a child and I find that now, as an adult, with a reading level far beyond what he expects, I still admire his work. It is simple at times, and formulaic, to be sure, but still there is truth in between the lines.

His stories tell of adventure and excitement but also of loss and pain. His stories bring forth heros for us to respect and we grow as they grow. It seems that sometimes we are presented the chance to learn from their mistakes. A good author for children.

His characters sparkle and glisten, each mad villian a portait of infamous evils. Each Hero a shining beacon of hope in a dark world. His charicatures of forest creatures as different segments of society are heartwarming and encouraging, his rustic and faithful moles make us smile, and his dashing and cavalier hares make us laugh.

It's a nice escape from the madness of each crazy day. But sometimes I wonder. . . if you could jump into any picture book, what book would you choose? But more about that on another day. That's a topic that deserves its own post. . . later.

But don't you worry lads and lassies, I won't forget the flippin' thing. Bally old topic needs to be scribbled about by somebody, wot? These blinkin' posts won't write themselves!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Inventing Space.

[Author's Note: The following was written as part of an advance buffer. I'll be out of town this weekend so finding the time to make the updates appear will be difficult enough. Writing also might prove impossible.]

When I was a kid, I used to imagine that anything within my grasp was going to be mine. From a better physique, to money, to the best career a kid can imagine(Astro-Fireman, I guess?) I believed I could have it all.

Somewhere along the way I think I realized I couldn't have it all. But maybe about the same time, I realized I didn't need or want it all. I don't need a lot of money--I need to spend what I have effectively. I don't need a perfect physique--I would rather to be able to use what I've got to reach my goals. I don't need the ultimate respectable job--Sometimes I just need to know what I'm doing is alright. I don't need to have the perfect romance--I like many of the blessings of being single.

I don't need to daydream--I need to get on the train.

I think one of the surest signs of the arrival of maturity is that you haven't given up your dreams, you've just realized that you have new desires, and you can realize them. Maturity comes when you set out to make sure those dreams become realities.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Tommy Boy.

Posted by Hello
I know that considering how much I rant against stupid people in my writing, it seems odd for me to say that this movie is one of my favorite comedies.

I adore Tommy Boy. I'll grant that the movie is irrevent, absurd, slapstick and at times stupid. However, it's also funny, heartwarming, honest and respectful.

I could go on and on about Chris Farley's brilliant physical humour, and David Spade's incredible delivery and sharp tongue. I could wax eloquent about how well written the movie is, or how genuinely unlikeable the character played by Dan Aykroyd is. But while those are all great things about the film, those aren't the reasons I respect it so much more than other comedies. Here's what matters to me: it never sacrifices its own integrity for a laugh, and it never demeans itself to get a vulgar joke from a scene.

It treats the concepts of family, death, and kindness with great care and class. It raises up as heros those that try hard, even when they fail. It goes out of its way to be careful of its characters and its audience.

It treats the loss of Tommy's dad with the utmost kindness, even in the midst of a comedy. It respects the concept of family. It never once makes fun of the basic human need for friendship or a kind word.

It is careful to make clear that the 'good' characters don't do bad things--for example, in one scene the passenger (David Spade in one of his best roles) has been drinking and brings a drink into the car. Chris Farley as Tommy (the driver) chastises him, saying that they can get busted for having an open container. When a police car begins to follow them Tommy points out that the police will never believe he hasn't been drinking. Even though Tommy is shown getting tanked at a party early in the film, the movie goes out of its way to make a clear statement: Tommy is the hero of the film, and they're not going to make him out to be one of the dregs of society just for an extra laugh--the message is clear: "there is stupid, and then there is morally wrong." It is a cool scene, and they manage to pull it off so smoothly that you don't even realize there is moral reinforcement going on.

I just watched it again tonight with my family, and the scene with the hood of the car had us all gasping for breath we were laughing so hard. It's a great comedy. If you haven't seen it yet--go find it! It's worth the search.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Old Stories, New Stories.

I taught a test prep session today for the ACT. The test is being given 9 days from today, and the class has done well. I want them to do better, of course, but there is only so much I can do.

Turmoil has begun between my extended family (on my mom's side) and my mother, and of course I'm standing on the edge of the maelstrom.

I almost dove in yesterday, there was a lot to say, but I held my peace and now I'm glad I did.

It's not my war and I don't fight other people's battles anymore.

Fuck it.

[hindsight-o-matic: that last comment got a little bit emo, didn't it? I actually wound up in a heated disagreement while attempting to write this post, which is why it got so terse and bitter by the end. Things got better lately (tip: sometimes, rum helps)].

Thursday, June 02, 2005


Posted by Hello
I saw Unleashed yesterday afternoon. I had the time and wanted to see it since I might be out of the country by the time it gets to DVD.

It's a masterpiece. It's not Luc Besson's best story--Léon is a little more cohesive. It's not Jet Li's best fight flick--Kiss of the Dragon had more combat. It's not Morgan Freeman's best character--"Red" from Shawshank Redemption was more real. It's not Bob Hoskin's most unforgettable role--Eddie Valiant and Smee will always be dear to our hearts. . .

But in an amazing way this movie is the embodiement of a sum greater than it's parts.

These three actors--Freeman, Hoskins, and Li have integrated the lives of three men whose interactions breath and bleed and scream truth, even while we know they are beyond surreal. And in an amazing way, Luc Besson has given them a story, and a setting, and an idea that weaves together their tales in a way that cannot be rivaled in its mastery of the storytelling concept.

And in a sepia tone world where nothing is really in color but it's not quite black and white, the story of Danny the Dog plays out with such devotion that we cannot help but be drawn in, even though the plausibility is thin at times. The viewer's disbelief is suspended eloquently by Jet Li's performance. Moments of tenderness in a world of savagery and viciousness highlight a dreamworld where everything seems simple, even as it becomes more chaotic in each new scene.

It's a fantastic film. Go and see it before it leaves theaters.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005